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LIVING SKILLFULLY


"Do what makes your heart happy" has been a favorite saying of mine when I'm asked for advice.

"Should I wear this?"

"Should I go here?"

"Can I do that?"

"Do what makes your heart happy!"

It's such a great answer. Offered very carefully, of course! lol


I've been reflecting on this concept as I think about February - the month where we focus on kindness and love. I'm sitting at one of my favorite places - a small cafe and bakery - and I consider some of the things that make my heart happy.


A lovely chai latte.

A long talk with a friend.

A hug from my amazing grandson.

A successful chat with a WIX customer service agent. (True story!)


Teaching people about DBT skills in our workshops, I frequently express how these skills make MY heart happy. It has been six years since I discovered the transformative impact of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. At that time, my family was in chaos, and we felt quite hopeless. Our primary concern was our son's mental illness, and despite seeking assistance from various avenues, we only found practical and beneficial tools after learning some fundamental DBT skills.


Why do DBT skills make my heart happy?

It's likely because they've given me the tools to become the person I've always wanted to be - for my family, colleagues, classroom, and myself. Before acquiring these skills, I was often controlled by my emotions. I would react when angry, sad, overwhelmed, afraid, you name it! I would often reflect on the day and wish I had held my tongue or been kinder or more patient. But, my reactions brought out a side I wasn't proud of. It's not that I was mean. Many people are surprised that I have these personal reflections. The truth is, I knew that things could be different. I just didn't know how to achieve them.


Then, I learned some skills.

Mindfulness has been a big eye-opener for me. I used to have a pretty jaded view of what I 'thought' mindfulness was. I was filled with suspicion and lacked awareness that it could be helpful. Mindfulness has taught me to slow down my thoughts so that I can truly be present and aware of the person in front of me.

Reactivity is reduced, and effective response is growing.

I love it when I can approach a very tense situation with the understanding that I don't have to be influenced by my emotions. Instead, I am aware of them, and I can choose what works best for this moment, for the person in front of me. What a change!


Another amazing skill that has been a game-changer is self-validation. Before learning these skills, I would often reflect on my day in a self-deprecating way. I was (am) a bit of a perfectionist. 🤔Who's there with me? Perfectionism comes with a set of challenging self-talk experiences.

"What were you thinking?"
"That was so stupid!"
"How did you let that happen?"

Rarely did I think that I could or should be kind to myself. My intense judgment of my own weaknesses often demonstrated itself in my judgment of others. Why not share the 'fun'? Right?

Learning to use self-validation to connect with my feelings and respond in a way that is kind and accepting of my weaknesses without judgment has been such a beautiful gift! And guess what? I'm less judgmental of the people around me now, too! We all have our own stories.

Kindness is a gift that keeps giving.

I could talk for hours about why learning DBT skills makes my heart happy. For more information, visit my other blog posts on www.SILAskills.org or follow @silaskills on Facebook, Instagram, or X.

I share my thoughts about skills there as well.

If my journey reflects yours and you want to learn these skills, SILA Skills has a new spring workshop starting in March for those who work in education. It's called Transforming Classrooms. Using skills in my classroom has helped me finally be the teacher I've always wanted to be. Believe me - these skills work! I love facilitating other educators in these skills. Why not join me?


If you are not in the field of education but are keen on acquiring these skills, please reach out to us at info@silaskills.org. We would be delighted to have a conversation with you and set you on your own learning journey.

Hope is right around the corner!

Yours skillfully,


Kelly



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Have you chosen your word of the year yet?

It seems like everyone is sharing theirs on social media.

I've seen words like "intention," "joy," and "focus."

They're all good!


Mine's a bit different—it's ...


"Resolve"


When I think of resolve, I see it as finding solutions to problems, a task I've often pursued but struggled with. I'd dive headfirst into solving issues, offering my thoughts to anyone within earshot. Yet, emotions always seem to complicate matters, making problem-solving an endless loop.


However, my perspective shifted six years ago when I discovered DBT skills. If you've been following my journey, you'll understand how these skills transformed me.


So, how does "Resolve" connect with DBT for me?

Let's break it down into three skills that have been game-changers:


1. Relationship Mindfulness: This skill reminds me to be present when engaging with others. I've been guilty of being glued to my phone, neglecting the person in front of me. I resolve to put my phone away when someone needs my attention, just as I'd wish them to do for me. I recently watched a split-screen video where, in one image, a child is seeking out someone on their phone; in the other image, the person is totally available to the child. The joy on that child’s face in the second scene is palpable!  The person on the first screen wasn’t even aware of what they were missing out on. That hit home; I aim to be fully present for those who matter.


