Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Self Care is Essential

One of the things that I notice in working with clients is that when times of great distress come along, clients need to work very dilligently at good self care. The way we get through the tough times will be affected greatly by how much we attend to our needs--physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and in other areas as well.

When I am with someone who is going through a tough time, I sometimes work with them to help them to keep the essentials in place in their lives. Some questions I ask:

Are you eating properly? Your body needs not just calories, but good nutrients in order to function well. Make sure you are getting good food into your body, not just empty calories. Concentrate on good carbs, healthy fruit and vegetables, and an adequate amount of protein. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.

Are you sleeping? Your body needs a certain amount of sleep (average person is eight hours, but for some it is more or less). If you are not sleeping, your body is not replenishing and in a short time you will run out of steam to deal with your situation. If you are having trouble sleeping, cut down on caffeine and take the other steps that sleep experts advise (i.e. going to bed at the same time each night, etc.). If you can't get adequate sleep after doing everything you know to do to remedy it, then it may be time to consult with your doctor.

Are you exercising? You may feel better if you do some form of exercise: walking, running, cycling, aerobics, swimming, etc. It will help both your body and your mind to function better.

Are you connecting with your support group? Make sure you do not isolate, even if you are tempted to do so. Join a Bible study group or a small group at your church. Have lunch with a friend once a week. Attend a twelve step group or other kind of support group. Make sure you have people in your life that you can and do talk to and confide in.

Are you taking care of your body? Are you taking prescribed medication? Are you practicing good hygiene? I have found it to be true that clients may do better if they get showered and dressed each day and attend to hair and makeup, even if they don't step foot out of the house.

Are you filling up your spirit/soul? Are you reading your Bible? Are you listening to music that lifts your spirit? Are you doing enjoyable activities/hobbies as much as you can? It is easy to get so intent on getting through the difficult time that you forget to fill up your starving soul. Try to do what you can to lift your spirits with enjoyable activities or music or anything else that is pleasurable.

It should be noted that some of this is pretty basic, but in a time of great distress, we sometimes have to work very hard at the basics of life. These are suggestions to help anchor you during a rough period of your life.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Psalm 119:60

Psalm 119:60 says, "I will hasten and not delay to obey Your commands."

I was thinking about that just the other day and I was wondering about how that would apply to all of our relationships.

When we consider that all relationship problems have to do with bad behavior or poor attitude on the part of one or both of the people involved, obedience to the Lord could have a huge impact.

In a conflict with a co-worker, a neighbor, a spouse, or anyone else, one of my questions (to myself) should be, "Am I obeying the Lord's commands right now?"

More often, our disobedience is in our hearts. We have jealousy or resentment or bitterness or revenge or something else that is in direct opposition to what God says we should do.

Sometimes one person's behavior is in DIRECT opposition to God's commands. The person is lying or cheating or abusing or whatever.

But what about the other person? Is his/her response to that sin one that obeys God's commands? One person's sin does not give the other person permission to sin as well.

Set boundaries. Leave. Walk away. But don't engage in sinful behavior yourself.

I often think that if two people in conflict were to decide to obey God's commands and live like the Bible says to, 90% of all conflicts would subside or go away. Truth is, though, that we are not perfect people and conflicts will always exist in some form. But if we are in a relationship and we determine to obey God's commands in our relationship, we may have far less conflicts and the ones we do have will at least be "fighting fair."

As a side note, it cannot be emphasized enough that if we are in a dangerous and abusive relationship, we must get out of the situation into a place of safety. We still have to obey God by guarding our heart and our attitude, but we must do it from a place of safety.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Yes or No?

Boundaries are a part of any healthy relationship. In fact, one way to begin to move a relationship towards health and balance is to begin to practice boundaries. Setting boundaries may begin to change the relationship for the better.

One of the ways to set boundaries is to speak the truth by saying "yes" when you mean "yes" and "no" when you mean "no." Tune in to what you feel when your loved one asks for help or money or your time.

People with poor boundaries often do things out of a feeling of obligation, or fear, or guilt. Let's look at that a little closer.

Obligation -
People often feel obligated. They'll say, "But he's my son," or "I owe it to him," or something like that. Remember that if you don't have a choice (in your mind) then you can't know if you are taking your action out of compassion and love or out of obligation.

When you feel obligated and like you don't have a choice, resentment may be building up within you, and you will end up angry in the relationship. Far better it is to say no from your heart than to say yes from your sense of obligation.

Fear - People sometimes feel fear of the consequences of saying no. They feel the anger of their loved one, or they fear dire consequences for him/her. "He may end up homeless if I don't help him." "She might lose her job if I don't bail her out of jail." "He might quit coming to church if I don't pay his bills for him."

Fear is rarely a good motive. Things done out of fear are very often unhealthy choices. When we try to help a person avoid consequences of his/her own behavior, we are really robbing them of an opportunity to learn and change their behavior. If we really love the person, we must allow them to learn from their mistakes. This is not punishment, but it is loving them enough to set boundaries and send the message that their behavior is not acceptable.

Guilt - People with poor boundaries often make their decisions out of guilt. They fear that the consequences of the other person's behavior are just too great. Sometimes people actually try to make the other person feel guilty about not helping or giving or whatever.

If you feel like you don't have a choice because of your sense of obligation, or your guilt or fear, you probably need to take a step back and really think about granting a request for help. It may be that the guilt or fear are actually "fogging your thinking," so that you can't make a healthy decision.

Matthew 5:37 says, "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No' be 'No.' " Basically that means that if your heart is saying yes, then say yes. If it is saying no, then say no. How can you know what your heart is saying? A good indicator is tuning into your feelings. Do you ever feel resentful towards this person? Do you have feelings of being taken advantage of? Do you feel angry after helping? Do you feel like a doormat? If so, you are very likely saying 'yes' when you mean 'no.'

Think about it!