Category Archives for Self-Care

Christmas after a loss

Celebrating Christmas after the death of a loved one

Christmas music was playing when Alma pushed her cart towards the register. Not the cashier who handed her a chocolate Santa nor anyone in the jolly crowd picked up on her sadness. Alma’s father died on December 14th. 

For many of us, Christmas the happiest time of the year. An event we’re looking forward to all year.

However, some people are afraid.

Because they have lost a loved one or a family member is gravely ill.

Because their best friend has recently experienced loss, and they have no idea how to comfort them.

Because they feel a jolly celebration would be inappropriate.

Because everyone used to come together in the family home that now belongs to someone else.

Even if you made steps toward coping with grief, the first Christmas after a loss tears up old wounds. When grandma’s chair stays empty. When Papa doesn’t dress up as Santa. When the partner you celebrated with is gone.

Often, it’s not just a matter of grief but also unresolved conflicts. Not all surviving dependents treat each other respectfully and lovingly.

Escaping Christmas and pretending it doesn’t happen

Many try to ignore Christmas altogether or travel as far away as they can. However, avoiding grief and sadness by going on a vacation doesn’t work. Sorrow and loneliness can track you anywhere.

It’s better to face the situation and your feelings in familiar surroundings, ideally, with people who can comfort you when you cry.

Simplified, facing your emotions allows you to move on and heal. 

How can you help others coping with grief?

So what can you do to help someone in grief? If the person is alone, friends and family could reconcile and invite the person. Even if the invitation is not accepted, it represents valuable support.

If you knew the person that passed well AND you sense they might appreciate it, you could put memories and pictures into a collage. That way, the person doesn’t feel as alone in their sorrow.

What’s the “best” way of celebrating Christmas after a loss?

There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe.

However, one thing is crucial: Give your grief a place. The sad feelings are there anyway. Therefore, you might as well “invite” them consciously and give them room. You could place the picture of the loved one on the Christmas table. Or perhaps light a unique candle. If you’re with family or friends, you could hold a “story hour” where everyone shares a story about the person who passed.

Season’s Greetings for people who suffered a loss

If you have no idea how to convey your sympathy, just say that. In some situations, there are no "right" words.

You could choose a wording that expresses that you can't find words to show how much you care. Maybe you want to share that Christmas is a celebration of happiness and love and that you get that the person in grief doesn’t feel happy at this time. You could then wish them strengths to commemorate the loss and stillness to cope with their grief.

However, it depends on your relationship to the person and their temperament. Just sending condolences and ignoring Christmas altogether is another option.

Knowing that they’re cared about will help a person in grief, no matter if they're able to show it at that time.

While Alma is on her way back from the store, her phone rings. It’s her mother who tells her that she decided to celebrate Christmas like every other year with the rest of the family and a few friends. Her mom is afraid of the first Christmas without her husband too, but she’s convinced that spending the evening with friends and family in a familiar setting will be helpful for everyone. 

Alma cries when she lights a red candle, but her heart feels a little bit lighter, and she even manages to look forward to Christmas the tiniest little bit. 

I am in no way trivializing pain.

However, I learned in dark times that more than one feeling can be present at the same time. Therefore, I want to write about love once more.

Grief is a form of love, perhaps with a selfish component. I miss them. With my pain, I express my appreciation for the person I lost and look for new ways to live it.

The grief seems unbearably intense because the love for the beloved person is that strong. This love doesn’t end. Love changes, but it doesn’t stop.

Maybe you can use Christmas time to listen into yourself and experience the love consciously. How does it feel, how do you feel about the loved one?

Perhaps Christmas is the ideal time to celebrate love. For the ones that are with us and for the ones who have gone.

You might be at a place right now where this article doesn’t cut it, and any words you read might sound shallow, stale, and even cynical.

Most importantly: If you feel that the burden is too much for you to carry, reach out for help! Google for the crisis helpline in your country if you’re all alone. Call a friend, accept help.

As at any other time of the year, there are people out there who will support you.

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6 Signs You’re Immature

If there's one thing that is sure in life, it's that we age. However, getting older doesn't equal getting more mature.

