Are you Addicted to being busy?

Are you Addicted to being busy?

Are you Addicted to being busy?

Last week I started talking about how to stay in your peaceful living frame-of-mind when it seems like your world is full of stress and negativity.  Last week’s blog, the first in Finding Cherries series discussed how to use boundaries and mindful communication to bring more peace to any friendship you have with people who are negative. This week, I am talking about how to use boundaries and prioritization to bring more peace into your busy life.

That Stressful Life

Life gets so hectic sometimes – The joy in life can be severely dampened by an overwhelming sense of being busy: too many things to get done, too many people making demands, too much traffic on the road, etc.  I know from experience that there are some strategies that help.

Here are a few to try:

1. Take a moment to step back and look at your to-do list.

Decide if the things on the list really need to get done right now or if they even need to be done at all. Some of this will be prioritizing based upon your values. For example, I have contact with more friends now than ever before – thank you Facebook!

Let’s take holiday cards for example. I get fewer holiday cards than I did in the past. And truthfully, I just don’t send them out either. I stay in touch on a more regular basis AND I just don’t have time to get cards out around the holidays because there are other things I have to do, like the Winter Spectacular at my kids’ school and two Brownie Christmas parties, etc.

2. Prioritize your to-do list and only actually do those things that you must.

Go to work, feed the kids, take care of yourself!… or that have true meaning to you. If you hate to shop, shop online and do grocery pick-up. If you love going out with your friends, go to one or more outings each month.

Everything else, say goodbye to it. You don’t need to do it all! And don’t forget, your kids will be just fine if you miss a game or a dance practice once-a-month to spend time with your friends! And so will your husband! 🙂

3. Stay in the moment.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “happiness can be found in every moment.” With this in mind, if you can stay focused on exactly what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, you find that the stress of “everything else” falls away.

So while you’re at the Cub Scout campout, be there and enjoy the fun the kids are having. Don’t worry about what you’re going to serve for your family for dinner for the next week.

4. Plan Ahead

One thing I’ve found that helps me to stay in the moment is to plan ahead. I use a “success schedule” to keep myself aware not only of what I need to do, but also when I need to do it.  

A weekly plan with blocked periods of time truly helps me make sure that I get where I need to get when I need to get there, that I work on the things I need to work on when it’s time to work on them, that I have time with my family and that I have time for myself. The “success schedule” allows me to savor each moment as I’m in it.

5. Find the blessings in the little things.

I was talking to my friend and client one day about Christmas and how her kids don’t act very grateful during the holiday season. But then she told me a story about how one of her sons is required by his school to write in a journal to his parents every week. At one point he wrote to his mom about how he does really understand that the season is not just about getting presents. He talked about how he loves Christmas because he gets to be with family and that he understands the religious parts of the holiday as well. What really touched me was that he wrote this journal entry as a letter to his mom so that she can understand how he is feeling inside. She said that he would never have said those things out loud to her.

What a true blessing that journal entry was! Find the little things that make life special. Try to catch people doing the right thing! And, pay special attention to it when they do.

Do you need to slow down and enjoy life a little more?

What do you need to cut out that is not serving your peaceful living?

Stay tuned for next week’s installment in the Finding Cherries series: How To Stay Peaceful in Our Crazy Mixed-Up World.

Love & Light!

Jen

 

Finding Cherries in a World That Can Seem Like the Pits 1: Those Stressful Friends

Finding Cherries in a World That Can Seem Like the Pits 1: Those Stressful Friends

Finding Cherries in a World That Can Seem Like the Pits 1: Those Stressful Friends

Something that’s really striking my consciousness lately is the question of how to sort the good from the bad. As a stress-management coach people come to me for advice on these things, so it’s sort of natural that these types of questions would cross my path. But what has come to my attention lately are the number of different ways this same theme comes up. Here are some examples:

~ “What do I do about this friend who is always negative? I really like her, but I just don’t want to spend much time with her.”

~ Life is so stressful, I just can’t seem to find time for anything anymore. I used to take long baths and go for walks. Now it’s all a hassle and there’s never enough time to get it all done. How do I learn to enjoy life again?”

~ There is so much horrible stuff going on in the news. I want to stay aware of current events, but I just don’t feel like I can pay attention to the news anymore. How do I remain informed without getting depressed?”

