The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘mental health’

Stress and mental illness

mental illness

I think most people believe that stress and mental illness are separate entities. The truth is, they are inextricably linked.

Stress can impact on an already diagnosed condition, or it can also be the ultimate cause of specific mental health conditions.

For example, research on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) states they often result from trauma. DID is the newest name for what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder, which is where the brain separates, or dissociates, from yourself to protect your brain and body from the pain of trauma (usually severe abuse in this case). Research has found that many people diagnosed with BPD also often have a history of abuse in their childhood. There are some things we just don’t need to remember. And PTSD is obviously labelled PTSD for a reason.

If you’re interested in reading a little more on some of these conditions, check out the articles we published in January when we did a focus on mental health. You’ll find factual articles explaining specific conditions as well as some of our readers sharing their experiences with us. readers, Tegan and Kaye, shared their experiences with BPD. You’ll find them all if you search in the archives for January 2014.

On the other side of the coin, when you already have a diagnosis, such as with depression and anxiety, stress can make the condition harder to treat. It’s much more difficult to manage anxiety when your amygdala is being activated repeatedly. In fact, anxiety comes from this repeated switching on of the stress response. When you worry about stuff there is an element of fear that something will go wrong, which triggers our inbuilt survival mechanism. One of my colleagues also wrote a guest post for us back in January. In it she discussed how anxiety works. Note how Sam talks about the stress response and those pesky saber-toothed tigers.

One of the most important things to note for stress and mental illness is that with the help from your professional support team, it may be possible to manage your condition more effectively by using some simple techniques to down-regulate the response. Check out our previous posts over the last few days on Stress and the Triune Brain, Stress and the Amygdala, Stress and Trauma, and the down-regulation of stress. They will give you a good idea of how this response works and how you can help manage it.

stress-92313-828

On Saturday we’ll talk about stress and breathing, where a colleague and friend of mine will take you through simple breathing practices that can help.

Please remember that while these exercises can be of benefit, always use the guidance of your professional mental health support team. I’d encourage you to show them this post to give them an idea of what we’ve discussed.

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Focusing on Stress

I’m excited! Today is November 1st.

The first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). While I’m not up for writing an insane 50 thousand word novel in one month, I thought I’d give NaBloPoMo a go, the National Blog Posting Month, which runs alongside. The challenge is to write a blog post each day for the entire month. The rules state that they cannot be written and scheduled in advance, so this will be a real challenge for me given my weekly schedule!

So, as of today, our focus will change as I embark on this endeavor.

stress

Stress

We all experience it, but few of us really understand what it means and how it impacts on us, our lives and our families.

Have you ever wondered how stress affects your mind, body and spirit? How our emotions become a rollercoaster and we often feel like the smallest things will tip us over the edge. And then there’s the urge we feel to hide away from the world, and the desire to yell at everyone who gets within reach. Or maybe you’re more like me and you end up zoning out in front of the television or computer for hours at a time.

I’ll cover the neurobiological aspects (what happens inside your brain), the neurochemical aspects (hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol), the symptoms, and heaps of strategies to tackle it. And I’ll also include some personal stories from real life people with real life issues. We’ll tackle short term stress and long term stress. We’ll tackle stress and mental health, including its connection to illnesses such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Are you interested?

Great! Then stay tuned, as I’ll be talking about it all. If you have any burning questions or anything you’ve wondered about for a while, please comment below or send me a message on Facebook, Twitter or by email.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Ali

Love your body

So often we are bombarded by images and words about ugliness. We are lead to believe that we are inadequate and unworthy because of our appearance. We got (or get) bullied at school for wearing glasses or for having a few extra folds of skin and fat, or for having a birthmark on our face or for stuttering or for having stretch marks or … for a whole range of other things. We get bombarded by messages that say we MUST buy certain things in order to change who we are to be acceptable. Skin-care and makeup and surgery and clothing and accessories and whatever else you can think of.

