Mindful Patience

Everything in life takes time! For example, how many times have you rushed to just wait? Or you get stuck behind a car going too slow. Or your newborn has a messy diaper just as you are ready to leave the house? Or the service rep puts you on hold for 15 minutes?

As you are waiting, you start feeling your blood boil and before you know it you are snapping at everyone. Losing your patience just brought you an onslaught of interpersonal problems as well as physical stress.

Have you ever noticed how impatient people tend have fewer friends? Impatience makes us sound like “know it alls,” act impulsively and treat others with insensitivity.

Those who show patience are mindfully aware of themselves (see references for more information on mindfulness), their surroundings and their situation. They are typically sought after, trusted, promoted and viewed as more likeable by others. Consider asking your close friends and family about their impressions of you when you are calm versus when you are angry or irritated.

How to develop Mindful Patience

We can better modify our impatience when we know more about our wound-up behaviors from someone else’s perspective. Rather than taking their feedback personally, try to accept it and, in little ways, pay mindful attention to your physical signs and behaviors.

Some of us can’t tell when we are being impatient because we are so caught up in our own reactivity. Most likely when you are inpatient you display shortness of breath, tenseness, restlessness, irritability, and anxiousness. You are probably not aware that your mouth seems dry, your fists are clenched, and your expression would freeze water.

Think for a moment about a time when you felt that feeling of impatience building inside you. What set your impatience off? Was it the traffic, temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, being questioned or something else that put you in an impatience spiral? What did you recall seeing, feeling and hearing back then? Try to jot down a few notes and you’ll see the roots of your impatience emerge. Understanding your triggers and reactions can lead you toward resolution.

Practicing patience doesn’t mean ridding yourself of all anxieties, but rather catching yourself before your impatient attitude gets the better of you.

Here are some soothing, mindful strategies that could turn an impatient frame of mind into a calm one:

  • ·         Catch a few slow, deep, cleansing breaths to slow down your blood flow and lower your blood pressure.
  • ·         Try relaxing from head to toe to loosen the tension in your skeletal muscular especially in your neck. Tense and release your muscle groups, one at a time, from head to toe.
  • ·         Imagine yourself taking a mindful pause as you stay consciously alert to your bodily cues.
  • ·         See your next step as a chance to contemplate. Why not choose to do the opposite of rushing. For instance, move deliberately slower and act thoughtfully and calmly.
  • ·         Late? Change your attention from what you are going to lose to what you can gain from the extra time. Take advantage of the opportunity that is in front of you.
  • ·         Encourage yourself to mindfully listen and try to put yourself in the other’s shoes.
  • ·         Take another mindful moment to talk yourself out of simply reacting by focusing on what you can gain from keeping your composure.
  • ·         Rehearse what you want to say by using a peaceful tone.
  • ·         Tactfully mention your lateness as you gently relate to the circumstances at hand.
  • ·         Experience the benefits of an unjumbled mind and the relief in your body.

If you find yourself unable to manage your reactivity using this mindful sequence, consider counseling, anger reduction classes, yoga or meditation.

References

See other blogs here for background and discussions of mindfulness applied to everyday life problems.

Dr Unger’s books on mindfulness: “Calm,” “Courage,” “Sleep,” and “Happy” are available through Barnes & Noble. “How to be Content” and “How to Make Space” will be available in the US on Amazon in late July 2018.

Colier, Nicole The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in A Virtual World. Amazon.

Lucado, Max, Anxious for Nothing. Google Play.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-freedom/201209/the-power-patience

Sisko, Alden, Ultimate Guide to Developing Patience. Barnes & Noble.

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Want The Best Medical and Mental Health Care?

All patients have the right to expect good treatment from medical and mental health professionals and staff. However, the way you are treated has to do with how you interact with these professionals.  Patients and their families need to be involved in their own care, but they also need to be cognizant of to whom they are asking questions and expressing concerns.

