Before You Say Yes

We tend to over commit. Say yes to things because it feels bad to say no. We just try to squeeze everything in to make people happy, putting our own needs on the back burner. It can be difficult to decide where our responsibilities lie, and everything begins to feels as though it’s a requirement.

Instead of jumping in with both barrels, is it possible to move to a position of balancing our priorities with our demands? Three questions that we can ask ourselves before we say yes:

  1. What is my current energy level? Do I have the time and strength to dedicate to this task?
  2. What amount of help or support will I have if I say yes to this request?
  3. What is my emotional state? Do I feel up to committing to this invitation?

Working through this checklist can give us insight as to what we are capable of agreeing to, at that moment and time in our week; furthering our goal to make ourselves important too 🙂

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Free Program on Resiliency

Dr. Rick Hanson is a psychologist and Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkeley. He writes about developing a resilient brain and the ability we have to acquire psychological resources in order to help us face the vulnerabilities that come with life’s challenges. He notes that these resources are located in our body, mind, and the world around us and include:

  • virtues
  • positive emotions
  • compassion and love
  • mindfulness
  • patience and determination
  • interpersonal skills

What is hopeful about this list, is that Hanson maintains that the majority of our inner resources are acquired. It is through our own goal oriented behaviour and choices that we can work to developing resilience; not only for times of crises, but also for our resilience in our day to day life.

I have signed up for a free program that talks about this very subject. If you are interested, you can follow this link: https://www.rickhanson.net/resilience-summit/

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What About Respecting No?

We speak a lot about the skill of being able to say no. That ‘no is a complete sentence.’ That we are within our right to not always have to say yes to someone’s request. There is no doubt that to a people pleaser, this is a skill that takes time, effort and convincing.

Yet what about the idea of respecting no? In the book “Choosing Civility” by P.M. Forni, he talks about the importance of being able to respect even a subtle no:

“Someone has turned down your request or invitation and you won’t take no for an answer. Bad idea and bad form – to say the least. Respecting the “no” of another is one of the most elementary and significant rules of respect…….we frequently fail to understand or choose to ignore the signs of reluctance in others. When that happens, we end up making others do what they would rather not or we force them to flat out say “No,” upsetting them in the process.” 

Think about how many times we may say “Are you sure?” when someone says no to us. Or try to convince them that it will be in their best interest to accept the invitation, join what you are hoping they will join, eat what you are offering them? We have all done it at one time or another. Perhaps instead, we can respect the no:

“Okay, no problem. I’ll catch you the next time.”

“No worries; if you change your mind, you can let me know.”

“Okay”

“Sure thing, I understand.”

When we respect someone else’s no, it becomes much easier to also say no when we need to. A good reminder that the complicated little word of No is a two way street. 🙂

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The Covid Hump

I often remark to clients that when dealing with a long term, difficult situation we hit the ‘6 month hump.’ In our experience with the Covid-19 pandemic, that came around mid September – and getting over that hump has proved to be a bit more challenging than we first thought. With increasing numbers, continued warnings of social bubble infractions and the need to be ever vigilant with mask wearing and social distancing, it begins to feel as though perhaps the hump is now a mountain.

But after witnessing how we handled Halloween of 2020, I have started to feel lighter. Once again, my confidence in humanity has been strengthened. Pumpkins were carved and costumes were worked on, but it was how inventive our communities were that helped me to see that we do unite in challenging times:

  • People came up with the most ingenious ways to hand out candy; from tubes or shoots, tables at the end of the driveway, to treat bags attached to make shift clotheslines.
  • Someone in our community posted an interactive map on social media which featured where to see decorated homes.
  • Our local Early On – Arnprior Family Preschool Resource Centre set up a storybook walk featuring a Halloween story. Individual families and school groups could safely walk along the path, reading each page of the story. How fun is that?
  • In our little town of Braeside, there was a socially distanced ‘witches parade’ that took place at dusk; participants walked up and down the streets to the delight of residents.
  • There was a  drive through haunted corn maze at a local farm, best virtual costume contest and some Halloween giveaways from local businesses.

And those are just the ones I happened to notice on social media. People were positive and optimistic; kids were happy. Bottom line? Covid-19 did not take away our Halloween. We made it what it needed to be in order to make it a fun holiday for our children. Together, we are getting over the Covid Hump. 🙂

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Photo credit: This is Jessica Morsink, from Early-On in Arnprior. This photo was used with permission from Early-On, Arnprior Family Preschool Resource Centre.

 

Balance for Well-Being

There are five areas of our life that help contribute to our overall level of satisfaction; our work, our intimate/family relationships, our spiritual life, our sense of self and our social life. If we are able to achieve a good sense of balance, and feel as though these areas are for the most part in our control, we feel more secure in our sense of well-being.

There are times however, when we feel out of balance and perhaps one or two of the areas are not in our control as much as we’d like them to be which will require some inquiry and some re-shifting of priorities. A good exercise in exploration is to write down each of these areas and jot down the things you are doing to nourish them; focusing as well on the goals you would like to have in each one. Questions that can also help are ones such as: “Am I putting more into my work than I am into my partner or family? Am I connecting with friends as often as I should? How am I feeding my soul? Am I getting enough exercise? Time outside? Am I finding time to have fun? To laugh?”

Understanding and making conscious decisions in these areas of our lives creates a greater sense of agency and a feeling of simplicity; for it is in our appreciation of stability and equilibrium that our well-being rests and is most content.

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In the Driver’s Seat

When we think about our sense of psychological well-being, what often comes to mind is how we rate the general satisfaction of our lives. How good do we feel about our lives in general? How content are we?

