Posts Tagged ‘healing’

The perfect gift

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

In many countries, ’tis the season for finding the perfect gift for your friends and loved ones.  It truly can be a special time of thoughtfulness and giving.

But just to mix things up, I’d like to challenge you to give a unique gift this year… one that has a great kick-back incentive. It’s not a store-bought gift or one you order online, but one that comes from your social intelligence — the ability to be aware of those around you and manage your relationship with them. This gift is empathy.

Empathy is a competency of emotional intelligence and one which can be easier to offer to some than others. Empathy is not only sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, but it is showing an active interest in their concerns.

For those we care about and love, showing empathy comes easy.  When a friend is in trouble, we hurt with them and want to do what we can to help out.  But have you tried showing empathy toward those who have disappointed you or let you down?  Easier said than done.

There is no magic formula to doing this. Offering the gift of empathy toward those who are not on your “Nice” list is difficult. We naturally tend to withhold kindness toward those who’ve been hurtful and even can find a sense of twisted satisfaction when we choose to not forgive their wrongdoing toward us. But we all know it’s us who suffers most when we choose anger and resentment. And opting not to forgive someone, to not put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand the why behind their behavior, instead skipping down the path of resentment, damages our own well-being.  In an article published by John Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Karen Swartz, M.D. at John Hopkins Hospital says this: “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and  immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.”  (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it)

Dr. Swartz goes on to say, in contrast, “Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” Anger toward someone who’s been hurtful is normal.  It’s just not a place you want to hang out for long.

Who are you holding a grudge toward or harboring anger toward?  I’m guessing someone’s name came quickly to mind. Try writing down that name on a piece of paper and, for a moment, attempt to lay aside their hurtful behavior. List out all the positive things about them you can come up with. (There’s no need to write down the hurtful behavior — no doubt you’ve replayed that in your mind countless times!) Your list of positives might be short. That’s OK. But looking at their whole person instead of focusing only on the hurtful behavior can help shift your perspective, even if just a bit. Then write down what you know of their current situation — what are they going through? Are they lonely? Are they depressed? Are they scared, worried, or trying hard to impress others? Are they financially burdened or seem full of themselves? Are they struggling with insecurity? Most of our poor behaviors occur when we’re not in a good space.  Attempting to understand their situation and offer a little understanding can have tremendous power over the anger in your heart.

“As human beings, we all have reasons for our behavior. There may be people who have certain physiological issues that dictate why they make certain choices. On the whole, though, I think we’re dictated by our structure, our past, our environment, our culture. So once you understand the patterns that shape a person, how can you not find sympathy?” — Forest Whitaker

To begin to heal, you may need to have a conversation with this person to let the know the pain they’ve caused. You may need to journal about it, talk with a friend, work with a coach, or see a counselor to sort things out. Whichever action you need to take to put this behind you and move on, do it. Every minute you hang on to  resentment and anger is one more minute you are robbing yourself from living a full life.

You don’t have to become best friends with the person.  In fact, in situations of severe hurt, it may be best to not have contact with them if possible. But whatever your ongoing relationship with them may be, there’s no need to keep replaying their destructive behavior over and over in your mind.  Why relive something so pain-filled? It happened. Past tense. No need to keep bringing it into your present. Offering a little empathy — not in any way justifying what they did — by attempting to understand why they did it, can help you begin to move forward again.

Offering the gift of empathy doesn’t make light of the pain, nor does it give license for the person to continue to inflict damage upon you.  Forgiving someone doesn’t tell them what they did was OK. It tells them that you’re not going to punish them (and yourself) any longer for something in the past. It can free you from the hurt and enable you to move forward again…with or without them.  In fact, offering someone empathy isn’t really for them — it’s a gift of love to yourself.  Yes, your empathetic behavior may bring about a shift in that person’s mindset–but that’s not your concern. Your emotions and behaviors are the only ones you can truly manage. Think of empathy as a gift you give to others which comes with an incredible kickback incentive — healing for your heart.

Empathy is probably the most perfect gift you’ll find this season. And I promise, it’s a gift you’ll never want to return. Why not give it a try?

Summer: A time of refreshing

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Stress. A quick Google search tells us stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”  I don’t know about you, but May can bring with its flowers a multitude of demanding circumstances.  It’s a month of must-do’s, especially if you have school-aged children.  ‘Tis the season for the ‘final final’ of every club, activity, sport, and academic arena that your child has ever participated in, and though they are all wonderful things, just looking at your calendar for the month ahead can cause a state of mental strain!  And this comes after long, demanding days at the office. It’s enough to wear even the strongest down.

If you were to self-assess in this very moment how stressed you are, how would you rate?

If you’d like a little help in determining your stress levels, consider taking this short quiz from Psych Central (psychcentral.com):

https://psychcentral.com/quizzes/stress-test.htm

Emotional and mental tension from life’s demands can take its toll on our mental and physical health and contribute to many health issues. This article from the Mayo Clinic cites these negative symptoms of stress:

On your body:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems

On your mood:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
Many of us have fond memories of summer break.  No school, sleeping in, running barefoot, catching lightning bugs, throwing water balloons, sipping lemonade, swimming, picnicking, camping — all wonderful earmarks of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. It was a time of refreshing between the demands of the school semesters. When we were kids, my brothers and I would play hide-and-go-seek until it was too dark to see where we were running.  I remember the exhilarating feeling of sprinting back to the old ash tree just steps ahead of my chasing brothers, tangled hair flying as my swift, grass-stained feet carried me to the safety of base.  Even if your summers were spent indoors, or taking a summer class, or working at your first job, the season still usually signifies a refreshing break in the routine, a change of pace. But how often do we get that time of refreshing in our adult lives? Seasons come and go and we plod on, day in and day out, consistently meeting demands and solving problems with no respite, leaving us exhausted.

