#123 Adopt a New Coping Skill

Just when we may feel like we would be better off in our sour mood alone, or when we don’t want to trouble anyone with our ‘issues’, that is the precise time to lean on our social support system.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#123

Adopt a new coping skill

Coping skill – those things that help us deal with the crap that life throws our way. They happen sometimes without much awareness and at others, with great intention. Some are health – others … not so much. Self awareness of the coping skills that we use to deal with things are super important. It’s necessary for us to distinguish between those things that work for us and those that don’t.

Dysfunction Coping

There are a handful of common ‘coping’ skills that are generally dysfunctional. Perhaps the most popular is avoidance. More often than not, when we avoid something – prevent ourselves from facing the problem – we do nothing more than save the discomfort for later. We deny ourselves the knowledge that we can exist simultaneously with the problem or better yet – solve it.

Overeating / Excessive anything

Another coping mechanism that we often turn to is that of comforting ourselves by over indulging in things that make us feel better like wine, chocolate, cookies, beer, and comfort food in general. Our overindulgence in the things that make us temporarily forget our problem doesn’t erase the problem and may raise our risk of developing unhealthy addictions.

While there are a number of other undeniable coping strategies that aren’t helpful, there are a number that are!

Functional Coping

There are a number of great ways to work through stress, problems, and life challenges that are immensely effective and have overall positive effects. Exercise, Me Time, and Self Care are at the top of the list. They are the some of the things that create balance in life.

Meditation / Mindfulness

These strategies are perhaps the most efficient and effective when it comes to overall feeling better. The research about mindfulness and its helpful effect on health, emotions, stress, and pain is overwhelming but it take practice and perseverance to be truly beneficial.

Laughter

Learning to laugh, to find humor in the mundane, and to appreciate silly is also a great coping strategy. When we become so stressed that our tempers flare, humor can generally take the edge of negative feelings if not neutralize them all together.

Social Support

Just when we may feel like we would be better off in our sour mood alone, or when we don’t want to trouble anyone with our ‘issues’, that is the precise time to lean on our social support system. The friends and family members that love us, that know us at our core… those are the people who can stand behind us when times are tough. When we need to ask for help… they are the ones we ask. And yes… learning to ASK is a functioning coping mechanism.

Assess your current repertoire of positive coping skills and research one that you’ve yet to develop. Practice, practice, and practice in the pursuit of

Developing a new coping skill.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#127 Identify Your Triggers

In order to change anything – we need to be aware and know what needs to be changes and so to improve our reactions it is imperative that we make an effort to know our triggers.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#127

Identify Your Triggers

Defined

An emotional trigger is something that provokes you. It may be a person, an opinion, a situation, or an environmental condition. When we are ‘triggered’, we generally REact emotionally – often with a defensive behavior. We experience a swell of emotion and it may or may not be specifically connected to the experience at hand.

Discovery

In order to properly manage your emotions, it’s imperative that you know what your triggers are. Ninety-nine percent of the time, our triggers are based in fear. Fear of losing something, having less of something, or never having something – that ‘something’ being anything really… trust, respect, time, money, love, etc… When we understand ‘why’ we are reacting – managing our reactions is much – much easier.

Management

Once we know ‘why’ we get triggered we can learn how to communicate and manage our reactions. Often, it’s about learning how to be present – not allowing our histories to overrun the present moment. It’s about communicating our truest emotion – that thing we fear (i.e, not being loved, having enough time, etc…) By being aware of our immediate thought, engaging our breath, and making an intentional choice in our response, we can stand down those automatic responses that tend to stand at attention when we are triggered.

In order to change anything – we need to be aware and know what needs to be changes and so to improve our reactions it is imperative that we make an effort to ….

Identify our triggers.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#218 Release Guilt

When we accept responsibility for the damaged feelings of another and the damaged feelings are because ‘of something we purposefully did’ then guilt is what keeps us in check but far too many of us accept guilt when it is not OURS to own.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#218

Release Guilt

This is one of those tips that is far deeper than can be addressed in a mere few paragraphs but I’ll introduce the idea of releasing the guilt that doesn’t belong to you as something that will increase your overall sense of well-being.

