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Creating Work-Life Balance

This is an image that comes to mind for many when balance is mentioned – being on a tight rope with so many things to keep aligned so that you or nothing else falls.  In this post, we will discuss steps to take to view balance as a desirable state that produces a feeling of well-being.

Clarify Your Values – Many decisions are based on what we believe as being important to us.  Determine what you value, both in work and your personal life, by giving it worth, merit or importance.

Set Your Goals – Goals are based on your values and what we hold as important.  Goals should help give you focus.  A goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  Make your goal specific and as detailed as possible by answering the six “W” questions – Who? What? Where? When? Which? Why?

Prioritize – By listing your goals on a to-do list in order of importance, you will be able to address the issues that need the most attention.  Consider time constraints, requests from others, and any consequences.  Know that you can always come back to this list to re-prioritize.

Be Flexible – Being flexible is important as priorities can often shift and change due to environment, circumstances or demands from our job, partner, children or friends.  Remaining flexible allows you to more easily reevaluate your values and/or goals.

Take Time For Yourself – Making time for yourself is extremely important because your health and sense of well being will have an effect on you reaching your goals and balancing your work and life.  Gift yourself the time to meditate, exercise, rest, and/or pamper yourself.  Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.

Signs Of Burnout – Burnout can take place when you are under a lot of stress – emotional exhaustion, physical exhaustion, feelings of being overwhelmed, lose of interest or motivation, lack of productivity.  Learn to listen to yourself to really understand when you may be close to burning out and needing to take a break.  The earlier you recognize any of the signs, the better you can prevent and work on the issue.

Ask For Help – Do not be afraid to ask others for help!  Seek advice from your partner, friends, and other family members.

Remember that work life balance is always an on-going process, never a permanent state.  We are constantly making choices and those choices help determine whether or not your life is in balance.  If yours are aligned with what you hold most important and valuable, you will likely feel a sense of balance.

 

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Relationship Communication Quiz

Here is a true or false relationship communication quiz.  There are no rights or wrongs in the number of true or false answers to this quiz.  Simply look over your responses to get a feel for where communication problems or perceptions exist.  Encourage your partner to take the quiz as well, either together or separately, either way will suffice. Once you both have a tally on where the communication in the relationship stands, refer back to the article on communication in relationships to review some basic communication principles for a healthy dialog between partners.

1. I often cannot seem to find the right words to express what I want to say.
True or False

2. I do not speak up because it tends to only make things worse.
True or False

3. I tend to worry that exposing myself to my partner will result in rejection.
True or False

4. I often do not speak up because I am afraid my opinion is wrong.
True or False

5. I talk too much and do not give my partner a chance to speak.
True or False

6. I do not look forward to my partner speaking.
True or False

7. My speech can often be defensive.
True or False

8. I frequently bring up my partners past failures.
True or False

9. My words do not match my actions.
True or False

10. Once I get started in an argument, I have trouble stopping.
True or False

11. I do not honestly listen.
True or False

12. I try to repay anger with anger or insult with insult.
True or False

13. I tease my partner too much.
True or False

14. I do not spend enough time speaking of really important things.
True or False

15. I often lie by omission.
True or False

16. It irritates me when my partner brings up a problem.
True or False

17. I think that it is important to lay out to my partner all of the complaints I have about them.
True or False

18. I tend to say, “you always” or “you never,” when discussing my complaints with my partner.
True or False

19. I rarely state my complains to keep from hurting my partner.
True or False

20. I state my complaints often in a heated manner.
True or False

21. I do not like to argue because I feel arguing reflects poorly on the relationship.
True or False

22. I do not like to discuss our negative feelings because it only makes us feel worse.
True or False

23. I do not feel I should have to bring up what is bothering me because my partner should already know.
True or False

Again, there are no rights or wrongs in the number of true or false answers to this quiz.  This is just to simple gage where you are currently in your communication process of your relationship.  As with all things, knowing is the first step forward.

