Are you a people pleaser, a perfectionist, or someone who regularly over commits? Do you often say yes to other people, even if doing so is detrimental to your own physical, mental and emotional health?
If you are any or all of the above, or you habitually say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, even when the words you are hoping will come out of your mouth are ‘I would if I could, but no thank you…’, then this post is for you!
This time of the year can be a tricky balance between sharing peace and enjoyment with our nearest and dearest, and taking on the lion’s share of the burden of organising, planning, getting things done and keeping everyone happy.
There may be some commitments that you are obligated to fulfil, and can’t get out of. But what about the other things that you end up doing (and I wonder if this is more applicable to the ladies out there) to look after others, help people out, and make things run smoothly simply because everyone else knows you are good at it, have done it in the past, or just expects you to. And of course, you don’t want to disappoint anyone, do you? But what about yourself? Where does your wellbeing come into things if you end up saying yes and overcommitting yourself, leading to stress and anxiety, when what you really want and need to do is to say ‘no’. It’s not always easy to do, but setting boundaries and managing expectations is important in good communication and healthy relationships for ourselves and other people in the long run, as the other person or people may have no idea that you don’t want to do something, and may think you actually enjoy it or want to be the person to do it.
Ok, so maybe there are some family commitments that you know you have to take the lead on or contribute to. You’re looking after what is closest to you. But what about all of the other things that are more on the periphery of your duties and commitments?
Someone asks you to go to an event, but you are feeling ‘stretched’ on all sides, and know that by going you won’t be able to manage your time and commitments in other areas, and it will leave you feeling stressed if you do go. But you don’t want to disappoint the person who asked you. What do you do? Could you try saying a polite ‘no’, thanking them for their offer, and explaining that you have a lot on at the moment, but you appreciate their invitation?
You need to make sure that you are looking after your own health and wellbeing, and that saying ‘yes’ to things is held in balance with what is wise to do. Just because you are an excellent cake maker it doesn’t mean that you need to say ‘yes’ to everyone who asks you to make something for a Christmas party or family event if you are ‘juggling’ other commitments and trying to manage your time and priorities in other ways. Saying ‘no’ might actually give someone else an opportunity to say ‘yes’ to something for a change. What can you think of in your life this season that you might have to pluck up the courage to say ‘no’ to for the sake of your own health and well being? If it is the source of stress and anxiety, consider how crucial it is, and if it is not that important in the grand scheme of things, then try saying ‘no’.
This time of year could be the perfect opportunity for you to experience personal growth, make new connections and step out of your comfort zone. It could also simply mean giving yourself the chance to do something that you enjoy but usually don’t make time for due to competing priorities, or just the ‘hum drum’ of letting daily life trundle along without being too aware of your choices and chances.
Maybe, like me, you’ve had to work hard at overcoming anxiety. Perhaps there is something you’d like to do, some event you’d like to attend, or some new people you’d like to connect with – BUT you are allowing anxious thoughts to talk you out of giving it a go.
Maybe you’re brimming with confidence but are used to doing the ‘same old, same old’ that you haven’t even thought of saying ‘yes’ to that new opportunity.
Perhaps there are people, causes or needs that you can give your time to, to alleviate someone else’s burden at this time of year.
Wherever you find yourself, think about some of the opportunities in your life coming up that you might automatically say ‘no’ to.
Think of whether it is a good and positive opportunity in your life, and if it doesn’t compete with other more important things, and if it ‘ticks these boxes’ and it is something you actually think you can benefit from doing, then try saying ‘yes’.
Who knows where that simple ‘yes’ might take you, and what further doors of opportunity and friendship it might open…..
This time of year can be quite lonely for some people, and I touched upon this in an earlier Winter Survival Guide post about not facing loneliness alone.
One might be faced with the conundrum of whether to retreat from the social aspects of this season for fear that it will make you feel more out of place and alone, or whether to step out of your comfort zone to embrace potential new opportunities.
Others might be looking forward to all of the chances to connect with friends old and new.
I’ve been on both sides now. I know what it is like to feel alone, lonely and with few friends, or to be struggling with anxiety and while wanting to be and feel part of something, at the same time wanting to retreat from the overwhelming social pressures that can get too much for a friendly yet sometimes introverted soul. I also have more recently enjoyed the blessings of genuine friendships including a wide range of friends from work colleagues, people I’ve met through other friends, and people I’ve met through Church.
Wherever you find yourself on the social spectrum at this point in time, I’d like to encourage you that this time of year may be a good one for you to take a step forward and to make some positive connections.
