Coping Strategies,
inspirational thoughts
and some of the reasons for needing them

This page is a work in progress and additions are welcome.  What you will find here is a pot pourri of some of the problems we may encounter and some ideas, philosophies, suggestions and tactics which list members have found helpful in coping with all facets of our issue - from the emotional through the practical.  Not all ideas will suit all people.  None of this is right or wrong.  It is simply an extension of and selective archive of the str8s list.  But sometimes it helps to have others' experiences and suggestions to hand, when you want them.......

Please feel free to send suggested pieces for inclusion to webpage@str8s.org 

Distancing

10 Steps Toward Distancing

Distancing is especially important in an emotional relationship gone wrong.

1) Stop asking new personal things of your partner about him/herself.

2) Don't give out personal things about yourself to them.

3) Don't bend over backward to celebrate any occasions that involve them.

4) Don't bend over backward to help them more than is necessary.

5) Don't help them if they or someone else can.

6) Avoid discussions that involve their lives, re: old topics.

7) Start to develop new activities that don't involve them.

8) Try to make new friends, acquaintances, anything.

9) Make small changes in your life: rearrange furniture, change decorations, try new soaps, ride your bike in a different route, eat at a different restaurant, eat different foods, cook them a different way, shop at different stores, rearrange the landscaping, change some of your habits, change the style of clothing you wear, etc.

10) If they ask favors of you, tell them you want time to think about it.

LETTING GO

To let go doesn't mean to stop caring,
it means I can't do it for someone else.
 
To let go is not to cut myself off,
it's the realization that I don't control another.
 
To let go is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.
 
To let go is to admit powerlessness,
which mean the outcome is not in my hands.
 
To let go is not to try to change or blame another,
I can only change myself.
 
To let go is not to care for,
but to care about.
 
To let go is not to fix,
but to be supportive.
 
To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
 
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own outcomes.
 
To let go is not to be protective,
it is to permit another to face reality.
 
To let go is not to deny,
but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold or argue,
but to serach out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and to cherish the moment.

 
To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.
 
To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
 
To let go is to fear less and love more.
 
(Author Unknown)

LETTING GO WILL HURT BUT IT WILL ALSO BRING HEALING

There is a time for letting go, but that time is a process. It takes many of us a considerable amount of time to let go. It takes time and a process to let go of the sickness in me that attracts and tolerates viruses and infected people in my life as agents of harm. Many of us do not let go overnight; it takes extended time and a thorough process. I believe there are five stages in the process of letting go. 

1. Letting Go Hurts
The first stage is the admission that letting go is going to hurt. When the reality of the destructive nature of love hits us and we begin to think about letting go, we also become aware that letting go is going to hurt. There is no way that one is going to get out of a chronic situation without an acute phase of pain. We realize that it is going to hurt to stay, and it will hurt to let go. There is no painless option. The only question is which option is healthy pain. When a medical doctor treats a chronic condition, the medical doctor will take the patient through an acute phase called surgery. Surgery is painful, but the acute phase is induced for the removal of the chronic condition. Letting go is accepting an acute phase of hurt. 2. Letting Go Means Risking the Loss of Important Things
The second stage of letting go is to accept the reality that you must risk the loss of things that are important to you. Letting go will involve sacrifice. We will have to lose something that is important to us. ... In order to let go, we are going to have to give up a vision, a dream, a belief, a way of thinking that is dear to us.
3.  Letting Go Means Doing Surgery on One's Self
The third stage of letting go is realizing that one must do surgery on one's self. In the first two stages, I realize how painful letting go is. In the third stage, I make the conscious choice to confront myself and go through the pain. I do not challenge the virus, but I challenge myself and induce the acute phase. I decide to risk many things that are important to me. I make the choice. It is the choice to confront one's self, to be honest with one's self, and to decide to do surgery on one's self. I make the choice to cut myself for my own healing. The work at this level can be so intense that we think we are going to die, but we continue with the surgery anyhow. We have made the choice to endure the pain to be free.
4.  Letting Go is a Sojourn in the Valley of Indecision
The fourth stage of letting go is our sojourn in the valley of indecision. We are in the midst of surgery, and doubt creeps in. We are not sure that we will not die on the operating table. We are not sure that we can make it by ourselves. We are not sure that some love is better than no love. We waver. We contemplate going back. We think about accepting violence and hate masquerading as love. Sometimes we spend a long time in the valley of indecision, and we cannot definitively decide. We go back and forth. One day we have ourselves together, and we declare, "This is toxic, and I'm letting go." The next day we are back in it, holding on and clutching harder than ever. It feels like one step forward and two steps back. We are in the valley of indecision.
5.  There is a Moment of Letting Go
The fifth stage of letting go is the moment of letting go. Little by little, we acknowledge that we are beyond the point at which we can return. We cannot always acknowledge the time and the place, but all of a sudden, quietly, from somewhere inside of us comes the resolve to give up trying to decide if it was a good decision or a bad decision. We decide that the decision has been made, and it is time to move on. The energy is not spent back in the past. The energy is spent making the most effective choices for a new future. The release has nothing to do with anybody telling us anything. The decision was made on the inside. It is time to let go, and we do.

By: Frank A. Thomas
Excerpted from What's Love Got to Do with It? Love, Power, Sex, and God, copyright 2001 by Frank A. Thomas.

 

"How to heal when there's pain in your life..."
by Susie and Otto Collins

There are some things that happen to you that you don't easily forget--like where you were last September 11 and what you were doing when the planes struck New York City and Washington D.C.  If you're old enough, you can remember where you were when President Kennedy was shot or when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.  While these are graphically powerful examples of  events that have affected millions of people, most of us experience painful situations and events in our own lives that have just as powerful effect on us as these national tragedies. 

Painful situations can be very obvious like the death of a loved one or a divorce-- or they can be moments of being ridiculed as a child that are carried throughout life if not healed.  The point is that when we are faced with traumatic events in our lives, we have two choices--we can either hold on and stuff the feelings down or we can heal.  The master key to healing any situation in your life when there is pain is to allow yourself to feel all of your feelings deeply--whatever they are--to be with your pain and allow your feelings to move through.

If it requires you to enter skilled therapy to heal, do it.  If it requires journaling about the situation, do it.  If it requires calling a friend, do it.  If it requires you to do a walking meditation, do it.  The main idea is to take the time to be with your pain and to feel it and move through it.  If you do this, the pain dissipates through time.

Susie's best girlfriend Melissa's mother passed in January 2002. This week, something happened in their family and Melissa immediately started to phone her mother, forgetting for a moment that she wasn't on this earth.  Melissa allowed herself to feel her grief--she cried, she called her son and told him about it and she felt a closeness with her mother.  She acknowledged her painful feelings and then allowed her grief to flow without hanging onto depression.

