Blog - Jonathan Alpert

Jonathan Alpert

Psychotherapist | Author


7 Practical Ways to Reclaim Your Weekend

How often have you thought to yourself on Monday morning, “Where did the weekend go?” Or, “It feels like I was just here”? Well, for many people, they were just there. According to a recent study by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, nearly 7 in 10 people put in a full workday at least one weekend a month. What’s more concerning, from my perspective as a psychotherapist, is the profound impact this may have on a person’s well-being, mental health, and the effects on family and relationships. Given how important this is, I have partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car on a campaign to help stop the disappearance of the American weekend.

It’s important to first understand why you might be working. Is it out of necessity and mandated, or, perhaps more self-imposed? If the former, then make sure you find at least some time to decompress, unwind, and relax. If the latter, well, then it’s about time you prioritize your needs and health over that of your employer.

For many people, Saturday and Sunday is a time to get caught up on all the things they didn’t have time to do during the week, see friends, have fun, and do it all over again five days later. This routine often leaves them feeling just as exhausted on Monday morning as they felt on Friday afternoon. The challenge to you: how to simultaneously decompress from the week, recharge, and reclaim your weekend.

Here’s how to maximize your weekend and get it back:

  • Change your thinking. Focusing on negative thoughts such as “I’m so busy” and “the weekend is too short” is sure to keep you feeling overwhelmed and prevent you from enjoying the weekend. Shift your thinking to “I’ll make good use of the time that I do have” or “I can only do so much in a day, so I’ll accomplish what’s reasonable today, while making sure
  • 4 Easy Ways to Turn Your Fear and Anxiety Into Positive Energy

    The first time I was on national TV I felt my heart pounding as if it were going to burst through my chest. I felt myself sitting in the green room with great anticipation and fear. My muscles were tense and I was breathing heavily. I felt as if I were going into battle. In a way, I suppose I was. I anticipated being attacked and discredited by the host, so naturally my body and mind had to prepare.

    I took a few seconds to settle down. I did a quick scan of my body: My pounding heart was likely due to the release of adrenaline, a hormone that prepares the body for action. My dry mouth was due to fluids moving to other parts of my body where they were more needed. I reminded myself that these sensations were normal and my body was doing what it’s supposed to do automatically. I then imagined myself lying on a raft in a calm body of water. I was rocking ever so gently with the waves. This helped to relax me. Then I took the sensations that remained and I used them to my advantage. They became the extra focus and energy I needed to really be “on” when it was my turn to talk.

    I share this story with you to illustrate that being aware of how your body reacts to fear and anxiety can make a big difference in how you handle it. Think about your body’s reaction when you are fearful. What happens? What sensations do you notice and what goes through your mind? Does your heart race? Perhaps you blush and sweat, too? Maybe you even feel the need to run to the bathroom before it’s too late.

    Think about why your body might be reacting in this way. Could there be any hidden benefit to this reaction — one you could adapt to and use to your advantage? If you aren’t afraid of your fear and anxiety and didn’t feel the need to completely eliminate it, would any of it be useful to you? Does the …

    7 Simple Things Successful People Do Every Night

    How you spend your night can have a huge impact on the day that follows. Do you spend your time ruminating over issues? Or maybe you stress over something that didn’t quite go right during the day. There’s no doubt, how you think affects how you feel. This is particularly important at night as you try to unwind and prepare for rest. This sets you up for sleep which serves many vital purposes. When I look at my clients who achieve the most during their days and are happiest, they are the ones who have a healthy routine at night. They set themselves up for success the following day by thinking and acting in a particular way. Click here to read my entire Inc. column.

    Why Saying ‘Yes’ to Saying ‘No’ Can Make You Happier

    I used to say yes to just about every request or invite that came my way. I did this not because I truly wanted to participate in the activity but because I felt that if I said no I might hurt someone’s feelings and therefore, I felt obligated. What ended up happening though is I hurt my own feelings. I felt resentful, aggravated or upset for prioritizing someone else over myself. Several years ago though I decided to change that and not feel bad about saying no. I realized that by saying yes, even though I wanted to say no, I ended up making other people feel good at the expense of my own happiness.

    You might wonder how do you say no and not feel bad about it? To answer that, you must first understand why people feel bad turning someone down. Saying no may feel aggressive, like you’re rejecting the person. Most people do not want to be an aggressor. There’s a negative connotation to it. Or they may feel like the bad guy or gal. They may feel they’re letting the person down and feel guilty. Or they may even feel they won’t be liked or will be perceived as uncaring and unhelpful. As a result, people usually go the path of least potential conflict and comply with others.

    If people do say no, they usually do it ineffectively and it comes with an excuse. For example, they might say, “I’d like to help but I’m really busy”. The problem with this approach is it gives the other person an opportunity to continue to ask and he or she feels there’s an opening. “Since you’re busy this week, how about next week”?

    Here’s how you can effectively say no:

    1. Say it.

    Don’t beat around the bush or offer weak excuses or hem and haw. This only provides an opening for the other person. Don’t delay or stall either. Provide a brief explanation if you feel you need to; however, don’t feel compelled. The less said the better….

    10 Questions to Help You Make Powerful Changes This Year

    The New Year is here, and like so many people, you’re probably making resolutions and thinking about all the things in your life that you don’t like. For example, the belly you put on over the holiday season, or the career that is still unfulfilling and boring, or a stagnant love life. And like most people, you’ll think of these negative things, vow to change them, maybe make small progress, but come February you’ll still be stuck. The reason: while thinking of all the things you don’t want or like in your life is a good initial motivator, it won’t lead to lasting change. The short term surge it might provide usually wanes in time as there’s nothing positive to work towards, only something negative to move away from.

