6 People-Pleasing Behaviors We All Need to Stop

people-pleaser

“You can lie down for people to walk on you and they will still complain that you’re not flat enough. Live your life.”

At some point in our lives, we have all cared what someone else thought of us or did something with the intention of making another person happy – and there is nothing wrong with that simple fact. It’s a great and even admirable thing to be caring, helpful, compassionate and thoughtful. The problem, though, is that many of us take these tendencies to the extreme, often sacrificing our own needs and values in hopes that it will provide us with some sort of external validation, acceptance or approval. However, this often results in feeling resentful, burned out, underappreciated and even taken advantage of instead. When trying to make someone else happy comes from a place of lack vs. a place of abundance, it can become unhealthy and even harmful to our mental well-being.

Here are some common people-pleasing behaviors that we all need to stop (pronto!) and some tips on how to do it:

1) Saying ‘Yes’ When We Want to Say No: While the intention here is often to be helpful, saying yes to something we don’t have the time/energy/resources for or that isn’t important to us solely because we feel like we ‘should’ or ‘have to’ only leads to resentment and burnout, which actually isn’t helpful to anyone. Over-extending ourselves and filling our plates with things that aren’t aligned with our own goals or values is communicating to ourselves and others that what we want to do is less important than what someone else wants us to do – and this actually ends up making us feel unappreciated or taken advantage of, which in turn ends up hurting our relationships. How to Stop: Before saying ‘yes’ to a commitment, ask yourself if it’s realistic to add it to your plate right now and if investing your time in this way is aligned with your priorities. If you find yourself feeling like you ‘should’ do something, this is a good indicator that it is probably not. Politely say no or decline (without a need for an apology or explanation) – or if you aren’t able to completely say ‘no’, suggest an alternative option or boundary that’s better suited for you (i.e. I can come to your event, but only for an hour).

2) Valuing Other Peoples’ Opinions More Than Our Own: Criticism and negative feedback are rarely easy to receive, but when the opinions of others become more valuable than our own, it can indicate a lack of confidence or a lack of trust in ourselves and our own judgment. While it’s important to be open to feedback from others, it’s equally important to be selective about which feedback matters. When we allow our critics’ thoughts/perspectives to get the majority of our focus and attention, we begin to second guess everything we do and essentially lose control over authentically living our lives.  People will always have varying perspectives and judgments about us and what we do, so we might as well live in a way that’s true to and supports our own beliefs and values. Opinions are subjective, so just because someone else might disagree or think what you’re doing is wrong, it doesn’t mean they’re right.  How to Stop: Make a list of the people that love and support you unconditionally, truly have your best interest at heart and that you trust to be honest with you. These are the only opinions, along with your own, that actually matter. If you receive a criticism from someone who is not on this list, assess it, but don’t let it shake or define you. 

3) Putting Others Peoples’ Needs First: Many of us, particularly those of the caretaker nature, often derive our sense of self-worth by taking care of other peoples’ needs or sacrificing our own in place of them in order to feel more worthy and lovable. However, like many of the other people-pleasing behaviors, this can lead to burnout and resentment if we realize our own needs are unmet or reciprocal efforts aren’t being made in exchange. Additionally, it can create challenging and/or co-dependent relationship dynamics with our loved ones and can lead to unrealistic expectations of us for the people in our lives. How to Stop: Be helpful. Be compassionate. Be thoughtful. Be caring. But make sure you are also constantly being all of those things to yourself. Ask yourself daily ‘What do I need in order to feel taken care of today?’ and whether it’s rest, movement, organization, clarity, connection, etc. – give yourself that before pouring into your work, family, friends or partner. You will all be better off and much more cared for as a result – and you will be setting a positive example and teaching them how to take care of themselves, too. 

