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Our relationship columnist has the five must-read books for a happier, healthier and more satisfied you!

 

I’ve got a confession to make. I am a total book junky. My Amazon Wishlist is inundated with countless books that caught my fancy at one time or another. Books that I crave desperately to read. The honest truth is that probably 50% of the books that I buy end up on a shelf collecting dust. I may read a chapter or two, but then get distracted with the next pretty cover or enticing title. However, there are those special books that have stood the test of time. Books that I have read and re-read over and over again. Books that I have recommended to clients and friends, alike. These books are amazing and hold a very special place in my heart.

So, without further ado, here is my list of the five best books to read for a happier, healthier, more satisfied you!

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

This book found me at my absolute lowest. Broken-hearted, living back at home with my parents at age 25, having a complete quarter life crisis and helping to care for my father during his battle with cancer. Life was tough. This book helped me see the light in the darkness. Elizabeth Lesser is authentic, genuine and vulnerable. She is an inspiration and her book was my life-saver.

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

Everyone should read this book. This book touches on self-love, body image, sexual desire, sexual abuse and owning your sexuality. Nagoski encourages readers to understand themselves entirely, we are so much more than a body or a mind. We are unique and have unique needs and desires… and that’s beautiful! She writes in an accessible way, AND has the science to back it up. Go get it now and thank me later!

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

I could have filled this whole list with just books by Brene Brown! She is absolutely incredible (If you haven’t seen her TedxTalk- Do it!) This is a book about the courage that it takes to show up, be vulnerable and allow yourself to be you. This book can apply to any and all aspects of life: parenting, relationships, work, self- love, etc. She is warm and smart. This book makes you feel like you’re getting a loving hug and a gentle kick in the butt… toward your goal.

Sex Matters for Women by Sally Foley, Sally A Kope and Dennis P Sugrue

I know I am biased, having studied under Sally Foley and Dennis Sugrue at University of Michigan, but this book is absolutely incredible. Such a wonderful book to help women understand, cultivate and grow their sexuality and self-acceptance. Calling out sexual myths, answering questions we are too afraid to ask, and confronting our self-doubt. This book addresses it all: relationships, sexual orientation, hormones, anatomy, STI’s. It looks like a textbook but reads like a conversation with the most amazing, loving therapist you could ever wish for.

Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

The full title of this book is Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Need I say more? Perel is one of the most respected sex therapists in the field these days. In “Mating…”, she discusses how to create passion and eroticism in domesticated life. She is smart, sexy, funny.This book provides great, straightforward but counterintuitive advice for the modern couple.

Christy Haas MA, LPCC, CST is a relationship and sex therapist in Cincinnati for more information check out www.christyhaas.com or see my full list of book recommendations here.

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How do you balance being a “Lady Boss” with having a healthy relationship? Our guru has four tips to help you excel at both.

Our relationship expert, Christy Haas MA, LPCC, CST, shares four easy steps to having it all!

This is the age of girl power, lady bosses and the renaissance woman. Not only do we want to achieve it all, it has becoming an expectation. As women, we wear many hats: wife/girlfriend, nurturer, career woman, friend, daughter, sister and many of us moms. How in the world are we expected to manage all of these things?

Here are a few tips that make balancing ambitious career goals with maintaining a fulfilling relationship a bit more manageable:

Realize you Don’t Have to Choose

Repeat after me:

“I do not have to choose between being a career woman and being in a relationship!”

With a few adjustments and exceptions, you can achieve both. In the home, it is important to be able to delegate tasks with your partner. Decide which household tasks each of you are good at, create a chore chart together, all the while making sure that it is a fair division of labor. Or you can outsource: hire a cleaning service, employ lawn care specialists, ask for help from friends and family. It takes a village!

