Category: Anxiety & Stress Management

Posts that help you take charge of your body and your thoughts and deal with your anxiety more effectively.

Knowing You are Good “Enough”

blue star backdropIn this day of fitting in one more thing, or “reaching for the stars” it can be difficult to see what we are actually doing. It can seem like no matter how much we run from one work task, child’s activity, volunteer task, paperwork, financial document, or exercise class, the only feeling that we feel is run ragged. At the end of the day, all we check off in our heads are the to-do checkmarks left undone and the tasks that didn’t make it on the list at all. Even when we feel like we have had a “busy day,” we can feel unaccomplished and unworthy. The measuring stick of accomplishment can seem like it constantly is moving. All of us in this society of perpetual bootstrap-upping are asked to be masters of their own homes, successful in their careers, genuine spouses and expert parents, financial gurus, accomplished socialites, and oh wait, have the lean body of Gillian Anderson? All of that, while also accomplishing the basics (which often go by the wayside) of feeding, watering, and resting ourselves. It is even a wonder with those expectations that we don’t show up forgetting to put our pants on in the morning. Have we even counted up the hours necessary for that cacophony of expectations? My gracious. No matter how much Steven-Coveying we do in planning sometimes it feels like we are still going to end up in the negative. All of this with most of us working a US average of 47 hours a week and spending more time with our kids than any time in US History (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/19/AR2007031901972.html). We continue to raise the bar on what it means to be “an adult” in America while constantly feeling like we are failing.

A good friend, who is a wonderful mother, and the organization guru that I only aspire to in my wildest imagination, said to me this week how she went to the gym with her four children, did a class, and had her children participate in a class. All had a wonderful time and she had a feeling of pride at this new accomplishment. However, the enthusiasm was dampened when she met another woman who also had four children, all approximately 6 months older than hers, but she told me that they all seemed to do things a bit “better.” Coordinated exercise outfits, organic snack in between activities, etc. etc. and they had been to the gym four times that week. All my friend could think of (and frankly, myself too!) was “HOW DID SHE DO THAT?” She did everything that I did….but better??? My friend’s excitement at having made it to the gym with all of her kids withered and it bothered her, because all she could see was the image in front of her, and like a cruel mirror it said, “Haha. Nice Try.”

Why did her image of her accomplishment change? Why does all of our moments of accomplishment change, that alters that sense that we “are enough.” Many times it is the moments where we look around and see what we perceive to be each other’s “baseline of operation” and judge ourselves for not cutting it. We concentrate on the magic trick in front of us, not knowing the circumstances from where this comparative image comes from and forget to see what we are doing day by day in creating the life we have. From an evolution stanpoint, I suppose this makes sense, in a rather “survival of the fittest sense.” We want better for the next generation. And I think that sometimes this translates to what we perceive as “the next generation” of ourselves? Like New Year’s Resolutions, we try and imagine the next “version” of ourselves. Not all of us have children, but each day we have the opportunity to make ourselves better, a rebirth. Does it truly make us better? How is that even defined?

The author Don Miguel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements” offers us this: he states that one of the four basic rules of living is to “Do Our Best”—nothing more and nothing less. Only our best. Ruiz states that we can only do our best and that our best is customized and personalized only to…you guessed it, ourselves. He states “Our best will change from moment to moment, will be different when we are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.” One of our greatest mistakes is comparing our best to someone else’s best, without truly knowing all of the circumstances surrounding the person we are comparing ourselves. Yes, they may have done the seemingly impossible—successfully wrangled four polite children in coordinating outfits to the gym four days a week—but we don’t know who may have helped her at home with that, what some of the other areas of her life looked like, if her house is as messy as mine….who knows….and frankly, should we care enough to compare? Does it serve us to care or compare, or does it make us simply feel bad about ourselves and our contributions? We cannot possibly have the energy and focus to “be the best” in all areas of life, and even if that were the case, what best would we be comparing ourselves? Ruiz states “always do your best” not “always do the best,” which is a gigantic difference in perspective. It is the difference between feeling like you have done enough, and that you accomplished something, and the feeling like you are always coming up short. Do we do our best when we feel like we are always coming up short or does it deplete us? Give yourself the gift of feeling like you are enough by acknowledging your accomplishments, and see how you feel. It may “the best” thing you do for yourself all day. 

