Category Archives: Anxiety

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.

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Image courtesy of gratisography.

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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

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.

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Why FOMO is making us miss out on health and happiness

When my oldest son was a baby, he wasn’t a big fan of sleep. We used to laugh (hysterically, in our sleep-deprived state) that he had severe fear of missing out, or FOMO.

Today, the whole world seems to be suffering from FOMO, and the epidemic is no laughing matter. Apparently FOMO’s having some seriously negative impacts on our wellbeing and mental health.

According to a news.com.au article, a recent study found that “lower levels of need satisfaction, general mood, and overall life satisfaction related to seeking out social media engagement only insofar as they related to higher overall levels of FOMO.”

And it’s a vicious circle. People who have FOMO check social media more often, which only increases their FOMO symptoms.

Facebook is a prime example of FOMO in action, with its potential to cause insecurity, envy and anxiety.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Facebook.

I use Facebook to:

  • post (retouched/usually with filter) photos of my family and me
  • circulate these awesome blog posts
  • boast about the good stuff (like 75% of us) and whinge about the bad stuff (like 36% of us).

I don’t use Facebook to:

  • tell the world about my completely average day where nothing out of the ordinary happened
  • post photos of myself looking average with no makeup
  • post average out of focus photos of my kids that aren’t particularly cute or funny.

See the pattern? The ‘average’ stuff doesn’t make the grade.

And yet you look at friends’ Facebook posts and think wow, he’s so photogenic, her kids are so clever and beautiful, his job is so amazing, her life is so much more interesting than mine.

Why is my life so ‘average’?

You know you do. I do it too.

Suddenly that idea that Facebook causes insecurity, envy and anxiety doesn’t seem that far off the mark does it?
Facebook (most social media actually) is a movie trailer. It’s all the best bits. The car chases, the first kisses, the explosions and the heroics. IT IS NOT REAL LIFE.

So what can we do about FOMO so it doesn’t turn into insecurity, envy and anxiety?

Be in the moment and be grateful for your ‘now’
Take a minute to realise that you will always be missing out on something. You will never be able to simultaneously travel the world, marry the love of your life, be glowingly pregnant, be free and single, be an incredible parent, look like a supermodel, run a marathon, quit smoking, lose weight, get your dream job, win the lottery, build a house. It is impossible. Enjoy what you are doing now. Enjoy who you are with at this moment.

Take a digital detox
Yes, I’ve banged on about this before but seriously, just switch off for a bit. A few days ago, I left the house without my phone. I freaked out (FOMO). What would I do on the train? How would anyone contact me? But as the day went on, I actually quite enjoyed it. Since then, I’ve limited my social media use and banned phone checks at wake up and lights out.

Be social in other ways
Make a point of organising an actual face-to-face catch up with friends. Family overseas? Call or Skype. Take a walk outside and look up rather than at a screen. Enjoy reaping some real-life return on investment.

Try JOMO instead of FOMO
FOMO is all about fear. JOMO (joy of missing out) is about joy. OK so its a bit of a lame acronym but the thinking behind it makes so much sense. FOMO is filled with ‘shoulds’ — I should be doing more cool stuff, I should be travelling, I should be more attractive… JOMO is about just being — enjoying the here and now and not missing out by frantically trying to record it through rose-tinted specs for the sole purpose of social media sharing.

You can join the fight against FOMO right now. Turn off your phone. Mute your social media alerts. Go outside and look at the world. Talk to someone.

You never know what you might be missing out on.

If you like this post, please sign up to follow Wellbeing bites by email and/or leave me a comment. You could also share on Facebook (or like Wellbeing bites’ FB page) or Twitter but it kinda feels wrong to suggest that considering the content of this FOMO post….

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