The dangers of procrastination and passive behavior

procrastination

I often hear people talk about their intentions, all the good things they would like to do, the services they would like to offer others, the amazing things they would like to build in their lives, etc. But… how often do they take concrete actions that reflect those intentions…?

I find that many people get stuck in the “intention phase” and never get pass that… Especially people who are passive or tend to procrastinate, they will fill their heads with all the great intentions they have and they would even manage to convince others around them, but… never follow through with them.

Unfortunately all your good intentions are totally worthless unless you take actions that reflect them.

There is no mystery, if you want to live your life fully, you cannot procrastinate on it, you cannot wait for things to happen to you, you cannot take a passive stand on your existence.

You have the chance to live by “design” as opposed to by “default,”  but it is ultimately up to you to take that chance, sadly, a lot of people decide not to.

If you want to live by design, to be the architect of your own life, to co-create with the Universe and all the other forces that are greater than you, you need to take action!

There is always a better time and space for an action, and sometimes it is wise to wait for the right time, but you cannot spend your life waiting, in fact, it is best to take action even if you fail, than to have never tried.

A total lack of action could be considered an act in and of itself, because there are clear consequences from it, but when you choose not to act, you are simply waiting for things to happen to you, and if you don’t like those things, you will always feel like a victim and blame others for what happens to you.

When you decide to act, you are creating momentum, you are moving forward, you are taking responsibility, so even if you fail in the action, you will not feel like a victim, you will not blame others; you will know that you tried and that knowledge will give you peace and strength to continue to move forward, to learn from your mistakes, and to try something else.

Sometimes, a lack of action is nothing but an inability to face one’s fears: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of change, etc.

Some people when faced with a problem for instance, decide to ignore it because they are scared of it, they don’t think they can solve it, so they simply pretend the problem isn’t there, or wait and hope for it to go away.

People manage to ignore problems by staying constantly distracted, taking their mind to a different place and numbing their feelings out, they use distractions such as: overworking, partying all the time, overeating, using and abusing alcohol, sex, and TV, etc.

But the truth is, they are only fooling themselves, by ignoring a problem it only grows bigger.

But, let alone problems and fears, some people still manage to procrastinate and not act even if fear isn’t involved, they somehow take the conscious or subconscious decision to sit and wait around. Some people fill their mouths with good intentions but when the opportunity to act on them comes along, they shy away from it.

In order to live fully, it is important to make decisions, no matter how hard they are, it is important to take risks, no matter if you fail, it is important to face your fears, even if it hurts, it is important to embrace the opportunities even if they are the wrong ones. It is important to act.

If you have the tendency to procrastinate or take a passive stand in life, think twice… this may be robbing you from having richer experiences and richer relationships.

And, if you have good intentions, especially towards others, make sure you act accordingly, make sure that your intentions become actions, make sure that when the opportunity to act comes along, you take it!

 

 

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How to Communicate Hard Feelings Effectively

Our choice of words matter, and when it comes to close relationships, like our partners, our children, our parents, etc. it really truly matters a LOT!

communication

Today I would like to focus on the way we sometimes express our frustration, anger or disappointment to a loved one. First of all, it is totally normal to feel frustrated, angry or disappointed with the people we love, however, the way we express those feelings can be detrimental to our relationships or,  it can be constructive…

After many years of therapy, self-reflection, and serious work on becoming more conscious and mindful, I have found that there are ways to make our communication positively impact our relationships, but it takes some practice and awareness, for sure!

But, first things first, when we are hurt or angry, it is hard so see clearly and act mindfully, so the first thing to do is to take a little distance from our feelings and become more objective and more conscious.
Now, how exactly do we do that…. well, unless you have a well-established mindfulness or meditation practice, this doesn’t come very naturally for most people, so it is important to have some tools that can help us take that distance from our emotions (sometimes on the spot! before we jump at our loved ones with all our complaints and rage!)

I work with kids, and as a mom as well as a yoga teacher, I have found some techniques that are very helpful to calm down negative emotions, here are some tools that any adult can use and/or share with children in their lives:

1. Take 3 deep breaths before you react to whatever is making you angry
2. Go outside and take a brisk walk, run or kick a ball
3. Punch a pillow
4. Listen to music that you like or sing a song
5. Close your eyes and think of a calm place or pleasant thought or something funny
6. Draw a picture
7. Write down your feelings, or a letter to the person you are mad at (you don’t need to send it)
8. Talk to someone about your feelings (not the person you are mad at!)
9. Ask for a hug, make sure it lasts a few breaths! (Again, not to the person you are mad at!)

