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Grief is a response to loss. It’s characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, depression, numbness, anger, and guilt. The goal of successful grief resolution is to reestablish emotional balance. Not everyone grieves the same things or expresses their grief in the same way. And then there’s what we call “disenfranchised grief.” (You probably know what it is, and you may have even felt it, but you might not know what to call it.)

Recognizing that loss comes in many forms has been one positive thing we’ve taken away from the pandemic. For example, loss of:

  • A prom or graduation
  • A dream wedding
  • Funeral attendance
  • Vacations
  • Family reunions
  • Other gatherings

People are more aware of “disenfranchised grief” now. Still, it’s helpful for us to think beyond the pandemic to other commonly overlooked losses. That way, we can support those suffering from them.

Understanding Disenfranchised Grief: 

  1. Grief that isn’t typically recognized by societal norms and/or lacks cultural expression.
  2. Grief that is often minimized, invalidated, stigmatized, marginalized, or misunderstood.

Disenfranchised grief (DG) leaves individuals to process their loss on their own or in secret. They lack the supportive benefits available to people whose losses are more socially accepted, expected, acknowledged, or understood. Often, people tell those in distress, “You didn’t even know them that well,” or “Move on,” or “Get over it.”

Even if we don’t understand it or agree with it, it doesn’t make the pain any less. The pain is REAL. 

Examples of losses that are frequently disenfranchised include:

  • death of an “ex,” an absent sibling or parent
  • loss of someone who was not a “blood relative”
  • loss of a co-worker or pet
  • an adoption that fell through
  • loss of possessions, loss of location due to a relocation or move
  • loss of mobility or health, loss of a body part
  • infertility, miscarriage, stillborn child
  • incarceration of a friend or family member
  • deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, suicide, or overdose
  • loss of personality due to dementia, etc.

Frequently, the loss itself may not be disenfranchised, but the manner in which an individual grieves may be. 

Those around them may criticize the length of their grieving process or the form their grief takes. Societies and cultures can have “unwritten rules” when it comes to grief. People often question, criticize, or invalidate expressions outside those “rules.” These things can complicate the grieving process. 

For many circumstances that individuals experience, there is no “race for the cure,” support group, lapel ribbon, hotline, celebrity fundraiser, foundation, or “public awareness” campaign. There may not even be a Hallmark card for it. This doesn’t mean that feelings of grief are invalid or illegitimate.

Often, people don’t even know they are experiencing DG, let alone know how to work through it. 

Instead, people have a tendency to minimize or invalidate their loss by comparing it to what a person (or society) believes is a “legitimate” loss.

Disenfranchised Grief. They say if you can name it, you can tame it. It might begin by being honest with yourself, admitting you’re grieving, and not feeling guilty about it. 

Stop faking smiles. Then find some support. The people around you are probably more than willing to help you. They just might not recognize your “outside the box” loss.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help or to utilize resources like The Grief Recovery Method.

For those of us who may know someone experiencing DG, support might begin by expanding our definitions of “loss” and “grief.” We can follow up by making ourselves available to those who are hurting and grieving. We can listen and empathetically validate their sense of loss. 

About 2.5 million people die in the United States each year. They all leave an average of five grieving people behind. Not all those grieving people grieve the same.

If we can expand our perspective on grief, we can expand our support to those who are grieving. People are hurting, and we can help.

OTHER HELPFUL BLOGS:

How to Help Your Child Deal With Grief

6 Things You Can Do to Help a Child Who Is Grieving the Death of a Parent

4 Ways You Can Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Loved One

How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving the Death of a Spouse

Is Overthinking Killing Your Relationships?

Get tips for what you can do about it.

I hit the road every Saturday morning. Usually, I’m gone for an hour or two. Saturday is my long run day. The time commitment of training for a half marathon is significant. As I walk out the door, my little ones are wide awake and active. They hit me with the questions… “Where are you going, Dad?” “When will you be back?” “Why will you be gone for so long?” “Can you stay with us?”

Up to a few months ago, I felt guilty for leaving them. I felt like I was being selfish. I questioned if I was neglecting my wife and kids to do something I wanted to do, which took so much time and energy. This was me overthinking, being flooded with negative self-talk. They didn’t tell me I was being selfish. They were my biggest cheerleaders. But my overthinking was affecting reality.

