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The Four Styles of Communication

As social beings, we are in constant communication with others. The way we communicate impacts how other people experience us and guides the trajectory of our conversations and interactions. There are four primary communication styles: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, and Assertive.

This blog post will outline each style of communication and the consequences of adopting each style. Identifying your primary style of communication can offer insight into the roles you take in your relationships and how you can approach your interactions more effectively.

 

The Passive Communication Style

Passiveness is a communication style rooted in fear. It involves a pattern of avoiding conflict at all costs. Passive communicators will often avoid expressing their opinions, feelings, and needs, in fear that this will attract disapproval or conflict. Passive communicators typically allow others to infringe on their rights and boundaries, either advertently or inadvertently. The impact of consistently adopting a passive style is that these individuals often feel disconnected from their own needs and wants, as they work to meet the needs and wants of others. Passive communicators often feel anxious and helpless, because it seems that their life, behaviours, and relationships are outside their control. Passiveness gets in the way of individual and relational growth and development, as real issues go unaddressed.

 

The Aggressive Communication Style

Aggressiveness is a communication style rooted in anger. It involves expression of one’s feelings and opinions and advocating for one’s needs at the expense of others’ rights and boundaries. Aggressiveness is the opposite of passiveness. Instead of submitting to others, the aggressive communicator tries to get others to submit to them. Aggressive communicators try to dominate and control others by blaming, criticizing, and humiliating others, often using an overbearing, loud, demanding, and rude tone. The impact of adopting an aggressive style is that these individuals often become alienated from others, as they generate fear, discomfort, and threat in others. Aggressiveness gets in the way of self growth, as these individuals are quick to blame others instead of owning and taking accountability for their actions and issues.

 

The Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

As you may have guessed, passive-aggressiveness is a communication style rooted in both anger and fear. Passive-aggressive communicators often mask their aggression by appearing passive on the surface, but will act out their anger in indirect or subtle ways. These communicators have a hard time acknowledging their anger, and will often deny that there is a problem, use sarcasm, demonstrate a mismatch between their feelings and expressions, speak “under their breath” instead of confronting the person or the issue, and try to “get even” with others in subtle ways. The passiveness in this communication style allows individuals to hide their aggression just enough so they can avoid taking responsibility for it. When confronted about their words or actions, passive-aggressive communicators typically deny any aggressive intent behind their behaviours. The impacts of adopting a passive-aggressive communication style is a feeling of powerlessness and resentment, as individuals are unable to deal with their problems or interpersonal issues head on. Passive-aggressive communicators often experience a build up of anxiety, as there is always the potential of others seeing through their passiveness and confronting them about their aggression.

 

The Assertive Communication Style

Assertiveness is a communication style rooted in openness and mutual respect. This style involves clear and firm expression of one’s opinions and feelings and a value for one’s own needs, wants, and rights, without violating the rights and boundaries of other people. Assertiveness is the most effective of the four communication styles, as these communicators are able to engage in open dialogue in their interactions, with a calm, clear, respectful, and regulated stance. Assertive communicators often use “I statements,” feel calm and in control, listen without interrupting, and are clear about their boundaries and limits. Assertive communicators are able to acknowledge their feelings and needs directly, without the expectation that others must give into their requests. These communicators recognize that they are only able to control themselves and their choices, and they respect that others are responsible for their own choices and have control over their own lives. Assertiveness benefits you and others, simultaneously. The impact of assertive communication is that these individuals feel more connected to others, feel in control of their own lives, and navigate their relationships with less conflict, anxiety, and resentment.

 

While assertiveness is the most effective form of communication, these skills can be difficult to adopt, as many of us did not learn how to engage assertively with others growing up. Our flight (passive) or fight (aggressive) reactions are often triggered more quickly, and involve less intentionality. Assertive communication requires mindful awareness and responsiveness.

 

By now, you may have identified the communication style that you, or, others you know, use most often. If assertive communication feels difficult for you, it can be helpful to work with a therapist to explore the underlying experiences and beliefs that invite you to adopt a passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive approach in your interactions with others.

