Author Archives: Laurel Holmes

Wives, Husbands, & Chores

Running a home has thousands of tasks and responsibilities and usually no discussion around who’s best suited for which jobs. Years can go by, with mounting resentments, chipping away at the emotional health of a marriage.

Instead, try having an explicit, clarifying dialogue about who does what in your house. There is no good reason not to become a badass team and have it be a point of pride in your relationship!


The following list is to help you get organized and be decisive about domestic responsibilities. Cut, paste & print. Its adapted from marriage scientist, John Gottman, and covers a lot of ground. Answer who is doing the task now, and then negotiate who should actually be doing it:

Who Does What Task List
Running Errands
Taking clothes to the cleaners
Washing windows
Planning the food menu
Going grocery shopping
Cooking dinner
Setting the table
Clearing the table after dinner
Cleaning the kitchen
Cleaning the bathrooms
Putting out clean towels
Keeping counters clean
General tidying up
Getting the car serviced
Putting gas in the car
Auto insurance, tags and taxes
Sorting incoming mail
Paying the bills
Balancing the checkbook
Buying birthday, anniversary, “thank You”, graduation, wedding and Sympathy cards
Writing and sending cards
Keeping the family address book
Handling phone messages


Returning family phone calls/email
Saving money/creating budget
Taking out garbage and trash
Washing the laundry
Folding/putting away laundry
Sweeping kitchen and eating areas
Mopping and/or waxing floors
Changing light bulbs
Managing repair of appliances
Making the beds
Cleaning refrigerator
Shopping for clothing
Planning travel


Home Repair
Home maintenance
Buying furniture
Redecorating home
Buying items for the home

Buying new appliances/research/shopping
Sewing and mending
Straightening kitchen cabinets
Yard and garden work Now: Lawn, tree & shrubbery maintenance
Errands to the bank
Houseplant Care
Straightening & rearranging closets
House ready for guests
Party preparations

Buying children gifts (Christmas & Birthdays)
Taking children to school
Picking children up from school
Child care after school :
Child meals and lunches :
Child homework
Child baths
Child discipline
Bedtime with kids
Dealing with a sick child
Handling child crises
Dealing with a child’s emotions
Teacher conferences
Dealing with the schools
Special children’s events
Child birthday and other parties
Child’s lessons
Child’s play dates
Shopping for children’s stuff
Buying presents for kids’ friends

Keeping in touch with kin
Preparing for holidays
Planning vacations
Planning getaways
Planning/initiating romantic dates
Planning quiet evenings at home
Planning weekends
Initiating lovemaking
Planning dinner out

Family outings, drives, picnics
Exercise & Fitness
Lead recreational outings

Initiating talks about the relationship
Get-togethers with friends
Keeping in touch with friends

Doing the taxes
Financial planning
Major purchases (cars, researching, etc.)
Managing investments Now:Legal matters (e.g. wills)
Coordinating family’s medical care
Coordinating annual physicals
Coordinating family’s dental care
Getting Prescriptions & other health areas


Fresh Start? Yes!

Helpful excerpts from Dana Claudet on Fresh Starts. If you’ve been feeling stuck, blue, or bored – a fresh start may be exactly what you need.
A fresh start can fill us with optimism and excitement.
It’s not always convenient to make a fresh start. After all, there’s already so much going on and so many things we’re committed to.
Here are a few signs that a fresh start may be overdue:
1. You’re always late.
Lateness is often a big sign of chaos or disconnection from the day. It’s a sign you’re not as committed as you could be.
2. You feel perpetually uninspired.
When you can’t find pleasure in simple things– or even big and splashy things, this reflects that your deepest self may be deprived.
3. You’re waiting for a breakthrough because you’re tired of the way things are.
Monotony doesn’t end through magical acts of intervention by the universe, like a big lottery win or meeting your twin flame soul mate. Most of the time, you have to actively choose to break out of the rut you’re in!
4. Clutter overwhelms you.
All around your spaces, your car, your room, is peripheral mess. Try organizing it, getting rid of it, paying attention to it: it moves energy.
5. You feel drained by your days rather than energized by them.
If your routine takes the life out of you rather than bringing you fulfillment, you may need a fresh start.
6. You’re tempted to make excuses and blame people for how you feel.
When the boredom, drained energy and chaos carries on for too long, I notice that’s typically when responsibility flies out the window and its everyone else’s fault. But, can you be clear how you are responsible for creating something that feels really exhausting, repetitive or dull? It will help.
7. You have a lot of mood swings.
This is when the roller coaster ride of chaos seems to really be setting in and it’s become a habit to feel cluttered, overwhelmed and drained. The misperception is “I never have time to do what I really want”- which isn’t true.
8. You perpetually talk about making a big change, but don’t do it.
The breaking point usually comes when it feels far better to take a risk and dare to break old habits/make a fresh start– than to stay miserable.