At the weekend I attended my local church for a Remembrance Sunday service and although this is the place I usually go to worship, I know that it is very welcoming to anyone and everyone to come in. Even if you’re not a church goer, or don’t have any particular faith, you may feel comfort and connection in going along to an event or service depending on what you are comfortable with and hopefully meeting genuine, gentle, kind, caring and loving people. At this time of year there is sure to be much you can get involved in.
For example, my church has been involved with a Christmas ‘shoebox appeal’, (Samaritan’s Purse appeal) where individuals fill up decorative shoeboxes with toys, stationery and such like for children across the world who otherwise wouldn’t get gifts at Christmas, along with the cost of postage. The church is a collection point for people to drop off their boxes, and then they will coordinate with the charity to fly these shoeboxes to different countries across the world to bring love, joy and gifts to children who might not receive anything. We pray for the children and although it is a Christian appeal, it is open to anyone and everyone to get involved and contribute. My friend at work (who is an atheist) lovingly filled up a box and I took her contribution to church. Other people got together at the church on a Saturday to decorate some of the shoeboxes and to help pack them up. Maybe something like this, no matter what your beliefs are or are not, is a chance for you to get involved with your local community, meet caring people and even if just for an afternoon, build up a sense of connection.
My church is also hosting things like a quiz night, crafts afternoons, and a community choir, in addition to the various services which visitors may feel more comfortable attending around Remembrance Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.
If you prefer something that isn’t faith based there are also many other things you can get involved in such as helping out at a homeless shelter (although in my city many have a Christian foundation), soup kitchen, joining a team to take hot food to homeless people, or you could attend live music, craft workshops and a host of other events that will bound to be proliferating around this time of the year.
It may help you to feel more connected, even if just for a little while, if you are facing a lonely season, and even if you are not, it may be a wonderful opportunity to make new connections and participate in some new and exciting experiences.
We all need each other, and this time of year can often make it easier to reach out so why not take that step?
If you are already well connected, and perhaps involved in for example a Church, community centre or charity, why not reach out to those who may need some support, invite people in, and show some kindness and community spirit. Create activities that are accessible for all and that will help people feel more involved and connected no matter where they are coming from.
In this increasingly ‘connected’ world, loneliness can be an uncomfortable admission. When faced with images and stories of all the fun things other people are doing (or seem to be), particularly via online media, the ache that we are missing out can be all too acute especially as the winter season approaches.
For some who work in office based jobs, the end of the year may mean office closures over the festive season. Most of us welcome time off work to rest, relax, recuperate, and to spend time with family and friends, and maybe even to travel. However, for some people, this time of year is like a looming dark cloud, bringing with it a downpour of loneliness and isolation.
Maybe it is the case that you don’t have anyone to go home to, which is fine if at least you have other social contacts. But maybe you are far from home, or don’t even have friends or family, and the most social interaction you usually have is from colleagues at work. But when you’re not at work, you’re on your own. I live alone, and personally I find time alone very refreshing – I’m the type of person who thrives from a lot of solitude, but perhaps I am able to do so because I know that my family is just a phone call away, and I have a wide network of close friends. For others, a lack of relationships or an abundance of shallow and surface relationships can leave them feeling very empty, isolated and alone, even in a room full of people.
Loneliness can come to anyone at any stage of life, and for a variety of different reasons, as unique as each individual is. However, some people in society, such as the elderly, or young office workers far from home in a busy and unfriendly city environment, or people working overseas, or those who are bereaved, struggle to make social connections or feel like outsiders in some way might be more vulnerable to loneliness. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but when it becomes debilitating and consuming, that’s when it can be dangerous, therefore we all need to look out for each other, even for those who on the surface seem ‘gregarious’ but who underneath don’t have any real deep connections or relationships to turn to. The season may also be particularly lonely for those who are perhaps single and longing for companionship while faced with lots of social invitations for couples, or for those facing family stresses, and maybe even separation or divorce.
There’s no easy or quick fix solution, but it’s important not to try to go through a period of loneliness alone, because when we are not in a good place, the isolation that would otherwise be a fruitful and enjoyable solitude can turn into a negative and unhealthy place to be.
Whether you are facing a deep loneliness that leaves you feeling vulnerable mentally and emotionally, or whether you are mostly fine but have the occasional ‘pang’ of loneliness during those dark wintery nights, you don’t have to face it alone.
What can you do?
Reach out to friends and family if you have them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about how you feel, at least just reach out and talk – about anything – keep the lines of communication open, phone or meet up for a chat, and enjoy being in the company of people who know and love you, even if you are not yet ready or willing to share your deepest thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing.