 

To learn more about how we can support you with communication, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@balancedmindandwellness.com for individual counselling for relationships or relationship counselling.

 

If you are looking to improve your assertiveness skills on your own, check out ‘The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships’ by Randy J. Paterson

Acknowledging Grief during COVID-19

The loss that we are all feeling right now is profound. It is okay to grieve the loss of what last month was, this week is, and next month was to be. We are all imperfect beings. We have all suffered losses. We are all vulnerable.

 

We have the chance to change that feeling.

Right now, there is a common darkness. We can find a light together, in this unusually unpredictable collective grief.

 

Let me help you understand three different types of grief you might be relating to right now:

  • Anticipatory grief – This can be described as the intense sadness that sits with you before a likely event takes place (such as the foreseen the loss of a family member who is very unwell). Anticipatory grief can be as intense or more intense than the actual pain than when the event happens.
  • Disenfranchised grief  –  This occurs when our own intense grief feels downplayed by others or the world in general.  For example: if you feel the intense negative sadness and emptiness connected to Coronavirus, and at the same time, others around you believe that you are overreacting and diminishing your feelings around it.
  • Ambiguous grief – the overall sadness and emptiness we feel, which can be described as a ‘general malaise’. At times, this can be when we see that what is happening is happening to all humanity in the world. This collective grief can be feeling sad for the planet and our fellow human beings.

 

Using a two-step process, and elements of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), we can work together to lessen some of this pain and discomfort.

* First, we acknowledge the losses, and second, we find ways to commit to a more positive mindset. *

 

1. Acknowledge the losses you identify with

a. Identify the losses you are feeling right now…

  • Loss of certainty
  • Loss of future plans
  • Loss of structure and routine
  • Loss of boundaries between home and work life
  • Loss of sense of security
  • Loss of social connection
  • Loss of community
  • Loss of in-person social gatherings
  • Loss of some connection to faith
  • Loss of job or income
  • Loss of health
  • Loss of freedom
  • Loss of optimism and hope

 

b. Past loss or grief coming to the surface

You might be wondering why this time feels especially challenging. While we are grieving the loss of one or more of those listed above, it is important to remember that all current loss can trigger loss from the past (especially that which is buried or unresolved). This is often referred to as ‘cumulative grief’. This can happen when:

  • We do not have the time we need to process what just happened before another loss occurs
  • We feel overwhelmed, we avoid dealing with ‘hard feelings’ at the time, and ‘save it for later’
  • All these toxins from the past bubble up and come to the surface
  • Example: I lost my mother last year, I have shifted to ‘doing mode’ (highly effective with day-to-day activities), and
  • To process past losses, we have to go back to that place of darkness and experience that suffering and pain
  • Today, we might feel unprepared to deal with COVID-19 in general, in addition to all of the old losses that are coming up
  • We don’t have the time we need before another loss occurs we end up overwhelmed by these multiple losses and unable to give them the attention they need.

 

When we are overwhelmed, our mind typically reverts to one of the most common defense mechanisms: avoidance. Though avoidance, denial, and shock may seem like a really bad thing (and it can be if it is never resolved), it can be our body’s way of keeping us functioning in the short term. Sometimes, it was the best way we were mentally and physically able to deal with it at the time of the event.  What will be important for us, as losses accumulate, is that we have an awareness of the effort that we must begin working toward, facing reality of the loss. Unfortunately, this avoidance cannot continue indefinitely.

 

2. Let’s commit to change, and move to a more positive mindset.

Right now, this world is not the same – so how can we make it better? We realize we have not been prepared, and that we need to be more prepared in future. We can grieve the loss of the old unprepared world, and help to develop a new, prepared, more grateful world. My challenge for you is to reflect on these questions:

  • What value are we discovering?
  • What priorities have shifted?
  • What new or existing relationships have you built or rekindled?
  • What are we able to see that was unclear or blinded before?
  • Who depends on you and why?
  • Whom do you depend on and why?
  • How do you take care of yourself?
  • How do you provide for yourself and your family?
  • What opportunities have you created for yourself?
  • What new ways of living have you embraced?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What do you love doing?

