My 30-Day Holiday Challenge to You

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My 30-Day Holiday Challenge to You – Make this holiday season different.

Yes, it is everywhere – even before Thanksgiving – on television and social media, in stores, and magazines, on the internet, and all the outdoor decorations. We can’t escape it. The holidays are here! It seems that everyone else has a wonderful family time…..except you? But is that true?

Perhaps a minority of people are fortunate enough to have a lovely family time.
The majority have some good family times mixed with quite a lot of work, stress and financial burden. Family stresses can be greatly exaggerated and become intolerable over the holiday period when everyone is forced to spend time together, trying to keep things cheerful.

For others, it is a very lonely time.  A reminder that we are alone, out of contact with, or without family.
If we have friends, then they will probably be spending time with their families and have little spare time for us.
Everything seems to be closed on the day itself: shops, libraries, cafes, and all other meeting points or places where we might be in contact with others.
So, what can we do? How can we get through this time? Maybe even change things so that we can feel better about it?
If we change the way we think about it or change what we do – then we will change the way we feel.
If we carry on thinking and doing what we’ve always done, then nothing will change and we will have a miserable holiday time.

What about this? Right now is the time to think about it and address these holiday issues.
a.) How can I think differently?
b.) What can I do differently?
c.) How will I really feel if I think and act differently?

I’ve made a little “Holiday Calendar for Change and Self-Care”.
What if you select a change or specific self-care action each day and see if that doesn’t make a huge difference in your holiday season this year?
What have you got to lose?
I’ve given you a few ideas at the bottom and would love to hear yours which are probably even better.
Just fill out one each day or fill out 2 or 3 actions at a time to do over the next couple of days or fill out a week at a time of plans that are healthy for you. Start today or tomorrow. But start.


Better ideas?

– The best way out is always through. Robert Frost
– Do one push up. Then one more. Do wall push-ups every time coffee or tea is brewing.
– Drink 8 oz. of pure fresh water. Do it again later.
– Start paying toward one debt.
– Delete an old contact for your list.
– Contact one old friend you haven’t connected with in a while.
– Walk 1 lap.
– Donate to one animal shelter.
– Attend 1 holiday event.
– If you know you can do better, why not do so today?
  Remove 1 thing in your life that is hurting or not helping you.
– Speak up politely and say what you want – or don’t want. Set boundaries. Don’t back down.
  Your mental health is as important to you as your physical health.
– Stop touching your wound so it can heal.
– How people treat you decides their karma. How you respond decides yours.
– Stop checking on those who don’t check on you.
  Silence isn’t empty. It is full of answers.
– Your day is bad? There are folks out there wearing their ex’s name tattooed on them.
– Use the healers: music, the ocean, stars.
– People show how they feel about you. Pay attention.
– I hate to spoil the outcome…but you are going to be OK and work through this holiday.
  Meditate daily – 3 minutes is all it takes to be quiet breathe in fresh air, breathe out tension & negativity, correct your posture & put both feet down on the floor to center yourself, let thoughts go on by as they come up and continue to breathe, paying attention only to your breath & the calm you are feeling. Go on with your day and be kind to yourself. Repeat a few times each day.
– Make your bed. Everyday.
– Love yourself.
  Dream big – don’t sell your life short.
  If you are tired, rest, don’t quit.
– You DESERVE everything you want.
– Dump anyone around you who is rude to a waiter. They will do the same to you.
– Anger is the punishment we give ourselves for someone else’s mistake.
  Make your life worth living. What’s the first thing you should do?
  Happiness starts with you – not relationships, money, jobs, friends, activities – just you.
– FRIENDLY REMINDER: You only have a limited time on earth. Today is a good day to do something great.

Happy Holidays, Sharon Valentino, LMFT

Visit the below sites for a great deal of helpful information about a variety of subject.
Author: Sharon Valentino, MFT
Valentino Therapy – CA LMFT, RAS, ChT, CATC IV (#51746)
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Effective Actions Against Depression

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Effective Actions Against Depression

Many factors affect depression and many factors can help to improve it.

There is often not one, simple answer to be found but rather a serious of mostly small steps that make a big difference or change and then give you the energy and desire to add a few more to continue your upward progress if you are so inclined.

Depression appears to possibly be an issue now so I would urge you to cut back on white carbs and sugar and certainly alcohol, which is a depressant itself.
If you can, try to get 10-20 minutes of natural vitamin (sunlight) every day on as much of your body as is appropriate. Vitamin D pills are poorly absorbed so most Dr’s will advise you to try to get the natural, free kind. Of course, you do not stay out long enough to burn or create cause for concern for melanoma – everything in moderation.