Activity: As it is the beginning of the month, look back on February and think of all of the things great and small that you accomplished. Did you finish a proposal or paper? Were you friendly to someone when you didn’t exactly feel like it? Did you exercise (even once!)? Did you cook dinner at home for your family? Clean your house? Did you make a tough decision? Or deal with some lingering grief? Do a small home project that you had been putting off? Log more hours in at work? Did you make a therapy or doctor’s appointment that you have been putting off? Do something new or out of your comfort zone? Go out with a friend…or phone one that you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Anything counts, and should, as a good first step in recognizing what you bring to the world.

And remember, the old saying, reach for the moon because if you miss you will land among the stars is an astrological impossible quest. Stars are further than the moon, so in reaching for the moon you will just land in the earth’s deadly atmosphere. Keep it local people. Reach for being your best self….which is complicated in and of itself!!

How to Turn a Set-back into an Opportunity

catching-fire-photos-post-art-2In light of the recent release of the third installment of the Hunger Games, I can’t pass up this opportunity to write about the symbolism in the story. I have been a big fan of Katniss and the Hunger Games trilogy since reading the books several years ago. I think there are a lot of life-lessons we could all take away from the books, but I want to focus on the significance and symbolism of the arrow.

Arrows are different from other weapons/projectiles. There are more independent and flexible and their operation is unique. In order for an arrow to move forward and be effective it has to be pulled back. And not just pulled back, but pulled with great force and tension. When the tension is strong enough the arrow will fly forward and will go much farther than it possibly could if it had been thrown forward. So what makes it go farther and stronger? It is a combination of pulling back and tension or pressure.

Life does that to us too, it pulls us back and there seems to be a mountain of pressure ready to dump on us an any given moment. The pulling, we know that as a set-back. When was the last time you experienced a set-back? Did it feel like everything you have been working for was just beyond your reach? That you were actually moving farther away from your goal than you started? That can create its own kind of pressure but sometimes there are external pressures to add to the pile.

Those moments when it feels like there is a set back or when there is too much pressure and to goal is further than where you started, those are the moments when being goal-oriented is crucial. When there is a focus, a direction, there is still a target. That makes it impossible for you to stay in your set back forever. You have to move out of it and when you do you will move towards your goal. But that only happens when there is a release of pressure. That release can come from you – you can take control of the situation and let go of the pressures that don’t serve you, the pressures that hold you back. Sometimes we have to patiently wait and let others release the pressure, keeping your focus until that moment will still allow you to move forward to where you want to be.

You are the arrow and life is the bow, and you are the one who gets to pick the direction. You have the power to turn set-backs and what seems like overwhelming pressure into an opportunity to fly forward. Turn your stress into good stress and launch yourself forward!

 

When have you been an arrow? What happened as a result? 1

Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

The Power of Meditation

In our fast-paced, frantic world it seems like the thing we want most is to be able to just sit and relax! And then we get the opportunity to do just that . . . woman-computer-phone-internetand then the TV goes on . . . and the smart phone . . . and the tablet – and before you know it there you are surrounded by technology and providing your brain with no less than 4 separate tasks. Does that sound relaxing? At all?

Meditation is pretty much the exact opposite of that. It is an opportunity to be mindful and completely present, an opportunity to take control of your thoughts and not let them kidnap you and run away with you. There is an abundance of research on how helpful mediation is in calming anxiety, stress, and general unhappiness. It has incredible short and long-term benefits. It is free and takes no more than 20 minutes a day. So why aren’t we doing it?

It is so hard to slow down and to give yourself the luxury of doing nothing but sitting and being present. Do you even know how to do that? It certainly isn’t intuitive, you have to learn how to do it and work on being present and still. Meditation is an act of cultivating stillness and silence. Those are two things that society tells us is bad, that to be happy we need to be seeking the next best thing and to be doing something fun and enjoyable. If that were actually true wouldn’t the search for happiness be over?

