This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — I had a reader write to me recently complaining about a friend who is always talking about the hard things going on in their life. Their question revolved around when it was justified to complain about your life and have a friend listen and show up for you, and when it becomes an issue of playing the victim card to get sympathy love and might not be a positive thing.
Talking about your struggles and woes is not necessarily a problem. For some people, it is the only way they learned to get love. They might subconsciously play the victim card without even realizing it; and when friends listen and show they care, it probably does make them feel cared about, important and loved.
The only problem is that there can be a cost to this behavior that you might not realize you are paying. While friends and family care about you and feel sorry for you, they may also be losing respect for you.
Before I get into how to check yourself and make sure you aren't in an unhealthy victim mentality, let me just say how important it is to have supportive friends and family around you — and to share your difficult experiences with them. Everyone needs that kind of support, and there is no shame whatsoever in talking about your struggles and getting support, help and love from the people in your life.
Your sharing or complaining only becomes a problem if you are sharing for one of the following reasons:
I have a dear friend who is battling cancer, and I love how she shares the challenges and hardships of the experience with me but never misses an opportunity to ask about my life and my challenges too. She never uses the hardship to manipulate others, and she always acknowledges that other people have it worse.
She shares her experience and lets her friends support her, but she has never had a victim mentality. I have to say, though, there are days she is very entitled to a good long pity-party cry — and occasionally she has one, as they are healthy and called for.
Here are some other ways to watch for victim behavior and change it:
Write it down
Write a description (on paper) of what your mindset and behavior would look like if you are playing the victim: How would you show up? How would others see you? What kind of energy would you be putting off?
Write about the payoffs you might get from rehearsing your struggles and stories. Are the payoffs so great they are worth possibly losing the respect of other people? Write about the ways you might be seen as weak, complaining or needy. Are there ways you share your experiences without coming across with these descriptions?
Examine your past
What stories about your past might you talk about too often? Do you have any beliefs about your life always going bad, or bad things always happening to you? Do you believe, "no one cares about me"; or "no matter how hard I try, things always go wrong"; or "people should let me off the hook for bad behavior because of how bad I have had it in the past"; or "I will never get anywhere no matter how hard I work."
Own any victim stories and beliefs you have and figure out why you might hold onto them. What do they give you when you believe they are true? What do they cost you? Is there something else (more healthy) that you could replace those beliefs with? Rewrite some better beliefs and post them somewhere you see them daily.
Explore letting go
Figure out who you could be if you let go of the victim identity. What would your mindset be? How could you respond to life if you saw yourself as strong, blessed, capable, fortunate and whole? What if you see yourself as a champion instead of a victim? This may take a while to clearly see yourself as a victor, but you can do it.
Write down the qualities and attributes you want to embody. How do you want people to see you? What qualities do you want to be known for? You cannot become something you can't even see. The first step is to get clarity on what you want.
Stop the blame game
Stop blaming others or circumstances for the way you are feeling. You are responsible for how you feel. Emotions do arise that you can't control; but once they arrive, you do have the power to process through them and choose your mindset. (Unless you are suffering from clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, which can make choosing your attitude difficult to impossible to do by yourself. Seek help from a medical professional.)
Most of us do have the power to choose our perspective, and our perspective determines how we feel. If you don't know how to use that power, you may need a counselor or coach to help you learn how. It is a skill and can be taught to most people.
Change your perspective
First, choose gratitude. In the very moment you are dwelling on what's wrong in your life, there are many things you could focus on that are blessings. Your blessings always outweigh the challenges. You may need to start a gratitude journal to help you focus on the good every day.
You can also work to change your perspective about how life and the universe work. Most of us have a subconscious belief that the universe is a dangerous place where we can lose, get hurt, or be cheated and unfairly treated. We see the universe as "against" us, messing with us, and even trying to trip us up. With this perspective, we are always a powerless victim who is blown about by chaos and bad luck.
Instead, you can choose to believe the universe is ultimately on your side. It is a wise teacher, constantly using what happens to create your perfect classroom journey. You could believe that everything that happens is used to grow you and make you stronger, wise and more loving. Things don't happen to you, they happen for you. At least, you could choose this mindset if you wanted to and you would find your outlook would be more positive.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — I work with many couples who experience conflict in their relationships and who want to change that. Often, these couples fight over small things that hinge on misunderstandings of intent.
Most of us don't take the time to understand "the why" behind another person's behavior or their intent before we react. We don't ask questions about why our partner did what they did. We must start doing this if we want a healthy relationship because the intent matters.
When we don't know someone's true intent, there will be many unintentional slights, misunderstandings and assumptions of wrongdoing when wrong isn't even there.
Seneca, the author of "Moral Essays" said, "A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer." The same could be said about an offense: People can do the wrong thing for the right reason, and it changes the thing.
If couples can learn to stop before getting upset or offended, and take the time to ask questions and really understand why their partner behaved the way they did, they can nip most conflicts in the bud.
But this means watching yourself for anger and stopping yourself before you say or do anything. It means deciding — in the moment — to ask kind, understanding questions to get more information before you jump to conclusions or add meaning to their behavior.
Let me give you an example. Sally had asked Tom to pick up something at the store for her on his way home from work. He forgot the item because he was in a rush and had left work deeply upset about something his boss had said. When he got home and Sally realized he had not done what she asked, she was upset and felt unimportant and unsupported. She took the offense personally and got angry at Tom for what she viewed as mistreatment.
What I want you to see in this example is Sally's reaction to the events came from intent she was assuming or applying to what happened. Tom forgot to stop at the store for her. Those are the simple facts. She added meaning and intent to the facts by telling herself forgetting meant he didn't listen, care, want to help or support her.
