Live Life. Don’t Just Survive

Here, right now, stop.

Breathe deeply in and allow that breathe out slowly.

Breathe in and out a few more times.

Turn your attention to your heart centre.

Maybe you would like to place your hand over your heart.

Ask yourself the question:

Am I just surviving, or am I living my life creatively?

The Curse Of The Modern World

With the busy lives that are led in the modern world, it is easy to get caught up in just surviving. Rushing from activity to activity. Never stopping, never relaxing, never just having fun. Never allowing yourself to use your creative side to enrich and grow your life.

Scientists who study our ancient ancestors contend that once people were able to move away from spending all their time surviving, they had time and space to be creative. It was this creativity that allowed them to expand their lives and further improve their situation.

It was this time for creativity that allowed our ancestors to become farmers, then to devise new tools and weapons. This creativity allowed progress to occur.

Growing Creatively

In order to grow this way, our ancestors had to allow space in their lives to allow creativity to work.

When you become caught up in surviving, you lose that ability to expand your life and improve your situation. You get caught up in surviving. That is a scary, anxious place. It is a place where your quality of life deteriorates.

But it doesn’t need to be that way. You need to allow creativity back into your life. Creativity feeds your mind and your soul. It should work alongside survival, with its focus on your body.

Yes your body needs to survive, but so do your mind and soul.

Finding The Balance Between Survival and Creativity

Finding that balance between survival and creativity is essential for a happy, full, productive life.

One of the ways you can survive and be creative is to meditate. It is that action of stopping and allowing yourself to just be. In this moment. With nowhere to go. With nothing to do. Just be.

At the start of this blog I invited you to have a moment to just be. At the end of that moment, I invited you to ask yourself a question about how you are living your life.

It is in the moments that you stop and just allow yourself to be that allow you to find space for creativity in your life.

After you meditate and clear your mind to allow that sense of just being, there is a time for creativity to allow yourself to connect to your creative inner self. Your soul.

Connecting To Your Creativity

There are many things you can do. Some people write a journal. Some people write poetry. Others dance to their own sound or music.

Then there is painting. This is my preferred method of creativity. After I meditate I use water colour paints to paint what comes up for me in that moment.

This act of creativity has allowed me to discover deep insights into my life and my place in this world. This has allowed me to live, not just survive.

I run workshops to teach people this method of meditation.

Do You Want To Know More?

If you would like to find out more about meditating and creativity, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with helpful 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

PaintingYourSoul

8 Steps to Learn How to Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body

Many people I see find it very hard to be aware of their bodies. When that happens, it is very hard to understand the emotions you feel.

It is possible to learn how to do this. I know, because I taught myself to do this.

FEELING YOUR FEELINGS CAN BE SCARY

Many people are afraid of their feelings. Feelings can be scary. When you are used to managing by pretending you don’t feel anything it can be frightening to start feeling things. It feels unsafe.

It is possible to learn how to feel your feelings, the emotions that spring from them, and feel safe as well.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF REGULATION

Before you can start to learn how to be in your body, you need to learn how to feel safe.

Learning techniques to regulate your emotions (known as self-regulation) is essential.

WHEN YOU FEEL DISCONNECTED FROM YOUR BODY

Do you find you feel disconnected from your body, not just unaware of it but actually disconnected? This is known as dissociation. People who dissociate often report the following physical signs:

• Tension in all or part of the body

• Anxiety

• Tightness in the chest

• Difficulty breathing or feeling that breathing has become quick and shallow, or noticing you are holding your breath.

• Your vision becomes blurry

• All or part of your body feels numb

• You feel dizzy.

• You feel like you are floating.

• Time passes and you aren’t aware of what you did during those missing minutes/hours.

• You find yourself somewhere and don’t know how you got there.

What I am about to discuss is for anyone who wants to be more aware of their body.

BEFORE WE START, SOME QUESTIONS

Before we start I want to ask you some questions.

• Do you want to feel your body more?

• How much time do you find yourself thinking, particularly anxious and scattered thoughts?

• Do you feel safe feeling your emotions?

• What does it feel like to be in your body?

• Do you like your body?

• Do you believe in the past your body has betrayed you? Maybe this has been through illness, emotional pain, responding to bad things in ways you didn’t want it to?

• Do you know how to identify when you may dissociate from your body?

• Do you deliberately go into your head, use your imagination to fantasise or dissociate to avoid feeling pain?

• Are you prepared to feel the emotions and the memories associated with them? There can be no reconnecting with your body unless you do that.