    Whenever my clients tell me about what they don’t like or want in their lives, I prompt them to tell me what they do want in their lives. Whenever they tell me what’s wrong, I ask them what’s right. And whenever they rattle off all the things they dislike about their partners, I ask them what they would want in a partner. This goes back to positive psychology and it can truly help you to feel empowered to make lasting changes in the New Year.

    The exercise below will help you to dig deep, get honest with yourself, and uncover what you truly want and where you really want to go in a positive way. It’s the initial powerful step towards making changes in your life. Relax in a comfortable place and feel free to dream. Think about the questions for every area of your life: home, work, social, finances, and sex/relationships. In each area, try to visualize your ideal future. Use all of your senses and get clear about what you want and see where your mind goes.

    1. What excites you?

    2. What are you passionate about?

    3. Who do you admire and why?

    4. Think about people in your life who excite you. What are they doing and

    7 Ways Not to Get Wrapped Up in Holiday Season Excess and Commercialization

    This is a funny time of the year. On one hand, it’s the season of family gatherings, festivities, and cheer, and on the other hand, it’s a time that can cause high stress and anxiety as people stretch themselves thin and try to pull off the perfect gift or party. The rampant consumerism and commercialization that dominate doesn’t help, either. There was once a time when holiday specials weren’t unleashed until after Halloween but now we see them in full glory well before October 31. We are, after all, a nation driven by the dollar more than anything else, so this is not surprising. That said there are things that you can do to try to make a change and have a calmer holiday season, even if only within yourself and close circle of friends and family.

    Here’s what to do:

    1. Know that you are not alone with your beliefs. Test it out – go and poll 10 people about the holiday season. Ask them how they feel about gift buying. My guess is the majority would like to spend less and make it more about people than about the gifts.

    2. Reject materialism. Accept the notion that materialism is not an expression of what the holidays truly represent, nor do extravagance and expensive gifts equal happiness. These ideas are driven more by Hallmark and Hollywood more than anything else.

    3. Make a choice: participate in it or don’t. If you’re having money woes, then be creative and spare the craziness of the shopping malls. Set an example for friends and family by doing something that reflects your beliefs. Be creative by making greeting cards and giving homemade gift certificates to your friends and family spelling out how you’ll treat them. For instance, offer to spruce up your parents’ yard come Spring time or help a friend with babysitting. In lieu of cheesy grab bags at the office party suggest donating to a worthy charity.

    4. Give the gift of an experience. Keep in mind that the most memorable gift you can give someone is an experience, not a material item. People remember …

    Why Was I Called Anti-Semitic on Election Night?

    On Election Night I heard two things I never thought I’d hear: The first was “President- elect Donald Trump” and the second — and one that was far more personal — someone accusing me of being anti-Semitic. On Election Night I went to Democracy Plaza at Rockefeller Center in New York. Huge screens broadcast the election returns and not surprising, thousands and thousands of people cheered when a state was called for Hillary Clinton and booed when Donald Trump won a state. I remained neutral, taking in the festivities of the night in awe of our democracy at work.

    At one point I made a comment about how I think both candidates have their strengths and weaknesses. A stranger in front of me angrily turned and said “Trump is anti-Semitic and you must be too if you like him.” Quite surprised, I responded saying that Trump’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren are Jewish and I can’t imagine that he’s anti-Semitic. She continued with her baseless rant saying multiple times that I must be anti-Semitic. Finally, she quieted after I told her that I’m Jewish.

    I walked away from that event long before the election was called but knew that regardless of the outcome, this would bring out the worst in people – and it did. I’ve heard some people wishing that Trump would be assassinated and others referring to people who voted for him as “stupid uneducated white people”. Ignorantly people feel that just because their candidate lost it gives them license to be racist. Imagine someone saying “Stupid uneducated black people.” They’re doing the very thing they accused the other side of doing. This is the height of hypocrisy and it will do very little to calm the Nation right now.

    I get it, elections are highly polarizing and they’re a long fought battle. People work tirelessly supporting their candidate and make huge sacrifices along the way. Social issues and stances on foreign affairs stir up fiery passions. Ugly personalities rear their heads (and we’ve certainly seen this) but despite the vitriol, elections come and go, and …

    7 Simple Things Successful People Do Every Morning

    You might wonder how successful people structure their mornings. Is there something so special and unique that people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg do that sets them up for success? And, if so, can other people put into practice some of these same activities to ensure success? Well, there’s nothing that special about what these people do that you, too, can’t easily work into your routine to ensure success.

    I have worked with some remarkable people who have achieved great success. One consistency I see is that they have a ritual or routine each morning that sets the tone for the rest of their day, regardless of what they might encounter. I, too, have an approach to my morning that helps me to perform well throughout the day and accomplish what I need and want to.

    Below are my tips for maximizing your mornings, gleaned from my own practice, as well as from well-known figures:

    1. Get up early. This provides a cushion of time before you need to be at work or at meetings. It allows you to eat, exercise, organize your day, catch up on emails, or read, all while not being rushed. Some people anticipate the stress of dealing with traffic and their commute, so they leave early for their destination, allowing them to read and relax at their workplace.

    2. Keep your wardrobe simple. Zuckerberg and his hoodie. Jobs and his jeans and black turtleneck. Need I say more? Zuckerberg has been quoted as saying this about his outfit:
    “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. I’m in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.”
    Makes sense to me. I myself wear jeans almost daily – easy to match shirts with, thereby saving me time.

    3. Drink

    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 …