While these questions are all different in that they are talking about very differing phenomena, they are all very similar in their overall context: separating the good from the bad. This really is an age-old question. I’ve heard it brought up in religious and spiritual contexts. I’ve heard it brought up in my graduate political science seminars. I’ve heard it brought up in conversations with friends. And truthfully, in my opinion, there is no one “best practice” answer that can apply to all of the contexts.

There are some strategies that can be tried on for size which can help a person figure out what works best for them. Let’s start our conversation about how to embrace the positive in our lives by talking about friends.

Last month’s blog series covered the importance of making friends and building your tribe. One thing we will find along the way of building our tribe is that sometimes there are people who we really like in a lot of ways, but who also drag us down.  This weeks blog is going to focus on how to mindfully find peace in those friendships.

THOSE TAXING FRIENDS

Most of us have at least one friend who is lovely in many ways, but who is also a Debbie or Douglas Downer. This is the person who always seems to have a proverbial fly in her chardonnay. He sees the glass as half-empty instead of half-full. Of course, this friend is not “all negative” or we wouldn’t be friends with the person. We just wish they would look on the bright side of things more often. So what do we do?

Here are some strategies to try:

~ Lead by example. When things are negative in your own life, set an example by breathing through them to bring yourself inner peace. What you don’t want to do is point out to your friend that you are doing this. Let her just watch you. Don’t give her “helpful” advice about how you are proceeding so well through your difficult time.

~ Set time limits. Let’s just be honest here, no one can be around Negative Ned or Nellie for that long. The problem is that if we set too many time limits the person is going to feel like they are being blown-off. Then you’ll have the problem on your hands that your friend will probably confront you on this. For some, being in a negative space – e.g. negative confrontation – is comfortable, so she will have no problem bringing this up to you. The time limited friends need to be treated with special consideration. Make sure the time you do spend with them is high-quality time. That way your friend won’t feel slighted about the lack of time.

~ Conversely, instead of spending focused one-on-one time with this friend, spread the work around. Try only spending time with her in groups. This then lightens the negativity burden on any one person. If you make sure she’s invited to a lot of things, she won’t feel like she hardly ever gets to see you. Unless this is already your pattern though, don’t shirk spending at least some one-on-one time with her. She’ll figure out what’s going on if she’s used to seeing you alone, but then suddenly only sees you in groups. Also, make sure she still feels good about being with you even if you are in a group. Make sure you pay some special attention to her and treat her like she’s important.

~ Have a mindful conversation with your friend. While this might be the most intimidating of the suggestions, it’s also most likely to be the most fruitful. Mindful conversations proceed with empathy and compassion. Try asking your friend if there is an underlying cause for her outward negativity. If there is, maybe you can help. Or, maybe you can support her in finding the help she needs. Make sure he knows that you are asking because you care and you want to be supportive. Remember, mindful conversations do not criticize in words or tone. Try to use “I” statements. The more empathy you can have the more likely you are to have a fruitful conversation.

Someone recently said to me, “if you can’t complain to your friends, who can you complain to?” My answer to this is, “a coach or therapist.”  That’s not to say that friends cannot, or should not, be there for each other in times of emotional need. It’s just that it’s important to draw boundaries if your friend is overtaxing your friendship. It is perfectly okay to say to your friend, “I love spending time with you, and I am so sorry that you are going through such a hard time, but I feel like you would really benefit from some professional guidance from a coach or therapist.”  If your friend acts offended you can simply explain that you have seen her suffering for quite a while now and want her to feel better. If she’s still offended, and decides not to be your friend anymore, that my just be what needed to happen to give you some peace of mind.

I welcome your questions, comments and stories about your friendships! Feel free to comment away J

Stay tuned for next week’s installment of “Finding Cherries in a World that Seems Like the Pits.” I will be talking about some tips and techniques for finding peace-of-mind in a busy life.

Love & Light,

Jen

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman

February is the month of love and romance. I am going to broaden that theme to relationships in general for most of the month. And I cannot point to any one source of advice for happy romantic relationships as helpful as Dr. Gary Chapman’s classic book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (2010).

Dr. Chapman’s book is based on thirty years of counseling couples. From his experience, he developed a practical rubric for understanding the love needs of most individuals who make-up a couple. Instead of looking at the couple as the focal point, he looks at each of the two people as individuals with their own needs. The key to finding what he calls, “love that lasts,” is for each individual to not only understand his or her own self needs, but to also understand the needs of the other person. Dr. Chapman boils these needs down to what he calls, “The Five Love Languages.”