Recently, Don contacted me. The reason his former employer gave him for firing him is that he is too immature. Don asked if I could help him to "grow up." I admit that his inquiry caught me by surprise. However, I get it.

The behavior that makes us the coolest, most sought-after kid in school, doesn't work later in life.

In relationships and at the workplace, we're looking for mature people. In this article, I share why some people don't want to grow up and how you can recognize if you're immature.

6 Signs You're Immature

You're always searching

For a hotter partner, short-cuts, a more relaxed city, a better job. " It's difficult for you to commit because it feels like missing out on other opportunities.

Why can't you have everything right now?

Your independence is everything to you

You want to be free and feel limited by everyday-duties. Meaning you're often late for appointments and have problems meeting deadlines. And then you don't understand why other people make such a big deal out of it. "I'm here now," might be how you try to trivialize your lapse.

You're not doing great in your job

Discipline, routine, and duties are not your thing, and you try to avoid them. That's why your co-workers and managers don't respect you. In their eyes, you're an immature, unreliable dreamer.

Are they right? You love the idea of being an entrepreneur and might start a few startups-but you lack push-through.

You feel drawn to "quick-rich" opportunities. Shiny objects attract you like honey attracts bears. The laptop lifestyle and big money for little work seem so appealing!

Oh, you're a model. Who's your agency?

Oh, you're a famous author. Who's your publisher?

Oh, you're the world's greatest speaker? Where do you speak?

You have complicated relationships

You're charming, and that appeals to the girls/boys. However, only for a short time. You don't want to commit. Life is short and full of chicks/chicos, and you can settle down when you're old.

While fleeing the responsibility that comes with a committed relationship, you don't realize that you're incredibly dependent-on your desire to be independent.

You're looking for the kick

Faster, harder, bigger, louder! You need excitement to feel alive. Maybe you resort to drugs, extreme sports, or risky ventures. You might feel attracted by extremist groups or cults. They help you to cover up your dark side that's not kind and charming at all.

Others perceive you as careless and arrogant in conversations

Personal, in-depth discussions are not for you. You quickly get bored because you don't know enough about "this stuff" and yourself.

People's initial fascination with you soon turns into the feeling of dealing with a precocious kid.

Why do people refuse to grow up?

If you ask children and teens if they want to grow up, they'll nearly always reply: "Yeah, sure!"

For them, maturity and being a grown-up is connected to independence and freedom. McDonald's every day and drinking as much coke as you want. Sleeping in and no homework. Ah, that's heaven.

How often did we hear "you're too young for this" when we were children?
"Grown-up" seems like a synonym for unlimited fun.

Young people could just look at their parents (boring!) to see that their idea of being a grown-up is not accurate. However, they're convinced they will NEVER be anything like their parents (read why we often become exactly like our parents HERE.)

Latest when people get their first job, they realize that being a grown-up also means sacrifices. Most get used to it-and mature.

Especially young men sometimes have a problem growing up. They find the limitations of being a "responsible person" unbearable.

Many then go on strike. They switch jobs and relationships as soon as a problem manifests. They delay growing up by failing tests. That way, they can start all over again.

And they dream. Of a different land, a diverse society, a different world.

Why people refuse to grow up

Why is acting mature so difficult sometimes?

Finding the conflicting component

The assumption many coaching approaches follow is that the client already possesses the resources to fix their problem. What they're missing is access to these resources.

A human is always part of the whole (person in the system) and the whole (person as the system.)

To help Don "grow up" and coach other clients to their desired goals, we need to understand two things:

  • The inner world of the individual
  • The system the individual wants to contribute to

You can probably relate: If you listen into yourself, you don't hear one single "voice" on a specific topic or situations. We hear conflicting inner voices, and all of them try to influence our external communication and actions.

Personally, I am a big fan and user of the "The Inner Team" method developed by well-known Hamburg psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun.

In short: The Inner Team model assumes that our psyche is not a unified "thing" but a collection of pieces in a polar order.

Meaning someone who lives their life as a greedy person also has a giving part inside of them. Who "loves chaos" carries an orderly component. Most of the time, one of the "voices" is dominant and defines how we live our lives.

The Inner Team

What does that have to do with maturity?

If we're immature (and in many other situations,) we have to fix the conflict in our Inner Team and integrate all parts. We have to face the components we exiled.