Something must be off, so let’s try something different and look inward for sustainable happiness. Something that doesn’t fade and doesn’t have conditions on sticking around.

How do you meditate?

Meditation Postures 008This is a very simple question, simple process, but with difficult follow-through. In order to meditate you sit in a quiet place in a comfortable position, generally on a chair (not a lazy-boy), and close your eyes. Then focus on your breath, breathing in and out being mindful of you body, remaining still and silent. You’ll have a lot of thoughts come zipping through your mind “Did I pay the water bill?” or “I want ice cream” or “This is boring.” Just let them pass and fade away and remain still and silent, focusing on your breath.

So easy, right? After you sit for 20 min, let me know how easy it was to stay focused on your breath! It is challenging but the cultivation, the continuous process of bringing your attention back to your breath and the here and now, that is the mediation. That is what will lower your stress and anxiety. The decision to respond to life’s challenges in a mindful and intentional way is how you can stop stress from controlling your life and stop anxiety from creeping in when you least expect it.

A good introduction to mediation is to practice mindfulness, I have posted about mindfulness in daily life and mindfulness for stress relief, but there are also great resources out about mindfulness meditation that are a great addition to your personal library. 1

Have you ever tried to meditate? What was it like for you?

Notes:

  1. Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Gift from the Sea: by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Picture1Recently, a surprise came to me in the mail, unmarked, but a completely perfect gift.  I later found out that my sister had sent me the book “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a book that she had mysteriously found while vacationing at my grandmother’s home.  It had been my mothers and had filtered through 3 generations.  This book is timeless in how it captures the common struggle of finding time to live, to pursue, to raise children, to work, to struggle, to find purpose and meaning, and to not go completely insane in the process.  It is also, I was surprised to find out, written by the wife of Charles Lindbergh, not only the wife of an adventurous aviator, but also the courageous woman who went through the terrible uncertainty and loss of having her first child kidnapped and found out later, killed.  I was also surprised to find out that included in their history were five other children, an escape to Europe for safety and privacy life that was interrupted by war, and a return to the states where she and her husband lived by the ocean with their children and wrote.  Her pursuit for peace amongst so much chaos and tragedy is inspiring, especially when life can feel so uncertain.  I think that in grief, whether that is of a loved one, a broken relationship, or of a lost dream, most all of us know that there is a good deal of looking back, but that also included in grief is a look forward, of what we might be seeking once we come out of the clouds of grief.  For the Lindberghs, without knowing them personally, it seems like from their story they went to the ends of the earth in search of peace, and by finding that peace they also found wisdom.  Here is a small excerpt from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s learned wisdom:

“Vague as this definition may be, I believe most people are aware of periods in their lives when they seem to be “in grace” and other periods when they feel “out of grace,” even though they may use different words to describe these states.  In the first happy condition, one seems to carry all one’s tasks before one lightly, as if borne along on a great tide, and in the opposite state one can hardly tie a shoe-string.  It is true that a large part of life consists in learning a technique of tying the shoe-string, whether one is in grace or not.  But there are techniques of living too, there are even techniques in the search for grace.  And techniques can be cultivated I have learned by some experience, by many examples, and by the writings of countless others before me, also occupied in the search, that certain environments, certain modes of life, certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others.  There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow.  Simplification of life is one of them.

