Boundaries in any relationship — whether between family or a romantic partnership— are extremely important to maintaining a healthy, happy relationship. That being said, there are logical and illogical ways to set a boundary.
Let’s talk about Joan (a fictional client). Joan is very close with her father who lives in another state. They have always talked frequently, sharing news of their days. Joan recently got married and is beginning her life with her significant other, but Joan’s dad’s (we will call him Joe) calls are getting more frequent and are beginning to cause issues in Joan’s marriage. Joe is calling Joan every morning before she goes to work, waking up others in the home, and every evening. He is hurt when she doesn’t answer and begins to worry if she is ok—sending her multiple texts and calling repeatedly. Joe just loves his daughter and misses her, but Joan is feeling smothered and overwhelmed. She is trying to build a new life with her husband and her dad is making it difficult for her to do that. How should she approach this sticky situation?
Joan could call her dad upset and ask him to stop calling her and stop texting her nonstop. She could ignore her feelings and struggles and keep letting the calls come in, while building resentment against her father. These are opposite sides of the spectrum. One is establishing a boundary but in a major, and hurtful, way. The other is failing to set a boundary at all further harming the relationship.
A more logical way to establish a boundary would be to come up with a happy middle ground. She can explain to her dad that the frequent calls are playing a toll on her marriage and instead offer to call her dad on her way home from work a few times a week. She can explain to him that while she still loves him dearly, and he will always be her dad, she also needs to work on her marriage. By setting a boundary like this she is maintaining the integrity of the relationship. Her dad might be disappointed at this news, but he will likely be able to get over it and understand.
Boundaries are all about protecting yourself, your relationships, and living your happiest, healthiest life. If you need help with establishing a boundary, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who can help to guide you.
I hear the argument against counseling and mental health all the time. People say “my family doesn’t believe in mental health and say I don’t need to see a therapist.” They think it is “unnecessary,” or a “waste of time,” “useless,” etc. But, think about it this way — who do you talk to about car problems? A mechanic. Who do you call when you have a sore throat or a cough that won’t go away? A doctor. Who do you see when you have pain in your tooth? A dentist.
Those who don’t believe in mental health don’t know anything about mental health. You talk to your mechanic about your car, your doctor about your physical health, and your therapist about your mental health. Talk to your family about what they are competent in—maybe it is their opinions about cooking, sewing, sports, parenting, marriage, etc. But if you are struggling with emotional concerns, depression, anxiety, marital issues, parenting strategies, etc. talk to someone who is trained in these topics and can help to give you healthy tips to move forward positively in life.
Wonders for the Willing
Therapy is one of those things that can do wonders for the willing. If you are open to the first step of coming into an office setting to try to improve your life, to work towards living your best days, then you could benefit greatly. Your friends and family might think they are helping by telling you that you don’t “need therapy” but there is nothing wrong with seeking help when you are struggling. In fact, that is a healthy step in the right direction—kind of like eating more vegetables, going to bed earlier, and exercising.
Leave the mental health expertise to the mental health professionals and take care of you.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are deciding between two guys, then you are not into either of them. A decision like this should be an easy one if you have true feelings.
It is like what Marie Kondo is teaching about the tidying up your home, does this spark joy? If neither guy stands out as one that sparks joy in your life then you shouldn’t be choosing between either. You should be moving on, looking elsewhere.
Look for Joy
The concept is a simple one, if it is not a “hell yes” then it is a “no.” When we are talking about relationships, sharing your time and your life with another, you should feel good about it. It should enhance your life. It shouldn’t be a “well maybe I like this person.” Life is short, too short to not be with the people who light up your world. You should be spending time with people that leave you craving to spend more time with them.
Just because you have someone pining over you, doesn’t mean you have to go for it with them. Think about yourself and what your subconscious is telling you. Listen. Chances are there is a part of you that already knows the right decision and if it has to be a decision at all, then drop it.
Find happiness, the rest will fall into place
There are lots of people out there in the world and you will find the one who makes you feel great in your own skin. I understand the frustration that women get as they struggle to be single and the rush they feel to jump into relationships. But, why waste your time on something that doesn’t make you happy? You shouldn’t be settling because you feel a rush to get married or have children or create that nuclear family, you should be happy. You deserve to be happy. The rest will fall into place.
You have probably heard the phrase before — “live vicariously.” Turns out it’s more than just a phrase. People really do feel the emotions of others.
There is a realm of psychology referred to as “vicarious emotions.” This means that we experience the emotions of those around us. For example, maybe you have a friend who lost a sibling and you never met the sibling but you still feel heartbroken. Or maybe you had a spouse involved in some kind of personal trauma, and while you weren’t there in person you still feel pain.
