How to come back from the dead

motivation Back from dead wellbeingI’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks. But I’ve been busy. Dead busy. Then bloody Leo from Zen Habits beat me to it again with his ‘motivation after vacation’ post. He’s always doing everything before me. Better than me. But that’s another post… Back to me.

Over the past 3 weeks I’ve had a few drinks. I’ve smoked a few ciggies. I’ve stopped the daily meditation practice. I haven’t been to yoga. I’ve stressed about money. Yelled at my kids. Worked day and night. Cried over work. Let sleep suffer. Eaten shit food. Lacked motivation.

The ‘me’ I want to be through this blog died for a while.

But now she’s been given the chance at a fresh start. So I’m trying to resurrect her.

When you’ve fallen off the wellbeing wagon — whether it’s through a life challenge or a holiday — it can be bumpy as shit when you get back on. So here’s a sneak peek into how I’m trying to bring Wellbeing Bites Bec back from the brink of death.

1. Go easy on yourself
The ‘life challenge’ that threw me off course felt all consuming. I was really really unhappy. I tried my usual tricks to deal with it. They didn’t work. So I wallowed for a few weeks. But I’m not going to beat myself up over it any more. If your mum, brother, friend or partner fell off the wagon, would you kick them while they lay in the dirt? No? Then don’t be an arsehole to yourself. It’s not helpful.

2. Hold yourself accountable
You fell of the wagon. It’s no one else’s fault. I’ve blamed a number of others for my recent brush with wellbeing death, but I’ve realised that blame only serves to give my power away. Take responsibility. Forgive yourself. Then move on.

3. Be accountable to someone else
In my other life as a freelance writer I have clients that I have weekly commitments to. I would never deliver late or sub-standard work. I’ve realised that I need to make the same commitment to myself, and to this blog — for my readers and for myself. So I’m using Wunderlist to schedule Wellbeing bites posts and I’ve told my husband that he will receive a draft every Tuesday evening. He’ll relish the opportunity to ‘remind’ me if I fail to deliver…

4. Start back small to prevent overwhelm
If I try to get back to my wellbeing peak without giving my body and mind fair warning, I’ll fall off that wobbly-as-fuck wagon again in no time. So I’m starting small. Commit to my weekly blog post, get to bed by 11pm and meditate for 10 minutes a day. Start back with 2 or 3 easy-to-achieve tasks, celebrate your achievements and build from there.

5. Squash negative self-talk
You will have days where you don’t feel like meditating/writing/exercising. When nothing seems to flow and you feel like you’re moving backwards. Your mind will say “too hard”. Be aware of its chatter, but don’t listen. Talk yourself into things instead. Say “I can do this. I am epic.” It might feel like self-delusion at first, but be persistent and your positive self-talk will start to ring true.

I’m thinking of my recovery as more of a slow rehabilitation than a full-blown back-to-life miracle. But every word I write, every meditation session I show up for, every time I stop to think before I yell — each of these moments is a tiny victory.

I’m not exactly back to Bec, but I’m breathing again.

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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.

6 simple ways to cope with feeling overwhelmed

how to cope with being overwhelmedI missed a blog post the other week. You may not have noticed, but for me it was a big deal. I’d made a promise to myself you see — when something’s got to give, it can’t be Wellbeing bites. Not the blog.

But it did give.

I made the time, honestly I did. I sat down. Clicked Add New Post… and I couldn’t write.

You see, there were emails flagged in my inbox waiting to be read/actioned, piles of laundry, a messy house, paperwork to be filed, impossible freelance deadlines I’d said yes to, bills to pay, work projects and tasks to finish, a family that needed quality time, and meditation and exercise I wasn’t finding time to do.

I was overwhelmed. “Too much”, my brain and body kept saying. I pushed on. But I still wasn’t getting it done. And what I was getting to was getting done half-arsed.

When you feel overwhelmed, it’s hard to see straight. Here are a few coping strategies that might help.

1. Prioritise and delegate
What truly needs to be done? Really — do you need to clean the bathroom? Will it matter? Will it affect your quality of life? If the answer is no, eliminate it. If yes, ask do I have to do it? Delegate if you can. With what’s left, make a to-do list, order it by priority, and tick stuff off when it’s done.

2. Say no
Do you say yes a lot? Are you constantly trying to please everyone and meet their expectations? Are you scared of looking weak or missing out? Over-burdening yourself leads to decreased effectiveness, and eventually, to burnout. Not productive. Say no when you can. Set limits. You’ll be amazed how much respect people have for you, your time and your talents when you use that one tiny word.

3. Single task
When I’m overwhelmed I tend to flick between tasks, getting nothing finished. Research has shown that you can only process one activity at a time. Multi-tasking makes you feel scattered and even more overwhelmed. Do one thing at a time.

