Decisions, Decisions

It seems, the older we get, the more decisions we have to make. There are the easy decisions, should I wear that dress (yes!), have another champagne (yes!), walk the beach (yes!) or go the gym (probably)? Then there are the hard ones, should we stay in a relationship, leave our job, sell our house, move or have a difficult conversation? Big decisions can make you feel sick, bewildered, lost, confused and unsettled. But you can’t make progress without making decisions. Fact. So how do we make them? How do we know if a particular decision is right or wrong?

A Choice Point

Russ Harris, medical practitioner and leading authority in stress management, teaches a strategy called ‘A Choice Point’. A Choice Point is a moment in time when you choose between values consistent and values inconsistent behaviour. It is a practice in which you step back with your critical mind and evaluate whether a decision or behaviour will be moving away or towards your values and the person you want to be. Understanding your values, who you are and where you want to be in life, is vital when making choices. Is your decision going to enhance your life or will the decision mean you are turning away from what you value and who you are? Have you ever made a decision and the internal conflict has continued? If so, that is a sure sign you have made the wrong choice and going against your true direction. The right choice often gives a sense of relief as you align with who you really are.

Head versus heart

It’s hard to know what to do when your head and heart are in battle. Your head can often be screaming at you to make a certain choice, and your heart screams just as loudly for you to go in the opposite direction. So which one do you listen to? We, as humans, actually have access to an extraordinary tool that we often forget to use. Our gut. Our gut instinct is the most powerful voice we have. Gut instinct is a natural ability that helps you decide what to do or how to act without thinking. What a powerful gift right?! Yet so many of us choose to ignore it. Have you ever stayed in a relationship or job, which you inherently know is not good for you? Then years later, after you have left the situation, you look back knowing you ignored the red flags and your gut instinct, in hope that it would get better. Listen to your intuition, it’s there to guide you!

Pros and Cons

What are the pros and cons of making a certain decision? Get as much information as possible. What will you gain, what will you lose and who will you impact. What is the worst case scenario? Is the decision permanent? What’s your Plan B? It helps to write pro’s, con’s and options down. You may find that one list will overshadow the other and the decision can become glaringly obvious. This process can be a huge reality slap, as you confront a decision that clearly isn’t working for you.

When both options are terrifying

Have you ever had a decision where there doesn’t seem to be a good choice? What are you fearing? Make time to sit with it and make space for the answer to come. Be calm. Never make permanent decisions on a temporary emotion. Don’t base your decision on fear or guilt. Give yourself time. So many times we make a decision in the heat of the moment based on emotion, but good decisions take time and effort and healthy, intelligent reflection.

Talk to someone or yourself

Often we are so engrossed in our decision that we can’t see the facts and options clearly. Engage with a professional, family member or friend. Others can see a situation with a clearer perspective and sometimes provide more options guiding you to make a better choice. If you feel you can’t open up to someone about your choice, talk to yourself like you would a friend. Play devil’s advocate and consider what you would likely say to a friend if they were asking you on your opinion on the matter.

Give yourself a break

Are you finding all this analysis overwhelming and just confusing you more? Step away from the situation. Allocate time for when to think about it and when to have a break. Overthinking can make the situation worse and can confuse you even more! Catch up with a friend, go for a walk, and step away so when you decide to think about it again, you can with a clearer head.

Lastly, it is important to remember, that sometimes the hardest thing, and the right thing are the same.

“Don’t ever make your decisions based on fear. Make them on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t” – Michelle Obama

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See the beauty, not the beast

When I stood on the scales after a year of chronic illness, never could I imagine that I would be 25 kilo’s heavier. Yes, 25 kg! Staring at the scales, I remember all of my confidence just dissipated. I had lost my spunk and instantly went into a funk.

Overcoming body shame is not an easy feat. Every time you look in the mirror or step on the scales, you can be shaken, disheartened and in some moments, start hating your body. We so easily forget that we have an incredible vessel that is guiding us through our life and often all we see is our own perceived inadequacies.

