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Setting Boundaries Protects Our Energy.

24 Aug

I think healthy boundaries are about reciprocal respect. They include setting up and communicating reasonable, clear expectations of acceptable ways for other people to behave towards us that contribute to feeling safe, supported and valued.

Leanne French – Therapist & Relationship Expert

Imagine crouching under one of those slightly dented, aluminium colanders with a lot of holes. That’s kind of what my boundaries looked like when I was a kid. 

When I first learnt about boundaries as a young therapist, I replaced that colander with a magnificent castle on a lush flower-filled island, surrounded by a moat, filled with snapping piranhas. I installed a drawbridge that only I could lift or lower because after all, the most important boundary a person can set, is limiting their availability. I also created a shield with light, bullet proof, glittery glass bricks, because the goal of boundaries is to be protected and stay connected at the same time.

My boundaries might seem like a fortress to some, but they serve to keep me clear, focused, more tolerant, and compassionately away from resentment. 

Boundaries are a self-caring way to keep our balance. They mark the edge or limits of something, so they’re important ways to create safety and trust. They not only strengthen valued and welcomed connections, they keep the light snuffers out, lower stress and reduce depletion.

I’m really clear about who I am and what I want and don’t want. I know what’s good for me and what isn’t. I can pinpoint what fuels me and what depletes me. After many years of practise, I know what makes me comfortable and uncomfortable, what energises and enriches me, and what causes distress and dread. I speak up and I can definitely walk away without guilt.

I’m super grateful for my small bunch of uplifting friends, scattered across the country and planet, who have good self esteem and terrific boundaries. 

Unless we’re encouraged to have and respect boundaries as kids, they’re not always easy to set or maintain. Some of us just bumble along, allowing others to define or direct us while we work too hard at people pleasing or trying to fit in places we shouldn’t. Or, we behave in toxic ways, and lie, undermine, gossip or ridicule, collecting low quality connections and conflict in our wake. Most of us will trip over some guilt and obligation along the way until we recognise how important respect and boundaries are to everyone’s emotional wellbeing.

Children, who experienced trauma or had a parent that struggled with addiction, may have learned to put others needs before their own. Or perhaps they too, put their addiction first.

Maybe you grew up with a ‘personality disordered‘ family member who found it difficult to emotionally regulate? (This often goes undiagnosed.) Your personal boundaries were most likely routinely broken. The message you may have learnt, was that your own needs and feelings didn’t count. You were probably required to accept how others treated you, without question. While it may have felt impossible to do at the time, imagine if you were taught to say, “When you rage at me, I feel threatened. I’m going to leave the room/house until you can communicate calmly.” (Providing of course you were old enough to speak, and an exit was even an option!) I want you to know that you do matter.

Whether we grew up in a functional or dysfunctional environment, we all need the courage to maintain our personal values despite what others think or how they behave. To clearly identify our wants and needs and respectfully communicate them, while at the same time recognising that others have the right to decide how they respond or react. Otherwise it’s too easy to mix up our yes’s and no’s and not take the time to see if potential friendships, relationships or even things like jobs are suitable or not.

We’re all such interesting creatures, with different values and beliefs and triggers, shaped by an assortment of life experiences and histories, which is why it’s so beneficial to be mindfully aware of what makes for good and less good interactions.

It’s up to each of us to be clear on where we want to draw the line between ourselves and others. And for every parent out there, never ever ever use guilt to get your kids to visit or do something. Once obligation is on the table, joy flies out the window! Let love lead the way!

Boundaries will naturally differ between our professional and private selves, in our relationships and with each individual family member.

Types of boundaries include physical, emotional, financial, intellectual, material and financial, time, sexual, and digital boundaries. 

It’s good to approach boundary breaches as early as you can. Mistakes can be a learning ground to curiously observe what happened. Which people or situations crossed the line? How much stress or discomfort did it cause? Is it a one off or reoccuring? Is it possible to breathe and let it go? What could be done to prevent it in the future? Keep paying attention to how people and circumstances impact your energy, productivity, and wellbeing. 

  • Work out the feel goods and the not so goods.
  • Be clear about the responsibilities, activities, and values that you treasure.
  • Get a good sense of your tolerance limits.
  • Work out what you need.
  • Pick a good time (or way) to communicate.
  • Keep the focus on your feelings and needs while being mindful of their needs.
  • Use I statements and don’t justify, defend, over explain or blame.
  • Be kind, calm, direct and specific and use a neutral tone. 

Set boundaries in ways that create discussion and possible negotiation so everyone confidently knows where they stand and what to expect. You’re only responsible for communicating your boundary with respect, not for the other person’s response to it. Boundaries are not an attempt to control the actions of another. If you recognise you have toxic light snuffers in your life, move on and shine on. 