Elizabeth Lesser’s book titled ‘Broken Open’ focuses on a similar theme – how we have the ability to make the choice to be broken down and defeated or broken open and transformed. Lesser draws on different stores of ordinary people who ‘fell and got back up’, as well as some helpful traditions to help us learn ways to grow from difficult times. In light of past challenges you are trying to understand, or current ones you are experiencing, we hope this is helpful to you.

 

Activity for Processing Grief

I learned a valuable tool from a seminar I attended with Doug Smith, a specialist with years of teaching about grief and loss. Doug introduced a creative and practical tool we can use to process complex grief:

Materials needed: hammer AND small clay pot AND large sealable plastic bag (ziploc) AND glue gun AND marker or paints.
(If you do not have a pot and would like to do this activity, Doug suggested that a candle might have the same effect)

  • Place the clay pot in a large sealable plastic bag, and firmly seal it
  • Take the sealed bag outside. Bring the hammer.
  • Use the hammer to break the clay pot/ candle (healthy form of processing anger)
  • Bring the bag inside, and empty the pieces onto a table
  • Each of these pieces represent all of the smaller losses that the larger loss contains
  • Use a marker or paint to draw images or words that symbolize the aspect of yourself/ your life you have lost.
  • Use a glue gun to re-attach all of the pieces, in whatever way you like.

The idea this activity brings is to be able to rebuild structure out of loss. The shape of the clay pot, or you, will have a different form; however, it is still comprised of all of the same pieces. We can make something beautiful out of brokenness.

 

Everything can change in a moment. Many times in life, we will have little control over our external environment and cannot do anything to change it. So, we can learn to manage what happens internally, or inside ourselves. The good news is: we can use what happens on the outside to change the way we function on the inside. We can make the choice in times that feel very defeating.

 

 

Written by Carly Clifton, Director & Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

 

 

To learn more about how we can support you during this challenging time, please contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com, or book online with us.

Coping in Uncertain Times

As I write this on March 30, 2020, it feels like the world as I experience it has changed dramatically over the past two weeks.

 

Although I have started to adapt to the changing circumstances including social distancing, working from home, and relying on phone and video chats to connect with clients, friends and family, it seems each day brings new changes and my mind and heart are still working to understand and adapt.

I want to share with you 6 ways I have been coping with all the change and uncertainty in the outer world…

 

 

1. Acknowledging what I am feeling

In times of uncertainty, disruption and rapid change, it is normal to experience feelings of stress and anxiety. It can be helpful, and important even, to name the emotion, and to share with a trusted friend or therapist. I also remind myself that feelings are just that, and they change with time. Emotions are also not linear or isolated, so it is possible to feel both anxious and appreciative or happy at the same time.

 

2. Grounding

When we are anxious or stressed, it is common to get lost in thinking, and we can actually feel like our heads are full, and even get a headache. Grounding helps bring energy down through the body, and can help relieve mental tension. There are several simple ways to help ground yourself. Bringing attention to your feet, or your sitting bones (if sitting), and allow the weight of your body to gently “settle” downward, with awareness can be very effective. Even better if you are able to get outside, and have your feet on the earth. If you are familiar with yoga, there are postures such as the mountain pose, or a squat that will help ground your energy.

 

3. Breathe

Another way to help calm yourself is to slow and deepen your breath. When we feel anxious or stressed, it is common to breathe more quickly and shallowly, which in turn, fuels our anxiety. Slowing and deepening the breath will help create a relaxation response in the body, which helps to calm our thoughts. Even one slower, deeper breath can be helpful.

 

4. Practice Gratitude

It can help to balance our sense of stress or worry by remembering those things that we appreciate. It may be simple, such as having a good night’s sleep, having friends and family, enjoying a favourite food, or other things that are meaningful to you. If you can remind yourself at least once a day of at least one thing for which you are grateful, you can start to change your experience.

 

5. Reach out

I keep hearing the phrase “we are in this together” as we experience a truly global pandemic. In this time when many of us are not able to be with our friends, families, or co-workers , it is important to find ways to keep in touch. We can use phone, video chats and social media to visit with people. And, we can smile and say hello as we pass people (at a safe distance) on the street, or to the people working in the grocery stores and other essential businesses that remain open.

