Do you feel overwhelmed in your life?

Can you remember the last time that you had a huge, belly laugh?

When was the last time you stopped and had some fun?

You may have heard the saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I submit that desperate times call for FUN MEASURES. When our life gets hectic and busy we often forgo fun and play. The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, and the education we provide our children. 

Additionally, the University of Denver’s Center for Marital and Family Studies finds that the amount of fun couples have together is the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness. The more you invest in fun, friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will be over time. The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant.

Here are 5 ways to have more fun in your life…

  1. Make it a priority. When something is a priority, we make room for it in our lives. We place it on the calendar. If it has to be rescheduled, we quickly do so. Fun should be one of those things. It brings emotional, physical, and relational benefits to your life which include boosting the immune system, fostering empathy and promoting a sense of belonging and community. 
  2. Discover what you enjoy doing, even if others don’t feel the same way about it. That’s ok! This time is about enhancing your life, not a time to keep up with Joneses. If you like trivia, find a live trivia game. If you like puzzles, get the biggest one and go for it.
  3. Be creative and adventurous. Having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Try something that you have always wanted to do like going paddleboarding or kayaking with a group of friends. Start an herb garden for your window. 
  4. Share fun with friends and family. Once you have found what you enjoy doing, then it’s easy to find what you can enjoy with friends and family. It could be taking a family hike in a park, having breakfast for dinner with friends or making cookies for first responders. Whatever it is, do what you find fun—and it may even bring joy to others.
  5. Become a Fun Ambassador. Now that you and your family have recognized the power of fun, pass it on to others. Sharing the positive impact of spending time with friends and family encourages others to do the same—it’s CONTAGIOUS

★ Having fun is not a one-time endeavor. It is an attitude and opportunity for enjoyment to flow through all aspects of your life. Get out your planner now. Schedule some playtime for the next week—a minimum of 15 minutes per day.

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Family. Have you ever wondered how you can share the same parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents, a common bloodline, yet see things so differently and have so many different opinions? COVID-19 has highlighted the differences in belief systems, political views, economic status, and so many other issues that can lie within a single-family.

These differences can become polarizing, causing serious divisions and potentially irreparable damage to your family unit. You’re probably reading this because you’re aware that your family is at risk of ripping apart. And of course, you want to do everything you can to keep it together.

How can you keep COVID-19 opinions from tearing your family apart?

Call it Out. You may be the one who has to say, “I’m afraid that we’re going to allow this virus and our opinions on this virus to tear us apart.” You may have to ask, “All of the memories, experiences, love, and connectedness that we’ve shared as a family over the years, are we willing to throw it away because of our opinions about the virus? How do we make sure that doesn’t happen?

The awareness of the virus is infiltrating so many of our thoughts, plans, behaviors, and lifestyles. You may have to be the one who is intentional about shifting the focus to what it means to be a family. Family is the one place that you remain a part of despite the differences. So you learn how to thrive in the midst of difference. Bringing to everyone’s attention the need to be intentional about staying connected as a family in the midst of the virus can be powerful.

The family is bigger than one person. Don’t carry the weight of trying to control how others may or may not prioritize the family. No one person can carry the full weight of keeping the family together. Family means different things to different people even within the same family. Recognize what you can control. Leverage your influence to help your family see the bigger picture. 

Understand your need to be emotionally and mentally healthy. A healthy and secure you will have more influence than an unstable, insecure you. Your family may have helped you develop a sense of self. However, do not depend on your family for your entire sense of self. You can’t depend on your family’s acceptance and agreement to feel validated and complete. If you do, you can run the risk of trying to keep the family together out of fear or a personal need for fulfillment. 

Don’t invest energy trying to change the mind of others. A person convinced against their will is still of the same opinion. Let that sink in. Rarely do I see arguments and debates where someone actually changes their mind. I still haven’t heard of someone changing someone’s mind using social media. Often, the more we try, the more we can slip into trying to control others or lose control of ourselves.

Respect. Leading a conversation about what it means to respect one another can help the family set boundaries and be intentional about respecting one another’s thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Sometimes we can become so passionate about our position that we totally disrespect the position of others without even realizing it. As a family, having a clear understanding of what it means to respect one another’s differences can help family members coexist with the differing opinions.

Model healthy behavior. Be the one to talk less and listen more. Recognize that people are motivated by different things. Some have good motivations, and others not so good. Manage your emotions and be willing to try and understand your family. If you can help people feel heard, valued, and understood, then you’ve helped your family members know that they matter even if their opinions are different.

Acceptance of choices. Some family members are going to be extremely cautious and follow all of the CDC guidelines. Other family members may believe the virus isn’t a big deal and act accordingly. Some may feel like family members don’t care and are putting others at risk. Others may believe some are acting totally out of fear. A family is made up of individuals who have the freedom to think and feel whatever they choose. Give individuals the freedom to be who they are and you do what you need to do.

