An Update this Fall

Hello friends!

It’s good to get back to writing on the blog. I thought this would be a good time for an update. On September 7, 2016, I started my doctoral studies in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University. In these two (long) months, I have been challenged in so many new ways and stretched beyond what I was imagining. I call this program Brain Bootcamp because it has been nothing but studying, reading, and writing day in, day out.

But I am so glad that I going through with this. I have had days of doubt when I have wanted to give up. I have almost talked myself out of going the distance. This program will be four years, a good bit of money, and will take the majority of my time. Sacrifices have and will be made. No one said this would be easy.

But I know in the end that it will be so worth it. I am so amazed by my classmates and by the professors that are leading us. I love my classes—especially my cognitive assessment class. So many new possibilities are emerging and I am so eager to see where these next few years take me.

I also had an incredible thing happen in the past month. I got my very first Siamese kitten! To be exact he is a Chocolate Point, short-haired, Applehead, Siamese kitten. Now that’s specific. His name is Mochi and he was born August 9, 2016. I am so in love with him and I have truly never been happier. Having a little one to take care of and play with is such a tremendous joy. I’ll try not to post too many pictures of my little love but I just think the world of him.

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Many exciting things in the works currently and I’ll try to post more regularly. This has definitely been a season of change in my life and I’m adjusting in the process. I hope your fall has been a happy one and that you have something to smile about these days.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

When You Think No One Likes You

As I’ve sat with clients this past year, I’m reflecting on how many of us are secretly insecure that no one likes us. This is a big hindrance to our happiness because we are so bent on appearing “chill” that we lose ourselves in the process. Beating to our own drum—as weird and quirky as that may be—is how we embrace what brings us joy in this life.

But what does make for a likeable person per say? I was recently asked about this. As I reflect on this, there are a few key takeaways that I’ve learned. Yes, we have to own our little idiosyncrasies but there are also general things we can do to connect more with others.

Here are a few key points:

1. People love a clutz: You wouldn’t expect it but we find perfection annoying. When someone is too scripted and put together, it appears insincere and phony. We love someone who can be a little goofy and isn’t afraid to self-deprecate a bit. Take Jennifer Lawrence for example, her Academy Awards fall made her that much more famous and lovable. People like a person who is relatable.


2. People prefer someone who is agreeable rather than confrontational: This doesn’t mean you should be a pansy and bend over backwards when you strongly disagree. However, people often feel uncomfortable when someone is argumentative and finds disagreement over whether there are two clouds in the sky or four. Point being, when it comes to menial matters, it’s not worth it to pick a bone with people.

 

3. Take the time to listen: While people love to talk about themselves, they also get frustrated if you ask a question that you asked five minutes ago. Have a few key questions in your back pocket when you run into that dead silence and be ready to engage in a conversation. The majority of people don’t enjoy awkward silence and while you don’t have to be the comedian of the group, you will be likeable if you can show interest in the person rather than your phone.

The reality is that not everyone is going to like us and we are not going to like everyone. The second we relieve ourselves of this burden, the more we can enjoy the genuine company of the people that we do feel comfortable with. When you have those awkward moments, just own them. Laugh about it. Life is only awkward if you make it often!

At the end of the day, I hope you know that you are more than likeable—you are lovable!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Dating Someone with Depression or Anxiety

I’m often asked on the road how someone can cope with a partner that is experiencing anxiety or depression. 14 million Americans, or 6.8% of the population experiences depression while 40 million Americans, or 18.1% experience anxiety. This is clearly affecting many couples and I think it’s relevant to write about.

I work with couples who experience this on a daily basis and while challenging, I find that these couples ultimately have a stronger and more unified bond because they have learned to problem solve together. Here are my first five thoughts that come to mind:

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1. Don’t take it personally: We often assume that a partner’s down demeanor is because of us. It’s not. Depression and anxiety can be either situational or biological but we are never the sole cause of either symptomatology. It’s tough enough as it is to go through these experiences so do your best to not shame your spouse. Remind them that you are there to support them but also give them some space to breathe so that they don’t feel added guilt.

2. Seek help: It’s good to enter your own therapy to process how the relationship is affecting you. Entering couples therapy is also extremely helpful as it gives couples a space to process the dynamic between them and understand how to communicate effectively. More than anything, a therapist can normalize the experience, as many couples feel very much alone in this experience when in truth, millions of couples endure this on a regular basis.


3. Educate yourself: Learn about what the symptoms of anxiety and depression really are. We have so many myths about these diagnoses. Even reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM5) can help clarify symptomatology. The more you learn, the more empowered you will be and the less scared you will feel about the symptoms you are seeing.

4. Don’t enable: Spouses often want to ameliorate anxiety by giving into the demands. This is the worst thing you can do. If your spouse is wanting to check a locked door (for the third time) or is asking you to drive back a half hour to see if the stove is on, you cannot give in. This reinforces the anxious behavior. It can be difficult to do in the moment but you have to say no to your partner when they are asking you to take part in their anxious behavior. The best thing you can do is to be a calming presence that holds a boundary in their life. While counterintuitive at the start, this ultimately helps an anxious partner learn to trust himself or herself.

5. Be patient: Depression and anxiety can ebb and flow but a couple can learn how to manage the symptoms. There is hope! Even though it may feel like it’s going to last forever, this too shall pass. So long as you can be compassionate and patient with one another, a couple can endure the challenges that depression and anxiety brings into a relationship. Ultimately, a couple can connect to an even greater degree because they are learning to truly be vulnerable and open with one another through a trying time.

If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety or depression, either within yourself or with your partner, I invite you to seek help and support. You are not alone in this experience and with a concerted effort, your relationship can not only stabilize, but also improve.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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