Communication Skills

November 29, 2016

Communication is all around us. Whether we are actively engaged in conversation, listening intently for a newborn’s cry, or rolling our eyes in exasperation, messages are being sent, received, and processed every moment. While communication is somewhat instinctive, effective communication is a learned skill.

Mastering the skills of communication may improve relationship at home and work, aid in decision-making and streamline problem solving. Additionally, strong communication is beneficial when difficult or potentially controversial messages are necessary. There are many strategies for sharpening your communication skills. Consider these principles to help guide your speaking skills.

IMPROVING COMMUNICATION

  • Be assertive – Being assertive eliminates bullying and may even decrease stress. A clear response allows you to say “no” when needed and avoid too many commitments.
  • Focus on facts – Begin your conversation by describing what you see or hear in a situation. Be specific and avoid exaggerations and generalizations because smooth talking will not replace general knowledge.
  • Avoid trigger words – There are certain words it is helpful to avoid. For example, it is much easier to exaggerate when emotional, so eliminating “always” and “never” will help to decrease the emotion behind those statements.
  • Stay present – When you are participating in a conversation, be aware of your distractions and watch your body language. If you are constantly checking your phone or watch, you are no longer communicating your attention.

There are many benefits to improving your communication skills. Being able to clearly articulate thoughts, feelings, and needs demonstrates a level of self-worth. You also might notice a genuine enjoyment for your job or other roles in life with improved communication skills. Improving and fine-tuning effective communication skills can be hard work, but the results are worth the effort.

Codependence

November 15, 2016

When a person is codependent, they are unable to define and meet their own needs in a relationship. This individual “loses” their sense of self because they are completely absorbed in the needs of the other person. This intense focus on the other person can jeopardize your health, safety, and success in life.

CHARACTERISTICS OF CODEPENDENT PEOPLE

There are many emotional characteristics of codependent people. They often experience low self-esteem and constantly compare themselves to others. They might have an overblown sense of responsibility for other people and fear abandonment. Often a person who is codependent finds it difficult to set and maintain boundaries in a relationship, and they also have a difficult time expressing their own personal goals or values as an individual.

HELP FOR THE CODEPENDENT PERSON

The following tips can help you or someone you know move from codependence to healthier relationships.

  • Identity – Embrace your own needs and emotions. Saying “no” to a loved one doesn’t mean you don’t care for them, and it’s healthy to set these boundaries. Tough love is sometimes the most loving thing you can do.
  • Self-reliant – What are some ways you could be more independent? When can you take responsibility for your own emotions and actions? Encourage others around you to do the same.
  • Stop “fixing” – It is not your responsibility to solve all your loved one’s problems. You can still support and love them without trying to “fix” their lives. Give them space to take personal responsibility for their actions and future.
  • Relax – Relieve stress, tension, and anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques. Yoga, enjoyable music, mindfulness, and activities you love are all things you can do to help dial down worry and guilt.

If you or your loved one is struggling with codependency, be courageous and seek help. A licensed counselor or therapist can help you explore how you began to act this way. Together, you can establish a plan to change your life’s direction and move from a codependent relationship to a mutually satisfying one.

Sleep Solutions

October 31, 2016

Most adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. We spend about a third of our lives asleep, but most people know very little about it, even though it’s as important as food and water.

It’s estimated that sleep disorders affect more than 70 million Americans. When you get less sleep than needed, you fall into “sleep debt.” If the debt becomes too high, then physical problems and daytime drowsiness can occur.

THREE KEY INGREDIENTS

Three key ingredients to good sleep are temperature, light, and sound. A hot bath or shower raises your temperature then rapidly lowers it to help you relax. If the room is cool, you’re likely to get better sleep. To control light, consider dimming the light an hour or two before you go to sleep. Don’t look at computer or TV screens right before bed, so the hormone melatonin can flow. If your neighborhood is noisy, consider wearing earplugs to keep the sound out.

SLEEP TIPS

  • Be consistent – If you can go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends, you’ll sleep better.
  • Create a routine – You can train your body to recognize when it’s time to sleep if you stay consistent with habits. Maybe read a book. or take a warm shower. Perhaps lay out your clothes for the next day.
  • Get up if you can’t fall asleep – If after 15 minutes you don’t fall asleep, get up and do something rather than worry. Consider reading a book or listening to soft music.
  • Limit your naps – It might feel good to snooze for an hour in the afternoon, but anything over half an hour might keep you up at night.
  • Consult a professional – If you need to get more info or guidance on your sleep habits, talk to your primary care physician.

Resiliency in the Workplace

October 14, 2016

Whether you have a fast-paced job or not, stress exists in every workplace. Having a “bounce back,” or resilient, perspective is a key element to coping with stress. Workplace resilience helps you handle coworkers, interoffice events, and outside situations that impact your job.