Make decisions based on what you know about the virus and your family members. This can be difficult because it may mean we don’t get to see certain people. When a person shows you who they are, believe them. There are conversations you may not need to have with family members because it always sparks animosity. Remember, everyone is learning how to live with COVID-19 in our world. Learning to live with differing opinions can take time.

Look for ways to show that you care about one another. Host virtual family game nights and Zoom family calls. Send one another care packages. Send messages of love and support. COVID-19 can have you so focused on what we can’t do that we forget what we can do

Set aside time to be intentional about spending time with one another and talk about other topics. This helps to remind you that the family is stronger and has more history than COVID-19. For example, celebrating birthdays. This has been a wild year! Instead of letting a birthday go by with just a card or phone call, consider celebrating virtually and making it a big deal because this year will be one for the books for sure! 

✭ Beliefs, opinions, and thoughts regarding COVID-19 dominate social media and news outlets. It hasn’t escaped family dinner tables and Zoom calls and it’s affecting everyone’s ability to show love and care to the ones we care the most about—family. This can cause fear, stress, loneliness, and anxiety. People develop their own expectations—some reasonable and some unrealistic. Family members will respond to change in different ways

You CAN’T control what family members say and do. You CAN focus on being your best self while at the same time working to care for and understand your family. As you model respect and value for each person, you can hope that the love and care you have for your family will help others see that the family is bigger than the virus.

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I wish I could just give you hope. I can tell you where I’ve found mine, but you have to find your own. Now, I know you realize that and I’m sure you’ve looked for it and the pain multiplies when you look for it and come up empty. Nobody wants to feel hopeless. But when everything feels hopeless, hope is closer than you may think. Way closer. I know because I have gone from hopeless to hopeful and I understand that it’s an ongoing battle. But the battle is between my ears.

It’s a battle to control how I think.

I always pay attention to what disappoints or frustrates people and what makes them angry or sad. It reveals where they were placing their hope. You get disappointed, sad, or mad if your best friend doesn’t return any of your texts because you were hoping you meant more to them. You hoped you were best friends. And you invested some hope in that relationship. Now, you have a little less hope. You’ve become a little more hope-less

Maybe you never framed it like that before.

There’s plenty going on in the world at the moment that can be disappointing, infuriating, or saddening. Makes it easy to feel hopeless. I was gonna list a bunch of things, but you live on the same planet. I’ll just share this, my adult son the other night looked straight at me and said, “Dad, it feels like the end of the world.” He was totally serious.

There could be plenty going on in your personal world that is keeping you from being hopeful. Your marriage or love life, parenting, your friends, and job situation. And let’s not leave out your worries about your physical health or finances.

1. Recognize where you are placing your hopes.

It’s been helpful for me to recognize where I’m placing my hopes and be careful about it. I don’t place my hope in things I can’t control. 

I don’t place my hope in my wife, my kids, my friends, or my family. That might sound strange. Don’t get me wrong. I love my wife, my kids, and my friends and family. They bring joy and meaning to my life. But I can’t put all my hope in them. Beyond it not being fair to put all my hope on them, something could happen tomorrow that changes everything. I can’t control them, but I can control myself. I can influence those relationships with my choices—I can use my best relationship skills so there will be a better chance of those areas of my life being healthy and bringing me fulfillment and true meaningful joy. But relationships involve two people, and I can only control one of them—me.  

Now think pandemics, the Stock Market, tornados, some rando that drinks and drives, social unrest across the country, global politics—I don’t have any real influence with this stuff. Totally out of my control. Not getting any of my hopes up. So, they can’t take away any of my hope and make me hope-less. 

2. Ask before you hope: Is this something I can control, influence, or is it totally out of my control?

Psychologists have some useful terms here: External Locus of Control (ELC) vs. an Internal Locus of Control (ILC). People with a strong internal locus of control believe their choices matter and affect their quality of life. People with a strong external locus of control believe that other people, their environment, or their situation are what accounts for their success or failure and ultimately—their happiness. You didn’t get that promotion you wanted. ILC people think about if they were qualified for it or that maybe they should have worked harder; ELC people blame management and their co-workers who kept them from getting that promotion. ILC people focus on what they can control—themselves. ELC focus on what’s out of their control—everything BUT themselves. 

You want to place your hopes in what you can control. That really just leaves YOU.

3. Expectations are everything. 

Weird question: have you ever picked up a drink that you thought was water, but it turned out to be Sprite or something? You know that little jolt you felt with the first sip? You know what that’s about? Expectations. Expectations are everything in life. Sometimes feeling hopeless is a sign that our expectations were way off in the first place.

We may have gotten our hopes up or put them in the wrong place.