One big push in both energy and mood can be had by doing just 10 minutes of exercise each morning and also each evening. It could be a walk, stretching, yoga, wall pushups or something much more vigorous if you prefer. Just avoid the evening 10 minutes just before bed.
Doing these small bits of exercise can do wonders for energy and improved thinking.
Most people doing this report that they feel more like squeezing in a bit more exercise each day here and there as well.
Of course, if you are someone who enjoys going to the gym, being around people and has the time to go … even better.
But exercise does not have to be a big scheduled event if you always do your 10 minutes plus 10 minutes later.

Many people also benefit by going on YouTube and selecting some free videos about motivation, beating depression, how to get moving, etc. Most are short and with the thousands available, it isn’t hard to find something that you will like, find helpful and get you in a better mood.

My Fitness Pal is a free application that tracks just about as much as you want it to and many doctors recommend using it.
The most important feature is that you just type in what you eat, either when you do it, or make a note and add it at the end of the day. It takes a very few minutes to do this.
The program then tracks every imaginable nutrient, calorie, etc.
What’s important here is that you need about 8 glasses of pure, fresh water daily and I’m guessing you are probably in the range of needing about 50-60 grams of protein each day, depending on size and sex and age.
You really need those two (water and protein) for your brain to be able to function, let alone act optimally.
I’d advise you to use this program for just a week or two (or longer if you love it) and find out the vital information about several critical nutrients and whether you are getting enough or not.

It might make a big difference in your health, your mood and your ability to work or study, concentrate and retain material.

Up to you….

Visit the below sites for a great deal of helpful information about a variety of subject.
Author: Sharon Valentino, MFT
Valentino Therapy – CA LMFT, RAS, ChT, CATC IV (#51746)
Visit my web:
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Self-Esteem and Helping Others

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Self-esteem and Helping Others

Happiness is precious. Happiness with ourselves is priceless.
Time is never wasted when doing something that makes you feel good about yourself.
So many people are challenged with self-esteem issues – or know someone who is struggling with them.

Research shows that most people are held back by self-esteem concerns a few times throughout our lifetimes.

When we give to others, we get out of our own way enough to get a different perspective on our lives.

The fastest and surest way to increase self-esteem is to commit estimable acts.

Every day.

For others and then for yourself. (This has nothing to do with taking care of yourself first for survival. This is about helping others first as you go out in your day and then treating yourself.)

These acts can be as small as taking the time to speak to an elder in a grocery line, complimenting a child, holding a door or much bigger acts with higher rewards. The bigger the act, the bigger the reward often means you will meet others who may profoundly change your life, or develop needed to skills in dealing with people or maybe making valuable contacts among others who are doing good works.

Whenever you commit an estimable act, oxytocin is immediately released and you feel good.
This encourages you to do it more often, which causes you to feel better more often. I cannot repeat this enough.

Historically, the people I have treated in the past who are the most unhappy and the most anxious are those that are doing the least for others (and I’m not talking about their significant others). Don’t let this be you 😉

Visit the below sites for a great deal of helpful information about a variety of subject.
Author: Sharon Valentino, MFT
Valentino Therapy – CA LMFT, RAS, ChT, CATC IV (#51746)
Visit my web:
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What Is It Going To Take To Make You Happy?

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What Is It Going To Take To Make You Happy?

Have you ever taken a few minutes just to focus on what is really needed to make you happy?
It’s easy to think of happiness as a result, but happiness is also a fuel.
The best way to be more productive is to just be happier.
Happy people accomplish more.
They are more pleasant to be around too.

I’ve interspersed some science-based ways to be happier but maybe it is time for you to really assess what it will take for YOU to be happy. Please write in your needs at the blank numbers and please let me know anything I should have included.

  1. Exercise every day, even 8 minutes might be enough. We know it prevents or helps heal depression, it helps us relax, it improves memory and thinking and much more. However, recent research from the Cleveland Clinic has shown over huge groups of subjects, both male and female, that not exercising is worse for your health than smoking, diabetes and heart disease
  2. Improve your sleep right now, as good sleep is critical for mental and physical health.

  1. Have a large support system and continue to nurture and grow it all throughout your life. You will need it many times. Turn casual friends and acquaintances into closer friends since social time is vital even for introverts. Interestingly, not staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top 5 regrets of people at the end of their lives. The Terman study from the Longevity Project found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives and can make you happier right now.

