Even celebrities can be vulnerable

In December I joined with 11.2 million other people who watched Adele Live in New York City. Jimmy Fallon introduced her as a “once in a generation artist.” She belted songs from her former and most recent albums with such power and sincerity that I had tears welling up more than once. She got a standing ovation for When We Were Young, and then, she surprised me.

This woman: the voice of a generation, the one who can capture the attention of millions and whose album has stayed at the top of the iTunes charts since its release, she started to cry and thank the audience for welcoming her back.

She expressed her worry about being gone for so long and how she wasn’t sure about the response she’d get. She was overwhelmed by the acceptance this standing ovation communicated. Her worry had lied to her, seemingly made her doubt her abilities.

How often do you worry or feel anxious? How often do you look at others and only see confidence? Do you compare yourself? My guess is that this happens from time to time, and that’s why Adele’s crying moment was so surprising to me.

I tend to get caught in those comparisons too, thinking that if someone appears confident/successful/famous (fill in the blank), they must not struggle with anxiety. I start thinking that I’m different in the way I struggle.

The truth is that we all have times when worry gets out of hand; we get anxious. We all feel fear and wrestle with the questions of whether we’ll be accepted. It’s one of the needs we long to have met as humans – to belong. If you’re resonating as you read this, why not take a moment to consider how often you compare yourself.

If you’re spending more time on comparison than acceptance, worry might be dominating your life, and if that’s the case, we can help. Come talk, come play, come practice what it’s like to let that comparison go and to instead accept your feelings, knowing that most likely, they’ll change in another hour or two. And if you need something to do in the meantime, watch Adele sing and show us what it’s like to be vulnerable.

Stop-hating-valentines-Day i360Dallas

Guys, it’s time to stop hating on Valentine’s Day

Ladies, here’s a little secret about Valentine’s Day.

When it’s just us guys in the room and women are out of earshot, we take a vote. Nine out of ten of us agree that Valentine’s Day is just a made up holiday for us to do things for our wives and girlfriends because we didn’t do enough at Christmas or on birthdays or on anniversaries or on Mother’s Day, if you’ve birthed one of our children (by the way, thank you for that).

But what about that one out of ten kind of guy who thinks Valentine’s Day should be federal law?

Usually he’s an extra tender fella who loves his wife so much that he’ll sit through an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy without complaining. He’s the kind of guy who makes the rest of us look bad because nobody else was willing to step away from the poker table to answer a call from his wife.

The truth is we may roll our eyes at the poor sap, but guys, it may be time to start listening to him. It may be time to take a page from his playbook and start recognizing the value in celebrating a day devoted to your significant other.

Our biggest mental block is that we see Valentine’s Day as this goopy, floral-fueled, chocolate-covered lovefest. And for years and years we, ourselves, have perpetuated this. That’s right, guys. We’re to blame.

It’s not that women don’t like flowers or chocolates or carnival-sized teddy bears, because plenty do. It’s that we don’t know how to do any better.

We haven’t figured out that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about saying “I love you,” which most of us say every single day, anyway.Valentine’s Day is about a very concrete thing. It’s about showing gratitude. It’s about saying thank you.

You know you’re doing Valentine’s Day right when you’re doing something to say, “Thank you for being supportive in my life. Thank you for your companionship. Thank you for holding down the fort when I was swamped with work for three weeks. Thanks for handling the kids when I couldn’t. Thanks for going on bike rides with me even though it’s not really your thing. Thanks for being so nice to my mom when she came to stay with us. Thanks for helping with the taxes. Thank you for letting me share my life with you. Thank you for sharing your life with me.

That’s all it really is. It’s an opportunity to say thank you.

One of the most common problems in long-term relationships is that we grow complacent. You see each other every day, you take trips together, you eat together, you brush your teeth next to each other. For newlyweds, that’s an exciting prospect. For marriage veterans, being together so much breeds complacency.

Valentine’s Day is a reminder to stop being complacent, to break up the cycle a little.