I’m a huge movie lover. My town used to have a regular movie theater and a $1 theater. If I took my wife on a date to the regular movie theater, that’s $30 just for tickets. Add in drinks, snacks, and paying the babysitter and you have an expensive night out. One day, I recognized I expected more from those movies than the movies I saw at the $1 theater. I was more critical when I was more invested and had high expectations. I was way more likely to be disappointed by a movie at the regular theater than a movie at the $1 theater. It seemed that no matter what, a movie at the $1 theater was at least “okay” and I had a good time. 

I had less invested at the $1 theater, so my expectations were lower and I was rarely disappointed. When I was spending close to $100 to see a movie with my wife at the regular theater, I had higher expectations, because I was literally more invested in the experience, and was “let down” by a lot of the movies I saw there. ✭There were even times I saw a movie at the regular theater and didn’t think it was all that great BUT I saw the same movie again a month later at the $1 theater (why not?) and enjoyed it so much more. I was less invested in it so I adjusted my expectations. I didn’t feel let down and I had a good time. But, it was the same movie. What changed? I did.

Hope works in a similar way. Keep those expectations in check. Watch where you invest.

4. Train Your Brain.

Just like athletes rely on training, practice, and muscle memory to be successful in their sport, you have to train your brain and put in the practice and develop “thinking memory” or good thinking habits. This will help you be successful in the game of life. We have to be careful with what we look for in life because our brains will find it and give us the feelings that go with it. If you’ve trained your brain to look for what’s wrong or negative about everything—your brain will find it and give you the feelings that go with it. If you train your brain to look for what’s right, what’s positive about everything—your brain will find that, too, and deliver all the feelings that go with it.

✦ Some people complain that roses have thorns. 

✦ Some people are thankful that thorns have roses.

So, how do you train your brain to see what’s going right with you and your life?

How do you cultivate healthy thinking habits? Start in one place, looking for one thing and then check out the feelings that come with it. Start with you and your life. Take a couple of deep breaths. Let yourself be calm and quiet and undistracted. Now think of five things you have that you should be grateful for and why.

I’ll get you started—you’re alive! Not everybody can say that. That should feel good. Now you keep going. What should you be thankful for? What are big and little tiny things you should be grateful for? They are there! Train your thoughts to look for them every day

Keep a Gratitude Journal and spend more time there than on social media or watching the news. 

I told you hope was nearby. Hope is closer than you think. Hope is how you think.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

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Uncertainty has a way of paralyzing and controlling you, but you don’t have to let it. 

I stood at the edge. Staring down at the face of the water 30 feet below. Heart-pounding. My brain thinking a hundred different things at once as a couple of dozen other adventurers who decided to veer off the beaten path in Kauai’s forest looked on. 

What if I drown? What if I hit the water the wrong way and it knocks me out somehow? Or what if I belly-flop and everyone laughs? What if this could be the most exhilarating experience of my life? But what if this changes everything I understand about my fears? 

Only six inches from my heels to the lip of the cliff divided total uncertainty and what surely would happen if I took the next step.  

And I had a choice. I could turn around and avoid the situation altogether. I could stand there, staring, paralyzed. Or, I could take a step and move forward, perhaps in more ways than one. 

We all experience uncertainty in life. And this has never been truer than in the last three months:

COVID-19: Are things getting better or worse? 

What’s to come with this new election year? 

Will there ever be a solution to racism? 

Will we ever experience life as we knew it, once (or if) the pandemic ends? 

Are protests leading to peace or more violence? 

How do we protect our kids? 

Why are we getting hit with disasters like the Australian wildfires and murder hornets and tornadoes that kill and destroy? 

Will any of these things put me or my family in real danger?

We continue to be inundated with a life that grows more and more uncertain by the day. And that festering uncertainty is like pouring gasoline on an already-burning woodpile of anxiety. 

What exactly is the relation of uncertainty to our feelings of anxiety? 

Dr. Michael Stein, founder and owner of the private therapy practice Anxiety Solutions, says that facing uncertainty isn’t like confronting tangible fears such as snakes, dogs, or heights. These are the kinds of anxiety-inducers that you can avoid by walking (or running!) away. 

Uncertainty is much more elusive. You can’t literally run away from uncertainty. So, your brain pulls a fast one on you by telling you the way to deal with uncertainty is to overanalyze it. It makes sense; if you can logic out the uncertainty until it’s no longer uncertain, then problem solved! 

This is why it’s so easy to run stressful scenarios over and over in your head—what we call “ruminating.” You repetitively work scenarios through your head to come up with the most likely outcome. Because, if the sky falls, at least you’ll know it’s coming.

The only problem with this is, it doesn’t work. Uncertainty is, well, uncertain. No matter how much we try to rationalize or reason, we just don’t know what the outcome is going to be. And so you just go through this process of uncertainty, overanalyzing, uncertainty, overanalyzing… which opens the door wide for anxiety to come barging through. 

