Over the last month, you may have had that exact thought cross your mind a time or two (okay maybe a million depending on how well your kids are adjusting to on-line school). Seriously though, during this global pandemic and all the changes to our daily schedules and lives there seems to have been an overwhelming sense of discombobulation and unease with each new declaration. At least that’s my perception from my personal experiences with friends, family, neighbors, clients, and written accounts that I’ve read. It seems to leave a lot of us feeling like we’re living in an alternate universe….(cue the music), “You have entered the Twilight Zone!”.
How do we build some continuity into our “new normal”? By being creative and flexible with our expectations and focusing on our priorities we can reduce some of the anxiety of the unknown. Now, you’re probably wondering what exactly I mean by that and are wondering if I’m going to tell you to create a “schedule” that is color coded with daily achievement goals that is Pinterest or Instagram worthy? Nope!!!! I am going to suggest a couple of things that I have seen have huge impact, both personally and professionally, when trying to create a new normal.
First, set a consistent wake up time. If you are a natural early riser and like to be up with the sun and that helps you feel grounded and ready to start your day; set an early morning time. If you are more of a “I like to laze in bed a bit and then start my day”, type of person then set a little later time. Having a set time to get up every morning creates a natural sense of normalcy for our bodies.
Next, find a purpose in every day no matter how small. It can be from walking the dog to creating a presentation for your work Zoom meeting tomorrow. Just find one thing that will give you a purpose for that day.
Get outside the four walls of your house!!! Even the most introverted are struggling with feeling confined during the stay at home directives and orders. We don’t realize that over the course of a typical day many of us are in and out of our homes, offices, cars, stores, and schools many times. The loss of this freedom of movement can have a strong impact on our mental, and physical, well- being. Combat this by getting outside 2-3 times a day for at least 10 minutes each time. It doesn’t need to be for exercise purposes, although that certainly has added benefits, but just the change of scenery.
Make a connection with friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors every day. No, I am not saying throw the social distancing guidelines out the window and be reckless with your health. I am saying it is important to feel connected to those around us, especially in a time of stress. Isolation and loneliness are not our friends. We are social beings that have a need for connection. Think about it, how does the penal system punish inmates? They put them in isolation…solitary confinement. Break out of your solitary confinement and talk to your neighbor from your porch. Call your sister on FaceTime. Set up a virtual girls’ night. Stay connected!
Lastly, find a way to connect meaningfully with your source of power, whether that be through meditation, prayer, therapy, gratitude affirmations… whatever makes you feel grounded, empowered, and centered. Take the time everyday to find your inner peace and quiet the fears or worries in your mind. And, if you need help and are struggling then there are therapists and resources available on-line that can help you.
Ready or not, it’s back to school! With the end of summer comes new teachers, new books and supplies, and a new schedule for our kiddos. It’s an exciting time, but it can also be pretty overwhelming. Here are some ways to help your children with the transition of going back to school:
1) Check In With Them Emotionally
Often children have big feelings about new changes (such as returning to school), but they don’t quite have the words to articulate it, so parents can help coax things out of them. Asking things like, “what are you looking forward to about school?” can help them express their emotions. Without emphasizing the negative, be sure to also ask things like, “is there anything you’re nervous about?” so they can get those anxious feelings out and begin to work through them. Remember, the more you can help kids name their emotions, the more manageable those feelings become for them.
2) Set up Bedtime Rituals
Routines and rituals are so important for children to create a sense of consistency, and bedtime in particular is crucial. These little growing bodies and minds need their sleep! A good night’s rest sets the day for them to have the energy, strength, and enthusiasm to face the transition of the starting school year.
3) Don’t Burden Them With Your Own Stress
This one can be tricky for parents. The truth is that we as adults have a lot to think about when school begins again. Uniforms, sports teams, Back-to-School night, shopping for new supplies, etc., and it’s not hard to see how we can easily get overwhelmed. Be careful though, as our little ones are often more aware of our emotions than we may think. Remember that although no one is a “perfect” parent, we need to try to not burden then with our own feelings. If back-to-school stress has got you down, try to unload and process to a spouse or a friend instead.
How are YOU helping your kids transition back into school?