Our emotions are our signposts along the way of what we need to pay attention to in our lives.  When you find that painful memories and feelings are coming
to the surface in your life, here are some suggestions to help you to heal and move past the pain:

1.  Acknowledge your pain--don't try to stuff it down and pretend that it doesn't exist.
2.  Look at things in your life the way they really are.  Be careful of the "stories" you tell yourself about the situations that happen to you.  Don't create "stories" about the situations that make them worse than they really are.
3.  Feel what you are feeling in your body--locate where you are feeling the pain and breathe through it.
4.  Talk to someone who cares about you.
5.  Allow the feelings to move out of your body.  Give yourself permission to heal.

Whether it's painful memories of what happened on 9/11/2001 or something painful that happened today, it's important to acknowledge the event and then to move forward toward the process of healing.

Choices

The bottom line is that I am responsible for my own well-being, my own happiness. The choices and decisions I make regarding my life directly influence the quality of my days.
-- Kathleen Andrus

There is no provision for blaming others in our lives. Who we are is a composite of the actions, attitudes, choices, decisions we've made up to now. For many of us, predicaments may have resulted from our decisions to not act when the opportunity arose. But these were decisions, no less, and we must take responsibility for making them.

We need not feel utterly powerless and helpless about the events of our lives. True, we cannot control others, and we cannot curb the momentum of a situation, but we can choose our own responses to both; these choices will heighten our sense of self and well being and may well positively influence the quality of the day.

I will accept responsibility for my actions, but not for the outcome of a situation; that is all that's requested of me. It is one of the assignments of life, and homework is forthcoming.

Guidelines for Fair Fighting

1)  Fight by Mutual Consent: a "good" fight demands two ready participants; 
don't insist on a fight at a time when one of you can't handle this type of strain.

2)  Stick to the Present: don't dredge up past mistakes and faults about which you can do nothing.

3)  Stick to the Subject: limit this fight to this subject; don't throw every other problem into it.

4)  Don't hit below the belt:  you're bound to be tempted to throw each other's weak
    spots around...the point is to clear the air, not to humiliate or control.

5)  Dont quit-work it out:  bring the fight to a mutual conclusion, otherwise, it will
  recur over and over again.

6)  Dont try to win, EVER:   when one "wins", the other "loses" 
which builds resentment that destroys communication.

7)  Respect crying: this is a valid response to how we're feeling, but don't let
   it sidetrack you. Remember, men cry, too.

8)  No violence.

Them's Fightin' Words
                                                              
                                  No-no Words                               
                                                      
You never.........  I told you so.........  You always........... 
 I don't want to discuss it............. When will you ever learn?..............  
How many times do I have to tell you?.............

Yes Words

I'm sorry.........  I need you............  Please help me..............  
      I was wrong...........  Thank you..................  I love you

 

The Power of Language

CONSTRUCTIVE                              DESTRUCTIVE
 
One possibility is ...                          You can never....
It would be good to...                         There is just no way...
I love you when ...                              You should...
Thank you for...                                  What good is...
I appreciate...                                    What is the point of...
I understand why....                           You do not understand....
I like....                                             The problem is...
The best part is...                              Don't go there...
Please....                                   That is just plain stupid.....
Have confidence...                         You just don't seem to get it...
It is okay to...                                    Listen to me...
You are good at...                             Would it kill you to...
The good news is...                            It is so depressing...
Let's make the best of...                     When I was your age...
That's a good point...                          I am afraid that...
We/You will win if ...                          We/You will lose if..
How can I help?                                 That is the worst thing
I am sorry                                          I do not care
It is my responsibility                          It is not my fault
I feel angry when you                         You make me angry when

 

"Breaking those old relationship habits . . ." by Susie and Otto Collins

What will your relationships be like in 2003?

Will they be better than last year?  A little better?  Hopefully a lot better.

If your relationships are going to be better in 2003, you are the only one who can make them better.  The change has to begin with you.

So how do you make changes in your relationships?

A couple of weeks ago, someone wrote to us and asked--"How do you keep from repeating old behaviors and patterns that no longer serve you in your relationships and in your life?"

The best thing we can tell you is that you have to make creating the relationships and life you really want more important than holding on to the behaviors and patterns that no longer serve you.

This is what Otto is doing right now in the area of health and fitness.  Over the last 15 years he has had a repeating pattern of gaining and losing
weight and then gaining it back again.

Otto has figured out that the only way he can lose the weight he wants to lose and keep it off permanently is to make health, having lots of energy, and feeling good more important than eating most of his favorite foods that have accounted for his weight gains.

So far, Otto has been very successful at losing weight--again--primarily because of his intentions and the actions that have resulted from these intentions-- one exercise session at a time, one meal at a time.

This is also the way we have made changes in our relationship and in other areas of our lives--starting with an intention and one action at a time to move us to having that intention be part of our daily experience.

If unhealthy behaviors or holding onto old patterns is something you'd like to stop doing, then start making a new choice in every moment.

*Instead of blaming and judging someone who you habitually find fault with--try finding something to celebrate in that person the moment you begin
the blame process in your mind.

*When faced with the choice of being right or being kind, choose kindness.

*Before you say that unkind thing to a loved one, consider whether this will bring you closer together or tear you apart.

We could give you example after example of what you might do but the point is that only you can focus your attention on creating your relationships and your life the way you want them to be.

To break destructive, habitual patterns that are so strong in your relationships, you have to first create your intentions for what you truly want and then focus your awareness on making changes one moment at a time.


The Signs and Symptoms of Emotional Abuse


The most widely known and understood type of abuse is physical.  But there are many types, equally as devastating as physical battery.  
If you've been physically assaulted by an intimate partner, you're almost certain to have been subjected to emotional abuse as well.  Emotional abuse, however, is more difficult to both define and recognize.  While a black eye, cuts, and bruises are obvious signs of physical abuse, the scars of emotional abuse often go unseen.
There are, however, some indicators or gauges which can be used as stepping stones to awareness.  They are:

The abused partner has learned to overlook unkindness and disrespect.
Upsetting incidents are denied by the abuser, and the partner thinks she's wrong.
The partner thinks her feelings are wrong.
The partner intermittently forgets her upset feelings when the abuser is intermittently friendly.  (see cycle of violence)
The abuse can be very subtle -- the control increasing gradually over time so that the partner gradually adapts to it.
The abuser controls the interpersonal communication by refusing to discuss upsetting interactions.
The abuser and partner may function very well together in their respective roles; making a home, raising a family, and "getting ahead," so the abusive nature of the relationship is overlooked.
At times the abuser is not abusive.  Consequently, the partner forgets the "bad times."
The abuser's behavior is alternately abusive and non-abusive, so that the partner is never sure whether or not the relationship is working.
The partner may have never seen a model of a healthy relationship and good communication; therefore he/she has no basis for comparison.
The partner's reality has never been validated. Others don't see the abuse, so it doesn't seem real to her.
The partner may believe that if her mate provides for her, he really loves her.
The partner believes that when her mate is angry, she has somehow hurt him/her.
The partner may believe that the behaviors of the abuser are "gender" related.
The partner believes her perceptions are wrong.
The partner may be so absorbed in raising a family or developing a career that he/she ignores problems in the relationship.
The partner may believe that only physical battering is abuse and does not perceive his/her conditions as abusive.

