Advice about anxiety, depression, and relationships that I've been able to share in the media.
The Control Factor, January 2019
Coercive behavior in a relationship may start small, and then gradually become all-encompassing. Here’s what experts want you to know.
Click here to read the entire article.
9 Common Bedtime Habits that Could be Ruining Your Whole Day, June 2018
The old adage “never go to bed angry” might not be so wise after all. Staying up to hash out an argument could not only cut into your sleep time but also leave you feeling too worked up to doze off.
A better alternative: “Agreeing to disagree for the time being,” said Sara Stanizai, a licensed therapist and owner of Prospect Therapy in Long Beach, California. “I guarantee you won’t solve anything if you’re exhausted and activated by anger, stress and hurt feelings.”
Rather, focus on calming yourself and getting rest; you’ll have a much more productive conversation in the morning.
Sex Therapists Reveal What They Get Asked the Most, July 2018
Flirting outside of a committed relationship isn’t new, but these days there are so many more ways to do it! “Boundaries can be blurred when people communicate with friends or acquaintances on Kik, text, direct messages, Snapchat, and other platforms,” says Sara Stanizai, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Long Beach, California. Clients who discover a partner has been “sexting” are often most hurt by the secrecy and lies, she says. “I tell my clients in this situation that the flirter has to be open about the communication and what they’re getting from it. People who keep these kinds of secrets often feel immense shame about their needs and about the secrets. If they can share that part of themselves with their partners, they have an opportunity to become more open and connected, which can actually bring the two of you closer.”
How to be your authentic self in relationships, August 2018
“Authenticity means you show your good side and bad side in a relationship, instead of a curated version of yourself,” explains Sara Stanizai, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
“Many people fall back on old emotional patterns that they learned to keep others happy. But people don’t want the performative version of you. To be truly authentic, we should share the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is an opportunity for greater connection.”
7 Common Relationship Mistakes Even Happy Couples Make, May 2018
"Mistakes are not only OK, they are good for you," licensed marriage and family therapist, Sara Stanizai, tells Bustle. "There are some things we only learn 'the hard way,' which is to say, through conflict and resolution of that conflict." Learning about your partner's childhood or favorite movies is as simple as asking a question. But deep rooted things like fears, anxieties, embarrassments, and regrets, are things Stanizai says you can't easily learn from typical "happy" moments. If you can successfully overcome challenges together, your relationship is more likely to last.
"Healthy relationships can tolerate conflict, and each individual person is able to meet their own needs. They don't 'need' their partner, they 'want' them."
If Your Mom Ever Says These 10 Things She Might Be Toxic, June 2018
"[It's toxic if a mother is] blaming a ... child for their own personal problems," licensed marriage and family therapist, Sara Stanizai, tells Bustle. "This puts the child in the position of being responsible for their parent, when really it's the other way around!"
How to Tell if You're Unhappy in Your Relationship, June 2018
"It's great to be always learning, or regularly surprised by your partner," Sara Stanizai, LMFT at Prospect Therapy, tells Bustle. "And you don't measure your relationship just by knowing their favorite movie or their childhood best friend. If you can't answer how your partner 'would' react in certain situations, or if you don't know things about their fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams, you may not be as connected and therefore not as happy in your relationship as you could be."
7 Ways you Didn't Realize Your Anxiety Shows to Other People, June 2018
"It's OK to be anxious!" licensed marriage and family therapist, Sara Stanizai, tells Bustle. "If you're not sure — read the people around you. It has a contagious effect and your anxiety can drift onto others. But conversely, seeing others being nervous can also reduce your stress about hiding your own."
Once you're able to identify your own anxiety, and the symptoms it presents, you are likely a step closer to helping yourself feel better. "When you understand that it's a real thing, with a real name, real causes, is often predictable, and happens in a pattern, it starts to be more manageable," Stanizai says.
15 Signs you have an emotionally abusive mom, July 2018
"If you feel like your mom changes her story to make you look/feel bad, or 'remembers things differently,' to prove a point, this might be emotional abuse," Sara Stanizai, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper by email. "It's actually a form of gaslighting. She may communicate things like she doesn't want you to get too full of yourself, or accuses you of being conceited, spoiled, or a snob, when in reality your expectations are pretty reasonable."
If your mom blames you for any stress or negative emotions she's feeling, that's another sign of emotional abuse. Particularly when the situations have nothing to do with you.
"Bad day at her job? You got a new apartment? Why do you get to live in a cute place while she 'suffers' at home? If you feel like you 'can't win,' that's a sign your mom is emotionally abusive," Stanizai says.
"Communicate [your needs and expectations] clearly and have a bottom line," Stanizai says. "Be willing to walk away. A manipulative and abusive person relies on you being entangled with them."
7 Signs Your Partner Doesn't Love You Unconditionally, May 2018
Sara Stanizai, MA, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist, says that she thinks that partners have to decide to love each other everyday, particularly at the beginning of a relationship.
But if there are rules that you're expected to follow, or your partner tries to dictate how you'll act and live your life, that's a sign that they don't love you unconditionally. Sometimes controlling behaviors have more to do with a lack of trust or unmet needs and that addressing those things can help.