Have you been there? Are you an overthinker, too?

What is overthinking?

In his latest book, Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking, Jon Acuff offers us a simple definition of overthinking. He says, “Overthinking is when what you think gets in the way of what you want.” 

When I think I’m neglecting my family to go on long runs one day a week, I’m listening to negative self-talk. Acuff calls these soundtracks. They are symptoms of overthinking that get you nowhere. We are just wasting resources on dead-end thoughts. He refers to overthinking as “the greatest thief of all. It steals time, creativity, productivity, hope.”

We can all be subject to overthinking as a spouse, a parent, a boss, an employee, or a friend. In any scenario, overthinking can be detrimental to furthering our relationships.

So, how do I stop overthinking?

Jon Acuff suggests we retire our broken soundtracks, replace them with new ones, and then repeat the new ones so often that they become the predominant thoughts you hear. The soundtracks we listen to are associated with an action. A broken soundtrack leads to inaction. It doesn’t take us anywhere, and doesn’t motivate us to push toward our goals. 

Let me give you a real-life example. Training for a half-marathon takes anywhere from 4-6 hours a week for 12-18 weeks. This is time I would normally spend with my family. My negative self-talk led me to believe I was neglecting them and that I needed to spend that time with them, having fun. This made my training difficult because I felt guilty. That’s my broken soundtrack—all in my head.

My wife told me, “We are so proud of you. You are setting goals and doing what you love.” She helped me see that even though I was giving up some family time, I showed my kids what it looks like to set goals and take steps to achieve them. And there’s a bonus: they’re getting some weekend trips to races that they are super excited about.

I retired my broken soundtrack, replaced it with a new one, and it’s playing on repeat.

To stop overthinking, we have to identify a broken soundtrack. But, how do we do that?

Jon Acuff gives us a simple way to figure it out. Write down something you want to do. Doesn’t have to be anything significant. Maybe it’s, “I want to have a weekly date night.” Then, listen to the first thought you have. What is your first reaction? If you immediately start saying, We don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, or we can’t afford a babysitter, you’re overthinking.

Congrats, you just found a broken soundtrack. Now ask three simple questions about that thought:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it helpful? (Does it move me forward or hold me back?)
  3. Is it kind?

You don’t have to ask these questions about every thought, but ask about the big ones. Question the thoughts that seem to be holding you back the most. You might be surprised at how many broken soundtracks are playing in your mind.

Overthinking doesn’t have to kill your relationships. If you are an overthinker, evaluate those thoughts. Identify if they are true, helpful, or kind. And if those thoughts are hurting your relationships, it’s time to release, reshape and repeat new ones. You can choose what you think. Tell yourself, “I have the permission and the ability to choose what I think during the day to lead me to action I will take.”

Other helpful blogs:

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

How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship

Why Spending Time Alone Is Good for Your Marriage

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

It’s been one year since our lives drastically changed. Schools shifted to virtual learning, many of us were scrambling to set up home offices, and some lost their jobs. Life looks somewhat different today. But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel; there is hope. 

With so many drastic changes, 2020 also saw a rise in stress, anxiety, and loneliness. The American Psychological Association reports that 78% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives. I’m part of that group.

As anxiety and stress increase, self-care is essential, whether that’s through outdoor exercise, getting into nature, yoga, reading more, unplugging from technology, or breathing exercises. I enjoy going for a run. Being outdoors is my go-to. (In cases of extreme stress, anxiety, loneliness, or a psychological disorder, seek the help of a professional.)

If we don’t care for ourselves, we’re unable to care for others.

There are many techniques and practices to help us navigate stress

Let me introduce you to a method that neuroscientists have found useful. You may already do this and not even realize it’s an actual practice. Enter: havening. Neuroscientist Dr. Ronald Ruden created havening techniques a decade ago. Havening uses gentle touch to the upper arms, hands and face, and constructive messaging to replace stressful responses with healthier ones.

Havening can be as simple as rubbing your hands together, on your face, or through your hair when you feel stress rising. You may do these simple acts without even realizing it. But neurologically, it helps your brain cope with stress.

You may be asking, how does this help? (I know I was). 