Maybe you’ve raised kids together, started a company together, redone houses together, traveled together, suffered the loss of family, or helped care for an ailing relative together. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to say thank you, to express gratitude for the role she plays in your life, to say, “I’d pick you all over again.”

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360


The 3 R’s of talking about teen suicide

Recently, two teen girls from Murphy, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, died in apparent suicides. Both of the girls attended the same high school, but police are unsure if their friendship played a role in their deaths.  Last week XGames icon, David Mirra, took his life with an apparent self inflicted gun shot.

Meanwhile in Utah, Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, reported recently that she had been told 32 young LGBT Mormons died by suicide since early November. Of those 32, the average age was 17 and all were between the ages of 14 and 20. Utah health department officials have confirmed 10 suicides in that age range in Utah since the start of November.

Sadly, the fate of these youth is not unique. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death”. This is why it’s critical to talk with your teen about suicide.  But it’s hard. I get it. Bringing up a conversation about young people taking their own lives can be just as uncomfortable as talking to your teen about sex and drug abuse.

But, as a parent or guardian, you have to be proactive when it comes to opening dialogue about suicide. Here are 3 ways you may be able to approach the conversation with your teen:

  1. Be Relevant. Sadly, current news stories, like those noted above, can be powerful tools in engaging your teen in an open discussion about suicide. Ask open-ended questions like, did you hear about the death of the two students in Murphy? What do you think about what happened? By avoiding questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” and “no”, you’ll be more likely to engage in a meaningful conversation.
  2. Be Relational – No amount of money or latest tech toys can substitute for spending time with your teen. By regularly engaging with your teen through activities you both enjoy, you’ll build a relationship of trust that naturally fosters open conversation. Be attentive to the moments when a natural conversation can be engaged without appearing confrontational or suspect.
  3. Be Responsive – According to the Jason Foundation, 4 of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Nothing says “I don’t care” like not being responsive when your teen has questions or shows signs of depression or anxiety that may lead to suicide. As a parent or guardian of a teen, it’s your responsibility to be available to your child when they’re feeling vulnerable. Likewise it’s your duty to know the risk factors of suicide and to know your child well enough to spot a change in behavior that reflect those risks – and then act.Your teen has everything to live for. Yet because of societal/peer pressure, biological changes, depression or addiction, he or she may feel life is hopeless. There is no simple solution to ending teen suicide. But by staying informed and engaged, you’ll be more prepared to be a meaningful solution to helping your teen navigate a minefield of emotions that may lead to suicide. If you’re not sure where to turn, call us. We can help. Our trusted counselors can help you and your teen rediscover how to live a purposeful life.

On New Year’s Resolutions: Your Goal is to Be Healthier. Period.

I’m big on resolutions. I’m big on pick a date to start an event. January 1, unfortunately, is a random date that a lot of people line up for that, and it kind of matches where they’re at in the change process. They’ve been thinking about starting it for months. But there are a lot of people that line up mid-December and go, “Yeah, me too. I’ll join the gym,” with the guy who has been thinking about it for three, four, or five months and doing a little bit of thinking and mulling over a little bit of activity. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.

But here’s the catch: the “me too” crowd on January 1 will be out of that gym by February. Go to any gym the first month, January, and you’re going to see people you’ll never see again. You’ll see them wearing their brand new clothes, doing stuff on machines that they shouldn’t be doing. And they’ll be gone by February. Why? Because they were “me too.”

Here are a couple of keys on picking dates because picking dates is valuable. Pick a date and start to prepare for that date. Make some little changes, some adjustments, and know that you’re going to make that day, that you’re going to step into it that day.We also know we’ll meet those dates if we share it with a few people.Not on the internet, but share it with a few people. Be accountable. Step out and try it. That mindset helps us achieve goals.

And to keep it manageable and achievable, you’ve got to be able to measure what it is you’re trying to do.Picking a date helps you accomplish it. It also helps to shift your mind to, “No, I’ve started,” and you’re more likely to accomplish it because now you’ve got some skin in the game with yourself. You’ll say to yourself, “No, I’ve set a goal. This is where I’m at and I’m going to do that.” And if you’re not able to achieve it, then you need to step back and think, “Maybe I wasn’t as ready to change this as I thought. Maybe there are some other things at play that I really had not thought about.” It doesn’t mean that’s still not a goal, but maybe your approach needs to change a little. So, if you pick a date in January to start…and you’re not really ready, don’t do it.

