Recovering from Rape and Sexual Trauma

Recovering from sexual assault takes time, and the healing process can be painful. But you can regain your sense of control, rebuild your self-worth, and learn to heal.

The aftermath of rape and sexual trauma
Sexual violence is shockingly common in our society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. are raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, often by someone they know and trust. In some Asian, African, and Middle Eastern countries, that figure is even higher. And sexual assault isn’t limited to women; many men and boys suffer rape and sexual trauma each year.

Regardless of age or gender, the impact of sexual violence goes far beyond any physical injuries. The trauma of being raped or sexually assaulted can be shattering, leaving you feeling scared, ashamed, and alone or plagued by nightmares, flashbacks, and other unpleasant memories. The world doesn’t feel like a safe place anymore. You no longer trust others. You don’t even trust yourself. You may question your judgment, your self-worth, and even your sanity. You may blame yourself for what happened or believe that you’re “dirty” or “damaged goods.” Relationships feel dangerous, intimacy impossible. And on top of that, like many rape survivors, you may struggle with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

It’s important to remember that what you’re experiencing is a normal reaction to trauma. Your feelings of helplessness, shame, defectiveness, and self-blame are symptoms, not reality. No matter how difficult it may seem, with these tips and techniques, you can come to terms with what happened, regain your sense of safety and trust, and learn to heal and move on with your life.

Myths and facts about rape and sexual assault
Dispelling the toxic, victim-blaming myths about sexual violence can help you start the healing process.

Myth: You can spot a rapist by the way he looks or acts.
Fact: There’s no surefire way to identify a rapist. Many appear completely normal, friendly, charming, and non-threatening.

Myth: If you didn’t fight back, you must not have thought it was that bad.
Fact: During a sexual assault, it’s extremely common to freeze. Your brain and body shuts down in shock, making it difficult to move, speak, or think.

Myth: People who are raped “ask for it” by the way they dress or act.
Fact: Rape is a crime of opportunity. Studies show that rapists choose victims based on their vulnerability, not on how sexy they appear or how flirtatious they are.

Myth: Date rape is often a misunderstanding.
Fact: Date rapists often defend themselves by claiming the assault was a drunken mistake or miscommunication. But research shows that the vast majority of date rapists are repeat offenders. These men target vulnerable people and often ply them with alcohol in order to rape them.

Myth: It’s not rape if you’ve had sex with the person before.
Fact: Just because you’ve previously consented to sex with someone doesn’t give them perpetual rights to your body. If your spouse, boyfriend, or lover forces sex against your will, it’s rape.

Recovering from rape or sexual trauma step 1: Open up about what happened to you
It can be extraordinarily difficult to admit that you were raped or sexually assaulted. There’s a stigma attached. It can make you feel dirty and weak. You may also be afraid of how others will react. Will they judge you? Look at you differently? It seems easier to downplay what happened or keep it a secret. But when you stay silent, you deny yourself help and reinforce your victimhood.

Reach out to someone you trust. It’s common to think that if you don’t talk about your rape, it didn’t really happen. But you can’t heal when you’re avoiding the truth. And hiding only adds to feelings of shame. As scary as it is to open up, it will set you free. However, it’s important to be selective about who you tell, especially at first. Your best bet is someone who will be supportive, empathetic, and calm. If you don’t have someone you trust, talk to a therapist or call a rape crisis hotline.

Challenge your sense of helplessness and isolation. Trauma leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable. It’s important to remind yourself that you have strengths and coping skills that can get you through tough times. One of the best ways to reclaim your sense of power is by helping others: volunteer your time, give blood, reach out to a friend in need, or donate to your favorite charity.

Consider joining a support group for other rape or sexual abuse survivors. Support groups can help you feel less isolated and alone. They also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery. If you can’t find a support group in your area, look for an online group.

Step 2: Cope with feelings of guilt and shame
Even if you intellectually understand that you’re not to blame for the rape or sexual attack, you may still struggle with a sense of guilt or shame. These feelings can surface immediately following the assault or arise years after the attack. But as you acknowledge the truth of what happened, it will be easier to fully accept that you are not responsible. You did not bring the assault on yourself and you have nothing to be ashamed about.

Feelings of guilt and shame often stem from misconceptions such as:

You didn’t stop the assault from happening. After the fact, it’s easy to second guess what you did or didn’t do. But when you’re in the midst of an assault, your brain and body are in shock. You can’t think clearly. Many people say they feel “frozen.” Don’t judge yourself for this natural reaction to trauma. You did the best you could under extreme circumstances. If you could have stopped the assault, you would have.

You trusted someone you “shouldn’t” have. One of the most difficult things to deal with following an assault by someone you know is the violation of trust. It’s natural to start questioning yourself and wondering if you missed warning signs. Just remember that your attacker is the only one to blame. Don’t beat yourself up for assuming that your attacker was a decent human being. Your attacker is the one who should feel guilty and ashamed, not you.

You were drunk or not cautious enough. Regardless of the circumstances, the only one who is responsible for the assault is the perpetrator. You did not ask for it or deserve what happened to you. Assign responsibility where it belongs: on the rapist.

Step 3: Prepare for flashbacks and upsetting memories
When you go through something stressful, your body temporarily goes into “fight-or-flight” mode. When the threat has passed, your body calms down. But traumatic experiences such as rape can cause your nervous system to become stuck in a state of high alert. You’re hyper sensitive to the smallest of stimuli. This is the case for many rape survivors. Flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories are extremely common, especially in the first few months following the assault. If your nervous system remains “stuck” in the long-term and you develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they can last much longer.

To reduce the stress of flashbacks and upsetting memories:

Try to anticipate and prepare for triggers. Common triggers include anniversary dates; people or places associated with the rape; and certain sights, sounds, or smells. If you are aware of what triggers may cause an upsetting reaction, you’ll be in a better position to understand what’s happening and take steps to calm down.

Pay attention to your body’s danger signals. Your body and emotions give you clues when you’re starting to feel stressed and unsafe. These clues include feeling tense, holding your breath, racing thoughts, shortness of breath, hot flashes, dizziness, and nausea.

Take immediate steps to self-soothe. When you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to quickly act to calm yourself down before they spiral out of control. One of the quickest and most effective ways to calm anxiety and panic is to slow down your breathing.

Tips for dealing with flashbacks
It’s not always possible to prevent flashbacks. But if you find yourself losing touch with the present and feeling like the sexual assault is happening all over again, there are actions you can take.

Accept and reassure yourself that this is a flashback, not reality. The traumatic event is over and you survived. Here’s a simple script that can help: “I am feeling [panicked, frightened, overwhelmed, etc.] because I am remembering the rape/sexual assault, but as I look around I can see that the assault isn’t happening right now and I’m not actually in danger.”

Ground yourself in the present. Grounding techniques can help you direct your attention away from the flashback and back to your present environment. For example, try tapping or touching your arms or describing your actual environment and what you see when look around—name the place where you are, the current date, and 3 things you see when you look around.

Step 4: Reconnect to your body and feelings
Since your nervous system is in a hypersensitive state following a rape or assault, you may start trying to numb yourself or avoid any associations with the trauma. But you can’t selectively numb your feelings. When you shut down the unpleasant sensations, you also shut down your self-awareness and capacity for joy. You end up disconnected both emotionally and physically—existing, but not fully living.

Signs that you’re avoiding and numbing in unhelpful ways:

Feeling physically shut down. You don’t feel bodily sensations like you used to (you might even have trouble differentiating between pleasure and pain).

Feeling separate from your body or surroundings (you may feel like you’re watching yourself or the situation you’re in, rather than participating in it).

Having trouble concentrating and remembering things.

Using stimulants, risky activities, or physical pain to feel alive and counteract the empty feeling inside of you.

Compulsively using drugs or alcohol.

Escaping through fantasies, daydreams, or excessive TV, video games, etc.

Feeling detached from the world, the people in your life, and the activities you used to enjoy.

To recover after rape, you need to reconnect to your body and feelings
It’s frightening to get back in touch with your body and feelings following a sexual trauma. In many ways, rape makes your body the enemy, something that’s been violated and contaminated—something you may hate or want to ignore. It’s also scary to face the intense feelings associated with the assault. But while the process of reconnecting may feel threatening, it’s not actually dangerous. Feelings, while powerful, are not reality. They won’t hurt you or drive you insane. The true danger to your physical and mental health comes from avoiding them.

Once you’re back in touch with your body and feelings, you will feel more safe, confident, and powerful. You can achieve this through the following techniques:

Rhythmic movement. Rhythm can be very healing. It helps us relax and regain a sense of control over our bodies. Anything that combines rhythm and movement will work: dancing, drumming, marching. You can even incorporate it into your walking or running routine by concentrating on the back and forth movements of your arms and legs.

Mindfulness meditation. You can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, even while you are walking or eating. Simply focus on what you’re feeling in the present movement—including any bodily sensations and emotions. The goal is to observe without judgement.

Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong. These activities combine body awareness with relaxing, focused movement and can help relieve symptoms of PTSD and trauma.

Massage. After rape, you may feel uncomfortable with human touch. But touching and being touched is an important way we give and receive affection and comfort. You can begin to reopen yourself to human contact through massage therapy.

Step 5: Stay connected
It’s common to feel isolated and disconnected from others following a sexual assault. You may feel tempted to withdraw from social activities and your loved ones. But it’s important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. Support from other people is vital to your recovery. But remember that support doesn’t mean that you always have to talk about or dwell on what happened. Having fun and laughing with people who care about you can be equally healing.

Participate in social activities, even if you don’t feel like it. Do “normal” things with other people, things that have nothing to do with the sexual trauma.

Reconnect with old friends. If you’ve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect.

Make new friends. If you live alone or far from family and friends, try to reach out and make new friends. Take a class or join a club to meet people with similar interests, connect to an alumni association, or reach out to neighbors or work colleagues.

Step 6: Nurture yourself
Healing from sexual trauma is a gradual, ongoing process. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor do the memories of the trauma ever disappear completely. This can make life seem difficult at times. But there are many steps you can take to cope with the residual symptoms and reduce your anxiety and fear.

Take time to rest and restore your body’s balance. That means taking a break when you’re tired and avoiding the temptation to lose yourself by throwing yourself into activities. Avoid doing anything compulsively, including working. If you’re having trouble relaxing and letting down your guard, you may benefit from relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga.

Be smart about media consumption. Avoid watching any program that could trigger bad memories or flashbacks. This includes obvious things such as news reports about sexual violence and sexually explicit TV shows and movies. But you may also want to temporarily avoid anything that’s over-stimulating, including social media.

Take care of yourself physically. It’s always important to eat right, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep—but even more so when you’re healing from trauma. Exercise in particular can soothe your traumatized nervous system, relieve stress, and help you feel more powerful and in control of your body.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. Avoid the temptation to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Substance use worsens many symptoms of trauma, including emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and depression. It also interferes with treatment and can contribute to problems at home and in your relationships.

How to help someone recover from rape or sexual trauma
When a spouse, partner, sibling, or other loved one has been raped or sexually assaulted, it can generate painful emotions and take a heavy toll on your relationship. You may feel angry and frustrated, be desperate for your relationship to return to how it was before the assault, or even want to retaliate against your loved one’s attacker. But it’s your patience, understanding, and support that your loved one needs now, not more displays of aggression or violence.

Let your loved one know that you still love them and reassure them that the assault was not their fault. Nothing they did or didn’t do could make them culpable in any way.

Allow your loved one to open up at their own pace. Some victims of sexual assault find it very difficult to talk about what happened, others may need to talk about the assault over and over again. This can make you feel alternately frustrated or uncomfortable. But don’t try to force your loved one to open up or urge them to stop rehashing the past. Instead, let them know that you’re there to listen whenever they want to talk. If hearing about your loved one’s assault brings you discomfort, talking to another person can help put things in perspective.

Encourage your loved one to seek help, but don’t pressurize. Following the trauma of a rape or sexual assault, many people feel totally disempowered. You can help your loved one to regain a sense of control by not pushing or cajoling. Encourage them to reach out for help, but let them make the final decision. Take cues from your loved one as to how you can best provide support.

Show empathy and caution about physical intimacy. It’s common for someone who’s been sexually assaulted to shy away from physical touch, but at the same time it’s important they don’t feel those closest to them are emotionally withdrawing or that they’ve somehow been “tarnished” by the attack. As well as expressing affection verbally, seek permission to hold or touch your loved one. In the case of a spouse or sexual partner, understand your loved one will likely need time to regain a sense of control over their life and body before desiring sexual intimacy.

