Tag Archives: Mangawhai Counsellor

Why Hope is Helpful in Hurtful Situations.

20 Jul
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing that hostility and adversity are creeping into our collective culture more and more. 

When other humans dump either of those on our doorstep, it’s such an unwelcome package. Being the recipient of threatening, thoughtless, hurtful or selfish behaviour wrapped up with string is a good time to think about Marcus Aurelius, Philosopher and Roman Emperor (121—180 C.E.) and what he wrote in Meditations about the pitfalls of human behaviour; “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.”

To be fair, in the practice of positive psychology, where both the good and bad parts of life are equally genuine, it’s also good to remind ourselves that although people can be horrible and the news media hardly ever reports on goodness and social media might not leave us feeling content, in our real life there’s usually an abundance of good deeds, good behaviour and lovely people who display and offer honesty, justice, loyalty, decency, trustworthiness, kindness, charity, reliability, appropriateness and warmth. Let’s all take a moment to be grateful for them.

How though, can we best move through any suffering that others have caused us? Put less emphasis on why they did it, and like Marcus Aurelius, accept they do it because they can, because it’s in their nature, it’s their way of getting what they want. Working out whether they’re acting out of envy, exclusion, competitiveness or powerlessness, isn’t going to change our disappointment.

The goal is to balance out the darkness with as much light as we can, and hope helps with that. Hope moves us out of difficulty and despair. It gives us a glimmer of a better future, and begins to give us the courage and confidence to implement coping strategies that will help us find creative solutions to rise above and out of dark or difficult places.

No matter how painful our thoughts are or how distressing our emotions feel, it is imperative that we don’t react or respond, impulsively.

  • This is a good time to use the STOP skill from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. STOP stands for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully.
  • It’s possible to find better ways to manage stress and discomfort. 
  • It’s about finding ways to cope that aren’t harmful or ineffective.
  • Breathe.
  • Feel the feelings.
  • Talk it over with someone safe.

We mustn’t allow the intensity of our feelings to stop us from doing what we can to move through the situation and over the obstacle. Getting into “wise mind” is much more helpful. Knowing what doesn’t and isn’t going to work actually allows us think of alternatives that might work. 

It can take a bit of practise to reorganize our perspective and reframe our experience.

Remember the key is being able to choose how we respond to difficult situations.

  • Rather than “this should never happen to me,” stay realistic about what others are capable of doing, and be prepared for possible consequences.
  • Meet “it” exactly as it is, with curiosity.
  • Practise paced breathing to decrease emotional arousal.
  • Focus on what we can control.
  • Draw upon resilience.
  • Get the right kind of expert advice.
  • Reach out for social support.
  • And even in the midst of processing it all, we need to do pleasurable things to make ourselves feel better, calmer and relaxed.

Hope reduces feelings of helplessness, reduces stress and improves our wellbeing. The good news is that building hope into our perspective uplifts us enough to move us out of any shock, helps us search for a helpful instruction manual and motivates us to calmly find the right path forward. Rest assured, resolution can also include a return to sender, or an instant or eventual retreat from those who tamper with your boundaries and nervous system once too often!

Reaching For Booze & Food in Lockdown?

1 Sep
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

Usually we know deep within ourselves if what we are reaching for is either good for us or less good! 

Do the usual rules and routines feel a bit like they’ve flown out the window in lockdown? And, who is around to hold us accountable? Just because we might be able to wear pyjamas or elastic waist pants, probably doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider how many calories, and how much fat and sugar might be hiding in tempting treats.

Social media is normalising baking up a storm. Our feeds are full of it. There’s quarantini parties and invitations to join happy hour online. We might have to ask if we want to join the pack, or lead it? Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean we have to. Social media is normalising baking up a storm. Our feeds are full of it. There’s quarantini parties and invitations to join happy hour online. We might have to ask if we want to join the pack, or lead it? Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean we have to. Maybe it’s a better idea to limit or be more conscious of what we’re consuming and be kinder to our immune systems at a time they really need support?

