There seems to be a bit of a misconception with some of us that in order to be a “good” or “strong” person we must not react to upsetting interactions with others, be it friends, family members, roommates, coworkers etc. The whole idea of turning the other cheek - meaning that if someone slaps you across the face you are to turn and present the other cheek for them to continue their assault – doesn’t sit well or really actually make that much sense to me. If the alternative is to smack them back, then no, I’m not proposing that. Not at all. But what about a third option? What about saying to our aggressor “Please do not slap (read: call me down, speak rudely to, yell at) me. I do not like that, and will not tolerate that. If you are angry with me, tell me why you are angry and let’s talk about it, and see if we can work this out. If we are feeling too emotionally charged to talk about this now, let’s plan a time later on when we have cooled off.”
If we are met with some form of aggression, verbal or otherwise, how is it helpful to be a passive recipient of that aggression? If the aggressor learns that he or she can be aggressive or offensive with their words without consequence, opposition, or accountability in any way, shape, or form, how is that helpful to anyone? How are they to know that this type of behaviour is not okay?
Actually, one of the reasons some people react with physical or verbal violence is because they have not really learned how to express themselves in clear and assertive ways with their words, and have thus resorted to physical and verbal violence as a (very destructive) form of communication.
I was working with a woman one time who asked me if I would think she was a bad person if she was to tell her roommate that she doesn’t like being yelled and called down when her roommate is displeased with her.
I was all set with what I was going to blog about this week and then, just a moment ago, that all got flipped on its side after watching a short, yet powerful YouTube Video. I don’t often click on too, too many links that people post on Twitter, Linked In, and other such sites, but for some reason today I did. As an aside, do you ever hapt upon by seeming fluke or accident things in life that enrich and enliven you, and then wonder what you might have missed had you not done that thing that you don’t often do? And then ask… was it really a fluke? Or is this something I needed to see or hear or do for some significant reason? Anyway … I digress.
This YouTube video was definitely worth the time. It talks about the single best thing we can do for our health… and it’s really, really simple. What I think makes it most impactful is that it tells us what we can, or may want to do, as opposed to what we can’t, or should stop doing. Because really, which of us likes being told what not to do?
So Julia, what is it already??
It shouldn’t come as much of a shock, and most of us have heard it in some way or another before, but the single best thing we can do for our health is… exercise. that’s it. simple. straightforward. easy and doable. Just a little moderate exercise (think walking) for 20-30 minutes a day – c’est tout. AND you can even break that time up into a few10 minute chunks! Most of us know that this amount of regular exercise has huge health implications for ailments like heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, etcetera, etcetera (probably not new news). BUT it can also have a HUGE impact on decreasing and treating DEPRESSION!! Really truly. Actually, I was at a conference awhile ago and one of the presenters spoke about recent studies showing that jogging can be as effective as pharmaceutical anti-depressants for treating depression.
“Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 and a ½ hours a day?”
Watch the video. It’s really well done and shares some pretty interesting information in a very captivating way.
Further to last weeks post let’s talk about mistake making. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure none of us like to make mistakes. It usually feels pretty awful and often for so many different reasons. More often than not the consequence is letting someone else down or letting ourselves down. Many of us have a hard time facing ourselves when we err – the guilt, the shame, the remorse, the frustration.
Now I’m not saying that one is to skip away in merry delight after doing or saying something regrettable, but beating ourselves up and punishing ourselves to no end is not advisable either. It’s okay to feel badly, especially if we’ve hurt someone or hurt ourselves. From there though, we have the choice to turn things around – to look at the situation and figure out what happened that led to the disgraceful. Why did I let myself say something mean and hurtful? Why did I let myself do or say something to compromise my values and standards? Why did I abandon my ability and responsibility to make constructive and healthy choices with my words and actions? And most importantly, what can I do in the future to prevent this from happening again? Often mistakes can be very valuable learning tools… if we are willing to take the time and energy to face them, face ourselves, and chose what we are going to do or say differently next time.
