What is Therapy Like? An Inner Look at the Therapy Office Experience

If you are asking yourself “What therapy is like?” then this article is for you. It takes an inner look at the therapy office experience and the many differences you find behind each door. With all the differences, it can make it difficult to decide how, when, and what therapy to start with.

That’s okay, there are tools for that as well (see “Individual Choice” section). There are not only differences between therapies and therapists but also unique phases of therapy each client goes through. It all comes down to individual choices.


Certain techniques of therapy fit certain people. There is no one-size-fits-all. In order not to make this a textbook-sized article, the following are over-simplifications of different types of therapy, including some highlights of the most used therapies out there such as DBT, CBT, somatic, psychodynamic, etc. Just as a reminder, this is an oversimplification.

Commonly used therapies

DBT, ACT, CBT. basically brain training. The concepts are black-and-white, plug-and-play techniques that have proven to work for many people. There’s a lot of talking, but a lot of formulas being plugged into throughout.


Body and brain training. The concepts connect the whole brain, but the focus is on the reptilian portion and therapists work through experience exercises that can range from holding onto the edge of a table to jumping off a tower into a foam pit.


Here’s where you talk it out and see where things go. Most offices really do have a couch, and some people lie down on it.

Online vs. in-person


The entertainment factor is a must to consider how well they can engage/be attentive (so don’t be surprised if there is more of a play approach), there’s a certain age limit for the general therapist out there.


Psychological disconnect (no replacement for in-person), but otherwise no difference is shown in short-term studies (in other words, real work can still be done online).

Social: male/female, religious/nonreligious, race


You may not have a preference, or you may feel strongly about it. It will be an easy choice for some individuals. As a couple, it may be more difficult to navigate the first-time choices of a male or female.

The most important question is whether you have had major trauma involving one gender to another. Either way, it’s going to be a case-by-case basis where one gender or another could change your mind on the issue just because of how they naturally fit your case.


Similar to male/female considerations – the couple’s work makes this more of a factor than for individuals since couples may not be in the same space religiously and will need to find the best middle ground.

For individuals, the benefit of a particular religious background is an understanding of vocabulary and context to certain sensitivities. Otherwise, no matter the religious background, it is likely the therapist has worked with both religious and nonreligious alike.


Again, you may not have a preference, but similar to the above, race can be an identifying factor in who you want to see and open up to in the experience of therapy.

The phases

The beginning phase

The beginning phase is when the introductions happen. No matter the level of intensity of the problem, this phase typically has little change overall. It is in this phase where the problem can be closely examined, and the client can work to get used to the therapist and the therapist can get to know the client. Typically, if any progress is made in this stage, there will be a temptation to quit too early before the lasting work is done.

The working phase

This phase can be the most uncomfortable for the client. It is in this phase where challenges to the client’s routine/habits are made. It is the time when the reality of the situation shows and the going gets tough. It is important to advocate for yourself during this phase, so the therapist can adjust their approach accordingly.

The end phase

This phase can be difficult for some, but in general, this is where progress is reviewed, game plans for future trouble are made, and final check-ins take place before saying goodbye to therapy. This may mean that progress has been made and therapy is no longer needed. However, this may also occur before transferring to a new type of support.

Individual choice

Overall, therapy is an individual choice. With no guarantees offered, the success of it depends on multiple factors. Your individual choices are not only what type of therapy you will try, but also what type of therapist you want to meet with. Another individual choice is when you want to enter and exit therapy.

Regarding couples therapy, it should be kept in mind that there is no such thing as shotgun therapy. Should a spouse not be committed to the relationship, even for a short time for the sake of trying therapy, there should be no couples therapy.

Keeping these choices in mind is important in helping you sift through the options of therapists and therapies out there. If it becomes more overwhelming to make the decision yourself, reach out to our reception team at https://cachristiancounseling.com/ or 424-438-2888 and let them know so they can help you find the best place to start.

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Different Types of Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa

Probably the most well-known of the different types of eating disorders is anorexia nervosa. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) statistics, “anorexia has the highest case mortality rate and the second highest crude mortality rate of any mental illness.”

The good news is that anorexia is treatable, and you can get your physical and mental health back on track with medical and psychological help.

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa (commonly referred to as anorexia) is a dangerous eating disorder with a high mortality rate. Those with anorexia suffer from more than emotional turmoil; their physical health is in jeopardy.

Anorexia behavior includes starvation. This may be a blatant refusal of food or eating minimal food when offered. The most common symptom of anorexia is a gaunt and underweight appearance. Bones may be visible without clothing. The person with anorexia may see themselves differently in the mirror, however. Anorexia is often comorbid with body dysmorphic disorder. They may see themselves as larger than they are or have a deep-seated fear of gaining weight.

According to the ANAD statistics, out of the different types of eating disorders, those with anorexia face an 18% higher suicide rate than their peers without an eating disorder. Those with anorexia can also encounter more degenerate physical health. Medical treatment is a priority for these patients. Once their physical health is stable, the work to heal the psychological damage can commence.

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa.

The symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Refusing to eat.
  • Denying hunger.
  • Only eating specific foods with little to no nutritional value.
  • Adhering to rigid food rules.
  • Starving oneself.
  • Underweight.
  • Protruding bones under clothing.
  • Brittle hair and nails.
  • Dry skin.
  • Severe dehydration.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fainting.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Poor body image.
  • Irregular periods or amenorrhea.

Due to the nutritional deficiencies and extreme weight loss, physical health is a concern. If left untreated, anorexia can lead to organ failure. Medical professionals prioritize physical health to help the patient’s body stabilize.

Treatment for anorexia nervosa.

Once the person with anorexia is stable physically, treatment for the mental disorder can begin. A counselor will assess the person’s behavior and listen to them share their thoughts and emotions before creating a care plan. To treat the compulsions that drive anorexic behavior, counselors must understand the thoughts behind the actions. The counselor and client build a rapport and a safe relationship that allows the freedom to share.

Counselors may use several different types of eating disorder treatments depending on the client’s assessment and level of severity of anorexia.

Individual talk therapy.

There may be a reason that a client turns to anorexia that goes beyond wanting to be a smaller size or not wanting to gain weight. Exactly why do they feel the need? Why are they afraid? A counselor helps the client work through these issues and triggers.


Group therapy.

People are stronger together, especially those who have overcome anorexia, and are willing to share with others. Group therapy is a safe space to share and gain insight from others while being led by a professional mental health care worker.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

This technique helps clients to identify triggers, emotions, and thoughts that lead to anorexic behaviors. The client then can work with the counselor to learn ways to re-frame those thoughts and actions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Although not explicitly created for eating disorders, DBT has proven helpful in helping a client with anorexia (or bulimia or binge eating) manage stressors and relationships instead of turning to the harmful behaviors associated with anorexia.

Nutrition education.

Nutritional education is a must to help the client adapt to a regular eating schedule with proper portions and variety. The menu may change as the client becomes healthier, allowing for a greater variety, but in the beginning, checking in with a nutritionist will keep treatment on track.

A counselor may incorporate several methods to help a client with anorexia. They may meet in person, virtually, or a combination of both.

Counseling for different types of eating disorders.

From the different types of eating disorders, do you struggle with anorexia nervosa? Do the symptoms sound familiar, but you do not quite meet the criteria for a full-blown eating disorder?

We can help. Contact our office today at Huntington Beach Christian Counseling in California to schedule an assessment with a Christian counselor in Huntington Beach. Your counselor will assess your health and help you connect with medical treatment if necessary while you work on the emotional and mental healing from anorexia.

