assertiveness

The Scary Trifecta of Mental Health -- Anxiety, Depresson and Bipolar

            I’m a counselor, right?  So I figure it would be good to write something about anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, a trifecta of mental health experiences you’ve probably heard about. 

 

Cease and desist complaining!

Cease and desist complaining!

                                                                   

 Random Facts About Anxiety

The constant and continually changing worries of people with anxiety disorder are mostly about everyday matters; they can’t shake the feeling that something bad will happen and they will not be prepared. (missing an appointment, losing a job, having an accident)  Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. 

            Included in anxiety conditions are various phobias like social phobia, agoraphobia and OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder.  And if you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know those symptoms of heart racing, numbness and  tingling in your extremities, short, gasping breaths can send you to the emergency room, thinking you’re having a heart attack!  That’s how scary anxiety can be. 

            As shown on the thermal images of the picture above, the brain’s chemistry is directly affected in anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. 

 

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Depression

Is more than just sadness.   People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

            A recent study revealed that in general, 300 million people worldwide experience depression.  That’s 300l,000,000 – a lot!  About 50% have both anxiety and depression.

            As in anxiety, the brain’s chemistry is impacted by an overload of adrenaline creating cortisol, the stress hormone.  High levels of cortisol can wear down the brain’s ability to function properly, so you definitely want to stop that production as quickly as possible! 

            Fortunately, depression is treatable. A combination of therapy and antidepressant medication can help ensure recovery. (American Psychological Association). 

 

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 Bipolar Disorder

A serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy and clarity to sadness, fatigue and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.

All people with bipolar disorder have manic episodes — abnormally elevated or irritable moods that last at least a week and impair functioning. But not all become depressed (WebMD)

            Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

 What Can Be Done About These Three?

            If things are bad enough, you may need an antidepressant and/or anti-anxiety medication.  With bipolar disorder, you generally need to see a psychiatrist to see if you will benefit from a mood stabilizer as well. 

Some other helpful things you can do on your own:

·         Science agrees that food can be a powerful tool for people dealing with depression and anxiety.  The good and bad news:  Sugar throughout the day with ice cream and candy needs to be cut way down.  And, of course, as we have all heard (but might not heed) the messages of no grains, no dairy, more healthy fats, medium amounts of protein and most importantly, lots of vegetables.

·         Exercise is so beneficial that some people have overcome their symptoms by regular working out, running, or walking.  If you start feeling anxious, doing a few jumping jacks, or a quick walk around the office or home helps give that extra adrenaline a place to exit! 

·         Set healthy boundaries – I once had a client with an extreme case of anxiety and depression who began to speak up for herself, told her family and friends no most of the time so she could choose to say yes when she wanted. (See Yes! I Said No!)

·         Care enough to confront.  Many people avoid confrontation like the plague; as a result, they often stuff anger and resentment so deep it turns into depression.  I have a list of 10 guidelines to help you confront positively that you can receive by contacting me at barb@barbrarussell.com 

·         Practice gratitude.   I believe this is so crucial, it could have gone to the top of the list.  Most people automatically look for what’s wrong (a survival mechanism, after all), but that continual sweep of your environment or hearing what’s wrong repeatedly in the media (including social media), will definitely stress you out!  I recommend writing down 3 new things you are grateful for each day. 

 

I trust this information has been helpful; if I can provide additional information or answer any questions, I am happy to do so. 

Here’s to living well – Barbra Russell   

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Comparison and Competition

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Comparison and Competition causes us to lose the joy of being and doing what God has designed us to be and do.

These are probably the biggest obstacles I — and I dare say — others — fight on a regular basis. And then when you add impatience into the mix, oh brother!

So I love this sign I keep in my office to remind me that I do have a DREAM, and God put it there. My job is to believe and to do the next thing I see and find to do. What about you?

Anyone else have these or other dream-killers?

3 Things To Stop; 3 Things To Start To Be A Highly Effective Woman

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3 Things To Stop; 3 Things To Start To Be A Highly Effective Woman

Outline:     

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone; the new has come.