Defined

By definition, guilt is the result “of having committed a specific or implied offense” and/or “make (someone) feel guilty” and while I could talk for several minutes about the semantic of “making someone feel”… guilt is an appropriate emotion when we INTENTIONALLY offend someone or commit an offense.

Damaged feelings

It’s fair to feel bad when someone we care about is hurting and if an accidental behavior on my part generated the emotional harm then I am deeply sorry but do not hold ‘guilt’ once I apologize. Accidents happen. When we accept responsibility for the damaged feelings of another and the damaged feelings are because ‘of something we purposefully did’ then guilt is what keeps us in check but far too many of us accept guilt when it is not OURS to own.

Releasing

Too many people fail to communicate expectations and then charge us with having committed an offense – imparting feelings of guilt. If we don’t know we are supposed to meet a standard – or expectation – and we offend someone we need not ‘own’ feelings of guilt.  We need to learn to release feelings of guilt when they are erroneously associated with behaviors that are unintentional, with unexpressed expectations, untruths, or unreasonable demands.

  • Your friend says “you never go out with me.” and you feel guilty because he’s feeling bad… but that statement is probably untrue. Release the guilt.
  • Your sister say “you didn’t get me a birthday present?” and you feel guilty because she is disappointed… you feel guilty but it was an uncommunicated expectation. Release the guilt.
  • You can’t remember where you put your husband’s car keys and now he’s late for work. He’s mad and you feel guilty. It was an accident; release the guilt.
  • You don’t accept an invitation to a bachelorette party in Vegas because your budget simply cannot handle the extra expense. Someone suggests you aren’t a good friend and you feel guilty. It is an unreasonable demand; release the guilt.

Visualization

Use visualization techniques to release guilt… imagine writing it on a chalkboard and then erasing it. Imagine writing it on a paper and then tearing it to shreds. Imagine it is contained in a ball and throw it in the ocean. Imagine it as a word in your hand and watch it evaporate or disintegrate. No matter what image you conjure or what technique you employ, the secret to improving your overall sense of happiness is to…

Release guilt.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#354 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Crying may solicit attention from others, rallying our support system and generating a sense of belonging. Our bodies naturally release oxytocin and endorphins in emotional tears; chemicals found to relieve physical pain. Those same chemicals are known to promote better moods so the simple act of crying may indeed, lighten our mood.

My goal is to share a daily life lesson, tip, or hack. They are the things I want my children to know and the things that I teach to clients. They are the things that make my life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#354

Cry it out

On the long running television show Grey’s Anatomy, the lead character Merideth has been known to “dance it out” with friends when full of intense emotion. That’s great strategy but it’s mostly great for fictional television.

Sometimes, in real life, we just have to let the tears fall. We were born knowing how to emote. Babies laugh and cry when they have something to express and somewhere along the line we are told to suck it up, dry up the tears, and pull up the boot straps. We are taught to repress something natural and innate. I am not suggesting that we have a meltdown in the middle of a supermarket but taking the time to cry if we are sad, deeply disappointed, or full of other emotion in an appropriate environment can be a game changer.

Crying has its benefits. In fact, it is postulated that crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system which stimulates a relaxation effect. Crying may solicit attention from others, rallying our support system and generating a sense of belonging. Our bodies naturally release oxytocin and endorphins in emotional tears; chemicals found to relieve physical pain. Those same chemicals are known to promote better moods so the simple act of crying may indeed, lighten our mood.

Most of us who have had ‘a good cry’ with solid sobs would probably attest that even though it was exhausting, we felt better afterward. The energy (emotion is energy) that we feel when we are tempted to cry is best released. If we don’t ‘cry it out’… the energy remains in our system and may be redirected via anger, passive aggression, or a related negative expression. Perhaps worse, is the theory that proposes unexpressed emotions contribute to other major health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and even cancers.

