The Power in the way we Think

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Why I write …

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post and I feel bad for not posting more often. That said, there is a reason for it and I know that ultimately for my long-term vision, the delays now will translate to the freedom of expression that I yearn for later. I am hoping that this post will help clarify what is going on for me and where I am heading with my destiny.

I have been invited to participate in a blog hop by a lovely lady named Leanda. She writes over at Write to Heal. To find out more about her work please visit her site and check out the incredible work she does. I guess the easiest way to explain a blog hop is to say that it is a tool to assist bloggers and writers to link and network with each other. Readers are also given a chance to learn more about the blogger/writer and what makes them tick. The topic I have been challenged with is “why I write” …

What am I working on?

I work as a counsellor and have been doing so for 10 years. My current job has provided me with the opportunity to transform from a new counsellor with raw talent to a professional clinician. Part of my job is to write and develop group workshops. I have recently launched a range of half-day workshops to help people with a variety of issues that are relevant for our client base. The response to these has been nothing short of amazing and the outcomes have been powerful.

I am also studying a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology. I’ve been performing practicum requirements in a placement workplace whilst simultaneously attending classes on campus, learning about neuroscience (what happens inside the brain when it is impacted by issues such as trauma, addictions and mental health) and how this translates into the day-to-day practice of psychology. This has given me invaluable information in how to utilise my skills with clients.

In the little spare time I have, I am also working on my first book; a small how-to, easy to understand guide on how people can prevent others’ issues impacting on them.

When I look at how much I have been doing at work and what I’ve been doing at university, and when I consider that the university campus is a 4 hour round trip each week, I wonder how I have remained sane. But, both work and study are providing me with some exceptional skills that I can use in my professional life after graduation. I have a clear vision of where I want to be and as much as I want to make it happen now, I have discovered that for the moment, I need to prioritise self-care above the vision, because ultimately to reach the vision I need to get through the qualifications.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

I try to impart knowledge of psychology and the mind. Much of the information out there in this niche seems to be quite technical and can be difficult to understand for people who have no experience with it. I pride myself on my ability to write for people who have no understanding in how the mind works and how changing small things can help them transform their lives in big ways.

Why do I write what I do?

I want to educate, inform, inspire and lead people to live their best lives. I want people to love who they are, to accept and embrace themselves fully and unconditionally. And if I am to support others in their journey, I need to be able to practice what I preach. So I also use my writing as a way to process the stuff in my head and get clarity in my own mind of the direction I am heading and the future awaiting me.

How does my writing process work?

I began writing originally as a way to vent and process the turmoil in my head. I used it as an act of self-care. It has undergone a transformation over the past twelve months or so; from a personal method of self-care to a professional means of communication to impart knowledge and education.

The process is much the same whichever goal I have (personal or professional). An idea will spark in my mind. I’ll often let it simmer for a while, formulating a vision for the final product. When I sit down to write I simply allow my fingers to do what they do. I find that if I just go with the flow and allow my instinct to lead; my writing is strong and powerful. When the words naturally taper off I go back to edit for spelling, grammar and sentence structure, sometimes leaving it a while before doing so to get a fresh perspective.

 

The final part of this blog hop is to introduce you all to three people who will be hopping right behind me and taking their turn in sharing why they write.

 

Glenda Bishop Healthy StoriesGlenda Bishop helps people to live a healthier life by inspiring them to eat better, become stronger, and live a calmer and more content life. She is a Registered Nutritionist, neuroscientist, and personal trainer, who is particularly interested in how your physical health strengthens your mental wellbeing. After becoming frustrated by the mixed health messages that abound across the internet, Glenda founded Healthy Stories to create a place where the science of health meets real life. At Healthy Stories you will find tips for healthy eating and living, delicious healthy recipes, and practical ways to improve your wellbeing.

 

 

Kate MooreKate Moore is passionate about life. She coaches others in work, life and health to master and love what they do, live intentionally, design the life they want, build a healthy lifestyle and feel at their best. You can find Kate over at Lift Coaching where she blogs about all things life, love, health, work, motivation, mastery, passion, values, gratitude and inspiration related. Kate takes a very practical and action-driven approach to … well, everything and loves helping others get ‘unstuck’ by identifying their personal strengths and using real life skills and tools to change habits and behaviour, and get people where they want to go. You can also find Kate on Facebook where she shares daily quotes, interesting reads, recipes, workouts and lots of other bits of pieces to brighten your day.

 

Emma Fahy Davis is a journo who turned to blogging as a way of exorcising the words in her head while taking a break from the media to raise her five daughters. She blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about the chaos that comes with having a big family, her experiences with mental illness and living with the legacy of addiction, and about the challenges of parenting a chronically ill child. In between refereeing sibling squabbles and moonlighting as a taxi driver to a relentless army of small people, she can be found hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.