Instead, come back to the goal you’re setting for yourself.Understand that we do better when we have short-term goals and long-term goals that are objective, that can be measured.You want a plan that anybody can look at and say, “Okay, I see how you are going to measure success.” Just “feeling better” is something you can’t measure.“Looking better” is something you can’t measure, either.

But I know I’ve made progress when I can now wear the new suit I bought or I can now fit into the dress I bought. That’s an achievable goal. It doesn’t always have to be numbers. The short-term goal may be that you’re going to eat less or drink less. For the month it may be that you want to be in a place where you’re eating more nutritious foods and being more physically active. Maybe buy a Fitbit.

Those short-term and long-term goals and things that you can actually measure are ways that you can keep your goals realistic. And they have to be realistic. Sometimes we doom ourselves for not being successful because we set a goal that’s ridiculous.

If you finally have come to a place where the doctor says, “Look, you’ve got to start these medications for diabetes or for your hypertension because of the way you eat and your lack of physical activity,” and you’re like, “I need to lose 100 pounds,” well, that can feel daunting.

Instead, break it up into pieces. This week, reduce your calories by X amount. This week, increase your walking steps by 500 steps. Don’t look at that “I’ve got to lose 100 pounds” and get overwhelmed. Just take that off the table. Your goal is to be healthier. And if your goal is to be healthier, let’s look at a short-term and a long-term. Let’s look at a goal for this week,and maybe a goal for a month. Do a goal for today and a goal for the week. Start small and build on it, because success will build on success.

-Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation360


11 ways to ruin your relationship

Many of us are doing these things daily, and have no idea we are well on our way to ruining our relationships, because thankfully, we feel like its our partner’s fault.

1. Tell them “just calm down” or “get over it” when they are really upset.

2. Remind them of all the times they have failed you (ESPECIALLY when they least expect it, like when they are in the middle of a football game, or have just woken from a nap).

3. Tell them that they are just like having another child, and treat them that way too (phrases like “can you handle that small task?” and “I have to remind you a million times because I know you’ll forget!” are perfect).

4. Pretend you are going to do something they want you to do just to get them off your back, then don’t do it (while telling yourself that it’s really their fault you’re lying, I mean, come on, if they weren’t so needy and demanding you wouldn’t have had to lie!)

5. When they do something you asked them to, rather than thanking them, say things like “Well for once you followed through!” Tell yourself they won’t do it next time, its just a fluke. Stay cynical.

6. Don’t remind yourself, (or your spouse) what you know about real stresses and hardships in their life that make it hard for them to be the person they really want to be. You must act as though they could easily be pleasant and helpful and when they aren’t that way the only explanation is that they are SIMPLY CHOOSING not to.

7. Meditate on the idea that committed love is just a hoax, no one can really do it, people are too different, who wants one partner anyway? Think on your friend who’s been married 10 times. This must be proof. (DON’T think on the couples you know who somehow seem to be so close through the years, or deep yearnings in your heart to be known and accepted; keep that stuff pushed down!!)

8. Assume the worst – at all times! They most definitely purposefully forgot your birthday, just to hurt you; she’s bringing up that worry not because it is a real worry, but just because she likes to see you suffer.

9. Spend time wondering if you didn’t just choose the wrong person (rather than thinking about what you could do differently in the relationship). Focus on the idea that if you had just waited and married so-in-so, everything would be different, you’d have the life you want. Don’t let yourself think about how you felt about your partner in the beginning or factors that may have changed your relationship.

10. Never, I repeat NEVER consider your own role in your current struggles with your partner (especially not how you are so critical about the dishes, or how you tune them out every time they start talking about something they are worried about).

11. Above all, tell yourself you don’t really need them, what they do doesn’t effect you. You can leave any time and be fine.