 

6. Find the silver linings

As these past couple of weeks have unfolded, I have experienced, and heard stories from friends and clients about the unexpected gifts that have come with this time. One woman told me of having a “honeymoon period” with her partner, and experiencing renewed tenderness; another told me she was sleeping better, and sleeping in; a friend told me she was finding time to work on a project that she never seemed to have been able to get too; and there have been countless classes and webinars springing up and opportunities to learn. As for myself, I have started to read books that I have been meaning to get to; cooking favourite foods and experimenting with new recipes, and my cats are happy to have extra belly rubs.

 

I hope there are even 1 or 2 things that resonate for you, and that you feel you are able to try out in the coming days. May you be safe, and well.

 

Written by Michele Meehan, Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

 

To learn more about how we can support you during this challenging time, please contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Identifying Your Sexual Beliefs, Preferences, and Boundaries This Valentine’s Day

Sexual communication is an important part of a healthy and satisfying sex life. Understanding yours and your partner’s ideas and preferences about sex can support you in having a more intentional and mutually-fulfilling sexual relationship. Consider using this Valentine’s Day (or, any day!) as an opportunity for a sexual check-in.

 

Understand Your Ideas and Beliefs About Sex

 

How do you define “sex”? For many people, “sex” is narrowly defined as a particular sexual act (e.g. sexual intercourse) with a particular outcome (e.g. orgasm). The way you define what sex means to you can impact what “counts” and “doesn’t count” as valid and satisfying sexual activity. When we think about sex as an “all-or-nothing” experience, we undervalue sexual acts that may be satisfying on their own and we put pressure on what “good sex” has to look like.

 

Can you broaden your definition of sex to include other forms of sexual activity? Can your definition of sex include what we typically only consider as “foreplay”? What difference would it make for you as an individual and for your relationship to identify and potentially re-define your understanding of what “counts” as sex?

 

You can experience eroticism, sensuality, and sexuality in a wide variety of ways. They can be experienced through solo or partnered sexual activities. Whether it’s through self-stimulation, flirtation, kissing, a massage, or oral sex, all of these acts count as valid ways to access your sexual needs and desires.

 

Understand Your Preferences and Sexual Boundaries

 

Take the time to reflect on your own sexual preferences and boundaries. Sex can feel much more satisfying when you are clear about your likes and dislikes.

 

Self-reflective questions for identifying your likes and preferences:

 

  • What do I need in order to tap into my sensuality and sexuality? What do I need enjoy sex with my partner? What do I need to enjoy solo sexual activities? Do I need time to get into a sexual headspace? Do I need to feel an emotional connection with my partner?
  • When do I feel most interested in having sex or being erotic with my partner?
  • What do I need from myself or my partner to feel grounded and present in the sexual experience?
  • How do I prefer to initiate sex with my partner? How do I prefer my partner to initiate sex with me?
  • What physical sensations do I enjoy experiencing? What feels good to me? What body parts do I enjoy having stimulated? How do I like those areas to be stimulated (e.g. with a sex toy, my own hand, my partner’s hand, etc.)
  • What sexual dynamics do I enjoy experiencing with my partner? (e.g. power dynamics)
  • What forms of sexual pleasure do I enjoy providing my partner? What do I like about pleasing my partner in this way?
  • Is there anything my partner can do or change in order to make sex feel more safe, pleasurable, and satisfying for me?
  • Is there anything that I want to explore with myself or my partner, but want to learn more about before trying?

 

Self-reflective questions for identifying your dislikes and sexual boundaries:

 

  • What physical sensations do I dislike?
  • What turns me off?
  • What sexual behaviours, dynamics, or experiences are off the table for me?
  • What do I need from my partner when I communicate that something that they enjoy sexually is not something that I enjoy?
  • When do I feel least interested in sex?
  • If I am not in the mood for a particular sexual activity, how can I check in with myself about what sexual activity I might be in the mood for? Sex doesn’t have to be an “all-or-nothing” experience.
  • Is there anything that I have previously enjoyed during sex that I no longer enjoy?

