Finding the Real Wonderful You

• Are you finding yourself bored with your life?

• Maybe you feel depressed at how little you feel you achieve?

• Or do you think that compared to other people you life is so unimpressive?

• What can you do to fall in love with your life again?

• What can you do to feel motivated to change?

DO YOU REALLY KNOW YOURSELF?

The first thing is to ask yourself if you really know yourself. This may sound weird but let me explain.

You are a unique individual. At your core, the bit others often don’t see, is a vibrant, curious person. This person is magical and able to express themself in honesty and love. In fact this person is totally lovable.

Sometimes this authentic self is called the Wonder Child. The pure little being born into this world to thrive, survive and achieve as themself.

Life however rarely allows the Wonder Child to be themself. The Wonder Child is bruised and battered by people and events in life.

To protect themself, the Wonder Child hides the parts that they feel are unacceptable to others. This self protection keeps them away from true connection with others through their Authentic Self.

THE WOUNDED CHILD

As the Authentic Self is buried under these layers of protection, what emerges is the Wounded Child.

The Wounded Child knows they must put on a false self to protect themself from hurt and rejection. This becomes a Mask and it is designed to protect from hurt and rejection.

The trouble is that the Mask hides the true Authentic Self. Often you don’t even see the Mask as not being you and you miss out on knowing your Authentic Self.

So you live your life with the Mask that your Wounded Child hides behind as it protects your Authentic Self.

Small wonder you feel bored, depressed and that your lie is completely unimpressive.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT YOUR INAUTHENTIC LIFE?

How can you access your Authentic Self in order to change your life?

Sitting and thinking about it does little to help you. That Mask is very good at covering up those bits that are considered less socially acceptable.

There is a need for much deeper exploration of the unconscious in order to find that Authentic Self again.

HERE IS SOMETHING LEFT FIELD TO TRY

One of the things I encourage people to do is use art to express themselves.

What do I mean by art?

Anything that is spontaneous, creative and allows you to express your authentic self.

This can include:

• Journaling in a dedicated journal

• Drawing in an art journal

• Painting

• Collage

HOW DO I USE CREATIVITY TO FIND THE REAL ME?

The best way to find your authentic self and start the process of change is to spend a few minutes every day doing something spontaneous and creative.

I have already mentioned 4 things you can try but what you do depends on you.

The important thing is to let go and let the real you out to create.

JOURNAL WITH YOUR NON DOMINANT HAND

If you choose to write in a journal, write with your non dominant hand. This will allow you to access more of your mind that writing with your dominant hand.

DRAW OR PAINT

Drawing or painting can be great. Many people particularly love the flow of paint. My personal preference is for watercolour, but sometimes I draw with pencil, crayon or felt tip pens.

A lot of people are frightened of drawing/painting because they feel they can’t draw well. I draw stick figures, unashamedly. This is not about producing a masterpiece; it is about expressing yourself. Squiggles of paint, funny shapes, dots, lines. All these are great ways to express yourself. You need to paint what is inside, for your eyes only.

COLLAGE

If you feel really challenged by drawing or painting then you can try collage. Many people find that really helpful. You just need some magazines/advertising flyers, stickers, scraps of paper. Anything you can find that you can glue to a piece of paper is great.

A 30 DAY CREATIVITY CHALLENGE

One way to challenge yourself is to do this for 30 days. It need only take a few minutes.

• To do this effectively start by bringing yourself to a place of stillness.

• Sit quietly, you can close your eyes or let your eyes not focus on anything.

• As you sit quietly tell yourself you are going to let go of everything in your life at the moment. You could say “Just for this moment I let go of everything”

• Breathe in and out gently. Focus on your breath. After a few breaths take a deep breath into your belly and then gently let it out. Now breathe a few more deep breaths. Continue to focus on your breath. If anything comes into your mind just gently put it to one side. Don’t engage with the thought. Once you have taken a few breaths and you are feeling you have stilled your mind you can move on to the next step.

• While you are still quite and reflective, ask yourself “What do I need to paint/write/draw/collage right now?”

• You could put your hands on the paper and ask the question. You can tell yourself that you are going to express what needs to be expressed.

• Now start. Just put on that paper what feels you feel like. Don’t have a plan. If you feel you want to paint a corner red then paint it red. If you feel you want to draw a smiley face, then draw a smiley face. If you see a picture of a bottle of perfume and you want it on your page, then put it on your page. If you want to write random words in your journal then do that.

• Whatever you put on the paper is the right thing.

• Keep going until you feel you are finished.

• Look at what you have done.