Of course, if for any reason you’re interested in something else… something like a longer and healthier life; quicker recovery from physical and mental health problems; a significantly lowered chance of addiction; a more satisfied sex life; and a healthier next generation… if you’re interested in that, well, you might want to try something else.

(If you want to find out more about these claims about what a healthy relationship can do for you and how to do it, read Dr. Sue Johnson’s Love Sense.)

Emily Savage, M.MFT, LMFT-Associate


Day 12 | What did January ever do to you?

We’ve all got those ticks, those natural irritants that get under our skin. Leaving the seat up or down, for example, can really set a person off. Or being forced by your straight-A kid to watch the presidential debate when Dancing with the Stars is on the next channel over. Or that plate of enchiladas doused in onions when you clearly said, “No onions.”

Yep, this world’s got it in for us.

What else pushes your buttons? The month of January? It sure seems like it. If an alien race suddenly decided to descend to Earth and observe the way we humans “go all out” in December with our holiday parties and seasonal celebrations, they might conclude that January is going to be a real you-know-what for us. Surely, January must be the worst month of the year, because we humans sure go overboard before it gets here.

But what did January ever do to us? It’s not like January is an unimportant month. For businesses, January is very important. It means recommitting to the business plan, developing new ideas to maximize on profit, and continuing to provide customers with a satisfactory product. For individuals, January means a fresh start, the kind of fresh start that the rest of the year just can’t seem to provide.

We get so wrapped up in the month of December that we forget just how solid of a month January is. January didn’t really do anything to us, but because we love to celebrate the end of things, we don’t pay much attention to what’s coming next.

When you were in school, and you just finished finals, did you immediately hit the books again? Of course not! You probably went out to celebrate with friends and family. We enjoy relaxing after a long challenge or struggle, and the end of the year, this month of December, is no different.

But January is coming, and the best way to both enjoy the end of the year and ring in the new one is to practice moderation and ease into the transition. You don’t always have to have a Mardi Gras before Lent.

Let’s instead take some time to gather perspective this December and remember all the good things that happened throughout the year both in our lives and in the lives of those we love. And in the process, let’s begin turning our attention to all the great things sure to come when our good friend January pays us his annual visit. January is coming.

–Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 11 | Beating the holiday blues

So this guy walks into a bar. Then another guy walks into the bar. And then another. And another. Pretty soon you’ve got a full house, and you realize what the big deal is. They’re here for the holidays.

Their heads are low. Their voices are soft. Underneath the sparkling red reindeer cutouts and glittering green garland strung above the counter, everyone here’s got the wintery blues.

Maybe you know one of them. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you’re considering joining them. There’s a reason for that.

For many, this holiday season is the first one they’ll be celebrating following a loss in the family, the loss of a job, a fractured relationship, or any number of big life transitions.

From the outside looking in, the pain they must feel may be difficult to comprehend. From the inside looking out, the pain may be difficult to explain. But the holidays are here, nonetheless, and grappling with the new “normal” doesn’t have to debilitate us.

The reality is this time of year can be really difficult for a number of people for a number of reasons. This doesn’t mean that we do anything less to mark the occasion or that we stop celebrating the season altogether. It does mean that we’re mindful of others and how their experiences this past year may have deeply affected them. Compassion is critical.

If we ourselves are feeling the holiday blues, we have the opportunity to embrace our new “normal,” instead of choosing to reject it. We have the opportunity to start this new chapter of our lives on the right foot, which means it may actually be a good time to start a new tradition.

It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something new. It can be as spontaneous as going to the movies with friends one night to watch the worst reviewed film of the year. Or start a Christmas potluck and show the world how good you are at making green bean casserole. Just remember, it’s a tradition, and that means you’ve got to keep at it, this year and the next.

Whatever tradition you start, turn it into a bookmark to celebrate the next chapter in your life, to passionately embrace the new “normal,” and to turn those holiday blues bright red and green.

-Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 10 | The bird didn’t sh*t on you. The bird just sh*t.

“I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead, others come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me.” – Dr. Seuss

I’m not going to name names because that would be rude. But, you and I know that there are times when our perspective warps our life.

Take the holiday party. We have high expectations when we put on an event or a dinner or a gathering or a party. We exhaust ourselves, trying to achieve a level of perfection and excellence for all the people that attend. That may not be a realistic goal, and when people step into those occasions and have a different response, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you or what you’ve done to prepare for that event.

Take the proverbial bird, carefree and excited, who sails 75 feet above your head when all of a sudden…. Holy crap! (You’re half-right…)

Really, you think that bird picked you out for this honor?

No, no. It didn’t. That is not how the bird works.

When it comes to holiday gatherings, you must know by now that people show up with their own Santa bag full of emotions, expectations, and behaviors.

Their baggage most likely will have nothing to do with you, but when we see the baggage being slung around, we do what so many others do and we believe (if not say), “When I see you do that, the story I make up in my head is that I am to blame, I’m an idiot, I’m a worthless blah, blah, blah….”

We personalize others’ stuff when they bring it to our parties or gatherings. And, if we’ve been spending too much time with Mr. Eggnog, those feelings tend to be way exaggerated.

So, when you experience or see the bird doing it’s business during the holidays—at your party or one you’re at, remember this: The bird didn’t sh*t on you, the bird just sh*t. It’s what birds do. It’s not personal.

Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360



Day 9 | Is this really rest?

“When you can’t wait for your ship to come in, you’ve got to row out to it.” – Greer Garson

I love Greer Garson. Not just for the wisdom she left us (may she rest in peace), but for her silky, smooth voice that comforted me when I was a kid and ready to relax a little during the holidays.

I remember plopping down in front of our sorta-color TV and listening to the soothing story-telling voice of Ms. Garson in the 1968 TV holiday classic, “The Little Drummer Boy.” You’ll remember the program if you’ve seen it because the characters were Claymation. And, don’t deny it if you’ve seen it and really liked it. It’s a classic.  And that’s just one of the many great shows and movies this time of year.

We all need rest, and the holidays seem like the ‘perfect’ time to rest. But, sometimes we make a mistake when we think, “I have to go from all that I’ve been doing to absolutely nothing and that’s going to recharge my batteries.”

No, that actually may not be the case.

There’s a lot of data in the exercise and physiology field that speaks to the value of “active recovery.”

Yes, you heard me correctly, you actually recover better from fatigue when you still keep a little bit of momentum in your life—not when you go from doing a lot to doing nothing.

I would encourage a little bit of caution when we’re tempted to totally veg for days on end. Too much of a good thing can end up putting us in a place that’s not as healthy as we would like.

What I would encourage is to make sure that your rest is restorative.

By the way, have you ever seen Elf? Let me tell you about that show…okay, another time.


Day 8 | Just keep shut your mouth

“If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!” – Ebenezer Scrooge

Wow, they clearly left that part out of the made for TV movie. Scrooge was a little over the top, but you get the point in a hurry.

And, when it comes to family, well…families can make us crazy like nobody else can during the holidays.

There’s nothing like family—joy, sorrow, expense and generosity all rolled into one!

At the holiday season, when it comes to families, we often fall back or get pushed into old roles and patterns before we can say, “Don’t be a Scrooge!”

Try to be more aware when family is pulling or pushing you off the deep end, and I encourage you to talk to your spouse before embarking on a visit to family over the holidays.

That lovely bride of mine…I can’t tell you how many times we’ll leave some Christmas family event, and she’s like, “Why did you do that?”

And I’m like, “I don’t know, man. I do not know. I have no idea!”

Sometimes, all she has to do is just give me the look.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at her back and said, “What is wrong with me?”

(Rhetorical! Don’t answer, please).

And you know this already: Carping at each other does nothing for your marriage. Studies have proven that couples that stop complaining at each other—and actually learn to communicate well with one another—see their marital satisfaction improve.

I think I know one of the secrets to dealing with family craziness, bickering with the spouse, feeling like an idiot.

Just keep your mouth shut. Enough said.


– Dr. Kevin Gilliland, for the team at Innovation 360