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Family Communication

Regardless of how much everyone loves one another, most families will experience problems at one time or another. Learning to communicate openly and honestly can help build relationships that will withstand these challenges that families face.  When you calmly communicate how you feel with your loved ones, you create an atmosphere that encourages and allows them to respond and share how they feel.

To practice building awareness of the many ways – both verbal and non-verbal – that you communicate with those you care about, begin to pay attention to how well you actively listen and also hone in on what your non-verbal communication is divulging.

Active Listening – Active listening is allowing the listener to be involved with the speaker.  It is to better understand what is being said and gives us the opportunity to be fully present for the speaker.  Listen silently with full attention on what the other person is saying by establishing eye contact, nodding and using encouraging phrases.  Also take the time and consideration to really acknowledge the speaker’s thoughts and feelings.

Nonverbal Communication – Communication experts estimate that 90 percent of our messages is not what we say, but rather how we say it.  Our body language carries the credibility of the messages we send and will either reinforce or contradict our words.  Often times, when we are not talking is when we are saying the most.  Use eye contact to establish a connection and keep your body posture open and accepting rather than closed and defensive (i.e. – arms crossed over your chest).  You may want to do a nod of “uh-huh” to show that you are actively participating in listening to what your loved one is communicating.

The people in your family are likely you most loved ones in your life.  It is important to show affection and appreciation during the sometimes difficult moments we have as families.  Like the old saying “it is not what you say, but rather what you do,” take the opportunity to show and participate in affection.

Affection – Each member of the family has a need for love and affection.  Each person also has the responsibility to show love and affection to other people in the family.  The way you show love can be different for the different people in your family. What one child feels is loving might be felt as bothersome by a different child.  Each person’s individual needs should be respected and thoughtfully tended to.

Appreciation - Begin to recognize and appreciate the contributions of everyone in the family, together and individually.  It is amazing to start to see the small things that really help make the family whole and complete.  Take time to show your family members how much you appreciate them and how much they matter to you.  Ways of showing appreciation may vary from child to child and partner, so add some extra time and care into what you think each member of your family may enjoy as a form of appreciation.  Remember there is never such a thing as too many hugs!

Our relationships with others are what enrich our lives, especially the ones who we call family members.  If we are able to communicate with our families openly and honestly, it will only improve the quality of our lives and strengthen the bond our families.

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Why Equality in a Relationship is Essential

Equality in a relationship or marriage is not always easy, but it is definitely essential. The traditional balance in the home is shifting as more women are seeking professional careers outside of the home. Fortunately, most modern men are willing to pick up the slack around the house. They are glad to help and they are capable of handling a larger portion of the family responsibilities than their own father would have been able to do. This shift in household duties is a big step towards equality, but it has created some unique challenges for newly married couples.

Women are Their Own Worst Enemies

When couples first move in together, most women will willingly take on the majority of the shared duties and they will care for their man without any complaint. They never ask for help and are grateful for anything their husband chooses to do on their own. They will do everything necessary for the first few years and then suddenly crash. Eventually the stress of managing a full-time job, plus having to get all the groceries, cook all the meals, wash every dish, do the laundry, dust, and vacuum will become too much to handle and things will start to go wrong.

She will immediately blame her partner even though she never asked him for help in the first place and he’ll have no idea why he has upset his wife so much. He’ll also be so unfamiliar with the routine and cleaning schedule that it will only further infuriate her when he tries to help out and he doesn’t do it properly. This is a common recipe for disaster that affects many new marriages.

How to Establish Equality Early On

It is important to discuss and divide household chores as soon as you move in together, whether you are married or not. If the woman in the relationship handles all of the cooking and cleaning in the beginning, it is harder to get a man to participate in those chores in the future. Each person in the relationship should make a list of things they don’t mind doing and then compare. You may need to compromise on some things, just make sure to divide them as evenly as possible.

How to Create Financial Equality

Couples that establish equality with household chores should also fairly divide the shared expenses. Make sure to divide the bills based on each person’s income, so neither is paying more than they can really afford.