Take care of yourself. The more calm, relaxed, and focused you are, the better you’ll be able to help your loved one. Manage your own stress and reach out to others for support.

How to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship

Getting out of an abusive relationship isn’t easy, but you deserve to live free of fear. Here’s how to find help for abused and battered women.

If you’re in an abusive relationship
Why doesn’t she just leave? It’s the question many people ask when they learn that a woman is suffering battery and abuse. But if you are in an abusive relationship, you know that it’s not that simple. Ending a significant relationship is never easy. It’s even harder when you’ve been isolated from your family and friends, psychologically beaten down, financially controlled, and physically threatened.

If you’re trying to decide whether to stay or leave, you may be feeling confused, uncertain, frightened, and torn. Maybe you’re still hoping that your situation will change or you’re afraid of how your partner will react if he discovers that you’re trying to leave. One moment, you may desperately want to get away, and the next, you may want to hang on to the relationship. Maybe you even blame yourself for the abuse or feel weak and embarrassed because you’ve stuck around in spite of it. Don’t be trapped by confusion, guilt, or self-blame. The only thing that matters is your safety.

If you are being abused, remember:

You are not to blame for being battered or mistreated.
You are not the cause of your partner’s abusive behavior.
You deserve to be treated with respect.
You deserve a safe and happy life.
Your children deserve a safe and happy life.
You are not alone. There are people waiting to help.
There are many resources available for abused and battered women, including crisis hotlines, shelters—even job training, legal services, and childcare. Start by reaching out today.

Making the decision to leave an abusive relationship
As you face the decision to either end the abusive relationship or try to save it, keep the following things in mind:

If you’re hoping your abusive partner will change… The abuse will probably keep happening. Abusers have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it isn’t quick or easy. And change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for his behavior, seeks professional treatment, and stops blaming you, his unhappy childhood, stress, work, his drinking, or his temper.

If you believe you can help your abuser… It’s only natural that you want to help your partner. You may think you’re the only one who understands him or that it’s your responsibility to fix his problems. But the truth is that by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re reinforcing and enabling the behavior. Instead of helping your abuser, you’re perpetuating the problem.

If your partner has promised to stop the abuse… When facing consequences, abusers often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behavior once you’ve forgiven them and they’re no longer worried that you’ll leave.

If your partner is in counseling or a program for batterers… Even if your partner is in counseling, there is no guarantee that he’ll change. Many abusers who go through counseling continue to be violent, abusive, and controlling. If your partner has stopped minimizing the problem or making excuses, that’s a good sign. But you still need to make your decision based on who he is now, not the man you hope he will become.

If you’re worried about what will happen if you leave… You may be afraid of what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children. But don’t let fear of the unknown keep you in a dangerous, unhealthy situation.

Safety planning for abused women
Whether or not you’re ready to leave your abuser, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. These safety tips may might the difference between being severely injured or killed and escaping with your life.

Know your abuser’s red flags. Stay alert for signs and clues that your abuser is getting upset and may explode in anger or violence. Come up with several believable reasons you can use to leave the house (both during the day and at night) if you sense trouble brewing.

Identify safe areas of the house. Know where to go if your abuser attacks or an argument starts. Avoid small, enclosed spaces without exits (such as closets or bathrooms) or rooms with weapons (such as the kitchen). If possible, head for a room with a phone and an outside door or window.

Come up with a code word. Establish a word, phrase, or signal you can use to let your children, friends, neighbors, or co-workers know that you’re in danger and they should call the police.

Make an escape plan
Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Keep the car fueled up and facing the driveway exit, with the driver’s door unlocked. Hide a spare car key where you can get to it quickly. Have emergency cash, clothing, and important phone numbers and documents stashed in a safe place (at a friend’s house, for example).

Practice escaping quickly and safely. Rehearse your escape plan so you know exactly what to do if under attack from your abuser. If you have children, make sure they practice the escape plan also.

Make and memorize a list of emergency contacts. Ask several trusted individuals if you can contact them if you need a ride, a place to stay, or help contacting the police. Memorize the numbers of your emergency contacts, local shelter, and domestic violence hotline.

Protecting your privacy
Abusers often monitor their partner’s activities, including their phone, computer, and Internet use. You may be afraid to leave or ask for help out of fear that your partner will retaliate if he finds out. However, there are precautions you can take to stay safe and keep your abuser from discovering what you’re planning. When seeking help for domestic violence and abuse, it’s important to cover your tracks, especially when you’re using the home phone, a smartphone, or a computer.

Call from a friend’s or neighbor’s phone when seeking help for domestic violence, or use a public pay phone. It’s usually free to call the emergency services from most public phones, so know if there’s one near you in case of emergency.

Check your smartphone settings. There are smartphone apps your abuser can use to listen in on your calls, read your text messages, monitor your internet usage, or track your location. Consider turning it off when not in use or leaving it behind when fleeing your abuser.

Get a second cell phone. To keep your communication and movements private, consider purchasing a prepaid cell phone or another smartphone that your abuser doesn’t know about. Some domestic violence shelters offer free cell phones to battered women. Call your local hotline to find out more.

Call collect or use a prepaid phone card. Remember that if you use your own home phone, the phone numbers that you call will be listed on the monthly bill that is sent to your home. Even if you’ve already left by the time the bill arrives, your abuser may be able to track you down by the phone numbers you’ve called for help.

Use a safe computer. If you seek help online, you are safest if you use a computer outside of your home. While there are ways to delete your Internet history on a computer, tablet, or smartphone that your abuser has access to, this can be a red flag that you’re trying to hide something. Besides, unless you’re very technical, it can be almost impossible to clear all evidence of the websites that you’ve visited. Use a computer at work, the library, your local community center, a domestic violence shelter or agency, or borrow a smartphone from a friend.

Change your user names and passwords. In case your abuser knows how to access your accounts, create new usernames and passwords for your email, IM, online banking, and other sensitive accounts. Even if you don’t think your abuser has your passwords, he may have guessed or used a spyware or keylogging program to get them. Choose passwords that your abuser can’t guess (avoid birthdays, nicknames, and other personal information).

Domestic violence shelters
A domestic violence shelter or women’s shelter is a building or set of apartments where abused and battered women can go to seek refuge from their abusers. The location of the shelter is kept confidential in order to keep your abuser from finding you.

Domestic violence shelters generally have room for both mothers and their children. The shelter will provide for all your basic living needs, including food and childcare. The length of time you can stay at the shelter is limited, but most shelters will also help you find a permanent home, job, and other things you need to start a new life. The shelter should also be able to refer you to other services for abused and battered women in your community, including:

Legal help
Counseling
Support groups
Services for your children
Employment programs
Health-related services
Educational opportunities
Financial assistance
If you go to a domestic violence shelter or women’s refuge, you do not have to give identifying information about yourself, even if asked. While shelters take many measures to protect the women they house, giving a false name may help keep your abuser from finding you, particularly if you live in a small town.

Protecting yourself after you’ve left
Keeping yourself safe from your abuser is just as important after you’ve left as before. To protect yourself, you may need to relocate so your former partner can’t find you. If you have children, they may need to switch schools.

To keep your new location a secret:
Get an unlisted phone number
Use a post office box rather than your home address
In the U.S., apply to your state’s address confidentiality program, a service that confidentially forwards your mail to your home
Cancel your old bank accounts and credit cards, especially if you shared them with your abuser. When you open new accounts, be sure to use a different bank
If you’re remaining in the same area, change up your routine. Take a new route to work, avoid places where your abuser might think to locate you, change any appointments he knows about, and find new places to shop and run errands. You should also keep a cell phone on you at all times and be ready to call 911 (or your country’s emergency services number) if you spot your former abuser.

Consider getting a restraining order or protective order against your abusive partner. However, do not feel falsely secure with a restraining order. Your stalker or abuser may ignore it and the police may do nothing to enforce it.

If you are the victim of stalking or abuse, you need to carefully research how restraining orders are enforced in your neighborhood. Find out if the abuser will just be given a citation or if he will actually be taken to jail. If the police simply talk to the violator or give a citation, your abuser may reason that the police will do nothing and feel empowered to pursue you further. Or your abuser may become angry and retaliate.

Taking steps to heal and move on
The scars of domestic violence and abuse run deep. The trauma of what you’ve been through can stay with you long after you’ve escaped the abusive situation. You may struggle with upsetting emotions, frightening memories, or a sense of constant danger that you just can’t kick. Or you may feel numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. But counseling, therapy, and support groups for domestic abuse survivors can help you process what you’ve been through and learn how to build new and healthy relationships.

Children and Divorce

For children, separation and divorce can be an especially sad, stressful, and confusing time. But there are ways to help your kids cope with the upheaval of a breakup.

Helping your child through a divorce
A separation or divorce is a highly stressful and emotional experience for everyone involved, but children often feel that their whole world has turned upside down. At any age, it can be traumatic to witness the dissolution of your parents’ marriage and the breakup of the family. Kids may feel shocked, uncertain, or angry. Some may even feel guilty, blaming themselves for the problems at home. Divorce is never a seamless process and, inevitably, such a transitional time doesn’t happen without some measure of grief and hardship. But you can dramatically reduce your children’s pain by making their well-being your top priority.

Your patience, reassurance, and listening ear can minimize tension as your children learn to cope with unfamiliar circumstances. By providing routines your kids can rely on, you remind them that they can count on you for stability, structure, and care. And by maintaining a working relationship with your ex, you can help your kids avoid the stress and anguish that comes with watching parents in conflict. With your support, your kids can not only successfully navigate this unsettling time, but even emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong—and even with a closer bond to both parents.

How to tell kids about divorce
When it comes to telling your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up. Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing what you’re going to say before you sit down to talk. If you can anticipate tough questions, deal with your own anxieties ahead of time, and plan carefully what you’ll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your children handle the news.

What to say and how to say it
Difficult as it may be, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points right up front. Give your children the benefit of an honest—but kid-friendly—explanation.

Tell the truth. Your kids are entitled to know why you are getting a divorce, but long-winded reasons may only confuse them. Pick something simple and honest, like “We can’t get along anymore.” You may need to remind your children that while sometimes parents and kids don’t always get along, parents and kids don’t stop loving each other or get divorced from each other.

Say “I love you.” However simple it may sound, letting your children know that your love for them hasn’t changed is a powerful message. Tell them you’ll still be caring for them in every way, from fixing their breakfast to helping them with homework.

Address changes. Preempt your kids’ questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different, and other things won’t. Let them know that together you can deal with each detail as you go.

Avoid blaming
It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. This can be especially difficult when there have been hurtful events, such as infidelity, but with a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the blame game.

Present a united front. As much as you can, try to agree in advance on an explanation for your separation or divorce—and stick to it.

Plan your conversations. Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur. And plan to talk when your spouse is present, if possible.

Show restraint. Be respectful of your spouse when giving the reasons for the separation.

Help your child grieve the divorce
For kids, divorce can feel like an intense loss—the loss of a parent, the loss of the family unit, or simply the loss of the life they knew. You can help your children grieve their loss and adjust to new circumstances by helping them express their emotions.

Listen. Encourage your child to share their feelings and really
listen to them. They may be feeling sadness, loss or frustration about things you may not have expected.

Help them find words for their feelings. It’s normal for children to have difficulty expressing their feelings. You can help them by noticing their moods and encouraging them to talk.

Let them be honest. Children might be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Let them know that whatever they say is okay. They may blame you for the divorce but if they aren’t able to share their honest feelings, they will have a harder time working through them.

Make talking about the divorce an ongoing process. As children age and mature, they often have new questions, feelings, or concerns about what happened, so you may want to go over the same ground again and again.

Acknowledge their feelings. You may not be able to fix their problems or change their sadness to happiness, but it is important for you to acknowledge their feelings rather than dismissing them. You can also inspire trust by showing that you understand.

Let kids know they’re not at fault
Many kids believe that they had something to do with the divorce, recalling times they argued with their parents, received poor grades, or got in trouble. To help your kids let go of this misconception:

Set the record straight. Repeat why you decided to get a divorce. Sometimes hearing the real reason for your decision can help.

Be patient. Kids may seem to “get it” one day and feel unsure the next. Treat your child’s confusion or misunderstandings with patience.

