By Miranda Massie on July 4, 2018
Emotional intelligence is something that’s been garnering attention in recent years. Magazine articles, research papers and leadership courses continue to emerge, touting the benefits of high EQ (your emotional intelligence score) on work performance, happiness, leadership capabilities and even love .
So what are the key components to emotional intelligence and how might we harness this information to positively impact our relationships with others?
Emotional Intelligence is the “ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” It is made up of the following components:
- Self-awareness: an in-depth knowledge of oneself (tendencies, emotions, behaviours)
- Self-regulation: our ability to manage ourselves (feelings, triggers, reactions)
- Motivation: how and why we reach our goals (values, setting intention, building resilience)
- Empathy: recognizing and understanding emotions in others (as separate from our own)
- Social skills: how we communicate and interact with others 
With this information, how can we build up these skills in ways that enable us to have healthy and satisfying relationships with others? Personally, I feel that it’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. What comes first: successful relationships that lead to higher emotional intelligence or increased emotional intelligence that creates healthier relationships? Perhaps it is both.
Knowing ourselves, regulating our emotions, understanding what drives us, acknowledging and validating others’ feelings, and engaging in optimal communication are all ways that emotional intelligence can support us in building relationships with others. Sustaining these positive behaviours through healthy habits over time can help raise our EQ.
This month, I encourage you to try and be present in your interactions with others. Experiment with the different components of emotional intelligence to discover what resonates best with you. Hopefully your relationship IQ will get a boost in the process.
All my best,
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)
 Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)
 Emotional intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ (Daniel Goleman)
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged communication, editorial, emotional intelligence, emotions, EQ, expectation, healthy relationships, IQ, judgement, Miranda Massie, relationships, UBC | 1 Response
By Guest Contributor on September 13, 2017
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
Empathy comes naturally to us. From our primate cousins to our newborn babies, humans are wired to perceive and respond to another person’s feelings. It has helped us learn skills, build communities and has saved us from danger. It is our language before we learn to speak a language.
We don’t learn empathy. In fact, quite the contrary: we are empathic and for healthy developmental reasons, we mitigate the impact of all the feelings by building boundaries.
In the context of work, politics, education and relationships, empathy is having its golden moment. Praised as a way to improve employee happiness, international relations, interpersonal conflict and learning disorders, empathy has a lot to live up to.
Since empathy is getting so much attention, I think it is worth being crystal clear on the shorthand terms for describing the ways we experience feeling with others. These definitions are a compilation of research in empathy, etymology and communication.
In its essence, without laying out the nuances and qualities of empathic communication, empathy is embedding your emotional being in someone else’s situation (“Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”)
When you observe someone experiencing an emotion, and you feel that emotion well up in yourself, this is empathy. You have a visceral sense of what it feels like even though you are not experiencing the same situation. (“I feel you.”)
Sympathy (more recently cast aside as unhelpful) is often poorly defined as pity and sorrow, which each hold their own as unique feelings. Instead, sympathy is to be with someone else while they emote, despite not feeling it in tandem. We do this in the context of caring and desiring them to thrive. (“Though I do not/cannot know what you are feeling, I will walk beside you.”)
When you observe someone experiencing an emotion but you do not experience that emotion rise up within you, you can still sit with the person through their challenge – this is being sympathetic. You can hold space for the feeling and enable their resilience without feeling it yourself.
Both sympathy and empathy can support someone through distress. When we have the capacity to recognize and validate someone else’s emotions, we are better able to hear them and be supportive of them.
What doesn’t help us is when empathy becomes be “emotional contagion”, where the line between the original feeling and the empathic feeling becomes blurred. The observer perceives that and acts as if both people are experiencing the same thing. This situation often renders both individuals needing support. Small children (and some adults) experience high permeability of emotional states. One person’s distress becomes another person’s distress because healthy boundaries were not developed/established.
To build boundaries is not to build walls or to shut down emotional responses. To build boundaries is to say, “I respect your experience as yours. This is how much time I have, how much energy I have, how much perspective I have, and I will give to that extent willingly.”
To build boundaries means to know yourself well.