3 Things To Stop

 1.    Stop letting others dictate how YOU feel about YOU

2.   Stop looking for what’s wrong – even though we’re wired that way

3.   Stop being afraid – to face the past, to have a dream, to ask for what you want. 

 

3 Things to Start

1.    Start training others (yes, training – not teaching) how to treat you

2.   Start celebrating when you make a change – it affects the brain

3.   Start focusing on the 90% - The power of positive thinking

 

www.BarbraRussell.com

Healthy Boundaries Class

Yes, I Said No!
Setting Healthy Boundaries

Why We Need: Yes, I said No! Setting Healthy Boundaries:

In this class, participants will discover the answer to such questions as:

●       Have you experienced burnout or find it difficult to have time for both work and family?

●       Do you find it difficult to speak up for yourself?

●       Do you ever feel you have too much to do and not enough time to do it?

●       Is your life controlling you, instead of your being in charge of your own life?

All these concerns, and more, can be solved with proper boundaries to protect work/life balance and the challenges of an overloaded schedule or demands from family and friends. 

     “Setting Healthy Boundaries” is an eight-week class starting March 1 offered at the Potter’s House Church of Denver, 9495 E. Florida Avenue.  There is no charge for this class which will be held on Thursday evenings from 6:30-8:00 p.m. 

      Presented by Barbra Russell, Licensed Professional Counselor and author of the book, Yes! I Said No! – How To Set Healthy Boundaries and Increase Your Self Esteem, these classes will help you regain your passion, excitement and life balance. 

      Class participants will learn how to:

 ·        Say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away

·        Learn how to care for people without carrying them

·        Balance work and life in a healthy manner

     To more information, contact the counseling department at The Potter’s House at 303-369-8514

 

The tree trunk speaks!

J ust Say No! 

Just Say No! 

When it's even carved into tree trunks, you have to pay attention! Say no to the wrong things - the time grabbers, the people who leave you feeling sad and bad, or keep you dependent on them.

You'll then have the energy, passion and self confidence to say yes to risk, growth and things you love

Want to Live to be 100? Live in a House With Stairs!

  Barb on stairs Want to live to be 100?  Live in a house with stairs!

As you can see, I’m standing on the stairs of our house.  Well, I love our home and I’ve come to love our stairs.  But it wasn’t always that way.  When we were looking for a house, we weren’t looking for a house with stairs.  We were looking for a rancher!  We were thinking, “Oh, as we get older, we want things to be flat, on one level.  We don’t want any problems, and we certainly don’t want stairs!”

But before we came to look at this house, our realtor said, “Do you know what people who live to be 100 have in common?  They all live in houses with stairs!”  Hah!  Smart realtor, huh?

But that made me stop and think about it.  I said to myself: “Hey!  Let me look at this a little differently!  You know, I could maybe run up and down these stairs, or at least walk up them!  And if that keeps me in shape, I could go for living to be 100!”

And that’s when it hit me—that’s how we are in life.  We want no obstacles, no problems.  We want smooth sailing, we want ranchers!  But that’s not the way God made us to live, as evidenced by the fact that I bet not one of you has escaped having problems in your life!

Rather, when He made us, he designed us to grow, to become better today than we were yesterday.  The bad news, if you want to look at it that way, is this simple fact:  we need difficulties to overcome, we need fears to face and we need to figure out obstacles.  Because, as Romans 5:3-4 says:  “…..tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.”

I think the writer was basically saying, “yes, you’ll have problems, but it’s going to create some good things in you!”   So, from that point of view, it’s really good news, even though most of us don’t “consider it all joy when we face trials,” as James wrote.

However, as we tackle those difficulties, and we don’t give up in spite of being afraid or discouraged, little by little, we learn and we grow.  As a result, our faith and confidence grows.

Every time we learn something, every time we’ve grown a bit, we become more of who God has designed us to be.  And remember, we’re the ones who win when we become the person we’re designed to be!

So I encourage you today—don’t be afraid to take that opportunity just because it has challenges.  Don’t be afraid of the obstacles in your life; just look at them in a different way.  Say to yourself, “these are the stairs that are going to keep me going, that are going to help me in many ways.”