How to Maintain Equality after Children

Daily duties drastically increase after you have children, so it’s important to once again establish responsibilities. Instead of dividing up the tasks, try sharing them since most responsibilities regarding parenting are also bonding opportunities. Use the tag-team approach and take turns getting up during the night, feeding the baby, and changing diapers.

Equality is essential for your future happiness and it is important to establish it early on. Talk to your partner as soon as you move in together and set up rules for managing the shared responsibilities and expenses. Communication and honesty in the beginning will help ensure that you have a long and happy marriage.

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Cultivating Communication Skills in your Relationships

It is very likely that you and your partner have many similarities along with many differences. Your similarities are what brought you together in the first place.  As far as differences, you both grew up in different households with different rules, expectations, and experiences.  Along with these things, it is also likely that you grew up learning different communication skills.  It is important to get on the same page with your partner with communication, as it will make a world of difference in your relationship, for all stages of the relationship.

Here are some tips to help improve communication in your relationship.

Speak Your Truth – Talking through any problems you may be having is critical to long-term success in a partnership.  It is common for woman to silence their emotions and for men to lash out, however, it is also possible for these roles to be reversed.  If you are able to get into a pattern where you can both discuss your feelings – calmly and rationally, as they happen in the present moment verses letting them sit and fester, only to be dealt with later when a whole other issue may be boiling as well – you will likely avoid some of the upset and begin to live a more harmonious life.  Try to keep things light by using humor and smiling – which will release feel-good chemicals in the brain.

Tune In – Listening without thinking about how you are going to respond is a great practice to improve your communication skills, and not only with your partner, but with any relationship you have (family, friends, co-workers).  Repeating and paraphrasing what your partner has said before you respond is key to effective communication in your relationship.  Speak up on what you need and encourage your partner to do so as well.  You will likely be better equipped to meet each others’ needs if you are both able to really tune into one another and then apply what has been said and agreed upon to your relationship.

Focus On The Positive – One of the differences between the relationships that succeed and the relationships that fail is the ability to express positive feelings.  If you have a negative communication style that consists mostly of accusations and upset, begin to replace your negative words with more positive ones.

Touch – Things such as a playful touch, a knowing gaze, or a gentle smile, are all simple ways that can accomplish more communication than words can at times.  Very few people can come up to you and kiss you or place their hand in yours – a playful little touch like that can be very soothing.  It is a physical connection to one another.

How well you both are able to communicate to one another will factor in how smoothly other things in your relationship run.  Remember that clear and focused communication is a skill and it takes practice and time to cultivate it into your relationship.

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Positive Emotions in your Relationships

By now, most of us have heard about surrounding ourselves with as much positive as possible verses negative – but what does that mean when it comes to our relationships?  First we have to look at the quality of our thoughts in general.  Do you tend to think “I can’t do that” or “I can do that”?  Becoming knowledgable on which side you lean towards is the most important step as it creates the awareness of where you presently stand.

The next thing to look at is our emotions.  Are your emotions mostly happy, angry, or a combination of both?  If we look at a wide range of positive emotions—from awe to amusement to interest to inspiration to gratitude—what they all have in common is that they are responses to your current state or experience at that time.  They are usually not a permanent state, only feelings that fluctuate.  This is true for all emotions, however the positive emotions tend to be more temporary, as we do live in a very busy, sometimes overwhelming, world.  Often, we are not aware of the positive emotions due to our tendency to see the negative ones.

Positive emotions are also desired states.  Not only do they feel good, but we desire to feel them, as often as possible.  Some people might say it feels good to be angry, and at times anger can be useful or productive, but generally, people do not desire to feel angry.  Positive emotions can make us healthier and happier if we take time to cultivate them.

When people increase their daily doses of positive emotions, they find more meaning and purpose in life.  They also find that they receive more social support—or perhaps they just notice it more, because they are more attuned to themselves and others.  They begin to show mindful awareness of the present moment and increased positive relations with each other, especially true within your relationship.