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30 Things to do to Yourself

The other day I came across an article that listed 30 things that people needed to stop doing to themselves in order to feel happy and fulfilled. It proclaimed, “when you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you”. You can see the full article here if you’re interested.

The thing is, the language used in this post is worded in the negative. Don’t do this, don’t do that. When I read things phrased in this way I often end up wondering what I CAN do if not the things listed. The brain cannot tell the difference between them. If I told you to NOT, under any circumstances, think about a red car, I’m willing to bet that the first thing that comes to mind is a red car.

So, when we tell ourselves NOT to do something, our brains literally block out the “NOT”. Have you ever tried to tell a child not to run on wet concrete? I bet they run faster! Have you tried telling a child not to eat the chocolate bar in the fridge? I bed the next time you walk by, the chocolate bar will have disappeared and you can see smears across his or her mouth. If you want a child to follow your instructions, you need to tell him/her what TO do, rather than what NOT to do. Walk along the concrete. Eat the grapes (and put the chocolate bar out of sight).

So, I decided to rewrite it. And rephrase it. Let me know what you think:

  1. Spend time with happy people who support you – spending time with people who drain you is tiring! Find some silent presencepeople will stand by you when you’re at your worst.
  2. Face your problems – Yes, it’s hard work. Every person on the planet finds it challenging to face difficult situations. We are built to flounder. To feel emotions such as sadness or hurt. To stumble. Learning and adapting helps mold us into the person we are meant to be.
  3. Be truthful with yourself – it really does help you make those adjustments and to step up when you face difficulties.
  4. Put your own needs first – you are special too, and you deserve to be taken care of. Allow yourself to follow your passion and do something that matters to you.
  5. Be your true self – allow yourself to be who you really are and you will naturally attract the right people who love you.
  6. Allow yourself to move forward and take new opportunities.
  7. Make friends with failure – you learn so much more from getting things wrong than getting them right. Every success has a series of failures behind it. Every time you fail, you get closer to success.
  8. Let go of past mistakes – mistakes help us find the things and the people who are right for us. Every error teaches you something and prepares you for the things that are right for you. Right here, right now, you have the power to shape your future.
  9. Allow happiness to find you – the things that satisfy us are totally free. Take note of the little things and allow them to fill your heart with joy.
  10. Look for happiness within yourself – looking to others for your happiness is fraught with danger and opens you up to being controlled by the other person’s moods. Create your own stability and own your own power for happiness. It starts with what is on the inside.
  11. Be prepared to go after what you want – you can’t make it to your goal unless you take the first step. Take some risks. Make decisions and take decisive action on what you want.
  12. Allow yourself to grab opportunities outside your comfort zone – it’s common to feel uncomfortable when
    found on art.com

    found on art.com

    opportunities present themselves. You may not feel ready, but you don’t have to be. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

  13. Fall in love for the right reasons – there is no need to rush. Allow it to happen when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Be open to new relationships – even when old ones didn’t work. There is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some are to teach you what you don’t need in your life.
  15. Run your own race – when you compete with others you do yourself a disservice. Competing takes you away from being your true self.
  16. Count your blessings – you always have something that is worth feeling blessed for. Why would you bother keeping track of someone else’s blessings when you have your own?
  17. Be prepared to get back up when you fall down – life is full of challenges and falling down is inevitable. When you reflect back on those moments you’ll often find they led you to a better place or situation.
  18. Let go of grudges – allow love to fill your heart and let the hate go. When you hold onto grudges you end up hurting yourself more than the person it’s directed toward.
  19. Raise your standards – if you keep your standards above those of the people around you, your heart will always be full.
  20. Give yourself permission to make your own decisions – if you listen to your heart you will always know what to do. There is no need to justify or explain yourself to others.
  21. restTake a break – especially when you feel like you don’t have time for one. The perfect time to take some breaths is when you feel the most stressed.
  22. Find the beauty in the small moments – the best parts of your days will be the small moments. Enjoy them.
  23. Enjoy the imperfections – nothing is ever perfect. It doesn’t exist.
  24. Embrace challenges – some things are not easy. Especially the things that mean the most to you. Embrace the challenge and work for what you want.
  25. Allow yourself to cry – it’s ok to fall apart sometimes, you don’t have to suck it up all the time. You don’t need to have things going well all the time. Crying is cathartic and healing. It gets rid of toxins in your system and cleanses your emotions.
  26. Take responsibility for your life – and your decisions. When you blame others you allow them to control you. Own your power by owning your decisions and actions.
  27. Choose what you do wisely – trying to be everything to everyone will very quickly drain you of your energy and burn you out. Make your choices based on the things that are most important to you.
  28. Let go of your worries – at least some of them. Ask yourself if this situation will matter in one year. What about in three years? Or five? If the answer is no, let it go.
  29. Focus on what you want to happen – rather than on what you don’t want to happen. By doing this you train your brain to look for the opportunities and the blessings.
  30. Be grateful – find 5 things each day that you are grateful for. You’ll soon find yourself inundated with the beautiful blessings in life rather than the missing links.

gratitude breathe it in

Depression – Andrew Solomon

We have had some amazing feedback so far with our focus this month on Mental Health. One of our followers posted a link of a TED talk she resonated with after reading our most recent post. This was the one from Debbie, our guest blogger from Sad Mum Happy Mum, explaining what it was like for her living with depression.