  1. Spend time in nature, get outside and get some natural vitamin D daily, if possible.
  2. Pay some rent for the space you take up on this earth. We have to help others to feel happy. Research shows it takes about 100 hours a year for the effect to be greatest for you instead of just those you help. Scientists report that doing a single act of kindness produces the most dependable immediate increase in happiness and well-being.
  3. Smile at others, hold doors, acknowledge others and you will reduce pain, improve your mood, think better and immediately be happier. We clinicians often encourage the “facial feedback hypothesis” = smile to reduce stress in a distressing situation. Even if you force a smile for a moment it can lift your mood slightly which can enable making better responses and choices.

  1. Meditate to rewire your brain to be happy. It can also improve attention, concentration, thinking clearly and wisely, lower blood pressure and increase compassion to name a very few of the benefits. There are so many different types of meditation, both short and long, that anyone can discover a style they like.
  2. Be grateful and write what it is you are grateful for every day – and change up what you list.

What did you discover that you needed?
I left 5 spaces blank for you to fill in. Was that enough?
What changes would you like to make?

Visit the below sites for a great deal of helpful information about a variety of subject.
Author: Sharon Valentino, MFT
Valentino Therapy – CA LMFT, RAS, ChT, CATC IV (#51746)
Visit my web:
Facebook: Valentino Therapy and Ask This Therapist
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Relaxing From Stress

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We all have many levels of stress that we don’t want every day.
We must find our own ways to manage and reduce it quickly in order to thrive or even survive.
Many are looking for ways to quickly relax or re-center after an upset or disappointment of various kinds.
In the past, I’ve written on the well-researched Viparita Karani.
However, last night I was reading some research from the University of Sussex in the UK (yes, research reading is better than a sleeping pill) which gave some interesting and unexpected data.
The article was written to attract lay readers and first asked if you need to relax, what is most effective:
-Reading a book
-Having a relaxing cup of tea (remember this is Britain)
-Watching TV
-Listening to music

The answer is reading.

The neuropsychologists found that just six minutes of silent reading can reduce stress levels by 68%.
They surmised this is because unlike drinking tea or watching TV, reading requires real concentration, which creates a distraction that eases muscle tension and slows the heart rate.
Listening to music while doing no other activity was second best, reducing stress by 61%.

What do you do to release stress when given bad news, were upset on the freeway, or are at odds with someone close to you?

What has worked for you in the past?

Visit the below sites for a great deal of helpful information about a variety of subject.
Author: Sharon Valentino, MFT
Valentino Therapy – CA LMFT, RAS, ChT, CATC IV (#51746)
Visit my web:
Facebook: Valentino Therapy and Ask This Therapist
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Too Hard on Yourself?

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Too hard on yourself: 

Generally, when we are critical of ourselves and set standards that allow little rest or are too high, too fast or whatever, it is because we had an early experience of somehow taking in the measure we were not good enough.
We’re all our own worst critics.

Evolutionary psychologists have studied our natural “negativity bias,” which is that instinct in us all that makes negative experiences seem more significant than they really are. Sadly, we are primed to remember negative events and messages much more than positive ones which at some time probably served to help keep us safe (don’t go near the dangerous snake again) but in today’s society its becoming harder and harder to turn off the negative loop thinking that goes on in our heads most of the time.

CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy) is particularly good at addressing this. (Read our other article “Mind Over Matter” which talks more about how to apply CBT to your life.)

We’ve evolved to give more weight to our flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings than our successes.
Self-criticism can even take a toll on both our minds and bodies.
It can lead to ruminative thoughts that interfere with our productivity, and it can impact our bodies by stimulating inflammatory mechanisms that lead to chronic illness and accelerate aging, according to a few studies (not much money for research for that to monetize that info.).
There are ways around our negativity bias, and it is possible to turn self-criticism into opportunities for learning and personal growth.

Clinicians are particularly concerned when clients are hard on themselves because that negative self-talk can lead to a lot of mental health problems including symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, negative self-image and, in a particularly vicious twist, decreased motivation.
It often leads to burn-out as well if you keep pushing yourself to do more and more.

I’m posting below some tips for not being so hard on yourself that I did not author.

Clinically I see more progress with using CBT.
I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Your mistakes are part of your learning.

Learn to be resilient in the face of failure.

Don’t compare yourself to others because you aren’t them. 

You’re you, so accept yourself for who you are, faults and all. 

There is no right way to do anything. 

Don’t limit your thinking to a right or wrong way–there’s no right way to do the wrong thing, and no wrong way to do something right!

Stand up for what you believe, even if it’s unpopular. 

Make everyone understand your big, crazy ideas. Learn from people who criticize you. 

Don’t let criticism get you down; let it inspire you to work your ass off! 

Accept your weaknesses as your “features”. 