We learn to hide ourselves from others and to fear being who we truly are. We become afraid of being judged and work hard to prevent it by buying into the messages we hear. We buy all the things we can to cover and mask ourselves. We cover up the small scar above our eye that told the story of when we fell off our bike at the age of 9. We get liposuction to rid ourselves of the fat that remains on thighs that have carried us through the hardest moments in our lives. We get our tummies tucked. Tummies that have carried precious children inside and allowed them to grow and to be nourished. Or tummies that tell the stories of how we have overcome years of abuse to be the healthiest we have ever been in our lives. We buy gym memberships to punish our bodies for being 5 kg larger than the person next to us. We buy gym memberships and hire personal trainers to smash us into the ground to rid our bodies of those extra 5kg. 5kg that protected us from the bullies or 5 kg that protected our babies or 5kg that enjoyed a little extra cake as we celebrated a major milestone in the lives of the people we love the most. Or 5kg that marks the journey of us mourning the loss of the person most important to us.

We do these things over and over and over again for years and expect to feel better about ourselves and the person we are becoming. We disconnect ourselves from the world. We disconnect ourselves from ourselves. Our mind becomes separated from our bodies and they operate independently. While we are busy cleaning or walking or whatever, our mind is busy thinking about how ugly we are or how inadequate we are or how we need the next best thing to repair the hole that was created 20 or more years ago.

The hole that nothing can repair. It seems that no matter what we try to do, no matter what we buy, no matter which gimmick we get sucked into, it doesn’t work.

You’re right. It won’t work. Because you don’t need a gimmick.

You cannot repair a hole, a disconnection between mind and body, with the next quick fix. You’re looking for a solution full of hate. A solution that is, in itself, flawed.

The idea of a quick fix (marketed to keep you buying products and designed to keep you feeling inadequate) repairing an emotional injury is ludicrous.

An injury of hate and inadequacy and unworthiness requires a solution of love, worth, and meaning. You need to feed the injury the emotions that it is missing.

There are no quick fixes that will ever work.

The only way to repair a disconnection is to reconnect. To get your mind and body talking to each other. To get them doing the same thing at the same time. Here are some key things I have learned about reconnection in my life.

  • Acknowledge the story. Each “inadequacy” on your body tells a story about who you are. Those 5kg (or 10 or even 70kg) served a purposestory to tell at one point in your life. They may have protected your heart from the impact of abuse or they may have nourished and helped your children grow. Or maybe they supported you through years of grief. Your scars tell a story. Whether physical or emotional, the stories behind those scars have made you the person you are today. They got you through. They strengthened you. They supported you. To deny them is to minimize your spirit. To deny them is to say they mean nothing. And that is the furthest thing from the truth, when without them, you wouldn’t be who you are. So acknowledge the scars, whatever they look like. Send them love and gratitude for helping you get to today.
  • Years of disconnect, abuse and hating yourself cannot be undone overnight. It takes patience and practice to reprogram your mind with messages of love, self-respect and support. So be patient with you. You deserve it.
  • Surround yourself with a support team of people who believe in and practice unconditional acceptance. You deserve it. Include a team of professionals you can trust, to help you heal from the hurts. It’s worth it.
  • Wean yourself (at your pace) from the quick fixes.
  • Let go of any guilt you may have about needing the quick fixes. Even they serve their purpose. Sometimes they start you on your path back to connection and self-love. Mine have, and I am grateful that I had those tools at the time I needed them. It’s ok to need them; it’s ok to use them. When you no longer need them you’ll begin looking for new tools that will serve you moving forward.
  • Send love to your body. Spend time regularly exploring it. Get to know it. The bumps, the bruises, the cellulite, the scars, the stretch marks, the bony bits. Run your fingers over your skin, observing the imperfections. Try to remain mindful of the experience. Remember the stories behind each imperfection. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Pamper yourself. You deserve it.
  • Use physical exercise to help you reconnect. When you’re walking, observe and feel the way your legs move. Feel the aches of being on your feet. Feel your arms swinging by your side. Observe the things around you. Notice the ground under your feet. Notice the path. Notice the flowers or the grass or the water or whatever it is you see. Observe your body as it navigates the terrain.
  • Learn to listen to your body and what it needs. Learn the difference between the signals that say “I need to rest” and “I know you want to stop but that is your mind giving you false signals. Your body can do more and you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment if you can learn that you can do more than your mind thinks it can”.