And hey!  Let’s live to be 100--We just have to look at stairs a different way!

“What Did You Mean By That?”

couple design over white background vector illustration
couple design over white background vector illustration

What did you mean by that?”  Bob’s question took Susan totally by surprise because he had never asked her that before.  But his tone was so respectful, with a genuine “I- really- want- to know” attitude that she quickly recovered and they began to discuss an earlier conversation.  As they talked, both realized he had misunderstood her meaning and intention.

It was a good thing he asked the question.

After a few minutes’ discussion, the confusion was resolved.  They both exclaimed, almost at the same time: “Hey!  This is way different from what we’ve done before! ”

That prompted Susan to inquire, “How did you think to ask me that, Bob?  It was so helpful.”

“I decided I’d do things in a healthy way, too” he answered, referring to her new-found skills discovered through counseling.  They discussed what they previously did when there was such miscommunication between them.  They’d either fight, or go to their respective “corners” and not talk at all for days, both reeling from hurt feelings and misperceived motives.

This interaction between them inspired Bob to try that phrase at work as well.  It wasn’t long before he had an opportunity to ask a co-worker, “What did you mean by that?”  They found a solution by first discussing the issue with his co-worker, then the supervisor.

Once again, a potentially ugly or explosive situation was resolved.  Bob just shook his head as he reflected on how things often happened at work.  Guys wound up leaving their jobs or remaining miserably unhappy and feeling trapped, all for the lack of using six words.  “What did you mean by that?”

I recently heard a respected speaker utter this well-known phrase:    [bctt tweet=" “I wouldn’t be divorced today had I known then what I know now.” " username="@BarbERuss"]

One of the things he said is that he, like Bob, needed to let his wife know when he was unhappy.  In that first marriage it seemed other things he tried never worked.  So, one day in hopeless despair, he left.  He had come to a lot of conclusions about the futility of things changing and didn’t know at that time how to even bring up the subject.

All too often, guys feel they must just “suck it up” when they are displeased with what’s going on, whether at home or at work.  They’re fearful of the confrontation that will likely follow.  And just as often, wives or bosses don’t make it safe to say anything when they look for what’s wrong and criticize more than they compliment.

We have a long history in the West of the strong, silent man.   For many years, guys have absorbed this mantra:  “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”

daniel boone
daniel boone

Daniel Boone declared, “I was never lost but I was powerfully bewildered once for three days.” As goes the Pioneering Western man, so goes the Modern man!"

So what are men and women to do?  I, of course, always suggest counseling to couples but often men don’t like that idea.  It doesn’t fit into the creed that “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”  One very creative approach is this web site:  http://mantherapy.org/ which talks about therapy done “the manly way.”  I laughed when I checked it out.  It’s definitely done with humor. Click on the link to see what you think.  Men do things a different way!

Bottom line: "Ask the question – “What did you mean by that?” It could save your marriage; it could save your job"

And gals, if you want a better relationship with your man, here's some things to think about. We women have a tendency to look for what’s wrong and we’re not usually hesitant to bring that up.  Plus, we also like to talk and talk!  So, sometimes we’ll take an opposite point of view with men just to keep a conversation going.  But that can quickly backfire when he feels disrespected and judged.

A common complaint I hear from married men is this:  “No matter how hard I try, I can never do anything right.”  If he helps with the dishes, she informs him they’re not put in the dishwasher correctly.  When he offers to do the laundry, she instructs him to divide the clothes differently.  Usually, she means to help, but he perceives those “orders” as critical complaints.  And perception is reality.  That’s why I say:  

"Compliment more than you complain!"   

and

"Appreciate more than you argue!"

When you make it safe for him, he won’t be afraid to ask:  “What did you mean by that?” 

