Doing Life Together

conference-2110770_640Jerry, often described as toxic, is a co-worker whom you try to avoid as much as possible. You know, that person who seems to be completely unaware of the chaos and negativity he or she brings to relationships.

Toxic people thrive on pushing your buttons and seem to be involved in drama all the time. Most times, we just want to distance ourselves from someone like Jerry. Other times, we need strategies to deal with him. Here are a few tips to take on a toxic person.

The most difficult part in dealing with a toxic person is when conflict comes up. Toxic people see you as the conflict, not the issue as the conflict. Their unchecked emotions make the conflict so unpleasant that you leave the argument feeling drained and even damaged and think, “I don’t want to do that again.” They don’t live to fight another day, they live to fight! So you have to be able to stand your ground on the issue and not be distracted by all the drama.

Boundaries are important when dealing with people in general, but they become especially important when you’re dealing with toxic people. Toxic people often take advantage of people with poorly defined boundaries and with people who have problems asserting themselves.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to be intentional. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a toxic person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

Boundaries are important because toxic people are usually unwilling to take responsibility for his/her own actions, thoughts and emotions.  This means they are going to project their problems on you or blame you. And if they don’t respect the boundaries, you are probably going to need a build a wall of protection if things get too bad. If the difficult person is a friend or coworker, limit your contact or even walk away when things feel too tense. This is easier to do in a work setting, unless the person is your boss, and harder to do with a family member.

If the toxic person hurts you, forgive, but be smart about moving forward with that person. You don’t need to keep putting yourself in harm’s way with a toxic person if they aren’t making changes. Forgive and watch how they respond in the future. Now, if that toxic person is your spouse, you need to tell them that their behavior is hurting the relationship. And that while you forgive him or her, there needs to be change in order to grow in the relationship.

Bottom line is that you can control your reactions to the toxic person and not allow them to define you or the relationship. Set those boundaries, minimize contact and if the toxic person is a family member, get help and support in terms of how hold boundaries and push for change.


family-1822498_1280Rachel’s husband wonders what is going on with her lack of sexual desire. She’s just not very interested in having sex and this is a change. He brought up the subject and she is trying to figure it out. Here are six possibilities that could be contributing to her lack of interest.

  1. Exhaustion due to a lack of sleep:  Rachel has been on a fast track with her job. Sleep has been difficult because she is working long hours into the night to get a project completed.  Because a lack of sleep leads to low energy, fatigue and  sleepiness, it can also affect her sex drive. So getting sleep could help her desire.
  2. Stressed by family responsibilities:  During the day, Rachel is making calls to make sure her teens are at the right activities and  caring for her parents. The stress is getting to her and her libido. Parenting often brings a decrease in desire because you are focused on the needs of others, not yourself. This means Rachel needs to carve out time to be with her husband. And that time should not involve talking about family stress.
  3. Low vitamin D level:  Many people have low levels of vitamin D and don’t know it.  Low levels can lead to feelings of depression, which could be affecting Rachel’s sexual desire. So a quick lab test could let her know if she needs to take Vitamin D. It she is low, it would help her mood.
  4. Poor eating and weight gain:  Rachel has put on a few pounds and feels sluggish and unattractive. She is gabbing fast food on the run and snacking on candy and lots of caffeine. Eating better and dropping those extra pounds would help her feel healthier. And feeling better about her body will translate in the bedroom.
  5. Medications:  This is an often overlooked area. The antidepressant Rachel began six months ago could be having the side effect of decreased sexual desire. Other medications like high blood pressure drugs can do the same. So check the side effects and talk to your doctor.
  6. Relationship problems:  Truth is, Rachel is angry with her husband for a number of parenting issues she has not discussed. Conflict is a desire killer for many people. It’s  time for Rachel to stop avoiding her marital problems and fix the relationship. When the couple works through conflict, desire will likely return.