Many people believe they want to get naked in their marriage. Truly naked. They go into marriage with a belief that good things will just “happen.” That methods they’ve learned from their friends or even their parents will allow their clothing to just come off. No risk! Just the potential for an excellent reward.
The deeper challenge is that getting emotionally naked in your marriage takes focused practice and understanding. So much so, that people often don’t put forth the effort to get there.
Over the years I’ve developed a number of key strategies for couples to peel off their emotional clothing. To become truly naked to their spouse in ways that seems foreign at first. In reality, somewhat painful at best!
Staying Fully Clothed Emotionally
When working with couples I’ve had derivations of the following conversation on a number of occasions. It goes something like this: addressing the husband, I may say something like “You know your wife wants to hear from you even when you’re having a terrible day. She wants to connect deeply with you.” When asked supportively if this is correct, she will often give a knowing and definitive nod. He seems completely taken aback by this as he was taught essentially that sharing feelings is “weak.” Certainly not manly or desirable. And who wants to be seen as a wimp in marriage? No one!!!
Of perhaps greater import, is that unless a couple can become emotionally open with each other they’ll rarely (if ever!) feel completely connected. She will be unable to trust him on a consistent basis. He will feel that she doesn’t want to dig in deeply on things that matter to him. In reality, why should she want to do so? When she does reach out to him he can seem to be aloof and disinterested. Meanwhile, he can perceive her as distant and not wanting to connect with him in physically intimate or affectionate way. This leads to disconnection and a belief that this will never change. Ouch!
Learning to “Bare It All” Emotionally
I’ve heard it said that it’s easier for some couples to be physically naked with their spouse than risking emotional nudity. Acquiring new ways to trust emotionally doesn’t need to seem like rocket science. Indeed, it isn’t really rocket science. In fact, it takes two people gradually becoming willing to share, errr, BARE it all. One key item for men is making the paradigm shift from essentially always keeping feelings hidden to sharing even his most key fears. This can be done with a well-trained marriage therapist or even gradually at home as the couple is ready. Either way, it can work.
One key challenge is that most believe “we’ve already tried that. Believe me, it did NOT go well!” The difference now is that you’ll be following three key ideas. Check this out.
First, realize it will be a gradual journey to go from emotionally withdrawn to connective. I like to ask some of the couples I work with to just improve one out of four times initially, i.e., that’s just 25 percent. That is, wives risk asking your husband how he is feeling when he looks really overwhelmed by his day. Husbands, be willing to share your feelings with her, even when it looks like your job may be at risk of being RIF’d in the near future.
Next, recognize that ANYTHING worth doing in this life comes at a risk. Going back to school comes with a risk. Asking your boss for a raise comes with a risk. In fact, asking (and accepting!) your wife to marry you came with a risk. The key point here is that if you don’t risk you’ll be in the same position 1 month or even 10 years from now. Do you REALLY want that???
Thirdly, make sure that you recognize that improvement takes consistency. Don’t just try for awhile and then give up because it wasn’t perfect. Recognize what the universe wants you to know, it will NEVER be perfect. Just keep risking and recognize it will get better.
Becoming Naked Together
Now you maybe thinking “Michael, I’m getting major goose bumps from the cold winds just thinking about becoming exposed emotionally.” Hey, I get that. Please know that there are wonderful resources to help you out. One on my favorites is speaker/author Brene’ Brown (https://Brenebrown.com). One of her most profound concepts is that of “vulnerability.” When I ask men what the word means to them, almost exclusively they’ll respond “weak.” Women generally see it as something to be desired. Totally sought after. Pursued and captured. Exactly!
Moving from seeing vulnerability (or risking) as “weak” to a strength is a journey. One that is so worth it for your marriage to truly become amazing. And, isn’t your marriage worth the effort to go from emotionally disconnected to a feeling of comfort as the emotional clothing peels off? I absolutely believe it is!
Michael Boman, LCSW has years of experience helping couples to reach their full potential in marriage. You can reach him by email at Info@wasatchfamilytherapy.com.
Want To Make 2017 Totally Rock? Toss out those awful resolutions. Set Solid Goals Instead!
