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Sunday Blues / Monday Blahs

eyeIt’s Sunday afternoon, somewhere between 3 and 4 pm, and this feeling comes over you –again. Sunday Blues – to be followed by Monday Blahs. It’s the flip side of TGIF.

For some, the reasons may be too obvious:

They hate their work. They hate school. They hate their circumstances. So they hate Mondays. Those who drink too much or use other drugs on weekends don’t need expert advice on why they feel so badly on Sundays. But for many others, even when things are going right, the Sunday blues mysteriously reappear, bringing with them feelings of loneliness, a touch of malaise, melancholy, irritability, aches and mild depression.

Some researchers say these symptoms result from the resetting of internal biological clocks after weekend disruptions of sleep and activity. The tendency is to stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights and catch up on sleep on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The body clock resets to the new timetable, but not completely. These researchers, scientists and chronobiologists, speculate that mood shifts on Sunday afternoon and blahs on Monday morning are not surprising. The disruptions that have occurred can confuse the control center in the brain that is primordially wired.

Weekend leisure carries a price. Daylight is still a very potent signal to the internal body clock that regulates hormones, temperature, blood pressure and other functions. Humans have been disturbing their natural circadian rhythms ever since the light bulb was invented. Then the alarm clock.

A very intriguing study comes from Dr. Franz Halberg, considered the father of chronobiology, who says he has found significant evidence of seven-day rhythms in humans. The seven-day week is thought to have been set by natural phenomenons just like the day, month or year are.

Not so says Dr. Halberg. He is convinced that body rhythms of approximately seven days might be the force that impelled mankind toward the seven-day week. “I believe we can now demonstrate, with the help of computer analysis, overwhelming evidence that there are seven-day rhythms produced by nature,” Dr. Halberg said. “They are in our genes, and it is very big news.”

TIPS FOR OVERCOMING:

  1. Recognize that the way you’re feeling is not uncommon.
  2. Acknowledge if your feelings are the result of a disappointment, cramming too many activities into the weekend, or if the feeling has lasted more than a weekend (it could be depression)
  3. Tackle what specifically is troubling you. Is it an unrewarding job or school program? Unfulfilled obligations/studies (too much to do)? Then make a plan to make changes. And start making them!
  4. Schedule the coming week on Sunday night. Add at least one feature that you are looking forward to.
  5. Distract yourself on Sunday afternoon or night. Plan to do something different. Be around people. Change your Sunday night behaviors.
  6. Often more difficult, but rewarding to both your brain & your body, is sticking to a regular schedule ALL week. Bedtime, wake time and eating time.

Seek professional help if you’re dealing with depression, anxiety/panic attacks or any other debilitating health concerns.

Until next time,

Nell

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Complaining

complainingAs stress filled times push us into some unwanted positions and strain our coping abilities, complaining is on the rise.  Many defend their complaints by saying they are merely observations, but complaining is a creative act.    It is also highly addictive.  One dictionary defines complaining as “expressing a feeling of pain, dissatisfaction, or resentment.”  Complaining is not the same as having a negative emotional reaction.  Complaining is the act of reinforcing the negative reaction – dwelling on the negative.

What do we complain about? Anything and anyone.  We complain about our dwindling income (does anyone ever think they have enough money)?  The weather. Our health. Politicians and politics (a national pastime).  Our job.  Our boss.  Our spouse.  Our parents.  Our kids.  Their school(s), etc, etc.  We complain about anything that meets with our disapproval.  The primary topics for complaint involve the actions and personalities of others.

Why do we complain? Many reasons.  Sometimes it is hoping the listener will fix our problem.  Sometimes it is for attention or sympathy.  Sometimes it is just to vent because “I have to get it out.”  In all cases, we’re looking for something.  Often we’re not aware of what that something is.

Complainers in the workplace:  Chronic complainers, for the most part, are annoying and unpleasant to be around.  There are areas of complainer activity, however, that are emotionally and concretely destructive.

​Harbored in the workplace, complainers create a toxic environment resulting in increased emotional stress and ineffectiveness.  “My boss expects too much from me”, “My colleague is always late/incompetent/lazy”, “I am not respected around here“, “My employees are ungrateful.”

​Problems grow quickly in the workplace because cliques are formed among fellow complainers where they become critical and suspicious of everyone else.  People who complain together unite against the world and can create strong internal relationships.  But these relationships are based mostly on negative experiences.  It also means that you can only continue to be part of the group if you complain and support the others complaints.