The first one is the fastest and most accessible one, for adults and children alike. As simple as it may seem, taking deep breaths is incredibly powerful, simply because when we breathe slowly we are counter-acting the “fight or flight” response that kicks in automatically when we feel threatened (in this case angry,) the brain gets the message to slow down and lower its guards, so we can see the situation for what it is and not for what our blurry vision – affected by our feelings – will make us see.

There is a difference between the reality and what you see as “the reality,” when emotions are involved. Knowing this, and accepting it, is the first step to becoming more conscious.

So, let’s say that you can efficiently distance yourself from the emotion (whether it is anger, frustration, sadness, etc.) so you are able to calm down on the spot, which doesn’t mean you don’t feel the emotion anymore, it simply means you are able to acknowledge it for what it is and take responsibility for it. This doesn’t mean you just ignore what the other person did or said, or the fact that you feel angry, but it is important to take responsibility for your feelings!

Nobody has the power to MAKE YOU feel this way or that, YOU are the only one with that power, in other words, what you feel is your responsibility alone, which in turn, does not mean that the other person has NO responsibility in the matter, they are responsible for their actions just as much as you are for your reactions… do you follow?

So, it is crucial that if you want the relationship to stay healthy and grow, you need to handle communication effectively. So now we come down to the choice of words.

See, once we have taken responsibility for our feelings, we don’t need to blame the other person, but we can, and should, point out the facts, and express our feelings in a way that does not trigger the other person’s defensiveness or other negative feelings.

If we communicate in a healthy way, it will be clear enough for the other person how we are feeling, and they will have the opportunity to take responsibility for their part, without becoming defensive.

Here is a simple everyday situation as an example of how communication can go wrong, or right depending on the words we use:

Case Study:

Husband and Wife are getting ready to leave the house for an invitation and they are running late, they only have one key to their car and they can’t find it! (The last person who drove the car was the husband). The wife is starting to feel angry at a familiar scenario, and she hates to be late!

Scenario #1:

Wife: “You have lost the key again! You always do this, why don’t you leave it in the key holder by the door, it isn’t hard, that is why there is a key holder there!!! Now we are going to be late!” (in an annoyed tone)

Notice the direct accusation and blaming: YOU have lost the key, YOU always do it!

Husband: “Stop blaming me! you are the one who was taking for ever to get ready, if you could skip your hour long sessions of hair brushing we could be ready much earlier and then deal with this with less stress, plus I told you ages ago to make another copy of the key!” (in an angry tone)

Notice how the husband, feeling accused and blamed, goes immediately into “defensive mode” and tries to retaliate by taking his turn on accusing his wife of the first thing he can think of.

So, in this scenario the angry and negative feelings keep escalating, and there is a full blown fight, which is not about the lost key anymore but about the couple’s feelings overtaking them and completely shutting off communication.

Scenario #2:

Wife: “You have lost the key again! You always do this, why don’t you leave it in the key holder by the door, it isn’t hard, that is why there is a key holder there!!! Now we are going to be late!” -Same as scenario #1

The husband feels accused, but takes a few deep breaths and realizes that his wife is really worried because she hates to be late and it is her frustration talking at him, he also realizes that she may have a point about him being a bit disorganized, in fact he was already feeling a bit guilty for the loss of the key… so here is his response:

Husband: “Honey, I understand you are mad because you hate to be late, and I am sorry we cannot find the key, you are right, I often put it in different places which makes it harder to find it, I apologize but let’s try to find it together and make a note to make a copy so we have a backup key in the future, and I will be more careful to leave it in the key holder”

To this, the wife’s anger immediately deflates and she replies:

“I am sorry honey, I didn’t mean to blame you, we don’t really know what happened, it is just that I really dislike being late, but never mind, we just have to keep looking and yes, we need to make a copy, sorry I have not gotten to do that as I offered. Let’s keep looking and hopefully will find it soon. I will call our friends to tell them we will be late.”

Scenario #3:

The wife is feeling really annoyed at her husband, but before she says anything, she takes a deep breath and notices that he is frantically looking for the key and probably feeling bad already about not finding it, so she says:

“Honey, I feel really frustrated because we are going to be late, I know these things can happen, but it is a good idea to leave the key always in the key holder to avoid this happening in the future” (In a loving tone, not an accusatory one!)