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Moving Past Postpartum Blues

Your baby is finally here. After months of growing and developing into a tiny human, your little one has made an entrance. You know you should be elated, but something feels off. Postpartum blues is real and can last a few weeks as your hormones shift from pregnancy to the recovery period.

How do you move past postpartum blues and get back to enjoying your new baby?

Getting back on track after postpartum blues.

You may have felt happy, joyful, and serene right after the birth of your baby, but after the first week of no sleep, constant diaper changes, learning how to care for a newborn, and shifts in hormones, you feel the opposite.

This is a normal occurrence. Hormones control our emotions and moods, and as estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, you may experience postpartum blues with mood swings, sadness, and anxiety for a few weeks.

The good news is that the postpartum blues only last about two weeks, then your hormones stabilize. When the emotions do not seem to be stabilizing and you continue to experience mood swings, sadness, and/or anxiety, it is important to check in with your healthcare provider. While experiencing these emotional lows is normal after birth, there are things you can do to help ease your way through this time.

Increase rest and nutrition.

This may sound easier said than done, but as your hormones adjust, it is the most important time for you and your baby to focus on rest and nutrition. Keeping your body fed and hydrated will boost your ability to weather the baby blues. Resting may not come easy as life can be full of demands, but finding a way to incorporate it whenever possible is a must.

One of my favorite pieces of advice in this area was from a midwife who said, “stock up on one-handed foods.” The unpredictable schedule and demands of a newborn will seem at odds with the times you are hungry. One-handed, nutrient rich and/or simple foods are a great go-to.

If you are unable to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, that’s okay. Increasing rest can also look like decreasing the energy you expend or creating a restful environment. Dim the lights, light a candle, time-block for quiet activities, and set the mood for relaxation for the whole family.

Find help with the baby and the house.

The overwhelming feelings may be more acute if you are trying to manage a newborn on your own. The first few weeks of an infant’s life are also a challenge for them. They must adapt to sights, sounds, and smells they did not have in the womb. In addition, they have no way of communicating except through crying.

This trying period will pass as your baby grows and adapts, but in the meantime, you need help. Do you have a spouse that can take over while you get some sleep? How about a parent or sibling who can handle the daily chores like dishes and laundry? A friend who can bring you a meal, sit with you, or hold the baby while you shower? Asking for help is a sign of strength. Many people will want to help you, but they will need your permission.

If you are preparing for your baby’s birth and are reading this to know what to expect, take the time to recruit help now. From anything to setting up a meal train, to driving siblings to their appointments, to walking the dog and cleaning your house.

There are things you can do for yourself as well. To save time during those first few weeks, consider cooking and freezing meals for when your family is too tired to cook. Consider reducing physical clutter and daily routines to the necessities. Even stocking up on paper plates and disposable cutlery.

If you have a large family, teach your older children to do certain chores, like taking out the trash, running the vacuum, and dusting. Even little ones can fold the towels and washcloths; their work may not be perfect, but it will be done and one less thing for you to think about.

Focus on less.

Now may be a time when focusing on less or slowing down may not be possible. Maybe you are in the middle of a school program, have to go back to work immediately, or are raising other kids who haven’t reached a significant independence level.

Even if that is the case, something will have to give. The attention a baby demands, coupled with the struggles of the baby blues, makes it necessary to slim down the daily doings to the minimum. If you are able to before the baby comes, make a list of things in your days that can be altered to an easier form for the transition of this new baby.

Focusing on less while you are facing the baby blues can be difficult if you are not prepared to take it easy. You may be struggling with doubt, guilt, or other negative influences. If you are unable to prepare prior to having the baby, three ways to focus on less immediately are:

  • Recognize the negative and unrealistic message of having to “do it all” during this time and replace it with “I am doing what’s most important” by tending to the needs of the new baby and taking care for yourself so you have enough to keep going.
  • Remind yourself that it is a different season that will pass quickly and you will find a new way to get things done eventually.
  • As “eventually” may not come as quickly as one would like, remind yourself the days are long, but the years fly by and take as many deep breaths as you need.

Facing the baby blues is difficult for any momma, even a seasoned one. Seeking help is another way to start immediately focusing on less and getting the most important work done.

Seek support.

You are not alone. Postpartum blues affects up to 70% of new mothers. You may still develop the postpartum blues even if this is not your first child. Seek support if you struggle with symptoms or have questions for other women.

You can find support through online communities or live local groups. Your obstetrician, pediatrician, or lactation consultant may be able to recommend a group or community you can join. Some groups meet at hospitals and clinics.

You can also find Mothers groups that consist of women who have children from birth through age five. These groups offer invaluable insight and activities for children while the mothers provide advice and ask questions. They may also host events or Mother’s Day Out opportunities.

You don’t need to leave anyone off the list when it comes to seeking support. From your church to your neighbors, from your county organizations to your online communities, finding people to help doesn’t have to be limited to family and close friends.

As long as you can trust them with even as small a task as providing clothes for the new baby or taking your trash cans out for trash day, it can help ease the burdens and lighten the weight of the baby blues.

Accept your body in the moment.

Postpartum blues can worsen our perceptions and expectations about our bodies after a baby. Sometimes we expect our bodies to bounce back quickly after a child is born. We become disappointed and depressed if we still weigh the same as we did when carrying a six to nine-pound baby.

Most likely, you are still retaining extra fluid, and if you are breastfeeding, your new milk supply may alter the fluid content and weight. You may not be able to wear your pre-pregnancy clothes for weeks or months after birth. This is normal. As your body adapts to the changes, overall change towards your former body will happen.

In the meantime, give yourself grace. You may not like what you see in the mirror when your clothes are off, but remember that you just gave birth to a baby. The process of pregnancy and birth is a miracle. Your body nurtured and protected a child for nine months. Accept and practice gratitude for the body God blessed you with that could participate in this miracle.

Stop the comparing.

Becoming a mother is an honor and a blessing. But we can romanticize pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood. We admire other mothers on social media who seem to have it all together. These women may show organized nurseries, svelte bodies, and sleeping babes on their newsfeeds.

What they are not sharing with you are the same issues you are dealing with having a newborn. These women also have laundry, dirty diapers, painful breasts, and spit up on their clothes.

Your schedule may not be what you expected, but it may be the one that will have to work for you and your family temporarily. Your new baby might be your fifth, but is the exact opposite of their siblings. Your home may look like a nursery exploded inside for the first few weeks. Accept that things will not be perfect, call on people to help, and let the rest go for now. Learn to pivot instead of compare and you will adapt more easily.

If you give birth to your new baby right before a holiday, accept that this year will be different, and don’t stress yourself out trying to make it magical. Instead, request more help or scale down on the lavishness. For example, if your baby is born a week or two before Thanksgiving, you might choose to stay home and have a premade meal delivered instead of traveling for two hours to visit extended family. Do things that will make life easier postpartum, not harder.

Postpartum blues can leave you feeling very impressionable. While avoiding comparing with those who seem to have it easier or more together, it is also worth the caution to avoid surrounding yourself only with others struggling with the same things, as it can lead to a worsening of your symptoms.

Is it postpartum blues or depression?

Sometimes the postpartum blues is really depression. Postpartum depression is more intense and can last months. If you are experiencing persistent sadness as if a cloud hangs over you, you cannot seem to bond with your baby, or you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your infant, reach out for help immediately. Postpartum depression is treatable with the assistance of a licensed mental health care practitioner.

Contact our office today to speak with a therapist. Your therapist can offer more information about the postpartum recovery period and methods to overcome the postpartum blues.

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Balancing It All: Tips for Single Mom Help

Are you looking for single mom help? As mothers, it can be easy to scrutinize everything that we do. Our thoughts can plague us with doubts and frustrations that intrude our peace and bring us to lash out towards our kids, ourselves, and other people.

