Category Archives: Emotional Health
There has been a bit of internet buzz lately surrounding a blog called, “The Things You Would Have Said.” It’s a very simple blog with short postings from people who missed out on a chance to say something to someone. Each blog post is written like a letter to that person, finally saying the thing that went unsaid. Some are serious, some are funny, and many are a bit sad.
The posts come from people of all walks of life, and the letters are written to people with a variety of roles in that person’s life. There’s one from a 13-year-old girl who wished she would have told her grandma more often that she loved her. There’s another that a woman wrote to her deceased sister, apologizing for not being there for her when she had pain after surgery and then unexpectedly passed away. There’s even one from a 78-year-old man to his mother, in which he simply tells her finally how important she was to him.
This isn’t about an altercation with someone where you later think of a good comeback and think, “That’s what I should have said!” And it isn’t about getting the last word in to someone who broke your heart. But it’s really just people who missed out on telling someone something important, and now they never can.
What I would have said
Of all the big and small dreams on my bucket list, one thing I have had on there for years is to find my second grade teacher and thank her. Miss Foley was one of those teachers who loved teaching, put tons of energy into it, and always made everyone feel special. For me, though, I remember her giving me attention on days I needed it and boosting my self-esteem when she recognized my accomplishments. I don’t have any idea how to find her now, but there are definitely some things I would like to say – starting with “Thank You.”
I had another really great teacher in college – a health promotion/wellness professor I had for a couple of classes. I still have one of the projects I completed for her class (printed on a dot matrix!), and I look at it from time to time, because her comments were so generous, encouraging, and positive. Whenever I review it, I always wonder if she knows how great a professor she is and how much I valued her. A couple of months ago, I actually tracked her down and took the time to tell her what I thought. She answered some questions I had, and then – no surprise – she gave me feedback on this blog! She hasn’t changed a bit. 🙂
What would you have said?
Think back over the course of your life and the people who have impacted you. When you were a kid, were there things you would have said if you had known you would lose touch with people? I read a post on “The Things You Would Have Said” from an adult man to his grade school friend. He was finally apologizing for repeatedly knocking his friend’s sombrero off his head during a school performance of Mexican dance! He was carrying that regret for “acting like a jerkface” all his life, and still wanted to make it up to his old friend.
Now as an adult, are there people you have lost through due to death, distance, or maybe a disagreement that you wish you would have told them one more thing? Maybe like this man who never got around to telling his now deceased cousin that all he ever wanted was to be like him?
What can you say now?
You knew where this was going, right? My next question is – what do you need to say now before you run the risk of it being unsaid? You never know when a person who impacts you so much today could be lost forever. Do you need to tell your dad how much you look up to him and really appreciate him teaching you so much? Do you need to tell your son how proud you are of his accomplishments or how much you value his opinion? Maybe you need to tell your best friend how much she means to you or how lost you’d be without her.
Take a look at “The Things You Would Have Said.” The letters are heartfelt, and you can feel their pain, but they also just might make you think about what you need to say now, before it’s too late. There’s also a book, which is like a “best of” the blog, called The Things You Would Have Said: The Chance to Say What You Always Wanted Them to Know. I haven’t picked it up yet, but you can see from the reviews on amazon how much readers are affected by the letters they read. I imagine they were spurred to say a few things to their friends and family too.
Have you thought of a few people you need to talk to right away? I’d love to hear from you in the comments – let me know how it goes when you tell them!
Bucket Lists: How To Create The Guide To Your Own Life
There are lots of different factors that play into your emotional wellness, and one of them is your stress level. Your financial wellness (maintaining a quality lifestyle within your financial means) can have a significant effect on your stress level. In other words, having an understanding of your financial situation and taking care of your finances keeps your stress level down and helps you be emotionally well.
In order to understand your financial situation, you have to have a good grasp of how much money you have coming in and also where it’s going. The key to that is maintaining a balanced budget for all of your expenses in a way that not only keeps you from living beyond your means, but also allows you to save money and plan for unexpected expenses.
How to create a budget
The most important step in making a monthly budget is knowing where your money goes now. Many people spend a few dollars here and there without paying much attention to it, but what they don’t realize is how much those little expenses add up. In order to get a firm grasp on how you are spending your money, you need to spend a month tracking every single expense – even if you just spend 50 cents to buy a diet coke out of a vending machine.
