Negative thought management

‘You are such a crap Mum, you can’t even get meals happening regularly’; ‘Are you ever going to deal with that pile of paperwork’ ;’Seriously, who’s going to talk to you, you never have anything interesting to say’; ‘You are always rushing, can you ever get your act together?’.

Many years ago I went to a ‘wellness’ talk and the presenter asked the audience which of us experienced ‘voices in their head’. I didn’t understand what he meant, until some years down the track.

When I write down what goes on in my head I start to wonder if I have a mental health problem. As far as I’m aware, I don’t have mental health problem and feel so grateful. 

I am VERY fortunate to have found the ability to step ‘outside’ my head and observe the different personalities at play. They’re actually at war some of the time!

By observing, I have the ability to manage the thoughts/voices/chatter on a regular basis. Not always, but most of the time, making me a much happier person.

We can be SO mean to ourselves. Would we ever say these words to a friend?

The chatter only really stops when I sleep, or practice mindfulness or meditate. I’m sure I am not alone, it was incessant before I discovered mindfulness and meditation.

I am now blessed to be able to recognise the ‘voices’ in my head and manage the negativity. It’s so much easier when we learn to recognise the chatter.

I even have names for the different characters that preside in my headspace, some welcome and others not so welcome!

NIC, the main critic stands for NOT IN CHARGE.  Miss Perfecto is there, too – jeepers , she’s a hard task master and likes everything ‘just perfect’. Miss Positivity is present, yay for her, she keeps NIC and Miss Perfecto at bay. If it wasn’t for the fabulous Miss Positivity and my awareness of these ‘characters’, I would be curled up in a ball hiding from the world a lot more often. NIC is so mean, horrible in fact and Perfecto goes on and on and on, she’s never happy.

What I have learned is that the ‘chatter’ will always be there but it gets much quieter. Almost like being in a library, like they know I’m listening and won’t tolerate what I hear.

What do you call the chatter? Voices? Inner critics? Whenever you become aware of negativity, stop yourself and observe.  It’s hard at the start but it gets easier.

You can learn to laugh at yourself.

Once I discovered the ability to laugh at myself, I suggested a friend try it too. This friend had been diagnosed with depression and was in a very dark place, very ashamed of the thoughts that went on within. There was an inability to believe that laughing at the antics that went on within, would ever be possible. Thankfully that changed, it IS possible.

Catch yourself and step outside your head. You’ll learn to like observing.

Being kind to ourselves and talking nicely, as if we were our best friend, is super important and it’s totally DO-ABLE!

What exactly is ‘mindfulness’?

Mindfulness. Heard of it? Practice it?

As I opened the pantry door an olive oil bottle ‘jumped’ off the shelf. On it’s rapid journey south, toward the cream tiled  floor, I attempted to catch the bottle with my knee. My attempt failed miserably and the olive oil bottle shattered on the floor, spilling it’s contents everywhere!

Staring hard in disbelief, I let a minute pass. Then I observed.

The viscous pool of yellow-green liquid made an interesting shape on the floor. The splinters of glass had managed to spread themselves far and wide across the kitchen floor. Wow, look at how the glass broke into so many pieces. I smiled, as I do when I realise I am ‘in the moment’ and thought about how I could clean up the mess.

Grabbing some paper towel I placed it on the oil puddle before me and continued to observe the interesting pattern rising up the paper towel as it absorbed the oil.

This is my take of being in the moment and what I think is the practice of mindfulness. It makes doing an unpleasant task much more bearable.

Fast forward just one day and I managed to break 3 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of sparkling white and 1 bottle of red. Oh my goodness to the mess that made. Of course, I was rushing and had to be out the door minutes later, to take my daughter to dance class.  I did make time to observe the liquid that was quickly spreading across the same cream coloured tiles as the olive oil had the day before.

It was  a sensory experience of sight, smell and touch as I rushed to get towels to soak up the liquid before it disappeared under cupboard doors.