• Does anything about it strike you in some way? It doesn’t have to.

• It is always helpful to put the paper away and look at it later.

• Things you put on the paper that may immediately or over time give you insights.

• You may notice you keep drawing a particular shape, or use certain words. You may find your collages follow a particular theme. You may favour certain colours.

• You may find you look at what you have done and a thought will pop into your head about it. You may find yourself seeing a meaning in the picture.

• Over time you may find more insights in your expression than you realised when you were doing it.

• There is no right and wrong in this.

If you would like to join my Plentiful Life Exploration Facebook group you are welcome to join in a 30 day challenge of expressing yourself daily.

The link for the group is Plentiful Life Exploration | Facebook

I will be kicking the 30 day challenge off next Tuesday 16 August at 4am with a live feed on my Facebook page. You are welcome to join me for that or you can watch it later.

You can post your work on the page and share any insights you have or ask people about any insights they may have in it.

NEED MORE HELP?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you find and heal the authentic you, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

And don’t forget to join my Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/761908951834983

The Paradoxical Purpose of Grief

Having encountered a lot of grief throughout my life, personally and professionally, I have had ample opportunity to explore the philosophy of grief.

Grief is hard. It is stressful. It involves often months at least of emotions that are turbulent and disruptive. There is a lot of sadness and misery. There are also negative feelings such as anxiety, anger, even guilt. These are all well recognised as being present in grief.

HERE IS A CHALLENGE.

As part of my exploration of grief, I have read a lot of articles looking at grief philosophically.

From a philosophical perspective an exploration of grief and its purpose is not about looking at losing someone/thing we love but looking at how we perceive the grief we feel as a result of this.

Grief is horrible. It is devastating. It is intense. It is also stressful.

The tumultuous emotions of grief include sadness, sorrow, fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, anger and so on.

Here is the difficulty.

DEATH IS INEVITABLE.

You are unlikely to get through life without losing someone you love.

Grief is the inevitable result of the death of someone you love. You grieve because you love and that loved one has died.

Grief is not bad. It is inevitable.

What would your life be like if you didn’t grieve?

What if someone you loved died and you didn’t feel anything?

Isn’t that worse?

We live in a society that is uncomfortable with other people’s emotions. Talking to a grieving friend and having them cry is something most people find hard to handle.

On the one hand you feel at a loss to know what to do to help them. On the other hand you feel uncomfortable. You feel uncomfortable at your friend’s emotions, which you may not usually see. You feel uncomfortable at their pain. It is natural to want to alleviate their pain.

What usually happens is that the response to another person’s grief is to shut them down. To shame them into hiding their grief. You may tell them their loved one is in a better place. You may avoid any discussion of their loved one. You may make their loved one’s name taboo. You may tell them they should be over the grief by now.

Of course, these approaches do not help.

THE PARADOX OF GRIEF

The result is what I have often heard referred to as the paradox of grief. The paradox is the result of two conflicting facts around death:

• Grief feels bad so you should avoid it.

• Grief has a purpose and a value so you need to allow it and be grateful that you can grieve.

Being grateful for grief? How can you be grateful at your loss?

After all you grieve the deaths of the people whose presence in your life have been extremely important. Whose absence will cause you great pain. The loss of someone you built your life around. The loss of someone whose presence in your life gives you identity and fills you with a sense of great value in your life. The loss of someone whose value as part of your past and your projected future is infinite.

13 THINGS TO BE GRATEFUL TO GRIEF FOR.

• It allows you to honour the person who died.

Yes it hurts to feel grief. But if you love someone that much would you want it any other way? Would you want to just get up and get on with life without shedding a tear, or feeling sadness at their loss?

The emotions of grief such as sadness are inevitable. We have lost someone important. Feeling sad is important to honour that.

Likewise sorrow is important in honouring the one you have lost.

• It allows you to rebuild your lost identity.

Losing someone that important in your life also causes a loss of the identity you built around that relationship. So losing that person causes you to lose your identity, to lose part of yourself.

If you don’t grieve, how do you rebuild your identity? What push is there to cause you to seek and build a new identity? Grief supplies that push. Nothing else will.

• It allows you to identify what you have lost.

Sadness and sorrow give you important messages. They allow you to know what you have lost. That may not seem important but they are. It is part of understanding the place that person had in your life.

• It allows you to identify what you want to commemorate in that person.

Part of understanding the place a person had in your life is understanding the things you loved about them. Maybe they are things you admired and would love to emulate. Maybe they are about things they were passionate about. These might inform ways of commemorating them. Maybe that person was the reason you chose a particular path in life.