Whether we’re in lockdown or not, it’s always a good idea to be more aware of what we reach for to cope, self soothe, relax and relieve stress.

  • It pays to be less impulsive.
  • To have supplies on hand that support healthier choices.
  • It’s very much about swapping out the harmful choices. Like choosing to vape as a pathway to quitting cigarettes. Like trying an alcohol free product.
  • It’s about sticking to the types of limits and routines that are closer to what we usually did pre-lockdown.

Of course not everyone has a problem. A treat here and there is joy inducing. But if you’re putting Baileys on your porridge in the morning you might want to reconsider your choices! Same if you’re baking and eating a whole cake a day. If you’re treating everyday like a treat filled weekend day, or if you’re in recovery leaning closer into relapsing, you’ll definitely want to search a bit deeper and find out what lies beneath your choices.

In that case you could ask, Why am I doing it?

What am I hoping to gain from doing it?

Universally, the answers are to seek relief and to feel better. Luckily there’s a ton of other ways to self soothe, relax and reduce stress.

If you’re not sure your intake is ok, reach out to an expert to check whether what you’re doing might have negative consequences on your emotional wellbeing, your health, finances and whether it impacts others. 

All addictive substances neurologically hijack our brains pleasure and reward centre. They’re all short lasting and then need repeating. That’s how dependence can occur. 

Instead of reaching for something we kind of know we shouldn’t, we could ask ourselves, What do I really need right now. And then do that instead.

Whether we’re over indulging or not, these are pretty stressful times which put our nervous systems on high alert, so it never hurts to explore and name feelings, and then think about what else we could do with those feelings rather than stuff them, or ignore them.

We can all benefit from learning to release pressure in positive ways. Mindfulness. Meditation. Moving our bodies. Getting outdoors, even if it’s only our backyard. We can all benefit from learning to release pressure in positive ways. Mindfulness. Meditation. Moving our bodies. Getting outdoors. It all helps.

  • We need to remember to connect in with uplifting people, posts and things.
  • To give our full attention to tasks.
  • To make sure those tasks feel fulfilling and feed our souls.
  • To have rituals that restore us.
  • To do more deep breathing.
  • To laugh more.
  • To feel gratitude.
  • And to sleep well, because it’s so crucial in helping us cope better emotionally.

What’s really key in making healthy choices, is to work out other alternative sources, that still feel satisfying and soothing. 

Let’s remember we aren’t aiming to come out of lockdown as a Masterchef or an addict so it’s ok to take it a little easy. Sending love and strength to all who may need it. I’d love to hear how you relax, reduce stress and soothe yourself.

World Smokefree Day. Let’s Stop Kids From Starting.

31 May

World Smokefree Day, that falls every year on May 31 is a chance to celebrate and work towards Smokefree/auahi kore lives for New Zealanders.

It happens to coincide with the release of a Government proposal in which the Ministry of Health have proposed a ‘grandfather’ policy, to progressively prohibit the sale of smoked tobacco products to a new age group each year. It would gradually increase the age of purchase restrictions by one year every year, so eventually it would be illegal to purchase if you’re under 25. Hooray.

The same proposal wants to limit the level of nicotine in cigarettes and put more investment into smoking cessation services. This is great for our future generation. Ask most smokers when they started, and they’ll say, ‘When I was a kid.’ And none of those kids realised they could get addicted to nicotine within days of first using it. Why? Because when they smoke, the nicotine goes to their brain. In 10 seconds. Straight to the part that controls feelings of pleasure and releases dopamine, a chemical that tricks them into thinking a cigarette equals pleasure. Then within a few minutes, the pleasure is gone, and the craving for a cigarette begins a new cycle.