Reassure. As often as you need to, remind your children that both parents will continue to love them and that they are not responsible for the divorce.

Give reassurance and love
Children have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support and love they need. Your words, actions, and ability to remain consistent are all important tools to reassure your children of your unchanging love.

Both parents will be there. Let your kids know that even though the physical circumstances of the family unit will change, they can continue to have healthy, loving relationships with both of their parents.

It’ll be okay. Tell kids that things won’t always be easy, but that they will work out. Knowing it’ll be all right can provide incentive for your kids to give a new situation a chance.

Closeness. Physical closeness—in the form of hugs, pats on the shoulder, or simple proximity—has a powerful way of reassuring your child of your love.

Be honest. When kids raise concerns or anxieties, respond truthfully. If you don’t know the answer, say gently that you aren’t sure right now, but that you’ll find out and it will be okay.

Provide stability through the divorce
While it’s good for kids to learn to be flexible, adjusting to many new circumstances at once can be very difficult. Help your kids adjust to change by providing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives.

Remember that establishing structure and continuity doesn’t mean that you need rigid schedules or that mom and dad’s routines need to be exactly the same. But creating some regular routines at each household and consistently communicating to your children what to expect will provide your kids with a sense of calm and stability.

The comfort of routines
Kids feel safer and more secure when they know what to expect next. Knowing that, even when they switch homes, dinnertime is followed by homework and then a bath, for example, can set a child’s mind at ease.

Maintaining routine also means continuing to observe rules, rewards, and discipline with your children. Resist the temptation to spoil kids during a divorce by not enforcing limits or allowing them to break rules.

Take care of yourself
The first safety instruction for an airplane emergency is to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child. When it comes to helping your kids through your divorce, the take home message is: take care of yourself so that you can be there for your kids.

Coping with your divorce or breakup
The breakup of a relationship can trigger all sorts of painful and unsettling emotions. As well as grieving the loss of your relationship, you may feel confused, isolated, and fearful about the future. By learning how to cope with the pain of a separation or divorce in healthy ways, you’ll be better able to stay calm and help your kids feel more at ease.

Exercise often and eat a healthy diet. Exercise relieves the pent-up stress and frustration that’s commonplace with divorce. And although cooking at home (or learning to cook for one) involves more effort than ordering in, eating healthfully will make you feel better, inside and out—so skip the junk and convenience food.

See friends often. It may be tempting to hole up and avoid seeing friends and family who will inevitably ask about the divorce—but the reality is that face-to-face support from others is vital for relieving the stress of a breakup and getting you through this difficult time. If you don’t want to talk about your breakup, just ask friends to avoid the topic; they’ll understand.

Keep a journal. Writing down your feelings, thoughts, and moods can help you release tension, sadness, and anger. As time passes, you can look back on just how far you’ve come.

Seek support
At the very least, divorce is complicated and stressful—and can be devastating without support.

Lean on friends. Talk face-to-face with friends or a support group about any difficult emotions you’re feeling—such as bitterness, anger, frustration—so you don’t take it out on your kids. If you’ve neglected your social circle while being married and don’t feel you have anyone to confide in, it’s never too late to build new friendships.

Never vent negative feelings to your child. Whatever you do, do not use your child to talk it out like you would with a friend.

Keep laughing. Try to inject humor and play into your life and the lives of your children as much as you can; it can relieve stress and give you all a break from sadness and anger.

See a therapist. If you are feeling intense anger, fear, grief, shame, or guilt, find a professional to help you work through those feelings.

Work with your ex
Conflict between parents—separated or not—can be very damaging for kids. It’s crucial to avoid putting your children in the middle of your fights, or making them feel like they have to choose between you. The following tips can save your kids a lot of heartache.

Take it somewhere else. Never argue in front of your children, whether it’s in person or over the phone. Ask your ex to talk another time, or drop the conversation altogether.

Use tact. Refrain from talking with your children about details of the other parent’s behavior. It’s the oldest rule in the book: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Be nice. Be polite in your interactions with your ex-spouse. This not only sets a good example for your kids but can also encourage your ex to be gracious in response.

Look on the bright side. Choose to focus on the strengths of all family members. Encourage children to do the same.

Work on it. Make it a priority to develop an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse as soon as possible. Watching you be friendly can reassure children and teach problem-solving skills as well.

Resolving parenting conflicts with your ex
If you find yourself, time after time, locked in battle with your ex over the details of parenting, try to step back and remember the bigger purpose at hand.

Remind yourself: what’s best for your kids in the long run? Having a good relationship with both parents throughout their lives.

Think ahead in order to stay calm. If you can keep long-term goals in mind—your children’s physical and mental health, your independence—you may be able to avoid disagreements about daily details.

Consider everyone’s well-being. The happiness of your children, yourself, and, yes, even your ex, should be the broad brushstrokes in the big picture of your new lives after divorce.

Professional help for kids following divorce
Some children go through divorce with relatively few problems, while others have a very difficult time. It’s normal for kids to feel a range of difficult emotions, but time, love, and reassurance should help them to heal. If your kids remain overwhelmed, though, you may need to seek professional help.

It will take some time for your kids to work through their issues about the separation or divorce, but you should see gradual improvement over time.

Tips to Improve Your Sex Life

Whether the problem is big or small, there are many things you can do to get your sex life back on track. Your sexual well-being goes hand in hand with your overall mental, physical, and emotional health. Communicating with your partner, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, availing yourself of some of the many excellent self-help materials on the market, and just having fun can help you weather tough times.

Enjoying a satisfying sex life
Sex. The word can evoke a kaleidoscope of emotions. From love, excitement, and tenderness to longing, anxiety, and disappointment—the reactions are as varied as sexual experiences themselves. What’s more, many people will encounter all these emotions and many others in the course of a sex life spanning several decades.

But what is sex, really?
On one level, sex is just another hormone-driven bodily function designed to perpetuate the species. Of course, that narrow view underestimates the complexity of the human sexual response. In addition to the biochemical forces at work, your experiences and expectations help shape your sexuality. Your understanding of yourself as a sexual being, your thoughts about what constitutes a satisfying sexual connection, and your relationship with your partner are key factors in your ability to develop and maintain a fulfilling sex life.

Talking to your partner
Many couples find it difficult to talk about sex even under the best of circumstances. When sexual problems occur, feelings of hurt, shame, guilt, and resentment can halt conversation altogether. Because good communication is a cornerstone of a healthy relationship, establishing a dialogue is the first step not only to a better sex life, but also to a closer emotional bond. Here are some tips for tackling this sensitive subject.

Find the right time to talk. There are two types of sexual conversations: the ones you have in the bedroom and the ones you have elsewhere. It’s perfectly appropriate to tell your partner what feels good in the middle of lovemaking, but it’s best to wait until you’re in a more neutral setting to discuss larger issues, such as mismatched sexual desire or orgasm troubles.

Avoid criticizing. Couch suggestions in positive terms, such as, “I really love it when you touch my hair lightly that way,” rather than focusing on the negatives. Approach a sexual issue as a problem to be solved together rather than an exercise in assigning blame.

Confide in your partner about changes in your body. If hot flashes are keeping you up at night or menopause has made your vagina dry, talk to your partner about these things. It’s much better that he know what’s really going on rather than interpret these physical changes as lack of interest. Likewise, if you’re a man and you no longer get an erection just from the thought of sex, show your partner how to stimulate you rather than let her believe she isn’t attractive enough to arouse you anymore.

Be honest. You may think you’re protecting your partner’s feelings by faking an orgasm, but in reality you’re starting down a slippery slope. As challenging as it is to talk about any sexual problem, the difficulty level skyrockets once the issue is buried under years of lies, hurt, and resentment.

Using self-help strategies
Treating sexual problems is easier now than ever before. Revolutionary medications and professional sex therapists are there if you need them. But you may be able to resolve minor sexual issues by making a few adjustments in your lovemaking style. Here are some things you can try at home.

Educate yourself. Plenty of good self-help materials are available for every type of sexual issue. Browse the Internet or your local bookstore, pick out a few resources that apply to you, and use them to help you and your partner become better informed about the problem. If talking directly is too difficult, you and your partner can underline passages that you particularly like and show them to each other.

Give yourself time. As you age, your sexual responses slow down. You and your partner can improve your chances of success by finding a quiet, comfortable, interruption-free setting for sex. Also, understand that the physical changes in your body mean that you’ll need more time to get aroused and reach orgasm. When you think about it, spending more time having sex isn’t a bad thing; working these physical necessities into your lovemaking routine can open up doors to a new kind of sexual experience.

Use lubrication. Often, the vaginal dryness that begins in perimenopause can be easily corrected with lubricating liquids and gels. Use these freely to avoid painful sex—a problem that can snowball into flagging libido and growing relationship tensions. When lubricants no longer work, discuss other options with your doctor.

Maintain physical affection. Even if you’re tired, tense, or upset about the problem, engaging in kissing and cuddling is essential for maintaining an emotional and physical bond.

Practice touching. The sensate focus techniques that sex therapists use can help you re-establish physical intimacy without feeling pressured. Many self-help books and educational videos offer variations on these exercises. You may also want to ask your partner to touch you in a manner that he or she would like to be touched. This will give you a better sense of how much pressure, from gentle to firm, you should use.

Try different positions. Developing a repertoire of different sexual positions not only adds interest to lovemaking, but can also help overcome problems. For example, the increased stimulation to the G-spot that occurs when a man enters his partner from behind can help the woman reach orgasm.

Write down your fantasies. This exercise can help you explore possible activities you think might be a turn-on for you or your partner. Try thinking of an experience or a movie that aroused you and then share your memory with your partner. This is especially helpful for people with low desire.

Do Kegel exercises. Both men and women can improve their sexual fitness by exercising their pelvic floor muscles. To do these exercises, tighten the muscle you would use if you were trying to stop urine in midstream. Hold the contraction for two or three seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times. Try to do five sets a day. These exercises can be done anywhere—while driving, sitting at your desk, or standing in a checkout line. At home, women may use vaginal weights to add muscle resistance. Talk to your doctor or a sex therapist about where to get these and how to use them.

Try to relax. Do something soothing together before having sex, such as playing a game or going out for a nice dinner. Or try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or yoga.

Use a vibrator. This device can help a woman learn about her own sexual response and allow her to show her partner what she likes.

Don’t give up. If none of your efforts seem to work, don’t give up hope. Your doctor can often determine the cause of your sexual problem and may be able to identify effective treatments. He or she can also put you in touch with a sex therapist who can help you explore issues that may be standing in the way of a fulfilling sex life.

Maintaining good health
Your sexual well-being goes hand in hand with your overall mental, physical, and emotional health. Therefore, the same healthy habits you rely on to keep your body in shape can also shape up your sex life.

Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to peripheral vascular disease, which affects blood flow to the penis, clitoris, and vaginal tissues. In addition, women who smoke tend to go through menopause two years earlier than their nonsmoking counterparts. If you need help quitting, try nicotine gum or patches or ask your doctor about the drugs bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix).

Use alcohol in moderation. Some men with erectile dysfunction find that having one drink can help them relax, but heavy use of alcohol can make matters worse. Alcohol can inhibit sexual reflexes by dulling the central nervous system. Drinking large amounts over a long period can damage the liver, leading to an increase in estrogen production in men. In women, alcohol can trigger hot flashes and disrupt sleep, compounding problems already present in menopause.

Eat right. Overindulgence in fatty foods leads to high blood cholesterol and obesity—both major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In addition, being overweight can promote lethargy and a poor body image. Increased libido is often an added benefit of losing those extra pounds.

Use it or lose it. When estrogen drops at menopause, the vaginal walls lose some of their elasticity. You can slow this process or even reverse it through sexual activity. If intercourse isn’t an option, masturbation is just as effective, although for women, this is most effective if you use a vibrator or dildo (an object resembling a penis) to help stretch the vagina. For men, long periods without an erection can deprive the penis of a portion of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to maintain good sexual functioning. As a result, something akin to scar tissue develops in muscle cells, which interferes with the ability of the penis to expand when blood flow is increased.

Putting the fun back into sex
Even in the best relationship, sex can become ho-hum after a number of years. With a little bit of imagination, you can rekindle the spark.

Be adventurous. Maybe you’ve never had sex on the living room floor or in a secluded spot in the woods; now might be the time to try it. Or try exploring erotic books and films. Even just the feeling of naughtiness you get from renting an X-rated movie might make you feel frisky.

