Category Archives: Life Skills

You Don’t Have To Be Lonely Anymore

There’s nothing worse than being surrounded by friends, family, colleagues and strangers, but feeling lonely. All too often the holidays magnify our feelings of loneliness.

It is human nature to want to connect with others. We are social beings, and as such, want companionship. But oftentimes our fear of rejection stands as a barrier. Connecting with others isn’t just trivial, it is important for both our mental and physical health. Social isolation can impact negatively on our health.

Two barriers, shyness and unrealistic expectations, usually contribute to loneliness:

1. Shyness: Not all people want to resolve their shyness issues. Why? Because of the secondary gains, which include being able to avoid criticism, playing it safe, or not having to become emotionally invested in other people’s lives.

2. Unrealistic expectations: Too often we disengage from people when we discover them to possess human limitations. We need to expect and accept the human fallacies that exist in all people. The great thing is that if we accept others for who they are, they will in turn be accepting of our imperfections.

Intimacy with others takes time to develop. You’ll gain the feelings of closeness with others when you dig deeper into your relationships and cut through the superficial connections you have with them. You can do so by sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas, interests, concerns, beliefs – anything that is authentic to you.

By expressing genuine interest in others, and truly listening to them, you will establish an empathy with them. You will discover that the bonds of intimacy and caring will be greatly enhanced between you and them.

Self disclosure means moving out of your comfort zone and permitting yourself to be open and honest with others. To do so, you will have to drop your mask and be your true self. Being open with others will result in deeper and more meaningful relationships with others. You’ll find yourself developing tighter bonds with others; bonds that will help you combat feelings of loneliness and isolation both today and in the future.

So why not try taking a risk over the remainder of the holiday season with someone you already care about? Take the first step towards developing a deeper level of an authentic relationship. The rewards can last a lifetime.

Photo: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Emotions_g96-Team_Solitary_p20848.html

Eileen Lenson

Is Stress Causing You To Procrastinate? 5 Tips For The Cure!

How many times have you found yourself putting off important tasks in your personal life or career? Isn’t it dreadful how procrastination results in increased stress, resentment and guilt? So why is it that this pattern of procrastination and unhappy feelings is repeated time and again in your life?

If it is due to feeling overwhelmed with stress, then perhaps you need more balance in your life. Too often we fail to plan for the fun things in our lives. We commit ourselves to working long hours, and assume we will fit our social activities, hobbies, exercise, and even sex into whatever time is left over. Unfortunately, the ‘have to’ items on our lists are so time consuming that we often run out of time to engage in personal pleasures. When that pattern continues for a long period of time, we lose our motivation to keep working, and procrastination sets in. If procrastination continues for too long, we can experience a downward spiral into depression.

Interrupt this cycle of ‘work-work-work’ and no recharging of your ‘play’ batteries by changing your view of relaxation. Relaxation is not a frivolous extra like dessert! View it for what it is: a necessary component in the healthy balance of life.

So how do you manage this balance?

#1: Reduce your to-do list. Looking at too large a list of things needing to be accomplished is akin to looking at a full plate of food when you have the flu. It turns your stomach, you feel overwhelmed, and you want to turn away from it, desperately hoping it just goes away.

Take your to-do list and eliminate the items on the list that do not require your attention.
Delegate to others some of the tasks. Can a colleague/spouse/child take care of any of the tasks?

#2: Identify your own balance. Do not compare yourself to others. Some people may be able to work 12 hour days and somehow manage to get everything accomplished while appearing energized and content. Balance in your life may mean you work best at limiting work to a specific number of hours or days in order to achieve the equilibrium you are seeking.

#3. Evaluate lessons taught to you as a child. We often lead our adult lives based on lessons learned from our parents when we were young. Some children are taught that recreation is wasteful, and that all activity should be purposeful. As adults, these individuals will have discomfort, guilt, and low feelings of self-worth if they pursue activities that allow them to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. Examine these thoughts and think about whether these tapes that are playing in your head and directing your daily activities are working well for you today, or are influencing an unbalanced lifestyle.

#4. Select exercise time purposefully. When we become overwhelmed with a project, we tend to feel sluggish. With an increase in lethargy, our level of productivity decreases. When this occurs, set aside 15- 20 minutes to do some exercise, increase the blood flow, and bring up your energy level. You will find yourself more motivated and capable to tackle a large or undesirable project.