Are you worried that you are messing everything up? Do you think that if you had a sense of control, you could balance it all? That sense of accomplishment and feeling at ease with your life comes down to where you put your trust and time.

Being a single mother is challenging, yet millions of women have been put into or chosen that very circumstance. Although the traditional design did not include women raising children without a male figure, there are more than fifteen million U.S. families with women as the only breadwinner and no husband or father figure in the home.

In addition, historically speaking, millions of women have lost husbands due to death or found themselves in situations where they had no choice but to be single mothers.

Tips for single mom help.

Although these tips for single mom help are designed to help you stay more mindful and in the present as you manage single motherhood, the most important aspect about changing the way you feel in and about motherhood is where you put your trust. Trust in the wrong things will lead to repetitive disappointments.

By establishing trust boundaries, you are able to dispense your time and energy into what aligns best with your values and beliefs and be built up instead of torn down.

For example, you could be waking up an hour earlier than your children to get dressed and spend some quiet time alone or exercising. This advice was given to you by the “you deserve” movement passed on through well-meaning individuals. The trouble with this advice is it can seem cut and dry, when you put in good routines and get that “me” time, you will be a better person.

Then the days happen when you haven’t had any sleep, or the kids wake up and want you “too early” and everything is ruined, or you do it all and still find yourself a wreck. The system failed, and left you right where you started: tired and frustrated.

If you don’t establish a healthy boundary about where you put your trust, no tip in the world for single mom help will help you for long. The best place to put your trust? In a place that is timeless, truthful, good, beautiful, deserving of praise, honorable, and pure.

These tips for single mom help are to help you establish healthier thinking and behavior that will impact your life and the lives of your children in a positive and lasting way. Once you’ve established healthy boundaries for your trust, the next step is to establish healthy boundaries about how you spend your time. The following collection of tips for a single mom have that in common. Spending your time in these areas just ten minutes a day can build lasting impact.

Spend your time with wise people.

You don’t have to socialize without the kids (though I agree, it does provide a different experience that many crave), in order to take advantage of this tip. Keeping yourself connected with a community that focuses on building you up, providing practical help in times of need, and encouraging your trust boundaries will help you and your family thrive.

When you do bring your children along, they benefit from seeing you model healthy relationships and learn which people are going to be positive for them to socialize with.

Stay connected with these individuals daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. Set regular times to connect both in person and through phone or writing. You won’t do everything the same as the people in the community, but you can take advantage of learning from those who have gone ahead of you and being encouraged to continue on by those who are in the thick of it with you.

Search for diversity in the group (different life stages), but there’s no set number or variation for ultimate benefit from this tip. Just one or two women who are similar to you can help just as much as a group of twelve women who have been there and done that and found a good path.

Practice good stewardship and humility.

Being a single mother means living through hectic moments, sometimes daily chaotic events. If you have a special needs child or a few young children, you might feel simultaneously as if you are doing too much, yet not enough.

Sometimes our pride or idea that there is no other option but to press on in the madness keeps us from seeing that there is another option. It’s not always. In fact, as chaos consumes, it is often the only option but to press on and survive – no other focus is possible.

So, I offer this tip as a flexible one in its timing. Please consider that while you may have opportunity to implement it more often that you think during times of distress, it is also very real that the only option is to use it as a recovery tool.

The self-care movement seems to have taken the idea of airline safety (put your mask on first) and created a place where we place our trust and come up short again and again. As a single mother, you may find very little time for yourself. That is why this tip is not self-care centered, but instead focused on being a good steward of what God has given you, including yourself and your children.

Try asking yourself:

“Can I take time to throw even the meal that I’m pressing so hard to finish (while the children are falling apart around me) straight out the window and direct my focus on helping myself and the children calm down with love?”

“Can I help myself and my children establish routines and habits of cleaning both body and possessions/space?”

“What about establishing habits of compassion and love for one another?”

“Can I humbly and lovingly admit to myself and my children that I need a moment of silence, a few deep breaths, or a walk outside (even if it means I take them along)?” Because it is likely that they need it, too – and if anything, they will at some point. It’s okay to turn the homework in late but complete, to eat cereal again for dinner, or ask your kids to put in work around the house.

This idea of good stewardship with humility does not come as an easy task because it will be challenged by all the things to be done, the ticking of the clock, the expectations of others, and by the idea that “it would just be easier if I did it.”

Your children need time to practice their skills in stewardship just as much as you do. The way that you steward your time and energy and space will model for them the very ways that they will follow.

Stay present.

We often bring our heartaches and hurts into the present by focusing on our past regrets, betrayals, or future worries. Do you find your mind wandering back to mistakes? Do you still feel bitter toward an ex? Are you wasting time reliving the life you think you might have led?

Practice mindfulness throughout the day. Mindfulness directs your mind back to the present and appreciating where you are in the moment. Of course, you must plan and prepare for the future, but don’t get so caught up that you miss what is happening now. Appreciate the present time with your children. They grow up fast, so savor their childhood.

Wiser words about this were never spoken as these in Philippians: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t feel like you should respond to everything.

Does it feel as if everyone wants a piece of you? Your children, boss, parents, extended family, friends, and social media compete for your attention. This is where you will need to practice trust boundaries, putting your guard up, and practicing self-discipline. Setting boundaries includes prioritizing relationships and how you spend your time.

To a single mom, the most demanding responsibility is the welfare of her children. They require focus and attention, especially if there has been a recent life event, such as divorce or the father’s death. Depending on your circumstances, your next priority may be your family outside your children, such as your parents and siblings and/or a core community group as the tip above suggested.

Putting your guard up challenges you to practice discretion in how you use your time and what you fill your mind with. Allowing yourself to be free to communicate when it is the best timing for your family (i.e. after the kids go to sleep, or not during dinner time, etc.) gives a level of chastity to the relationships and keeps you in the present moment with a singular focus.

This means, even if it’s not the best moment for your family, you can take the time to communicate that to anyone involved (i.e. “Kids, Mommy will be there in one minute – set a timer,” or a quick “Sorry, can’t talk right now” auto reply to the other person). It is up to you to set the boundaries and expectations in place and stand by them – which takes self-discipline.

Practicing self-discipline leads you to resist temptations to stop setting boundaries and let your guard down, which can lead to increased chaos and stress in your home as you try to give your attention to everyone and anything.

Take control of finances.

Most single moms find their worry and frustration stem from making ends meet and providing for their children. If you have never managed finances, now is the time to learn. It is possible to budget on a small income. Once you master the skill of sticking to a monthly budget, you may find that you have enough money to build a savings account or pay off debt.

A big thing to do with the stress around finances are the influences of envy and jealousy. Coming together with your children and learning as a family how to resist envy and jealousy, as well as nurture values of hard work over money can be a good step for you.

Finances are a personal subject, but you can find courses, workshops, and videos online that cover budgeting, savings, debt relief, and investments.

Christian counseling for single moms.

Do you need single mom help? Are you anxious, depressed, and frazzled trying to support and care for your family? Contact our office today to schedule a session with a therapist specializing in women’s issues and single parenthood. Not only can your therapist help you with the mental health aspect of being a single parent, but they also may be able to assist you in finding local resources for support.

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Single Mom Help: Survival Tips from Other Single Moms

Being a single mom can be stressful, lonely, and exhausting. Trying to do everything yourself may at times feel like a wild ride of time management stress and financial woes.

According to a 2018 Pew Research Center Analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, one-third of all American children under the age of eighteen live in a single-parent home, and 81% of those single-parent homes are headed by a single mom. If you are a single mom, you aren’t alone in the struggles you face.