You probably want to know how to startmaking that fresh start.
For some, a fresh start is daring to take a big vacation from daily grind, and for others it’s making a plan to change careers, committing to a new way of eating or living, really focusing on your creative art, or finally leaving an unfulfilling relationship,

There’s no instruction manual for the fresh start you specifically need, but lots of life coaches focus on getting to a deeper part of yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Analyze your happiness:
What have been the 10 peak experiences in your life so far? (Include times in childhood). Who were you with? What were your thoughts? What were your emotions? Analyze your happiness.

2. Analyze yourself in relationship to others:
Who are your favorite people? How do they make you feel? What do you value about them? Who are you when you’re with them?
3. Analyze your days:
What the part of your day where you feel most focused, alert, engaged? How would you enhance your awareness and deepen your experience in that part of your day?

4. Analyze and deepen your creativity: When do you feel most creative, imaginative, full of ideas, or like your brain is energized? What are your I textual or artistic creative outlets? How can you enhance their place in your daily life?
Here are a few Basics to generate energies for a fresh start:
Clean your house/office/studio
You’d be surprised how much a detailed, clean space can do for your mind! REad Marie Kondo’s “The Magic of Tidying Up”
Water.Water is the element of fresh starts. You might want to take more baths or swim if you can. Ice baths have been proven to creat euphoria for up to 5 hours after soaking in water with 2 bags of ice!
Go Adventure
It’s one of the best ways to get rid of bad habits and habitual thought patterns. Vacation.
Create art, write songs or poetry, take photos, paint, garden, write your biography, design food, sculpture, or sing. There are tons of guides and tutorials online to support you. Your creative energy is the best–and endless–source of living a great life.
What ways do you create a fresh start for yourself? Share…we all need to hear the encouragement.


Get Good at Your Relationship!

About 8 years ago, I had the amazing fortune to watch and learn from Stan Tatkin, psychologist, researcher, and synthesizer of neurobiological information about relationships and connection. His writings and process with couples transformed my work with couples. Couples go from frustrated emotional outpourings and habitual story lines… dynamic in-office break-thrus providing deep, relieving connection.


I’ll be beefing up my psychology tab with several articles that I think everyone will find a nugget in. Relationships are complex, challenging, growing-machines. Face it! I know these articles will give you some fresh tips–and validated your intuition about feeling more secure and how to move toward that in your relationship.


Here’s a great articles from the psychobiological approach to couples therapy (PACT) by Eva Van Prooyen:

“Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy. PACT therapists know people feel good when they understand how to be successful partners. We are energized by a secure connection to another person. Our need to be securely attached is so powerful that it can get us through the hardest of times and help us float through day-to-day routines with ease, skill, and grace.


Secure functioning is based on a high degree of respect for one another’s experience. Interactions and shared experiences are fair, just, and sensitive. If your partner feels even slightly unwanted, undervalued, disliked, unseen, or unimportant, he or she will—quite frankly—act weird and underperform in the relationship.