You aren’t good at everything you do, but nobody else is, either! 

Look at your past as an adventurous biography. 

Your past isn’t your identity and doesn’t dictate your entrepreneurial destiny. 

Don’t underestimate your talent until you apply it 100 times. 

Are you applying your natural talents? 

Every single problem you have is not unique. 

Put your problems in perspective and solve them faster.

Intelligence is relative, self-esteem is not. 

Stay positive, take care of yourself, forget about being perfect, and always keep improving yourself. 

Express your anger in a creative way. 

Feel your anger, express it, and learn from it. 

Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed. 

Having people you can trust and rely on will make you happier and feel better about yourself.

Visit the below sites for a great deal of helpful information about a variety of subject.
Author: Sharon Valentino, MFT
Valentino Therapy – CA LMFT, RAS, ChT, CATC IV (#51746)
Visit my web:
Facebook: Valentino Therapy and Ask This Therapist
Pinterest: Ask This Therapist

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Sleep Is Critical

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A lot of us are having trouble with sleep.
Combating that is now called Sleep Hygiene, yes an odd term.
Without consistently good sleep it is almost impossible to function well, make good decisions and lot of research shows it is very hard to even lose weight.

Lack of Sleep – 
Lack of sleep can kill you, make you fat, make you “stupid”, ruin your health and your looks, certainly sap your energy, destroy your sex life harm your social life, cause serious health problems, affect your personality and on and on. Studies have found that sleep-deprived employees are less satisfied, less productive, and less creative. But you know this.
You read about the accidents caused by lack of sleep.
You read about this and depression.
Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:
-Heart disease
-Heart attack
-Heart failure
-Irregular heartbeat
-High blood pressure
You also read about how people boast they can get by on less than 7-8 hours of good sleep – – still when tested, their driving ability, thinking ability and ability to perform at almost all levels is severely diminished. Yet they brag.
Maybe it’s the lack of sleep that causes this foolish thinking.
Surprisingly, over half of my in-office Marin County and San Francisco clients report sleep is a problem.

I’m sure you’ve heard: If You Snooze You Lose! Just not true!
Many studies have shown that lack of sleep relates to higher body mass, increases in hunger and higher levels of ghrelin.
These studies show a range of 30-35% higher likelihood of obesity in people who sleep less than 6 hours per day. Less sleep decreases leptin (you aren’t hungry) and increases ghrelin (feed me right now, especially high-fat & high-carb foods).
I believe that sleep psychology is a critically important part of any weight loss program.

What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is when you can’t regularly get the amount of sleep you need to wake up feeling rested, healthy and refreshed. For most people that is 7 to 9 hours sleep, though needs vary. You may have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep or the sleep may be fitful for a variety of reasons.
Symptoms of insomnia can include:
-Can’t readily get to sleep, even though you are tired
-Waking up too early in the morning
-Using sleeping pills or alcohol to sleep
-Feeling tired or not wanting to get up after sleeping
-Drowsiness, exhaustion, or irritability
-Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness
-Trouble getting back to sleep when waking up in the night
-Not being about to stay asleep or sleep through the night
Causes of Insomnia:
Stress, anxiety, and depression cause about half of all insomnia cases, but grief and loss ups the percentages considerably. Life stress, worries, bipolar and borderline disorders, anger, grief, and trauma are major factors in sleep problems and should be assessed to see if you may be unaware of their presence or effects.

Sleep greatly improves learning and memory. It triages memories, consolidating useful ones and discarding unhelpful or “duplicate” ones.
It also consolidates procedural memory, the memory of how to do things, which is one reason why athletes build it into their training routines.
As well as memory, sleep enhances mood and cognitive functioning.
Often the problem is habits that you don’t notice and may feel reluctant to alter until realizing how troublesome they are. The choice is yours, but not acting can have dire consequences on your short-term and long-term health.
You may not be aware that many prescription drugs can interfere with sleep, such as antidepressants, stimulants for ADHD, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medications, and some contraceptives. It is wise to make a list, go online to one of the many sources such as RxList and check, then discuss with your Dr.
Common over-the-counter culprits include cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain caffeine (Midol, Excedrin), diuretics, and slimming pills. (Information from
Insomnia, as noted above, is a sleep disorder but it can actually be caused by OTHER sleep disorders such as jet lag, night work, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, night terrors, particularly disturbing dreams and more, which is why a medical check-up with full disclosure on your part (always take notes you made in with you) is important.