She has to have four arms, four legs,
four eyes, two hearts, and double the
love. There is nothing single about a
single mom. – Mandy Hale

Common single mom struggles.

  • Financial strain
  • Social isolation
  • Solo decision-making
  • Guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Never enough time
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-doubt

Following are some tips from single moms to help you address those struggles and make it through the tough times.

Survival tips from other single moms.

Reach out to family and friends. Being self-reliant may be necessary for many of the situations you face, but you also need the support of others. Don’t feel ashamed to reach out and ask for help when you need it, or to accept help when it is offered. Be specific about what you need. Some people may want to help but are not sure what to do.

Readjust your priorities. Know that you can’t do it all. There are only twenty-four hours in a day. It’s okay to take shortcuts and to have a less-than-spotless house. Not everything has to be perfect. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, and learn to say no. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do everything and be everywhere.

Balance your schedule. Just because you are a single mom doesn’t mean your primary focus must be on work. Try to balance your schedule as much as you are able, and prioritize time spent with your children when you are not working. Quality time will always trump quantity time.

Make peace with the past. Don’t let your past define you or rule your life. You cannot change what you’ve gone through, but you can learn from it and use the strengths you’ve gained to make the best possible life for you and your child going forward. Try to stay positive, and create a peaceful, happy atmosphere in your home.

Set goals. Set goals for yourself so that you have something to which you can look forward. Even if it’s something as simple as a fitness goal, a reading goal, or finding a few moments to write in your journal before you go to bed at night, it will propel you forward.

Let go of guilt. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, feel guilty that you have a fractured family, or feel discouraged about the things that are lacking or you can’t provide. It’s not the number of parents in the home, but the quality of the parenting that’s most important. Are your children loved and cared for? Is your home a happy place to be? That’s what matters most.

Be flexible. Be flexible when things don’t go as planned. Have a plan B to put into play if the children get sick, for example, or a babysitter cancels at the last minute.

Be organized. Being organized can help save time and keep things moving smoothly. Have consistent morning and evening routines so your children know what to expect on a daily basis.

Make the most of stolen moments. Make the most out of your time by taking advantage of small moments where you can squeeze work or personal tasks into commutes, or while you’re in a waiting room or at a sports practice.

Take time for self-care. Taking care of yourself is an important part of taking care of your children. It helps you build up the energy, stamina, and inner strength you need to avoid burnout and be the best parent you can be. Make sure you eat well, do some kind of regular exercise, and stay connected with friends. If you are healthy and happy, your children are much more likely to be so as well.

Live within your means. Raising a child on one income can be challenging. Track all your expenses for a month and then see where you can eliminate purchases or cut back on overspending. Use the list to create a budget and keep it updated so you can see how much money is coming in versus how much is going out.

Look for creative ways to save money, such as finding fun free activities to do with your children, as well as smarter ways of spending money, like making lists before going to the grocery store, looking for discounts or off-brand products, and/or shopping in bulk for things you use regularly.

Take advantage of available resources. Look into things you can take advantage of such as tax breaks you are entitled to on your tax return, and government-run programs and grants you may qualify for as a single mom.

Make friends with other single moms. Other single moms can relate to your situation better than anyone else. In addition to being friends, you can help each other out. Consider carpooling, for example, or swapping out a few hours of childcare.

Carve out some me time. Look for places that keep children entertained while you are doing something for yourself. A gym, for example, that has a supervised space for the children to play while you are at your exercise class, a play date at a friend’s home, or taking advantage of a Mom’s Day Out program sponsored by your local church are all good options.

Join a single-parent support group. Becoming a single parent can be a very lonely and isolating experience when you don’t know anyone else who is going through a similar experience. Joining a single-parent support group is a good way to connect with other single moms in a safe space where you can share your experiences and struggles, learn about available resources, and get advice, as well as tips and strategies for enhancing your parenting experience.

Find a trusted friend or mentor with whom you can brainstorm. Making tough decisions on your own can feel overwhelming and lead to self-doubt. Finding a trusted friend or mentor who shares your fundamental values with whom you can share ideas and get feedback can lessen your anxiety.

Have children help with tasks. Let your children know they’re needed, and give them real responsibilities to take care of in the home. It will save you time and will allow them to feel valued.

Work as a team. Have regular family meetings with your children. It will help them feel listened to, valued, and empowered. Work together as a team to set rules, solve problems, and come up with ideas for fun things you can do together.

Cling to God and seek His wisdom. Spend time reading your Bible and in prayer. When you’re having doubts and don’t know what to do, turn to God. You may not have all the answers, but He does, and you can always rely on Him. Remind yourself that He is faithful, and in control and that when you commit your life and decisions to Him, He will guide you in the way you need to go and give you the strength to cope with your current situation.

If you have questions and/or would like to set up an appointment to meet with one of the faith-based counselors in our online directory, please give us a call today. You do not have to walk this path alone.


Brodwell, Laura. “6 Strategies for Single Mom Success.” Parents. October 3, 2005. parents.com/parenting/dynamics/single-parenting/6-strategies-for-single-mom-success/.

Maggio, Jennifer. “Being a Single Mom: 17 Surviving to Thriving Tips.” The Life Of A Single Mom. January 15, 2019. thelifeofasinglemom.com/being-a-single-mom-how-to-be/#.

Ward, Kate. “18 single mom survival tips from other single moms.” Care.com. March 16, 2021. care.com/c/where-to-find-help-for-single-mothers/.

“Mother and Child”, Courtesy of Sir Manuel, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Mother and Child”, Courtesy of Hello Revival, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mom and Children”, Courtesy of Hillshire Farm, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Children”, Courtesy of Jose Escobar, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How Much Exercise is Too Much? Confronting Overexercise

If you were to do an informal poll among medical professionals, they would likely say that many of us who form the broader public wrestle with not doing enough to be healthy and stay in shape, and we could use a bit more exercise. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re aware of that, and we know that exercise will do us a world of good.

Exercise has many benefits, such as boosting your mood, burning calories, increasing your levels of energy, and overall leaving you feeling better about life and yourself. The benefits of exercise are widely known, though we may not always take advantage and avail ourselves of them.

There is another side to this though, which doesn’t get addressed as often, and that is the dangers of overdoing exercise. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing – too much exercise can have negative results, such as causing exhaustion, injuries, depression, and addiction that overtakes other areas of life. And so, while it’s important to get some exercise to ensure your health, knowing when you’re overdoing it and when to pull back makes sense.

How much exercise is too much?

Every person is unique when it comes to what their body can handle in terms of exercise. Depending on your age, physical history, and other factors, what you can manage in terms of exercise will vary.

Given such a wide variance between people, one of the more important pieces of wisdom regarding overexercising is to pay close attention to your body. When things aren’t going as they should, your body will tell you. With that in mind, below are a few ways you can tell when you’re taxing yourself through exercise a bit too much.

Not enough rest. When you work out, you need to give yourself time for rest and recovery. That way, your body can heal and make the most of the gains made during the workout. If you’re not having enough rest and recovery time after and between your sessions, that’s a good sign you’re overdoing it.

When you put in a good session, you may feel a little tired and sore, but you’ll also feel energized. However, if you’re feeling fatigued between and even during your sessions, that may signal that you’re overdoing it and not giving your body time to recover.

Insomnia. One of the benefits of working out is that it helps with your overall sense of well-being, and you tend to sleep well. Struggling to fall or stay asleep isn’t a problem when you’re getting the right amount of exercise because it promotes sleep, and so insomnia may signal that you’re overdoing it.

