The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise (Part 1)

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The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Helpguide.org

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for the body. But exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better.

What are the mental health benefits of exercise?

Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. Sure, exercise can improve your physical health and your physique, trim your waistline, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. But that’s not what motivates most people to stay active.

People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.

Exercise and depression

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Exercise and anxiety

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.

Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.

Exercise and stress

Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, or frequent urination. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.

Exercise and ADHD

Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Exercise and PTSD and trauma

Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of thinking about other things, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices.

Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise a day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

For more help in establishing a mental/emotional self-care plan that involves exercise, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Blended and Blessed: Keys to Stepfamily Success

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Blended and Blessed is a FREE one-day livestream by Family Life for stepfamily couples, single parents, dating couples with kids, and those who care about blended families.

Hosted by CornerStone Family Services and Delaware Christian Church on April 29, 2017 at the church facility (2280 W. William St., Delaware, OH 43015).

Childcare will be provided for $15/kid. Lunch will be a potluck to be shared.

Contact Carrie Hover LPC at 614-459-3003 ext 703 or chover@cstoneohio.org for more information

Balancing Act: Marriage and Friendships

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Balancing Act: Marriage and Friendships

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Friendship is a great blessing. Can you imagine going through life without friends? (We sure can’t!) Our friendships make up some of the closest relationships in our lives, and that doesn’t stop when we get married.

But when we go through a huge change in life, like beginning a dating relationship or getting married, it shifts the landscape of our relationships. Even though these changes occur, it’s important to find a new balance together, because maintaining our close relationships is important. So how do we do that?

FOCUS ON YOUR MARRIAGE FIRST

When you get married, it can be difficult for your friends (especially if you’re the first one in your circle to tie the knot) to accept the inevitable changes in your relationships with them. They don’t want to “give you up,” in a sense, for you to embark on something new. But it’s impossible to keep pouring the same amount of time and effort into your friendships as before, while cultivating intimacy with your new spouse.

It’s important for you and your spouse to understand that you’re both going to have to make some adjustments to the amount of time you invest in your friendships. You’re starting a new life together, and you need this time. Be empathic toward one another, and work together to make sure you’re meeting one another’s needs, as well as honoring one another’s need for your other friendships.

It’s also important to show empathy toward you friends, who may not understand your need to pour more time into your marriage. If you need to, you can explain that there have been some changes in your life, and right now you need to honor those changes as you start this new chapter.

Remember, your single friends will probably start getting married soon, and at that point, they’ll have a better understanding of where you are right now. In the meantime, you’re the pioneer, so start setting some great patterns in motion. Your friends will see your example of dedication to your marriage, and that will give them a strong model to follow when they get married, themselves.

CREATE SHARED FRIENDSHIPS

One of the greatest joys of a healthy, happy couple is having a shared circle of social connections. Shared friendships enrich your life, but it’s tricky to create a social circle within your marriage that works for both of you (and for those you bring into the circle).

When you gather friends together, something magical happens. You and your spouse get to know the deeper layers of each other in the process, particularly if you have a shared past with some of these friends. Enjoying friends together will deepen and enrich your relationship.

It’s easy to find a single friend we’d like to spend time with, but when it comes to forging friendships with other couples–and creating a relaxed, comfortable dynamic–it takes work, and it’s not as easy to pull off. All four of you need that natural chemistry, and that can be a challenge to find.

But when you and your spouse do “click” with another couple, it’s so rewarding. Not only are you friends with each of them; the mentoring that occurs when you watch another marriage play out in front of you is a huge bonus. When it comes to friends like this, the whole really is greater than each individual.

MAINTAIN INDIVIDUAL FRIENDSHIPS

While we’re big proponents of shared friendships (especially with other couples), this doesn’t mean you can’t also have individual friends. Our lives are enriched by keeping connections with friends from the past, work colleagues, classmates, and others. Communicate openly with one another about these friends, and allow one another the space you need to continue cultivating these individual friendships.