One thing is certain in all this. You, and your body, are worthy. Worthy without conditions. You deserve unconditional love and acceptance, simply because you were born.

This video by Mary Lambert sums up this core message nicely.

Reaching for the Light

This was posted on Facebook on August 13 by Kat Lambert and in my opinion it needs to be shared. Widely. It especially needs to be seen by those that live with depression and thoughts of suicide. It’s a long post so you might like to grab a cuppa and settle in. And it’s confronting, so be prepared.

If you experience depression and suicidal thoughts yourself, or have someone close to you that does, please pay attention. These are not things to be played with. They are serious and people need support to get through it! If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one please reach out. Treatment is available! Either contact your mental health professional or if in crisis after hours, please call Lifeline on 13 1114 from anywhere in Australia.

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I was somewhat reluctant to post this. Not because it’s something I am hesitant to share, but because a lot of other people are posting similar posts. Then I remembered the point of my post, being about breaking the stigma so people feel comfortable asking for the help they need to save their lives.

teen story to tell
Obviously the suicide of Robin Williams has taken the world by surprise. How can this hilarious, wonderful human being, who has lit up our faces in lounge rooms and cinemas across the world, and made us laugh so hard that the tears have rolled down our face, have been in such a dark, depressing place that the only way out was for him to take his own life?

depression drowning breathingAnd that’s just it. Depression, actually mental illness in general, affects people from all walks of life. Mental illness does not discriminate. Even those that seem the happiest, those that have the ability to light up the room with their enthusiasm, and those that seem to have it all can be fighting their own battles beyond their exterior facade.

Suicide is alarmingly, one of the highest causes of death in the world. Yet, unlike cancer, heart disease, SIDS, and other common illnesses where we raise awareness and we do everything we bloody well can to help our loved ones and the population in general, suicide is swept under the carpet.

Suicide is the “unknown”. People are scared of what they don’t understand. It’s easier to pretend it never happened, or to note the death of a loved one as “sudden” or “unexpected”. Because, God forbid, if you drop that “S” word into the conversation, guaranteed there’s always someone that has an opinion about it. So, on top of the guilt you already feel for not realising that your loved one was in such a horrible place, the guilt and the “what ifs” that run through your mind CONSTANTLY, you need to pretend like your son, your brother, your mother, your sister, died some other way, because otherwise people will judge you, and they’ll judge that family member, that friend, that you loved so dearly and couldn’t save. They’ll judge them for being weak, they’ll judge them for being selfish… And neither of these statements are true. It takes a fuckload of courage to step off that bridge, to pull that trigger, to swallow those pills, knowing that this will be the last time you take a breath, that you’ll never see your loved ones again, that once this has been done, it can not be undone. Once you’ve pulled that trigger it’s all over. Your decision is final.

Suicide is selfish. Are you fucking kidding me? Suicide is anything BUT selfish. Firstly, unless you’ve been in a place where you have not been able to see a way out, unless you’ve been in a place where nothing looks to ever get better, unless you’ve been in a place where you TRULY believe that your family would be less burdened if you weren’t around, then do NOT make assumptions that suicide is selfish.

How about instead of making ridiculous assumptions, we listen? We REALLY listen. Instead of judging people who constantly think about it, instead of judging those who’ve tried it before and failed, instead of making assumptions that these people are just screaming for attention… JUST LISTEN.

Listen to the people that have been there before, listen to those who have lost loved ones, listenlistening to those who right this moment, need someone to listen. Listen to those who need someone, anyone, to tell them that life will get better. Someone to tell them that they are worth it, and that regardless of what they believe, the world would not be the same without them in it. Someone to hold them and tell them it is okay to NOT be okay.

