Life seems to have a way of getting crazy just when we don’t have time. There’s your child’s homework assignment that they forgot was due…tomorrow. An impending deadline at work that can’t be delayed any longer. What about the band concerts, dance lessons, or basketball games for your kids? School, church, and family obligations and responsibilities that we “have” to do. How do we balance all the demands on our time and energy?
Recently, I came to the point of realization that it wasn’t physically possible for me to accomplish and meet all my obligations the way that I had envisioned in my head. It was possible (though difficult) to meet the responsibilities on my list, but not in the way that I wanted them completed. Having realistic expectations of what I can and need to accomplish within the parameters of my life was a hard realization for me. I don’t just want to complete a task; I want to excel at that task. However, my overly high expectations of myself were leading to feelings of stress, anxiety, and negative self- worth. How do we combat these dueling feelings of inadequacy and the need for perfection?
Sounds simple enough right? However, how often do we sit down and write out all the demands on our time and energy for a day and then rank them? Try taking just 5 minutes and jotting down all the things that you need (or think you need) to accomplish for that day. Is it reasonable? How do you feel when you look at the list? Is it empowering and motivating? Or, do you feel the stress and anxiety like I did when I looked at mine? If your list is motivating, then you might have a good balance. However, if you react like I did, that’s a good indication that you are over-extended and need to pare it down a bit. How can I cut out something I “need” to do?
For those of us that suffer with perfectionistic tendencies, it’s hard to accept that less than perfect is good enough. Do we really need to be on every PTO committee at our children’s schools? Or, is being on one “good enough”? Are there things on your list where you can give yourself permission to be average? Adjusting the expectations that we set for ourselves can be a difficult thing to do, but I’ve found that being more flexible about what is and isn’t acceptable leads to a lot less stress.
After completing the first two steps, I realized there were several areas of my life where I’d created exceedingly high expectations. I had scheduled myself into a corner that didn’t allow for any deviation. Allowing for some flexibility in my schedule is very freeing; I don’t have to be doing something all the time. When something unexpected does pop up, I’ve left enough leeway to adjust accordingly.
I’ve learned that being able to look objectively at various aspects of my life and see where I can make improvements by doing less, either physically or mentally, is necessary at this stage. I simply can’t be or do all the things that I tried to tell myself that I had to. However, by carefully evaluating and choosing to prioritize the things most important to me, accepting that sometimes less than “perfect” is good enough, and allowing flexibility be my new mantra; I have a sense of strength, empowerment, and resiliency that was previously lacking.More
Karen turned off the automatic notifications of missing assignments from her daughter’s school. Each time her phone would ping, she experienced a tightening in her chest, and a pit in her stomach, that gradually intensified, until finally each new ping brought panic and rage.
Karen’s daughter, Chelsea, had never been great at turning in homework, but the last couple of years things had gotten worse. Chelsea was a bright child, but had struggled with some executive skills, and regularly forgot assignments, or just didn’t want to do them. Her grades showed straight A’s in classes she enjoyed and F’s in classes she didn’t, with very little in between.
Karen wanted to see her daughter succeed, but worried that her apparent lack of motivation spelled doom for her future. Karen enacted more and more control over her daughter, limited activities and free time in hopes of “inspiring” Chelsea to “be more responsible”.
Instead of helping, it seemed to make the problem worse.
Karen’s attempt at control stemmed mainly from the shark music. We all recognize those two little notes. Duuh duh…duuh duh… duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, then bam, the shark appears. With those two little notes, our breathing speeds up, our chests feel tight, and fearful anticipation makes it difficult to think about anything other than the impending danger.
Dan Siegel describes shark music as the “background noise caused by past experiences and future fear”.
Karen’s shark music started to play anytime her phone pinged with a new “missing assignment” notice because a new missing assignment made her fears for her daughter’s future replay in her head. This fear made it difficult for Karen to address what was really going on with that specific assignment, because every assignment blended together as one big problem.
Learning to recognize when our own shark music has started playing is the first step toward a more intentional, less reactive response to our children. Without the shark music, Karen could calmly talk to her daughter about specific assignments, and they could come up with plans to address the problems behind each situation, giving Chelsea the opportunity to learn important life skills.
For her missing math assignment, perhaps Karen would learn that Chelsea sat by her best friend in math, and often missed writing the assignment down because she was busy talking. Brainstorming with Chelsea would teach her how to solve problems rather than put her in a reactive position to her mom’s “meanness”. For a missing English assignment, maybe Karen would learn that Chelsea hadn’t understood what the teacher was asking for, and a solution could be to talk to the teacher after school for clarification.
We all have our shark music, whether it has to do with our child’s education, the time they spend with friends, or what their eye roll *really* meant, allowing ourselves to get pulled into the shark music causes us to miss out on what is really going on with our kids. After we recognize what triggers our shark music, we can acknowledge our fear, and then refocus on what lesson we really want our child to learn.