Mindfulness, to me, is paying attention to the present in a sensory way. Being in the here and now. It’s such a cool place to be. It makes yukky things so much less yukky! It does take practice and once you get there it’s awesome.

I practice mindfulness whenever I’m in a situation I’d prefer not to be; a queue at the supermarket, the bank or the post office. The times I drop something and it breaks or my kids make an accidental mess.

Next time you find yourself saying ‘I hate this’, step outside your head and feel the present. Give it a try, take it all in. It will make you smile and make those challenging times so much easier.

 

 

Coping with loss when it all feels too much

A month away from the anniversary of losing my Mum (suddenly to a stroke), her presence in my thoughts, dreams and daily life is more obvious than it has been in a long time. Just when I thought I was moving forward and healing, I felt a regression in my emotion.

Of course I have grieved and healed. I am nowhere near the place I was a year ago, and realise that I am learning to cope with the emotional roller coaster a lot better every day. Thank goodness for meditation and my mountain bike. The problem was that I wasn’t able to  exercise regularly because of a virus that  grounded me on and off, for  6 weeks. Perhaps that heightened my emotion, though I  listened to my body when it told me to rest. What a challenge that was!

At 10 in the evening,  2 weeks ago the phone rang. I saw the callers name displayed on my phone and felt a rock drop within me. It was the husband of one of my best friends, calling to tell me that my friend, his beautiful wife, had lost her fight with kidney cancer after an incredible 4 year battle. Leaving behind 3 teenage boys and her husband that had been her soul mate for  26 years.

Living remotely, a 17 hour drive from the city  where my friend lived, I only saw her  3 or 4 times a year over the past 38 months. I knew things weren’t working in her favour, I just didn’t want to believe that she wouldn’t survive. She had been very present in my thoughts the week before that 10pm phone call and I had a vivid dream about her, that wasn’t pleasant.

The news of her passing wasn’t unexpected but it left me reeling.  I wanted to believe she would survive, so I had never really accepted that she would die. She was one of the strongest people I have ever known.
Relieved that she is no longer suffering, I am also grieving the loss of an incredible friend who was a remarkable woman that enriched lives.

We went to Uni together and have been friends through the highs and lows of life for 27 years. She packed her life full of the fun stuff. Making adventures happen with her family and friends and living in the moment whenever possible. It was this friend that introduced me to meditation.

What I have learnt through all of the grief, is that we have to learn to listen to our body. No one is exempt from this. If you are fatigued. Rest. If you are sad, go with it. Bottling up emotion is very damaging, it eats away at your insides bit by bit.

Mediation on coping with loss (I use Yogaglo for guided meditation) has worked well for me and allowing myself to feel sad, while trying not to cling on to the memories. To keep those memories but to learn to let go and for me, to accept that two really important people in my life are no longer present (in the physical sense).

I miss my friend immeasurably and will think of her, as I do my my mum, every day. I meditate daily, sometimes just for 5 minutes and this is my greatest coping mechanism (you can read my blog on meditation here).

Every cloud has a silver lining (read about it here) and you can find the silver every time. For me, I  got to visit my hometown unexpectedly (for my friends funeral) and  spent time with family and friends I would otherwise only be I touch with remotely.

The loss of my friend is devastating but I will be influenced by her in my daily life and will be forever grateful that we had a wonderful friendship for such a long time. Her legacy will live on through her family and those that were lucky enough to have known her.

Grief is an inevitable part of life and we all deal with it in different ways. Listen to your body and find the silver lining. Oh and meditation works wonders, try it for yourself.

I’d love to hear from you. What have you done to help you through difficult times? Share your comment in the comment box, it might help someone find the silver lining.

 

Smart ideas to create more hours in your day to do the things you want

We all have the same 24 hours in one day. Why is it that some of us do wonders in the time we have and some of us feel we achieve very little?