THREATS TO OUR WORKPLACE WELL BEING

  • Work culture – Anything that happens outside the organizational culture of your job can increase stress levels. This includes the structures, policies, mergers, expansions, layoffs, etc.
  • Interactions within your job – Events such as bullying, intimidation, and being overworked can make your job difficult. Other stressful situations might include accidents, grieving a coworker’s death, and the fear of supervisors.
  • Personal lives – Stress and anxiety from other parts of our lives can also threaten our workplace well being. Our behavior toward others can reflect this stress.

TIPS FOR BUILDING RESILIENCE

  • Interpersonal intelligence – The ability to empathize with your coworkers and understand their point of view is a key component to managing relationships. When we are socially aware in the workplace, it helps us monitor our own reactions to problems. Then we can seek resolution to a workplace conflict or interpersonal confusion.
  • Remaining active – A resilient person does not shut down when adversity comes their way. They speak up for themselves and their goals in an assertive way. Active in teamwork, this individual also takes a self-initiated approach toward problem solving.
  • Proactive – Resilient people can identify potential problems and take actions to prevent them. These individuals won’t wait until a disaster occurs before they clean up a mess and work toward resolution.
  • Self-care – A work environment that values good self-care will be more productive in the long run. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and a regular exercise routine are keys to resilience. In addition, spending time with family and friends eases stress and helps us bounce back faster when times are rough.

Reducing Stress By Getting Organized

September 30, 2016

Be honest. How many times do you search for your car keys? Lose a store coupon or misplace that one paper? If you’re known to call your workspace “organized chaos,” you’re not alone. And since we’re being real, let’s just tackle the car, house, and garage too.

Organization is key to accomplishing our goals. Minimizing clutter and waste allows us to succeed at what matters most. While organizational skills are necessary, everyone is slightly unique with what system works best. You don’t need a complicated, color-coded system for life if something else works better for you. Identify your best organizational strategy by addressing the following areas.

Waste Removal – Keep track of your activities for one week. What activities tend to waste your time? How can you minimize or eliminate these from your schedule?

Long-term Goals – Have a clear vision and goal for the long-term. Does the way you spend your time reflect this goal? What are daily and weekly tasks to help you reach the long-term goal?

Optimal time – Identify the time of day you are most productive. Are you a morning or night person? As much as possible, use your optimal time to maximize your efforts.

Tips to Stay Organized

Plan for the day – You can avoid morning confusion by planning for your day the evening before. Consider laying out your clothes, packing your lunch, or gathering needed files and books.

Weekly checkup – Have a weekly cleanup where you discard, file, or recycle papers and other materials. This will keep your area less cluttered, and you won’t lose valuable time searching for misplaced items.

Stick to one – We tend to praise multitasking in our culture, but this can actually prevent you from being organized. Focusing on one task at a time is best and produces a better result.

Regardless if your organization skills are an inherent strength or a learned behavior, their benefits help you maintain order, peace, and a less-stressed lifestyle. As an added bonus, you might know where your car keys are. Happy organizing!

September is Suicide Prevention Month

September 13, 2016

September is Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. 42,773 people on average die by suicide each year and 117 people die by suicide each day. Suicide is tragic and devastating, but it is often preventable. Knowing the risk factors for suicide and who is at risk can help reduce the suicide rate and keep your loved ones safe.

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Contact a mental health professional or the hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you hear or see someone exhibiting one or more of these behaviors.

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped like there’s no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family & society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes

In some cases it may be too late for help from a suicide hotline and the person may be on the brink of a suicide attempt. Call 911 if you see or hear the following:

  • Someone threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself.
  • Someone looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means.
  • Someone talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, we want you to know that help is available and recovery is possible. Learn the warning signs, and do whatever you can to get yourself or someone you care about to the help they need so that they can return to living mentally well. For more information on suicide prevention, please visit: http://www.take5tosavelives.org.

Escaping Financial Stress

August 12, 2016

We know our minds and bodies are connected, but did you realize they’re also linked to our bank accounts? Financial stress can have a large impact on your physical health, thoughts, and relationships.

The largest obstacle between financial wisdom and lowering our stress is our attitude. In our quest to make the right decision, we can become scared about the wrong one. Sometimes we assume if we try to make wise financial choices we’ll just end up failing. However, it would be better to take the risk, and even possibly fail, than to never make a move.

Tips to Alleviate Financial Stress

The pinch on our bank accounts and the ever-changing market isn’t something to take lightly. The following tips may help ease the financial stress and strain on your wallet.

Adjust your perspective – Often times, when we have failed in the past, success seems farther out of reach than it actually is. Perceptions can easily be flawed. Our attitudes about what we have control over and what we don’t control can impact our level of success.