Thank you for reading.  If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe, comment or follow me on Facebook.  Or follow me on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/BarbERuss

What Samuel and I learned from A Horse

    What 10-year old boy wouldn’t love to have a horse, or at least ride one?  Even in this day of video games and action figure heroes, most 10-year old children are mesmerized by dreams of riding a mighty steed! Young Samuel was no exception.  He imagined himself riding like the wind, one with the horse, like Kelly Reno’s character Alec in the movie “The Black Stallion.”

The major problem with that scenario?  He didn’t have a horse.

What he did have were some pretty troublesome issues.  Samuel had ADHD, many behavioral problems and was often the identified trouble-maker in school.  In spite of medication and regular visits to the school counselor, Samuel never seemed to improve. Equine therapy was recommended, probably seen as a last-resort effort to the adults around him, but to Samuel it meant he could be with a horse!

After hearing about Samuel, I was eager to learn more about Equine Therapy.  Here are some fascinating facts:

To protect themselves from predators, horses stay in herds and are very sensitive to their surroundings.  These enormous animals quickly pick up on a human’s emotions, so when Samuel first marched through the horse barn, with his racing thoughts, feelings and behaviors, you can imagine the jittery turmoil that created!

Despite his eagerness and impulsive wish to jump right on one of the massive animals, Samuel had some things to learn.  His first assignment was to stay outside the corral and observe.  He was to notice how the horses acted.  He was surprised to see some very human-like behavior.  He observed one who was clearly the leader and some horses seemed to protect others in the herd.

Next, before he could ever go inside the corral, Samuel was told he had to become very calm, so as not to spook the horses.  And, he was taught to calm himself by taking some deep breaths.  While most people can learn to become quiet and still after a few repetitions of breathing deeply through the nose and letting the breath out slowly through the mouth, it took Samuel about 15 sets to become relaxed.

Already, he had acquired a couple of skills which will help him navigate life with its stresses;

  • He learned to wait and first observe situations and
  • He learned how to calm himself.

Next up – matching a horse and client.  In Equine Assisted Therapy, the client does not choose the horse--the horse chooses the client.  This selection process comes after the client—Samuel in this case, calms himself then sits down with his back to the horses.  Frankly, that sounds scary to me, an adult!  I couldn’t begin to imagine what a hyper little kid might feel.  You are making yourself totally vulnerable to an animal that weighs over 1,000 pounds!  That process, however, produces a third skill:

  • Learning to Trust

Out in the meadow, a now-curious horse slowly ambles over.  And something beautiful happens.  It will gently nudge or snuffle the seated person in a process Equine Therapists call “joining.”  When the horse chooses the client, they connect and are “joined.”  Now additional work can begin with the two of them.

There are other competencies developed as the boy cared for the horse, such as building confidence and self esteem and over a period of six months, Samuel began to change.  He grew, matured and progressed so well that the big day came:  Samuel’s dream came true.  He became One With The Horse, and he rode like the wind!   Along the way he also began performing well at school and home because he was using all the skills he had learned with his own special horse.

Most of us won’t likely participate in Equine Therapy, but we can still benefit from Samuel’s experience.

  • While there are times we might need to act quickly, most of the time we will profit by Learning to wait and first observe situations.
  • Likewise, there are many times we need to calm ourselves. Most of the things we get so perturbed about turn out not nearly as catastrophic as we imagine!  Take a deep breath for 15 times in a row and see if you don’t think a bit more clearly!  Make a plan, take a walk or do whatever helps you calm down. 
  • Lastly, when I think of learning to trust, I contemplate learning to trust God. Often, that’s the hardest job.  We figuratively sit ourselves down in a meadow, make ourselves vulnerable and wait.  We’re not in control of how long it takes and often wonder whether He’ll come.

The good news is God has already chosen us; often He’s just waiting for us to wait, calm down and choose to trust! 

Even after an absence, Samuel’s horse remembered him.  God is the same way – He’ll always remember us and has promised to help when we ask, give us strength when we’re weary and make a way where there seems to be no way!

Samuel experienced a dream come true – he became One With The Horse.  What an awesome encounter we can have with God as we become One With Him. 

We Have Met The Enemy and He is Us!

pogo quoteWe Have Met The Enemy, and He Is Us! “If you’re going to be successful, you have to have thick skin! You know, that ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments about who you are and what you do.”

