Relationships

6 Signs You Need More Time With Friends

Do you find it harder to maintain relationships when you can’t see friends face-to-face very often? Many people do, and the lack of in-person connections has made the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic difficult. Fewer parties and gatherings, quarantines and lockdowns, wondering who shares your same safety levels… it’s enough to make even the strongest friendships start to feel like they’re more of a “chore” than a gift.

 

But that’s a real problem.

 

Having people you can lean on has been scientifically linked to higher happiness levels and a lower risk of illness. So whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, whether you have 100 friends or just 2 BFFs, whether you prefer to talk to friend’s every day or only sporadically, friendships are important.

 

If you’ve been prioritizing health over friendships these past 2 years, that’s totally okay. But these 6 behaviors are important signs you need to spend a little more time with friends (even if it’s over Zoom!).

 

1. You Feel Burned Out

Burnout is a commonly misunderstood feeling. We often think of burnout as an extreme form of feeling busy, but burnout is in fact more closely related to a feeling of melancholy. Burnout comes from a lack of meaning and enthusiasm, not too much stress. Spending time with friends, doing something outside your regular work routine and home routine, can help reignite some missing excitement in your life.

 

2. Your Partner Repeats Six Little Words

If your partner says “you already told me about that” more than three times in a week, that’s a sign you’re missing another outlet. Most of us need more than one close confidante to bounce our thoughts and feelings off of, because different people provide different kinds of support and feedback. If you’ve been repeating stories to your partner (I’m so guilty of this!), you’re looking for a style of support you haven’t gotten. Time to phone a friend!

 

3. You’re Bingeing Netflix

Streaming service is a handy companion, but not as good as a real friend. Especially in a pandemic, and extra-especially in the winter when it’s cold, it’s easy to fall into a routine of hunkering down instead of reaching out to someone. But reruns aren’t old friends, even when they seem comforting. Instead of watching a fun show solo, can you recruit a friend to watch, too, and chat about it afterward?

 

4. You Feel Tired Thinking About Hanging Out

If thinking about being around your friends makes you feel excited but EXHAUSTED, that’s a sign you need more friend time. You’re out of practice of being social, so it feels overwhelming. But that’s not an excuse to avoid it (like exercise!) It just means you need to start slowly and build up your tolerance for human interaction.

 

5. You Start Friend Time With *This* Phrase…

The phrase “oh my gosh, what’s going on with you?!?!” sounds like a normal way to kick off conversation with a friend, right? Wrong. If you don’t even know enough to ask specific questions like “What’s going on with your new job?” or “How is little Olivia dealing with that difficult teacher?”, you’re too out of touch. This was my warning sign midway through last year, when it became obvious I hadn’t been doing a good enough job knowing even the basics of what my friends were struggling with or celebrating. We deserve to be able to lean on one another, but we can’t if we don’t know “what’s going on.”

 

6. You Don’t Miss Your Friends

If you’ve gone so long without seeing your friends that you don’t even feel sad about it, that’s the biggest warning sign of all. It’s a little bit like being hungry: early hunger is a gnawing pain in your stomach. But if you wait long enough without eating, the discomfort disappears. It’s like you aren’t even hungry anymore! But your body is still in need of food, you just ignored the pain so long that the warning sign went away. If you’ve stopped missing your friends (assuming the relationships are healthy and reciprocal!), you’ve gone way too long without support. Try sending a short text to a long-time friend, one of those who won’t bombard you with questions but will always be there to pick up where you left off.

 

Friendships serve a purpose in our lives, providing us with morale support, sounding boards, and even making us physically healthier. If you’ve been neglecting friendships, maybe it’s time to make them a little bit more of a priority. Not just for your sake, but because your friends need you, too.

 

 

It’s Cooking Light’s Fault. (Aka: how I was trying to solve a problem all wrong)

When I married my husband, he was really good cook. I could feed myself but I was not (okay, I still am not!) what anyone would call a really good cook. I am the person who lit the toaster oven on fire when I was in college! Apparently, too much cheese dripped down into the coils. But the good news is I learned how to use a fire extinguisher that day! That’s a life skill.