Husband “I know, I am sorry, I will find it and will be more careful in the future to leave it in the holder when I use it, why don’t you call our friends to tell them we will be a bit late and let’s make a note to make a key copy as soon as possible”

In scenarios number 2 and 3 one of the partners averted a fight by being mindful, but at the same time expressing their feelings and the facts in a very effective manner.

You can see how the example above can be applied in many other cases and with different relationships. The specific situation or facts don’t matter as much as the way we react to them, and how we choose to communicate.

So, here is how we can avert fights and grow our relationships:

1. Taking a step back, before our feelings take over our actions and reactions

2. Choosing the right words to express ourselves, here are some ideas:

State the FACTS instead of accusing the other:
We will be late, as we can’t find the key (fact) vs
We will be late because YOU lost the key (accusation)

Take RESPONSIBILITY for your feelings instead of blaming them on others
I feel frustrated when we are late, it makes me feel embarrassed (taking responsibility for one’s feelings) vs
You make me look bad, because of you we will be late, and it is embarrassing! (blaming the other for our feelings)

DON’T ASSUME the other person is guilty, even if it seems obvious!
I wonder where the keys can be. Do you remember what happened after you parked the car last night? (Unassuming) vs
You lost the key again! (Assuming the person is guilty)

If you take these simple steps and practice them over and over, I assure you that your relationships will grow stronger and healthier and that you will feel a lot better with yourself and others!

Thanks for reading!

The importance of expressing negative emotions/feelings

The topic for this week has been inspired by a great book I am reading at the moment, it is called: “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Faber and Mazlish. As a mother of 6-year-old twins, I have to deal with my kids’ fighting and bickering and sometimes it drives me off the wall (I am sure many parents can relate). Being a single child I had no experience with having a sibling, so I really wanted to understand my kids and especially find ways to help them improve their relationship in every possible way.

siblings

As it turns out, I am learning many fascinating things about the dynamics of having a sibling, and how the relationship with a sibling can affect the rest of our life, for good or bad. Our parents, as well as our siblings become our first and closest teachers, so the way we interact with them will deeply shape the way we relate with other people and situations later in life.

So, I wanted to delve a little deeper into one of the main messages in this book: The importance of expressing negative emotions! It is quite simple but really profound.

I have always been a strong believer in expressing our emotions, all of them, even the negative ones. However, most people, when they are growing up, are taught to keep those emotions under control by simply repressing them, they are made to feel ashamed of them, to feel something is wrong with them and therefore, on top of having to suppress those emotions (hard enough for a child), they add more negative emotions to the mix: shame, guilt, inadequacy, etc.

Apparently, siblings are the first trigger of negative emotions during childhood because of the inevitable rivalry that arises between them. Experts in the field agree that at the root of siblings rivalry is each child’s deep desire for the exclusive love of his parents, simply because parents are the source of all security for a child (food, shelter, warmth, affection, a sense of identity, a sense of worth, etc.) So, the sole presence of another child threatens that security.

So, those feelings are NORMAL and to a certain extent healthy (from a preservation point of view if you wish). Now, the way children learn to deal with those feelings is extremely important for their future, and parents can help a great deal in this learning process. The very first thing to do is validate the child’s negative emotion, and that can be very hard for parents.

If a small child says he hates his baby sister, he does not mean it of course, but he is expressing a deep frustration. A very young child may not even have the words to actually say what he is feeling, so he may just push or hit his little sister for no “apparent” reason. In these two scenarios, most parents are likely to respond as follows:

1.- If child says he hates his baby sister:

What a parent may say What the child actually hears and feels
Do not say that! I can’t say what I feel (feels repressed)
That is not nice! I am not a nice person (feels guilty, ashamed)
Of course you don’t hate her My feelings are not real (feels he cannot trust his feelings)

2.-If child hits his sister:

What a parent may say What the child actually hears
Don’t be mean! or You are a bad boy! I am a bad person (feels guilty and ashamed)
What is wrong with you! Something is really wrong with me (feels inadequacy and fear)
You can’t do that! I can’t express what I feel (his feelings are wrong)

So, as a child grows up, he learns to keep his emotions under control by suppressing them, and he internalizes all those messages of guilt, inadequacy, not been good enough, not trusting his feelings, and so on.