Havening helps boost oxytocin, a “love hormone” that is typically released through human touch and bonding. Contact is something that we’ve been lacking over the past few months. The hugs, handshakes, and high-fives all help us de-stress. Havening can convince your brain that you are receiving some of this touch. 

We are built for community, for relationships, and to do life with other people (in-person, not virtually). This has presented challenges for many as we balance our need to be with people and health concerns. Of course, I’m not suggesting that havening should replace personal contact and touch. But in a world where touch and close proximity is still being limited or feels uncomfortable to many, havening is a great way to calm yourself and the ones you love. It’s also helpful for those who are not comfortable being touched by others.

This technique can also be beneficial for kids, especially as anxiety has risen due to online school and the lack of time with friends. If your child has been struggling with meltdowns, anger, or anxiety due to loneliness, encourage them to pause, take a deep breath, and wrap their arms around themselves in a big bear hug. It may seem weird at first, but practicing havening can help you feel more grounded and connected.  

We have learned much over these past 12 months. We’ve learned resilience, flexibility, what’s important, and that we are made for relationships. We’re made to be with other people, and our brains need that connection, along with physical touch. 

As we push forward through this pandemic, continue to take care of yourself and your family. If you haven’t already, figure out what reduces your stress and brings you joy. Use havening if you feel out of control or anxious. Put self-care at the top of your to-do list. And if you take up running, I’ll see you out there.

Other helpful resources:

What Britney Spears Has to Teach Us About Alone Time in Marriage

Turns out, taking care of yourself helps you take care of each other.

Want a healthy, lasting marriage? Be prepared to be alone and focus on yourself. Totally. Backed. By. Research. “Alone Time” is part of what is frequently referred to as “Self-Care.” You and your spouse need it. You both probably work and stuff, so free time is couple time, right? And it should be. That’s why you got married. 

But not all free time should be couple time. You both need some alone time to recharge and recalibrate. This is part of you working to grow into the best possible version of yourself. No worries, the “self” in “self-care” isn’t self-ish. You and your spouse plan and prioritize alone time so couple time can be more meaningful. (And more fun!)

How much alone time in marriage do I need?

What do I do with it?

What if my spouse wants or needs more or less time?

How do we talk about it?

You’re asking all the right questions. Here’s why we need to answer them…

This month, the new unauthorized Britney Spears documentary, The New York Times Presents “Framing Britney Spears” premiered on FX and Hulu. It generated over a million tweets the first night. The premiere coincides with the growing #FreeBritney movement as lawyers convene to debate if the 39-year-old pop icon is competent to manage her own life.

Since 2008, Britney Spears has been placed under a “conservatorship” managed by her father and various lawyers. (You remember why. Head-shaving and whatnot.) This is a legal arrangement usually reserved for people in a coma, those who suffer from mental illness, and the elderly. Under these circumstances, Spears has not been allowed to:

  • Vote.
  • Drive.
  • Manage her money.
  • Make career decisions.
  • Get married.
  • Have children.
  • Have custody of her children.
  • Speak publicly about the conservatorship. (Kuhn-sur-vuh-ter-ship. Takes a few tries.)
  • Testify on behalf of herself regarding her mental, emotional, physical competency.

For over 12 freakin’ years! Imagine living like this! 

During this time, “she” has released three successful albums and one… um… not. (Sorry, Britney Jean.) “She” has completed world tours and a four-year, $140 million Las Vegas gig. “She” has launched fragrance and clothing lines. So, “she” has been busy. But other people manage her life. 

★ If you aren’t actively and mindfully managing yourself, who or what is? Imagine living like this! Just because you’re busy doing all the things, even the successful things, it doesn’t mean you’re taking care of yourself. In fact, busyness is the biggest enemy of healthy, constructive alone time.

So, those questions about alone time in marriage:

How much alone time do I need?

There’s no formula for calculating the ratio of couple time to alone time. Well, actually, there is. Research says 70/30, but I don’t want you looking at your watch. I’d rather you listen

Listen to:

  • Your spouse. 
  • Trusted friends. 
  • Your body. 

Any signs you’re not your usual self? Drifting away from your goals? Feelings building up? Body breaking down? Time for some alone time. NOTE: Ideally, you plan some alone time into your day and week to avoid getting some sorta way. Just sayin’.

What do I do with it?

