As we approach Christmas and New Year it can be helpful to remember that there is no one perfect way to celebrate. There are many ways and what is most important is that the day is meaningful for you.
A meaningful day can be one spent quietly listening to the sounds of nature and relaxing to your favourite music or movie. It can also be spending time with friends and loved ones. What is most important is that the day is meaningful.
Some favourite memories of Christmas is as a child excitedly feeling all of the presents under the tree and then waking at first light to see whether Santa has paid us a visit. and others with orphan friends in the UK sharing a meal and mulled wine while it snowed outside. The most meaningful was spending my very first Christmas alone in the UK. That day was such a special memory because I planned it from start to finish and made it something very sacred and special.
Christmas is what we make of it not what we think we should be making of it. So with this in mind I wish you all a wonderful sacred day of peace and mindfulness.
Breaking the cycle of procrastination will reduce your stress
Have you ever thought as you looked at the little piece of paper lying on the floor “I will do it later”, have you ever thought I will just watch this movie and then I will get started on my assignment” have you ever decided that you must have that nap when there is a pile of dishes to be put away or washed?
Putting things off until later as a strategy for accomplishment rarely succeeds.Procrastination can contribute to our low mood and an overwhelming sense of failure. If we have lived our life with this strategy we can start to feel that we are being left behind.
For some setting the goal is not the problem they can do that all the time every day and have numerous ideas. Often great ideas. But their ideas get lost in ether because they never get written down and the first step to getting started on them is often way too big.
How to get started? We need to take a step, do one thing however small to action. A plan for accomplishment is a series of small, doable steps.
What would you like to accomplish if you could just take that little step?
If the first step is too big you are less likely to take it.
Taking little steps in the direction of our desired goal is the key to success. Let’s go back to picking that paper off the floor.
The smallest step to take to accomplish this is to walk toward the paper, the second step is to bend your body the third step is to lift the paper up and the fourth step is to take it to the bin. If we are not taking the first step it is too big and so we need to come up with an even smaller step.
How do we maintain mindfulness in the face of frustration, noise, disagreement. It is very easy to practice mindfulness in a quiet environment with all the support of having meals prepared etc. It is much harder when we are facing pain, noise, frustration, misunderstandings.
Yet the very practice of mindfulness is to help us with this. The whole point of the practice it to help us in the face of difficulties and to live peacefully and well. The intention of mindfulness is to train our mind in one pointed focused awareness in order to tame our mind.
When our mind is tame we have the ability to maintain our equilibrium in the face of stress and distress.
A very simple practice of mindfulness is the practice of patience. At the heart of patience is an understanding that nothing is permanent everything changes even this difficult experience. The one thing we can guarantee is that change will happen. When we fully understand and appreciate this we are able to practice patience and kindness and understanding.
To begin with it is important to practice at a very small level. While we are waiting for the water to boil for our pasta, or we are sitting in traffic waiting for the lights to change. We can focus our attention on what is right now. Where is our body, how is our breathing, what we are we seeing or hearing.
The last few weeks have been challenging for all of us with the sudden and unexpected deaths of many of our community, family and friends. Remaining mindful and compassionate in the face of such difficulties is a challenge for all of us. Grief is very painful and unexpected death reminds us of the fragility and preciousness of life. Over the many years of practicing as a psychologist I have worked with many people in their grief process. Each person has their own unique way of grieving and their own time frame. But what can be most helpful is the permission to speak about their loved one without judgement; to BE with their painful emotions so that life can have renewed meaning.
Throughout times of great change and suffering leaders both political and spiritual grow in importance as we turn our minds for guidance as to how to respond and behave. To understand and make sense of our personal reactions and the reactions of others. How to respond to someone who has lost a loved one and how to understand and accept the painful feelings of grief.
Everyone has their own way of grieving and there is not one right or wrong way. One way to understand grief is that it is a process that has its own beginning, middle and end. Ritual such as lighting of candles, prayers and practices all help us in our grief. A sense of continuity or purpose in the life of the person and in their death can also be helpful. Counseling can be very helpful as the counseling process enables the person to speak openly about their loved one without concern of being judged. The counseling process aims to bring comfort and acceptance to the process of grief.
As a psychologist and Buddhist practitioner I have received training on the care of the dying and the process of the dying. As a Mater trained nurse for more than 10 years I have also learned about death through the care of many who have faced death through accident, old age or sickness. My teacher Sogyal Rinpoche has written the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and in this book he shown many of his students how to live well and how to prepare for death. Others who have written and researched grief are Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who identified grief as a process of shock, disbelief, denial, sadness, bargaining, and anger before one can experience acceptance.