Instead, parents could help the child find creative ways to channel his emotions, by first allowing them to be, validating them and letting them know that they understand what he is feeling, without judgment nor criticism. It is very important to make a distinction between allowing feelings and allowing actions. Parents can permit children to express their feelings, but they can’t permit them to hurt each other. Parents can help children express their negative feelings without doing damage, and there are many effective ways to do so.

Many of the frustrations and repressed feelings we have as adults came from these childhood moments where we learned that we could not expressed what we felt, whether it was anger, sadness, etc.

Another typical example that causes so much damage (especially in men) is the urge to have boys hold their tears, to learn to suppress them with comments such as:

  • Boys don’t cry
  • Don’t be a girl (this one is even worse, as it carries within it, a message of great disrespect to girls and therefore to women)
  • You are a big boy now, it is NOT ok to cry (suddenly they are not allowed to feel sad anymore, just like that!)

Ignoring a child when they cry is also very negative, because it gives them the message that their feelings (in this case their sadness) is not important, it’s not worthy of attention. Even though as adults we may feel that their crying is over something unimportant, from a child’s perspective that something may be truly important.

It is all about simply acknowledging and respecting their feelings, regardless of where they came from.

As adults we will still feel sadness, anger, frustrations, etc. many many times, so we need to first be ok with our feelings, acknowledge them, respect them (self acceptance) and, then know how to channel them in a non-damaging way (self control). These two simple things will give us enormous peace and control over our lives! Remember that Control is not the same as repression.

Also, as adults, if we are not in touch with our feelings (if they are so badly repressed that we don’t even feel them anymore), we will not be able to truly relate to other people’s emotions, so we will be less capable to establish deep, intimate relationships, and be emotionally present for others.

So, if you want to learn more about the ways you can help your kids and give them some vital tools, or if you wish to better understand the hurts of your own past, I really recommend this book. Click here
to see it in Amazon.

And last but not least, it is very important to realize that we are NOT our emotions, we cannot be defined by them, but we ARE entitled to feel them, and we CAN channel them positively!

Have a great week!


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Why parenting in the U.S. sucks!

All across the world, when it comes to what parents want for their kids, there is not much difference, we want them to be happy, healthy and have good values. However, the culture where we raise them as well as the lifestyle differences strongly influence our parenting styles and the way we engage with our kids.

tired-mom-wp

As a mother raising my children in the U.S., I feel constantly overwhelmed, tired, depleted, resentful, and on top of it all, I feel guilty for not “enjoying” motherhood and making the best of the time I spend with my beautiful children that I love more than anything. I keep feeling that parenting is the most difficult job I have ever had, and when I share these thoughts with my American middle class moms, we all share the same feeling.

However, when I go back to my hometown in Ecuador, and spend time with my long-time friends, who are also middle class moms, none of them seems so overwhelmed with motherhood, they are a lot more relaxed and seem to enjoy being moms and have many other things going on in their lives, aside from motherhood and jobs.

The truth is…. being a mom in the U.S.,  sucks!

Although I always try to see the silver lining of things, I also like to be honest, and this is something I feel very strongly about, and I know most of my friends living and parenting in the US share this feeling, but very few would admit to it, as we fear being judged and blamed as ungrateful or incapable mothers.

But the truth is, the American society does not make parenthood easy nor enjoyable, for a number of reasons, such as:

  1. The U.S. does not have the type of work policies to properly support families and child care, like other developed nations do.
  2.  Extended families have disintegrated over the generations and now most parents are alone raising their children, most of them have no backup and need to rely on costly babysitting or childcare.
  3.  Overprotecting our children and being perfect parents has become an obsession in this country, as a result, parents have very unrealistic expectations about how they should raise their children, and an incredible amount of stress.
  4.  The sense of cultural individualism and freedom makes it hard for people to rely on one another because we are supposed to “do it alone.” There is a sense of self sufficiency that goes beyond what is humanly possible and reasonable, and that along with the “respect for others’ space”, makes it hard for parents to ask for help.

“In india, the entire community – from relatives and friends – is heavily involved in a kid’s upbringing. the idea that parents are the only caretakers for a child is unheard of. ” – A global Guide to bringing up baby by Jeannette Moninger (Parents Magazine June 2010.)