4) Avoiding Confrontation/Honest Communication: We often avoid confrontation in order to be well-liked or to avoid the discomfort of a difficult conversation, but this often makes it difficult to form authentic connections and relationships. When we consistently and effectively practice healthy confrontation & assertive communication, it shows other people that we respect both ourselves and our relationship with them and they feel more confident and trusting of our connection as a result. They gain confidence that we will communicate truthfully instead of just being agreeable or superficial. How to Stop: Practice! Write out what you want to say or practice with a friend/therapist. Gathering your thoughts and processing your feelings ahead of time will ensure that you articulate your message clearly and thoughtfully. 

5) Apologizing For Everything: Apologizing has become a second nature for many of us and, the majority of the time, we say ‘sorry’ for things that aren’t even within our control, aren’t our responsibility/fault, or that we otherwise just simply don’t actually need to apologize for. This is a way that we take on the burden and responsibility of everything around us in order to alleviate that burden/responsibility from others and avoid assertive communication. Apologizing and explaining ourselves can be a way to soften boundaries we’ve set or to feel less badly about saying ‘no’, but we should be mindful that apologizing too much demonstrates insecurity about these things, which sometimes causes people to take them/us less seriously. How to Stop: Before writing or saying sorry, ask yourself if this is something that you should be apologizing for/if it’s even your responsibility or within your control. Sometimes it will be, but be sure to use your apologies sparingly. Take an inventory of every time you apologize in one day or one week by writing it down in a notebook. This will raise your conscious awareness about this habit, which can help you to do it less. 

6) Taking Responsibility For Other Peoples’ Feelings: While we shouldn’t go around intentionally hurting people, we also shouldn’t walk on eggshells or tiptoe around their feelings or blame ourselves for other peoples’ reactions to what we do/say. Everyone is responsible for having and coping with their own emotional experience and their feelings are their own responsibility — not yours. Similarly, if someone else is feeling hurt, upset or angry, know it isn’t your job to fix it. It’s theirs. When we fear upsetting someone or making someone else angry, we’re more likely to compromise our values. It’s okay if someone is upset, angry, etc., even if it’s with us, and it’s important to learn how to sit with the discomfort of this. How to Stop: Let people take care of their own emotions without feeling like you are responsible for or need to fix them. Instead, offer your support & empathy, but not a solution. This will create boundaries and allow them to become more independent, which is healthy for you both. 

Remember: you can be a thoughtful, helpful, caring and compassionate person who ALSO sets boundaries, says no and puts their own needs first. 

Which people pleasing behaviors do you struggle with most? Are there any others I forgot to mention? Feel free to share in the comments below!

The 5 Fundamental Aspects of Self-Love & How to Actively Practice Each One

photo-1500395235658-f87dff62cbf3

Self-love is a concept we hear a lot nowadays, but what does it really mean? What does it mean to ‘love yourself’ or to practice self-love? And why is it important?

I asked you to tell me what self-love means to you & here are some of your responses:

———————————–

“Fully accepting and being comfortable with your strengths AND your flaws.”

“Knowing you are worthy of all the love, dreams, and desires!! Loving yourself enough that you don’t need to seek validation from other people. Accepting your imperfections!”

“Self love is showing yourself the love that you give to others. Caring enough about yourself to treat yourself as if you were treating someone else. Knowing you’re worth more, knowing you deserve it, knowing you’re good enough for YOU, not anyone else. Gifting/treating yourself to show your own self kindness and love.”

“Doing something just for me, like doing my nails or taking a nice long bubble bath!”

“Feeling confident, happy + inspired”

“Candle, weighted blanket, and some weird Netflix show (and an ample hills pint)”

“To learn not to judge myself or others and approach my days with only kindness”

———————————–

While you each touched on different aspects of self-love, I couldn’t agree more with these sentiments as a reflection of what loving ourselves looks like in practice. Self-love is entirely internal. It is not something that can be gained from another person or any other external factor. And despite the simpler ways in which we can practice self-love, there is much work involved in loving ourselves on a fuller, deeper and more authentic level. However, when we do love ourselves and act from a place of self-love, it significantly impacts every aspect of our lives – from the relationships we find ourselves in to our ability to cope with our problems to the energy we give off in the workplace and elsewhere.

