Tag Archives: wellbeing

Can’t do what you love (yet)? 6 ways to love what you do now (more).

how to love your job moreThey say Confucius wasn’t an over-privileged Gen-Y arsehole born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Apparently he had a few tough times, working as a shepherd, cowherd, clerk, and a book-keeper to make ends meet. He also said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Well I don’t care how much animal shit you shovelled Confucius. You sound like a smug bastard to me.

Why am I so shitty at a dead Chinese philosopher I hear you ask? Well because I am supposedly doing “a job I love” but it still feels like work. And bloody hard work too.

What Confucius should have said is: “Choose a job you think you might love eventually and you will have to work quite hard for quite a while with some considerable mental, emotional and financial obstacles, but at least you won’t be doing something you hate for people you don’t like very much so that’s got to be better. Right?”

I’m on the path to loving what I do but I’m a fair way from the end goal. So here’s how I’m trying to love what I’m doing now.

1. Focus on just 1 person your current work benefits
Maybe you’re a barista who want to be an artist. But that beautifully made coffee served with a smile made someone’s morning. Maybe that insurance policy you sold will mean that one family won’t have to deal with financial insecurity as well as their grief. If your work contributes to someone else’s wellbeing in any way – and most jobs do – it’s work worth doing.

2. Make your workspace beautiful
Whatever your current job, chances are you’re spending a good chunk of your life in one space. Is your workspace inspiring creativity? The first thing to do is declutter and clean. Then add a green plant or two (known to boost productivity, keep you focused and reduce stress) and a piece of art for a dash of personality and inspiration. Some minimalists recommend blank walls in your workspace to avoid distraction, but if you’re computer based, I think the most dangerous distraction is the internet. Work offline if productivity‘s your goal.

3. Leave when you leave
Being mindful and present in your current work will help you find the good in what you do, but If you don’t love your current job, leave it behind at home time. Don’t check work email on your phone. Reclaim your headspace through meditation, exercise, yoga or working towards what you do love. Your time is precious. Use it wisely.

4. Practice gratitude

My husband bought me a bracelet for Christmas. It has a silver charm engraved with the words “I am grateful”. I love glancing down at it throughout the day when my kids are being shits or I’m tired – whenever I need a reminder about the good stuff. The people I love and who love me. My home. My friends. A full tummy. A cuddle. Instead of focusing on what your career is lacking, consider all the things your work does give you – security, money, experience – and be grateful for them.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others
She has her own business. She’s successful. Happy. She’s made it. Well maybe. But you don’t know how long or how bumpy her journey has been. You don’t know about her bad days and her hard times and her self-doubt and her almost-threw-in-the-towel moments. Comparisons are pointless. Concentrate on your own path. No one else will walk it but you.

6. Celebrate your accomplishments
Did you take a step towards your ‘heart’ work today? Maybe you signed up for a blog site or made a new connection on LinkedIn. However small your step, celebrate it. Most people go through life with dreams, but dreams stay dreams if you don’t take action. Reward yourself for even the babiest of baby steps.

I’ll wrap it up with a couple of Confucius quotes that don’t make me want to punch him in the face.

Firstly, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.” Find the beauty in the work you’re doing now – it does exist.

And secondly, “It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” So keep going. You might have to shovel shit for a while but if every shovelful is uncovering the path to what you love, it’ll smell much sweeter.

Image courtesy of gratisography.

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Happy habits update: smiling through the shit storm

happy habits shitstormWhether he wants to or not, my husband reads all my Wellbeing bites blog posts before I hit publish. Last week he read my post on daily habits for productivity and said “I like it babe, but are you actually going to be doing any of this new habit stuff?”

“Yes I fucking am,” I said. “And I’m going to share what happens on my blog next week.”

In one moment of defensive marital banter, I was committed.

So here I am.

Firstly, let it be known that I didn’t try and implement all 6 productivity-enhancing habits in the first week – I’m not a total idiot. (For those that missed it, the 6 habits were: green exercise, mindful eating, meditation, 8 hours’ sleep, conscious breathing, digital disengagement). But 2 or 3 new daily habits? How hard could it be?

Turns out it’s pretty fucking hard when you have anything else going on in your life. Here’s my ‘habits week’ in review.

Habit 1: Meditation
Day 1 – The app is broken! Fuck, the fucking app is broken! I can’t download the bloody meditation. I can’t meditate without Andy (voice of Headspace). This is a disaster! The universe is trying to tell me something… Ah, it’s working now.

One 10-minute meditation later and I feel like a new woman. And this week I’ve managed my 10-minute meditation on 4 out of 7 days. I am my own hero. And weirdly, I’ve been able to deal with the week’s bumps and glitches more effectively.

Habit 1 won. Screw those few days. I’m focusing on the successes and giving myself a big pat on the back for this one.

Habit 2: Digitally disengage
Day 1 – I’ll just check Facebook quickly. Just the Wellbeing bites page. Ooh what’s that? Green smoothie recipe. I’ll try that. That can be my mindful eating thing for the day. I am so good at this habits thing. I’ll just have a look at the Zen Habits blog for a bit of inspiration…

Two hours later and I’ve done no work. Nothing.

Day 2 – I pack my lunch, laptop and phone into a backpack, get on my bike and ride out to the middle of nowhere to write a blog post I’ve been procrastinating on. No internet. No distractions. An hour later and the post is written.

I escaped the digi-dungeon, got shit done and got a bit of exercise too. I’m all over this habits thing.

Habit 3: Mindful eating
Day 1: My kids are not having fish fingers again. I will pick them up from daycare early and while they play quietly and happily together I will whip them up a beautiful meal full of vegies and nutrients. I will be a domestic goddess and nourish my family.

I am prepping healthy ingredients. All is going well. Then the toddler hits the preschooler. I tell the toddler off. He has a huge tantrum. As I’m wrestling him to the other side of the toddler-proof gate, the preschooler tugs at my leg mumbling about tummy ache. I barely register. He runs off to the loo. I hear crying. I walk into the bathroom. There is shit everywhere. He didn’t make it. The preschooler is sobbing. The toddler is still screaming. I don’t know where to begin. I start by having a cry too.

Fifteen minutes later my husband comes home. I’m wearing nothing but knickers and  rubber gloves. The smell of poo fills the air. The kids are clean(ish) and watching telly. “You look nice,” he says. “My clothes are covered in shit,” I say. “Please pour me a large glass of wine while I scrub the last of it out of the grout. We are having fish fingers for dinner by the way.”

What I learned
I learned that starting a new habit is hard work. You can’t be half-arsed about it. If know you can’t commit, don’t do it. If you can, make yourself accountable to someone and set reminders.

Most importantly, I learned you can’t be too hard on yourself. Sometimes shit gets in the way. Sometimes it will hit the bathroom walls. Start with 1 or 2 habits and make your goal more achievable. Cut yourself some slack, celebrate the wins (no matter how small) and laugh at the glitches.

When you’re trying to implement new habits, you may get stuck. It may get messy. But you can ride the shit storm.

I’ve shared my story with you (perhaps even overshared a tad). So come on – share your own shit. How are you dealing with forming new habits?

‘Don’t worry it’s only a cloud’ drawing by sam brown, explodingdog.

Why don’t you make subscribing to Wellbeing bites  your new habit? It’s low on effort and calories. You’ll get tasty morsels like this by email, which will help make sure you don’t get sucked into a digital void. And I promise – no shit. 

The change challenge — how to handle stepping into the unknown

Change is a challenge. Get unstuckUntil very recently, I had a day job. It was writing, but it wasn’t really. It paid the bills but it left my creativity account empty — a little overdrawn even.

The job took more than it gave. It gave me numbers on a screen. It gave my family some financial security. But along with my creativity, it took away my confidence, my time, my head space, and my sense of self-worth.

And I let it. For five years.

Dramatic eh?

But that’s done now. I’m freelancing. No more depressing commutes. No more tears. No more sinking Sunday feeling.

So why do I feel so numb?

I expected to feel immediately elated by the change. To feel different from day one. But although I’m glad I’m not at the day job, I just feel overwhelmed, a bit blue and (inconveniently) a little bit stuck.

A change is as good as a rest, they say. But that’s bollocks — real change is scary, confronting and bloody hard work. Because it’s stepping into the unknown.

Here’s how I’m coping with the challenge of change.

Focus on the positive
In the first week of freelancing I had some less-than-average feedback on my work. It had never really happened before and it was a shock. It made me question my drastic career change. I also received three beautiful ‘no changes required, love your work and thanks’ emails. But I focused on the shit feedback and let that define my beginning. Flip it. Embrace the good stuff. Be grateful for each small success. If you’re struggling, write the positives down. By acknowledging only the positive, it becomes the star of your show. The negative fades into the background.

Change takes time
We’re bombarded with media that tells us we can get the perfect job/man/figure in JUST ONE WEEK! You know that’s unrealistic, but someone’s doing it. Right? Wrong. It’s spin. No one is doing it. No one. When you measure your progress during change against a benchmark that’s pure fantasy, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Real, lasting change takes time. Take it step by step and day by day. Give yourself time to adapt. Breathe. Nurture your change and let it grow.

Stop expecting perfection
For 5 years I built up a fantasy of what it would be like when I finally made the change and left my job. It would be perfect. I would wake at 6am to do yoga, meditate, have a nourishing breakfast, be present with my kids, then glide serenely into 8 hours of creatively fulfilling, well-paid and well-received work, taking breaks to sip green tea and snack on super foods. The reality? A little different. My  expectation of perfection wasn’t realised, so I felt disappointed, resentful, angry, unsatisfied and unseen. In the choppy waters of change, unrealistic expectations weigh you down. Release them.

Pin it to win it
This may come as a shock to you but I was once unemployed for a couple of quite depressing months. I put up a proper old-school cork board. I cut out photos from magazines and pinned them up on my vision board for inspiration. It sounds wanky, but it helped. When you’re struggling with the day-to-day of change, it can be fun to visualise your future success.

Keep going
If you want to make change work badly enough, you will — despite the inevitable stumbles and slip ups. Guilt about failure can be debilitating. Be your own best friend. Be kind to yourself, encourage yourself, celebrate your progress, however small. If you persist, you will succeed.

Change is challenging and scary. But what I’m trying to remember is that not changing is even scarier. Embrace the uncertainty. Life isn’t meant to stay the same. There will be highs and lows. Your job is not to control the ebb and flow — it’s to learn to ride the waves.

Like this post? Come and ride the waves with Wellbeing bites. Sign up to receive Wellbeing bites posts by email and change your inbox for the better. 

Image courtesy of gratisography.

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.

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.

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

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.