I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily–like a hermit crab.  But I do not.  I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity.  My husband and five children must make their way in the world.  The life I have chosen as wife and mother entails a whole caravan of complications.  I involves a house in the suburbs and either household drudgery or household help which wavers between scarcity and non-existence for most of us.  It involves food and shelter, meals, planning, marketing, bills, and making the ends meet in a thousand ways. It involves not only the butcher, the baker, the candlestickmaker, but countless other experts to keep my modern house with its modern “simplifications” (electricity, plumbing, refrigerator, gas-stove, oil-burner, dish-washer, radios, car and numerous other labor-saving devices) functioning properly.  It involves health, doctors, dentists, appointments, medicine, cod-liver oil, vitamins, trips to the drugstore. It involves education, spiritual, intellectual, physical; schools, school conferences, car-pools, extra trips for basketball or orchestra practice; tutoring; camps, camp equipment and transportation.  It involves clothes, shopping, laundry, cleaning, mending, letting skirts down and sewing buttons on, or finding someone else to do it.  It involves friends, my husband’s my children’s, my own, and endless arrangements to get together, letters, invitations, telephone calls and transportation hither and yon.

For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals and so on.  My mind reels with it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives.  It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!

This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of.  It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul.  And this is not only true of my life, I am forced to conclude, it is the life of millions of women in America. I stress America because today, the American woman more than any other has the privilege of choosing such a life.  Woman in large parts of the civilized world has been forced back by war, by poverty, by collapse, but by sheer struggle to survive, into a smaller circle of immediate time and space, immediate family life, immediate problems of existence.  The American woman is still relatively free to choose the wider life. How long she will hold this enviable and precarious position no one knows.  But her particular situation has a significance far above its apparent economic, national or even sex limitations.

For the problem of the multiplicity of life not only confronts the American woman, but also the American man. And it not merely the concern of the American as such, but of our whole modern civilization, since life in America today is held up as the ideal of a large part of the rest of the world (22).

…(29) Simplification of outward life is not enough. It is merely the outside. But I am starting with the outside. I am looking at the outside of a shell, the outside of my life–the shell. The complete answer is not to be found on the outside in an outward mode of living. This is only a technique, a road to grace. The final answer, I know, is always inside.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh: A Gift From the Sea, Written in 1955,  p. 18-22 & p.29

Cookies Make You Feel Better . . . But Only for A Little While

You just reached for a cookie. Did you know I can tell you are probably Cookie_Jar_350stressed right now? I know that lunch was an hour ago and you aren’t hungry, but you still reached for your sweet, salty, or fatty snack. You aren’t hungry but you are stressed!

Why do we do that? For me it is cookies, but for you it could be Doritos, cheese-its, ice cream, a snickers bar – what ever it is your snack makes you feel a little bit better. Maybe this is a nervous habit for you and you don’t even realize what you are doing. Well, good afternoon, its time to wake up my friend and do something different. Before we can change what we are doing now, lets look at why we reach for unhealthy snacks.

When you are stressed your body isn’t able to use the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is important for a lot of reasons because of the processes it helps your body perform, things like:

  • Making you feel happy
  • Improving your decision making skills
  • Regulating your sleep cycle
  • Increasing your tolerance for delayed gratification

So when you are stressed and your serotonin doesn’t work properly this is what happens:

  • You feel sad
  • You are a poor planner
  • You have poor impulse control

Serotonin can be replaced by eating food. By eating things that are high in sugar, carbs, and fat we can spike our serotonin and you will feel better. But food doesn’t stay in the body forever, its got to come out and when it does your mood plummets to where it was before and you feel awful again.

When we eat unhealthy snacks we are actually self-medicating. We send our bodies on a roller coaster ride to make up for the low serotonin by eating bad food all because we are stressed out and can’t manage our emotions on our own. When this is your reality you are also a poor planner and you have poor impulse control – you don’t want to think about what to do to address the stressor, you just want a cookie!

There are ways we can replace those unhealthy foods so we aren’t adding pounds along with our high stress but there are also ways to address the root of the problem – your stress level! When you decrease the stress you won’t feel the need to self-medicate.

Here are three easy ways to decrease your stress:

  1. Make a list of what you need to accomplish, then work your way through the list. When something starts to worry you take comfort in knowing that you will get to it because you already have it on your to-do list.
  2. Acknowledge if something is out of your control. So often we worry about things we can’t do anything about. Figure out who can influence that worry and let them worry about it.
  3. Do something that relaxes you. If you are at work it may help to have an inspirational book or devotional to read when you feel overwhelmed, if you are at home maybe you need to sit in your favorite spot with a hot cup of tea. Deep breathing is always a sure-fire way to relax your mind and body.