Perhaps you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to. In that case, it can be a good idea to reach out to charitable organisations that exist to help people in such situations. During times of my deepest depression and post traumatic stress, even though I have family and friends who I can phone to talk to, I didn’t always feel that I could. I carried the burden of not wanting to be a constant source of worry to the people who cared about me, and also being mindful of the sheer impracticalities of phoning or reaching out to someone while I was in distress in the middle of the night when they would be sleeping. So I found solace in calling helplines like Samaritans in the UK, and it did help to have someone to talk to in that time of distress. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to do that now, but I would encourage anyone and everyone to reach out to the people who have been trained to help those in need, and find some solace there. It may not be ideal, I know first hand how it feels when you’re in that position, but it can be such a life line, and even if you don’t need a life line as such, it can still be a source of comfort, solace and just the right thing at the right time to help you on your way.
Find ways of being in situations that don’t make you feel socially anxious, but in which you can have even a small degree of social interaction. You might like to visit a library, join a group, or go to a coffee shop or a museum, or volunteer to help other people. All of these provide opportunities to engage with other people, even if just on an initial and surface level. It may not take your loneliness away, but it will remind you that you are connected to people, to society and even those simple interactions can have a positive effect, even if only in the short term, on our mental health.
If you really can’t face any of the above, maybe you might find it worthwhile talking to your doctor. And for those times when you are just on your own and struggling with loneliness, you could perhaps seek out positive articles, videos and blog posts from people who share what has helped them in similar situations and life experiences. Be careful not to go down the route, however, of indulging in emotionally burdensome, negative or draining content – seek out those with messages of courage, hope, inspiration, and positivity who can point you towards positive changes and ways of coping. And remember although the winter is here for the time being, things will change, and spring will soon be on its way.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a large number of friends – some people are gregarious and find making friends easy – if you don’t, that’s ok; there is great value in cultivating a few deep, genuine and loyal friendships that stand the test of time.
What is it about blogging – whether reading and following blogs, and / or writing and updating your own blog/s that keeps you coming back for more? It’s an interesting point to ponder, and one which I’d like to think about and explore in this post, and possibly subsequent posts. Now, I know some of you blog for monetary purposes, I’m personally a ‘fledgling’ blogger and it’s not something I do, it’s not where I am on my blogging journey, not yet at least, however for those off you who do, I’ve noticed a few things: 1. Your passion drives your blogging ventures as much as any financial impetus, and that’s what brings authenticity to your work. 2. Earning money is not your sole reason for blogging, there is clearly something more than that, whether that be self expression, sharing life lessons or displaying your creative talents, and this could be why you have readers coming back faithfully, sharing your journey.
With that being said, let’s erase any dividing line between bloggers who earn money from blogging and those of us who don’t. Having taken that away, we’re all just people on an ‘equal playing field’ so to speak, and it’s from here I’d like to explore some of the psychological benefits of blogging, irrespective of whether or not there is monetary gain.
Technology: Great Servant, but a Bad Master:
Author of ‘The Happiness Project’, Gretchen Rubin says that technology is a great servant but a bad master. I think this is a wonderful concept to ponder.
Often the discourse around technology nowadays includes the concerns that many people have about how the use and misuse or overuse of technology is negatively impacting relationships and individuals’ mental health. For example, children and young people are said to be so engaged in online words that they lack the ability to forge deep and meaningful relationships and friendships. We risk becoming less attentive to the people we are sharing our lives with because of an growing obsession to share pictures of our perhaps half-lived experiences online. We crave the instant gratification of ‘likes’ rather than quietly spending time to develop the deeper aspects of our characters that we ourselves can honestly like. We fall into the comparison trap whenever we see the amazing experiences of other people’s (perhaps filtered) lives and we feel a sense of frustration, overwhelm, dissatisfaction and psychological and emotional burnout that comes from information overload, negative input and lack of space and time (or failure to carve that out for ourselves) to process what we are taking in.
HOWEVER, these negative effects are not always the case. As Rubin says, bad master, good servant. So what of blogging? Why am I exploring the benefits of blogging when perhaps a lot of the discourse about our use of technology is tinged with negativity?
Can Blogging be Good for You?
I would say a resounding ‘YES’. I don’t say that it always is good, but that it definitely can be.
1. Everyone has a story to tell:
In all the rush and hurry of life, sometimes (or oftentimes) we can feel that our voices are being drowned out. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has the need to feel and be validated. However, we are not always given the time or space to tell our stories, to be listened to or heard. Yet, here as bloggers we have this little space carved out where we can do exactly that, and whether one person or a million people read our stories, we have a platform to share, to express ourselves, and the gift of being listened to.
