Just say no!

roadrunner in the back yard.
A roadrunner outside the casita window.

A headline caught my eye about saying no. ‘

Boost Your Mental Health by Saying ‘No’

If we want to rebuild lives that are more balanced and meaningful, we need to prioritize. Declining requests is crucial.

This was in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, written by Elizabeth Bernstein.

Since we moved and things started opening up post COVID shutdowns, I find myself saying yes to everything. That’s because I lived through two years of doing nothing. As my life gets busier and busier, I long for quiet time alone to read or sit in the back yard listening to and watching the birds.

Recently, I said yes to writing the community’s newsletter. (I’m not sure that was a good idea.) I’ve said yes to book club and coffee club. I’ve said yes to neighbor’s invitations. I’ve joined the YMCA and go four times a week to swim and workout. We’ve had people over for wine and dinner. I can’t believe I’m missing the endless days of no plans. But I am.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“No” has never been an easy word to say, especially to the people we care about most. And after two years of pandemic life—with very few invites to decline—we may be even rustier than usual at delivering the bad news. et, many of us now are fielding more invites and requests than we have in years.

We’re eager to get back out there. We’re also burnt out on stress and schedules that often seem like all work and no fun. We know that if we want to rebuild lives that are more balanced and more meaningful we need to prioritize. Learning to decline requests will be crucial to this effort.

Think of saying no as the ultimate self-care strategy.

“If we just agree to everything mindlessly, we are not going to be able to come up with the priorities to take us where we want to go,” says Vanessa Bohns, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University.

We sometimes say yes simply because we’re uncomfortable saying no. We’re social beings—we want people to like us. We feel guilty if we let others down or hurt their feelings, especially our closest family and friends. They’re the ones who often want us to say yes the most—and who may experience our “no” as a rejection of them, rather than of the request.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-ultimate-self-care-strategy-saying-no-11651529315?mod=life_work_lead_story

Bernstein, the reporter, offers five tips for saying no which include not rushing, start with thank you and standing firm.

What are your thoughts about saying no? Does it come easy to you? Are you getting more invitations to do things outside the home? How do you feel about it?

Our resident cardinal I watch while Im writing in the casita.

What are you forgetting?

Olive cat in the morning sun.
Olive’s memory is just fine.

Have you noticed yourself forgetting things lately? I have. I can walk into a room for something and forget why I am there. Also, I can’t go the grocery store without forgetting items on my list — or things I forgot to add to my list. I also am forgetting names and words. I notice my husband is in the same boat.

I found an article in the Wall Street Journal called “Why We’re All Forgetting Things Right Now: Short, temporary moments of forgetfulness are happening to more of us more often these days, memory experts say” by Elizabeth Bernstein. She writes for WSJ’s Life and Work section.

Here’s an excerpt:

Short, temporary instances of forgetfulness—those ‘senior moments’—are happening to more of us more often these days, memory experts say. We’re finding it difficult to recall simple things: names of friends and co-workers we haven’t seen in a while, words that should come easily, even how to perform routine acts that once seemed like second nature. 

We’re living in yet another moment of big change as we return to offices, create new routines and find our footing in yet another new normal. (And don’t forget a scary war in Europe on top of that.) All this change consumes cognitive energy, often much more than we think, neuroscientists say. It’s no wonder we can’t remember what we had for breakfast.  Our minds are struggling with transition moments.

“Our brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now,” says Sara C. Mednick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. “This slows down our processing power, and memory is one of the areas that falters.”

The chronic and cumulative stress of the past two years has taken its toll, too. Research led by Dr. Shields shows that people who have experienced recent life stressors have impaired memory. Stress negatively affects our attention span and sleep, which also impact memory. And chronic stress can damage the brain, causing further memory problems, says Dr. Shields, an assistant professor in the department of psychological science at the University of Arkansas. 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-were-all-forgetting-things-right-now-11649166214?mod=life_work_lead_pos3

The article also said we are bombarded with too much information and scanning through info on our phones isn’t helpful. Another thing that an expert pointed out was the sameness of every day during the shut down. Apparently we need novelty to help our memories.