Another reason to be conscious of these boundaries is the relationship between stress and empathic response. In a nutshell, stress both increases and decreases empathy, and empathy both increases and decreases stress. Chickens and eggs everywhere.
Stress is ubiquitous and can mean anything from anxiety to surprise, danger or exhaustion. Statistically, 1 in 4 working Canadians report being stressed, but exactly what the stressors are and how they show up emotionally vary from person to person. It is no wonder that stress and empathy are mired in a never-ending loop.
When we experience personal distress, we tend to decrease our empathic response as a protective mechanism: when the stress feels isolated, we become more self-oriented. We may be more sensitive to cognitively noticing someone else in distress, but less capable of understanding their experience.
When we experience a social or contextual distress we tend to increase our empathic response: when we are “all in the same boat”, we become more oriented to the greater good. We may be able to “get it” when someone is in distress, but less capable of taking space away from that emotion.
Striking a balance between thinking and feeling is useful in our “empathic response.” Too much or too little of either and our actions can be misguided.
A useful empathic response is a set of actions:
- Awareness without assumptions
- Curiousity without demands
- Interest without interference
- Compassion without condescension
- Valuing experience without analyzing or judging
When our empathic response is out of balance, it does us well to remember this:
Empathy can be misguided. We are wired to be empathic, but need more information to get a better sense of another person’s plight. It is only through our own eyes (perspectives, realities, histories, experiences, biases) that we imagine the other person’s situation. Our empathy tends to be specific: toward people we care deeply about or are similar to, for experiences we identify with, and to emotions we are familiar with. Through those eyes and those preferences, our statements/actions can be misguided.
Empathy requires energy. Empathic responses require almost all regions of the brain to work together. Like any mental task, the brain uses nutrient resources to meet demand. Compassion fatigue can occur in situations of high empathic demand, weak boundaries and low nutrient resources. We need to stop before the tank is empty, or replenish and refuel.
Empathy is a limited resource. Limited resources can drain; sometimes we use it all day long and have little left for loved ones at the end of the day – or vice versa. If you recall that no resource is limitless without care and conservation, you might be more judicious of how and when you support others.
How to make friends with empathy:
Take a body break. When you feel yourself picking up on another person’s emotion, notice your body. There is a section of your brain oriented to do just this: what sensations do I feel and where are they? What are they telling me?
Take a breath, and localize the emotion (Chest? Head? Fingers? Gut?) It’s somewhere – that’s part of how we pick up on another’s feelings – through our nervous system. If you can place it, you can also release it. Stretch it, breathe it, squeeze it, visualize throwing it away. Do something so you are not at the whim of the emotion within you.
Check your boundaries daily. How much energy do you have? How have you eaten? How have you slept? How are your personal stressors being managed? How many people are relying on your support today? Know your limit. Stay within it.
Be kinder to yourself. A vital piece of experiencing sustainable empathy is developing a positive self-image. If we can be kind to ourselves and our own emotional states, we have more room for another person’s emotion. If we feel poorly about ourselves, feeling another person’s emotion can feel invasive and depleting. When you feel your emotional tank for others starting to run low, take a moment to let yourself refuel, reflect and remember what you love about yourself. Ask yourself: What could I do to be kinder to myself today?
Empathy is a tool. Like any tool, we need to know how to use it safely to protect ourselves and others. Used wisely and with practice, we have an opportunity to create a beautiful outcome. Practice with your body, boundaries, and being kind to yourself – your empathic response will serve you well.
Thara Vayali is a naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher in Vancouver, as well as a UBC alumna. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones and pain-free bodies. She is also the creator of Change Natural Medicine, which offers budget-conscious, membership-based health consulting.
By Miranda Massie on July 1, 2017
I recently went to Ottawa for a series of work conferences and was lucky enough to stay in a cute little Airbnb for a week on my own. It was amazing! Coming home to silence at the end of a busy day filled with presentations, networking and social events was a revelation. Perhaps this is because I have never lived alone. I often wonder if this is weird, or if I willingly bypassed one of life’s fundamental experiences.
During the week away, I felt more independent, confident and self-sufficient. I was able to appreciate and better understand the experiences and desires of others who seek refuge in quiet time or choose solo pursuits. As an extrovert, I find strength and energy in the presence of others and have found it more difficult to identify with those who prefer solitude.