He believes that individuals within a love relationship have five primary love languages that each person needs to have met by his or her partner. More importantly, each individual has one or two love languages that stand out among the five that are particularly important. The key to a long-lasting love is to know the primary love language (or languages) of your partner and to make sure that you are meeting those needs. It is also important to know your own love languages and to ask that your partner meet your needs.  That may sound a little confusing, but it is really just four easy steps:

1. Know your partner’s love language/ languages.
2. Do what you can to fulfill your partner’s love language needs.
3. Know your own love language/ languages.
4. Communicate to your partner what it is/ they are. ~ Remember to use mindful
communication to do this.

See? It’s simple. Yes, it does require mindful, respectful communication, but because there are only five love languages it does not require hours of processing. In fact, once you have had the initial communication about the love languages themselves, it really is more about actions than words.

Dr. Chapman explains this process as, “keeping the love tank full.”  He uses the metaphor of a tank – like a tank of gasoline for a car – to explain how the love languages work within a relationship.  He says that we each have a love tank that needs to be filled in order for us to feel fulfilled in our relationship. But, we do not all take the same kind of fuel in our tanks. The love languages represent the different types of fuel that can fill individuals’ tanks. That is why it is important to fill your partner’s tank with the correct fuel aka love language.  You don’t want to put diesel fuel into a car that takes unleaded. Just like you don’t want to expend energy trying to fill your partners tank with the wrong love language.

The Five Love Languages
What are these Five Love Languages? Let me get right to it:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch

Words of Affirmation
Words of Affirmation come in many forms. But, ALL of the forms are positive.

Compliments, of course, are words of affirmation:
“I am so impressed by how well you handled Joey’s temper tantrum today! Great parenting!”

Gratitude comes in the form of words of affirmation.
“Thank you so much honey for stopping by the store on your way home from work. That
was one less thing for me to do and it really helped me out.”
“I” statements that affirm that your partner gives you positive feelings are words of affirmation:
“I feel so protected when you hug me.”

Words of affirmation, because they are positive in tone, not only help your partner feel good AND appreciated, but they help you feel good too!

Be careful of the backhanded compliment though! These are negatives disguised as positives. Here is an examples:
“I am so grateful that you took out the trash! Now, if only you could remember to do that
every week!”
Notice that while the first sentence is positive, the second sentence is a criticism. If you follow your words of affirmation with a criticism of any kind you have undone your good work.


Quality Time
This one is especially big for couples with children and/or busy careers. We live in a world of busy, busy and lots of technology.  It is very easy to get distracted and not spend quality time with your loved ones.  As a working mom, I also am very aware of how hard it is to find quality time to spend with my husband AND my kids! But, it is very important to carve out a regular time to spend together. And it is important to remember that quality time requires undivided attention – e.g. without electronics!

Quality time requires good communication skills where both parties are talking and listening.  However, it is not a time to vent or argue. The communication that happens during quality time is sharing about your life, thoughts and feelings. It is also about listening with attention and care to your partner’s tales from his or her daily life, thoughts and feelings. Quality time requires being compassionate, caring, attentive and open.

It also requires sharing and compromising when it comes to choosing what you do during your quality time. Most couples do not agree on everything they might have an interest in doing during their quality time. One person may like to spend time outdoors. The other person might prefer going out to a meal. This is where compromise needs to come into play. Perhaps a hike followed by lunch at a nice bistro will meet both needs.  Or, one weekend can be spent kayaking and the next you can go out to a nice dinner. If quality time is not your love language, but it is your partner’s, perhaps go with what he or she wants to do a little more often than what you want to do.

Receiving Gifts
I appreciate how Dr. Chapman describes gifts as, “visual symbols of love.” And the most important point he makes about gifts is that in order to be a visual symbol of love they need to be thoughtful – in other words, they need to be given by taking into consideration the other person’s likes, dislikes, interests and feelings.  

I remember my mother telling a story about a friend of hers who would complain every birthday when her husband sent her a dozen red roses.  I was a teenager at the time and said to my mom, “geeze, a dozen red roses seems pretty nice to me.”  My mom explained that her friend’s husband had his secretary send the roses. Her friend said that the husband rarely remembered her birthday and would forget to say, “happy birthday.” I hear this type of thing a lot now that I’m a coach – people are giving and receiving gifts, but the gifts are not very thoughtful so they don’t hold a lot of meaning for the receiver.