There is no better time than now to really wake up to the fact that smoking around kids influences them to smoke, and is harmful for their health. Kids don’t always have the choice or ability to be able to get away from the toxic poisons of second and third hand smoke. You do. You can quit. You can do it. With a plan and behavioural support, it’s easier. If you’re over ok and smoke could it be good to consider vaping? Vaping isn’t smoking. It’s a MOH recommended, humane and harm reduction pathway to help you quit cigarettes. It delivers a controlled dose of nicotine with 95% less toxins than burning tobacco. You get to stay social, spend less, smell better, and satisfy both the cravings and the hand to mouth habit. Don’t vape if you don’t already smoke.

Here’s the thing. Kids learn from what they see, more than from what you say. Kids who have friends and whanau that smoke are more likely to become smokers. That’s one of the reasons why the new proposal wants to restrict the sale of tobacco products. To get them out of the 5000 to 8000 places kids can see them, to 5% of that. To get them into R18 specialist stores. I’m all for it. Let’s get cigarettes out of sight, out of mind and out of reach.

Stopping kids from starting to smoke is the best form of protection. I would like to see proposed ad and social media campaigns include a harder hitting style of delivery about the harmful health realities of smoking, the risks, the dangers, the costs, to shock and influence kids to be non consumers. I loved that stuff when I was kid. It made me want to quote the facts and figures and write speeches and debate about it.

How many kids really know that there are 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and that 60 of those can cause cancer? Or that every cigarette smoked harms nearly every organ and system in our body? Or that in NZ about 13 unlucky people die every day from smoking related diseases? Or that cigarettes contain arsenic which is used for rat poison? Perhaps funding for documentaries and competitions that creatively involve our youth would help us raise Smokefree eco and wellbeing warriors?

(Photo credit. Laura Garcia.)

13 Simple Ways to Relieve Overwhelm.

12 May
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

“You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.”

Timber Hawkeye

Overwhelm can arrive when something triggers a powerful emotion in us; especially fear, which can then flood our mind with paralysing negative thoughts and emotions, and change our posture, breath and ability to cope.

It’s really important to be curious about our thought patterns, and to claw back some control because once negative thoughts overly take hold in our mind, they’re likely to distort the severity of our situation and have us focusing on dramatic consequences.

Emotional overwhelm occurs when the intensity of our feelings outmatches our ability to manage them. It can come from a single big stressor, like a pandemic. Or financial issues. Trying to make ends meet is probably number one in the list for tipping many people over the edge. Others find that overwhelm sweeps in like a tidal wave, brought on from a bunch of challenges like life transitions and losses that come at us one after the other.

Continue reading

Surviving Love in Lockdown. 10 Top Relationship Tips.

8 May

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What if you’ve discovered you’re not one of those resilient couples, sheltering in place,  strengthening bonds, feeling loved up and loving it? What if your version has been six hideous weeks of groundhog day in inescapable confinement, filled with endless stress, brick wall arguments, unworkable arrangements and mind-numbing chores? If you’re desperate to burst your bubble and run for the hills, don’t add to the pessimistic divorce and break-up statistics, these are extraordinary circumstances.

Uncertainty spews forth a range of challenges, from financial pressures to burdens like working from home while also caring full time for children. Take away all the welcome distractions that used to exist in life before Covid, and you’ve got a source of tension even in the strongest of relationships.

For relationships cracking at the seams, although it may feel hopeless, it doesn’t have to be. Why not reframe it? Think of it as a fast track opportunity for growth because adversity

  • intensifies attitudes and inequalities
  • highlights patterns that exist and persist
  • shows us how we each contribute to conflict
  • and magnifies exactly what needs to change.

As a relationship expert with 30 years experience, I know that with help, most relationships just need a bit of tweaking and adjusting to change the dynamics. Two people don’t have to show up to therapy to fix it. Big differences can be achieved with just one willing guidance seeker. There’s definite hope. (Unless your partner is big into addiction and isn’t willing to change, or if they are psychological or physical abusers. If that’s the case, you need a safe exit strategy.)

