Inhale Courage. Exhale Fear.

30 Mar

Day_005a

If posts about people cleaning cupboards, doing yoga, crafting, making preserves and cookies is causing you to worry or panic that you’re not in that “positive” space, breathe low and slow, and know that you are not alone. This isn’t a sprint to a predetermined finish line, it’s a marathon and we are all in it together.

Covid-19 has changed how the world works. It’s ok to pause and it’s more than ok to be experiencing grief (whether we recognize it or not) because the new reality is that there are people all over the globe that are sick or afraid of becoming sick. They have lost loved ones, jobs, clients, incomes, autonomy, roles, identity and hopes and dreams. Fear and anxiety comes with the territory.

Shallow, upper chest breathing is part of a typical stress response but if your ribs are a bit sore, your chest feels tight, or you feel more light headed, a bit dizzy and feel tingly in your face or hands, chances are you are over-breathing, which can prolong feelings of anxiety.

The good news is, it’s not too late to notice it and fix it. We breathe effectively when our lower belly rises when we fill our lungs with air.  Slow it down. Breathe in and out slowly through the nose and extend the exhale so that it’s longer than the inhale.

Don’t

  • overthink
  • catastrophize
  • hyperfocus on the future, and get caught up in what-ifs
  • drown in negative, doom-filled thoughts. 

Do

  • meditate and relax
  • do things that truly soothe you
  • face fear and feel it and if you find it hard talk to a trusted professional
  • remind yourself that you are resilient and resourceful, and full of courage.

 

When we are afraid, we ought not to occupy ourselves with endeavoring to prove that there is no danger, but in strengthening ourselves to go on in spite of the danger.  –Mark Rutherford.

Tend and Befriend. Why Being Kind to Yourself Matters.

29 Mar

Day_004

Think of the last time someone criticized you, put you down, expressed disapproval or treated you poorly. Don’t linger on it though, because chances are it wasn’t very motivational or uplifting. Why? Because it’s demoralizing, elevates stress hormones, increases emotional reactivity, robs us of peace of mind and greatly reduces the quality of our day.

How dare they right? Well, how dare we do it to ourselves either! It’s like choosing a punishment over a reward.

In this unprecedented time we may have a lot more time by ourselves and there is so much more room to think, so when we make a mistake, fail at something, compare ourselves to others, get rejected or we don’t live up to our own expectations, it’s important we don’t employ negative self-talk or beat ourselves up for it. Instead, we need to be kind to ourselves.

Being kind to ourselves means

  • letting go of perfection
  • releasing judgement
  • replacing negative thoughts with positive, or at least neutral ones
  • talking to ourselves more gently and balanced, just like we would to a kid, pet, or best friend
  • continuing to do the things that make us feel good
  • nurturing our mind, body and spirit in joyful ways

Have a good day and let’s

  • remember all the things that are going right
  • remind ourselves kindly, that we are all vulnerable, worthy, perfectly imperfect creatures.

 

 

One Day at a Time.

28 Mar

Day_003

It’s no wonder that Alcoholics Anonymous emphasize taking things one day at a time, because it helps make difficult changes more manageable.

Feeds are full of how to fill our time, even though some people might be run of their feet busier than usual, but what if you’re still in shock? Or, like me, feeling overwhelmed by the seriousness, not of the illness or isolation as such, but about our future after all of this, which today suddenly felt completely uncertain and a little bleak.

So here’s the thing. Uncertainty involving all-encompassing questions about the meaning and purpose of life and one’s place in the world in the future has an actual name. It’s known as existential anxiety. If we name it as such, it then becomes easier to know that over focusing on that, or worrying about it, negatively affects the present moment. Mindfulness and being in the now, allows us to let it go.

