How Your Attachment Style Can Impact Your Professional Life

By Diana Garber JD, LCSW

I am trained in attachment theory and with my clients, I often talk about different attachment styles including how they formed, what they mean and how they impact us, especially in our professional life. The New York Times (if you read this blog, you know I often link to the NYT) recently published an article that talks specifically about how these attachment styles influence our approach and our blindspots at work.

There are 4 attachment styles and the article talks about each one and gives examples of pitfalls people face. The question is once we recognize our attachment styles and how they shape our responses to others, what do we do? Attachment styles can be tweaked over time. Understanding your attachment style, allows one to form new ways to respond to others. Once we learn where our blindspots are, we can form tools to allow us to minimize the impact.


The New York Times recently wrote an article on something I see all the time in my practice.  We seem to say things to ourselves that we would never say to our worst enemy.  As a therapist,  I hear people put themselves down multiple times in the same hour.  People are so exacting with themselves that they create impossible standards.  No one can live up to such a high bar and it creates a life-long burden.  One of the life-long skills I help teach my clients is how be nice to themselves.  Learning to recognize your strengths and accomplishments is one of the nicest gifts you can give yourself.

It is Ok to Admit you Failed

Failing at work is inevitable. More importantly, it is incredibly hard admit it.  Most people feel shame, have negative thoughts and then want to leave the building and never come back. Learning to handle failure, and more importantly, owning it and showing that you can overcome failure is one of the most important skills for a young professional to learn. Many people use therapy to conquer these overwhelming feelings and learn to feel better about themselves even if things went royally wrong.


The New York Times wrote an article recently echoing this sentiment.  Check out the article here:


Why It Is Important to Mourn the Start of a New (Even Exciting) Job.

By Diana Garber


Many people are surprised to find that they feel down right before starting a new position. After spending months applying, interviewing and negotiating, I should feel excited, right?  Not necessarily.  Although there can be many positive aspects about starting at a new company, there are also many complex and conflicting emotions.  Today, we spend so much time fostering a family at work that changing jobs can also mean leaving close friends or a second family.  Many brush these feelings aside as they “don’t make sense.”

The New York Times recently reported that grief from changing jobs is a wide-spread phenomena.  The article below talks about ways to deal with these feelings and ways to stay connected to old colleagues.




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A Digital Age of Therapy: Using Tele Medicine

In November, I presented at the Annual Cystic Fibrosis Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I discussed the use of tele medicine in working with patients with chronic illness and how to best support patients in coping with an invisible disease.  Below, I have included a link to my abstract for the conference.  There is also a clip from my talk.

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An Ode To My Cellphone: How Can I Miss You If You Were Never Really Gone

By Diana Garber JD, LCSW

Cellphones!! Is it always glued to your hand? Whether you are scrolling, texting or tweeting, when you are on your phone,  you are not engaging with other people.  This month, my blog post is about the struggle I personally faced regarding leaving my phone out-of-sight. When I am at home with my family, I want to be present and yet my “to-do list” keeps my phone in my hand.  The people in my life deserve more.

Although this article focuses on the impact my phone has on my young baby, so many people face their issue.  Teenagers texting at the dinner table, friends out to dinner with their phone with their phone by their fork or couples who rarely look up during date nights— these are all examples of times people ignore the person across from them for virtual connections of others.  This blog posts talks about the importance of face-to-face interactions:

Before my baby was born, my husband and I did not really discuss parenting styles. We knew that all of our best-laid plans would be thrown out the window once we were in the thick of it. We also wanted to enjoy getting to know our daughter and not always be thinking about what we “should” do. There was one big exception which was our (mostly my) use of cellphones.  My husband was adamant that cellphones would distract us from spending time with our daughter. I told him I agreed.

Then the bullets started flying. In those early days of late night feeds, backwards circadian clocks and 3 a.m. glider parties, my cellphone became my lifeline. I was able to order food, diapers, research how much spit up is too much and update my photostream all while balancing the phone on my boppy and holding my newborn.  On many days, my phone became my only portal to the outside world. I was lucky to have friends in other cities and time zones who had infants the same age and we sent encouragements, funny pictures and emojis in the dead of the night.  Those one-handed texts from the other side of the country went along way to keeping me sane.

But still I knew my phone had to go even without my husband’s constant reminders.  As those early nights stretched into the first weeks and months, we often revisited this topic.  My husband and I would talk about being present.  Not only had my daughter begun to notice my phone, she also knew when my attention was diverted elsewhere.  Sometimes she was curious as to what I was doing and other times cried. I was convinced this was her way of getting me to put the phone down (no mommy guilt there).