But if uncertainty is so uncertain, what’s there to do other than worry? 

When you have no crystal ball to see into an uncertain future, it’s easy to overvalue worry, fear, and anxiety. You feel like that’s the only thing you can do to survive. But this does us much more harm than good. 

Not only does the anxiety fueled by uncertainty have a negative impact on our sense of well-being and emotional adjustment, but it also wreaks havoc on our relationships. Once we get caught up in overstressing about something uncertain, it’s easy to slip into becoming anxious about anything uncertain. And this drives a wedge between the connection and intimacy we feel with our family members and those close to us. 

So what is there to do other than have anxiety? 

Dr. Stein says one thing you must do is change your thinking about uncertainty altogether—

If you tolerate uncertainty rather than trying to eliminate it, your brain eventually learns all of the following:

  • Uncertainty is not dangerous. It’s tolerable. 
  • There is no point to worry; it doesn’t stop bad things from happening. 
  • What worry does is cause you suffering right now, but it does not save you from suffering later on. 
  • Uncertainty does not require your attention. 

Training your brain to hold on to these truths is akin to, as Stein says, operating a spotlight. You change the focus of the spotlight from the uncertainty and worry to whatever you are doing in the present moment. 

All this boils down to a healthy understanding of what you can control and what you cannot control, and resolutely accepting that.

A helpful exercise I have found with uncertain situations is to make two columns on a sheet of paper titled Things I Cannot Control and Things I Can Control. Then write as many thoughts under each column as you can. 

For example, if you are facing the uncertainty of a possible job loss due to cutbacks from COVID-19, you may write under Things I Cannot Control:

  • I cannot control if the company downsizes. 
  • I cannot control when final decisions are made. 
  • I cannot control how the company determines who they’ll let go.

And then, under Things I Can Control:

  • I can control how I prepare to seek employment somewhere else, like updating my resumé or reaching out to business contacts. 
  • I can control the level of job performance I continue to display, in case that is a determining factor for the company. 
  • I can control where I focus the spotlight (whether on the worry or on the present moment), especially when I am around my family. 
  • I can control how I take care of myself, physically and emotionally, so that I have the healthiest approach to uncertainty. 

Uncertainty happens, all the time. We are all at the brink of the ledge, looking down into an unclear pool of water. Remember: this water isn’t something to worry and stress over and fear; it’s tolerable. You might not be in control of how cold it is or how high the ledge is. But you don’t have to let the uncertainty of what you can’t control paralyze you, and anxiety doesn’t have to be something that controls you. You are in control of the first step.

For other great reads on how to handle anxiety, take a look at these:

5 Ways to Handle Anxiety About Loved Ones Getting COVID-19

How I Overcome My Anxiety About COVID-19

How To Help Your Spouse Deal With Anxiety

Are You Setting a Good Example of Self-Care for Your Family?

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I just can’t handle it anymore. I’m overwhelmed by bitterness, I feel let down, and I just don’t get how this isn’t obvious to anyone else. 

Does it look like I want to do extra work all the time? 

Do I have to be the one to initiate each conversation?  

Why am I always staying late to clean up after my co-workers?

If you’re my friend, shouldn’t you know why I felt left out?

Why do I have to remind you three times before you do something?

Since when is my job being in charge of remembering every important date?

Who decided to make me the default solution to “if no one else will do it she/he will?”

You’re just over it. 

Feeling overworked and underappreciated is a lethal combination. It doesn’t motivate you to be the best version of yourself. And why would it?

What is Resentment?

There’s a word for this heavy feeling of disappointment, bitterness from unfair treatment, and anger. It’s resentment. Resentment feels so individual and deeply personal, but it can actually be something that comes between you and the people you want to be personal with. Resentment and contempt can walk hand in hand. Contempt can be lethal and destructive for relationships according to Dr. John Gottman, marriage researcher, therapist, and co-founder of The Gottman Institute, which uses research to help people improve their relationships. Though resentment is a common emotion, when it becomes persistent and something that holds you back from forgiving or being able to move forward, it must come to a resolution so you can go on with your life.

If you can relate to any of those questions or feelings above, consider doing two things before we move any further.

  • Acknowledge your self-awareness. You bravely admitted that there is something getting in your way of you moving forward or holding back a relationship that you either care about or you can’t avoid.
  • Acknowledge you’re capable of moving forward. Since you’re self-aware, you have a heightened understanding of how you relate to yourself and others. You’ve got this and you’re going to reconcile the resentment you may be experiencing in your relationship(s).

In many instances, to be free of resentment means forgiving, according to GoodTherapy, a resource for those searching for therapists, counselors, rehab, residential treatment, and care for mental health issues. “Some individuals find that making peace with something that happened and moving on works better for them. Regardless of how someone chooses to get rid of resentment, it most likely means adjusting one’s frame of mind or emotional responses.