#5. Use the carrot and stick reward system. Remember the story about the stubborn donkey walking forward in the hopes of getting a bite of the carrot, which was dangling from a pole just out of his reach? Set up similar rewards for yourself, but with a more enticing outcome. Plan ahead for small rewards that you can enjoy following the completion of each task. With large tasks, you may want to have small rewards at different intervals. Knowing that you will have earned a reward that you value will help keep you focused on the task at hand, with the sustained energy level required to get it done in a timely fashion.

Eileen Lenson

Parents: Support Your Children’s Independence

It used to be, way back in our grandparent’s time, that children spent time working in the family business. In our parent’s time, modern technology freed children from having to work, and parents were able to spend more time simply loving their children. Today’s families are enjoying a higher standard of living. With the increased freedom parents experience because of housekeepers, telecommuting, gardeners, tutors and other resources, our children today are not just loved – they are cherished!

So is cherishing children a bad thing? Yes, if it means that we are inhibiting the development of their independence!

In my practice I see situations where parents refuse to allow their children to fail. All loving parents desperately want their children to have exposure to the best in life. However, by refusing to allow their children to fail, some parents are not permitting children to be children. What some parents do not recognize is that stumbling and making mistakes are vital tasks of childhood.

The following issues are ones all parents should consider:

1. Children need to be able to make mistakes; it is how they learn consequences for their decisions. Childhood is like an 18-year-long laboratory experiment. Few experiments are successful at the first attempt. Failures teach children valuable lessons. They can then incorporate these lessons next time a similar situation is encountered, and then have a better chance of success. Earned lessons will last a lifetime. For example, a child learns that being a poor sport, or even a bully, in a team sport will result in his teammates and coach being angry. This child will undoubtedly be displeased with the consequence – rejection from peers and not being selected to play at future games. Similarly, the child who squanders his allowance impulsively on frivolities will suffer the consequence of his decision when he has no money to join his friends at the theater.

Unfortunately, parents all too often rescue their children from making mistakes. In the above sporting event example, many cherishing parents will call the coach, make excuses, or threaten with a lawsuit. Likewise, some rescuing parents will inhibit their child’s ability to learn the lessons of living within one’s financial means by offering more money.

2. Avoid living vicariously through your children. It is perfectly acceptable for your children to not be perfect. All children can not be on the same academic, social, and physical competitive level with all other children in all situations. We want the best for our children, and selection of a well positioned career can help secure future happiness. So it is understandable that parents are tempted to exert control over their children due to the fierce competition to get into highly desired universities. But at what cost? Hara Estroff Marano, in A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting, found that because so many children fail to learn necessasry coping skills for independence in childhood, that many are not prepared for college and are breaking down.

3. Especially since 9/11, with national terrorism concerns and financial crises, parents want to do what they can to help their children achieve happiness in this insecure period of time. Other parents just can’t accept that their children should experience unhappiness, regardless how deserved or momentary. Unfortunately, the end result is the same in all the above experiences – the child’s emotional development is thwarted.

To rescue our children from frustration or unhappiness is to convey the message that we don’t believe they have the capacity to do things on their own. I am confident that our children will not always select the best option, but any selection (so long as it is not life threatening) offers life lessons that will aid them in future selections. Our role, as parents, is to help our children understand the implications so that they can learn what components of their decision making was good, and what they would like to do differently next time.

4. Sometimes it isn’t the over ambitious parent rescuing the child. At times, parents are manipulated by the child. Parents can mistakenly get hooked into rescuing children when their lack of involvement is interpreted as a lack of caring. Single parents, parents of children who have suffered a loss, and working parents with guilt are easy targets. Mark Gregston, in his article, The Over-involved Parent, observes that while neither over or under-involvement is desired, at least the child learns to rely on himself with the under-involved parent.

By expecting the child to independently complete tasks on his own, he learns responsible behavior. Learning to have the confidence to write papers in grade school will give your child the confidence to write papers in college – without having to first email them to you for corrections or rewriting. To rescue your child by encouraging dependence on you is to sabotage personal growth.

Let your children be children. Cherish their mistakes and have confidence that they will learn through the struggles. Trust that they have the skills to reflect within themselves to find the best answers. The mistakes the kids make, followed by the lessons they learn, can provide lifetime skills.

I am a parent. I know first hand how wonderful it feels to be needed by a child. But to create dependencies on us is unfair to them. It is our job to help our kids feel independent, to know how to learn in new situations, and be responsible. We can help them accomplish these goals by not lying or making excuses, but instead raise them to feel empowered. Providing support, love and guidance – rather than suffocation in the form of cherishing – helps our children grow up to be emotionally stable adults, ready and capable of tackling the challenges of life.

I welcome you to share your comments about what has worked – or not worked – to support emotional independence in children?

Eileen Lenson