“With her first two children, Atlanta native MaryClaire King relished her lengthy hospital stays and four months’ paid maternity leaves. With the third, she opted for a three-year leave from her marketing position at IBM France – with the guarantee of the same job and salary upon return.” – European nations offer incentives to have kids by Elizabeth Bryan

It seems like moms in America are stuck in between, they lack the policy support other developed nations have and the community support developing countries have, as a result, our parenting suffers and our children suffer.

Luckily more and more mothers are voicing their needs and their frustrations, and in the past few years there have been best seller books written about this topic, which shows how widespread this feeling is. If you want to read more, here below are some recommended reads:

Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink The author believes working moms are hanging on by a thread. Women have experienced huge work gains in the last few decades, but institutions have failed to keep up, leaving moms with more to do than they can possibly ever make time for.

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time is about the pressures on working mothers and fathers that lead to a constantly racing heart, consuming guilt and the certainty that they’ve become inadequate at home and at work.

Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety
In this polemic book about contemporary motherhood, Warner argues that the gains of feminism are no match for the frenzied perfectionism of American parenting. In the absence of any meaningful health, child-care, or educational provisions, martyrdom appears to be the only feasible model for successful maternity—with destructive consequences for both mothers and children.

Hopefully all this will bring more public awareness on this issue, which is really important. Children are the future of a society, and mothers are the holding pillars of a family, so it is important to look more closely at the well being of moms, because that determines how healthy our society is, from a human point of view.

Have a Good Week!


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Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

I was just watching Amy Cuddy’s TED talk: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are and it got me thinking about this very important way of communicating.

bodylanguage

I have always been interested in the way people relate and communicate with others, and I always knew that body language plays a very important role in that communication, more so than we care to admit. However, I never knew that our body language could actually have an impact on the way we, ourselves feel.

Aside from our verbal exchanges, we are constantly sending out a lot of signals that can be silent or not, and involve body movements, gestures, facial expressions, voice tone, loudness, etc. they convey a lot of information about the way we feel and the way we think.

Noticing the signals that people send out with their body language is a very useful social skill. Some people can read it naturally while others may be oblivious of it. Very often the difference between the words people speak and our understanding of what they are saying comes from non-verbal communication.

Aside from being aware of other people’s body language, it is very important to be aware of our own, since our body language can help us feel a certain way or achieve a certain goal. According to Amy Cuddy, we can purposely use body language to convey feelings that we are not experiencing, but we can also start to actually feel them, as she says in the video: fake it until you make it, or rather fake it until you feel it!

For instance, if you are about to be in a situation where you do not feel very confident, such as a job interview, an important meeting, giving a speech, etc. you can adopt gestures of confidence so as to convey confidence and by doing so, you may actually start to feel more confident.

You can spot a person’s level of confidence by looking at the following:

Posture – standing tall with shoulders back.

Eye contact – solid with a ‘smiling’ face.

Gestures with hands and arms – purposeful and deliberate.

Speech – slow and clear.

Tone of voice – moderate to low.

So, by adopting those gestures and tones, you may eventually start to feel more confident, also, the more people see you as “confident” the more you will feel indeed confident, so it is like a snow ball effect, it keeps growing in you.

This principle reminded me of something my therapist told me years ago when I was depressed, I had told her that I didn’t feel any motivation to do the things I used to like, so I didn’t do them any more. She then told me that things could work both ways, so she encouraged me to actually do the things, despite my lack of motivation, and she told me that the motivation would come after I did them, to my surprised, it worked!

I guess we often feel we need to feel a certain way to act a certain way, but we can act first and feel later… I never really liked the expression: “Fake it until you make it” because it seemed to reflect dishonesty in my view, but I really like Cuddy’s version: “Fake it until you feel it” because it definitely works!

So, next time you have an important meeting, a stressful reunion, a speech to give, etc. remember to “act” confident, using your whole body, and in time you will feel that confidence more and more!

If you want to read more about body language, below is a list of good resources.

Have a Good Week!

Related Resources:

Improving your non-verbal skills and reading body language

The key to understanding body language

How to become a master at non-verbal communication


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Is your attachment style affecting your relationship?