Those were not the real reason he forgot to stop. Tom forgot to stop at the store because he was preoccupied with fear about his own situation and he inadvertently let it slip his mind. This had nothing to do with Sally and how he feels about her.
I can understand her frustration, though; and if this was something that happened a lot, it might have other meaning attached to it. But this one time, his intent wasn't malicious or about her.
In a recent article, I suggested that when someone offends you, you should try and figure out which of four possible reasons might be behind the behavior. The four most common reasons people behave badly are:
If you still feel justified to have an angry and reactive response, you might stop and ask yourself why you want to be angry. What is the intent behind your anger? The why behind your reaction is just as important as the why behind theirs.
Asking kind questions with the purpose of understanding and getting to know this person feels very different than asking defensive, accusatory questions. Here are some examples.
"Why did you not do the one thing I asked you to do Tom?" That is an accusatory question that doesn't show a desire to understand.
A better question might be: "I noticed you forgot to stop at the store, are you OK? What's been happening today?"
The most important skill a couple can have is the ability to have mutually validating conversations that are focused on understanding each other. Unfortunately, a lot of people listen with the intent to reply, not the intent to understand.
The key to communicating in a way that validates both parties and leads to understanding and compromise (instead of conflict) lies in following a few simple rules.
Don't speak down to your partner
Never speak down to your partner from a high horse position, where you are the good one and they are the bad one. If a conversation starts this way, it will never end well. Remember that you both have the same intrinsic value and deserve to be respected. Always speak to your partner as an equal and in a respectful tone. Let them know that you are not coming from a place of judgment, just a place of wanting to understand and know them better.
Don't start with your feelings
Never start the conversation with all your thoughts and feelings. Start with asking questions about what your partner is thinking and feeling. Set your thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas aside in the beginning; you will get the chance to share them later on. If you start by listening, your partner will be less defensive and they may actually feel safe enough to share with you.
Understand your partner's core fear and core value system
I have mentioned them in previous articles, but their core fear is either fear of failure or fear of loss; their core value system is either connection, tasks, things or ideas. If you understand how your partner is wired at this level, you can usually see the intent behind their behavior.
Tom, in the example above, might have fear of failure as his core fear. His fear of failing at work may have had him so consumed that he forgot everything else. Or maybe he values connection most and was so upset about the bad conversation with his boss that a task slipped his mind. He just values people more than tasks. Understanding your partner at this level could be a game-changer.
Focus on your partner's feelings
Ask kind, supportive questions about what your partner was feeling when the offense happened. Make sure these questions aren't an attack or pointed at making them wrong but are instead focused on understanding them. Spend the time to explore their state of mind, thoughts and feelings. You might be amazing at what you learn that you didn't know.
Remember intent matters
Remember intent matters, words matter and tone matters. Choose carefully.
Ask to share your feelings
Ask if your partner would be willing to let you share where you were and what you were thinking and feeling. Don't assume your partner should listen to you; ask them if they are willing and able to really listen and understand you. Ask if they would be willing to not interrupt and let you fully explain your side before they say anything. Ask for exactly what you need from them to make you feel heard and understood.
Use 'I' statements
Use "I" statements not "you" statements. Say things like, "I believe, I think, I feel, I experience, I react to, or in my opinion. Avoid saying, "You always," "You never," "You didn't care or try." As you can see, "you" statements feel like an attack. Keep your comments all about yourself and don't talk about your spouse. Let them speak for themselves.
Practice makes perfect
Repeat these steps until you gain understanding or come to a compromise.
Try this week to ask more questions and pay more attention to intent. Show your partner that you can give them the benefit of the doubt, and that most of the time offenses are unintentional. Give them room to be distracted, self-focused because of fear, and sometimes miss things. Be willing to forgive most garden variety slights in favor of a healthier, happier relationship.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
As a master life coach for the last 20 years, I have discovered some tricks to helping people make meaningful changes that last. Here are some things to keep in mind this month as you think about making changes in 2021.
1. Be honest and open to feedback
Be honest with yourself about what needs to change and be open to objective feedback from others. Sometimes the things you most need to change are the things you can't clearly see in yourself. Asking people who know you well to share what behaviors they see in you that are holding you back, or causing problems, might yield valuable information.
As a coach, I often ask clients if they would be open to an observation about the way they showed up in a situation, or to look at their behavior from a different perspective. Having a caring coach or friend who will be honest about where you are can be a huge help.
It's a powerful practice to ask the people close to you for some feedback on how you can improve or show up for them better. Plan to do this on a regular basis, maybe even weekly.
2. Figure out who you want to be
Figure out who you want to be over what you want to accomplish. The "be" is much more important than the "do."
Think about the different roles you play in your life. What kind of parent, spouse, sibling, aunt or uncle, worker or boss do you want to be? What would it look like to be that kind of person? What would it feel like to be that kind of person? Write your answers to these questions down in detail so you know exactly who you want to be.
The truth is, you cannot do better until you become better. When you focus on who you want to be first, you raise the bar on your behavior and accomplishments get easier.
3. Focus on behaviors and habits that will require change
After you identify who you want to be, focus on the behavior and habits that will need to change. What do you do now that makes you who you are now? What habits would you need to change, or what do you need to start doing or stop doing to become the person you want to be?
Get crystal clear on what these behavior changes are. You may have very ingrained habits that need to change. This process will take time and support, but you can do it.
4. Learn new skills or gain needed tools
Sometimes you cannot change the behavior or habit without first learning some new ways of showing up. You may not be able to change a habit until you learn a new procedure for handling these situations. You might need to learn how to cook healthier meals. You may need new communication skills, a new system for processing emotions in a healthy way, or a new procedure for handling offenses.
