Category Archives: acceptance

The elusive art of letting go

how to let goYou know that song from the Disney movie Frozen? You must have heard it – it’s called Let it Go and unless you are between the ages of 2 and 8, it will irritate the shit out of you.

But Let it Go has become the theme tune to my life this week. From the tuneless warbling of my offspring to Andy Puddicombe guiding me through my daily meditation, people keep telling me to “let it go”.

Thinking I’d better give this ‘let it go’ message some attention, I embarked on some extensive research (Google), and came up with this: Zen Buddhists believe the root of all of our problems is our inability to let go.

Everyone knows Zen Buddhists are generally spot on, so I’m listening. Here are a few things I’m trying to ‘let go’ of.

1. Let go of giving a fuck
I give a fuck about what my family and friends think of me. I give a fuck about what my clients think of me. I even give a fuck about what the kinder mums think of me. All pretty reasonable. But recently I’ve been giving a fuck about people that really don’t deserve it. I had a confrontation with a woman in a lift – a woman I had never met before. I really gave a fuck that she was rude to me, and I’ve been holding on to it. Of course, I need to let it go. Reading this article by Mark Manson helped. Mark says: “most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given.” If you feel like you’re giving too many fucks, break down the circumstances and see whether it’s worth it. Example: Grumpy stranger in lift. She’d had a shit day + I was there + I’ll never see her again = zero fucks.

2. Let go of unhealthy relationships
This whole 80-20 thing has been around for a while but I hadn’t applied it to my relationships before. It’s likely that around 80% of your relationship ‘issues’ are caused by 20% of the people in your life. If you can let go of the people who cause you pain, do it. Can’t avoid someone who upsets or hurts you? Limit your interactions with them. It’s not selfish – it’s self-care. As the mighty Marc and Angel say “every time you subtract negative from your life, you make room for more positive.” Let go of toxic people and make space for your (Marc and) angels.

3. Let go of comparisons
As a freelance writer it’s easy to get caught up in the comparisons. They’ve got more Facebook likes/retweets/blog followers/clients than me. There’s no point denying the jealousy (we are hardwired to compare ourselves to others) so feel the envy… then let it go. Life is not a competition. There is plenty to go around. Envy comes from a place of lack but, as someone who finds it hard to take her own advice once said “The pie is big. So grab a fork, poke the envy monster in its green eye, and fill your plate.”

4. Let go of the fantasy
Procrastination is my biggest obstacle. Which basically means I am my biggest obstacle. So what’s So what’s holding me back? A fantasy: that success will come easy, things will be comfortable, and that I’ll know what I’m doing. The reality: I may fail, things might be hard, and I’ll have no fucking clue what I’m doing. Reality is scary but I need to let go of the ideal and accept the reality – warts and all. I’m going to quote Leo again (because I’m a little bit in love with the fantasy of Zen Leo): “Life doesn’t have to be easy – in fact, the hard stuff is how we achieve anything of value. Life doesn’t have to be comfortable – in fact, when we get out of our comfort zone, we grow… it’s when we do things we don’t know how to do that we learn new things, new skills, and get better at them.”

It all boils down to one thing. Fear.
Holding on to giving a fuck – fear of not being accepted.
Holding on to unhealthy relationships – fear of the unknown and not being loved.
Holding on to comparisons – fear of not being good enough.
Holding on to the fantasy – fear of failure (or even fear of success, because that can be scary too).

How do you let go of fear? If I knew that, I would be charging you a shitload of cash to read my enlightened words of wisdom. And you’d pay it. Because everyone is shit scared. Everyone fears.

Letting go of the fear is almost impossible. But acknowledging the fear gives you back control. Let go of the fuck-giving, the toxic relationships, the comparisons, the fantasy. But feel the fear. Give it a hug. Then unfreeze and start living again.

Balloon woman photo courtesy of gratisography.

Advertisements

Poison envy: how to banish the green-eyed monster

deal with jealousy envyJealousy. Nasty little fucker. It got under my skin this week and got pretty comfy. I’ve finally taken the plunge, left my ‘real’ job and gone freelance. You’d think I’d be happy. And I am… except now that other writer comes popping into my head with her hipster style and cool new clients and no kids and great website and all this freaking time to write and… SHE’S JUST BETTER THAN ME.

