Carl Alasko: Four words for the new year – Monterey County Herald

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Carl Alasko: Four words for the new year – Monterey County Herald

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Carl Alasko

Dear Readers: Here are four words of simple advice that can change your life. Applying these words can make all the difference between a successful relationship and the opposite. The first two are “self care.” The idea of taking care of yourself may sound selfish, but it’s quite the opposite. It means taking care of your healthy, positive feelings and diminishing the power of the negative ones, like anger and anxiety. The goal of self care is to identify your authentic needs — what you truly need to have a successful life (in every sense) — and do what’s necessary to develop those needs.

Self Care refers to a broader nurturing of your long-term best interests. Here’s what I mean.

Last night, just before going to bed, you and B. got into an argument. Sharp words were exchanged and you didn’t sleep well as you ruminated about how B. always insists on being right. You wake up grumpy, determined to get even. You’re going to make B. pay for being so stubborn and get B. to finally admit that you were right.

But wait! A red neon sign flashes in your mind: self care! You realize that, in fact, taking care of yourself — your long-term best interests — would be best served by dropping your plans for revenge. You realize that last night’s argument was just a replay of your unending power struggle that shows no signs of going away. So you give B. a nice smile and a bright greeting.

B. looks subdued and manages to tentatively smile back. You continue a cheerful chatter and life returns to a more loving rhythm and mutual support. Even though B. may not show it in that moment, B. appreciates your effort and, you hope, will manage to show it later in some way. What really matters is that you are exercising your Self Care by taking care of your own emotional needs.

The other two words of advice also fit in here. These are: “Let go.” You let go of your resentments and perceptions of injustice. Proving yourself right is not in the long-term best interests.

In fact, ongoing research proves that letting go of resentments and taking care of your authentic emotional needs leads to improved physical health by minimizing hostility. It reduces internal stress which increases blood pressure. Ultimately, self care and letting go can save your life.

There are so many issues that we all hang onto that act like rotting flotsam, contaminating and holding back the natural, healthy flow of life.

The simplest test of self care and letting go is asking the question: “Would I be happier if I didn’t hold on to this?” You’d be amazed at how many times you can let something go and do nothing in response. However, doing nothing is not easy. Letting go can be far more difficult that reacting angrily. Watching quietly in silence (while breathing deeply) is often the best way to take care of your emotional health in a practical, tangible way.

Next time you’re caught in the usual argument, the typical power struggle, try letting go and moving on. You’ll be amazed at how your emotional health will improve.

Happy Healthy New Year!

Carl Alasko, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is the author of “Emotional BS” and “Beyond Blame.” For information about his books, see: Contact him at

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