The experience in Ottawa helped me to better appreciate those around me and to reflect on a newfound desire for more personal time in my life.
The theme for this month’s newsletter is all about relationships, and I might argue that the one relationship we can sometimes forget about is the one we have with ourselves. I have come to believe that my strong inclination to extroversion, combined with a fear of missing out (FOMO is a real thing!) have held me back from fully understanding and nurturing my relationships with myself.
Here are some suggestions from a self-proclaimed extrovert on how to renew your relationship with yourself:
Sit with your emotions
Don’t be afraid to feel things and to sit in your emotions for a while. There is a difference between experiencing emotions and being able to understand and acknowledge them.
Embrace the quiet
Sometimes it is okay to be alone with our thoughts. We live in a very busy world and periodic silence can be beneficial for our brains. Listen to this TED Talk: 4 Ways Sound Affects Us.
Whether it be feelings, experiences or a nice meal, sharing parts of our lives with others can help us learn more about ourselves and to grow as individuals.
Work your strengths
Learn to understand and appreciate your strengths without minimizing the strengths of others who are different. Watch this video to learn about the individual strengths of both introverts and extroverts.
Living on one’s own can be a luxury and may not be an option for everyone, but it can be invigorating to find quiet places or moments to re-energize and reconnect with the self. This month, I encourage you to reflect on the relationships in your life that you appreciate and value and to look for opportunities to reconnect with yourself. It is self-preservation, not selfishness.
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on February 2, 2017
- Who’s there?
A broken pencil.
- A broken pencil who?
Never mind. It’s pointless.
Cue the groans. Perhaps a knock-knock joke is not the best way to illustrate the helpful and healing power of humour.
At some point, you have probably heard that laughter is the best medicine. While it may not be among the most cutting-edge treatments on the market, it might actually be one of the oldest and most cost-effective health boosters available.
Since February is host to Valentine’s Day, it seems like a fitting time to think about ways we might soften our hearts (emotionally) while strengthening our heart health (physically).
10 Ways Humour Can Benefit Your Heart
- Laughter activates and increases blood flow to the part of the brain involved in pleasurable feelings, which can lead to elevated mood and increased happiness.
- Both sides of the brain are stimulated during laughter, which can create more focus and clarity, as well as creativity.
- Positive emotions and laughter enhance social connections and generate intimacy through positive interactions.
- Laughter reduces at least four of the known hormones associated with stress in the body, including cortisol and dopamine.
- Laughter eases muscle tension and psychological stress, which help us to relax.
- Chemicals released in the brain during laughter bind to nervous system receptors to naturally reduce feelings of pain.
- Laughter causes blood vessels in the body to expand, increasing blood flow, leading to improved cardiovascular health.
- Laughter produces deep diaphragm breathing, which serves as a pump for the lymph nodes. Increased lymphatic function leads to antibody production and overall better immunity.
- Deep belly laughing helps exercise the lungs. The more air that you take in, the more oxygen that flows to your brain and body.
- Repeated laughter helps tone and condition muscles in the face, core and back.
This month, I invite you to look out for ways to add more laughter into your life. Watch a funny movie or attend a comedy show. Spend time with friends and family who make you laugh. Strive to find humour during stressful or trying times. Make sure you are always laughing with someone, not at the expense of others.
Though everyone’s sense of humour will differ, here are a few clips and sound effects to get you started. Remember, laughter is contagious – do your part to spread heart health around!
Baby laughing soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaQiSOAQOhg
Laughter yoga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGNOF8DVIPQ
All my best,
Posted in Editorial, Mental Health, Miranda Massie, Physical Health | Tagged Benefits, blood pressure, editorial, emotions, Exercise, fun, funny, humour, jokes, Laughter, mood, oxygen, pain, relationships, stress management, stress relief, UBC | 1 Response
By Melissa Lafrance on February 2, 2017
How can managing your emotions be good for your heart? The brain and the heart are closely connected. When your emotions adversely affect your mental wellbeing, your heart is impacted as well.
Stress & Heart Health
There’s a reason why we have a stress response – it’s necessary for survival. When stress or distress become overbearing and chronic, it has significant effects on your health, specifically your heart.