Next time you reach for that cookie (Dorito, snickers, ice cream, etc.) catch yourself and tackle the root of the problem instead of self-medicating. When you decrease your stress you won’t need to replace your serotonin, your body will do that for you!1

Notes:

  1.  Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Taking the Guesswork Out of Goal Setting

goal-settingWe all have things we want to be able to do in our lives, and sometimes we end up getting to where we want to go. If we work hard, have a direction and remain focused things generally work out the way we had hoped. But not everyone is organized and focused, not everyone is able to maintain drive to get to where they really want to go. If you are that person sometimes things can seem overwhelming and you seem to constantly get distracted by life that your goals never seem to get any closer.

What if you created a road map for yourself? Took the difficulty of focusing right out and just followed the steps laid out for you? The good news is that this is actually pretty easy, but it does take some insight and some ability to look ahead. And then you will need to stay committed to it too; you need to follow your map. But here is how to make one.

  1. List what your goal is and when you would like to achieve it by. Be specific about this, if your goal is to worry less say something like: I will be ok with last minute changes to plans by the end of May 2014.
  2. Outline what qualities or skills you need to develop to make that a reality. If your goal is more task oriented, outline what steps you need to take to get things done. Following the example, you might need to develop flexibility, better communication regarding spontaneous changes, and better relaxation techniques.
  3. Write yourself a recipe for success. Give yourself deadlines when you would like to have developed your skills or complete your tasks by. When you pace yourself and are constantly checking in about when things should be moving along, a big goal seems so much more manageable.  You may want to have 2-3 great ways to relax by the end of January, be comfortable and effective in telling others that you are stressed or anxious by mid March, and be more flexible by May.
  4. Share your goal-map with someone who can keep you on track. This is like a workout buddy or an accountability partner. This should be someone you can count on and someone who is invested in your success! Find a time to check in every week or two weeks so they can give you encouragement and help you meet your goal.

By following this process you are taking the fuzzy edges around the things you know that you want for you life at some point in the future, and you are trimming them away, defining things and framing a new lifestyle for yourself.  When you start your outline process you will see how much more you can achieve and how doable your goals really are.1

Notes:

  1.  Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Out with the Old, In with the New

It is amazing what we can learn about life by listening to our bodies. I have been working on breathing a lot lately, especially when it comes to helping people deal with issues around anxiety and stress. When we get really worked up and our worry, our anxiety, starts to run the show then deep-breathwe don’t allow our body to fully exhale. The body hyperventilates and the breath is shallow. When that happens the inhale becomes rapid and short and the body doesn’t take in the oxygen it needs.

All of that is to say that when we breathe the way our bodies naturally breathe best (the kind of breath that occurs in deep, restful sleep) we are exhaling fully, emptying all of the air and breathing deeply to fill the lungs with fresh oxygen. When we take in that fresh oxygen we are giving our body another opportunity to sustain life, another opportunity to move forward. The complete exhale makes room for that deep inhale, that full opportunity, to happen.

What would it be like to draw a parallel between our breath and the way we look at life?

When we exhale fully we are letting go, shedding the air that no longer serves us, the air that has completed its task. When we let go we are freeing ourselves up for new and full opportunities. Sometimes it is difficult to do that, scary even. What if we aren’t able to take in enough air? What if we start to feel lightheaded and uncomfortable? There is something about holding onto the air we already have (as used as it may be) that is comforting. We want to hold onto it because it is familiar and it gives us the illusion of fullness.

If we don’t let go off that used, hot air, then we can’t fully take in the new, fresh air around us. Just the same, when we don’t let go of the things that no longer serve us, the stuff that is used, we aren’t able to fully pull in the opportunity to start again. To breathe in fully is the same as moving forward to new opportunities in our lives where we can be refreshed and fulfilled. By keeping old air in that space is to deny ourselves of the full opportunity to move forward.