4. Stick to a schedule
Scheduling is not just for work. Book in time for your kids, a monthly date night, time to exercise, a few minutes a day to meditate, an hour a week to write your blog. Use your phone calendar or write it in a diary. Whatever works for you. And stick to it.

5. Sleep
One of the first things to go when you’re overwhelmed is sleep. But sleep is non-negotiable. Lack of sleep causes irreparable damage to our brains. So take a nap, cut down on caffeine and alcohol and find time to exercise — a National Sleep Foundation‘s poll found that people who exercise regularly experience better quality and more consistent sleep than those who don’t.

6. Put it in perspective
I found this quote through my old friend Google. I don’t know who said it — some genuis.

“Being overwhelmed comes from a breakdown of your thoughts about your life, not a breakdown of your life.”

At the risk of sounding like an arsehole, are your over calculating the life altering-ness of this particular problem? Will the sky fall? Look back and you’ll realise that almost all of the problems you’ve ever had are no longer problems. They got solved. It worked out. Trust that this will probably work out too.

Feeling overwhelmed is our body and brain’s cry for help. You can ignore it, let it debilitate or panic you, or see it as an opportunity to slow down, reassess and reboot.

Today I clicked Add New Post, stayed on the page and rewrote things according to my rules.

Overwhelmed with love for Wellbeing bites? Of course you are! Sign up to follow WB by email and I promise I won’t overwhelm you with anything other than you signed up for. 

Image from www.gratisography.com

The bleary-eyed banshee’s guide to keeping love alive

Romantic loveLast week, in the midst of mess, sick kids, sleep deprivation and more work than I could handle, I turned into a bleary-eyed banshee.

“You’re not hearing me,” I screeched at my husband. “Sometimes I feel like we’re talking different languages.”

He walked away. He does that.

It wasn’t our finest moment.

I said we were talking different languages, but it wasn’t so much that. It was that we hadn’t been talking about anything lately, aside from kids, finances, household chores, groceries, bills, work.

Our relationship, the big-fat-romantic-love-of-our-lives relationship, had lost its place on both our to-do lists.

Love. If it’s ‘meant to be’ it should be easy, right?

I don’t think so. The idea that romantic love should happen effortlessly is a big pile of poo rolled in Hollywood glitter. Every other aspect of your life — a fulfilling career, happy kids, friendships, healthy meals and a decluttered home — doesn’t just happen by itself, so why should your most important relationship?

It’s time to put some effort in. I’m no expert, but here are four little love ‘tweaks’ that are helping us help get the ‘elation’ back in our relationship.

Figure out your love language (and theirs)
Gary Chapman, love guru and all-round good guy, says there are five emotional love languages. According to Gaz, each of us has a dominant ‘love language’ and if you and your partner are talking different languages, that’s going to bring out the banshee in anyone.

You may feel most loved when your partner tells you how amazing and beautiful you are (words of affirmation). He may feel most loved when you initiate a midday quickie (physical touch). Doing something that doesn’t come naturally to you is a greater expression of love. And what you give, you get back (hopefully in your own love language).

Nurture your relationship by changing habits
Changing a few simple habits can make a huge difference to your relationship. Try and eat dinner together a few times a week (not in front of the telly), go on a date or plan a weekend away.

Ditch the dull routine if you can. Go roller-skating. Paragliding. No cash? A beach walk in winter or a picnic in the hills will work just as well.

Lower your expectations and find the positives
I’ve said it before, expectations are bullshit. When you expect others to act in a certain way, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Your expectations are not top of their lists. Theirs are not at the top of yours. Instead of what makes you want to tear your hair out, think about what you love about your partner. Write it down. Now show your partner your list.

Talk, talk then talk some more
You make time to talk about shopping, washing, childcare/school, money, work. So make the time to talk about your dreams, share your visions, communicate your plans, the things you love, the stuff that needs work. Tell your partner what makes you happy (and what you love about them) loudly and often.

Let’s face it — it’s not Hollywood. Relationships are hard work. But they’re usually worth a bit of effort.

So banish your inner banshee, stay in the room, get over the small stuff and put that big-fat-romantic-love-of-your-life relationship back where it belongs — at the top of your to-do list.

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

Image from www.gratisography.com

I must be liked by everyone… and other unrealistic self-expectations

Expectations of selfYesterday, I got the “I hate you and everything you stand for” face from a barista. I asked for a 3/4 latte. I got a half pour so asked for a tiny top up. She gave me the face.

This woman is not my local barista. I will never see her again. She will not feature in the movie of my life and, if hadn’t got the face, I would never have given her a second thought post 3/4 latte.

So why did I spend the rest of the day replaying our milk-based passive aggression over and over in my mind?

Because everyone has to like me. Everyone. Even the people I don’t like. Because if I’m not likeable, I am a failure.

I know this is absolutely ridiculous. And this is just one of the many unrealistic expectations I place on myself.