Insecurity and insecure attachment negatively affect brain performance. Development can be slowed down because the brain is using most of its resources to manage being in survival mode instead of being free to move toward evolution, growth, and complexity.

In general, couples can get tripped up in creating a secure and healthy relationship and end up not liking their partners, situations, or experiences because they don’t know what to do or how to manage them. This can leave them feeling badly about themselves as well as their partner.


In line with the main treatment goals of PACT, couples are encouraged (and ultimately expected) to both know themselves and know their partner. That is, to know who they are and how they move through the world, and also to understand who their partner is, and how he or she operates. To be clear, that is not how they wish their partner operates, but how their partner actually operates, navigates, and maneuvers through the world. This knowledge, which requires a healthy dose of curiosity and attention, creates a strong foundation of understanding. It pushes forth the secure-functioning principles that “your partner is your responsibility and in your care,” and “you are responsible for knowing how to manage your partner.” Your partner then holds a sacred and honored position no one else in the world gets to occupy. That said, we often joke that actual wedding vows should probably include, “I take you to be my perfect pain in the butt.”


PACT teaches couples how to manage their partners so they can move and shift them into better states of mind and moods; lower their stress level; and decrease their sense of threat, anxiety, and depression.

The idea of being responsible for knowing and caring for your partner in this way and putting the relationship first tends to be the hard sell for some couples. When you truly understand the benefits of adopting this idea, the stance of “but it’s always about them, it never gets to be about me” loses its power as an argument.

My answer is, “You do this because it serves you and is good for you. You get your needs met by shoring up the vulnerabilities in your partner so he or she can in return do the same for you. You both get the benefits of that investment.


Love and genuine connection create libidinal energy—life force energy that can be renewed in an instant through a simple act of friendliness, a glance, a look, a moment, and a knowing that “my person likes me.” Part of creating a secure relationship is making sure you are helping your partner perform at an optimal level. To do that, messages that communicate “I’m good at you,” “I’m good at being with you,” and “You are in my care” must be reflected every day.


If you want to put this into practice, one way I encourage that is to pay attention to everything your partner hears you say about him or her. What messages are you conveying? Another thing you can do is to introduce your partner to other people, when you are together in public, in a way that is elevating.”


When Couples Fight: the fastest wins? Yes.

When we fight with our loved ones, we need to repair FAST. Here’s why.

From Stan Tatkin, expert on neurobiology of relationships. See his book “Wired for Love”:

Our brain is biased toward making war more than love. Our brainstem and lower limbic structures are always on the lookout for threat and danger. And painful memories are more easily made than pleasurable ones. This bias serves the human imperative “thou shalt not be killed.” Memories are formed, at least in large part, by glutamate (neurotransmitter) and adrenaline (hormone). Strong or intense emotional experience, aided by glutamate and adrenaline, will help long term memory formation, particularly if the emotional intensity is protracted.


When one person hurts another, intentionally or not, the injured party seeks relief. If relief is not provided in a timely manner, that hurt will likely go into long term memory. When partners ignore or dismiss injuries or make unskillful attempts at repair, the offending partner is CREATING a bad memory in the injured partner — something that will certainly come back to haunt.

Remedy: Fix, repair, make right, or do whatever is necessary to relieve an injured partner (can be a child or any other adult) FAST or as quickly as possible to keep that experience from going into long term memory. From the point of injury to the point of repair (relief) — the clock is ticking and it is ticking against both parties. An acute reaction to injury changes neurochemistry and that as mentioned can be remedied by swift repair.


However, chronic reaction to injury can have deleterious effects on both brain and body. Chronic hurt (bad feelings) due to improper or non-existent repair —leads to negative psychobiological consequences for both the injured and offending partner. The relationship becomes more dangerous, negative thoughts and emotions amplify and spill over to other events, and both partners immune systems take a hit.

Repair, fix, relieve your partner even if it isn’t/wasn’t your fault. The fastest wins and those who delay will lose.

Don’t just take my word for it. See for yourself and report back!