The partner does not realize that an abusive personality - one that seeks power and control over another - is not capable of the empathetic comprehension that love and a healthy relationship require. If you are aware that the possibility exists that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, you may begin to recognize the abuse by becoming aware of abusive patterns. In order to discover these patterns, it is helpful to become very aware of your own experiences and feelings.  You may need to keep a journal in order to keep your thoughts clear, to analyze your own experiences, and to record your feelings.

Some of the questions you might ask yourself are these:

How often do you feel upset by what is said or not said to you?
Do you feel isolated and alone?
Are your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings routinely disregarded or ridiculed?
Do you often feel confused, surprised, hurt, frustrated, diminished, or threatened?
Is there an absence of laughter and sentiment in your relationship?
Does your relationship experience a great many extreme "highs" and "lows?"

Stop Excusing Inexcusable Behavior

You can't sustain a relationship that is based on deception. If lies, infidelity, or other deal-breaking behaviors are threatening your marriage or partnership, Dr. Phil has advice.

Remember that you teach people how to treat you. Your partner is doing what he/she is doing because they can. If you're allowing the behavior to continue by making excuses for your partner and blaming yourself, stop. If you want to be treated with dignity and respect, stand up and require it.

You can't change what you don't acknowledge. First, acknowledge that there is something wrong. If what is happening isn't normal, admit it. You need to set some new standards of acceptable behavior and your partner needs to know what those standards are.

If you truly want the relationship to work, be real with yourself and your partner. Be completely honest and truthful with your partner about your wants and needs. People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. You should be an open book to your mate.

Be as forthcoming as you can be with your partner before entering into a commitment. If there are things your partner has the right to know before marriage so that he/she can make an honest and informed decision, tell him/her.

If you are the person who has damaged the relationship, make sure that you hear your partner. He/she needs to know that you have listened and understand the full gravity of your actions and how they have affected him/her. Acknowledge the damage your behavior has caused to your partner's self-esteem, mental state and emotions.

Understand that any time you turn away from your partner to fill your needs instead of toward him/her, it's a betrayal. It's not just what you do — it's what you don't do. You can violate someone by withholding affection.

Look at your situation and ask yourself if you are willing to settle for this. If you knew that things would never change, would you stay? Never invest more in a relationship than you can afford to lose.

If you have children or are considering getting pregnant, understand that you have a responsibility for the effect that your choices have on them. Do not put your children in the middle of the fray and make them pick up the tab for your irresponsible behavior.

Don't argue in front of your children. When you do, you change who they are forever. Kids tend to think that problems in the home are their fault.

If you need professional help, get it — not for one week or two — but until you have a clear direction.

 

A N G E R

 
Where Does It All Come From?
From frustration and resentments that have been bottled up for years.
From unfulfilled expectations.
From the losses and disappointments.
From thwarted needs for love and affection.
From uncertainty about the future.
From feelings of being exploited and betrayed.
From hurt and humiliation.
From wounded self-esteem.
From feelings of helplessness.
And from genuine conflicts over property settlements, support payments, and custody issues.
*It may be little comfort to know that the intensity of your rage is likely to
reflect the importance the relationship had in your life.
 
Understanding Anger:
Anger is not only understandable, it is to be expected.   Potentially, there is a good side to your anger.   It can make it easier to distance yourself from your former spouse so that you can get on with your life, but only under one condition: that you get beyond your anger and LET IT GO. As long as you hold onto your anger, you will be bound to your ex.....the only difference is the bonds will be negative rather than positive.
 
Who Is Hurt When A Spouse Holds Anger?
The spouse who will not let the anger go, as well as the children.
Investing emotional energy into anger and revenge saps away the energy needed to build a new life.   The still-angry spouse can become stalled in the past, unable to have a meaningful present or a hopeful future,  and in this process draws the children into emotional turmoil.   Letting go of your anger is crucial to your healing and rebuilding.
 
Techniques for Letting Go of Self-Defeating Anger:
 
Diffusion Techniques:
1)  Unmailed letter technique
2)  Physical exercise
3)   Rechanneling emotional energy into constructive activities
4)  Talking out your feelings
5)   Releasing your feelings in a journal
6)  Having a good cry
7)  Screaming, or pounding a pillow (or kick boxing - but not with the ex))
8)  Carrying out uncontrollable urges for revenge in fantasy, but not reality.
 
Giving your Thinking a Tune-Up:
1)  Eliminate SHOULDS...replace with your likes and dislikes.
2)  Use humor
3)  Use distraction rather than making big issues over minor events
4)  Use deep relaxation, thought stoppage, memory replacement therapy, and distraction to interrupt obsessive negative self-talk.
5)  Remember, YOU are the only one who can make YOU angry and that the person who feels your anger is not the person it is directed toward but YOU yourself.
 

WLVFoxed
Volunteer Folder Host
AOL Women
Women Talk

 

"What constitutes a healthy relationship?"
by Susie and Otto Collins

Recently, one of our newsletter subscribers asked for our take on what constitutes a healthy relationship and we decided we would answer her question and include it here in this week's newsletter.

In our opinion, a healthy relationship is based on two ideals: First--both people in the relationship are partners; Second-- in Stephen Covey's words from the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" everything that happens between the two people is a "win/win" or no deal.

With that being said, here are some elements that we consider to be necessary in a healthy relationship:

In a healthy relationship, the intentions for the relationship are set in advance and agreements are made from these intentions.

No matter what kind of relationship you are involved in, it is possible to determine, set and create in advance intentions for the relationship.  Whether with a parent, child, supervisor, co-worker,  or significant other--you can work with the other person to create what you both want in the relationship.  As the relationship grows, changes and evolves, intentions and the agreements made from these intentions are constantly renegotiated.

In a healthy relationship, both people are able to be authentic in who they truly are and are able to speak their truth.

In a healthy relationship of any kind, both people are able to be themselves and to speak freely about their ideas and what they are feeling without blame, judgment, or criticism.  They are simply honored for who they are.

In a healthy relationship, both people take responsibility for their actions, their thoughts, and their words.  

As we've said in past articles, they each take 100% responsibility--no more and no less-- for what's going on in the relationship. 