Boundaries, Boundaries, and more Boundaries

We may be able to do it all, but we can’t do it all, all of the time. It is important to set boundaries with your time, energy, relationships and expectations. Create a time boundary for work. For example, after 6 PM there will be no work emails, calls or tasks. During work hours, maybe you and your partner decide not to exchange texts or call one another unless it is during lunch or a short break. That way the time that is spent together is fully focused on your significant other and not spent distracted by outside tasks.

Prioritize

We are living in the multitasking age. But research actually shows us that there really is no such thing as multitasking, its doing a little of something and then a little of something else. Research also tells us that when we do this our result is much weaker than if we fully focus on one task at a time. Get organized, make a list and decide what needs to be done right now, at some point today, or by the end of this week. This goes for work life and personal life. Scheduling date nights, important conversations and, yes, even sex, are an important part of managing all of life’s offerings.

Be Gentle with Yourself

One of the most challenging AND most rewarding life skill is learning to be kind to ourselves. We all make mistakes in our work lives and in our personal lives, but beating ourselves up about these mistakes afterwards accomplishes absolutely nothing. In fact, it makes everything that much worse. Learning to accept mistakes, learn from them and move forward is success. Work on changing the negative self-talk that is on repeat in your brain. You know, the one that says: “you’re such an idiot, why did you do that?” Replace it with loving, constructive words: “I may not have made the best decision but I am learning and I did the best with what I had.” When we are kinder to ourselves we make it possible to be kinder to others at work and in our personal relationships.

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It takes a village! Learn how to care for your sexual health with the help of these specialists.

 

Christy Haas, a psychotherapist specializing in sex therapy and couples counseling.

As a psychotherapist specializing in sex therapy and couples counseling, I am always surprised and a little disheartened at how little people know about their own sexual health. When I ask my clients about their sexual history I tend to get a very vague response. Growing up we are taught how to brush our teeth, take care of our skin, and go to the doctor, but very few of us are taught how to manage and maintain our sexual health. In fact, I find that most of the clients I see come from families where sex is a taboo subject. This lack of communication often leads people down a path of shame, isolation and creates a pattern where they forced to try to figure things out on their own.

Working with one or all of the following sexual health specialists can provide valuable knowledge that can help you maintain healthy sexuality on a physical, mental and emotional level. Below I give recommendations for local specialists, as well as descriptions of how to best utilize each specialist. The goal is to become an active participant in your sexual health.

Gynecologist

WHAT: A gynecologist is a medical doctor who specializes in women’s health and reproductive systems. Oftentimes, gynecology and obstetrics (pregnancy/ childbirth) will overlap.

WHEN: Ideally, patients see their gynecologist on a yearly basis for the annual pap smear and checkup.

WHY: Being proactive can lead to early detection of STIs or cancer, help identify issues causing irregular periods, or vaginal pain, as well as answering any questions you have about women’s health or fertility issues. Gynecologists can provide education and resources for sexual issues outside of what a primary care doctor can provide.

WHO do I recommend:

Dr. Somi Javaid & Associates (Sex Medicine)

Dr. Ted Lum, MD  (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

Sex Therapist

WHAT: Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy that can be helpful when addressing sexual dysfunction, low desire, sexual trauma, pain during sex, intimacy issues, lack of orgasm, or simply a need for sexual education.

WHEN: Unfortunately, many people seek out sex therapy or counseling as a last resort. While therapy can still help at these dire times, treatment is much more beneficial when clients come as they begin to see problems arising. I tend to see most of my clients on a weekly basis for a limited time. Depending on the issue, length of treatment could be between 1 session to over 20 sessions.

WHY: Because our gynecologists are the ones looking at our vulvas we tend to turn to them with all of our sex questions and issues. It is important to understand that while gynecologists have extensive training in women’s health, most have little or no training in sex. When there are underlying issues complicating our sexual health, it can be a good idea to seek out a sex therapist.

