Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 11 – Dealing Mindfully with a Breakup

 Dealing Mindfully with a Breakup

Breakups are unarguably painful. Mindfulness theory asks us to accept romantic pain as a part of life and then let it go, meaning not bringing the pain forward. In the land of Mindful, people can live with loss and still live a life of hope. There are no winners in breakups. Everyone loses and gains in some form or another.

Breakups are sad, but they all have some sort of silver lining. We can continue to fret about being alone again, or we can find gratitude in what we learned from the relationship and how it will raise our intuition for next time.

When you’ve been dumped, give yourself sufficient time to heal. Try to gently distract yourself from reaching out to your ex-partner. Texts or phone calls only serve as a temporary fix. Your hurting heart needs more than a band aid. If you happen to run into him/her, understand that it may bring back some hope, but be mindfully aware that you are still vulnerable. What would it be like going through another breakup with the same guy/gal?

Magical thinking is when you believe you can single-handedly turn love around, but this is doing the opposite of living in the moment. Initiating a reconnection to see if he/she still feels something for you may only bring you more heartache in the end.

If he/she wanted you back, they would have made attempts to reach out and let you know they had a change of heart. Mindful folks know that love is beautiful, but along with the ecstasy, there can, and will be, some agony. So if you still want to contact him/her, acknowledge beforehand that you may be hearing an angry voice on the other side. Accept the truth that persuasion in this regard will a probably not end well for either of you. As you do that, remember that they have come to know that there is not much they can say or do to make things better. It is your turn now to do the same. The best you can do for yourself is nurture and revisit the love you have for yourself while leaving your ex-partner alone.

Change Your Shoes for a Minute

Now, try putting yourself in the other person’s life for a moment. If you were the one that ended things, how would you take it if they tried to contact you? Chances are you would not take their initiation very well. You may want to use this mindful tool when the urge to speak to them comes up. If it does, just let it come up and gradually let it out of you. That’s where a good cry can come in and save more embarrassment as well as pain.

There is nothing like being around people who love and admire us. Friends and family can be there for you during this hard time. They can be instrumental in keeping your mind busy in the moment. Gratitude goes a long way here, so if you are whining too much, or treating them disrespectfully, you might find yourself once again being shut out. They want to see that you can help yourself too. The best thing to do with them is to be active.

Recovery

Planning a get-away, going on hikes, and window shopping are just a few activities that can get you through rough patches. Avoid any mood altering substances. Since you are already feeling down why add alcohol or drugs to that? We need to expose our hurts rather than hide them. Living in the now is a choice and it is time to get out of the house and be in the world. Throwing yourself into a project, work or hobby is the best remedy for managing your woes about your ex-partner.

Even though you might not feel like it, you can still embrace change and take healthy chances. Yes, you may have entangled your life with your ex-partner, but you can find new forms of emotional security, it doesn’t have to just come from one person.

Mindful people know that change has its ups and downs, but nonetheless it helps you grow. If you let change naturally happen, you’ll see that you can grow beyond this and thrive.

Some people, no matter how much they try, can’t get over a break-up. If this should be the case for you, seek professional help.

In the meantime, know that rejection is one of the hardest things to cope with. You’ll be stronger for it though by hanging in there and letting the joy flow back into your veins.

Suggested Readings

The Breakup Bible, by Rachel Sussman

It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken, by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt

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Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 7 – Relocation

A Mindful Approach to Child Relocation Culture Shock

I have lived and worked abroad as a young adult on two different occasions.  It was a frustrating and overwhelming experience since I did not know the languages well enough to communicate.  As much as it was exciting to leave behind everything that was familiar in my USA community, I realized pretty quickly that I missed the comforts of my home.  There were a lot of mixed emotions that went along with my being in a strange, new place for the first time.

Looking back, it would have helped me immensely if I had a parent to pave the way for me.

Today as a Psychologist, I apply three key principles of Mindfulness when working with military families who have to move to strange and unfamiliar lands. I have found the Mindful concepts of Exploration, Listening, and Innocent Embrace apply to helping children and teens acclimate to different cultures.

Mindful Exploration refers to seeking out information without any preconceived agenda.  I refer to the initial phase of acclimation as the Jubilation Phase.  This is when everything that is different is met with excitement and curiosity. During this phase virtually everything—including the way people talk, eat, and work—sparks a delightful interest because it is so new.

To move children/adolescents through this phase, it is important to take advantage of your child’s inquisitive nature and to Mindfully help them explore their new surroundings.  This exploration might include visiting a local town, taking public transportation, or seeing artifacts at a museum.