In a healthy relationship, both people are emotionally aware and are both able and willing to look inside themselves for what's really at the bottom of an issue or feeling and what's most important to them.

Emotional awareness allows a person to know what he or she is feeling in every moment. It is your measurement stick that tells you whether your needs are being met, your life is in balance and whether you are happy or not. 


 ========================================


Relationship Quote

"It is the type of love where each of the individuals feels
equal to the other and simultaneously very special to
each other."      Angeles Arrien

                                                              

 

 Forgiveness and Moving On



LET THE PAST BE PAST

Is it difficult for you to forgive? To let the past be past? It is for me. Nearly impossible some-times. I'm a little like the elderly Virginian woman who lived to see her beloved Richmond occupied by Union troops after the American Civil War. The matron was walking down a Richmond street when she tripped over a step and fell. A Union soldier courteously helped her up.

"How very kind of you, young man," she said acidly. "If there is a cool spot in hell, I hope you get it."

Maybe it was still a bit early for her to let go of those deep-seated resentments. But angry and bitter lives are never happy lives.

A beautiful legend tells of an African tribe that ritualizes forgiveness. When a tribe member acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is taken to the center of the village. All work ceases and every man, woman and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Then the tribe bombards the rejected person with affirmations! One at a time, friends and family enumerate all the good the individual has done. Every incident,
every experience that can be recalled with some detail and accuracy is recounted. All their positive attributes, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. Finally, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the outcast is welcomed back into the tribe.

What a beautiful ritual of restoration! They replace hurt with happiness; pain with peace. Once again they are family. The rejected one is restored and the village is made whole. Paul Boese has said, "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." As brothers and sisters in our global village, is letting go of those resentments really an option?

From Steve Goodier's PRESCRIPTION FOR PEACE

 

How to Forgive:  10 Guidelines

By Victor M. Parachin

About this page. We first encountered Victor's fine guidance in Venture Inward, May/June 1999, the Magazine of the Association for Research and Enlightenment of the Edgar Cayce Foundation.   Victor Parachin, an ordained minister and writer living in Claremont, California, is the author of 365 Good Reasons to Be a Vegetarian. 
 
As poet Edwin Markham approached his retirement years, he discovered that the man to whom he had entrusted his financial portfolio had squandered all the money. Markham's dream of a comfortable retirement vanished. He began to brood over the injustice and the loss. His anger deepened. Over time, Markham's bitterness grew by leaps and bounds. One day while sitting at his table, Markham found himself drawing circles as he tried to soothe the turmoil he felt within. Finally, he concluded: "I must forgive him, and I will forgive him." Looking again at the circles he had drawn on the paper before him, Markham wrote these lines:

He drew a circle to shut me out, Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle to take him in.

Although Markham wrote hundreds of poems contained in many book volumes, the words he wrote while forgiving are his most popular and memorable. As he forgave, a tremendous act of creativity was released within Markham. The poets and mystics among us have long known and declared that the act of forgiveness releases great healing power.

Author and minister Charles Fillmore recommended forgiveness as the most effective way of restoring inner harmony and balance: "There is a mental treatment guaranteed to cure every ill that flesh is heir to: Sit for half an hour every night and forgive everyone against whom you have any ill will or antipathy," he wrote.

While forgiveness has always been an important concept in religion and ethics, only recently have psychologists begun to discover its powers as a psychotherapeutic tool. In three separate studies, people who had not resolved the wrongs done to them - college students, elderly women, and incest survivors - all improved when therapists helped them learn to forgive. Although an increasing number of counselors recommend that we forgive those who have hurt us, many people find forgiveness difficult to offer. Here are 10 guidelines to help extend forgiveness and ease resentment.

1. Educate yourself about forgiveness.  "Forgive," according to Webster's New World Dictionary, means: "to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; pardon; to overlook an offense; to cancel a debt." Thus, the goal of forgiveness is to let go of a hurt and move ahead with life. Visit a library and research books or magazine articles on forgiveness so that you understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy forgiveness. For example, Robert Enright, Ph.D., an education
psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stresses that true forgiveness is not:

Forgetting. If the hurt wounded you enough to require forgiveness, you may always have a memory of it.
Excusing or condoning. The wrong should not be denied, minimized, or justified.
Reconciling. You can forgive the offender and still choose not to reestablish the relationship.
Weakness. You do not become a doormat or oblivious to cruelty 

2. Spend a few minutes each day cleaning out your thinking.   At a local florist shop I once watched the owner remove tiny bugs from a potted plant. Using a cotton swab he meticulously plucked off one small tenaciously clinging offender after another. Although that tedious process took him several hours of silent concentration and steady work, he was able to rid the plant of what would ultimately stunt its growth and ruin its loveliness. There is a lesson from that florist which applies to daily living. The only way to keep ourselves free from the infestation of troublesome thoughts is to spend a few minutes each day cleaning out our thinking.

Has someone hurt you by his or her comments? Were you publicly insulted by someone? Did a friend fail to come through for you? Pluck off each offending layer of thought and dispose of it just as the florist disposed of the tiny insects destroying his lovely plant. Doing so insures that a vague irritation does not transform itself into a deep resentment and an intense hatred.

3. Practice on small hurts.  To become a generous forgiver of major pains, practice forgiveness on small hurts. Forgive immediately the small slights inflicted by strangers - a rude clerk, a driver who cut you off, a doctor who keeps you waiting and waiting, etc. Use those events as practice time to prepare you for the tougher task of forgiving major hurts.

4. Challenge the "shoulds" in your thinking.   Forgiveness is much easier when you give up the irrational belief which fuels your frustration, anger, and hostility - the expectation that other people will always act in the way you want. Beware of the "shoulds" in your thinking and speaking:

He shouldn't have done this to me.
She shouldn't act that way.
My daughter should have known better.
My son should be more attentive to me.
I've worked hard and I should have been rewarded.
Whenever you find the word "should" in your mind and talk, challenge yourself. Tell yourself it is unrealistic to expect that people will always act decently and respectfully toward you. Remind yourself that everyone is fallible and capable of making a mistake.

5. Understand that resentment has a high price tag.   "Holding a grudge takes mental, emotional, and physical energy. It makes you obsessive, angry, and depressed," observes Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist and director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City. "There's a strong connection between anger and a wide spectrum of health miseries - chronic stomach upset, heart problems, and skin conditions among them. Without question, the more anger we experience within, the more stress we're under," he adds. Whenever a hostile or hateful thought enters your mind, try to be fully aware of the harm that resentment can do to you, even making you ill. Let that knowledge further motivate you to forgive and let go.

