Monthly Archives: July 2014

The bleary-eyed banshee’s guide to keeping love alive

Romantic loveLast week, in the midst of mess, sick kids, sleep deprivation and more work than I could handle, I turned into a bleary-eyed banshee.

“You’re not hearing me,” I screeched at my husband. “Sometimes I feel like we’re talking different languages.”

He walked away. He does that.

It wasn’t our finest moment.

I said we were talking different languages, but it wasn’t so much that. It was that we hadn’t been talking about anything lately, aside from kids, finances, household chores, groceries, bills, work.

Our relationship, the big-fat-romantic-love-of-our-lives relationship, had lost its place on both our to-do lists.

Love. If it’s ‘meant to be’ it should be easy, right?

I don’t think so. The idea that romantic love should happen effortlessly is a big pile of poo rolled in Hollywood glitter. Every other aspect of your life — a fulfilling career, happy kids, friendships, healthy meals and a decluttered home — doesn’t just happen by itself, so why should your most important relationship?

It’s time to put some effort in. I’m no expert, but here are four little love ‘tweaks’ that are helping us help get the ‘elation’ back in our relationship.

Figure out your love language (and theirs)
Gary Chapman, love guru and all-round good guy, says there are five emotional love languages. According to Gaz, each of us has a dominant ‘love language’ and if you and your partner are talking different languages, that’s going to bring out the banshee in anyone.

You may feel most loved when your partner tells you how amazing and beautiful you are (words of affirmation). He may feel most loved when you initiate a midday quickie (physical touch). Doing something that doesn’t come naturally to you is a greater expression of love. And what you give, you get back (hopefully in your own love language).

Nurture your relationship by changing habits
Changing a few simple habits can make a huge difference to your relationship. Try and eat dinner together a few times a week (not in front of the telly), go on a date or plan a weekend away.

Ditch the dull routine if you can. Go roller-skating. Paragliding. No cash? A beach walk in winter or a picnic in the hills will work just as well.

Lower your expectations and find the positives
I’ve said it before, expectations are bullshit. When you expect others to act in a certain way, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Your expectations are not top of their lists. Theirs are not at the top of yours. Instead of what makes you want to tear your hair out, think about what you love about your partner. Write it down. Now show your partner your list.

Talk, talk then talk some more
You make time to talk about shopping, washing, childcare/school, money, work. So make the time to talk about your dreams, share your visions, communicate your plans, the things you love, the stuff that needs work. Tell your partner what makes you happy (and what you love about them) loudly and often.

Let’s face it — it’s not Hollywood. Relationships are hard work. But they’re usually worth a bit of effort.

So banish your inner banshee, stay in the room, get over the small stuff and put that big-fat-romantic-love-of-your-life relationship back where it belongs — at the top of your to-do list.

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Image from www.gratisography.com

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I must be liked by everyone… and other unrealistic self-expectations

Expectations of selfYesterday, I got the “I hate you and everything you stand for” face from a barista. I asked for a 3/4 latte. I got a half pour so asked for a tiny top up. She gave me the face.

This woman is not my local barista. I will never see her again. She will not feature in the movie of my life and, if hadn’t got the face, I would never have given her a second thought post 3/4 latte.

So why did I spend the rest of the day replaying our milk-based passive aggression over and over in my mind?

Because everyone has to like me. Everyone. Even the people I don’t like. Because if I’m not likeable, I am a failure.

I know this is absolutely ridiculous. And this is just one of the many unrealistic expectations I place on myself.

Other self-imposed expectations include a Branson-like career trajectory, Buddha-like patience, JK Rowling’s bank balance, Zen Habits-style blog success, a model-esque appearance and perfect parent status. What could possible go wrong?

A few weeks ago, I talked about letting go of the great expectations we have of others. Self-imposed expectations are even more dangerous, so here are my top tips for getting rid of those unrealistic little suckers.

Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
Do you start sentences with “I should really…” and end them by feeling shit because you haven’t, didn’t, won’t?

Should is the most dangerous word in the English language. I should be thinner. My salary should be higher. I should be married by now. I should be exercising/meditating/eating healthy/drinking less.