The next phase of acclimation is referred to as the Uncertain Phase.  Whatever was exciting and new is now looked at with skepticism and/or criticism.  You might hear a comment like “that is sooo boring”.  Here your child might be not sure they are happy, or secure, in this new and different place.  In effect they may be letting you know that they are terribly homesick.

Mindful Listening is understanding without judging, and here, it’s important that parents do not panic, moralize or bring up how excited their child was just a month ago.  Instead, they should try to encourage communication and reflect back their understanding. Mindfully listening to what your child may think is now “boring” can definitely ease their stress.

Once your child feels heard and not judged, you can slowly begin to get them involved in physical activities offered in the new community they now live in.  Here the concept of Innocent Embracement comes in handy. Innocent Embrace means being open to and/or engaging in the possibilities that surround us. For instance, it might be a fencing class if they are in Scotland, or a cooking class if in France, and so forth.

The latter (food) is actually a great way to encourage your children to not only want to try, but to actually prepare the local foods right in their new home. It’s also a way to help your child feel more connected to the place he or she is now living in.

Belonging is the last phase of acclimation and Innocent Embracement can assist with this transition. This is the time your child may want you to initiate play dates or meet ups with children of the new culture. Parents can help their children by embracing these friendships rather than being suspicious of them.  Getting your child involved in foreign language classes or camps can foster their sense of belonging and help them develop a sense of home abroad.

Children and adolescents adjust much faster than adults, but need help in navigating through the extreme cultural differences, especially at the beginning.  In order to minimize a child’s culture shock it’s important to help them through each phase of adjustment.

There is no set time when your child will begin and end a phase, but the strategies mentioned above can help move things along for you and your children.

Reference

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Revised Edition by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken

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Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 4 – Adolescents

 In Search of Your Mindful “I”

During our formative years we tend to focus on our “Me-ness.” What my parents can get Me?, why Me?, what do others like about Me? and what is good/bad about Me?

By puberty, we gradually shift our attention to “Myself-ness,” It’s the time when we need to show ourselves, and the world, that we are worth something.  We must prove that we can do it by ourselves and for ourselves without the interference from others–except may be our peers, but certainly not our parents.

By adulthood we have rambled through enough of life’s ups and down that we hopefully start developing what I refer to as the Mindful “I”.  This is our wise-sage self which is accepting, nonjudgmental, unassuming, and doesn’t try to predict our outcomes.

Basically, our Mindful “I” knows what we need and keeps us on a safe life track.  For instance, we may “want” to go party with friends, get smashed, or buy that cute outfit, but our Mindful “I” helps to redirect us to what is in our best interest with gentle firmness.  One’s Mindful “I” may say “Yes, it would be fun to get blitzed, but you need to catch up on your sleep as well as get to work tomorrow!”   Our Mindful “I” keeps reminding us that success is predicated on how well we know ourselves, use our inner resources, accept our limitations and believe in the concept of “I can.”

Living yours Needs is the key ingredient to living mindfully

This means knowing how to not only listen to your Mindful “I”, but following up on a daily basis.   Each day try to balance your should do’s and want to do’s with your need to do’s.  Essentially, this means balancing your kid/adolescent ways of thinking/feeling with your adult ways.

To keep your Mindful “I” active, continually ask yourself: does it need to be done?, does it need to be done now?, and does it need to be done by me or only me?

The only thing in life we can truly control are our choices, behaviors and attitudes. The more we exercise our Mindful “I”, the more regulated and fulfilled our lives will be.

Regardless of how traumatic our past, we all have a Mindful “I”, but sometimes we need outside guidance to help us get it rebooted, on track, or simply more active.

References

Erickson, E., “Life Cycle Completed.”

Kabat-Zinn, J., “Wherever You Go There You Are.”

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Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 2 – Parenting Adolescents

Parenting Adolescents

Parenting is one of the most fulfilling roles we’ll assume in our lifetime. When it comes to parenting adolescences though, the very sense of satisfaction we experienced with younger children can sometimes become tattered. The way we approach these turbulent times can often set the course for the type of relationship we’ll develop with our teen from then on.

Without the daily ability to manage stress during this developmental phase events at home can go haywire. It is easy, as parents, to lose all perspective as well as hope.