Sometimes we have a sense of responsibility and ownership for friends who have been loyal to us over the years (especially the single years!). It’s important to try to pull those friends into your shared life, but there are times when some of the friends you choose might not be your spouse’s favorite choices, and vice versa.

If your spouse has a friend he or she wants to maintain a connection with, open your arms a little wider to this person. Honor your spouse’s shared history with them, and allow your social horizon to expand. Your spouse is loyal to their friend, and it’s important to show grace and to respect your spouse’s desire to keep this friend in your lives.

Over time, you may find that the friends who aren’t in the center of your shared social circle draw closer to you as a couple. Relationships shift and evolve over time, and you may find that a friend of your spouse’s–who might not have been your top pick at first–turns out to be one of your most loyal friendships.

If you would like help with this balancing act of marriage and friendships, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

10 Joy-Stealers in Ministry (and How to Get It Back)

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10 Joy-Stealers in Ministry (and How to Get It Back)

By Thom Rainer

I know. There are many unhappy ministers in our local churches. Such is not a judgmental statement, but a statement of reality. Indeed, I count myself among those who have struggled with joy in ministry on more than one occasion.

In this post, I share 10 of the most common reasons pastors and other church staff members lose their joy in ministry. But I don’t want to just dwell on the negative. Next to each reason, I offer suggestions to counter these joy-stealers. Indeed, I have learned both the reasons for joy-stealers and the reasons joy returns largely from you readers. Over the past few years, you have been my teachers in many ways. I am so grateful for you.

What are the joy-stealers? Even more importantly, what are pastors and other church staff doing to recapture their joy? Here are 10 common responses.

  1. Seeing the underbelly of Christian ministry. Christian ministry means working with sinners just like you and me. It’s often not a pretty sight to see what we see in local churches. And while we don’t condone sin, let’s learn to demonstrate grace and love like Jesus did and does.
  2. Constant criticisms (“death by a thousand cuts”). I received my first criticism as a pastor on my third day of ministry. I was crushed. May we be men and women who seek to please God instead of people. And may He give us the strength to be godly and gracious when we do receive criticisms.
  3. Fighting among Christians. A non-Christian recently told me that he has been observing Christians on blogs and social media the past several months. He said: “You Christians are some of the meanest people I’ve ever known.” Ouch. We will know Christlike joy when we act like Him, and not like the world.
  4. Busyness that turns to prayerlessness. We will always lose our joy when we neglect our time in prayer. When we pray, we are connected to the Source of all joy. If we are too busy to pray, we are too busy.
  5. Unreasonable work hours. Many in Christian ministry become workaholics to the detriment of their families and themselves. It is ultimately our choice and our responsibility to have a balanced life. When we don’t, the joy goes away.
  6. Attacks on our family. This is an especially difficult joy-stealer, because we sometimes feel powerless when it happens. Be even more diligent in prayer to seek His wisdom. Let your family know they come first. Confront the perpetrator, if necessary. But do this all in a spirit of prayer and love.
  7. Sour staff relations. Anecdotally, I believe this joy stealer is present in over half of our churches. It is your responsibility to be gracious, to be a reconciler and to be a peacemaker. If relationships are still sour, you have done all you can. Your joy comes from the Lord, not the other church staff.
  8. Inwardly focused church. A church that focuses most ministries and activities on the members and not those beyond the church becomes stale and self-serving. You must get your joy in the Lord by reaching out to others, regardless of what others in the church do.
  9. Lack of respect in the community and culture. Up until about 1990, most ministers were respected, if not revered, in their communities. That reality is shifting dramatically in most communities today. Remember again, your joy does not come from the approval of men and women in the community.
  10. Entitlement mentality among some church members. A number of church members view the church as a country club where they pay dues to get what they want. Your responsibility as a minister in the church is to serve all people in the name of Christ. In doing so, you will find His joy. But that does not mean you have to yield to the demands of selfish whiners.