Here are what I believe to be the 5 fundamental aspects of self-love & ways that we can actively practice each one:

  1. Self-Acceptance – Self-love means true acceptance of who we’ve been, who we are and who we want to be. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we want to change/improve, but it means we embrace those things while simultaneously striving to change them if we desire to. It also means making sure our desire to change/improve isn’t based on someone else’s opinion or belief about who we should be. Self-love means meeting and accepting ourselves wherever we currently are – even if it’s not exactly where we want to be just yet. Self-love means accepting that we’re going to fail and fall short sometimes and embracing ourselves despite it. Try this: Guided Meditation for Self-Acceptance
  2. Self-Awareness – Self-love means acknowledgement of both our strengths and our shortcomings. Self-love is taking an honest look at our lives, giving ourselves credit for where we’re thriving and being real with ourselves about where we’re not. Self- love is the balance between calling ourselves out on where we could be better without criticizing or berating ourselves about it. It’s acknowledging the excuses, thoughts, patterns and habits that may not be serving us, accepting that they exist and taking active, loving steps to change them. Try this: Do a self-inventory of the areas you’re thriving in and the things you’d like to work on (and make sure they’re things that are important to you). Once you’ve established the things you want to change/improve, work with a therapist or share them with a friend you can check in with to stay accountable, focused and committed to this self-growth. 
  3. Self-Forgiveness – Self-love means shedding and forgiving old versions of ourselves. It means looking at our past self with love and respect even if we no longer resonate with his/her choices or behavior. Self-love means knowing that who we once were was just as important a part of our journey as who we are becoming. Self-love means forgiving ourselves and knowing that we are still worthy and enough when we’re imperfect, make a mistake, don’t do our best or fall short of our own expectations. Try this: Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself for anything in your past that you’re holding on to/beating yourself up for. Use this Radical Self Forgiveness Worksheet for guidance. 
  4. Self-Care – Self-love means taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means asking ourselves in each moment, “What do I need right now?” and taking active steps to give ourselves that. Self-love is recognizing when we need to rest and when we need to push ourselves. It’s putting our own needs first and trusting that it will allow us to show up better in our relationships. Self-love is making and prioritizing time for ourselves amongst our busy lives and our responsibilities to others. It’s believing that we are worth investing time and energy into and making that happen no matter what. Try thisSet aside at least 30-60 minutes a day to focus on your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self-care. 
  5. Self-Talk – Self-love means speaking kindly to ourselves and communicating with ourselves in a way that helps and serves us. It means acknowledging when our inner dialogue is self-critical, negative and limiting and replacing it with language that is positive, useful and self-affirming. Self-love is making an active choice to speak to ourselves with compassion, patience, respect and gratitude. Try this: Notice any negative/unhelpful thoughts that come up throughout the day & write them down in a notebook or on your phone. Later, go back and challenge them with an alternative/more helpful thought. Bringing these negative thoughts into conscious awareness and actively replacing them will begin to shift your automatic thought processes over time. 

Each of these areas are a crucial piece of the puzzle that makes up self-love. You can practice self-care and still not fully love yourself. You can appear confident to others and still not fully love yourself. You can preach self-love to others and still not fully love yourself. You can tell yourself you love yourself and still not fully love yourself! The work involved in really, truly loving ourselves — not just externally or on a surface level, but internally and on a deeper level, too — can be difficult, uncomfortable and ugly. It isn’t always fun or easy and certainly doesn’t always feel good. Furthermore, it’s a lifelong process. In fact, self-love isn’t a place we arrive to. It’s an ongoing series of decisions and choices that we face each day – and the goal is to make more decisions that reflect our love for ourselves than decisions that do not.

It’s OKAY if you have some work to do in one or all of these areas. We’re all going to have good moments, challenging moments, highs and lows… even when it comes to loving ourselves. And part of loving ourselves is remembering it’s okay if we haven’t been loving ourselves very much lately and figuring out how we can shift that.