Where in your life are you holding onto old, hot air that has already served its function? Are you wanting to feel better about your work performance but can’t let go of the comfort of letting others take the lead? Are you wanting to take your relationships to a new level but are hesitant to move forward? Are you wanting to start a healthier lifestyle but find that letting go of certain creature comforts is overwhelming?

For every space in your life where you feel afraid to fully let go of the old things that no longer serve you, consider what you have to gain by exhaling fully and inhaling the new possibilities. Is it worth the temporary discomfort to potentially move yourself to a new, fresh place? A place you have been wanting to go but have been hesitant to go there?1

Notes:

  1.  Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Finding Your Own Version of Normal

The more I spend time with other people, watching family interactions, or watching movies, I find that we all have our own definition of normal.

Family #1
where-credit-is-dueThis family knows that things are right on track when the oldest two kids are fighting with each other, the babies are crawling all over Mom and Dad hollers from the couch for everyone to settle down. The house is a general wreck because the baby’s toys are everywhere and Mom can never seem to get the kitchen fully in order. Dad has a “man cave” and when he gets home he retreats there for 20 min to pull himself together for the tornado that is home. Regardless of the chaos, you can feel the love (maybe not between the older two) and there is a lot of support for each other.

Family #2
family-room-lWhen you walk into their house everything is spotless, the house is well maintained and everything, while not new, is in its place. The children pick at each other when the adults aren’t around and make faces when Mom or Dad is in the room.  Mom and Dad never yell, they have a look that the kids know means trouble. It is quiet and orderly and instead of bear hugs and sloppy kisses, the children get a pat on the back and a soft kiss on the cheek. There is little to no physical contact but everyone still orients toward each other and there is a sense of safety.

Family 1 and 2 could not be more different, but neither way of interacting is wrong or better than the other. Each of our families have their own version of what normal is. We as individuals also have our own version of normal. Maybe you know your anxiety is normal when you have acid reflux as a symptom but when you start to feel tense in your chest and shoulders you know this is something serious.

By understanding what our usual is we are better able to notice when we have drifted off course and we are more likely to know what to do to fix it.

Where do things get weird for you? Is it in your family interactions? In you own stress levels? Is it your self-esteem?

Identify what the problem is likely to be. Then outline what your normal response is, the one that lets you know that this is your usual and you can handle it. Finally take note of whether or not you are drifting off course or if you are on target, if you are drifting see what needs to happen to bring yourself back to your version of normal.1

Notes:

  1.  Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Love Your Holiday: Prepare, Don’t Anticipate

Anticipation. This is the time of year for it. We are all excited for what is coming, we are adjusting our efforts and schedules to get things done so we can enjoy the payoff of the holidays. It is supposed to be fun and joyful – but is that what really happens? My guess is probably not. I highly doubt everything goes according to plan and that all of the stress ends up being worth it come January. You are left being stressed, broke, and maybe a bit disappointed. With all that anticipation, why didn’t things pan out the way you had hoped? What stopped your days from being merry and bright?

I think the A in Anxiety stands for anticipation. Anticipation is the feeling of strained excitement (can be negative or positive) that builds before an expected event or situation. When we set ourselves up to anticipate an event that we expect will be positive we are dropped to an all time low when it doesn’t met the Everest we were hoping for. On the other hand when we anticipate things will be stressful or bad (in-laws anyone?) we find that our anticipation is confirmed with a strained and stressful interaction.

If anticipation usually leads to a bad outcome with you feeling let down then how do we deal with that? How do we stop anticipating? The simple answer is “you don’t.” We are biologically wired to anticipate. There is something evolutionary in our make-up that helped us survive by anticipating so we were ready to protect ourselves, to seize opportunities, to act when called upon. So I hope that makes you feel a little bit better – we all do this.

The people who are successful at not letting their anticipation lead their experience have mastered to art of realistic thinking and maintaining a calm mind. So if you don’t want your anticipation leaving you feeling like you missed out on something, check in with the reality of the situation. What are the facts going into this event? What do you KNOW? When you have that sorted out, what are the likely outcomes based on history and your personal experience? Just try to take the rosy picture you have painted and stick it under some light. Examine the parts that may be a bit too rosy, too optimistic and make them more realistic.