 

When my husband and I got engaged, I thought, “I am going to learn how to cook. I think that would be a good skill for me to have. I’m going to learn how to cook.” I started taking cooking classes. I learned how to roast a chicken. I learned how to hold my knives, learned the most efficient way to chop an onion. I felt like a real grown up. My cooking got incrementally better with practice, but it was still just… okay. I was practicing all the time – I worked fewer hours than he was, so I’d pull out the Cooking Light magazine and cook us dinner most nights a week. He’d cook about once a week, and his food was just better than mine. Significantly better. He was so confident in kitchen, and his food was so full of flavor.

 

And then we went on our honeymoon.

 

We ended up in Italy, where I ate 5 meals a day, 4 of them pasta. Our first Sunday home after we got back from Rome, we were grocery shopping. There, at the checkout, was a copy of Gourmet Magazine: “The Pasta Issue.” And the photo on the cover was of penne salsiccia, which I’d had a LOT of in Italy. I thought to myself, “Oh, this is a sign.” I threw that magazine down on the conveyor belt and committed to reading it cover to cover.

 

The next Sunday, I had my grocery list ready. I was going to make that Penne Salsiccia from the cover. I was so excited. My husband and I were going around the grocery store shopping. We pick up the sausage. We pick up the cheese. I grab the heavy whipping cream. It was when I was putting the heavy whipping cream in the cart that he looks at all the heavy ingredients, looks back at me and he goes, “Is this from Cooking Light?”. Since that’s where almost all of my recipes came from, he was surprised.

 

I said, “No, this is not from Cooking Light. This is from that gourmet magazine. We’re going to make real Italian pasta like we had on our honeymoon.”

 

That evening, I was so excited to get started.

 

6pm. I’m starting dinner. This recipe calls for VERY expensive, very fragile threads of Saffron to be soaked in water. I’m trying not to panic.

 

6:28. I’m trying not to scald the heavy whipping cream in the pan.

 

6:47. I’m trying not to overcook the pasta

 

6:52. I carry the plates out to the table. I set them down with a deep breath. For a moment I consider letting my husband take the first bite and tell me what he thinks but then I think FORGET THAT THIS WAS MY IDEA I MADE THIS MEAL. I put the bite in my mouth and I turn to my husband in shock.

 

I can’t believe what I’m tasting.

 

“I don’t stink at cooking! Cooking Light must stink at cooking! Because I. am. AMAZING” I would have said more but I needed to use my mouth for the important work of eating my phenomenal pasta.

 

Here’s what I realized: I had a materials problem. I had been trying for years to solve it with more skills training.

 

I’m sure nothing like that has ever happened to you has it? No workplace of yours would EVER try to solve a materials problem with more skills training, right? <wink, wink>.

 

But that’s what happens when we jump to solve a problem too quickly, “Oh, I know what the problem is. I know what the problem is.” Action bias is a common impulse. It’s a feeling of being compelled to act quickly and solve a problem, and psychologists think it happens in order to regain a sense of control over a situation. There’s a cultural conditioning that can occur, where we learn as children to favor action over waiting, because waiting could be interpreted as “laziness” or “indecisiveness.” So action bias isn’t just internal – there’s a lot of societal pressure to take action! In some cases, we can even be rewarded tangibly for being the kind of person who leaps to action and solves problems quickly.

 

If we want to thrive and be successful in an uncertain environment (like we’re all in in 2021!), we need to give ourselves time to experiment. Time to think about what the problem could really be and what else we could really do about it so that we’re certain we get to the right answer. If the past two years have given us anything, it’s the opportunity to take a moment to make sure that we’re solving problems the right way and not the wrong way.

Why “The Bachelor” Winners Are Pretty Resilient

It’s not hard to figure out who’s going to win and who’s going home on The Bachelor! 🌹(…and yes, I’m a reluctant fan!) 😉 🥀

Watch how the women handle stressful situations. Do they make The Bachelor comfort them? Do they show no fear? Do they handle it themselves? There’s a pattern on the show of who gets sent home and who gets the rose, and it applies to life, too!

As you watch the show, see if you can guess the final four based on their patterns of resilience. I swear by it!

Why Do My Kids Constantly Push Boundaries?

If you’ve got kids who are constantly pushing boundaries, it’s frustrating.

BUT…

It’s actually GOOD news!

Pushing boundaries is how kids develop a healthy sense of self-efficacy and an internal locus of control. Quick 4 minute watch while I explain what those two things are, how they help kids turn into successful adults, and basically just make you feel better about your kids always pushing boundaries.