Which of these areas of self-love do you find to be most difficult? Did you give one of the exercises a try? How did it go? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

How, When & Why to Be More Assertive

1_HC3Xmabww1BZBMeZrdQmgA

Be more assertive: seems like a simple enough concept, right? But how do we do it without being aggressive or pushy? What happens if someone takes our assertiveness the wrong way? What if it changes our relationships? What if it makes us uncomfortable?And WHY is it so difficult for us to be direct, say no, set boundaries and ask for what we need without feeling guilty or bad about it? I have spent much of my life asking these questions and convincing myself that people pleasing and putting other peoples’ needs before my own was the easier/better route. But here’s why it’s not:

  1. Resentment – We falsely believe that avoiding assertive communication protects our relationships when in fact, it hurts them. Avoiding confrontation or direct/honest communication results in an unmet need in us, which overtime will only breed resentment. And no relationship can thrive on this.
  2. Burnout – Those who lack assertiveness tend to put too much on their plate out of fear of saying ‘no’ in order to please others. Without boundaries & directness about what we realistically can/cannot do, we end up dispensing a lot of time and energy toward other peoples’ needs and goals instead of our own, which often results in burnout. Burnout can result in poorer work performance and can prevent us from showing up as our best selves in our relationships with others.
  3. Mental Health Issues – When we’re not honoring our authentic thoughts, feelings, needs & values through assertive & truthful communication, we can begin to feel anxious and/or depressed. By attempting to appease others or by avoiding conversations out of fear, we lose a sense of connection to ourselves and our mental/emotional health often suffers as a result.

So now that we’ve recognized why passivity does much more harm than good to ourselves & our relationships, here’s some tips on figuring out when you need to be assertive and how to put it into practice.

Get Honest With Yourself – It can be hard, especially in the beginning, to identify our needs/values and know what areas of our lives require more assertiveness. Start by doing an inventory of your relationships. Make a list of the people you interact with on a consistent basis and make note of how each of them make you feel. Your instincts/gut reactions will cue you in to which dynamics may be resulting in an unmet need, feeling taken advantage of, requiring better boundaries or needing more direct/honest communication. Tuning into your emotions more regularly is also a good way to identify where something isn’t aligning. Feeling anxious, frustrated, dreadful, irritated, angry or like you “should” do something are all cues that let you know where your boundaries are and are a good indicator that you need to speak up about them.

Choose Your Battles – While it’s almost always more helpful to honestly express your needs, thoughts and feelings than it is to suppress them, there are some situations that are just not worth it. The mistake we make, though, is convincing ourselves that it’s never worth it as a means of perceived self-protection and to avoid the discomfort that comes with a difficult conversation. If someone is being aggressive toward you, has not been receptive to your assertive communication in the past or is otherwise not a particularly important or crucial person in your life, consider processing the situation/relationship elsewhere and figuring out an exit strategy so you don’t have to continue being in a dynamic that isn’t satisfying to you or fulfilling your needs.

Practice – Once you’ve identified a need/value that you’ve deemed worthy of addressing and feel that the person/situation is important enough, brainstorm your approach. Not only can writing it out be a cathartic process, but it can also help you to untangle your thoughts/feelings about the situation and figure out how to best articulate it in real time. It can also help to practice assertive communication with someone you feel safe with, like a friend or therapist, who can provide you some insight/feedback before approaching it and help you see that it isn’t as intimidating as it may seem in your mind. For situations that require assertiveness on the spot, know that the more you do it, the more comfortable it will become over time.

Propose a Compromise – The mistake people sometimes make when beginning to be more assertive is thinking that in order to achieve this we must swing the pendulum entirely the other way – to the point that it can become aggressive. The goal in being more assertive isn’t to replace the other person’s needs with your own, but rather to find a middle ground that results in both parties being satisfied with the outcome. That being said, situations where one person’s needs haven’t been considered or met for a long time may require less of a compromise/middle ground in order to regain a sense balance in the relationship.

