Q: I’m bored with my job, with my life. What can I do?
A: Life is too short to waste any time. Write a list of what you’d like to do before you die, including travel, new skills, good deeds and service to others, and fun. Plan something new and interesting at least once a week to look forward to. Find buddies who share interests to join you and make sure you get out and about. Inertia acts like a downward spiral, so start reversing it by scheduling regular interesting activities.
Q: I feel responsible for my mother and all my family members feel free to call me about their problems. I’m a captive of their needs. It’s affecting my health, but I don’t know what to do.
A: You came in alone and will go out alone; your first responsibility is to your development and unfolding of your potential. It’s codependent to feel you’re needed by adults—children need adults. Check out local codependency groups (for example, Butte County Behavioral Health Drop-In Center). When family members call, say something such as “I have faith in your ability to figure this out on your own,” or decide on a limit of how long you’ll listen to their “troubles talk.” It doesn’t serve them well to feel dependent on you and it keeps you from focusing on your own talents. This doesn’t mean you don’t help when needed, but it does mean that you don’t respond reflexively without making a conscious decision to get involved. Take a breath and ask yourself about the right action to take. Set goals about your own next steps and set aside time daily to work on them.
Q: I’m looking for a job in a tight job market. I don’t feel as if I have a clear direction of where I’m going or where I want to live.
A: Life is about ebb and flow, chaos and integration, like ocean waves. Accept the fact that you’re in a chaos period and know that your path will open to you. Focus on your job search without attachment to a particular outcome and using every source possible: your social network, newspapers, and Internet sources such as Craig’s List and Monster. List the components of an ideal job for you, so you have template in mind as you apply for jobs.
Guidebooks such as What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bollesare helpful too. Check in with the university career placement office and take tests, such as the Strong-Campbell and the Myers-Briggs, to help you define your interests.
Q: I’m just out of rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. I’m clean and sober, but I don’t have any energy to get my life in order as my liver is trashed. I just watch TV and sleep.
A: Follow your doctor’s suggestions for how to support your physical recovery and research alternative remedies such as herbs and vitamins with a naturopath. Although I sense you’re resistant to AA or NA, check out various groups to see where you feel most supported. A sponsor is a big help in recovery. Even though you don’t feel like it, take a half-hour walk every day to get some sunlight and drink lots of pure water.
Q: I’ve gained 20 pounds, mostly around my belly, and just can’t lose it.
A: Think about what happened when you started to gain weight. For many women, extra pounds feel protective against male attention. Say to yourself, “I’m safe and protected at ____ pounds” (your healthy weight). Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy metabolism.
Q: When I get really upset, I can’t handle the pain, so I drink to numb out. I should be able to find an alternative, but I can’t when I’m hurting. Any hope for me?
A: What works for me is to walk in nature until I’m calmer, doing a healthy flight response rather than a fight response or drugs to cope with stress. While you’re walking, move your eyes right to left, back and forth, thinking about the problem until you experience a release, such as a sigh. Then think about solutions. Later, when you’re ready, get help toward cleaning out old unresolved trauma that is triggered by a stressor, just like a sore thumb gets banged up. Part of the intensity of the pain is probably old stuff that’s festering in your unconscious. Don’t have alcohol in your house or drive near a liquor store so it’s not easy to reach for a bottle. Have a water bottle handy and reach for that.