Pursue What Matters
Episode 58: Holding Your Family Together
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Hey there, how are you in your family holding it together? Have you grown closer? Or are you ready to break this party up? Well, if you’re like most families, your answer to these questions probably depends on the hour. Join me as I talk about how to hold your family together during these crazy times.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:23
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the pursue what matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work? Oh, COVID, COVID COVID? I don’t know, I haven’t heard any good poems about COVID. And don’t worry, I will not be sharing a COVID poem with you. But I’ve seen a lot of means. I’ve heard a lot of laminations about COVID online. mostly about parents complaining about homeschooling, I’ve heard a lot of Lamentations from children complaining about being stuck at home with their parents. And ah, there’s a lot of family craziness. How’s it going? You hanging in there? It’s a lot we’re all coping with so much. Yeah, I’m thinking we kind of need a do over of 2020. But I guess, if we’re open, we’re learning a lot. So today, I want to talk all about this family craziness. And hopefully, some ways to help you hold your family together during these crazy times. We’ll see how I do, we’ll see how I do. So of course, with the podcast, you know, I really want to help you pursue what matters, and especially help you develop the confidence to lead. Now, you know, sometimes there has been this argument out there, that it’s hard to lead Well, if you can’t hold your family together. Right, that it’s hard to lead home, it’s hard to lead outside the home. And that it’s it’s it’s hard to do more than one thing, which I just think is kind of garbage. But I do think one thing that’s true is that it can be challenging to balance all of the roles and all of the responsibilities. But I also think it’s true that we’re way more capable than we give ourselves credit for. And it It often takes a village, it takes a community, it takes a lot of support and a lot of grace. And I’m part of a women’s Career Development Series. And we were having a lovely conversation via zoom recently where we were talking about how everyone is doing with some of this craziness and talking particularly about leading at home and that work and recognizing that it’s all one in the same at this point. And one of the women said that, you know, initially she was really just trying to, you know, make everything happen and trying to get all the, you know, trying to help her kids get all the assignments done. And she said it was making her crazy, and it was making her kids crazy. And it was making her partner crazy. And she recognized like it just was not realistic. And it wasn’t necessary. And that as she gave herself more grace, and communicated and just said like, okay, like, what’s the purpose of all of this? She said that she was able to take a step back. And you know, everyone’s taking care of what matters most. And the whole family is doing a lot better. And I really love that perspective. And I think it resonated with a lot of a lot of us women on that call. Because I think, especially as women, we can be hard on ourselves and feel like if we’re not operating at a specific level in every area, then we’ve somehow failed, which of course it’s so undermining and it keeps us from keeps us from pursuing the things that really matter. And so you know, today with the podcast, I really want to help you lead with curiosity, which is all about developing and cultivating self awareness, and really building a secure foundation to help you recognize like what are the coping skills? And what are the traits that help you lead with confidence. And, you know, help you to see that you can integrate your different roles and, you know, have that secure foundation at home, that you don’t have to do at all, that you don’t have to do it all perfectly. And that, you know, as we, as we enlist support and as we give ourselves grace, we can really develop more confidence to lead and we can let go of some of the rigid expectations. Because I think sometimes when we face some of the challenges, we just kind of say, like, can’t be done, and so we don’t try. And so I hope today with the podcast, we can really help you lead with curiosity and lean in to some of the discomfort and really help you build that secure foundation. And with the, with the podcast today, I have a freebie for you that’s focused all on helping you cope as a family. So I have some great tips and skills to help you and your family cope well to, you know, really help you all hold it together during this time. So
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:18