The follower that shared this like noted that it felt really weird for her to have Andrew Solomon, the guy giving this talk, explain his experience with depression. The weirdness came from hearing words out of his mouth that mirrored exactly her own words, especially when she was unable to articulate it herself. I bet that is a strange feeling!

Have a look at this talk for yourselves. It is a little lengthy at a little under  30 minutes, but it’s also engaging and the time seems to fly. At least it did for me.

How does it resonate with you? Does it mirror your experiences? Or does your depression look a little different? Let us know your thoughts below. 🙂

The Realities of BPD

Following the focus this week on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Tegan Churchill has kindly put together her own experiences living with this illness. She explains how it has impacted on her life and now how she copes with a young family. Very brave and resilient woman!

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 I remember the first time I knew that a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was on the cards. I was sitting in the waiting room of my small town doctor, my chart on my lap because there was no computer system yet. Curiosity got the better of me and I flicked through the pages. Nestled in the back was a letter from the psychologist I was seeing at the time, in bold letters were the words Borderline Personality Disorder. I was confused, on the borderline of what? I committed the term to memory so that I could look it up on the internet when I got home.

I didn’t like what I saw, the checklist of symptoms read like a list of ‘how to suck at life’. I knew that I ticked most of those boxes and I was ashamed. I was 15 at the time but a definite diagnosis was not made until I was 18. Doctors decided that I had, had enough time to grow into my personality and this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life.

I sought out support in online forums, losing myself in an online world. All around me my life was falling to pieces. I dropped out of university, I was living with my grandmother and spending most of my days in bed. My GP told me that I was a 9 year old trapped in an adult’s body. I was horrified at the time, unable to process the comment. Looking back now, it’s true.

BPD

I was on a destructive path. A suicide attempt lead to my mother moving with me to a larger center with more mental health services. It didn’t matter, I was hell bent on destroying myself. I was reckless and failed to see the consequences. After ending up in jail for 2 months, my mother moved back to our hometown. I stayed in the city and moved into single’s accommodation for women. I had everything I wanted; I lived in a large town where nobody knew me.

I didn’t know what to do with my thoughts. They were all consuming, every emotion felt like a thousand knives were piercing my skin. I didn’t know how to express my feelings. I lashed out at anyone who tried to help me. I was like a stubborn child. The professionals who were supposed to help me wrote me off as an attention seeker. Therapy was stopped after another suicide attempt and I found myself floating through a system that seemed hell bent on keeping me unwell.

Having Borderline makes making and maintaining relationships difficult. I find myself going between loving a person more than anything and hating them with everything in my being. I often turn people off without a second thought to repair the relationship. I find myself in screaming matches with people who I love, feeling a rage that is so all consuming that I worry that my veins will burst through my skin. I turn into the hulk and it takes me days to calm down.

For years I turned to self-harm to help fight the feelings. I self-harmed to make me feel and to stop feeling too much. Each time I cut it had to be deeper than the last time. I didn’t want to die; I just wanted to destroy myself, to punish myself for the perceived wrongs that I had committed.

bpd 3rd deg burns

Now I have a child to consider. He is counting on me to be there, and he is the reason that I looked into better therapy. I let my moods and my coping skills get a lot worse again before I admitted I needed help. I had put on a mask, hidden behind a wall and didn’t let my feelings out anymore. I was afraid that I would lose my son. The mask was so good that my current psychologist was skeptical that I had Borderline at all.

I have recently completed a course of Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and found it immensely helpful. It was a relief to have someone take me seriously, who saw that I was someone worthy of treatment and had the time to spend working on my issues.

I’m a different person to when I first received the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I still struggle to express my feelings, and to interpret others’ intentions but I am making progress. I still catch myself wandering down the destructive path, but I know that I have so much more to live for. I still feel like I’m walking around with no skin, taking in every slight, every glance, every word but I am getting better at processing the thoughts.

Borderline may be something that I will always struggle with but I am happy that I am filling my toolbox so the good days begin to outweigh the bad.

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tegan churchillBlurb: Tegan can be found at http://www.musingsofthemisguided.com where she talks about mental illness, parenting and everything in between. She hopes that by sharing her story and knowledge that she can do her part to help rid the world of stigma. Joining her on the journey is her partner Paul, a 4 year old bundle of energy and a puppy with an attitude.