6. Remember: Lack of forgiveness is giving others power over you. Withholding forgiveness and nursing resentment simply allow another person to have control over your well-being. It is always a mistake to let such negative emotions influence your living. Forgive, and you will be able to direct your life in positive thoughts and actions. An excellent example is that of educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915). An emancipated slave who started out living in abject poverty, he had to
work from the age of nine to help support his family. Instead of becoming bitter about the hardships he faced and viewing himself as a victim, Washington worked hard to improve his situation. He first became a janitor in a school to obtain his education. Then he went on to teach at Hampton Institute, one of the first African-American colleges in the U.S. Later he organized and became president of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. "I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him" was Washington's lifelong motto.

7. Recognize the ripple effect of harboring a grudge.  When you can't forgive someone, there can be a ripple effect which negatively infects your family and friends. Writing to advice columnist "Dear Abby," a woman says: "I have something to say to the millions of families whose lives are affected by divorce. An unforgiving and bitter person who has not let go of animosities can poison an entire family and ruin the holidays for everyone. I know. I was that person." The writer, who signs
herself as "Free in Vermont," explains she could not forgive her former husband and his new wife, and her children suffered her ensuing bitterness. "One day after a particularly harsh outburst, I understood the pained reaction on my children's faces. I prayed for the strength to change my ways so that I could stop hurting those I love most in the world." Although it was difficult for "Free in Vermont" to extend forgiveness, she did so and says:

"I have peace in my heart and my children are happy. They are free to enjoy both homes." Forgiveness is a priceless gift which you can give to yourself and your family.

8. Bury the grudge - literally.  Write a letter to the person who hurt you but don't mail it. Express fully, clearly, honestly how you feel and why that person's act hurt you and made you angry. Conclude with the bold declaration that you have forgiven him or her. Then, bury the letter in a potted plant or somewhere in your yard. This is a powerful symbolic exercise which many people have found to be extremely therapeutic.

9. Try instant forgiveness.  Lewis Smedes, a professor of ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, and author of Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve, tells of his rage toward a police officer who brutalized his young son, John. The officer was a large 250-pound lawman who assaulted his 140-pound son and then charged him with resisting an officer. Although the charge was quickly dismissed, Smedes's rage and hostility were not so quickly appeased. Realizing that his intense feelings toward the police officer were creating a personal emotional crisis, Smedes knew he had to find a way of forgiving.

"I tried a technique that everything in my temperament resisted," he writes. "I thought about how a priest gives instant absolution to a penitent, right off the bat, in the confessional booth. And I decided to give this cop absolution. 'In the name of God I hereby forgive you-go in peace,' I said out loud, at least six times. It worked enough to get me going. I felt myself pried a couple of inches off my hate. And I was on my way."

10. Recall repeatedly this one vital fact: forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  A former inmate of a Nazi concentration camp was visiting a friend who shared the ordeal with him. 
"Have you forgiven the Nazis?" he asked his friend.
"Yes."
"Well, I haven't. I'm still consumed with hatred for them," the other man declared.
"In that case," said his friend gently, "they still have you in prison."

That story points out this reality: ultimately, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Bitterness and anger imprison you emotionally.
Forgiveness sets you free.

 

THE AWAKENING

A time comes in your life when you finally get it...when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out - ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on.

Your tears begin to subside, you shudder once or twice; you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes. This is your awakening. You realize it's time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change...or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the
next horizon.

You come to terms with the fact that neither of you is Prince Charming or Cinderella and that in the real world there aren't always fairy tale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of "happily ever after" must begin with you...and in the process a sense of serenity is
born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are ... and that's OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions. And you learn the importance of loving and championing yourself...and in the process a
sense of newfound confidence is born of self-approval.

You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you (or didn't do for you) and you learn that the only thing you can really
count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that's not always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself...and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-reliance.  You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You realize that much of the way you view yourself, and the world around you, is as a result of all the messages and opinions that have been ingrained into your psyche. And you begin to sift through all the junk you've been fed about how you should behave, how you should look, how much you should weigh, what you should wear, what you should do for a living, how much money you should make, what you should drive, how and where you should live, who you should marry, the importance of having and raising children, and what you owe your parents, family, and friends.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. And you begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for. You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you've outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with ... and in the process you learn to go with your instincts.

You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive. And that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a "consumer" looking for your next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation
upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don't know everything, it's not your job to save the world and that you can't teach a pig to sing. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. How to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving and when to walk away. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. And you learn that alone does not mean
lonely.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings side, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs. You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK....and that it is your right to want things and to ask for the things you want ... and that sometimes it is necessary to make demands.
You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and you won't settle for less.

And you learn that your body really is your temple. And you begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drink more water, and take more time to exercise. You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear, and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest.

And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play. You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you believe you deserve...and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different from working toward making it
happen. More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance.

You also learn that no one can do it all alone...and that it's OK to risk asking for help. You learn the only thing you must truly fear is the greatest robber baron of all: FEAR itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

And you learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom. You learn that life isn't always fair, you don't always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people. On these occasions you learn not to personalize things. You learn that God isn't punishing you or failing to answer your prayers. It's just life happening.

And you learn to deal with evil in its most primal state -- the Ego. You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower. Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than your heart's desire.

And you hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.   And you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay
open to every wonderful possibility.   Finally, with courage in your heart and God by your side you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can.

 
Self Matters Action Plan

Extracted from http://www.drphil.com   Other links in this article will take you to different parts of the Dr Phil website

You can't change what you don't acknowledge but you can change what you do acknowledge. You can stop being passively shaped by the internal and external forces in your life. It's time to move your self-concept away from a world-defined, fictional self toward a self-defined, authentic self that is grounded in the here and now.

Here is an overview of Dr. Phil's Five-Step Action Plan:

Step 1: Isolate a Target Event
Decide which of your key external events has turned out to be the most toxic experience of your life. This will be either one of your 10 defining moments, seven critical choices or five pivotal people. Then write a short description of the target event. When you're done, read it over to make sure you are being honest in your account.

Step 2: Audit Your Internal Responses to That Triggering Event
Ask yourself the following questions about the event you described in Step 1:

a) Where do you place a responsibility or blame for that event, your locus of control? Who was responsible? Did you have any control over the situation? Were you even old enough to have a say?
b) What has been the tone and content of your internal dialogue since that event? Do you find your real-time, "normal speed" conversations in your daily life reflecting the changes that occurred within you and are associated with that event? When you reflect on this event, what do you say to yourself? Even when you're not reflecting directly on the event, but experience feelings of guilt and shame, what do you say to yourself?
c) What labels have you generated for yourself as a result of your event? What have you told yourself about you as a consequence of what happened?
d) What tapes has this event generated or contributed to? Has this event caused you to develop an automatic, unthinking response that "predicts" the outcome of any given situation?
e) What are the fixed beliefs and resulting life script that you have constructed as a result of your event? Do you suspect you are living from a "script" that was written as a result of this event?