Be sensual. Create an environment for lovemaking that appeals to all five of your senses. Concentrate on the feel of silk against your skin, the beat of a jazz tune, the perfumed scent of flowers around the room, the soft focus of candlelight, and the taste of ripe, juicy fruit. Use this heightened sensual awareness when making love to your partner.

Be playful. Leave love notes in your partner’s pocket for him or her to find later. Take a bubble bath together—the warm cozy feeling you have when you get out of the tub can be a great lead-in to sex. Tickle. Laugh.

Be creative. Expand your sexual repertoire and vary your scripts. For example, if you’re used to making love on Saturday night, choose Sunday morning instead. Experiment with new positions and activities. Try sex toys and sexy lingerie if you never have before.

Dating Tips for Finding the Right Person

Looking for love? These tips will help you find lasting love and build a worthwhile relationship.

Obstacles to finding love
Are you single and looking for love? Are you finding it hard to meet the right person? When you’re having trouble finding a love connection, it’s all too easy to become discouraged or buy into the destructive myths out there about dating and relationships.

Life as a single person offers many rewards, such as being free to pursue your own hobbies and interests, learning how to enjoy your own company, and appreciating the quiet moments of solitude. However, if you’re ready to share your life with someone and want to build a lasting, worthwhile relationship, life as a single person can also seem frustrating.

For many of us, our emotional baggage can make finding the right romantic partner a difficult journey. Perhaps you grew up in a household where there was no role model of a solid, healthy relationship and you doubt that such a thing even exists. Or maybe your dating history consists only of brief flings and you don’t know how to make a relationship last. You could be attracted to the wrong type of person or keep making the same bad choices over and over, due to an unresolved issue from your past. Or maybe you’re not putting yourself in the best environments to meet the right person, or that when you do, you don’t feel confident enough.

Whatever the case may be, you can overcome your obstacles. Even if you’ve been burned repeatedly or have a poor track record when it comes to dating, these tips can help put you on the path to finding a healthy, loving relationship that lasts.

Reassess your misconceptions about dating and relationships
The first step to finding love is to reassess some of the misconceptions about dating and relationships that may be preventing you from finding lasting love.

Myth: I can only be happy and fulfilled if I’m in a relationship or It’s better to have a bad relationship than no relationship.
Fact: While there are health benefits that come with being in a solid relationship, many people can be just as happy and fulfilled without being part of a couple. Despite the stigma in some social circles that accompanies being single, it’s important not to enter a relationship just to “fit in.” Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. And nothing is as unhealthy and dispiriting as being in a bad relationship.

Myth: If I don’t feel an instant attraction to someone, it’s not a relationship worth pursuing.
Fact: This is an important myth to dispel, especially if you have a history of making inappropriate choices. Instant sexual attraction and lasting love do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. Emotions can change and deepen over time, and friends sometimes become lovers—if you give those relationships a chance to develop.

Myth: Women have different emotions than men.
Fact: Women and men feel similar things but sometimes express their feelings differently, often according to society’s conventions. But both men and women experience the same core emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, and joy.

Myth: True love is constant or Physical attraction fades over time.
Fact: Love is rarely static, but that doesn’t mean love or physical attraction is doomed to fade over time. As we age, both men and women have fewer sexual hormones, but emotion often influences passion more than hormones, and sexual passion can become stronger over time.

Myth: I’ll be able to change the things I don’t like about someone.
Fact: You can’t change anyone. People only change if and when they want to change.

Myth: I didn’t feel close to my parents, so intimacy is always going to be uncomfortable for me.
Fact: It’s never too late to change any pattern of behavior. Over time, and with enough effort, you can change the way you think, feel, and act.

Myth: Disagreements always create problems in a relationship.
Fact: Conflict doesn’t have to be negative or destructive. With the right resolution skills, conflict can also provide an opportunity for growth in a relationship.

Expectations about dating and finding love
When we start looking for a long-term partner or enter into a romantic relationship, many of us do so with a predetermined set of (often unrealistic) expectations—such as how the person should look and behave, how the relationship should progress, and the roles each partner should fulfill. These expectations may be based on your family history, influence of your peer group, your past experiences, or even ideals portrayed in movies and TV shows. Retaining many of these unrealistic expectations can make any potential partner seem inadequate and any new relationship feel disappointing.

Consider what’s really important
Distinguish between what you want and what you need in a partner. Wants are negotiable, needs are not.

Wants include things like occupation, intellect, and physical attributes such as height, weight, and hair color. Even if certain traits seem crucially important at first, over time you’ll often find that you’ve been needlessly limiting your choices. For example, it may be more important to find someone who is:

Curious rather than extremely intelligent. Curious people tend to grow smarter over time, while those who are bright may languish intellectually if they lack curiosity.
Sensual rather than sexy.
Caring rather than beautiful or handsome.
A little mysterious rather than glamorous.
Humorous rather than wealthy.
From a family with similar values to yours, rather than someone from a specific ethnic or social background.
Needs are different than wants in that needs are those qualities that matter to you most, such as values, ambitions, or goals in life. These are probably not the things you can find out about a person by eyeing them on the street, reading their profile on a dating site, or sharing a quick cocktail at a bar before last call.

Dating tip 1: Keep things in perspective
Don’t make your search for a relationship the center of your life. Concentrate on activities you enjoy, your career, health, and relationships with family and friends. When you focus on keeping yourself happy, it will keep your life balanced and make you a more interesting person when you do meet someone special.

Remember that first impressions aren’t always reliable, especially when it comes to Internet dating. It always takes time to really get to know a person and you have to experience being with someone in a variety of situations. For example, how well does this person hold up under pressure when things don’t go well or when they’re tired, frustrated, or hungry?

Be honest about your own flaws and shortcomings. Everyone has flaws, and for a relationship to last, you want someone to love you for the person you are, not the person you’d like to be, or the person they think you should be. Besides, what you consider a flaw may actually be something another person finds quirky and appealing. By shedding all pretense, you’ll encourage the other person to do the same, which can lead to an honest, more fulfilling relationship.

Tip 2: Build a genuine connection
The dating game can be nerve wracking. It’s only natural to worry about how you’ll come across and whether or not your date will like you. But no matter how shy or socially awkward you feel, you can overcome your nerves and self-consciousness and forge a great connection.

Focus outward, not inward. To combat first-date nerves, focus your attention on what your date is saying and doing and what’s going on around you, rather than on your internal thoughts. Staying fully present in the moment will help take your mind off worries and insecurities.

Be curious. When you’re truly curious about someone else’s thoughts, feelings, experiences, stories, and opinions, it shows—and they’ll like you for it. You’ll come across as far more attractive and interesting than if you spend your time trying to promote yourself to your date. And if you aren’t genuinely interested in your date, there’s little point in pursuing the relationship further.

Be genuine. Showing interest in others can’t be faked. If you’re just pretending to listen or care, your date will pick up on it. No one likes to be manipulated or placated. Rather than helping you connect and make a good impression, your efforts will most likely backfire. If you aren’t genuinely interested in your date, there is little point in pursuing the relationship further.

Pay attention. Make an effort to truly listen to the other person. By paying close attention to what they say, do, and how they interact, you’ll quickly get to know them. Little things go a long way, such as remembering someone’s preferences, the stories they’ve told you, and what’s going on in their life.

Put your smartphone away.You can’t truly pay attention or forge a genuine connection when you’re multitasking. Nonverbal communication—subtle gestures, expressions, and other visual cues—tell us a lot about another person, but they’re easy to miss unless you’re tuned in.

Tip 3: Put a priority on having fun
Online dating, singles events, and matchmaking services like speed dating are enjoyable for some people, but for others they can feel more like high-pressure job interviews. And whatever dating experts might tell you, there is a big difference between finding the right career and finding lasting love.

Instead of scouring dating sites or hanging out in pick-up bars, think of your time as a single person as a great opportunity to expand your social circle and participate in new events. Make having fun your focus. By pursuing activities you enjoy and putting yourself in new environments, you’ll meet new people who share similar interests and values. Even if you don’t find someone special, you will still have enjoyed yourself and maybe forged new friendships as well.

Tips for finding fun activities and like-minded people:

Volunteer for a favorite charity, animal shelter, or political campaign. Or even try a volunteer vacation (for details see Resources section below).
Take an extension course at a local college or university.
Sign up for dance, cooking, or art classes.
Join a running club, hiking group, cycling group, or sports team.
Join a theater group, film group, or attend a panel discussion at a museum.
Find a local book group or photography club.
Attend local food and wine tasting events or art gallery openings.
Be creative: Write a list of activities available in your area and, with your eyes closed, randomly put a pin in one, even if it’s something you would never normally consider. How about pole dancing, origami, or lawn bowling? Getting out of your comfort zone can be rewarding in itself.
Tip 4: Handle rejection gracefully
At some point, everyone looking for love is going to have to deal with rejection—both as the person being rejected and the person doing the rejecting. It’s an inevitable part of dating, and never fatal. By staying positive and being honest with yourself and others, handling rejection can be far less intimidating. The key is to accept that rejection is an inevitable part of dating but to not spend too much time worrying about it. It’s never fatal.

Tips for handling rejection when dating and looking for love
Don’t take it personally. If you’re rejected after one or a few dates, the other person is likely only rejecting you for superficial reasons you have no control over—some people just prefer blondes to brunettes, chatty people to quiet ones—or because they are unable to overcome their own issues. Be grateful for early rejections—it can spare you much more pain down the road.

Don’t dwell on it, but learn from the experience. Don’t beat yourself up over any mistakes you think you made. If it happens repeatedly, though, take some time to reflect on how you relate to others, and any problems you need to work on. Then let it go. Dealing with rejection in a healthy way can increase your strength and resilience.

Acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to feel a little hurt, resentful, disappointed, or even sad when faced with rejection. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings without trying to suppress them. Practicing mindfulness can help you stay in touch with your feelings and quickly move on from negative experiences.

Tip 5: Watch for relationship red flags
Red-flag behaviors can indicate that a relationship is not going to lead to healthy, lasting love. Trust your instincts and pay close attention to how the other person makes you feel. If you tend to feel insecure, ashamed, or undervalued, it may be time to reconsider the relationship.

Common relationship red flags:
The relationship is alcohol dependent. You only communicate well—laugh, talk, make love—when one or both of you are under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

There’s trouble making a commitment. For some people commitment is much more difficult than others. It’s harder for them to trust others or to understand the benefits of a long-term relationship because of previous experiences or an unstable home life growing up.

Nonverbal communication is off. Instead of wanting to connect with you, the other person’s attention is on other things like their phone or the TV.

Jealousy about outside interests. One partner doesn’t like the other spending time with friends and family members outside of the relationship.

Controlling behavior. There is a desire on the part of one person to control the other, and stop them from having independent thoughts and feelings.

The relationship is exclusively sexual. There is no interest in the other person other than a physical one. A meaningful and fulfilling relationship depends on more than just good sex.

No one-on-one time. One partner only wants to be with the other as part of a group of people. If there’s no desire to spend quality time alone with you, outside of the bedroom, it can signify a greater issue.

Tip 6: Deal with trust issues
Mutual trust is a cornerstone of any close personal relationship. Trust doesn’t happen overnight; it develops over time as your connection with another person deepens. However, if you’re someone with trust issues—someone who’s been betrayed, traumatized, or abused in the past, or someone with an insecure attachment bond—then you may find it impossible to trust others and find lasting love.

If you have trust issues, your romantic relationships will be dominated by fear—fear of being betrayed by the other person, fear of being let down, or fear of feeling vulnerable. But it is possible to learn to trust others. By working with the right therapist or in a supportive group therapy setting, you can identify the source of your mistrust and explore ways to build richer, more fulfilling relationships.

Tip 7: Nurture your budding relationship
Finding the right person is just the beginning of the journey, not the destination. In order to move from casual dating to a committed, loving relationship, you need to nurture that new connection.

To nurture your relationship:
Invest in it. No relationship will run smoothly without regular attention, and the more you invest in each other, the more you’ll grow. Find activities you can enjoy together and commit to spending the time to partake in them, even when you’re busy or stressed.

Communicate openly. Your partner is not a mind reader, so tell them how you feel. When you both feel comfortable expressing your needs, fears, and desires, the bond between you will become stronger and deeper.

Resolve conflict by fighting fair. No matter how you approach the differences in your relationship, it’s important that you aren’t fearful of conflict. You need to feel safe to express the issues that bother you and to be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, degradation, or insisting on being right.