Here are my 10 top relationship tips to help you, help yourselves.

  1. One thing you really want to avoid is criticism. Don’t highlight faults or overly focus on what isn’t working. Justifying, defending and point scoring is destructive. Be constructive.
  2. Always look for what is working, what’s good, what’s going right and genuinely praise, affirm and compliment.
  3. We each have a responsibility to manage our moods and express our needs, wants and vulnerabilities in respect-filled ways. Keep respect at the forefront. Respect feelings, and make sure you happily allow each other alone time. Solitude is vital.
  4. If what you’re saying or doing isn’t working, stop and do it differently. Before responding, count to five, breathe and consider future consequences by asking yourself “If I say this in this way, what is the likely response?”
  5. It’s way better to ask gently, than to tell, teach or preach.
  6. It’s always about what you say, how you say it, and the intention behind it. Make sure communication cultivates love and unity.
  7. Shrug off small annoyances. Unearth uncomfortable feelings that get activated in you, rather than focusing on what someone does to irritate or annoy you.
  8. Observe and become comfortable with each other’s styles, and find a way to work with, not against them.
  9. Curiosity and compassion helps you go easy on yourself and others.
  10. Be kind. Be grateful. Use humour and look for the goodness that lies within. Love simply because they deserve to be loved.

P.S These weird times will pass x

It doesn’t matter where you live, you don’t have to have a therapy session in person. Phone sessions aren’t new to me. I’ve been conducting them for a couple of decades with clients both in NZ and overseas. My point of difference is that I can also work weekends and I have telehealth. If you need me, email leanne@wolfies.co.nz to set up an appointment.

thanks to cottonbro for the image and for Wolfie making the graphics x

Tend and Cherish.

27 Apr

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As the sorrow of sickness and silence spread, the stop sign rose and asked us to sit, together but apart, to be guests of nature and lend our ears to the birdsong, chirping crickets and intuition, instead of the usual roar of engines and economic hum.

We were asked to sit until remorse replaced restlessness so we could thrust aside mountainous obsessions of waste, and refuse to be swallowed up by inexhaustible convenience, coveted commodities and take aways that take away deeper nourishment, and to wait for the rise of bread, instead.

Sit they said, with blinders off as industry cools and hearts and homes are warmed. Wait until expectation is traded for appreciation so it becomes easier to undertake a scaled back, survival stock take, where love and local livelihood is supported and we embrace the significant and sustainable.

Sit and replace swelling fears of toils and troubles with soap and bubbles. Then with lion heart courage, forge forward, with fragility, onto the path of goodwill, into a morally determined destiny and consciously cultivate kindness for all of us endangered ones, here upon our enchanted earth. 

Poem Tend & Cherish by Leanne French as I contemplate the last day of Level 4 Lockdown in New Zealand and somewhat lament the loss of the quietest earth day experienced in my lifetime.

Thanks so much to my beloved husband Wolfie for the fabulous daily graphics he’s made for me.

Let’s All Be Better Humans.

26 Apr

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Beyond thinking about how to stop microbe movement and economic downfalls, will we also think more about respect and empathy? Can we create a new vision of a better world, for ourselves, our community, our environment and for our beautiful earth? My hope is that we will mindfully pay more attention to the wee glimpses we have of a future where we know what we want and need, and then work towards making many tiny incremental changes so all creatures can flourish. Let’s make our future ancestors proud.

 

 

 

 

Same Storm. Different Boat.

22 Apr

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While Mahatma Gandhi once said Dignity of human nature requires that we must face the storms of life, this present storm, the way we face it and the impact it will have on each and every one of us, will be incredibly diverse. 

In the midst of disruption, there are commonalities. Heightened reactions, moments of confusion and clarity, and concern for safety and security. Human nature dictates we do what we can to save ourselves and then look around to offer a (socially distanced) helping hand. 

