Monday, December 14, 2015

Not Feeling Festive? Get Your Zzzzzzzzzzzs

I am re-posting a timely blog in hopes it may help you if you missed it 5 years ago...

Good sleep is not only important to your physical health, it is also key to a good mood. Getting plenty of sleep during this busy season is difficult, for sure.  However, it is essential. The holidays put extra emotional and physical demands on us, and sleep helps us bounce back, maintain perspective, and stay healthy.

Not only is the quantity of your sleep important, the quality of your sleep is, too. Sleep quality can be enhanced in many ways: a cool but not cold room temperature, a very dark bedroom, a comfortable bed without pets or children hogging the bed. Those of us who have reached - ahem - "middle age" have biological factors that make our sleep less sound than it used to be, and may need to take extra steps to insure a good night's sleep.

The first suggestions I make to clients who are frustrated by poor sleep are:
  • eliminate afternoon caffeine
  • limit alcohol to one (women) or two  (men) drinks
  • try deep breathing or alternate nostril breathing* when you can't sleep
  • turn off all electronics, including the TV, an hour before bed
  • keep a small journal or pad near your bed, and write down any thoughts or chores that are nagging at you
  • no vigorous exercise closer than three hours to bed time
If you have made these changes and are still having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, or usually feel grouchy or tired in the morning, it is probably time to get some help. I find clients often hesitate to see an internist or psychiatrist to discuss medical interventions for insomnia. However, I urge them to do so, as I have witnessed tremendous improvement in mood and stamina in those who have sought treatment.

Sleep can make the difference between a good day and a bad one
There are natural sleep remedies that are effective for many people. There are also several sleep medications that have been developed in the last decade that at the right dose do not leave people feeling groggy or "hungover".  I  prefer environmental and natural sleep interventions. However, the effect of sleep on quality of life is so profound that medication should be considered if other interventions fail to help.

If the shopping and wrapping are feeling more like torture than fun, crawl into bed early tonight and take a long winter's nap.

Wishing you more "ho ho ho's" and less stress;  good health, and peace this holiday season.

Be well,

For more information on alternate nostril breathing, go to:

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I want to share this excellent article by Lane Marmon, who had a career as a family law lawyer and is currently a director at HHG, a financial management company in Darien, CT.  I counsel many people who are unhappy with their money habits and/or with the negative impact disagreements about money have on their relationship. Lane's tips are excellent. I hope you find them helpful.


Congratulations! You are engaged and have started planning your dream wedding. You have considered who should be in your wedding party, what music will be played and where the special day will take place. However, marriage is a big step and having a serious discussion about finances with your soon to be spouse is important. Therefore, it is shocking that most people generally do not discuss finances and household responsibilities before saying “I do”.  

Below are five recommended topics of conversation for you and your future spouse to discuss.

Share your spending habits:
When it comes to spending, you need to be honest with your spouse about your habits.If you are honest with each other, you are more likely to work together to reach your goals in a trusting relationship. However, if you are dishonest, you may find yourself hiding your credit card charges or arguing over the balance of the checking account. You should consider that there may be a reason why your spouse pinches every penny or spends every dime. Having a conversation about a habit can lead to a stronger and more thoughtful relationship. In addition, it enables you to set realistic goals with your spouse about saving and spending.

Having a mysterious credit history is not a turn-on.  In fact it can be a turn-off. Your soon to be spouse may have a prestigious high-paying job in New York City but, he may also have hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. Having debt does not necessarily need to be a deal breaker for you.  However, it will help you to set realistic saving goals. 
For example, an individual who accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt and has a diminished credit score, may influence a spouse’s ability to purchase a house. Together, you and your spouse can repair credit damage and pay off debts.  However, it is hard to repair something that you do not know is damaged.  The key is transparency. 
Discuss how you are combining your finances:
Each relationship is different. Understanding how each spouse’s income is going to be treated and how the expenses are going to be paid varies from couple to couple.  Some couples merge all their income and expenses, others keep everything separate. Whereas, others follow a hybrid model of keeping some income and expenses joint and others separate. Once you have decided how the income and expenses are going to be handled, one spouse needs to take the lead on managing them and monitoring the monthly cash flow. 
Often times the spouse who is monitoring the cash flow is seen as the spouse with more financial control and knowledge. However, with honest conversations about expenses, both spouses can feel equally involved in the decision making process.
Define your financial goals:
Everyone has a financial goal. Perhaps it is to save up for a new set of golf clubs or a small starter home. On the other hand, it may be to be a stay-at-home parent. Whatever it may be, you should share those goals with your future spouse. You will receive a greater understanding of your spouse’s desires and it will help develop a serious discussion about the reality of those goals. 
Financial Advisor:
Having a financial advisor to provide knowledge, resources and insight is exceedingly helpful when developing a financial plan. You want to pick a financial advisor who is honest and makes you feel comfortable. Your advisor will work with you to develop your financial goals, plans surrounding a major life event and tax strategies, among other things. It is never too early to pick a financial advisor, since you want to develop a long-lasting relationship with an individual who understands you as a couple and your future plans.
By having these serious conversations about finances, you are building a healthier and stronger relationship with your spouse. 