They offered suggestions on how to deal with memory loss. If other people are noticing it, you should probably see a doctor. Also, don’t try to force it if you forget something because that’s counter productive. Stay calm and turn off the TV and phones to be present in the moment.

Have you noticed a lag in your memory or a spouse or friends since COVID hit? What types of things do you forget?

How to be your own life coach

cat on sofa
Olive the cat.

I found a helpful article in the Wall Street Journal which was exactly what the doctor ordered. Called “Stressed? Worn Down? Its Time to Be Your Own Life Coach” by Elizabeth Bernstein. Here’s an excerpt:

You can’t always count on friends or family members for support. During tough times, you can learn to coach yourself.

Ever wish you had someone in your corner 24/7—cheering you on, picking you up when you’re down, helping you set goals and deal with life’s challenges?

Better look in the mirror.

It’s time to become your own life coach. You can’t always count on friends or family members for constant support—especially now, when everyone seems buffeted by uncertainty. Professional coaches (and therapists) can provide valuable help, but they’re pricey, aren’t typically on call at all hours, and established ones may be hard to book.

The ability to mentally coach yourself is particularly important now, as we head into another unexpectedly hard season. The appearance of a new Covid-19 variant—just when we thought the pandemic was lifting!—has thrown many of us back into the stress of fear and uncertainty. It has arrived just in time for the holidays, which can be a lonely or bittersweet time for many, especially those who are grieving.

“You need to be your own best friend,” says Lo Myrick, a mind-set coach and business consultant based in Charlotte, N.C. “You need to take responsibility for yourself.”

Research in a concept that psychologists call self-determination shows that having the ability to draw on internal resources, such self-regulation or self-compassion, during tough times is essential to our well-being and performance. We’re strongest and most stable when we’re motivated from within, have control over our decision-making and time, and feel a sense of purpose.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/its-time-to-be-your-own-life-coach-heres-how-11638976169?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1

She goes on to give four tips on how to coach yourself:

Turn down the noise.

Start reflecting

Think small

Practice acceptance

To get the details, please read her article HERE.

I’ve also noticed that when I’m feeling sad, Olive the cat is right by my side. She’s been exceptionally affectionate lately. She must know we’ve grieving and she’s doing her best to make my husband and I feel better.

I’m also looking forward to Christmas with my children and friends. I can’t wait to give then all a big hug.

What are your thoughts on being your own life coach? Isn’t that the same as being resilient?

Benefits of Old Friends

friends reunited wearing face masks
Me and my best friend from college, showing off our masks at Pike Place Market, during a visit a few months ago.

I read an article today in the Wall Street Journal that made me feel good. It was about the power of friendships. It stated that reconnecting with friends from our past helps our mood. I looked back on my visits with college friends and I agree. I do feel better after connecting with my close friends. It gives me a lift that is more powerful than getting together with new friends. According to the article, we feel that someone from our past understands us, knows us better. I have a few people in my life that fit that bill including two friends from college and a couple from our early married lives. Whenever I get together with any of them, I feel warmth and peace.

My husband has a few friends like that, too. We reconnected with his best friend from grade school through high school when we visited our daughter while she went to college in Utah. Their laughter and fun stories are contagious when they are together. It was such a joy.

Here’s an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal Article by Elizabeth Bernstein:

The Secret Power of Reconnecting With Old Friends
There’s a special boost that only old friends can give us. Here’s why we need it now.
Missing old friends? You’re not alone. Pals from our past can give us a sense of stability in turbulent times.

Research shows that psychological distress often causes nostalgia. People tend to experience this sentimental longing for the past when they are feeling sad, lonely, anxious or disconnected, or when life feels meaningless or uncertain.