Next time, when in a heated discussion with a sibling or a spouse and I notice myself getting hot and uncomfortable in my chest, my belly, or my head I am going to take a break and go for a walk, change the subject, or go into another room and do something different. Maybe I don’t have to see this debate to the end, and maybe, just maybe I don’t have to be right – especially if the only viable alternative is saying or doing something hurtful out of frustration and anger. Respect, trust, and loving connection to both others and ourselves takes work, sometimes hard work. And in my bias, I say it’s worth it.
Recently, I had the opportunity to get a taste of my own medicine. Now I say it was an opportunity because I see any and all occasions where one experiences insight, learning, and then subsequent growth as valuable.
In my work as a counsellor my clients and I often talk about what’s not working for them and then do some exploration around that. This often brings them to some meaningful self-understanding and insight. From there we go on to identify the parts that are working, what has worked in the past, or what might work – since we’ve had time to establish what doesn’t. I encourage my clients to actively explore the issue from a different angle and work to figure out an alternate approach seeing as it’s been well established that the status quo is not going so well.
It’s amazing to me how it can seem like such an apparent and viable course of action when looking onto another, but then at times having the blinders on when it comes to my own life.
Not too long ago I was working with a client who was feeling quite stuck, and having a hard time getting unstuck. I could understand and empathise with her felt stuckness and we spent a few sessions exploring this together. It wasn’t until I spent some time reflecting on and processing our work together that I realized the work we were doing was not as helpful to her as it could have been. It was then that the voice of a long line of psychology gurus came billowing into my ear: “if it’s not working, stop doing it!” huh. As simple as that. Stop. Regroup. Reflect. Refocus. And come up with an alternate approach. It makes sense and seems so easy… once I remembered to take the time to step back and explicitly look at the situation and see what I was (or wasn’t) doing.
It’s funny because in the session that brought all of this on the client and I had been talking about the significance of working smarter rather than just trying to work harder. Touché.
The moral of the story: If something’s not working, or not working as well as you had planned, hoped, or expected, take some intentional time to reflect, reboot, and then come up with an alternate course of action.
Here’s my take on New Years Resolutions. If you’ve been reading my blog regularly you can probably guess my opinion about this time of year’s most popular topic of conversation… Not a fan.
Not because I think replacing bad habits with good ones is a terrible idea, but because of the way we tend to go about making our newly resolved metamorphoses. In essence, making grandiose and dramatic changes in a short amount of time is rarely effective… at least when it comes to long term sustainability. Believe it or not, human beings are extremely adaptable and we tend to do our best adapting when neither too little nor too much discomfort is involved in that which we are attempting to adapt to. For example, a popular NYR (New Years Resolution) is to exercise and get in shape. Now, if the entirety of your current exercise regime entails walking to the freezer for a second helping of ice cream, resolving to do hour long workouts at the gym 5 days per week will probably work well… for the first few days… actually they say NYR’s like these last an average of 6 days. The problem with going from 0 to 100 overnight is that it pushes us into too much discomfort. It’s too hard. It takes just too much effort and will power, and frankly, we are REALLY good at talking ourselves out of things that are too far beyond our comfort level. Like I said, most of us can handle and can talk ourselves into a little discomfort, but try to do too much too soon and that other little talk me out of it voice will almost always win out.
In contrast, and perhaps this is not very intuitive, but if we want to make major changes then we need to start small – small enough to be realistically manageable, but big enough to be at least a little bit challenging – we do still need something to be proud of. For above said example, a more realistic goal would be to start by doing a 10 minute walk (think once around 2 blocks) three times per week after work or after supper, or whenever. It’s a myth to think that you need to go big or go home. ANYTHING more than the status quo makes a difference. If we start incorporating things into or taking things out of our lives that are realistic and sustainable over the long term, they will be just that: Sustainable. And here on the West Coast, we seem to like that word a lot. It’s all the rage.