• It allows you to put your relationship to that person into perspective

Another part of understanding is being able to understand the things you didn’t like about them. Those are important to. They make your loved one human. They help to put them into perspective.

• It allows you to identify important values and ways to rebuild your life,

Fear and anxiety are useful to help us identity the things we value that we may lose. They highlight the areas of life that need to be reimagined.

• It allows you to identify what you need to resolve.

Guilt and shame highlight the unresolved issues that existed in that relationship or occurred around the time of death. They help identify what we need to resolve.

• It allows you to identify unresolved issues in the relationship or around the death.

Anger highlights the hurts and frustrations around that death. It helps you to explore the things that can trap you in your anger.

• It allows you to find a purpose in life.

Anger can also help you to find a new purpose and meaning in life. For example: if your loved one was killed by a driver who was speeding you may find new purpose in your life campaigning against speeding drivers.

• It allows you to understand your loss.

Without the pain of grief it would be virtually impossible to understand your loss.

• It motivates you to process your loss.

Without the pain your would less likely to strive to process what you have lost. You would not struggle to work out how you can continue living in light of that loss.

• It allows you to form a new relationship with the one you have lost.

Without the pain you find it extremely difficult to continue a relationship with the one you have loved.

• It allows you to find a way to live in the future

Without the pain you would find it hard to know how you want to live your life in the future. Grief helps you to understand your values around your loved one’s memory and allow you to make choices going forward. These choices start with decisions around which of their belongings to part with and which to keep, even where to live.

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T AVOID GRIEF

Grief is devastating and horrifically painful. You will wish it could end and things could go back to the way they were. But your life will never be the same again. You will not return to the person you once were. Your life will always be tinged with the trace of sadness at who is physically missing from your life.

Despite this, life is possible. You can go on. You can find a way to live. You can be happy.

This terrible tangle of emotions contained in grief help you to recognise the things you value in your life. This allows you to rework your identity moving forward in life.

As a result of your grief you will develop a clearer understanding of who you are. It will give you the tools to live your life without your loved one.

Grief gives you the power that allows you to adapt to your loss.

SUPPORT IS OKAY TO SEEK

As you move through grief you sometimes you the support of a counsellor to help you with that process. You need someone who understands grief, does not pathologise it, and will listen.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

The “problem” of crying in public

One of the problems of living in our modern society is the pressure to conform to a “don’t rock the boat” pattern of behaviour.

This includes

• not crying in public, unless everyone else is

• not getting angry about something, unless everyone else is

• needing something that other people aren’t prepared to give

• needing time alone when other people expect you to be sociable

• needing to be sad when others are having a happy time and expect you to do so as well

• not inconveniencing anyone else with your needs.

DON’T ROCK THE BOAT

This is a particular problem when you have suffered an event that modern society has so removed from view that reacting to that event is considered a “don’t rock the boat” pattern of behaviour.

I am referring here to Grief.

One of the biggest issues people who come to see me report is the fear of crying in public.

Is this something that you experience?

A FIRST QUESTION

My first question is:

• What is it like for you to have the experience of crying in public?

• Is this something embarrassing?

• Do you feel there is a taboo on crying in public?

• Is it something you notice other people feel uncomfortable about, so you try not to do it?

• Do you feel judged, as though you are somehow not mentally stable, because you are crying in public?

• Do you feel other people shut you down when you cry? Are you told to stop? Are you offered platitudes such as “They are in a better place” “Heaven wanted another angel” or demands to stop such as “You’ve got to pull yourself together”?

• Is this your experience, or is your experience something else?

THE NEXT QUESTION

My next question would likely be:

• What if it was okay to cry in public? What if it didn’t matter what other people thought and you just did it anyway?

Our society is very good at putting a taboo on overt emotions. No emotions other than happiness are well tolerated. The difficult emotions are definitely not okay by our society’s standards.

It is one reason we rush to remove those uncomfortable emotions and the events behind them from public view.

HIDING DEATH FROM PUBLIC VIEW

Very few people get to die in their own homes. They are usually in hospital or, if they are lucky, they are in a palliative care unit. As long as they are not out there, visible, in the community everyone is happy.

CHANGING SOCIETY

Change in society occurs gradually and usually because some trailblazers take the courageous step of behaving differently in public.

Of course when you are grieving and your world is in pieces it is difficult, often impossible, to take the conscious step to challenge society’s taboo on displaying uncomfortable emotions.

So change in this area is very slow. It often involves those supporting the grieving person being the ones who challenge the taboo.