There are definitely two common themes in this article. First, ministry in the church is not easy. It’s been that way for 2,000 years. Second, if we focus on these joy-stealers, they will indeed take away our joy. But if we keep our focus on Christ, our joy can never be taken away.

 

If you would like some help with joy-stealers in your life, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a life-coach or counselor.

Who is the Mature One in Your Marriage?

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Who is the Mature One in Your Marriage?

By Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

It is much easier to sit back and say, “Well Emerson, I would be more loving if my wife was more respectful!” Or, “Why should I show my husband respect when he is treating me in an unloving way?”

Of course it is easier to be obedient to God in our marriage when our husband or wife is also being obedient. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

So who goes first?

My answer: the mature one.

How do you know if you are the mature one? Let me put it this way.  I can tell you if you are the immature one.

The immature person uses this information not to change themselves, but to try to change their spouse. Their whole mindset is to get their spouse to be more loving or respectful rather than trying to be more loving or respectful themselves. They do not believe that they have the power to influence their spouse, but instead see their spouse as having all the power to influence them. Therefore they must change their spouse in order to be happy.

The immature person lacks obedience to God’s commands. Instead their mission is to get their spouse to obey God’s command toward them. Bottom line, the Lord will not honor that and a spouse is not going to respond to that any more than if the roles were reversed.

The mature person, on the other hand, will do their part to improve the marriage, even if it means putting their own feelings aside. They will choose obedience to God’s commands over their own feelings and over their circumstances. That’s because they understand the nature of God:  He is a good God, whose commands are given to help us, not to harm us.

Let me also add that the mature one does not tell their disobedient spouse that they are immature. Nor do they throw it around that they are doing all of these loving or respectful things because of their maturity. That would be immature – and counterproductive! Shaming or condemning your spouse for their immaturity is really a reflection of your own immaturity. The mature spouse displays their loving or respectful actions with a humble heart.

Which are you in your relationship?  The mature one – or the immature one?

If you have hesitated to step out in faith and honor God in your marriage, trust His word and His character. Trust that He would not ask you to do something foolish. He is too wise for that. Be the mature one and make the first loving or respectful move. It could change everything!

-Dr. E

If you would like help with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Strength in Confronting our Feelings

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It takes strength to confront our feelings and to reach out for help. If you would like help, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Look at Your Partner Through Rose-Colored Glasses (Seriously)

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Look at Your Partner Through Rose-Colored Glasses (Seriously)

By Sanaa Hyder, M.S.Ed

When you started dating your partner, you probably had glowing things to say about them. You noticed every gesture (flowers for no reason!) and every sweet compliment. Fast forward a few years, you both may have collected hurtful emotional bumps and bruises along the way, making it hard to focus on the good things. It’s easy to fall into a rut and imagine that your partner doesn’t care, even if they still do. Does this negative perspective hurt a relationship? Let’s take a look at what the research says.

Dr. Gottman defines the negative perspective as an overriding sense of negative regard, where even neutral or positive actions from your partner are skewed in your mind to be perceived as negative. This often manifests itself in feelings of loneliness, powerlessness, and eventually one or both partners distancing themselves from each other. When your feelings are predominantly negative, every action, bid for attention, joke, or mistake can be interpreted through this new negative lense – whether or not it deserves to be seen that way.

If you find yourself constantly questioning your partner’s intentions, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, you may be experiencing the result of weeks or months of being in the negative perspective.

Dr. Gottman suggests that it’s never too late to reinvigorate your relationship with positive feelings for one another. This requires a deliberate effort to think about your partner in a more favorable light. Successful couples create a culture of goodwill in their relationship and purposefully strive to see each other through rose-colored glasses.

But what does positivity in a relationship actually look like? Here are some ideas for how to start thinking the best of your partner.