WHO do I recommend:

Christy Haas, MA, LPCC Relationship + Sex Therapy

Emma Schmidt, MA, PC, Sex Therapy

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

WHAT: I refer almost all of my clients to a pelvic floor physical therapist. The response I have gotten from 99% of them is “what’s that?” A pelvic floor physical therapist specializes in therapy and rehabilitation to treat pelvic floor dysfunction and pelvic pain. They utilize biofeedback, external and internal manual therapies, trigger point release, micro-needling and at home exercises to rebuild and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

WHEN: You should see a pelvic floor PT whenever you are having any sort of pelvic floor dysfunction. Also, go after giving birth! In Europe, most women go to the Pelvic Floor PT for up to a year after giving birth- this is the standard of care.

WHY: Pelvic Floor PTs can help with issues related to bladder and bowel disorders, pain during sex (vulvodynia, vaginismus, etc.), pelvic pain, post-trauma pain, and rebuilding pelvic floor muscles and control after having a baby.

WHO do I recommend:

The Center For Pelvic Floor and Core Rehabilitation

Stacey Clarke, DPT, WCS

Certified Yoga Instructor

WHAT: I know, I know… You’re probably thinking, “what the heck does yoga have to do with my sexual health?” A lot! Yoga is a spiritual practice that combines breath work, meditation, mindfulness, relaxation and bodily postures. Different benefits can be attained depending on the class or style. Hot Power Vinyasa is an intense, calorie burning practice that will challenge your physical strength, balance and flexibility. A Restorative Yin practice allows you to stretch deeply, calming the mind and becoming deeply aware of the way your mind and body are connected.

WHEN: Everyone can benefit from the benefits of yoga at any age. Find a class, teacher and style that suit your needs.

WHY: As a certified yoga teacher I have seen the improvements that yoga can provide to people struggling with anxiety, depression, body image issues, those struggling with a mind-body connection or people with pelvic pain or pain during sex.

WHO do I recommend:

It’s Yoga

Simply Power Yoga

Elemental OM

Educating yourself and being an advocate for your own sexual health is one of the most empowering things a woman can do. Challenge yourself to be proactive and do not be afraid to ask questions. Being curious is what life is all about! If you have any further questions feel free to contact me at Christy@christyhaas.com or visit my website www.christyhaas.com.

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Life is just better when you feel good about yourself. Our sexual health columnist explains how to gain freedom through accepting your body, one beautiful bit at a time.

How comfortable are you with your body? How about your naked body? Do you dread the inexplicable overhead lighting that is present in every women’s dressing room? (WHY?!?!?) There must be a reason that one of the most common nightmares reported is being in front of a crowd naked. Being naked leaves us in our most vulnerable state. Nothing to cover up with, nowhere to hide.

As we come upon the beginning of summer; pools, BBQs, daisy dukes, and bikini waxes, we are forced to confront our comfort level of being exposed, physically. After spending the winter hibernating and indulging in junk food during our Netflix binge sessions, summer can be terrifying. But what would happen if you could love and accept your body at any weight? What would happen if you could love every inch of your naked body?

Accepting our bodies and feeling confident naked can have so many positive effects on our lives.

  1. Set the tone for a great day!

Being able to look yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning can set the tone for how the rest of your day goes. If you begin the day staring at all your flaws and belittling yourself, you are most likely going to carry that around with you for the rest of the day. Being able to walk into a room with your head held high, feeling really good about yourself allows you to go through your day with a positive outlook, making day-to-day challenges easier to handle.

  1. Improve your relationships!

Research shows that those who have positive body image and self-confidence tend to surround themselves with other positive, motivating people. Having people around you that celebrate themselves and uplift you sounds a hell of a lot better than spending time with a group of people that call themselves fat and ugly all the time. Negative energy can be contagious. Remember: “You’re only as good as the company you keep” .