EXPECT TO CRY FOR A VERY LONG TIME

Another issue with this public display of emotion is that grief is not over in a matter of hours or days. It stretches on for months and years. In fact, grief never ends. It gets easier and the tears are less frequent, but there is still the possibility of them for the rest of your life.

My question here is, Are you okay with the possibility of public tears a few years from now? Are you okay with the fact that each day carries the possibility of being sad?

DO YOU WANT TO STOP CRYING OR THE REASON BEHIND THE CRYING?

So many people who come to see me just want to stop crying and being sad. But is it the crying you want to stop? Or is it the reason for the crying? When you try to imagine life without the one you love, do you ever want to be okay with that? Or do you want to always love them yet live as well. This of course carries the risk of crying in public. Can you live with that?

DO YOU NEED TO TALK AND BE HEARD?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and learning to live with the tears, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Grieving is Learning

If you look at the grief of loss as a learning experience then it is easier to understand the length of time it takes. This is particularly so if you consider that learning is a lifetime pursuit.

LOSS OF NORMAL ROUTINES

One of the really disorienting aspects of grief is the loss of normal routines and events of life when someone you love dies.

This is especially so if this person was very present in your life. The more your life intersected theirs, the more the disruption of normal routines and events.

With time, new normal routines are formed. Of course, that does not solve the pain over the absence in your life of that person you loved.

The process of finding those new normal routines is what the first period of grief is about. That is the part where life is most disrupted and there is a struggle to just get through each day.

YOUR BRAIN LEARNING NEW ROUTINES

This is the period of greatest learning. It is about learning to adjust everything in you and your life to match the new environment you find yourself in.

Before you think that sounds like an insurmountable thing to achieve, consider the fact that your brain knows exactly what to do. Every day of your life you have to adjust to things that are changing.

• You have to adjust to the weather when getting dressed.

• You have to adjust to the need to keep dry when it is raining.

• You may have to drive a different route home because of a road closure.

• You can’t find what you want at the shops and have to find something else instead.

• Someone at work may leave, or someone new may start.

• You may be more challenged by starting a new job or moving house.

NEURAL PATHWAYS IN YOUR BRAIN

These are just some examples of the way your brain has to constantly adjust to changes.

Some changes are more difficult to adjust to than others. You may not see those changes as difficult. If you start a new job, your brain has to adjust to that routine. But you will more likely see this as exciting and a bit stressful. The same applies to moving house.

Other changes may not be exciting. When someone you love dies that is not an exciting thing initially.

WHEN ROUTINE CATCHES YOU UP

We are creatures of habit and our brains ensure we are by establishing neural pathways that lead us to follow habits of thought and action.

An example of this is waking up in the morning. Assuming you are at home, you expect to open your eyes and see the same room, the same view, the same people. If the person who has always slept beside you is gone that is a shock. Your neural pathways are telling you to expect certain things in the morning and one of those expectations is not met.

So you wake up, they are not there, and you experience the crushing reality of their absence.

NEURAL PATHWAYS TAKE TIME TO FORM

It takes time for neural pathways to form. The usual estimate for adults is three months. So for roughly three months you will experience that crushing reality every day.

And this pattern is repeated throughout the day.

Small wonder you find it hard to cope.

This forming of new neural pathways is learning. This learning is the major task your brain undertakes as you grieve.

GRIEF SHATTERS THE PREDICTABILITY OF YOUR WORLD

When your loved one dies your nice predictable world is shattered. It doesn’t exist anymore. Those early months and maybe years after a loved one’s death is a time of learning to find a new predictable world to replace the old one.

Not only does grief shatter our predictable world, it can shatter our sense of who we are. We are built for relationships. We love the people we are in relationship with. Part of that love is forming an identity that includes the people we love. If one of those people dies, then our sense of self is also shattered.

THE ROLE OF MEMORY IN GRIEF

Memory plays a huge part in how we relate to others and therefore how we grieve.

We use our life experiences in living our lives. Our memories of past experiences teach us to fear things that in the past were dangerous. They teach us to predict the outcome of an event based on past experience of similar events. That is sometimes referred to as pattern matching and it is often used in our brain’s defence systems.

PATTERN MATCHING IN YOUR BRAIN

Pattern matching is never exact or our brains would rarely be able to predict danger. Pattern matching works by looking for similarities in order to predict danger.

Pattern matching is also used to predict good things. If you see your loved one, pattern matching may lead you to predict they will smile, kiss and hug you.

These pattern matches are neural pathways that also need to change. So you will find it hard learning to feel that your loved one is dead. You will see someone in a crowd and you will be sure they are your loved one.