“I love it when…”
Try starting your sentences (even complaints) with “I love it when.” For instance, instead of “Why haven’t we gone on a date recently?” try this: “I love it when we go out together. Remember when we went to that restaurant that night? I had so much fun. Let’s do that again!”

Write down your appreciations
Try making a list of all the small things you notice your partner do or say. Dr. Gottman encourages couples to catch their partner doing something right. Start in the morning and continue through the evening as if you’re tracking their good habits. For instance: made coffee, poured my cereal, called me in the afternoon, paid the bill after I forgot.

An awareness of these small moments builds a habit of mind of seeing your partner in a positive way. When it is time to voice your appreciation, it will be easier to recall one moment out of many. Of course, they may also be negative moments, but try to actively engage your mind in remembering the good ones.

Build up your partner
Find moments to tell your partner about how amazing, brave, and sexy a certain behavior has been. Here are some examples.

Did they collect old clothing for donation? “Babe, you’re so thoughtful and giving  – not just to this family!” or, “Thanks for coming out shopping with me on Wednesday, even though it was boring for you, I’m glad you came.”

Your attitude is your responsibility. You have the opportunity to adjust the narrative you want to tell yourself about the relationship. This narrative is important because it affects the intensity of your arguments, and ultimately your long term-success as a couple.

Now, after doing these exercises, it becomes easier to state your complaint or positive need, because you have a perspective of your partner which may be more akin to the perspective they hold of themselves.

For instance, when you are in the positive perspective, you are more inclined to recall that you are asking someone for whom you’ve built up regard and love. Within the context of appreciating your partner’s efforts all day, it feels easier to to approach your best friend with your needs from a place of warmth and affection.

If you were not paying attention to your partner’s actions all day, your request might gloss over their good behavior. Your partner may think you haven’t noticed their efforts at being caring and attentive. Unknowingly, you create a culture of negativity. So, paying attention matters. Sound like a lot to keep in mind? Maybe at first, but remember that the Gottman motto is “small things often”  -  this includes noticing the small things and appreciating them.

To build a culture of good feelings in your home and in your relationship, you have to start taking responsibility for your mindset. Where the mind goes, words and actions will follow.

If you would like help with your marriage or relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Smartphone Addiction: Breaking Free

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The following is an excerpt from Smartphone Addiction by Helpguide.org:

Self-help tips for smartphone addiction

There are a number of steps you can take to get your smartphone use under control. While you can initiate many of these measures yourself, an addiction is hard to beat on your own, especially when temptation is always within easy reach. It can be all too easy to slip back into old patterns of usage. Look for outside support, whether it’s from family, friends, or a professional therapist.

To help you identify your problem areas, keep a log of when and how much you use your smartphone for non-work or non-essential activities. There are specific apps that can help with this, enabling you to track the time you spend on your phone (see the Resources section below). Are there times of day that you use your phone more? Are there other things you could be doing instead? The more you understand your smartphone use, the easier it will be to curb your habits and regain control of your time.

Recognize the triggers that make you reach for your phone. Is it when you’re lonely or bored? If you are struggling with depression, stress, or anxiety, for example, your excessive smartphone use might be a way to self-soothe rocky moods. Instead, find healthier and more effective ways of managing your moods, such as practicing relaxation techniques or using HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.

Understand the difference between interacting in-person and online. Human beings are social creatures. We’re not meant to be isolated or to rely on technology for human interaction. The inner ear, face, and heart are wired together in the brain, so socially interacting with another person face-to-face—making eye contact, responding to body language, listening, talking—can make you feel calm, safe, and understood, and quickly put the brakes on stress. Interacting through text, email or messaging may feel important but it bypasses these nonverbal cues so can never have the same effect on your emotional well-being. Besides, online friends can’t hug you when a crisis hits, visit you when you’re sick, or celebrate a happy occasion with you.