This is where some professional help can make a huge difference and help you make changes much faster. When you know better, you can do better.
5. Commit to change
Commit to changing and find a love-motivated reason to keep you committed. Don't change for a fear-motivated reason. Don't lose weight to stop feeling less valuable than other people; lose weight because you love yourself and want to be healthy and strong.
Find a strong love-motivated reason to stay driven toward the goal. Do it for your children so they will have a healthy parent who is active and strong. This will help you stay on task when things get hard or frustrating.
6. Identify goals but focus on now
Clearly identify your long-term goals, but focus on the first step now. What's the next step you need to take toward the long-term goal? What would it look like to make just a 5% improvement this week? A small-step goal means you aren't trying to be perfect now.
If you are going for perfect, you are setting yourself up to fail. Instead, just make a small, realistic change this week. This allows you to experience some success and feel proud of yourself. Set yourself up for a win every week with a realistic next-step goal.
7. Identify the practice that will create the new way of being
The secret to making changes lies in three R's: repetition, reinforcement and reminders. The hardest part of changing is remembering to choose the new behavior instead of letting your old subconscious programming (your autopilot) run. You are programmed to behave the old way, and this behavior will continue until you can interrupt it and choose differently over and over again.
What practice can you repeat daily? What reminders or reinforcement do you need to keep it in the forefront of your mind to choose differently? Many of my clients use reminders on their phone, or they change their wallpaper to something that reminds them to practice the new behavior. This works because they look at their phone so many times a day.
8. Have some accountability
Find a coach, friend or partner who knows what your goal is each week and will supportively hold you to it. The reason coaching is the most effective way to change is because you get to work on small goals with new skills and tools, and you have weekly accountability and support. I have spent 20 years in the personal development field and I haven't found anything that works better than working with a coach.
9. Interact with those you want to emulate
Interact with people who are the kind of people you want to become. Avoid time with people who support your old behavior. They often don't want you to change because they are comfortable with you as you are. Find a crew of people who inspire and lift you to grow and be your best.
It's been said you become the five people you hang out with most. Do you need to find some people who will raise your game?
10. Don't get discouraged if change is slow
Changing behavior is hard, especially when it's driven by subconscious programming you've had since childhood. It's a process and it takes time. This is why I recommend working with a coach or counselor for three to six months, at least.
Lasting change doesn't happen overnight or from reading one book or attending one seminar. Lasting change can only happen when you learn something new and then practice it with consistent, committed effort while consciously choosing a different way of being again and again.
I have seen many people completely change the way they behave, the way they feel about their lives, and the way they show up in relationships — and faster than you'd think possible. In six months' time, your life could look and feel entirely different from how it does today.
Bonus: Get professional help
To make this happen, though, I highly recommend finding a professional of some kind who can help you recognize what you need to change, give you new tools and skills, and support you through the time it takes to practice and work, one small step at a time. There are resources out there no matter your budget. If you need support don't stop looking for resources until you find them.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSl.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — For the last eight years, I have written a special New Year's article in which I have given you the one resolution that would have the biggest positive impact on your life.
This year is one of the most interesting New Year's days in history, in my opinion, as we are dealing with unprecedented challenges, loss and conflict. We are in worse shape mentally and emotionally than ever before. So, I have been thinking about what we need at this unprecedented time and place. What would help us to start healing the conflicts, lifting the isolation, and restoring the loss? Is there one thing that would make a difference?
What immediately came to my mind was listening. Listening to others more (and talking less) could be life-changing for all of us this year.
What every human being needs this year is to have their experiences, feelings and struggles validated. When I say validated, I don't mean always agreeing with them; rather, the people around us need to know their feelings, beliefs and values matter. This is always the first step to resolving conflict. You must give all parties room to express their feelings and allow them to be right about how they feel.
I have been busy during 2020 working with couples and families who have experienced more conflict at home than ever before. They have been fast to get offended and act too often from a defensive position instead of a loving one. The pandemic has, to some degree, made us all more afraid of other people. This has put us all on guard, watching for slights and being quick to protect ourselves from others.
Has this created or added conflict in your relationships? Are you functioning from a fear-of-loss state, where you feel protective of yourself and see others as a threat — maybe even your spouse and children?
This has been a hard year for everyone. We all need the chance to talk about how 2020 has been for us and share our experiences and feelings, and there are many levels to listening better and they would all serve us greatly. This year, make a goal to listen better in the following ways.
Listen to yourself
Listening to yourself means you start trusting yourself, feeling the feelings that are coming up for you and exploring what they are about, and trusting your gut. You have what I call "an inner GPS" that always knows the right path for you. You are entitled to know where your perfect classroom journey goes next.
The problem comes when you don't trust yourself. You might live in constant fear that you aren't good enough, and this makes you think your thoughts and feelings must be untrustworthy. You might constantly ask others for advice because you trust them more. But they are not entitled to know what's best for you. Practice making decisions and sitting in that choice a while to feel if it is right or wrong. If you are making the wrong choice, your inner GPS will not let it go.
Take time this year to sit with feelings that show up. Ask yourself questions about what they are here for, where they are coming from, and what you're supposed to learn. Process emotions instead of stuffing or avoiding them. Not all your thoughts are accurate, but they are there to help you grow.
Take some quiet time every day this year to check in with yourself: How and what are you feeling? What feels right and wrong to you? Start listening and paying attention to how your inner GPS speaks to you.
Listen to your partner
This important person in your life is the one who needs you to hear them more than anyone else. Yet, few people take the time to ask deep questions and really listen to understand their partner at the deepest level. Too often, we listen only as we prepare what we want to say next. That is not true listening.