Resolutions

resolutions comic

At the close of one year and the beginning of the next many people pledge that they will “change their ways”.

Lose weight, stay organised, join a gym, give up sugar, start a business, take better care of family, save money.

In the last few days of December most of us make the resolution to “make it happen”. For the first few days or weeks, or even months, you go great. Then stuff happens and everything falls over. You end up feeling like a failure and start believing that you’ll never be any good at anything.

The following year you repeat the same process. And again the following year. And again. And again and again.

You create a pattern of: set resolution, go well for short period, fail, beat self up, repeat.

And within a very short space of time you hate yourself because you can never do anything right.

Sound familiar?

What if you could change your patterns, achieve what you set out to do and feel great about it?

Here are some tips that may help:

WIN_20131231_195349 (2)

  1. Find your passion – you’re much more likely to achieve something if you are emotionally invested in it. So choose something that you can get excited about! If joining a gym and working out on weight machines, treadmills and rowers has you almost falling asleep with boredom, don’t go near it! But if your aim is to get fitter, and you love football, consider joining a team in your community. If it’s not something that really gets your juices flowing, forget it! Seriously. It’s not worth the angst you would put yourself through.
  2. Don’t try to do everything at once – losing weight AND saving money AND staying organised AND being a better parent AND giving up sugar AND quitting smoking. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that! You’ll overwhelm yourself with new things to do and adding it all into an already full weekly schedule puts you behind the starting gate even before the horse is out of the stable! This stuff needs to work FOR you, not against you! Our brains can only hold a limited amount of information at a time, so don’t try to cram too much in there at once.
  3. Take the word “resolution” out of the equation – like diets, they just don’t work. There seems to be a societal smart goals explainedmindset about them. Instead set goals. And set SMART goals. If you really want to achieve them, make sure that they are (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)ealistic, and (T)ime based. Let’s say we use the example in point 1. Your overall aim is to be fitter. You love football and decide to join a team. So, you could set a goal of being able to run the length of the field 5 times without stopping during practice, by February 1, 2014. This goal is very specific. You’ve stated exactly what you’re going to do. It’s measurable. You can count 5 laps of the field. Achievable and realistic? That depends. If, right now, you find running 50 metres difficult, you might like to adjust your goal to something more achievable for you, such as running 2 lengths in 1 month. Or extend the time frame to 3 months. However, if you can currently run 3 lengths without any problems, another 2 lengths inside a month shouldn’t pose too many difficulties. Time based? This one is pretty self-explanatory. You put a time frame around the goal. So running the 5 lengths within the month. Or 2 months. Or however long you think would be realistic for you. Plan it out, and make it work for you. If you don’t think it will work within the constraints you have in your life (other commitments like work, family, managing a house and so on), either adjust it so it does fit, or drop it entirely. It’s not worth the angst.
  4. Create a plan – break your goal down into manageable steps so that you know how much work you need to do to reach it. Start from your end point. For example, for the “run 5 lengths of the field” goal in 4 weeks (Jan 1 to Feb 1), you can break that down. You would need to run 2.5 lengths in 2 weeks, and 1 ¼ lengths in 1 week. If you know that, you can assess whether it is realistic and then plan your training so you can reach each weekly goal. There is a saying that goes something like, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
  5. Reward yourself – let’s say you’ve set your SMART goals, created a plan and scheduled in the steps to reach them. Plan in some rewards for yourself at regular intervals. For example, if you want to lose 15kg in 6 months, set yourself up some smaller goals in there. When you reach 5kg, treat yourself to a new haircut. At 10, maybe try a massage as a reward for all that hard work. And at your biggest milestone, a new wardrobe! You’ll need new clothes by then anyway, right? Whatever rewards you choose, plan them in advance and schedule them in. And use rewards that excite you!
  6. “What if?” scenarios – plan in some strategies for when things get tough. Because they certainly will! Things don’t always go smoothly. Kids get sick, extra bills crop up. Stuff happens. Accept that and go with the flow. The key is to not allow a few hiccups to derail you. So what if your child has to have emergency surgery and you end up sitting by the bed eating vending machine food for a week. What is more important to you in that moment? Being there to support and love your child, or getting into the gym at 5am? Life happens. So your goal is delayed a couple of weeks. Big deal. You could try minimising the impact by calling in a few favours from family or friends and asking them to provide you with some healthy, quick meals while you’re at your child’s bedside. But even if the contingency plan doesn’t happen, don’t stress it. A few weeks out of the rest of your life should not be a big enough thing to derail what you are passionate about. It’s much more important to keep your stress levels down so you can deal with the crisis at hand and then, once you’ve recovered, get back to your plan, revise it, and keep moving forward.
  7. Be flexible – things change. Priorities change. Obstacles crop up. You need to be flexible enough to go with the flow and readjust things as you need to. Don’t allow a few obstacles to dictate how you live for the rest of your life. YOU are way more important for that.
  8. Get very clear on why – you need some clarity on why it is you want to achieve your goals. What values do you have good stuff always worth the work it takesthat the goals you choose help you meet. For example, if you want to be a better parent and you decide that you will schedule a weekly “family night” (whatever that looks like for you), ask yourself why. Why is a family night important? Maybe because you love your family and you want to strengthen the bond within the family unit? Whatever it is for you, get very, very clear on it. Write it down, display it. Have it in your face every single day as a reminder (see point 10 as a creative way to do this).
  9. Remind yourself that you are worthy – of the time and effort it takes to improve yourself and your life. Of the reward you will see at the end when you have achieved what you set out to do.
  10. Create a vision board – I published a post back in July about how to create a vision board. They can be an amazing way to keep you focused and remind you of why you are doing what you are doing.

