The other day, I got out of my car and was walking into the gym when I walked past a couple who were retrieving their gym bags out of the trunk of the car. The wife unknowingly knocked an item over in the trunk making it more difficult for her husband to get his bag out of the trunk. He said sarcastically to her, “Thank you so much.” She wasn’t sure what was wrong so with some frustration she said, “What did I do?” He then explained to her in an irritated tone how she doesn’t watch what she is doing and therefore makes his life much harder. She shot back that she doesn’t mean to do anything wrong and is tired of him blaming her for everything. I could hear their arguing all the way down the parking lot as I made my way into the entrance of the gym.
I almost turned back around and handed them my card.
Why do we do this? Why are we so mean to the people we love the most. We all do it. There are probably a bunch of reasons. Instead of thinking of the why, I want to focus on how we change this.
People practice what they practice. You probably know someone who is very into a hobby like playing an instrument or playing a sport. They keep doing that activity because they are good at it and they get better at it because they keep doing it which keeps it enjoyable because they get better and better. This happens with every behavior we have. We practice what we practice even in our relationships. Take a look at your closest relationships. How do you manage conflict? How do you respond to feedback? How do you respond to feedback when it unpleasant to hear? How do you share feedback? How do you show love? How do you talk to each other throughout the day?
My guess is that the way you answers these questions is a usual pattern of behavior. But, do you want the patterns of behavior you have? Are you treating the people you love like you love them? Of course, no one does perfectly every time, but are you satisfied with your general interactions with those you love?
If not, it’s time to make a change. It’s time to be kind, to be thoughtful, to be nice, to assume good will, to give the benefit of the doubt, and ultimately to see your partner like the person you chose to love. If you aren’t actively loving your person, start today. Remember that the more you practice, the better you will get. Don’t wait for them to go first, you love first and see what happens. And, my guess if you practice being nice, your partner may practice too!
I’m excited to announce that I am scheduling again for clients beginning on September 19th. And now that this pregnancy is over, I have more brain power to commit to writing and improving services for my clients. As I was thinking about the last few months, I realized that with transitions come great opportunity to practice our coping skills. Many times in life, transitions aren’t welcome, but we need to practice these coping skills anyway. I have MANY clients who come to me and say “I need coping skills” or “I’m not coping well.” Life is full of transitions and when our skills are up to par, we do much better working our way through our transitions rather than resisting where life is taking us.
I have been reflecting on how I have practiced some of my own coping skills as I have gone from mother of two daughter who are quickly becoming independent, to three daughters. Here is some insight to skills I have been practicing…and notice the word choice, “Practicing”; I’m by no means a master.
- Acceptance. Last night I watched an episode of “Madame Secretary” in which she was talking with some Tibetan Buddhist Monks. She kept using the line “clinging creates suffering” as she struggled with some challenges she couldn’t control or get rid of. I am completely enamored with the concept of Acceptance and use this often in my practice. Suffering comes from wanting things to be not what they are. The more our brain fights with current conditions and current challenges, the more we suffer. That suffering can look like frustration, ruminating, anxiety, sleeplessness, worry, depression, lack of motivation, disengaging from life, and many other forms. The more we work with what we have, the better we do.
Initially, after my little one was born, she had her days and nights mixed up as many infants do. I found myself trying to WILL her to sleep and she wouldn’t. I came up with a million ways to try to get her to sleep, but the truth was, this was my challenge to go through. Many if not all parents go through this, but in the late and early hours of the night, sleep deprivation can get the best of us. I really really worked on “allowing it to be so” and not trying to change what was happening but work with it. Sometimes that meant no sleep. Sometimes that meant baby slept on me. But, more importantly I tried to align my emotions with this idea of “allowing” instead of being frustrated as I help my baby. There were some very imperfect practice moments, but there were also some successes….and last night she slept around 7 hours. “This, too, shall pass.”
- Focus on Rest. This is a skill that I often work with my clients who are having trouble sleeping. Sometimes when our sleep gets out of whack, we start worrying about when we are going to sleep again and then we can’t sleep. When we focus on trying to go to sleep, looking at the clock, feeling that the night is slipping away from us, we can put ourselves in a pretty negative cycle. I often coach my clients on focusing on rest and not sleep. I have had to work on this myself as my sleep has been a little wacky. Sometimes I have had to remind myself of where I am and what is going on instead of focusing on my anxieties about falling asleep. It’s important to calmly lead yourself back into a better sleep routine….and that never happens instantly.
- Do. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. I just read some article about sitting and how sitting is unhelpful. And, let me tell you how easy it is to sit ALL THE TIME with a new baby. And, as much I have felt unmotivated at times to do things, that is when mood recovery happens. It’s always when we have a balance of doing and resting.
- Moderation and Listen. This is key. I have had to pay attention more and more to my mood, my body, and my relationships. I have been so excited to start running post pregnancy that I overdid it, hurt my knees, and am now having to be more patient. It has been during this time, that I have tried to pay more attention to priorities and allow them to shift from day to day. Some days it’s all about being social, letting the house go, and being with good friends. Some days it is all about getting the house clean, organizing, and planning . Some days, it’s about reading a good book and holding a cute little baby. If you have too many of one of these days, you get depressed, stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. But, you have to listen and know which one you need and when you need it.
