Tag Archives: change

contributing toxic

Is Your Behavior Contributing To Your Toxic Relationship?

It is always difficult to admit we might not be behaving in the best way. It is hard to own up to the idea that you might be the one making your relationship toxic. But, the only real way to grow as a person is to be accountable for your actions. You need to first recognize your wrongdoing before you can begin to make changes. 

In the same way, it is difficult to admit wrongdoing, it can also be difficult to see the negative parts of yourself. You might feel like what you are doing is right, when it is actually very harmful. 

What are some signs that your behavior is contributing to the toxicity of your relationship?

1.) Making Affection Conditional — Are you withholding affection because you want your significant other to do something? For example, maybe you are upset about how often you have to clean the house or how little he/she/they are helping with the children. Maybe you want them to agree to move into a different home or buy a new car, whatever the reason — affection should never be used as a bargaining tool. It shouldn’t hinge on getting something you want. Of course, you NEVER have to be affectionate when you don’t want to be but don’t make it a bargaining chip.

2.)Frequently Passive Aggressive — We all have moments when we are passive-aggressive but it is not healthy, and not helpful to a relationship. If you are frequently getting angry with your significant other and not telling him/her/they why you are mad, then you are halting communication efforts. Communication is necessary for any healthy relationship. If you can’t talk to each other that needs to change. 

3.) “Test” Your Partner — If your relationship is healthy then you do not need to “test” your partner’s reactions to things. If you find that you are making them jealous or playing with their emotions in other ways to see how they might react, that is not healthy. If you trust each other then there is no need for mind games. Maybe this insecurity stems from something unrelated to your partner, maybe you need constant affirmation because of another deeper rooted issue. Regardless, this type of behavior needs to be seriously looked at. 

There is help

If any of these sound like you, it is ok. There is help. You can change. The first step is acknowledging that these are serious issues that need your attention. A licensed professional counselor can help you to work through these problems and get to the root of why you might be behaving in this way. They can help you turn things around. 

half siblings

Why we need to stop saying “half-siblings”

The world of relationships and family dynamics that we live in now looks quite a bit different than it did 30, 50, or 100 years ago, but for some reason, we still feel compelled to point out these differences. There are blended, adoptive, same-sex, single-parent, non-married parent households and more. Many of these families contain siblings who have different parents which makes them by scientific standards “half” siblings. But, who cares?

Yes, we know that technically these children are “half” related by blood but so much more of their relationship is “whole.” Frankly, I think this is one of the most beautiful things about family and about being human. We can choose to love one another wholly despite science.  

I have a friend who is 15 years older than her “half” sibling but that has never mattered. They may have different biological fathers but they still treat each other like whole siblings. They still love each other with whole hearts. When someone refers to them as “half” related, it hits them hard. It can especially hit a young child who doesn’t understand why someone would say something like this almost like a punch in the gut. It might feel harmless if you aren’t the one on the receiving end, but it is not. Why do we have to keep reminding these people of their differences? Why does it matter? It doesn’t. 

That is the wonderful thing about family. It is often composed of so much more than a blood relationship. It is a bond. A love. It can be so strong sometimes even for the people who have no blood relations at all. Your family is what you make it. 

Leave the genetic results for the doctor’s office. Leave it in the places where it is necessary for health reasons. Let us stop voicing it in ways that it can be hurtful, harmful to others. It is unnecessary and does no one any good at all.

friendship burnout

Friendship Burnout, it’s a thing

Whether you have been friends since you were children or just for a few months, it is possible to suffer friendship burnout. Yes, it’s a thing. Even the people you feel like you have a close connection with can eventually get under your skin. 

You might start to feel like this person is driving you “crazy,” or getting on your nerves. Even the smallest things might seem like big things because you don’t have that same connection anymore, or you need a break.  

Change As Time Goes

Life is tricky like that. We all change in different ways as time goes. Different things become a priority than what used to be. We all have changes in our passions, ideas, mindset that happen as we face different life experiences. All of these can contribute to friendship burnout. 

Spending too much time together can also lead to burnout. I remember as a child my mother would make my friends leave after a certain amount of time. I never quite realized why. She would always say “I don’t want you getting sick of each other.” And, she was right. The more I thought about it, those “too long” playdates often ended in arguments. 

The Internal Argument

We all want to be our own people and sometimes after too much time with the same person, it can be hard to feel like we have our own sense of self. That can create a bit of an internal argument leading us to be more easily agitated by our friend. 

Sometimes the solution to friendship burnout can be to spend some time apart. Go your separate ways. Spend time with others in your life. You may eventually come back around to each other. You may just need that time away. Or, you may grow apart. Both are normal parts of life. 