Step 3: Test Your Internal Responses for Authenticity
You can test everything you are saying to yourself and find out whether it is fictional or authentic by asking these four questions:

a) Is it a true fact?
b) Does holding onto the thought or attitude serve your best interest?
c) Are your thoughts and attitudes advancing and protecting your health?
d) Do your thoughts and beliefs get you what you want?

Step 4: Come up with an "Authentically Accurate Alternative" Response
When you test your negative internal dialogue and it fails (as it should because it isn't true), you need to do what Dr. Phil calls "Triple-A thinking." This means replacing your fictional responses with ones that are an Authentically Accurate Alternative. How do you know your new responses are AAA? Because they meet the authenticity standards outlined in Step 3. Start by dividing a page into two columns. On the left, list your present fictional beliefs ("I am worthless"). On the right, list as many alternative beliefs as you can. ("I am a worthy human being with valuable qualities" "I deserve to be treated with respect" "I have things to contribute to the world").

Now it's time to test your alternative beliefs.

a) Is the alternative true?
b) Is it in your best interest to hold these beliefs?
c) Do the alternatives advance and protect your health?
d) Do the alternatives get you what you truly want?

Circle all of the alternative beliefs that have passed the test. Now you can choose to adopt as many of these authentic alternative beliefs as you like.

Step 5: Identify and Execute Your Minimal Effective Response (MER)
The goal of Step 5 is emotional closure. You want to be able to close the book on the life event that caused you so much pain with a minimal amount of effort. Consider your alternatives for action and ask yourself these four questions:

a) What action can you take to resolve the pain?
b) If you were successful and achieved this action, how would you feel?
c) Does the feeling you will have match the feeling you want to have?
d) Remember the word "minimal." Could there be some other, more emotionally or behaviorally economical action that would give you the emotional resolve you want to feel?

Whatever your MER is, you need to identify it and do it so that you can achieve emotional closure and move on to a more authentic, fulfilling life.

Next: Now that you've done the personal work, you need to protect yourself from sabotage.

More: Continue uncovering your authentic self with the complete exercises found in "Self Matters."


Fourteen Tips for Overcoming Procrastination
  1. Examine your "shoulds." And this applies to "oughts," "musts," and "have to’s." When we feel obligated to someone else we may feel inhibited. Change these statements to "wants," and then you assume responsibility yourself for doing a task. Rather than saying, "I should call my son’s teacher," change it to: "I want to call my son’s teacher."
  2. Look at your excuses rationally. In fact, make up a list of the excuses you use which prevent you from getting a job done. Then examine each excuse and beside it write out a more realistic thought. For example, "I’m not in the mood" can be reinterpreted to "Mood doesn’t get the job done."
  3. Use self-motivating statements. How we define a task can alter our motivation for completing it. Many people repeat phrases to themselves, or even tack notes in visible places, which serve to spur them on. Try out phrases like: "The sooner I’m done, the sooner I’m free," or "There’s no time like the present."
  4. Make up a To Do List. Write out a list of things you need to do this week (or day...or month) and then cross them off, one by one, when they are done. With this list you can see exactly what needs to be accomplished, and you can get a great sense of fulfillment as the list gets whittled down.
  5. Set priorities. On your To Do list, rank the jobs that need to be done in order of their importance. Then just focus on one job at a time.
  6. Break the task down into smaller pieces. This is one of the most important ways to combat procrastination. Write down all the steps involved in your project and see each step as a manageable job that can get done with little effort. Even if we dislike some duties, we can handle them if they last only for a short time.
  7. Look at time. We sometimes have a poor conception of how much time it takes to complete a task. Rather than panicking at the thought that you only have a week to get that profit and loss statement together, break the parts of the task down into real time. You may find that this is only a three-hour job.
  8. Take a stand. Write yourself a contract to complete a job and sign it. Or tell a supportive friend that you plan to finish a job by a certain date. Make your project a public endeavor rather than keeping it to yourself. It helps to gain the support of others when you feel stymied.
  9. Organize. Make sure you have a clean work area and all of your materials in front of you. Eliminate distractions like the TV blaring in the background if you need to concentrate. Warn others that you will be unavailable (or unbearable) during a certain time.
  10. Manage your stress. There are a number of techniques one can use to deal with anxiety: deep breathing, progressive relaxation, visualization, physical exercise, relaxation tapes, humor and music. These techniques can be learned in therapy.
  11. Just get started. You don’t have to wait until you feel inspired to write that speech. Just write whatever comes to mind, and you can revise it later. A journey begins with one small step.
  12. Reward yourself when you accomplish a small goal. Rather than procrastinating a whole afternoon by calling friends, call a friend only when you have written a page of the report as a way of rewarding yourself.
  13. Look at all you have accomplished. Rather than punishing yourself for not having done enough, take the more positive approach of examining all that you have done. Is the glass half empty or half full?
  14. Celebrate the completion of your task. Have a specific reward in mind for when your project is finished. Go out for dinner. Go to a movie. Take a weekend trip. Have a party. The celebration should be equal to your task.


"If Only. . ."
by Susie and Otto Collins

We don't know if birds do it or if bees do it but we do know that most of the people we've come in contact with do it. What we're talking about is the mantra of the modern era--"If only...."

"If only" is what most of us tend to focus on in all of our relationships. We tend to focus on the qualities that we don't like in others rather than the qualities that we do like. "If only he/she would listen to me." "If only we had a bigger house." "If only he would pick up his clothes." "If only I had a better job." "If only there was more passion in our relationship."

One of the biggest obstacles to having great relationships is focusing on what we don't like about someone else. In fact, it's not just in our relationships that we do this. It's in most of the areas of our lives.

One of the keys to creating great relationships requires you to change the way you look at life. It requires you to focus on what you like, love and admire about the people in your lives instead of what you don't like.

Otto's son Steven says he wants to improve his performance in little league baseball. The challenge with this is, Steven doesn't really have the desire to improve. He would prefer to spend his time watching his favorite shows on TV, playing with his Poke'mon cards or playing video games. What ends up happening is, Otto spends a lot of time trying to help him become a better baseball player by telling him "if only you'd do it this way you'd get better." Steven and Otto both usually end up frustrated.

Every time you find yourself saying those two little "If only..." words, this should serve as a reminder that you are wanting someone or some thing in your life to be different than it really is.

You've heard us say before in this newsletter about how important it is to love others in your life wherever they are and not where you'd like them to be.  We suggest that if you find yourself saying "If only..." about a person or a situation in your life, stop yourself and focus on the good things about this person or situation.