The bottom line is this: I swear your kids are normal!!! 😉

 

3 Signs You Have High Emotional Intelligence

Since the mid-1990s, emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” has been a hotly discussed topic. People with high EQ are believed to be more successful than people who only have a high IQ, the measure of intellectual intelligence.

 

When I first learned about EQ, I heard about it as being “people smart,” not just “book smart.” And being able to read and understand people IS a part of emotional intelligence, but that’s just half of it. The other half is being able to understand YOURSELF. For that reason, emotional intelligence makes perfect sense as a major predictor of success. (This is one of my favorite sites describing emotional intelligence, here).

 

So how do you know if you have high EQ? These 3 indicators can give you a good idea:

 

You have close friendships

 

It’s not about the number of friends, but the type of friendships you have that counts, in this case. If you have friendships that include not just kindness and having a good time, but compassionate honesty, that’s a good sign that you and your friends may have high emotional intelligence.

 

One of my friends and I once disagreed about something in her personal life. She felt that something her boyfriend had done was “bad” and a dealbreaker. I pointed out that it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker in MY relationship, but that she had every right to draw whatever line she wanted. Having a boundary didn’t make the other person “bad,” or even wrong. She could set whatever boundary she wanted, and if it worked for both of them, then great. If it didn’t, then they should break up.

 

It was hard for her to hear, because her other girlfriends were all offering agreement and empathy about his “bad” behavior. But being able to voice a differing opinion actually brought us closer, and then several years later she was able to honestly tell me “Hey, I think you might be coming down on your son too hard for X and Y”! Having close friendships based in honesty shows EQ, because it combines both social skills and empathy.

 

You can describe your emotions

 

When you’re mad, what kind of mad are you? Are you just plain mad? Or can you recognize different shades of mad, like “disappointed,” “frustrated,” or “embarrassed.”

 

The more varied and descriptive language you use for your emotions, the higher EQ you might have. The reason is because you’re tapped into what you’re actually feeling, and you’re recognizing the nuances of your experience. There are so many different ways to be sad, for example. I’m sad when my favorite restaurant stops being open for lunch, and I’m sad when my dog is sick, but I would never say those two emotions are the same!

 

When you use descriptive, specific language to talk about your emotions, that shows self-awareness, one of the key components of emotional intelligence. So the next time you’re feeling something, reach into your mental dictionary and see if you can pull out a fancy word. It’s a good emotional workout!

 

You set hard-to-reach goals

 

How hard are your goals? Are all of them things you can accomplish in 1-2 years? Goals should be attainable (hello, SMART goals that we’ve all heard of!), but if every single one of your goals is something pretty easy for you to accomplish, then you may be playing it way too safe just to be able to say you’ve reached all your goals.

 

People with high EQ aren’t afraid to defer rewards and success for a looooong time, because having high motivation is another key indicator of emotional intelligence. So with high EQ, you can stay motivated even if reaching your goals is a long, slow process. If you can feel accomplished even before you’ve reached an end goal, that’s a pretty good sign that you’ve got emotional intelligence.

 

Here’s the best news:

 

All of these indicators are traits that can be developed and improved. So even if you only see yourself in one or two of these characteristics, you can work on it and increase your EQ. Having a high emotional intelligence DOES help you be successful. So get some practice and flex those emotional muscles!

 

 

What NOT To Say When Someone is Struggling

I hate to tell you this…but at some point in your life, you’ve probably said the #1 thing NOT to say to a loved one who is struggling.

I’VE done it. We’ve all done it. It’s almost like a habit. But these common platitudes we offer people who are suffering through a difficult time… they don’t help. And they can actually HURT.

Here’s what to say to your friend or family member who is struggling, INSTEAD of one of these platitudes, and why it’s more likely to help them feel better (and probably cement your relationship with them, too).

The #1 Question I Get Asked

I get asked this question ALL. THE. TIME:

“How do I help X person in my life get a better perspective? How do I help them be more resilient?”

It’s a tough question, because there’s not a perfect answer. You can’t GIVE somebody else perspective.

But because everyone seems to want to know the answer, I’ve done some research and some thinking, and there are 3 things you CAN do to help.

#1 is probably the toughest, because it requires vulnerability that we may not want to show.

If there’s someone in your life (your child, your employee, your sibling…) who could stand to be a bit tougher, check out this 4 minute video on what you can do to help them find resilience.

How to Tell Your Partner You’re Mad Without Causing a Fight

When it comes to love and conflict, we believe a lot of weird things:

“Love is supposed to be easy.”