This pattern match may also be present in that your first reaction when something happens is to text or call your loved one to tell them about it. Then there is the crushing realisation that they aren’t there.

UNLEARNING AND BUILDING NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS

Unlearning that pattern match is another thing your brain has to do.

So many people who have lost a loved one report a strong desire to be with the person who has died. This is another example of neural pathways that are yet to be rebuilt. You are hurting and your brain is offering up a solution – contact with the person your love. Unfortunately, the brain hasn’t quite registered they are not there. Well, the part that yearns hasn’t registered that.

Over time, new neural pathways form and it is possible to live without such constant pain. You will wake up in the morning and know they are not there anymore. You will learn a new sense of self. You will know not to call or text your loved one.

You will never stop loving that person. The pain of their absence will never go away. What will happen is that the love and pain will exist alongside the need to live in the here and now.

As you live through the time of your brain learning new ways of living, be patient with yourself. You are doing great. It will eventually get better. You will learn how to live again.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief learning, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

6 Steps to Solving a Problem

So often when challenges occur in life you can get caught up in the situation and lose the objectivity you need to find a solution.

Past experiences and hurts can cloud how you perceive the challenge.

Self beliefs that are disempowering can also impede your ability to solve the challenge.

Once you reach that stage of believing it is too hard to solve then the challenge becomes a problem.

Here are some things you can try to help you see more clearly and find a solution. Write down the answers to your questions as the process of writing and seeing what you have written is a wonderful way to get a bit of distance between you and the problem:

  1. What have I tried already to solve the problem?

You have usually already tried to solve a challenge a few different ways before you perceive it as a problem. What are those ways? Write down you answer with just facts and no emotional interpretations of what you have done.

Getting caught up in the emotions makes it hard to be objective. When subjectivity fails to solve a problem you need objectivity to see solutions.

  1. How will I know when the problem is no longer a problem?

There are always challenges in life that can become problems when you can’t solve them. What often happens is you find a solution and the problem is no longer a problem. The question to answer here is what would be happening for you so you no longer see this problem as a problem?

Finding that answer will help you break the problem down into parts that are more easily resolved. You will likely find that some parts of the problem don’t need to be solved.

So the question here is which parts need solving in order for the problem to no longer be a problem?

  1. When is this challenge not a problem?

Things can happen that are challenging but you are able to manage the challenge without it becoming a problem. The addition of one or two factors may make this challenge a problem. That can give you the clue as to what you need to focus on to resolve the problem.

The question here is what is present in this challenge that makes it into a problem?

  1. What is present when the problem occurs?

This is similar to the previous question. Just as factors in a challenge may make it feel like a problem, situations at the time of a challenge can make it feel like a problem.

In answering this question you may realise that there are certain situations that feel overwhelming or disempowering. If a challenge occurs in those situations they you struggle to solve the challenge and it becomes a problem.

This questions allows you to separate the other factors that are present from the actual problem.

  1. What is the difference between when the problem exists and when it doesn’t?

The problem is causing some form of distress for you. What is that? What is happening for you when this problem is present that isn’t happening when the problem is not there? Pay attention to that. It will help you to understand how this problem is a problem and give you some ideas as to how you can solve it.

  1. How can I redefine the problem so that it is more solvable?

There is that saying that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. One of the applications of that saying is that what one person perceives as a problem another person does not perceive as a problem.

Sometimes a problem is this way because that is how you perceive it. If you look at the problem from a different perspective it does not seem such a problem. This is what redefining means.

One example is your car getting a flat battery. While you are waiting for help jump starting the car you can:

. worry about the things you need to do that are now being delayed, or

. you can choose to accept that you day is going to be different and notice the glorious skies, or

. you may catch up on some phone calls you needed to make, or

. you may spend time planning your next holiday.

The list is endless. You can choose to see the disruption as an opportunity to catch up on other things, or just chill, or you can choose to see the disruption as something bad.

If you find you frequently have problems in your life that you can’t resolve it can be helpful to talk to someone else about it.

It can be difficult just putting these steps in place. It takes time to learn these skills and sometimes you may need help learning the skills.

Sometimes it is best to talk to a professional about this.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning how to solve problems, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Grieving is a matter of relearning how to be in the world – Thomas Attig

I love this statement.

Why? Because over the course of my life I have observed that to be very true.

So often when bad things happen:

• You lose your job

• You move to a new area and leave all your support networks

• Your dog dies

• A relationship ends

• You lose your health

• Someone you love dies

• And more

You struggle to get back to life as it was.

But the reality is that will never happen.

When you lose something or someone important to you, grieving for that loss changes who you are.