Journal. Meditate. Exercise. Origami. Whatever helps you be healthy and “competent.” Mentally, emotionally, and physically. And hey, alone time doesn’t have to be a lonely time. Build friendships and socialize with people that encourage and energize you.

What if my spouse wants or needs more or less time?

It’s all good! Everyone is different. You’ll have seasons when you want or need more or less.

How do we talk about alone time?

This is important. It’s not just blurting it out. (Okay, it kinda might be sometimes.) You want to cultivate communication and a relationship where you and your spouse can speak to each other honestly and vulnerably. And hear each other with your hearts. Not just about your needs for alone time, but everything else in your marriage.

I’m gonna leave you alone now. Marriage is two individuals becoming a team for life. You owe it to yourself and your spouse to be a healthy, growing individual. Remember, if you don’t take care of you, something else will. You manage you.

More blogs you might find helpful:

You may find yourself in the spot where you and your spouse don’t have much in common in the way of interests or hobbies. Maybe you think you have nothing in common. And you may wonder, should I care about my spouse’s interests? If I don’t share my spouse’s interests, does that mean I don’t care about my spouse? Just how important is it to care about what they like to do??

Let me tell you about my situation. I fish. It’s what I do. My wife, not so much. Actually, not at all. 

But I will tell you what my wife does do. She recognizes when I need to de-stress, and says, “Babe, you need to go fishing.” 

Here’s my point: She does not at all share in my love of fishing. But she cares for me enough to support my love of fishing. 

There are two bottom lines here. The first is, if you care about your spouse, you will naturally care about their interests. (Notice, I didn’t say you will share in them.) 

Here’s why it’s essential:

  • Your spouse’s interests (assuming they’re healthy interests) are what helps them be a better version of themselves. How fulfilled do you feel when you’re doing something you like? Do your interests give you a sense of meaning and identity? Of course. That’s why you take part in your interests. Your spouse feels the same way. 
  • Your spouse’s hobbies help them to practice self-care. Whether it’s fishing, scrapbooking, running, cooking, reading, or yard work, our interests serve to bring our stress and anxiety levels down a few notches. It’s part of how we maintain our mental health. What your mate does for fun allows them to de-stress and unwind.   
  • Your spouse’s interests help them to be a better spouse and parent. Add up the two previous points, and your spouse is in a better position to be what they need for your family. 

The second bottom line is this: caring about your spouse’s interests doesn’t mean you have to share those interests. 

There are ways to show care for your spouse and support them in their interests without feeling the need to invest waist-deep in those activities yourself.

Here are some possibilities: 

  • Encourage them to do what they enjoy doing in times of stress or anxiety. You know your spouse. You can tell when they need a break or just a mental health tune-up. Like anyone else, sometimes they may need a reminder that doing something they love is just what they need at that moment. 
  • Affirm and compliment them in their interests. When I catch a fish I’m proud of, I take a picture and send it to my wife. The truth: she couldn’t care less about how big a fish I caught. But she always compliments me on it and tells me, “Good job! Way to go! You are such a studly fisherman!” (Okay, I made that last one up, but I’m sure that’s what she’d say.)  Let your spouse know you like them doing what they like doing. 
  • Participate as a “one-time experience.” Your spouse may feel supported if you participate once in what they like doing, understanding it’s not a regular thing. The outdoors may not be your thing, but joining your spouse on an easy hike, just this once, can show them your support. The point here isn’t that you’re going to try to love cooking, but that you love being with your spouse. And all this without the pressure of requiring yourself to take up hiking every weekend.
  • Allow your spouse to be the expert. I love it when my wife asks me something about fishing because it allows me to tell her all I know about it. Truthfully, she may not remember the difference between a spinning rod and a fly rod. But she cared enough to ask me about something I love doing that I know she doesn’t love. 
  • Encourage growth in their interests. Part of the joy of having hobbies is they give you something to grow in knowledge and skill. It feels good to improve your ability to camp, sew, do woodworking, or paint. You are in the position to be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader with this. 

You can offer lots of care and love for your spouse without feeling the need to take on a hobby you have no interest in.

I’d encourage you to share an honest conversation about the interests you share and don’t share. ✦ Don’t forget! Carve out time to do things together you both love to do. No matter what, be sure to let them know you love them loving what they love to do as well. 