I find it absolutely crazy each year that we set resolutions. We do so with vigor and zest believing that this will actually result in success. We promise to do better than last year. We swear that we’ll lose weight. Be nicer to our co-worker. Stop being lazy or procrastinate. When we find that our New Year’s resolve failed miserably, we can feel like a failure.
Seeking Help! What Works in Setting Goals?
Research shows that many people who set New Year’s resolutions have bailed on them by February 1st. Many more waffle by March 1st. Wow! Terrible success rate. What actually works? I provide these 5 simple and very doable ways of making 2017 rock for you.
#1) Set Reachable Goals! Many people set Mount Everest type goals that are absolutely not going to happen. These goals include losing 30 pounds by March 1st, or getting a 30% raise before the end of the year. This just doesn’t work. I would suggest that rather than reaching for Mount Everest why not stretch for the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains? Once you’ve reached your doable goals at lower elevations, then you can set more challenging goals to build on. Something akin to reaching Mount Olympus east of Salt Lake City. The critical key is to make your goals doable. It actually makes a ton of sense and shockingly it works!
#2) Make Your New Year’s Goals Exciting! I find it shocking that we set goals that are boring. Mundane. Borderline dumb. And then wonder why we don’t want to do them. Surprise! Goals such as exercising. Becoming healthier. Or losing weight are laudable…yet pretty dang boring! Why not add some zest to your goals. For example, if you find going to the gym boring, don’t be surprised if you sabotage your goal right away. Yet if you like to hike and set a goal to hit the backcountry trails 2-3 days a week, don’t be surprised when you actually look forward to exercising. It actually makes so much sense.
#3) SetYour Goals For the Year! This may seem tough but it absolutely works. I’m not suggesting that each goal must go for a full year. Rather, break your goals into 3 to 6 month intervals. At the 6 month time frame, you simply fine tune or update your goal to prepare you for the next 3 to 6 months. This takes you out of feeling pressure to perform. Perform. And perform. At the 6 month mark, if you’re rocking one or two specific goals, continue the goals. If not, rethink your goals. Reset them. Make them work better for you. Believe me, it works!
#4) Stay Away From Resolutions! To reiterate my earlier key point, setting New Year’s resolutions absolutely doesn’t work. Consistency works. Goals work. Moving forward works. Finding a work out partner or buddy works. Get it? Please don’t buy into the “quick fixes” the infomercials often promise…and with very little effort. Buy into setting goals that will have you making steady improvement toward achieving your goals.
#5) Revisit Your Goals Regularly In reviewing your goals, build in reward(s) for reaching even the most basic of triumphs. In fact, make sure to absolutely celebrate your successes and often. If your goal is to visit the gym 3 times per week during February, awesome! However, if you manage 1-2 times per week celebrate the awesome success. Not the “I’m just too lazy and will never achieve my goals” vilification! That’s negative self-talk that will get you nowhere for sure…and the subject of another blog in the future.
Where Do I Go From Here?
You may actually be telling yourself, “that makes total sense Michael but I still feel overwhelmed with the idea of ongoing exercise.” Thank you for being honest! People often feel this way. Take a deep breath. Please try to keep a good and healthy perspective. Many of us have heard the wise advice to start small and gradually increase your workout energy effort. Exactly! Even more important could be finding a great workout partner to help motivate you. Get you over the hump of negativity.
Make sure and be extra kind to yourself in your quest to reach your 2017 goals. You’re going to blow it once in a while. Expect it. You’re human. That’s actually quite natural. What’s not natural is to simply bail on your goals because you’re not being perfect. Simply pick yourself up and move forward.
Remember! Consistency, excitement, and an awesome workout partner are all recipes for success. May you be your own great chef this year in your healthy recipe for success!!!
Michael Boman, LCSW is a relationship, marriage, and healing outdoors expert working at Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City, UT. He is accepting new clients who want to begin their journey of a healthier and happier lifestyle in 2017.
Julie Hanks, Owner and Executive Director of Wasatch Family Therapy shared with me this artistic expression and interpretation of overcoming addiction to the song “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. When I saw it I was so powerfully moved by the message it portrayed on such an important topic. A few points stood out to me from watching this dance that relate well to the emotional aspect of dealing with addiction in relationships.