“If it’s true love, you’ll fit together like puzzle pieces.”

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

WRONG!

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s my helpful guide to saying “I’m upset,” without it spiraling into a big fight.

Because the truth is, life is hard. And that can make our relationships stressful. But just because you’re frustrated, it doesn’t HAVE to mean you’re going to get into some big fight with your spouse or partner!

So I have a extra-special secret phrase you can use, to communicate something that bothers you, WITHOUT starting a fight.

How to Protect Yourself from an Emotional Bully

Bullies don’t always stop at the playground.

Most adult conflict happens when two people hold different (but at least somewhat valid) opinions, and they butt heads. But SOME people weren’t taught healthy conflict skills, and some of THOSE people end up just plain mean.

If you have an emotionally bully in your life who won’t leave you alone, there’s a 3-step process for handling yourself and dealing with them in a healthy, productive way.

Physical Distance

Most people dealing with an emotional bully will have the instinct to put space between themselves and the bully. Follow that instinct! The more physical distance you can have, the better it is for your mental health. When I was in my mid-20s, I had a good friend who used to get upset every time something good happened for me. If I got a new job, she complained I didn’t have enough time for her. If I got some recognition for work or my volunteering, she would make some undercutting remark. I don’t even think she realized she was doing it! But every good thing that happened in my life made her uncomfortable, and she’d start to beat me up for it.

There are two problems with this first step, though. The first problem? Most people stop there. They think physical distance will solve the problem, but usually an emotional bully isn’t deterred by a little space. Which brings up the second problem: that you can’t always put enough physical space between you and someone trying to get under your skin. Especially if the bully is a colleague, for example, you can’t just quit your job and run far away. So that’s when you deploy the second step…

Emotional Detachment

Getting emotionally detached is a tough one for me. I have what my family calls a “justice bone,” this innate piece of me that wants people to REALIZE when they’re being unkind, admit it, and knock it off. But with true emotional bullies, that’s a pipe dream. They may NEVER clue in, and you’ll be waiting a long time. (Spoiler alert: I’ll probably be waiting right there next to you on the bench!)

What I learned when I worked with a very scary bully (see this blog post here for a little more background) is that the best thing I could do when I HAD to interact with him was to be as unfazed as possible. No matter what ridiculous thing he suggested to make my job harder, I would nod and say “Mmmm… interesting thought.” If he’d say something vaguely threatening, I’d reply “Fascinating.” If he said something insulting: “What a strange thing to say.” The less I replied, the more he turned his focus to someone who would give him a more emotionally charged response. It’s just like my mom taught me when I was fighting with my brother as kids: “if you give him a reaction, he’s just going to keep going.”

Practicing emotional detachment works in two ways – it hopefully makes the bully back off because he’s not getting the payoff he wants, plus it keeps you from being quite as frustrated, because you allow yourself to be less invested in “fixing” the bully. 

Healthy Outlet

No matter how good you are at emotional detachment in the moment, you’re still going to have some feelings come up. And you’re for SURE going to need to deal with those feelings. It’s important to find someone who is NOT a part of the environment where the bully is, to be your sounding board. Depending on how severe the situation is, I highly recommend going for at least a few sessions with a professional. The strategies I’ve learned for how to manage MYSELF (and the other person) in these situations have been incredibly valuable.

Whether a friend, family member, or a professional, find someone whose advice-giving style aligns with what you’re looking for. If you just want some sympathy, don’t turn to a well-known problem-solver. You’ll both be frustrated. Before you start the conversation, lay out clearly what you’re looking for (just to vent, advice, someone to be in your corner, etc.). Dealing with an emotional bully can feel lonely, so getting someone on your team is a critical part of the coping process.

Even as adults, we may still run into bullies sometimes. I like this Inc. article’s list of the 5 types of adult bullies. Dealing with an emotional bully is draining, so take these three steps to protect yourself mentally, so you’ll have the energy you need to keep focusing on what YOU need to get done.

Caught on Video: My Favorite Moment of 2018

Here’s a personal look at my favorite moment of this past year!

The reason I loved this moment SO MUCH is because I had planned this surprised for months, which triggers a psychological mechanism called “savoring.” When we anticipate an exciting time, it helps us feel enjoyment even before the event happens, giving us double the good feelings!

As you head into the new year, look for ways you can savor and enjoy the things you have planned for 2019. The more you savor, the happier you’ll be.