Don’t Apologize or Explain Yourself – It’s common that those who lack security in being assertive will apologize or over-explain themselves as an attempt to soften the message/make the other person & themselves more comfortable. Sometimes, depending on the situation, a brief explanation is suitable, however it’s unnecessary to apologize for your needs and/or feelings. Apologizing or over-explaining takes away from the directness of your message and leaves it vulnerable to being manipulated or misunderstood.

Stand Your Ground Afterward – Know that when you start to communicate more assertively and begin to set clearer boundaries, there may be some push back from people who aren’t used to that from you. They may become hurt, angry, confused and/or take it personally. This reaction doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong or should change your approach. You may even be able to help them in there relationships by modeling direct/assertive communication more frequently in yours. Remember: People who care about you want you to respect yourself and will adjust to this new dynamic over time.

So what does this look/sound like? Here are some examples/key phrases to use when putting this into use:

“Thank you so much for the invite! I’d really love to spend time with you this weekend, but I’m feeling burned out and need some time to myself. I’ll have to take a rain check.”

“I’m really committed to doing a great job on this project, but that timeline doesn’t feel realistic given everything else on my plate right now. How about I get this to you by COB on Friday instead? If the deadline is inflexible, is there someone that I can delegate some of my other tasks to?”

“Hey, I realize it might not have been intentional, but the comment you made earlier made me feel uncomfortable. I’d appreciate if you could be more mindful of that moving forward.”

“Unfortunately I’m not able to stay late this evening.” 

And my favorite… “No”. Just plain ole NO. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology. You are allowed to simply decline anything that is in misalignment with your needs, goals, priorities or values.

It takes consistent practice to become more comfortable with being assertive, but the result of ensuring that your needs are also being met in your relationships will lead to them being all-around healthier, more fulfilling and more trusting.

I’d love to hear about your own personal challenges with assertiveness and/or how you’ve overcome them in the comments below!

10 Tips for Protecting Your Energy

woman-girl-freedom-happy-39853-1080x675

One of the biggest sources of stress, anxiety, burnout & life dissatisfaction is a lack or a perceived lack of control over our energy. When we invest our energy into things that aren’t in alignment with our goals and values, spend more of it on other people than on ourselves and/or are spending an excess amount of energy without also taking the time to recharge our batteries, it’s inevitable that stress & anxiety will take over — eventually leading to burnout and in extreme cases, life dissatisfaction.

So how do we protect it? Here are some (not always so) simple steps.