And this is where the system fails. There are a very small amount of people in your life that you’ll feel comfortable opening up to when you’re in this state of mind. And even then, the information you give them is a lot less intense than those emotions, those thoughts that are running through your head. Then the guilt comes. “I’ve just burdened them with my problems. They have their own issues to deal with and I’ve just dumped all of my garbage on them. Maybe they’ll be better off without me. It’s not fair that I keep burdening them over and over again. At least if I’m gone, they won’t have to deal with the burden again and again. Sure they’ll be upset for a small while, but once the initial grieving to deal with my death is over, they’ll go back to their normal lives, and won’t have to worry about their crazy sister, daughter, friend. And I won’t have to feel this pain any more.”

I wish I could say that I’d never had thoughts like that. I wish I could say that I’d never even contemplated taking my own life. But I can’t. I have had thoughts like that, for many years at a time. And there was a time where it felt like suicide was my only option. I became ridiculously close to losing my life, and on more than one occasion.

Seeking help wasn’t always an option. The ironic thing is that if you present at Emergency tellingsuicide ending pain them that you don’t trust yourself to control your suicidal urges at the moment, they’ll shrug it off and tell you that you’re just looking for attention, and to take these sedatives, go home and sleep it off. That courage that you worked up for the previous three hours has been crushed in a matter of seconds. That last hope of help you managed to reach out for, has been thrown in your face. And right then, you make that decision that if you can’t go to a health professional for help, clearly you can’t get help anywhere. The drugs they give you to take home may assist you in sleeping off this period of inability to give in to the urges to take your own life. But next time, and most times, there is a next time, you think about taking yourself to Emergency, you think about reaching out for help, but then you remember last time. You remember the shame you were made to feel, those feelings of little importance, and judgment. So instead of reaching out your hand for help, you reach out your hand for that bottle of pills, for that gun, for that rope, and you truly believe that this is your only way out of the hell that exists inside your head.

Then, after all this, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll end up in Emergency. You’ll be faced with those same nurses and doctors who made you feel ashamed because of your thoughts and feelings. Those who judged you and continue to judge you, those who turned you away, because your illness wasn’t real, and there were patients who NEEDED this service more than you did. If you thought that they’d understand now and things would change, think again. Now you’re the idiot that tried to kill herself when all the other people in Emergency are fighting for their lives. That patient next to you has been in a car crash, and is not expected to last the night. And here you are, distracting them from attempting to save the life of someone who doesn’t want to die. At that moment, the moment you notice their disgust, the moment you feel the shame that has been forced upon you, you make a decision that next time, you won’t fail and you won’t end up back here.

And that is where the problem lies. In our society, even though the stigma around depression has greatly decreased, suicide is still so much, a taboo subject. Clearly, like any illness, there are varying levels of symptoms, and whilst telling your friends that you’ve been depressed, and haven’t been able to eat and sleep is a fine conversation to have, if you dare mention that “S” word, if you dare mention how bad it is for you and how much suicide crosses your mind in a day, prepare to be judged. If you mention that the reason you can’t sleep at night, is because you can’t stop thinking of ending your life. The reason you can’t eat, is because you feel physically sick from the constant suicidal thoughts running through your mind. If you dare mention these things, you’ll be labelled as an attention seeker who is exaggerating your illness. You’ll be made to feel shame, on top of everything else you’re already feeling. And as such, any attempts to reach out for help, will be no more.

Sure, we can just continue to pretend that suicide doesn’t happen. We can pretend that nobody thinks about it. And that there’s nothing we can do to stop people anyway. But where’s that going to get us? Where will we be in 20, 50, 100 years’ time? At exactly the same place we are now. At the exact same fucking place where it is not okay to reach out for help. At the exact same fucking place where we constantly lose loved ones to something that could have been prevented. At the exact same fucking place.