Strengthen your support network. Set aside dedicated time each week for friends and family. If you are shy, there are ways to overcome social awkwardness and make lasting friends without relying on social media or the Internet. To find people with similar interests, try reaching out to colleagues at work, joining a sports team or book club, enrolling in an education class, or volunteering for a good cause. You’ll be able to interact with others like you, let relationships develop naturally, and form friendships that will enhance your life and strengthen your health.

Build your coping skills. Perhaps tweeting, texting or blogging is your way of coping with stress or angry feelings. Or maybe you have trouble relating to others, or are excessively shy with people in real life and find it easier to communicate with people online. Building skills in these areas will help you weather the stresses and strains of daily life without relying on your smartphone.

Recognize any underlying problems that may support your compulsive behavior. Have you had problems with alcohol or drugs in the past? Does anything about your smartphone use remind you of how you used to drink or use drugs to numb or distract yourself? Recognize if you need to address treatment in these areas or return to group support meetings.

Modify your smartphone use, step-by-step

For most people, getting control over their smartphone use isn’t a case of quitting cold turkey. Think of it more like going on a diet. Just as you still need to eat, you probably still need to use your phone for work, school or to stay in touch with friends. Your goal should be to cut back to more healthy levels of use.

  1. Set goals for when you can use your smartphone. For example, you might schedule use for certain times of day, or you could reward yourself with a certain amount of time on your phone once you’ve completed a homework assignment or finished a chore, for instance.
  2. Turn off your phone at certain times of the day, such as when you’re driving, in a meeting, at the gym, having dinner, or playing with your kids.
  3. Don’t bring your phone or tablet to bed. The blue light emitted by the screens can disrupt your sleep if used within two hours of bedtime. Turn devices off and leave them in another room overnight to charge. Instead of reading eBooks on your phone or tablet at night, pick up a book. You’ll not only sleep better but research shows you’ll also remember more of what you’ve read.
  4. Replace your smartphone use with healthier activities. If you are bored and lonely, resisting the urge to use your smartphone to play games or check social media can be very difficult. Have a plan for other ways to fill the time, such as meditating, reading a book, or chatting with friends face to face.
  5. Spending time with other smartphone addicts? Play the “phone stack” game. When you’re having lunch, dinner, or drinks together, have everyone place their smartphones face down on the table. Even as the phones buzz and beep, no one is allowed to grab his or her device. If someone can’t resist checking their phone, that person has to pick up the check for everyone.
  6. Remove social media apps from your phone so you can only check Facebook, Twitter and the like from your computer. What you see of others on social media is rarely an accurate reflection of their lives—people exaggerate the positive aspects of their lives, brushing over the doubts and disappointments that we all experience. Spending less time comparing yourself unfavorably to these stylized representations can help to boost your mood and sense of self-worth.
  7. Limit checks. If you compulsively check your phone every few minutes, wean yourself off by limiting your checks to once every 15 minutes. Then once every 30 minutes, then once an hour. If you need help, there are apps that can automatically limit when you’re able to access your phone.
  8. Curb your fear of missing out. Accept that by limiting your smartphone use, you’re likely going to miss out on certain invitations, breaking news, or new gossip. There is so much information available on the Internet, it’s almost impossible to stay on top of everything, anyway. Accepting this can be liberating and help break your reliance on technology.

Treatment for smartphone addiction

Therapy and counseling for smartphone addiction

Therapy can give you a tremendous boost in controlling smartphone and Internet use. Cognitive-behavioral therapy provides step-by-step ways to stop compulsive behaviors and change your perceptions about your smartphone. Therapy can also help you learn healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.

If your smartphone or Internet use is affecting your partner directly, as with excessive use of Internet pornography or online affairs, marriage counseling can help you work through these challenging issues. Marriage counseling can also help you reconnect with your partner if you have been using virtual worlds for most of your social needs.

