It doesn’t make sense when you hear it. How could slowing down actually allow you to do more?
Our lives are so busy these days. I am sure you say it all the time, “I just don’t have time for that.” But, have you ever stopped to really think about your life and how you are spending your time. It is so easy to get caught up in to-do lists, goals, work demands, that we forget about why we are really doing all these things. Our lives are literally passing us by because we are so over consumed with what “needs” to get done. We are overstressed, overworked, and overwhelmed.
Slowing down, actually taking a moment to stop and look around us, to be present in the moment, to embrace the act of mindfulness can actually allow us to do more. Taking time to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes, can help us be more productive and happier in the long-run.
It is so easy to get burnt out when we are going full speed ahead all the time. We all need rest days. We need days with the family. We need time to enjoy the lives we have built for ourselves and to appreciate all the true beauty around us.
It is ok to turn the phone off. Put it in a drawer or a cabinet for a few hours a day and be present in your life. The world will not end, I promise. Life is short and there are so many moments we can not get back. Start today with a few minutes of disconnecting.
The next time you find yourself rushing to get from one place to another, ask yourself “is it really that bad if I am a few minutes late?” In most cases, the answer is “no.” Rather than losing your temper on your children for not putting their shoes on fast enough, or getting distracted by a flower they saw in the grass, slow.down. Turn that rushed moment in a positive memory.
The other day someone asked me how long it should take to get over their divorce?
While I would have loved to give them a simple answer, it is not that cut and dry. The truth is it will take—as long as it takes. Every situation is different. Divorce itself, even if you and your partner agree that the marriage is not working and divorce is the best option, is not easy.
Your marriage ended for any number of reasons that can be hard to accept. Your divorce challenged your innermost voices, it put strain on your self-esteem and turned your entire world upside down. It is not supposed to be an easy thing to recover from. Even if you know in your heart that it was the right choice, it doesn’t mean that you will instantly feel wonderful.
Your Internal Core
When you got married you expected to be with your partner forever. You made a commitment to each other to care in sickness and in health, to stand by each other in times of stress, and to grow old together. Just the mere factor of that not working out is a huge disappointment. It is a major blow to your internal core as a human being.
That is not even taking into account things like children, pets, shared possessions—like homes, cars, etc. You are now faced with figuring out a new normal. If you have children you are likely feeling the strain of their own emotional distress. You are trying to make things as easy as possible on them, while it is hurting you to see them hurt. You may have been forced to move out of your home, split up possessions that may have been of high importance to you, and you may be feeling more financial strain than ever before—divorce is not cheap.
All of these things make getting over such a thing extremely difficult. Don’t try to rush your heart. Instead, take comfort in knowing that you will find that new normal. You will. You will be able to move on. Your kids will be ok. You will find that happiness, that relief, whatever it is that you need. You will. In time. These things take time.
Counseling services are always there for you if you need an extra set of ears to bounce things off of, or if you need guidance in how to move through this major life change.
The teenage years are crucial for a number of reasons—personal and emotional development, self-confidence, and it’s usually your last chance to have your child at home. While your teen is still living under the same roof, it’s a great time to teach them the tools for healthy relationships that can set them up for life.
Teach your teens to be honest and upfront. It is always easiest to “ghost”—or avoid—an uncomfortable situation. Many teens fear confrontation and would rather walk away, not answer the phone, not reply to the text, not speak to a person, etc. This is avoidance and it is not healthy for any relationship. It is passive-aggressive behavior that can be harmful in adult life in many ways, not just romantically. It can impact jobs, professional relationships, friendships, etc.
You can help discourage your teen from ghosting by setting an example. If they do something approach them about it, rather than ignoring. Have the conversations. Open the doors to communication. Teach your teen the benefits of honesty. It may be uncomfortable for a bit, it may result in anger or distress, but ultimately it will lead to better results. Relief off your chest. Forgiveness. Openness. Respect for others. If your teen shares with you issues at school, work, or in friendships encourage them to face their problems head-on.
Explain to your teen that avoiding problems usually leads them to compound into bigger issues later. By taking the small steps to act on issues as they come up, they will be setting the stage to have better relationships with those around them, to make smarter decisions, and to open more doors personally and professionally. Nobody likes a ghoster. Teach your teen that ghosting can be seen as disrespectful, weak, and “giving up.”
As a parent you want your teen to be successful in life. You want them to make smart choices and be respectful to others. These are important lessons that you have the ability to teach them before they experience the harshness of the world on their own. Even if you aren’t really sure if your teen is listening or absorbing the information you are trying to teach them, keep at it. Setting an example as a parent can go a long way.
I hear from clients all the time about how they are not able to maintain their friendships. They are kicking themselves, feeling bad, for not keeping the same relationships with their friends over time.
They used to go over to their friends’ homes, talk on the phone daily, and share all of lives little moments. Now, they have to plan out a girls night weeks or even months in advance. They rarely have a chance to call and catch up. They realize that they haven’t even told their friend they got a new job or that story about how your kid fell asleep in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Friendships change. As an adult you are busier, you have more responsibilities, more demands on time. You might move to chase a career or a spouse. Your worldview might change. It is ok to feel grief, sadness, loss over a changing friendship. It is ok to miss those phone calls and late night movies. But, it is also normal to lose touch. It is normal, and expected, to put your family and other demands on your time first. That is not to say it is not important to still have friends because yes, of course, it is. You still need friend time but it is probably less frequent and maybe with different friends than you previously had.
