What Healthy Relationships Actually Look Like

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Today there is a great amount of talk about what makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy and that some relationships are emotionally, sexually, or physically abusive. It’s great that awareness is spreading about these types of relationship because it helps people identify situations they may need to leave, however it is less prominent to hear about what a healthy relationship looks like and how to build one. Here are a few guidelines about what good relationship health looks like:


Nearly everyone agrees that effective communication is essential for building a healthy relationship, but what does this really involve? Communication can be both verbal and non-verbal--both are very important and speak volumes about a relationship’s health. When good communication is happening, both people feel heard, safe, supported, accepted, and loved. This does not mean partners need to agree on everything (quite the contrary—disagreements are actually an essential part of healthy relationships), but when couples are communicating effectively, they aren’t creating an environment of judgment, criticism, or condescension.

Observe How You Feel

Too often people get out of a relationship, look back and realize they knew all along it was not a good fit. They identify that they never felt comfortable to be themselves around their partner, didn’t actually enjoy spending time together, or felt that person truly understood them. When getting into any new relationship (or while in an established one), take a moment to observe how you feel in it and with that person. Do you feel happy when you’re with them much of the time? Do you understand each other’s sense of humor? Do you feel like you can be your honest self with them? Even if your relationship is not toxic or abusive, if you answered no to most of these questions, it just may not be the best fit and that’s okay.

Separate but Similar

Think of two people in a relationship like two great foods that taste even better together, such as pie and ice cream. On their own, pie and ice cream are tasty desserts but when you bring them together, it’s a special event and downright delicious. They complement each other and lift each other up. Two people in a healthy romantic relationship are very similar. Each person can have their own identity and be supported and lifted up by the other partner’s identity. When looking for a partner, it can be important to find someone you’re not only physically attracted to but who shares similar life values as you. This means doing life with each other and not necessarily for each other. Supporting each other and loving each other while being your own unique selves.

Trust and Respect

Building trust in a relationship means both partners being dependable, reliable, and honest. Trust is more than just not cheating on your partner with another person, but it’s about knowing your partner will share their opinions and thoughts honestly and will follow through on promises made. One of the fastest ways to erode trust is when partners begin to belittle each other or view each other with contempt. Treating each other with respect, equality, and dignity is essential to developing and maintaining trust within a relationship.

Showing Appreciation

It sounds small, but frequently expressing appreciation to your partner for who they are and what they do helps them feel valued and loved. Appreciation can be communicated in many ways, including saying “thank you”, giving physical affection, or even giving small gifts. It’s important to find the ways your partner feels most appreciated, as this can vary by person. As time goes by and a relationship becomes more established, frequent expressions of gratitude are more and more necessary. It’s all too easy to get stuck in routines and forget to thank your partner for being their wonderful selves and for doing the little things.

The bottom line is that even though relationships can be challenging at times and do take effort and work from both partners, a healthy relationship should enrich your life a majority of the time. Feeling heard, respected, and valued for who you are are vital characteristics to look for in any intimate relationship or even friendships.

Sleep Hygiene: What it is and How to Start a Healthy Practice

Sleep is an important part of maintaining your mental and physical health, though many people struggle to get a restful night’s sleep.


Surprisingly, sleep hygiene isn’t about cleanliness. Sleep Hygiene is about habits and practices you maintain around your bedtime routine and night of sleep. Though many of us are very familiar with how a full night of rest can make us feel more energetic during the day, healthier, and generally in a better mood, often our routines around bedtime can become counterproductive to getting good quality sleep. So what can we do to change our nightly routine to get the best from our rest?

Start a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

A regular routine becomes a signal to your body that it’s time to go to sleep. Your nightly routine could include a warm bath or shower, reading a book, gentle stretching or yoga, or meditation. Just be sure it’s something that’s soothing, relaxing, and doesn’t involve a screen (TV or phone time). Establishing a regular bedtime and wake time (yes, even on weekends) can help immensely with troubled sleeping

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Discomfort can often be the cause of disturbed sleep. Keep your bedroom cool, avoid having phone and TV screens on or around, keep the room as dark as you can with curtains or blinds (use an eye mask if needed), and consider using white noise machines (these can be very affordable!) if quiet is hard to come by in your area.

Avoid TV or Reading in Bed

When you watch TV or read in bed, your body begins to associate the bed with wakefulness and it will be more challenging to fall asleep. Limit your activities in bed to sleep and intimacy.

Refrain from Napping

According to the American Sleep Association, naps can decrease our “sleep debt” that is needed when it’s time to fall asleep, which can lead to difficulty going to sleep, insomnia, and sleep deprivation. If you must nap, keep it to 30 minutes or less!

Be Careful with Caffeine (and other substances)

The effects of caffeine in coffee, tea, sodas, and energy drinks can last hours after ingestion and interfere with sleep. Keep consumption of caffeine to before noon. Nicotine from cigarettes and alcohol can also contribute to broken, fragmented sleep.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise helps us sleep continuously without waking for that satisfying, restful sleep. Exercise earlier in the day is most ideal when it comes to improving sleep hygiene.