first of all, let’s talk about you know, you know, a way like a model for how we can think about some of the challenges that we are facing. So I want to talk to you about this model. It’s a three part family adjustment and adaptation response model, which sounds like super important, and it is cool. It’s very cool. But it’s also it’s a pretty simple model. And I’m going to link to this resource. It is a nice little article that was actually written by a friend of mine. She’s so awesome. She is a professor at BYU, Sarah. And Sarah is awesome. She’s always doing so much great work. But Dr. Sarah Coyne, I think I’ve cited some of her work before, but she’s awesome. And she’s one of these great women that I admire in terms of how she integrates how she integrates love and work. She’s a great example of this. But she wrote a really wonderful article for Psychology Today, I think it was first written somewhere else and in Psychology Today picked it up, but that’s cool. And so I will link to it, but it’s turning the corona crisis into a Corona crucible. But in that she talks about this model that we see in the human development literature. And I think it can be a helpful way for us to think about how families adjust and adapt to stress to you know, challenging life circumstances. So first of all, we all have different demands, right? So these can be thought of as like the daily stressors. And of course, you know, Corona takes that to an entirely new level. So when we think about demands, these are the daily stressors, strains hassles, they may or may not involve a global pandemic. That’s one of the things that Sara says in the article, but right for us, All right, now they do. So the first one is demands. And then the second one would be capabilities. And these are our resources and coping behaviors. So these are emotional, social, financial, or psychological resources and coping behaviors that we use to deal with our demands. And so, you know, the thing to pay attention to is that the balance between the demands and capabilities really helps to determine how well we adjust to challenges in our lives, right. So if we have a pretty good balance between our demands, and our capabilities, so between daily stressors, and our resources and coping behaviors, then we can adjust pretty well to life’s challenges. But of course, when demands outweigh our capabilities, we will tend to move into crisis mode. Because right, like our the demands, overwhelm our capabilities or our capacity to cope. And I think that, you know, like that makes sense to most of us. And, you know, we’re certainly seeing that with a with a lot of people but I also think we’re we’re seeing an interesting phenomenon with this global pandemic. So first of all, I think it is a stretching our capability more than we ever Thought I was I had the privilege of being part of a zoom call of remarkable resilient women recently in these are all women in eating, recovery, different stages of eating recovery. And one of the one of the comments that came up, you know, they, they were all talking about some of these demands and capabilities on their coping, and how, you know, and and the challenges of that, for sure, but then also how they,
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:33
you know, how their capabilities have been stretched, and also the surprise in recognizing that their capabilities have been stretched farther than they thought they could. Right. And I think that’s something that many of us are learning in this global pandemic, that we can cope with more than we maybe thought that we could, or maybe that we gave ourselves credit for. And it’s hard, right, because it is hard to be stretched. If you think about that as a rubber band, that’s stretching, you know, you don’t want to stretch it too far. Because you know, at a certain point, it’s going to snap or break and that, you know, that hurts, that’s painful. But also, we’re recognizing that maybe we have more capability than we knew. And that’s a that’s a, that’s a pretty happy discovery. But of course, when our demands outweigh our capabilities, we do tend to move into crisis mode, which, you know, is never a good place to be. And so, as much as possible, we want to, we want to be able to balance that, where we think about what are what are the consistent resources and coping behaviors that we have in place to help us get through the daily stressors. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you know, I so I’m, I’m pretty darn good about daily coping skills. But as we moved into this pandemic, I noticed that it was harder for me to use my consistent coping skills, right. So crisis kind of throws those resources and coping skills out the window, because chaos kind of throws us off. And so, you know, for me, of course, like, I noticed that pretty quickly, and I was like, Okay, let’s, let’s rein that back in, and get back on track. But it took, it took a little bit, it took a little while. And so we just kind of want to cultivate some of that awareness around that and recognize when we might be when we might be moving out of some of those, some of those resources and coping behaviors. So let’s talk about some of the solutions that can help us write those resources and coping behaviors that help us to reestablish balance, if we’re in crisis mode, or if we’re out of balance. So the first solution is, of course, to cultivate resilience. Now, I’ve just had a really good podcast, I think it was really good. I think it can be helpful, a podcast on empathy and resilience, I will link to that in the show notes. I also will link to a series of articles from our balance health and healing website, which is our clinical practice.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:30