As our lives change our friendship needs do also. Women with children often find they have more in common with other women with children. You share the same stressors and anxiety. You can relate. The same can be said for the working mom vs the stay-at-home mom, the boy mom vs the girl mom, the single mom vs. the married, etc. Maybe you have faced some health challenges and you need someone who can understand your pain and frustration.
This is all part of life. We evolve, we mature, our circumstances are altered. We drift apart from each other, and that is ok.
It would be nice if we could be happy 24/7, stress-free, relaxed, all smiles, but that is not reality. We are not supposed to be happy all the time. We are supposed to feel a range of emotions.
Could being ‘happy’ all the time actually be dangerous?
I speak to clients all the time who are feeling down. They ask me what is wrong with them for feeling down even though they can’t identify a specific stressor in their life. I help them to learn how to cope and find happiness in themselves, to feel better, but there are always going to be moments of sadness. There are going to be times when we just don’t feel happy. This is life.
In fact, some say it is dangerous to try to be happy all the time. It is better to allow yourself to feel all the emotions. Being happy is great but it is not the appropriate response to all situations. If someone you care about dies, you can’t expect to respond in happiness. If you are not having a great day, maybe your car won’t start or you got stuck in traffic on the way to work, it’s appropriate to feel frustrated. If your schedule is packed and you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done, it is ok to feel overwhelmed. In fact, you should. Feeling these emotions helps you to cope.
Life can be wonderfully beautiful in so many ways, but it can also be devastatingly tragic. If we are always happy and something bad happens, we won’t know how to process that information. We won’t know how to deal, according to Danish psychology professor Svend Brinkmann in his book Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze.
The bad things in life help us to better appreciate all the good. So, while it is good to look at the positive in bad situations. It is ok, and healthy, to feel all the emotions associated with the good, bad and ugly of the world.
There are many reasons for divorce to occur leading to a vast array of emotions. But why would bitter feelings occur if you and your partner agree that your marriage isn’t working? If you don’t have any hard or angry feelings toward your partner then why would you feel so upset at the situation? Why can’t you just end the marriage and move on?
It is because when you walked down that aisle you had an expectation of what marriage would be. You thought you would spend your life with this person and be happy and in love through the process. Now that reality is setting in and this expectation has been shattered, you are grieving. You have lost your marriage and now you have to grieve that loss.
It is truly human nature to feel this way, according to a Psychology Today article that looks at a study done on chimpanzees. When all of their basic needs are met— safety, love, survival, esteem, and actualization— they act much differently than if they are missing one of those five. When you go through a divorce you are bound to feel bitter, angry, scared, and just plain jerkish because you are not having all your needs met. You suddenly have to worry about all these things you didn’t have to concern yourself with before. When we feel safe, secure, and loved we are able to rationalize things better.
In addition to having your expectations shattered, you are also in for a whole slew of changes and let’s be frank — us humans don’t like change very much. Divorce also brings up many feelings of being powerless and out-of-control, you might not know how things are going to play out, what will tomorrow be like? And, there is a need to fight for what you love and believe—a sense of entitlement. Even if you still deeply care for your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you remember how long it took to pick out that couch downstairs and you want it back. You also worked really hard to save up for that house and now you don’t want to sell it. You want to hang on to the things that are important to you.
Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can ever endure. It is a mountain of obstacles to face and it takes time and energy to get to the other side. If you are feeling overwhelmed, bitter, stressed, angry, know this is normal. Seek help from a licensed therapist who can help you to take care of yourself.
You lost someone you love, someone near and dear to your heart. Maybe this was a person you spoke to on the phone a few times a week, or someone who lifted you up and supported you. Maybe it was someone that was part of your day-to-day life. Maybe it was a parent, child, sibling, friend, or even a pet. Regardless of the circumstances, losing someone you love is incredibly difficult. It can be hard to “go on” after such a loss. You suddenly don’t know what to do with your time, what to do without that person or pet by your side.
Honor what once was
The fact is, we are not the same after we lose someone. It is not easy to transition between what once was and what now has to be. Grieving is building a bridge between the old and the new, with each piece being put into place a piece at a time. It is a slow and concentrated deliberate process. You may have heard others say, take it a “day at a time” or even a “moment at a time.” Start slow. Don’t expect to feel better in a day, a week, a month. Yes, you will find that new normal. You will find your place but it is a process.
For example, maybe you have lost a grandparent whom you visited every Wednesday afternoon for coffee and a chat. Although things have changed, you can create a new tradition. Maybe replace it by going to a coffee shop and reading a book your grandmother enjoyed or visiting a special place of hers. Maybe use the time to call a friend or relative and chat. You don’t have to completely change your routine just alter it a bit to ease the transition while honoring what once was. If you have lost a pet that you walked every morning, replace that morning walk with a jog. These small changes, although full of a emotion and feeling much larger, will help you to build that bridge from old to new and rediscover contentment.