Has this happened to you? Perhaps you’ve hit a stage where you think your body is too big, too small, too fat, too thin, too young or too old. After reflecting on my own circumstances, I have realised that no amount of crash dieting or strict exercise regimes can facilitate sustainable change without a change of mindset. We first have to address how we perceive ourselves, why we feel and behave the way we do, and do the inner work to change how we feel about our outer shell.

Get to the core

So how did you get here, where did this body shame come from? Is it a product of ancestry, society, or some particular wound in your life? Try and get to the core of why you think the way you do about yourself. Once you understand the origin of your beliefs, you can move towards a place of acceptance. Once you accept your body as it is, you will start loving yourself and in turn, build a positive mental framework ready to embark on real physical change. You may even discover that you don’t need to change and that you are happy, just as you are.

Recognise your limitations

In our life, things happen and there are hurdles we have to overcome. Perhaps you are going through menopause and you feel like your body has just broken down, you may be going through a time of grief and loss, or perhaps have a medical condition that affects your ability to metabolise. You may have inherited a specific gene, one which means you will always be a little curvy or thin. Some things you just can’t change. It’s part of a process. Acknowledging your limitations can help you to be kinder to yourself and understand that under the circumstances you are actually doing okay.

Be kind 

When you sit on the toilet and can feel your thighs overtake the seat, try and speak love not hate. Your hater self will criticize you and fill your mind with negative stories. Instead, focus on your many other qualities and look within. When it comes to who you are, you are more than the cellulite sticking to the seat. You are a whole being with many endearing qualities. Speak to yourself like you would your best friend.

Heal from trauma

There are many factors in one’s life that cause a negative body reaction as a result. Mentally working on the experience, event or condition can help you break down the baggage your body may be storing.

Understand your habits

Some people use addiction, in whatever its form, to hide from healing themselves. As you waddle to Maccy D’s to get your Big Mac, think about why you are making that choice. Being aware and understanding your habits can help you address your deeper issues. Understanding this will help guide healthier choices and help restore your body to its natural state.

Our body is ever changing

Remember looking back at your old school photos, a time when you thought you were not good enough only to realise that time was actually when you were in your prime? Fact is our body’s age. They have been carrying us around, breathing, beating and working since we came into the world. Accepting the natural process of aging is an important step. This does not mean giving up on looking after your body but understanding that as we progress down the path our boobs will sag, our hair will grey, our abs will flab and nothing in the body is permanent.

For those suffering body shame, it’s time to try and stop (yes, this can be very hard!). Instead reflect on who you are and remember to be kind to your extraordinary body.

Finally, a shout out to all the people who love us just the way we are. It’s time to see ourselves as others see. It’s time to see the beauty and not the beast.

Life Interrupted | Life in a psychiatric facility #4

Stepping between the tiles, walking the corridors slowly, I stopped at a new painting of a flower. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, in fact, it was a poorly painted red poppy, but it reminded me of my grandmother. She always painted poppies when I was young. Her husband went to war and it felt like her tribute to his sacrifice.

I realised I had forgotten to call her on her 93rd birthday, January 31st.

Grandma was an artist. She was incredibly talented. Drawing Australian landscapes and flowers, embracing colour and passion. She moved into a nursing home, frail, sick but continued to paint. Painting kept her sane, hopeful. As she paints, each stroke kept her blood pumping and the fire burning inside her. She was stubborn, determined and strong.

One day her right arm gave up, it seized, useless and no longer allowed her to paint as she once knew. But her flame kept burning, and against all odds, she picked up a brush in her left hand and taught herself to paint again. A different style, harder to convey her vision, but she kept going.

As fortune had it, she then lost mobility in both her hands and legs. Completely immobile, she was no longer able to express her craft. Gripping her lifeline, she closed her eyes and continued to paint with her imagination. Her mind projecting extraordinary visions. She wasn’t letting go.

I realised the lessons I had learned from a strong, beautiful 93-year-old lady, laying lifeless in a hospital, continuing to paint with her mind.

One should never give up, creativity can be as powerful as oxygen and, I had to breathe mine.

I am currently working on a book regarding this topic. Any comments on this piece would be greatly appreciated. I’d love to hear from you.