Where one of our great clinicians, Jen white, has written a series of articles on cultivating resilience. And so those are really great. So if you want to dig a little bit deeper into resilience, I will link to those. But let’s define resilience. So in psychology, we look at resilience as the ability to adapt well, when faced with adversity. So it’s kind of this idea of being able to bounce back from hardships, to be able to survive them, and in some cases actually experience some really profound personal growth. So sometimes we think about that as post traumatic growth. So you go through really challenging experiences, but you’re able to harness lessons and growth as a result of those difficult experiences. And that is the foundation for resilience and post traumatic growth. So resilience actually involves thoughts and behaviors that anyone can develop. So it’s, it’s, it can be learned, and that’s the really cool thing. So there are six core skills that you can cultivate, to strengthen your resilience and that’s the really cool thing. So again, all linked to the resilience podcast and then of course to Jen’s blogs. So I’m just going to mention these, I’m not going to cover these in detail because you can get these through those other resources. But the first one is connection to others. So this is the single most important thing we can do to help ourselves develop resilience. So connecting to others who can offer empathy. So they do not have to have gone through what you’ve gone through that can they listen and hold space for you? Can they listen without giving advice without minimizing your concerns without trying to fix you or catastrophizing, your experience, so these people are gems, find them and hold on to them. And so I just had an experience recently with, with some of my dear friends. So we have a group Marco Polo with some of my best friends from high school. And we started the Marco Polo with with this pandemic going on, as a way of staying in touch. And it’s been so great. And we’ve been able to laugh and talk about like, really silly things like, you know, like that Tiger King. But we’ve also had been able to have really, really meaningful conversations. And it’s been beautiful. And one of my dear friends has just experienced a really challenging life experience. And she’s a long way away right now. And I just want nothing more than to be able to hug her. And we all feel that way. But of course, we can’t do that. But we can.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:45
We can hold space for her, and we can share our love for her. And, you know, we’ve, we’ve all shed tears for her. As we’ve, as we, as we’ve expressed our love and empathy for her, you know, using this app. Even though she’s far away, we’re all far away from one another. But connection matters. And connection is a way that we can walk through painful things and be strengthened. And so don’t ever underestimate the importance of connecting to others. And then the second core skill is distress tolerance. This is where we really want to be curious about our emotional experience without judgment. So we’re often really quick to resist our emotional experience. So we tend to avoid or deny our emotions. And this actually makes it more difficult to cope. So instead, we really want to turn toward our emotional experience as a curious observer. So can you start to identify what you are feeling, and begin to understand what it is you need in the moment? So some some of the good questions could be how am I feeling? What is happening in my body? Can I identify the experience of emotion in my body, so for example, the tightening of the chest, that pit in my stomach, a tingling in my fingers. And then when have I felt this way in the past. So I want to start adding some context to your emotions to try and be a curious observer, that always without judgment,
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:38
and then the next core skill. So the third core skill is self care, which, of course is so important. So you’ve got to be able to understand what’s going on for you and your body, and have a willingness to respond to those needs. And then the fourth is purpose. So having a connection to purpose and meaning can make all the difference in resilience, because it gives you a reason to keep going. And then the fifth one is mental flexibility. And this is this is right like the opposite of rigidity. And I did a recent podcast about this where it was the spring clean your messy mind podcast where we talked about cognitive distortions, and mental flexibility is all about being able to challenge the cognitive distortions, the thinking errors, and it’s all about shifting your mindset and having a flexible approach to life. And that can be really valuable and then the sixth one, the sixth skill related to related to resilience is self compassion. And so, of course, this is a regard for yourself. So being able to be self compassionate rather than self critical, and having kindness and gentleness towards yourself and a recognition that you’re not alone in the challenges that you face. Okay, so the first solution, again, as a review is to cultivate resilience. And I just talked about the six core skills to cultivate resilience. And of course, I will link to the empathy and resilience podcasts. And then of course, the Jen’s blogs, which are awesome. And then solution to