Dr. Chapman also talks about “the gift of self.” He differentiates this from Quality Time in that it is not necessarily just about spending time together. It is about giving your time to your loved one when it matters. He tells a story about a woman who believed her husband loved softball more than he loved her. The husband played softball on the day that she was in labor with their daughter. He showed up for the birth, but then left her alone with the baby to go play softball again. He did not give her the gift of self by being there to share in everything surrounding the birth of their daughter. He also gives the example of couples who spend so much time working they do not engage with their love partners on a regular basis. They may in fact feel like they are working hard to provide for their partner, and the family, but they are not giving the gift of self on a regular basis.

Acts of Service
Acts of Service are the actions you can take to support your partner in helping your life run.  In our house I do the cooking and my husband does the dishes. These are acts of service we do for each other and in support of our family. We worked this out a long time ago because he does not know how to cook and I really dislike doing the dishes.

It takes a lot of work to just get things done in life! The house needs to be cleaned, the cars need to be kept in good repair, and well, the children need to be cleaned and kept in good repair too!   All of the little things that are on the “to do” list of life can add up to a big mountain of stuff to get done. If your partner’s love language is Acts of Service it is very important that you lend a helping hand with the “to do” list. Acts of Service will help calm your partner’s anxiety and overwhelm about the list and will allow him or her to feel secure and loved.

One of the most important points Dr. Chapman makes in this chapter is to remind people to put a boundary up if they feel like the Acts of Service they are performing for their partner are turning them into a doormat. If Acts of Service are not reciprocated with your own love tank being filled you will end-up doing them with resentment instead of love.

On the other side of this coin is if your love language is Acts of Service, do not use guilt or coercion to communicate that you need acts of service to help you feel loved. In other words, do not say things like, “if you loved me you would help out around the house more!” Likewise, do not say, “if you do not help out around the house more, I am leaving!”  Love languages are communicated mindfully. You can try something like, “I feel so loved and supported when you help out with house and kids. Acts of Service is one of my love languages. So thank you for showing your love to me through your help.”  

Physical Touch
Physical touch is one of the strongest, and yet most complicated, of the five love languages.  Because physical touch can be so very negative as well as so very positive in nature it important to be very careful with how you communicate with touch. Dr. Chapman notes how, “a slap in the face is detrimental to any child, but it is devastating to a child whose love language is touch (p. 110).” Likewise, he explains how a, “tender hug shouts love,” to a person whose love language is touch.

The complications of touch deepen when we consider what kind of touch is comfortable to your loved one vs. what kind is not.  If you touch your partner in a way that he or she is not comfortable, that touch will not bring pleasure. In fact, that touch could be emotionally damaging.  Just as is the case with the love languages in general, just because you like a certain kind of touch (just because you have a certain love language) it does not mean that your partner likes that same kind of touch. It is important to communicate with your partner about the type of touch that he or she enjoys and that speaks love.

A Note About Religion
Dr. Chapman is a Baptist pastor and holds a Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Thus, his 5 Love Language book has some Biblical and Christian references in it.  If you are a Christian, then great! Enjoy! If you are not a Christian, and don’t have a desire to read the Christian parts, just skim over them.  I personally am openly spiritual and ecumenical in my theological beliefs. I find some Christian theology to be lovely and very helpful in my life. I find other Christian theology to be harmful and dark. Thus, I take what I like and leave the rest. That is what I suggest for those of you who are not interested in the Christianity within this book.   There is so much quality to this book outside of the Christian elements that I do not recommend skipping the book altogether just because you don’t like that particular element.

Why Read the Book if I Read This Blog?
Okay, I know that might be something I could have left unsaid. You obviously know that there is much more depth in a book than in a blog that is reviewing the book.  But, here are some particular reasons why you should read the entire thing:
There are many real-life examples given in the book that you may be able to apply to your own relationship.
There are, of course, many more details…
I find the exercises at the end of each chapter helpful in applying the details to my own life.
Dr. Chapman provides helpful profiling scales to aid in determining what you love language is/ languages are.
I hope you end your February with some love! The love of a partner ~ the love of good friends ~ the love of family ~ or, most importantly, the love of yourself!

The 5 Love Languages is an imprint of Northfield Publishing, Inc.  Chicago, Ill. 2010

ISBN# 978-0-8024-7315-8


Have you read any of The 5 Love Languages books? What did you think?
Do you have an idea of what your love language is?  What about the love languages of the people in your life?
Your comments and shares are greatly appreciated!

With Love & Light!
Jen

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