What’s hot and what’s not about long distance relationships

So you’ve met your person. Things are going great. Hey, they may actually be ‘the one’ but there’s one issue. You live in vastly different postcodes! Living apart from your significant other can actually be really tough. You can find yourself wondering if it’s worth it and how will this work?

Let’s look at what’s hot and what’s not about long distance relationships.

First things first, what’s not.

Where are they?

You’ve just received great news. You want nothing more than to celebrate with your guy or gal, then with a quick reality slap you realise you can’t be with them to toast that celebratory glass of bubbles. You go to events alone, you feel part time single, and you find you miss them like hell. Being apart from your other can be really hard, especially when you experience important life events.

You’re alone

You get home from work and walk through the door wishing they were there to ask, “how was your day?”. Instead you put down your bag, pour a wine and make a meal for one telling your cat about today’s events and how you finally got that promotion.

You feel close but far

Your bond is tight but you haven’t the everyday contact like ‘normal’ couples do. When you see them you have to squeeze in everything you’ve missed into a couple of hours, trying to play catch up.

You live a double life

Your lives feel disconnected. You each have a separate life with your work, family and friends. You rarely can combine the two and it can feel like you have two lives. One with them and another living your everyday life. One you wish they could be a part of.

But there are some pros to long distance relationships and sure fire ways to make it work.

Your own time

Both a blessing and a curse, living apart from your other can force you to be by yourself. You have time to pursue your own activities, goals and wants. This can be extremely liberating as it gives you the time to live the life you want and a chance to look after yourself and be the best person you can be for you and your partner.

Moments become magical

When you do see each other it’s a special experience. You make every moment count and don’t take each other for granted. You catch up on all that you have missed and are positively thrilled to be with each other, even just for a moment.

The special bond

Being away from each other forces you to connect in other ways. Provided you make time to talk, you are forced to communicate on a regular, open and deep level. You find yourself knowing so much about each other so when you do get together, it’s as if you haven’t been apart.

Can long distance relationships work? Yes. But it involves committed communication, sharing everyday experiences, compromise, honesty, trusting the other and knowing that this is just one chapter to what could be a very happy life together.

As they say, distance can make the heart grow fonder. Enjoy both your freedom and the moments you share.

Be your own best friend

There are times we can feel a little broken and can be incredibly hard on ourselves. Sometimes we feel we aren’t good enough or can’t seem to do anything right and we spiral thinking we are alone in this feeling. Everyone else seems so together right? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get myself together?

There is a concept that some of us know but don’t apply enough and the truth is it can be incredibly effective. That is, be your own best friend. But how do we do this when we feel low. How can we love ourselves just like we love our besties?

You said what?

How are you speaking to yourself? Would you say these things to your best mate? I’m certain some of your self talk i.e I’m not worthy, I’m too fat/skinny or I am not good enough, would not fly if you were saying it to your best friend. Think kindness, non judgement, and be loving in the way you speak to yourself. Tell yourself ‘it’s going to be okay’, ‘I’m here for you’ and ‘you’re not alone’. No more hate talk. You wouldn’t say it to someone else so don’t put yourself down.

Self care baby!

What would you do if you were with your best friend? What makes you feel good? Self care is all about doing things just for you. And no, it’s not selfish! Take yourself for brunch, have a bath, go to that movie, get a massage, walk the beach, go to the gym, cook a healthy meal. Do anything you know is good for your body, mind and soul. It is a sure guarantee to lift your mood and a much better alternative to sitting home stewing over how much you feel like you are failing.

What’s my good qualities?

Now this can be a hard one but try and acknowledge your good qualities. What would your best friend say about you. Try saying it to yourself. List five, maybe, ‘I’m caring, intuitive, determined, funny and resilient’. It’s also important to realise sometimes what we see as our bad qualities can actually be our best. Okay maybe you feel you’re too shy, too reactive, too sensitive but try and reframe these positively. Perhaps you are instead independent, passionate and empathetic. Feeling fat? Hey, curves are sexy. Talk to your body and acknowledge what an amazing vessel it actually is!