Your partner likely has thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns that you know nothing about. These are things they won't share unless you create a space that is safe enough and you earn their trust. Make a goal this year to ask questions, to get to know your partner on a much deeper level, and to truly understand them. This will create richness in the relationship you have never experienced before.
Listen to your children
Do you want your children to feel important and valued and have good self-esteem? Do you want to really know and understand them? Do you want a close safe relationship where they will confide in you? These things are all earned by listening more than you talk. Honestly ask yourself which of those actions your children get from you most.
Be a safe place where your children (no matter their age) can share their truth and be respected, honored, heard and validated. Every person has the right to feel the way they feel and have their unique perspective. You don't have to agree with someone else's feelings, but you should honor and respect their right to have those feelings. Make a goal this year to stop talking and start asking questions (without judgment in them) and really get to know your kids.
Listen to your friends and neighbors
You may think you know your friends and neighbors well, but chances are they still feel unseen in some way. They are, as the saying goes, fighting battles you know nothing about. They are carrying pain they won't share because it's messy and ugly.
These people need someone who cares to ask the hard questions like, "Are you really OK?" and "What's the hardest thing you have gone through this year? What's the worst part?" Then give them the time to really share those things they thought no one would care to hear. These are the things they most need to talk about, and this need usually goes unmet.
There is someone around you that needs this kind of love and validation. Make a goal to look for and see these people.
Listen to people you don't agree with
This is the first step to healing our nation after the conflict and division we've felt recently. It is time to truly listen to the people on the other side of every issue. You don't have to agree with them, but you could honor and respect their right to their perspective and experience.
When others say they feel slighted, it is not our place to disagree. They are always right about how they feel; they see the world from a perspective you can't possibly imagine because you weren't there. Your perspective is always missing some pieces. Always stay open to the possibility of being wrong. This keeps you teachable, open to learning, and able to create solutions that serve your entire community and country, not just you.
People who are different from you
Most of us subconsciously lean toward the people who are the most like us and who have the same beliefs, values, race, religion and socioeconomic status. This can make our world small. It shelters us from conflict, but it also hinders growth, learning and incredible experiences.
If you feel uncomfortable around a certain group, this is the year to make a new friend and spend some time really listening to their story and how they got there. Amazing growth can happen when we truly hear other people and understand their unique experiences. Doing so changes and enriches who you are.
Join me this year to listen better than we ever have before by committing to stay open and assume you don't know it all. Stay teachable. Get to know other people on a whole new level and develop compassion and empathy for people you didn't understand before. Decide to be a giver to the people in your home and be more focused on hearing them and understanding their hearts than ever before. They may irritate you at times, but you probably haven't scratched the surface of knowing the depths of their souls and their goodness. All that is required is for you to ask more questions, talk a lot less and care enough to hear them.
You can do this in 2021.
This was first published on KSL.COM
The Australia Journal of Psychology found that likable people are more likely to keep their jobs because likable people are easier to work with, are great on teams, and get people to work with them seamlessly. This is just one of many benefits of being more likable. Likable people also tend to have healthier relationships and more opportunities.
Keep in mind you don't want to work on your likability because you need approval or validation from other people to quiet your fear of not being good enough. You want to work on these things to become the best version of yourself.
This effort should be love-driven, not fear-driven. Right now, as you are, you have the same infinite, intrinsic value as every other human on the planet, even if you sometimes show up in a fear state, selfish, insecure or unlikable. Your value is always the same and you are good enough, but the way people react to you may not be creating the life you want.
If you want to become the most caring and likable version of yourself, here are some things you can work on:
1. Make sure you like yourself
Liking yourself is the most important element of being likable. If you don't like being you, you will have nothing to give other people and your low sense of value is something others will pick up on.
You are subconsciously teaching the people around you how to treat you by how you treat yourself. Do you always put yourself last? Do you put yourself down? Do you see yourself as less than other people? If you do, this has to change. You might need to work with a coach or counselor to help you eliminate your fears of not being good enough; they can make this process faster and easier.
2. Show other people that you like them
Everyone likes people who like them, yet we are often so worried about not being liked ourselves that we forget to show others how we feel about them. Make an effort to check up on people, invite them to do things, send notes or texts, and generally be a friend to them.
Also, make sure you remember people's names. There are many tricks to help you get better at this. For example, you can use word associations or rhymes to help you. Every time you use a person's name it instantly makes them feel valued and important.
3. Be sincerely interested in other people and their lives
Whenever you are around other humans ask questions about them and actively listen with the desire to understand, know and care about them. In every conversation, make sure you ask questions and listen more than you talk. This makes other people feel valued and important. If you can make every person you talk to feel valued and important, you will be very likable.
4. Be slow to be offended
If a behavior or comment feels insulting or disregarding toward you, stop and take a step back before reacting.
5. Remind yourself you are safe and have nothing to fear
In every room, you have two options: to feel unsafe and be subconsciously focused on yourself, getting approval, or bring liked; or to feel safe and be focused on others, validating them and making them feel important. You get to consciously choose which state you want to experience.
6. Pay compliments, notice others and validate them
Celebrate other's wins without being jealous. A win for someone else doesn't mean anything about you. There is enough abundance in the world for all of us.
7. Ask others for advice
This is a great way to show people you see their wisdom and expertise, and you value it and them. People love to give advice about what they know, and they will light up when you ask for advice.
8. Always be open to being wrong
Being open to being wrong about whatever you think you know prevents you from getting overly attached to being right — which is a behavior that repels other people fast.
Be teachable, open, curious and willing to take time to understand those who think differently than you. Truly intelligent people are always asking questions and challenging what they know. Likable people are open-minded and not afraid of being wrong.