When you’re hurting your body. Whether it’s running, cycling, swimming, walking, dancing, lifting weights, or some other form of exercise, feeling a little sore after a good bit of exercise is par for the course. There is a significant difference between that good kind of soreness that shows you’ve worked hard and lingering soreness that doesn’t disappear after a day or two.

Also, you may be overdoing it if you feel sore only on one side of your body, or in one muscle group or joint in your body. If both legs run a marathon, it doesn’t make sense for only one knee to be in pain long after; that indicates you may have done some injury to yourself.

The presence of actual injuries sustained during your workouts may also suggest you’re overdoing it, especially if the injury came about because of the increased intensity of your workout. When you exercise, don’t increase intensity all at once; work up to your goals steadily over time, for example by adjusting and seeing if your body can handle it over two weeks, then increasing it in the third week.

Your body gains fat and you become more susceptible to illness. Taking in the right amount of exercise tends to help us by boosting our metabolism and immune system. However, if you overdo it, the symptoms can show up in that it’ll compromise your immune system, making you more susceptible to things like colds.

Overdoing exercise can also result in a disrupted ability to regulate the stress hormone cortisol, leading to your body holding on to fat. If you find your health deteriorating and your metabolism taking you backward, it may be that you’re overdoing your exercising.

When you lose a good balance. Exercising a lot, whether that means it occupies a large chunk of your time, or it occupies pride of place in your life, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re overdoing it. However, if you begin organizing your life around exercise, you may have a problem. This can manifest in many ways.

Some people become laser-focused, scrupulously measuring their caloric intake, and treating food simply as fuel for the next workout; they don’t enjoy their food as food. In other cases, overdoing it can look like working out when it’s inappropriate, such as when it’s snowing or raining and you insist on going out, or if you miss important life events because you must get your workout in.

You’re irregular and do too much at once. With exercise, slow and steady wins the race. Many people find working out unpleasant because they don’t do it regularly, and when they do it, they want to fit in as much of it in one shot as they can. That can make for an unpleasant and potentially dangerous workout.

If you find yourself dreading your once-in-a-while workout, it may be appropriate to ask yourself why that is. It may be that you’re doing too much all in one go, and if you find yourself in knots trying to fit different types of workouts/activities into one session, you may be overdoing it.

When your performance level drops. As slow and steady wins the race when it comes to exercise, we find that over time we get stronger, more capable, more flexible, and so on. If you’ve been working out consistently for a while, but you find your performance getting worse and not better, you may be overdoing it and not giving your body a chance to recover. Pull back a little, give yourself room to rest, and it will likely lead to a performance boost.

Focusing on one type of workout/movement. When we find something that works for us, we typically stick to it and push it to its limits. This may not be the best idea. A runner can work hard on their running, but if they don’t do proper stretching and flexibility training, their overall gains may be compromised.

Someone who focuses on strength training may do just that, leaving other areas such as flexibility or cardio-fitness languishing. A person who does yoga may be flexible, but their overall strength may need some improvement. If you find that your focus is only on one thing, you might be overdoing it and inadvertently lowering your overall performance. You need to do a mix of things to develop flexibility, strength, endurance, and cardio fitness.

What do I do if I’m overdoing it?

In general, getting the right amount of exercise is good for your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. But if any of the above-mentioned signs of overdoing it sound familiar to you, what can you do about it? As mentioned earlier, the key thing is to pay close attention to your body and heed its cues. If you’re feeling tired or sore, you may need to pull back and create rest and workout days.

When you intensify your workouts, do so in small increments and give your body time to adjust to the change before making further increments in intensity. In general, having days set aside for rest and recovery is a good idea. If you want to move during your rest days, you can still use your time and do active recovery, which may mean stretching or walking. If you only do one type of exercise, consider diversifying it to improve your overall fitness.

Injuries are common during exercise, and sometimes you may feel sore for a few days while your body heals. However, see a medical professional if you’ve injured yourself and it doesn’t seem to be getting better even with rest. Working out boosts your mood, so if you notice that your moods are being altered negatively when you work out, and afterward, talk with a mental health professional so that you can address any potential issues such as depression.

“Workout”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Exercise Group”, Courtesy of Gabin Vallet, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Measured Fork”, Courtesy of Diana Polekhina, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Keep Climbing”, Courtesy of Bruno Nascimento, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

How to Address Negative Body Image Issues in Women

Negative body image issues in women are common. They can hold you back from living a full, positive life. These issues are worth addressing with a counselor.

You may have thought, felt, or done these things if you have negative body image issues:

  • Looked in the mirror and didn’t like something about yourself
  • Took issues with your nose, lips, eyes, or any other body part
  • Stepped on the bathroom scale with bated breath wondering what the numbers would say, and feeling like that reflected your worth
  • Wished you had a slenderer body, a fuller chest or fuller lips, a smaller waist, longer legs, or any other change that is largely out of your control
  • Wondered why you have all those thoughts about your image
  • Convinced yourself that a nip here and a tuck there would fix your problems
  • Compared yourself with others and wondered why you are doing so
  • Thinking about the ideal body, nose, waist, or chest size and how it applies to you
  • Wondering who determines and sets the body image standards against which you often measure yourself

These thoughts can be exhausting and discouraging. That’s why it’s good to learn about negative body issues in women and how you can overcome them.

Understanding Body Image

Body image is defined as “the mental picture one forms of one’s body as a whole including its physical characteristics and one’s attitudes towards these characteristics.” Various studies and surveys show that more women than men are likely to be affected by body image issues.

There seems to be a social worth that attaches to women’s bodies. This is probably because different cultures have always had opinions on what it means to be an ideal woman physically.  Because beauty is largely a social construct, there is a particular complexity that comes with body image. Not only is a woman limited to reflecting on how she feels about her own body but often, she also wonders how other people perceive her.

In some cultures, women’s fuller bodies are seen as ideal and attractive. Yet in other cultures, the thinner and slender a woman is, the more attractive she is deemed to be. Despite this obvious difference in definitions and perceptions, the standards are more subjective rather than objective.

These ideals are often perpetuated by the traditional media including television and magazines, the beauty and fashion industries, and social media. How a woman perceives herself is shaped by a myriad of sources, including what her society pushes and portrays as being the ideal body. Depending on each woman’s societal and media interactions, and her personal interpretation and understanding of such, she can either have a positive or negative body image.

Negative Body Image Issues

Negative body image can best be described as having an extremely unhappy and intensely dissatisfied view of one’s physical appearance. Due to the attention that is placed on women’s bodies and what it means to be beautiful and physically attractive in contemporary society, women start forming perceptions of their bodies at rather young ages. Often without realizing it, a woman internalizes those beauty standards to which she is most exposed.

A woman may start having internal conversations about whether or not she is attractive, worthy, and acceptable. These conversations will sometimes start to deepen and increase as her body undergoes natural changes and as she interacts more with the outside world.

For example, if she was teased about her looks or received negative feedback about her body parts or her weight, skin tone, or hair, she might start harshly criticizing herself and wishing her body or specific body parts were built or shaped in a certain way.

Likewise, if you spend most of your time immersed in traditional or social media you may find yourself comparing yourself with the “perfect” people that you see there and wondering why you are not like them. You may even start thinking of ways that you may attain such looks.

Signs and Symptoms

Although this list is not exhaustive, these are some of the common signs and symptoms of a negative body image:

  • Low self-esteem stemming from comparing yourself with other people whom you view as having the ideal body or physical features
  • Obsession with mirrors for purposes of scrutinizing oneself and finding more fault
  • Spending too much time on social media for purposes of trying to keep up with beauty trends
  • Harsh and judgmental comments about one’s own body
  • Investing an extreme amount of time, effort, and money in trying to change your image
  • Resorting to drastic dietary and exercise regimes or cosmetic surgery to attain the “ideal” body

4 Ways to Improve Body Image

Here are four ideas to help you improve your body image issues on your own. But if you need more help, a Christian counselor can show you how to address these issues on a deeper level.