[1] This is from a study conducted using longitudinal data from more than 4,500 couples as part of the National Survey of Families & Households.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Nine Decades of Inspiration for Happy Living

As a clinical social worker, I support people as they fine-tune the art of living happily. Much has been written about personality types and lifestyles that contribute to a happy life. Although there seems to be little useful data on what factors definitively help us live enjoyable lives, we know when we are in the presence of inspiring people who manage to do just that.

For the past eight years I had the pleasure and honor of knowing a woman who I consider an amazing mentor on this topic. Ruth, until September of this year, lived with her pet rabbit in a one bedroom pre-war apartment in mid-town Manhattan. She was the loving mother of my life partner, Jon. Although in failing health the last two years, she insisted on maintaining both her lifestyle and her independence and remained upbeat and engaging until she died.

Since Ruth passed away –one month shy of her 94th birthday- Jon and I have received many comforting and informative condolences from those who knew and loved her.  The comments have touched upon Ruth’s following qualities:

Curiosity  Ruth loved to learn. A college graduate who served as an officer in the Coast Guard during WWII, she was an avid traveller and reader who loved to learn about other cultures and animals. She enjoyed the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle which she completed in ink, not pencil. She was an accomplished cook who prepared gourmet meals of many cultures in a galley kitchen. 

Creativity and Persistence  Ruth worked hard for years in her role as a creative director for several different major advertising agencies on Madison Avenue. In an era when female executives were few and far between, many of her national campaigns were award- winning. A single mother, she did more than raise Jon; she regularly made it a priority to expose him to new cultures and experiences through travel. She also used her abundant creativity to parent Jon. She once made him hold a banana during the entire two and a half hour ferry and train trip from Fire Island to Manhattan because despite her instruction not to do so, he had threw a banana overboard from the Fire Island ferry.

Loyalty Ruth loved her family, friends and pets unequivocally. She did not judge, gossip or disparage others. She zealously defended those that she loved and counseled patience and compromise during disagreements among family or friends.

When Ruth retired from Madison Avenue, she joined the Peace Corps. At age 68, she travelled to Lesotho and taught English for two years. She rarely talked about the bugs and rats that were at her camp there; instead we heard stories about her amazing fellow volunteers and the people and animals of Africa.  In her seventies, Ruth decided to learn how to dance the Tango, and did so up until her late eighties. Besides traveling extensively in Africa, Europe, and Asia, Ruth went fishing in Alaska and made it the Great Wall of China for her 90th birthday.

Like most Manhattanites, Ruth walked everywhere. She thought nothing of walking 30 blocks to shop at the flea market or buy groceries. Up until recent years, she refused to take a taxi unless her destination was in another corner of the city. In her eighties, she resumed tango dancing soon after a hip replacement surgery.

Sense of Fun and Sociability
Ruth loved to play games, cards and entertain. She had bags of party accessories: hats, boas, masks, glow sticks, multiple decks of cards and drawers full of colorful candles and tableware. Jon and I were loathe to miss her annual St. Patrick’s Day party or annual Easter egg hunt. Her living room was painted fuchsia and her kitchen had black chalkboard walls that her many friends had filled with drawings and words of affection.

My all-too-short time with Ruth inspires me to impart to my children and clients the importance of pursuing lifelong learning, authentic connection, fun, adventure, and living with curiosity and creativity. Although we can’t avoid the obstacles and illness that life inevitably throws our way, we can certainly follow Ruth’s example and invite more joy into our lives.