Be open to change. All relationships change over time. What you want from a relationship at the beginning may be very different from what you and your partner want a few months or years down the road. Accepting change in a healthy relationship should not only make you happier, but also make you a better person: kinder, more empathic, and more generous.

Tips for meeting people and making meaningful connections

Making Good Friends
Looking to build new friendships? These tips can help you meet people, start a conversation, and cultivate healthy connections that will improve your life.

Why are friends so important?
Our society tends to place an emphasis on romantic relationships. We think that just finding that right person will make us happy and fulfilled. But research shows that friends are actually even more important to our psychological welfare. Friends bring more happiness into our lives than virtually anything else.

Friendships have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, and prevent loneliness and isolation. Developing close friendships can also have a powerful impact on your physical health. Lack of social connection may pose as much of a risk as smoking, drinking too much, or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Friends are even tied to longevity. One Swedish study found that, along with physical activity, maintaining a rich network of friends can add significant years to your life.

But close friendships don’t just happen. Many of us struggle to meet people and develop quality connections. Whatever your age or circumstances, though, it’s never too late to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and greatly improve your social life, emotional health, and overall well-being.

The benefits of friendships
While developing and maintaining friendships takes time and effort, healthy friendships can:

Improve your mood. Spending time with happy and positive friends can elevate your mood and boost your outlook.

Help you to reach your goals. Whether you’re trying to get fit, give up smoking, or otherwise improve your life, encouragement from a friend can really boost your willpower and increase your chances of success.

Reduce your stress and depression. Having an active social life can bolster your immune system and help reduce isolation, a major contributing factor to depression.

Support you through tough times. Even if it’s just having someone to share your problems with, friends can help you cope with serious illness, the loss of a job or loved one, the breakup of a relationship, or any other challenges in life.

Support you as you age. As you age, retirement, illness, and the death of loved ones can often leave you isolated. Knowing there are people you can turn to for company and support can provide purpose as you age and serve as a buffer against depression, disability, hardship and loss.

Boost your self-worth. Friendship is a two-way street, and the “give” side of the give-and-take contributes to your own sense of self-worth. Being there for your friends makes you feel needed and adds purpose to your life.

Know what to look for in a friend
A friend is someone you trust and with whom you share a deep level of understanding and communication. A good friend will:

Show a genuine interest in what’s going on in your life, what you have to say, and how you think and feel.
Accept you for who you are
Listen to you attentively without judging you, telling you how to think or feel, or trying to change the subject.
Feel comfortable sharing things about themselves with you
As friendship works both ways, a friend is also someone you feel comfortable supporting and accepting, and someone with whom you share a bond of trust and loyalty.

Focus on the way a friendship feels, not what it looks like
The most important quality in a friendship is the way the relationship makes you feel—not how it looks on paper, how alike you seem on the surface, or what others think. Ask yourself:

Do I feel better after spending time with this person?
Am I myself around this person?
Do I feel secure, or do I feel like I have to watch what I say and do?
Is the person supportive and am I treated with respect?
Is this a person I can trust?
The bottom line: if the friendship feels good, it is good. But if a person tries to control you, criticizes you, abuses your generosity, or brings unwanted drama or negative influences into your life, it’s time to re-evaluate the friendship. A good friend does not require you to compromise your values, always agree with them, or disregard your own needs.

Tips for being more friendly and social (even if you’re shy)
If you are introverted or shy, it can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there socially. But you don’t have to be naturally outgoing or the life of the party to make new friends.

Focus on others, not yourself. The key to connecting to other people is by showing interest in them. When you’re truly interested in someone else’s thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions, it shows—and they’ll like you for it. You’ll make far more friends by showing your interest rather than trying to get people interested in you. If you’re not genuinely curious about the other person, then stop trying to connect.

Pay attention. Switch off your smart phone, avoid other distractions, and make an effort to truly listen to the other person. By paying close attention to what they say, do, and how they interact, you’ll quickly get to know them. Small efforts go a long way, such as remembering someone’s preferences, the stories they’ve told you, and what’s going on in their life.

Self-disclosure: the key to turning acquaintances into friends
We all have acquaintances—people we exchange small talk with as we go about our day or trade jokes or insights with online. While these relationships can fulfill you in their own right, what if you want to turn a casual acquaintance into a true friend?

Friendship is characterized by intimacy. True friends know about each other’s values, struggles, goals, and interests. If you’d like to transition from acquaintances to friends, open up to the other person.

You don’t have to reveal your most closely-held secret. Start small by sharing something a little bit more personal than you would normally and see how the other person responds. Do they seem interested? Do they reciprocate by disclosing something about themselves?

Evaluating interest
Friendship takes two, so it’s important to evaluate whether the other person is looking for new friends.

Do they ask you questions about you, as if they’d like to get to know you better?
Do they tell you things about themselves beyond surface small talk?
Do they give you their full attention when you see them?
Does the other person seem interested in exchanging contact information or making specific plans to get together?
If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, the person may not be the best candidate for friendship now, even if they genuinely like you. There are many possible reasons why not, so don’t take it personally!

How to meet new people
We tend to make friends with people we cross paths with regularly: people we go to school with, work with, or live close to. The more we see someone, the more likely a friendship is to develop. So look at the places you frequent as you start your search for potential friends.

Another big factor in friendship is common interests. We tend to be drawn to people who are similar, with a shared hobby, cultural background, career path, or kids the same age. Think about activities you enjoy or the causes you care about. Where can you meet people who share the same interests?

Making new friends: Where to start
When looking to meet new people, try to open yourself up to new experiences. Not everything you try will lead to success but you can always learn from the experience and hopefully have some fun.

Volunteering can be a great way to help others while also meeting new people. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to regularly practice and develop your social skills.

Take a class or join a club to meet people with common interests, such as a book group, dinner club, or sports team. Websites such as Meetup.com can help you find local groups or start your own and connect with others who share similar interests.

Walk a dog. Dog owners often stop and chat while their dogs sniff or play with each other. If dog ownership isn’t right for you, volunteer to walk dogs from a shelter or a local rescue group.

Attend art gallery openings, book readings, lectures, music recitals, or other community events where you can meet people with similar interests. Check with your library or local paper for events near you.

Behave like someone new to the area. Even if you’ve lived in the same place all your life, take the time to re-explore your neighborhood attractions. New arrivals to any town or city tend to visit these places first—and they’re often keen to meet new people and establish friendships, too.

Cheer on your team. Going to a bar alone can seem intimidating, but if you support a sports team, find out where other fans go to watch the games. You automatically have a shared interest—your team—which makes it natural to start up a conversation.

Unplug. It’s difficult to meet new people in any social situation if you’re more interested in your phone than the people around you. Remove your headphones and put your smartphone away while you’re in the checkout line or waiting for a bus, for example. Making eye contact and exchanging small talk with strangers is great practice for making connections—and you never know where it may lead!

Overcoming obstacles to making friends
Is something stopping you from building the friendships you’d like to have? Here are some common obstacles—and how you can overcome them.

If you’re too busy…
Developing and maintaining friendships takes time and effort, but even with a packed schedule, you can find ways to make the time for friends.

Put it on your calendar. Schedule time for your friends just as you would for errands. Make it automatic with a weekly or monthly standing appointment. Or simply make sure that you never leave a get-together without setting the next date.

Mix business and pleasure. Figure out a way to combine your socializing with activities that you have to do anyway. These could include going to the gym, getting a pedicure, or shopping. Errands create an opportunity to spend time together while still being productive.

Group it. If you truly don’t have time for multiple one-on-one sessions with friends, set up a group get-together. It’s a good way to introduce your friends to each other. Of course, you’ll need to consider if everyone’s compatible first.

If you’re afraid of rejection…
Making new friends means putting yourself out there, and that can be scary. It’s especially intimidating if you’re someone who’s been betrayed, traumatized, or abused in the past, or someone with an insecure attachment bond. But by working with the right therapist, you can explore ways to build trust in existing and future friendships.

For more general insecurities or a fear of rejection, it helps to evaluate your attitude. Do you feel as if any rejection will haunt you forever or prove that you’re unlikeable or destined to be friendless? These fears get in the way of making satisfying connections and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody likes to be rejected, but there are healthy ways to handle it:

Just because someone isn’t interested in talking or hanging out doesn’t automatically mean they’re rejecting you as a person. They may be busy, distracted, or have other things going on.
If someone does reject you, that doesn’t mean that you’re worthless or unlovable. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they misread you or misinterpreted what you said. Or maybe they’re just not a nice person!
You’re not going to like everyone you meet, and vice versa. Like dating, building a solid network of friends can be a numbers game. If you’re in the habit of regularly exchanging a few words with strangers you meet, rejections are less likely to hurt. There’s always the next person. Focus on the long-term goal of making quality connections, rather than getting hung up on the ones that didn’t pan out.
Keep rejection in perspective. It never feels good, but it’s rarely as bad as you imagine. It’s unlikely that others are sitting around talking about it. Instead of beating yourself up, give yourself credit for trying and see what you can learn from the experience.
For better friendships, be a better friend yourself
Making a new friend is just the beginning of the journey. Friendships take time to form and even more time to deepen, so you need to nurture that new connection.

Be the friend that you would like to have. Treat your friend just as you want them to treat you. Be reliable, thoughtful, trustworthy, and willing to share yourself and your time.

Be a good listener. Be prepared to listen to and support friends just as you want them to listen to and support you.

Give your friend space. Don’t be too clingy or needy. Everyone needs space to be alone or spend time with other people as well.

Don’t set too many rules and expectations. Instead, allow your friendship to evolve naturally. You’re both unique individuals so your friendship probably won’t develop exactly as you expect.

Be forgiving. No one is perfect and every friend will make mistakes. No friendship develops smoothly so when there’s a bump in the road, try to find a way to overcome the problem and move on. It will often deepen the bond between you.

Emotional Intelligence in Love and Relationships

Learn why emotional intelligence (EQ) matters in romantic relationships and how you can use it to strengthen your relationship, increase intimacy, stay connected, and build a love that lasts.

How emotional intelligence (EQ) impacts relationships
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the secret of lasting intimate relationships, largely because it makes us extremely aware of the changes—large and small—that are constantly occurring in ourselves and others. By building your EQ, you’ll have the sensitivity that each of us is always seeking in a significant other. You’ll automatically sense, through active awareness and empathy, the little shifts in the dynamics of your romance that signal a need for action.

We have the potential to attain the kind of love we all dream of—deep intimacy, mutual kindness, real commitment, soulful caring—simply because of empathy, our innate ability to share emotional experience. But to reach the height of romance we need all the skills of a high EQ: sharp emotional awareness to avoid mistaking infatuation or lust for lasting love; acceptance to experience emotions that could harm a relationship if left to fester; and a vigilant active awareness to appraise us of what’s working and what isn’t.

Building emotionally intelligent romantic relationships
We don’t have to choose the wrong lovers, end up in multiple failed marriages, or let the romance seep out of our long-term relationships. We don’t have to let conflicting needs and wants to come between two people who love each other. We don’t have to resign ourselves to boredom or bickering in our love lives.

We have the potential to attain the kind of love we all dream of—deep intimacy and mutual kindness, real committed, soulful caring—simply because of empathy our innate ability to share emotional experience. But to achieve those relationship goals, we need all the skills of a high EQ:

astute emotional awareness to avoid mistaking infatuation or lust for lasting love
acceptance to experience emotions that could harm a relationship if left to fester, and
vigilant active awareness to apprise us of what’s working and what isn’t.
Fortunately, your EQ doesn’t need to have peaked before you embark on love. In fact, for many people, falling in love serves as motivation for reeducating the heart. That’s why some of the most deeply passionate lovers are in their eighties: They discover that two high EQs add up to a romance that never stops growing, never loses excitement, and always strengthens them both, individually as well as collectively.

Actively seek change in your relationship
When you ride out your fear of change, you discover that different does not necessarily mean worse. Things often come out better than ever on the far side of change. Relationships are organisms themselves, and by nature must change. Any relationships not nudged toward the kind of growth you want will drift into change of another kind—maybe one you don’t want. Your ability to embrace change pays off in courage and optimism. Ask yourself, does your lover need something new from you? Do you need to schedule some time to reevaluate together? Are external influences demanding a change in your respective roles? Are you as happy as you used to be? Without EQ, such questions are often just too scary to face, so many lovers ignore signals of change until it’s too late.