Be kind to yourself.

You can start by being kinder to yourself and avoiding some of your known triggers of negative body image. Stop comparing yourself to those perfectly curated people you see on television or social media. Limit the time you spend on social media. But while you are there, unfollow the pages of people who portray unrealistic beauty and body goals. When you feel tempted to compare yourself with others, say one kind thing you like about yourself instead.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercising, getting enough sleep, and seeking help from qualified healthcare practitioners and counselors. This will help you preserve mental, emotional, and physical health. Consider pursuing different hobbies which do not involve screentime. Try to surround yourself with people that keep your focus on other important life aspects instead of just physical looks and fashion trends.

Embrace your body.

Contrary to what popular culture will have you believe, there is more to a woman’s body than just being admired, Embrace your body and all its capabilities because, by its very nature, the human body is amazing regardless of its color, size, or shape.

The Bible says in Psalm 139:14 NIV, “I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” As a Christian, you should intentionally focus on that verse because your body is a testimony of God’s greatness.

While it is true that society, media, and the beauty and fashion industries have a lot to say about women’s bodies, there are enough scientific facts that can be used to push back against some of the unrealistic ideals that are often forced on people’s faces.  The following are examples of biological facts about women’s bodies that need to be normalized:

  • Genetics play a significant role in how people look and there is no fighting them.
  • Women’s bodies undergo different changes due to puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and other hormonal changes.
  • Sagging breasts are natural as they lose elasticity due to aging, multiple pregnancies, and hormonal changes.
  • Some girls and women develop acne due to hormone changes during puberty and adulthood.

Repeat these truths to yourself when you need to embrace your body just the way it is.

Do not forget who you are in Christ.

It is important to reflect on Romans 12:2 NIV, Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Instead of chasing after the often-unrealistic man-made standards of beauty that constantly change, it is more fulfilling as a Christian to focus on God’s will for your life. You must never forget who you are in Christ and that you are called for a greater purpose.

The battle to develop a positive body image can be difficult. If you or anyone you know is struggling with body image issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to me for a coaching appointment. I would be honored to walk this journey with you.


“The Face in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Elisa Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Sage Friedman, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reaching”, Courtesy of Rowan Kyle, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Abandon”, Courtesy of Nathan McBride, Unsplash.com, CC0 License 

Cultivating a Positive Body Image

When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we may find ourselves satisfied and happy with what we see. In the last few years, as selfies and other cameras have gotten higher and higher definition, and in the last few years of the pandemic, as we’ve had to look at ourselves in online meetings, we’ve become more aware of our looks.

That awareness can be a good thing if it is met with an appreciation of what we see, but it can be frustrating and even devastating if we don’t like what we see. That freckle or the slight crook in our smile, our skin tone or hairline, the shape of our nose or of our legs – it’s possible for us to begin looking at these things and wanting to change them because we aren’t happy with them. There is, however, another way to go, and that’s to cultivate a positive body image towards yourself.

What is body image?

Your body image simply refers to how you perceive your own body and your assessment of your physical appearance. It encompasses your emotional responses, your attitude, beliefs, and perceptions of your own body.

If you have a negative body image, that means you feel dissatisfied with what your body looks like. When you compare yourself to other people or to the standard that you believe society holds concerning our bodies, you feel you compare unfavorably.

A negative body image can lead a person to have a distorted image about certain parts of or their whole body, and it can often lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. It means that you’re literally not happy in your own skin and probably walk around wishing you were someone else.

When you have a positive body image, on the other hand, it means that even when it doesn’t match other people’s ideals, you accept your own body for what it is and feel comfortable in it.

That doesn’t mean that you never want to look a little different; on some days, you might wish you could change how you look, including the desire to lose a bit of weight or have a bit more definition. But a positive body image means that on most days you feel confident and are happy with the way you look.

There are several things that influence our body image, and it goes beyond what we see in our bathroom or hallway mirror. How we perceive ourselves is a complex combination of our beliefs, the experiences we have in life, the generalizations we make, and the influence of our culture, friends, family, the fashion industry, and popular culture, as well as the social and other media we consume.

By conveying positive and negative messages, all of these can combine to shape our views on what is beautiful, ideal, and acceptable, as well as what is not, thereby affecting how a person sees and relates to their own body. These different influences encourage us to adopt certain beliefs about bodies – those of others and our own – and often we end up possessing idealized images of the body that are often unrealistic and usually unattainable.

If a person suffers an illness or undergoes an accident that changes their appearance, that can make them reconsider their body image and generate a negative body image. Having breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy can affect a person’s body image, as can having a skin condition such as acne or eczema, or having a limb amputated due to an accident.

When a person has certain experiences such as discrimination based on their race, body size, or age, that too can undermine their confidence and deliver the message that they are not worthy of respect or that they are somehow lacking something and do not measure up.

Cultivating a healthy body image

There are a lot of cultural voices that militate against having a healthy and positive body image. As our broader culture has become more visually oriented, mediating our communications and interactions in increasingly visual ways, whether through our portable devices, our televisions, laptops, and so on, we are constantly bombarded by images from across the globe.

We upload hundreds of millions of photos online on various social media platforms, and that’s to say nothing of the millions of videos that are uploaded on sites like YouTube. A decade ago, around 2012, more pictures were taken every two minutes than were taken throughout the entirety of the 1800s, and that number has only continued to grow.

The point is, that we see a lot of images, and those play a huge role in shaping our self-perception. We see what gets likes, retweets, and what gets reposted, and that shapes our value system. The body positive movement has helped immensely to ensure that a greater diversity of bodies get coverage in our different forms of media, but it is still grossly disproportionately skewed toward the supermodel and hunk side of things.

We are exposed daily to images of people we don’t know, whose lives are glamorized, and have that sheen of unreality that makes them all the more desirable and simultaneously unattainable.

To cultivate a healthy and positive body image, here are a few things that you can do:

Avoid comparisons. When we compare ourselves to other people, we can land ourselves in a bad space. On social media, and other forms of media in general, people put their best selves in their feeds, offering that up for consumption by the public. That snapshot of a person’s life is all we get, but we can make a meal of it, comparing the entirety of our lives with that one moment.

We should avoid comparisons with others in general because the grass usually looks greener on the other side, and it stirs discontent within us. It’s even worse with social media, because we become hyper-focused on these snapshots and slices of a person’s life, and we can easily begin to feel uncomfortable about our own bodies, leading to distress and ill health.

Exercise, but for fitness and not appearance. Just as avoiding comparison can help us avoid the trap of measuring our lives on the basis of appearances, it is far better to work out for your health than it is to look good. If, in working out to get fit, more flexible, and so on, you start to not only feel good but begin enjoying how you look, that’s a welcome bonus.

A study in 2015 found that people that exercise for functional reasons such as getting fit and staying healthy tend to have a more positive body image, while those that pursued exercise to improve their appearance felt less positive about their bodies.

Exercise in general makes you feel good, boosting your mood and making you more aware of what your body can do, and that’s a great thing. But when it’s aimed at looking good, that can detract from the many benefits of working out. Get a workout in and focus on the amazing things you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.

Appreciate what your body can do. Your body is there for you. With it, you can laugh, create, dance, embrace your loved ones, feel the breeze or the surf, and enjoy the feel of grass and the smell of flowers. These are all wonderful gifts, and we can turn our minds to appreciate the many things that our bodies can do.