 

Once you have spent some time reflecting on your own sexual preferences and boundaries, dedicate time to share these learnings with your partner. Recognize that communicating one’s sexual likes and dislikes can feel very vulnerable. Ensure that you are supporting your partner in feeling heard, respected, and safe.

 

You and your partner may find it difficult to identify and communicate your sexual needs and preferences with one another. If you find that sexual communication is a problem in your relationship, it might be helpful to seek out a couple’s therapist to support you through this journey.

To learn more about how we can support you with sexual concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@balancedmindandwellness.com

10 Ways to Remain Grounded for Trauma Survivors

Grounding techniques are strategies that can help us to stay in the present moment. Grounding can often be used as a way to cope with flashbacks or dissociation, commonly experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD

 

Grounding can be very useful in providing a temporary distraction from upsetting thoughts, memories, or feelings that may be overwhelming and/ or harmful to your mental health at the time.

 

How Grounding Works

Grounding techniques often use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight) to immediately connect you with the present. By allowing you the opportunity to be present, it also reduces the likelihood that you will slip into an extremely painful flashback or dissociative moment.

 

Here are some helpful techniques that we might provide you with in therapy. We highly recommend working with a therapist to better understand which strategies may be the most helpful and those that may be more likely to cause distress (triggering to you) based on your experiences with trauma.

 

  1.     Put your feet flat on the floor. It sounds simple; however, doing this can instantly feel stabilizing in painful moments.

 

  1.     Open your eyes. It may seem safer to keep your eyes closed when you feel afraid; however, it is more difficult to stay present when you do not have your eyes open.

 

  1.     Change the positioning of your body. Try wiggling your fingers and toes, and/ or tapping your feet. Pay attention to the movement, and what you feel.

 

  1.   Try repeating a mantra or phrase to yourself, such as “I am safe” or “this too shall pass.”

Choose something that is personal and resonates with you. 

 

  1.     Try counting by 3s or saying the alphabet backward, to maintain focus on something else.

 

  1.     Hold a piece of ice or place an ice pack on the back of your neck or under your feet (if you are severely dissociated, we would not recommend this, as prolonged exposure to ice could damage your skin).

 

  1.     Splash your face with cold water or run your hands under the tap. Notice the sensation.

 

  1.     If you are prone to dissociation, set alarms in increments.

 

  1.     5-5-5 Breathing: When we get anxious our breathing is often the first thing to change, this is also true when re-experiencing traumatic memories. One way to slow down our breathing is the 5-5-5 technique. Try breathing in for 5 seconds, holding the breath in for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds. Breathing in this way slows everything down, allowing more air into the lungs. BY focusing on our breath it also re-directs our mind off of the distressing event.

 

  1. 5-4-3-2-1 Technique: Name 5 things you can see around you (a tree outside, your television), 4 things you can feel (perhaps this is a blanket beside you or your glasses on your face), 3 sounds you can hear (maybe your pet, a car outside), 2 things you can smell (freshly cut grass or coffee brewing), and finally 1 thing you can taste (maybe you just brushed your teeth and you sense a minty taste or something you just ate).

 

By noticing these sensations, we remove our attention from whatever distress we may have been feeling. This forces us to stay in the present and reduces the potential to get stuck in a painful moment in the past.

 

Written by Kennedy McLean, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

To learn more about how we can support you processing and coping with your trauma, contact us at 647-961-9669, book online, or email us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

 

8 Ways to Stop Negative Thought Patterns

Negative thinking is the easiest way to slow down your progress and goals. But how do you get rid of negative thoughts? Here are 8 ways that can be helpful to shift your thoughts, and as a result, improve your mood.

 

1. BE CURIOUS

Practice curiosity, in trying to be aware of what else is going on when the thought comes up. Are you tired, stressed, or worried about something else?  When we try to ignore or push away negative thoughts, they hide for a small period of time, and then return. To counteract them, acknowledge them. A strategy that might be helpful is written or vocal recognition of the thought (to yourself).