As I head back to my therapy practice this month and my time with my daughter is more limited, I am revisiting the cellphone conundrum. I have so few available minutes that to have my phone at arms reach allows me to get things done. And yet, I have so few available minutes that being present for them is vital. My professional life is built on helping people learn, analyze and strengthen their bonds with those around them and so shouldn’t this be a no brainer? No bond is more important that an infant with a parent. And yet, my phone is sitting next to me as I write this (she’s napping, I promise!)

And so, what are the benefits of leaving your phone in your purse during quality family time?

Multitasking is the socially correct way of saying we aren’t 100 percent focused on what we are doing.

Being on our phones means we are half-listening to those around us. When we are half-paying attention, we often miss cues that our children need us.  In response, our kids will cry louder, bang toys harder, act out more to get our attention. In the long run, children can learn that they have to be bigger and better in order to compete with our devices for time. When we put our phones away, we are more able to be 100 percent invested in our children.  This shows our children that they are important and what they say matters, which ultimately leads to a positive self image.

Eye Contact is SO important.  

Eye contact between baby and parents is crucial from the get-go and allows us to be clued in to what our children need. When we are half-paying attention and half-texting, we can miss our children’s cues. I don’t know if any other parent has had the experience where you turn your head while still feeding your infant only to look back and see they are completely covered in milk. Although we can’t be focused all the time, having our phone out means that this situation happens more frequently.

Kids observe their parents and their behaviors constantly.  

When my neighbor’s son gets cranky, he is best soothed by looking at pics on her iPhone, similar to adults around her who need to “zone out”.  When he was two, he liked to show everyone how he could “swipe like daddy.”  When our heads are constantly looking at a screen, our children see us. These interventions work and preschoolers are incredibly computer-savvy, but are these the traits we want them to emulate?

When I was growing up, my parents did not allow a television in the kitchen.  This created an environment where we would talk to each other and we typically had lively family meals.  Smart Phone usage is the next-generation, high-tech iteration of that same principle.  In the end, we have the opportunity to cultivate an environment that doesn’t allow technology to detract from real “facetime” with our families.



How to Silence the Shoulds

By Diana Garber JD, LCSW

As a mental heath therapist, I have many clients that are pulled by obligations and cannot silence the “shoulds” in their lives.  Many report that they often feel eclipsed by expectations and never get to focus on what they want or their own needs.  In my recent article for the San Francisco Mom’s Blog, I talk about this conflict and give a few ideas on how to notice the “shoulds” and re-prioritize your to-do list.

I can be very goal-driven and often find myself ignoring my own self-care to pursue whatever my current project is. Whether that be skipping yoga, quiet mornings, or naps, I have noticed that at times I don’t build in downtime, if it comes at the expense of an assigned task, whether it’s self-imposed or something I feel obligated to complete. However, when the last paper is submitted or business development project is complete, the satisfaction I expected to feel is often mixed with frustration. Did I ignore my personal needs in order to meet others’ expectations?

As a psychotherapist, I notice that many of my clients feel conflicted with the same topic: how do I take care of myself when I feel I should be taking care of other people or other obligations? It is hard to focus on taking care of yourself when it feels at odds with propelling yourself further professionally and personally.

I know this is a topic that young professionals, married couples and especially young mothers struggle with, as I often find clients grappling with similar themes. Do I stay home from work when sick? How do I make it to a big meeting when I was up all night with my feverish child? Should I stick to dinner plans when all I want to do is eat take out and lay on the couch? How do I continue to achieve when I really feel that I am running ‘on empty’?

Often people focus on the specifics of the event in front of them — a costume needed for a child’s recital, a work trip, a commitment that was agreed to months before — without focusing on the larger pattern: taking care of myself often is the last priority on my list. However, if I could take care of myself, I would actually be much better at helping everyone else.