View the challenges you encounter as opportunities rather than problems
Your courage and optimism allow you to view dilemmas not as problems, but as challenging opportunities. How creative can the two of you be? When you don’t need to blame each other for your emotions, you’re not controlled by negative emotional memories, and you’re alert not to repeat the same old mistake. When you have a high EQ, you’re liberated from ruts and resignation, and you can get down to resourceful problem solving. You can meet differences between you and unavoidable crises, as invitations to find each other, challenges to get closer and emerge individually and collectively stronger.

Respect all the feelings you have for each other
We’re not always delighted by the discoveries we make about the person we love, but when it comes to emotions, it’s necessary to accept them all. Being in love doesn’t mean never feeling angry, disappointed, hurt, or jealous. How you act on your emotions is up to you; what’s important is that you actually feel them. Many relationships have been ruined by blame, and millions of couples have missed out on deep intimacy because of shame. Both are cruel remainders of unfelt anger, fear, and anxiety. If you’ve done the work of building EQ, you’ll experience the emotions and get on with your life together.

Keep the laughter in your love life
To avoid intellectualizing emotions you, need acceptance, and a big part of your acceptance comes from laughter. Lovers who can’t laugh together about themselves probably aren’t very accepting of their relationships. They may not be able to tolerate its unique flaws and inevitable stumbles, any more than they can put up with their own. They’re also less likely to be open to a relationship’s most pleasant surprises. Your high EQ, in contrast, means you can keep improving your relationship, but you’ll never get trapped by intolerant expectations of perfection.

Pay attention to how you feel when your lover is not around
Fortunately, you have a flawless way of monitoring exactly how your relationship is going: Use the three gauges of well-being to figure out how the rest of your life is going. Are you feeling restless or irritable in general? Do you drag through your day at the office or school after a night of marital bliss? Do you resent family and friends even though the two of you are spending every available minute alone together? Love never benefits from tunnel vision. If you don’t feel energetic, clear headed, and benevolent all the time, it doesn’t really matter whether you coo like doves when you’re together. If the sex couldn’t be better but you’re slipping at work, if you feel safe and cozy hearing “Hi, honey” when you come home at night but are having trouble getting up in the morning, something’s not right—even though everything feels warm and fuzzy in the castle.

When this happens, all the information about you, your lover, and your relationship that your emotions and your intellect have gathered will steer you to the best solution.

Finding “the one”
When you’re first falling in love, how can you tell whether this person is “the one”? How do you know whether you’re in love with a real person or just in love with love? If you’ve been burned before, how can you avoid repeating your mistakes?

Listen to your body, not your mind
We choose a mate for reasons that have to do more with what we think than how we feel. We conduct our relationships based on how things should be or have been. This is exactly where we go wrong. We don’t lose at love because we let our emotions run away with us, but because we let our heads run away with us.

People think they’re in love for many reasons—lust, infatuation, desire for security, status, or social acceptance. They think they’ve found true love because the current prospect fulfills some image or expectation. But unless they know how they feel, their choice is destined to be wrong.
Whenever your daydreams of a prospective lover take the form of mental debates justifying your choice or agonizing over it, breathe, relax, and focus to get out of your head and check in with your body. If a feeling that something’s wrong persists or grows, chances are your choice is probably wrong. If you let mental images versus physical sensation guide you, you’ll never know what you really want.

Heed the messages from your entire body
For most people it’s hard to get clear signals from the whole body during new love, because they’re often drowned out by sexual desire, which is why it’s important to notice other, more subtle feelings. Muscle tension, migraines, stomach pains, or lack of energy could mean what you desire is not what you need. On the other hand, if the glow of love is accompanied by an increase in energy and liveliness, this could be the real thing.
If it’s more than infatuation or lust, a benefit will be felt in other parts of your life and in other relationships. Ask yourself these high-EQ questions:

Is this relationship energizing the totality of my life? For example, has my work improved? Am I taking better care of myself?
Is my head on straighter? Am I more focused, more creative and responsible?
Do my “in love” feelings go beyond feeling positive caring for my beloved? Do I feel more generous, more giving, and more empathic with friends, coworkers, or total strangers?
If the answers you get from your body aren’t what you wanted to hear, try to push beyond the natural fear of loss we all experience. Finding out now that you haven’t found true love can spare you the pain of a pile of negative emotional memories—a legacy that can keep you repeating the same mistakes or sour you on love altogether.

Take a chance on reaching out
We’re often on guard with someone new, and we automatically build barriers to getting to know each other. Leaving yourself open and vulnerable at this stage can be scary, yet it’s the only way to find out if real love is possible between you, and if you’re each falling for a real person or a façade. Try being the first to reach out—reveal and intimate secret, laugh at yourself, or show affection when it seems most frightening. Does their reaction fill you with warmth and vitality? If so, you may have found an empathic, kindred soul. If not, you may have found someone with a low EQ, and will have to decide how to respond to them.

Responding to a low-EQ romantic partner
We don’t all grow emotional muscle at the same rate. If you’re ahead of the one you love, here are some high-EQ ways to respond to low-EQ behavior and poor listeners.

Take time to consider the feelings as well as the words that you want your partner to hear. If you’re not clear about what you need and why you need it, your message may be mixed up.
Select a time when you and your partner are not rushed or hassled. Take a walk together or make a date for brunch or dinner, but watch the alcohol if you want them to remember the discussion.
Send “I feel” messages—about your needs—if you want your partner to hear that something is wrong with them. For example, “I feel like making love more often, but I have this thing about the odor of onions and garlic, so would you be willing to brush your teeth before coming to bed?
If your partner reacts defensively to the feeling you’ve expressed, repeat their concerns: “You’re afraid that if I take this job you and the kids will be neglected.”
Repeat your “I feel” message, then listen again and keep up the process until you’re satisfied you’ve been heard.

Improving Family Relationships with Emotional Intelligence

Looking to improve your relationships with your family members? Learn how emotional intelligence (EQ) is your most effective tool for overcoming rifts and strengthening bonds

Emotional intelligence in the family
There’s nothing like family. The people we’re related to by blood and marriage are expected to be our closest allies, our greatest sources of love and support. Too often, however, our interactions with family are filled with misunderstanding and resentment, bickering and badgering. Those we should know and be known by best, end up feeling like adversaries or strangers.

Family is where our first and strongest emotional memories are made, and that’s where they keep appearing. And this is why emotional intelligence (EQ) succeeds where other efforts at family harmony fail. Active awareness and empathy—the ability to be aware, accepting, and permanently attuned to ourselves and others—tells us how to respond to one another’s needs.

EQ is incredibly powerful in the family because it puts you in control of your relationships with parents and children, siblings, in-laws and extended family. When you know how you feel, you can’t be manipulated by other’s emotions; nor can you blame family conflict on everyone else. Most of the techniques for improving family relationships are therefore centered on communicating your feelings to those you care about, as close relationships are centered around feeling.

Without this emotional intimacy, family contact becomes a burden, because no one is comfortable spending that much time with a stranger. If you want your family members to know and accept each other lovingly, you have to begin with your own emotional honesty and openness. When you do, the suggestions offered below are transformed from familiar reasonable advice, to highly effective methods for bringing your family ever closer. The following ten tips will lead you closer to your family and emotional intelligence.

The foundations of emotional intelligence in the family
Look to yourself first. A family is a system made up of interdependent individuals, but that doesn’t mean you can blame your family of origin for the way you are today, any more than you can hold your mate and children responsible for your personal happiness. Your best hope for fixing any family problem is to attend your own emotional health. When you act on the belief that you have a right and obligation to assert your own emotional needs, your family will notice that your emotional independence benefits not only you, but the whole family, and they may quickly follow your lead.

Remember that consistency builds trust. Studies have shown that lack of consistency destroys trust. Off-and-on emotional awareness will cause those who love and depend on you, especially children, to get confused and frightened. That’s why it’s so important to keep your awareness active with family.

Recognize that being close doesn’t mean being clones. Sometimes family ties blind us to the uniqueness of those we love. Pride in the family continuum can make it easy to forget that. You can’t be expected to have the same talents as your siblings, even though you may look a lot alike; that you won’t necessarily choose to follow in parent’s footsteps; or that you and your spouse should spend all your leisure time joined at the hip just because you’re married.

Remember that knowing people all your life doesn’t mean understanding them. “I knew you when…” doesn’t mean I know you now, no matter how much I’ve always loved you. We all change, and yet each of us seems to only see change in ourselves. How infuriating is it to be introduced as someone’s kid brother when you’re fifty-five, or to be perpetually treated as the airhead you were at fourteen despite the fact that you’re now CEO of your own company. Now that you’ve acquired empathy, you can gently steer your family away from stagnant patterns of interaction by modeling the attention you’d like to receive. When you’re with your family, don’t automatically seek the conversational refuge of talking over old times. Ask what’s new and show that you really care by eliciting details and then listening with your body and mind.

Watch out for destructive emotional memories. Catching your thirty-year-old self responding to a parent in the voice of the five-year-old you can make you feel weak and frustrated. With EQ you don’t need to keep getting snared by emotional memories. Whenever you feel out of control with family—whether it’s kicking yourself for acting like a kid with your parents or agonizing over where the anger you’re dumping on your innocent spouse and children is coming from—take a moment to reflect on the memories that are imposing on your behavior today.

Cherish every stage of life in each family member. No matter how well we understand that it can’t happen, we desperately want Mom and Dad to stay the way they are, and for the kids to stay home forever. The best to accept that fact emotionally, is to embrace change. Accept the natural fear that your parents’ aging evokes but use your emotional awareness and empathy to figure out how you can cherish this moment for its unique qualities. What can you and your parents share now that wasn’t possible in the past? Can you keep having fun and make sure everyone still feels useful and worthy in the family support system, even though roles and responsibilities must be altered?

If you’re not sure what will work, ask. Fully accepting your fear of change can make it easier to broach subjects that you may have considered awkward in the past. Maybe your parents are just waiting for your cue. Feel them out. In a flexible, healthy family dynamic, change is just one of the many opportunities you have to enrich one another.

Using emotional intelligence to get along with adult relatives
Two elements threaten harmonious relations with parents and adult siblings, in-laws and adult children: lack of time and an abundance of emotional memories. The two add up to the fear that we’ll be overwhelmed by each other’s needs, giving up ourselves if we give anything to these adult relatives. We do need to invest time in figuring out what our parents want most from us, sustaining close friendships with brothers and sisters, and gathering together without fulfilling every bad joke ever written about contentious, selfish families.

But emotional intelligence gives us so much energy and creativity that the demands of these relationships don’t need to be heavy. We recognize change as it occurs in individuals by recognizing emotional memories when they’re triggered. Keep your EQ strong, and your adult family encounters are no longer dominated by cleaning up after mistakes and managing crises that have already resulted in disaster.

Improving relationships with your adult children
Many parents are dismayed to find that they can’t just sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor once they’ve successfully guided their children into adulthood. No relationship stands still. The key to a successful ongoing relationship with your grown children is your ability to deal with the change and growth that comes before role reversal. You have to keep the lines of emotional communication open; your children may be wrapped up in career, love, and friendships at this stage in their lives. Let them know how you feel and what you need from them.

If you’ve only recently raised your EQ, of course, you may have some amending to do, some changes to make in your style of interaction with your children. Do they avoid you because you force advice or your own choices on them? Do you bring more disappointment and judgement to the relationship than they can tolerate? Have you listened empathically to how your children feel about their choices? Or have you tried to find out what their unique needs are? Some adult children keep their distance because they feel injured by past experiences with you; in that case the only way to improve the relationships is to stick to these tips—listen to their hurt and admit you were wrong. Here are a few ways to bridge the gap:

Find out why it’s so hard to accept your children’s choices when they’re different from your own. Use the hot buttons exploration described above, but ask yourself why you feel so strongly about this issue, why you need to be in control, and why you can’t accept their right to make independent choices?
Tap into the power of apology. It’s never too late to say, “I’m sorry, I wish I could have been a better parent,” “I wish I had done things differently,” or “You deserved better than I gave.” Heartfelt words of sadness and regret become particularly powerful in a letter—as long as the letter is given as a gift without expectations about what it will bring in return. It may bring nothing except the knowledge that you have done your best to right past wrongs. You may also wish to ask if there is any way that you can make amends.
Explore what you expect from each other. If your estranged child is willing, each of you should make a list of no more than seven items on the subject of what you want and need from each other and what you think the other wants and needs from you. Now compare lists and see how close each of you comes to meeting the other’s needs.
If your child is unwilling or you’re unwilling to ask, you can still do this exercise on your own. Fill out the list for yourself, then move to another chair or position and fill out a list as you think your adult child would. Now compare. Is what your adult child needs different from what you’re offering? Have you failed to recognize how the child has changed?