Note: The more excitement there is, the more likely you are to stick with it. So, find your passion and go get it! Feel free to share your 2014 goals and strategies! I’d love to hear them.

When someone you love dies

grief no timeline

We are born, we live, we learn, we grow.

And then we die.

Death is a part of life.

Like a lot of people, I am no stranger to grief. Three of my grandparents died when I was a child and as an adult this has been followed by a step grandmother (paternal), my parents, my older brother, a favourite cousin, a grandmother (maternal) and the son of my best friend. Each of those people has meant something different to me and my experience with coping with each death has also been very different.

When somebody dies it is natural for us to feel like there has been a hole left in our lives and hearts. We get used to a person being a huge part of our lives. We depend on them. We feel safe with them. We feel comfortable. We look forward to being with them. We love them and connect with them. We often spend an entire lifetime with them. And one day we turn around and they aren’t there any longer.

So then what?

We need to get used to an entirely different way of living. Of being. Not only do we miss the person and grieve for them, we also need to learn how to live our life without them in it. This can be a huge undertaking, especially if we have lived our entire life with them. Spouse. Son. Daughter. Mother. Father. Grandparent. Aunt. Uncle. Best friend. Whatever that person’s role was in your life, making adjustments to live a different life can be seriously tough.

Common grief responses

One of the key things to note is that every person’s grief experience is different. Your way of grieving is going to be different to the person sitting next to you, even if that person is a close family member. There are however, some commonalities. There has been a lot of research into these common responses, which have resulted in several models being developed to describe how grief “works”.

Grief_Wheel

One model of the stages of grief

There are several “stages” that people usually experience. Shock & numbness occurs immediately following the death. There may be denial. You then go into a protest stage where the shock becomes heightened, you feel angry, you yearn for the person who died and you are preoccupied with thoughts of them. This is followed by disorganisation, where there is a loss of interest in normal daily activities, depression, apathy, lethargy, restlessness, aimlessness, confusion, withdrawal. Sleep disturbances, crying, irritability are also seen. Eventually there is reorganisation, where things start to come together again. You start to look forward to doing some of the activities you used to enjoy. You start to try new things and find meaning in the death. You may experience guilt in here too. Many people feel like they shouldn’t be enjoying themselves because their loved one isn’t here to share in those moments. Then you move into recovery, where a new “normal” comes about. At any one of these stages we could move into deterioration. We may be going along fine, and something will trigger us and we end up “going backward”. We get cranky, we cry, criticize ourselves, feel guilty, experience sleep and appetite disturbances. Physical symptoms may include sweating, breathing difficulties, nausea etc.

GrievingWheellarge

Another model of the grief wheel. Note the similarities.

A couple of important notes to consider.

Firstly, this process is not a linear one. We don’t move from one stage to the next and the next and the next. As already mentioned, we may be triggered at any time and feel like we are back where we started. If we graphed what actually happens to us we would have a curvy line jumping up and down, back and forward all over the place.

Secondly, I am giving a very brief, basic outline here on grief and a general picture of how it looks. Many people experience an intensified, long-term grief process that may be considered out of the ordinary. Symptoms are experienced as very intense and long-lasting. Grief is supposed to ease over several weeks and months. If this does not happen, it could be that this is an experience of complicated grief. There are several risk factors that make some people more prone to complicated grief, including having had a very close relationship to the person who died, the death being unexpected, and an inability to adapt to change (lack of resilience), among other things. For more details on complicated grief, the Mayo Clinic in the USA has some good information. Please note that there are several pages to digest, which can be navigated by clicking the links on the left side of the page. It includes what to look for and how to get some help. Here in Australia I would recommend seeking help from a grief counsellor or psychologist.

Ways to cope

It’s important to understand that unfortunately, the only way to the other side of grief is to go through the process. You can’t go around, under or over it, and you can’t avoid it. Ever. You must go through it.