It’s true that we often take our bodies for granted; we only really notice them when something gets hurt or stops functioning as it should. The rest of the time, we don’t notice it except to notice what might not be the right size or shape.

Instead, a healthier way to go about things is to appreciate all the things your body can do. Do yourself a favor and curl your toes in bed, give yourself a nice big stretch, lift your child or hug your loved one. Take a look at the things you can create, at the problems you can solve with your body and mind, and celebrate them.

Learn self-acceptance. You are who you are, and your life is what it is. Perhaps it doesn’t need a filter, whether in posting only your best photos or in applying a literal filter to your pictures to look other than what you really do. It also helps to embrace positive self-talk such as reminding yourself that you are wonderfully and fearfully made by God, and therefore precious in his sight (Psalm 139).

Get comfortable with yourself. Being comfortable with yourself may mean doing something as simple as finding clothes that are comfortable and help to make you feel good about your body.

More than ever before, there are fashionable and varied choices out there, and unless your job has a strict dress code, you can be eclectic in your fashion choices to arrive at what works for you. You can also do something nice for your body, including daily self-care, or getting a massage and a haircut to take care of your body.

Keep your eyes off your body and on the Lord. One of the downsides of the body positive movement is that it continues to place an emphasis and focus on bodies. While they are an important gift that we need to take care of, there’s more to life than our bodies and what they look like. We are served well by keeping things simple for ourselves.

Paul reminds his young protégé, Timothy, that the pursuit of excess and riches can bring sorrow, saying, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6: 7-8 NIV). We can become so focused on what our bodies look like, whether they conform to some ideal, that we neglect to attend to what our bodies are for – God’s glory.

In another letter to the believers in the city of Corinth, Paul wrote, “The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power, God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” and he goes on to say, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6: 13-15, 19-20 NIV).

Instead of being overly concerned with our bodies, about what we wear and eat and what size we are, we can rather pool our energies into developing our character and being the sort of people God desires us to be. We can focus on others and their needs, and how we can serve them well as we work for the kingdom.

Talking about the kingdom of God may make people think of ethereal, floating existences where bodies don’t exist or matter. The Christian faith is not a disembodied faith that is uninterested in bodies. Bodies matter immensely, but excessive or misapplied focus on them is decidedly unhealthy.

If you need specific encouragement for any issues you have about body image, consider meeting with a Christian counselor. There may be unresolved problems behind the way you see yourself, and a caring counselor can help you heal from the past and overcome your hang-ups.

Photos:”The Face in the Mirror”, Courtesy of Elisa Photography, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Making Heart”, Courtesy of Jackson David, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Runners”, Courtesy of Fitsum Admasu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Healthy Breakfast”, Courtesy of Jannis Brandt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

What to Do with a Broken Relationship

Relationships are beautiful, but slightly fragile things. We thrive when we’re in meaningful relationships with others, and that is how it should be. Our relationships are a major part of what allows us to flourish, and likewise, when our relationships are out of joint, we find that our life loses color. That’s when we need to learn what to do with a broken relationship.

What to Do with a Broken Relationship

It can take years to build a relationship with someone – a long-cherished friendship, an open and mutually supportive parent-child connection, or a solid and fulfilling marriage. However, the unfortunate reality is that what takes years to build can be undermined in a matter of mere moments.

Whether through a betrayal of trust, unkind words spoken in anger, or the failure to meet expectations, a relationship can end up facing serious challenges. Though sometimes the damage done is hard to repair, relationship challenges can often be overcome in healthy ways.

The older you get, the more you come to understand how precious relationships are, and their fragility as well. Broken relationships are a sad fact of life, but thankfully we aren’t left without options for what to do if things go south. Whether you are the one that has made a mistake that leaves a relationship in shambles, or you’re the one that is on the receiving end, here are a few things to consider about a broken relationship.

Recognize how brokenness is a part of life.

The world is a messy place. It’s not okay that it’s a messy place, but it’s just the reality. Part of the messiness of the world and ourselves is that our relationships are less than perfect, just as we are less than perfect. Disappointment and heartbreak are just some of the seasons we can expect in life (Ecclesiastes 3).

Sara Teasdale wrote, “It is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years can make it wise.” The messiness and brokenness of our world hurt, and our hearts will be broken many times in our lifetime, but there is one small comfort in the face of all this – we can learn and grow even amid these painful experiences, and our hearts can become more resilient and wiser.

This means that broken relationships aren’t the end of us – they don’t close our doors to other opportunities, and they certainly aren’t a unique occurrence. While it can be devastating and hugely challenging to suffer from a broken relationship, we don’t have to be overwhelmed and entirely undone.

Try to find out what happened.

When a relationship breaks down, it may come as a complete surprise to you. Or, in some cases, perhaps you know or can make a good guess at what happened and how things fell apart in your relationship. Perhaps you can pinpoint the precise moment when things crumbled and the relationship was changed forever. While it may seem like dragging yourself through unnecessary pain – doing a post-mortem of your relationship can help you in several ways.

Taking time to discern what happened can help you in making a meaningful apology and in changing certain things if that’s what’s needed. For instance, If you betrayed your friend’s trust by telling someone else a secret, you can take several steps.

You may need to work through what you did, why you did it, and exercise empathy for the other person. These steps will help you understand on a deeper level what went wrong and how you find yourself in your present predicament. When you make your apology, all these things are elements to consider.

Knowing what may have gone wrong will alert you to things you should avoid in other relationships. We want to grow as people, and one way to do that is to learn through our own mistakes. Whether you’re the one responsible for the broken relationship or not, we can learn important lessons about ourselves and other people in the wake of a disruptive event in the relationship.

You may need to adjust expectations, communicate needs more clearly, or establish clearer boundaries with others. These are valuable ideas to ponder because they help us understand ourselves and our relationships better. Understanding why this particular relationship broke down can help you get back on track more securely, or it can help you better cultivate your other relationships.

While it’s important to understand what happened and how things fell apart, we must also recognize that understanding what happened does have its limits. In Mend my Broken Heart, Jocelyn Soriano wrote “Yes, I understand why things had to happen this way. I understand his reason for causing me pain. But mere understanding does not chase away the hurt. It does not call upon the sun when dark clouds have loomed over me. Let the rain come then if it must come! And let it wash away the dust that hurt my eyes!”

If you’re the one who has been betrayed and hurt, understanding what happened and why may be cold comfort. Sometimes, understanding helps us come to grips with our new reality, but it can only go so far.

Ask for forgiveness.

We all make mistakes. But we don’t all make the same mistakes in the same way, nor are we consistent in dealing with others the way we would want to be treated. This makes for messy relationships, self-righteousness attitudes, and often an unwillingness to change.

Asking for forgiveness is one important way to try and restore a broken relationship. When you acknowledge what you’ve done wrong, recognize how you’ve hurt the other person, and can clearly see ways of doing better in the future, that can create room to repair a broken relationship. An apology might not fix everything, but it’s a great starting point.

If trust was broken, it may be a long road to get back there again, if you can manage it. One of the ways an apology is powerful is that it lets the other person know that you’re on the same page about your behavior. They now know that you know that what you did was wrong, and for them that can be an important step in finding healing.

If you’re the one whose trust was violated, you can consider what your options are, including extending forgiveness to the person that hurt you. The Bible says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). This verse is a powerful reminder of our own brokenness and need for forgiveness. It allows us to empathize with those who have sinned against us.

Forgiving the other person might not mean that things completely reset, but it does mean that you’re choosing to let go of any resentment or bitter feelings toward that person. It’s a way to begin the work of rebuilding the relationship, should you so choose.

