People often avoid tough conversations as a way to avoid conflict. The problem is that avoiding difficult conversations simply leads to more conflict in the long run. You may momentarily avoid the unpleasant, but it will come back to bite you hard.
The key to developing resilient relationships begins with the connection that you have with your self. Other than your relationship with God or your higher power, your most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. All your relationships will reflect and be influenced by how you treat yourself. If you are struggling to love and accept yourself, it will be difficult for you to trust or feel the love offered by your partner.
Giving gifts is one way to demonstrate love for your partner. Gift giving has the potential to bring joy or hurt, disappointment or friction in your relationship. Whether it is gifts of love or material gifts, putting some thought into the gift can result in enjoyment rather than disappointment.
The following are some thoughts that may be helpful:
At times in relationships, we let our feelings get the best of us. Some people allow their anger to cover hurt, sadness or fear and then attack their partner by unloading a dump truck full of venom and frustration on them. This venting type of communication is completely aggressive. Others tend to stuff their feelings and upset, making cryptic comments or saying nothing at all.
Setting goals as a couple may help you revitalize and increase your relationship satisfaction. Standing water stagnates where moving water remains fresh and the only difference between standing water and running water is motion. Setting and working towards goals helps you add motion to your relationship as you consciously work toward and create the life you want for yourselves.
It may be sad or comforting to know that all relationships at some point reach the buyer’s remorse phase. At this point, one or both start to wonder or question. Couples start to think things like, "this is not what I signed up for" or "why should this be so hard?" They have probably bumped up against issues and problems and been unwilling or unable to resolve them. They have inevitably been hurt and may have developed patterns of reacting to each other that make things worse rather than better.
Have you wondered why the very traits that attracted you to your partner in the first place, can become the traits that later drive you crazy? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that often our biggest strengths are also our biggest weaknesses. Without balance, our strength may become our downfall.
There is unfortunately too much truth in the observation that we hurt those we love the most. We have these insecurities that seem to get triggered more easily by those we love. Once those insecurities are triggered our behavior can become less than stellar. Why do we respond the way we do? Our behavior does little to help us get our needs met. We get sucked into the drama, rather than finding solutions. The answer is …
Mental health by design means that you take an active role in strengthening your resilience. Your emotional and psychological well-being influences all parts of your life—how you think, feel and act. Your mental health affects how well you cope with the daily struggles that may come your way. Creating healthy habits can have a positive impact on your mental health. Be more consistent in doing the following:
1. Get enough sleep
Establish a wind-down routine—start about 30 minutes before sleep time. A guided meditation, calming music or sounds may help you relax. Aim for a cool, dark and quiet bedroom.
2. Eat well
A diet low in sugar and rich in healthy fats (including foods rich in omega-3 fats) can help you feel more energetic when you are awake and help you sleep better. Pay attention to how you feel after eating to help you determine which foods best suit you. Some foods may taste good, but leave your body feeling sluggish or bloated. The less processed the food, the better your body may be able to handle it.
3. Learn some relaxation techniques to help reduce stress
Mindfulness meditation, yoga, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can all help you let go of building tension. These practices can help you bring your mind back to the present moment and help you feel more centered. Acknowledging and accepting your emotions can help you process and release them, greatly increasing your stress tolerance.
4. Daily do something fun and active
Choosing something you enjoy to get your body moving makes it more likely that you will continue. Go for a walk with a friend or your dog, swim, cycle, dance. Tie something that you love to do, like watch a movie (in your home, walking in place in the aisle at the movie theater might be frowned upon) or listen to music, to moving your body.
5. Reach out to friends or family, make eye contact, smile and talk
The best results will come from face-to-face interactions with others. Be a good listener, find a good listener. Make sure you put your screens down and built some real relationships.
6. Find a cause, interest or passion
Having a sense of purpose gives you a reason to get out of bed. Some find meaning from involvement in religion, community or a cause. The important thing is that you are serving something outside of yourself. Find meaning in your work, volunteer, build relationships, care for a loved pet, or develop and share a talent.
7. Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest
Work on controlling your thoughts, words and actions. Give up trying to control anyone else’s thoughts, words and actions. Listen respectfully to others, make requests or suggestions, set your boundaries and choose your behavior, and notice or focus in on what is working.
8. Enjoy the present and express gratitude
Gratitude is an amazing antidote for toxic thoughts and feelings. When you choose to look around you for what is good and express gratitude, you will increase your happiness. Gratitude increases resilience and helps to protect your mental health.
Enjoying mental health does not mean that you will never have a bad day, or feel down or sad. Personal struggles are a normal part of life. Choosing to maintain your mental health will help you to be more resilient and better able to cope with and recover from difficulties. It will be easier to find the silver lining and rise above struggles.
When to seek professional help
If you have tried to improve your mental and emotional health and still find yourself struggling at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. The eight suggestions above are still beneficial. But a counsellor may help you move further along your healing journey than you can do alone.
Do you choose what you say or how you behave based on what you think others will think of you? Are you hard on yourself, often criticizing or berating yourself? If so, it may be helpful to strengthen your self-esteem.
Self-esteem is determined by how you feel and think about yourself. Being able to accept yourself warts and all in an indication of positive self-esteem. You are able to accept yourself in both success and failure and understand that both are part of learning and growing as an individual.
Rate your self-esteem. Answer the following questions with yes, no, or sometimes.
- How I feel about myself depends on how others treat me.
- I don’t accept compliments easily.
- I am extremely concerned about flaws in my appearance.
- I’m not very intelligent.
- I do not eat healthy or exercise.
- I often make a fool of myself.
- I am uncomfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings.
- It is stressful to admit that I don’t know or understand something.
- I envy others.
If you have some yes and sometimes answers, it is possible that your self-esteem could use a boost.
IDEAS FOR STRENGTHENING YOUR SELF-ESTEEM:
1. Take care of your appearance. Being clean and well groomed adds to feelings of confidence. Wear something that makes you feel wonderful. If you don’t own anything that fits that category, treat yourself to an item or outfit that lifts your spirits when you wear it.
2. Give yourself three compliments a day. Record these compliment in a notebook or journal. Record anything that you are grateful for about yourself and those things that help you feel good about yourself. Complimenting yourself may feel awkward at first, but if you persist for at least 30 days, you will start to notice that you are feeling better about yourself.
Increasing your self-acceptance and improving your self-esteem involve changing the way you think about and talk to yourself.
The counsellors at Bridge Counseling are skilled in helping you understand yourself and creating the changes you want to see in your life. Your counsellor will meet with you to discuss your particular concerns. Together you can find options to help you increase self-acceptance and build self-esteem.
Although anger is a natural, useful and important emotion, it is vital that we find ways to respectfully express anger. Feeling anger is not a problem; problems arise when anger is expressed in aggressive or explosive ways. When this happens anger can be destructive to individuals and relationships.
Some Aspects of Anger
• Stress shortens our fuse.
• Often there is more contributing to our anger than we are aware.
• Anger often shows up when we see something in others that we don’t like about ourselves.
• Anger can simmer under the surface powered by old hurts and wounds.
• We may respond in anger when we feel hurt or disappointed.
• Anger is often the response when what is happening now triggers unresolved hurts from the past.
• Anger may at times overwhelm us when we hear words or feel feelings that have negatively impacted us before.
• Anger is a natural response to perceived injustice or unfairness.
• Anger can motivate us to push past our fears and take needed action.
Beware Of Negative Thoughts That Pump Up Your Anger
It may be tempting to think that the actions or word of others have made you angry. It seems reasonable that if people would not be so rude or frustrating that you would not feel angry. It is an amazing discovery to find that others do not have to have that kind of power and control over you. You have the ability to choose your response. How you think about the incident will either pump up your anger or help you to react in a more assertive and respectful way.