How to Stop Resentment in a Relationship: 

Identify the root issue, irritation, or problem.

Are you mad there are dishes in the sink or are you mad there’s an expectation you’ll do them if they sit long enough? Are you upset your idea in the meeting wasn’t used or tired of feeling unheard? Is it possible you are mad that you’re using gas to drive to your friend’s house again? Or maybe frustrated that you are the one who initiates hanging out each time?

Be honest with yourself about what makes it difficult to let go.

Are there emotions that flood to the surface whenever you try dealing with it? Where do you think they are coming from?  Does it remind you of someone you had a bad relationship with?  Acknowledging the answers to the questions above can help you determine the best next steps. Is this something you need to deal with on your own or is there something you need to communicate to the person you are resenting? How you express these thoughts is critical.

Communicate your expectations.

If a conversation needs to take place, it will most likely be an ongoing conversation. Relationships grow and change over time. Sometimes expectations shift—both spoken and unspoken. It’s the things that go unspoken that can really create resentment and chaos. 

Be realistic with your expectations.

Don’t expect something from someone else you wouldn’t expect of yourself. Be flexible and willing to meet halfway. When you reach a compromise, your worth is acknowledged, your voice is heard and you practice empathy.

Don’t underestimate the power of empathy.

Perhaps the resentment you’ve been living with came from a misunderstanding or from someone who has a different perspective of what happened or interpretation of a situation. To alleviate the tension between you and the other person, consider talking about it with them. (It may not feel natural, but it may provide the peace you need to move forward.) Now, if you’re in a situation where a conversation with the other person isn’t an option, consider processing what their perspective could be with a trusted friend or family member.

Invite gratitude into your life.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships,” according to Harvard Health Publishing for Harvard’s medical school.

Without remedy, resentment can consume your thoughts and impact how you may carry yourself. These tips can equip you to face the problems of the past and propel your relationships into a healthier and more fulfilling future. You’ve got this.


***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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COVID-19 has most likely contributed to the longest ongoing uncertainty people have dealt with in, well, maybe ever.

Should I send my children to school?

Will I have a job tomorrow?

Is the economy going to make it?

Are we going to lose our home?

If I get COVID-19, will I survive?

Will things ever be normal again?

These are just some of the questions we are wrestling with as we try to create a sense of normalcy for ourselves and others.

The hard truth is, even when we are living our best lives, there’s a great deal of uncertainty. Anything could happen in the next moment that could throw our lives into complete chaos. The difference is, it’s not as in your face as COVID-19.

So, short of throwing in the towel, how do you deal with the ongoing uncertainty?

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl describes being separated from his wife in the concentration camps. Everything he owned was taken from him, including the manuscript for his book. As he shared what it was like living one day to the next with no idea whether his wife was still alive or whether that day would be his last day, he says he realized that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances—to choose one’s own way.

Frankl says, “In order to live a meaningful life, we have to identify what is meaningful to us in every moment. There is a kind of mindfulness to meaning—a level of focused attention where we must focus on identifying what we find meaningful.” 

Straight out of the gates, it seems like we all have the opportunity to deal with uncertainty. It starts with two things. We can decide what is most meaningful to us. AND we can choose the attitude with which we will engage the days ahead. Making decisions about both of these things will anchor us in our journey and give us a mindset for everything else we need to do.

Other strategies for dealing with uncertainty include:

  • Making plans, but holding them loosely. Everybody would like to be able to make a decision about school and be done with it. In this particular moment though, that is probably not how things will roll. So, making a plan, but including a couple of alternatives can help decrease the out of control feelings uncertainty often brings. 
  • Doing what you will wish you had done. Sounds a bit crazy, but these are difficult times. Often when we look back on a time when we struggled, we will say, “I wish I had just gone with my gut and…” It is easy to second guess yourself, but seriously, looking back 10 years from now, what will you wish you had done?
  • Paying attention to your mental health and the mental health of those around you. Back to the attitude thing. Our brains have a natural tendency to go negative, especially when the going gets tough. You or the ones you love may really be struggling at the moment. Surround yourself with supportive people. Seek help if you just can’t seem to shake feeling down and depressed all the time.
  • Giving yourself permission to feel what you feel. Write down your emotions: frustrated, tired, irritable, abandoned, isolated, anxious, lonely, bored, confused, inadequate, jealous. None of these are bad in and of themselves. How you choose to respond to these feelings can either help you move forward or make your life more complicated. 
  • Making a list of all the things you actually have control over. Even if you did this early on, do it again. It’s a good and helpful brain exercise. Remember, your brain believes what you tell it. If you are constantly talking about everything being out of control, your brain believes you and acts accordingly. Feeling out of control creates fear, and our body responds to fear by creating adrenaline and cortisol. Research shows that the long-term activation of the stress-response system and overexposure to stress hormones can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. It affects your ability to think clearly, make decisions, sleep and  literally function on a daily basis.
  • Considering things you can do to create some consistency in your daily living. Routines, rituals, consistency and structure help us feel more secure, especially in times of extreme uncertainty. Little things like going to bed and getting up at the same time every day or planning your meals can make a major impact on your well-being.
  • Enlisting the help of others. Once you have given some thought to your mindset and the attitude with which you want to engage life right now, ask friends, family members and/or co-workers to encourage you in your efforts. Ask them to help you be accountable for how you have decided to embrace the uncertainty, too.
  • Showing yourself some grace. You can do all of the things above and still have some really hard days. Instead of beating yourself up, acknowledge how hard it is. Cry if you need to, journal, go for a run—whatever it takes to help you process through it. The good news is, you know the direction you want to head and you can get back on track putting one foot in front of the other.