Most people are unaware that they carry unresolved conflicts with them since their childhood or teenage years. And they resist the idea. "Something that happened 10, 20, 40 years ago doesn't impact me. I'm over it."

Here's the thing:
We never get "over" things like that. Yes, we can decide how we handle a painful experience. However, if we don't face it, the experience will impact us for as long as we live.

In my personal coaching, one of the methods I use helps people to become aware of such inner conflicts.

Here's a little tip on how you can try it. You just need two things: A particular form of awareness and a relevant sentence.

The form of awareness I am referring to is mindfulness.

Most of the time, our focus is outwardly and connected more to our thinking than emotions.

Mindfulness is simple

Sit at a quiet place and close your eyes. Direct your attention to your body, your feelings, and your thoughts.

Important: Just observe. You don't need to understand, judge, explain, or change anything. Only observe the physical sensations and your feelings.

Maybe you notice tension in your head, you feel nervous or worried about work.

Keep observing. After a while, you will feel calmer.

And now to the sentence. This exercise helps you to detect and recognize the inner conflicts you might have.

I will give you a set of sentences. The wording is always positive; however, it doesn't mean that you experience them positively.

Here is how it works:

Read the sentence, close your eyes, and say the sentence aloud.
Observe your emotional response. Don't think about the sentence or your response. Be passive, sit still, and wait which reactions you'll experience in the 10 seconds after saying the sentence out loud.

Maybe you will feel tension somewhere in your body. Resistance. Or a feeling of anger, sadness, or emptiness. Perhaps you observe a thought that agrees or disagrees with the sentence.

You can also relax and listen to the audio I made for you. I will say each sentence and leave enough time for you to reflect. There is no wrong or right reaction. Every reaction is welcome.

The Inner Team - Questions

The following sentence triggers an emotional response in most people:

  • I am lovable just the way I am.
  • All of my emotions are ok.
  • I am allowed to make mistakes.
  • I don't have to please everyone.
  • I don't have to prove anything.
  • My life is my responsibility.

Did you notice any responses? Relief or tension?

If you were relaxed and mindful, and your responses were neutral (= no change), it indicates that you don't have an inner conflict regarding this topic. If you experienced a positive or negative reaction, you likely found an inner conflict. The more intense the response, the stronger the battle.

The sentences are positive and very general. If you felt resistance towards any of them, it has to do with you. Your brain stored an experience from a past or current relationship.

Maturity - a definition

In addition to my statements above, I feel that a sign of maturity is to know your triggers, meaning the inner buttons other people can press.

For instance, some people react extremely hefty to critical feedback. That's a clear sign of inner conflict. In this particular case, the individual was likely the victim of conditional love.

The intense adverse reaction and "fighting back" is the response of someone that cannot allow that they are imperfect or made a mistake.

Mindfulness can help you to dig deeper. Once you recognized a problem-area, you can look inside (without actively thinking about it. ) Try to "empty" your head and wait what comes to your mind.

Often it's a childhood memory. A situation where you learned that not being perfect or screwing up had unpleasant or even painful consequences. That's when you decided that you will avoid situations like this in the future.

If you're immature, you will find inner conflicts. Facing and removing them will lead to more maturity and better results in your personal and professional life.

Most people need support to achieve that, and that's ok. Asking for help when you need it, is a sign of strengths and maturity.

If you'd like to work with me, go ahead and book a free 15-minute consultation.

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How to deal with toxic people in your life

how to deal with toxic people in your live articlehow to deal with toxic people in your live article

After a long day, I went to LinkedIn to look at my notifications. I read a few comments and replied to them. After a few minutes, I noticed that I felt exhausted and drained. From what? Responding to a few comments? I removed myself from the conversation. Then I realized that I have not shared tips how to deal with toxic people with you in at least two years. 

Back in 1964, a court had to decide if the love-scene in a movie is pornography. The judge came to the following conclusion:

"I know pornography when I see it."

It's the same with toxic people. They are difficult to describe; they appear in too many shades and forms. But you recognize soon if you're dealing with an abusive person. 

Below you find practical tips that help you deal with situations that are stressful and exhausting. But first let me ask: 

Is there such a thing as a toxic person? 