Once you change, you cannot go back to how you were. All you can do is move forward into the new person that you are.

This means the way you relate to the world has changed, because you have.

If you have changed then the way you are in the world has changed too.

The end result is that you need to learn how to be in the world now, as the new you.

That is not easy. It is not necessarily desirable. But it is a fact. It is what it is. All you can do is learn how to be in the world as you are now.

If you are struggling with this, it can be helpful to seek professional help from a registered counsellor.

I am a registered counsellor and if you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with relearning how to be in the world, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How childhood stress affects you in adulthood

Would you be horrified if I told you that some childhood stress will shorten your life expectancy by 10-20 years?

Maybe you would struggle to believe that. For generations adults have told themselves that children are resilient and get over things. But do they?

Extensive research has shown that some types of childhood stress have exactly this impact on life expectancy. This stress is referred to as toxic stress.

These types of childhood stress are called adverse childhood experiences. There is an acronym for that – ACE.

ACEs

High ACE scores have been linked in research to premature death, a large number of health conditions including mental health problems, heart disease, and lung cancer.

The types of stress included in ACEs include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, parents struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, sexual abuse just to name a few.

The truth is childhood trauma is not something you “get over” or “grow out of”.

CHILDREN’S BRAINS ARE IMPACTED BY ACEs

The repeated stress of ACEs has well observed impacts on the way the brain develops. These impacts are observable across the person’s lifetime.

ACEs were described in the 1990s and have been the subject of much research since then. The original researchers noted that ACEs are very common, in all strata of society. A person from a middle class or high socio-economic level is just as likely to have experienced ACEs as a child from an impoverished background.

IMPACTS OF ACEs

Other findings are that high ACE scores are consistent with poor adult life outcomes including significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, substance abuse, mental health issues, suicide, smoking, poor academic achievement, homelessness, incarceration, being a victim of domestic violence, unemployment and early death.

That is quite horrifying. But how do stressful things that happen to children impact on adulthood? The answer is toxic stress. Toxic stress in a child is stress that leads to frequent, prolonged and excessive activation of the body’s stress response systems. This has a negative impact on the child’s developing brain, immune system, metabolic regulation and cardiovascular system. It has been described as overrevving the body over a long period of time so that it wears out and problems develop.

WHEN STRESS IS A PROBLEM FOR CHILDREN

Children will experience stress. It is part of life. Where it becomes a problem is where there is no supportive adult or adults present to cushion the impact of the stress. For example, research has shown that during crises in the life of a family, the children of the family will be less impacted by the stress if their parents are able to cope well and support their children.

WHAT ARE ACEs?

Initially ACEs were classified as:

• Neglect

• Physical abuse

• Emotional abuse

• Sexual abuse

• Domestic or family violence

• A parent with mental health issues

• A parent with substance abuse issues

• A parent in prison

• Lack of attunement between parent and child

Over time there has been a broadening of what is considered to be an ACE to include:

• Homelessness

• Natural disasters

• War

• Being a refugee

• Violence in the community

• Racism

• Chronic poverty

• And so on.

TRAUMA, ACEs AND TOXIC STRESS

Trauma is a large part of ACEs and toxic stress. Trauma is generally considered to be any stressful experience where there is great adversity or terror and the emotional responses to those experiences. This involves toxic stress and is a major part of any ACE.

HOW CHILDREN REACT TO TRAUMA

In children, trauma will often play out in behaviours where the child withdraws or acts out. Some children will develop ADHD type behaviours. Others may become aggressive and pick fights with other children. Some may withdraw and even self harm. Bullying behaviours are sometimes the result of trauma.

The child who steals cars, breaks into homes, vandalises things ifs often a child who is suffering from ACEs.

It is important to recognise the acting out behaviour of children as likely due to trauma.

Many years ago I worked in a shop and caught a boy stealing. He was only 12 and had started this destructive behaviour after his father had left his marriage. The boy was so broken and miserable. It broke my heart to see his pain.

WHAT HAPPENS IN ADULTHOOD?

ACE affected children grow into adulthood. It is important to consider that if you are ACE affected you are not irreparably damaged. You can get help.

It is important to see a Trauma trained therapist. Working with trauma is a highly specialised field. It is important to find out what experience a prospective therapist has in the trauma field.

WHAT THERAPY SHOULD I SEEK OUT?

Therapy to heal the impact of ACE is not a 10 session solution. The impacts on your brain have taken a long time to form and they need a long time to change. Brain growth slows over the age of 26 and you need to grow many new neural pathways. So expect these changes to take a long time.