My own experience of the loss of loved ones has shown me that grief is very personal and painful but also mystical. The most painful aspect of grief is the realization that your loved one will not return. That their life is complete. The mystical is this sense that their something beyond the physical and the material.
My wish is that if you read this blog that you will be comforted to know that everyone will one day experience the loss of another and that grieving will happen. But that the grieving process will also come to an end. This does not mean that the person who has passed, loses meaning or importance to you but that the grief process is complete. Some people do find it helpful to seek counseling for their grief and others find comfort in engaging in spiritual practice others turn to meaningful activity such as travel or volunteer work. Others take on a whole new focus for their life.
One of my special areas of interest is post partum depression and at Evolve mindfulness clinic I have been working with many mothers who have been experiencing the impact of low mood depression following the birth of their baby. Post partum depression occurs after you have had your baby and can also begin before you have your baby. It is very common and can impact between 10 and 15 women in every 100. It is possible that this figure is higher as many women try to cope without support or seek help.
The symptoms of PND is similar to depression including low mood, and losing interest in things that are normally enjoyable. Many mothers who have low mood depression following the birth of their baby are not sure whether they can seek help, often because they feel that they should be coping well and enjoying the experience.
The good news is that PND quickly responds to cognitive behaviour therapy and social support and many women make a full recovery.
There are tho other distressing emotional conditions that women sometimes experience after they have had a baby. The baby blues is a form of depression that occurs in up to 8/10 mothers during the first few days after they have had their baby. When suffering the baby blues mothers usually feel very emotional and can burst into tears for no particular reason. New mothers often feel anxious, tense and exhausted and may have difficulties sleeping. Causes of the blues may be sudden changes in hormonal levels or trauma during the birth itself. The blues usually last for a few days and then fade as quickly as they come.
The other form of depression is Puerpal Psychosis which is very rare and impacts on one new mother in every thousand. New mothers who suffer this need medical attention and possibly hospitalization.
If you have any of these symptoms you may be experiencing PND:
If you think you may be suffering PND then it is important to seek help from your GP. Psychology counselling can also be very helpful and many mothers report a greater sense of confidence and comfort once they have sought help and support. It is really important to know that you do not need to suffer alone and that you Will get better. Other ways to help yourself are to talk to others, take exercise, be realistic, try to rest, do things you enjoy, list things to do and mix with other mums.
Other useful web sites are beyond blue where you can answer the Edinburgh PostNatal Depression Inventory to assess your level of depression.
April Blog Mindful Walking
It has been a few months since my previous blog. The year seems to be going very quickly and our Easter break has come at a very opportune time.
Wile continuing the theme of mindfulness I thought I would write about the value of mindful walking. The mindfulness of walking is an important component of Mindful Training. With mindfulness you practice formally and informally. The formal practice supports the informal practice and vice versa. As we bring our practice to the walk we continue the practice where ever we are.
Walking has been proven scientifically to be very beneficial for health and well being. I regulary walk and have that walking as been one of my most important tools of combating low mood and stress. I am aware that when we are faced with changes in our routines this can result in anxiety, low mood and, depression.
When my mother was dying of alzeimers we would walk slowly together and she would often berate me for walking too quickly for her so I would have to deliberatlely slow my walking down to match her speed. Now I am faced with a similar challenge as I take my aging labroador for a walk. Sadly she cannot walk as quickly as she used to but none the less she wants to go for a walk. So I am beng forced to walk mindfully each morning with her and for her. Slowly and deliberatlely and mindfully we now walk around the block. Initially it was very frustrating but now I have come into a bit of a rhythm with her and I am reminded of the mindful walk we all need to take when we care for our elderly. And perhaps the mindful walk we will all take as we prepare for the end of our life.
The first step to walk mindfully is to be aware of the soles of the feet on the ground and practise what is called a standing yoga or mindful standing. Being aware of your breath, your body and your feet on the ground. You then slowly take steps being aware of the first movement forward followed by the next. Aware of the breathe and the movement of the spine.
After a while you become very present and aware. Your thoughts seem to slow down and you become more aware of sounds and smells. The morning walk with Jazz is certainly not an aerobic exercise at present but it is an opportunity to stay focused, connected and be compassionate.
My dog Jazz has also shown me that we all age and slow down but we do not need to stop. As we age we can stay connected to the community and the environment and the practise of walking mindfully can be one way of staying active, present and aware.
Today has been an auspicious day for many celebrating the Chinese New Year. The new year symbolises the letting go of the old and unworkable in order to embrace the new.
Dan Seigal presented in Brisbane this Month on the benefits of mindfulness on the human brain. The research is now so strong that we would strongly encourage a regular practice of mindfulness, for health, brain health and general happiness and well being.He has written the mindful brain which highlights the changes that occur in the brain with regular practise.