Stick to your budget – Knowing how to track your money is critical. Establishing a clear budget shows you exactly how much inflow and outflow you have. If you’re unsure how to make a budget, there are online tools and mobile apps available to teach you.

Identify unhealthy emotions – If you’ve made a poor financial choice this doesn’t mean you’re destined for failure. Guilt is rarely a helpful emotion. Instead, focus on what you can changeĀ  rather than beating yourself up for your prior financial mistakes.

Know your weaknesses – Avoid places, people, or situations that will tempt you to spend money you don’t have. For example, if you make impulse purchases after a stressful day at the office, try taking a walk and avoiding the mall. Practice saying no to people who pressure you to spend too much money.

Seek help – Look to the experts for help if you need it. Speaking with a legitimate professional can answer your financial questions and guide you toward a specific, attainable goal. Why not benefit from their expertise?

Balancing Work and Family

July 28, 2016

Some days 24 hours just doesn’t seem to be enough. Between family priorities, practicing good self-care, and juggling work responsibilities, it’s easy to feel stressed. Even though we choose how to spend our time, our to-do list sometimes crowds out what gives us the greatest enjoyment.

Our lives naturally fall out of balance from time to time. When this occurs, we struggle to regulate our responsibilities and what we enjoy most. Taking the time to assess how things are going gives us insight to realign our priorities. Consider these questions when work and family are out of sync:

  • Do you regularly set aside time to spend with your family?
  • When you are with family, do you feel anxious or guilty about not working?
  • At work, what triggers you to feel like you should be spending more time with your family?

Strategies for Achieving Greater Balance

Limit distractions – There may be times of the day you are more distracted or procrastinate. How could you use your time more efficiently during this period? Perhaps limit the frequency you check emails or use social media.

Know your values – Write down what you desire most from life. What activities are important for you to do with your family? Determine what is non-negotiable in your life.

Say no – Practice saying no to tasks that fit outside your values. This helps you avoid the stress and tension of over-commitment.

Organize – Is your workspace messy? Your home cluttered? Taking opportunities to organize will save you time in the long run.

Remember, life will happen. When it does, things will typically fall out of balance for a time. Stay positive. Use the knowledge you’ve gained, take a step back, and assess. Proper planning is always a good start to swing an imbalanced life back into perspective.

Tips for Relaxation

July 15, 2016

Stress is everywhere. Good or bad, without proper self-care, stress can feel like it might swallow us alive. Why? Any time a change occurs causing an adjustment or interruption in our life, stress results. We then produce physical, emotional, and mental responses. However, certain exercises can activate the body’s natural “relaxation response,” which slows breathing, lowers blood pressure, and makes for a calmer and healthier you.

RELAXATION BENEFITS

Relaxation techniques are helpful to reduce stress and improve our quality of life. We can even benefit our overall physical and mental health by reducing chronic illness, pain, anxiety, and depression. Practicing relaxation can also:

  • Improve concentration
  • Minimize feelings of anger
  • Lower heart and breathing rates
  • Reduce muscle tension and pain
  • Minimize fatigue symptoms

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES

Let’s practice on relaxation technique known as progressive muscle relaxation. To begin, slow tense and relax individual muscles. Start with your feet and work up your body to your head. This helps you become aware of muscle tension when you are stressed.

There are a variety of other relaxation techniques, such as meditation, art therapy, massage, yoga, and deep breathing. These activities can be done alone or with the help of another person. Consider downloading an app or free guided exercise. You may find one technique does not work well for you. Be persistent until you connect with one yielding results.

Relaxation techniques may not completely eradicate the stress in your life, but they can lighten your stress load. They are often low-cost, low-risk for injury, and easily performed almost anywhere. So, why not try it? There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe some extra stress.

Dealing with Difficult People

June 24, 2016

Let’s face it. We all encounter people who are challenging, negative, and even aggressive. Whether it’s a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor, being able to differentiate between difficult personalities is helpful. When we better understand them, it frees us to not take things personally. We can also help create a safe and productive environment for others.

THE NEXT STEP

Some of the more dominant challenging personality traits include people who are hostile, narcissistic, passive-aggressive, or negative. Knowing how to handle and react to difficult personality traits is beneficial in all environments. Here are some helpful tips to deal with all difficult personality styles.

  • Address concerns – Don’t ignore problems and pretend they don’t exist. Chances are the challenges will only grow. The responsible thing is to address the person and the issue.
  • Express compassion – Remember you probably don’t have the whole picture of someone’s life. You may not know all that’s happened in the individual’s background, their mental health, or the past crises they may have faced. Empathize and express compassion.
  • Assess reactions – Consider your own emotions. If you’re having a particularly stressful day and can’t seem to remain calm, it’s not the right time to address issues with a difficult person. Staying calm and neutral is the best way to approach and deal with challenging people.