When you are lost and using a compass to figure out where you are, the needle may shake a bit, but it always finds north.

The road ahead may be shaky and full of twists and turns, but working through some of these strategies for dealing with uncertainty can help you find your north again. That way, you can keep on keeping on.

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It’s nothing new to disagree with the ones you love, whether it’s about COVID-19, quarantine, religion, guns, racism, politics, football or something else. In fact, chances are pretty good that you completely disagree on certain topics with someone you care deeply about. The disagreements may be so intense you wonder how you can actually co-exist. 

The level of intensity might feel more so at this moment in time in our culture. In fact, many people can hardly believe that the people they love have such different perspectives from their own. The ongoing stress from trying to navigate these issues can take a massive toll on our relationships. FOR REAL.

What do you do when you strongly disagree with the ones you love?

Although you might be tempted to confront them and tell them they are just plain wrong, you might want to reconsider. That plan probably won’t go very well for you because it’s likely your loved one will feel attacked. Nobody wants to feel attacked, right?

Instead, start by asking yourself a few questions.

What is the goal of my conversation with this person?

Do I just want to share information?

Am I trying to understand their perspective?

Do I feel the need to convince them they are wrong?

Am I trying to prove that I have a valid point?

Do I have to WIN?

Taking the time to think about your ultimate goal can help you prepare to constructively engage with them.

It may help to remember that no matter how hard you try, you cannot change someone else or make them see something the very same way that you do. Yelling at them, belittling them, coming across as condescending, stomping out of the room or being sarcastic will only fuel the fire. And it will take you further away from your intended goal.

Plenty of married couples, extended family,, siblings and roommates have vehemently disagreed about things, yet their love and respect for each other was never in question. How you have the discussion matters.

Here are some tips you can use to make your conversations productive:

  1. Look for things you do agree on. It is likely that you agree on far more than you disagree about. 
  2. Kindness and respect goes a long way when trying to discuss difficult topics. Be aware of your tone of voice and body language.
  3. Avoid imagining how you think the conversation will go or how it has gone in the past. Playing negative scenarios in your head will actually increase your stress. It could also steer the conversation downhill straight out of the gates.
  4. Be prepared to genuinely listen to their perspective—even if you already believe you don’t agree with them and can’t fathom how they could believe what they believe. When people feel heard, you are more likely to keep the conversation going and avoid damaging your relationship. **PRO-TIP: Paraphrase what you hear and avoid using the word, “but.” Using “but” negates everything that the other person just said. Try using “and” instead.**
  5. If it feels like the conversation is becoming heated, remember that getting louder will escalate the situation for sure. Plus, it actually makes it harder to hear what is being said. If you are struggling to think clearly or keep your cool, take a break. Say you need to go to the bathroom or you need to get a drink of water—anything to take a break in the action and allow yourselves time to breathe. Pausing is powerful.
  6. Avoid using “You always, you never,” and “You should.” Instead, focus on yourself and share your perspective while using “I” statements (I feel, I believe, I want, I need, etc.).

These are particularly stressful times, and when you disagree with the ones you love, IT’S HARD.

This means that many of us are experiencing extended periods of heightened anxiety and are constantly in a fight or flight mode—which is totally not normal. Fuses are shorter and we are probably more easily irritated. And, we may react more quickly, especially if we’ve been thinking or dwelling on the topic at hand. Acknowledge this and think through the fact that how we handle difficult conversations can impact the quality of our relationships. 

It’s vital to remember that this is a process. If over time the conversation seems to go nowhere, you may need to set boundaries around this topic in an effort to keep from destroying the relationship. Keep in mind that if you choose to walk away from the relationship, you will no longer have the opportunity to present a different perspective.

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Ready or not—here comes the 4th of July! But what if this year you really connected with your family, not just got the grill out and some sparklers? Holidays are a great opportunity to connect, strengthen family bonds, build your family identity, maintain or start new traditions, and even learn some history in a fun way! Oh, and eat good food!