This Sunday we met in my clinic for the regular monthly mindfulness meditation. Meditation is a precious opportunity to connect with the inner you and with that have more connection with the outer.
One of the challenges that many people struggle with is maintaining enthusiasm. It is easy to start but more difficult to persist. However, if we can persist with persistence the habit of mindfulness becomes the norm rather than the habit of distraction.
Our next meditation group will be run the first Sunday of April at 2pm.
We will soon be saying good bye to 2013. It has been an eventful year for evolve mindfulness clinic. It has been a delight witnessing the growth and change in many of the wonderful people who have graced my clinic. It takes courage to enter therapy and courage to commit and stay with therapy. Each step on our therapy journey is a step in personal understanding and evolvement.
The path of therapy is the path of self knowledge, awakening and growth. Through self awakening we develop a greater sense of self knowledge through self knowledge we develop a greater compassion and acceptance not just for ourself but for others as well.
One of my great delights this year has been the commencement of a regular monthly meditation group. This is being held every first Sunday of the month at 2pm. It goes for 90 minutes. The group is an opportunity to continue and practice mindfulness. The value of the group is also the benefits of practising with others. We will be running our first group for 2014 on sunday 5th January at 2pm
I wish everyone continued joy and peace during this christmas break. If you are interested in attending the meditation group please email the clinic.
Please continue to take good care during the sumer break.
Stress the Silent Epidemic
In my last blog i wrote about increasing your well being or flourishing by increasing focus and meaning in your life. Stress unfortunately is the symptom of languishing or not flourishing.
The disease of the 21st century may not be cancer, aids, heart disease but may by stress, depression and general unhappiness. We are living in a time when we are wealthier than we could ever imagine, live longer, enjoy better health, and yet we are especially not happy. Of most concern, is that our children are not happy, with increasing numbers meeting a diagnosis of depression or anxiety or stress.
This last two months has been stressful for most of us. Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. Not only with meeting the costs of Christmas but also of spending or not spending time with family or loved ones. Going to school is also stressful for our children and their parents. Making new friends, negotiating a new teacher, learning new skills, the increasing amount of homework are all stressful. Stress on the family may result from mothers returning to work, negotiating sick leave for their children, increase in mortgage repayments.
One of the first steps to coping with stress is to recognise and acknowledge that you are stressed. Sometimes stress can slowly build so that the changes are subtle. Sometimes you may not even be aware that you have been stressed until you have chest pains or until you find that you are anxious or unwell. Some of the signs of stress:
Life has sped up,
Not able to listen as well
Change in appetite
More pessimistic outlook
Memory and concentration changes.
Social and emotional withdrawal
Less able to cope with loud noise, and conflict.
In your children look for changes in mood, behaviour, sleep patterns or eating.
If you said yes to any of the above symptoms then you may be suffering stress. Stress can easily be treated. One of the first steps to dealing with stress is to examine your lifestyle, your goals and your expectations. The trend is for many of us to down size. This means that more of us are choosing to have less and work less in order to improve our quality of life. Other steps are to have regular exercise, (a 20 minute walk each day), ensure that you have regular contact with friends and if your social network has changed then make attempts to join a sporting club or group, review your life goals and decide which ones are important, realistic and which ones are not, review your diet, reduce your alcohol and caffeine, spend time with your pet and in nature and seek help to resolve problems. Sometimes it is the unresolved problems, conflicts, decisions that add to our stress.
Another important tool for coping with stress is the simple act of doing something for another. This is called random acts of kindness. I advise my clients to practice building positive experiences by firstly focusing on their achievements, secondly doing one thing that makes them feel happy a day and thirdly performing a random act of kindness at least once a day. Controlled studies by Martin Seligman and others have shown that these simple steps can improve our general well-being, happiness and optimism.
TIPS FOR STRESS REDUCTION
1.Practice a relaxation every day
2.Reduce caffeine, alcohol in your diet
3.Increase fruits, vegetables
4.Join a gym, go for a walk, swim, play a sport, join a dance class
5.Find a buddy to keep you motivated
6.Make a list of all the things that you find enjoyable and try and do one of these every weekend
7.Keep a diary or journal.
8.Make a note of all your achievements each day
9.Read inspiring books
10.Listen to inspiring music, burn aromatherapy
11.Have a massage
12.Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing space for sleeping
13.Find a friend to speak with
14.Try and minimise complaining or gossiping.
15.Only be with people who are supportive and encouraging
16.Create a relaxing space for you
17.Play with your pets or get a pet
18.Plan to do something different every year