We are reminded every time we fly: put on our own oxygen mask before those around us. Many argue that this feels counterintuitive, but it’s not. Taking care of yourself allows you to have mental and physical energy to take care of others. The next time you find yourself faced with this conflict, here are some points to consider:

  1. Count the “shoulds.”  Try to count how often your sentences or thoughts start with “I should do” something. Many people are shocked by how often they actually are not doing what they want to be doing, but, instead, what they feel obligated to do. All of the “shoulds” take mental energy and don’t allow us to focus on ourselves or what we need.
  2. Follow the thought through. If you “should” do something, take that thought a step further.  What would happen if you didn’t? Often people say, “Well, I cannot miss that meeting.” Ask yourself, “What would really happen if I wasn’t there?” Is there a negative consequence to the “should” activity? More often than we realize, the answer is probably not. Yes, there might be some phone calls to return or meetings to reschedule. However, most of the time, there are not dire consequences to slowing down. In fact, removing the “should” might allow us to accomplish more when we return.
  3. Model the behavior you want your children to follow. When children enter the school-age years they watch their parents every move. When they assess your actions and values, they begin to set their own. If children see parents over-worked and over-stressed, they will internalize those messages and can begin to operate in similar ways. Children learn themes from their parents such as focusing on others’ needs instead of their own. As our children get older, we want them to learn to listen to their gut and not override messages of stress or fatigue because others expect them to accomplish or achieve.

A good way to build this skill is to model good boundaries related to self-care. If you are stressed and then spend the weekend fulfilling obligations for others, children can take in that message. Instead, say to your children, “This was a hard week at work. I am excited to spend the weekend recharging with you at the park. As you spend downtime together, your children will see the importance of it and how it positively benefits you (and them!).

Taking Time for Yourself

By Diana Garber JD, MSW


Taking time for yourself is often the hardest thing to do.  Often work, family and social obligations take top billing, leaving very little left for “me” time.  Although my blog post was written for a mother’s blog, this is an area that many of my clients struggle with and often falls off their radar.  Taking time for yourself and decompressing can have many physical and psychological benefits.  My latest post provides suggestions on how to build “me” time into your schedule.

Last month, most of us were repeatedly reminded to set New Year’s Resolutions—that pesky cue that we could and should be doing differently and better in 2017.  I’m here to suggest something radical.  Instead of setting a goal about improving an aspect of your already overscheduled and overworked life—don’t.  If you want to “add” something new to your life, try this.  I resolute to do less and take time for myself.

In my therapy practice, I talk to clients often about what it means to slow down—how that step would affect their home life, their professional life and themselves.  Often people report that they want to slow down but can’t see the day-to-day benefit and they have trouble letting go with so much on their to-do list.

I know that being a mother to young children is the antithesis to having time for yourself.  I know you barely have time to drink your coffee in peace, let alone shower.  When I suggest taking more time for yourself, it probably feels ludicrous and out-of-touch.  Honestly, it probably feels like one more thing you aren’t doing right.  But without inundating you with facts and research, I will say this.  Although our minds are organs, they behave like muscles and when we are constantly filling them with facts, activity and work, they become fatigued.  And when muscles become fatigued, they cannot run optimally.  As I discuss with my clients, taking time for yourself can actually allow you to get more accomplished and be more present in the long run.

So how do we find time for ourselves realistically?  Here are a few ideas below:


Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn (one of the modern thinkers of Mindfulness) as being conscious, present or aware with purpose.  Mindfulness has been shown to enhance cognitive functioning including concentration, emotional regulation and allowing one’s body to relax.  Although some people practice Mindfulness for hours a day, just a few minutes can have a powerful physical and mental impact.  I highly recommend UCLA’s MAP classes which can be completed online. They also have FREE five-minute Mindfulness exercises that can be done at work or during children’s nap time as a way to center yourself.  Or if you have a chance, read a book by Kabat-Zinn on the topic to discover more about the process and benefits.

Use your Commute

When I was in college, I overheard a friend’s father say that his commute was the best part of his day.  I did not understand.  In my early 20’s I dreaded my 3-block walk and 28-minute subway ride as it kept me from the next task or activity.  But as I’ve gotten older, his point always stuck with me.  Now, my commute is the one time each day I have very few obligations to others.  I cannot always make calls or complete tasks because I am simply not available.

As a mother, if you have a commute, this can be very beneficial.  I know that many use this time to plan their day, make a mental to-do lists or call the pediatrician.  But one day a week, don’t.  Turn up your IPOD or car radio.  Zone out.  Let your mind go blank. Don’t worry if there is traffic.  Give yourself these 45-ish minutes. The lists and problems you need to worry about will be there when you get home, I promise.  However, you might be more refreshed to deal with them if you had the opportunity to turn your mind away from everything for a little while.

Take a Deep Breath

Just like Mindfulness above, taking a deep breath has health benefits.  Focusing on your breath, allows your body to pause and refocus, stopping any racing thoughts you may have.  It also allows your heart rate to slow down.  To practice this: stop for a second, close your eyes and take a deep breath that you can feel fill up your lungs.  Count to five as you inhale.  Then exhale slowly for about five breaths.  Repeat.