Additionally, if you’re the one who was hurt, you might need to redraw or restate your boundaries with other people. Every healthy relationship requires healthy boundaries, and when one or more of those are violated, that situation can provide you with an opportunity to either restate or redraw those boundaries as needed.

Pick up the pieces.

You need to decide for yourself how the relationship is important to you and what you’re willing to do for it. True friendships, familial relationships, and other meaningful connections with others aren’t easy to find or replace, especially if they’ve been the work of years to cultivate.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t move on from these relationships if they are harmful, but it does mean we need to weigh carefully what we do with them. In some cases, walking away may be the best thing you can do, while in others working on things is what wisdom dictates.

Take time to heal and process what’s happened. Picking up the pieces of a broken relationship is hard work, whether you’re picking up those pieces to try and put them back together again, or you’re picking them up to set them aside.

Whether you’re the cause of the broken relationship or not, when a significant human connection falls apart, it hurts. If you need help processing a broken relationship, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trustworthy individual such as a friend, family member, spiritual advisor, or trained Christian therapist.

“Just Married”, Courtesy of Nikita Shirokov, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Daisy from Below”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hope”, Courtesy of Ronak Valobobhai, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading the Bible”, Courtesy of Jessica Delp, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Knowing the Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Relationships take various forms, and they go through their own peaks and valleys, just as with the rest of life. In a marriage, for instance, the couple might move from the honeymoon phase and into a season of financial hardship that tests their ability to resolve conflict and problem-solve. Some couples will struggle with that, while others will deal with the conflict and difficult circumstances in a healthy manner.

Again, couples go through all sorts of things, and many healthy relationships will face challenges, sometimes with mixed results. However, the mark of healthy relationships is that they don’t remain in a state of conflict, nor do they endlessly repeat the same mistakes without learning or growing from them.

In other words, difficult seasons will come, but healthy relationships weather those storms through mutual respect, affection, good conflict management skills, and so on.

In other relationships, what’s lacking are these same hallmarks of a healthy relationship. These toxic relationships are a hotbed of simmering conflict – one or both partners are in constant fight or flight mode, and they are not happy or fulfilled. There can be toxic patterns in a relationship, but a toxic relationship is one in which those patterns are a feature, not a bug in the system. Below are a few signs to look out for that might point to your relationship as being toxic.

Emotional detachment in a toxic relationship.

In a healthy relationship, the partners are emotionally connected and vulnerable to one another. They share themselves, offer one another validation, and show that they care for each other in various ways. Emotional detachment can happen for a season, say for instance if one partner is in a time crunch at work. However, sharing one’s feelings with their partner is what makes for a healthy relationship. Emotional detachment can happen in various ways, including:

You don’t celebrate each other’s wins. In a healthy relationship, the couple supports one another and celebrates their respective wins. If the atmosphere in the relationship is one where your wins aren’t celebrated, and possibly where an air of competition reigns, that could be problematic.

Negative spontaneous emotional reactions. Your partner’s gut-level impressions of you, such as whether they like you or find you interesting, or whether they think you are competent, or how you might compare to other people – all these can point to the health of your relationship. A relationship dominated by spontaneous negative emotional reactions is a cause for concern.

Lack of self-disclosure. Relationship health is supported by emotional self-disclosure, where you are vulnerable with, listen to, and mutually support each other. Sharing your important feelings within the relationship matters, as does listening well and being responsive to such self-disclosures. If this interplay of sharing and listening well is absent from the relationship, it is cause for concern.

Few positive non-verbal behaviors. We speak with more than just our words. We can use touch, our faces, our bodies, and the tone of our voices to communicate alongside our words. A relational environment where there are few positive non-verbal behaviors such as smiles, laughter, hugging, etc., might point to an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.

It’s also important to ask yourself if the dominant tone of your relationship is one of affirmation or criticism. Of course, we don’t always get things right, but if your spouse is constantly criticizing you – how you dress, how you look, speak, act, and so on, that’s not a healthy situation. Emotional detachment, if it becomes a habit, signals the deterioration of a relationship, and it needs to be addressed.

A lack of safety in a toxic relationship.

In a relationship, it’s important for you and your children to feel safe. Safety can be emotional or physical safety. With emotional safety, do you feel able to express your emotions without feeling judged or like you’re failing somehow? Do you feel like people care how you feel, and that your emotions are taken into consideration?

Physical safety can be compromised if you’re threatened with violence, or if resources such as food, clothing, health care, and shelter are held at ransom. Relationships marked by the lack of safety are likely toxic.

No boundaries or boundaries are repeatedly violated

Boundaries are important for the health of any relationship. Boundaries signal that each person has their own personality and needs, and respecting those boundaries shows consideration and promotes individual integrity. Boundaries can center around finances, privacy, use of time, friendships, sex, and much else.

If in your relationship you either don’t have boundaries or the boundaries you set are violated repeatedly, it may signal a toxic relationship. Each relationship needs boundaries to prevent it from slipping into codependency or other similar dysfunction, and when boundaries are violated, there need to be consequences. Repeated violations of reasonable boundaries display a fundamental lack of respect that needs to be remedied.

Constant cover-ups in a toxic relationship.

Spouses often cover for one another. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including not wanting them to look bad, or wanting to spare them from something uncomfortable or humiliating. There is a line between that and covering up bad behavior for them so that they escape accountability, or so that truth about them doesn’t get out.

If you find yourself often covering up for your partner because they were drunk, rude, physically, or verbally abusive, and so on, that points to a toxic relationship dynamic. You shouldn’t be part of their personal PR and cleanup crew, and covering up for them reveals unhealthy (possibly codependent) dynamics in the relationship.

Lack of freedom in a toxic relationship.

In a meaningful relationship with our significant other, we should feel the most accepted and loved within that space. When we are with our friends, these are supposed to be the people that get us, that understand our weirdness and welcome us, nonetheless. In our family, that space above others is where we ought to feel appreciated, loved for who we are, and feel that our best interests are high up on the agenda.

If you feel that you don’t have freedom in your relationship, it’s possibly problematic. Possibly problematic because sometimes we want more freedom than we ought to get, like a teenager wanting to stay out way beyond what their parent thinks is wise, or if a spouse wants the freedom to commit adultery.

Rather, the freedom in mind here relates to things like feeling the freedom to be yourself, to make mistakes, to be with people such as your friends and family. It’s a problem when you’re constantly criticized for being who you are, if any mistakes you make are closely scrutinized while those of others aren’t, or if you get isolated from people such as your family and friends.

You should be able to meet with your family and hang with your friends, but when your partner wants to isolate you, it’s a sign of toxicity and may be a prelude to other abusive behaviors.

A lack of mutuality in a toxic relationship.

At the heart of a relationship is what you do for each other. You celebrate one another; you are there for one another during your tough times; you rebuke one another when there is a need for it, you forgive each other for mistakes that you make, you take on responsibilities to help one another flourish, and you each make compromises for the sake of the other.

If you find yourself in a situation where this is flowing in one direction, that could be a sign of a toxic relationship. A lack of mutuality in a relationship is a cause for concern that you should take seriously. There ought to be a healthy give and take within the relationship, and while things are never balanced equally, there should be some level of reciprocity in how you do things in your relationship.

It cannot be that only one person constantly needs to be forgiven, that one person is the one who makes the compromises, or that only one person needs rebuke. A relationship is the coming together of equals, and that means each of you must receive dignity, respect, and consideration.


If you detect these signs of toxicity in your relationship, having a conversation with your partner about them can help you begin addressing the issue. With the help of a couple’s therapist, you can turn a toxic relationship around, but it needs you both to show up and put in the work.

“Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Shelby Deeter, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hugs”, Courtesy of Candice Picard, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “I give you my heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License