“Covid represents a big sense of discontinuity in our lives. We’ve lost a sense of who we are,” says Clay Routledge, a psychologist and professor of business at North Dakota State University, who has studied nostalgia for 20 years. “Recalling cherished experiences from our past can remind us who we want to be, who we want to be around, and what we feel is important in life.”

Nostalgia increases positive mood, self-esteem and self-confidence, according to studies conducted by Dr. Routledge and others. It makes us feel more socially connected and optimistic. It helps us feel that life has more meaning. And it’s highly motivating, pushing us to pursue goals, reconnect with people who were once important to us, and make new relationships.

We can become nostalgic about any period in our life. But it’s most common to feel a longing for our adolescence or early adulthood, likely because that’s when we developed our sense of identity and forged our own relationships.

Dr. Routledge says that most people feel nostalgic about social experiences, typically with family or friends. We may long for their support or feel we can trust them. Old friends—especially ones from our youth, who may also know our family—are often the people we believe truly understand us.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-secret-power-of-reconnecting-with-old-friends-11637069401?mod=hp_listc_pos3

Do you have people from your past that make you feel good when you reconnect? What do your old friends mean to you?

college friends reunited
Reunited with a college roommate.

What is toxic positivity?

Waffles the pug smiling and showing his teeth.
My daughter’s pug Waffles putting on a happy face. “Treats, please?”

When our daughter calls me upset, my reaction is to try and tell her that it’s not that bad. That things will improve and maybe there’s a silver lining. My desire is to make her happier, to make her pain go away.

After reading an article in the Wall Street Journal called Toxic Positivity Is Very Real, and Very Annoying by Elizabeth Bernstein, I understood why my daughter gets upset when I try to cheer her up. I never heard the term “Toxic Positivity” before, but it’s what I do. The article gives a ton of examples of well-meaning parents and friends making someone with an issue feel worse. Here are a few paragraphs from the story:

Forcing ourselves or others to always be positive can be harmful to our well-being and our relationships. There’s a better approach.

Pushing away difficult emotions, such as sadness or fear, and forcing ourselves or others to be positive can be harmful to our mental well-being and our relationships, psychologists say. This is because practicing false cheerfulness—which they call “toxic positivity”—keeps us from addressing our feelings, and the feelings of others.

Yes, cultivating a positive mindset is a powerful coping mechanism, especially in tough times. But positivity needs to be rooted in reality for it to be healthy and helpful.

“Toxic positivity is positivity given in the wrong way, in the wrong dose, at the wrong time,” says David Kessler, a grief expert and the author of six books about grief, including his latest, “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.”

It sounds like this: “Cheer up!” “Don’t worry!” “Stop focusing on the negative!” “Try to have a better attitude!”

We’re all guilty of it. Many of us were taught as children to banish so-called bad feelings—to pick ourselves up when we fall, stop complaining and count our blessings. And our fix-it-fast culture reinforces the message that to be positive is to succeed. (Just consider the phrase “winning attitude.”)

Often, we go overboard on positivity because we just don’t want to feel bad. And we don’t want the people we care about to feel bad, either.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tired-of-being-told-cheer-up-the-problem-of-toxic-positivity-11635858001?mod=life_work_lead_pos1

My daughter told me that when I say “look on the bright side,” I don’t find her feelings to be valid. What she wants from me — and there are many examples of this in the article with other parents and children — is to listen to how she feels.

I’m sure my glass-half-full outlook is based on my childhood emotional issues, like my parents fighting or divorcing. In other words, I covered up my feelings and fears with a veneer of a positive attitude that was like hiding under the covers, which I did every night.

My last kernel of truth for today:

“It’s not our job to solve problems for our children, but it is our job to listen and love them.” — E.A. Wickham

Have you heard of toxic positivity? What are your thoughts about it?

Do you have someone in your life that uses it, or have you used it yourself with family members and friends?