Don’t lie to me and say you’ve never felt jealous. Best mate has cooler hair. Work mate got promoted. They’re better parents (and get more sleep than you). She’s prettier. He’s hotter. More successful. Thinner. Younger. Richer.

I thought when I was a grown up, I’d stop feeling jealous of others. I thought I’d be able to feel happy when others succeed, rather than feeling like someone has slapped me in the face.

But even though I’m officially a grown up. Even though I know that jealousy is about my own fear and doubt. Even though I understand that there is plenty to go around, I can safely say that comparing ourselves to others is just what us flawed and fucked up humans do.

It’s pointless to say you ‘shouldn’t’ feel a certain way or to beat yourself up when you do feel jealous. Since when were emotions rational? Instead, let’s try and deal with the green-eyed monster when it does rear its ugly head.

1. Focus on what you have
Gratitude lists are slightly noughties Oprah, but they do allow you to focus on what you have rather than what you lack (which is what envy and jealousy are all about). I’ve been envious of friends’ career success but when I look at my own work – writing about what I love, working for myself – my career looks pretty kickass too. And that’s not to mention my family, friends, home and health. Revel in what you have and you’ll have little room for envy. Now you’re focused on abundance, you can…

2. Blow your own trumpet
Not getting enough praise from others? Lead by example. Toot your own horn. Toot it loud. Shout about your success. It’s not arrogant to give yourself praise and approval – it’s called self respect. Buy yourself a gift. Shower your awesome self in love. Others will follow suit.

3. Remember there is backstory…
… and it’s not always so pretty. You see a friend doing something amazing on social media. Looking amazing. Being amazing. But you are only seeing the highlights. Nobody has it all. Nobody. You’re comparing your reality, warts and all, to a fantasy. The selfies that made the cut. The travel photos that show the ocean view but not the dog shit on the street. The house photos post-renovation that don’t show the blood, sweat, tears, near-divorce and almost-bankruptcy. Everyone has a backstory. They probably won’t share it on Facebook.

4. Understand that you have to work hard for success
I whinge that I’m not getting as much work as that other writer, but she’s out there schmoozing and building her business. I’m sitting moping and hiding behind my laptop. Your ego loves a bit of envy and is really good at convincing you that you are a loser and they are a winner and that’s just how it is. But you know deep down that’s bullshit. People don’t get success offered to them on a silver platter. They work for it. Jealousy can make you feel paralysed. Bitch-slap envy. Take action. Earn your success.

5. Get a life
Envy is a pointless emotion but a paralysing one. And therein lies its appeal. When you’re feeling envious, you can convince yourself not to do anything. Not to take a chance. Not to change. Not to work harder. Not to stray out of your comfort zone. But by filling your life with more fun, more people you love, more things you like to do, you won’t have time or a reason to be envious.

The green-eyed monster tells you life is a competition. That’s there’s not enough to go around. It thrives on creating feelings of lack. It wants to have a destructive and lifelong relationship with you.

Don’t let it.

The pie is big. So grab a fork, poke the envy monster in its green eye, and fill your plate.

Like this post? Please share on whatever social media hangouts you erm, hang out in. Better yet, sign up to receive Wellbeing bites morsels straight to your inbox. 

Image courtesy of gratisography.

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.

Want more Wellbeing bites morsels? Sign up to follow this blog by email and in return you’ll get a happy inbox and my undying love. 

Image from www.gratisography.com

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

Fear — stop being scared and get stuff done

Last night, I was thinking about all the things on my to-do list: migrate my blog, set up a Facebook fan page, build my freelance writing business, put together a plan for exercising and eating well, practise meditation and yoga each day… the stuff that’s important to me.

Lying there, I realised that I have been ticking stuff off to-do lists recently. I’ve researched kinder programs and schools, given my husband marketing and copy ideas for his theatre project, helped build Lego helicopters, created advertising campaigns for clients at my day job. I’ve been kicking some serious goals.

But not my goals. My to-do list has been stuck at the same point for months. 

So why is it easier for me to ‘do’ for other people? Why can’t I find the time to help myself?

Lying in bed, I realised. It’s fear. I’m scared. 

Doing the stuff on my to-do list means I have to start living my dream. But what if my dream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

I might migrate my blog and lose the readers I have. I might create a Facebook fan page and get no likes. I might put myself out there as a full-time freelance writer and get no work. I might not stick to my exercise plan. I might eat cake and drink wine. I might find meditation makes me angry again if it’s scheduled in. I might start to hate yoga…

The fear of what might happen.
The fear of disappointing.
The fear of being disappointed.
The fear of not being good enough.
The fear of other people judging me.
The fear of losing money.

