Setting Boundaries Is an Act of Self-Respect

Setting Boundaries Is an Act of Self-Respect

Establishing healthy relationships means establishing healthy boundaries and clear and respectful guidelines for how we want to be treated by others.

If you’ve ever been to therapy or read self-help books, you are likely to have come across the term, “setting boundaries”. In the past, I would skim over those words or nod my head in agreement with my therapist without giving this idea much thought. It wasn’t until I found myself exhausted from pouring so much of myself into everyone else, and resentful when I felt mistreated, that I realized I needed to perk up and learn what I could do to set my own boundaries.

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The Emotionally Polarized Couple: Understanding Her Feelings and His Detachment

life_advice_polo_0117-2Like many couples, Megan and Chris love each other, but they each admit to having communication problems. They recently had a second child and although they are overjoyed with their growing family, they are both handling the stress that accompanies it very differently.

Megan describes feeling overwhelmed by taking care of two small children and all of the household responsibilities. She finds that she is increasingly irritable, she cries more easily than before, and often feels like she is failing to meet the growing demands of her family. Megan is hurt and angry that Chris is more distant than he used to be, but every time she asks him what’s wrong, he insists that everything is fine.

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Moving Through Grief

Moving Through Grief

Even though we are all confronted with loss throughout our lives, the grieving process is not something that is commonly discussed or taught in our culture. There is an expectation that we are supposed to stay strong and return to normal within a few days to a few weeks. Many people believe that if they allow themselves to fully give in to their grief, they will never be able to move beyond it and will be stuck in their grief-stricken state forever.

According to one therapist, this is not the case. In fact, quite the opposite is true. “When we give ourselves permission to feel how we feel – sad, hopeless, lost, confused, worried, angry – we actually move through the grieving process, as opposed to simply avoiding it,” said Avery Neal, a practicing psychotherapist at The Women’s Therapy Clinic in The Woodlands, Texas. Grieving is a very healthy response to any type of loss; even life losses such as a divorce, a move, the end of a friendship, illness or any life transition. “We cannot expect ourselves not to have feelings around these types of events.”

According to Neal, there is no magic formula for moving through the grieving process, but there are some things that can help. She offers some points to keep in mind:

• The mind-body connection. “Loss reminds us that life is finite. The stillness that comes from being alone can feel uncomfortable. Rather than drowning out the stillness with noise, try embracing it. Quiet your mind for a few moments and allow yourself to observe the sensations in your own body. This simple practice can help to center you when it feels as if everything around you is falling apart.”

• Get out in nature. “Nature has a way of lending perspective. It nourishes us in a way that nothing else can, while gently reminding us of the cycle of life. In addition, getting exposure to natural light can help our overall mood. Even something as simple as taking a walk or going barefoot in the grass can soothe us during a difficult time.”

• Exercise. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. “The brain automatically releases more endorphins during grief to help us get through the initial phase of the loss. After about six weeks or more, the endorphin release wears off and we are left with more depressive symptoms. By exercising, we are tapping into the body’s natural healing system. Exercise can give us a clear focus as we become more in sync with our body. As we feel stronger, we begin to feel less helpless and more capable. A feeling of helplessness is a common experience after a loss.”

According to Neal, grieving is not something that can intellectualized. “In trying to do so, we only set ourselves up for prolonging the process rather than surrendering to it. Trusting the process gives us permission to surrender, which ultimately leads to acceptance.”

This article first appeared in Woodlands Online, The Woodlands/Conroe Bubblelife and The Paper Magazine

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Bashing Others in Public Social Forums

Bashing Others in Public Social Forums

From the political arena to gym showers, it seems it has become sociably acceptable to bash other individuals, especially women. Even with more women in the public eye, this pattern has not changed. Women have always been seen and treated as the weaker sex, and are still fighting for equality at work, in the government and even in the home.

“It is harder for women to be assertive and speak up for themselves because of their desire to accommodate others. Men are conditioned to go after what they want unapologetically, while women who do the same are seen in a negative way,” said Avery Neal, a practicing psychotherapist at The Women’s Therapy Clinic in The Woodlands, Texas.

The rise of narcissism in our culture is becoming more prevalent, as we see technology and social media used in such a way that facilitates a “look at me” attitude.

“This cultural norm where we put ourselves on stage for everyone’s view not only on social media, but also in our daily lives, is giving rise to an epidemic that has spread to the culture as a whole. Some of the key components of narcissism are a preoccupation with appearance, a lack of empathy and respect for the humanity of others, entitlement, and a lack of accountability or responsibility,” said Neal. “Sadly, these attributes describe more and more individuals and our culture at large. Individuals feed culture and culture feeds individuals.”

Like a disease, narcissism has become pervasive in our society. Recognizing the epidemic is the first step toward stopping it. Neal gives some tips on how we might halt the narcissistic epidemic.

·         Be present – Slow down and pay attention. Be present in the moment. Have awareness of what is going on around you, but focus your energy on what you want to achieve. Foster better relationships by turning off the phone or put it away altogether when you are spending time with loved ones. Be mindful of the time you do set aside for technology so that it doesn’t creep into every aspect of your life. Engage in activities that soothe your spirit, like learning to play a musical instrument or planting a garden. Doing things that require attention, skill and nuanced responses can interrupt the routine distancing that has become our habit.

·         Interact with the people around you – With the rise of technology and social media, it has become normal to talk by text, email or chats. We hide behind our screens, only connecting on a superficial level, portraying our “perfect” lives. Instead of joining this societal norm of disrespectful bashing and egocentric thinking, engage in intelligent conversations with the people around you. Remember that relationships are reciprocal. You need to be an active listener instead of just sitting back waiting for your turn to speak. Seek quality relationships.

·         Respect each other and yourself – Make a conscious effort to cultivate relationships with people you respect and who respect you in return. Don’t abandon your integrity just because someone pushes your buttons. Understand that, while other people’s experiences and opinions will differ from yours, they still deserve respect.

·         Practice Gratitude and Empathy – Be grateful for experiences that benefit not just you as an individual, but that increase the happiness of others. Make a contribution to the community instead of constantly striving for personal success. Don’t be immune to other people’s suffering and pain by increasing your receptivity to them and to others.

Adopting these habits can provide a sense of perspective that counterbalance the “me, me, me” mentality of the narcissist. “Ask yourself what is going on in your life that is making you so detached and be aware of the messages you receive through the media that promote a narcissistic view,” said Neal. “Narcissism may be the way things are in America in this moment, but it’s not necessarily the way things have to be, either on a personal or societal level.”

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Learning: Exercise for the Brain

Learning: Exercise for the Brain

Everyone knows that in order for a muscle to get stronger it has to be exercised routinely, not only by incrementally increasing the weight, but also by exercising it in a variety of different ways so that it is consistently challenged.  Our brains are no different. From the second we are born our brains are eagerly engaged, actively absorbing and processing what is going on around us.

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