Relationship Complaints: ​Dissatisfaction with a partner, family member or friend is often delivered as a criticism rather than a complaint.  “You only think of yourself” (eliciting a defensive or equally critical response).  Instead of describing what is happening or the emotional feeling, the complainer is judging the other.   When we expect another to guess what we’re thinking they just may get it right, but they’re still guessing.  No one is a mind reader.

Tips for complaining:

• Look first at yourself.  Are you feeling irrationally annoyed? (It happens).
• Acknowledge your own responsibility.
• Complain to the right person (someone who can do something about it).
• Choose the right time for both parties.  Avoid blaming or accusing.
• Complain about the actual problem – not underlying issues or symptoms.
• State appreciation for what is good.
• Complaints are o.k.  Criticism never is!

Until next time, my very best.

Nell

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The If-Then Solution to Problem Solving

rubik-cubeThis one is so easy you can begin using it right away.  Not only is it simple….but it works.  It’s the If-Then plan.

Say you’ve decided to start an exercise program that includes walking 30 minutes each morning.  You’ve set your alarm for 5:30 am and have your running gear ready.  You feel good the first three days of your program.   On the 4th day, it rains.  You’re out of synch, and by days 5 and 6 your motivation has waned.  Your plan was not specific enough.  The If – Then  plan is very specific in how you will manage this situation.  If it rains, I will skip rope for 20 minutes.  The if – then version tells you exactly what you will do in a critical situation.  You are two to three times more likely to succeed in your plans by using this version.

If X happens, then I will do Y.

X can be any condition and Y is the specific action you will take.  For a student with acute anxiety about test taking, for example, the student may rehearse what she/he will do: “If I can’t think of the answer to one question, then I will go to the next”, or “if I feel myself getting anxious, then I will breathe slowly 5 times”.  When test-taking students implemented this plan they solved almost 50 % more problems than students who did not use the plan.  And, Peter Gollwitzer, the NYU psychologist who first articulated the plan, found (in a review of 94 studies that used the technique) significantly higher success rates for just about every goal imaginable.

This process is effective because it speaks the language of the brain.  We humans encode information in terms of contingencies to guide our behaviors..  Deciding on X – Y creates a link in your brain between the situation/cue (If) and the behavior to follow (Y).  And this can occur unconsciously.  When the “if” part happens, the “then” part responds.

Think of the worst case scenario in anything that could interfere with your goals or well being, from remembering to call your wife when you leave the office, to ordering only coffee when the dessert cart arrives.  Practice establishing your If – Then solution to reach your goals.

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Defining Overindulgence

childThere seems no better time of year than this to talk about overindulgence – although it is practiced with regularity throughout the year.  Yes, even during a deep global economic recession.

Overindulgence is not quite the same as spoiling.  We tend to view a spoiled child as one whose behaviors are very annoying to adults.  An overindulged child may, indeed, act spoiled, but the results of overindulgence are more far-reaching than that.

Too much means different things to different people.  To some it is viewed simply as expectation.   Others describe it as smothering or debilitating.  And dictionary definitions aren’t much help, ranging anywhere from tolerance to dissipation to excess.

In “Growing Up Again, 2nd Edition”  authors Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson, tackle this cultural phenomenon in the chapter on Overindulgence.   Bredehoft and Clarke were determined to identify a definition of overindulgent parenting by finding out what it means to adults who were overindulged as children.  Read the definition as defined by those adults.

Overindulging children means giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, too long; giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents.  Overindulging is the process of giving things to children to meet the adult’s needs, not the children’s needs.

 

Parents who overindulge give a disproportionate amount of family resources to one or more children in a way that appears to meet the children’s needs, but does not.  Overindulged children experience scarcity in the midst of plenty.  They have so much of something that it does active harm or at least stagnates them and deprives them of achieving their full potential.

 

Overindulgence is a form of child neglect.  It hinders children from doing their developmental tasks and from learning necessary life lessons.

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Resillience: Adapting to hardships

resilience-means-300x225Resilience means being able to adapt to life’s misfortunes, setbacks and hardships.

When something goes wrong in your life, do you bounce back or go to pieces?  When you have resilience, you gather up your inner strengths and rebound quickly from a setback.  That setback can be a the loss of a job, loss of your home, divorce, an illness, disaster, the death of a loved one, or any unexpected event that turns your world upside down.

Resilience is Adapting to Adversity:

Without resilience, we tend to dwell on the problem, feel victimized , become overwhelmed and resort to unhealthy (sometimes dangerous) methods of coping, such as substance abuse, increased anger or rage.  Resilience is rolling with the punches, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel the punches.  It means that although you encounter disruption, stress, trauma or adversity, you keep functioning, both physically and psychologically.