A Psychology Today article by Dr. Robert Muller sites “vicarious trauma can be best understood as the absorbing of another person’s trauma, the transformation of the helper’s inner sense of identity and experience. It is what happens to your physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health in response to someone else’s traumatic history.” This is vicarious trauma, but there is also vicarious joy.
You can experience the joy of others by being around them. Maybe its a friend who just got a promotion and you are beyond excited for him/her/them, or maybe a friend who has been trying to have a baby just got pregnant and you are suddenly overwhelmed with joy. Vicarious joy is also another reason to do good for others through charities or philanthropic work. When you are in a situation where you are helping others and they feel appreciated, that joy rubs off on you. You start to feel happier because those around you are also happy.
Vicarious joy can also be learned by children. The more our children are exposed to happy environments, the happier more joyful children we will raise. By engaging our children in volunteering or other ways of helping others they will learn to be more joyful.
The holidays can be a time for joy, happiness, appreciation but they can also trigger sadness, depression, and remind us of things we are missing. These feelings are so common they have a name — the Holiday Blues.
Around this time of the year, I frequently encounter clients who are struggling with loss in their family, financial issues, mental health, etc. They often ask me what they can do to get out of their funk. On top of therapy, medication, proper nutrition, and physical activity the main thing we need to do when we are struggling is to avoid isolation. When we are down and we isolate ourselves it escalates those negative feelings.
Turn negative into positive
Doing something nice for others by giving part of yourself helps to get people out of isolation and feel good when they see the joy of others. Through volunteering, cooking a meal, cleaning a house, or baking cookies for others in need you can help yourself while also helping others. When we see the joy of others achieved through our efforts it helps to lift us up and feel good about the way we are spending our days.
It is hard to get through the holiday season when you focus on all the things that have gone wrong throughout the year, or all the things that are missing. When you turn that negative energy into something positive it can help you get through this otherwise hard time more easily, and might also give you a reason to smile.
If you are wondering where to start, here are some websites to help:
National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org
Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org
Create The Good: http://createthegood.org
I don’t pose that question lightly. It is a topic worthy of our thought, our discussion. It is a reality that demands to be paid attention to.
We rush to the hospital to give birth to our precious babies who quickly become the center of our worlds. They are carefully looked over and checked up on with appointment after appointment. All the weight checks, the shots, the checking to make sure their hearts sound well, their joints are developing correctly, it goes on and on..and for good reason. These are our babies and they are small and tiny, and oh so new to this world. We should be paying attention to their health and their development but what about moms?
Moms are sent home from the hospital after just going through a major life transformation with some guidelines, maybe a painkiller or two, and in many cases a few stitches. They aren’t followed up with. They are supposed to figure it out. It is their God-given ability to be a mother, so they should just know how to do it, right? Society expects that mom will seamlessly adjust. She will adjust to this new normal with little help. Yea, it won’t be easy but she will get through. The only follow-up she has to look forward to is six-to-eight weeks postpartum when in many cases her incisions are looked over and she is sent on her way.
There is no depression screening, no required well check, no one helping mom adjust. Mothers need to be ok too. After all, happy mothers raise happy children. It is hard to care for anyone if you don’t first care for yourself. Let’s check in with our mothers. Ask if they are ok. Make sure they are ok. Let’s listen to our mothers, hear their cries for help and honor their need for support even when they themselves might not realize how much they need it. It takes a village to raise a child, that is for sure. We can’t expect a mother just because she has a uterus to suddenly be thrown into a whole new world like nothing ever happened. It is a shock to the system. She deserves support and she needs it.
Over the years I have seen an increase in women coming to me with symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Many of them are concerned they may have ADHD and are looking for a solution. It got me thinking. Why are we seeing such an increase? What has changed to cause more women to experience symptoms of ADHD?
Our reality as women has changed. We are busier than ever before while still facing the pressures of traditional gender roles. We are still expected to take care of our homes and meals. Many women now have taken on professional careers outside of the home environment adding to the mounting pressure. We are worried more than ever—about everything. Not to mention we are constantly in a state of comparing ourselves to others with the rise of social media and smart devices. Those women who choose to stay home struggle with feeling stir crazy and unfulfilled. We are easily distracted.
All of the stress modern-day women are struggling with is causing them to lose sleep. They are staying up to later hours trying to get everything done. They are feeling the pressure to be the Pinterest mom or the perfect housewife/cook but also the career woman. Research shows that lack of sleep could be exactly what is contributing to symptoms of ADHD.