Learning to recognize what triggers our shark music can be a challenge. It involves examining our impulses and past experience. Sometimes the most effective way to do this is with the guidance of a professional. If you feel stuck in your own shark music and are ready to learn a new way of interacting with your child, call 801-944-4555 to schedule an appointment today.More
Whether it is dancing with a loved one, head banging on our way to work, or singing our hearts out with friends and family; music affects our mood and our relationships. A recent study by Apple and Sonos found some surprising results regarding something we all love, music.
Apple and Sonos (2016) completed a global study of thirty-thousand consumers to see how music can affect our “home life”. The study surveyed people with varied backgrounds ranging from families with children, couples, and friends as roommates. Despite different backgrounds those that were surveyed had something in common: music impacted their relationships in positive ways. At this day and age we all seem to plug in on the internet, video games, and social media. While we tend to be physically present, we are not always emotionally or mentally present with those around us. We know electronics play a role in preventing some of these interactions, but how do we combat them. We can do this by just playing music!
The study found that in the US families spent more quality time together by four and a half hours versus families who did not play music (1). This is huge especially when we have a difficult time unplugging, we now know that we can plug into music together and spend more quality time with our family and friends which then improves our relationships.
For families spending quality time listening to music improved their relationships in a variety of areas including the following:
- They were 33% more likely to cook together.
- They were 85% more likely to invite others over including friends and other close family.
- They also experienced 15% more laughter together as a family.
- The words “I love you” and other words of affirmation were 18% more likely to be said among each other.
Each of these examples can translate to improved relationships. Music is something that is so simple, and yet, can yield such a big impact for our relationships and drive more connection. The study further notes that the average of physical distance between family members was by 12% which the study called “a nexus of intimacy and togetherness” (1).
Throughout the study, couples began to experience 66% more intimacy while music played (1). Intimacy is much more than sex. Intimacy is moving from you and me to more of a “we”. The more intimate you become the closer you and your significant other will understand the ins and outs of the relationship. However, music did indeed improve the more “intimate” instances of intimacy. The study noted that couples were awake 37% more each evening which means that couples were having more, wait for it, sex (1).
When we’re having a bad day we can turn on our favorite song have a dance party and instantly our mood can change. Studies have shown that even by listening to happy or sad music we then perceive neutral faces as either happy or sad which matches the music heard prior by the individual (2).
Whether it is being closer with a loved one or improving the quality time your family spends together music can help. Music is something that can help us feel a variety of emotions and some good or bad. Music can help bring us together, but what really drives the connection between your family or friends at these times is becoming emotionally connected. When we truly open up with someone and have these musical experiences we show our vulnerabilities. During these vulnerable moments we can connect to someone on another level and they can see who we truly are.
When music is not enough to mend or help overcome a difficult patch in our lives we can seek further assistance. This assistance can come from friends, family, or professionals such as therapists to help work through your unique and challenging situations. If you are considering therapy and are worried what it will be like, please come and see us at Wasatch family therapy. We strive to provide everyone who comes with a comfortable, safe and non-judgmental atmosphere so that those we see can succeed. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555. Together we can learn further tools to help you through your specific changes.
- SONOS | Apple Music. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2017, from http://musicmakesithome.com/
- Cooper, B. B. (2016, August 26). 8 Amazing, Little-Known Ways Music Affects the Brain. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://blog.bufferapp.com/music-and-the-brain
- Complicate Everything: In order to create the perfectly stressful holiday, make sure that you make everything as complex as possible. There is zero room for simplification if you want to achieve high stress. Don’t just serve one kind of pie; make sure you make everyone’s favorite kind. Tablecloths, napkins, place settings, and your outfit should all match for ambiance. Additionally, all recipes should be great great great aunt Emm’s, passed down from generation to generation or the holiday just won’t be stressful enough. Remember that 12-step process so the homemade rolls are the right kind of fluffy.
- Do NOT Delegate: Make sure for the ultimately stressful holiday, that you do everything yourself, and I mean everything. This should include loss of sleep, not actually participating in the activities you prepared for everyone else all night and day, and never accepting help of any kind. This will be tempting when others offer, but don’t give in. No one else can do it as well as you anyway. The stress is just an added bonus.
- Have High Expectations: After all, these holidays come only once a year, so it must be perfect or you have ruined it for everyone and can’t try again for a whole year and everyone will be completely distraught until then. That is, unless you mess it up next year too. Make sure you are as rigid as possible. There is no room for flexibility this day. Do not tolerate anything that doesn’t go according to that wondrous magical plan you created in your head. For an added stress-filled bonus, make sure you meet everyone else’s too high expectations also!