We can’t change or control other people, but we can take charge of our own life. We can choose to wear our own mask. We can choose whether we reply to emails at night, or answer calls after hours. We can decline invitations without explaining. We can protect our time, space and personal resources. We can say no. We can be selective. We can limit our engagement. We can choose to not participate, not react, not engage. We can block it or report it. We can also leave.

If you need help with boundaries, email me at hello@leannefrench.com to book a telehealth session.

Wellbeing is Trending for 2022

30 Dec

“Wellness is the complete integration of body, mind and spirit.  The realisation that everything we do, think, feel and believe has an effect on our wellbeing”  Greg Anderson.

Covid-19 wins the prize for being the most uncontrollable source of sustained stress in 2021. Just as double vaxxes offered up glimpses of hope for relaxed freedoms, a new variant slid in just in time for NZ’s summer holiday season.

At least there’s always a positive spin off from a global crisis. It’s motivated a desire to increase overall wellbeing in 2022, for ourselves, each other and the planet.

  Research tells us that a prolonged pandemic elevates mental health needs, even if we don’t catch the virus. As a team of 5 million, we’ve done pretty well at following health directives, attempting to reduce emotional strain and focusing on what we can control, over what we can’t. 

How we live, work, use technology, shop, connect and socialise and how we receive care have all been jiggled around and thought about deeply, unless one has been living under a rock or tin foil hat. 

Even though some of us prefer a less overloaded society, not being able to see special people is hard, and sludging through restrictions, super strong opinions, dangerous viewpoints and crazy behaviours can get tiresome. Resilient people are better able to cope with trying circumstances, so increasing wellbeing expands happiness, optimism and meaning in life.

Wellbeing is about feeling good and functioning well. 

Wellbeing (being well) encompasses mental, physical, spiritual, social and emotional health and is strongly linked to our sense of fulfilment, meaning and purpose, and contributes to life satisfaction and the ability to manage stress. It also increases immunity to infection and improves mental health.

Things that influence wellbeing are exercise, diet, belonging, connection, relationships, career, self care, spirituality, finances, where we live, how we live, what we take in and what we give out.

If you’re longing for more positivity and interconnectedness, are ready to do your best, feel your best and be your best no matter what this new world continues to dish up, why not consider some of these rising wellbeing trends for 2022?

  • Increased focus on immune health.
  • Eating sea greens and microgreens.
  • Becoming plant-based.
  • Adopting the Reducetarian Solution.
  • Embracing The Nordic Way.
  • Nourishing your spirit with mindfulness and meditation.
  • Merging wellness into work life.
  • Technology that tracks health, fitness, sleep & stress, even in H2O. (Santa forgot our Series7!)
  • Getting a better nights sleep with a pillow ergonomically designed for out-of-this-world comfort.
  • Creating personal spaces that reflect your life and interests.
  • Embracing sustainable, refillable, and more gender neutral products.
  • Supplements with high-purity ingredients in synergistic combinations like L-theanine for sleep and stress.
  • Becoming sober curious or practicing mindful drinking.
  • Health care that meets patients and clients where they are literally, via telehealth services.
  • Menopause is losing its stigma and sexual wellness is on the rise.
  • Buying healthy and local from passionate suppliers.
  • Tumeric, Yuzu & Hibiscus are in.
  • Seeking uplifting connections and social networks.
  • Taking your fitness outdoors.

I’m up for a plant based, touch of Nordic, mindful, moving my body more, Apple Watch, sinless sips and functional fizz kind of year. I’d love to know what your wellbeing wants are.

Remember, good health improves wellbeing and good wellbeing improves health.

Sending you thanks for still being in my world. Stay well, take care of yourselves, each other and the planet, and may your light keep shining bright. 

Reaching For Booze & Food in Lockdown?

1 Sep
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

Usually we know deep within ourselves if what we are reaching for is either good for us or less good! 

Do the usual rules and routines feel a bit like they’ve flown out the window in lockdown? And, who is around to hold us accountable? Just because we might be able to wear pyjamas or elastic waist pants, probably doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider how many calories, and how much fat and sugar might be hiding in tempting treats.

Social media is normalising baking up a storm. Our feeds are full of it. There’s quarantini parties and invitations to join happy hour online. We might have to ask if we want to join the pack, or lead it? Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean we have to. Social media is normalising baking up a storm. Our feeds are full of it. There’s quarantini parties and invitations to join happy hour online. We might have to ask if we want to join the pack, or lead it? Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean we have to. Maybe it’s a better idea to limit or be more conscious of what we’re consuming and be kinder to our immune systems at a time they really need support?