One of my favorite topics is relationships, so today I would like to explore the different styles of attachment that we develop during childhood and that affect all of our relationships, as adults. It is really important to be aware of what our attachment style is, in order to better understand our relationships and how our unconscious patterns may be affecting them.

attachment

There are 4 main styles of attachment that we all fall into, and that were developed during our early childhood through the emotional attachment we formed with our primary caregivers. As we become adults, we unconsciously behave following that attachment style, so every relationship we have is affected by it, especially the closest relationships in our lives, such as our partners and children, although they affect all of our relationships to a certain degree. Here are the 4 styles:

  • Secure Attachment
  • Avoidant Attachment
  • Insecure/Anxious Attachment
  • Disorganized Attachment

Without going too deep into the psychological explanation of each style (which you can find in the resources provided at the end of this post), I just want to point out the main characteristics of each style when dealing with romantic relationships as adults, as it will give you a sense of where you might be.

Secure attachment:

People who have secure attachment patterns, tend to see themselves and their relationships under a positive light, they tend to feel secure, connected and at the same time independent, they allow their partners to move freely, they trust them and they are able to stay engaged emotionally even when conflict arises. These people have a deep seated belief that they are worthy of love and caring, they do not fear being abandoned when conflict appears, they are confident that conflict will resolve and they are able to stay fully engaged and intimate during conflict.
This adults are able to offer support when their partner feels distressed and they also go to their partner for comfort when they themselves feel troubled, so they usually have very open and honest relationships.

Avoidant Attachment:

People who have avoidant attachment patterns tend to avoid conflict at all costs, they lack the skills of intense emotional engagement with another, so when communication heats up, they are usually out the door. They tend to be loners, and they regard relationships and emotions as being relatively unimportant, so they don’t put a lot of effort into their relationships. They are usually very cerebral and not very emotionally expressive nor understanding. They tend to rely mostly on logic and reason to explain their behavior and they will try to “fix things” so they may experience feelings of inadequacy when their partner becomes more distressed, as they can’t “fix it”. They tend to be calm, reasonable and rational (shutting off all emotion). Their typical response to conflict and stressful situations is to avoid them by distancing themselves (physically and mentally), the avoidant adult will tend to do things like overworking, using drugs or alcohol, watching lots of TV or anything that will help them anaesthetize or bury unwanted feelings.

Insecure/Anxious Attachment:

People who have insecure and anxious attachment patterns often feel the fear of being abandoned, that their beloved will desert them, that no-one will be there for them. This fear of separation may haunt them anytime, whether or not there is a reason that would justify it. Deep-seated feelings that they are going to be rejected make them worried and not trusting so they may act clingy and overly dependent with their partner, as well as possessive and demanding. They’re frequently looking to their partner to rescue or complete them. These people will want to talk everything over, sometimes often and endlessly. They constantly seek approval and in doing so they tend to prioritizes the needs of others ahead of self, which leaves them depleted. They tend to be self critical and insecure and often throw themselves into emotions such as hurt, despair, fear, upset, aloneness, hopelessness, helplessness, or powerlessness quite often. There is a feeling of emptiness inside.

Disorganized Attachment:

People who have disorganized attachment patters are ambivalent: they desire relationships and are comfortable in them until they develop emotionally close.
They are afraid of being both too close to or too distant from others. They tend to be mixed up or unpredictable in their mood and tend to find themselves in rocky or dramatic relationships. They may cling to their partner when they feel rejected, then feel trapped when they are close. Their relationships are usually filled with highs and lows, they are afraid of abandonment and at the same time unable to be intimate.

So, if any of these styles resonates with you, you may want to look more deeply into it, especially if you are dealing with relationship challenges, as it can be very helpful to be aware of your patterns as well as your partner’s in order to improve the quality of your bonds.

Below you will find a list of related articles on this topic.

Have a Good Week!

Related Resources:

How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationship

What is your attachment style? (How it was formed in the early years)

Save Your Marriage By Understanding Your Attachment Style


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Taking Responsibility for our Mental Health

Most people, at some point or another, become aware that their actions play a very important part in their physical health, we know for instance that in order to keep our body in good health we need to eat healthy foods, we also know that our body needs exercise to be in good shape, and we know that self destructing habits like smoking and drinking (let alone drugs) are detrimental to our body.

man holding head

However, there is very little awareness out there about how to take care of our mental health, and this is just as important as our physical health if not more! Most people may think that unless they have been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, they don’t need to pay special attention to their mental health. This is not true at all!