1. Eat Together. (And Let The Kids Plan And Cook The Meal!)

If you are anything like the average American family, it is getting rarer and rarer to eat together as a family. This a great opportunity! Whether you go the traditional burgers and hot dogs route or the kids pick some crazy stuff—make sure everyone eats together. (And that they put their phones away after they snap a couple of pics of the family and yummy food.) There is just something special about sharing a meal together that strengthens family bonds. Don’t let your teenager make a plate and disappear to watch television or play video games. This is family time!

2. Cultivate Conversations!

Just like the charcoal grill needs some time to warm up, conversations often need a little time to get cooking. While you are eating, have some conversation starters ready—What are you looking forward to this summer? Whats your favorite family memory & why? What 4th of July stands out in your memory? Is there anything that we (parents) DON’T let you (kids) do that you wish you had the FREEDOM to do? ★ Retell “those” stories that tend to come up when everyone is together and laugh at them. If you have multiple generations of your family represented or extended family, encourage them to tell stories from “back in their day” or how their families celebrated holidays. Don’t rush off—let the conversations ebb and flow.

3. Have Fun!

Card games, board games, get the Heads Up app on someone’s phone. (It’s a blast for the whole family!) Depending on how old the kids are and the weather, don’t be afraid to get wet. Get that sprinkler out, the kiddie pool, water balloons, squirt guns, or just start spraying kids with the hose! (They’ll scream and run away—and then run back for more.) The internet is full of Fourth of July craft ideas. For a twist, let the kids pick the crafts and games or even let them make up a game that everyone plays. Go for a walk after dinner around the neighborhood or ride some bikes. Stop and say “Hi” to your neighbors.

4. Learn A Little History Together!

Reenactments, movies, and virtual tours are great fun ways to learn a little about what Independence Day actually means (or just some American history in general). These can be fun for everyone, plus they can add a little depth to your Fourth of July. (Don’t make it like school—school’s out!) For reenactments, you don’t need elaborate costumes or props. They’ll be more fun (and funny) with what’s laying around the house. The midnight ride of Paul Revere, Washington crossing the Delaware, battling the British, cracking the Liberty Bell, the family forming the Statue of Liberty. Whatever!

Check your television or streaming service for specials, documentaries, biopics, or age-appropriate war movies to learn about the lives and sacrifices that built America. Gather the family around for some edutainment!

Virtual Tours are awesome! Maybe try the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, The Museum of Flight, National Women’s History Museum, NASA, The American Battlefield Trust Virtual Battlefield Tours, or any number of others. What better time to learn about the country than on the Fourth! Can’t decide? Try one of these 15 virtual tours of American landmarks. (If possible, connect it to your television!) Lots of virtual tours have games built into them like scavenger hunts.

Be intentional about this (and all holidays).

Sometimes we get so busy with food, crafts, and decorations that we forget about family. (Your kids won’t remember the perfectly matched plates, napkins, and cups. They will remember the family fun and conversation!) ★ If you are one of the many people who feel conflicted celebrating this Fourth of July given our current events, remember, this country affords us the freedom to talk with our families about the ideals upon which this country was founded—”life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,”—and what we have seen happening across our country. It’s a great conversation with our children to learn the responsibility that all of us carry to live out those ideals. Seize this moment with your family! This is the perfect day to examine our country and ourselves. 

This Fourth of July doesn’t have to just be an excuse to get the grill out—it can be a meaningful and profound way to connect as a family!

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Have you ever noticed that every time you leave a certain family member’s presence, you feel worse than you did before you saw them?

Have you ever noticed that your aunt gossips all the time? 

Or that your in-laws criticize your every move?

Or that your own parents are more controlling now than ever?

And what about that uncle who doesn’t care what you’re doing—he thinks it’s okay to show up whenever he wants.

Toxic family members make your head hurt. They are poisonous to your health. They can drain you emotionally every time they are around.

How do you recognize toxic family members?

  • When you leave their presence, you often feel worse than you did before. 
  • They want to control your life. They tell you the decisions you should make, how you should spend your money, and the people you should be friends with.
  • You feel that they seem to always criticize you—your parenting, your cooking, your house management, anything and everything.
  • They may be physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive.
  • They always “need” you to come to their rescue.

Totally removing a toxic family member from your life may not be an option. However, you can manage the relationship to minimize its negative effects on you.

