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Creativity Is a Way of Life, Not Just About Making Art

November 7th, 2015 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

No matter what you may have been told, every one of us is creative. It’s as much a part of us as our voice and breath and fingerprints.

Creativity isn’t just about making “art.” Cooking, gardening, keeping a journal, handiwork and crafts are all creative acts. Arranging flowers or rearranging furniture, painting a picture or painting a room, singing on stage or singing in the shower––these are all responses to the “call.”

That call is the call to create, and it is universal, bidding each of us to bring something new into being. It may be as faint as the stirring of butterfly wings or loud as a brass band on the Fourth of July. Or you may not hear a sound at all, but feel an urging, an inner pull, a sense of excitement and longing that resonates from within.

Creative expression helps us feel connected to the world and builds bridges of understanding. It nourishes us and helps us grow, provides insights and deeper understandings. Creativity is fun, exciting and playful. It relieves stress and releases tension. It provides a way of communication when normal channels may be blocked or are insufficient— when we must speak in colors and textures and shimmering visions and music.

Creativity is love expressing itself; it heals and renews. Our creations are mirrors in which others may see themselves and the signature of our lives that says, “This is how I saw it.”

Creativity is a way of living. It’s being spontaneous and playful, exercising the imagination, finding solutions, and embracing possibilities and doing it all with passion.

Yet for all the joy and fulfillment it brings, some resist the call to be creative. In our culture, the ideas that “time is money” and “art is frivolous” hold certain sway and old messages like “stay inside the lines” or “you can do better than that” have remarkable staying power. It takes courage to look beneath the surface of what we’ve been told to find our heart’s desire.

Creativity requires risk-taking. It asks us to surrender, to lose control, to trust. It’s an act that says we believe in ourself.

Honoring the creative Self means finding time, making space, being patient and taking the chance of looking foolish. You cannot care too much what others think or say. You must be willing to start over and stay with it; creativity takes stamina. There are no magical secrets or absolute rules. Creativity can’t be taught. You just do it.

Like the body’s natural urge for motion and the human need for connection and community, the spirit longs to express itself. So when you hear the call to create, answer, “Yes!” It is your self searching for your Self, a movement toward being whole.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

10 signs of S-T-R-E-S-S

October 7th, 2015 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

Despite its bad reputation, stress isn’t actually a product of only negative things. It’s a response from your body to changes in your life. “Good” things can cause stress as frequently as “bad.” The stress created by getting a new job or the arrival of a baby can take its toll just as much as that caused by losing someone you care about or getting laid off from work. Following are 10 warning signs of stress. Simple stress reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, relaxation or exercise may be able to reduce these symptoms.

  1. Fatigue or exhaustion that is interfering with daily activities.
  2. Sleeplessness or bouts of insomnia caused by a list of concerns and worries.
  3. Irritability or moodiness that may trigger negative responses and reactions.
  4. Anxiety about what the future holds.
  5. Depression that affects your ability to cope and weakens your spirit.
  6. Lack of concentration that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks.
  7. Health problems such as headaches, backaches, chest pains, constipation or diarrhea, or a change in appetite.
  8. Anger and difficulty in controlling your temper.
  9. Social withdrawal from friends and activities that once brought pleasure.
  10. Feeling overwhelmed or out of control.

If you are experiencing several of these warning signs, or you’re unable to maintain balance, you may need help in identifying and dealing with the stressors in your life.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

The “Risky Business” of Life

October 7th, 2015 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

What’s riskier: skydiving or leaving your marriage of 18 years?

For many of us, psychological risks—such as quitting a secure, well-paying job to go back to school or speaking on stage or choosing to adopt a child—may ultimately feel more dangerous than those of physical derring-do.

Yet these are the challenges that we are asked to face time and again if we are to continue to grow as individuals. Each time we take a risk that contributes to our personal growth or enhances our self-esteem or enriches our lives, we make the choice to stretch ourselves, knowing there are no guarantees and chancing possible failure. It can be exhilirating and terrifying at the same time. Growth-producing risks generally fall into three categories.

Self-Improvement Risks

These are the risks you take when you want to get ahead, learn something new or make a distant dream a reality. Maybe you want to change careers, or take singing lessons. Perhaps you decide to learn to speak Italian… in Italy! On one side of the risk is the person you are and, on the other, the person you want to become.

Commitment Risks

All commitment risks have emotional stakes, whether you pledge yourself to a person or a relationship or to a cause, a career, or a value. According to Joseph Ilardo, author of Risk-Taking for Personal Growth, if you avoid making emotional commitments, you all but guarantee that your emotional growth will be stunted.

Self-Disclosure Risks

Communication risks fall into the category of self-disclosure. Anytime you tell someone how you really feel, you’re taking the chance of self-disclosure. When you open up to others and reveal who you really are, how you feel and what you want and need, you make yourself vulnerable. It is impossible to be assertive without doing so.

All risks carry with them the possibility of failure. Often significant sacrifices must be made before any real benefits are realized. Routines may have to change; the familiar may have to be released. You may be rejected or humiliated. In the case of commitment to a value, personal safety may be in danger. Consider those who stand up for what they believe in or put their own health and well-being on the line in the name of a cause. Challenging yourself is often the key to personal growth and development.

Are you a risk-taker? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does every decision involve endless debates with yourself?
  • Do you accept less than you should because you’re afraid to speak up?
  • Do you have difficulty making emotional commitments to others?
  • Do you make up excuses that stop you from taking advantage of opportunities  for self-improvement?
  • Does fear of disapproval keep you from doing what you’d like to do?

A “yes” answer to these questions indicates a reluctance to take risks, which may mean you tend to play it safe and reject change. Consider this: to fulfill your potential, to discover your real self and live an authentic life, you must take risks. And while security may appear to be the absence of change, the only genuine security lies in taking risks.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Building a positive reservoir

October 29th, 2013 by Michael Hessdorf, LCSW

I have read that we remember and hold on to negative comments and experiences much more readily than we do to positive ones. We need to build up a reservoir of positive feelings to combat the destructive power of negative experiences. And of course, this holds especially true in our relationships. The zinger delivered to us by our partner can really sting and hurt. Therefore, I am going to make a strong attempt to say at least five positive things to my spouse before I utter a negative comment. I am going to take note as to how this works in our life together. I will do this for the next three weeks and observe how it plays out in our relationship. I believe at a minimum, it can do no harm, and I have a feeling that it could have a beneficial effect. We shall see.

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Mike Hessdorf, LCSW is a practicing psychotherapist for over 20 years. His practice consists of working with teen and adults. He sees patients individually and in groups. He also has two teenage children that are wonderful and at times, maddening. Feel free to call him for a consultation @ 973-378-5804 or visit his Therapist Directory Listing

Grief Takes No Holidays

January 22nd, 2013 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

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.

Many people believe that anyone who has experienced great loss should be “over it” in six months or so. If only that were true. Emotions of the bereaved are raw and heal in their own time.

It can be difficult for those who are grieving to cope in social situations during the holidays, when tears would be out of place, Silbert says. At holiday time, many who are dealing with loss are often caught in a dilemma between the need to grieve and the pressure to “get into the spirit” of the season.

But holidays can stimulate memories and a renewed wave of pain, which feels even more pronounced. And it’s not only holidays that may trigger deep feelings of new or renewed grief. Birthdays, anniversaries

and other special occasions present a challenge for many, even after a number of years have passed.

While the experience of grief may ebb and flow, we should not expect it to altogether disappear, say grief counselors and experts. While it’s normal to hurt during the holidays. it’s also possible for the human heart to hope and heal.

Tending Grief

Here are some suggestions from grief expert Dr. Judith Johnson, author, educator, life coach and interfaith minister, to help the bereaved maintain inner balance during the holidays.

1. Reach out. Contact friends, family, support agencies, and anyone who can give you comfort during this difficult time.

2. However, be deeply honest about what you need. Honor what you need to do and not do through the holidays or other significant occasions. Be patient, kind and compassionate with yourself about what is true for you.

3. Allow all your feelings. Grief expresses in many ways. Give yourself permission to feel lethargic, grumpy or out of sorts. Stay focused on what is happening inside you and tend to yourself as you would anyone else you love deeply.

4. Anticipate and plan ahead. “Don’t wait for others to make plans for you that may or may not have anything at all to do with what you really need,” Dr. Johnson said. “Face your truth and communicate what you need.”

5. Make room for your grief or sadness. “Grief is a very private matter and the holidays have a way of magnifying it,” Dr. Johnson counsels. “Welcome your grief. Your sadness and tears are expressions of the healing process.” Be open to your grief and trust that it is healing.

Many people believe that anyone who has experienced great loss should be “over it” in six months or so. If only that were true. Emotions of the bereaved are raw and heal in their own time.

It can be difficult for those who are grieving to cope in social situations during the holidays, when tears would be out of place, Silbert says. At holiday time, many who are dealing with loss are often caught in a dilemma between the need to grieve and the pressure to “get into the spirit” of the season.

But holidays can stimulate memories and a renewed wave of pain, which feels even more pronounced. And it’s not only holidays that may trigger deep feelings of new or renewed grief. Birthdays, anniversaries

and other special occasions present a challenge for many, even after a number of years have passed.

While the experience of grief may ebb and flow, we should not expect it to altogether disappear, say grief counselors and experts. While it’s normal to hurt during the holidays. it’s also possible for the human heart to hope and heal.