9. Be reliable
Likable people keep their commitments, follow through, and are responsible and dependable. Do your best to be on time and be someone others can count on. If you can't do something, be honest about that and say no. Don't be afraid you have to commit to something (or everything) to be likable; it's more important to be realistic and only committing to what you really have time to do.
10. Smile and make eye contact
Your body language tells people if you are warm and open or cold and closed off. Practice making relaxed eye contact (don't stare) and smiling more. Be friendly and say "hello," "good morning," or "have a good day" to strangers.
11. Be genuine and don't try to impress
The harder you try to impress others the less impressive it is. Just relax and be you. Don't be attention-seeking or worry about whether others like you. Be interested in them, be friendly and kind, but also just be yourself.
Watch how you behave around people you feel safe with. That is probably the real you. Practice being that real around new people, and even being the same you no matter the environment. It helps to remember that you have the same infinite, intrinsic value no matter how you behave or what anyone thinks, so there is nothing to fear. Just be you.
12. Avoid judging other people and gossiping
If you are quick to judge others or talk behind their backs, you must understand this is causing problems in your life. It is making people feel unsafe with you, and it is preventing you from truly loving yourself. You see, when you see the dark parts of other people as making them unworthy of love or value, you will also subconsciously see your own dark parts as making you unworthy of love and value.
You can literally only love your neighbor as you love yourself and vice versa. So practice giving every person you see unconditional love and unchangeable value no matter their behavior. They are here in a classroom to learn and grow, and they may have many lessons still to come but their value is always the same — and so is yours. Be someone who says only positive things about other people.
13. Practice the 'platinum rule'
The golden rule talks about treating other people the way you want to be treated. The platinum rule goes a little farther and states you should treat others the way THEY want to be treated. This sometimes requires you to ask them how they would like to be treated or get to know them well enough to find out. Never assume they will like what you like. Pay attention to what they value and lean toward. Make sure you show them that you see who they are and allow them to be different from you.
At the end of the day, remember some people still won't like you, and that's OK. We are all very different, and we connect with some people better than others. Each week I hear from readers who love my writing and others who don't like it at all, but I have to remember that my value is the same as every other person's no matter what and keep being authentically me. You can do this, too.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — This pandemic holiday season is unlike anything we have ever experienced before.
It is a well-known fact that depression is linked to social isolation, and it typically increases around the winter holidays anyway, but this year we are adding masks, COVID-19 restrictions, quarantines, stay-at-home orders, family conflicts over gatherings, cold weather, dark days with less sunlight, and end-of-year deadlines. This time of year will be especially hard on people who are dealing with job loss, loss of income, divorce, separation from loved ones or mental health issues.
A School of Public Health study this summer found that the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. has more than tripled the prevalence of depression symptoms from 8.5% of adults before the pandemic to 27.8% over the summer. The numbers during the 2020 holiday season are expected to be even higher.
If you are finding this holiday season is bringing more depression than joy, here are some things you can do to get through it:
Completely change your expectations
Whatever image you had in mind for the holidays, think about dropping that. Instead, plan on this year being unlike any Christmas you ever had.
We've never experienced anything like this pandemic, and we must go into the holidays with a sense of adventure. You may miss the family gatherings you are used to, but if there wasn't an expectation of family gathering it wouldn't matter to you. Decide that this year has no "shoulds" around it. It shouldn't be like any holiday you've had before and remember, and different isn't necessarily bad. Embrace the different and go with it.
Whenever you feel disappointed, remind yourself that it's your expectations causing the disappointment, and you can change your expectations. This is a good life skill to practice during this interesting time.
Drop the traditions and do something different
Don't decorate the way you have in years past. Try something crazy to mark the year as unlike any other. We put decorations in places we have never used them before. Put lights up in weird places and it feels really good.
If you can't have the traditional Christmas Eve or Christmas Day gatherings, do something so totally different. You won't even miss the usual way. Some families are not even decorating at all and are planning to order in Chinese food and eat at a low table in the living room, or something else they have never done before.
Keep counting your blessings
No matter what we have lost this year, we still have so much to be grateful for. Keep focusing on what you still have over what you've lost.
Focus on ways things could be worse
This is a strategy I learned from positive psychologist Dr. Paul Jenkins. No matter how bad things are, there is always a way they could be worse. Focusing on the ways things could be worse naturally makes you feel better about what you have.
Scale back and simplify
Drop all the extra things that aren't necessary. Everyone expects this year to be different, so let this be the year you don't do half the stressful holiday tasks you usually do — unless doing them keeps you busy and happy. Just drop anything that is making you feel stressed, anxious or worse.
Take a break from social media
If seeing pictures of other happy people living lives that look better than yours is making you feel worse, drop social media for a few weeks. It would be good for you on many levels. Instead, write heartfelt email letters to friends and family expressing your love and gratitude for them. Enjoy the letters you get back. They may lift you up more than scrolling through social media ever did.
Limit media exposure
Get some great books to read, do a puzzle, knit or crochet, work on some home improvement project, take up painting, or spend time outdoors. Do things that involve the real world around you instead of binging more Netflix or watching more movies.
Get regular exercise
Exercise will have an immediate effect on your mental and physical health. Even though it's cold outside, you can bundle up and get some fresh air every day. If you spent even a little time exercising daily, you will feel better about yourself on every level.
Avoid drinking or indulging in unhealthy treats
Poor nutrition and too much alcohol always make depression worse. Instead, find some healthy recipes and make good food to enjoy and take the time to savor it. If you are eating healthy meals and getting exercise, you can treat yourself to some special holiday treats and feel good about it.