Group support for smartphone addiction

Organizations such as Internet & Tech Addiction Anonymous (ITAA) and On-Line Gamers Anonymous offer online support and some face-to-face meetings to curb excessive technology use, as well as tips on starting your own chapter. Of course, online support groups and forums should be used with caution. Although they may be helpful in finding sources of assistance, it’s easy to use them as an excuse to spend even more time on your smartphone or computer. While you need real-life people to benefit fully from any addiction support group, it’s especially important for smartphone or Internet addiction. Sex Addicts Anonymous may be another place to try if you are having trouble with cybersex or compulsive use of sex and dating apps.

For those in need of greater intervention, there are now specialist treatment centers that offer digital detox programs to help you disconnect from digital media. For help finding these, as well as support groups and therapists, see the Resources and References section below.

Helping a child or teen with smartphone addiction

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, while young children older than 2 should spend no more than 1 to 2 hours a day viewing age-appropriate material. Of course, once kids have their own smartphones, limiting their use becomes that much more difficult. Any parent who’s tried to drag a child or teen away from a smartphone or tablet knows how challenging it can be to separate kids from social media, messaging apps, or online games and videos. Youngsters lack the maturity to curb their smartphone use on their own, but simply confiscating the device can often backfire, creating anxiety and withdrawal symptoms in your child. Instead, there are plenty of other ways to help your child find a healthier balance:

Be a good role model. Children have a strong impulse to imitate, so it’s important you manage your own smartphone and Internet use. It’s no good asking your child to unplug at the dinner table while you’re staring at your own phone or tablet. Try not to let your own smartphone use distract from parent-child interactions.

Use apps to monitor and limit your child’s smartphone use. There are a number of apps available that can limit your child’s data usage or restrict his or her texting and web browsing to certain times of the day to enforce technology breaks. Other apps can eliminate messaging capabilities while in motion, so you can prevent your teen using a smartphone while driving.

Create “phone-free” zones. Restrict the use of smartphones or tablets to a common area of the house where you can keep an eye on your child’s activity and limit time online. Ban phones from the dinner table and bedrooms and insist they’re turned off after a certain time at night.

Encourage other interests and social activities. Get your child out from behind the phone or computer screen. Expose kids to other hobbies and activities, such as team sports, Scouts, and afterschool clubs. Spend time as a family unplugged.

Talk to your child about underlying issues. Compulsive smartphone use can be the sign of deeper problems. Is your child having problems fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress? Is your child suffering with other issues at school or home?

Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents, but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, doctor, or respected family friend. Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling if you are concerned about your child’s smartphone use.

If you would like help breaking free from smartphone addiction, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Problem with Sexual Compatibility

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The Problem with Sexual Compatibility

By Hafeez Baoku

Last year, while working as a counselor at a Christian camp for young adults, I had the pleasure of spending a few months with hundreds of young men from around the country. If you have ever spent a large amount of time with a group of young men discussing life issues, you know I received a variety of crazy questions about sex.

For example, one of the campers asked, “If I’m supposed to wait to be married to have sex, how am I supposed to know if my wife and I are sexually compatible? Don’t I need to try out a few other girls first?” I wasn’t taken aback by his question because I knew he was just another teenage boy looking for an excuse to bend God’s guidelines. So I brushed off the question with a shallow answer so I could get back to the topic I was discussing.

Since receiving his question, I hadn’t thought about the idea of sexual compatibility until last month when the Huffington Post published a piece titled “Sex Before Marriage: 5 Reasons Every Couple Should Do It.” As the title suggests, the article discourages young singles from waiting for sex until marriage. The chief reason, according to the author, is that premarital sex affords the opportunity to ensurethere is sexual chemistry and compatibility with the other person. In cruder, contemporary parlance this is often called “test driving.” Linked to the topic of sexual chemistry was another article called “My Virginity Mistake,” in which a woman shares her negative experience of waiting for sex until marriage in light of her recent divorce to one with whom she wasn’t “sexually compatible.”

After recent conversations with self-identifying Christians also embracing this idea, I fear this idea has become an issue that needs to be addressed. I’d like to share why our culture’s notion of “sexual compatibility” is anti-Christian and, ultimately, destructive.