Common Negative Thought Patterns That Increase Anger:
• Overgeneralization. Thinking or saying things like, “You always interrupt me. You NEVER listen to me. EVERYONE disregards what I have to say. I NEVER get the respect I deserve.”
• Blaming throwing. Constantly looking for someone to blame when there are problems. Sidestepping responsibility for your own words and actions by blaming others.
• Overly rigid “shoulds” and “musts.” Being obsessive about the way things should be can pump up anger when others do not comply.
• Assuming. Thinking that you know why someone did or said something. Jumping to the conclusion that they purposefully ignored or disrespected you.
• Stuffing feelings. Storing little resentful thoughts away until the pressure builds up and explodes in a huge over-reaction to the next frustration.
Ideas For Replacing Negative Thought Patterns:
• Overgeneralization – Stay with what is happening now. Try saying things like, “I am not feeling heard, could you please tell me what you just heard me say?”
• Blaming throwing – Pause to consider how you might be contributing to the problem. Take responsibility for your own words and actions. Think I am choosing; rather than s/he made me (angry).
• Overly rigid “shoulds” and “musts” – Be open and willing to accept what is. Remember you cannot control others, so choose to control your response to them.
• Assuming – Clarifying. Try saying something like, “It sounds to me like you are saying… ; is that what you mean ?” Try staying curious rather than going to anger.
• Stuffing feelings – Speak up. Try being just 5% more assertive and speaking up, rather than stuffing resentments away. If you can really let it go then let it go. If it is going to continue to bother you, speak up.
Anger is a helpful emotion when expressed respectfully. Being aware of negative thought patterns that pump up your anger gives you the opportunity to choose to replace those thought patterns with thought patterns that help you feel more in control of you.
A week or so ago my husband and I decided to try out the 36 Questions To Fall In Love on our drive home from the lake. It turned out to be a revitalizing interaction of sharing and connecting. One of the questions asked us to describe our perfect day.
As I listened to myself describe my perfect day, I started wondering if there was a way for me to make every day a perfect day, or at least more perfect than not. I realized that what makes a day seem perfect has a lot to do with how we feel in that day. The activities of the perfect day will be unique for each individual. But I am confident that the feelings that accompany a perfect day for you probably run along the lines of contentment, connection, contribution, satisfaction, gratitude, exhilaration, excitement, joy, and delight. My perfect day includes moments where I feel or verbalize, “This is glorious.” For me it includes a feeling of awe and appreciation.
I would like to challenge you to consider your perfect day. Start watching for experiences that bring you those feelings that make a day seem perfect. Once you have some clarity about your perfect day you are in a position to start doing more of what helps you to feel content, connected, grateful, important, energized, exhilarated, excited, and joyful.
On a side note, some people may think that their perfect day would be either doing nothing on a sunlit beach or experiencing constant entertainment or adventure. Although these types of days are great and fun and needed especially for those who are feeling stressed and overworked. I think it is also helpful to consider the concept of sustainability and the law of diminishing returns when you are contemplating the elements of your perfect day. If you are going to live your perfect day, day after day, you want to make sure you include elements that allow you to learn and grow, as well as to contribute beyond yourself. Since these are the types of experiences that lead to lasting satisfaction and joy.
Living the perfect day also means being more present in each moment. Being open and aware of the beauty and opportunities around you. Think back on memories of days that most closely match your ideal of the perfect day. I bet that you can clearly remember many specific moments from those days, indicating that you were actually fully present at those times. You were not simply going through the motions on the treadmill of life. But you were actually awake and alive in your life. We always have the ability to choose to be more awake and alive each day.
Getting clear about what matters most to you, sets the pattern for creating your perfect day. Choosing to live your best day every day involves making decisions about how you spend your time and where you focus your attention.
The more you can tip your everyday life toward your ideal of the perfect day the more glorious, or whatever word you choose, your life will feel.