Get some sunlight
Too much time without sunshine and a lack of vitamin D will affect your mental health. Go up to the mountains — above the inversion — and feel some sun on your face. Talk to your doctor about a vitamin D supplement. If you have seasonal depression, you can also talk to your health care provider about trying light therapy.
"A light therapy box mimics outdoor light," the Mayo Clinic explains. "Researchers believe this type of light causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD (seasonal affective disorder)."
Get outside in nature as much as possible
Don't stay holed up in your house for weeks on end. Walking in the park or around your neighborhood daily will lift your spirits and give you needed exercise at the same time.
Talk to a therapist
I cannot stress enough how much this will help you. If you have never tried therapy before, you might be skeptical. But therapy can do wonders to help you process your feelings and the thoughts that come with them.
Create a schedule and follow it
People who have structure to their days and follow a schedule feel more fulfilled and productive, and this helps with depression. Even if you don't have much going on, schedule a time to wake up, cook and eat, exercise, read, watch something (for a limited time) and then move onto other activities. Having structure makes the day go faster too.
Avoid family conflicts
Everyone is functioning in a loss state right now, which means we are all more defensive and more easily bothered. Knowing this, you can recognize that when grouchy behavior shows up it's not really about you. Then you can choose to walk away instead of taking the bait and creating more conflict.
If certain people trigger you more than others, make a plan to avoid interaction with them as much as possible. The one good thing about the pandemic is you can bail on any social gathering and everyone will understand. Use that explanation if necessary to protect your mental health.
Deal with loss by trusting in the good
You can always choose to focus on the growth any experience brings. You can choose to trust the universe that the lessons this year brought us will be blessings in the future; and though things are not as we like them, they are perfect for right now.
Nothing exists that was not created to help us evolve and grow. Remembering this helps us see loss as a blessing in disguise. Sometimes it is a very good disguise, but there will be some good from it.
Arrange social connection via technology
You need connection with other human beings. Contact friends or family members and arrange time to communicate through Zoom, Facetime, or some other video chatting platform.
You need this kind of connection to battle the isolation, so ask for it. Let people know that you really need to talk and ask if could they arrange time for you. It is important that you realize asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. Be brave enough to ask for help, friendship or connection when you need it.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
This may seem like an obvious question, but I'd like some advice on how I break up with my girlfriend without hurting her too badly. She is great, but she isn't right for me. I know that she is probably going to take it hard, is there any soft way to do it?
I'd like to answer your question in a way that is relevant to anyone delivering bad news. This means situations like firing someone, giving negative feedback, or ending a relationship.
In each of these cases, the bad news is going to be the catalyst for some pain, fear or shame happening in the other person. There is no way around that. Rejection and criticism experiences are painful for most people, but there are some ways you can soften the blow and — even more important — change your mindset so it is easier for you, because being the one to deliver bad news can feel terrible, too.
Here are some things to keep in mind before you deliver the bad news:
Use some empathy
Take a minute and put yourself in their shoes. Imagine how they feel now and how the news is going to feel for them. Think about what you would want to hear and how you would want to hear it if you were in their position. This will help you to handle it with more kindness. You can also tune into God's love for this person and it will help you to come from love when you speak to them.
Find the right time and setting
Ideally, you'll want privacy, time and space for the other person to either be alone or to go be with other people who can support them. You might want a setting where it is easy for them to leave and not have to face you afterward. For example, don't break up with your girlfriend on a trip where you have to be together for two more days, and don't do it in public. Breaking up with someone in their home is best because you can leave and they feel safe there.
Remember: You are not responsible for their happiness
While you are responsible for delivering the bad news with clarity and kindness, you are not responsible for any part of what the person goes through next. That might sound cold, but you cannot be responsible for something that is out of your control. Place the person in God's hands and let go; he is responsible for their life journey and experiences.
Understand your part
The universe has set you up to be the one to deliver the bad news and facilitate this part of the person's perfect classroom journey. This person wouldn't be here if it wasn't their perfect journey to be here. They have in some way signed up for this "class" (whatever experience this bad news brings). Your perfect classroom journey placed you here to be the one to deliver this news because it is the class you are signed up for. Your part is to be kind, honest and straightforward. After you deliver the news, your job ends and God will take it from there.
End the relationship quickly
Put an end to the relationship as soon as you know it's not right for you. Don't keep dating someone because you feel bad hurting them. Be responsible and caring enough to be honest and tell them how you feel as soon as you know can.
Focus on a few positives first
Take some time and validate the person for the things they do right or their amazing qualities. Make sure they know you see them accurately and see their goodness, but don't spend too long here or they may get confused about how the bad news fits.
Use 'I' statements
Especially when breaking up with someone, don't focus on their faults or negative traits. Focus on what you are feeling, looking for or experiencing. They can't argue with your feelings because you are the only one who truly knows how you feel. Just state your feelings and what you need. Avoid statements about what they do or don't do.
Don't use cliches
Avoid saying things like "it's not you, it's me" or "I don't think I am good enough for you." The truth is probably "the chemistry isn't there for me at the level it should be" or "I know in my heart this relationship isn't right for me."
Be as kind, honest and as straight forward as possible
Deliver the news with respect, honoring the other person and their intrinsic worth. Be honest and speak the truth plainly. Don't beat around the bush, be direct and clear. Speak the facts with as few words as possible so there is no misunderstanding. Bad news is worse if you drag it on trying to get there carefully without hurting the other person. The sooner you give them the clear facts, the sooner they start on the road to healing.
If they get angry or sad, validate their right to feel that way
Don't try to talk to the other person out of their feelings; they are always right about how they feel. Say things like, "I totally understand why you feel this way." Tell them you are sorry but the conversation has to be over now. Don't allow them to drag out this part of being upset with you. You will actually help them start healing faster if you rip off the bandage and then give them space.