- Ask for Help. I am a helper. I am a therapist. Sometimes I think that because I know a few skills, I shouldn’t need any help. However, as I have worked with my clients, I have noticed that those who have a support network fare much better through difficult times. Many times these networks are built by asking for help. I am human and my theory is that there are 7 billion of us on the planet because we need each other. Sometimes you get to be the helper, and sometimes you get to be helped. I used to think that I was “weaker” for asking for help but I have realized that strong people ask for help all the time and that’s what keeps them going. For this postpartum period, I welcomed help and I think it greatly helped not only my mood the every day to do list to be easier, it increased and strengthened my relationships with others as I was grateful for their willingness to help and care. People are bonded by service…we love those we help. When we think we can do it all on our own, or should do it all on our own, we deprive ourselves of the ability to be loved and others their ability to love.
And, just so you know how we are surviving through our transition….the photo says it all. 🙂
Until next time,
Many of you witnessed the long journey of pregnancy over the past few months with me as we have worked together. I want to thank all of my clients for being supportive and understanding during my pregnant months! Many of you have requested to have an update on the outcome of this journey. So for all those who are interested, Liberty (Libby) Daisy Phillips was born on July 4th, 2017, weighed 9lbs 2 oz, and her two older sisters are in love with her.
Whether you are an established client or a new client seeking services, know that I will be returning sometime in September 2017.
Well, it has been a minute hasn’t it?! Life is a funny thing that just keeps going and sometimes you are keeping pace, and sometimes you fall behind. I have decided it is once again time to keep up the pace and publish some of my thoughts pertaining to improving relationships and keeping up mental health.
Recently, I have encountered many people who have embraced the idea of giving 110% all the time. These people come in the form of college students, mothers, lovers, best friends, and work-a-holics. There is this idea that we always have to go a little farther, do a little more, give more of ourselves, set our expectations higher, achieve bigger, and many times, run harder than we actually can.
I remember attending an “awards ceremony” for therapists. I remember an old boss of mine sharing stories of a particular therapist going above and beyond, staying late all the time, taking on what others couldn’t handle, and always pushing her limits. While I believe firmly in kindness, giving to others, I equally believe in self-care and balance. I remember feeling so frustrated in this awards ceremony as I thought to myself about the self-care that was required in my position as a therapist to do good work and how as a group we were basically praising someone for not having balance and not doing adequate self-care.
I find that in our culture, not needing or not giving ourselves self-care is highly reinforced and needing self-care is greatly punished. Individuals send and receive emails throughout the night and early morning, salaried positions keep people working excessive overtime, and relationships and health suffers at the drive to always be working.
If you drive a car, you know you cannot drive your car at 120 mph all the time even though it is capable of going this speed. One, because it is the law and two, your car would burn out. You also cannot drive your car 10 mph and expect your car to run successfully or to be able to use your car to meet any goals of getting to and from your destinations. However, there is a sweet spot between about 40 mph and 70 mph that keeps your car running well and allowing you to reach most of your destinations in reasonable time.
Such it is with people. We cannot expect to give 110% all the time. We can’t. We will burn out. Reaching goals is beautiful and having downtime without goals is just as important. We need both to be balanced and both to achieve the other. I submit to you to consistently give about 50-70% and stop always reaching for this 110%.
Until next time,
I want to start telling some client stories to give you a feel of what is like to work with us. This lovely client came in with pretty chronic anxiety and often referred to her coping method as the “ostrich in the sand.” She worked very hard and practiced the anxiety-management skills as well as some relationship skills and as I sent her off, this is what she shared with me about her experience:
“I would highly recommend seeking help from The Good Life Institute if you are struggling with anxiety. My time here has made a tremendous difference in my ability to live with my own challenges with it. I was initially hesitant to make an appointment, but I am so glad that I did.
Kariah introduced me to exposure therapy, which is amazing. This allows you to explore the outcomes of what will happen if your fear actually does occur, and then identify that in spite of this occurrence, you will be okay. Addressing the “So What?” of my anxieties helped me come to terms with these fears and alleviated the stress that came along with trying to control them, even if I couldn’t. Reassuring myself that I would be okay in any situation has proven to be a useful tool for my development. I find that I am more confident and spend less time worrying about the “what-ifs” in life.
I have also learned how to set healthy boundaries with my family and friends. Setting these boundaries and consistently enforcing them has caused a huge drop in my anxiety and stress levels. As a result, my relationships are healthier. I have found that when clear boundaries are communicated and enforced, there is a lot less tension. This, in turn, has allowed me to communicate and express myself better with my family and friends.
Although working on both of these things were intimidating at times, it was well worth it. I feel as if my time at The Good Life Institute has helped to equip me with the tools to address my anxiety and make way for more happiness in my life. I will carry these tools along with me and have the ability to use them at any time. The emotional investment spent on self-reflection and development is well worth the result.”
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