What Can You Do?
Very often simple, fairly easy changes to your daily habits can put a stop to insomnia, please continue reading, below.
How Can You Fix Lack of Sleep? With Sleep Hygiene!
You have a good chance of turning the problem around if you look at EVERYTHING that may be affecting you negatively.
Here are just a few:
-Make a sleep diary on paper, or in your device, and track exactly what is going on & when.
-Do you sleep with a pet? If you can’t get Fluffy out of your bed, then you’d better commit to once a day brushing – just before bed (and not in the bedroom area) is necessary.
-Are your sheets and bed linens washed in hot water/hot dryer once a week to be fresh, to kill dust mites, rid them of allergens, etc.?
-Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time – even on weekends. This is important for your biological clock and circadian rhythms. Biologically it is proven that we internally respond to changes in the seasons, sun and moon, which is why jet lag and Daylight Savings Time can be so challenging for most of us. To set your bio-clock it is very important to get up and go to bed at the same time each day in order to feel well and be healthy.
-Do you have black out curtains (they are inexpensive and can hang behind your existing curtains or can be hung atop blinds)?
-Regular exercise of 30 minutes or more most days of the week will nearly always make a big improvement in sleep quality, but the effect is cumulative, not instant. Just not late in the day…
-Getting natural Vitamin D is so important for physical and mental health. It’s free but many people around the world live in areas where they can’t get enough. A huge federally funded study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that ¾ of US teens and adults are deficient in the so-called “Sunshine Vitamin”. This is very serious! Other studies blame this deficiency on leading to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and much more. A time-honored treatment for depression is getting outside for a walk daily. Many US children are seriously deficient due to being allowed to stay inside and play computer games.
-Avoid taking naps unless you are ill and limit them to not more than ½ hour and never after 3 PM. If you need more detail on this, there is an abundance on the web.
-If your bedroom is noisy, get an air purifier as they usually have a soft, soothing sound, and clean the air while distributing a soft breeze that moves the stale air around a bit.
-Do you watch TV, play video games, or use a computer, tablet or smart phone in bed?
Your bedroom should be for sex and sleep – really nothing else. Meditate, read, watch TV elsewhere so that when you go into your bedroom your psyche is primed to know it is time to sleep, or have sex and fall asleep.
-Do not fall asleep on the couch. As soon as you are sleepy, go to bed.
-Do you have caffeine or uppers (coffee, tea, nicotine, soda, drugs) after 4 pm?
-Some people benefit from ear plugs or a sleep mask. It’s a matter of preference.
-Lots of research shows that a cool bedroom is MUCH more conducive to sleep than a warmer one. Throw on an extra blanket or warmer pajamas. Try it. You will sleep better.
-Do you exercise or eat after 8 pm? Heavy, spicy meals cause sleep problems.
-Never, never get in an argument or read the news or social media just before bed. Quiet activities such as reading, soft music, meditation are all very helpful just before bed. I purposely read with a soft light before bed, as it is non-stimulating and causes a little eye fatigue, making me feel sleepy faster.
-Do you use alcohol to fall asleep? Do you use it to get back to sleep? If so, you are starting a vicious cycle and very possibly an addiction. Yes, alcohol will definitely help you go to sleep. It will also assure an unhealthy sleep and it will assure that when it cycles through your system causing blood sugar drops and other problems, it will then turn on you and wake you up. Then you need more alcohol to go back to sleep – and then addiction enters the arena. This is a particular problem for older people who are susceptible to sleep problems and dependence on alcohol in trying to fight insomnia. Its use can also add to dangerous falls, unsafe driving and other serious problems.
-Get off the screens one hour before sleep & cover the blue lights in your bedroom. You know what I’m talking about. Your TV, phone, alarm, computer, tablets, etc. all have blue or light that severely disrupts sleep, blocks your body’s production of melatonin and throws off your natural rhythms so important for health and sleep.
-If you can’t fall asleep, get up briefly, without turning on a lot of lights, and do something calming such as make a note of what is on your mind that needs to be done the next day, get a warm bath, have ½ cup of a warm non-caffeinated drink (more than 4 oz. is likely to make you wake up to visit the bathroom), meditate, etc. then get right back in bed as soon as you feel a little sleepy or are yawning.
-When you are struggling, just decide to enjoy relaxing and not making sleep the immediate goal. Without even getting out of bed you can do progressive muscle relaxation, prayer, meditation, visualize yourself on a beach calmly counting each wave until you drop off to sleep if you don’t like to get out of bed.
-Stop worrying and tell yourself that whatever is the issue you will address it in the morning. Write what is worrying you on a pad by the bed so you aren’t also worrying about forgetting it when you wake up.
-If you can’t self-regulate and improve your sleep, get help right away.

Your health and your thinking ability is too important not to take care of.
Happy sleep tonight.
Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.

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