  1. Improve your sex life!

Whether you are in a new relationship, casually dating or have been married for 15 years, we all have that moment where we feel a little self-conscious about getting naked in front of our partner. Nothing is more of a buzz kill than being distracted by that negative self-talk reminding you of the cellulite on your thighs or that roll on your stomach. Being able to embrace and accept our bodies exactly as they are, allows us to be more present in the moment. When we are present during sex we have the ability to fully focus on all of the physical sensations that we’re experiencing and focus on the connection with our partners (and/ or ourselves!) and the pleasure we are receiving.

Try This At Home:

Find a quiet time when you will have 10 minutes without interruption.

Stand in front of a full-length mirror. The goal is to be naked during this exercise, but this may not be possible for some people. Feel free, when you’re starting out, to complete this exercise fully clothed or in your bra and underwear.

Slowly, beginning at your feet, scan your body with your eyes.

As you study your body, resist the urge to make any negative judgments.

Then identify things that you like about your body. This may be very difficult when you first try this exercise, but it will get easier with time.

*Positive thoughts about your body can be anything: your skin tone, your freckles, the curve of your back.

Use the full ten minutes if you can, taking time to express gratitude for your body and all it has done for you.

I recommend practicing this every day, but you can start out a few times a week and work your way up to daily practice.

For further information or sex, relationships or body image feel free to contact me through my website.

 

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Have a wedding in your future? No matter if it’s big or small, traditional or destination, our relationship expert talks about the one expense that’s worth the price tag.

As we enter into wedding season, we become inundated with photos of happy brides, wedding cakes and table settings. The wedding becomes an entity of its own, with needs and responsibilities. The planning of a wedding can be stressful enough to need therapy!

As a relationship therapist, one of my favorite forms of couple’s counseling is Premarital Counseling. I get to see couples at their happiest and most hopeful. However, there are times when issues arise in premarital counseling that requires some hard work to resolve before the big day. This tends to be the biggest deterrent for most couples: “What if it brings up issues that aren’t problems for us?” Well, in reality, this can be true. But let me tell you something: it’s better to bring the issues to the surface pre-wedding than to see them emerge 10 years into your marriage, surrounded with kids, a mortgage and busy lives. In my opinion, premarital counseling is the best investment you can make when planning for your big day!

Here are the ins and outs of premarital counseling:

Top 3 Benefits of premarital counseling:

1. You have a relationship with a therapist if, down the road, you need one
One of the best things that can result from premarital counseling is a healthy and trusted relationship with a therapist. Marriage has its ups and downs. Having a trusted, unbiased professional who knows you as a couple is invaluable. They will be able to see where you are coming from, prior to whatever hardship you are encountering, and help you to get back on track.

2. You and your partner get on the same page
Sex, money, extended family, family planning, communication… these are all issues that every couple deals with at one time or another. Sorting out the logistics of all of these things prior to walking down the aisle, allows you and your partner to be on the same page from the beginning.

3. Prevention
Building communication skills at the beginning of a marriage allows you to be good communicators for the long haul. The couples that I work with who come to me after 20 years of marriage are still having the same fights that they did 19 years ago. Nothing ever gets resolved. Knowing your communication styles and how to talk, and, yes, argue in a therapeutic and productive way will save you years of frustration.

Types of premarital counseling:

1. Religious
Many people who are getting married in their church or synagogue will have access to premarital counseling with their religious leader. Ask your church or synagogue if they provide this service for couples getting married there. Many religious centers offer premarital weekend workshops/ retreats. These can be a great way to pack a lot of work into a short weekend.

2. Books
Money is tight, and time is limited! Not all couples have the ability to go to a therapist for multiple sessions. If you are self-disciplined and able to carve out time for you and your partner to read a book together and discuss any issues that arise, a book can be a great help. Here are a few that I recommend: Books and Resources.

3. Premarital counselor
As a relationship therapist, I work with couples about 6 months prior to their wedding date. We meet one time per month for an hour. Each couple has unique needs so the first session is used to identify any issues and treatment goals. We always discuss sex, money, family and communication styles. For more information on my premarital counseling style click here.

For more information on premarital counseling feel free to contact me at www.christyhaas.com.

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