It takes courage and strength to move against the cultural norm; to develop a productive coping mechanism; and to face down feelings. Allowing yourself to cry is an act of bravery. And keep in mind that tears don’t have to be public to be productive so the next time you fill with emotion and get the urge to release it, remember to…

Cry it out.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

When the UGLIES Escape

Don’t be hard on yourself as you experience your humanness…

Being human is difficult. Becoming human is a lifelong process. To be truly human is a gift. ~ Abraham Heschel

Do you ever get grumpy? Out of sorts? Moody? Do your UGLIES escape?

Of course you do… you’re a human.

Sometimes, when reviewing basic communications skills with people who work in corporate environments, they tell me they “know all this stuff from seminars, workshops, and retreats at work” and then quickly ask the questions “why can’t I do it after I leave the office?”

I empathize with that question because I teach good communication tools… you know…

  • Use “I” statements
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Repeat what you heard
  • Validate

Yadda, yadda.

And yet, I too – am completely imperfect with using them. When we mix a big batch of emotion into the human factor – even the best intentions can go astray.

Sometimes, our frustration reaches a tipping point and we react without thinking about those skills we’ve collected in our communication toolkit. It happens when we are sick and when we are in pain. It can happen when we are afraid or worried. In those moments, our ability to stay focused and pay attention to how we could be behaving, is blurred.

In those times, we are prone to react first and think about our toolbox later…

And then communication goes south, conflict arises, sparing ensues, and feelings get hurt. The uglies come out.

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Now what?

First

I believe the most important thing we can do is apologize. We don’t have to apologize for how we were feeling… we only need to apologize for how we behaved when our feelings took over.

Listen, feelings are feelings and although they are not always rational or in context to a situation – they are still feelings and generally they just surface… we don’t ask for them.

Next

When we can collect our thoughts, step back, OUT of the emotion and pay attention to how we were feeling – the second step is to calmly, rationally, explain how we were feeling – using “I feel…” statements (remember to use ‘feeling’ words).

Think about the things I speak to in the post It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It? and try to communicate from the position of what you recognize about yourself…. In other words, OWN IT.

Ask for what you need – specifically. Do you need advice? Validation? Help? Or do you just want someone to listen? Letting someone know what you need in advance of sharing your feelings can often be helpful.

Lastly

Be willing to listen.

Frequently, an argument is simply the tip of an iceberg and representative of other issues that are simmering below the surface. When we can own our feelings, step out of the emotion, and be prepared to listen… we are able to address those matters that affect us subliminally.

Remember, the things I talk about take practice and patience! Don’t be hard on yourself as you experience your humanness… when you are tired or sick… when you temporarily lose track of your toolbox… or when you make a mistake.

Your life – my life – everyone’s life, is a work in progress. Just keep moving forward. Today is a new day.

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Owning Your Control Issues

Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

Continued from The Birth of Control Issues

“Surrender to what is. let go of what was. have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti

Yesterday’s post laid out how control issues are born and manifest. When people accused me of being a ‘controlling’ person I would get defensive because I knew in my own mind that my intent wasn’t to manipulate other people. I just wanted to control for the ‘uglies’… I wanted to manage the bad feelings – the sadness – the fear. When we speak about controlling behavior we use derogatory words such as ‘control freak’. Comments like that foster shame and embarrassment. Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

When I notice that someone has the propensity to seek control of their circumstances and/or environment, the first thing I help them do is to understand why the need to control exists for them. And then we talk about managing it with a few simple thoughts.

OWN IT

Just OWN it! Acknowledging and understanding your ‘control issues’ is the first step in coping with them well. Accept them, love them, honor them. They are there because at one time you had a reason to believe that your emotional safety was in danger. We need to love the imperfect parts of ourselves just as much as those things that make us loveable. If one of the ways to soften your hard corners is through compassion… offer it to yourself! Seeking reassurance and comfort from the outside world is fine but if it isn’t available or frequent enough – you need to know how to give it to yourself.

REASSESS

Take a careful look around at the things that ARE within your realm of control. Many things are… you always have a choice unless you are being held captive or are in some way incapacitated… you have choices; even when you feel you don’t’. I remember many times feeling like I didn’t have a choice but that only left me with a sensation of helplessness.