One easy way to track your expenses is by carrying a small notebook with you wherever you go. It sounds silly, I know, but it works. Carry your notebook (a notebook app on your phone works too), and every time you spend any money, whether with cash or credit or debit, make a note of it. Keep all your receipts too, just in case you forget to write something down.
You can find a an expense worksheet at www.financialliteracymonth.com if you prefer to fill out a form. Just make sure when you spend money on something that isn’t listed on the form, you add that in too!
Track your spending for a whole month, and then review your notes. In general, where does your money go? Did you make wise spending choices? Were your purchases necessary? Look at some of the categories for purchases that are not necessities, but where you seem to spend a lot, such as getting drinks with friends or lunch out with your office mates. Add up your total amount spent for the month on those expenses. Does it surprise you?
Make a list of fixed costs
Now that you know how much you spend each month on both needs and wants, you can use that information to create a monthly budget. The first step is to make a list of your monthly fixed costs. This includes things like your mortgage/rent, utilities, and insurance. Your utilities might vary a bit each month, but if you have a record of your bills over the last year, just find the average for things like electricity, gas, water, and anything else that isn’t a set amount.
Other debt repayments also go in this category. That might include student loans, credit card debts, and car payments. Add up the total cost of your monthly bills that you must pay each month. We’ll use this number later.
Create a spending plan
You’re now ready to create a plan for how you will spend all your income. First, identify all your income from different sources. Even if you have just one paycheck, you might be earning interest on account, receiving dividends, getting inheritance checks, or maybe even working odd jobs. This income worksheet can help you identify all your income sources. It also helps you understand all the deductions that are taken out of your paycheck. Look closely at those too, and see if there are some areas where you might be able to decrease deductions to increase the amount you take home.
Do you allow the government to take out too much for taxes so that you get a big refund in April? If so, that is just like giving the government an interest-free loan from money you could use now. Or maybe you have a paycheck deduction for health insurance, but you can get it cheaper through your spouse? Examine your paycheck stub closely, and make sure you know where all your money is going.
Once you are clear how much income you bring in each month, subtract the total amount of your fixed/necessary costs that you calculated in the previous step. Now, how much is left over? That is your discretionary income – the total amount that you get to decide how you want to spend.
Compare your total discretionary income with the amount you tallied in your expenses journal in step one. Is your discretionary income lower than the amount you are spending? If so, you are living beyond your means and could well be destined for some very difficult financial times. If your expenses are lower than your discretionary income, you are doing well! But you also need to consider saving money.
If you have calculated that you are living beyond your means, or if you’d like to create more breathing room in your budget, the next step is to start cutting expenses. You can do this by reviewing your expenses journal and honestly assessing which expenditures are needs and which ones are wants.
Look at all your “wants” and try to identify areas where you can cut costs. Some, such as eating out or going to the movies, will be obvious. But it’s also important to look at things that you might deem to be necessities, but actually aren’t. Those include cable television, internet access, snack foods you pick up with your groceries, and even your gym membership.
If you look at your list and too many things feel like necessities to you, use this financial priorities worksheet to help you better understand which things you need versus which things you want. The worksheet will also help you rank your priorities so you can figure out what matters most to you. Don’t forget to make saving a priority too. It’s important that you don’t set up your monthly budget so it consumes all of your total monthly income. Saving for vacations and retirement and unexpected expenses is key component of your financial wellness.
Set up your budget sheet so that you account for all your disposable income (your total take-home pay), and you include your monthly set expenses, your “wants”, and savings. You can find lots of budget templates online. This one is pretty simple and straightforward to get you started.
A few more details
One thing to keep in mind when you are cutting expenses is to be realistic. Look back at your spending journal and see what makes sense. If you are feeding a family of four, budgeting $50 per month for groceries won’t work, and you’ll just end up getting frustrated.
Also consider whether increasing your income is a possibility. Besides looking at your paycheck deductions, would it make sense to find additional work? Is it time you talked with your supervisor about a raise? Are there other ways you can turn your spare time into extra cash? Even if it’s just for a short while, finding a way to increase your income can help you achieve your financial goals sooner.
One last note about creating a budget. If you’re not sure how much you should be allowing for different categories of expenses, follow the 50/30/20 rule. Spend 50% of your net income on all your necessities. That includes your monthly fixed expenses, plus other necessities like food, child care, gas and oil for your car, etc. Spend 30% on all your wants. This is anything that is not a necessity and includes internet, cable, entertainment, updates to your home, etc. And plan on spending 20% of your income on savings and debt repayment.