Much of trauma is stored in the areas of the brain and body that cannot be consciously accessed. For this reason, talk only therapies are not very effective in healing trauma.

Finding a therapist who works with different approaches such as, to name a few, somatic approaches, art therapy, expressive therapies, EMDR, EFT as well as some talk therapy is important. In Australia the Blue Knot Foundation and its guidelines are the gold standard for trauma therapists. A good trauma therapist will have completed training with them.

HOW LONG DOES THERAPY TAKE?

Expect to spend a long time working on your trauma. I recommend you come to work on a problem. This may take regular sessions over a number of months. The sessions will be frequent at first and decrease in frequency as time goes on. You work on a particular aspect of your trauma, then allow time for that healing to consolidate.

You may take a break from therapy while that consolidation takes place. At some time in the future you will feel the need to seek therapy for another aspect of your trauma. You may go back to the same therapist or find a new one.

HOW I CAN HELP

I am a trauma trained therapist, have received training through the Blue Knot Foundation and I adhere to their guidelines. I also have extensive experience working with trauma affected individuals. All the therapies listed above are used by me in my work.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your ACEs and their impacts, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How to overcome the inadequacy of language to express your feelings

Recently I was reading a book After Story by Larissa Behrendt. At one point in the book one of her characters reflects on the failure of English words to describe many things.

The English language has a rich array of words in many areas, but in others, there is a great lack of words to describe the nuances of many emotions.

The character mused on this fact. I have described her musings in my own interpretation below.

DESCRIBING GRIEF

Grief is one. There are so many layers to the experience of losing someone you love.

The word hope is another. So often you are encouraged to have hope in the future or you feel you have lost hope in the future you dreamed of. The word hope just doesn’t describe the nuances of feeling around the word hope as it relates to grief.

The word tragedy doesn’t even begin to describe the awfulness and extent of losing someone you love.

The truth of what the author wrote really struck me.

This is often something people I see struggle to comprehend.

HOW TO DESCRIBE THESE BAFFLING FEELINGS AND STRANGE EMOTIONS

If you are struggling with grief you may experience the same difficulty.

How do you put into words the impact of the death of someone you love?

There are not enough words in the English language to fully describe it.

It is also important to note that every person’s experience of grief is different.

But how do you express something so far reaching? So life changing?

How do you express the lost hopes and dreams? How do you express the extent of the tragedy that has befallen you?

THESE FEELINGS NEED TO BE NAMES TO MAKE SENSE OF THEM

The difficulty of expressing these feelings doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t express them. You need to. If you can’t express them to yourself how do you make sense of it all?

For this reason, I use a number of different approaches to working with you. Words alone are never enough so I like to use other approaches.

DIFFERENT APPROACHES WORK WHERE WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS FEELINGS

I teach these approaches to use in sessions so that you can encounter these feelings and have them witnessed. Being able to share the array of emotions is an important part of grief.

I also teach these approaches so that you can use them personally whenever you need to. Below are some of the approaches I use:

. Journaling, both with prompts such as questions to answer and free expression of what is in your head is one way.

. Writing poetry is another way. Haiku is a great format to use the haiku is a Japanese poetic form that consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

. Sandplay, where you use symbols in sand to explore aspects of your grief is also very powerful.

. Finally, painting or drawing is very powerful and my personal favourite. I don’t ask you to paint a masterpiece. I just ask you to put shapes, squiggles, dots, stick figures, blocks of colour, anything you feel is important to do. You are expressing what cannot be put into words and it can come out many ways.

CAN I HELP YOU?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

6 ways to gain control of your mind with overwhelming emotions or anxiety

You know how it is.

There are those times in life when you get so anxious you can’t think straight and find yourself saying and doing things that you wish you hadn’t.

Or there are those times when you are overwhelmed by intense emotions and can’t function, or worse still react in a way you don’t want to.

What do you do?

In the long term, counselling to find the root cause of the problems and defuse them is great.

But what do you do in the short term?

Learn how to identify the signs you are getting anxious or your emotions are intensifying. You need to be able to identify them before they get out of control.

When you feel those early signs practice grounding to help you gain control of them.