Being your own best friend can be one of the best skills you can learn. At the end of the day we are all living with ourselves and our own thoughts about who we are. Wouldn’t it be cool to just love hanging out with yourself, completely content knowing you were never alone, as long as you had your fabulous self to rely on.

Be you’re own best friend and you will shine.

Life Interrupted | Life in a psychiatric facility #3

If I were to pick a time when my worst nightmare had become reality, it would have been on the 29 January 2017, around 2130 hours. Week three, confined in the facility.

I had been changing medications from one week to the next. The pills were taking a toll and I was a shadow of my former self; a zombie, the undead. I slowly shuffled around the facility, drugged and breathless. I felt nothing but exhaustion. I turned up my headphones and played Rue de Cascades for the fourth time but it was no longer energising me. I walked towards the medication counter and slouched lifelessly into the hard, torn, brown pleather chair.

Then it hit.

Like a thunderbolt striking a live wire, I was paralysed; my vision became dazed and distorted. What was happening? Had my brain finally snapped? Was it the pills? I was shaking uncontrollably.

I blacked out.

I woke on the floor. How long had I been out? I gasped, overwhelmed by confusion and exhaustion. I then realised I’d had a seizure. And yes, damn, I had wet my pants.

I lay on the ground, managing to shout “Help!”

Nurses quickly ran to my side. I continued to shake. I was convinced that this was it. I was going to die here. I was going to die in this hell. But worse, I was going to die in a pool of my own pee.

Nurse Blou stuck a little white pill under my tongue.

“This will help in about thirty minutes” she said.

Valium.

I glared up at the medication window. There was a sign plastered on the door. I could just make out what it said. ‘Pease wait for assistance patiently’. I cringed at the spelling error, whilst perplexed at the concept of patience when one feels like they are in the midst of dying.

Then, overwhelmed, I zoned out. I remembered an earlier visit from my father. He had given the type of hug that pumped love through my left heart ventricle, filling my body, then pumping love out of the right.

I wasn’t going to die.

The nurses helped me to my feet and then sat me back down on the chair. They searched for a wheelchair. No luck.

Defeated, I was wheeled to my room on a toilet commode, wee dripping down my left leg, just like bread crumbs onto the stark vinyl floor.

I am currently working on a book regarding this topic. Any comments on this piece would be greatly appreciated. I’d love to hear from you.

Thoughts are not reality

Are you an over thinker? Do you analyse every scenario? Do you sometimes find yourself in a vicious intrusive thought trap? You may have thought things about yourself such as, “I’m ugly”,  “I’m not good enough” or “This WILL go wrong” but did you know that often these thoughts, belief systems and stories we tell ourselves, are actually not real?

When discovering the book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, I was astounded at the concept that more often than not, our thoughts are a conjuring of our own mind and are often not facts, but stories we tell ourselves.

If you break down what thoughts actually are, you will realise that our thoughts are just words. We have a never ending commentary in our minds, a radio station that sometimes gets stuck on the same channel, and we become hooked on stories we tell ourselves, believing them to be true.

Russ Harris challenges the reality of our thinking. He looks at how our happiness depends on a habit of mind WE actually cultivate. We drown in the stories we tell ourselves, and can become a crazy thought factory that often causes us emotional harm.

How do we stop this? It’s not easy, but we must start noticing our thoughts. Especially when we find ourself in a negative state of mind. We must create space and look at our ‘thinking mind’ as an observer and we must challenge if our thoughts are actually true. Am I not good enough? Who says. What are the facts behind this belief. Often you will find there are none and this is when the thought will become fiction and you will detach from it.

This way of living requires practice. The human mind is constantly thinking. It can be difficult to stop and observe and it’s almost impossible to turn the radio station of our mind off but, it is possible to change the channel. All we can do is step back, listen to the ‘words’ we are telling ourselves and try and choose or diffuse them.

Learning this tool can be astoundingly liberating. Rather than being a slave to your mind, you can become the master and choose what thoughts are healthy for you.

So remember, when you are experiencing intrusive thoughts; thoughts are not reality. They are just thoughts created by you.