~Stan Tatkin
PACT “Wired for Love”

Laughter & Light

Let’s face it, life is full of stuff for our nervous systems to chew on. Not always fun.

Today, lets take a break from all of the things our heads are subject to figuring out—I need a good laugh and some light hearted thinking. You too? Let’s start with looking at pictures of people laughing. This will get our dopamine and serotonin chambers ignited. Sound good?

Then we’ll read something short and warming to complete the cognitive good vibe. Sound good? Take a savoring look at each photo for the full effect:







From a lovely insight by Tom Robbins:

“The message I wish to import to the children goes something like this:

The world is a wonderfully weird place, consensual reality is significantly flawed, no institution can be trusted, certainty is a mirage, security a delusion, and the tyrant of the dull mind forever threatens– but our lives are not as limited as we think they are, all things are possible, laughter is holier than piety, freedom is sweeter than fame, and in the end its love and love alone that really matters.”

Are Anti-Depressant Ruining Your Relationship?

Do you take an anti-depressant, or know anyone who does? Anti-depressants increase Serotonin levels, and block Dopamine levels. Did you know that is the opposite chemistry of what is neuro-biologically created in the brain of someone who is in love?

I was at a conference a while back titled “The Brain in Love: The Neurobiology of Attraction & Love, presented by Janice Funk PhD. Because it was a science-based presentation, there were many descriptions of experiments, names of hormones, and slides of the brain, followed by some surprising insights that come out of those experiments regarding sex drive and psychotropics.

One insight has me up early this Saturday morning to write about: its the scientific insight that SSRI’s/anti-depressants, are potentially dampening the interest in pair bonding. The chemical responses in our bodies (lower serotonin, higher dopamine) that drive us to bond and have sex–are reversed with SSRI’s. When people can’t feel this natural drive–to connect, bond, have sex–what happens? They grow disinterested in their relationship. Whats next? Divorce? Could Anti-depressants could be silently sabotaging marriages and families?

Its an interesting question for a marriage therapist, like myself.

Prozac is one such SSRI. How many clients do I have on these medications? A lot. I’ve been dubious about the real nature and long term effects of psychotropics, and this is just the sort of scientific correlation that concerns me. Did you know Prozac does not break down in fresh water supplies, and that many people are eating fish/serotonin from those waters?

Interesting questions for more research:

Would reducing your anti-depressant increase sexual attraction in your relationship?
Does the emotional lift from an anti depressant out-weigh the chemical insights about bonding to others?
What’s a world without the drive to bond? Can chronic low serotonin eventually lead to anti-social behavior? Staying home, avoiding people, hunkering down?
From my view, I think psychotropic medications should be considered in the

Right5 mentality:

Is it the right medication?
At the right time?
Is it the right dose?
For the right amount of time?
For the right reasons?
If psychotropics were used like antibiotics, which are rigorously put through the Right5 mentality before use, then maybe fewer people would be on psychotropics, with lower doses, for less time, for researched and accurate reasons. Something to think over.

Remember your brain is a delicate, wondrous, unique mechanism. If you decide to reduce anti-depressants, go very slowly, under a doctor’s recommendation. Meanwhile remember that antidepressants alone won’t usually increase your mood. You’ll still want to harness the daily power of these FIVE:


healthy foods



Here’s a long quote by Helen fisher, PhD, and if you’re interested in the topic of love and attachment, Helen fisher is a very engaging scientist with a great blog. She is a Research Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University (she has a great TED talk on Love too):

“Some 100 million prescriptions for antidepressants are written annually in the United States. Because these drugs are becoming generic, they will soon be widely used worldwide as well. Many are SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These drugs raise levels of serotonin in brain–a good idea when you are horribly depressed: These drugs blunt the emotions, curb obsessive thinking and help you sleep.

“BUT serotonin enhancers also suppress the dopamine system in the brain. And dopamine circuits become super active when you feel intense romantic love. We all know these drugs cripple your sex drive (in 73% of users). So, connecting the dots, I hypothesize that when you take these drugs, you can jeopardize your ability to fall in love and/or stay in love.