6 ways to practice grounding are:

  1. Tune into your Body. Feel your feet on the ground. Pressing your toes into the floor will help make that connection. Look at your shoes. What size are they? What do they look like?
  2. Engage your senses. put on a favourite shirt, smell essential oils, make yourself a warm drink, go outside and feel the wind on your body or gaze at a tree or clouds.
  3. Self-soothe. find an object connects you to something solid outside yourself. This may be a rock, a soft toy, a tree to hug. You might find taking a shower or a bath helps.
  4. Observe. look around you. What can you see? Choose an object and describe it in detail. What colour is it? What is its texture? What about the play of shadow and light in the object? What shape is it?
  5. Breathe deep to the bottom of your chest. Practice 4-7-8 breathing. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 then breathe out through pursed lips for 8. This is a wonderful way of engaging your Polyvagal Nerve and calming yourself.
  6. Distract yourself. Look around the room. Find all the red objects. Find all the objects with right angles. Count backwards from 100 by 5s. Anything that focuses your attention somewhere else.

Everyone has moments when it is hard to maintain control over intense emotions or anxiety. If you learn how to spot those moments and stop them before they are out of control then you are on the path to having more control over your life.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with the long term healing of your anxiety and overwhelming emotions, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

5 ways your physical body processes grief

It may surprise you to learn that grief impacts on your physical body.

The feelings and emotions we experience in life are not just in our heads. Anything we experience impacts on our bodies in various ways. This blog is about some of the ways our bodies are affected by grief.

  1. HOW YOUR HEART RESPONDS

According to a small study, there is a greater risk than normal in the week after you have suffered a bereavement of having a heart attack. This is because the body responds to the stress of bereavement by increasing blood pressure, heart rate and clotting. Of course having a higher risk does not mean you will definitely have a heart attack. It is a good reminder to look after yourself in this time.

There is also a condition sometimes called broken heart syndrome where the left side of the heart, which pumps blood around the body, weakens. So if you are feeling tired and becoming more easily breathless and fatigued don’t push through. Take time out to rest and seek medical attention if it is needed.

  1. HOW YOUR ADRENAL GLANDS REACT

For the first six months after bereavement you may find it harder to sleep at night. You may also feel your digestion is affected. This is because the stress of losing a loved one causes your adrenal glands to release more cortisol. This impacts on sleep and digestion.

  1. HOW YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM IS IMPACTED

Cortisol also affects your immune system by lowering your ability to fight infections. This also affects your immune response to vaccines. The result is you may find yourself getting sick more often and any vaccines you have may be less effective.

  1. HOW YOUR BRAIN STRUGGLES

A lot of processing goes on in your brain during grief.

In order to work efficiently, your brain keeps very busy with housework. This includes tidying up neuronal pathways that are no longer needed.

When the one you love dies your neuronal connections to them are no longer needed. You don’t need to remove neuronal pathways every day and work like that is quite major for the brain to do. Don’t be surprised if you get headaches, fatigue easily, find it hard to string thoughts together, forget things and generally feel you are in constant fog.

Raised cortisol levels in your body just add to the brain fog.

Remember to be kind to yourself. You are not mad. You are not stupid. You are grieving and just getting through the day is an amazing achievement.

  1. YOUR ENTIRE BODY

Because of the raised Cortisol levels in your body, you may find you are more likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed, even by things that were once simple and non stressful. You may also find it harder to calm down after stressful incidents.

Again, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to calm down. Practising simple meditations may be helpful. As your concentration is impacted it is better to keep mediations short.

Be mindful of your health and remember to get regular check-ups from your health practitioner. The stress caused by grief is known to raise inflammation in your body and that inflammation if more likely to become chronic. Inflammation is often experienced in sore joints, flare ups of skin conditions, allergies, arthritis and digestive difficulties.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Life is stressful. Some events cause greater stress than others and are therefore associated with greater risk of stress related illnesses.

Grief is one of the most stressful events you can experience.

A lot of the physical impacts of grief are caused by your body’s response to the pain you are experiencing. There are ways to limit that.

Understanding the impact of Grief is important.

Understanding that your body will be responding to the stress of bereavement will allow you to make allowances for yourself.

Focus on looking after yourself. I realise that is often the last thing you want to do in this situation, but it is important you allow time for you.

GRIEF THE COMFORTER

Remember grief is there to comfort you, not to make your life difficult. Bereavement makes life difficult. Grief just picks up the pieces.

Do see a doctor if you are experiencing severe physical symptoms.

In the meantime, when you feel able to eat try to eat nutritious foods. Get as much rest as possible. Try simple, short meditations. Even if you stop for a minute every so often to focus on your breathing and just let go of whatever is on your mind at the time can be helpful.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

I can’t say this enough! Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to be able to achieve magnificent goals at this time. Accept that some days, just getting through the day is a fantastic achievement.

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

It can help to talk to a counsellor about your feelings. To feel free to express all the thoughts that you may feel you can’t express to other people. To know you are not crazy. When you are ready you may find a support group is helpful.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz