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” I am stuck, I need help” is a common presenting issue that I hear from new clients. Whether they are men or women 20, 30, 40, 50 + years of age – feeling stuck is linked to feelings of frustration, depresssion, anxiety and anger. And, these feelings can exacerbate as a result of the ‘stuckness’ not being fully understood nor fully resolved. The frequency of these emotions usually signal the onset of a life transition.
Today, more and more people at various times in their lives do experience feelings of ‘being stuck’. Such a feeling is very prevalent given our times i.e. fast pace, on-going change, longer lives. And, more people are activating and navigating life transitions initiated by prolonged feelings of ‘stuckness’ than ever before.
Clients who schedule to see me because they are feeling stuck are usually stuck because they could be: i) in a job/career that no longer challenges or motivates them ii) in a relationship that is not fulfilling iii) in a social scene that they have outgrown iv) in a university program that disappoints and so on.
How do I help these clients? In a solution-focused manner, I use both counselling and coaching techniques to help these clients. Once they have told me their personal story then I conduct a comprehensive assessment that gives both me and the client a lot of information about the client. Following some key questions that I pose, clients are able to face and examine their fears and/or other barriers that keep them stuck. Once their stuckness is understood – often times it is the “ah-ha moment realized” – then together we explore what happy and moving forward would look like for the particular client.
Feeling stuck is a sign that you are in a life or career transition and once in it then the only way to get unstuck is to move through the process of a transition fully and completely. Yes, to do so requires some soul searching which most clients have started before they have contacted me. Navigated fully and properly, a life transition is a wonderful journey to self discovery and self empowerment.
Given the technological advances over the past decade, the complexity of many peoples’ lives has increased tenfold. There are hundreds of tools that make work easier to complete: computers, printers, fax machines, word processors, and smart phones can be valuable tools that will increase productivity. While many of these products can improve work flow and collaboration, they can blur the boundary between work and home life.
It’s essential to have a solid boundary between one’s work and home life. As new communication technologies have spread in popularity, many people find themselves working 50-70 hour work weeks. After 8 hours in an office or other workplace, an employee may be expected to follow through on assignments and other projects while at home. Some collaborative projects may permeate all parts of an employee’s life.
Over time, this lack of boundaries between work and pleasure can create chronic stress in an employee. Chronic stress can lead to chronic illness. And, as work from an office spills over into one’s personal life, the stress and anxiety of the workplace can place an emotional toll on relationships, emotional health, and outside interests.
It’s essential to create solid boundaries between work and non-work time. After leaving the office ( including home office), do not work on any assignments. Minimize work-related phone calls, and allow an answering machine or voice-mail box to catch any work related calls.
While some managers may consider this inappropriate behaviour from an employee, it can be beneficial to both the individual and the organization. The human mind isn’t designed to concentrate on the same task for 8-10 hours each day. Most people are only capable of deep concentration for a few minutes at a time. By taking regular breaks, creating boundaries between work and home, and respecting one’s free time, it’s possible to increase one’s productivity at work.
In addition to improving productivity, taking regular breaks can improve one’s creativity. It’s impossible to create thoughts out of nothing — creativity comes from life experiences, day dreaming, and social interaction. By allowing one to experience a world outside of work, it’s possible to improve one’s work performance. Yes, taking regular breaks can reduce work-related depression and improve happiness.
Relationship difficulties are a common presenting issue in my practice. Over the years I have helped many couples regain their ‘mojo’ so that they can thrive in a successful relationship. I have also helped couples separate as together their relationships were far from thriving. And, sadly I have witnessed clients endure emotionally abusive relationships because the difficulty in leaving or in taking an assertive stand was more daunting to them than the familiar pattern of abuse.
Recently, a young adult male client asked me “How do you know if a relationship will really work long term”? This client experienced his parents divorce as a youngster and is admitting to having ‘cold feet’ when thinking of taking his relationship to the next level.
I acknowledged to him that there are no guarantees in life and that relationships take work by both partners.
It is important to assess your relationship early. A long-lasting relationship has a foundational basis that supports it and the couple involved through good times and not so good times. Relationships do differ as much as the individuals involved in them, however there are certain essential elements that appear in every healthy and loving relationship.
These essentials are:
Honesty and Trust are the glue for a relationship to succeed. A loving relationship is built on a foundation of trust, and trust comes from honesty. These two connecting elements are crucial from the start of the relationship and need to be nurtured through communication, as well as actions. Also, it’s equally important to be honest with yourself.
Commitment is an essential part of a healthy, loving relationship. When you make a commitment to one another the element of loyalty becomes involved. A feeling of loyalty between two partners provides a feeling of safety. By remaining loyal and faithful in a relationship, you strengthen the bond between you.
Words, needs, ideas, actions and decisions are amongst some of the things in a relationship that require respect. This element can often be tested when differences arise, but it’s important to remember that differences aren’t always bad and can lead to new understandings. When you respect your partner, you’re willing to hear what they’re saying even if you don’t necessarily agree.
In a loving relationship, you spend a lot of time communicating about the little, inconsequential things in life. Although discussions on important things often take place early in a relationships, these topics often fade into the background as the relationship grows older. Take time every now and then to talk about life’s bigger issues as opinions and feelings can change over the years.
Relationships require work. The old 50/50 concept isn’t always realistic. When your partner goes through a stressful time i.e job loss, illness, you may have to give more than 50 % effort. Sometimes the scale is tipped to 70/30. If both partners are willing to give effort, things eventually even out over time.
