Category Archives: guilt

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. 


Wine, wellbeing and why one glass is not enough

This is a difficult post for me to write (no, not because I’m drunk thank you). The truth is I love a glass of wine or two in the evening. That delicious slosh of shiraz hitting glass after the kids have finally gone to bed represents a little bit of ‘me’ time.

I work hard. I parent hard. I deserve it don’t I?

But recently, I’ve been pouring a glass while the kids eat dinner. Or sipping along to the nightly episode of Octonauts with my 4-year old. My 21-month old yells “mumma wine?” when I reach into the cupboard…

Oh dear.

I’m not saying having a glass or two of wine is a bad thing. Studies have found that red wine is good for your heart and could even contain cancer-fighting properties — although newer studies are refuting this claim (ignore those for now).

But when it becomes an unconscious, and nightly, habit, maybe it’s time to look at why you’re reaching for the bottle. And why it’s so hard to have a night or two off.

Here are a few tips to help keep your wine habit in check.

Identify your wine o’clock triggers
What makes you reach for a drink? A stressful day at work? Kids who won’t go to bed? Money worries? Identify each one of your triggers and be mindful of them before you next reach for the wine bottle.

Find an alternative, positive habit
Rather than having a wine after a bad day, take a walk. When the kids give you a rough time, take ten minutes to meditate when they eventually go to bed. Money worries? Make yourself a cup of tea in a proper cup and saucer. OK, it’s not the same but think about the cash you’re saving by not drinking wine.

Enjoy quality over quantity
I recently bought half a dozen drinkable cleanskin wines that were about $8 a bottle. All six were gone in just over a week. But buy a $20 bottle, and you’re much more likely to have one glass, savour it, and save the rest for another night. Also, don’t buy in bulk. If you don’t have wine in the house, the extra step of going out to the shops might help you have a booze-free evening.

Try not to drink alone
Again, this is a tricky one for me. When my kids are in bed and my husband’s out, there’s nothing better than a glass of wine to accompany an episode or two of Revenge or True Blood… But drinking should be a sociable activity. Regular solitary drinking has been linked to heavier drinking and more alcohol-related problems.

Keep you wine habit in check, but don’t go cold turkey
How many times have you said (usually with a hangover) “I’m giving up the booze” or “this month’s a dry month” then failed within the first few days and felt crap about yourself?

Once or twice eh? Me too.

Try baby steps. Buy less. Commit to an evening exercise class. See if your partner or housemates will cut down with you. Set yourself achievable goals, like three wine-free days a week. Just try not to reward your abstinence with a wine binge! If you lapse, don’t beat yourself up, but don’t give up. Give it another go.

I’m off to grab a coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in months. We’re going to a child-friendly cafe. There will be no wine. The afternoons are easy.

It’s the evening and the already open bottle of wine in my kitchen that will be the challenge. It’s just one night but you know what they say — abstinence makes the heart grow fonder…

I’ll let you know how I go.

How’s having a little less wine been for you. Did it bring the good? The bad? Maybe it brought out the plain old ugly? I’d love your comments. And while you’re here, sign on up to follow Wellbeing bites by email. You have to verify your email after you enter it but I promise your inbox will be happier for it….

*Even too much wine is not enough drawing by Sam Brown, explodingdog

How to get over your anger in less than 2 minutes

I’ve been angry this week. Pretty much all week. I’m usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-raging-temper-then-it’s-over kinda gal but this week I’ve been holding on to my red mist/black cloud for dear life. Stuff has happened. People have not played nicely. I’ve been properly pissed off.
But today I woke up and thought right, enough of this. Time to let it go.
90 seconds of hell
Apparently that’s all it takes. According to brain researcher, author and TED talker Jill Bolte Taylor, it takes “less than 90 seconds” for an emotion to get triggered, surge chemically through the blood stream, then get flushed out – but only if you let it go.
Problem is you don’t, do you? You hold on to it. Or you resist it completely and it sits there, festering. Resisting anger/fear/pain sucks. It sucks energy and it sucks time and if you let it, it slowly sucks your life away.
Be with the feeling
Often rather than deal with uncomfortable emotions (anger, fear, guilt, pain) you avoid (drink wine, watch TV, engage in a little online retail therapy). But if you pay full attention to the emotion, feel it, acknowledge it – all without judgement or ‘shoulds’, it will dissipate. Sure, it may come back, but you’re in charge. Just repeat the process and 90 seconds later, it’ll be gone again.
Know it’s coming – physical signs and triggers
Listen to your body – chances are it’s giving you physical signs that the emotion’s on its way such as a tensed jaw, increased heart rate, palpitations, a tightening in the throat. Whatever your physical signs, these are your body’s alarm bells so pay attention. Also, know your triggers. If you’re meeting someone who is renowned for running late and lack of punctuality really pisses you off, be prepared and ready to manage the anger.
Breathe and vocalise the feeling
Take some slow, steady breaths to deliver a healthy dose of calming oxygen to the brain. Next, focus on what you’re feeling. Then vocalise it. Don’t judge, just say something like “I’m starting to get angry” or I’m feeling anxious about this”. Labelling your feelings buys you time and allows the logical bit of your brain to weaken the fight or flight response.
Meditate like Richard Gere
Richard Gere reckons meditation helps us access the space between thoughts and helps us restrain our impulsive emotional reactions. He uses a lovely analogy to explain this: we may be all stormy on the surface but meditating strengthens our ability to access the calm water below. And remember, a daily meditation practice doesn’t need to be a chore – see my post on meditation frustration for a few tips.
Anyway, Richard finishes his little video on a nice note, so I’m going to steal it. You can’t stop thoughts, but you can stop your attachment to them. It’s the same with emotions.
Anger – I’m sorry. We’ve had our moments but the moments have passed. I don’t want to rock the boat but it’s anchors up for you. Off you go on your stormy way. I’ve got some deep sea diving to do.

