Category Archives: self love

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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Word up. The power of positive language.

thinkbeforeyoutalkI hate my job. I’m so unlucky. It’s not fair. I should be… I wish I was more… I’m so tired I can’t see straight. I can’t cope. I can’t stick to anything. Why does it have to be so hard?

All this has poured out of my mouth over the past couple of weeks. And it’s left a bitter taste in my mouth.

The way I talk, the words I choose, are negatively affecting the way I perceive and handle life’s challenges. When I say it’s hard, it is hard. When I say I’m so tired, I feel exhausted. When I say I can’t cope, I don‘t cope.

Are you choosing language that helps or hinders your happiness? Here are five fixes to help you talk yourself into feeling better.

1. Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
“Should” is a destructive word. Every time you say “should” you’re saying “I am not enough”. So drop it. Use “could” instead — “could” gives you back your power by giving you a choice.

2. Use positive self-talk
According to Michelle Austin, ACT Academy of Sport Psychologist, positive self-talk (“I’m amazing.” “I can do this”) is associated with better athletic performance. Positive self-talk impacts on an athlete’s self-confidence, anxiety control, concentration and mood. It works for people who don’t wear Lycra too. If it feels alien, talk to yourself the way you’d encourage a child. You’d never tell a kid who was learning to ride a bike that they were crap and would never be able to do it. Unless you’re an evil child-hating meanie. If you’re not, be kind to yourself. 

3. Act, think and talk like a child
Talking of kids, I caught my 4-year-old doing karate moves and pouting in front of the mirror yesterday. I asked him what he was doing. He said “I’m looking at myself being cool. Do you wish you had skeleton pyjamas like me mum?” Indeed I did. I wished I could be just like him in fact — full of confidence in his own awesomeness. Kids don’t waste time on self doubt and they tell themselves they’re amazing. They’re pretty smart. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you how awesome you are. Tell your awesome self. Be 4 years old. Be epic. 

4. Use positive affirmations
The Secret has given affirmations a bad name. They seem a bit like self-delusion. But be open minded and giveaffirmations a go. Start slowly. Pick one thing that’s challenging you, look in the mirror and make a positive statement about it (out loud please). Maybe you feel overwhelmed? Say “I am grateful that I am in demand and I take on tasks with energy and enthusiasm.” Too much? Why not just “I am perfect exactly as I am”? Keep at it. Do it once a day for a week. You’ll feel like a dick for the first two or three days. Then it’ll start feeling good.

5. Choose who you talk to
Be discerning about who you discuss your hopes and dreams and loves with. Negativity is as contagious as stress. If someone shoots you down with negative words, remember that it’s their issue, not yours. And don’t talk to toxic people about stuff that really matters to you. Surround yourself with people who are positive and who empower you with encouragement and loving words.

For many of us, negative language and self-talk is a long-term habit. A habit that’s hard to break. But by being aware of the way you use words and language, you can take steps to change.

Make positive language your new habit. Practise it. Commit to it.

It’ll make you feel better. Even if you don’t have skeleton pyjamas.

Think before you talk drawing by sam brown, explodingdog.

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. 

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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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. 

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