Its Ok

It is ok to grow apart from others, and it is ok to admit you need a break. It is better to separate than to force yourself to stay in a friendship that is always leaving you feeling frustrated or annoyed, and could eventually become toxic. 

narcissist-codependent relationship

When Addiction is About More Than Substances

The Narcissist-Codependent Relationship

When we think of abusing drugs and alcohol and the nature of an addict, we generally think mostly about the substances they are using and the individuals themselves. But, that is not all. Sometimes it is the relationships they are in and the people in their lives contributing to their underlying problems. 

One such problemsome relationship is the narcissist and the codependent. Narcissist personality types tend to put themselves above all else. They use other people to benefit themselves, exploit relationships without feelings of guilt, blame others for their missteps, and look down on others to make themselves feel better. Codependent personality types lack self-esteem, rarely make decisions for themselves, always put others first, feel they must always be in a relationship and are overly dependent on the other people in their lives. A relationship between the two personality types often leads each person to reinforce each other’s negative behaviors. 

A codependent won’t stand up to a narcissist about unhealthy behaviors and a narcissist won’t listen to a codependent. One is too fearful to lose the other, and the other wants to stay in control of their partner and doesn’t care how he/she/they feels. Codependents often become the enablers in these relationships. They don’t stand up to their partners and they often financially support their partner’s negative behaviors, after all, they don’t want to make them mad. The codependent might also help the narcissist to hide his/her/their addictions.

It is obvious this kind of relationship is unhealthy and can’t last. If we want the addiction under control the narcissist needs to get away from the enabler, the codependent. The codependent also needs to work on being their own person, and stop being the doormat for the narcissist and increase his/her/their self-worth and self-esteem. 

It is possible to end these types of relationships, it just takes some work. The codependent needs to take a serious look at themselves to realize how dependent they are and to end the cycle, and let go of the narcissist. Seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional can help end these behaviors and turn things around. Sometimes it takes an intervention from people outside the relationship, who see things others do not, to get the ball rolling. 

These behaviors may stem from something much deeper—a childhood experience, past relationship, or trauma. Getting help can help each person to heal. 

Peter Pan

Do You Have Peter Pan Syndrome?

Do you remember Peter Pan? You know the boy who doesn’t grow up. I mean, who doesn’t want to stay a child forever? Life was easy as a child, less responsibility, more fun and way fewer worries to consume our days with.

But, as an adult there comes a time when you have to grow up. At some point, you need to take on adult responsibilities and shift your priorities. Unfortunately, we are not surrounded in the magic that can keep us children forever. Growing up and shifting priorities is not a smooth transition for everyone. Some adults truly struggle with this change, which is why the term “Peter Pan Syndrome” was coined by psychologists.

What are some of the characteristics of Peter Pan Syndrome?

1.) Unwillingness to work hard when you aren’t motivated. We all know how hard it can be to get things done when you don’t feel like doing something, but unfortunately being an adult sometimes means doing things you don’t want to do.

2.) Dabbling in many different things. Rather than focusing your time on honing one skill, a person who has Peter Pan Syndrome might spend their time trying a bunch of different things because they can’t pinpoint the one skill they want to master.

3.) Aversion to networking. Meeting successful people in your career field of choice can be hard, yet necessary to find a job and/or move up in a position. You have to put yourself out there, talk and learn from others.

4.) Focusing on the long shot. We are all told to dream big, but at some point, you might need to shift gears from trying to make it big as a musician or a film star and instead focus on a more realistic area of interest. Maybe instead of trying to be a multi-billionaire rockstar, you become a music teacher. Or instead of focusing all your energy into being a successful actor, teach a theatre class.

5.) Abusing alcohol and drugs. These types of behaviors while often linked to addiction or other mental health conditions, can make finding and keeping a successful job difficult. It can make adulting that much harder to do.

6.) Blaming your failure on an external source. Often those having difficulty growing up don’t want to accept that they aren’t successful in their careers because they aren’t motivated to try, and instead want to blame it on something their parents, spouse, or former employer did/said. The truth of the matter is some people have come from war, hunger, poverty, abuse, etc. and have come out successful. It is all about finding that motivation to go after the life you want.

If you identify with one or more of these characteristics it might be helpful to talk to a licensed mental health professional, life coach, or career counselor who can help to guide you on the path for success. The first thing you have to do is realize that to be successful in a career you will need to grow up, as hard as that is, and if you are struggling with that reality there are tools to help you. Anyone can succeed in life and career, it will just take some willingness to make changes.

perimenopause

Hormone changes at 40 can impact mood

As women, we generally think of the big changes in our body to be puberty and menopause but other precursors could be impacting your mood. Forty is generally too young for most women to experience full-blown menopause but some symptoms start to show up, often referred to as perimenopause.

These symptoms can mean this milestone birthday is the start of a host of emotional and physical changes. Perimenopause is caused by hormones. It generally means your body has too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. So, how can these changes impact your mood?