Once you have your realistic picture, when you know what you are walking into, then trust yourself to handle it. Take peace in knowing that you are the best person to have in this situation and that you have done your homework on this. You’ve got this! Maybe it would be a more reassuring to see where you have more control for if things get hairy or uncomfortable. Do you need to drive separately so you can leave if you want? Maybe taking 15 min to make a phone call or check something would be just enough time to collect yourself.

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy where we can spend time with those we love. That always comes with its own bells and whistles, but when we prepare ourselves for the season’s events instead of anticipating them we can actually enjoy them like we want to.1

Notes:

  1.  Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953

Mastering Hard Conversations (Instead of Running from Hard Truths)

I hate having tough conversations. I will avoid a person for hours until I am able to figure out how to bring up a new subject or distract them (or mostly myself) from whatever the issue was. We have to have hard conversations all the time and with people that are important. It wouldn’t be a hard conversation if you just had to tell some stranger that they were a jerk. No, hard conversations are hard because they matter. They matter to us and they can cart the course of a relationship depending on how successful or royally awful they are in the end.

conversation

Hard conversations mark turning points in our lives. This is the difference between being a mom and her little girl and being a mother and adult daughter. Two friends go into a hard conversation and come out as bros, or feeling like sisters, the friendship is now lasting and more important to both people. A couple goes into a hard conversation and they come out stronger than ever.

A hard conversation means that growth and change is happening and those things are never comfortable. The way we feel going into these moments can be agonizing. The anxiety that builds up in your body makes you feel sick, your stomach flips, you get a headache, you keep clenching your fists, you clench your jaw, you can’t see straight. The anxiety builds until you either break down and talk about what’s bothering you, or you talk yourself out of it.

We already know what happens when you have the courage to say what needs to be said. But when you don’t, when you decide that you would rather avoid the point all together then things can get ugly. Avoidance sends a message to yourself that your feelings are not important enough to do something about. You are writing yourself off and your self worth takes a hit because of that. Avoidance also doesn’t take care of the issue, whether we pin it on ourselves for being out of line or upset without a good reason does not matter. We are still left with a pile of tension in the room and someone is going to have to wade though that sooner or later.

Obviously the best course is to build our courage to talk about what is bothering us.  And that is hard. I literally walked in and out of a room 3 times before I could talk to my mom about something that had been bothering me for years. Whatever you need to do before talking it out. Power pose maybe? But at any rate, how do you have these conversations well?

Give yourself some space and think about what you are really upset about.
You are not really mad that Joe didn’t do the dishes last night, you are mad because you feel like he doesn’t value your time.

Outline what your feelings really are and identify their trigger.
The trigger was not doing the dishes and while you still want them to get done that is not the real problem. Your feelings of being invalidated are the real problem and dirty dishes are a raw spot for that vulnerable feeling.

Use “I” statements to explain your feelings.
Finger pointing and emotional hurricanes accomplish nothing. They feel good for about 2 min and then you feel terrible. Use the template at the end of the post to tell the other person how you feel, when you feel that way, and why you felt that way.

Give them some space to process what you said.
Often when we talk about what we are really feeling, not the obvious “I am pissed because you left the dishes dirty. Again,” but the more subtle and honest, “I feel like my time isn’t important to you,” the other person has no idea they have hurt us. They know we are mad or that we are acting “weird” but they don’t know the depth of our pain. Give them time to let that sink in and space to ask for clarification. The people that mean the most to use don’t want us to feel hurt.

Follow those steps and that will get you started with the tough conversation. After that it is all up to you. You got this! After the ball gets rolling, things usually take care of themselves and words flow like the need to flow.1

 

“I feel ________________, when you __________________, because _____________________.”

Ex: “I feel angry when you don’t do the dishes at the end of the day because it seems to me that the time I spend working isn’t worthwhile enough and that I must also do the dishes to contribute to the family.”

Notes:

  1.  Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953