2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE

Your energy, and others’ energy, is contagious. Just as we know someone’s laugh can be infectious, it is most certainly true of positive and negative attitudes and conversations that we have around us or participate in. Notice who is around you – are their views and perspectives they project filled with optimism or pessimism?

3. REMOVE PERFECTION FROM YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Expecting everything to be perfect can be exhausting. Why continually feel as though you are disappointing yourself by failing your unrealistic expectations? It can be liberating to find a way to live on your own terms while not expecting a flawless path or end result.

4. POSITIVE MORNING ROUTINE

Thinking starts early in the morning. Negative thinking can slow you, your tasks, and your day down. What can be helpful and effective here is to start your day by replacing thoughts of fear with thoughts of hope and belief. A way to kick-start these thoughts is by reading something encouraging and positive every morning. If you prefer to listen to something instead, there are many podcasts that serve as quick mindful reminders, such as one from here or here.

5. JUST BREATHE

Building reminders and scheduling time in your calendar  to relax or to just breathe will bring you more self-awareness. In order to stop negative thoughts, it is important to first acknowledge and recognize which thoughts are negative or judgmental. The trick is not to judge yourself or get caught up in your negative thoughts. Here are some helpful relaxation strategies and techniques that may be helpful.

6. BE INTENTIONAL

Assuming a positive attitude is an intentional action that starts as soon as you wake up in the morning. You have the ability to acknowledge and remove negative thoughts, by shifting your attitude. You are able to choose to attract what you focus on, and to let go of that which does not serve your goals. The more you practice positive mind-shifts, the easier it becomes. For example, it may be helpful to create a 2 column chart, write the negative thoughts in the left column, and replace them with a positive thought in the right column. After both are complete, cross out the statements in the left column.

7. THE GOAL > WHAT IF

No matter where you are in your life path, there will always be room to let negative thoughts exist. When you start to feel negative, try to remember why you are there (at that time, doing that task, in that moment). Focus on where you are headed and why that is important to you. Think about the goal you have set, and where you want to be.

8. THE ROOT PROBLEM

Most negative thinking stems from a problem is hard to determine from the surface. These negative thought patterns are sometimes ingrained in us early on and have become part of our way of life. In order to overcome these negative thought patterns, it is helpful to figure out the underlying reason these patterns continue to show up. It is only then that you will be able to address and solve the issue. Therapists can help you with this.

 

You can’t get rid of negative thought patterns unless you can understand what they are. Get to know your negative thinking and how it gets triggered. Only with that self-awareness can you begin to identify when it is happening and make a choice to shift your perspective in time

 

Written by Carly Clifton, Director & Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

 

To learn more about how we can support you with developing positive thought patterns, and shift away from those unrealistic expectations, contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Drawing the Line in the Sand: Boundary Setting (Part 3)

One of the most difficult parts of setting boundaries for most is to actually say “no” and turn down requests. This is difficult because it can bring up feelings of guilt and perhaps inadequacy or the fear of hurting others’ feelings. It can be difficult to say “no” because you believe you are ‘not allowed to’ or that you do not want to take responsibility for the result of saying no. Usually, in my mind, there is a fear of “what if they get mad or upset?”

Some things to consider in saying “no” include:

– Waiting for the question or request from another person
– Not answering until you have decided your position on the request. You might want to say “let me think about that and I’ll get back to you”
– Using clear language. Instead of saying “maybe, it’s possible ..” say “No, I can’t do that”
– Limiting apologies unless if it’s necessary, because “sorry” holds less value if you use it too often
– Don’t make excuses or defend yourself as it may result in others offering solutions to the barriers you’re proposing and then you can find yourself in a spiral of lies
– Saying “no” without asking for permission or acceptance since it’s your right to say “no” to requests
– Accepting the consequences since the person on the receiving end may not like it and show it. They’re allowed to feel what they feel just as much as you are allowed to say “no” to their request

Now that have identified items to consider, here are a few examples ways you can say “no”:

– “No, thank you”

– “I have a policy of not making impulsive decisions. I need time to think about this before”

– “I appreciate that you’re asking me this. However, I am not able to help you with that”

– “This seems really important for you. At the moment, I don’t have the ability to put the attention into this as you will need, so I have to say no”

– “I can’t say yes at this time”

– “I don’t want to commit and then disappoint you”

– “I’d love to help; however, I’m feeling overextended and cannot provide what you need”

It can be helpful to practice this on people who you feel safe and close to before trying this in situations and with people you might find saying “no” to be more challenging with.