So why don’t we do something about it? I don’t believe human kind can all be so stupid to believe that the current way is working. Talking about suicide doesn’t make people decide to attempt suicide, any more that talking about cancer gives people cancer. Talking about cancer, allows people to look out for the signs, and limit the severity if they notice them. Talking about suicide will do the exact same. Talking about suicide will bring it out of the shadows. Talking about suicide will mean that the person consumed with suicidal thoughts and feelings won’t feel ashamed about talking about it. That the person in this state, won’t feel ashamed to reach out for the help they so desperately need. Talking about suicide will mean that the stigma will be reduced, and when your mother, your child, your dad, your best friend, get to a point where they don’t think they can go on any longer, they will be able to reach out for help. In that split second, the fact that they can reach out for help without feeling ashamed, will save their life. In that split second, that very fact, will save you from heartache of losing someone you love so much and never understanding why. That split second, will save you from feeling such guilt and wondering if there was something you could have done differently, wondering why you didn’t figure out how bad it was for them, wondering “if only” for the rest of your life.

I’m not going to make out it’s an easy task, let’s face it, this is huge. This is massive. This is going to take a tremendous amount of funding. The Government is going to have to step it up a notch so that people can afford help. The Government would have to ensure that help was available to those in need, as so often, too often, patients are turned away due to a lack of available beds. But isn’t it worth a try?

Keep turning your back on suicide, and sweeping it under the carpet if you like, but what you’re really doing is turning your back on loved ones and judging, dismissing their feelings. I’m not telling you have to change your way of thinking, all I’m saying is, at some stage in your life, you’re likely to have a close friend or family member take their life, or at least attempt it, and in that moment, I want you to remember the decision you made right now, to keep this under the carpet. The decision you’re making, which means that your friend and family member hasn’t been able to source the help they need.

Five Minute Morning Practices

During our focus on self-care, we have established how important it is to take regular time to re-centre and rebalance ourselves. The human body is designed to put out energy and to then go through a rejuvenation process to enable the system to reclaim and regain that energy. In the previous post I have shared with you a few simple meditations that could help you in taking some downtime.

In this post I’d like to share another resource I have in my office. This is a small book titled “Five Good Minutes: 100 morning practices to help you stay calm & focused all day long”, by Jeffrey Brantley, MD, and Wendy Millstine. I took a photo of the cover for you.

5goodminutes cover

When you open the book you’ll find it divided into two parts. The first is “the foundation”, which gives some background on the book, how to use it and what to expect. The second is “the practices”. This is further divided into categories according to what you might like to choose to focus on in your 5 minutes. In each category you’ll find a collection of activities/practices. Each is a double page and explains the practice and how to do it. There are 100 to try, so there should be something that works for everyone!

I have provided 2 examples for you to try. I’d love it if you gave them a go to see how they work for you.

 

Number 28

Take a musical break

 

Take five minutes in the morning and listen to a violin concerto or a piano piece by Chopin. If you prefer jazz, a piece from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue or John Coltrane’s My Favourite Things may be a nice alternative. Make sure that the music isn’t pumping hard rock, but something more meditative. If you want something more energetic, consider Dvorak’s Symphony no. 9, From the New World.

Once you have selected the appropriate song, let the music transport your mind to another place and time. Drift off to the last camping trip or vacation you took. Remember a time when you went to see a live orchestra play for the first time.

Music has a soothing effect on the nerves. Music has the power to stir up warm memories, to make you smile inside and to calm your inner spirit.

 

Number 14

Push all the right buttons

 

Stress is a part of life. Wouldn’t you love to have a button you could push to turn off stress and an equally useful button to turn on relaxation? Well, you can, by simply acknowledging the triggers that set you off and imagining the button that calms you down. You can retrain yourself to push the right buttons that allow you to relax and feel at ease.

  1. Recall a stressful time in your week. Notice your feelings and thoughts and how your body reacted.
  2. Now imagine a knob – much like the one on your stereo – that turns down the volume of stressful thoughts. When you feel yourself reacting to troubling thoughts, turn the volume down.
  3. To the right of the stress knob is a button for instant calmness where peaceful and reassuring thoughts can be heard. Press the button.