Change is normal

First of all, you might feel like your body is a bit off which can create distress on its own. You might grow more worried about things, begin to feel sad that you are getting older, or just be generally uncomfortable with the way you feel. Other things perimenopause can cause are increases in anxiety, short-term memory loss, fuzzy thinking, difficulty with multi-tasking, fatigue, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, anger, or a sense of urgency.

As distressing as these changes can be, it’s important to remember that it is normal. This is part of life and getting older and as uncomfortable as it can be, it can also be a sign of starting a new stage in life. If you are having trouble dealing with your emotional and physical changes, it can be helpful to speak with your doctor on ways to deal with things and lifestyle choices that may help ease symptoms. Seeking help from a licensed counselor who specializes in women’s issues can also be helpful during this time of adjustment.

It is hard to feel like you are not in control of your body and your mood and these changes that are going on, but you are not alone. And, getting older isn’t a bad thing. Think about it as a time to find a new appreciation for the simple things in life.

Willpower Is Not All You Need To Change

Changing habits is tough work. Frequently you hear people say “it just takes self-control,” or “willpower is all you need.” But, that is not exactly true. Willpower is an important part of it but it is far from all of what you need. 

No matter what the goal is that you are trying to achieve, there will be moments of high self-control and moments of low control. Think about it, when you wake up in the morning you might be all in. You are passionate, you are driven, you are ready to conquer the day with your goal in mind. Then as the day goes on and the day’s events unravel that willpower decreases. The more times your brain is asked to make a decision, especially if it is something you really want (like that piece of chocolate cake that you have passed 100 times), you are more likely to give in as decision fatigue sets in. 

So, what do you really need if you are trying to make a change:

1.) Modify Your Environment — If you are trying to give up junk food, get rid of the junk food before temptation takes over. If you are trying to not drink alcohol during the week, then don’t buy it. If you don’t have it in the house then you are less likely to partake. 

2.) Take a break — All that temptation can be exhausting. If you don’t give your body and brain a chance to rest and recharge you will run out of willpower. Go to bed early. Go for a long walk (away from temptation), go to a yoga class, let your brain get lost in a book or movie, whatever sounds appealing to you as a form of relaxation.

3.) Remind yourself of your “why” — Why are you trying to stop eating junk food? Do you have a dress you want to fit in for a special occasion or a pair of jeans you have had your eye on, tape a picture to your desk or your kitchen fridge? Why are you trying to limit your alcohol intake? Do you feel rundown, sluggish, tired? Remind yourself how good you feel when you don’t drink. Do you want to save for a trip? Put pictures up of the places you want to visit. Keep your eye on the prize. 

4.) Find support — We all think we can make big changes on our own. I am not saying it is not possible but it is so much easier (and more fun) with a support system. Friends and family can rally behind you, limit temptation for you, cheer you on, and be a shoulder to cry on when days are tough. 

5.) Cut yourself some slack — With any goal, there will be days you slip up. There will be times when you don’t stick to the plan. After all, you are human. This is life and it is unexpected. Things come up that result in changes of plans. Stressors occur that overwhelm us in other ways. Be kind to yourself. Forgive. Let go. Tomorrow is a new day. 

Seeking help from a licensed professional counselor can also help with goal setting. He/she/they can be another part of your support system while giving you some added tools. 

Help yourself and your kids by managing anxiety

Anxiety is a very real thing that many of us face. It can be so easy to get overcome with emotions, feel overwhelmed by the day’s events, and get frustrated. Next thing you know you are lashing out at your children. Yelling at them for things that aren’t really their fault. We have all done it. But for those with anxiety, these occurrences can get more and more frequent, passing on your anxiety to your children. 

If this sounds like you, first of all — take a breath. You are not alone. There are healthy ways to deal with your anxiety so that you aren’t passing it on to your children.

Healthy Coping

Here are some things to get you started:

1.) Take notice — Before you can make any changes you have to recognize where changes need to be made. Pay attention to the way you are reacting to things. How are you speaking to your kids? What do their faces look like when you talk to them this way? How are you feeling internally? What led up to this instance? Recognize it, so you can alter your behavior. 

2.)Take a break — When you realize you are feeling overwhelmed, stop what you are doing. Take a moment to look around and examine what you are doing, what is making you feel overwhelmed? Remind yourself of your reality. Bring yourself back to earth. If it is an ongoing thing, then take the time for yourself to get done what you need so that you can regain calm. 

3.) Alter Your Schedule — If you are seeing a pattern of anxious feelings, maybe it’s during deadline week at work or maybe it is during a certain time of the day, then make the necessary changes in order to feel relaxed. Get up a few hours early to get things done. Go to bed earlier. Plan ahead of time. Whatever works best for you in order to feel like you are in control of your time. 

4.) Learn Stress Management — Healthy stress management is not always known. Instead, we tend to turn to things like alcohol or eating which can increase our anxious feelings. Instead try breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, reducing your workload, etc. 

