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Dealing with the stress of Holiday Gatherings
Although we like to think that getting together for Thanksgiving and the holidays is as wonderful at this Norman Rockwell painting, the truth is that, for many, these events are quite stressful. Longstanding interpersonal conflicts and struggles for control can upset the most perfectly planned events. Here are some tips to avoid trouble and make this festive time more enjoyable and less anxiety ridden:
1) Think ahead. Don't just let family gatherings "just happen". Think about what is most upsetting for you. Have a plan and realize that you can influence how things will go. Things will be different if you act differently.
2) Be specific about what parts of the day you've had the most trouble with in the past. Review the bad expereinces of previous years and identify in detail how or why things went wrong. Pay attention to particular people you you have trouble with. Keep safe distances away.
3) Imagine doing things differently. Remember you have options and don't always have to do things the same way that they always have been done. Ask yourself "What would make things better ?" in a given situation.
4) Have an escape plan. If you start to feel uncomfortable or things are getting out of hand don't let them escalate. Give yourself permission to step outside or if necessary leave the situation. Rememeber that you are not trapped.
5) Worst case scenario: If holdiay festivities are really bad or involves being around abusers or deniers of abuse, remember you don't have to go or participate at all. Avoiding added toxic exposure is important for those that are healling. If worry about holdiay times become truly intrusive and disruptive of your life, reach out and contact a therapist to talk to.
Holidays can be joyous times and taking a few minutes to plan ahead can relieve much of the aniexty that can spoil the fun and distract us from appreciating the blessing we have to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone !
Rev. Michael Heath LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 11 20 2015
Are you an impatient person ?
Certainly having an unexpected delay and having to wait longer than you anticipated can be very frustrating . Whether its being caught in traffic or being stuck in a long line that doesn't seem to move is both emotionally and physiologically stressful.
Not everyone is impatient but a lot of people are. Fortunately there are some simple things which you can do which will bring fast relief. The next time this happens to you and you can feel the anxiety building, call time out and ask yourself these questions:
1. Is there anything I can reasonably do to accelerate the process or move the situation along ?
2. What is the worst possible outcome that could come from the delay? Is it catastrophic ?
3. Does my getting upset or acting uncivilly affect the situation in any positive way?
When you realize that the correct answer to each of these questions is "No", try doing the following:
1. Stop fighting the situation and accept that you will be delayed.
2) Turn your attention away from watching the clock to paying attention to your breathing.
3) Slow your breathing down and deepen each breath. Also, make sure that you exhale completely.
4) Think about a place you love to be. Imagine the lovely scene, whether at the beach or mountainside. Feel warm sun and the gentle breeze.
5) Reframe the experience of the delay and realize that it is an unplanned mini-vacation which is an opportunity to put all cares aside and just be . No pressure, no obligations. Things will get moving when they do but, until then , relax.
Michael Heath 1110 2015
How Exchanging Performance Reviews Can Improve Your Marriage !
We do them for our jobs. We do them onlilne for restaurants and hotels and products we have purchased. But somehow the notion of giving a periodic report card to our spouse hasn't caught on yet . But that is changing. More and more folks are taking time, on a regular basis, to review and take note of how their marriages are performing. Getting into this habit is an excellent way not only to improve the over all level of marital satisfaction you feel but, more importantly, to identify relationship problems before they get out of hand and become difficult to resolve.
Under the best circumstance, the idea of doing regular marraige asssesments needs to begin in pre-marriage counseling where the basic elements of what makes a relationship work are identified, e.g. Communications/assertiveness, cooperation/consideration, conflict and problem solving, anger and stress management, equitable distribution of responsibilities and labor, banknig and money management and romance and sex. These specific elelments can be written down and become part of a marital "contract" to which each partner commits his or her self.
Even if a couple doesn't start out with a contract of specifics to be evaluated, it is never too late to create one. Sometimes having a session or two with a marriage therapist can provide just the right help get partners on started on the right track.
It needs to be understood that no one starts out knowing how to be married. It is also important to know that there are specific skills to be learned and that, with time and practice, couples can learn to get better and better at it. The notion of growing and getting better at being married goes hand-in-hand with periodic evaluations and discussing marital report cards. These efforts can provide important feedback and information regarding what is working well and what needs special attention.
From another point of view, we know that to maintain good health, regular check-ups with our doctor are a good idea. Medical problems are eaasier to treat when they are caught early. Likewise, problems in relationships can be easier to fix if they are discovered before they have become too complicated or resentments have grown too deep.
If the purpose of a relationship review is mutually understood to enhance and protect the marriage, it is less likely to be offensive or feel like harsh criticism to either partner. The language used in providing the feedback must be loving and respectful. Performance updates are not intended to be opportunities or attack or name call.
Although it may sound scary, I hope you and your partner will consider developing this habit. You'll be glad you did.
Rev. Michael Heath 10 27 2015
(The link below is for my mental health segment which ran on 9WSYR TV on Monday , October 12. Unfortunately there was a problem with the video but reporter Beth Cefalu provided this summary. http://www.localsyr.com/news/local-news/could-performance-reviews-help-your-relationship)