In a stressful situation, your body responds with a chain of reactions. Cortisol and epinephrine are released, which temporarily increase breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure. This prepares you to deal with the situation and is also known as the “fight or flight” response. Most of us are able to return to normal functioning following a stressful situation. However, if such situations happens often, stress causes your body to remain in a heightened state for days or weeks at a time. Stress can also affect cardiovascular health by influencing behaviours such as unhealthy eating, sedentary behaviours, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, thereby affecting cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Chronic hypertension, or high blood pressure, can damage the artery walls. Managing stress and improving emotional wellbeing can improve overall heart health. Learn more about preventing high blood pressure.
You should consult your physician if you are concerned about your stress levels or your risks for cardiovascular disease. Learn more about preventing and managing risk factors.
Get involved & take care of your heart:
- Learn more about heart anatomy & function and cardiovascular disease risk factors
- Inform yourself on heart health by visiting our Virtual Health Fair & Online Assessment
- Visit heartandstroke.ca to learn more about Heart Health & Heart Month
Emotional Wellbeing & Stress Management:
- Work or talk it out with UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider, Shepell
- Shepell’s Stress Coach Connects – an online stress management program
- Improve your stress management with the 30-Day Online Mindfulness Challenge
- Learn mindfulness for the workplace and how to establish your own meditation practice with the Mindfulness@Work Program
- Check out other stress management resources for staff and faculty
Posted in Healthy Path, Mental Health, Physical Health | Tagged blood pressure, care, emotional health, emotions, healthy hear, Heart health, management, prevention, risk, Stress, wellbeing | Leave a response
By Guest Contributor on February 2, 2017
Guest contribution: Wendy Quan
No doubt you have heard of ‘mindfulness’, and may know that it’s largely about being present, or ‘being in the now’ to cultivate a more peaceful life. But did you know that a key attitude of a mindfulness practice is non-judgmental awareness? The problem is, what exactly does ‘non-judgmental awareness’ mean in everyday life? And did you know that by practicing this, you can reduce frustration and stress in your life, and cultivate more peace and calm?
First, here’s a quick explanation of non-judgemental awareness:
Our human minds are typically automatically judgmental. For example, we form opinions about others and ourselves and may think “She is selfish”, or “Why do I keep doing that, I’m so stupid”. When we do this, what happens to our experience in this moment? That’s right, it’s negative and stress inducing. A mindful way to deal with such situations is by practicing non-judgmental awareness. This means to take the stance of observing, or witnessing. You become keenly aware that you are judging – you recognize when you are doing this, suspend the judgment and don’t pursue or feed the judgment further. In mindfulness practice, we watch our breath as a way to stay centered and present.
Here is an everyday example from my life that may help you:
A co-worker of mine would come to me daily and complain about how stupid other people are, and how she could do all their jobs better. I didn’t consider her a friend, but I also didn’t want to alienate her since we had to work together. I found her to be cynical and toxic, and didn’t like that I was judging her either. Once I learned how to handle the situation mindfully, here is what I did instead: During the conversations, I keenly observed how I was reacting and any judgments I was making, and I also observed her behaviour – her body language, her emotions, etc. Instead of engaging in and fueling the conversation, I simply observed and acknowledged with a non-judgmental ‘hmm’. It didn’t take long for her to stop dumping her frustrations on to me, and my work life improved for the better!
In this example, I became aware of my judgments, suspended the judgments and didn’t fuel them. I took on an attitude of observation of myself and my co-worker rather than letting myself get wrapped up in the drama and emotion. Often after stressful encounters, I continue the non-judgment practice. For example, if I feel flustered afterwards, I focus on my breath to become centered and present, and notice any emotions that arise. I notice and accept the emotions but do not fuel them.
When I teach mindfulness meditation, I use the phrase ‘If you don’t judge, you can’t get frustrated’. If you think about this, you can see that if you let go of judgment (ie: “that person is stupid”), then you let go of the stress that is caused by judging others and yourself. It isn’t always easy to do, but with practice it gets easier and your life becomes more peaceful. Give it a try!