  • Allow yourself to feel the emotions, whatever they are. Sadness, sorrow, shock, numbness, listlessness. All of these are a normal, understandable reaction to the circumstances and it is ok to feel them. We often push these feelings down because they hurt, but the more we do that the longer the process takes. Those feelings will always come back.grief miss talking
  • Most people find that what they really want is to bring back the person who died. So why not do that? Yes, I know that you can’t bring them back in person, but you can bring their memory alive. A lot of grief counsellors will encourage the person to talk about their loved one. To describe them. Talk about what they love and miss about them. This may bring up a lot of emotion, and that is ok. I understand that a lot of people get nervous around emotions, and that’s fine too. If you can allow yourself to sit with it, even a little bit at a time, it does get a little easier. Eventually.
  • If you feel like the people you are talking to are getting impatient with your never-ending talk about the person who died, try either talking to somebody different or writing things down instead. Write a letter or a story. Or even talk into a voice recorder. You can erase it if you don’t want to keep it, but it may give you an outlet without feeling like you’re being a burden on the people closest to you.
  • Talk to the person who died. This is especially helpful if it was a long, intense or close relationship. Tell them about your day, about how the kids are doing, about how much you miss them.
  • There is no right or wrong way to feel when you are grieving. The stages described in the wheel can come and go in a seemingly random pattern. You might think you are getting through the worst of it and then you’ll be right back in the middle of all those intense feelings. This is normal.
  • Honour the person who died in some way. You could try planting a tree, creating some artwork or craft, a memory box, write a letter to the person, write some poetry or a song. Even go to visit their grave and talk to them. There is no right or wrong with this. Go with your instinct and do something that feels right for you.
  • grief individualI know this one could sound a little harsh, but I am going to say it anyway. Ignore the people who tell you that you “should be over it by now” (or some variation on the theme). Grief is not something that has a timetable. It is different for everyone and is a very individual experience. What works for one person may not work for another.
  • Try not to force yourself to do things you’re not ready for. Sometimes you may feel like you’re never going to be the same again and you’ll feel like staying in bed all day every day. I’m not suggesting that you spend the rest of your life in bed, and sometimes it can help you feel a little better to force yourself to get out of the house. Sometimes though, it is ok to allow yourself some time to be with your memories.
  • Find a support group in your area. Sometimes it helps to know that there are others out there who are going through the same thing you are. You don’t have to do this on your own.
  • If you don’t start feeling more like your old self within a few months, please consider seeking professional support. A grief counsellor or psychologist may be able to help you to sort through some of the feelings you’re having. This can be particularly helpful if you are experiencing complicated grief. It’s hard, and not everyone understands what it is like. A professional can help you to gain some understanding of what is happening for you. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be you sitting there spilling your guts. Sometimes you can do other things. I know someone who had a counsellor help them edit a book of poetry that had been written to help with the grief. Others will do art or craft work, or something completely different. If you have something in mind that you feel would help you, but feel uncertain about it, discuss it with your professional. You may be able to do it in session.

grief myths facts

Helping someone through their grief

If you have a family member or a friend who is grieving, remember that everyone grieves differently. Even if that person is your spouse, brother, sister, daughter or son (or whoever).

  • Honour and respect the grief process for the individual, personal experience it is.
  • Never (EVER) tell a person to “snap out of it”. There is no such thing as getting over the person who has died and moving on with your life. The person who has died will always be a part of treasured memories. They will always be missed. It’s simply the intensity that varies.
  • Grief has no timeline. Some people can reach the stage of acceptance within a few weeks, while others take years. Sometimes feelings of sadness will hit you out of the blue, triggered by simple things such as hearing a song on the radio or smelling a favourite meal cooking on the stove.
  • Grief is a process that upsets everything you have known in your life. Grieving people benefit from sameness, familiarity and routine. It can be comforting to have the same neighbours, the same furniture, and the same house. In some cases, such as with the death of one half of a long-standing elderly couple, the surviving partner may not be able to remain in the familiarity of the home they have been used to (e.g., if they require care). These changes require a lot more adjustment than would otherwise be required. If at all possible, allow some time to make the transition. Allow them to sort through treasured possessions and to gather anything that will help them gain comfort. Clothing, furniture (if possible), photographs and so on. The more familiarity they have around them, the better their transition is likely to be.
  • Sometimes it can seem like this grief lasts forever and you can feel impatient with the person who continues to talk while grief one at a timeyou want to move forward. This is common if you are also grieving the same person. You could try suggesting something different to do, or maybe respectfully suggest that they talk with a professional instead. You need to honour your own needs in dealing with your grief and have every right to do so. If you are uncertain, please consider talking with a professional to get some advice on what you can do to balance your own needs and helping this person with their grief.