is to make meaning to help transform trauma into post traumatic growth. And I want to, I want to talk, again, about four recommendations. And these come from Sarah’s article who I mentioned, Sarah, at the top of the podcast. And she has several really great recommendations. And she talks about these particularly as it comes as it applies to families. So how can you turn this Corona challenge into into resilience? Right, like, how can you? How can you look at this traumatic experience, and actually grow from it and learn? So her first recommendation is to view it as situational and recognize that it will come to an end at some point, right? Like no crisis ever, lasts forever? And isn’t that a relief. So remind your kiddos that, you know, they will not be wearing masks forever, that they will go back to school at some point, you know that the movie theaters will open at some point, right? Just because we don’t know when doesn’t mean it will last forever. Second, explore how the crisis can help build a family identity. And I think that’s really great. So she indicates that research to suggest that a strong family identity can help move us from crisis to crucible, which I think is really good. So whether that is this idea of we work hard and have a good attitude, or we look for the silver linings, or you know, some sort of message. And Sarah, in her article shares that a few years ago, her family went through several, several big challenges that, you know, we’re incredibly, incredibly difficult for her family. And she said that her husband printed out this motto for each of each of their children. And she said that it became their family motto which I just love it, it says shelter each other from the storm, bring joy where there is sadness and warmth where there is none. That’s what families do. And so, right, like having a family identity can really help. So explore how the crisis can help build family identity. And that’s really helping you to connect to purpose, which is one of the ways that we cultivate resilience. And then three, realize that this crisis can help you grow as an individual. And I love this one, because even though we would never ask for this challenge, it doesn’t mean that there are not gifts. So can you see the gifts? Can you see the opportunities? Can you see the gratitude, even in the challenge, even in the crisis? And so one of the questions that Sarah asks Is what kind of a person do I want to be at the end of this crisis? And what am I doing to turn into that person? I love that because it really connects you to purpose. That’s the first question. It really connects you to purpose, like what kind of person do I want to be? So it really helps you to align with your values and with your purpose. And then the second question, what am I doing to turn into that person? I love that because it is empowering, and it is proactive. And in the face of a crisis. It can feel so disempowering, we can feel so reactive, like the world is just happening to us right like that. We don’t have any control. And that that second question is very empowering, because we recognize that we do have some power here. And sometimes the only power is to choose our response. Right? We’ve been taught that by Viktor Frankl he taught that so well, that power to choose our response. In the space, between stimulus and response is the power to choose. And that, that that space is everything. And so in the face of crisis, ability to choose, and be proactive is really great. And of course, that meaning making really helps us to develop resilience. And, of course, those coping strategies will really strengthen us for the road ahead. And it brings perspective, it brings really great perspective. And then Sarah’s last recommendation, so number four, is also really lovely, which is be patient with yourself, right. And I would just add, be patient with yourself and be patient with your family, right, because you might have one day where like, you’re feeling really solid, you’re feeling really grounded, you’ve got that sense of purpose, and you’re like, Okay, like, we’re gonna, we’re going to be good, we’re going to get through this. And, you know, it might not be that day for one of your loved ones. And so be patient with them, because you’re not always going to be on the same page on the same day. And so,
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:08
you know, we are all on an emotional roller coaster. And so there are going to be some days where you feel more of that hope and that sense of purpose. And there are other days where it’s just like, you just got to do the next right thing. And that’s okay, those days are okay, as well. And so we just need to have grace with ourselves and with one another in all of those moments, and recognize that like we each, right, like, we’re each walking through this, and we’re we, we have collective lessons through all of this, but we we each also have, hopefully, and probably deeply personal lessons through this. And so, you know, it can be a refining process, as we walk through it. But I think to, to Sarah’s point from her article, she says, you know, we can if we allow it, it can be a personal crucible that refines us and can unify us, as you know, families, nations and even as a worldwide community. And isn’t that isn’t that inspiring? And isn’t that empowering? And I, I certainly agree with her on that. And I think that is a that’s a lovely perspective, and one that can be aspirational for us as we consider our path and consider how we move forward. So really, very helpful to think about that. So that was solution to make meaning to help transform crisis into post traumatic growth or resilience. Okay, and then the last solution that I want to talk about, is,