Close your eyes. Imagine drinking your favorite drink, smelling your favorite candle, sitting in front of the fire snuggled in a blanket, taking the first bite of your mom’s mac ‘n’ cheese, getting a shoulder rub, and smelling freshly-baked cookies—then taking a bite of one straight from the oven.

creating comfort

Open your eyes. What did you feel? For many, the word comfort comes to mind—something many of us are looking for during these very challenging times. Finding a place of comfort allows us to escape from the stressful things happening around us and experience soothing moments.

It’s not normal to experience the amount of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty most of us have felt this year. And it’s been challenging for many to find any relief or comfort, yet we desperately need it. Many folks are great at creating comforting moments for others, but when it comes to being intentional about creating comfort in their world, well, not so much. 

You can be intentional, even in times of extreme stress, about building soothing moments into your day that allow you to escape. If you’re thinking you just can’t afford to do that, here’s hoping you will reconsider. You really can’t afford not to. We all need moments that allow for a break in the action to hit the refresh button. It’s good for us, and it’s good for the people around us.

Here are some ways to create comfort in your life:

  1. Make a list of all the things you love that make you happy. Do some of those things daily.
  2. Indulge in your favorite comfort meal. You know, all the stuff you would typically say, “I shouldn’t be eating this…” Eat that and savor every second of it guilt-free.
  3. Take time out for a walk. Make a point of looking up at the sky, watching the trees, and looking for wildlife. Pay attention to your breathing. Avoid thinking about things that are stressful in your life at the moment. Literally, take a break.
  4. Laugh. Watch a funny show or talk to that friend who always makes you laugh.
  5. Listen to soothing music, read a book or magazine, work on a puzzle, or on your hobby. Doing something that distracts you from the day’s stress and anxiety can be relaxing and bring comfort.
  6. Sit outside in the sun and enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet. Or lock yourself in the bathroom, light a candle, and soak in a warm bath.
  7. Pray or meditate. Many find this comforting.
  8. Spend time with your pet. If you don’t have one, some shelters are letting people foster pets during the pandemic. You can always ask to visit your neighbor’s pet. Research shows spending time with a pet has health benefits and brings comfort.
  9. Think about all the good things happening in your life. Having gratitude for what you do have can bring comfort in the face of challenges.
  10. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers because you’re worth it. If flowers are your thing, make a bouquet from your yard or grab some from the store and place them where you’ll see them frequently throughout your day.

You don’t have to do all (or any) of these things to create more comfort in your life. Choose things that bring you the most comfort or make your own list. The goal is to create an environment in your home that is comforting and safe where relationships can thrive. Now get comfy!

Related: 5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

8 Ways To Care for Your Spouse’s Mental Health

Give them hope through your encouragement.

Full transparency here: I’ve dealt with feelings of depression and anxiety through much of my adulthood. In fact, I brought it right with me into my marriage. Through it all, my wife has been a solid rock of support and encouragement for me and my mental health during those difficult times. And looking back, I’ve been able to catch a glimpse of what she was feeling for me: 

I’m worried for his well-being. I know he isn’t himself. His heart is hurting. His mind is swarming. He’s just on edge all… the… time. There’s no life in his voice. He just has a sense of hopelessness, tension, defeat. And I just want him to be happy again so we can enjoy our life together like we once did. 

Does any of this sound familiar?  

Maybe you’ve had the same thoughts about your spouse. It’s difficult to see the person you love the most experiencing challenges like grief, sadness, anxiety, and stress. It impacts not only your spouse but also your marriage. And you want to help, but maybe you just don’t know how. 

Fortunately, there is hope. How can you show care and support for your spouse’s mental health? Here are eight ways: 

1. Remind them you are there.

One of the worst feelings someone can have who is experiencing emotional difficulties is feeling like they are alone in their predicament. The continual reminder that you are there for them, you’re there to listen, and you are not there to judge or think less of them because of what they’re going through means the world

2. Encourage your spouse with The Big 3: Exercise, Diet, and Sleep.

These are the three best things we can do to help ourselves when our mental health is under attack. They are the “hubs” of self-care. Physical activity, especially cardio, and clean eating have been shown to improve emotional health. And I can’t tell you enough just how important sleep is to fight off stress, anxiety, and depression. Most people need 8-9 hours of sleep each night, and each one of those hours is precious to care for yourself. Encourage your spouse to maintain The Big 3 and join them in the mission to work out, eat clean, and sleep well. 