Sure, sometimes we don’t ‘want’ any of the choices that are available but then we must be honest with ourselves and recognize – in that – we are still making a choice.

Can I control whether or not someone drinks? NO. I can only control whether I continue to share space with that person. If I chose to stay with someone who isn’t sharing the load with me, who doesn’t have the same vision as I do… then I have made a choice to accept the load myself and I have to redesign my vision. Understand that many choices are ‘package deals’ – they are bundled with a series of ‘consequences’… make sure you are consciously accepting the entire bundle because unbundling it – is OUTSIDE of your control.

LET GO

More often than not I find that we need to let go of fixed or rigid thoughts – the way we think things ‘should’ be or how things ‘should’ be done. Expand your thinking by eliminating words such as right/wrong or good/bad and replace them with ‘different’. There truly is more than one way to do most things.

Understand that in YOUR emotionally safe world things look a specific way. Responsibility, for example, may be represented to you in the form of a fixed blueprint that is achieved by doing x, y, & z precisely. But… we know – logically – that there is more than one effective building design. People demonstrate responsibility by using a, b, & c too. Letting go of an XYZ design and being open to trust that ABC will work is important.

Keep in mind that letting go is NOT a one and done thing. Thoughts don’t automatically disappear just because we want them to. We may need to let go of something over again every day until our mind remembers that we are simply not accepting that thought anymore. Be patient.

DISASSOCIATE

The things that happened in our past which, contributed to our current control issues are over. Just because the first man I loved died, doesn’t mean that the next man I love will, even though that is the fear. If your parents were horrible at parenting – if they were abusive – it doesn’t mean that other parents are abusive or that you will be as a parent. If someone you love died in a car accident, that doesn’t mean others will as well.

Certainly, bad things happen. But… the things that are creating your control needs are in the past and they need to stay there. Disconnect what HAS happened to what MIGHT happen going forward. Remind yourself… that was then, this is now. Stay present. Focus on THIS moment.

TRUST

“Let go and let God” is about trust. Letting go in general is about trust. We have to trust that if we let go – we will still experience emotional peace / security.

Sometimes I just repeat the word over and over in my mind as a reminder that I must surrender to trust. Generally speaking… things have always worked out in the end and I am reminding myself of that fact.

I find that most of us with control issues have simply learned to DIS-trust that people are working with us in the pursuit of emotional safety. I often remind myself that my children want to arrive where they are going and so they will make every effort within THEIR control to do so. I must trust that.

Trust is easier when we are constantly checking in to make sure that we are on the same page with those that are invested with us. Be sure that you are each moving toward the same vision and trust that you can get there via different avenues.

PLAN B

When all else fails, it helps to have a Plan B. People with control issues often have anxiety – the fear of not being able to control manifests physiologically. If we create an escape route – in case owning it, reassessing, letting go, disassociating and trust don’t completely satisfy our fears… having an alternative plan helps. It many never happen that you use Plan B but just initiating a design for another option allows your mind to experience a sense of relief.  Draw it out, make lists, save money, know where the exit is.

Having an active Plan B allows you to feel in control of something even when you have none.

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Before Xanax

First, let’s be clear that expressing ‘happy’ emotions isn’t the part we need help with…

Never let your emotions rule, but always let them testify. ~Robert Brault

I believe I’ve written about emotions in the past yet the idea of describing how necessary it is to allow one’s self the opportunity to express emotions keeps playing over in my mind. Often, the reality is that I need to hear the message and so in that – writing is helpful, healing. It’s probably no surprise to any writer that in reflection, one can identify content specifically situated to deliver a deeply personal note. Perhaps that is always the Universe’s intent.

In any regard, I am in the business of teaching people the importance of emoting. One of the first things I teach is that we are born knowing how to laugh and cry – expressing emotions are innate to the human experience. Our bodies are designed to experience emotions and yet after birth, many of us are taught NOT to express them instead of how to express them effectively.

I cringe at all of the times as a parent that I told one of my children to “hush up”, “stop crying”, “suck it up”, or the worst… “I’ll give you something to cry about”. Continue reading “Before Xanax”