Create a mantra or key phrase that you can say to yourself, such as, “I have everything that I need to deal with this situation.” By learning how to adjust the volume on stress you instantly deescalate the strain and anxiety that may arise in your day. When you employ your visual relaxation button, you remind yourself that no situation is insurmountable.

Quieting the Mind

Have you ever experienced the sensation where your mind races so fast that you cannot capture your thoughts and it feels really chaotic and messy inside your head? I know I have. It happens almost every day, often as I am getting ready for work or when I am trying to get some sleep. Sometimes adequate rest is elusive and I end up laying awake until early in the morning. Which means I feel (and probably look) like a zombie the following day! Can you relate?

However, I have discovered something that generally helps me to quiet my mind so that I can get some shut-eye. And I find that when I am able to quiet my mind I end up getting the best, most creative ideas.

I thought I’d share a simple activity that you can all try to quiet your own minds. If you’re not used to practicing mindfulness you may find it challenging. Your mind may wonder away from what you’re trying to do. Over and over. This is perfectly normal. Our brains are designed to do this (the why’s and how’s of this is for another post!).

The following photos are taken from a set of cards I have at work. Each of them includes a simple meditation that you can practice at your convenience. If you already practice similar activities feel free to do it to your heart’s content. But if you’re not, try starting small. Aim for just a few minutes at a time. Be prepared for your mind to take your attention away from the card but remember that this is supposed to happen. Be kind with yourself and gently bring your attention back to what you are focusing on.

Once you feel like you can concentrate and pay attention for a few minutes, add a few more minutes and build it up slowly until you reach about 30 minutes a day.

I’d love to hear how you get on with them, so please feel free to leave a reply below!

focus flame meditation card

 

happy memories meditation card

 

abundance meditation card

 

Meditation card 1

 

What I’ve Learned about Self-Care

This article is a guest post from someone who really understands what it’s like to need to practice self-care. This lady lives every day with the knowledge that if she pushes her body too far it could break down and stop her living her purpose. I am proud to introduce you to my friend Madeleine; a free, creative and intuitive spirit.

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Her bio reads:

Madeleine bio

Madeleine is a writer who also enjoys a number of other creative pursuits, including songwriting, singing, fashion design and modelling. She is also passionate about personal and spiritual growth and alternative healing.

 Madeleine lives with the constant knowledge of what it’s like to struggle through each day – for many years she’s had CFS/FM combined with autonomic dysfunction. Although she directly understands the challenge of balancing a meaningful lifestyle with chronic symptoms, she regards herself as a warrior – not a sufferer. And she strongly encourages others to hold the same perspective, for it is the struggles of life that lead to the development of inner strength and empowerment.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNT ABOUT SELF CARE:

It’s powerful. It’s healing. It’s multifaceted. It’s a process that is ultimately life-changing.

Do these sound like overstatements? Perhaps they do, depending on where you currently sit on the self-esteem continuum.

To me, that opening paragraph certainly would have sounded unbelievable – even laughable – had I read it when I was a lot younger and didn’t understand the power of self-care and its broad implications.bowl of self esteem

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t suffer from some degree of damage to their self-esteem. Some of us are sharply aware of our corroded sense of self-worth. Some of us are not.

I was initially in the latter category – in denial. As a teenager, I was already a professional success in a number of creative fields. I simply couldn’t see – or maybe didn’t want to see – that my self-esteem was low because I felt very confident in my abilities.

It was the curse/gift of illness that forced me to honestly examine myself. I realised then that our self images are multifaceted. In my case, although I had a good appreciation of my talents and a strong sense of myself as a writer/singer/dancer, I still felt that WHO I was did not deserve love, acceptance, respect, care or nourishment on any level.

And so the learning process began…

I learned that self-care (which is married to self-esteem) has multiple components, hence the ripple effect on the many areas of our lives.