Here are some useful tips to get the absolute best care from medical and mental health professionals and staff:

  • Take a moment to think about what you want to ask or say so you can explain yourself clearly, completely and honestly.
  • Act and speak respectfully with all staff no matter what your condition or level of pain or discomfort.
  • Acknowledge that communication is a continuous, two-way, process which means taking turns and listening carefully to family and staff.
  • Remember that “Please” and “Thank You” go a long way.
  • You must be your own advocate, but watch your tone and loudness level; avoid being rude, crass or obnoxious.
  • Try learning your regular staff member’s names, their talents, interests and even children’s names.  Show that you realize they are people too.
  • Accept that the hospital or medical office is a very busy environment, momentary interruptions and delays are unfortunate but will likely occur from time-to-time.
  • There are usually other members of the health care team that can likely assist you with many procedural questions, e.g. in hospital a nurse manager or supervisor, or the director of nursing. Additionally, you have consumer affairs departments to reach out to if needed.

References

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-get-the-best-care-from-the-hospital-nursing-staff-1467649623

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5792231

https://www.amazon.com/Hospital-Warrior-Best-Care-Loved/dp/099734542X

http://www.assertivepatient.org/how.html

Avoid Going Numb

If all your limbs suddenly went numb it would totally freak you out. But when we can’t feel our feelings, it could be sign that we are emotionally in deep trouble.  Emotional numbness has been associated with acute stress, trauma, anxiety and depression.  Some common numbing agents include the internet, excessive work, over sleeping, and TV.  More dangerous forms of numbing escapism are associated with alcohol, pills and sugar. Unfortunately, none of these give us permanent relief from the painful feelings we wish to avoid.

Shame and inadequacy are common emotional culprits that most people would rather ignore.  It would be great if we could just stamp out these unwanted feelings and just keep our pleasurable ones, but the emotional center of our brain doesn’t work that way.  When we turn off the brightness in one feeling, the lights go out in all the rest.  Emotional numbing hurts us more than helps us.  We may momentarily get rid of our insecurities, but we also lose out on fun and freedom.

The key is to stop robbing yourself of the moment, self-awareness and the ability to move forward.  Here are some steps to get the most out of your negative feelings.

Know your triggers

You are your own best researcher and problem solver.  All it takes is making the decision to notice, rather than ignore, the patterns that keep you stuck.

Deal with discomfort

Remember the saying “what hurts can only make you stronger.” Try sticking with accountability and moving away from avoidance when it comes to looking inside yourself.

Let go of victimization

We all stumble in the face of adversity. By embracing, rather than wallowing in your pain, you can create and witness positive change.

Rejoice in staying mindful

Accept that your condition is temporary, just like most things in life. Judging just inflames your hurt and forces you to numb.  Instead, seek new horizons by giving yourself permission to simply, and passively, feel whatever comes up.  All feelings are finite.  Once you allow yourself to feel and accept your feelings, you can learn to let them go.

Facing your emotions that you trying to numb can help you identify where they are coming from.  Once you know the source of your pain, the healing process can begin.

References

https://www.7cups.com › Q & A › Managing Emotions

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/…/stop-numbing-out-and-awaken-your-life

http://www.thejdnation.com/what-is-numbing/

Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 12 — Turn Self-Bashing into Mindful Self-Compassion This Holiday

Turn Self-Bashing into Mindful Self-Compassion This Holiday

During the holiday everyone thinks they have to be ho-ho-ho! but sometimes faking-it-until-you-make-it-so, doesn’t work.

Does your life look like it is falling apart or just falling into place? Either way, the holidays have a way of overwhelming us unless we take charge. Consider inviting, rather than resisting, the stress around you. If we take a mindful, non-judgmental, look at our situation, we may find ourselves more relieved and less doubtful.

Remember that you can change anything by facing it and embracing it. Too often self-compassion slips by us and we get down on ourselves for the slightest infractions. We need to break with the past to reclaim our courage. Being forgiving can open the door to self-love which leads us to create possibilities.

Mindful Self-Compassion

Mindful self-compassion is the ability to be aware of our despair and yet to be gentle with ourselves in the way we deal with it. Every time we knock ourselves down, we lose self-esteem points. Yes, we all realize that everyone has problems and bad days, and we tell ourselves that we need to be there for others. We’re conditioned to forgive others before ourselves.

In fact, most of us bypass self-compassion by being stressed out about work, getting upset with our mates, and having no patience for our children. To find self-compassion we need to not be impressed by our emotions, look at things as they are, encourage change and let go of preconceived notions.

Turning Self-Bashing into Mindful Self-Compassion

In order to become truly self-forgiving it important to not get caught up in our emotions. They are part of us but not all of us. If we become too impressed by them, we lose perspective about the importance of the moment. The first step to self-compassion is “loving awareness;” which means acknowledging negative emotions, but still looking at yourself the way you look at the loveliest rose or the sweetest baby.

Like our emotions we can get caught up in our thoughts which can easily derail us. The second step to achieve self-compassion is to accept life on life’s terms. This means to embrace the idea that everything is a journey and not a destination. The key here to know that not all journeys lead to rewards, but rather they all lead to great lessons.

Fear is the antithesis of love. It is bred from the assumption that life owes us something if we do this or that. So the third step to self-compassion is to abandon binary, black and white, thinking and replace it with healthy risk taking along with realistic expectations. The fastest way to disappoint yourself is to be expecting something with absolute certainty. Remember adopting a colorful attitude about life is a lot less boring and will help you let go of things you can’t fix or control.

One of the most mindful things you can do for yourself is to be kind to yourself especially when you mess-up. All of us miss cues, forget things, fumble, or just make mistakes. We can choose to suffer when these things happen or we can learn from them and move on. Taking things out on ourselves and making ourselves feel worse for it will only leave us with shame and not the relief we need. If we feel bad for messing up, why would we want to make ourselves feel worse?

Unfortunately, we all do this even though we know at some intuitive level we really shouldn’t. It is almost automatic, but being self-compassionate can be learned.

It seems that our society has taught us that self-criticism is the pathway to doing better: We need to focus on what is wrong with the way we act and/or appear in order to strive for perfection.

But there is no such thing as being perfect! What is wrong with simply being regular or “good enough,” as noted in the article 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy, According to Neuroscience in TIME magazine? We’ve learned from an early age that shaming leads to kindness and humility, but this is just not the case. According to Dr Neff, who has dedicated her practice to self-compassion, beating up on ourselves only leads to a chronic lack of confidence and an increase in displaced anger.

There are Mindfulness authors like Dr Chris Germer who believe in the healing power of self-compassion. Folks who can acknowledge that they are suffering in a loving way are more likely to take action to relieve that stress rather than make excuses for why they should stay in a suffering state. For example, people who are in intolerable living circumstances, abusive relationships, or self-imposed confinement and believe they deserve to stay there are not exercising self-compassion.

Vision

According to Marianne Williamson, we can choose to get out of our predicament or, better yet, create a vision to lead us to higher places.

People with true vision have learned that giving is getting. These folks are not self-serving, but think about how things will impact others. Compassion for others can deepen our capacity to be humble and self-loving.

When we are able to say “I value you/myself enough to know that I deserve better” we can begin the process of change.

References

Barker, TIME

Blog: World of Psychology Archives

Germer, The Mindful Path To Self-Compassion

Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind

Williamson, Our Deepest Fear

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

Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 10 – Arguing Mindfully

Arguing Mindfully

People argue — even in the most loving relationships. The image of Mindfulness is one of peace with oneself and the world, but that is not reality. So how do you argue mindfully?

It may sound counter-intuitive but conflicts can lead to closeness.  The only exception is when people become deliberate or malicious in their intent to hurt one another with their temper, tone and words.

With that said, arguing typically occurs when our requests for nurturing, reassurance, or space fall on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, too many couples start arguing when they are either hungry, tired, bored, overwhelmed or lonely.  Under these conditions, arguments that start off as calm disagreements can easily degenerate into swearing and yelling matches.

This kind of arguing can leave each party feeling emotionally barren or wounded. More often than not, mismanaged rather than mindful arguing can easily mess up our future plans, happy occasions or even a good night’s sleep.

There are no winners in these kind of disputes.  Sometimes they can last for hours, days or even weeks.  Running away from arguments altogether actually can make things worse for everybody.  Stockpiling mental ammunition against the other usually leads to withdrawal.

Unresolved arguments are no better.  They can deepen resentments, cause festering, and drain our motivation to be mindful.