SIMPLE STEPS TO CULTIVATING POSITIVE EMOTIONS 

A positive emotional relationship begins with believing in yourself and also in your relationship.  Know that you are both good people who are deserving of each other’s love and kindness.  If this is something you have doubts about, it would be helpful to think about what your needs and wants are along with your partner’s and reaffirm your connection with one another.  If the two of you believe in one another and both of you want a positive lifestyle, you may need to learn how to make the commitment to do your best to maintain a positive demeanor and start with small baby steps.  Being aware of what brings you gratitude, joy and happiness and to notice on a daily basis what actually makes you feel good is the first step of being mindful of positive emotions.

An example would be if you come home from work, exhausted, and take notice that your partner has neglected to do the dishes that have been sitting in the sink all day.  Your partner hands you a cup of tea and suggests you relax.  You have a choice in the moment to either react and get angry at the neglected dishes or take a breath and realize the positive verses the negative.

What is required is the willingness to make a change for the better, being aware of your patterns that are not working, adjusting your thoughts and attitudes toward life and each other.  This process is one that takes time and it will likely take more than a moment for you to see and feel the results.  Much like compassion, positivity is an ongoing process.  As part of that process, you will need to accept that sometimes we experience positive and negative emotions, which is part of life.  We want to be able to understand and accept our negative emotions while not getting caught up in them.  Being aware of the pattern in your relationship gives you the opportunity that your negative thoughts and emotions sometimes serve a purpose on what we can learn from them and what we would like to change to live a happier and healthier life.

Cultivating positive emotions and allowing that feeling to flow through your relationship is a great way to go through life with the one you love.

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How Self-Aware Are You?

 

Self-awareness refers to both awareness of your body – meaning the heartbeat or respiration rate and the feeling of what is on your skin – as well as what you feel emotionally.   Have you ever had someone say to you “you seem angry?” and your response was “no, I’m not angry.”?  Or vice verse? It could very well be true that you or the other person was indeed angry and giving off the energy, yet not aware. Many of us at times have bouts of failure of self-awareness, which comes from the insula.  The insula has what is called a viscerotropic mass – viscero refers to the interior organs and tropic refers to the placement, the representation of those organs.

People with a very active insula seem to be extremely self-aware, both emotionally and physically. When  we discussed positive outlook and the ability to bounce back from a setback (being resilient), it sounds as if only one of the ends of this spectrum is the place to be as who would not want to be happy and ore resilient, right? However, this is not necessarily the case and with self-awareness you tend see where you may need to improve on yourself even more.

Self-awareness starts with just that – awareness.   When you begin to analyze and pay attention to your mind (thoughts) and body (heartbeat, touch, etc.) you become more self-aware. Once one becomes even slightly self-aware, especially when analyzing where they currently are in their lives, they will likely try to change if they feel that it would improve their life. This is a great step towards a better life and better relationships.

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Transforming Everyday Relationship Issues

Marriage is not pleasant all of the time, but certainly you will have more happier than sad times. It is natural to have those moments where you question if this is the right situation for you – your partner will do the same. There are, however, those situations that never make it work, like cheating or deal-breaking behaviors. But, believe it or not there are marriage problems that are considered “good” problems that will not mess up your relationship and should never be considered deal breakers.

Fantasizing about Others

A lot of couples who are looking for answers to what makes relationships work are concerned about their fantasies or their partner’s fantasies for someone other than their significant other. Believe it or not, these fantasies are nothing to worry about – in fact, they are healthy. Having an imagination allows you and your partner to open up more emotionally and physically with one another. Of course, you should not act on these fantasies.

Going Out with the Guys

Many women get defensive or feel their husband is leaving them out when they go out for guy time. Interests and maintaining friend relationships outside of the marriage are key in finding what makes relationships work. This break from the relationship allows each partner to miss one another, engage in activities and release any steam that could create tension down the road.

Arguing

You may have fights, but fights do not mean your relationship is over or even close to over. Fighting is a way for partners to share how they feel with one another – meaning you both trust one another enough to get it all out in the open. As long as you both do not attack one another, productive arguing can strengthen your marriage. Also, avoid recycling old arguments – meaning try not to bring up an argument that happened last week. Once it is over and resolved, it is done.