Resilience won’t make your problems go away.  It will give you the ability to see past them – to reorganize your life, manage stress and find enjoyment and meaning in your changed world.

Tips to Improve your Resilience:

  • Get connected:  Build strong, positive relationships with family and friends who provide support and acceptance.  Get involved in your community.  Volunteer.  Join a faith-based or spiritual community.
  • Remain hopeful:  Focus on the belief of a basic goodness of the world, and that things will turn out all right.  Find something each day that signals a change for the better.
  • Learn from experience:  Remember how you’ve coped with problems/hardships in the past.  Build on the skills that helped you through rough times.  Avoid those things that did not work – especially thinking in negative terms.
  • Tend to yourself:  Take care of your needs, both physically and emotionally.  Participate in activities you enjoy.  Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and eat well.  Restore a sense of inner peace with positive self-talk and calming techniques (such as meditation, music).
  • Anticipate change:  Changes are inevitable.  Expecting changes to occur makes it easier to adapt to them and even embrace them.  With practice, you can learn to be more flexible and reduce your anxiety when change comes your way.
  • Laugh:  Finding humor in tough times doesn’t mean you’re in denial.  Humor is a helpful coping skill.  You can always find something to laugh about.
  • Work toward a goal:  Do something every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment.  Small, everyday goals are important.  Having goals helps you look forward to the future.
  • Keep a journal:  Writing about your experiences, thoughts and feelings can help you with strong emotions that you may be afraid to unleash – or that may otherwise be unleashed inappropriately.   Journaling also helps you see patterns more clearly and  situations in a different light.
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What’s in a name?

A statement made recently by someone with whom I was business coaching reminded me of one of the critical mental mistakes many of us make from time to time. A common mistake that can alter our basic perception…or total regard…for another person. It is the mistake of labeling.

When you say of another he is “a lazy person”, “a bad person” – or even “a snake”, “a loser” – that is the way you tend to see that person. The more often you say it/think it – the “label” is what the person becomes to you. Bad Person” is not an adjective (as some would defend), but a noun. No such creature exists.. All a person can ever be is a person. Period.

Think about this in terms of those you have labeled – including yourself. If a wife refers to her husband as “a thoughtless man” often enough she will begin to “see” him as such. It won’t matter how often he takes out the trash or asks her how she’s doing. All she will see is a thoughtless man. He (a person) has been redefined . When labeled in this manner often enough, the person will buy into the behavior – cease to defend and behave as he has been labeled “a thoughtless man.”

Of those we have labeled “bad people”, we are discouraged about their ever changing their behavior. They become, dreaded, hated – the enemy.

A person is not a behavior. Learning to separate the person from the behavior allows us to look further into personhood. As fallible human beings, who among us is not capable of behaving thoughtlessly – or badly?

