Ilona L. Tobin, Ed.D.

Licensed Psychologist

Author Archive

For those experiencing sorrow, whether through death, separation, divorce, illness, job loss or relocation, the glittering commercialism and unrelenting cheer of the holiday season can be stressful.

Facing family celebrations with an empty chair at the table can make unbearable grief so much worse, says Karen Silbert, MD, Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who suffered the loss of her five-monthold daughter.

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Much like a computer responds to commands, your brain can be programmed to accept any changes you might want to make in your life. However, many of your current behaviors stem from unconstructive programming you received as a child that may stand in the way of change.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, published in 1960, says, “Beliefs about ourselves have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences … especially in early childhood.” So keep in mind, when you want to change a particular habit or belief, that the unwanted behavior was built on patterns developed over time. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a Taoist story of an old farmer whose horse inexplicably ran away. His neighbors said, “What bad luck!” to which he replied, “Perhaps.”

The next day, the horse returned, bringing with it a wild horse. The farmer’s son tried to ride it, fell, and broke his leg. Once again, the neighbors sent their sympathy: “How terrible this is.” “Perhaps,” the farmer said.

The following day, military officials came to the village to draft every young man into the army. With his leg broken, the farmer’s son was spared from service. Read the rest of this entry »

Tolerations are a drain on life energy and distract you from your life purpose. Here’s a list of 10 behaviors and situations to stop tolerating.

1. Unkind words or behavior. If you’ve been putting up with people speaking disrespectfully to you, some work on your self-esteem may be in order.

2. Poor work/life balance. It’s essential for health and happiness not to let work take priority over home and family.

3. Unhappiness in your job. These tolerations might include disrespectful clients, bosses or coworkers. What is one action that you can take right now to shift the situation?

4. Clutter. Take five minutes each day to put things in order. Someone else’s mess? Have an honest conversation about the problem.

5. House and car repairs. Make it a habit to repair things quickly. You might be saving yourself from a bigger problem (and bill).

6. Lack of respect for time. Communicate honestly about the impact of other people’s lateness. Take inventory of your awareness of others’ time, if needed.

7. Poor wellness habits. Don’t give in to bad habits. Being proactive about your health now can prevent larger health issues in the future.

8. Obligations. Your wishes are important. Don’t want to attend the work party for a coworker you never bonded with? That’s okay.

9. Financial problems. Use an online budget system like Mint.com to keep yourself financial fit.

10. Negativity. Try listing five things in your life for which you have gratitude right now.

DOWNLOAD THIS ARTICLE AND MORE AS A PDF FILE by clicking this link: Summer Newsletter 2012

Do you work hard but feel like you’ve accomplished little or nothing at the end of the day?

Do the fruits of your labor leave you wanting more?

Do you find yourself wondering, “Is this is all there is to life?”

If so, chances are you’ve been living as if you’re on an endless treadmill.

Here are a few useful ways to further investigate:

  1. Do you often feel overwhelmed and find it difficult to take action? Perhaps you’re no longer interested in trying anything new. Maybe your actions throughout the day are on “autopilot.”
  2. Has it become more and more difficult to make decisions? Our modern world can be overwhelming, and choices seem to get more complex. Have you started to simply ignore your challenges, hoping they’ll go away?
  3. Has tiredness become a constant companion? Whether it’s due to lack of sleep or just having less get-up-and-go, this is about more than aging. There’s a growing feeling of depleted energy.

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We all experience a variety of moods, including happiness, sadness, anger and frustration. Having “good” moods, “bad” moods and fluctuations in moods is an inevitable part of life.

But when a person experiences extreme emotional highs (mania) followed by extreme lows (depression) and these fluctuations severely and negatively impact how they behave and function in their daily lives, a mood disorder could be the underlying cause. Read the rest of this entry »

Too often we take care of other people’s needs, shunning activities that have the most meaning for us. Here are 10 ways to take back your life.

  1. Create goals. Get clear on what you really want, write it down and start to take action toward your goals.
  2. Commit to your own agenda. As much as possible, before helping others each day, complete the tasks that move you toward your goals.
  3. Set boundaries. When you heed your own agenda, you will likely need to set boundaries with the people in your life.
  4. Say no when you want to. Respecting your true desires is liberating.
  5. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Fulfilling long-held wishes brings joy and empowerment.
  6. Seek balance. Which of these aspects need attention: social/family, spiritual/creative, career or health?
  7. Eat well and exercise. Take charge of your energy by treating your body well.
  8. Clear clutter. Creating an orderly and beautiful physical environment positively affects our sense of internal order and makes space for the new.
  9. Pursue completion. Avoiding unfinished tasks, things that remain unsaid and relationships that need closure, hijacks our thoughts and saps our energy.
  10. Get support/find allies. Get help processing uncomfortable feelings and seek friendships with people who appreciate and support your taking charge of your life

Having a healthy dose of hope can be motivating and inspiring. It keeps people focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s in the past. It can also help keep the focus on possibilities, and reframe obstacles as opportunities.

For some, however, being hopeful goes hand-in-hand with feeling naïve or foolish when things don’t work out as planned. They would rather not have hope at all if it means later disappointment.

But for others, having hope doesn’t mean living in denial of life’s difficulties; it simply reminds them there are better times ahead.

The Benefits of Hope

Research indicates that it’s more beneficial to have hope than not. Hopeful people tend to show more resilience when faced with difficulties. They have healthier lifestyle habits and, on the whole, are more successful, personally and professionally.

According to the Mayo Clinic, having a hopeful, positive attitude has health benefits as well. These include:

  • Increased life span
  • Reduced depression
  • Lowered levels of distress
  • Increased resistance to the common cold
  • Greater emotional and psycho-logical well-being
  • Decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Improved coping skills during difficulties/stress

In addition, people with hope typically have meaningful long- and short-term goals, along with a flexible plan to achieve those goals and the reinforcement of positive self-talk.

We humans are sometimes too inventive for our own good—we can envision a future course of action along with every potential catastrophe that could occur along the way. Being aware of everything that can go wrong often makes doing nothing—in an attempt to avoid failure or pain—seem like a viable option.

Cultivating hope, on the other hand, helps activate creativity and inventiveness and prompts us to solve the predicaments we face by taking action in spite of our fears.

Hope brings with it the belief that things can get better. Regardless of how dire things may seem, there is potential for a positive outcome.

Is It Possible to Be Too Hopeful?

It could be said that optimists have a healthy dose of hope while “extreme optimists,” suffer from blinding hope. They want nothing to do with bad news.

Researchers at Duke University found that extreme optimists (you could call them “high-hopers”) don’t save money, don’t pay off credit cards and don’t make long-term plans, but they are more likely to remarry if divorced.

Moderation, as usual, is the key. The researchers also found that “moderate optimists” tend to work harder and work longer hours, earn and save more money—and pay off their credit cards.

Being a moderate high-hoper doesn’t mean keeping your head in the sand when it comes to life’s occasional unpleasant circumstances. It just means keeping a positive attitude—believing the best will happen, not the worst.

That helps ensure that when difficult situations do arise, you’re looking for a way to make the best of it.

Studies seem to suggest that being hopeful is a skill that can be learned. So whether you’re an extreme optimist, an extreme pessimist or somewhere in between, there is hope for us all.

DOWNLOAD THIS ARTICLE AND MORE AS A PDF FILE by clicking this link: Spring Newsletter 2012 Ilona Tobin