2. Benign Interpretation: This skill encourages me to consider the best-case scenario instead of jumping to conclusions. Not everyone's trying to provoke me; some might be having a tough day. The other day, I was in the city, a bit lost. My attention wasn’t on where I was driving as much as it was on the signs I was looking for. A driver beside me honked their horn at me. I could have responded in like or even worse, but my driving may have made them uncomfortable or maybe they were trying to get me to pay better attention! It's not worth getting upset over what I can't control, which leads me to the next skill.


3. Radical Acceptance: This skill teaches me to embrace reality as it is. Rather than resisting situations or relationships, I resolve to focus on the truth without spiralling into self-defence or judgment. This skill has been a game-changer! As a wife, mom, and grandmother, there's much I wish I could control.  I remember when I was first introduced to skills, I heard and wrote down this quote:

Everyone wants to have control.

The only one we can control is ourselves.

When we learn to control us,

The people around us can change.

Wow! That is where radical acceptance is key. I can’t control everyone. I can only control myself. Practicing these skills has helped me be my best self, and I've also noticed positive changes in those around me as I endeavour to be more skillful.

What a gift!

What's your word for this year? I invite you to consider embracing "Resolve" too. Let's become more adept at navigating daily interactions using skills like Relationship Mindfulness, Benign Interpretation, and Radical Acceptance. Together, we can positively influence those around us this year!


Do these skills resonate with you? Are you curious to learn more?

Check out our website, www.SILAskills.org, or email info@SILAskills.org to learn more about our latest workshop opportunities.


SILA Skills is committed to bringing these skills to individuals and workplaces alike because we've seen firsthand how effective they are.

Remember, finding calm amidst life's chaos is possible.

Here's to forging meaningful connections and skillfully resolving conflicts in 2024.


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I tolerate Christmas.  I know that sounds kind of Grinchy, but while I love the music, lights, and shopping, I find parts of Christmas very stressful. 

This will be our 6th Christmas with an empty spot at the table.  Our son loved Christmas.  He made some of the mundane parts more fun. He loved opening gifts. His laughter filled the room. 

Not having him here has created a palpable void. 

While reflecting on his absence, I also remember that I'm so thankful I learned the power of skills. They have been so helpful in guiding my way through the intensity of grief, sadness and loss.


Skills like opposite action remind me that staying lost in the sadness is not helpful. I have other family members who bring joy in their way. So, I choose to step away from the sadness and feeling like hiding, and I reach out to connect with loved ones and friends and embrace their joy and happiness during the holidays.  It's not easy, and much better than isolating and disconnecting. 


My son would be so happy to see me smile.

I also use the skill of mindfulness to connect with myself and others. I set aside the distractions of devices and focus on what's important. I ask myself questions that take work to answer. I accept the feelings that are there.  No judgement. Just acceptance. Then, I let those feelings go. They don't define me. I am growing and learning. It is so liberating.


A final skill I found helpful is reflecting on positive memories. Setting up the tree and decorating was always a fun family event. For the first few years, I didn't want to do anything.  It was too painful. Then, I decided to focus on the positive memories. It helped so much. Since then, I have created new positive memories with my friends and loved ones. Not to replace the past but to connect with it. 


Christmas will never be the same, and that's ok. 

Using skills has helped me find a new path, and I'm ok with it. Will I ever love Christmas? Maybe one day, but tolerating it is the best I can do right now, and I'm ok with that.


How about you? Are you a tolerator of Christmas?
Do you know someone who is?

The best gift you can give yourself AND them is to give them grace during this time.  Invite them to events, but don’t be offended when they say no. Check-in with them, but don’t be offended when they don’t reply. Give the best gift of compassionate curiosity. No fixing. No expectations. Just offer your presence and patience. Be skillful with yourself and them. Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year, and maybe it’s not right now. 


Learning skills can create space to help you find your way and to help others find theirs.

The SILA Skills Group is one of the only resources that teaches skills to service-oriented organizations. We work with educators through Transforming Classrooms and other groups like first-responders, physiotherapists, social workers, and more through Transforming Connections. Learn more about how skills can help you in your personal and work life at www.silaskills.org.


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