Other self-imposed expectations include a Branson-like career trajectory, Buddha-like patience, JK Rowling’s bank balance, Zen Habits-style blog success, a model-esque appearance and perfect parent status. What could possible go wrong?

A few weeks ago, I talked about letting go of the great expectations we have of others. Self-imposed expectations are even more dangerous, so here are my top tips for getting rid of those unrealistic little suckers.

Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
Do you start sentences with “I should really…” and end them by feeling shit because you haven’t, didn’t, won’t?

Should is the most dangerous word in the English language. I should be thinner. My salary should be higher. I should be married by now. I should be exercising/meditating/eating healthy/drinking less.

Should makes you feel bad. Should translates to “I am wrong. I am not good enough.” Try using “could” instead. Could is a choice word. Unlike should, could isn’t shrouded in shame and guilt. It allows you space to think about why you’re not [fill in blank here]. Perhaps it’s simply because you don’t want to. Perhaps your shame and guilt has been defeating you. Should is an obstacle. Move it out of your way.

Be realistic about change 
Change is hard. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not finishing the chapter of your novel, pat yourself on the back for those few incredible paragraphs you did write. Rather than feeling like a failure because you didn’t get to three yoga classes this week, congratulate yourself for getting to one and focus on how much your body and mind has benefitted.

Risk disapproval, then embrace it
As you may have guessed by the barista experience, this is a tricky one for me. But usually when others disapprove of you, it’s their issue. Push the envelope. Live your dream. Hit a nerve. The other option is you don’t do anything and they won’t care either way. And that’s much more scary.

Stop comparing yourself to other people
Yes, I’d love Wellbeing bites to be as big as Zen Habits. But it’s not Zen Habits. Yes, I’d love to look like Eva Mendes. But I’m not sure I could cope with the pressure of being Mrs Gosling anyway (well, maybe I could live with it). It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. But you will never be others. You will always be you. Perfect, flawed and fabulous you. You are epic. Go be you. Go be epic.

Today I went back to my usual barista. He gave me a 3/4 latte with a perfect little heart on top. And a smile. It was unexpected. And I think that’s why it felt so good.

What unrealistic expectations do you place on yourself? Any tips on how to manage your self-expectations? Please leave me a comment — I need all the help I can get.

Image by Ryan McGuire from www.gratisography.com

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

A flawed friend’s guide to fabulous friendships

FriendshipIn my hazy, heady teens and twenties, when money equalled fun and weekends meant hangovers and lie ins, my friends were my world. Who I was, where I went, what I liked, bought, drank and ate was defined by my mates.

Then life moved into a new orbit. I got a steady job, bought a house, had a baby. The world turned on its axis. My friends moved further away. They got married and had babies too. Everyone was juggling. Time and money became limited.

A couple of weeks ago, I realised that it had been months since I’d connected, really connected, with some of my closest friends.

Sure, things change. People move on. Some friendships aren’t forever and that’s OK. But the thought that I wasn’t making my friends a priority was a shock.

I was losing them. And losing out.

The positive effect friendship has on health and wellbeing is well documented. Those with a close circle of friends (not Facebook friends — real-life friends) are happier, less stressed, and less likely to form addictive habits. Studies have even shown that those with good friendships live longer.

I know it’s not always easy to fit friends into our busy lives. But like anything worth having, friendship takes hard work. This is what I’ve learned recently.

Be smart, be brutal and choose your friends wisely
You can’t be friends with everyone, and you can’t maintain every friendship you have ever had. It’s not mean — it’s reality. You’re busy. You’ve got no time to fuck about, so surround yourself with people who make you feel good — who you admire, respect and love and who feel the same way about you.

Don’t try and find the time: make the time
When confronted with my crapness recently, I cried “time-poor”. But it’s not good enough. Everyone’s busy. If you say “I’ll try and make time”, time will pass and weeks will pass and months will pass. And eventually your friendship will pass. So connect now. Make time. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, you’re both worth it.

Accept your friends just the way they are
Some of your friends will always be late. Some of them may be terrible listeners. But the latecomers may be the best listeners, and the bad listeners may be the ones that always come through for you in a crisis. We are all flawed. Perfectly flawed. Accept and embrace your friends’ shortcomings and celebrate their strengths. Unless you are perfect, you can be pretty sure they’re doing the same for you.

Look for the best in your friends, and tell them when you see it
Tell your friends you love them. That they are great friends/parents/children/grandparents/cooks/artists/listeners. Be each others’ cheerleaders. Make the time your have together fun and positive. Keep the whining to a minimum and the laughter (and wine) flowing.

Love yourself so others can see that you won’t accept anything less
Lead by example. If you are loving and kind to yourself, you will attract people who are loving and kind. It’s simple law of attraction stuff (c’mon, we’ve all read The Secret). Self love is the key to loving relationships. Open the door.

So be flawed. Be fabulous. But be a fucking good friend. It’s what makes the world go round.

I’m glad you’re my friend drawing by sam brown, explodingdog.