Tag Archives: social skills

Combat Stress, Meet New Friends, and Reduce Isolation by Giving Back This Holiday Season

By Jennifer Scott, www.spiritfinder.org


Do you often choose feel stressed and anxious over the holidays? Purchasing and wrapping gifts, worrying about money, planning and attending parties, preparing meals, decorating, and more leave many people choosing to overwhelm, exhaust, stress, and even depress in an attempt to cope. If stressing, depressing, or anxietying are getting you down this year, why not a take a different approach and volunteer. Here are just a few compelling reasons to consider volunteering as a way to beat the holiday stress while giving back and improving your Mental Health & Happiness.

Volunteering Cultivates Social Skills Development

If spending time alone over the holidays leaves you feeling down and out, volunteering is the perfect fix. Offering plenty of opportunities for socialization, volunteering with a charity that has meaning to you will help you meet new people with similar interests.

Donating your time and energy to people or animals in need can help you overcome the challenges of meeting new people by connecting you with others who are working toward the same goal. Volunteering can even help people who are shy or otherwise struggle with social situations become more comfortable around new people by providing a common ground for initiating conversations.

Gain Professional Experience through Volunteerism

In addition to social skills development, volunteering can also provide networking opportunities that could benefit you professionally. If you’re volunteering for an organization in the same field as your ideal career, you might connect with leaders in the field who can help you land a coveted role in your chosen field.

At the very least, it serves as a valuable resume-booster that can help you advance in your current company or explore new opportunities. So, if finances are a source of stress for you around the holidays, volunteering your time won’t cost you a thing, but it might help you land a better-paying job.

You Can Choose a Cause Close to Your Heart

There are ample ways to donate your time and energy to the greater good this holiday season, meaning that you can choose a cause that’s close to your heart, making the experience all the more meaningful. If a friend or loved one has been given the gift of life thanks to blood donations, consider finding a local blood drive and donating blood in honor of them.

Maybe you’ve benefited from the love and companionship of a service dog, and have a desire to help the animal community. There are thousands of animal shelters all over the country always in need of volunteers to help raise funds and help care for the animals, as well as supplies such as food, treats, and cat litter. If you enjoy spending time with older adults, volunteer to take therapy animals for visits to your local senior living communities.

Volunteering Keeps You Busy

With so many volunteer needs during the holiday season, you can easily fill up your holiday calendar and take your mind off of your stress with plans to help people in need. If you’re not typically a social butterfly who has dozens of invitations to every holiday gathering in a 50-mile radius, there’s no reason to spend a single evening home alone when there are so many ways to get out and about in your community while helping others in need.

Anyone can keep their social calendar filled with meaningful activities by volunteering to help prepare meals for the homeless, offering companionship to homebound seniors, or spending time with older adults at a local senior center or senior living community. Socialization is crucial for the wellbeing of older adults, so these activities are mutually beneficial.

Volunteering helps to put meaning back into the season for those who feel stressed and exhausted, lonely, or depressed over the holidays. From meeting new people and staying busy, offering opportunities for socialization and networking, volunteering provides many benefits, but nothing beats the feel-good vibes you get from doing something selfless for someone in need.

How to avoid being misunderstood in a cross cultural setting…

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Face it.   You can’t do it.  Being misunderstood cannot be avoided.  Because of our unfamiliarity with people with different cultural backgrounds, we will inadvertently say or do something that could be perceived as being offensive.  The key to letting this become a problem is to use any of the seven deadly habits as a reaction to the unintended gaffe.  Conversely, the key to overcoming what might be considered an affront is to simply choose not to be offended and practice the seven connecting habits instead.

I recently saw a bit of wisdom posted on Facebook.  It was a poster with the caption:  “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned  it.”