Tending Grief

Here are some suggestions from grief expert Dr. Judith Johnson, author, educator, life coach and interfaith minister, to help the bereaved maintain inner balance during the holidays.

1. Reach out. Contact friends, family, support agencies, and anyone who can give you comfort during this difficult time.

2. However, be deeply honest about what you need. Honor what you need to do and not do through the holidays or other significant occasions. Be patient, kind and compassionate with yourself about what is true for you.

3. Allow all your feelings. Grief expresses in many ways. Give yourself permission to feel lethargic, grumpy or out of sorts. Stay focused on what is happening inside you and tend to yourself as you would anyone else you love deeply.

4. Anticipate and plan ahead. “Don’t wait for others to make plans for you that may or may not have anything at all to do with what you really need,” Dr. Johnson said. “Face your truth and communicate what you need.”

5. Make room for your grief or sadness. “Grief is a very private matter and the holidays have a way of magnifying it,” Dr. Johnson counsels. “Welcome your grief. Your sadness and tears are expressions of the healing process.” Be open to your grief and trust that it is healing.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Music: A Soothing Balm for Stress

September 27th, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

Most people have experienced the relaxing effect of music—from the soft strains of a flute playing in the background during a massage, to tuning out the world with your headphones during a grueling commute on public transit.

With hectic schedules, busy families, financial pressures and life’s many complications, stress can permeate every aspect of daily living. Whether you’re experiencing more persistent stress or just looking to enjoy the many health benefits of increased relaxation, music can play an important role. It has the power to engage the body, mind and spirit and carry you into a more relaxed state.

The Mind

Listening to music may evoke memories, images or scenes. This is how music soundtracks help “tell” the story of a movie. We can all intentionally create soundtracks for our lives, and music therapist Jennifer Buchanan guides us in doing just that in her book, Tune In: Use Music Intentionally to Curb Stress, Boost Morale and Restore Health. Buchanan says that by choosing to listen to music that you associate with calming memories, images or scenes, you can distract yourself from the negative thoughts that are worrying you. Music can also help engage your creative, problem-solving mind so that you can come up with constructive solutions for the worrisome situation.

The Body

Purposefully chosen music can also evoke the physical sensations of actually being in those relaxing scenarios. Whether you’re lying down and listening to a slow-paced symphony, or letting loose on the dance floor to a loud, thumping beat, music can give you a physical release from stress.

The Spirit

Attending a concert, creating live music with a group of people, or even singing along with the radio can help us to feel connected to a world outside ourselves, and sometimes to a deeper spiritual presence. Indeed, music has a major role in most of the world’s religions. Although the use of music as a healing modality dates back to the writings of Aristotle, music therapy was first identified as a profession following WWI and WWII when it was used with veterans who had a variety of issues, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). In her book, Jennifer Buchanan shares the story of her first meeting with a music therapy client with PTSD. Before they met, he had closed himself off from the world and spent most of his time in his room. When he first met Jennifer and listened as she sang familiar songs (just one of the many ways that music therapists use music to enhance the health and wellbeing of their clients), the experience brought a spark of life back into his eyes. Soon, he was expressing that aliveness in other ways, by expanding his activities and more closely interacting with the people around him. When it comes to relieving stress, Buchanan says that it’s not the speed of music that is the key—for some people, it is fast music that is relaxing—but finding your own personalized music prescription for stress. She suggests that you first identify which style, speed, instrument or voice seems to soothe you. Choose a piece of music that has those qualities, and then spend 20 minutes immersing yourself in the relaxing power of music with this exercise:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down near the speakers, or wear a comfortable pair of earphones.
  2. Turn on the music, ensuring that the volume is high enough to capture your attention yet low enough to not hurt your eardrums.
  3. Take a few minutes to observe your breathing, shifting your mind from the external to the internal.
  4. Turn your focus entirely to the music and hold it there. Follow the melody, or pay attention to the pauses in the music. If you find yourself drifting away, gently bring yourself back to the sound.

Repeat often for a long-lasting effect.

Research suggests that your mood will improve and your stress will be greatly reduced by this intentional music listening.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

10 ways to change your life

May 1st, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

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.

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

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Speaking Your Truth

April 3rd, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

Heather, a baker for a catering company, began having issues with one of her co-workers after he bulldozed over her experience and capability in the kitchen. After her resentment had built up to a nearly unmanageable level, she called for a meeting, during which she explained to him how she was feeling.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Life on a Swing: Bipolar Disorder

March 29th, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

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 »

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

How to Create Balanced Relationships

March 11th, 2012 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

“I love you. You…you complete me.” From the film Jerry Maguire.

Whether this quote melts your heart at the thought of such commitment or makes you cringe at the idea of a power imbalance, the fact is, we all relate to people in different ways. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.