Give them closure
If you know this person isn't for you, then don't say you want to "take a break" or see where you both are in a few months. Care about them enough to walk away cleanly so they can start healing and getting over you. You cannot be part of their support system after the break-up. They need you to walk cleanly away and let other friends and family support them through it.
Allow them to vent a little
Allowing the other person to vent their feelings shows you care. If they have things to say to you or about you after you deliver the bad news, be willing to listen without getting defensive. They may lash out verbally as a way to make themselves feel better. This is them projecting their pain, and it would be best if you could listen to it while not getting upset or absorbing it. Allow them to vent a little and say again, "I understand why you feel that way." Validate their right to their feelings and then end the conversation.
What if they try to change your mind?
If the other person tried to change your mind, be willing to listen and validate their feelings but let them know that there is no changing this. Be clear, direct and honest. You are doing them a favor by staying strong because it puts them on the path to healing sooner.
It is never fun being the bearer of bad news and making other people feel bad, but it is part of life and we all play this role from time to time. Remember that it's not you making the person feel bad, it's the reality of this part of their perfect classroom journey. This experience is a perfect lesson for both of you in trust and love.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
As the holidays approach, I'm feeling deep uncertainty about having family come to visit. We have managed to social distance visit for most of the summer, taking advantage of strictly outdoor, socially distanced visits. With the colder seasons upon us, I feel like physical visits from family outside our home should stop since we cannot be outside for extended periods of time. I know it's the holiday season, but I just do not feel like it's worth it to get together. The problem I face is that I'm feeling pressure from family members to continue to see each other. Even though we have done visits safely all summer, these holiday events would be face-to-face within our home. Masks would not be worn, and it would not be possible to social distance. It seems reckless to me to observe the holidays in typical fashion during a pandemic. How can I maintain the peace and show respect but also keep pandemic boundaries?
In this situation, it sounds like you are going to have to be the bad guy, put your foot down and insist that the family do the right thing and cancel the parties, even if it means having family members angry with you. How do you feel about this? For many people, this is a difficult and scary proposition to share their views in face of opposition.
There are also people who have no problem being the bad guy and sharing their opinion. They think it is easy and struggle to understand why some people can't do it. If you are this type of person (fear of loss dominant, meaning you fear things not being right more than you fear judgment) please understand that for other people (fear of failure dominant, meaning your core fear is inadequacy and feeling not good enough) this is extremely difficult and takes great courage.
There will be many times in life when you will need to enforce a boundary, share an opposing opinion, or deliver bad news in the face of disapproval from people you care about. It is important for you to identify what you are so afraid of before you can beat the fear. See which of these fears resonates with you:
Here are some tips and tricks to help you stand strong and share your views:
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
This one is a tough one for me. We have 6 kids (plus several spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends) in our family that we adore. They all live nearby and we love having them come visit for family holidays. I'm in a pickle here, though, and need your advice. I'm an avid news and science follower and have followed the COVID pandemic closely. Unfortunately, my sister even passed from COVID last month so I am really concerned about it. The problem is that my husband says he has had enough of this pandemic and the isolation and has invited all the family to come for Thanksgiving. We've had lengthy conversations about it and he knows I think that we should visit remotely as instructed by our leaders. What do I do given that we disagree so strongly about this? I know I am sensitive because of my sister's passing, but I worry about the health and safety of ALL our loved ones. Shouldn't we be setting a good example for our family and following guidelines?
The short answer is yes, of course, you should absolutely follow the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when you celebrate Thanksgiving, which include hosting a remote gathering or wearing masks and practicing physical distancing, among other things. Having said that, I think your real question is: "How do I convince my spouse to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, and how do I handle the disagreement?"
The answer to that question is simple because it's the same answer no matter what the disagreement is about. You need to have a mutually validating conversation with them, where you both feel heard, understood and valued, and you need to come up with a compromise that honors both your feelings.
I believe knowing how to have mutually validating conversations is one of the most important relationship skills we need to have because it means you can talk about anything and not digress into a fight.
Here are some steps for how to do that:
1. Let go of your need to be right
If your goal is to convince him he is wrong and win the argument, he is likely just going to get defensive. A mutually validating conversation is not about being right and getting your way; it's about making both parties feel heard and understood, actually understanding the other person and their feelings, and honoring and respecting their right to feel the way they do. This requires you to be generous and caring as you go into this.
2. Make sure you see the other person as the same as you
This means you don't see yourself as smarter, wiser, more educated, more morally right, or above the other person in any way. You remind yourself that you have faults, too, and you both have the same intrinsic value all the time — that cannot change. This prevents you from talking down to the other person, which will always offend them. It also should prevent you from feeling intimidated or less than another person.
3. Set your agenda and feelings aside upfront
This means you are going to start this conversation with only one goal in mind: to ask questions, listen, understand and make sure the other person feels fully heard, honored and respected for their right to think the way they do. This conversation must start all about them, and not at all about you and your views. I sometimes need to set my feelings, opinions and agenda in another room and shut the door before going into a conversation like this. You must dedicate yourself upfront to just caring about how the other person feels.
4. Ask the other person questions about their thoughts and feelings
Ask your husband if he would be willing to talk to you about Thanksgiving and help you understand how he feels about it. During this step, you will ask great questions that show your desire to understand and give the him space to share all the details about his views. You want to spend as much time here as possible because this is the step that makes the other person feel safe with you, heard and valued. Make sure you don't agree or disagree with anything your husband says. This is not about you yet. This part is just about listening and caring about how he feels.