- Focus on Commercialism: As these holidays roll around, make sure to focus on the true meaning of each holiday. Everyone knows that is commercialism and aesthetics only. Nothing else. As long as the way you did the holiday makes you look good to everyone else and you spent a ton of money, then you did a perfect job at creating a stressful holiday. Don’t get distracted with all that family love stuff and gratitude crap. This is game time. You have waited all year to be this stressed out. Stay focused.
Wishing you the most stressful of holidays!
Kathleen Baxter LMFT
- They may be hungry, tired, ill or bored.
- They might not know or understand what is expected of them.
- They might be held to expectations that are beyond their developmental level.
- They may have experienced trauma or abuse.
- They may be copying the bad behavior or their parents or someone else.
- They may be trying to cover up feelings of pain, fear or loneliness.
- They may be experiencing feelings that are overwhelming to them.
- They may feel bad about themselves.
- They may be experiencing bullying.
- They may be experiencing dietary issues.
- They may be trying to get attention from others.
- They may be testing whether parents will set limits, boundaries and enforce rules.
- They may be asserting themselves and seeking to be independent.
- Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- General anxiety disorder.
- Sensory processing disorder
The cooler fall air is the first indicator that the season of thankfulness and gratitude is upon us, but what if you don’t feel that you have anything to be grateful for this year? Perhaps your life has been plagued by chaos and uncertainty. Grief, job loss, depression, problematic relationships, and isolation are just a few of the things that can lead to feelings of apathy towards life and general ungratefulness. How can we combat this discontent and find gratitude and joy again?
Start as You Mean to Go
This is a phrase that I use often for a number of situations, but I think that it is particularly applicable when talking about gratitude. Simply begin your day as you want it to go for the remainder. Make the choice of gratitude as soon as you wake in the morning. Before you climb out of bed to begin your day, take a moment and find one thing, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential it may be, for which you are thankful. This choice to start with a grateful heart will set the tone for the day.
Stop and Smell the Roses
An overly used cliché, I know, but it’s true. It’s hard to be truly grateful if we are so busy living that we don’t take the time to appreciate the little things that make life worth living. Be mindful of what is happening around you, and take the time to truly experience and appreciate the small blessings, victories, and learning opportunities that life has to offer.
Look Outside Yourself
What better way to forget about our problems than to look around and see the problems that other people are dealing with? This isn’t to say that we should take joy in others’ pain and suffering, but to use it to put our problems into perspective. Stepping outside of ourselves and helping those that are less fortunate enables us to really appreciate the good in our lives, as meager as it may be, and also to recognize that there is always someone that has less.
Find a Purpose
Find a purpose in life that gives your life meaning. Maybe this means volunteering your time to a cause that is close to your heart, finding fulfillment in your family or career, or deciding to go back to school. The possibilities are endless. Whatever your direction, find something which you are passionate and excited about and share it.
Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude is a choice. Choose a life of gratitude by having an attitude of gratitude that starts as soon as you wake in the morning. Find the things that you appreciate about your life and celebrate them, no matter the size. Slow down and take the time to seek out and appreciate the lessons that life has to offer, even the hard ones. Life is hard, and there are plenty of opportunities to get down, but look to others to gain insight and perspective of your challenges. Lastly, find your purpose. We aren’t all going to find a cure for cancer or negotiate world peace, but we all have the chance to leave this world better than we found it.More
Dr. John Gottman, Author of “7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.”, wrote about what he calls the “4 horseman of the apocalypse”. He outlined how, if unaddressed, these behaviors can erode trust and security in a relationship. Look out for them in your communications.
Blame/Criticism– Blame and criticism increase defensiveness and derail problem solving.
Contempt– Use non-judgmental language. Contemptuous language like, “You’re so lazy! You never empty the dishwasher” will get you nowhere fast. Try instead, “I feel frustrated that I am emptying the dishwasher so frequently. I would like us to share this responsibility” The latter is a reasonable request. Try to label the behavior rather than the person.
Defensiveness– Defensiveness is usually a response to feeling blamed or criticized. Take ownership for what part you played in the situation and be open to hearing the reasonable request. Acknowledge what the other person is saying and the feelings they are expressing (validate where they are coming from). Address their request/concern rather than justify your behavior.
Stonewalling– Stonewalling is refusing to participate fully in the conversation or avoiding the discomfort. Instead, commit to hearing the person out. Stonewalling means you will never hear their reasonable request and therefore not be able to problem solve. If you feel overwhelmed, ask to pause the conversation for a short period of time and commit to returning when you are calmer.
For more information check out the link below or any of John Gottman’s books.
In any given year, 1 in 5 Americans experiences mental illness of some kind (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.). Clearly, this is an issue that affects a great deal of us, particularly the loved ones of those suffering. And mental illness is more than just an individual problem; it is a family concern. Here are some ways to support a spouse or partner with mental illness:More