The joy in life just gets sucked out of you if spend your time dwelling on past unhappy events, things you don't like, things you can't control and futurizing about negative events that haven't happened yet.

In life and in your relationships you have a choice. You can spend your time trying to get someone else to change and be more in alignment with what you want or you can find a way to love them where they are.

If it's not possible for you to love another person where he or she is, then you have another choice that only you can make.

This is also true of a job or any situation in your life. If you spend your time at work saying to yourself (if not out loud) "If only..." then I'd like my job-- then you are hoping for someone or some thing outside of your control to change or be different. In this situation, you are again faced with the same challenge. If you can affect change, do so. If you cannot, then your only
option is to accept your employer and your job as it is or move on.

So we suggest that tomorrow you pay attention to the situations where you find yourself saying or thinking "If only..." then write down what you appreciate about that person, job or relationship. Keep that list handy so that you can focus on the positives in your life instead of the negatives. This is gratitude in action and can change your life.


Sometimes the best we can do is wait.

When we're undecided about a course of action, forcing the issue one way or the other may not be wise. Even though we'd like to have the matter
settled, keeping our options open might be the best approach. Waiting can be extremely difficult--we feel frustrated about not making a move--but
waiting may be exactly what we need to do.

Remember, we are learning to cooperate with the flow of life, not straining to push it along or move it in a different direction. Our course of action will eventually become clear, but we have turned the timetable over to a Higher Power. One of our goals is to develop the patience to wait until we feel clear inner guidance about how to proceed.

When we're concerned we are cared for by the Power that runs the universe, we don't need to push ourselves into hasty decisions. We can admit we don't know the answer. We can wait, believing that in our Higher Power's time we will discover which move to make.

May I have the patience to wait for clear directions.

Relax!

Did you know that practicing some form of daily relaxation is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself? Taking a few minutes each day to quiet your mind and breathe deeply can make a big difference in how you feel throughout your day and into the night.

We're told that the word 'relax' has its origin in the Latin word 'relaxare,' which means "to loosen." When we relax, we are in effect loosening tension, releasing tightly held energy and letting go. From the state of relaxation we can experience calm peacefulness.

Relaxation also means taking regular time off work. Extended periods of rest are a biological necessity. The human body is like an old fashioned wind-up clock. If it is not rewound by relaxing every few days, ultimately it will run itself down.

A group of Americans made a trip with Brazilian natives down the Amazon River. The first day they rushed. The second day they rushed. The next day they rushed. One day, anxious to continue the trek, they were surprised to find the natives seated together in a circle.

When asked the reason for the delay, a guide answered: "They are waiting. They cannot move further until their souls have caught up with their bodies."

Do you owe yourself time to let your soul catch up with your body?


Imperturbability

I think Charles Allen said it first. "When faced with problems which threaten to steal your peace of mind, learn the meaning of the word 'imperturbability.'"

I heard of two artists who were asked to illustrate peace. Each was assigned the task of depicting a peaceful scene on canvas.

The first artist drew a beautiful picture of a countryside on a warm, spring day. A soft sun illumines green grass. A picturesque farm house and grazing cattle are bathed in its warmth. A farmer walks contentedly behind strong plow horses making his field ready for spring planting. The picture is one of beauty and quiet tranquility.

The other artist took a different approach. He drew a majestic, rugged cliff. Gnarled trees, twisted by years of violent winds, jut from the craggy mountainside. Dark clouds hang low and fierce while jagged streaks of lightening slash across an angry sky. The picture is one of violence, chaos and rage.

But as one looks closely, something else becomes visible. There in one of the crevices of the rocky mountain, tucked back just out of reach of the wind and rain -- a nest with two small birds. Apparently unconcerned about the impending storm, they appear calm, cozy and peaceful as they patiently wait for the turbulence to pass.

And isn't that the way it so often is? We may want to be surrounded by peace, but storms rage. Problems and pressures without threaten to steal peace of mind within.

The answer is imperturbability: inner peace which doesn't leave when circumstances change. It's a peace which is greater than the problems of life, built on assurance that the tempest will finally pass, we will survive the storm, we may grow stronger because of it and, in the meantime, we will not endure it alone.

Imperturbability -- it's the result of a peace which passes understanding. For serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.

© 2000 Steve Goodier


Is EVERYTHING Going Wrong?

The story is worth dusting off about the speeding motorist who was caught by radar from a police helicopter in the sky. An officer pulled him over and began to issue a traffic ticket. "How did you know I was speeding?" the frustrated driver asked.  The police officer pointed somberly toward the sky. "You mean," asked the motorist, "that even He is against me?"

It's like the man who said, "It feels like the whole world is against me... but I know that's not true. Some of the smaller countries are neutral."

When we have a problem, it can often feel as if everything in our life is going wrong. We may tend to think that EVERYBODY is upset, that NOBODY cares or that EVERYTHING is falling apart.  To think more clearly and to solve your problems more
effectively, try letting go of these destructive beliefs:

1. Let go of the idea that your problem is permanent. Few troubles last forever. And those that cannot be solved can usually be managed.

2. Let go of the idea that your problem is pervasive. Few problems affect every area of your life.

3. Let go of the idea that your problem is personal. There is nothing wrong with you because you have a problem. All capable, lovable and successful people have plenty of problems.

Remember, worms cannot fall down. But human beings can -- and will. Let go of these destructive beliefs and you may be amazed at how better you feel already!

Copyright by Steve Goodier

Exhausted is NOT a Lifestyle

I know some of you disagree with that statement. Most us have lives that are crowded, stressful, and tiring … and there still aren't enough hours in the day for all we need to do. But running on empty is not the answer … and if you try it for too long, you're liable to wind up truly ill. A physical or emotional breakdown really is Life's way of saying, "Enough already!!

When you wake feeling just as tired (or worse!!) than when you went to sleep, when you have no energy to make it through the day, when you feel constantly drained and listless, when you are short-tempered, hypersensitive, and feel like if one more thing pulls at your attention or goes wrong you are going to totally lose it, it's clearly time to stop and consider the load you're carrying and what your lifestyle is doing to your health.

There are some easy ways to boost your energy, but without a total overhaul in the way you run a hectic, overly demanding, and physically depleting life, they are only stopgaps … and need to be viewed that way -- as temporary measures. But they can help leverage you into better situations overall. For sure, they're worth trying.

It takes total honesty, real determination, and self-discipline to make some of these changes. But they can be literal lifesavers. Honest.

  1. Get enough sleep. Four hours is not enough. Six should be considered a bare minimum every night … and eight is even better. If you need more than eight hours of sleep routinely … you might be wise to consider the possibility you are dealing with undiagnosed depression. An honest talk with a doctor who is willing to hear what you tell him or her could be the best favor you've done for yourself in a long time.