  • Overcome any fear you have of hurting your family member’s feelings. Your mental and emotional health comes first. Sometimes we’ve not addressed the situation directly because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. So instead, we end up hurt, frustrated, or angry every time we have to see them.
  • Set clear boundaries. People will often treat you the way you allow them to treat you. Toxic family members will often become accustomed to treating you in a certain kind of way. Until you set boundaries, it may not change. (And even then, there may be resistance because change is hard.) Standing firm on those boundaries says that you will not tolerate not being respected, valued, and treated with the dignity you deserve.
  • Learn to disengage. There are some conversations you may learn not to have with certain family members. Other times, you will learn to limit the amount of time you spend with them. The key is learning how to end interactions with toxic family members when you begin to feel your emotions triggered and when to avoid interactions altogether.
  • Seek help for support. Toxic family members can lead to stress, trauma, and mental health issues that may be best discussed with a counselor. 

It’s important to deal with the toxicity. Your mental and emotional health—and maybe even your physical health—can depend on it. Most importantly though, you’re worth it. Your very being is worth being treated with respect. You’re the one who should have control of your life.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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I’m a black man who interacts with lots of different people in many different environments. As such, the racial unrest has made me a prime target for conversations about the African American experience. Two of my colleagues and I (Gena, a black female, and Chris, a white male) recorded one such conversation recently. You can listen to it here. I’m learning firsthand the amount of progress our country needs to make to overcome racial disparity.

I’m convinced more than ever that building relationships must be at or near the very top of those priorities. Through my conversations about racial differences with Chris and several others, here’s what I’ve learned.

1. The lack of awareness and disbelief of many has been surprising.

The black experience in America is extremely difficult to comprehend. The trepidation of an encounter with the police. The thoughts which flood my mind anytime I drive past a Confederate flag. The feelings we experience so often when we enter an environment as the only black person or family present. Being able to relate to the mentality of the black experience is hard. In many of my conversations, I’m realizing how oblivious to it my white friends are.

2. The conversations about racial differences definitely can create a level of discomfort.

At times, I can see or hear the natural urge which Chris and others have had to want to deny my experiences, explain it away, justify the actions of themselves or others, or not accept that the culture created in America could produce such oppression. Some things are flat out hard to hear. Whether it’s social norms, housing policies, or law enforcement, to know that you have willingly or unwillingly participated in oppressing others is a difficult pill to swallow. Resisting the urge to be defensive and prove the opposite is not easy. 

3. Relationship strength has made conversations productive.

It was definitely eye-opening to Chris that someone with whom he has had hundreds of conversations and someone that he respects lives such a different reality. We can discuss these realities of being the minority and thinking differently about safety and opportunity because of the high level of trust that we have for one another.

4. There are people who genuinely want to fix the problems but feel frustrated and powerless.

Chris and I have talked about what he can do. That question consistently comes up from my white friends. How can we fix this? I appreciate the desire.  I’m not sure if we, as a country or as individuals are willing to put in the long, diligent, hard work that it takes to recalibrate our country on these matters. Everyone is looking for answers.

Before we can truly find answers, it’s important that we understand the root of the problem and its compounding impact. (And if you’re expecting me to state the root of the problem here, then you’re missing the point that there’s long, diligent, hard work needed to recalibrate the country.) Although I will say, I believe at every step along the way, it’s important for my friends to feel encouraged and empowered to call out both blatant and subtle racism in their homes, workplace, and community. 

5. My own testing mechanisms for gauging one’s willingness to engage in dialogue.

I believe that Chris and many others truly genuinely desire to learn, understand, and value the challenges blacks have faced. I’ve recognized that being genuine and open and willing to work to be a part of the solution can be two different things. Lots of people are interested in being a “good” person that treats people the “right” way. Being open and willing to understand how you may be falling short of that is another matter altogether. When I trust that you’re open and willing, I become more willing to share the depths of my own experiences. 

6. I have mixed emotions about the sudden interest to have these conversations about racial differences. 

  1. Disappointment and Frustration that it’s taken a series of blatant events and a quarantined environment to open the country’s mind to many of the poignant realities of the African American experience. That, in itself, is disappointing and frustrating.
  2. Thankful for the humble and honest engagement that Chris and others within my work and social circle have been willing to participate in.
  3. Skeptical. Turning a huge ship like systemic racism requires sacrifice, change, and urgency, a patient urgency. Those that reap the biggest benefits of the current system must be willing to give up some of those benefits. I’m skeptical because I believe that the cost for true equality is greater than some are willing to pay.
  4. Proud of the effort my parents worked so hard to instill in me to ensure that I knew my value as a human being, as their son, and as a black man.  Given that my father was arrested during the Civil Rights movement in the 60s for protesting and that my mother has achieved the title of “First Black Woman to…” for several of her professional and civic accomplishments gives me a sense of pride for what’s possible for a black man in America.

I walked away from my conversation with Chris more convinced that these conversations must happen. They do help me to remain aware of the progress that needs to be made for true equality. They also illuminate the need to help our white friends comprehend the gravity of what’s at stake as a country if we aren’t willing to do the hard work to push for equal value for all.

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