How I let it go, is to tell myself I have the internal ability to respond effectively to changing circumstances. I’ve helped hundreds of other people do it. I’ve got the skills. I’ve done it before. I can do it now.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • let go of wanting to control the outcome
  • know that there will be plenty of time in the future to problem solve
  • come back to this moment and tell yourself you are safe, and breathe low and slow
  • divert your overly wild imagination capable of coming up with worst case scenarios, into some kind of actual creativity where it’s better suited
  • welcome mundane tasks as a distraction to thinking
  • be at one with whatever you do, from brushing your teeth to preparing meals or sorting the pantry
  • stick to routines as they settle your soul
  • ground yourself, go outside, feel the breeze on your face and listen to the sounds around you and tell yourself you’re doing a great job. Your co-operation is contributing to the greater good.

 

 

Wherever You Go, There You Are.

27 Mar

Day_02b

The government have asked for our support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19. An important restriction has been put in place, stay home, save lives and no surprises, two days in and the usual suspects have gone a little wild, flaunting the rules and looking for loopholes.

We often hope that others will think, behave, react and respond the way we do, but it doesn’t always work that way. Some of the rules are bound to get a little tighter when people who don’t like to be told what to do, go about their business, their way. They are just being who they are, but when the consequences affect the collective, it doesn’t resonate well.

Humans are complex cognitive creatures who filter information through past experiences, conditioning and values. We are prone to adopting beliefs about ourselves and the world in ways that make what we do seem as justifiable as possible. To justify is to prove that actions are reasonable or right. This doesn’t mean they are.

So what to do?

  • follow the rules and stay in the bubble
  • take it seriously and think of the health of all our country
  • we cannot change the circumstances, but we can be mindful about how we interpret the rules
  • don’t waste your time fighting the opinions or rule twisting of others, leave the policing to the experts but do tell them if they are putting you at risk
  • keep doing a great job and know that the life you save might also be your own.

 

Wherever you go there you are is the title of one of my favourite mindfulness books by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

 

 

 

Ease into Uncertainty.

26 Mar

Day_001

Our NZ government declared a State of Emergency, and our current COVID-19 Alert Level is Level 4 also known as lockdown which is in place for four weeks or more. In summary, this means

  • Everyone must now stay home, except those providing essential services.
  • Only make physical contact with those that you live with.

It’s a normal, universal feeling to feel fear when faced with the unknown. As our news feeds fill with all kinds of stories, real, fake and funny, the reality is that 738 people died in one day in Spain yesterday, and 683 in Italy. It is vital that we all do our best to stick to the rules put in place to save lives and flatten the curve. The more careful we are, the sooner this thing will be over.

As a therapist, relationship expert and goodness influencer with 30 years of experience I’m here to help ease the possible psychological effects of these times. One of the first things to know is that unexpected and unforeseen events can cause a grief response which can take people off guard, especially when our daily lives have been full of work, social interactions, distractions, takeouts, and the freedom to move around however we want.

Everyone experiences grief differently.

  • It’s not linear, and it’s not predictable.
  • Don’t run from your emotions but do relax and regroup and don’t let them overwhelm you.
  • Know that confusion, sadness and anger in a time of change jumps around a bit while we all redefine our new normal.
  • Reassure yourself that each stage is normal and won’t last forever.
  • Take time to ease into what all of the changes you are faced with might mean to you.
  • Know that you don’t have to work it all out on Day One.

For reliable information on Level 4 go to https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-level/

If you want me to write about something specific, I welcome your questions. Stay safe. Much love.

 

Eco-Grief & Eco-Anxiety. Help For A New Reality.

12 Jan

14239954d2a632e600c18ae3415af2ac.jpg

Eco-grief is the grief felt in response to experienced or anticipated ecological loss. Eco-anxiety is a chronic fear of environmental doom. Creeping environmental changes are now cascading ahead at a catastrophic pace and have been rightly upgraded to a climate emergency. 

When our senses are inundated with a torrent of news, filled with the horror and sadness of global disasters, sensitive people begin to wobble and topple.