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:59
let’s not lose yourself while showing up for others. Okay, so parents, I’m talking to you here. So I want to talk about in particular, you know, maybe how you can save some time for some hobbies, I got a nice resource here that I want to talk about. And then of course, again, I’ve got a great freebie for you that’s gonna outline some of these things. So we think about how are you going to hold your family together. And a big part of holding your family together is holding yourself together. And you know, for so many of us as working parents, right? Every every parent is a working parent, there is absolutely no separation from work and home, right, like we’re homeschooling, we’re trying to lead our teams, we’re trying to do our work. It’s all converging on top of one another. And it’s just hard. And, you know, with the leaders and the parents that I’ve talked to, like, there’s just absolutely no space for themselves. But I really want to challenge you as parents to take some time for yourself. So, you know, our kiddos are a little bit older. So I just want to like acknowledge that we have a little more freedom as far as that goes. But one of the things my husband has done is he is getting out and riding the bike most days. And that for him, of course, it’s great for the physical health. But for him, that’s a really big part of mental health. And of course, he’s kind of on the frontlines with all of the health care issues that we’re seeing in this crisis. But that for him is a way that he is taking good care of himself. It’s certainly a you know, that hobby passion for him, but he’s doing a lot of those rides with his brother, which is been fun because his brother’s like his best friend, and so on. They shoot the ball, they catch up, and it’s great. It’s time for him most days, so make sure that you’re taking some time for yourself. And so what does that look like? Does that look like a hobby? Does that look like a bath? So you know, I mentioned that I have the Marco Polo with some of my best friends, okay? Like, it’s kind of funny because a lot of those Markopolos are coming. At the end of the day, when friends are in the bath, you know, like it, I’m just saying heads in Bath, so nothing, nothing besides heads and baths. But that has been one of the ways that they’re taking time for themselves. So that’s been fun. But I want you to think about how you can take time for yourself. So let’s think about a hobby definition, the intentional, purposeful use of the time you do have for yourself, okay, so it doesn’t have to be a big block of time. And the truth is, you probably don’t have a big block of time. But hobbies don’t just take your mind off of stressors. But it can really help you meet your work and life challenges better. And so, you know, I think one of the biggest arguments that I hear around this is like, I don’t have time, for a hobby, or like, I’m too busy. And I would just say like, you can’t afford not to take some time to relax and recharge, it will help you meet your life’s challenges better. So let’s talk about some of the benefits of hobbies. So first and foremost, they help you to relax and recharge. And they can help you take your mind off your work, improve your mood, and be more present. That’s it, that’s a great benefit. Hobbies can also second help you hone new skills. So they help you to study and practice, things that you find enjoyable. There’s the intrinsic satisfaction of improving, you can intentionally choose new hobbies to learn different skills that you can then apply more broadly in our lives. So whether that’s learning to play the piano, whether it’s gardening, whether it is learning to play the guitar, whether it’s reloading, whether it’s you know, riding the bike power lifting like it, it’s great, and it’s different from what you’re doing at work, three, hobbies can help you become better problem solving, problem solvers. So right, like when you need a bolt of inspiration, shift your focus to shift your thinking, take a break. So I’ve been doing a lot of puzzles during this pandemic. And it’s amazing what like giving myself some space, just to not think about anything just to do a puzzle. Like I start making connections around my work life. And it’s amazing what just allowing myself that space does, I’ve also been taking a lot of walks. And so give yourself a break. So solutions come when we shift from focus thinking, to diffuse thinking, I also get like my best thoughts when I’m in the shower, and like it’s actually become a joke at work now, because I’ll come in and like, oh, I’ve got like some really good ideas. And they’re like, let me guess it was in the shower. And I’m now at the point like, as soon as I jump out of the shower, like I have to hit like a voice memo, and just like, get the thoughts out. But it’s part of that shift from focus thinking to diffuse thinking. So make sure you have gaps and space in your day for unstructured thinking. And that’s another way of saying the diffuse thinking. And hobbies are perfect for that. It gives our brains an opportunity to subconsciously and creatively problem solve, right? So that’s exactly what we want to do. Okay, and then fourth, hobbies allow us to connect with others. So of course, it’s a valuable time with other people in our lives, and to support the people around us. So right like I gave the example of my husband riding bikes a few times a week with his brother, and that’s awesome. So hobbies can create more social time. So I actually went back to the gym for the first time today. And I spent the last 20 minutes of my workout. I did have a kettlebell in my hand and I kind of did a few were a few exercises with it. But honestly, the last 20 minutes of my workout was catching up with a friend and we were socially distant. So we you know, we kept it safe, that it was so great to talk to her because she’s one of my gym friends and I just adore her and so you know, I love that My time at the gym, because, you know, I
Dr. Melissa Smith 35:02
just love, I love my workouts I love, you know, powerlifting and the the skills that I’m developing there, but it’s also very social for me, and I’ve got some great friends there. And so hobbies are definitely can be very sociable and, you know, they can also help us spend time with family, and shared hobbies help us to invest in our relationships. So you could also develop a common hobby, and that’s a great way to carve out quality time and to make memories. So right, we’ve been doing a lot of puzzles, and we’re doing those as a family. So that’s been really fun. And we’ve been, you know, we have those in a common area. So like, we can all kind of work on them together, or, you know, as we walk through, and it’s been great, because it’s a way for us to gather. And these also can, you know, give you some unexpected opportunities for conversation. And it’s just great. We’ve also been doing a lot of family walks. And those have also been really nice for just connecting more as a family. And they’re also really good for connecting with others in your neighborhood and contributing to your community. So my husband also really enjoys working in the yard, I think he enjoys that he spends a lot of time there, I think he enjoys it. But that’s a way that he connects with others in the neighborhood as well. And so, you know, when you develop a skill, you connect with others that way,
Unknown Speaker 36:37
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:39
tons of benefits from the hobbies. But I think one of the big ones is just like giving you a break from all the work that you’re doing. And it helps you to be a more balanced parent with your kiddos. One thing to pay attention to with hobbies, though, is you’re not going to gain the benefits of hobbies unless you commit to them. So commit to them. And don’t don’t attack a hobby like you would a work project, right. So I’m not saying that, but commit to them. So carve out regularly scheduled times, for hobbies and protect that time, like you would a business meeting or a family matter. So that you can reap those benefits and right like the benefits are more balanced, the benefits are connection, the benefits are better problem solving, relaxing and recharging. So remember the benefits that I’ve already talked about, not talking about benefits of like, if you take up piano and carve out time for that you’re going to become the next concert pianist. That’s not what I’m talking about.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:50
But make it a regularly scheduled part of your week and then defend that time and you know, get the support of your family to help you with that. Because when they have buy in, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to stick with that. And then of course, support the hobbies of your loved ones as well. So that will you know, that will help everyone to stay more balanced in the family. And balanced, healthy, happy. Get you all through this in one piece. Right. Some days are better than others. But I hope that you will head on over to the website. And check out the show notes with all the resources for this episode, I will link to some of the resources including my friend Dr. Sarah coins, Psychology Today article that I use as a resource. And then also I will link to Gen Y. She’s one of our great clinicians here at balance, health and healing. She has some great articles on resilience. And then also I will link to my podcast on empathy and resilience. And then also I have a really great freebie for you this week, all about hoping your family hold it together. Right? So we want to really help your family hold it together and think about the ways that you can all thrive during challenging times. So I hope you’ll head on over to the website and check out the show notes and get the freebie there and the way that you can do that is to head to www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-58 one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-58 I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember Love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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