Monthly Archives: April 2014

Don’t panic part 2: revisting anxiety and kicking panic’s butt

I’ve blogged about anxiety on Wellbeing bites once before — and about my own experiences brought on by panic.

My panic attacks are much less frequent now but I still get the occasional heart flutter or bout breathlessness that’s a reminder of the anxiety that used to be so familiar it felt like an extra limb. One that was determined to put me off balance.

Anxiety isn’t that healthy level of fear or panic you experience in a high-stress situation. In pressurised environments, being slightly fearful can actually keep you safe — even make you more productive.

This is about frequently feeling excessively high levels of anxiety when faced with the everyday.

Recently, a few amazing, strong people I know have confessed to being overwhelmed by anxiety, including a ‘super mum’ and an exec manager.

No one is immune, so stop feeling rubbish (and stop feeling alone) and let’s kick anxiety’s arse.

Begin with a panic-beating daily practice
Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. As soon as you wake, spend 5 minutes running through what you know you’re doing today and visualise all going well. Now do a quick ten-minute meditation, some deep breathing or a few yoga stretches. Next, enjoy the little things – savour your morning cuppa, sing in the shower, dance in the kitchen, hug your family. The start of the day sets the tone for the rest.

Be mindful of your thought patterns
When you catch yourself having a negative thought, reframe it into a positive but realistic one. For instance, rather than “I’m never on time and the train is always packed this time of day” try “I’ll leave a little early today. If I don’t get a seat, that’s ok – it’s better for me to stand anyway”.

… and be aware of your reactions to your negative thoughts
Are you a fighter or flighter? When anxiety hits, do you get angry, scream and shout, self-destruct, take harmful action (fight) or freeze up, ignore, procrastinate, avoid (flight)?Being conscious of your reactions helps you to calmly moderate them so you can make a more rational decision about your action (or inaction).

Stop multi-tasking. Master the art of single tasking
Multi-tasking is a myth. Research has shown that your brain can only process one activity at a time, so if you try and do it all, your brain will become scattered and you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, ask do I really need to do this? If yes, get organised. Break your day down into chunks, schedule your task time out, delegate, ask for help. Do one thing at a time.

Reduce ‘noise’ and digitally disengage
To reduce anxiety, we also need to reduce the noise. But instant technology means we’re ‘switched on’ all the time. So switch off. Don’t check your email/Facebook/Twitter. Step away from the computer. Turn off your phone. If you’re working and switching off is impossible, check your email once every two hours. If it’s important, they can call or walk over to see you. Amazing eh?

Drink your way to calm
When you’re having a stressful day, do you push through by having an strong coffee? When you get home, do you have a glass of wine to ‘relax’? Me too. But caffeine increases adrenaline so you feel more panicky, and alcohol is a stimulant — resulting in amped up anxiety levels. Try green or chamomile tea instead (yeah, they taste like lawn but they do have a soothing, calming effect).

Take back control of your body
Anxiety often results in physical meltdown. Palpitations, sweats, jitters, breathlessness: panic attacks can make you feel out of control. So take it back. Try breathing exercisesmeditation, yoga or massage. Or just get out of the house and run or walk it off. If you’re in control of your body, it’s easier to take control of your thoughts.

Stop worrying about the ‘shoulds’
My friend the ‘super mum’ thinks she should be able to cope. That she should be able to function on a few hours sleep. That she should be able to juggle work, uni, exercise, socialising, family commitments and romance as well as a toddler who tears the house up – all while being a domestic goddess and looking like she stepped off the catwalk. On the surface, she does really well at it. Except that she’s freaking out. She’s not coping.

‘Should-ing’ is bullshit. Stop it now. 

I think that’s appropriate place to finish up. Let me know how you go with shaking off that extra limb – life’s a lot more balanced without it. And don’t forget to check out the original Don’t panic post.

If you have any tips/tricks/magic spells to deal with anxiety or panic, please leave a comment. Also, if you haven’t already, take a moment to sign up to receive Wellbeing bites posts by email. I promise I won’t spam you — I’m good like that. C’mon, you know you wanna…

Anxiety girl illustration by Natalie Dee

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The secrets to self love, and how to drop your inner critic

So you’ve got this ‘friend’ right? She’s been a ‘friend’ for as long as you can remember. But most of the time she’s not very nice to be around. She’s mean. Really, really mean. She tells you you’re ugly/fat/scrawny/stupid. Sometimes she keeps at you until you burst into tears. She tells you your dreams won’t come true. That you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re going to succeed.

To be honest, you can’t remember the last time she said anything nice to you.

But you still spend a hell of a lot of time with this person.

Why? Why would you do that?

Because she’s you.

Have you ever stopped to think about the way to talk to and treat yourself? If one of your friends spoke to you the way you talk to yourself, would you think that was OK?

Of course you wouldn’t. So why are you letting yourself be so damn mean?

Stopping the self hate and exchanging it for kindness makes sense. But self love gets a bad rap – some people think it’s about being arrogant or having a big ego. It’s actually about healthy self-respect.

It’s a simple equation: higher self love = higher happiness.

So here are a few ways to be kinder to yourself and nurture self love:

1. Put yourself in your best friend’s shoes. Talk to and treat yourself the way your best friend would. Listen, empathise, comfort and soothe. Give yourself a hug. Tell yourself that you are awesome and that you are doing the best you can.

2. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. You are amazing. There is literally no one else like you. That gorgeous, confident work colleague you wish you could be more like probably wishes he was as creative, funny and wise as you. It’s all relative. And, if you do admire something about someone else, tell them. Everyone loves a compliment and it’s true that you get back what you give out.

3. Be discerning about who you spend time with. Toxic people drain you (you know who they are). Spend time with people who have a healthy respect for themselves, and for you.  And stop seeking approval. It holds you back and stops you being the incredible person you already are. Not everyone has to like you, but you have to like you.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” 
Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist monk/teacher)

4. Write down all the things you like about yourself. 
This is really hard, but worth the internal struggle. At first you’ll find yourself criticising instead of applauding but push through. Start with something small or physical – maybe “I like the colour of my eyes” or “I like that I’m organised” and build from there. Keep adding to your list too. You’ll soon see that you’re awesome in so many ways.

5. Set a low bar for happiness. This sounds weird but by setting achievable daily ‘happiness’ measures (sunshine, a decent cuppa, a chat with someone you like, a hug from someone you love), you’ll reframe ‘everyday’ into ‘exceptional’.

6. Become conscious of straying from the self-love path. Wear a wristband and every time you catch yourself being mean to or critical of yourself, swap it to the other wrist. As you become aware of the frequency of your self critical thoughts, you’ll find that the wrist swapping slowly reduces.

7. Reward yourself with 30 minutes. Take a long bath, go out for a walk, read a few chapters of a good book, meditate, do a bit of yoga. If you can’t manage 30 minutes, take 10. You can spare it and you deserve it.

Seven simple ways to self love, but they all come down to the same thing.
You — inner meanie = happiness. 
It adds up. 

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The secret to scaling the wall of resistance

I’ve got a confession. All the good stuff I’ve been doing to try and follow my heart and make positive change has crumbled in a big, dusty heap. I’m sat in the rubble and I’m a little bit over it.

If it’s ‘meant to be’ shouldn’t it be easier than this?

Have you ever had that feeling? You’re doing all the ‘right’ things. You’re really proud of yourself. It all feels like it’s falling into place. And then, suddenly… it all falls down around your feet, leaving you dazed in a pile of dust.

So when you’re doing all the ‘right’ things and it all feels like it’s falling to shit anyway, how can you pick up the pieces?

And should you?

The short answer is yes. Yes. You should.

When you’re embarking on major change, chances are there’s going to be a big ugly wall in the way, holding you back. Pretty much everyone has their wall – if changing the habits of a lifetime/following your dreams was that easy, everyone would have picture perfect lives (and zero need for my blog or any other like it).

This wall is resistance to change – mostly made up of our loyal friends: fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Your mind isn’t a fan of change. Even if your current situation makes you unhappy, your mind doesn’t mind – at least it’s familiar and predictable.

And the bigger your change and the more important it is to you, the stronger and higher your ‘resistance wall’ will be.

“Sometimes when we try to release a pattern, the whole situation seems to get worse for a while. This is not a bad thing. It is a sign that the situation is beginning to move.”
Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life

So here are a few ways your can knock down your resistance wall, clear the rubble and make way for more of the good stuff.

1. Physically let go
Fear and anger can literally get locked in the body and come out as physical ailments. Screaming in the car (when you’re alone) or punching a pillow (see previous) can be very therapeutic and give you a cracking dose of clarity.

2. Use your imagination
What would you do if failure simply wasn’t an option – if you knew that you would succeed? You’d probably stop procrastinating and get on with doing it. See my post on procrastination for quick and dirty tips on getting stuff done. If you wouldn’t ‘just do it’, it’s probably not the right change for you.

3. Consider the ‘other people’ conundrum
Are other people influencing how you feel about your change? If so, think about where the naysayers are coming from and what their motives are. Are these people the kind of people you aspire to be? Are they living their dreams? Are they motivated and positive? If not, thank them for their input then politely disregard it.

4. Reframe your resistance
The greater the resistance, the greater the potential. More resistance means more awesomeness. Big dreams mean big challenges. Roadblocks just mean that the end destination is more worthwhile and will feel all the sweeter when you get there.

And you will get there. Take a sledgehammer to the wall. Knock it the fuck down.