  1. Recognize it’s a problem. Identify where you are NOT protecting your energy, how it’s effecting your life and why you want to make a shift. Ask yourself whether you’re controlling your energy or whether your energy is controlling you. Without a clear understanding of how you aren’t prioritizing this or a meaningful reason for wanting to do so, none of these other steps will matter.
  2. Get clear about your priorities. What things are most important to you? In what areas are you currently spending most of your energy & in which areas do you want to be investing more of it? When what we WANT to be spending our energy on isn’t in alignment with what we ARE spending our energy on, it can naturally be unsettling.
  3. Visualize. What does life look like if you continue investing your energy in areas that aren’t in alignment with your priorities? What would life look like if you did? How would you feel mentally & physically? What would your relationships be like? How would you communicate & interact with people? What would you accomplish? Visualizing a life where we’re protecting our energy is more likely to cause us to prioritize doing so.
  4. Set boundaries. In order to protect our energy, we need to set boundaries with the other people in our lives. We need to say no to things that don’t realistically fit in our schedule, aren’t in alignment with our own values or goals, and that may deplete us of the energy we need for other things. Whether it’s a co-worker, friend or family member, don’t hesitate to set boundaries and put your energy first.
  5. Communicate more. In conjunction with #4, we need to become better communicators. We need to tell other people what we need from them and get vulnerable & honest about why we may have to say no more often. Chances are they will understand, respect and sometimes even admire our ability to do something they’d also like to do more of. In turn, this strengthens our relationships and, if not, some distance from the type of people that lack understanding and empathy for our needs may be a good thing.
  6. Schedule time to re-energize. Even if we’re spending our energy in full alignment with our goals, values and priorities, it can still be exhausting. We all need time to decompress and recharge our batteries. Set time aside each day to do so — even if it’s just an hour in the morning or at night. Determine what helps you feel re-energized and implement those activities during this time. Whether it’s reading, writing, watching television, or taking a hot bath, part of protecting our energy is allowing ourselves the time & space to cultivate more of it.
  7. Anticipate energy-draining activities. The truth is, we can’t always avoid certain tasks/activities/relationships that can drain us of our energy. However, we can learn to anticipate them and approach them with a different strategy and mindset. Setting time aside for ourselves before and after a particularly energy-draining activity is important. It’s also helpful to go in with an action plan for what we’ll do when & if it starts to become overwhelming. Approaching the situation with a plan of attack for how to implement breaks, ask for help, communicate better, etc. helps us feel more confident and in control of our energy.
  8. Ask for help. Sometimes we think we need to take on everything & to be all things to all people, but putting our pride aside and asking for help or delegating some tasks can make an incredible impact. We’ll often find that people are more than happy to help and we may even become less resentful in our relationships as a result, which cultivates more (and better) energy.
  9. Avoid toxic people. The type of people that we surround ourselves with can greatly effect our energy and it’s no surprise that being around negative, bitter or tense energy can quickly deplete our own. Do a scan of the people you spend the most time with and ask yourself if they’re adding positive or negative energy into your life. If it’s the latter, it may be a good time to communicate with them so you can work on shifting your energy together or putting some distance in the relationship.
  10. Know your stress signals. It’s important to know what symptoms you experience when your energy is being taken or controlled by someone/something else. Tension in your neck/shoulders? Rapid heartbeat? Shortness of breath? Clenched jaw? Be able to pinpoint the physical symptoms that you personally experience so you can use them as a trigger reminder to regain control over your energy.

Have you been trying to implement these strategies for awhile with no or little success? Talking to a therapist or a friend who will hold you accountable can keep you intentional in this mission. As tip #8 suggests, it’s okay to ask for help — not only with the tasks that are consuming your energy, but also with staying committed to protecting it.

Have other strategies that help you to protect your energy? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Staying Committed to Your New Year’s Goals Long After the Energy You Set Them With Has Passed

cristian-escobar-297114

For many, a new year feels like a fresh start & a clean slate. And although you can make a change on any of the 365 days of the year, it’s still important to take advantage of any new energy and enthusiasm you may be feeling right now. What’s most important, though, is to accept & acknowledge that you likely won’t feel that same energy or enthusiasm every day, week or month this year and that you have a plan in place to bounce back from that.

Here are just a few ways you can make the most of your positive mindset right now and use it to build momentum & keep yourself inspired all year long:

  1. Set intentions – Intentions leave a little wiggle room for you to not be perfect, which is important. They require acceptance of where you already are while also requiring you to get crystal clear about the type of life you want to live, the type of person you want to be and how you can manifest that in your daily routine. Intentions are different from resolutions in the sense that they don’t set out to ‘resolve’ anything and instead help us gain clarity about what specific qualities or behaviors we want to possess that will help us live the life we want to. Instead of making resolutions & giving up at the first misstep, set intentions that are aligned with your goals and values and forgive yourself when your behavior isn’t aligned, knowing the intention is still true.
  2. Anticipate challenges – Every year will have some bumps in the road, both big and small, both expected and unexpected. Make a game plan for how you’ll respond to those. For example, if you know you have a trip coming up, are there ways you can start saving for it now? If you have an event later in the year, are there ways you can spread out the planning so it’s less overwhelming down the road? If you know your company is laying people off in the summer, can you start updating your resume or networking to prepare for that? Of course there are some things you can’t prepare or plan for, but doing an overview of big, upcoming events can help us feel less stressed when they approach. You should also put a plan in place for what you’ll do about unexpected challenges or any periods of depression, anxiety, disappointment, or failure this year. Who are your supports and what action steps will you take if those things should come up for you?
  3. Make 90-day goals – While it’s great to set long-term, yearly goals, it also leaves the space for us to put things off until much later in the year, possibly never getting around to something on our list or not leaving a realistic amount of time to accomplish it. If you want to ensure you make progress toward your goals early on, setting quarterly goals might be a better approach.
  4. Schedule weekly and monthly reflection – Checking in with yourself to reflect on how your year is going, whether or not you’re behavior is aligning with your intentions and how your progress toward your goals is going is an important step that people often overlook. It’s great to have intentions and to set goals, but you need to be checking in with yourself on them, too, so you can make shifts and adjustments where needed. I recommend a Sunday and end-of-month check in to review what went well and what struggles you had the week or month prior, decide what changes need to be made for the week or month ahead, and create a plan to put those changes into action.
  5. Find accountability and support – You shouldn’t have to feel alone in your approach to the new year and having consistent accountability & support toward your intentions and goals will help you stay focused long after the new energy from the beginning of the year has passed. Find a reliable accountability partner or support group that has similar goals to yours and schedule time to check in with them weekly or monthly, no matter what. Sometimes just sharing our goals and knowing someone is going to be checking in with us about them at a specific time is enough to help us overcome the lack of energy or motivation we may experience otherwise.

How are you feeling about the new year? Have you set some intentions or goals for yourself? If you’re lacking clarity about what you want to achieve or manifest in the new year, that’s okay. Try journaling or talking with a friend or therapist to get in touch with your inner values. As you speak it out loud or write it on paper, your inner dialogue and internalized desires become apparent.

Wishing you all a healthy & fulfilling 2018!

 

 

It’s Not the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” For All of Us

freestocks-org-470417.jpgIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Surprisingly that isn’t the case for a large number of people who actually feel increasingly depressed, lonely, and anxious around the holiday season. The societal pressure to feel all ‘holly jolly’ makes people who are already experiencing some level of distress, loss or unhappiness in their lives feel even worse. Mixed with the seasonal shift and the added stressors of extra expenses, busier schedules, poor eating & drinking habits and dysfunctional family relations, it only makes sense that our emotional and mental state would be heightened during this time.

If you’re one of the many people who struggle around this time of year, there’s a few important things you should know:

  1. You are not abnormal. It might seem like everyone around you is wrapped in Christmas lights and singing ‘fa-la-la’ while tap dancing in the snow, but more people are experiencing intense levels of depression, anxiety and stress at this time of year than you probably realize. People are often too proud to share the hard stuff, especially when they (like you) assume everyone around them is so full of joy, but believe me, it exists. As a therapist, I see many patients who struggle during this time of year and many who even consider taking their own lives as a means to escape it all. Despite the supposed ‘joy’ of the holiday season, there are plenty who just like you – are feeling down. You are not flawed, wrong, or a bad person for feeling this way. In fact, it’s completely normal for your emotions to be intensified now more than ever.
  2. You are not alone. When we feel like the people around us are happy, the last thing we want to do is burden them with our problems. But we’re actually not burdening them at all. If it is the case that they seem to feel particularly happy during this time of year, they will likely be even more eager to listen and support you. On the contrary, they might be relieved by you sharing your struggles because it gives them an opportunity to relate and share their own. When we feel depressed, we often assume the worst about the people in our lives – that they don’t care about us, that we’re a bother to them or that they couldn’t possibly understand. These are usually just defense mechanisms that we create to justify our feelings of loneliness and, ultimately, make ourselves feel worse. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to the people you know, there are plenty of therapists and support groups that can help you through this time of year.
  3. You are not your thoughts or feelings. One of the biggest challenges people have is separating their thoughts and feelings from themselves. They feel lonely, so they believe that they are lonely & might fail to see the ways that they’re not. They feel depressed, so they beat themselves up for it, assuming they’re flawed or a failure of some sort. They think that nobody cares about them and assume that must be true. Our thoughts & feelings are separate from ourselves. I like to think of them as clouds, just floating by, unattached to us. They exist, and they’re a part of our existence, but they don’t define who we are and what our reality is. When we can begin to separate our feelings and thoughts from our reality, our worthiness, and our identity, we can begin to heal and not feel consumed and controlled by them.
  4. You are not doomed. It’s often hard for people to see light at the end of the tunnel or to believe that they are capable of overcoming the intensity of their emotional and mental state. When we’re in the midst of a severe period of depression or anxiety, it doesn’t necessarily matter how much we rationalize with ourselves, remind ourselves of previous times that we worked through something similar, or use positive self-talk. We just feel stuck, frustrated, and helpless. But let me remind you of point #3, just because you feel stuck, frustrated and helpless, doesn’t mean you actually are. You might feel that way right now and it may take some time for you to feel otherwise, but chances are, if you’re reading this, you are also extremely self-aware, resilient and curious — and those things will help you through this difficult time.