Whether we’re in lockdown or not, it’s always a good idea to be more aware of what we reach for to cope, self soothe, relax and relieve stress.

  • It pays to be less impulsive.
  • To have supplies on hand that support healthier choices.
  • It’s very much about swapping out the harmful choices. Like choosing to vape as a pathway to quitting cigarettes. Like trying an alcohol free product.
  • It’s about sticking to the types of limits and routines that are closer to what we usually did pre-lockdown.

Of course not everyone has a problem. A treat here and there is joy inducing. But if you’re putting Baileys on your porridge in the morning you might want to reconsider your choices! Same if you’re baking and eating a whole cake a day. If you’re treating everyday like a treat filled weekend day, or if you’re in recovery leaning closer into relapsing, you’ll definitely want to search a bit deeper and find out what lies beneath your choices.

In that case you could ask, Why am I doing it?

What am I hoping to gain from doing it?

Universally, the answers are to seek relief and to feel better. Luckily there’s a ton of other ways to self soothe, relax and reduce stress.

If you’re not sure your intake is ok, reach out to an expert to check whether what you’re doing might have negative consequences on your emotional wellbeing, your health, finances and whether it impacts others. 

All addictive substances neurologically hijack our brains pleasure and reward centre. They’re all short lasting and then need repeating. That’s how dependence can occur. 

Instead of reaching for something we kind of know we shouldn’t, we could ask ourselves, What do I really need right now. And then do that instead.

Whether we’re over indulging or not, these are pretty stressful times which put our nervous systems on high alert, so it never hurts to explore and name feelings, and then think about what else we could do with those feelings rather than stuff them, or ignore them.

We can all benefit from learning to release pressure in positive ways. Mindfulness. Meditation. Moving our bodies. Getting outdoors, even if it’s only our backyard. We can all benefit from learning to release pressure in positive ways. Mindfulness. Meditation. Moving our bodies. Getting outdoors. It all helps.

  • We need to remember to connect in with uplifting people, posts and things.
  • To give our full attention to tasks.
  • To make sure those tasks feel fulfilling and feed our souls.
  • To have rituals that restore us.
  • To do more deep breathing.
  • To laugh more.
  • To feel gratitude.
  • And to sleep well, because it’s so crucial in helping us cope better emotionally.

What’s really key in making healthy choices, is to work out other alternative sources, that still feel satisfying and soothing. 

Let’s remember we aren’t aiming to come out of lockdown as a Masterchef or an addict so it’s ok to take it a little easy. Sending love and strength to all who may need it. I’d love to hear how you relax, reduce stress and soothe yourself.

World Smokefree Day. Let’s Stop Kids From Starting.

31 May

World Smokefree Day, that falls every year on May 31 is a chance to celebrate and work towards Smokefree/auahi kore lives for New Zealanders.

It happens to coincide with the release of a Government proposal in which the Ministry of Health have proposed a ‘grandfather’ policy, to progressively prohibit the sale of smoked tobacco products to a new age group each year. It would gradually increase the age of purchase restrictions by one year every year, so eventually it would be illegal to purchase if you’re under 25. Hooray.

The same proposal wants to limit the level of nicotine in cigarettes and put more investment into smoking cessation services. This is great for our future generation. Ask most smokers when they started, and they’ll say, ‘When I was a kid.’ And none of those kids realised they could get addicted to nicotine within days of first using it. Why? Because when they smoke, the nicotine goes to their brain. In 10 seconds. Straight to the part that controls feelings of pleasure and releases dopamine, a chemical that tricks them into thinking a cigarette equals pleasure. Then within a few minutes, the pleasure is gone, and the craving for a cigarette begins a new cycle.

There is no better time than now to really wake up to the fact that smoking around kids influences them to smoke, and is harmful for their health. Kids don’t always have the choice or ability to be able to get away from the toxic poisons of second and third hand smoke. You do. You can quit. You can do it. With a plan and behavioural support, it’s easier. If you’re over 18 and smoke could it be good to consider vaping? Vaping isn’t smoking. It’s a MOH recommended, humane and harm reduction pathway to help you quit cigarettes. It delivers a controlled dose of nicotine with 95% less toxins than burning tobacco. You get to stay social, spend less, smell better, and satisfy both the cravings and the hand to mouth habit. Don’t vape if you don’t already smoke.