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Abundance mentality: creating a mindset for success

It’s been an amazing few days. Two blissful nights away with my husband (with no kids). Bushwalks in the beautiful Victorian countryside. A yoga class that challenged and re-energised me. Champagne. Lie-ins. An outdoor jacuzzi…

But what have I been thinking about?

Money. Lack of it.

Thing is I don’t actually have any current money worries. The rent is paid. We’re all clothed and fed. We even have an emergency fund.

All my money worries are about what might happen.

Sometime in the future.

Maybe.

My life is so full of abundance. Yet I’m stressing about lack. No, not even that – I’m stressing about the possibility of lack.

It’s time to create an abundance mentality.

Don’t be a cheapskate
Are you always looking for the cheaper option? Do you visit the 7-Eleven for a $1 coffee instead of the local barista? Do you drive out of your way to the petrol station because you have a coupon? When you go our for dinner, do you order the pasta when you really want the steak.

Holding on to your money because you don’t think you have enough creates a ‘scarcity’ mindset.

I’m not saying splurge at every turn, but will these ‘savings’ really make a difference? Loosen the purse strings once in a while and let yourself experience what those bits of paper and metal should actually be buying: pleasure and happiness.

Give it away
Yep, you heard right. If you’re short on cash, give it away. Give to a friend in need, give to charity, give to your local Big Issue seller. And it doesn’t just have to be money. Time-poor? Give five minutes to listen to a friend. Don’t feel loved? Give a hug or tell someone how much they mean to you. 

Givers gain. What you give will come back to you in spades.

Have an attitude of gratitude
You probably think a lot about  the things you don’t have. What about all the things you do have? Take a few minutes and write a list of all the things you’re grateful for. The big and the small stuff. Once you get going, it’s amazing how long that list becomes. Give the positive stuff your energy and see how rich you really are.

Reframe your thinking on lack
In his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the ‘abundance mentality’ as thinking “there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody”. So your workmate gets a raise. Instead of thinking that’s not fair, think awesome, she got a raise – that means I might get a raise too. Be happy for others when things go their way – it doesn’t mean there’s less for you.

So pick up a pen and write your gratitude list. Be a hugger. Turn off the TV and call your friend. Congratulate others on their success. Order the steak. Enjoy every sip of that pricey coffee and tell your barista how brilliant he/she is.

Money is nothing more than numbers on a screen. Say thank you for what you have and clear the way for more of the good stuff.

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Declutter for a less stressful life

The old clothes were piled high. The paperwork hadn’t been filed since 2011. Desk drawers were overflowing with photos, tickets and receipts that I would never need, or probably even look at, again. 


I was overwhelmed with stuff. And it was starting to stress me out. 


So I took a few hours off and decluttered. It took me a while to get going and didn’t get everything done, but the local Salvos is happy and so am I. 

Cluttered home = cluttered mind

Organisation guru Peter Walsh says that disorganised people who surround themselves with clutter often feel frustrated, out of control and anxious. 

Sound familiar?

Decluttering is reclaiming ‘you’ time

Decluttering isn’t simply about reorganising your home/work area, it’s about creating mental space and making room for fresh energy. It also allows you more time to do the things you actually want to do, like spending time with friends and family, cooking, exercising and meditating. 

Six top tips to get you decluttered and back in control

1. Start small. Feeling overwhelmed can be debilitating. Start small with one drawer or cupboard. Set a timer for five or ten minutes, turn off the phone and computer, and just do this one task. 

2. Stick to the old one-in-one-out method. Bought a new item of clothing? eBay, give away or donate an old item, or even two. It’s a simple but effective way to keep on top of clutter. For larger stuff that opp shops won’t take, offer it for free on Freecycle and do your bit to reduce landfill. 

3. Make sure your old stuff actually gets to its new home. There’s no point having bags of stuff to donate lying around the house. It’s still clutter. If you can’t take it to the opp shop immediately, put it in the car so you can drop it off next time you’re driving past. 

4. Still struggling? Get a trusted mate round to help. Let them make some decluttering decisions for you. They’re not emotionally attached to your stuff – they don’t know that its the scarf your wore when you had your first kiss or the blanket you wrapped your newborn son in. They’ll just ask whether you need it now.

5. Find a ‘home’ for the things you do want or need. Everything must have its place and space. Make labels and storage boxes your new best friends.

6. On the fence? Try a ‘maybe box’. Set a calendar alert for six months’ time. If you haven’t used what’s in the maybe box by then, get rid of it. The maybe box idea is from Leo Babauta from Zen Habits who has six kids and 200,000 blog subscribers, so it must work. 

After I decluttered, I made time to get to two yoga classes in one week. That’s two more than I’ve managed any other week this year. I’ve also been able to enjoy playing with the kids, knowing that the chaos we’re creating only needs to last until tidy up time, because every toy has a home. 

Give it a try – all you have to do is begin it. Declutter and reclaim your space.