Wendy Quan, founder of The Calm Monkey, is the industry leader helping organizations implement mindfulness meditation programs and combining change management techniques to create personal and organizational change resiliency. She trains passionate meditators to become workplace facilitators through workshops and online training.
Wendy is a certified organizational change manager who has been recognized as a pioneer by the University of California, Berkeley and the global Association of Change Management Professionals. Her client list includes individuals from around the world and organizations such as Google. Her life’s purpose is to help people create a better experience of life.
Posted in Guest Contributor, Mental Health, Mindful Moments | Tagged awareness, behaviour, emotions, frustration, Meditation, mindful moments, Mindfulness, non-judgement, practice, Support, Wendy Quan | Leave a response
By Melissa Lafrance on February 2, 2017
Emotional Intelligence is the capability of individuals to recognize emotions, both their own and those of others. Having a high level of emotional intelligence can help us in understanding and addressing emotional reactions, to better guide your thinking and behaviour. Emotional intelligence is one key to helping us achieve happiness and overall wellbeing.
Happiness is more than a frame of mind. A positive frame of mind has been proven to have a direct relationship to good health. Learn about the power of laughter and being grateful, about taking time for yourself, and tools you can use to become happier. Read more.
If you are a manager or people leader, learn how you can manage with emotional intelligence.
Learning Opportunities for Emotional Intelligence
There are a number of learning opportunities for UBC faculty and staff that can help you explore emotional intelligence as it relates to your career and leadership success.
UBC Continuing Studies
UBC Continuing Studies has courses and programs for individuals to explore their emotional intelligence (EQ) as it influences career success. Check out the online EQ assessments and in-person EQ courses at https://cstudies.ubc.ca/study-topic/interpersonal-communication-skills/emotional-intelligence.
You may be able to use your tuition waivers (staff only) or PD funds to pay for UBC Continuing Studies courses. Visit http://www.hr.ubc.ca/wellbeing-benefits/benefits/details/professional-development/ for full information.
Learning with Lynda.com
Lynda.com has many online courses that focus on emotional intelligence and leadership, which UBC faculty and staff can view for free. Here are a few short videos that can help you explore the concept of emotional intelligence:
- What is emotional intelligence? (4:33m): https://www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/What-emotional-intelligence/124087/144436-4.html?org=ubc.ca
- Appreciating emotional intelligence (4:28m): https://www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/Appreciating-emotional-intelligence/137886/151208-4.html?org=ubc.ca
- Cultivating emotional intelligence (5:21m): https://www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/Cultivating-emotional-intelligence/122471/139734-4.html?org=ubc.ca
Visit http://lynda.ubc.ca to learn more about UBC faculty and staff access to Lynda.com.
Benefits to Support your Emotional Wellbeing
If you are enrolled in the UBC Extended Health plan, you can be 100% reimbursed up to a maximum of $2500 for each person per benefit year, for counselling services from a Licensed Psychologist, Registered Social Worker or a Registered Clinical Counsellor.
UBC’s EFAP provider, Shepell, offers counselling services for you and your dependents for the following topics:
- Any mental health concern including depression, anxiety, addiction and more
- Stress & resiliency
- Bullying & abuse
- Family concerns (communication, parenting, dynamics, and more)
- Workplace communication or conflicts
To get started with Shepell’s Support Services, call 1-800-387-4765 or browse their available services online.
EFAP Health Coaching
UBC’s Employee & Family Assistance Program provider, Shepell, can help you understand health issues and concerns in addition to helping you make the changes needed to be well.
There are many ways to get help today – all completely confidential. Shepell’s Health Coaches are Registered Nurses and Occupational Health Nurses who offer practical, personalized support for health issues:
- Smoking cessation – via EFAP’s Stop Smoking Centre
- Weight management
- Healthy eating – via EFAP Nutrition Support led by Registered Dietitians
- Stress management
- Exercise as a component of a healthy lifestyle
- Health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
UBC offers a range of programs and services in support of mental health, all of which are free to access. Explore the range of mental health resources available for staff and faculty.
To get started with Shepell’s Health Coaching, call 1-800-387-4765 or browse their available services online.
Posted in Benefits Spotlight, EFAP | Tagged Benefits, continuing studies, counselling, courses, EFAP, emotional health, emotional intelligence, emotions, Employee and Family Assistance program, Shepell, Support | 1 Response
By Guest Contributor on July 6, 2016
Guest contributions by Dr. Thara Vayali
Partners, colleagues, friends and family: the world of other people is a jumble of meaningful connections and challenging dynamics. On a good day, all pieces fit well and we can enjoy our time together. On a bad day, one or all parties involved can be on edge, interact poorly, and create a toxic emotional environment. Unfortunately, a negative interaction can trigger our opinions about one another much quicker than a positive interaction. To build healthy relationships we need to see the good in each other again; we need to “detox” our relationships.
To do that, first let’s uncover what makes a negative interaction. What puts us on alert, what makes a relationship “toxic”?
Generally, negative interactions arise for five reasons:
- Someone is experiencing stress, consciously or unconsciously, and transfers their stress to the current dynamic.
- A misunderstanding escalates or is perceived personally.
- We overextend our time/resources/attention, or cross an unstated boundary.
- Silence becomes a refuge for resentment or to gain power.
- The desire to be seen as ‘right’ overrides the purpose of interacting.
These situations happen every day, not because we intend to hurt one another, but because we are social-emotional beings. We come to interactions from our own perspectives, not noticing that others may have different expectations, desires and information. We can forget to check in with our personal state before engaging with others and the wrong combination can lead to a toxic dynamic. To detox a relationship, instead of calling out or enforcing other people check to themselves, we can lead by example and identify when we fall into one of these five behaviours and use a few tools to start to “detox” ourselves in relationship.
Five ways to build healthy behaviours in relationships
1. Check yourself:
A dysfunctional dynamic occurs when personal stress reactions get transferred onto others. If you feel your “stress thermometer” has been high all day, it is very likely that your “temperature” will influence your interactions, no matter how hard you try to ignore it. Without divulging the details, let people know that you need less pressure right now and more connection and care, or maybe some alone time. Connection to others and to oneself can defuse this pressure.
Recognize that if your thermometer reading is consistently high, you may be building a personal dynamic that takes out internal pressure on others. If this is your situation, your first priority before stepping into conversations with others is to use a mindful breathing pattern to take your temperature from boiling to tepid. Start with six slow five-count inhales and five-count exhales.
Recognize that others might not be working with the same pace or demands as you, and they don’t have to be.
2. Assume you have misunderstood:
When a conversation seems to be going sideways, take a breather and ask yourself – Am I missing something? Have I assumed/interpreted a statement incorrectly? Am I taking this statement as directed at me? Are they using the word “you” when they really mean “I”?
More often than not, interpretation is the culprit. Someone’s statement may seem personally offensive or intended toward criticism, when they have no malicious intent. Learn what language triggers you and let them know. Perhaps others do not notice how their language/tone/comments are affecting the dynamic. If you can listen deeply – pausing your initial reaction – you may find valid points hidden within a poorly communicated but important perspective.
Give your relationships the benefit of the doubt – Pause your response, listen, and ask for clarification of intent before jumping to conclusions.
3. Know your limit and stay within it:
You may be a people pleaser or a boundary crosser, or both. Neither overextending nor over-asking serves a healthy relationship.
When someone asks you for your time/resources/attention, remember that you are not a bottomless cup. Know how much time/energy you have to give, state upfront how much you have to give and stop when you have reached that limit. You are not disappointing anyone when you set expectations beforehand.
If you consistently ask others for their advice/time/energy, you may not notice the boundaries you are crossing. You cannot take responsibility for another person’s unstated boundaries, but you can start your requests by being specific and clear about how much time/energy/attention you would like of them, and allow them to answer honestly.
By taking a moment to start the conversation with boundaries/limits before engaging, we all have an opportunity to take responsibility for what resources we have to share and to be respectful of that boundary.
4. Be heard:
To feel that your voice has space for expression without criticism or judgement is a crucial part of healthy relationships. In a challenging dynamic, this space may not be in the moment of interaction. The time may show up later and the space for expression might be through writing, building, cooking, painting, singing, movement, or communicating directly to the person involved. Whatever it is that your personality/situation needs, ensure that the feelings inside are processed and expressed.
