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Jonathan Alpert

Psychotherapist | Author

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Jonathan Alpert: 6 Ways to Keep Your Sanity Until Election Day

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Here we are, just weeks before the 2016 election. An election that at times has looked more like a reality TV show or a fighting couple seeing me for counseling than it has a race for the highest office in the land. We’ve heard way too much about Trump’s alleged sexual exploits, Clinton’s private email server, “deplorables”, being buddies with Vladimir Putin, and on, and on, and on.

I was struck by how at the last debate — where the town hall format that usually engages the American people — their voices were hardly heard. In fact, they were drowned out by even more talk about character issues. I get it, character matters — but so does substance and the candidate’s view on key issues and what they plan to do about them. Rather than hearing what really concerns voters — taxes, security, healthcare, world peace, and prosperity — we’re hearing a steady stream of fodder better suited for late night talk shows and tabloids than anything else.

The net effect of hearing this has had a profound impact on the electorate. According to a recently released report by the American Psychological Association, 52% of people are stressed by this election. But you don’t need a survey to know this. Open your ears at any café or bar, take note of water cooler conversations, and of course, family gatherings. Heck, I even overheard a heated discussion the other day at Trader Joe’s.

In my office I’m also hearing stressed out clients tell me of their election woes and anxiety. Some patients get so riled up watching the cable news shows that they can’t settle down at night and sleep. For others their relationships are on the rocks due to political differences, and still others are so disturbed by the mere thought of a President Trump or President Clinton that they are drinking or indulging in junk food to deal with their emotions.

So how

How To Not Drive Yourself Or Your Kids Crazy When They Go Away To College

By now you’ve dropped your child off for their first year at college. Maybe you even circled back around campus to check up on him or her or perhaps you called relentlessly to make sure their room is stocked with toilet paper and that the sweaters were packed. This anxiety is all very normal. You’re simply doing the parenting thing but in overdrive. Anticipating that you’re child may not be OK will only spike your anxiety.

Maybe you vacillate between wanting to be tough and not call or text and in fact, wanting to check in repeatedly. Or perhaps you see this as the next step towards adulthood in your child’s life and question whether he or she is even ready to be away from home and wonder if you did a good job preparing your child for what lies ahead. Regardless, the anxiety will pass and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it.

Here’s how you can deal with your empty nest syndrome and separation anxiety:

1. Be calm

If your child picks up on you feeling anxious or stressed it could end up stressing them out and serve as a distraction from studying. In some ways it can be contagious and naturally you’re child will want to comfort you. This will prevent them from assimilating into the college life. It can also put them in a tough spot where they feel torn: take care of Mom and Dad’s emotions or go out there and experience autonomy.

2. Expect changes

College is time for your child to explore who he or she is and understand self identity. Be supportive and understanding while not being over involved. Your child away from home will undoubtedly develop new habits and behaviors. Perhaps a new diet, entirely different sleeping habits, or maybe even a bout of homesickness. Be respectful of such changes.

3. Understand that you’re not losing your teenager

You’re child going off …

Jonathan Alpert: 7 Ways to Keep Politics from Ruining Your Relationship

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Now that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are officially nominated and the conventions are behind us, the stage is set for what I’m sure will be a wild, no holds-barred, drop down and punch them out type of race to the end for the presidency.  The press will capitalize on every opportunity they get to make Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look bad (depending on which media outlet you pay attention to).  Stories will be sensationalized and water cooler and dinner table conversations will be filled with all things politics. And for some of these at home conversations, they can be volatile, contentious, and maybe even verge on breaking up a relationship.  I’ve actually had a few fighting couples who in their defense or attack of a candidate almost parted for good.

In my personal life I’ve been met with outrage at the mere expression of how I feel about one candidate or the other and my commentary of the political circus.  This got me thinking.  Just how should couples deal with opposing views in their relationship? Click here to read the entire column.

 

Suze Orman’s Tips on How to Fearlessly Succeed in the Face of Adversity

If you’re like me, you probably know Suze Orman as a financial guru, author, motivational speaker, and television host. All that’s impressive of course as she has helped millions make better financial decisions and smart investments. What I found equally as impressive though was something maybe you don’t know about her. Suze had major speech problems as a kid that held her back. One difficulty was making a distinction between words such as “fear” and “fair” or “beer” and “bear”. I too had the very same issue. To learn about Suze’s struggle really resonated with me and motivated me to find out more about her and how she overcame great adversity to go on to become a big success.

Here’s part of my edited interview with her:

JA: Suze, I was struck by your personal story dealing with your speech issues as a kid. I had a very similar problem, and actually still do to some extent. I also had difficulties in school to the point my 7th grade teacher phoned home to talk to my parents about the trouble I was having with writing. These early issues in part motivated me to write my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days and teach people how to get past their fear and move on to success. What’s one thing you learned from your speech issue and early struggles that led you to be successful?