That statement is from a blog I recently wrote called “Grow thick, armor-plated skin.” And I discussed ways to deal with the barbs, criticisms and judgments directed toward us from others.

However, I realized there’s another, perhaps even more important, truth related to growing thick, armor-plated skin. We need to protect us from us! Or, as the cartoon strip “Pogo” declared in 1970: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us.”

We can be our own worst critics, thinking and often saying things like:

  • “I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, talented enough, etc. Basically, “I’m not good enough.”
  • “It’s not going to happen for me, no use in trying.”

Examples of this type of thinking go all the way back to Biblical times. Moses was chosen by God for a special task—to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And one of his first tasks was to confront Pharaoh. But Moses said, “since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?....O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  Basically, he was saying: “God I can’t do that. I don’t have what it takes.”

But Moses had a job to do and God wasn’t going to let him talk himself out of his assignment – he needed to speak up and lead the Israelites to the Promised Land!

We, like Moses, have something to do here on earth, a purpose for our lives. And we must not let those inner voices, fears or doubts stop us!

Lisa, a young lady in one of our counseling training classes, declared she was very shy and privately let me know that she could not speak up in class. She kept saying she had stage fright, she wasn’t good with people, etc. (She probably identified with Moses!) While I respected her wishes and did not call on her, it was interesting to see what began to happen. She came to every class, sat quietly and absorbed every word.

Gradually you could see her becoming more comfortable and then one day it happened! She raised her hand and made a comment!

From that day forward, she began to come out of her shell like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. She responded to the class challenge to “step out of your comfort zone” and today, she is teaching in a foreign country, a confident, well-spoken ambassador for God and the US. She has developed thick, armor-plated skin for herself!

Let me share some of the principles Lisa learned in class:

  • Stop Comparing Yourself With Others

Albert Einstein stated: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Steve Furtick, Christian author, puts it this way: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

When you compare yourself with others, you are indeed acting as your own worst enemy.

Instead, celebrate you and your unique assets, abilities, strengths and gifts. Write down five of them right now to get started! You can also study what God says about you in the Bible. I have a list of 38 scriptures declaring who you are. If you’d like a copy, send me a note.

  • Think and speak differently

Here are three declarations I make each morning:

“This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

“I feel happy; I feel healthy; I feel terrific!”

“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better!”

  • Declare your progress, not your limitations

“When I read or hear something new that will help me, I write it down and practice it as soon as I can.”

“I’m developing networks in my field.”

“Maybe it didn’t work this time, but I’m going to keep trying.”

“God, I’m going to do the best job I can do, then leave the rest to you.”

When you (1) stop comparing yourself with others, (2) think and speak differently and (3) declare your progress, not your limitations, you will certainly develop thick, armor-plated skin for yourself.  As you do, it will change how you deal with adversity, set-backs and discouragement.  Instead of being “your own worst enemy” and feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless, you start becoming “your own best cheerleader!”

            Decide today that even if long ago someone made you feel “not good enough,” you are determined to meet the enemy and defeat him.  If Moses and Lisa can do it, so can you!!

What do you do when you don't know what to do? Steps 3-5

 

question marksWHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO?

 Step 3: Take A Risk

When the future is unknown, stepping out in faith can be a scary thing. (It was for me!) Even if you’ve identified gifts and applied what you know, you still have to face many unknowns! But stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new can lead to rewarding results!

“Susan” started working out at the gym as a way to deal with anxiety and stress. However, because of her anxiety, she was very uncomfortable around other people, and going to a gym was definitely stepping out of her comfort zone! However, she not only found it helped manage her worries, but stated she took to it “like a fish to water.” She also quickly discovered that when she focused on exercising, she didn’t think about her social phobia. She faced her fear, which led to her running a marathon, losing over 100# and ultimately teaching a class at that gym. Susan took a risk – and she was ecstatic that she did!

Step 4: Sometimes You’re Right; Sometimes You’re Not.

