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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.

Why Hope is Helpful in Hurtful Situations.

20 Jul
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing that hostility and adversity are creeping into our collective culture more and more. 

When other humans dump either of those on our doorstep, it’s such an unwelcome package. Being the recipient of threatening, thoughtless, hurtful or selfish behaviour wrapped up with string is a good time to think about Marcus Aurelius, Philosopher and Roman Emperor (121—180 C.E.) and what he wrote in Meditations about the pitfalls of human behaviour; “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.”

To be fair, in the practice of positive psychology, where both the good and bad parts of life are equally genuine, it’s also good to remind ourselves that although people can be horrible and the news media hardly ever reports on goodness and social media might not leave us feeling content, in our real life there’s usually an abundance of good deeds, good behaviour and lovely people who display and offer honesty, justice, loyalty, decency, trustworthiness, kindness, charity, reliability, appropriateness and warmth. Let’s all take a moment to be grateful for them.

How though, can we best move through any suffering that others have caused us? Put less emphasis on why they did it, and like Marcus Aurelius, accept they do it because they can, because it’s in their nature, it’s their way of getting what they want. Working out whether they’re acting out of envy, exclusion, competitiveness or powerlessness, isn’t going to change our disappointment.

The goal is to balance out the darkness with as much light as we can, and hope helps with that. Hope moves us out of difficulty and despair. It gives us a glimmer of a better future, and begins to give us the courage and confidence to implement coping strategies that will help us find creative solutions to rise above and out of dark or difficult places.

No matter how painful our thoughts are or how distressing our emotions feel, it is imperative that we don’t react or respond, impulsively.

  • This is a good time to use the STOP skill from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. STOP stands for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully.
  • It’s possible to find better ways to manage stress and discomfort. 
  • It’s about finding ways to cope that aren’t harmful or ineffective.
  • Breathe.
  • Feel the feelings.
  • Talk it over with someone safe.

We mustn’t allow the intensity of our feelings to stop us from doing what we can to move through the situation and over the obstacle. Getting into “wise mind” is much more helpful. Knowing what doesn’t and isn’t going to work actually allows us think of alternatives that might work. 

It can take a bit of practise to reorganize our perspective and reframe our experience.

Remember the key is being able to choose how we respond to difficult situations.

  • Rather than “this should never happen to me,” stay realistic about what others are capable of doing, and be prepared for possible consequences.
  • Meet “it” exactly as it is, with curiosity.
  • Practise paced breathing to decrease emotional arousal.
  • Focus on what we can control.
  • Draw upon resilience.
  • Get the right kind of expert advice.
  • Reach out for social support.
  • And even in the midst of processing it all, we need to do pleasurable things to make ourselves feel better, calmer and relaxed.

Hope reduces feelings of helplessness, reduces stress and improves our wellbeing. The good news is that building hope into our perspective uplifts us enough to move us out of any shock, helps us search for a helpful instruction manual and motivates us to calmly find the right path forward. Rest assured, resolution can also include a return to sender, or an instant or eventual retreat from those who tamper with your boundaries and nervous system once too often!

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.