If we sat and thought about the elements that contribute to either a valued sense of well-being or a poor one, we would most likely come up with many factors such as the strength of our support system, our job satisfaction, our financial state, the condition of our health and so forth. Interestingly enough, while all of these factors can certainly affect our sense of well-being, what comes up as the number one reason we feel good about our lives is the amount of personal control we have within them.

It becomes about a feeling that despite the challenges that come our way, of which are often not in our control, we can still have a sense of agency in our own lives. Knowing that we have some ability to make decisions and have choices within the confines of our difficulty, allows us to move to a place of feeling more settled again in our sense of who we are; giving us the courage perhaps to say “Move over please, I’m driving.”

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The Rational Brain

When I was a little girl I can remember being very fascinated by the moon. If we were traveling home anytime at night, I believed the moon was following me home. I even recall telling my mom that once and although she kindly told me that it “just felt that way”, I can also distinctly remember thinking that she was wrong. 🙂

When we are children we have a lot of magical thinking; it is why we can tell our kids that a big, jolly man comes down the chimney at Christmas and leaves presents by the fireplace. Our four year old may, in fact, question how Santa comes down the chimney, but because the rational part of their brain (before the age of seven) is very underdeveloped, all we have to tell them is that “Santa uses reindeer dust” and they are wondrously back to believing in the magic of Christmas.

Our rational brain is found in the prefrontal cortex and is involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, decision making, and mitigating social behaviour. It is not fully formed until we are in our early twenties. This is important knowledge in helping to inform us when it comes to working with and understanding our teenage children. Interpreting reality is dependent on a fully functioning prefrontal cortex, as is feeling guilt or remorse. It is often why we, as parents, feel as though we need to be the rational voice to our teenagers ~because in many ways we are. The trick I suppose is being able to do so with an open mind to their own process, so as to allow enough freedom for their growing need to make decisions while conscious of having to protect them at times.

And although we need a fully formed rational brain, I am also quite happy that the magical part of our brain does not fully go away; it is what allows us to believe in the possibility of fairies and hobbits, of the imaginable world of the Velveteen Rabbit and the ability to walk into the gates of Disney World and still feel enchanted. 🙂

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Setting Work Boundaries

There are times when we reflect upon our work schedule and know that it is off balance. Sometimes this may come from a difficulty in saying no, a strong work ethic, a heavy caseload, the need to achieve. In any case, we are not doing ourselves any favours by ignoring the importance of setting personal work boundaries – ones that are created with self-care in mind.

  • Book end your day. Have a start time and an end time that is reasonable and achievable. Not sticking to this daily schedule should be the exception, not the rule.
  • Reset at lunch. I have noticed that if I don’t get outside for even a 15 minute walk around the block at lunch, my afternoon feels longer. A bit of fresh air and knowing I have set aside time for myself at lunch resets my energy for the afternoon.
  • Let work stay at work. Turn off the email notifications on your phone, let work phone calls go to voicemail. Technology has allowed us to send messages along to people when we are thinking about it – that doesn’t mean it can’t wait to be answered during business hours.
  • Create a weekend. Two days a week should be off limits to work; spending time instead on what brings us joy. Some of us have Monday to Friday jobs and we can honour the no-work-weekend rule, for others who work shifts, it will be important to create a weekend.
  • Only take on what you can handle. It’s really okay to say no. When you take on everything that is expected of you, a precedent is set. Knowing and expressing your limits will help to keep your work from spilling into your personal time.
  • Create an inviting work space. Your work area can be a reflection of your personality; keeping it neat will help.
  • Pace and timing is everything. Take a break to make yourself a tea, close the door if you really need to concentrate, remember that not everything has to be done in a mad rush. When we have a balanced pace to our day, we are feeding our comfort system. It is possible to have a reasonable work day.

Keeping these tips in mind will help in creating a work day that is balanced and productive. When we keep our self-care in mind, we are allowing for a greater, richer performance. After all, as the Chinese proverb goes “We can’t pour from an empty cup.”

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A Myth That Needs Our Attention

Perhaps one of the biggest myths that society continues to reinforce is the notion that “the more I have, the happier I’ll be.” We see it in the shows we watch, the advertisements on TV, the influence that we place on celebrities. Social media has exploded the pressure that young people feel to get ‘likes’ or followers – most often tied to their appearance. The myth that the more we have the happier we’ll be gets tied to material possessions and the notion that happiness is found out there. And as soon as we begin to believe this myth, the “if only’s set in.”

“If only I could be a smaller size, have a different body shape, be shorter/taller….”

“If only I could find love/ fame/ fortune….”

“If only I had a bigger house/ a fancy car/ the latest toy….”

“If only, if only, if only.”

The moment we get trapped in this loop, we will be chasing happiness. We will achieve the ‘if only’ just to then replace it with the next one. We are much better served to seek the feeling of contentment. To understand that joy is a feeling that can’t be chased, but rather felt in the here and now. It comes from within. When we actively seek joy in every day living, when we can feel content in the ordinary, that is when we no longer believe what society tells us. We can enjoy what life brings us (which may include the fancy car), but it doesn’t come as an expense to our sense of self. Instead, it is tied to what we already know – that joy comes from the inside out.

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Still Point

According to the Webster’s dictionary, the definition of still includes: to quiet, to still one’s fears; to become motionless or silent. The concept of a still point in therapy is an important one. Although we often talk about the importance of movement to facilitate growth, there are times when stillness facilitates movement. It perhaps comes after having made a major decision, it may be necessary during grief or loss, perhaps it is sought when life’s frenetic pace catches up to us; regardless of it’s reason, the purpose of a still point is to reset, recharge, renew. When we give ourselves permission to seek quiet it will lead to peace; a still point is a valuable stepping stone in life’s journey.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Kurt Wiegand on Unsplash