I know this post has been quite wordy and very lengthy, but I think to do it justice it has needed to be. One of the biggest things I have found in working with grieving people, is the knowledge that you are not on your own. Grief can sometimes feel like a very isolating experience and knowing that there are others out there who are going through the same thing can help ease that for you. I would encourage you to share your experiences here in the comments. Let’s see if we can create a small community of support right here.

I hope this post has helped in some small way.

 grief hugs

Keeping your stress hormones in check

I know it’s been a while since I wrote a post, so I thought it was about time I gave you your mindset fix. Well, actually this one could legitimately be called a body fix too. 

Our bodies react to stress in a number of ways, primarily  due to a combination of 2 main hormones. The first, adrenalin, is loud and rather obnoxious. It announces its presence by raising your heart rate, making your limbs shake, narrowing your focus and thoughts on 1 thing (the threat). When we think about the fight/flight response, adrenalin is the hormone responsible for the physical “symptoms” we experience. It is designed to get us through a crisis and will then disappear (which is when we most often fall apart). Often the way to best cope with this one’s obnoxious nature is to simply allow yourself some down time following the crisis. Nurture yourself, breathe, be mindful, relax, do things you enjoy.

The other hormone, cortisol, is by comparison, the shy little brother. It is sneaky and insidious and builds layer upon layer of impacts. I’ll cover them briefly here and will follow this up with a full post in the next couple of days. For the moment though, a summary will suffice. Cortisol builds up in your body over time and affects most aspects of your wellbeing. Immune function (making you prone to illness), heart disease, weight gain, sleep, digestion, depression, anxiety, memory and concentration, among other things.

This article from Mind, Body, Green has a slide show on 13 relatively simple (and many of them enjoyable) things you can do to lower your cortisol levels, thereby improving your well-being and overall health. You’ll find the functions of your body improve and you will hopefully find that you’ll have more energy to get through your days.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with these strategies and how they help your stress levels!

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out

This blog post was shared on facebook today and I wanted to share it. Wellness is all these things and more 🙂

 

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out.

via 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out.

Looking at your purpose

As much as I like reinventing the wheel (well, new messages to people anyway), sometimes it would be detrimental to the message and what people may get from it. I would be doing people a disservice if I reinvented too much stuff!

So, when I found this article I thought it would be best to simply pass it on as it is, and just add my opinion 🙂

Have you ever wondered why you are here on this planet? What you are supposed to do with your life? Have you felt like there must be something more? Have you felt dissatisfied with your current life and frustrated that you don’t seem able to pull it all together and find a true passion for what you are doing?

Would you like to be able to feel completely comfortable in your own skin and with what you do? Would you like to feel like your life flows easily? That things happen with very little effort? To feel like things are going so well that nothing can go wrong?

Obviously there are times when things go wrong and this can be really sucky (and yes, that is a technical term!) I am a firm believer that if you are doing things that you LOVE, that you are passionate about, the feeling of “wrong” will be minimised.

This article was posted to a page I belong to on positive psychology. The author, Dr. Susan Biali, poses some questions that you can ask yourself to help you figure out what your purpose is. I love that she notes, right up front, to be gentle with yourself and go in with curiosity and no pressure to figure things out immediately. I totally agree with this. The more pressure you put on yourself, the less likely it will happen. You can’t rush this process. It will happen at the perfect time for you, when you are at a point in your life that you can open yourself up to see where your place is. If you aren’t ready, the opportunities won’t appear. Or more accurately, you won’t recognise them for what they are.

You can find the complete article from Dr. Susan Biali here, with a bio on her. Also, take a look at one of my previous posts here. I talk to teenagers about trusting that they have a place in the world, even if they don’t feel like they belong. Even though it is targeted at teens, it is equally applicable to anyone feeling like they don’t belong.

The rest of Dr. Biali’s article is below. I love how she tells her own story and how she has worked with each of her suggestions. I encourage you to let each sit with you as you consider how it fits with your life. Be kind to yourself.

life without purpose

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Purpose is very unique, a phenomenon that’s so individual that I believe only you can actually know it or figure it out, though others can certainly help provide input and guidance.

Before we get into a deeper discussion of this, I want to encourage you to release and let go of any pressure you might be feeling around the topic. Connecting with and living your purpose is a beautiful journey that typically unfolds in mysterious and surprising ways. It’s not something to be forced, or something to actively worry about “having to” find. I like to think of it as a treasure hunt, a perfectly paced adventure with your eyes and heart wide open.

All you have to do is decide to be open to this area of your life, and be willing to take whatever steps or inspiration call to you. I’m convinced that if you do that, you can’t go wrong, and you won’t “miss it”. Be curious. Enjoy the process. Marvel at life and its richness as you go along.

I smile indulgently now when I think of myself “way back when”…though really it was just a decade ago. I used to lie on the couch and read my favourite books by inspirational authors such as Wayne Dyer (I went through a huge Wayne Dyer phase!). These authors talked all the time about purpose, about everybody having one.