Thus, I have come up with ten Mindful things parents of teenagers can do to reduce stress and restore balance during their interactions. They are based on the concepts of being in the moment, openness, focus, being non judgmental and finding balance:

  1.  Be at your best… Your teen may be all over the map emotionally or not want to budge, but lead by example and not just words. Take a moment to relax, reflect and rejuvenate
  2.  Be open … Your teen may carry on about something they want right now, but before you flat out say no try to put yourself in their shoes. Once you see the world from their eyes, you’ll know where to pick your battles.
  3. Be realistic … Your teen just isn’t following up on 10th request, but before saying it for an eleventh time, check to see if what you are expecting is, in fact, realistic given today’s circumstances.
  4. Be accepting … Your teen will show you over and over again that they are nothing like you, but try to accept rather than squelch their uniqueness. By doing so, you’ll be saying to your teen that “you are your own person and I can live with that”.
  5. Be quiet … Your teen may use the foulest of language, but you’ll get more respect when you reply from a higher place of quiet than of out-of-control yelling
  6. Be attentive … Your teen may be impulsive, but they still want you to be their rock. Sometimes just paying close attention to their habits can help you decide your very next interaction with them.
  7. Be kind … Your teen may need you even though you want them to grow up now, but sometimes putting your needs on hold in service of them can bridge a communication gap.
  8. Be forgiving and apologetic … Your teen deserves an apology when you mess up, or forgiveness when they do. If you do this for them, they’ll be more likely to do it for others as well as themselves.
  9. Be clear … Your teen may push your buttons, but avoid being docile or over controlling. They need to witness and trust your personal strength not power.
  10. Be resilient … Your teen brings daily drama expect it and learn to manage it by trusting your intuition and finding the gratitude as well as the balance in living.

References:

Andrea Fox in Imperfect Mothers Conscious Parenting How to parent in the here-and-now and leave the past behind.

Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

Mindful Parenting by Shelly Birger Phillips. “Awake Parent,” Helping You Relax So Your Kids Shine (Newsletter)

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Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 1 – Introduction

There are many modern authorities on, and definitions of, Mindfulness.  A westernized concept of Mindfulness refers to non-judgmental thought and present-in-the-moment, awareness (Brantley, 2003).

Bishop et al (2004) referred to Mindfulness as momentary concentration with non-judgmental acceptance. To cultivate Mindfulness one needs to allow each moment to unfold instead of being either combative, or intensely attached, to ones emotions. To paraphrase Jon Kabat-Zinn (1990):

“Mindfulness is the art of relating to the world with friendly curiosity. The more open we are the deeper our understanding of the world.”

But the concept of Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years starting from early Buddhist teachings. Zen masters taught Mindfulness (“awareness”) to enlightened monks in the ultimate passive acceptance of their own existence. Mindfulness has been used in meditative practice where pupils are instructed to pay attention only to their own body sensations (Shapiro &Carlson, 2009).

Therefore, the old vs new definitions of Mindfulness can lead to confusion when reading the literature, especially over the issues of spirituality.  Even some modern practitioners of Mindfulness tend toward the spiritual side.  However, spirituality is not a necessary part of Mindfulness.

Ask Not What Reality Does To You, But What You Can Do With Reality

Thus, I’m using Mindfulness here (in a westernized, psychological interpretation) as the skill of living in the moment and relating to the world in a reflexive (“friendly curious”), rather than passive or reactive fashion.  This is not an inwardly focused mysticism or spirituality, rather it is what you calmly do with reality and not what reality does to you.

Mindfulness is simply an introspective method for grounding your thoughts, emotions and behaviors in the reality you are currently experiencing, so you can stand back, observe, understand yourself more fully and take care of your needs (see our article #13 in Resources tab, or click HERE).

This type of Mindfulness can be used daily, without years of practice, and can be compatible, as well as useful, within almost any modern human activity.

It will take some practice to witness your thoughts popping up and then going away without self-criticism, but it can be achieved by most people without extensive training, just daily practice.

With Mindful practice, you can learn to remove the tendency to jump to conclusions, make assumptions and idle judgments, center and calm yourself, and recognize that your negative or positive feelings are coming from you and not the external world around you.

Mindfulness has been shown to bring calmness and patience to those who embrace the practice. People who practice Mindfulness every day are processing life rather than analyzing its content. The ultimate state of Mindfulness is mental resiliency and clarity.  Problems can be embraced and solved with a calm and clear head.

Also, an increasing number of controlled studies have shown that Mindfulness techniques can have significant and reproducible benefits and applicability to psychological treatment (Davis & Hayes, 2012).

Future blogs will apply Mindfulness ideas to common life problems (“Mindful Living”(tm)), starting with Parenting Adolescents, where we left off with the problem of finding life balance when dealing with adolescents and parenting styles (see our earlier blogs).