3. Do everyday activities together.

When I’ve felt particularly out of sorts, my wonderful wife would invite me to go on an errand with her or to do something seemingly mundane with her around the house. The sheer act of being together and focusing on some activity — picking up the groceries, folding the laundry (lots of bonding happens over folding fitted sheets), getting the car washed (for an added bonus, jamming out to Led Zeppelin as your car shuffles through the automatic wash, an instant feel-good) — can help pull your spouse out of a funk. 

4. Coach your spouse to choose their “Something to Look Forward to.”

Long ago, a friend of mine gave me this life-changing, simple piece of advice, and my wife has encouraged me with it: every week, choose that one thing that you’re going to look forward to on the weekend (or whatever the “end of the week” looks like for your spouse). It can be anything enjoyable: a hike, watching the football game, ordering pizza, eating that piece of cake in the fridge, a fishing trip, working in the yard, smoking some ribs, visiting your favorite fast food place. I’ve found that whatever setbacks I experience through the week, sometimes my “Something to Look Forward to” is what helps me to keep taking each step forward. Help your spouse find their “Something to Look Forward to” each week. 

5. Experience some fresh air together.

There’s something about being outside in the open air and the warm sunlight that takes the edge off strong emotions. Invite your spouse to share some outdoor time, whether it’s hiking in the woods or sitting on the front porch to watch the sunset. You certainly don’t have to be an “outdoor person” to gain the benefits that clean air and the vitamin D from sunlight provides (which, by the way, has been shown to reduce depression and boost weight loss). 

6. Be physically intimate with each other.

Physical touch, whether it’s sexual or non-sexual touch, like holding hugs or hand-holding, has been shown to help improve mental and emotional health, not to mention increase closeness and connection with each other. Healthy physical touch from someone who cares (that is, you) causes those feel-good chemicals to squirt through the brain, defending against feelings of sadness and anxiety. And don’t laugh, but scheduled sex is where it’s at. Hear me out. If your spouse is someone who, say, really enjoys sex, more than likely it’s a stress-reliever for them. When the two of you schedule your lovemaking, you give them something they can count on to simmer down the emotions while you, well, heat things up. 

7. Encourage time with friends and family.

It’s easy for someone weighed down with heavy feelings to isolate themselves. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to reach out to others. When I’ve felt like this, my wife would sometimes say something like, “Why don’t you call up your friend Brian and see if he wants to watch the football game?” Or, “Why not go over to your mom’s house and take her some cookies” Being with others helps a heavy heart. And sometimes a person just needs a shot of encouragement to make that connection. Encourage time with someone they are close to when the mood is down. 

8. Go on dates.

This is arguably the most important item on the list. Try to have a weekly date together. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive or even outside the house. As a matter of fact, take some of what’s above and make it a date: the “Something to Look Forward to,” time spent outdoors, ordering a pizza in, a walk around the neighborhood, a Netflix movie, or maybe even scheduled intimacy. The point is to have a meaningful time together. And remember: because your spouse is dealing with heavy emotions, you may have to be the one to prompt these dates. 

If you observe that your spouse’s mental health doesn’t change for the better or gets worse, encourage them to visit a professional counselor. Offer to go with them if they are nervous or uncertain. Try to help them understand that talking to a counselor doesn’t mean they are “broken” or something “is wrong with them.” They are simply there to talk through some of the difficult feelings they’re experiencing. 

One more thing: the battle to manage strong emotions like anxiety, sadness, or stress is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t expect instant improvements with a walk in the woods or a night out on the town. 

And let’s not ignore the fact that your spouse’s struggles with mental health are hard on you as well; you feel the exhaustion and stress they feel. Be sure you are taking care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and exercise, and make sure you have a healthy support system you can turn to. Practice good self-care. 

You are your spouse’s biggest support. And you have the power to instill a sense of hope in them with your love and encouragement. Choose at least one of the strategies above to do this week. Assure your spouse you are there for them no matter what. Go on a date. Share a walk outside. Whatever it is, let them know you are right there beside them. Believe me: it will mean the world to them. 

***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.***

Image from Unsplash.com

“If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating rest and play, and we must work to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.”