Being Too Tired for Sex

Intimacy is important in any relationship, but there are times one or the other may be too tired to engage in sex or other intimate activities. Today’s couple is often over-scheduled and it is not uncommon to have limited time for intimacy or anything else. Try scheduling a time for intimacy rather than waiting for that magical “spark” so that you have fun – it is something to look forward to and you get that testosterone and mojo moving again.

A healthy marriage can be full of “good” problems. Often couples assume these good problems are detrimental to the success of their relationship and they begin to pull away. As long as you are open, honest and willing to work through your issues, you and your partner will understand what makes relationships work faster than any other couple in the neighborhood.

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Changing Negative Beliefs or Patterns

The first emotional styles we have is resilience to adversity. The adversity can be a wide range of so-called setbacks – from the most trivial things such as someone cutting you off in traffic to the more significant setbacks such as the passing of a loved one. The second emotional styles is outlook – meaning whether you have a positive or negative view on life.  The emotional styles of I’m discussing here is how our patterns persist or change.

With brain patterns, these questions may come to mind: How long have they been there? It is a brain pattern that existed (or that was established) during childhood as the brain develops? Was it present at birth? Can it be changed?

When Dr. Davidson did research on day-old infants, in the experiments he found that even at birth, there were clear individual differences and left/right asymmetry in terms of activation. Everyone’s genetic makeup is different, but the big question is do these differences persist? Dr. Davidson helped discover that what you are born with is not necessarily what you are dealt with as the brain and behavior can change.

Neuroplasticity is the idea that the brain can change – either for better or worse. The brain has the ability to change in both structure and function. Consider learning and memory – these are constant examples of how our brains are able to change form. When you learn something new and also when a new experience enters your memory, this is the brain changing – expanding and retaining.

Brain structure and function can change in response to two forces:

  1. The life you lead
  2. Thinking yourself into a different brain.

The life you lead, meaning the experiences you have – physical as well as emotional or mental – are signals from the outside world. This is similar to your brain collecting memories and learning new information. The other way the brain can change structure and function is in response to purely mental activity. This is similar to the second brain emotional style of outlook. Higher left activity is associated with a more positive outlook; higher right activity is associated with more negative outlook.  To change the brain grooves, you can think yourself into a different brain by working on a more positive outlook (or negative, as the door does swing both ways).

 

Photo courtesy of sattva and www.freedigitalphotos.net

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Is Your Outlook on Life Positive or Negative?

Your outlook on situations and experiences can be broken down to be defined as either a positive outlook or a negative outlook. The left prefrontal cortex in a resilient person can be 30 times that of someone who is not as resilient – this means that there is a a pretty big difference in brain activity within people who are clinically depressed and those who are not clinically depressed. For people who suffer from depression, activity in the right prefrontal is much higher. For people who are healthier and have an overall positive outlook on life, activity is the left prefrontal is greater. In other words, left side activity equals positive and right side equals negative.

The thing to remember about these specific findings is that everyone has ups and downs in their lives, so the left and/or right asymmetry can change. This relates back to the first style – adversity – under certain difficult periods of people’s lives, they may behave and/or react differently during these times. This is simply just part of the ebb and flow of life as a human.

Dr. Richard Davidson has been doing research on the emotional styles of the brain for over twenty years. Dr. Davidson’s research has been on all kinds of walks of life, including everyday hard-working Americans, undergraduate volunteers, children and infants, and also a Tibetan monk community. These monks lent their time and brains to science by having Dr. Davidson run MRI’s and EEG’s on them. In his findings, Dr. Davidson has found that these monk’s left prefrontals were off the chart compared to his other findings making this evidence for the stark difference in the brain activity that underlie emotional and personality differences. The monks are constantly smiling, people of good will and constantly help one another. And their brains can prove it.

Photo courtesy of Ambro and www.freedigitalphotos.net