Here’s the thing. Kids learn from what they see, more than from what you say. Kids who have friends and whanau that smoke are more likely to become smokers. That’s one of the reasons why the new proposal wants to restrict the sale of tobacco products. To get them out of the 5000 to 8000 places kids can see them, to 5% of that. To get them into R18 specialist stores. I’m all for it. Let’s get cigarettes out of sight, out of mind and out of reach.

Stopping kids from starting to smoke is the best form of protection. I would like to see proposed ad and social media campaigns include a harder hitting style of delivery about the harmful health realities of smoking, the risks, the dangers, the costs, to shock and influence kids to be non consumers. I loved that stuff when I was kid. It made me want to quote the facts and figures and write speeches and debate about it.

How many kids really know that there are 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and that 60 of those can cause cancer? Or that every cigarette smoked harms nearly every organ and system in our body? Or that in NZ about 13 unlucky people die every day from smoking related diseases? Or that cigarettes contain arsenic which is used for rat poison? Perhaps funding for documentaries and competitions that creatively involve our youth would help us raise Smokefree eco and wellbeing warriors?

(Photo credit. Laura Garcia.)

Grow Through What You Go Through.

16 Apr

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Times like this can really make or break us. Never before as a nation, have we ever been in the situation we’re in. Essential and frontline workers are literally putting their lives on the line while some parents probably wish they could hang their children on the line.

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It’s all about flattening the curve. It’s not a competition. We get that. It’s not about being the fittest or most fabulous. Some will moan, others will motivate. It doesn’t have to include a bake off or a dance off, but if it does and people enjoy it, let’s remember to be kind.

Some people are really sick, others are afraid of becoming sick. Some are Continue reading

One Day at a Time.

28 Mar

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It’s no wonder that Alcoholics Anonymous emphasize taking things one day at a time, because it helps make difficult changes more manageable.

Feeds are full of how to fill our time, even though some people might be run of their feet busier than usual, but what if you’re still in shock? Or, like me, feeling overwhelmed by the seriousness, not of the illness or isolation as such, but about our future after all of this, which today suddenly felt completely uncertain and a little bleak.

So here’s the thing. Uncertainty involving all-encompassing questions about the meaning and purpose of life and one’s place in the world in the future has an actual name. It’s known as Continue reading

Why are Some Homes Predictably Unpredictable?

27 Nov

When a parent is addicted to a substance, home life is often tense and unpredictable, and family members may either try to deny the addicts behaviour, make excuses for it, or attempt to control or stop it. For the one choosing to drink or drug, it’s hard to maintain rewarding healthy connections and be emotionally available.

So much time and energy gets gobbled up trying to either recover, obtain, use, and/or try to keep it secret. Addiction messes with mood and sleep and has personal, social, financial, health, relationship and even legal consequences. 

If one or both parents are emotionally or physically unavailable long term, children can develop a fear of abandonment and learn that holding onto toxic relationships is better than being alone. Drinking and/or drugging is also so boring to grow up around. When the “substance” of choice is the priority, the child isn’t, and that reaffirms their sense of  not really being worthy enough to get to know, listen to, learn about or have an in-depth relationship with.

Growing up around addiction, kids have to guess at what normal is. They are more subjected to chaos and Continue reading

Reasons Why, For Dry July.

4 Jul

Reposting from http://www.womansday.co.nz/health-diet/health/2015/6/the-benefits-of-taking-a-break-from-alcohol/

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Here’s how Dry July could benefit your own health as well as those you’re fundraising for

Dry July encourages participants to go alcohol-free for a month to raise funds for adults living with cancer, but the benefits of doing the challenge don’t stop there.

Leanne French, a relationship therapist and addictions counsellor, says taking a break from the booze could have a positive impact on your health and mental wellbeing.

“Drinking even small amounts of alcohol often can make you feel tired and depressed,” says Ms French, who has been a counsellor for over 25 years.

“One of the biggest benefits from taking a break is that people feel healthier and better in the morning, and have more energy, which naturally leads on to doing other healthy things, like eating better food and exercising.”

There’s also the ‘feel-good factor’ associated with setting yourself a goal and achieving it, and that can help improve your self-esteem. Not only that, going alcohol-free for a month could give you the opportunity to improve your relationships with the loved ones in your life.

“Drinking and recovering from drinking can be selfish. It can shut other people out and make you less physically and emotionally available to your partner,” Ms French says.

“Taking a break means you can assess whether this is happening, and may change your attitude to alcohol if it’s something that is having an impact on your relationship with a loved one.”

For more information on Dry July, visit their website.

Image: Getty

Other media releases http://www.nzwomansweekly.co.nz/health-home/health/reaping-the-benefits-of-dry-july/

http://gemsofgorgeousness.com/5-reasons-to-do-dry-july/