Is it judgemental, overly simplifying and morally acceptable to describe someone as toxic?  

And isn't everyone the product of his circumstances, upbringing, culture and social environment? Should we hold people responsible for the way they make us feel and their actions? Doesn't every person deserve our respect and love? 

Here is my take on this: Yes and no. Yes, we should respect and love everyone and try to help as many people as we can. And: No. Self-preservation is our responsibility. It's ok to call a bread a bread. If someone acts immoral, destructive, anti-social or harmful, we should be able to describe how that makes us feel. 

Luckily, there are few people who are toxic. How can you tell if you met one?

What is a toxic person like?

I'm not able to describe that. I'd have to go with the judge: "You know one if you meet one." It's easier to describe how a toxic person makes you feel. 

You might feel stained, drained, abused, exhausted as if someone sucked the energy out of you. Betrayed or taken advantage of. Yes, as if you have been exposed to toxins. 

We all show behavior listed in the video. The difference is if we display the behavior occasionally or if it's our "normal."

Nice people can turn toxic too when they experience a traumatic situation. For instance, if they get dumped, fired or if a loved one dies. 

Why is it so hard to avoid toxic people?

​We already spoke about one problem. They are not always easy to detect. You can make someone feel horrible with kind (manipulative) words. "I'm sure you forgot to do this or that for me even though you know how much pain that causes me."

Sure, as soon as you realize that you are dealing with a toxic person, you can avoid them and remove them from your life. 

Now let's talk about the real reason many people cannot distance themselves from toxic people. 

It takes a healthy amount of self-confidence 

​If you have a low feeling of self-worth or are not self-confident, it will be hard for to get away from the toxicity. 

Abusive people masterfully manipulate you into believing YOU are the problem and play your insecurities. 

Toxic people you cannot avoid

Sometimes, removing toxic people is difficult or even impossible. It might be your boss, your mother-in-law or someone it's hard to get away from in the short term. 

In that case: Don't take it personal. 

I know, that's easier said than done. Try to keep your cool. Toxic people feed on your emotions and emotional reactions. They are like energy vampires that suck you dry if you allow it. 

When someone attacks us, we often feel the need for revenge. But that will just escalate the situation to a real problem. It's one reason so many people end up in court. 

Protect yourself

Toxic people often fire with the big guns. The ammunition is emotion. 

They might insult you, hurt you, wrongly accuse you... they are often masters of emotional blackmail. 

It's not always someone you have a relationship with. Especially in the online world, they chose their hosts seemingly randomly - don't blame yourself. It's difficult, but try to relax and let it go unless it harms your relationships or business and you need to act. If you analyze what's being said, it's easier to distance yourself from the things that have only been said to hurt you. 

It might feel unfair - but the sooner you starve them, the sooner will they switch their "host."

Set boundaries

It's important to speak clearly and factually with toxic people. Leave your interpretations and emotions out. Tell the toxic person where you draw the line and what the consequences are if they cross it again. 

Whatever emotions you feel, stick to just the facts and consequences. 

Don't assume the toxic person want's a resolution

​Don't think just because you like peace and harmony, the toxic person feel the same way. 

Toxic people are often looking for fights and conflicts. If you assume that they are interesting in solving the problem,  you are most often wrong and your misjudgement will make you act wrong. 

Don't try to change the toxic person

It's a waste of your energy. The natural reaction is to think if only they understood how much they hurt you, they would change their behavior. 

But they won't. They are not open to listen and don't care about your point of view or how they make you feel. 

Don't even try to understand toxic people

Did they have a difficult childhood? Perhaps something bad happened to them? Before you know you'll make excuses for them. They are hurting you. They are attacking you. They ABUSE you. 

I had a difficult childhood and an abusive father. So did many of my friends, acquaintances and clients. But they don't go around and hurt other people. 

If you are a kind person, the mindset of a toxic person is too different from yours for you to understand. "Why is he doing this?" - questions like this only increase your suffering. And even if you found an explanation (I am not saying you will).... what difference does it make? 

Perhaps they are just bored and want to distract themselves from their own misery. 

Preserve your energy for protecting yourself. 