ID-10078264Bipolar disorder has been a mental health disorder that has been difficult to understand in terms of its origins and risk factors. But now, a team of researchers who worked with the University of Michigan’s Depression Center believe they have uncovered several risk factors that may shed some light on this condition. The findings were recently published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings, often mania and depression. One of the most interesting findings had to do with co-morbidity (meaning something that co-occurs with bipolar). People with bipolar were more likely to also have eating disorders, metabolic syndrome, anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder. And they were three and half times more likely to experience migraine headaches. In addition, several of the studies participants had experienced childhood trauma, making trauma a risk factor.

In addition, the results of their study indicated five other potential contributing factors for bipolar disorder.

  1. There is a predisposition based on genetics for the disorder. They identified two genes in particular that may contribute to susceptibility of the disorders. However,  gene variability is still a factor.
  2. In terms of neurocognitive functioning, both cognitive and emotional activity were found to be dysregulated. Memory and fine motor skills were poorer in the bipolar subjects.
  3. In terms of diet, researchers found differences in gut bacteria making diet and lifestyle an area for possible change.
  4. We know that poor sleep quality makes mania worse. Women, not men, were more impacted by poor sleep quality when it came to severity and frequency of symptoms.
  5. The personality trait of neuroticism influenced the severity of the illness, more so for men that women. Neuroticism is a personality trait linked to a tendency to experience negative emotional states leading people to feel moody and more unstable.

Studies like this help us begin to unravel the mystery behind why some people are more susceptible to certain mental health disorders. If you or someone you know has bipolar, work with a mental health professional. Treatment makes a big difference.

word-1940813_1280All of us need to be encouraged on a regular basis given the stress of our lives and the problems we face. The biblical psalmist tells us to encourage ourselves in the Lord. But I never thought I would get encouragement from the first few chapters of the book of Numbers in the Bible.

Our pastor decided to begin a series on the book of Numbers. Admission here, I thought, “Really, Numbers, the book I sort of skip over when trying to read through the Bible. It isn’t the most exciting book to pick for a sermon series. Help me not to yawn!” But I was wrong. The beginning of the book is a set up for encouragement.  I left that Sunday service feeling reassured that God was present to help me deal with whatever problems I face.

At the beginning of the book of Numbers, the children of Israel had left Egypt and were 13 months into their journey to the promise land. As we know, what could have been about a 2-week journey ended up to be 40 years because of all the problems. Sounds like our lives!

In Numbers 1, God tells Moses to take a census–number all the men so that you know what you have when it comes time to go to war. God wanted the people counted. He knew in advance the people would face warfare. He was preparing the leaders of the army with a count of the troops. He counted them just as He counts us and knows our name. He sees us and is preparing us for the trials we face. I was reminded, God knows my name and counts me. I matter to Him and He is preparing me for my warfare battles.

Then God tells Moses to make sure His presence goes with them via the portable tabernacle. The message–God is with us in the battle. His presence never leaves. Even in the midst of our sin and rebellion, God’s wrath will not overcome us because of his presence through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And when sin is not the issue, He reminds us that when we face trials and tribulations, His presence is in us. He never leaves or forsakes us. No matter how difficult things get, God’s is present and sees our pain and struggles. As Philip Yancey reminds us, God doesn’t promise to take us out of the difficulty, but to walk us through it.

Next, the Lord tells the leadership to order the camp. Arrange people and leaders so that when they have to move, they do it in an orderly fashion.  In battle, you must trust the order to win and attack with purpose. There is purpose to order. And God arranged it so that the tribe of Judah led first in battle. They were the praisers, but also the tribe of the coming Christ. The Lion of Judah would break every chain! Christ battled sin and death. He led the way. Whatever your circumstances, trust God’s order, praise Him in battle and go forward with the confidence that He is with you.

God isn’t shocked by what happens in our lives. He isn’t surprised by attacks and enemy strategies. He prepares you, knows your name, and has ordered the journey. So be encouraged, the battle is the Lord’s and His presence is a powerful force to make you victorious.