Reclaiming your adult siblings
In high-EQ families, brothers and sisters divide up responsibilities for aging parents and look forward to occasions to get all the generations together, because they all now their limits and their talents and how to convey them. Unfortunately, this is not an accurate portrait of many adult sibling relationships because too often history intervenes. Maybe your parents didn’t provide the type of love and support your brother needed as well as they did for you. Maybe childhood memories trigger too much resentment, jealousy, and rivalry. Maybe it just hurt too much when the sister who knew you so well didn’t care enough to notice how you’ve changed over the years.

Whatever the problem, you can use any of the ideas in this article to renew your relationship. If you have the time, you can also try reconnecting by going away together where you will both be comfortable and undisturbed. Try an unstructured setting and use your time together to send a lot of “I feel” messages. Clarify that in expressing yourself you’re not asking your sibling to change. When your sibling responds, make sure you listen with your body, not with retorts prepared in your head.

If your sibling is hard to reach, and an outing won’t work, can you reconnect by soliciting help in a way that acknowledges his or her unique talents? Think about ways you can make your sibling feel uniquely needed.

Improving relationships with your extended family
How are your relationships with your extended family—those you’re related to by marriage or through looser blood ties? Strained because you’re trying to form family bonds without the emotional history to make them stick? Or smooth because they don’t come with the emotional baggage that your immediate family of origin drags around? Either is possible in any individual relationship. How difficult one of these relationships is may depend on how important it is to you and how long you’ve been at it. Getting along with a brand-new mother-in-law, therefore mother, has left unpleasant emotional memories. On the other hand, it’s probably a snap to be cordial to the cousin you see only at holiday gatherings.

How good and how deep your relationships are with extended family will depend largely on what you want them to be. We feel guilty if we resent our own parents, but there’s nothing that says we have to love our in-laws, so many people don’t feel obligated to make a huge effort. Simply extend the same empathy to your extended family as you would to anyone else you encounter, and that means accepting the broad range of differences that’s bound to exists so you can find the common points of connection.

If you’re also willing to listen with empathy no matter who is speaking, admit error, and watch the nonverbal cues you send, you stand a pretty good chance of becoming everyone’s favorite niece, cherished uncle, or model in-law. Assuming you haven’t yet achieved that state, here are a few tips to make extended-family relationships rewarding.

Remember that you don’t have to like everyone equally.
Sometimes, even when you make your most open-hearted efforts, you end up disliking a relative or an in-law. Examine how much your own baggage keeps you from appreciating this person. Then accept your feelings and interact with the person only to the extent that you remain comfortable. You may find that removing the stress of seeing him or her under that pressure opens your heart a crack wider.

If you can only ask loaded questions, don’t say anything at all.
Research has shown that the emotional message is 90 percent of what people get from any communication, and that’s why it’s important to be emotionally aware of what your motives are, and to take responsibility for what you convey through gestures and expressions, as well as words. Too often we don’t say what we mean because we’re afraid to take responsibility for the feelings that motivate us. So, we manipulate people by making offers that beg to be refused or by saying we don’t mind when we do and then resenting the perceived offender. If you can’t be emotionally honest with your extended family, go somewhere else.

Family Caregiving

Here’s how to get the support you need to overcome caregiving challenges and make the process more rewarding for both you and the person you’re caring for.
What is family caregiving?
As life expectancies increase, medical treatments advance, and increasing numbers of people live with chronic illness and disabilities, more and more of us find ourselves caring for a loved one at home. Whether you’re taking care of an aging parent, a handicapped spouse, or looking after a child with a physical or mental illness, providing care for a family member in need is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty. Day after day, you gift your loved one with your care and attention, improving their quality of life, even if they’re unable to express their gratitude.

Regardless of your particular circumstances, being a family caregiver is a challenging role and likely one that you haven’t been trained to undertake. And like many family caregivers, you probably never anticipated this situation. However, you don’t have to be a nursing expert, a superhero, or a saint in order to be a good family caregiver. With the right help and support, you can be an effective, loving caregiver without having to sacrifice yourself in the process. And that can make family caregiving a more rewarding experience—for both you and your loved one. These tips can help you get the support you need while caring for someone you love in way that can benefit both of you.

New to family caregiving?
Learn as much as you can about your family member’s illness or disability and how to care for it. The more you know, the less anxiety you’ll feel about your new role and the more effective you’ll be.

Seek out other caregivers. It helps to know you’re not alone. It’s comforting to give and receive support from others who understand exactly what you’re going through.

Trust your instincts. Remember, you know your family member best. Don’t ignore what doctors and specialists tell you, but listen to your gut, too.

Encourage your loved one’s independence. Caregiving does not mean doing everything for your loved one. Be open to technologies and strategies that allow your family member to remain as independent as possible.

Know your limits. Be realistic about how much of your time and yourself you can give. Set clear limits, and communicate those limits to doctors, family members, and other people involved.

Family caregiving tip 1: Accept your feelings
Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. It’s important to acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling, both good and bad. Don’t beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings. Having these feelings doesn’t mean that you don’t love your family member—they simply mean you’re human.

Even when you understand why you’re feeling the way you do, it can still be upsetting. In order to deal with your feelings, it’s important to talk about them. Don’t keep your emotions bottled up; find at least one person you trust to confide in, someone who’ll listen to you without interruption or judgment.

Tip 2: Find caregiver support
Even if you’re the primary family caregiver, you can’t do everything on your own, especially if you’re caregiving from a distance (more than an hour’s drive from your family member). You’ll need help from friends, siblings, and other family members, as well as from health professionals. If you don’t get the support you need, you’ll quickly burn out—which will compromise your ability to provide care.

But before you can ask for help, you need to have a clear understanding of your family member’s needs. Take some time to list all the caregiving tasks required, making it as specific as possible. Then determine which activities you are able to perform (be realistic about your capabilities and the time you have available). The remaining tasks on the list are the ones you’ll need to ask others to help you with.

Asking family and friends for help
It’s not always easy to ask for help, even when you desperately need it. Perhaps you’re afraid to impose on others or worried that your request will be resented or rejected. But if you simply make your needs known, you may be pleasantly surprised by the willingness of others to pitch in. Many times, friends and family members want to help, but don’t know how. Make it easier for them by:

Setting aside one-on-one time to talk to the person
Going over the list of caregiving needs you previously drew up
Pointing out areas in which they might be of service (maybe your brother is good at Internet research, or your friend is a financial whiz)
Asking the person if they’d like to help, and if so, in what way
Making sure the person understands what would be most helpful for both you and the caregiving recipient
Other places you can turn for caregiver support include:
Your church, temple, or other place of worship
Caregiver support groups at a local hospital or online
A therapist, social worker, or counselor
National caregiver organizations
Organizations specific to your family member’s illness or disability
Tip 3: Really connect with your loved one
Pablo Casals, the world-renowned cellist, said, “The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.” When handled in the right way, caring for a loved one can bring pleasure—to both you, the caregiver, and to the person you’re caring for. Staying calm and relaxed and taking the time each day to really connect with the person you’re caring for can release hormones that boost your mood, reduce stress, and trigger biological changes that improve your physical health. And it has the same effect on your loved one, too.

Even if the person you’re caring for can no longer communicate verbally, it’s important to take a short time to focus fully on him or her. Avoid all distractions—such as the TV, cell phone, and computer—make eye contact (if that’s possible), hold the person’s hand or stroke their cheek, and talk in a calm, reassuring tone of voice. When you connect in this way, you’ll experience a process that lowers stress and supports physical and emotional well-being—for both of you—and you’ll experience the “deepest significance and meaning” that Casals talks about.

Tip 4: Attend to your own needs
If you’re distracted, burned out, or otherwise overwhelmed by the daily grind of caregiving, you’ll likely find it difficult to connect with the person you’re caring for. That’s why it’s vital that you don’t forget about your own needs while you’re looking after your loved one. Caregivers need care, too.

Emotional needs of family caregivers
Take time to relax daily, and learn how to regulate yourself and de-stress when you start to feel overwhelmed. As explained above, one way to achieve this is to really connect with the person you’re caring for. If that isn’t possible, employ your senses to effectively relieve stress in the moment, and return to a balanced state.

Talk with someone to make sense of your situation and your feelings about it. There’s no better way of relieving stress than spending time face-to-face with someone who cares about you.

Keep a journal. Some people find it helpful to write down their thoughts and feelings to help them see things more clearly.

Feed your spirit. Pray, meditate, or do another activity that makes you feel part of something greater. Try to find meaning in both your life and in your role as a caregiver.

Watch out for signs of depression, anxiety, or burnout and seek professional help if needed.

Social and recreational needs of family caregivers
Stay social. Make it a priority to visit regularly with other people. Nurture your close relationships. Don’t let yourself become isolated.

Do things you enjoy. Laughter and joy can help keep you going when you face trials, stress, and pain.

Maintain balance in your life. Don’t give up activities that are important to you, such as your work or hobbies.

Give yourself a break. Take regular breaks from caregiving, and give yourself an extended break at least once a week.

Find a community. Join or reestablish your connection to a religious group, social club, or civic organization. The broader your support network, the better.

Physical needs of family caregivers
Exercise regularly. Try to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and boost your energy. So get moving, even if you’re tired.

Eat right. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress and get through busy days. Keep your energy up and your mind clear by eating nutritious meals at regular intervals throughout the day.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. It can be tempting to turn to substances for escape when life feels overwhelming, but they can easily compromise the quality of your caregiving. Instead, try dealing with problems head on and with a clear mind.

Get enough sleep. Aim for an average of eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep every night. Otherwise, your energy level, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.

Keep up with your own health care. Go to the doctor and dentist on schedule, and keep up with your own prescriptions or medical therapy. As a caregiver, you need to stay as strong and healthy as possible.

Tip 5: Take advantage of community services
Most communities have services to help caregivers. Depending on where you live, the cost may be based on your ability to pay or covered by the care receiver’s insurance. Services that may be available in your community include adult day care centers, home health aides, home-delivered meals, respite care, transportation services, and skilled nursing.

Caregiver services in your community. Call your local senior center, county information and referral service, family services, or hospital social work unit for contact suggestions. Advocacy groups for the disorder your loved one’s suffering from may also be able to recommend local services. In the U.S., contact your local Area Agency on Aging for help with caring for older family members.

Caregiver support for veterans. If your care recipient is a veteran in the U.S., home health care coverage, financial support, nursing home care, and adult day care benefits may be available. Some Veterans Administration programs are free, while others require co-payments, depending upon the veteran’s status, income, and other criteria.

Your family member’s affiliations. Fraternal organizations such as the Elks, Eagles, or Moose lodges may offer some assistance if your loved one is a longtime dues-paying member. This help may take the form of phone check-ins, home visits, or transportation.

Community transportation services. Many communities offer free or low-cost transportation services for trips to and from medical appointments, day care, senior centers, and shopping malls.

Adult day care. If your senior loved one is well enough, consider the possibility of adult day care. An adult day care center can provide you with needed breaks during the day or week, and your loved one with some valuable diversions and activities.

Personal care services. Help with activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, feeding, or meal preparation may be provided by home care aides, hired companions, certified nurse’s aides, or home health aides. Home health aides might also provide limited assistance with tasks such as taking blood pressure or offering medication reminders.

Health care services. Some health care services can be provided at home by trained professionals such as physical or occupational therapists, social workers, or home health nurses. Check with your insurance or health service to see what kind of coverage is available. Hospice care can also be provided at home.

Meal programs. Your loved one may be eligible to have hot meals delivered at home by a Meals on Wheels program. Religious and other local organizations sometimes offer free lunches and companionship for the sick and elderly.

Tip 6: Provide long-distance care
Many people take on the role of designated caregiver for a family member—often an older relative or sibling—while living more than an hour’s travel away. Trying to manage a loved one’s care from a distance can add to feelings of guilt and anxiety and present many other obstacles. But there are steps you can take to prepare for caregiving emergencies and ease the burden of responsibility.

