Tim Butler

Counselor, Life Coach & Speaker

Filtering by Tag: stress

Get Real

In the messiness of life, it is necessary to Get Real to better understand and manage our unrealistic expectations.

Whether it is a marriage that seems messy, or the family life that leaves us pulling our hair out, we all have some form of less-than-ideal conditions which need attention. Stress can rob us of joy; not living in reality can lead to increased levels of stress.

Taking into consideration the fact that we are not always able to change our circumstances to match our expectations, learn how to find peace with it all. There is peace in resignation.

Listen to the full version of this 30 minute topic.

Resiliency (Part 1)

From my window of the world in the mental health profession, I get to listen to many folks on a very personal level. This degree of intimacy allows me the opportunity to witness the inner strength that others may simply pass by unaware. I stand continually amazed at the strength and internal fortitude exhibited by folks in downright disparaging situation. John Locke was reported to have said that internal “fortitude is the guard, and support, of the other virtues.”

I am also been privy to the inner struggles of folks who have seemingly no coping strategies for dealing with stressors of any magnitude. What is the difference? What makes one person reach down and drink from that well-spring of inner strength, while another, in a very similar situation, finds the ability to move on analogous to walking knee-deep in Jell-O.

It does seem the difference may be found in the individuals’ cumulative resiliency factors. Resiliency, the ability to adapt well to stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy, is enhanced when there are cumulative protective factors. Good habits.

A healthy level of resiliency is not reserved for the wealthy, or highly intelligent. No, in fact, it becomes effective, just as soon as you do. If you are older than 9, I am sure you have heard the well-worn quote of German philosopher Nietzsche; “That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” It would not be worth repeating if it were not so true. The key lies in asking yourself in what areas are you becoming stronger, more resilient? Let me suggest three for now; in the next blog I will add additional ones. A long list of suggestions is worthless if you do not apply what you find relevant to your life. So, consider…

1. Accept what you cannot change.  This expression is often coupled with the prayer to receive from the God the strength to change the things we can. Alcoholic Anonymous has used this well. So many things in life are not able to be altered by us (weather, death, some sicknesses, others changing their mind that negatively affects us, the state of the economy, etc.) We find it hard, at times, to accept the things that are being presented to us. We may not want them; we may feel it is not fair; it may go against our principals; in theory this unwanted “thing” should not work this way; and the list goes on. Whatever the reason, the outcome may still be the same…it is not going away anytime soon. The ability to release my grip and literally, or figuratively, walk away is foundational to strengthening my resiliency factors. A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

2. Set new goals. Once you can see clearly to accepting what you are not able to change, you then need new goals. Not necessarily life changing goals; baby steps are appropriate. If we do not set our minds on a new direction, we will simply be holding our breath, as it were, and waiting for the preferred way to reappear. That is not resiliency. That is stubbornly doing the wrong thing. I love working with stubborn people, once they have decided to use that strength in the right direction. What is the new direction in which you now need to walk? What would be small, attainable goals in that direction?

3. Take the necessary action. We can take a page from the Nike playbook: Just do it. There is so much empowerment in that statement. Good intentions are not sufficient. Food will not make its way into my stomach without the action of eating. Action keeps us from getting hopelessly stuck in the quagmire of life disappointments. Do something different, once you have determined what that one thing would be. Even if it ends up different than you planned, action still takes precedent over lethargy or apathy.

Life Interrupted

I had lunch the other day with a colleague. She mentioned that she and some other women were going through a workbook entitled, Navigating a Life Interrupted. The series led the reader through a parallel comparison of the biblical figure, Jonah, and our lives today. The term, Life Interrupted, instantly resonated in my soul as a great way to describe many of the experiences of life. Think about it: How many times have you been on a “road” to some ideal, some expectation, some hope, dream, plan—you name it—and you find your road blocked. Impassable. Go another way. Turn around. Something other than, mission accomplished. You have been there haven’t you? We all have. To not have your road blocked in some way, as you travel through life, is to not have lived more than a day. Yet, I am so surprised when it happens, as if something strange were happening to me, and me only. We have all felt like a helpless victim at some point of the Life Interrupted journey.

Here is a quote from Navigating a Life Interrupted forwarded to me by my daughter, “Interruptions are not limited to huge, horrible things. In fact, they can be rather minor by comparisons. Car trouble. Chicken pox. A funny, spoiled smell in the meat you’d set out to cook for dinner. Still, it’s caught you by surprise. You weren’t expecting it. You were traveling along with your list of to-dos in mind, fully knowing what the day held when something just crept up out of nowhere and caught you off guard. Suddenly your schedule is shot to pieces, along with all your preset notions on what it would take to get everything done. You’ve been blindsided, forced to deal with a new wrinkle, a new obstacle to navigate around.”

So, what are we to (1) learn from these life interruptions, and (2) what do we do with them?