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Men and Relationships

Understanding Defenses
Recently I was enjoying an evening out with friends, two of whom were females in their mid-thirties.  In the course of lighthearted banter and much laughter, the subject of men (as is oft the case) came up.  During one comment concerning disappointment with men, I responded with the statement “I have a lot of empathy for men today.”  The two 30-somethings (both sophisticated, successful and beautiful) sat bolt upright, looked at me with surprise and consternation, and made some inaudible sound.  Curious though they may have been, and too polite to prod, the conversation moved on.
The more I work with men (in therapy and in coaching) the more profound is my empathy.  More profound, perhaps, may be removing the long-held ideological truism that, deep down, both genders want the same thing from a relationship.  It may be time to embrace the possibility that men and women don’t necessarily want exactly the same things after all.
Keep in mind that the suggestion of gender differences in the way people love is a reference to people in general.  Gender differences can never account for personality, sociability, past experiences or the complexities of individual behavior.  Whenever you hear of “research findings”, these are group averages – with lots of room for individual exceptions.  For example, there are certainly men who love to talk about their feelings and women who hate it.
Little Girls and Little Boys:
Women have had an enormous head start in acquiring “people skills” and are usually more savvy about emotions because of their early socialization differences.  Females are usually more emotionally intelligent than males for one simple reason:  They began the practice very early.  Notice young children on a playground and you’ll see this head start in action.  Young boys are usually playing run and chase games.  Their priority is the game itself – not their relationship with each other and their feelings.  But, for the little girls, feelings are of paramount importance.  “You’re not my friend anymore” will stop the game in its tracks.  It will only start up again if the girls make up.
A 4 year old girl may be able to engage the boy in playing with her doll and pretending it is their baby (relationship), but the boy will soon have the baby hurt or dying and rushing off in an ambulance to the hospital (problem solving/taking action).
Though these play styles are charming, they present evidence that “girls games” offer a far better preparation for marriage and family life because they focus on relationships.  Look in most pre-school dress-up sections and, though you’ll see little girl’s bridal gowns, you won’t see little boy’s tuxedos.
Because this difference in play styles occurs in all cultures, it is probably more biological than sociological, but, nevertheless,  it jumpstarts  girls with an extensive education into emotions by the end of childhood.   Girls’ play emphasizes social interactions and feelings.  Boys learn to play cooperatively.  They transfer this skill to quickly resolving conflicts (in the boardroom and on the construction site), but it becomes a liability in marriage and close relationships because of a lack of understanding  behind the woman’s perspective.
John Gottman, PhD, co-founder of the Gottman Institute posits:  This difference in training is heightened by the fact that as they get older, boys rarely play with girls, so they miss the chance to learn from them.  About 35 % of preschool best friendships are between boys and girls.  By age 7 that percentage plummets to virtually 0 %.  From then to puberty the sexes will have little or nothing to do with each other.  This is a worldwide phenomenon.  Studies show that by the age of 1 ½ boys will accept influence only from other boys when they play, whereas girls accept influence equally.  Girls become fed up by about the age 5 to 7 and stop wanting to play with boys.  From then until puberty, there is no formal structure for boys and girls interactions.
Once the couple is in a committed relationship (if the wary male  makes it this far), moves in together, or is engaged, the man is immersed in an alien world. In the play In Defense of the Cave Man the man says that when he was first married and saw his wife cleaning the bathroom, he asked her “Are we moving?”  Before marriage, that was the only time he or his roommates cleaned the bathroom.
Fast Forward – The Adult
Men are confused in terms of what is expected of them, coupled with a growing mistrust of women.  Today’s woman is not her mother’s woman. She is on level with men in all areas; smart, educated (the number of corporate female CEOs continues to rise), financially sound, athletic, competitive and all-around savvy.  “Motherhood without a mate” is also an option.  She hardly needs protecting.  Yet, this is the intrinsic nature of the male.
Steven Stosny, Ph.D, Lions Without a Cause (Psychotherapy Networker, May/June 2010), writes “men’s animal instincts don’t fit the modern world.”  The primary motivation keeping men invested in loving relationships is different in what keeps women invested.  The glue that keeps men (and males in social animal groups) bonded is the instinct to protect.  “If you listen long enough to men talking about what it means to love, you’ll notice that loving is inextricably linked, for many men, to some form of protection.  If men can’t feel successful at protecting, they can’t fully love.”
When a man is aware of his full range of feelings he is reluctant to express them for fear of exposing his vulnerable self.  And vulnerability gets in the way of the male’s primal instinct to protect the herd.
A Complicated Equation
In today’s culture, “male protection” is usually defined in financial terms.  Protector equates with Provider.  The self-worth of a man is linked to this equation.
Assigning money as the measure of a man is not only harmful to men, but to society.  1.  It places little value on the emotional support that many men do provide, and 2. It creates a sense of entitlement in those who are financially successful.
Emotional Talk Responses
When women experience stress at work, they tend to want closer family connections.  Men, on the other hand, are more likely to withdraw from their families to keep from feeling overwhelmed by their failure to protect.  And if she wants to “talk about it”, his inherent vulnerability in engaging in a “feelings” talk causes him to shut down further or isolate.
Women share emotional talk easily, cover a range of subjects and feel more relaxed after the exchange.  The opposite is true with men.  Men do not get the oxytocin reward that makes them feel calm, confident and secure when talking about emotions and the complexities of relationships.  Men produce more testosterone during stress, which seems to reduce the effect of oxytocin.  Estrogen enhances it.  Men must work harder with less reward to maintain active listening and emotional self-revealing talk.  This becomes a  stressful experience which most men have not yet learned to enjoy.
What We All Do Agree On
Gender differences and personal goals notwithstanding, what we all seek, and long for, in close relationships is respect and appreciation.  Both genders win when we learn more about each other.  Guys, you can learn to talk about your feelings….and gals, you can learn to throw overhand.
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The Camera-Check of Perceptions