5. Ask permission to share your thoughts
After you have spent a lot of time listening, and you can tell your husband feels heard and understood, you may ask him if he would be willing to let you share how you feel about it. You might want to ask a couple of permission questions so you can create the safe space you need. This might sound like:
6. Speak your truth without attacking the other person
You will do this by following two rules:
Avoid bringing up any behavior from the past by saying things like, "I feel like you never care what I think, remember last Christmas?" Instead say, "Would you be willing to care about what I think about this, this year?"
Make sure you don't insist on making the other person be wrong; you just have different perspectives, and both deserve to be honored.
7. Find ways to compromise
Obviously, though, only one plan for Thanksgiving can happen. Some kind of compromise must be reached. You might ask if there is anything you could do to make your husband feel like the family is there with you while gathering for the meal remotely.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — I was recently reading David Richo's book "Triggers: How We Can Stop Reacting and Start Healing" and was impressed with what he calls the five A's. These are 5 elements of a secure environment, which create a place where children (no matter their age) can feel safe and secure in the world.
The five A's are: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing.
In his book, Richo encourages readers to examine their own childhood and see if these five factors were present while you were growing up. If you were lacking in one or more of these elements, he says it might have created some shame, fear or feelings of inadequacy that you battle with today.
The truth is no parent ever does these five things perfectly, so we all feel unsafe in the world to some extent. Just take stock of which elements were missing in your childhood and think about how you can give yourself that element now. As an adult, you have the ability to heal yourself of anything you missed out on. All five elements are things you can give yourself every day.
Understanding Richo's five elements can also help you consciously parent your own children better and create an environment where they grow up feeling safe and secure. As you read about the five A's, don't focus on the ways you might have failed to give them to your children in the past; you have been doing the best you could with what you knew at the time. Instead, focus on what you can do today to make your child feel safe and "good enough."
You will also find that your spouse or significant other wants and needs the same five elements each day. Consciously focusing on giving the five A's to everyone in your life could drastically improve all your relationships. Every day, ask yourself: "What can I do to make the people in my life feel some attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection and allowing today?"
Everyone wants to feel seen, heard and known. We all need to know our loved ones see us, but without judgment or criticism. We need attention that isn't about monitoring or watching for what needs correction, but attention that is just honoring our right to be the amazing human we are, exactly as we are.
Children: Your children need to have you ask questions about how they feel and what they think; they need you to take the time to actively listen and strive to understand and know them. You might want to consider setting aside one-on-one time with each child, each week, just to listen and ask questions. Taking them for a treat or meal is a great time to do this.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also set aside some time to give your partner your undivided attention each week — time where you ask questions and listen so they feel seen, heard and understood weekly, too.
Everyone wants to feel accepted as "good enough" as they are right now.
Children: Children experience a great deal of correction, and this can sometimes make them feel inadequate, broken or unlovable. They need a great deal of validation about their unchanging worth to counterbalance all that correction. They need to feel you aren't trying to change them; they need to know that who they inherently are (without any effort) is amazing and perfect.
Acceptance can be hard to give to children, but it is so important that they be allowed to be who they are. The more you validate their right to be who and where they are, the more motivated they will be to improve. If they are constantly told they need to improve, they can resist changing.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also make sure you see the differences between you and your partner and honor your partner's right to be different and have the same value. Click here to read an article about honoring your partner's right to be different.
Everyone wants to be acknowledged for what they do right, as well as for their character and who they are as a person.
Children: Make sure the validation you give your child is not always tied to behavior or obedience. They need to receive some validation for simply being who they are. While you should acknowledge and appreciate any effort and accomplishment, you should also appreciate them just being in your life. One family I knew went around the table every night at dinner and told each person something they appreciated about them. Doing this daily made sure this need was always met.
Partner: In a personal relationship, you might also tell your partner regularly all the reasons you love them. Mention all the qualities you admire and the things they do for you and the family that you appreciate. Take time to do this on a regular basis, even if you think they already know. They need to hear it frequently.
Everyone needs physical touch, hugs and kisses to feel truly secure in the world; it is a powerful form of validation and love to receive physical contact from another person.
Children: Showing affection through physical touch is easy when children are young, but it often gets harder as they grow. Look for opportunities to give your children a hug or a simple touch on the arm every now and then. Make sure your child feels some contact daily. If you come from a family that doesn't express affection through physical touch, this might be something you have to consciously work on.
Partner: In a personal relationship, physical touch is vital to the health of the relationship. Intimacy with your partner is what connects the two of you and keeps the bond strong. If you struggle with motivation for intimacy, it may be because there are problems that need to be addressed in the rest of the relationship. Seek professional help at the first sign of trouble here. Be willing to do some work and make some changes yourself if you want this to improve. Click here to read other KSL articles on improving intimacy.
Everyone needs the freedom to become who they want to become. They need to be free from control, to some extent, and not feel forced into being something that isn't authentic.
Children: Children need to feel some freedom to explore the world around them and experience different things. They need encouragement to set their own goals and be allowed whatever interests spark a light in them. When parents force too much behavior or conformity on children, it can send the message that they can't be loved as they are. By contrast, unconditional love allows them to make choices and choose their way in the world without judgment, which builds confidence and teaches them to trust themselves.
Partner: In a personal relationship, it's helpful if you allow your partner to have the freedom to make some choices without your input, be the version of themselves they choose to be, and know that it's OK to be different from you. Some people need control to feel safe in the world, and they may inadvertently try to control their spouse to gain a feeling of security. Could this be you? Think about how you can trust yourself and your partner and let go of some control. You may need to seek professional help in this matter.
You might write these five elements on a piece of paper and tape it to the fridge as a reminder to make sure they each happen in your home every day.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.