Act, don't react

The nasty and frustrating part of it is that stalkers and toxic people can indeed force us to waste brain energy on them. 

Often we just react. He does this; I call the police. He calls his lawyer; I call my lawyer. 

We become very predictable when we're in the state of reacting. But that's the playground of manipulative people and a game we cannot win. They are better at that. It's who they are. 

Try to become pro-active. And keep focusing your energy on removing yourself from the toxic person. 

I know it's frustrating that you're forced to think about questions like 

  • what will he do next?
  • how does he expect me to react?
  • which reaction is most helpful for my goal of removing the toxic person from my life

Keep your cool. You'll find mindfulness and meditation exercises on this site. 

Whatever you do: Don't get emotional. Don't feed it. 

Seek help

Dealing with toxic people is horrible. It's exhausting, frustrating, feels highly unfair and often there seems no end in sight. 

You might get furious if you lose health, money, friends, sleep and whatever other negative consequences abuse has.

As I mentioned before, toxic people are superb at gas-lighting. You might wonder if YOU are the problem. If it's you who's at fault and not your attacker. 

Seek the advice of "good" people. They can help to get you back in the zone of rationality and give you honest feedback on whether you are or are not "the problem."

If it's a fight that involves people (like children) or possessions, seek professional help as soon as possible. If you wait for too long, you might not be able to afford it anymore or be a mental wrack. 

Also make sure you keep track and diary of anything that can serve as evidence if need be.

When dealing with toxic people, seek as much support as you can get and surround yourself with as many positive people as you can find. 

Keep your guilt in check

You might feel sorry for the abusive person. Rightfully so as they are living a miserable live. And perhaps something bad happened to them. 

It speaks for you if you are a kind, compassionate person. But you cannot afford this right now. 

Self-preservation is your very responsiblity - Aurorasa SimaSelf-preservation is your very responsiblity - Aurorasa Sima

It's terrible to be a prisoner of your own negativity and the need to destruct. Toxic people are great at making excuses and explaining the unexplainable. 

If you feel guilty for executing your right to self-preservation, you'll be wax in the hands of the abusive person. A toxic person will recognize that as weakness and take advantage. 

Solve the problem first and remove the toxic person. You can feel sorry for them later. 

To sum things up

  • Find as much support as you can. Involve authorities at the earliest possible point in time
  • Try to become pro-active 
  • Don't try to understand the abuser. Understand that even if you would, it would not change the negative impact of his actions or justify hurting you
  • Don't explain yourself to the toxic person. He doesn't care. Accept it
  • Don't feel sorry for the abuser (yet.) They will use every trick in the book to make you feel sorry for them, afraid of them, lie to you, make up rumors - whatever seems to work
  • Don't try to change them. You cannot change people who do not listen with an open mind
  • Try not to take it personal. It's important to reflect on negative feedback and see if you can learn and grow, but that does not apply to abusers because
  • They will try to manipulate you into believing you are the problem. Don't believe that. Ask people who care about you if you are looking for truthful feedback
  • Keep your calm and stay rational
  • Set clear boundaries and lay out the consequences if the abuser oversteps them again
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Too much pressure? Gain back control over your mind!

Are you putting yourself under pressure?

This easy tip helps you gaining back control

Too much pressure causes stress. Stress can make us ill. Since 1990, the number of sick leaves for emotional distress has more than doubled. Job stress has been declared one of the biggest threats of the century by the World Health Organization (WHO). Stress and pressure have long entered our private lives as well.

Often we can tell that we feel under pressure when our sentences start with: “I have to…” and “I should…”

gain back control over your mind

Here are a few examples for self-made pressure:

  • I have to clean up the garden, or the neighbors will start gossiping
  • I have to finish the report, or my boss is going to be mad
  • I have to lose 10 pounds because I cannot stand my picture in the mirror
  • I should be nicer to Aunt Annie
  • I have to find a partner because I cannot be happy alone
  • I should become more productive else I will never go places

It makes sense to put some pressure on yourself. If we had no goals, our life would probably fall into pieces. It becomes a problem if we tell us too many of those “I have to…” sentences. Too much self-made pressure results in a cranky mood, depression or even physical illness. And it makes us less productive and hinders our progress.