The disruption of day and night rhythms, staying up later, eating at different times, variations in body temperature and physical movement, all of it can contribute to inattentiveness and challenging behavior, according to research done at the Vrije Universitiet Medical Centre in Amsterdam. This research also showed that people with ADHD had a rise in the hormone melatonin an hour-and-a-half later in the day than those who did not, contributing to that lack of sleep. All of this pointing to the reality that ADHD might actually be a sleep disorder.
Similar studies have also found that those with ADHD had higher rates of daytime sleepiness than those without, making it harder to focus. Other symptoms such as restless legs syndrome and periodic leg movement are also common in those suffering from ADHD, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The bottom line is we are overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. We aren’t sleeping as much and therefore we are finding it difficult to focus. If you are someone who is struggling with symptoms of ADHD, it may be helpful to seek out a licensed professional who is trained in helping adults.
Many of us are so afraid of judgment. We find ourselves covering up, hiding to avoid it. Some of us even change who we are. We pretend we are someone else. We lie about actions we have taken. We are afraid. But why? Why are we so terrified of how other people see us?
We mistake it as a truth about our identity. We let what other people say about us become us. We put too much weight in other people’s opinions. We give them too much power over how we see ourselves. We act like people and their thoughts about us determine who we really are. That is not the case. We can choose to see judgments simply for what they are—an opinion. Just because it is an opinion doesn’t mean it is true. Opinions are simply thoughts, they don’t have to mean anything.
That is not to say we shouldn’t listen to others. If a lot of people we care about come to us with the same opinion about our behavior then it is worth considering what they have to say. It is worth opening your mind to their opinions and analyzing them for yourself. They could be trying to tell you something that maybe you didn’t notice. Or, it could be something you have noticed but have brushed off.
The bottom line is all opinions should be taken in stride.
Don’t worry about the things you cannot control. People are always going to judge you. People are always going to have an opinion about the color of your hair, that outfit, how much food you eat, what time you put your kids to bed, how you spend your Saturday night, etc. Let it go. You could drown in judgments if you let them weigh on you. They are all around you. The best thing you can do is accept them as simply someone else’s opinion, which does not mean you have to listen to it.
Certain emotions frequently show up in science and the media as “negative” emotions. We all know them as sadness, anger, disgust, frustration, etc. Then there are the “positive” emotions—happy, excited, etc. Instead of classifying an emotion as “negative” or “positive” how about we just start calling it by what it actually is?
We are sending the message that emotions are bad.
When we classify an emotion as negative, we are sending the message that it is bad. That we aren’t supposed to feel this way. It makes us feel guilty about having these so-called “negative” emotions. No one wants to feel “negatively” or do the “wrong” thing. But an emotion isn’t bad. It isn’t wrong to feel a certain way. We need to stop grouping them together as a set and refer them to as an individual feeling. Yes, I am sad that my grandfather is in the hospital. Yes, I am disappointed I didn’t get the job. Yes, I am frustrated that the dog had an accident in the living room this morning. This is life, folks.
These emotions are ok, they are healthy, they are necessary. We don’t need to pretend that we don’t feel this way. We don’t need to feel guilty or that we are doing something bad by feeling upset or disappointed. Rather we need to let the emotions come. We need to feel them, accept them, allow ourselves to work through them. What we don’t need to do is ignore them. That only compounds the situation and makes things eventually erupt. So instead of thinking about emotions as “negative” or “positive,” think of them simply as an emotion. Leave it at that. There is no need for classification.
Somewhere along the line, we started being told that we should always be happy. It became this known ideal that emotions are bad. That needs to change. Emotions are not bad. They are part of us. We shouldn’t be pushing those unpleasant feelings deep into ourselves and trying to force ourselves to always be happy.
Ask yourself, who are you pretending for? Allow yourself to feel all the emotions—the good and the ugly. Let it out. It is healthy and part of helping ourselves cope with the unpleasant things that happen in life. It is not just ok to feel sad, angry, frustrated, disappointed, unhappy, it is necessary. Life would be boring if it was all hunky dory all the time. In order to truly appreciate those moments of peace, you know those little moments, we also need those moments of pure chaos and distress.
You need to feel safe in expressing your emotions. Surround yourself with people that accept you as you are. Stop pretending. By not allowing yourself to feel you are only doing harm to your mental health. You can’t make all those feeling go away. Eventually, they come back up. By allowing yourself to show them and feel them fully, you are tackling the situation head-on. Have you ever felt that moment of relief after a good long cry? That moment of clarity? That realization that you are ok and you can get through it? We need all those emotions to get to that moment.
Find that friend, or that village, that accepts you fully. You need to be with people who don’t want you to pretend, who don’t expect you to hide how you are feeling. This big beautifully scary, serene, tragic, wonderful world we live in requires a whole range of emotions.
Have you ever tried to force happiness? How did that make you feel?