I was so frustrated that it felt physically painful. Though I found hope and inspiration in the writers’ lofty words, and something about this concept of purpose connected very deeply with me (I couldn’t stop reading about it), I was filled with fear that somehow I was that rare human being who didn’t have a purpose.

I was used to life disappointing me and somehow thought that I would be disappointed by this, too – that I’d somehow be left out of the loop, kept out of life’s inner circle.

Today I am continually amazed by the opportunities presented to me, worldwide, to help others live more fulfilling lives. Given what I do now for a living, do you see how hilariously ironic it is that I once despaired at having no purpose?

So, no matter what your thoughts and beliefs are around this concept, or what your thoughts and beliefs are around yourself and the value of you and your life, prepare for life to have some delicious, marvelous surprises in store for you in this area.

finding your purpose“Seek, and you shall find,” as the proverb goes.

Your purpose doesn’t at all have to be something BIG, either. The value of your impact on others and on the world has nothing to do with its scale.

There’s a saying I learned while living in Mexico: “Hay gente para todo.”

This means “there are people for everything”, and refers to the fact that in order for our world to function, we need people living and contributing at all kinds of different levels. If we each could find and inhabit the sphere where we’re supposed to be, and contribute what we were made to contribute, what a beautiful world it would be!

There is a lot of distraction out there that can cause people to miss the purpose of their life, and my goal is to help you see past the noise.

Not only are there the typical day-to-day distractions out there (the pressure to buy stuff; mind-numbing entertainment; addictions to food and other habits; chronic busy-ness that doesn’t give us time to think and reflect and live purposefully) but there are also distractions that come in the form of other people’s expectations and preconceived ideas about what a worthwhile purpose or contribution looks like.

Our society has very specific ideas about which callings are worthy and appropriate, which can confuse and distract. For example, when I first started telling people that I wanted to be a health and wellness educator and a dancer instead of working as a regular doctor, people would respond with guilt-provoking criticism.

“How can you quit medicine?” they would say, shaking their heads. “There are so many people who need good doctors, especially female doctors.” One person even accused me of stealing government funding that had contributed to my education!

I still use my medical education to benefit people, many more people than I ever could have helped by working in a clinic, yet the way I am doing this in the world doesn’t fit most people’s understanding of what doctors do and how they contribute to the world.

So how can you identify your purpose?

It may not be obvious and may be something that gradually emerges and takes form over years…you may even have several layers or aspects to what you are here for. journey for purpose

Here are some thoughts that may help connect you:

1) What do you love to do, that you would do even if you don’t get paid for it?

My true career or vocation is directly tied to my purpose, though the way you make your living does not necessarily have to have anything to do with why you are here. What is so you that you would just have to do it, no matter what?

2) What do other people say you’re really good at?

Be careful of going in a direction just because others think you should. That said, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the way others compliment you. Is there anything that you’re particular good at that people tell you that you should do professionally, or do more of?

People often tell me that they feel better, uplifted and energized, after spending time talking with me. Not too surprising then, that I now spend my life and even earn my living encouraging others and helping them improve their lives.

3) What is the one thing you want to experience, or do, or accomplish, before you die, so that on your last day on earth you feel satisfied and have no regrets in that area?

I often ask this of coaching clients, and the answers are always interesting and revealing. For me it would have been writing a book, and becoming a dancer (but really the book is the one big thing). The fact that this contribution in writing is so important to me helps confirm what is my greatest purpose.

Sure, I do lots of things such as speaking, coaching and media work, but I know in my heart that the writing is the core. It is the one thing that no matter what, I need to keep on doing.

What is that thing, for you? Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer yet. Keep asking the question, and keep your eyes open for clues that will come your way. Because the answer will show up, in perfect time. I promise you that.

 purpose bliss

Video

On speaking your truth

Have you ever had a hard conversation with someone? Have you found prospect of having one of these conversations confronting, nerve-wracking and even downright scary?

This TED talk by Ash Beckham gives a unique perspective on the prospect of having those hard conversations. She specifically refers to the “gay/lesbian” version of coming out of the closet, but it equally applies to any difficult conversation you need to have with someone in your life.

Sex. Kids skipping school. Betrayal. Family conflict. Work conflict. Whatever it is that you need to talk about, Ash takes you through 3 really simple suggestions to bring yourself through that conversation with grace and class.

When you feel like you’ve never (or rarely) been heard, you can easily experience the urge to be aggressive and snap at people. But if you can make a plan of what you want to say, know why you want to say it, and go in with authenticity and directness, you have nothing to apologise for. At the end of the day, you deserve to be heard. You have value. You deserve to be respected and treated well. And to receive that from other people, we first need to give it to ourselves.

So, speak your truth, and know that when you are being honest and speak from your heart, you will experience a sense of freedom that is unrivaled by anything else on the planet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSR4xuU07sc

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