  2. Develop a regular exercise routine. Regular exercise relieves stress … and you do not have to kill yourself to get decent results. A brisk half-hour's walk in the evenings … or on the other half of your lunch hour … several times a week will bring wonderful results. Start slowly … work up to it … but keep at it.

  3. Eat properly. Sugar, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and grease are not the five basic food groups. I don't care what your college roommate, old Army buddy, or next door neighbor kid taught you.

  4. If you smoke, stop it!!! If you drink, do so in moderation. Drinking small amounts of alcohol daily is actually better for you than being a strict-tee-totaller, according to a number of medical studies … but a six-pack a day is not moderation. Neither is "tying one on" every Saturday night.

  5. Meditate. Fifteen minutes a day is great. Fifteen minutes twice a day is better. As with eating and exercising … do it every day. Do it every chance you get.

  6. Learn to say "No." We get "nickel and dimed" to death by the little tasks, chores, favors, commitments, and "stuff" we agree to load on ourselves. When someone asks you to wedge one more little thing into your life, say, "I'm sorry. No. I can't." Stick to your decision. Otherwise, I promise you, you'll wind up in "chronic overload" all the time.

  7. Identify the conditions in your life that are continually and excessively stressful. Learn to eliminate or avoid them. Since these situations can be many and varied … it may take some ingenuity to deal with them. But consider these possibilities. Stop being a perfectionist. Don't try to be all things to all people. Quit expecting to please everyone. Avoid people who habitually nag, criticize, argue with you, or get under your skin. See if you can delegate things that upset you to someone who is less sensitive or not as close to the situation. If you can, hire help to take on the jobs you don't have to do yourself. Learn to shrug off the "small stuff" … and get on with your life.

  8. Plan moments of relaxation. Take some time for yourself. Take a long hot bath … with candles all around. Listen to music. Take an hour to read something purely for pleasure. (If you can't do that … take half an hour. Try to work up to that hour somehow!!) Go for a long drive in the country. Cuddle with your sweetie and kids. Sit and pet your dog or cat. (If it's a big dog … sit on the floor and do it!! Pets are fabulous stress reducers!) Investigate aromatherapy … and see if it works for you! Put a table-top fountain in your bedroom or office … or both! (One where you can hear the rippling and movement of the water.)

  9. Give yourself rewards … just for getting through the day, week, month, in one piece. Make them meaningful. Make them something you really want. Keep your promises to yourself. (Don't ever tell yourself you're not important enough or that it doesn't matter whether or not you do this for yourself.)

  10. Listen to the way you think. Listen to the way you talk to yourself. If you are constantly thinking how bad you feel, how tired you are, how you don't know if you can make it another step, how much you hate your job … life will continue to hand you this version of reality. If you are constantly nagging at yourself, criticizing yourself, or insisting that you "do more, do better, do it faster," no wonder you're tired all the time. Start treating (and talking to) yourself with at least as much respect and courtesy as you give to other people.

Try this list of behavior changes for a month. See if there's not a refreshed, more pleasant, more joyful life (and person) waiting to greet you at the end of that time. You and your loved ones may all be glad you did.

And now - some words from your sponsor :-)

The following two posts were from Amity to the list, in response to specific questions.  She wrote, in response to a query about dealing and moving on.....

Slowly, slowly is the way that life works.  Do not listen or pay attention to your well meaning friends.  Dealing with the coming out crisis takes several years at least before you're on your feet much less MOVING ON to a new level. It's the time needed to regroup your feelings, values, thoughts, and dreams ... which will turn into a road map for your moving on.

Isn't it great that we have our friends on this list to be with us as we do this kind of "foundation building"?

How did I move on? Living minute by minute, playing, traveling, and working so fast day-by-day that I ended up in the hospital with mononucleosis at age 55!!!    That gave me time to read Eastern philosophies and shift my attitudes about problems one degree toward acceptance, hope, and wonder.  Can't put it into words, but it was a way of seeing possibilities and not either rushing in. ... or retreating. Also the illness slowed me down... 

Personal ads introduced me to a range of interesting men... 

Workshops (guitar, nature medicine, spirituality) expanded my interests a bit, (no men there, darn).

Running, swimming ... breathing in nature was minute-by-minute nurturing.

Finally, as I pursued what was of most interest -- spiritual philosophies, for which I was ravenous...  I met my now husband.  Working out a relationship with him took two plus years.  So, three and a half years after my husband (from whom I was separated) told me he had been gay since before we married.....  I moved into a different world.  But I couldn't have been ready for it, had I not read, reflected, and blundered with relationships along the way.

Oh yes, everyone's day-by-day path is different. It's how you perceive the day that matters. Enjoy, look at the details, be grateful for the little things that cheer you up, help others ... breathe (as Shelly kept reminding me, even after I thought I'd moved on).... laugh (as I've reminded so many of us) ... take time to reflect ... take care of your body, mind, and spirit...

And who knows what wonders will emerge...

And then, in response to a member who was having problems with anger, associated with the circumstances forced on her, including the divorce process..........

Anger. Expressing it is most important, but anger can be expressed in constructive as well as negative ways. By that I mean, the energy that anger unleashes can be used in accomplishing daily tasks...  like sweeping the kitchen, shoveling the snow, taking a brisk walk with your youngest children ... something physical that uses the energy.

Depression is the lack of emotional response to anything. Yes, I suppose, stuffed anger can be part of some person's depression. But more often repressed anger also eats at one's stomach lining and manages to escape in the most inappropriate situation.  But depression shows as inability to act, decide, etc. You don't seem to be suffering from that.

On keeping your cool: Carve out five minutes somewhere to close your eyes, breathe deeply and blow everything away that's spinning in your head. If it comes back, note it and breathe again.  Keeping balanced is the key.

Practice responding to other people's accusations.  Like this: First, swallow and then slowly say. "Well,…" pause...  "actually this is the way it happened..." (or some such). Sometimes a small smile helps keep the listeners from perceiving a "battle" or an argument between spouses, or defensiveness. You're there to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, not to put down anyone or prove yourself "right."

In your email, you say, "Everyday I have some legal document or accusation to deal with.  I think it is natural to react in some way but I need to learn how to not let it get me down or pull me down further.  By distancing myself emotionally I think I could do it."

Well, you could also do what I did a long time ago when my female boss was hammering all of us women who worked for her: expect that you'll get a document a day and then be surprised when you don't (rather than let each one add another stick to your bonfire). Try to see how funny this avalanche of documents is. Imagine papering the kitchen wall with them... since you can't afford wallpaper..., or imagine a waterfall of them, or how Woody Allen might handle this in a scene in a movie.... or something to make you laugh at the absurdity of it along with the horror of it. You've got to have emotional responses, just not solely the negative ones.  Gaining perspective is really the goal.