“…This apparently stimulated a medical doctor in Texas to write the Times the following letter: “After two bouts of depression in ten years, my therapist recommended I stay on serotonin-enhancing antidepressants indefinitely. As appreciative as I was to have regained my health, I found that my usual enthusiasm for life was replaced with blandness. My romantic feelings for my wife declined drastically. With the approval of my therapist, I gradually discontinued my medication. My enthusiasm returned and our romance is now as strong as ever. I am prepared to deal with another bout of depression if need be, but in my case the long-term side effects of antidepressants render them off limits.” -HF

Some people are chronically depressed. They may need to take one of these drugs for life. I am not trying to downplay this group’s need for basic emotional balance. But, many “typical” folks are taking these drugs for reasons of temporary malaise, brought on by life changes, loss, angst, being stuck—and then continuing to use them after the depression has lifted. These are the people that should reconsider life coaching, therapy, natural herbal remedies, etc –toward lifting their mood and outlook!

* * *

See my fuller article on natural remedies for mood enhancement, anxiety, and ADD. I am not a doctor, and cannot prescribe, but am reporting from some great research:

Here a few of the drugs that effect Serotonin: Prozac, fluoxetine, Zoloft, sertraline and Paxil, paroxetine.

And Here are 3 naturally occurring alternatives that you can get at a Food Co-op, Natural foods market, or Herb store to naturally increase serotonin. In Helen Fisher’s words, “These drugs blunt the emotions, curb obsessive thinking and help you sleep.”


L-tryptophan, one of the least prevalent amino acids in food, but readily useable by the body, relaxing and mood stabilizing


5-HTP, known by the brand names Cincofarm, Levothym or Oxyfan across countries in Europe, 5-HTP is purified–exclusively–from the seeds of the African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia and is used for anxiety and depression.

St. John’s Wort

Widely used as a replacement for anti-depressants.

Why Meditate?


I’ve just returned from Dr. John Preston’s Brain Conference on Positive Emotions. He shared research on brain health–linking it to foods, medicinals, and what else? meditation. He suggests 10-15 minutes a day.

Why meditate?

Stimulating the front lobes suppresses activity in the amygdala. The amygdala is impulsive, reactive, prone to false alarms, and loves to ruminate. Worry, impulsive behavior, bad moods, and anxiety are your amydala running the show.

Whenever you calm yourself down, interrupt negativity, or stop yourself from impulsive behavior, you’re frontal lobes are activated and excreting BNFD (a protective hormone). A feeling of calm and well-being can replace negative states of mind. Whats the best way to get lots and lots of this feeling? Meditate.


Practicing detaching from your thoughts,  can be protective to your brain’s health. Protective. Strange, huh?

Our amygdalas get coated with early experiences in our families, creating high sensitivity and pattern recognition to stimulus. Small things can make us freak out with emotional reactivity. Its responsible for a lot of negative self talk and relationship drama.

Our frontal cortexes need training to exert “top down control.” Meditation is the most effective, powerful tool for increasing your capacity to regain~and maintain equanimity.


There are several ways to meditate, if you think about it. Walking meditation, eating meditation, laying in bed meditation, riding the bus meditation, sitting on the lawn meditation.

Don’t get stuck thinking you have to sit a special way or wear yoga pants. Phooey. As long as you follow these two ideas, you’re meditating and receiving the benefit:
1. breath slowly and deeply
2. detach from your thoughts, watch them, but don’t follow them, just for 10 minutes, let them go by. Repeat #1.

Anywhere you go, you can fit in a little meditation. Next time your up in the hills on a hike and see a beautiful view, sit down and empty your mind. Now you’ve exercised your body and protected your brain.

At the brain health conference, 200 of us closed our eyes, practiced detaching and breathing several times during the day. It was kinda powerful. Try adding little meditations through your day?  Getting present this way activates your frontal lobes ~and your well-being.

Animals do it all the time!