Laughter is powerful medicine. It can help dissolve stress. Notice how your whole body feels more relaxed after laughing. It also triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical, in the brain. It may help reduce pain and boost your immune system. And a good belly laugh may help protect your heart. Laughing out loud gets your diaphragm moving which improves blood flow. Paul McGhee, Ph.D. said, “Your sense of humor is one the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” Your sense of humor can help you to be resilient—help you bounce back from physical and emotional challenges.
Your sense of humor may also be a helpful prescription for your relationship. Finding the humor in stressful situations may help you to feel less threatened and more open to working together to find solutions. Humor and playfulness produce positive feelings and help build emotional connections. When you laugh together and smile at each other you will feel more bonded to each other. Humorous positive interactions may help protect your relationship in the inevitable difficult times.
Suggestions to add a dose of laughter to your day:
• Smile. Smiling is like a warm up for laughing. Try choosing to smile, even if you have to start when you do not feel like smiling. Your mood will improve and you will be more open to laughing.
• Look for humor. Watch for things to smile or laugh about. If you cannot find any in your life at the moment YouTube has lots of examples.
• Feel and Express Gratitude. Record what you are grateful for; make the list specific and varied. Re-reading this list will help bring a smile to your face. Gratitude can help you move away from negative thoughts that may block your sense of humor.
• Play with a child or a pet. Laughter typically is easy for children and laughter tends to be contagious. Playing with a pet can also get you out of your head and you may find yourself smiling and laughing.
• Choose to be around fun and playful people. Some people seem to smile effortlessly; they easily find the humor in life. Spending time with them may help you to laugh and their way of looking at things may start to rub off on you.
• Read fun stuff. Check out Laughter the Best Medicine and other humorous books.
There are definitely times when laughter is not appropriate, but it is also possible that you may be taking yourself too seriously. Most of the time with a little effort you can choose to smile and laugh rather than catastrophize. Taking things too personally and too seriously stresses your body and your mind.
There is incredible power to heal, refresh and renew in laughter. The ability to laugh easily and often will help you as you face challenges. It will strengthen your relationships and support you emotionally and physically.
Two main things contribute to those feelings of being in love with your partner. First your loving feelings are affected by how you feel about yourself when you are interacting with your partner. And secondly your loving feelings are amplified or diminished by your thoughts, words and behavior toward and about your partner. If your thoughts, words and actions are negative, your loving feelings will be diminished. If your thoughts, words and actions are loving, chances are your heart will be warmed toward your partner.
The 5 – 3 - 1 formula was developed to help you uplift each other. If followed it will help you feel great about yourselves when you are interacting as a couple. It will also help you behave in ways that amplify your loving feelings toward each other.
If you want the simplified version just do the daily 5 – 3 - 1 formula. Each day repeat the following:
Give each other 5 sincere positive messages.
Wrap your arms around each other for 3 hugs lasting a minimum of 20 seconds.
At least once a day make sustained eye contact and smile (with your eyes as well as your mouth).
For more in depth results use the entire 5 – 3 - 1 formula for successful relationships:
Once a year repeat the following:
Learn or review 5 relationship-enhancing skills (read five articles or watch five videos or attend 5 coaching sessions that help you learn healthy relationship skills)
Set 3 relationship goals. Choose three goals to work on as a couple. Perhaps you want to practice a relationship-enhancing skill. Make your goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. You can work on these one at a time if you prefer.
Go on 1 couple’s get away. Make it at least over night, preferably for a week. To count as a couple’s get away it must be just the two of you.
Once a month repeat the following:
Each of you share 5 happy memories from the past month. Reminiscing can help you bond and strengthen those positive moments.
Create a safe space for each of you to have 3 check in’s. This is an opportunity for each of you to clarify issues or concerns that you may have. Remember to use active listening. Carefully listen and validate before answering your partner’s concerns. Avoid accusatory language and avoid defensiveness.
Share 1 fun time together. If you don’t agree on how to have fun together take turns cheerfully participating with your partner doing their suggested activity.