Conditional Love

The primary problem with this notion of sexual chemistry is that it focuses sex on pleasure and performance. Contrary to what Hollywood may suggest, great sex (which is a good, God-honoring thing) isn’t the pinnacle of humanity’s existence. Sex was created for man, but man was not created for sex. God gave sex as a gift to be exclusively enjoyed by a husband and wife as a means of loving, caring, serving, honoring, and enjoying each other in marriage. So sexual compatibility between a married couple comes neither from ecstasy (how good the sex is) nor frequency (how often you have it) but mainly from intimacy, which occurs as love, trust, security, and respect deepen through the longevity of a monogamous, self-giving, covenant relationship.

Lifelong commitment is something our culture struggles to understand and uphold. If “soulmates” should be tried out sexually, then what was intended for marriage gets ripped from its original context and instead becomes a litmus test for vague, fleeting feelings of compatibility and connection. But this selfish objectification, which involves viewing another as a tool made to meet our sexual standards, has never been God’s design for finding a spouse.

In the first marriage account, God declared it’s “not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). So he gave Adam a wife. He didn’t give him his own reality show where he could meet Erin, Erica, Emma, and Eliza in order to discover which one would be sexually compatible. He gave Adam one woman, with whom he’d never had sex, and called him to love her for the rest of his life. Why did God do this? Because, in his perfect wisdom, he didn’t design the purpose of marriage to be about great sex with the perfect person but about a lifetime of serving and staying with the inevitably imperfect person you’ve vowed to love.

True Sexual Compatibility

From the many conversations I’ve had with those who are happily married with healthy, God-honoring sex lives, I’ve learned that true sexual compatibility, if we must call it that, happens when two people commit themselves first to God, and then to each other. This covenant commitment affords an opportunity for a husband and wife to unconditionally serve and love the way Jesus loves his bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33). Marriage is a journey in which two incompatible, selfish sinners learn to become one. There will thus be multiple things—including sex—that both parties will have to figure out together along the way.

Desiring a healthy and vibrant sex life in marriage is a good and even wise thing. But for the Christian it’s not ultimate. As a single Christian man, I desire a spiritually healthy marriage before a sexually healthy one, though I trust the former encourages the latter. Therefore, I’m willing to trust God and wait, not because I want to have the most euphoric wedding night with someone I’m perfectly sexually compatible with, but because I want a healthy, God-honoring marriage after the wedding night with the person to whom I’ve just committed my life.

If you would like help with your relationship struggles, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Smartphone Addiction: What is it?

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The following is an excerpt from Smartphone Addiction by Helpguide.org:

What is smartphone addiction?

Smartphone addiction, sometimes colloquially known as “nomophobia” (fear of being without a mobile phone), is often fueled by an Internet overuse problem or Internet addiction disorder. After all, it’s rarely the phone or tablet itself that creates the compulsion, but rather the games, apps, and online worlds it connects us to.

Effects of smartphone addiction

While heavy phone use can often be symptomatic of other underlying problems—such as stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness—it can also exacerbate these problems. If you use your smartphone as a “security blanket” to relieve feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or awkwardness in social situations, for example, you’ll succeed only in cutting yourself off further from the people around you. Staring at your phone will deny you the face-to-face interactions that can help to meaningfully connect you to others, alleviate anxiety, and boost your mood. In other words, the remedy you’re choosing for your anxiety (engaging with your smartphone), is actually making your anxiety worse.

Smartphone or Internet addiction can also negatively impact your life by:

Increasing loneliness and depression. While it may seem that losing yourself online will temporarily make feelings such as loneliness, depression, and boredom evaporate into thin air, it can actually make you feel even worse. A 2014 study found a correlation between high social media usage and depression and anxiety. Users, especially teens, tend to compare themselves unfavorably with their peers on social media, promoting feelings of loneliness and depression.