Loss is not easy but the pain does subside when we acknowledge it and honor it. You can move forward, you can hold on to the old while going forward in the memory of your loved one. After all, they would want you to find happiness again. We don’t need to gloss over our grief. Grief exists because we love.
What small steps have you taken to build a new normal after loss?
I had a friend who recently died of breast cancer. Before she passed, her words to us were: “take the scenic route.” It was a reminder that sometimes we squeeze too much in—rushing around, hurrying, trying to get everything done that we can in a short period of time while ignoring the quality of our lives.
When we spend so much time running from one activity to another, trying not to be late, we become stressed. In turn, our relationships with others can become unpleasant. We are shorter with those we love because we feel anxious, overbooked, and overwhelmed. The truth is we are trying to have a fulfilled life, and yes we should aim for that but we also need to enjoy it.
Every time someone is near death and reflecting on their life they say the same things (i.e. the book When Breath Becomes Air) —why didn’t I spend more time with my kids? Why didn’t I take more vacations from work? Why didn’t I take things slower, embrace the time I had when I had so much of it? There has to be something to these words of advice — you are not going to regret missing that meeting at work, but you are going to miss watching your kids play in the backyard. You are going to miss those afternoons when nothing was planned and you decided to have a picnic in the park. You will miss the impromptu movie night, the long conversations with your parents, the teaching/learning moments with your children. You will miss hearing about their day. You will not miss that you didn’t take the afternoon to clean your home or rearrange your closet.
I try to remember this when I feel stressed and overwhelmed, when I hear my kids laughing in the backyard and look at the pile of dishes in my sink. I remind myself to choose that time with my kids. In the long run, it will make the biggest impact on mine and their lives. It will be a memory, a moment to cherish…those dishes can wait.
My friend said to me: “Here I lie dying, looking back I should have shortened the to-do list and started a to-enjoy list.”
What is on your to-enjoy list?
As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, my five-year-old daughter thinks another girl is pretty. She decided she wanted to give her a pretty plastic ring, so she made her a card and put the ring on it.
During the process, my daughter said she was embarrassed and “scared.” She said a few of her female friends were making comments like “eww, that girl isn’t that pretty anyway” and “I am weird.” It doesn’t surprise me that female competition is beginning to start at her age. Child and adolescent psychologist Katie Hurley describes in her book No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident and Compassionate Girls the trend of toxic female competitiveness that is creeping down from high school, and starting as young as grade school. She offers many reasons for this, citing busy schedules, rise in stress and anxiety levels, and increased pressure for children to do well in sports and extracurriculars.
Girls uplifting other girls
I responded to my daughter’s concerns over giving this card to her friend, by telling her “we can show people we like them in many ways.” I told her, “girls can think another girl is pretty. And girls can uplift another girl.” Her twin sister also supported her, the best any five-year-old can. She also made the girl a card that said: “my sister thinks you are pretty and wants to give you a ring.” Afterwards, the twin quietly told me she doesn’t care if girls are not “suppose” to like girls, she loves her sister anyway. I told her, “we can like people in many ways. We are just going to send nice words to uplift another girl! Cool, right?!”
We, adults, have a lot to learn from young children about loving and not judging each other. We are conditioned to compete with our peers. We draw on our insecurities and instead of turning them into positives, we put other women down. We are not being uplifting because we are afraid of other women being more successful, prettier, “bigger” than us. We need to dig deep inside and find that inner strength to uplift each other. Us, women, we need each other. We need the support from others, the kindness, the acceptance. We should be helping each other to feel good about ourselves, instead of doing the exact opposite.
How do you uplift the women around you?
More on Hurley: https://www.thestar.com/life/relationships/opinion/2018/02/08/why-girls-are-getting-meaner-younger.html
As I have gained more roles in my life—mother, wife, daughter, and business owner—I have had to take more charge of my time. I have become more direct and less passive in the way I communicate. I am setting stronger, healthier boundaries. But, it took some time and some changes in the language I was using to really be successful with those boundaries.
I used to say “Because of xyz, I am unable to..” The use of the word “unable” made myself seem small. It came off as I am not the one making decisions for my own life. Instead, I now say “xyz happens, therefore I will not…” Such as “I spend time with family on Friday nights, so I will not be attending your event” or “I have my money in somewhere, I will not loan it out now.”
Forget the word “unable”
Forget the word “unable.” Remove it from your vocabulary. You are not small. You are the decision-maker in your life. You make your own rules. Don’t let other people think they can have control over your plans, your money, your life. You are the master of your world. Take charge in the language you use, so you don’t come off as passive.
I hear from clients all the time that they feel stretched too thin, they are afraid to disappoint people by standing up for themselves. This is why we tend to use the more passive language, but that can have a counterproductive effect. By not being direct in our language it can be perceived that the boundary we are setting is not really important. That it can easily be changed. Using direct language makes it more concrete. It is setting a rule and showing people you won’t budge, and you know what everything will be fine. You will feel more in control and more relaxed and people will grow to respect those boundaries you have set.