SO: I learned intent to speak clearly. Today if you listen to me speak you’ll hear me enunciate every word extremely clearly. That purposed enunciation was part of how I was taught as a young child to get over my speech impediment. So now when people listen to me speak they hear what I say very clearly – they understand what I say. I still to this day think about every word I choose to use. So in the end my speech impediment helped make me …

Jonathan Alpert: 10 Smart Strategies to Ace Your Job Interview

As a psychotherapist and performance coach to executives, I’m in a unique position to help clients develop smart strategies for winning job interviews and to understand what’s going on in their heads and what’s holding them back. The difference between being called back for a second interview or rejected is well within your control and lies in how you present yourself. So whether you’re a recent graduate, a high-level executive, or any other type of contender for a job, know that fear and uncertainty underlie most interview anxieties. It’s so important to approach every new interview with optimal confidence and smart strategies. Here’s how to do that.

1. Change the way you think about interviews.

Many people get worked up to the point that they feel like they’re prepping for major surgery or headed to court to learn their fate. Instead of seeing interviews in such a daunting and negative way, regard them as merely a Q&A opportunity: One where the prospective employer learns about you and you learn about them. By seeing it as a conversation where you get to know each other, you’ll eliminate the high stress that people often bring on themselves while prepping.

2. Keep your negative thinking in check.

Know that self-doubt and fear will render you helpless while a strong belief in who you are will lead to success. So, if you find yourself thinking negatively, reframe it. For example, “I’ll never get this job” serves no purpose whatsoever and should be replaced with “They called me for the interview so they’re impressed by my background. I’m going to do my best to bring this background to life for them and show them my A-game.”

3. Embrace your nerves.

That’s right, nerves can be good and at a physiological level there’s not a big difference between nerves and excitement. In both cases the heart rate and breathing increase in order to get blood and oxygen to different parts of the body so that it can perform either in the face of danger or excitement. In the case of the interview, it’s …

10 Highly Effective Ways to Silence Workplace Gossip

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Imagine you walk into your office and see colleagues chatting but then when they see you, they hush. Or maybe you notice people glancing at each other when you walk in. Both these behaviors clearly suggest that you’re the subject of gossip and the information about you is false or negative while you are entirely innocent. Being in this situation doesn’t feel good and it might even make you feel highly anxious, insecure, and unsure about where to turn. Gossip can also have a negative impact on the morale of the office, people will be distracted, productivity may suffer, turnover rates might be high, and there may be some serious issues around harassment.

Believe it or not, there can be an upside to gossip. For example, people might be excited about a new product launch and there may be chatter about it. There may also be talk amongst colleagues about possible promotions, mergers, and raises. These are positive and can be a pleasant, even an exciting distraction from mundane daily work tasks.

It’s important to make a distinction between positive and negative gossip though. If it’s the latter, and you’re the subject of it, then here’s what you should do:

  • Calm yourself down. Addressing gossip when you’re upset and emotions are running high will not yield the best results. Take some deep breaths, call a friend or significant other, gather facts, and try to relax.
  • Confront the gossiper. Present the information you have and gently ask the person to explain it.
  • Watch your language. Using the word “gossip” is negative and inflammatory and might fuel the situation. Instead suggest that there’s “misinformation” out there and ask for clarification.
  • Invite the suspected gossiper or gossipers to go to you with any questions they may have or if you can help to clarify any information. This is a good way to both put people on notice and let them know you’re aware of their gossiping and also to address whatever the situation is — it shows you’re not shying away from

How to Get the Absolute Lowest Price On a New Car Without the Stress of Negotiating

When you think about the things in life that stress you out — dealing with your pain-in-the butt boss, being able to pay your bills, having way too many things on your to-do list, and financial worries probably come to mind. You get the picture. Things like buying a house or a car, or planning for a big happy event are probably less likely to come to mind. However, these can be just as stressful.

One recent client told me about his high anxiety shopping for a new car and how just stepping foot into the car dealership led to a panic attack. This isn’t surprising. You see, when people make a big purchase such as a car, there’s uncertainty and questions will abound: “Am I getting the best price?” “Am I buying the right car for my needs?” “Can I afford this?” “Is the salesperson pulling a fast one on me?”

These types of questions introduce doubt into a person’s otherwise confident thinking. Theoretically, asking ourselves such questions ultimately leads to making a better, more informed decision. The problem is that people sometimes get stuck in this anxious mode of thinking and never act on the decision. This uncertainty leads them to feel fearful of outcomes that they think they can’t control.

After a few coaching sessions the client mentioned above was in good shape and able to walk into the dealerships with a sense of confidence and purpose and get the car for the lowest price he possibly wanted to pay–not a penny more. And he didn’t even read Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal.

