"'no' is a complete sentence." - oprah winfrey
We’ve all been there: stretched thin with all the activities we have agreed to do, the friendship that we continue to maintain even though they are constantly a negative voice in our ear. Sometimes it's simply the way we allow someone to speak to us in a public setting. We have all allowed our boundaries to be crossed and felt horrible after it happened. Many of us struggle to understand the importance of boundary setting and feel guilt or shame for saying “no” to the people we love. I am here to let you know that boundary setting and saying “no” can be one of the best ways that you can love yourself and allow others to authentically love you.
Starting out, the practice of saying no can be a difficult one, simply because one may not have awareness of where their boundaries lie. Think back the last time you were stressed, frustrated, angry, or exhausted. Its very likely that you crossed your own personal boundaries (or someone else crossed into them) causing you to have those feelings. Its possible you didn't even know that this was occurring, but looking back you will likely be able to see the point at which you (or someone else) took things past your comfort level. Now think of the rules you could put up for yourself to avoid feeling those feelings in the future; these rules that you could set for yourself and others are called boundaries. Teaching others where your boundaries are allows them to love you in a more authentic fashion.
For me, Sundays are MY day. It's the one day of the week where I get everything done that I need to: laundry, grocery shopping, reading, watching 60 minutes. It's the one day that my friends all know I will likely not hang out. It's the one day my spouse knows that my routine is highly important and will take precedence over most everything else. Previously, friends may have invited me to brunch or my husband may have asked me to help him getting things done on the lawn, but after years of simply saying “no” on Sundays, most people have caught on that I am likely not going to be available for many things outside of me. This is neither selfish nor rude, but a way that I honor my own boundaries. I know that if I set myself up for success on Sundays, I am much more likely to be a good mom, a good friend, a good therapist and a good wife throughout the week.
Below are four steps you can take to begin establishing small boundaries in your life:
“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness”
During this holiday season, everywhere you go there are signs, shirts, cards, home décor, etc. that write “grateful”, “thankful”, or “blessed”. The title of Thanksgiving says it all – be thankful for what you have. Shouldn’t we be grateful, thankful, and blessed all year long and not just because we are reminded during the holidays?
What does being “grateful” really mean? Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful, as well as, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Simply put, gratitude is acknowledging and giving thanks to ourselves and others. Why is this so difficult to do? Many people struggle to recognize and express emotion for what they do have but yet it’s easy to note what they don’t have. This comparison often leads to opportunities for disappointment, envy, resentment, regret, and anxiety.
Over the years, there have been a variety of scientific studies to support “gratitude equals happiness”. Some people feel like in order to be thankful about an event, themselves, or life as a whole, they must first be happy but that is not the case. These studies have suggested that recognizing and showing gratitude strengthens one’s: self-worth, satisfaction, energy, positive emotions, optimism, empathy, and the ability to express more compassion and kindness to others.
There are many things to be thankful for in our lives such as the most basics of food and shelter, as well as family, friends, animals, careers, community, opportunities, etc. When we reflect on the things that make us feel good, we show appreciation, and thus this moment brings us happiness. Examples to show yourself gratitude may be:
Allison Kidd, LMSW, LMAC
“In my experience, there’s no such thing as a long time ago. There’s only memories that mean something and memories that don’t.”-This is Us
I know I’m not alone when I say that I am glued each week to the show: This is Us. While watching a recent episode, I saw Sylvester Stallone tell the character, Kevin, this statement while talking about the memories he has of his late father. There’s no such thing as it happened a long time ago. How true is that for those who have experienced a life-altering event that is traumatic in some way? So often we are told that we should get over an experience because it “happened a long time ago” and we “should be over it by now.” Well, I’m here to dispel that myth. No matter how much time is between ourselves and a significant adverse event, it simply not just a matter of “getting over it.”
When we experience a traumatic event, our brain kicks into auto drive and acts in a way that helps us survive. This often looks like fight, flight, or freeze. After the immediate threat of danger is over, some brains continue to operate at a heightened level of sensitivity; this is in an effort to be prepared and ready should survival be threatened, again. This is not due to any personal deficit or weakness. Our brains adapt and cope to keep us alive.
I went to a sexual assault summit earlier this year and heard a profound remark from Dr. David Lisak, a clinical psychologist and expert in the field of interpersonal violence. Lisak spoke about how posttraumatic stress is not a disordered brain, but rather a healthy brain doing what it is designed to do. What is “disordered” is the environment. Lisak used an example from the military. Once soldiers home from combat, they are often seen as “disordered” because they are no longer in threat. However, it was that level of hypervigilance kept them alive in a disordered environment.
I find this perspective so impactful because oftentimes those who have experienced trauma are treated as if they have a disorder or something wrong with them, when in actuality, that individual’s brain acted, as it was designed, to stay alive.
In the short run, our neural pathways for fear are a life-saver. However, our fear pathways were not designed to be continuously fired. In the long run, the activation of these pathways is neuro-toxic. The consequences of a brain on overdrive are seen in our physical and emotional health, behaviors, beliefs, and memory. We experience nightmares, flashbacks, social isolation, changes in mood, and negative core beliefs. We begin to operate in our world feeling physically and emotionally unsafe.
Trauma affects every facet of our being. But, the human brain is powerful and resilient. Remember what I said earlier about our brain adapting in an instant in order to help us survive? In the same way, our brain can also adapt and rewire to a new environment of safety and trust. There is hope. Hope that, with support, we can keep moving forward and heal.
Support can look different based on our individual needs. There are specific treatments seen to decrease the symptoms of posttraumatic stress and increase an individual’s wellbeing. Some of these trauma-focused interventions include, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for children and adolescents. Both of these treatments have seen promising results through research and are offered here at Resolve.
There’s no such thing as it happened a long time ago. That memory will always be there. However, that memory is not the end of the story. We are strong, resilient, ad more powerful than we can imagine.
Sarah Kindscher, LPC