Oh, the many ways we express our situations……”she jumped down my throat”, “he went off the deep end”, “they had a fit”,  “she just blew up”.  In almost all cases, these are inaccurate descriptions of what happened.  “But, come on“,  you say, “we all know they’re not true..it‘s just semantics.“   Truth is “in emotional and behavioral self control, it isn’t just semantics – it’s all semantics” (Maxie C Maultsby, MD).
The Camera Check of Perceptions (Maultsby, 1984) makes people aware of mental images that do not describe obvious facts.  The human brain and a camera are very much alike in that they produce a visual image.  The camera does not add, delete or edit the image.  The human brain, on the other hand, has more features.  It adds to, subtracts from, or changes the image based on our perceived notions, beliefs or what we already think of what we are seeing.  In fact, “what people see is never right before their eyes; it’s always a mental picture or image formed in the back of their brain.”
Take a Picture

Using the Camera Check of Perceptions technique helps people make sure their brain is working at least as accurately as a simple camera would work.  If you were to take a picture (camera check) of the events expressed in paragraph 1, would it  accurately describe what was happening?  Of course not.  These irrational metaphors cause thinking that does not mean what we say and does not say what we mean.  Why are these inaccuracies problematic?  Because they trigger different (usually more negative) emotional feelings than the ones people would have if they say what they mean and mean what they say.
Example: Your spouse comes home from work and exclaims, “My boss really chewed me out today.”   Unless the camera check of perceptions shows his boss taking a bite out of him, this is a false description of what happened.  Maybe it gave a greater impact in the telling, but it also impacted  more negative emotional and behavioral consequences.  Whereas a more accurate description, “My boss had some critical opinions of my work today” is less demoralizing and can result in a manageable self-appraisal.
Most of us – most often –  carefully select the words we say to others.  We understand how the words we say directly influence the way others feel and act towards us.  The words we use to talk to ourselves directly influence our feelings and actions towards ourselves.  Click the camera for accuracy…
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The Right Card

momThe arrival of Mother’s Day (Father’s Day as well) brings with it the expectation of, at the very least, a greeting card from a daughter or son. These beautifully phrased cards speak right to the heart of love, gratitude, inspiration and a history of giving. Speaking in prose and poetry to the parent in a manner often unexpressed by a loving and grateful son or daughter.

Yet there are countless numbers of adult children who struggle mightily in front of that array of meaningfully written cards, reading them…and then slamming them back in their slot…because none of the statements are true for them. It is simply too hard to say those words of gratitude for a parent‘s nurturing, wisdom, encouragement, etc., etc……when it never happened….and for many is not happening still. And yet, the parent expects the token of just that card – not the generic one that simply wishes “a happy day.”

If you are a parent, expect to be a parent, or have influence over any child…..what will it be like for them when, as adults, they are selecting a card for you?

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How do you talk to yourself (revisited)?

Have you ever made a careless error at work? Then berate yourself for the error by thinking “How stupid.”

Heard a comment from your spouse, friend, boss and just “knew” that it means “I’m not good enough?”

Such thoughts and statements sabotage your self-confidence and produce negative energy. With enough frequency, negative thoughts and statements (whether you say them to yourself or they come from a history of hearing or sensing them) become implanted in your memory.

You learned to think of yourself and your world just as you learned to tie your shoe, or ride a bike. You’ve thought them so long that you believe they are true. “I’m not smart enough, thin enough, talented enough, good looking enough”, “I could never learn math”, “People don’t like me”, etc., etc. Truth is, most of those early “learned” self beliefs are false. And yet, they pop up in your stored belief system creating havoc at worst – and discomfort at best…but nevertheless keeping you from feeling and behaving the way you want to feel and behave. Think them long enough and they become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Our Thoughts Cause Our Feelings And Behaviors

To retrain the brain and learn how to think differently you must challenge those core beliefs. Negative thoughts and old beliefs about yourself must be replaced. In this case with positive statements. Your brain believes what it is consistently taught!!!!! Your feelings and behaviors respond to the beliefs, or commands, of your brain. The brain doesn’t edit – or care – what information it is given so long as it is sincere.

Your Brain Is Either Your Servant Or Your Master

Start to develop your own list of positive statements. Think of how you want to feel about yourself – how you want to be. It’s important to make your statements in the here-and-now; e.g. “I have good work habits”, “I am energetic”, “I am calm and relaxed.” Avoid “future” statements like “I am going to” or “I will.” Also avoid negative words (“I am not” or “I will not” or “Never” – the brain filters “not”). Now. Write Them Down. You don’t necessarily have to believe them yet, but you must want them. Let your brain do its work. Remember, many of us have a lot of repair work to do from a lifetime of negative learning.

Your mind is your brain doing its work

Place your affirmative statements in conspicuous places and repeat them as many times a day as possible. It is particularly important that you repeat them first thing each morning and last thing before going to sleep each night. Every time you have a thought you are practicing it. What unleashed power you possess!

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