You can divide your savings plan down even further, into short-term (small purchase in a few months), medium-term (vacation next year), and long-term (emergencies, retirement, and major purchases).
The debt repayment part of your overall 20% is anything you spend over the minimum monthly payment. This would include extra payments on your student loan or car loan or any other such debt. You might want to use this financial goal worksheet to help you identify your savings goals. It also will help you determine whether they are short or long term and how much you need to save to meet those goals.
How to use your budget
Once you create your budget, follow it! But don’t be too rigid. You don’t want your money to control you, and you don’t want to feel deprived. Keep tracking your expenses, so you can be sure you are following your plan. After a month or two, re-evaluate it and see what worked for you. You might have some areas where you need to allow for more spending, and there might be other areas where you could tighten your spending even further.
Remember to keep your financial goals in mind. Do you want to be debt-free? Would you love to retire early? Are you saving up for an extravagant vacation to commemorate a big event? When you remember your big goals, it’s easier to stick with your spending plans.
Did you know April is financial literacy month? It’s the perfect time to begin understanding where your money is going and start designing a spending plan that will work for you. Why not get started now?
Forgiveness is nothing more than a decision. It’s a decision to let go of a resentment, to lessen the grip of a hurt that was perpetrated on you, and to allow yourself to focus on more positive things.
Benefits of forgiving vs. Effects of holding a grudge
When you hold a grudge against someone who has wronged you, in effect you are allowing anger to have a presence in your life. Even if you only think about it on occasion, the anger keeps seeping back into your life.
When you allow anger to be with you, you end up bringing it to other aspects of your life. You bring it with you to other relationships, to new experiences, and to your inner self.
Holding a grudge, therefore, blocks enjoyment of the present. No matter what you are doing or where you are, if something reminds you of that person or the event that hurt you, you return to your anger. That means that it affects whatever you’re doing, even if you were having a great time doing it!
Maybe you love going to baseball games, but one time you were there with a friend who got drunk and insulted you. If you don’t forgive him and move on, guess what happens every time you go to a game? You think of him, and anger creeps into your enjoyment of one of your favorite pastimes!
Or maybe you enjoy playing the piano, but your grade school teacher said you weren’t very good. If you haven’t forgiven her for being so negative and unsupportive, now whenever you play, the memory of her statement angers you again.
You might even be reminded of the hurt when you’re doing something completely unrelated to the original transgression. For instance, you could be reading a book that you are really enjoying, and then there’s a story line of someone betraying a friend. If you were once betrayed by a friend and didn’t forgive her, the story in the book will immediately bring you back to that event, and suddenly you aren’t enjoying your leisure reading anymore. What a way to ruin a good book!
When you forgive someone, however, it allows you to enjoy your life and everyone and everything in it without repeated reminders of past hurts and without returning to the anger you felt toward that person.
When you forgive, it is also good for your health. Letting go of the anger reduces your anxiety and stress level. It also improves your psychological well-being when you stop carrying that negative energy.
What forgiveness doesn’t mean
When you forgive someone, it doesn’t erase what happened. It also doesn’t change that person’s responsibility for hurting you. And don’t worry about “forgive and forget” – maybe you shouldn’t forget.
You might be able to use the event as an opportunity to learn something. You might learn a little about your sensitivities, or you might find you need to create stronger boundaries with caustic people, or maybe you’ll even realize how you might have similarly hurt someone.
Regardless, forgiving doesn’t mean you are being a doormat and letting people step all over you. You are simply taking charge of your own life, casting out negative feelings and focusing on positive ones.
How to forgive
If you are having a hard time letting go of a hurt, there are some steps you can go through that might help you.
Think about the facts of the situation – You can try reliving it if it isn’t too painful. Think about what happened, and what hurt you. Remember how you reacted and how you felt. Think also about how the event has affected your life in the time since it happened.
Think about what made him act that way or say what he said – What are his weaknesses? Most people aren’t inherently bad. Everyone carries their own pain, and that influences their decisions. Take heart in the fact that if he wasn’t carrying his pain, he likely wouldn’t have inflicted any on you. Sympathize with him if you can.
Replay the event with a good outcome – This is a technique I learned a few years back, and it can actually help you gain some closure. If that bad event had not played out in a negative way, how would it have looked? Envision the same event, but with a positive outcome. It just might give you some gratification in knowing how things should have happened.
Remove your victim status – Even if you were the victim, try to stop identifying as one. This lets go of the offender’s control and power over you.