Set up an alarm system for your loved one. Because of the distance between you, you won’t be able to respond in time to a life-threatening emergency, so subscribe to an electronic alert system. Your loved one wears the small device and can use it to summon immediate help.

Manage doctor and medical appointments. Try to schedule all medical appointments together, at a time when you’ll be in the area. Make the time to get to know your loved one’s doctors and arrange to be kept up-to-date on all medical issues via the phone when you’re not in the area. Your relative may need to sign a privacy release to enable their doctors to do this.

Use a case manager. Some hospitals or insurance plans can assign case managers to coordinate your loved one’s care, monitor his or her progress, manage billing, and communicate with the family.

Investigate local services. When you’re not there, try to find local services that can offer home help services, deliver meals, or provide local transportation for your loved one. A geriatric care manager can offer a variety of services to long-distance caregivers, including providing and monitoring in-home help for your relative.

Schedule regular communication with your loved one. A daily email, text message, or quick phone call can let your relative know that they’re not forgotten and give you peace of mind.

Arrange telephone check-ins from a local religious group, senior center, or other public or nonprofit organization. These services offer prescheduled calls to homebound older adults to reduce their isolation and monitor their well-being.

Finding the Right Career

Reconsidering your career or trapped in a job you hate? Here’s how to choose or change career paths and find more satisfaction in your work.

The importance of finding meaningful work
Since so much of our time is spent either at work, traveling to and from work, or thinking about work, it inevitably plays a huge role in our lives. If you feel bored or unsatisfied with how you spend large parts of the day, it can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. You may feel burned out and frustrated, anxious, depressed, or unable to enjoy time at home knowing that another workday lies ahead.

Having to concentrate for long periods on tasks you find mundane, repetitive, or unsatisfying can cause high levels of stress. What’s more, if you don’t find your work meaningful and rewarding, it’s hard to generate the effort and enthusiasm necessary to advance in your job or career. As well as feeling happy and satisfied, you are far more likely to achieve success in an occupation that you feel passionate about.

So how do you gain satisfaction and meaning from your work?

You choose or change careers to something that you love and are passionate about.

You find purpose and joy in a job that you don’t love.

Whether you’re just leaving school, finding opportunities limited in your current position or, like many in this economy, facing unemployment, it may be time to reconsider your chosen career. By learning how to research options, realize your strengths, and acquire new skills, as well as muster up the courage to make a change, you can discover the career path that’s right for you. Even if you’re trapped in a position you don’t love, with no realistic opportunity for change, there are still ways to find more joy and satisfaction in how you earn a living.

When changing careers isn’t a realistic option
For many of us, career dreams are just that: dreams. The practical realities of paying the bills, putting food on the table and the kids through school mean that you have to spend 40 hours every week doing a job that you don’t enjoy. Or maybe you have to juggle multiple jobs, as well as school or family commitments, just to get by in today’s economy. The idea of making a career change may seem about as realistic as choosing to become a professional athlete or an astronaut.

Still, getting up every morning dreading the thought of going to work, then staring at the clock all day willing it to be time to leave can take a real toll on your health. It can leave you feeling agitated, irritable, disillusioned, helpless, and completely worn out—even when you’re not at work. In fact, having a monotonous or unfulfilling job can leave you just as vulnerable to stress and burnout as having one that keeps you rushed off your feet, and it can be just as harmful to your overall mental health as being unemployed.

Try to find some value in your role. Even in some mundane jobs, you can often focus on how your position helps others, for example, or provides a much needed product or service. Focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy—even if it’s just chatting with your coworkers at lunch. Changing your attitude towards your job can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.

Find balance in your life. If your job or career isn’t what you want, find meaning and satisfaction elsewhere: in your family, hobbies, or after work interests, for example. Try to be grateful for having work that pays the bills and focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy. Having a vacation or fun weekend activities to look forward to can make a real difference in your working day.

Volunteer—at work and outside of work. Every boss appreciates an employee who volunteers for a new project. Undertaking new tasks and learning new skills at work can help prevent boredom and improve your resume. Volunteering outside of work can improve your self-confidence, stave off depression, and even provide you with valuable work experience and contacts in your area of interest.

Make friends at work. Having strong ties in the workplace can help reduce monotony and avoid burnout. Having friends to chat and joke with during the day can help relieve the stress of an unfulfilling job, improve your job performance, or simply get you through a rough day.

Consider the following steps in this article about planning a career change. Even if it’s a dream that you’re unable to act on at present, having a plan for someday in the future (when the economy picks up, the kids have grown up, or after you’ve retired, for example) can help you feel energized and hopeful, and better able to cope with present difficulties. Simply sending out resumes and networking can make you feel empowered. Also, making a career change can seem far more attainable when there’s no time pressure and you break down the process into smaller, manageable steps.

Discovering new possibilities
Whether you’re embarking on your first career out of school or looking to make a career change, the first step is to think carefully about what really drives you. You might find it hard to get past thinking about “what pays the most” or “what is most secure,” especially in today’s economy. But the truth is, most employees rank job satisfaction above salary in ensuring they feel happy at work. So, unless you’re in a situation where you have to take the first available job to make ends meet, it’s important to focus on your primary interests and passions. This can open doors to careers that you might not have considered. Once you have that foundation, you can start fine tuning your search for the right career. You may be surprised at how you can fit your passions into a new career.

Overcoming obstacles to career fulfillment
It’s always challenging to consider a huge change in your life, and there may be many reasons why you think changing careers is not possible. Here are some common obstacles with tips on how to overcome them:

It’s too much work to change careers. Where would I ever begin? Changing careers does require a substantial time investment. However, remember that it does not happen all at once. If you sit down and map out a rough plan of attack, breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones, it is a lot more manageable than you think. And if the payoff is a happier, more successful career, it’s worth it.

I’m too old to change careers. I need to stay where I am. If you have worked for a number of years, you may feel that you’ve put too much time and effort into your career to change midstream. Or you may be concerned about retirement and health benefits. However, the more you’ve worked, the more likely you are to have skills that can transfer to a new career. Even if you are close to receiving a pension or other benefits, you can start to plan now for a career transition after retirement.

I don’t have enough skills to consider a new career. You may be unaware of the skills you have, or low self-esteem may lead you to underestimate your marketability. Either way, you probably have more skills than you think. Consider skills you’ve learned not only from your job but also from hobbies, volunteering, or other life experiences. And gaining skills is not an all-or-nothing proposition. You can volunteer once a week or take a night class to move forward, for example, without quitting your current job.

In this economy, I’m lucky to have a job. I don’t want to rock the boat. In today’s climate, it might feel like too much of a risk to consider changing careers. However, if you’re unhappy in your current job, researching other options will only benefit you in the long run. You may discover a career with a more stable, long-term outlook than your current career, for example. And you don’t have to quit your current job until you are confident of your new career path.

What if I’ve already lost my job?
Being unemployed or underemployed can be tremendously stressful. It can increase the pressure of meeting mortgage payments, rent, and other financial obligations. You may feel ashamed for not working, or feel that the loss of your job has stripped you of your identity, both at home and at work. This is especially true if you have worked in the same field for a very long time.

However, unemployment can also have a bright side. It gives you the chance to reflect on your career path. If you’ve been considering a new field, now is the time to research the options and see what might be the right fit for you. You may end up in a much stronger position than if you had originally kept your job.

Finding the right career tip 1: Identify occupations that match your interests
So how do you translate your interests into a new career? With a little research, you may be surprised at the careers that relate to many of the things you love.

Career tests
Different online tools can guide you through the process of self-discovery. Questions, quizzes, and personality assessments can’t tell you what your perfect career would be, but they can help you identify what’s important to you in a career, what you enjoy doing, and where you excel. One example, frequently used by universities and the U.S. government, is the RIASEC/Holland interest scale. It outlines six common personality types, such as investigative, social, or artistic, and enables you to browse sample careers based on the type of personality you most identify with.

Researching specific careers
If you have narrowed down some specific jobs or careers, you can find a wealth of information online, from description of positions to average salaries and estimated future growth. This will also help you figure out the practical priorities: How stable is the field you are considering? Are you comfortable with the amount of risk? Is the salary range acceptable to you? What about commute distances? Will you have to relocate for training or a new job? Will the new job affect your family?

Get support and information from others
While you can glean a lot of information from research and quizzes, there’s no substitute for information from someone currently working in your chosen career. Talking to someone in the field gives you a real sense of the type of work you will actually be doing and if it meets your expectations. What’s more, you will start to build connections in your new career area, helping you land a job in the future. Does approaching others like this seem intimidating? It doesn’t have to be. Networking and informational interviewing are important skills that can greatly further your career.

You may also consider career counseling or a job coach, especially if you are considering a major career shift. Sometimes impartial advice from others can open up possibilities you hadn’t considered.

Tip 2: Evaluate your strengths and skills
Once you have a general idea of your career path, take some time to figure out what skills you have and what skills you need. Remember, you’re not completely starting from scratch—you already have some skills to start. These skills are called transferable skills, and they can be applied to almost any field. Some examples include:

management and leadership experience
communication (both written and oral)
research and program planning
public speaking
conflict resolution and mediation
managing your time effectively
computer literacy
foreign language fluency
What are my transferable career skills?
To discover your transferable career skills, consider the following:

Don’t limit yourself to just your experiences at work. When you are thinking about your skills, consider all types of activities including volunteering, hobbies, and life experiences. For example, even if you don’t have formal leadership or program planning experience, founding a book club or organizing a toy drive are ways that you have been putting these skills into practice.

List your accomplishments that might fit. Don’t worry about formatting these skills for a resume at this point. You just want to start thinking about the skills you have. It can be a tremendous confidence booster to realize all of the talents you’ve developed.

Brainstorm with trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors. They may be able to identify transferable skills you’ve overlooked or help you better articulate these skills in the future.

Tip 3: Develop your skills and experience
If your chosen career requires skills or experience you lack, don’t despair. There are many ways to gain needed skills. While learning, you’ll also have an opportunity to find out whether or not you truly enjoy your chosen career and also make connections that could lead to your dream job.

How can I gain new career skills?
Utilize your current position. Look for on-the-job training or opportunities to work on projects that develop new skills. See if your employer will pay part of your tuition costs.

Identify resources in the community. Find out about programs in your community. Community colleges or libraries often offer low cost opportunities to strengthen skills such as computing, basic accounting, or business development. Local chambers of commerce, small business administrations, or state job development programs are also excellent resources.

Take classes. Some fields require specific education or skills, such as an additional degree or specific training. Don’t automatically rule out more education as impossible. Many fields have accelerated programs if you already have some education, or you may be able to take night classes or complete part-time schooling so that you can continue to work. Some companies even offer tuition reimbursements if you stay at the company after you finish your education.

Volunteer or work as an intern. Some career skills can be acquired by volunteering or completing an internship. This has the added benefit of getting you in contact with people in your chosen field.

Tip 4: Consider starting your own business
If you’re getting worn down by a long commute or a difficult boss, the thought of working for yourself can be very appealing. And even in a slower economy, it’s still possible to find your perfect niche. Depending on the specialty, some companies prefer to streamline their ranks and work with outside vendors. However, it is especially important to do your homework and understand the realities of business ownership before you jump in.

Make sure you are committed to and passionate about your business idea. You will be spending many long hours getting started, and it may take a while for your business to pay off.

Research is critical. Take some time to analyze your area of interest. Are you filling an unmet need? Especially if you are considering an online business, how likely is your area to be outsourced? What is your business plan, and who are your potential investors?

Expect limited or no earnings to start. Especially in the first few months, you are building your base and may have start-up costs that offset any initial profit. Make sure you have a plan on how to cope during this period.

Tip 5: Manage your career transition
Pace yourself and don’t take on too much at once. Career change doesn’t happen overnight, and it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the steps to successfully make the transition. However, you will get there with commitment and motivation. Break down large goals into smaller ones, and try to accomplish at least one small thing a day to keep the momentum going.

Ease slowly into your new career. Take time to network, volunteer, and even work part-time in your new field before committing fully. It will not only make for an easier transition, but you will have time to ensure that you are on the right path and make any necessary changes before working full-time in your new field.

Take care of yourself. You might be feeling so busy with the career transition that you barely have time to sleep or eat. However, managing stress, eating right, and taking time for sleep, exercise, and loved ones will ensure you have the stamina for the big changes ahead.