Here’s how you can get the best price:

1. Forget about negotiating.

You’re not going to get into a back and forth with the dealership. Do your research and find out the True Market Value of the car, which reveals how much people in your area have paid for the vehicle. Edmunds.com is a good resource for this data. I recommend offering less than this value, by $500-$1000.

2. Look forward to buying your car.

See …

Jonathan Alpert: 6 Ways to Stop Stuffing Your Face and Start Dealing With Your Emotions

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Jonathan Alpert: How to Deal With Emotional Eating

 

If food were a drug, for sure we’d have rehabilitation centers devoted to treating it much like those for drugs and alcohol. No doubt, there’d be a stigma associated with it, funds would be set aside for food abuse education and treatment, and we’d see it portrayed more in our popular culture — perhaps we’d even see TV shows — Dr. Drew Style — Celebrity Food Rehab, for instance. But that isn’t the case.

More and more I’m seeing patients who use food to deal with their emotions. They come from all walks of life including C-level executives, entertainers, professionals, and others. I myself am guilty of reaching for way too many pints of Haagen Daz during a stressful period in my life a few years ago when I was writing my book. People reach for food in much the same way one might reach for the bottle to deal with stress and emotions. They crave it and feel a similar sense of relief and calm that one feels after using drugs or alcohol.

It’s not surprising that people use food to cope with emotions such as boredom, stress, anxiety, sadness, and anger. In many ways it’s a learned behavior: Think back to when you were a young child. Food may have been used in a celebratory manner such as eating cake at birthday parties. Food may have been used to make you feel better, e.g. ice cream to sooth a sore throat. And it may have become paired with certain events, buttered popcorn while watching a movie, for instance. All this is fine of course and part of normal growing up. By no means am I suggesting that people stop enjoying these indulgences. I mention this merely to illustrate the associations that are formed early on and how they can then be used in an unhealthy way later in life.

There’s also a biological component. Carbohydrate rich foods boost the production …

7 Ways Not to Drive Yourself or Others Crazy While You Plan Your Wedding

Wedding season is upon us and with that a host of issues is brought up that can wreak havoc on what is supposed to be a wonderful day. Throughout the year, many soon-to-be married couples consult me for avoiding pre-wedding stress and anxiety. Often this stress can come very close to breaking up the engagement and open up family issues to the point where people go radio silent on each other. I have yet to meet anyone who tells me that their wedding planning was easy and without incident. In fact, for most people it is quite the opposite. So accept the notion that stress and anxiety are normal and learn how to keep your cool without breaking up your relationship and family.

Here’s what to do:

1. Lower your standards.

Though society and culture dictate that this is supposed to be “the happiest day of your life,” that notion sets the bar way too high and in doing so creates pressure. By lowering your expectations and aiming for a happy day, you’ll help to avoid turning into the bride or groom from Hell.

2. Stick with your decisions and plans and don’t be swayed by the opinions of others.

Keep in mind that this is your special day, not theirs. Just because Mom wants you to have the grand wedding she never had is no reason to do so. Plan the wedding first and foremost to satisfy your needs.

3. Set goals and make definitive plans to reach them.

Ask for help from your friends and relatives and don’t be afraid to delegate.

Click HERE to read the entire column.

Jonathan Alpert: 7 Signs You’re Suffering from Work Burnout

Do you find that your work day drags on and on and you just can’t seem to motivate yourself to focus and get work done? Maybe you dread going to the office and think you’d rather watch paint dry or even get poked and prodded by your doctor than to have to endure yet another day at your job. These, along with irritability, lack of patience with colleagues or clients, feeling entirely unfulfilled and simply disillusioned by your job, are tell-tale signs that you are burnt out.

Clients of mine who get to this point feel cynical about their work and this often spills into life outside of their job, affecting relationships. They might stay up at night worried about the day ahead, sleep poorly, and either skip meals because they’re upset, or do quite the opposite and reach for one too many pints of Haagen-Daz or other comfort food as a way to deal with their emotions and thus, pack on the pounds.

Here are the signs:

1. Poor work performance. To determine if your performance is suffering step back and look at the bigger picture. Compare your performance now to how it was when you first started. If there’s been a gradual decline over time, this could be work burnout while a more sudden decline might suggest of a rough patch.

2. No control. You feel that you have no say over your schedule, work assignments, or workload. You also feel that you lack adequate resources to get your job done.

3. Unclear expectations. Your job description and title might be confusing or ambiguous. Does the job description say one thing yet you’re taking on entirely different or additional duties? One recent client told me how as a nurse she is doing administrative tasks 60% of the time because of changes in management, and clinical work only 40% of her time. Given that her true passion is in treating patients, this ultimately led to burnout and dissatisfaction.

4. Poor work relationships.