For me, the first component of self-care was learning to nurture my body and take appropriate action to get my physical needs met. Sometimes, perfect health may not always be a blessing because it can blind us to our self-mistreatment. We race through our daily routines, our minds focused elsewhere, while we neglect our body’s need for proper nutrition, adequate rest, or balanced exercise. In many cases, we abuse our bodies with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, strain/overwork and other unhealthy habits. The body is a miraculous machine or vehicle, and it deserves to be treated with care and respect. If we fail to do this, we will inevitably become unwell. I learned the hard way that it’s not worth waiting until our vehicle breaks down before we start being kind to it.

On the psychological level, I came to understand that self-care has many elements and is very broad in scope. It encompasses nurturing ourselves emotionally, releasing all self-judgment, clearing toxic feelings and beliefs that negate us in any way, forgiving ourselves, standing up for ourselves, voicing our rights, protecting our hearts from hurt, recognising our true, immeasurable worth and essentially loving, accepting and respecting ourselves unconditionally.

Phew! Making all those attitudinal adjustments and changes is clearly not an overnight process! Indeed, it is a journey of growth that leads to empowerment. I’m still walking the path because there is always more to learn, particularly when life keeps placing us in situations that continuously challenge us in different ways.

But every step along the path is worth it. Because we are worth the effort it takes and the rewards we reap from caring for every dimension of ourselves. And what’s more, it isn’t only ourselves who benefit. This is by no means a purely selfish practice. I know it might sound like a cliché, but it really is true that if you can’t love and care for yourself, then you cannot do the same for another. After all, how can an empty vessel fill another? The greater your capacity to love and care for yourself, the greater your capacity to give and make a valuable contribution to the lives of others. 

 

And ultimately, that’s what we’re here for.

 carer serenity scene

The importance of self-care

refresh your mindset

When I think about self-care I can’t help but think about its opposite. What happens when we don’t take care of ourselves? When we go through the day without taking down-time? If it’s only for one day the effects are probably minimal. But what happens when it’s day after day, week after week, or even year after year?

I’ve met people who go through their lives on such high alert that when I suggest they try taking 10 minutes to do nothing, the thought of it has them freaking out! And if they try to actually do it, they feel restless, anxious, upset and lost!!

And then you get people on the other end of the spectrum, like me, who constantly give all their energy away. By the end of the day they have nothing left, and their bodies shut them down. They literally can’t move off the couch until it’s time to crawl into bed.self care fill cup

So what’s actually happened for someone who experiences these states? It’s highly likely that they are stressed. Many people believe that stress isn’t real. That it’s some made up condition. Let me rebuff that myth.

Stress is very real. It is a physiological response to some kind of threat. It’s an instinctual event that happens automatically. You do not control it, it controls you. That is, the body response is in charge. You can however manage your response and minimise its impact on your body and your life.

Glenda from Healthy Stories recently wrote a fabulous article about stress and how you can recognise when you’re in its midst. Check it out! It also has some great tips on how you can work with your body and lessen the impact stress has.

http://healthystories.com.au/2014/07/stress-free-life-stress-management-strategies/

self care possibilities

I think the most important thing you can do with this information is to figure out what is going to work for you. We are all individuals and every single body is different. And that means we all need different strategies to help us feel calm and centred.

worth taking care ofI know what it’s like to live in a constantly stressed body. I have lived it for a decade or more. My mind and body were completely disconnected from one another. It’s taken me a while to even figure out that what I was experiencing had the name “stress”. Working out how to reconnect my mind and body has been quite the task, and the process continues. I have taken time to rediscover how my body feels during and after exercise. I’ve taken time to discover how my mind and body feel after some guided visualisation and mindfulness practice. I’ve discovered many different things about myself. I’ve explored, tried some things out and learned a whole heap. I continue to learn. I have discovered that I really like who I am. And when I take time to regularly look after myself, I function much better during the day, I am much calmer, happier and more peaceful, and I love who I am.

Can’t ask for much more than that, right?

Are you prepared to embark on your own journey of exploration?