 

Written by Vivian Zhang, Clinical Therapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

To learn more about how we can support you with developing healthy boundaries and communication tools, contact us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com or 647-961-9669.

How to Communicate Without Anger

When you feel frustrated with someone, communicating without anger takes a level of self-awareness most of us do not have. Even if we do have it, it is hard to put it into practice in the moment. It is more common to explode and say hurtful words you might later regret. Even if someone did do or say something that was inappropriate and/ or hurtful, if you commit to communicating without anger, you will have a better chance of understanding others and reducing feelings of resentment. Matching the other person’s anger or irritability is not effective or helpful.

Making sure you and others around you get your needs met requires open, honest, non-blaming communication. Choose not to engage or match communication that harbours anger.

 

Here are some tips to help manage your reactions to anger:

Listen without countering. It is easy to start thinking about your counter argument before letting the other person finish what they have to say. Try to focus on the words the other person is saying, rather than what is next for you to say.

Stick to the subject. What is the objective? What are the important facts to communicate in this situation?

Look inward. What is the motive behind the words you choose to say? To defend, provoke or communicate?

Ask for behavioural change. What would you like the other person to do differently? What would be helpful for them to do or say?

Remember the other person’s trigger points. Make a list of different triggers that you know irritate the other person. Then resist the temptation to use them.

Remember your own trigger points. Make a list of your triggers that you know create an instant feeling of anxiousness or angst. When triggered, resist the temptation to react to them with a distraction technique (such as counting to 5 before speaking).

 

 

To learn more about helpful communication styles, contact us for relationship counselling at info@balancedmindandwellness.com, or call 647-961-9669.

 

Source: Bellows, A. (2018). Couples Can Communicate Without Anger. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/couples-can-communicate-without-anger/

How to Believe You Are Enough

What is enough? How do you measure what you do and if it is enough for you?

Acceptance does not mean not to strive to be greater. If you strive for more without accepting yourself in the absence of what you think you lack, then you will see yourself as enough no matter how much you gain. By accepting yourself right now, as you are, you can and will still strive to grow.

When you do not feel good about yourself, often it is because you feel that you are being watched and judged. Obviously, this decreases your sense of self-worth. This negative cycle tends to repeat itself, filled with a sense of being under-valued and shamed by both yourself and others.

Each daily requirement of ‘enough’ may be different, and yet, should be celebrated.

 

Here are some ways to refocus your thinking and love yourself:

1. Erase the Need to Compare.

When you compare yourself, you feel undervalued and less than.

In order to connect with others, it is imperative that you first know your strengths and positive qualities. Make a list of your positive qualities and accomplishments. Start a conversation with others and ask for their input if you are stuck.

Do not agree to things just so that you can avoid conflict. Find a way to understand and validate one another. Everyone has a right to their own perspective and opinion.

2. Have a Conversation with Your Inner Critic.

Your inner critic is made up of the negative self-talk that you actually heard from childhood and have internalized, such as “you need to work harder” or “people won’t like you if you do that”.

Retrain your inner critic so it shifts into a coach that can challenge you, without putting you down. Remember, if you do not think you are enough, you will deprive yourself of opportunities because you do not think you are worthy of them.

When you hear yourself making these negative judgments, catch yourself and change it up to a supportive, positive voice instead. You deserve it.

3. Choose Self-Empowering Language.

When you tell yourself that you ‘should’ do/ be/ feel something, you are placing a requirement upon yourself.

Instead, choose to do what you want to do. Rather than feeling obligated to do something, this choice provides empowerment and freedom.

4. Be Authentic.

If you are honest with yourself, what are you feeling?

What is hard about being honest with others about your feelings?

What could change if you were able to communicate your feelings?

If you want to have an intimate connection with someone, being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings is necessary. Being yourself allows the other person to know and appreciate who you truly are.