Oh yes, it’s that time of year again, New Year’s resolution time. Each year, millions of Canadians will resolve to kick their bad habits. This can range from smoking to losing weight. And, each year many will fail at these goals. By following a simple plan, you can be well on your way to maintaining your resolution.
Before making a resolution, have a heart to heart talk with yourself. What is it about your life that you do not like? Is there a feasible way to change it? Will the goal benefit your life? By answering these questions, you can set a resolution that is easy to achieve.
The key to success in any resolution is being well prepared. Keep a diary of your daily activities. This will include things like television viewing and eating habits. Once you have a general idea of how you spend your time, you can begin making small changes toward your goal. For instance, if fitness with weight loss is your main goal then see where you can free up some time. Perhaps you can plan a kickboxing class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. After kickboxing, prepare a light/healthy dinner and go to bed early. You are committing two nights per week toward your goal. If two classes are too much, then commit to one evening. Set small goals and build on them. On the other days, incorporate a little cardio into your day i.e. walk up a flight of stairs.
Many people will fail at resolutions because they try to give bad habits up too quickly. By doing this, one will feel deprived or overwhelmed and go back to their old routine.
Tell your family and friends about your goals. They can serve as a great support system for you.
Maintaining a resolution will not be easy. If you have set up many resolutions, prioritize and focus on one at a time. This will help you stay focused. Hold yourself accountable. Do not blame failure on others. Remember, it is up to you to change bad habits. When failure occurs, and it will, do not give up, get right back at it. Persistence will pay off. Set small goals that are easy to achieve. Once you have reached these smaller goals, reward yourself. Keep track of your progress from start to finish in a journal or calendar. Determination is the key ingredient for success with your resolution. You can do it! Happy New Year Everyone.
I was in Whistler for a couple of days recently with my youngest son. What a treat!
I was taking a few days off and my son was in that confusing part of a life transition. We, therapists, call it the ‘neutral zone’ or ‘limbo’ i.e. ‘the nowhere between two somewheres’. Chris had recently graduated from university ( the old somewhere) and was currently job-hunting for creative and meaningful work ( the new somewhere).
Chris is realistic – Thank Goodness. He wants his career path to eventually give him a comfortable lifestyle. His frustration was mounting as the leads were not materializing or people were not getting back to him as fast as he thought they would. He has an opportunity to get into a business situation which he would be good at. But, he wanted something on the creative side.
In any event, I could see him struggling and I offered that ‘he get out of Dodge” for a few days and play a little golf with his Mom. Surprised and happy that he said ‘yes’ I searched the internet for deals.
My goal for our couple of days together was to listen to him, not to ask questions. ( This is hard for me as I listen for a living and when with my adult kids, I want to know what’s happening).
When I picked him up en route to Whistler, the rap music went on and 20 minutes into the drive the rain started. Oh Geez…
We were booked to play at the Squamish golf course. It was pouring rain when we arrived. I suggested an early lunch. The rain stopped and we had a sunny afternoon of golf. If we talked during the 4.25 hour round it was about golf shots: ‘ good shot’ ‘tough luck’ ‘ bunker on the left’.
On the drive from Squamish to Whistler, the rap music went on and I stayed quiet ( hard for me…).
We checked into our hotel, changed and went for dinner. At dinner, he started sharing and he continued to do so at mealtimes.
When my son shared his struggles, I let him articulate his thought processes without judgement. My question were few and open ended so that he could explore deeper. He outlined his options, he articulated that he could be creative in the business opportunity ( default position). He felt that he would need to make a decision soon.
I validated the transition he was in and that it was a difficult place to be. I said that I know he would make a decision that was right for him. We headed home, rap music went on….
Two days later he called me, a good opportunity came through, he will be going east. It is an early first step toward his career dream.
Patience is prayer and it is also the answer to your prayer.
It is no secret that I love to play golf. The need to be active is in my DNA. And, when I am active on a routine basis I am more creative. We all are.
In order to re-calibrate myself I often go to the driving range to hit golf balls. I focus solely on my swing and in making contact with the ball. Really, sessions at the driving range is like doing yoga for me.
I find my tempo as I settle into the routine of hitting golf balls. I am relaxed, focused and gradually I enter a state of mindfulness as all other responsibilities are shelved for this time. Coming out of the practice session is like a breath of psychological air – I have a new perspective on challenging issues.
Recently as I headed to the driving range, I witnessed an elderly woman at the chipping area. She had to be in her 80′s. She had curly white hair, she was hunched over which was partly due to her age and partly due to her swing. She was focused, determined and the majority of her chip shots were landing within 18 inches of the hole. I marvelled at her determination and her focus. I smiled at her and said ‘Hi’. She replied “Hello” and laughed with “Given my age, chipping is the one area of the game that I can still improve on.” I replied that “it doesn’t look like you need much improvement”. She anwered ” this game has been very good to me for many years, and I love the solitary practice”.
As part of our life routine, it is important to find at least one activity that we can enjoy and become mindful in. Hitting golf balls is one activity, practicing a musical instrument is another, gardening, pottery etc. something that lets you enter that state of mindfulness.
When challenges enter your life ( i.e. a divorce, a job loss, anxiety or anger) having an activity already established that allows you to enter the state of mindfulness helps you get grounded and enables you to navigate the difficult times more effectively.
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