Once a week repeat the following:
Each of you list 5 wins. Name five things that the two of you have done well together, enjoyed together, learned together etc. These can even be difficult experiences as long as the two of you pulled together rather than apart.
Notice and mention 3 strengths in your partner. Describe three wonderful qualities that your partner has or describe something about your partner that you appreciate, use specific examples of something they have done well in the past week.
Each of you make 1 request of the other that you feel may improve your relationship. Make your request specific and doable.
Each day repeat the following:
Give each other 5 sincere positive messages
Wrap your arms around each other for 3 hugs lasting a minimum of 20 seconds
At least once a day make sustained eye contact and smile (with your eyes as well as your mouth).
The simple 5 – 3 - 1 formula for successful relationships will help you bond as a couple. It will help you continue to amplify your love over time. You will be much more likely to avoid the common pit fall of taking each other for granted. So consider how your thoughts, words and actions may affect your partner’s image of him or herself. And consider how your thoughts, words and action affect your feelings toward your partner. And adjust accordingly.
When you are overwhelmed and struggling, it is possible to slip into feeling hopeless and wonder if it would be easier to just give up. Before you give into that dark thought, please consider the following questions and suggestions. As stress has increased in your life, you may have start to feel frazzled and self-care may be one of the last things on your mind. Everything seems worse when you are feeling frazzled. Take heart there may be some simple things that you can do to give yourself some relief. The following questions point to simple things that may have a bigger impact on how you are feeling than you would imagine.
Are you sleep-deprived?
Lack of sleep will definite affect your mood and ability to cope with even the simplest things. It is also one of those cyclical things where your mood affects your ability to sleep. To get your sleep back on track you might try a guided meditation intended to induce sleep, arrange for some respite, establish a healthy sleep routine and see your doctor if necessary.
Are you hangry (angry because you are hungry)? When did you last eat?
If it has been more than three hours since you last ate, pause and give your body something nourishing—protein, fruits, vegetables. You may find your mood improving.
Are you well hydrated?
Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, your energy level and your ability to think clearly. Thirst may be a factor if you are experiencing unexplained mood swings.
Have you moved your body recently?
Exercise releases endorphin and exercising regularly helps to boost your mood. Go for a walk, go to the gym or turn on some music and dance. Walking daily in sunlight is one of the best defenses against depression.
Are you showered and groomed?
A shower or soak in the tub may do more than clean your body. It may also help release tension and sooth you emotionally. Feeling clean and put together tends to be a mood booster.
Are you eating too much sugar and or processed foods like white breads, pastas, rice, or chips?
Eating more whole foods may significantly improve your mood and reduce your risk for depression. Experiment by eating some protein with each meal and eating a balanced diet including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Have you smiled at someone today (including yourself)?
Especially if you do not feel like smiling; choosing to smile can boost your mood. Not only does your expression reflect your mood but the reverse is also true. When you choose to smile the feel good chemicals endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are released in your brain, naturally boosting your mood.
Have you hugged someone today? Or spent time with your pet?
If you do have someone to hug—hug them for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have a pet or someone to hug, consider visiting a local pet store or animal shelter. Somewhere that allows you to pet and spend time with an animal. Positive physical touch can increase your serotonin levels and elevate your mood.
Have you accomplished something today?
Sometimes it can be difficult to find the motivation to put one foot in front of the other. Do it anyway. Stop right now and complete one small task. Focus only on the next 5 minutes. Clear off your desk or kitchen table, organize your sock drawer or clean the bathroom mirror. A sense of accomplishment, even for small things can help boost your mood.
Has your medication changed? Or have you missed a dose?
If you do not feel more settled in a couple of days see your doctor or psychiatrist. Be open with them about how you are feeling and any changes in medication, especially if what you have been doing varies from what was prescribed.
Do you have a counsellor? Have you seen your counsellor recently?
If you don’t have an appointment, make one. If you do have an appointment, hang on until you can talk things through with your therapist.