Be sure to check out our Resources section for my other articles on Mindfulness and Mindful Affirmations.  These articles also describe, briefly, how to “do” Mindfulness training (#13).

ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_(psychology)

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Parenting Adolescents: Part Three

Your parenting style can often be a good predictor of how well your teen will fair academically, assimilate with his/her peers, and develop key psycho-social competences to succeed in today’s world.  Below are just a few of the possible behavioral consequences of the four typical parenting styles discussed in Part Two.

Firm but Affectionate:  Your adolescent may show early signs of independence, social confidence, responsibility and contentment. Teens from these families tend to feel supported and see their parents as instrumental to their self-worth.
Easy Come – Easy Go:   These teens might show signs of unruliness, aggression and insensitivity. Their impulsive nature could target them in the classroom as underachievers and behaviorally disruptive.  Outside the classroom, however they are typically more socially adept and have better leadership qualities than their peers.
Strict and Unyielding:  Teens from this parenting style may become irritable, moody and passive aggressive. They usually get by in the classroom, but outside have poor self-image, high levels of anxiety/depression and difficulty relating to others.

Out of Sight and Mind:  This parenting style typically fosters teens who are rebellious, hostile and tend to lie just to get what they want.  Their performance in all developmental areas is below par.

Again, these are just typical patterns to guide your thinking … were life so simple!
Your particular situation will most likely be a blend of these typical patterns and outcomes which are not known causative standards.  They are typical results based solely on my clinical experience and observation.
It’s also important to keep in mind that there are many factors that contribute to the creation of a well-functioning future adult, and parenting style is just one component. For example, the child’s peer group has been found by researchers to be extremely important in character development.
Above all, finding balance in your parenting style is most important.

 

Finding Balance

Stay tuned for my next series of blogs on “finding life balance” through Mindfulness, which has applicability beyond just parenting skills.
To get started, see my Resources section for some reading materials on Mindfulness; also visit my website MindfulAffirmations.com.  We’ll quickly review some of this material and then start to go beyond Affirmations (a tool) toward broader issues (a lifestyle).

 

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Parenting Adolescents: Part Two

All parents have a style of parenting, but some are more effective parents than others. Is your style of parenting ready for an overhaul? Below are the four most common styles.  These are somewhat idealized types (“archetypes”) that represent the corners of a map of all the possible parenting types.
Firm but Affectionate:   Consideration and flexibility are the cornerstones of this style.  These parents get down at their teen’s level to listen, to explain rules, and show them respect. The teen is included in family decisions, but the ultimate decision is made by the parents.
Easy Come – Easy Go:  These parents are very friendly, relaxed and informal in their approach.  They allow their teen to make their own decisions and to learn from their mistakes.  Rules are very few and far between.
Strict and Unyielding:  These parents make rules that are to be followed and not broken.  Punishment is believed to keep teens in line. Negotiation is not an option and their teen’s opinion is neither solicited nor encouraged.  Rewarding good behavior is rare.

Out of Sight and Mind:  The parent-teen bond is usually broken or nonexistent. Children are better off being scarce and know from the get-go that they are in the way. There is virtually no meaningful dialogue between the teen and their emotionally disconnected parent.

In our next post, we’ll discuss guidelines as to what teen behaviors to expect from each parenting style.

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Parenting Adolescents: Part One

Even under the best of conditions, most parents face challenging times while parenting their quickly developing children.  There is no instruction manual that comes for their unique child, only a bewildering array of books and articles on what to do in general.  This is especially true for adolescents.

I have even heard parents refer to this period as “riding a tidal wave”. The most well- meaning parent, out of total frustration, usually resorts to what they learned from their own parents (whom, at one point, they swore they would never be anything like).

I have found that parents that question their own style of parenting, and its effectiveness, do much better in keeping open communication with their adolescent than do those that assume an authoritarian approach.

Basically, there are four schools of thought on parenting teens, and each type typically yields predictable adolescent responses. In my next blog I will discuss the four schools of parenting which may help you decide if it is time for a change in your parenting style. These are not iron clad rules. Instead, they serve as guidelines for predicting your teen’s emotional, social and academic well-being. Each style suggests, rather than assumes, how adult behavior can shape an adolescent’s development.

It is my hope that after reading this blog parents will discover what style works best with their particular tolerance level and their particular teen.

In the meantime, check out Getting to Calm: Cool-Headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens + Teens by Laura S Kastner, PhD

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