The fear of failing. 

Suddenly my dream becomes a nightmare. All because of fear.

How to feel the fear and do it anyway

Be aware and accept
You’re scared. So what? Everyone else is shitting themselves too — at least everyone who’s doing something on their own genuine to-do list.

Ask yourself: what’s the worst case scenario?
Be rational about your fear. Would you be OK? Unless your to-do list includes bungy jumping without a rope or naked yoga in the Arctic, the answer is probably yes. The worst case scenario may not be ideal, but you’d be alright.

Be in the moment
When you accept what’s happening now, it’s really hard to fear a future that doesn’t exist. Practise mindfulness. Be in the moment. The fear will dissipate.

Do something proactive
Stop procrastinating. Procrastination is fear at its most debilitating. Start. Do one small thing on your to-do list. Spend 20 minutes on it, then give yourself a 10-minute break.

Focus on what you will gain 

If you push past your fear and do what you want to do, what will you achieve? Financial security? Creative freedom? Happiness? The ability to make a difference to others? Be bold. Be brave. You’ll never live your dream if you don’t step out of your comfort zone.

Say no to other people — just for a while
Put yourself first for a bit. Be kind but be firm. Say no, I can help you out in a few days/next week, but right now I’m concentrating on my stuff. Don’t fear being seen as selfish. Reasonable people will understand and probably respect you for it. And by giving to yourself you’ll have so much more to give to others.

Revisit your to-do list. Make a pact with yourself to start ticking things off. Everything you fear is in your head. Stop feeding your fear. Face it and you’ll realise it’s not that scary after all.

If you’re here at Wellbeing bites you’ll see I actually got off my bottom and did a couple of things on my list. But yeah — I’m scared you might not like my blog. If you do like Wellbeing bites/Apple a Day, please sign up to receive email updates. 

Emotional detox — 7 steps to releasing toxic thoughts

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about decluttering. I said a cluttered home equals a cluttered mind. And decluttering my home did make me feel less stressed, and gave me a bit of thinking space. But to be honest, it only scratched the surface. 

So I’m digging a little deeper. This time I’m on a mission to spring clean my emotions. It’s not so much a declutter as an emotional detox.

Why take an emotional detox?

You know how it is. You over indulge in junk food, alcohol or drugs and you know the next day (or even the same day) you’re going to feel lethargic, sluggish, unhealthy.

Toxic emotions work in the same way. They stagnate, keeping you mentally stuck in the same place, or worse, suck you into a downward spiral. 

Now I don’t believe that any emotion is inherently unhealthy — there’s no good or bad. It’s all down to attitude. It’s what you do with the energy the emotion generates that causes it to turn toxic. 

You feel stressed — you berate yourself for the emotion
You feel angry — you suppress the emotion.
You feel jealous — you reject the emotion.
You feel hopeless — you lie about the emotion.


You believe you shouldn’t feel what you do. 

But it’s when you reject, judge, suppress or lie about emotions that toxicity sets in. An emotion doesn’t go away just because you’re pushing it back under the surface. It festers, sabotaging your health and happiness, and eventually leading to stress, anxiety, burnout, addiction and depression.

And it’s not only the mind that suffers. Toxic emotions have been linked to high blood pressure, ulcers, IBS, and even cancer. 

Toxic emotions can be lethal. 

Releasing toxic emotions
Right, so that’s the scary part over. Now on to how you can begin to release toxic emotions.


I won’t take all the credit for this — Oprah’s mate Deepak Chopra inspired this simple seven-step process, which gives toxic emotions nowhere to hide.

1. Identify the toxic emotion
You feel bad — you’ve established that. But what is the actual emotion that’s making you feel that way? Too many to list? Identify the one that holds the most power over you. Which one robs you of self-confidence and self-esteem and keeps happiness and fulfilment out of reach? That’s the nasty one.


2. Witness the physical sensations
Now you know which toxic emotion you’re dealing with, witness what it’s doing to your body. Panic attacks? Nausea? Shortness of breath? Headaches? By releasing resistance and allowing yourself to experience the physical sensations, you‘ll find that the emotional charge dissipates.


