Say what?

Huh?

You gotta be kidding me!?

Those are all ways of saying ‘no’. They may not be eloquent choices, but they get the job done. If you have trouble being that direct (and most of us do), there are gentler versions of ‘no’ that can be equally effective without the collatoral damage to your relationships. At any rate, one can consider the word ‘no’ as a powerful way to say ‘yes’ to yourself.

Building boundaries that empower you while encouraging others to respect you is a none too easy task, especially for the people-pleasers among us. It has been proven, however, that always saying ‘yes’ to others can lead to conditions as severe as burnout and depression.

Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald recently penned a book called Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love that shows readers how to set personal boundaries that will actually strengthen personal relationships. According to the authors, saying ‘no’ helps us to figure out who we are and who we want to be in our relationships. By setting boundaries, we keep our personal identities alive — and our personal relationships honest, balanced, and intact.

To directly quote Tina Turner: What does love have to do with it? In a word, everything.

Self-love is not narcissism. It’s a life-sustaining force. The authors offer several ways to build beautiful boundaries to let love in ~both from others and from ourselves.

How you are going to say ‘yes’ to yourself today?

What Do Your Boundaries Say About You?
By Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald
Adapted from Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love

In our lives — and in relationships — we create personal boundaries to define the space we call our own. We set boundaries and say “no” with our words, but even more so with our behavior and actions: we may tell white lies, come up with excuses, or throw ourselves into activities like work, working out, or volunteering — essentially creating boundaries by making ourselves unavailable.

Boundaries may sound negative, but in reality, they are very important and help to define our personal identities. For example, being the nurturer or a people-pleaser comes with boundaries that fit those roles. Being the boss or the guru comes with a different set of boundaries that keep those identities intact. In this sense, personal boundaries allow us to “locate” ourselves within relationships (or within the world) in a way that’s familiar and safe. Our boundaries help us to honor the balance between taking care of ourselves, and taking care of others.

Here are four practices that will empower you to update your personal boundaries and take ownership of your life:

Honor yourself. What parts of your life are in need of care or attention? On a daily basis, find simple ways to honor yourself. Choose three things you like doing every day, and then do them. You might pick something as simple as taking a walk, reading, or having lunch with family or friends. Whatever you choose, know that you deserve to have pleasure, so let pleasure be your guide.

Soothe yourself. Are you living the life you want to live? Or do you feel like you are stuck and don’t have a choice in what’s happening? In these moments, stop and recognize the feeling of “choiceless­ness,” check your assumptions, and acknowledge the needs and desires you’re afraid won’t get met. With practice, you will find that cultivating the awareness of choice is profoundly soothing to your soul.

Embrace choice. Every time we make a decision, we have an opportunity to determine a course of action: “Do I stay here and face the situation, or do I run out the door?” By recognizing that you have control over your own reactions, you’ll also have the opportunity to reinforce, change, or alter your boundaries.

Accept yourself and your life lessons. Shame and disappointment about our lives causes us to create false boundaries and interactions with the people we care about most. It’s important to accept who you are and what has happened in your life. When faced with a challenge or disappointment, ask yourself: “What is my lesson here? How is this challenge a way for my soul to grow?” Use your answers to create boundaries that reflect acceptance of your true self.

*****
Cyndi Dale is an internationally respected author, cross-cultural healer, and spiritual scholar with over 35,000 client sessions and trainings across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Andrew Wald, LCSW-C, is a psychotherapist with advanced certifications in Imago Relationship Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Together, they have co-authored the new book, Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love (June 2012).

Burnout syndrome*, once considered a ‘manager’s disease’, affects people across all industries. A slow-creeping form of exhaustion accumulated over years of perfectionismstress and overwhelm, burnout is not just reserved for the highest-ranking professionals. It can happen to anyone.

Health care workers are cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) as particularly prone to job burnout. Using an Iranian psychiatric hospital as an example, the WHO found that 96% of all mental health care workers experienced some level of burnout while a full half of the study respondents experienced a high-level of job burnout. 

What is job burnout?

Herbert Freudenberger, a German-American clinical psychologist, is said to have coined the phrase “job burnout,” defined as “a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” (African Journal of Agricultural Research  Vol. 5(17), pp. 2321-2325, 4 September, 2010) What was once high job motivation sinks to the depths of despair and apathy.

What causes burnout?

The causes can be varied, depending on a person’s situation. Not only work-related stress, but also lifestyle issues can lead to a high rate of burnout. Working consistent long hours, having little familial or social support, sleeping and exercising less can hinder the rejuvenation process all human beings require to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Are some personalities more prone to burnout than others?

It is said that perfectionists and pessimists are more susceptible to burnout as it is in their very nature to push harder and harder to reach their goals. Workers that lack the necessary skills to complete their tasks, coupled with a lack of confidence, the inability to relax and so-called Type A personalities, are also at risk.

What are some of the signs?

The Mayo Clinic Web site suggests answering the following questions, quoted below:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?