Whatever you do with your days, whether it be work, study, raise a family, enjoy retirement or you are between jobs,  planning your day will make the world of difference. There can be days where you don’t plan, fly by the seat of your pants or just do absoultely nothing but for productivity having a daily planner is a very smart idea indeed.

The smartest idea is to plan your day, preferrably the night before but if not, the morning will do. Ideally it will be before you start doing. This creates clarity and makes working through the ‘to do’ list much more productive.

Some days I sit down to write my daily planner and look at the length of my to do list, trying to breathe without gasping!

When I’ve caught my breath, I break my to do list into musts, coulds and want to’s, great advice from Sandi Givens (you can check Sandi’s blog posts out here). On to the list goes 3-5 ‘must’s’, at least one ‘want to’ (the stuff that is fun and makes me smile) and a few coulds if there’s room. On top of the musts are the givens; breakfast, lunch and dinner (food prep time too), exercise, meditation; time with kids, oh and my husband too.

Paper is my choice of list writing. My ‘to do’ list is in an A5 notebook that fits in my handbag, so it is with me all the time and my planner is a template on an A4 sheet, broken into half hour slots from 7am – 7pm with a list on the right of the page for ideas as they come along.

Find what works for you and use it!

I like paper so I can use a highlighter in a multitude of colours on my to do list:- orange for work, yellow for home, green for what needs to be done when I’m out (post office, shops etc) and pink for FUN! This makes it easier when transferring the musts, coulds and want to’s to the daily planner. For me this is still a work in progress but what I can tell you is:- the days I have a planner and  follow it are my happiest days.

My brain has a lot less work to do and things get done including the fun stuff!

A super smart idea to follow after you have planned your day is to follow your planner! For example, today I had an hour of ‘musts’ on my list that involved computer work. My brain tried to divert my attention at every possible opportunity. Trying to tell me to open emails, check out websites, flit from one thing to the next aimlessly, all completely unrelated to the task I was doing in the first place. What I have learnt is that if I think these things are important I can add them to my list for another time, but continue focussing on my current activity.

Pausing between activities is a wonderful technique to master. A real help to nailing the planner and having a super fun, whilst productive day. Day after day!

Christine McKee from the BE Institute is an inspiration, check out one of Christine’s fabulous blog posts here, ‘How to live in the here and now’.

Pausing and setting an intention  before I start a new activity has an amazing impact on my day, I have no doubt it will work wonders for you too.

So you’ve taken up the challenge of daily planning. Now the smartest thing you can do is take the time at the end of the day to look back at what you have achieved. Our brains are programmed so well to tell you what it thinks you should  have done. They can be reprogrammed!

What is your daily planner going to look like for tomorrow?

Remember to take time to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

relaxing

7 fresh ideas on how to make lunches that will increase your energy levels and get you bounding through the afternoon!

Want more energy to get you through the afternoons? Stuck on ideas for lunch?  Always resorting to a sandwich or whatever you can grab from the fridge if you’re at home. Yoghurt and a piece of fruit for lunch isn’t going to give you much energy. A sandwich or wrap from the cafe is unlikely to get you through either.

Keep reading for 7 fresh ideas that will make preparing lunch easy and you’ll be the envy of your colleagues at work or your friends who are yawning their way through the afternoon and you’ll surprise yourself too!

1.  Preparation saves time and creates brain space 

It might take you a bit longer in the evening, but do some bulk (easy) cooking to get that lunch prepped the night before will save you time (and energy) in the long run. Think about how much brain space thinking about what to have for lunch takes up during your day. Not to mention standing in a queue wherever you choose to buy it.

2. Get yourself a funky lunch box that you can pack your lunch and snacks in

I don’t have a fridge at work so need my food to be kept cold by itself and have a funky container called a ‘Fridge to go’ that has a removable ice block in it’s own little separate pouch. Packing this the night before and keeping it in the fridge, keeps it cold enough (and I live in a hot climate).