Brené Brown

I’m so exhausted and stressed out!” Is that a cry for help or a badge of honor?

Sadly, we live in a culture that not only normalizes burnout as a way of life but also kinda glorifies it. If you are perpetually busy and exhausted—You. Must. Be. Important! 

But at what cost?

Maybe we need to worry more about being healthy people. 

Ah, but insights like that usually only come to us when we slow down, find some quiet, and get alone with ourselves. Alone. Solitude. Introspection. “Sorry, ain’t got time for that!” (I think a lot of people intentionally stay busy because they don’t want to have to think about life and look at themselves.) Make time. Being alone is a healthy skill to be cultivated. Being alone is when some cool stuff happens: Inspiration. Reflection. Insight. Wonder. Clarity. Rest and Restoration. Whatever ambition has you so busy chasing, you’re going to need all this stuff along the way. Plus, the people you care about need you to care about you and take care of you.

Here are five signs you need some alone time, stat!

1. Your body is trying to get your attention.

Do you wake up and not feel rested and rejuvenated? Does your body “hit a wall” during the day that sends you to the coffee-maker? Do you catch every cold and flu bug that’s going around? Do you collapse into bed like you just finished a marathon? 

Your body might be trying to get your attention. It’s trying to tell you that your batteries are low and need recharging. Some time alone doing something restful and reenergizing might be just the ticket. Make sure it’s something you genuinely find soothing and medicinal—not work-related and stress-inducing.

2. Little things just wreck you.

Things you normally would take in stride or wouldn’t bother you at all now get an exaggerated response from you. It could be a short delay, a slight change of plans, an annoying freeway driver, or someone’s tone of voice, and you’re fuming or crumbling. You know that’s not you.

You’re fragile. You’ve become so busy and stressed you don’t have the margin or emotional resources left to handle life’s little annoyances. Alone-time is anti-fragile time. It strengthens you on the inside. Getting alone in a meaningful, healthy way can give you the focus to regain some perspective, as well as the fortitude to handle bumps along the way.

3. The people in your life are dropping hints… 

Learn to put the clues together. That look on your spouse’s face means you snapped at them. That eye-roll from your kid means, “What’s. Up. With. You?

Your friend or co-worker asking, “Are you okay?” or “How have you been lately?” means “Someone has their Cranky Pants on today!

Sometimes we are the last person to recognize how we’ve changed and are not acting like ourselves. Learn to pick up on the hints before the hints become arguments, outbursts, or resentment. You don’t want to hurt the people you love even a little bit, but when you’re tired and stressed out, or feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, you tend to take it out on the people closest to you. We all do.

Don’t be afraid to tell the people in your life you need a little alone time. It’s mature and self-aware to say, “Sorry I’ve been a little extra lately. I need to go for a walk and clear my head.” Go to a movie by yourself or send yourself to your room and watch one. Take a book to a coffee shop. Go for that run. Reassure the family that it’s not them, it’s you. (They know.)

4. You’re bored, not interested in anything, and just feel… blah.

You’ve been rushing through your hectic schedule so fast for so long, you don’t remember what to do with some downtime. You’re so burned out, you just don’t feel like doing anything—even the things you normally enjoy. You are listless and lethargic. You aren’t up or down—you’re just there. 

Sometimes you need some unproductive, unfocused vegging out alone time. Grab your favorite snack and watch some reruns of your favorite show. Go to a park or out on your deck and just sit. Soak up some sun. To the untrained eye, you look like you’re doing nothing, and that’s exactly what you need. This afternoon’s plan is not to have plans. Feel what it feels like to have no deadlines and no demands on your time. Give yourself permission to clock out for a little while. Feel that? Feels good. (If you feel “blah” for weeks at a time, that’s not good. Get that checked out.)

5. Sometimes, you just know. 

Sometimes you do. Listen to that little voice. Quit ignoring it. Stop thinking you don’t really need some alone time or don’t deserve it or it’s a sign of weakness or will disappoint someone if you take it. The world won’t stop spinning if you don’t get to everything on your To-Do list. That’s vanity. Give yourself a break. The reality is, alone time helps bring clarity, creativity, and energy to every part of your life. Your life-goals won’t suffer if you take some time for you; your life-goals will suffer if you don’t.

You got this!

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