3. Take responsibility for how you feel
Realising that you have the power to choose how you respond to and interpret your experiences is a crucial step in the healing process. Don’t feel guilty about your feelings either. Be kind. Accept that you feel crap and pat yourself on the back for making a change. 


4. Express the emotion Place your hand on the part of your body where you sense that the feeling is located. Say out loud “it hurts here”. If that’s too weird (or you’re on a train), write it down. 

5. Release the emotion through physical ritual
You knew it was coming… This is where your deep breathing, meditation, green exercise, interpretive dance (?) comes in. Do whatever you feel will best allow your body to release the tension that’s stored with the toxic emotion. If you wrote it down, now is the time to burn your piece of paper.

6. Share the toxic emotional experience When you feel calm, share the emotion with someone you trust. Just make sure you’re not seeking pity or approval, or trying to blame anyone else. 

7. Celebrate the emotional detox process
Reward yourself with something nourishing that’s just for you: book a massage, go out for dinner, or buy yourself a gift. And practise self love — the best way to prevent the build up of toxic emotions. 

Declutter. Detox. Emotionally or physically, cleaning up comes down to control. 

Take back control. Stop holding on to the stuff you don’t need. Let it go. 

Have you ever taken an emotional detox? What did you do? I’d love you to leave me a comment. And while you’re here, please take a minute or two to sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. It’s a little piece of awesomeness in your inbox each week.

Image by Matthew Johnstone

A beginner’s guide to finding the beauty in burnout

I have to confess. I let things get the better of me this week. There have been tears before bedtime. And after bedtime. And in the office loos. And even a little train sob or two (cunningly disguised with sunglasses).

I’m a woman on the edge. I’m not sleeping. My skin is in teenage breakout mode. I’m snapping at my kids. I’m anxious about everything. I can’t get my shit together. I feel completely drained.

Stress? That’s part of it. Anxiety? Nup — doesn’t quite cover it.

Burnout.

Yeah, that fits. Burnout.

Burnout is the exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

It’s a state of joylessness. And it feels pretty shitty.

I can’t tell you how to stop the burnout — I wish I could. But maybe, just maybe I can help you transform your thinking about burnout.

Rather than the idea of burnout as a failure or ending, try reframing it as the precursor to transformation and change. Burnout is a new beginning. A beautiful new beginning.

Here are a few steps that might help you uncover the beauty in burnout.

1. Take a break
When you’re in burnout phase, you actually can’t function, so if you don’t give your body, mind and spirit the chance to recuperate, you’re going to get stuck. If you can, take a holiday, a day or two off, or even just set aside some time to relax. Don’t put any pressure on yourself to ‘fix’ things. Take long walks. Take long baths. Meditate. Breathe.

2. Focus on the body first
When your body feels healthy and recharged, so does your mind. So eat well, exercise gently (but only if it’s fun), nap and get enough sleep. Sleep is critical. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on cognitive function, productivity, lifespan, and causes irreparable damage to our brains. Get some sweet sleep tips here.

3. Be good to yourself
When we’re in burnout we tend to beat ourselves up. I can’t cope. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be like XYZ? Why can’t I get my shit together? Because you’re burnt out. Your body is trying to tell you something. Practice a little bit of self-love. Stop being a meanie.

4. Now you’ve given yourself some space, create
You’re rested. Now get up and change it up. It’s too easy to simply get back on the treadmill and get burnt out again. Try doing this stuff instead:

Set some boundaries. Whether it’s work or family, say no when you feel you need to. And mean it.

Dream again. Spend some time daydreaming and pose some “what ifs”. Burnout makes you feel stuck. Now’s the time to imagine life without limits.

Be inspired and create. If your burnout’s work-related, start taking baby steps towards doing work you’d love. Start a blog. Do some internet research. Sign up for a course. Contact someone you admire professionally.

Take responsibility. Your burnout is no one else’s fault. Sure your boss is an arsehole and maybe your kids drive you crazy but stop expecting them to change. No one else is going to fix it for you. Assume responsibility and take back your power.

Burnout can be beautiful. It can be the best thing that ever happens to you. Because it can be the first sign of a new beginning.

Take small steps. Brick by brick, you can create something incredible and rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of your beautiful burnout.

Like this blog post? Please share it, tweet it, pass it on. Do your funky social media thang. And while you’re here, please sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. Promise I won’t spam you. I’m good like that.