The answer to those two points will correlate with who and what is the source of your hope. This refers to the existential issue of what is your definition of the meaning of life. If all your paths lead to you (you are the center of your universe), and if you are fully in charge of your life, then you are the only one who makes interruptions. But if you have lived long enough, and been observant enough, you have noticed that bad things happen to good people, as do good things happen to bad people. You are forced to face the reality that someone/something exists beyond our control. If you believe in a sovereign God (One who is ultimately in charge of this cosmos), then you recognize that He may be causing—or allowing—things to happen that do not always make sense. And, happenings that I feel may be in my way, or, life interruptions.

I adhere to a conviction that I have the freedom to hold things tightly, but I will need to do so with an open grasp. I do make plans, I do set out with a specific direction for the day, or for that matter, for life, but I am keenly aware that “stuff” happens, which may interrupt my plans. Another quote from the book that speaks to this, “we’ve all seen our Plan A’s take a backseat to other realities—realities we just don’t want to accept or live through. Yet here they are. This is our life. We can run but we can’t hide.”

Peace is found in embracing these life interruptions, and, if applicable, learning from them.

We are all on a learning journey. Sometimes the lessons along that journey are small, sometimes large. But whatever the scale, to learn from them, and make the necessary changes to our life, will result in more peace. To insist that they never happen will set us up for constant frustration. As a patient once said, “you can be right, or you can be happy, but you can’t be both.” Control what you can, and release your grip on the stuff you can’t control.

Seek to better know the One who has His hand on the controls.

12 Common Ways To Live Life

…for staying anxious and depressed.

  1. Make sure you always run as close to late as possible; you need that extra 5 minutes of sleep that starts the day late.
  2. Live well beyond your means, as you pursue that financially-driven happiness.
  3. If you are married, and your partner is giving you any push-back, abruptly end the relationship. You can be certain that another partner will be the answer to your troubles.
  4. Keep your expectations high for others, especially those over whom you have no authority. Your persistent frustration with their failures will increase your personal well-being.
  5. Keep an eye open for what is wrong with life, people, policies, etc. Point those out to friends and co-workers often; being a good-finder is way overrated.
  6. Don’t even think of overlooking that 13-item cart of the person in front of you, in the “12-item-max” isle. This is an opportunity not to be missed.
  7. Stop short of making the very thing you know is good for you—and has worked wonderfully for you in the past—a part of your regular routine. Whether it is exercise, spiritual focus, a relationship, medicine, nutrition or whatever, you wouldn’t want to do the obvious, now, would you?
  8. Commit to daily memory, the things over which you have no control. The very fact that you powerlessly worry about them, will undoubtedly bring resolution.
  9. Just as speaking louder to a person with limited understanding of the English language is helpful, so too, repeating the very thing that you have proven conclusively does not work, will most assuredly end with a different result.
  10. Ignore any family history of chronic emotional challenges or your own life-long struggle to not be anxious or depressed. History can’t teach us anything.
  11. Did I say, find out what does not work, and repeat it?
  12. Finally, dread the day in front of you—it is the only one that has the real possibility of being your last.

Holidays: Love 'em or Leave 'em?

Say what you want about the holiday season, but the reality is, the holidays are upon us, as happens every year. For some it is the happiest time of the year, but for many, it represents a time for emotional turmoil, frenzied schedules, and grand disillusionment. Pace and balance are two words in scarcity during these months. We tend to get caught up in the social momentum; throwing regard for personal stability out with the summer toys. We lose our sense of homeostasis when the holiday music begins (way too early for many), and find ourselves racing toward the grand and glorious finish line. However, as we learn every year, and unlearn by the time November rolls around again, on the other side of the finish line is a dark hole. Let down. Awkward silence. Dark days ahead. Ever wonder why January and February are the biggest months for mental health services? For many, the emotional crash leaves us gasping for breath in our innermost being, yearning for the joy and warmth that was promised just a few weeks back. What is the problem? What can be done about it?

Be Realistic. Put together a realistic plan that incorporates all the subtle nuances in your life this year. Remember, every year brings its own challenges and burdens. Ignoring the unique load on your shoulders this year, will be as effective as leaving the gravy on the stove top too long. The expectations of others are not necessarily a good guide for your holiday journey. Meeting—or exceeding—last year’s performance may be unrealistic for you and your family. Memories are made whether we plan or not. Set your sights on the plan of action that best suits all involved. Whether the plan is on paper (preferred) or stored in the already-crowded closets of your mind (overloaded), be realistic as to what you can do and what simply is not going to fit in. Then, keep your plan, to the best of your ability; making slight course corrections along the way. You will find you have more joy and peace.

Learn To Say No. Social pressures can mount exponentially during these emotional months. Being forced into spaces with not-so-loved ones can leave us wishing we were wearing a pager to allow us a graceful exit. To be sure, some familial encounters are necessary and important; grin and bear it. But, for other invites, a simple response is all that you need to effectively communicate…”No, it is just not going to work out this year. But thanks”. Weigh demands against your own reality before you agree.

Lastly, remember: this season will pass as it does every year. Try to maintain your emotional balance during the various demands on your time, schedule, and emotions.