Scientists are telling us “like it is.” We need to listen. Dire warnings, horrific natural disasters, death, displaced people, species extinction, rising seas, soaring temperatures, extreme drought, diminished air quality, degradation of waterways and raging bushfires destroying trees, homes, animals, people and even those saving the people, are becoming more and more commonplace.

Even when it’s not us experiencing terror, fear, anger and trauma from injury, loss and damage to lives, property and livelihoods first-hand, second-hand it has the potential to flood us with helplessness. This can cause feelings of grief, anxiety, despair and panic which can overwhelm and dull our ability to act. The more we see planet Earth going to hell in a handcart, the more emotional distress we are going to feel. The social impact will make our hearts ache. We need balance. The media needs to communicate facts to make us care, rather than cause panic. We need to research positive news stories, search for kindness and gather as much information as we can to find out what we can do that’s helpful.

We didn’t expect to begin 2020 with Australia, our neighbour, burning. Areas that aren’t burning are choking from the smoke. Over a billion animals have already died horribly in those fires. And what about the frogs and bees and other insects? Maybe now their climate denial PM will stop selling cheap coal to China and India? The least we can do is to embrace this new reality. We need to wake up and quit avoiding the demise. We need to take more self-responsibility to change what we can. We need to help one person, one cause or donate to help many. Then we need to question and demand business, societal and political change.

If you’re upset, know that it’s okay. Validate your feelings, know that we are all in this together in this world and if you are suffering, reach out and get help expressing and normalising difficult feelings. Part of the solution is to take action. Action counteracts hopelessness. Below are some of my ideas to encourage action.

  • Look at humanities better traits. Who is working to fix things? Read articles like this one from Skip Spritzer and learn more about climate change and disrupted eco systems.
  • Keep being self-responsible. Make many changes. This is the time to turn me into we and think of the greater good of the planet.
  • Find even more ways to be mindful of your impact, like how you use and produce food, water, and energy. Read this brilliant article by Jonathan Foley.
  • Learn from people trained to deal with long term catastrophes. The world is full of passionate people. Policy makers. Climate researchers. Trauma researchers. Infrastructure experts. Mental health workers. Animal welfare specialists.
  • Every problem requires different solutions. Try to pick one or two that resonate the most with you.
  • Practise mindfulness and meditation and bear witness to both joy and suffering and help build your emotional strength and resilience.
  • Empathy leads to right action. It encourages and motivates us to become a part of the solution. If you can’t do it alone join a group.
  • Sign petitions. Write letters. Donate if you’re in a position to.
  • Speak up and question business practices that could be improved.
  • Vote with your dollars. Food is a good starting place where personal action can impact the planet.
  • Inspire social change and follow accounts that do.

Is it time to give up? I say a big fat NO. Get therapy to grieve healthily, reduce anxiety and keep hope in your heart. And this one I love – Find a way to be a force of good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season. Will it Be Sensational or Stink?

7 Dec

611b62663986179d3896b968a574a037

Many Christmas’s in my life and yours too I imagine, have been so amazing, filled with love and tinsel, a sparkly stream of fabulous family, amazing food, children’s squeals, handmade goodies, laden Christmas trees, thoughtful presents, shared stories, goofy games and loud laughter.

Some are sensational and some are far from it. Some are just stink.

bd141fb489f98bce25fbf23c21191fbc

Brooches from SewEmSew

There are many reasons why some homes, some years, overflow with seasonal joy, and others not so much. Life can occasionally just fall apart at the seams. Illness, loss, geographical distance, natural disasters, conflicted family, depression, dementia, stress, divorce, addiction, lack of finances, not having a home, you name it, some years have it. People we love die and we miss them terribly. Grief can slide the glitter and magic right off the season.

Another thing that makes it stink, is people who just can’t help piling on a bit of pressure, mixed in with a dose of projected disappointment and righteous expectation, telling people how they should do Christmas and why. Trying to control what other people should do or say, or eat or not, or where they should go or who they should visit is never a good idea.

Here’s what to do if that happens to you: Continue reading