This doesn’t shift any responsibility away from the person who hurt you, it just means you will no longer be a victim to the hurt that he caused you. Take away his power to hurt you by choosing to take control over the situation in your decision to forgive.
Actively choose to forgive – And commit to it! At some point, it just comes down to this. You know what holding a grudge does to you, you know how your life will be improved if you choose to forgive, and you know it’s time to move forward. Choose to forgive the person who caused you pain, and know (as trite as it sounds) you will be a better person for it – it’s true!
When you choose to forgive someone, it won’t have any effect on that person. Know that he won’t change, and that you can’t make him change. Forgiveness changes you. It brings you to peace, it allows you to heal, and it helps you put past pain behind you.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Do you have someone you need to forgive? What is holding you back? How might your life be different if you forgave that person? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, and you can also find us at www.facebook.com/OneMoveForward!
Sharing feelings, whether with a partner, friend, or family member is an important part of communication and also an important part of your relationship as a whole. When you share feelings, you will see a chain reaction. Sharing feelings (both positive and negative) in a productive way allows people to be more open with each other. This builds trust, both will feel comfortable sharing more, which leads a tighter bond and a stronger relationship.
Communicating your feelings allows you to inform the other person of something he or she may have said or done and how it made you feel. If it was something that affected you negatively, it allows the person to understand his effect on you and try to do things differently next time.
And if it affected you in a positive way, he needs to hear that too! Knowing what makes you feel good (remember, nobody can read your mind – good or bad) reinforces that other person’s behavior, makes him feel good about himself, and increases the likelihood he will do it again in the future.
Communicate your feelings in a productive way
Rather than saying you are upset, try to make a clear indication of your concise feeling. Are you irritated? Hurt? Saddened? Also, be concise. When you are trying to explain a feeling, don’t bring other issues into the discussion. Don’t digress into related stories or issues.
Another part of being specific about your feeling is stating the degree of your feeling. Some people make the mistake of overstating a feeling. They may feel they need to exaggerate in order to be heard. Others may understate their feelings because they worry how they are perceived or don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. Both are counterproductive.
Be honest and upfront, and stand up for yourself! Tell her whether you are extremely angry or a little irritated.
State the behavior and then the resulting feeling
If you start by stating the feeling first (“I’m angry because you…”), it may make the listener feel defensive. When this happens, she might miss your whole message just because she already put her guard up.
Make an effort not to blame the other person. If you can just state everything as fact, she is much more likely to hear you. Use the formula, “When you (her action), I feel (your emotion).” Or even, “When (incident happened), I felt (emotion).” Make sure when you talk about the emotion, you use “I”. Don’t say, “I felt you disrespected me when you …” This is about YOUR feeling, so tell her how you feel.
Offer an alternative
After you tell someone about their action and your resulting feeling, it is helpful to offer alternatives. Tell him what you need. That doesn’t mean he has to do it, but it’s also possible that he had no idea what a difference a small change could make.
For instance, if you say, “I get a little resentful when you leave me with all the clean-up after dinner.” Follow that up with a specific suggestion, particularly one you think he might be amenable to. “It would really help if you would clear the table while I put away the leftovers.” Maybe your first statement leaves him thinking you want him to help with all the after-dinner chores, when all you want is for do a little. By telling him what he can do to change your negative emotion, you are giving him an easy guide to resolve the problem.
Hear the response
This is just as important as sharing your feeling. When you are talking about your feelings, it is not meant to be a one-sided monologue where the other person just has to listen, and then the conversation is over. If you really hear her response, you can gain clues as to how you can avoid the problem in the future.
Using the example above, maybe he’s just worn out after dinner and needs some time to decompress. If you say you resent being left with all the work, and he responds with, “Well I’m tired too!” that’s your clue about how to make it work. If you really think about what he is trying to tell you, you just might find your solution. Suggesting you wait a while after dinner is over, and then asking him for specific help just might resolve everything. Hear where he’s coming from, and look there for your answer.
Techniques to keep in mind
Your tone matters
If you want to be effective when you communicate about your feelings, it’s important to be calm. This is not a time for venting, and yelling is certainly counterproductive. The more you can make your statements in a matter-of-fact tone, the more likely it is that the other person will hear you.
It’s also important that you don’t accuse or be critical. Sometimes it’s easy to attack the other person, especially if you feel hurt, but the end result is that the person is less likely to hear you if she feels she is being ambushed.