3. Check your storage container supply

Something that you can put a salad in, something for bliss balls or nuts. One that will suit leftovers from the night before. You don’t need heaps.

4. Create a list of lunch ideas that you enjoy so when you are shopping you can grab what you need 

It doesn’t have to be fancy. The easier the better – but it does have to be delicious! Sushi (easy to make at home); salad with egg and roast veg; salad with tofu and roast veg; sweet potato patties with vege sticks; dip (homous, cannelini bean, guacamole – the list is endless) and vege sticks with some roast veges too; left over stir fry with rice noodles…

5. Know that creating your own amazing lunches doesn’t happen overnight but that anyone can do it!

It’s all about creating new habits and as we all know that isn’t easy but we CAN do it. Before you sit down at night after dinner (if you make the time to sit) prep your lunch for the next day. You can roast veges, boil eggs, cook rice  and keep your vege supply stocked on your  days off.

Keep imagining how awesome having a nourishing lunch will make you feel and how much extra brain space you’ll have in the day, not having to think about what to have for lunch.

I have a friend who never made her own lunch. She worked full time and every day was a stress about what to eat. Sometimes she didn’t even bother ‘cos it was all too hard to make a decision and find the energy to leave work and get lunch. She got sick often and rarely had much energy. Finding courage to change habits, she now makes her own lunch and the health benefits have been amazing. There is now energy to exercise and she gets frequent comments about her awesome food in the lunch room!

6. Pack your lunch the night before and store your funky lunchbox full of nourishing goodness in the fridge, ready to grab and go in the morning

This is a challenge and the last thing you will feel like doing at the end of the day but it’s worse in the morning, trust me! Worse still in the hours leading up to lunch time when you don’t have lunch packed and have to ‘wing’ it, not to mention the cost incurred to buy lunch and the temptation for food that is not nourishing to sneak into your hands.

7. The ideas list – keep it simple

Ideally, you need a good balance of veges, carbs and protein to give you that energy boost and leave you feeling deliciously satisfied. What works for me is 1/2 my container filled with veges, 1/4 with carbs and 1/4 with protein. Ideally non-starchy veges and complex carbs (another blog post to come).

roast some sweet potato and pumpkin (dice into 2 cm chunks, drizzle with olive oil chuck on some freshly ground pepper and a teaspoon or 2 of coriander or cumin seeds. Pop it in the oven (180 C) for 30-40 minutes and store in the fridge ready to add to your lunch.

cook some brown rice and/or quinoa and pop it in snap lock bags in the freezer ready to go when you need it

-boil some eggs so you can add them to your lunch for your protein fix and they can be stored in the fridge

-have some tofu or tempeh handy as it’s great to have your protein from ‘non-meat’ sources, leaving meat for once a day with at least one ‘non-meat’ day a week (Aussie bloke or not)!

-keep veges in containers in the fridge (I love my tupperware ‘fridge smart’) that are easy to grab when you want to throw a quick, colourful salad together

My ‘go to’ lunch when I’m short on time is a quick salad, boiled egg and roast sweet potato

Spinach, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, celery, grated carrot (that’s the basics, anything else I can chuck in to add colour and yumminess is a bonus – grated beetroot (yes, raw), sprouts, snow peas, capsi, spring onion…) with a peeled boiled egg and some roast veges that have both been pre-prepared and are ready to go in the fridge. Drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil  (cold pressed) and a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of tamari (a fabulous alternative to soy sauce, available at your supermarket).

That’s it, it’s  not as hard as you think. Reward yourself after ‘x’ number of homemade lunches – you deserve it!

I have packed my own lunch for as long as I can remember. Even if I’m going to a seminar or workshop where lunch is provided. I never know what will be served and if it will drain my energy making me sleepy in the afternoon session.

We only have one body and we can’t expect it to keep on going how we want it to without providing some awesome fuel for it.

What’s your lunch going to look like tomorrow?