If you don’t personally experience increased feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety at this time of year, make sure you’re being mindful and aware of the people in your life who may. Reach out to your loved ones and make sure to remind them that you’re there for them. Invite them to spend time with you, but be understanding if they’d rather not. Don’t make them think they can just ‘snap out of it’ or try to guilt them into feeling better. Show them patience, kindness, love and support – even if they only let you do so from a distance.

I’m offering free, 30-minute ‘holiday healing’ sessions through the new year to help you start the process of working through the difficult emotions you may be feeling during this holiday season. Please contact me with your availability to schedule yours.

 

Speaking Your Partner’s Love Language to Strengthen Your Connection

everton-vila-140207.jpg

Let’s face it, relationships are tough. Whether they be romantic, friendly, familial or professional, there is almost always bound to be miscommunication, misunderstanding, difference of opinions, difference of values, and varying mental and emotional reactions. Because it’s very rare that two people are 100% on the same page of understanding, feeling, emotion and thought at the same exact time, communication becomes a very complex, yet important component of maintaining any relationship.

When we think about communication however, we often think solely of verbal communication. We try to find ways we can better articulate ourselves, use I-language, speak in a calmer manner, be more complimentary, say thank you and I love you more often, share our feelings, etc. While these things are certainly important and helpful to any relationship’s stability, we might become confused when our efforts to be better verbal communicators or verbal expressers don’t entirely fix our problems. This is because verbal communication is only ONE way that we can express ourselves to our loved one – and only a certain group of people feel truly loved through words.

If you haven’t read ‘The 5 Love Languages’ yet, I highly recommend getting your hands on it (clickable link posted below). If you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts and whether or not it’s application has been useful in your relationships.

The book breaks down the 5 ways that humans typically give and receive love and speaks to the importance of knowing your partner’s love language and speaking to them in it consistently in order to add more growth, connection, fulfillment and security to your relationship.

The 5 love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Physical Touch
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Gift Giving

While most people find that all or most of the love languages are important in their relationship, there are some languages that make us feel more loved than others and when they are missing or lacking in our relationship we consequently feel a disconnect. The missing or lacking pieces usually aren’t due to lack of care, however. We just usually only speak in the love language that makes us feel most loved, which isn’t necessarily what makes our partner feel most loved, thus sometimes leaving us or our other with an emotional void. Therefore, it’s important that we understand both what we need and what our partner needs so we can adapt to one another accordingly.

You can read more about each love language, how to determine what you and your partner’s most prominent love languages are and how to speak to one another in them more frequently in the book below. There’s also a quiz at the end that will guide you in determining your love languages if you can’t quite figure it out throughout the course of the book.

I hope this resource leads to better understanding and better, more effective communication that allows both you and your partner to feel more loved and fulfilled in your relationship.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to further discuss this book or these concepts or work through a problem in your relationship. I’m always glad to hear from you & happy to help!

Click to purchase