To prevent this from happening to you just follow the simple tip I will introduce to you:

Gaining back control

If you want to feel more relaxed, it’s helpful to take a few steps back and look at your situation from a distance.You might feel like there are many things you have to do. In reality, you don’t need to do anything.

  • You do not have to go to work
  • You do not have to earn money
  • You do not have to be a great parent
  • You do not have to be nice, friendly or tolerant
  • You do not have to be the neighbor with the tidiest garden

You probably think that sounds crazy. Cross your heart! Is someone making you cleaning up the garage? Or is your boss pointing a loaded gun at your head? Don’t we all know enough people who flout all rules and just do what they feel like? Obviously, this is possible even though one could argue it’s probably not desirable.

There are only very few things in life we HAVE to do. We have to die, and we have to breathe, eat, drink and sleep.

These are biological necessities we have to fulfill.

We do the other things because

  • all others do them too
  • someone once told us we have to
  • we made the decision we want to do them
  • we feel they are important or necessary
  • we fear the consequences of not doing it

Many people feel trapped in a cage of duties and necessities. A cage of things they have to do but do not want to do.

That we have to do all of this stuff is only one way of looking at it. Another way of thinking will make you go through life more relaxed and more productive. It can be trained.

The trick nearly sounds too easy. But it works:

Replace “I have to … “ thoughts with “I want to … “.You can say: “I have to go to work.” That will make you feel forced or even under pressure. You feel like a victim of life or the circumstances.

You can also say: “I want to go to work so that I can pay the mortgage and offer a comfortable life to my kids.” That sends an entirely different message to your brain. Your brain will release different hormones that will make you feel better.

I have to = force and pressure

I want to = freedom and self-determination

When you tell yourself “I have to…” a lot of energy and joy of life gets lost.

But when you say “I want to…because…” it is an expression of power. Your back straightens, your chin lifts, and you feel that you are in control of your life.

The next time you catch yourself thinking: “Oh no, I have to do this and that…”, ask yourself:

  • Do I have to? Will I die if I don’t? Would the consequences of not doing it be all that bad?
  • Or is it something that I will do because I consider it useful and wise?
  • Do I want to do it to avert consequences?
  • Is someone forcing me to or is it my free will?

You can regain your freedom by realizing that you do not have to do anything. But that you want many things.

  • You want to make money to be able to afford beautiful things. That is why you made the decision to work.
  • You want to be respected by your neighbors that is why you made the decision to act like a respectable person.
  • You want to get along with other people so that you made the decision to be nice and friendly.

Not only will you feel more in control and be more aware of which decision you made why and which consequences you signed up for. You will also discover many tasks you thought you “had to…” that are not necessary at all.

Through the shift of mindset, a lot of the pressure we are facing is falling off because we stop fighting. It’s also a great first step towards an ideal work-life balance and effective time management.

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From “want to … “ to “prefer to … “

To want something is way better than to have to. But “wanting” can still cause pressure.Because if we fail to achieve what we wanted we might feel dissatisfied. Especially, when we feel like we are not advancing with our goals.

Again, to want something and the dissatisfaction of not achieving it is not a bad thing per se. Discontent is often the driving force that enables us to make changes and finally grow.

However, sometimes we overdo it. For instance, when we obsess about something or want to do too many things at once. In that case, the dissatisfaction grows to an unhealthy amount that is not helping us to advance but hinders and potentially harms us.

Here is a linguistic trick that can bring relief:Instead of telling yourself “I want to lose weight” or “I want to make more money” reword it like this:

  • I would prefer to lose weight, but I can love myself if I stay as I am
  • I would prefer to make more money, but if I don’t I will still be alright

Words are powerful tools that make a difference in our brains.To prefer something leads to a more relaxed feeling. To prefer something implies that you want something – but in a laid-back way.

Sometimes we fail because we do not try hard enough – often we fail because we try too hard. Or too much at once. In that case, this little linguistic trick will work miracles for you.

Words are magic.

Changing the way you talk will change the way you think, and finally, the way you feel, act and the kind of results you achieve.

Too much pressure? Gain back control!

Watch: Dr. Mark Goulston - How to influence pushy people to treat you right

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