Furthermore, we are able to give the same gift to others, when we take the time to listen to their stories, to hear what they have to say, to appreciate who they are as well as their work. The validation may not come in the way people expect on the more ‘instant’ platforms where for example we post a photograph and wait to see how many ‘likes’ we get. Sure, someone may ‘like’ a blog post, but they may not, and yet that doesn’t take away from the possibility that people are reading and appreciating what we and others do, whether or not they express that. The platform in itself is a gift in being able to tell our stories, with the possibility of being heard, because everyone in life has something worthwhile to share.
2. The luxury of time.
One of the psychological benefits of blogging that I find is that it is a slow and steady process. When I sit down to write my blog, I am not posting anything to be sent out instantaneously (not that there is anything wrong with that). I presume we are all quite similar in that respect, as bloggers. Even if your post is a picture and a snippet of commentary, you are still putting more time and thought into it than simply sharing or forwarding something that someone else has said.
When I write, I need to pause to think, to allow myself to explore what it is that is simmering under the surface of my conscious thought and to form those ideas into words, sentences, images. It means that as we do so, we put more of ourselves into what we are doing, and I believe that honest self expression and the time that we give ourselves to do that has real psychological benefits just as much as journaling might have for some people. The tangle of unexpressed thoughts within us can find expression, form and sense as we take the time to share them.
In a world where so much is driven by materialism, consumerism, trends, fashions, fads and influences, we can sometimes risk being ‘swamped’ or drowned out by other people’s opinions, ideas and ways of life. I find that blogging takes me away from that to a more settled, quieter, calmer space where I can be authentic, whether or not anyone else will see that. Having that space to express our authentic selves is a wonderful outlet with psychological and emotional benefits in a world that so often wants to press us into its mould.
4. You are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people…
Sometimes we can feel quite alone in this world. Even with people around us we might feel like a ‘misfit’ in terms of our age, stage of life, or experience. However, there are billions of people on this planet, and many who are fortunate and privileged enough to have access to technology. This opens up to us new vistas of opportunity and possibility – we realise that the world is far more interesting and diverse that what we have experienced first hand, and we are granted the exciting access of a glimpse into people’s lives from all across the world. We are also reminded that however diverse our experiences may be, there is something fundamentally familiar about the minds and lives of other people – something so distinct about being human that we all share. And even if the people in your daily life that you meet and talk with face to face don’t share what you are going through, there is bound to be someone out there in the blogging world who does, and who could even offer you hope that you can, for example, get through a difficult situation when you see that they have been through similar, or encouragement and inspiration for your pursuits and opportunities for learning and growth in areas of expertise. Blogging also provides us with the opportunity to help and encourage other people with what we ourselves have learned in life. It brings together people of different ages, nationalities and interests. You are not alone, we are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people, and blogging opens up the opportunity to learn so much more about that which surely is a good thing for the mind and the imagination.
5. All the Little Things…
Sometimes I find that blogging helps me to stay ‘on track’ with certain aspects of my life. Even if I go through a spell of being busy or not blogging regularly, I can still come back to it and record whatever I’m thinking, talk about any aspect of my life, discuss projects I’m working on, and even the little day to day things that we need to keep motivated on such as home keeping, having a good attitude at work, maintaining routines, health and nutrition and all of the other ‘little things’ that make up the fabric of life, as well as those more interesting experiences such as travel for example.
It’s nice to know that these little things are shared by other people, and blogging can benefit us psychologically as we use it as a space to remember that the little things matter, they’re not insignificant, and it can be fun and helpful emotionally and mentally to be able to look back on our year, our lives and journeys through our blog posts to see how we have grown, changed and how our ideas and interests have developed.
So what about you? What are the benefits you find of blogging? And how has blogging helped you to develop and grow as a person? Something to think about and thank you for your wonderful posts and insights into life as you see it 🙂 x
Sometimes at work we come across people who do things to help us, whether that is something as big as advocating for us in some way, or as ‘small’ as bringing us a cupcake on a Friday afternoon. The world is full of hostility, but where we are blessed to encounter kindness, friendliness, a helpful attitude, a job well done, respect in any big or small way, then it is worth pausing to show our appreciation. The appreciation may not be in the form of an award, a bunch of flowers, or even a card – it might given circumstances be a simple ‘thank you’ expressed in person, or even by email to a colleague or fellow office worker. Show your appreciation. Say thank you. Because the kindness of others should never be taken for granted. And your kindness in saying thank you might just make a bigger difference to that person than you think.