Changing up your schedule to spend time to do things you enjoy is a valuable way to combat stress. The obvious thing to do is to take some time off work and go on vacation. But many can’t afford to take the time off, or have the funds to do so.  Yet they need a break as much as the next person! Look how Maya Angelou celebrated author, poet, and historian so succinctly states it:

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Here, here!  We all probably agree, but how do withdraw if time and funds are a constraint? It’s really quite simple.  For the moment, put aside your visions of lavishly escaping to a tropical island in the South Pacific, and just daydream for a moment about things do you like to do when you have some free time. Maybe it’s just taking a walk at lunch. Or riding your bike. Maybe you like to fish. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite tunes, or shooting basketball, reading a book, or going on a jog.  Maybe your thing is to meet a dear friend for coffee. Or visit a museum, or browse your favorite clothing store. You may be one who likes to hike, or binge-watch your favorite show or … take a nap!

I have found that I have to escape city life from time to time to find my place of refreshment. I keep my tent and camping gear tucked neatly away in the trunk of my car, so that at a moment’s notice (i.e., 5:01 pm on a Friday afternoon), I can hop in my car and take a short drive out of town to find a scenic spot to set up camp. For me, something about physically removing myself from the city and escaping to the mountains instantly renews my sense of excitement and wonder. Add to that breathing in the crisp, clean mountain air, feasting my eyes on greens and blues (green trees, green grass, blue skies, blue waters), and turning off my cell phone! gives my soul the peace it longs for.

Whatever it is that suits your fancy, make sure it’s something that you truly enjoy and has nothing to do with your day to day routine that leaves you drained. But you’ll find that the most difficult part of refreshing is not determining what to do, but when.  It’s easy to decide that activities that serve no purpose other than fun aren’t as important as our day-to-day work demands that shout so loudly, and just push the fun stuff aside. You’re going to have to make a commitment to fun. Maybe you can carve out a new morning routine before the commute. Maybe you can find some time at lunch to have some down time. Maybe one evening a week you can leave the office right at 5 pm and go play. Or take a half day on the weekend and commit to spending that time doing something you love.  Though fun may not seem as vital as work, truth is, we need both.

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” — Alan Cohen

When is the last time you did something just because it was fun? And if it’s been way too long, how are your stress levels? Our souls need refreshing and it’s important we figure out how to provide this form of self-care for ourselves. As summer approaches, try to carve out some time for fun. Your body and soul will thank you for it!

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” — Roald Dahl

When A Friendship Ends

friendship brokenArticle Contributed by Amy Sargent

Have you ever had a friend tell you they can’t be your friend anymore?

Business partnerships, romantic relationships, and casual acquaintances come and go, and cause upset when they end, but we seem to attach a little more expectations of longevity to the relationships we call friendship. A friend is a person we know in depth, with whom we hold a special bond of mutual affection, (usually exclusive of sexual or family relations). They’re our companion. Our confidant. One we can trust, rely upon, who will stand by us no matter what. But there are times when a friendship, for various reasons, can’t withstand the sands of time. And it hurts.

When friendships come to a close, whether temporarily due to extenuating circumstances or permanently because of unhealthy habits, the pain you feel can trigger a number of reactions:

  • Sadness.   You’ve suddenly lost someone dear to you. This can cause intense sorrowful feelings of emptiness.
  • Revenge.  I know, it’s immature, and equally hurtful, but we’ve all been there.  She has the gall to hurt me?  I’ll just send a snippy little text back…
  • Anger.  You invested a lot of your time, energy and heart into this friend.  And they think they can just walk away?  Now I’m mad…
  • Global negativity. It’s that feeling that this one event is indicative of your overall well-being and breeds thoughts of “here we go again” and  “see, nothing ever works out for me”.
  • Knee-jerk desperation. You’re immediately hit with a vast, empty hole that the friend once filled, and it does not feel good.  Fine, I’ll just replace them with someone new…”Next?!”

Which do you tend to choose?

While each of these emotions are valid, wallowing in any one too long will only retard your healing. And a word of warning: take care to be mindful of your actions while feeling these powerful emotions. Before you act — stop and ask, “Will this help or hurt the situation in the long run?” While full of passion, actions based on emotion alone, without the wisdom of reason, can cause even more damage to both parties.

Resiliency, or grit, is that ability to bounce back after setbacks. Some of us have it, and some of us don’t, especially when we’re faced with something tough, like the loss of a friend, or other setbacks and failures. But it is a competency of emotional intelligence that can be learned and developed. Here are some quick tips that may be of help when faced with a painful loss:

  1. Take care of yourself. We can’t be resilient when we’re lacking sleep, are malnourished, not exercising, or overly-stressed.
  2. Challenge negative ‘self-talk’. Ask yourself, “Is there any evidence to back up this self-doubt I’m feeling?” Probably not.
  3. See disappointments as temporary, short-term and isolated. What just happened is specific to this particular circumstance, and most likely not applicable to your life as a whole.
  4. Seek support from those in your life who care about you. Lean into your other friends and family and don’t try to go it alone.
  5. Do something that brings you rest and renewal. Can you get away for a few days to your favorite place? Go dancing? Take a long nap? Think about what brings you joy, and treat yourself to that luxury if possible.
  6. Learn from others. It always helps to see what others are going through, and discover how they worked through their own disappointments. Outward thinking puts the situation into perspective and gets our mind off ourselves.

“Your choice:  victim or victor.”  — Author unknown

We all know someone who is experiencing pain from loss, whether it be a friendship, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or just general disappointment with life. If you’d like to learn more about resiliency, both how to develop more of it and instill it in others, consider an online class designed for leaders, coaches, and individuals. Click here for more details:  How to Develop Resiliency & Instill Grit

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