Overthinking/Dwelling/Avoiding magnifies the impact of a situation. Festering or trying to control a situation through quiet contempt slowly destroys “the good” in a relationship.
5. Consider the collateral damage:
When the urge to defend your position arises, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the purpose of this interaction?
- Am I in danger?
- Is being right important?
- Could I allow for the reality of being wrong without being personally offended?
What would it be like to agree to have a differing opinion, without forming a negative opinion of the other person?
Challenging dynamics are inevitable in a social world. Since birth, we have had to navigate our way through expressing ourselves to be understood and balancing that expression with respect, kindness and compassion toward others – and it’s not always easy! Very rarely can we classify a person as a negative force in every interaction – we all have phases along the journey toward healthy communication. Instead of focusing on others, we would be better off if we tried to detox our own communication skills. Begin with these five common communication habits in relationships; then choose healthier ways to interact. To “detox” our relationships takes stepping back from and shifting within ourselves.
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.
Posted in A Thoughtful Mind, Guest Contributor, Mental Health | Tagged A Thoughtful mind, behaviour, boundaries, challenges, detox, Dr. Thara Vayali, dynamics, emotions, power, relationships, toxic | 1 Response
By Melissa Lafrance on April 5, 2016
Thriving Faculty is a monthly column that highlights UBC faculty who exemplify the integration of health and wellbeing into their classrooms, research, departments and communities.
What are central challenges you face in your role as Faculty?
Oh my gosh, there are so many! Probably the main challenge involves time-management. There are always a million exciting projects to pursue, too many to do in one lifetime, and at any given time my students and I are pursuing dozens of these. Moreover, in addition to these research projects I have classes to teach, committee memberships, journal editorial responsibilities, grants to apply for, media interviews to give, and on and on. And of course there is also life outside of work, things like family, hobbies, sleep and eating! In short, the sheer quantity of activities and responsibilities can be overwhelming. This challenge requires some combination of a) time-management skills and b) acceptance that one will always be behind on multiple things. At the same time, the sheer quantity of projects and activities keeps work fresh and exciting.
Do you implement any strategies to support student mental health and wellbeing in the classroom/lab?
I think it is important that my students feel listened to, understood, and supported, and I try to convey that in my everyday interactions with students. I also try to create a lab characterized by enthusiasm, authenticity, and collaboration. The idea is to make day-to-day life in the lab fun and exciting more than stressful and pressured, and for students to learn that they can come to me for guidance or advice when they need it. Sure, stress and anxiety and even rejection are part of graduate school and part of the research enterprise. But we get into this field (psychological science) because it is exciting to produce new knowledge and exciting learn how to better understand and help people.
What strategies do you use in your own life, that help you thrive as Faculty?
My first rule, which I recently heard echoed by another researcher in the U.S., is to be nice. Being nice is one of the few things we can control. We all have weaknesses; for example, I am poorly organized and always fall behind on my email (as I type this I have 153 messages in my inbox requiring action or replies). Often, despite my best efforts, I fall behind on deadlines or do not give timely email replies to others. So the least I can do is be nice to others; that is something within my control and abilities. Life is more pleasant when we are all nice to each other. Another strategy I use is to make sure I have time for my hobbies, which includes my weekly doses of exercise. In my case I enjoy various martial arts, both as a student and as an expert in the role of psychology in martial arts competition. I try to train three or four times per week, and try to never allow myself to train less than two times in a given week, because after I train I feel happier and less stressed. Life can get very busy, and has gotten even busier since the birth of my first kid, but making time for hobbies and exercise seems to be a key for my own mental health.
Are there any specific initiatives and/or research you are involved in that promote health, mental health and wellbeing?
I study suicide, including why people feel suicidal and why some who feel suicidal go on to attempt suicide. More about my research can be found at my lab website: www.PEBL.org. I also am a member of the UBC suicide awareness committee, which helps to provide education and resources to the UBC community regarding suicide prevention (such as http://thrive.ubc.ca/prevent-suicide).
In your role as faculty, please describe your experience balancing work-life commitments? Is there a metaphor that depicts this relationship?