Couples don't agree on everything all the time. "If they're not willing to do the dirty work of being vulnerable and compromising, and say, 'maybe we can't come to an agreement on this, but I'm not even going to try,' I think that that is a big sign."
How to Cope With Anger, Without Letting it Out, May 2018
Distraction is a short-term but necessary tactic for managing anger. Before you fly into a rage, try playing a distracting game on your phone for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of distraction, you’ll be able to apply a levelheaded approach to the situation at hand. “Once you’re cooled off, you also need to understand what you need from the situation so you don’t get angry again,” psychotherapist Sara Stanizai told Fatherly. “It’s good to relax, but then the real work begins.”
LGBTQ+ Friendly College and University Guide, 2018
What makes for an LGBTQ-friendly college? Are there certain things students should look for?
An LGBTQ+ friendly college will have a large LGBTQ+ population and resources in place that are specifically for this community. It will have affirming practices in the health clinics, counseling centers, financial aid, administration offices. Different genders and orientations are not “an option." They are the default.
Single-gender campuses throughout the nation are adopting admissions policies that reflect a more inclusive student body. For example, Mount Holyoke College welcomes applications for their undergraduate program from any student who is female or identifies as a woman. Almost any campus can place “safe space” stickers throughout their buildings, but that doesn’t tell you if the infrastructure respects and affirms all identities. There should be language throughout the literature and in policies that reflects inclusive and affirming practices.
When touring campuses, what questions should students ask?
When touring campus, students can certainly ask about any LGBTQ+ and/or allied student or college-run organizations. But it will be especially helpful to ask about the percentage of LGBTQ+ identified students that apply and/or attend the college. Some other questions include:
How does the college support its LGBTQ+ students? What policies are in place in terms of housing, admissions, and on-campus administration? When were these policies adopted, and how has any backlash been addressed?
What is the grievance process for those who feel they have been discriminated against and when was the last issue filed?
What are some of the social events for students?
If possible, are there certain people on campus students should try to talk to and get a sense of the culture?
To get a sense of culture, the most helpful people to talk to would be any member of a student-run organization focused on minority communities – including students of color, LGBTQ+ students, students with disabilities, first-generation college attendees, etc. These are the groups that will know if the college puts inclusive policies into action or not. It would also be helpful to shadow a class, talk to an upper level student, a resident adviser, the editor of the school newsletter, or the school radio station.
Dealing with a Difficult Loss: Can Grief Become Depression? May, 2018
Just Grieving or Clinically Depressed?
Though the two often blur together, there is a difference between grieving and being clinically depressed. Sara Stanizai, licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Prospect Therapy, is here to explain that difference and clarify when you should be concerned about the latter:
“Technically speaking, bereavement is allowed to last 6 months before it turns into diagnosable depression. But as anyone who has experienced a tough loss—not just bereavement of a loved one, but the grief that can accompany any major loss, such as divorce, sudden unemployment, a cross-country move—can tell you, it often lasts much longer than 6 months. In many cases, you’re not the same person you were before the loss, and signs of depression can start to show themselves.
As we figure out how to cope with our new reality, learning how to go through the day can be confusing, overwhelming, frustrating, and painful. We might try to distract ourselves or disconnect from others. We may overcompensate and indulge in certain habits like over-eating, shopping, or not being able to spend time alone. We have trouble sleeping, or our schedule gets backwards and we sleep all day. These are the feelings and behaviors often associated with depression.
A major loss can exacerbate an existing, low-level depression that someone was generally coping with. But now that they’re taxing their emotional state, even little problems start to feel like insurmountable obstacles. If you find yourself not able to get some semblance of your routine back together, you might be experiencing more than simply grief. You may be in a depressive episode.”
Guidelines for Coping with a Tough Loss
First, “allow yourself to feel it and really go through the process,” Stanizai recommends. “There is the common analogy of grief as a wave—if you try to fight it, you’ll get pulled under. But by letting it carry you and trusting that you’ll touch back down eventually, the process can be resolved more easily.”
Also, be kind to yourself and trust that these difficult feelings won’t last forever. Furthermore, know when it’s time to reach out to loved ones for support or maybe even seek professional help. “Getting professional help can be a good idea when friends and family are not able to help,” Stanizai explains. “Experienced therapists will be able to assess for the difference between grief and depression and will get you the help that you need.”
Signs you're in a codependent relationship (And what to do about it) July 2018
Sara Stanizai, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with high-functioning anxiety in couples, says that unlike independence, where each person is capable of meeting their own needs and then chooses to be present with their partner, “in codependence, people are not capable of meeting their own needs and require this from their partner.”
How Trying to Have it All Impacts your Mental Health, July 2018
“'Having it all' is [a] personal definition for many people,” she tells SheKnows. “The truth is people can have as much as they want; they just need to prioritize. When people fail to be realistic about their bandwidth (which can happen for a number of reasons), that's when ‘having it all’ feels impossible.”
Some of the root causes of a more destructive have-it-all mentality in the high achievers can stem from internalizing the expectations of an overly demanding or perfectionist partner, parent or friend; personal feelings of inadequacy; or not having their needs met in childhood or in early, formative relationships, Stanizai explains. This creates a sense that they and they alone are responsible for meeting all their needs (and other people’s as well).