Social skills are learned behavior.  If we are fortunate, we have been raised in a loving situation where we are able to learn those skills.  Even if we are well adapted to our own culture, we probably are a bit inept in an unfamiliar cultural situation.  This presents a challenge to all of us on this planet.  We want to be connected.  It is one of our basic needs.  If we continue to bounce off one another because of some comment or behavior that is foreign to us, we will continue on the path that has perpetuated much of our separateness and that often leads to alienation and hostility.

The mental health and happiness of all of us is enhanced the more we find ways to connect and enjoy each other, even if we are unfamiliar to one another.  Let’s just work on choosing not to hide behind cultural barriers and choose instead to reach out with care and a willingness to learn.

My experience in connecting across cultures has been enhanced by Facebook and Skype.  I’ve found wonderful ways to learn from and share with people literally around the world.  I am in Minnesota in the US.  I enjoy friendships with wonderful people in Malaysia, India, Canada , Russia, South Africa, Columbia, Australia, New Zealand,  Serbia, Ireland, UK, Sweden, even California J.  Each exchange enriches me by giving me a glimpse of the world through eyes that see things that I will never see.  My hope is that barriers will come down as we learn that we have more in common with one another than we have barriers to divide us.

Seven Connecting Habits Seven Deadly Habits
1. Supporting 1. Criticizing
2. Encouraging 2. Blaming
3. Listening 3. Complaining
4. Accepting 4. Nagging
5. Trusting 5. Threatening
6. Respecting 6. Punishing
7. Negotiating differences 7. Bribing, rewarding to control


I was born in a dysfunctional family

by  Dr. Ken Larsen

It was in Nashville.  I was in my Practicum Supervisor certification group.  Dr. Bob Wubbolding, director of Training for the Wm. Glasser Institute,  came striding into our


room, looked around, and then stated, “Let’s get it over with.  We ALL come from dysfunctional families!” We all laughed, sensing immediately the truth in that proclamation.  We all carry unpleasant memories, even scars, from our growing up.  Some are worse than others.  Many of us just carry on, having adjusted to the ways we think about those memories.  Some of us, however, have difficult memories that have become a part of our perceptions in how we see the world.  These memories intrude on our present experiences and can even have an undesirable impact on the ways we relate to others and deal with the normal challenges of life.

Dr. Glasser has made the point clearly that while past events affect our present lives, all we can work with is what is happening now.  We cannot go back to fix the past.

Does that mean we are stuck with the perceptions and memories of past scars that affect our present behavior?

I think these memories will always be with us.  What we can do is shift our focus.  This takes some effort based on insights we can gain from the wisdom of “Choice Theory” and “Reality Therapy”.

This shift involves movement.  Movement toward what we want, and away from what we don’t want.

What we don’t want is to be trapped in maladaptive patterns from our past.

What we do want is the mental health and happiness that comes from making choices that help us get our needs met.

I think our primary need is to be connected to others in caring, life giving relationships.  Some of us have discovered that making those connections requires a certain amount of skill.  Skill in noticing and responding appropriately to social cues.  Sensitivity to what is appropriate and what is not.  If we recognize that we are lacking in some of those skills, we can learn.

Most of us know the story of Temple Grandin.  I read one account of how she worked to learn a basic social skill.  It seems that she did not have a good sense of comfortable social space.  She would sometimes make people uncomfortable by moving too close.  What she did to learn how to maintain a comfortable interpersonal space was to go to the local supermarket where they had doors that opened automatically.  As you approached the door, the door would open when you got within a certain distance.  She learned that the distance required to open the door was just the right distance to maintain an appropriate space between her and others in a social setting.  So she practiced and practiced opening the door until she was able to reproduce that distance in her contacts with others.

The point here is that we can learn what we need to know to move toward what we want in life.

We know that we are influenced by our past, but we also know that there are no future facts.  We are free to make choices that will take us toward the life that we want.

And we can look at our dysfunctional family with an understanding and forgiving point of view, realizing that all of us only do what seems to be the right thing to do at the time.   We are free to shape our future with new choices, having learned the lessons of our past.