Should makes you feel bad. Should translates to “I am wrong. I am not good enough.” Try using “could” instead. Could is a choice word. Unlike should, could isn’t shrouded in shame and guilt. It allows you space to think about why you’re not [fill in blank here]. Perhaps it’s simply because you don’t want to. Perhaps your shame and guilt has been defeating you. Should is an obstacle. Move it out of your way.

Be realistic about change 
Change is hard. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not finishing the chapter of your novel, pat yourself on the back for those few incredible paragraphs you did write. Rather than feeling like a failure because you didn’t get to three yoga classes this week, congratulate yourself for getting to one and focus on how much your body and mind has benefitted.

Risk disapproval, then embrace it
As you may have guessed by the barista experience, this is a tricky one for me. But usually when others disapprove of you, it’s their issue. Push the envelope. Live your dream. Hit a nerve. The other option is you don’t do anything and they won’t care either way. And that’s much more scary.

Stop comparing yourself to other people
Yes, I’d love Wellbeing bites to be as big as Zen Habits. But it’s not Zen Habits. Yes, I’d love to look like Eva Mendes. But I’m not sure I could cope with the pressure of being Mrs Gosling anyway (well, maybe I could live with it). It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. But you will never be others. You will always be you. Perfect, flawed and fabulous you. You are epic. Go be you. Go be epic.

Today I went back to my usual barista. He gave me a 3/4 latte with a perfect little heart on top. And a smile. It was unexpected. And I think that’s why it felt so good.

What unrealistic expectations do you place on yourself? Any tips on how to manage your self-expectations? Please leave me a comment — I need all the help I can get.

Image by Ryan McGuire from www.gratisography.com

Why second-hand stress is contagious and how to avoid cracking it

Second hand stress contagiousEver had gastro? It’s officially my least favourite highly contagious illness. My house has been in the throws of it for the past five days and no one has escaped its gut wrenching grasp, (including my poor in-laws who had travelled interstate to spend time with their darling grandkids…)

I knew we were all going to get sick. You knock about with people with gastro; you get gastro. You hang about with people who have a cold; you’re going to get a cold.

But did you know that stress is just as contagious? And can make you much sicker?

A recent study by St Louis University in the US has found that simply being around another person in a stressful situation can be enough to make you stress out. And the more you genuinely care about the stressed out person, the more likely you are to ‘catch’ their stress.

Apparently three-quarters of us are already stressed. And stress is worse for your health and wellbeing than a tantruming 2-year-old with gastro. It takes over, making your body put off essential processes like wound healing, digestion and immunity. Stay stressed for long enough and we’re talking heart attacks, strokes and depression.

How to avoid catching second-hand stress

1. Identify stress-head warning signs

How do you feel when you start to get stressed? How does your body react? Shortness of breath? A pounding headache? Losing your shit at your nearest and dearest? Figure it out. Then you can start to….

2. Avoid your second-hand stress triggers
Does walking into your workplace make your heart start beating like a nineties house track? Do certain people make you anxious? Do over-tired kids make you want to pull your hair out? Avoid these situations whenever you can. If you can’t, seriously consider changing jobs or swapping kids (joking about the kids). Alternatively, you could…

3. Think carefully about the company you choose
If you’re around stressed people a lot, think about why you are surrounding yourself with people who feel bad about themselves, or who allow others to make them feel bad about themselves. It’s not a flaw to be stressed, but you don’ t need to immerse yourself of the misery of others. If you’re having a hard time disconnecting, shift your attention to those you care about, who care about you, and who have a positive outlook on life.

4. Look after your health
If you’re anything like me, when you’re stressed you tend to stop exercising, reach for the comfort food (and the wine bottle) and stop doing all the stuff you know is good for you, like yoga and meditation. Then you spend countless hours berating yourself for how shit you are. Instead of that try to…

5. Be mindful about your mindset
Talk to yourself with encouragement and love. Stop being your own worst enemy. Practise mediation, breathe, walk. Be grateful for what you have. Think about what makes you happy and do it.

Like most contagious illnesses, stress can cause acute pain and suffering. But you don’t need to let it get the better of you long term. Only you can choose how to react to stressful situations. Only you can choose how you are affected by others’ stress.

Choose happiness instead. It’s as contagious as stress. And it’s much easier on your gut.

Like this post? Oh I do hope so! Show your love by following Wellbeing bites by email. Your loveliness is my happiness. Let’s spread it around…

Cracking under stress photo by Bernard Goldbach