So, challenge yourself to be open to saying, “I really need to talk about something.”

5. Identify Your Wants and Needs.

Needs are usually something that is important to us, whereas wants are preferences and not quite as important as needs.

Conflict arises when two people want different things. If you don’t feel good enough, you may not value yourself enough to see your wants as important. You may be confused and think that one of your needs is just an unimportant want.

Then, you may dismiss your need as not important enough. So you won’t ask for what you need and you will feel threatened to speak up for yourself because you fear the other will leave you.

6. Love and Accept Yourself.

Unconditional love means you love yourself no matter what. It means you do not allow yourself to judge yourself.

You are enough, and you do not have to prove yourself. You are not loved for what you do. You are loved for who you are.

Having good personal boundaries is an effective way of loving and taking care of yourself. Validation and approval must come from yourself, not others.

Take some of these statements, and practice them in the mirror, or in your journal/ diary… until they start to feel more true to you.

7. Practice Self-Care.

When you feel good about who you are and you feel worthy, you naturally take better care of yourself.

Take a close look at how you are living. Are you taking time for the things that bring you joy? Are you eating and moving, and as a result, feeling healthy and energized? Are you sleeping enough?

The simple and most basic needs help us to feel recharged and happy. Gift them to you!

Life can be overwhelming, and number one to take care of is you.

We can help you develop tools to build self-love and acceptance. To learn more about self-esteem counselling at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc., contact us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com, or 647-961-9669.

Drawing the Line in the Sand: Boundary Setting (Part 1)

“Boundaries. What are those?” That was the first question I had for my therapist when she asked about how I set boundaries with those in my life.

My interpretation of boundaries is that they are ways we communicate to others what we are comfortable with or not and what we need. Boundaries can be put into 4 groups:

  1. Soft: this can also be known as permissible boundaries where we allow others to determine the lines of the boundaries for us
  2. Spongy: this is a mix between soft and rigid boundaries where an individual can become unsure of what to let in or keep out
  3. Rigid: this can be thought of like having a wall that doesn’t allow anyone in
  4. Flexible: this type of boundary setting involves an individual who takes control over what they allow in or keep out

 

Different boundaries can be set for different relationships. Setting boundaries can be thought of as “how do we ask for what we need or say ‘no’ when we need to?” Here are some things to consider when it comes to setting boundaries:

 

  • When to assert and keep asking for what you need (if your answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, then ask more firmly):

    • Is the person able to give you what you want?
    • Is what you want appropriate to the current relationship?
    • Will not asking for what you want keep the peace now but create problems in the long run?
    • What have you done for the person? Are you giving at least as much as you ask for? Are you willing to give if the person says yes?
    • Do you know all the facts you need to know to support your request? Are you clear about what you want?
    • Is this a good time to ask? Is the person “in the mood” for listening and paying attention to you? Are you catching the person when he or she is likely to say yes to your request?

 

  • When to say ‘no’ (if your answers are ‘no’ to these questions, assert your ‘no’):

    • Will saying no make you feel bad about yourself, even when you are thinking about it wisely?
    • Are you required to give the person what he or she is asking for? Would saying no violate the other person’s rights?
    • Does the person have authority over you (e.g., your boss, your teacher)? And is what the person is asking within his or her authority?
    • Is what the person is asking for appropriate to your current relationship?
    • Is giving in to keep the peace right now more important than the long-term welfare of the relationship? Will you eventually regret or resent saying no?
    • Do you owe this person a favour? Does he or she do a lot for you?
    • Is the other person’s request clear? Do you know what you are agreeing to?
    • Is this a bad time to say no? Should you hold off answering for a while?

 

In part 2 and 3 of this blog, we’ll be talking about how to ask for what you need and how to say ‘no’. It can be helpful to have a therapist to support with these skills as they can help you practice and give you feedback to improve in asking for what you need and saying ‘no’ when you need to.

Written by Vivian Zhang, Clinical Therapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

To learn more about how we can support you with parenting concerns, contact Vivian Zhang at vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Content from this blog post is adapted from DBT Skills Training: Handouts and Worksheets (Linehan, 2015).