Being mentally healthy doesn’t simply mean been “sane” it is much broader than that, it means enjoying an overall state of well being. Our mind is, to a great extent, responsible for our overall well being. The fact that the majority of people are able to function well in society, does not mean they are in perfect mental health, the truth is, we all have some areas in our psyche that could use improvement.

It wasn’t until recently that this awareness became more widespread and that people started to look inwards, trying to understand the workings of their mind and even seeking help if needed, without it being taboo or shameful, but there is still a long way to go.

Aside from serious mental disorders, that are rare and more complex, there are many personality or behavior disorders that are quite common and affect people’s lives in many ways. If we struggle with relationships, with our eating, with the way we see our bodies, with stress, with insecurities, with addictions, etc. chances are, there is room for improvement. The way our psyche works determines the way we relate to other people, the way we relate to food, the way we perform our work, the way we treat our body, in other words: our psyche determines the way we live, and the quality of our life.

Just as we clean our bodies, brush our teeth and comb our hair, we need to work on our mental cleanup. Most people don’t openly talk about their mental / emotional challenges, but there is an alarming increase in the number of people that take medication for depression, anxiety, ADD, etc. and then there are the many more that are not treated but still suffer from the consequences of mood disorders, lingering sadness, loss of purpose, constant anger, etc.

Although in some cases it is important to use medication, especially in the more severe cases of mental illnesses, in the milder, most common cases of personality disorders or mental/emotional challenges, medication is rarely needed, however, there is a real need for personal commitment to healing, and the problem is, most people don’t even know they have a problem, or if the do, they deny it or they think it will go away on its own, or they try to “numb” it by using escaping mechanisms (like alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc.) which is a problem in and of itself.

When I was 20 I suffered from my first depression, although at the time I had no idea what was happening, I just felt really sad and was loosing interest for the things that used to excite me. I was clinically depressed but totally unaware of it. After a year or so, I moved to a different country and the change in my environment lessened the symptoms of my depression, until I relapsed a couple years later, then I was diagnosed and treated with medication and psychotherapy. The medication did help, but I did not like the idea of being medicated and I was still struggling deeply with the diagnosis, I was not in denial any more but I was ashamed and shocked by it.

A few years later I relapsed, yet again…I had to accept that it was happening to me again, and I sought treatment (this time I refused medication and worked with therapy alone). Once I felt better I was determined to take action and do whatever I needed to NEVER relapse again. Even though there is a history of depression in my family, I chose to believe that I was not “doomed” to be in and out of depression and medication all my life, but I had an active role to play in my recovery, and ever since that moment, I have been actively working on staying healthy, and in spite of great challenges in my personal life, I am proud to report that I have not relapsed, my last episode was 10 years ago!!! This is a real victory for me.

I know every case is different, but I also know that we can all play an active part in the prevention and recovery of our mental and emotional challenges. I have come to personally know so many people around me that suffer from debilitating insecurities, obsessive compulsive behavior, eating disorders, self destructing habits (alcohol, smoking, other addictions), social anxiety, constant worrying, chronic depression (which often goes undiagnosed), etc. That I realized that I was far from being alone, and that mental health is all about mental well being. In my particular case I was lucky because three very important things happened for me:

  1. I realized I had a problem
  2. I accepted the fact that I had a problem, and
  3. I decided to take an active role on my recovery and further prevention

Most people simply don’t realize they have a problem, and if they do, they do not accept it, and if they accept it they do not believe they can play an active part in their healing. We all have a responsibility for our health, we are not just victims of fate, and we all have the capacity to heal ourselves, but first we need to believe we can.

Until we realize our responsibility towards our mental health, there is little we can do to improve those areas in which we continuously struggle.

“Nothing will change if nothing changes”

If we don’t do anything to change things, they simply won’t change, and it is our responsibility to make a difference, nobody will live our lives in our place, we are the architects of our own lives. A good way to become aware of the state of your mental health is to start noticing the areas of discomfort in your life and detect any usual patterns in your behavior or your feelings, take the time to look a little closer at your hard set beliefs, your behavior patterns, your emotional reactions, etc. they can all give you valuable clues on the state of your mental health.

Little by little we can become more aware of our minds’ functioning and we can work towards making it work for us instead of against us, it takes commitment, a true commitment to ourselves, to our well being.

If you are interested in further reading on this topic, see below for a list of good resources on the most common challenges that can go undetected and can really hinder our capacity to live a more fulfilling life.

Have a good week!

Resources:


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