Hmm, a metaphor. Well, I think we often feel that we have to juggle everything, and that if we have 27 balls in the air it is absolutely essential to not drop any of them, or else! Instead, what I have learned is to have some acceptance that balls will get dropped, and that these can be picked back up again if important to me, and that this is the rule, not the exception. I will never successfully juggle everything. So I focus on the balls most important to me and frequently let other important ones drop, sometimes for good, or sometimes just temporarily until I pick them back up again. And I accept that if I am doing my best to not drop the most important balls, and doing my best to be nice to everyone along the way, things will work out.
E. David Klonsky, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at UBC. His research examines motivations for and causes of suicide and self-injury, and he recently developed the Three-Step Theory (3ST) of suicide. He is Associate Editor of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Past-President of the International Society for the Study of Self-injury, and he has advised numerous agencies regarding suicide/self-injury diagnosis and prevention, including the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5) and both US and Canadian Government agencies. Dr. Klonsky has more than 70 publications on suicide, self-injury, and related topics, and has been recognized by awards from the American Association of Suicidology, Association for Psychological Science, and Society of Clinical Psychology (American Psychological Association).
By Miranda Massie on March 3, 2015
I have heard a lot of chatter over the last few months about diet detoxes and health cleanses. The New Year tends to bring with it a renewed motivation to get fit, cleanse our system and revamp our health behaviours. In January, I attended a Healthy UBC lunch-and-learn hosted by Dr. Thara Vayali, called ‘The Toxin Myth’. Dr. Vayali defined toxicity and explained the consumption and elimination methods of toxins in our bodies. In addition to listing the environmental and metabolic causes of toxicity, she included emotional causes as well. This intrigued me.
If I’m being honest, when it comes to cleanses and detoxes, emotions are not exactly a ‘sexy’ sell. We would never see a magazine add that promised “to reduce self-critical talk and reveal a stunning disposition in only 12 days!” We want to hear about miracle cures or a fast-pass to lasting health and vitality. But what good is a makeover to the physical body without at least considering how we might also care for what’s on the inside?
I had never considered how emotions could act as toxins. In reflecting on this after the presentation, I wondered why we aren’t more concerned about toxic emotions and the effects that they might have on our health. Personally I think that holding a grudge or internalizing anger would probably be more destructive to my health, than consuming the occasional dose of nitrates contained in processed foods.
This month, I will be embarking on an emotional cleanse to rid my life of negativity, judgment (of myself or others) and emotions that do not serve me in a productive way. I practice a lot of these behaviours already but in setting concrete (and very public) goals, I hope to become a happier person.
In her presentation, Dr. Vayali included five examples of how emotions can become toxic to our bodies and I have set a goal to accompany each one.
Toxicity: the degree to which something can cause harm to a living organism.
|Toxic emotions||Proposed Cleanse|
|Withheld emotions||Share and then let go. Share frustrations and anger with others when they arise or commit to letting them go (for good). Refuse to stew in negative emotions.|
|Dwelling||Look forward and not backwards. We have never been able to change the past so forgive yourself and focus on doing better next time. Dwelling might prevent you from finding an opportunity to excel.|
|Gossip/Judgement||Cut others some slack. We can never truly know what others are facing in their lives. Give people the space to be themselves and afford yourself the same. Judging others only provides an excuse for not improving ourselves.|
|Self-deprecation||Say “I’m awesome” every day. Focus on what makes you awesome. Critical self-talk, when internalized, can change the way we interact with the world. Embrace your awesome.|
|Digital Addiction||Turn off before bed. Having an ipad (with Netflix) and a smart phone are great, but they have drastically changed my bedtime routine and sleep habits. Books and magazines only before bed this month.|
Embarking on this type of an emotional detox will not be easy. Training our brains to think and act differently will take time and practice. In the long run however, I feel that this type of cleanse has to be easier than drinking nothing but lemon water for two weeks straight, right?
This month, I invite you to reflect on how you might start to include emotions when thinking about caring for your physical health and body.
Want an easy start? Watch this Ted Talk: The Happy Secret to Better Work. In addition to being extremely funny, it provides some examples for how to tune our thinking towards the positive.
All my best,