Fueling anxiety. One researcher found that the mere presence of a phone in a work place tends to make people more anxious and perform poorly on given tasks. The heavier the phone user, the greater the anxiety experienced.

Increasing stress. Using a smartphone for work often means work bleeds into your home and personal life. You feel the pressure to always be on, never out of touch from work. This need to continually check and respond to email can contribute to higher stress levels and even burnout.

Exacerbating attention deficit disorders. The constant stream of messages and information from a smartphone can overwhelm the brain and make it impossible to focus attention on any one thing for more than a few minutes without feeling compelled to move on to something else.

Diminishing your ability to concentrate and think deeply or creatively. The persistent buzz, ping or beep of your smartphone can distract you from important tasks, slow your work, and interrupt those quiet moments that are so crucial to creativity and problem solving. Instead of ever being alone with our thoughts, we’re now always online and connected.

Disturbing your sleep. Excessive smartphone use can disrupt your sleep, which can have a serious impact on your overall mental health. It can impact your memory, affect your ability to think clearly, and reduce your cognitive and learning skills.

Encouraging self-absorption. A UK study found that people who spend a lot of time on social media are more likely to display negative personality traits such as narcissism. Snapping endless selfies, posting all your thoughts or details about your life can create an unhealthy self-centeredness, distancing you from real-life relationships and making it harder to cope with stress.

Signs and symptoms of smartphone addiction

We can use smartphones to fill every quiet moment and keep us entertained, up to date, and connected to friends and strangers alike. But how much time is too much time to spend on a smartphone or other mobile device?

Americans spend an average of nearly 3½ hours a day on their mobile devices—checking social media, watching videos, and accessing apps or the Internet. However, there is no specific amount of time spent on your phone, or the frequency you check for updates, or the number of messages you send or receive that indicates an addiction or overuse problem. You may need to use the Internet or email extensively for work, for example, or have to be on call for your job or as a family caregiver, or you may rely heavily on social media to keep in touch with faraway family and friends.

Spending a lot of time connected to your phone only becomes a problem when it absorbs so much of your time it causes you to neglect your face-to-face relationships, your work, school, hobbies, or other important things in your life. If you find yourself ignoring friends over lunch to read Facebook updates or compulsively checking your phone in while driving or during school lectures, then it’s time to reassess your smartphone use and strike a healthier balance in your life.

General warning signs of smartphone addiction

  • Trouble completing tasks at work or home. Do you find laundry piling up and little food in the house for dinner because you’ve been busy chatting online, texting, or playing video games? Perhaps you find yourself working late more often because you can’t complete your work on time.
  • Isolation from family and friends. Is your social life suffering because of all the time you spend on your phone or other device? If you’re in a meeting or chatting with friends, do you lose track of what’s being said because you’re checking messages or updates on your phone? Have friends and family expressed concern about the amount of time you spend on your phone? Do you feel like no one in your “real” life—even your spouse—understands you like your online friends?
  • Concealing your smartphone use. Do you sneak off to a quiet place to use your smartphone? Do you hide your smartphone use or lie to your boss and family about the amount of time you spend online? Do you get irritated or cranky if your online time is interrupted?
  • Have a fear of missing out. Do you hate to feel out of the loop or think you’re missing out on important news or information if you don’t check you phone regularly? Do you need to compulsively check social media because you’re anxious that others are having a better time, making more money, or leading a more exciting life than you? Do you get up at night to check your phone?
  • Feeling of dread, anxiety or panic if you leave your smartphone at home, the battery runs down or the operating system crashes. Or you feel a phantom vibration—you feel your phone vibrating but when you check, there are no new messages or updates.

Withdrawal symptoms from smartphone addiction

A common warning sign of smartphone or Internet addiction is experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to cut back on your smartphone use. These may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Anger or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Craving access to your smartphone or other device

If you would like help with a smartphone or other technology addiction, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.