In the beginning…

My last post was all about being epic. This one is about momentum. It’s all well and good saying “yeah, I’ll be epic. Easy!” But actually doing something? Now that’s a bit of a challenge. But why? Why is it so hard to actually start something? Not just something – the thing you really, really, really want to do?

Whatever the dream is – starting your own business, publishing a novel, losing weight, becoming a yogi, climbing Everest… writing about natural health and wellbeing (just as an example) – we can be our own worst enemies. I for one spend countless hours thinking up scenarios where things go wrong. How spectacular are the ways in which I fail in my imagination…
You know what? You don’t do, you can’t fail. But you also can’t succeed. And isn’t that worse?
A wise man once said: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” My husband has since fessed up that he nicked it from Goethe. Details. It’s an awesome quote and one I now have over my computer to give me an eloquent kick up the bum. 
So apart from pinning Goethe quotes to my wall, here are my four top tips to help you begin:
  1. Five is the magic number. Whether it’s running for five minutes, writing five sentences, doing five yoga poses, or talking to five new people a day, just do it for five. If you still don’t fancy it after that, give up and try another day. But 90% of the time you’re going to want to carry on.
  2. Breathe. There’s always time to breathe. Try this simple breathing exercise to bring you back into your body.
  3. Schedule it in. Nope it’s not very spontaneous or ‘in the moment’, but it works. Block out the time. Set calendar reminders. Turn off your phone and shut the door. 
  4. Be gentle with yourself. This is crucial. Would you talk to others the way you talk to yourself? Of course you wouldn’t, so stop being so damn mean. If your mind wanders into procrastination or worse, criticism, notice and gently guide it back to the present and the positive.

Right. That’s enough reading blog posts. Get out of here – go forth and begin it. 

Being epic

Since December 2011, I have mostly been procrastinating. As you can see, I’m actually very good at it. I have incredible staying power when it comes to putting things off. I’ve been waiting you see. Waiting for a better job to come along, waiting for inspiration, waiting for the kids to get a bit older, waiting until I’ve got more money/time/energy/alcohol…

Then I read a blog post by author/blogger Johnny B Truant called the universe doesn’t give a flying fuck about you (that everyone else I’ve spoken to since seems to have read “years ago” but whatever – I’ve been busy, procrastinating). So JBT gave me a great big slap in the face and told me that whatever shit I’m currently drowning in is all my fault and that I will die actually quite soon and I need to start being epic right now. Now. Not tomorrow or next week or when I have time but NOW.

So I procrastinated a little more and read some more JBT. He slapped me in the face a bit more with choice comments like: “What are you so fucking worried about?… You have but a nanosecond on the universal clock to do whatever it is you’re going to do. When that time is gone, it’s gone. Forever.” Then I downloaded a couple of apps to help me get organised. Then I blogged. Ok, it may not be quite as awesome as I’d pictured (daydreaming – more procrastinating), but I’m back on the blogging wagon and it feels pretty effing epic. 

Merry Christ-mess

Ah, the festive season. Apparently ’tis the season to be jolly. Sorry if I sound like Scrooge but I’m just not feeling it.

The media’s hung up on fiscal stress this festive season but it’s not my pocket that’s suffering. I braved my local shopping centre this week. I got shoved in the lift, elbowed in Target and scowled at in the supermarket.

At home, heightened expectations of ‘family time’ or feelings of isolation, the pressure to shell out and free-flowing booze all add up to a serious health (and wellbeing) hazard.

So here are my ‘better late than never’ tips for a stress-free Christmas:

Be realistic. If you bicker with the family all year round, don’t expect Christmas with The Waltons. Keep family gatherings short, don’t discuss politics or religion or parenting. Don’t get too drunk. Send everyone on their way with a smile. Then bolt the door and breathe.

Say no. No, you don’t have to go to every Christmas party. No, you don’t have to buy presents for the cousins you haven’t spoken to all year. No, you don’t have to make a croquembouche. Cut yourself some slack.

Maintain healthy habits. Whether it’s alcohol or food, over indulgence is all too easy, but hangovers and an expanding waistline will just add guilt to the mix. Make “everything in moderation” your mantra, get plenty of sleep and make time for some green exercise.

Take a break. Christmas can end up being all about other people but its essential that you take some time for you. Meditate, take a walk, listen to music, read a book, breathe deeply.

Remember, it’s just one day of the year. Be good to yourself this Christmas. And please, don’t go shopping without full body armour.

The Slow Parent

It’s 4pm on a sunny Tuesday.  My 19-month-old has just mastered climbing the steps to the slide. But no one’s here to watch my genius in action. The park’s deserted. Where are all the kids?

Apparently they’re at yoga, football practice, ballet, Italian lessons or surfing the internet. And that’s just the pre-schoolers. They have structure and schedules. They have committed parents. They’re going to grow up to be a success!

I didn’t shell out for gymbaroo. I left it too late to enrol him in swimming lessons. So far he’s unilingual. Is my baby going to get left behind?

Of course, I went to my old friend Google for affirmation and found Carl Honoré, author and champion of the Slow Parenting movement. According to Honoré, “hyper-parents” who have their foot on the accelerated learning pedal could be creating stressed-out kids who have so much adult-dictated routine that they never learn to stand on their own two feet.

As usual, it’s all about balance, but this time it’s balance that seems achievable. I’m going to remain calm. To talk and read to my boy and give him the time and space to think. It’ll be hard, but I’ll let him take a few risks. Perhaps even allow him to fail occasionally. I’m going to try and treat him as a person rather than a project. The fact is he’s the one who’s happy, healthy and hang-up free. By slowing my parenting down, I might just learn something from my little genius.