In life, when you take a chance, you might fail. Or you might quickly succeed. More than likely though, you, like most successful people, will experience some set-backs before you’re where you want to be. What do Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Walt Disney have in common? They failed many times before they succeeded!

It’s true there are no guarantees, but “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” as the old saying goes. Why, then, is “venturing” often so difficult?

Some people can’t stand the thought of being wrong and just get frozen with fear. Their imagination begins to work over-time and they foresee all sorts of dire consequences if they step out into the unknown.

To overcome such anxiety, it helps to think through the “worst-case scenario.” You ask yourself, “If the worst happened, what would I do? How would I react?” In Susan’s case, she came up with a back-up plan. “If I get to the gym and feel so anxious I can’t stay, I’ll go home.” Having a back-up plan gave her the confidence to keep going to the gym. And guess what? Susan never had to use her back-up plan!

Step 5: Find Your Way Step By Step

An exciting thing happens when you begin to see what God had planned for you all along!

Two years before moving to Denver, my husband and I began to feel change was in the air. My husband began to paint and prepare our house to sell, and I checked into joining a speaker’s bureau, as I was ready to branch out from my private counseling practice in Pueblo, and start giving workshops and seminars. We mentioned to our in-laws in Denver what we were feeling.

A few months later, my brother in law asked if I wanted to come to Denver to establish a counseling ministry at a church there. He told us, “If you hadn’t mentioned a possible move, I would never have asked you, as I thought you guys were firmly established in Pueblo.” We began to see that surely our steps were ordered by God, as small steps led to others!

And for me - this was something different – a risk, for sure! But I decided to take the challenge and I’m so glad I did!

As we look back now, we saw God’s hand moving us to Denver, step by step. We couldn’t see the end result, but God had a plan.

So what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Let’s review the steps covered in these three blog postings:

  • Ask God to direct you
  • Start to use what you’ve been given (your gifts, talents and abilities. See Blog #1 to figure out how to discover your gifts)
  • Go with what you know – See Blog #2 to review personality traits
  • Take a Risk – Stepping out of your comfort zone can be scary but rewarding

When you don’t know what to do, you can start by following the guidelines in this series of blogs. In a year from now, you’ll be able to look back and say, “look how far I’ve come!”

What Do You Do When You Don't Know What To Do?

What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do?

question marks

Have you ever felt stuck? Perhaps you don’t like your job and your job doesn’t like you! Maybe you have a dream or goal but don’t know the next step to take. And you’ve prayed for direction, but no answer appears. I think we’ve all been in such predicaments at some time or other—I know I have! It’s frustrating to say the least, and can really shake your faith at times. Let me share some of the experiences and guidelines I’ve found to be helpful:

  1. Start With What You’ve Been Given

I’ve always been a gal who talked a lot – but I never thought that was a gift! When people said, “You have a way with words,” I didn’t think that was anything special. However, that “way with words” provided an answer at a time when I asked: “What Do I Do now?”

As it turns out, God’s reply was to show me He has given me an ability, a talent, a gift –--- of talking! Go figure!

I started using that “way with words” when I began teaching my clients skills and techniques in the counseling office. The more I did this, the more my clients reported it was helpful. And the more I enjoyed it as well! I started with what I’d been given. Then I decided to put on a workshop. I didn’t know if anyone would show up or what might happen, but (gulp, gulp) I took a deep breath and scheduled one!

That first seminar demonstrated to me I could use my ability to connect with people publicly as well as in the privacy of the counseling office. They showed up!  They said it was helpful!  Yea!  I used what I'd been given!  Using that gift has led to speaking engagements, writing opportunities and leadership roles.

What gifts have you been given? What gifts are still unknown to you? Discovering and using those talents is one of the things that will help you succeed!

If you haven’t yet discovered your gifts or talents, ask people around you what they think you do well, then make a list of those things. Next, make a list of things you enjoy doing. Between those two inventories you’ll start to see the abilities God has given you!

Join me next time as I discuss step 2 -- Go With What You Know

Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin - A Success Principle

                                    Success Principle:

knight2

“Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin”

           If you’re going to be successful, you have to have thick skin!   You know, that ability to withstand criticism and hurtful comments about who you are and what you do.

