Category Archives: meditation

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
Advertisements

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

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. 

Want Wellbeing bites morsels delivered direct to your inbox? Simply enter your email in the Follow Wellbeing bites by email box (up there on the right – yep, that’s it) and you won’t miss a thing. Easy peasy.

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. 

Top tips for a sweet night’s sleep

I don’t mean to be a drama queen but I feel like I’ve been sleep deprived for years. My youngest child is a bit of night owl. Except for last night, when he slept through the WHOLE NIGHT.

So why do I feel so unbelievably eye-poppingly, body-achingly tired today? More tired than the mornings when I’ve had barely a few hours of sleep?

Temperamental toddler or not, most of you will have experienced waking up from a ‘good’ night’s sleep still exhausted. And what about the nights when you go to bed absolutely exhausted only to find yourself still tossing and turning hours later, unable to find your off switch?

Being sleep deprived has simply become part of life. A massive 96% of us report regularly feeling tired upon waking and almost 30% of us have taken a sickie due to lack of sleep. We’ve become experts at ignoring our body’s signals and pushing through our sleep-deprived state. We’ve got too much to do and sleep is the first thing that takes a hit.

Add to that our digitalised lives, which keep us ‘switched on’ all the time. How many of you sleep with your phone by your bed? What’s the last thing you do before you turn in for the night? Check your email? Twitter? Facebook?

Now, in addition to sleep deprivation’s negative impact on cognitive function, productivity and lifespan, a new study has revealed that lack of sleep causes irreparable damage to our brains

It’s time to take action.

Six solutions to sleep deprivation

1. Pre-sleep meditation
OK, so this is still using your phone just before bed. But using free meditation and mindfulness apps like Omvana and Headspace (my current favourite) to take ten minutes to relax each night will help you drift off to sleep more easily.

2. Get some exercise (in the day)
I know, I know. It’s that last thing you want to do. But in 2013, The Huffington Post reported on the National Sleep Foundation’s poll, which found that people who exercise regularly experience better quality and more consistent sleep than those who don’t. Try some yoga or Pilates, or even better, some outdoor or ‘green exercise‘, which delivers a host of other health benefits including improved mood and self-esteem, and lower blood pressure.

3. Go to bed and get up earlier
According to the chi cycle, your body functions better when you wake up between 5 and 7am and go to bed between 9 and 11pm. Your body will be more in tune with the earth’s circadian rhythms, which offers more restorative sleep. An early wake up also gives you that precious time to exercise before the rest of the house gets up.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Your choice of beverage is crucial to good sleep habits. Avoid both alcohol and caffeine 4 hours before you turn in. Caffeine is a stimulant – it makes it harder to go to sleep, makes you sleep more lightly and makes you get up to go to the loo more often. Booze may help you fall asleep initially, but it causes more frequent night wakings, nightmares and headaches.

5. Keep your room for sleeping (and maybe one other thing)
Your room is sacred – only use it for sleeping and sex. Don’t eat or watch TV or have a lively debate. And make sure it’s dark – don’t give your body any excuse to stay awake.

6. Take a nap
Cats and Spaniards are on to something. Having a siesta isn’t lazy – our bodies are hardwired to nap, so there’s no need to feel guilty. No good at napping? Neither was I until I had my babies. Napping is a skill. Learn it.

Start today. Go take a nap and get an early night tonight. Give the coffee and wine a miss and have a cup of chamomile and a quick meditate instead. Let someone else get up for the kids. Your sleep affects every aspect of your waking life – it’s time to take it seriously.

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.

Meditation frustration

I hate meditation. No, actually, that’s not true – I just hate the way it makes me feel. I don’t like paying $20+ for some smug muppet in top-to-toe Lululemon to tell me to “quiet my mind”. My mind likes a chat. It’s an over sharer and not a great listener – a bit like me.
Tell my mind to ‘be still’ and it’s guaranteed to go into overdrive. “Ooohhh, Bec there’s that thing you forgot to do. I wonder if blah blah has had the baby yet? You should check Facebook. What are you going to have for dinner? You ate three Tim Tams last night so you better eat something healthy. You’re crap at this meditating malarkey. What’s wrong with you?”

So yeah, meditation is not our friend. My mind and I don’t like meditation because it makes us feel inadequate.

On the other hand, I don’t like to feel like I’ve failed. So I thought I’d give it one last crack and signed up for The 21 Day Meditation Project. Mainly because it’s free, but also because it’s online (so no Lululemon), it’s guided (so someone else tells my mind what to do – she doesn’t listen to me), oh, and the longest meditation is 16 minutes, with most around the 10 minute mark. Even I can commit to that.

I’m on day 9 and meditation is starting to grow on my mind and me. In fact, if we don’t get our daily minutes of meditation, we really miss it. Maybe it’s the not-so-scary commitment of ten or so minutes a day for just 21 days; maybe it’s simply the ritual of having these daily moments to ourselves. But maybe meditation, just maybe, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.