Friday, September 18, 2009


Self reflection is often painful. It isn't easy to look inside and acknowledge our faults, fears and misdeeds. That's exactly what Jews do this time of the year though, as the High Holidays and a New Year approaches. The principal of annual self reflection is universal and should be incorporated into every persons life - regardless of religion. Many people either consciously or unconsciously, express their personal frustrations in treating those around them poorly. Often, we treat the ones we love worse because we know (or hope) that they unconditionally love us. I have always been aware of this and therefore try very hard not to allow stress to undermine the relationships I have with my loved ones - relationships which should ideally help alleviate tension and bring serenity.

In the spirit of the new year, here are my suggestions for dealing with stress and not letting it domino into conflicts with those closest to you...

1. Don't keep feelings inside. Likely, they wont be able to stay bottled up for long and you will end up expressing them in less than ideal ways. Many people like coming accross as together or positive all of the time. Sometimes it is ok to confide in a friend that you're just not fully holding it together at that moment. If we all stopped trying to look perfect we might relax and be more empathetic towards each other. If emotions are expressed in a positive way than they wont come to bite you in the ____.

2. Often when people feel critical of themselves (ie. are disappointed in something they have done or a missed opportunity) they in turn act critically of those around them. This form of avoidance is very detrimental to relationships and can be avoided by keeping a "disappointment journal". A lot of people write journals of their days events but a "disappointment journal" serves a unique purpose. Keep it digitally on your laptop or even iphone so it is accessible. Anytime you feel inadequate or frustrated with yourself, record it. For example, if you keep getting overlooked for a promotion and it is weighing heavily on you, (even though likely the reason for you not getting the promotion could have more to do with your companies circumstances than your preformance...) write down your feelings in the disappointment journal. This will allow you to reflect on your frustrations instead of letting them build inside. After you write your disappointment down, brainstorm a method to address it. For instance, many people might stew about being overlooked for a promotion, but not consider actually going to speak to their boss directly about it. Constructive thinking will help you move forward from your negative thoughts and by expressing them you will less likely take our your self-criticism on those you love.

3. Seek a cognitive behavioral therapist who helps you modify your thoughts from negative to positive and then into positive action. many close friends of mine go to therapy, unfortunately some of my friends who would benefit from therapy the most do not seek it out because they are afraid of what they will discover when they start looking within. It doesn't have to be a forever thing, but a few months can go along way in teaching skills that will help you cope with life in a more effective manner. Some of my friends who I have encouraged to go to therapy use two primary excuses for not going. One, that it is expensive. Two, that they have never found a therapist they liked. My response to that is - if one is a student there are many free therapy options, and if not, most cities offer institutes that have very discounted therapy options with fabulous therapists. In regards to finding a therapist you get along with, it might take trying a few until you find a good fit, but that shouldn't discourage you. Do you marry the first guy you date? No, so you shouldn't necessarily commit to the first therapist you meet. Stop fearing life improvement, and go after it.

I would love to hear from you if you have any other suggestions on not letting stress negatively impact relationships...

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