          That was really brought home to me by an email I recently received:

“Dear Barbra, I have just received a revelation of why I get depressed and it is thrilling! While my intellect is at the graduate college level, my ability to withstand offense is very childish.”

The writer goes on to say, “Offenses collect on me like lint and I have buried their effects in the roots of bitterness. All the while smiling and ‘praise the Lord,’ never letting anyone know.”

John Bevere found this phenomenon of “taking offense” so troubling, he wrote a book entitled The Bait of Satan in which he discusses how Satan destroys lives and ministries because people are so easily offended.

Obviously, my writer is not the only one who struggles with the ability to withstand offense! However, if you wish to be successful, it is imperative to grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin.

“The higher your heights, the greater number of detractors you will have and the sharper their attacks will be.” Paul Brunson noted in his article, “20 Successful Habits I learned Working For Two Billionaires.” (Oprah Winfrey and Enver Yucel)

“How do you actually develop that thick skin?” you may ask, because this is one of those principles which sounds amazingly true but exceedingly difficult to develop. As seems to be the case in any principle I share, I’ve had to learn the hard way how to apply that theory!

As the e-mail writer experienced, I too put on a mask of confidence for years but would cry myself to sleep many nights because I worried that someone didn’t approve of me or didn’t like what I had said or done.

I remember the day I walked down the hall and noticed two nurses with their heads huddled together in a whispered conversation. As I grew near, they looked at me and immediately stopped talking. I, of course, just knew they were talking about me! And, of course, it obviously wasn’t good, because they stopped their discussion!

For the rest of the day and into the evening and even the next day, I worried about that incident. (I obviously had not yet developed armor-plated skin!) However, that was a turning point in my self-development. I instituted two rules for myself which may help you as well:

  1. Assume the best until you know the worst. Until I actually hear someone say they don’t like me or hated what I had to say, I’m going to assume they like me and anything I’m doing.
  2. If I can’t let some bothersome thought go within 24 hours, I have to take action.
  • Assume the best until you know the worst:

I found out later the two nurses were talking about a confidential family matter –

which of course had nothing to do with me And I have discovered along the way, that’s usually the case. People are not nearly as interested in us as we assume they are. . I’ve known people to obsess over a comment like a dog worrying a bone, and they’ve carried offenses for months or even for years!

When you grow thick, armor-plated skin, you learn to let those incidents bounce off you without ruining your day. Without that protective skin, your physical, emotional and spiritual health all suffer. Medical research reveals 80-90% of illness is related to stress!

  • If you can’t let something go within 24 hours, take action.

For me, that usually means talking to the person involved – “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about the other day. I was just wondering if I have done anything to offend you.”

The worst that can happen is you discover they really intended to be offensive. Usually, however, they’re just what we used to call being a busy-body, trying to run your life instead of taking care of their own business! “Oh, hon, you should never wear your hair that way!” “Why don’t you have more kids?” “You can’t even do your job right!” On and on it can go.

As you begin to grow that thick, armor-plated skin, something interesting happens. Instead of feeling attacked, you begin to step back and think a bit more logically. Why might that person be saying something so offensive? Generally speaking, it comes from a place of insecurity or hurt. The well-known saying, “Hurt people hurt people” is really true!

You might ask yourself, “Is there any truth to what that person said?” “Hmm, should I really get another hairstyle?” If the answer is, yes, you take action in that direction. If the answer is “no, I like myself the way I am,” you just realize that person is coming from a place of unhealed hurts which is their problem, not yours.

Action then takes the form of asking God to help you love them anyway, and/or forgive them.

Guess what? It can happen! That same writer observed in the e-mail: “I’ve seen people say hurtful things to you, and you don’t seem to be bothered.”  And if I did it, you can do it – you too can grow thick, armor-plated skin!

The bottom line to growing thick, armor-plated skin? Two rules:

Rule 1: Assume the best until you know the worst.

Rule 2: If you can’t let some bothersome thought go within 24 hours, take action.