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

Fake It Until You Make It

The language we use can be very powerful. It can mean the difference between getting what we want and being disappointed, over and over again. It can be the difference between experiencing joy and gratitude, or sadness and despair. We can wonder why things never go the way we want them to, or we can do something about it by taking small steps each day that lead us closer to our goal. Our chosen path is very dependent upon our mindset; the words we have in our heads, the things we tell ourselves. 

Cassandra Webb is an author. Tomorrow she will be appearing at an event on the Gold Coast, signing copies of her very first book. It took her a lot of effort, grit and determination to get to this point. She didn’t always believe she could do it, but by taking small steps each day, she has created her dream and made it happen. She has used the power of language to support her. This is the story of how she made it happen. 

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Life is all about attitude and mindset right? Confidence and self-esteem. What about for a writer, sitting alone in their little (in my case messy) office? Not long ago I came across the saying, ‘Fake It Until You Make it’ and I’ve been trying to live by it ever since. This is how.

If writing was my ‘job’ I’d have a start time, a finish time, and a certain standard of work in order to not get fired. At present writing doesn’t pay enough of the bills for my husband to allow me to call it my ‘job’. But I have a “three thousand words a day” goal. I sit down and work my butt off to achieve this goal every day. I sacrifice meals and T.V., sleep and evenings out to get the job done. Because one day I will make it, and writing will be my ‘job’, until then I’m just going to fake it.

A professional [insert your desired field] has a certain way of presenting themselves. Even an amateur soccer player still runs onto the field in all the right gear. So even though I’m not a ‘professional’ writer, time and consideration is still required before I sit behind my little stall at the markets. Yes, I’m ‘faking it’, but I’m not going to sell any copies of my book sitting at the markets in my swimwear unless my book involves swimming. The same goes for a job interview with a law firm. If you turn up looking like a mechanic fresh from under a car you’re chances of success are pretty low.

‘Faking it’ means trying to be the best you can, even when you think the limits are beyond you at the moment. It doesn’t mean slipping into a mindset that allows you to believe you are already the best there is. It’s a hard distinction that involves being your own best friend and worst critic at the same time.

If you could peep through my window when I’m editing you’d probably think I’m insane. According to me I’ve written a masterpiece, but everyone gets rejection letters and I’ll be crying and laughing and patting myself on the back whilst I hack up my beautiful literary baby and try to make the masterpiece worthy of a publisher. You can’t ‘fake’ good writing, but the professional attitude of someone who can improve through criticism? Yes you can fake that.

I signed up for my first big event this year. It’s called Indie Authors Down Under and it will be held at the Gold Coast on the 22nd of March. http://www.indieauthorsdownunder.com/

When I put my name down and secured my little stall three months ago I didn’t even have a book in print. The printed version was available through Amazon, but I didn’t have any copies to physically sell myself! I was drowning just in the idea of have to talk to so many people and try to ‘sell’ them something.

There was nothing for it. I could have let the opportunity pass or I could ‘fake it’. With the help of my local writers group we got together and held a market stall over the Christmas period. I needed to do a test or dry run. The same way some couples do a pre-birth rush to the hospital to check they know the way and how long it will take etc. I was nervous, and for those of you who don’t know me I suffer from anxiety so nervous is an understatement. I had muscle spasms running across my back, and an ache from the tension in my jaw, my hands were noticeably shaking and all I wanted to do was get out of there.

There was only one thing for it; I had to ‘fake it’.

I squared my shoulders, mentally told myself to smile, and began shaking hands. It wasn’t easy, but it also didn’t kill me and amazingly two fantastic locals purchased my book.

We all have a different idea of what exactly ‘making it’ means. Some successful writers have million dollar bank balances, others have the luxury of a household name or movie deals. And maybe all of the above would be nice, but even those writers who have ‘made it’ still feel like lounging around the house in their old socks with their hair undone some days and on those day’s even they have to fake it.

I’ll be ‘faking it’ on the Gold Coast on the 22nd of March, and if you happen to come along to the Indie Authors Down Under event I’d love to see you.

This is the event: http://www.indieauthorsdownunder.com/

And this is me: http://www.cassandrawebb.com/

 

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