If possible, start your conversation with something positive. You can say, “I’m really glad you work so hard to support our family” before you start the conversation about how you feel when you’re left with the evening chores. Starting with something positive puts the other person at ease. It lets him know you’re not just making accusations, but that you value him and want to make things better.
Just because you tell someone she did something that affected you negatively, doesn’t mean she will change overnight. Any behavior change always takes time and repetition to make it a habit. Try not to take it personally if you don’t immediately see the change you had hoped for. You can just go back to the first step and have a similar conversation. She might just need to be reminded, or she might just be having a hard time breaking a habit. But if you both keep working on it in a positive way, you will start to see some progress.
Practice your new technique
In order to use this communication technique, you might need to practice it a little. Your first step is paying attention to your feelings. If you are mad or upset about something, think about the event that caused it. Plug it into the format of “(Event) happened, and I feel (Emotion).” When you can, communicate that to the person involved. Keep calm, and suggest an alternative to make things better. Hear her response, and work with what she says.
You can use this technique for both positive and negative feelings. When you are still getting used to it, it might be helpful to use it as often as possible for positive feelings. That gets you into practice for using the technique regularly, and you simultaneously boost the people around you. Once you are adept at using it to communicate all sorts of feelings, don’t forget to us it for good too!
Lastly, I want to remind you how critical it is that you communicate your feelings, and that you do it often. If you feel like you need to talk about your feelings, do it soon – for two reasons. It really is easier for everyone to remember the events in questions when you discuss it soon after it happened. Talking about your emotions earlier also helps keep resentment from building.
Do you have any tips for communicating with your friends and family? What works for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
“Good communication” is all the rage these days in terms of the key to long-lasting relationships. How many times have you heard that at a wedding, in an advice column, or even from friends or family who have been together many years? But what exactly does it mean to be a good communicator, and how can that aid in stress management? While they may seem like an unlikely pair, the truth is if you can learn to express yourself in open, honest, and appropriate ways, you can also eliminate a lot of stress from your life.
Communication refers simply to the process by which information is exchanged between one or more people. Effective communication can help you avoid stressful situations and also resolve those situations once they arise. Effective communication is assertive, without being aggressive. You want to express your feelings openly and directly and encourage the other person to do the same. You also want to be careful not to let emotions get in the way of what you are trying to say, since this can lead to automatic, knee-jerk comments which are negative and attacking. This can result in you speaking or acting in either passive or aggressive (or both!) ways, which often can be received by the other person as “I count, you don’t count,” which is the last thing you want to be telling someone when you are trying to explain something important to you or seek resolution to a problem.
So how can you make sure you are being open and direct in your communication, unclouded by emotions? It’s easier than you might think, if you follow this four-step process:
3. Reflect and look for your emotional “hook”
This is the automatic emotional reaction – the feeling (probably fear or anger) and response that causes you to use communication that is negative and attacking. Then ask yourself these questions:
(1) Am I responding to the real problem or my irrational belief/distorted thought? In other words, is there really a true problem, or is there a chance I could be jumping to conclusions or maybe even looking at this all wrong?
(2) Do I need to “win” this conversation? What purpose would it serve to win?
(3) Am I afraid to show any sign of weakness?
(4) Do I feel compelled to tell this person how wrong they are and set them straight? Would you be better off if the other person admitted s/he was wrong, you are right, and that’s it? Or would you be better served by gaining an understanding of each person’s point of view and then finding some middle ground or another way to reach an agreement?
4. Choose how you want to respond
Ultimately, effective communication reflects your ability to act out of choice and helps you deal with difficult situations by letting you express your feelings without losing control over them. You can use the four-step process to make sure you are expressing your feeling clearly and effectively, and also allowing the other person to do the same.
So how does good communication lead to lower stress? For starters, if you have positive communication skills, that likely means you will have fewer conflicts in your relationships with others. Fewer conflicts, of course, means lower stress. When you are able to communicate effectively in the way outlined above, you will also likely have stronger relationships, and that means you probably will have people you can count on, which has been proven to be an important part of lowered stress levels. Start to make some changes today in the ways you communicate with others, and see if it starts to make a difference in your overall stress level!
If you want to make positive changes in your communication skills (or any skills!), remember two things: keep trying and keep practicing. Making a change is a challenge, and you’re most likely to meet that challenge if you really commit to it, and also forgive yourself when you fall short. But if you keep working on putting those changes into place, eventually you will replace old communication methods with new ways that work better for you – and for those around you.
Good luck! If you have any questions or would like to add more to this conversation, please add a comment below. And if you think this post might help someone you know, please share it!