Learn to know who you are, like who you are and never let others distract you from your purpose and goals. You’ve got a job to do while you’re here on earth, and you need to Grow Thick, Armor-Plated Skin so you can do it!

Yes! I said No!

noHow to Say NO!  Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away

 No! – A simple, two-letter word. Should be easy to say, right? No! In my experience, this small declaration of independence is often the result of a hard-fought war within the mind. Victory can be won, but the battles are tough!

Dr. John Townsend, author of the book Boundaries, says that “No” is the Christian curse word – that’s a pretty strong statement but with so many believers who “can’t say no,” I can see why he would say such a thing! Let me give you an example:

A young man recently confessed he had been asked to be a youth leader, Sunday school teacher, greeter, deacon and part of the leadership team at his church. He had a wife and two small children and oh by the way, he also worked a full-time job!   While he enjoyed each aspect of his involvement at church, it soon became obvious his priorities were messed up!

He wanted to say no, he needed to say no, but he said yes anyway. As a result, he had begun to feel used and resentful; on his way to burn-out.

He, like many of us, needed to learn how to say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away.    What do I mean by these terms?

blow upBlowing up! – We “take it” and “take it” and “take it,” until we can’t “take it” any more! Like the young man above, we take on too much! From a place of resentment we explode in anger, and usually the relationship is blown up as well!

Wimping Out – We don’t want to agree, but we also can’t quite get up the courage to say no. So we excuse ourselves by muttering things like: “If I don’t agree, they’ll be mad,”

“They’re in a bad place right now.” “They need me.”

“They won’t like me.” We can find plenty of reasons to “wimp out!”

Running Away - When you try to avoid the other person, change the subject or come up with a bunch of excuses. These are often the people who burn out and stop doing ANYTHING, going from one extreme to the other.

                                                 The question then becomes:

 How do we say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away?

 Pass the “P’s” Please

 A couple of “P’s” can help: -- Planning and Practice. Let’s talk about Planning first:

Planning – If you haven’t been very good at saying “No,” you will need to be prepared; get some tools for your toolbox. Here are three: Tool #1 – Keep It Short and Sweet

Don’t explain, but keep your “no” short and simple. Too often, people feel obliged to expound on why they need to say no. However, the longer the story, the more others can find reasons why that doesn’t work (for them!)  “Oh, don’t worry,” they’ll say, “it won’t take that long,” “it’s just for this time,” etc. etc. etc.

I recently called to cancel our TV subscription. You know what’s that like, right? They have specially trained people to talk you out of cancelling and often, you wind up signing up again!

I was prepared this time, however, with something I call

Tool #2 – The Broken Record Technique 

Me: “I want to cancel our TV subscription.”broken record

TV Employee: “Oh, what brought you to this decision?” (ready to counter any objections I might offer)

Me:Broken Record” – repeated same thing: “I just need to cancel our TV subscription.”

After a couple of other efforts to get more information from me, the employee said, “well, it’s your decision. We’re sorry to lose you as a customer.”

Yes! I was able to say No!

Tool #3 – Learn a New Phrase – “Let Me Get Back To You”

             Suppose you’re asked to add something to your already full schedule and you know you don’t have time. However, you’re filled with anxiety when you even contemplate “disappointing” them.   It’s important not to use this as a “wimp out;” which can drive you to say, “Sure, I’d be happy be help! Instead, you pull out Tool #3 and say, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”

Within 24 hours, call and say, “I’m sorry; I checked my calendar and I can’t do that. I wish you all the best!” If necessary, use Tool #2 – Broken Record – and simply repeat what you’ve already said. Then, pump your fist and say, “Yes! I was able to say No!”

Ok, you’ve Planned and you’re Prepared; the next step is to Practice. We can have very satisfying conversations in our heads that don’t translate to our tongues very well. When you practice, familiarity brings comfort and confidence.

Practice using each of the tools listed above:

  • In front of a mirror
  • With someone else
  • Writing down exactly what you want to say

Then – enjoy the freedom which comes from Learning To Say No Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away!