We react in a thousand different ways because how we think, feel, act, need, want, hate, love and believe, stem from a huge variety of factors from our past experience, our resilience, the extent of support we have available, the size of our bank account, to where we’re positioned physically, socially, economically and emotionally.

While some may have anchored calmly, and others adjusted their sails towards rainbows and pots of gold, we cannot underestimate the emotional gale and financial swirl that this storm has brought upon many. Continue reading

50 Reflective End of Year Family Questions.

3 Dec

How about introducing a new self reflective ritual into your family? As the year winds down it’s the perfect time to choose an evening or afternoon to gather together and consider things like: How was the past year? What worked and what did not work so well? What do I want to create in the year to come? 

  1. What was the best day of your year?
  2. What was the worst or hardest day?
  3. What’s your fondest memory from the year?
  4. What filled you with wonder and delight?
  5. What if anything, may have consistently angered you this year?
  6. What do you wish had never happened?
  7. Name something that went really well.
  8. Name something that could’ve gone better.
  9. Who do you wish you could’ve spent more time with?
  10. Who do you wish you could’ve spent less time with?
  11. What is the best thing about being part of this family?
  12. What goals did you set at the beginning of the year that you achieved?
  13. Which goals didn’t you achieve that you still might like to?
  14. What was the nicest thing you remember anyone saying about you?
  15. Did you make any mistakes that in turn taught you something?
  16. Are there any areas where you feel stuck?
  17. What might you need help with?
  18. Which world culture is the most fascinating to you right now?
  19. What’s your best quality or super power?
  20. What has challenged you in the world of social media?
  21. How you feel about the boundaries you have set for yourself around screen time?
  22. What habits would you like to break?
  23. What might you need to do in order to take better care of yourself?
  24. What acts of kindness did you show towards others this year?
  25. Who was especially kind to you?
  26. What are you most proud of having done emotionally this year?
  27. What are you most proud of achieving physically this year?
  28. What have you longed for lately?
  29. What was your biggest achievement this year?
  30. What did you do creatively that you loved?
  31. What boundary did you set with yourself that you feel proud of?
  32. What boundary did you set with others that you’re proud of?
  33. What’s your biggest regret this year?
  34. What has caused you the most sadness?
  35. Is there anything you think you should/could let go of?
  36. Name someone you look up to.
  37. If you couldn’t fail, what might you attempt?
  38. What country would you most like to visit next?
  39. What skill or talent did you learn or master?
  40. What would you like to be better at?
  41. What might you need to do in order to be better at that?
  42. What would you like us to do to help you with that?
  43. What was the most delicious meal you ate all year?
  44. If you could pick something you would love to have made for you, what would you like?
  45. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would it be?
  46. Who would you especially like to thank this year?
  47. What is your favourite family tradition?
  48. What’s your best quality?
  49. What do you wish we understood better about you?
  50. If we could wave a magic wand and wish you the best year ever for yourself next year, what sorts of things might you wish for?

Don’t Fight Crocodiles in a Swamp.

11 Nov

I’m sure I’m not alone in observing negative behavioural changes in society, online and in the media. What appears to be happening is that it’s getting more divided and extreme, and that voicing outrage and unleashing opinions, bitter criticism and malice towards others is becoming a new normal. What I would like to question is, are we unconsciously being encouraged or forced to accept bullying as normal rather than challenging systems that allow it?

Nearly every episode of the Block NZ 2019 was uncomfortable to watch, because of bullying, and at times triggered people with trauma, so I still feel compelled to write about it. Writing about it at the time would have been like fighting a crocodile in a swamp and I didn’t fancy myself being swallowed whole by those who thought the targets deserved it. The bullying was overt and mostly unchallenged, and we the viewers, whether we liked it or not, were put in a “bystander” position, powerless to stop it; which further perpetuates the acceptability of bullying and inevitably, yet again, it becomes even more embedded in our culture as the norm. 

It’s reality tv you might say. Why even watch it? Because Continue reading