Sometimes, it’s Better to NOT get Everything Done

Most parents use naptimes or post-bedtime as blocks of time to complete tasks.   Some days, however, you might feel your body pushing you to slow down and not complete another load of laundry.  Try to recognize the times you feel fatigued.  This one of the ways your body communicates to you that a break is necessary.  Now there are times you cannot always slow down because of true obligations.   However, while at times you have necessary responsibilities, there are other times it just feels like you have tasks that need to be immediately completed.   Try to learn to recognize the difference.  Then, when you notice that fatigued feeling, allow yourself to step back and turn down the speed on the daily treadmill.   Those needed breaks will allow you return to your career or your family more focused, present and refreshed than before.  


How to Fight: What Productive Disagreements Can Teach Your Child

By Diana Garber

This month I was quoted in an article on written by Rebecca Perez Lang.  The article talks about what happens when children witness their parents arguing.  I provide information about what happens when children are exposed to disagreements between their parents where there is a “rupture” and “repair” in the argument and what that could teach young kids.   I also talk about what arguments could feel unsafe for children.

You can check out the article here:

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The Other Side of the Holidays: How December can be the Loneliest Month.

By Diana Garber JD, LCSW

I recently wrote about how many people feel that December is the loneliest month.  In the post below which ran in the San Francisco Mom’s Blog, I discuss unwanted feelings that can creep up as the year ends.  I also discuss ways to manage feeling irritable and down as well as discuss ways to feel more connected to others.

You can read the blog post here: or below:


loneliness-1879453_960_720It is halfway through December and somehow, without even noticing, Christmas tunes have taken over the airwaves, presents have started to pile up underneath the tree (or menorah) and twinkling lights are never far from view. Although this is typically a magical time, many Americans actually report increased negative emotions during the holidays.  According to the American Psychology Association, 44 percent of women report feelings of sadness and 33 percent experience increased feelings of loneliness often or very often during this season.When people talk about loneliness around the holidays, young families are usually not the first group that comes to mind.  The Bay Area, however, is filled with so many transplanted parents whose extended families are thousands of miles away.  Many people are facing expensive airfare, travel limitations due to pregnancy or inability to take enough time off work to make traveling with young kids feasible.

There is also so much social pressure, especially on new mothers, to be connected, involved and joyous during the holiday season.  This is typically seen by multiple events like a preschool holiday play or cookie decorating with friends.  Combined with missing families and childhood traditions, these activities can actually have the reverse effect and lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Some might notice feeling increasingly irritable, especially as the holidays creep up.  Others might recognize feeling glum or sad for periods throughout the weeks nearing the end of the year.  If you have been noticing yourself feeling this way, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Schedule some meaningful time with someone you are close to. This can be hard during the holiday season—people are pulled in so many directions and kids require a lot of shuffling.  But, if you can, when your children go to sleep, try to schedule a long phone call with an old friend, or have a Tuesday night indoor date with your husband with spiked hot chocolate and marshmallows—something that allows you to actually feel connected to someone—instead of just being around many people all the time.
  2. Big parties and crowds aren’t always the answer.  I know this is similar to the point above, but it bears repeating.  Sometimes you can feel the most isolated surrounded by the most people.  It might be hard to skip all social obligations, but if it feels too much, it is ok to opt out of a few.  Instead, try to plan activities in smaller groups where you are more likely to experience feeling connected to one or two people.
  3. Decide if you really want to FaceTime with your family during your Big Family Holiday Party.  Camera phones can be a great way for families to connect on the holiday and actually see each other’s trees and ugly sweaters.  However, while it can feel great in the moment, often many can hang up and feel further away than before.  This is not to say don’t do it, just think about how you are going to feel after the call—maybe it would be better to catch up the day before or day after.
  4. Donate to others and bring your kids.  Giving back has been proven to increase positive feelings in those who donate.  Pick a charity or organization that you want to support.  Involve your children by taking them to a local toy store and have them pick out a present they want a child in need to enjoy.  Then, all go together to drop it off at Toys for Tots or another donation center.
  5. Try to start a new tradition with those who are local.  You might be far away from your childhood stomping ground, but that can give you the opportunity to start a new tradition.  Begin small with your family like ice skating Christmas week, trying new holiday cookie recipes. Then you can incorporate this tradition next year—wherever you get to celebrate.  One day, I promise, your children will be able to tell your grandchildren about the (new) holiday traditions they always enjoyed with their parents.