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Environmental and Workplace Health

Employee Assistance Program Newsletter

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Volume 19, Number 2

Living Life on Your Terms!

How many times in your life have you been told how things should be or will be and what you should do about them? How does it make you feel? Inadequate, unable to fulfill expectations, powerless? People mean, as a rule, to be helpful, but in many instances these comments can cause the opposite response within us.

How can we not react to those frustrating platitudes?

"You will get over it; life goes on."

True! But after a difficult experience or episode in your life, you may not be necessarily quite ready. However, you feel pressured to conform to what is expected of a "normal" person. You just want to say: "Please give me time, respect me for who I am and how I deal with issues. I will pick up the pace when I am ready, on my own terms. Let me determine how I need to heal.  Time is not an issue. I want to get over this struggle and I will. Then, and only then will I get on board the train of life.

In fact, what you would rather hear from people is: "Take your time to heal. We are in no position to tell you how and when to do it. We respect you as you are."

"You can do it!"
"How do they know? How can they decide for me?"

You probably feel a lot of pressure to perform and to show that you are capable, even if it means going way beyond your comfort zone. What if people told you instead: "I trust you. I trust your abilities, your judgment, your expertise, etc. to do what is right for you." How much more empowering would that feel! By giving you the power, they trigger more self-motivation, they encourage you to look inside yourself and discover your full potential. What a difference from having other's perceptions of your abilities imposed upon you!  

"It is going to be.... boring, exhausting, difficult, long, etc."

Who said so?

Many of us put a lot of stress upon ourselves by deciding what a future situation will be like. It is a way for us to think that we are in control, because we "were there before", and we think  that we know exactly how it will unfold. We also listen to others trying to convince us of similar experiences they have been through and we believe the same will be true for us. We trick our brain to believe that what we are telling it is reality, and consequently, we bring stress to the surface. How often do things turn out the way we predicted? All this wasted energy! Nobody knows how it will be or should be or could be... In reality, what we really want to say is: "I don't want it to be exhausting, long, boring, etc."

Great! Acknowledging our feelings and emotions helps us choose what course of action we will take to make the situation as comfortable as possible. Events will unfold as they will. We have the power to decide how we will approach them.  We have the capability to look at them with a fresh perspective, which could lead to unexpected gratifications. 

"You have to accept!"

What pressure! What obligation! Again, you feel others decide how you should act or think. It may seem to you that people have no consideration for what you are going through, for what your values and needs are.  So the last thing you want to do at this point is accept what is being thrown at you. In your mind, accepting may mean agreeing; and this is not the case. Perhaps, what you probably feel can be translated as: "I recognize what it is. I do not agree because it goes against my values and my beliefs, but I do not blame nor accuse anyone. What I want and need to do is to distance myself from the situation, and acknowledge the other side's point of view. I may understand it or I may not. I do not have to accept". What is in my power, however, is to say: "Yes, I acknowledge and I choose how I will navigate through the situation without resistance. I will bring it down to my own comfort zone, therefore, respecting myself and my values. For me, "accepting" means " integrating what is happening and gradually making peace with the circumstances."

Indeed, expectations and anticipation can create stress. So a suggestion is to stop them in their tracks. Welcome future situations with a clean slate.

Trust your ability to adapt. Deal with situations as they are and not as you want them to be, or as someone else tells you they should be. Now that we have clarified how certain words and expressions can affect us, it is comforting to know that we can choose our words wisely, offer support, and enter into meaningful dialog with the people closest to us, especially when they are facing difficult situations.

For a confidential consultation, call your Employee Assistance Program at 1-800-268-7708 or for the hearing impaired at 1-800-567-5803, 24 hours a day.
www.healthcanada.gc.ca/eas