If you have answered yes to several of these questions, you may be on your way to burnout. The important thing is to seek medical advice from your doctor to determine whether the cause of your symptoms are burnout-related or have some other origin such as a malfunctioning thyroid or clinical depression.

How can you prevent burnout?

If you answered ‘no’ to most of the above questions, but are still concerned that it could happen to you, consider the following strategies:

1.    Just say ‘no’. Setting boundaries early with others should not be considered walls, but paths to your sanity.

2.    Slow down on purpose. Set your own speed limit. Walk slower than normal. Breathe.

3.    Recognize your inner perfectionist. If you give 115% every day, you will use up more of yourself than you have. Allow for 80% every once in a while. Use the other 20% you saved for self-renewal.

4.    Exercise. According to the German Society of Neurology, even fifteen minutes of movement every day can extend your lifespan by three years.

5.    Note your stress points. If you start to feel that cortisol (the stress hormone) tingle move up your spine, identify the situation and write it down for later analysis. The more self-aware you become in stress situations, the more control you can get over them.

6.    Make a date with yourself every day. Close the door to your office and just be. Pacing yourself will ensure sustained energy throughout the entire day.

What other strategies have you found useful to embrace the power of slow?

 

*This post should not be considered medical advice so if you are considered about your mental health, please seek medical consultation immediately.

Why am I so SAD?

September 20, 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “winter blues”, is known to be caused by the lack of sunlight in the winter months. Its symptoms include irritability, weight gain, lethargy, and mood swings.

Experts do not agree as to the prevalence of the syndrome. While some purport that over 10 million are affected in the United States alone, others say that there is a lifetime prevalence of 10%, meaning that 10% of all individuals are affected by the disorder in some way. Regardless of the actual numbers, there is a general consensus that it is a world wide condition that affects millions of people each year.

According to Dr. Arnold Licht, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, Long Island College Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, 75% of all SAD sufferers are women. In his view, it is not only light deprivation, but also an “innate vulnerability that lead to the syndrome.” Women are more susceptible to depression over all.

What types of things can women in particular do to combat the winter blues? Dr. Carol Kaufmann, instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, suggests that women in particular should increase their self-care during the winter months. “We are biological-social-emotional- beings Anything we do to increase our internal resources helps the balance of our lives.” Dr. Licht suggests regular exposure to sunlight and exercise. “Natural light is the best even on overcast days, and an outdoor walk in the sun of about an hour is great.” He recognizes, however, that not everyone has that much time outdoors, especially in the winter time when days are short, and the nights are long.

In such cases, Dr. Licht has an answer, too. “Exposure to bright light of 30 minutes daily is best provided through the use of commercial ‘light boxes’. This must be done regularly or it will not work. Affected individuals who work in windowless buildings are greatly in need of this type of light exposure.” For more information about “light boxes,” you can visit this Web site.

For more severe cases, Dr. Licht reports that an appropriate dosage of medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy can assist SAD sufferers to lead normal lives.

“Some patients,” comments Dr. Licht, “with established patterns do very well by starting their antidepressant meds in late August or early September tapering off with the increase in light with the coming of early spring.”

Moving Beyond Depression author Dr. Gregory L. Jantz might not agree. His whole-person approach to healing involves a rigorous examination of each individual’s condition that involves nutrition as well. He not only treats people with SAD, but also with other types of clinical conditions such as eating disorders and sexual addiction. He argues that each person’s path into depression is unique and therefore each person’s path out of it would be, too. His healing center, simply called, The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc, treats the entire individual, inside and out.

Another simple way to get over the dumps while you’re waiting for your light box to arrive? Listen to uplifting music. BeliefNet is featuring a few great videos to help you get your mojo back!

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A Mindful Christmas

December 6, 2010

POM Pomegranate juice
Image by gabster_ro via Flickr

The month of December is stressful for a lot of people. The holidays add to the tension and for some, light deprivation deeply affects our moods. During this season of light (or lack thereof!), we need to engage in empowering activities that bring the love closer. Because I am sensitive to the lack of light at this time of year, I engage in a self-made winter empowerment program. It involves exercise, lots of pomegranate juice and practices of self-forgiveness during moments of crankiness.

When I came upon Barbara Kilikevich’s book, A Mindful Christmas: How to Create a Meaningful, Peaceful Holiday, I felt a sense of relief. Moving beyond the consumer madness, we can rejoice in knowing our bodies are allowed move a little slower at this time of year. After all, bears hibernate. Why shouldn’t we?

Helpful tips from Barbara’s Website include:

∙ Organize your Christmas so that it is less stressful
∙ Add Meaning to your Christmas season without added expense
∙ Protect the Christmas Spirit in children
∙ Remember what you love most about Christmas (it isn’t gifts)
∙ Avoid post holiday let down
∙ Glide smoothly back into reality after it is all said and done

Celebrate your holiday slow-style by remembering less is more and more is too much!

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