How to Argue Mindfully

The key to mindful arguing is to shift attention from nasty fighting to gentle conflict resolution.

Mindful arguing can occur when the couple accepts responsibility for their emotions and avoids blaming, judging or shaming.

Besides shifting your focus away from the person to the problem, owning your part of the argument, and saying sorry when you screw up, try practicing the mindful mnemonic “LOVED” below.  In doing so, you’ll likely feel more energized and cared for by your partner.

Being mindful when arguing takes practice, but isn’t rocket science.

The LOVED Mnemonic

L:   Listen how your partner expresses their concerns

O:  One at a time, take turns breaking down the problem

V:  Validate and reflect back what you see and hear your partner say using “I” statements

E:   Express why this issue is important to you right now

D:  Discuss with calmness and ease how things can be made different and decide on a possible solution to test out

 References

William Harley, PhD. How to Create Your Own Plan to Resolve Conflicts and Restore Love to Your Marriage. www.MarriageBuilders.com.

John Kabat-Zinn, MD. Mindfulness Based Stress Management.  https://psychalivemedia.pivotshare.com/media

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

Google

Mindfulness and Finding Life Balance – Part 3 – Abusive Relationships

 Can Mindfulness Free Us From an Abusive Relationship?

A Mindful approach to living may afford us the opportunity to free ourselves from the ravages of an abusive relationship. By practicing the ABC’s of Mindfulness: Attention, Balance and Concentration) we gain the clarity to find peace and move away from drama.

The A in ABC means that our ATTENTION is necessary to stop acting out of fear and to stop avoiding our own needs. When we don’t attend to our self-defeating behaviors, we stay stuck in our denial and convince ourselves that things can be a whole lot worse or they can only get better,

Although, we may not have caused the abuse, staying in the relationship keeps us emotionally unregulated and off-balance. The B in ABC pertains to our need for BALANCE in spite of our chaotic existence. Accepting our need for equilibrium will lead us to replace the abusive dynamic with one that is more aligned with our personal values. We are out of balance when our lifestyle doesn’t reflect what we truly need.

Lastly, the C in ABC stands for CONCENTRATION. Without positive concentration, we are not able to separate ourselves from the abuse. By focusing on hope, we can start believing that we don’t have to be the victim for life and that we not only deserve a healthier relationship, but that there is one actually within reach.

Self responsibility without judgment is the cornerstone of Mindfulness. It moves us toward self-empowerment which in turn helps us heal from the hurt. As we take steps to save ourselves, the healing process begins and we become open to the wealth of supportive resources around us. This may include, but is not limited to, turning to family, clergy, close friends, therapy (face-face/online) and/or self-help groups. Such avenues of help will hopefully illustrate that love alone is not enough to stay in a controlling relationship.

Along with love we also need results, healthy intimacy, and respect. Second to financial stress, the thing that mostly traps us in abusive relationships is the overwhelming concern about what others might think, or say, about us. Our fear and distorted belief system gradually fades away when we develop realistic expectations. For example, we may think that we can only be happy if we are with someone despite how bad that person may be for us. By forcing ourselves to look in the mirror, we can admit that being in an abusive relationship is not only keeping us disconnected from those we love, but from our inner selves.

Once we begin to assume responsibility for the life we were given, we can improve our existence even if it is by being by ourselves. Choosing an Mindful path allows us to observe our hurt instead of acting it out. Staying open to possibilities and taking life as it comes can help us move away from self-sabotaging behaviors and live our truth. This process, although not immediate, allows us to choose conscious living over our need to stay stuck in a toxic environment.

Over the years I have heard many of my patients say that staying in abusive relationship because of finances was far worse than having nothing, starting over, and being free.

Adopting a Mindful stance helps us remove the blindfold often associated with abuse and to stop hiding behind our shame. Most victims of abuse learn from an early age to pretend that nothing was really amiss. By using the ABC’s of Mindfulness mentioned above, we can stop living a lie and seek the immediate professional help we need to get well.

The poet Jose Harris eloquently sums it up for us:

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

 

References

Rebecca Adams, “Free to Soar: My Journey Out of Abuse to Freedom.”

Megan Kennedy Dugan, “It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence.”

Jose Harris, “There Comes A Time…”

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