A licensed professional can help you to recognize and conquer these anxious feelings so that you are not passing them on to your children. Your children are hyperaware. They turn to you for guidance. Be a good example. Learn healthy coping mechanisms. 

Ask Mabel: How to motivate yourself to change (even when you are scared)?

Dear Mabel: My goal has always been to go to grad school but now that it is time to study for the GRE I can’t get myself motivated. Grad school is a huge time and money investment and I am afraid. What if I don’t succeed after graduation? What if I end up right back where I am now? Then what was the point? What if I end up in a dead-end job living with my parents? I am getting really discouraged. How can I get myself motivated?

Signed, Frank from Minnesota 

Mabel: Hi Frank, this sounds like a classic case of overthinking. Your brain is constantly evaluating the risk of taking this leap, so of course, it sounds like a bad idea. You are convincing yourself every day based on your fears. The truth is, yes there are risks. And, yes the worst case scenario is you will end up back at square one. But, what happens if you don’t take the chance? I like to look at things systematically. If you don’t take the GRE, if you don’t take the leap and try for grad school, then you have a 100 percent chance of being at square one. At least by taking this leap, you are giving yourself a fighting chance. Turn your thinking around. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong if you do go to grad school, think about what can happen if you don’t. What is the risk of not going? 

No change happens without taking a chance on ourselves. You can choose to stay stagnant, right where you are currently, based on fears. Or, you can choose to fight for a change. You can give yourself opportunities, you can open doors for your future, but you have to try. So often we let fears get in the way. Your motivation is inside you, you just have to change your perspective on the situation as a whole. If you fail and you end up back at square one, at least you will know you tried. And, who knows maybe the experience will lead to other open doors. But, first, you have to try. 

You can boost your willpower, here is how:

Just like the muscles in our legs and arms, our brains get tired too. When we spend all day making decision after decision — the willpower part of our brains gets spent. Without even potentially realizing it, you begin to make poor—or even completely avoid—decisions. It is called decision fatigue and scientists are just beginning to learn more about its potentially detrimental impact. 

Whether it be shopping, working, dieting, it is easier for us to make smart, educated, well-thought decisions in the morning before we have depleted so much of our energy. It is why it is easier to eat healthier breakfasts than dinners, and why we often reach for that piece of candy at the end of the day. Our brains are exhausted and our willpower is depleted. 

Think about building a home, or picking out clothes at the store, you are making decision after decision — what hardware to put where, what lighting fixture, where should the outlets go, do I want the purple shirt or the red shirt, is this dress too big, should I spend this much money, etc. Chances are at the end you feel like throwing in the towel. Or you say “ah screw it, I will just go with this one.” This is decision fatigue. The list can go on and on. But, by recognizing that decision fatigue exists and acknowledging its potentially damaging impact, you can make changes to your life to increase your willpower. 

Reduce decison fatigue

Here are some ways to get started reducing decision fatigue and boosting willpower:

1.) Plan reoccurring decisions ahead of time: Obviously you can’t plan every decision before it happens. That is just life. But many of the decisions that are draining our willpower are the ones we make over and over again. Things like what you are going to wear to work, what you are going to eat for lunch/breakfast/dinner, when you are going to hit up the gym, etc. This stuff you can plan before you go to bed at night so the next day you have willpower for the big stuff. 

2.) Whatever is most important in your day, do it first: Maybe it is exercising, getting a project done, getting the laundry folded, helping your child with a project, whatever it is wake up early and get it done. You are the freshest version of yourself when you wake up. Get up, get to it and start your day off on the right foot, it may even help the rest of the day to unfold smoother.

3.) Take care of you: It is hard to have willpower if you feel drained, unhealthy, unfit, bad about yourself, etc. Put time in your day to focus on yourself and make sure you are getting the proper fuel for your day.

4.) Make commitments, instead of decisions: Rather than getting down on yourself by constantly telling yourself you “want to lose weight,” “want to change jobs,” “want to start working out,” start doing it. You will have fewer decisions to make if you just rip the bandaid off and commit. 

5.) Fuel first: If a decision is coming at the end of the day, or maybe a big meeting at work, then take a break, refresh and eat something first. You will be more on top of your game if you can boost some of that brain fuel. 

6.) Keep it simple: Get rid of the things in your life that you don’t need. Don’t waste your energy on things that don’t contribute to your wellbeing, that don’t provide joy. You don’t need to keep doing unnecessary tasks that are draining your energy. 

Your willpower is not always going to be at a steady level. That is impossible. But the first step to making changes is recognizing where the problems are and working to rectify them. It’s ok to put off a decision for a day rather than being impulsive. You can decide to get some rest first, just don’t avoid it completely. 

Sources: 

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html

https://jamesclear.com/willpower-decision-fatigue