If you don’t think you can incorporate each recommendation into your life, that’s okay. Make the changes that seem possible for your life and pay attention to any improvements in your sleep and level of rest you feel as a result!

The Truth about Emotional Support Animals


Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are becoming increasingly more common, but a lot of people still seem to be unsure about what they are, how and if they differ from Service Animals, and the benefits they bring to their owners. So let’s clear some of this up!


An Emotional Support Animal provides a therapeutic benefit to individuals with emotional or psychological “disabilities”. This can include people diagnosed with depressive disorders, anxiety or panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more by a licensed mental health provider.

This means you’re looking for a counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist with some of these letters after their names:

  • LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor)
  • LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor)
  • LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
  • LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)
  • PsyD (Doctorate of Psychology)
  • PhD (Doctorate degree in psychology or other related field)
  • MD (Doctor of Medicine, specializing in psychiatry)


How Are ESAs Different From Service Animals?

Here are some of the differences between ESAs and Service Animals:

    ADA Approved Service Animals

    • As of 2011 only dogs are recognized as Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)       **Separate ADA regulations exist for miniature horses as service animals.
    • Individually trained (not necessarily professionally) to perform tasks for people with disabilities. These tasks are directly related to the person's disability
    • Protected by ADA, FHAA, and the ACAA
    • Are allowed access to apartments, airplanes, AND public spaces, such as restaurants, movie theaters, and stores where other animals are not usually permitted, as long as it doesn't pose a direct threat to public health & safety.

    Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

    • No specific species: ESAs can be a cat, dog, or other species of animal
    • Not specifically trained to perform certain tasks
    • Protected by the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
    • Allowed access only to apartments (even those with no-pet or breed/weigh discriminatory policies) and on airplanes with necessary documentation





    Here are some similarities of ESAs and Service Animals

    • Not required to wear a vest or other identifying accessories
    • Must be able to behave appropriately in public
    • Can be any breed of dog (remember Service Animals are just dogs, ESAs can be other species)

    One of the biggest differences between what qualifies as an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal is how they are trained. If an animal is specifically trained to sense a panic or anxiety attack and take action to avoid or de-escalate it, then that animal would qualify under the ADA as a Service Animal. This is because the animal is trained to perform a task (stop or decrease intensity of the oncoming anxiety or panic attack) that is directly related to the disability (anxiety or panic disorder, in this case).


    What Benefits Do ESAs Provide?

    ESAs can simply be an animal companion to their human with an emotional or psychological disability. The ESA’s presence provides the owner with emotional support, which helps them function more effectively in their homes and while traveling.

    Additionally, ESAs can be used in Animal Assisted Therapy or as part of other psychotherapeutic or medical treatments.


    ESAs & Housing

    • A housing provider’s “no-pet policy” does not apply to ESAs.
    • Other animals in the residence who are not designated ESAs are subject to this kind of policy.
    • Breed and/or weight discriminatory policies do not apply to an ESA.
    • Pet deposits and fees required by a housing provider do not apply to ESAs.
    • Waiving policies, fees, and deposits for an ESA is considered a reasonable accommodation and requires documentation from one of those professionals mentioned earlier.
    • The housing provider CANNOT ask for details about your disability, only that one exists for you and the animal provides emotional support
    • You can still be charged fees for any damage caused by the animal
    • If your animal is not housebroken or is not behaving appropriately in common areas, you can be asked to find more private routes in and out of your building
    • Allergies are not a reason for a “reasonable request for accommodation” to be denied. For cases of other residents with severe allergies, housing providers will work to limit interaction between the person with a severe allergy and the person with an ESA.

    ESAs & Air Carriers

    • An airline’s size or breed restrictions for pets do not apply to ESAs UNLESS they are too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin according to animal health and safety regulations.
    • Airlines are not required to permit snakes, rodents, spiders, reptiles, or ferrets.
    • Airlines can require specific documentation (dated within 1 year) and/or 48 hours notice for ESAs
    • Keep in mind, the protections from the ACAA only apply to U.S. airlines. Foreign airlines do not have to comply with the ACAA and may have different laws or regulations.


    How Can My Animal Become an ESA?

    Despite many sites popping up claiming to help you “register” your animal as an ESA, there is no official registry for this. Beware of these kinds of sites.

    If you believe you believe symptoms you’re experiencing align with a psychological or emotional disorder and want your pet as an ESA:

    • Find a licensed therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist qualified to make that kind of diagnosis and provide the help you need
    • Look for someone experienced in documentation for ESAs
    • After establishing the therapeutic relationship and determining your symptoms do align with a psychological disorder, ask your provider for documentation for your housing provider or airline to request a reasonable accommodation from them.


    If you are not flying with your animal and do not have extra fees or limitations related to having your animal in your residence, it is unlikely you will need any documentation and can continue receiving the emotional support you receive from your animal!