THIS IS WHAT I WILL START WITH IF YOU COME TO SEE ME

Before you can learn how to feel your body more, you need to be sure you are okay to start on that journey. Some people prefer the constant anxiety and fear because it is familiar and are too scared to learn a better, more life affirming way of being.

The information I am about to share is what I teach you if you come to see me. The aim of these exercises is to help you to feel your body, to learn the signs in your body of different emotions. When these exercises are practised they are very effective.

IMPORTANT NOTE

Please note that these exercises are about learning to feel what is happening in your body and understand your emotions. You may still experience fear when you feel these emotions. If you have overwhelmingly frightening emotions it is best to see a counsellor who specialises in working with trauma. It is best if that person has trained with the Blue Knot Foundation and is familiar with their Trauma Treatment Guidelines.

MY AIMS IN WORKING WITH YOU

As a trauma counsellor my aim in working with you is to:

• Be a witness to your story

• Hear you as you talk about these things in your life

• See you

• Help you to learn how to self-regulate

• Help you learn to identify the feelings in your body and the emotions attached to them

• Help you to heal and learn how to live a plentiful life, not one hampered by the restrictions of unhealed wounds from the past.

• Follow the Blue Knot Foundation trauma guidelines.

WHAT AM I FEELING IN MY BODY EXERCISE:

You will need:

• A body outline. You can draw this yourself or use the one that is illustrating this blog

• Coloured pencils/crayons in diverse colours.

• A notebook

What to do:

  1. Pay attention to your body. Spend a few minutes a few times a day just observing what you notice in your body. Breathe in so that you feel your tummy rise and notice the feeling of your chest expanding. Hold the breath for a moment and then gently let it go. Notice what it feels like to leave your body.
  2. After 5 in and out breaths, notice your body touching the chair (if you are sitting). If you are lying notice your body touching the surface you are lying on. If you are standing notice your feet touching the floor/ground.
  3. Notice anything else happening in your body. Is your stomach rumbling? Do you have pain or tightness anywhere?
  4. Make some notes in your notebook about what you felt and whether that was comfortable or not.
  5. This may not happen immediately, but you will notice that you start to become aware of body sensations when you are thinking things. For example: you may be feeling rushed to get something done and become aware of tension, heat, cold, numbness, or any other sensation in a part of your body. Pay attention to that.
    When you can, note these down in your notebook and mark on the body outline where you felt the sensations in your body. Use whatever colour seems best to match that sensation.
  6. Keep practising breathing and being aware of your body and noting down things you are noticing in your body at different times.
  7. Over time you will find it easer to do this and may start to be aware of how certain emotions are felt in your body and be able to identify them from what you are feeling in your body.
  8. If at any time you feel overwhelmed with this exploration then seek the assistance of a trauma trained professional.

HOW THIS EXERCISE CAN HELP YOU

This exercise is not a cure for trauma, but it is helpful for learning how to be aware of your body. Many people who do not have trauma histories are not aware of their bodies. Our culture does not teach this skill, and many miss out on learning it.

If you have trauma then it is useful to seek help from a trauma trained professional.

CAN I HELP YOU?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma and/or learning how to be aware of your body, 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

9 Steps to Managing Conversations at the Dreaded Family Christmas

Families are never completely harmonious. They are comprised of people, bound together by genetic and marital ties, who often are not free to discuss conflicts as openly as is healthy. There are often undercurrents of tension and unresolved hurts in any family interactions.

Add a family Christmas, with all the stresses that “perfect” day brings. Add to the mix some freeing alcohol. Add to the mix the proximity with people who have caused those tensions and unresolved hurts.

Mix these ingredients and you have an explosive mix.

You can try to avoid difficult topics, but inevitably something will come up, particularly if you have the mix listed above.

Below are 8 steps you can use to survive the family Christmas. 8 steps to help you keep away from the difficult topics you may not be ready to discuss in a large family gathering.

  1. PREPARE FOR THE DAY.

Are you expecting challenging topics of conversation? Plan in advance how to manage and deescalate these potential ignition points.
a) PLAN TO SET BOUNDARIES

You can set boundaries by letting family members know what areas are contentious and that you want avoided. You can practice how you will set this boundary in a positive, affirming way.

Maybe you might say something like: “I love seeing you and our time together is really great. There are just some things that we disagree on and maybe we can avoid discussing them today so that we can enjoy our time together.”

b) PREPARE AHEAD

Before you meet up, think about happy things you and this family member/s have in common. Are there happy childhood memories you can share, do you have the same interests? Brainstorm ideas of topics of conversation so you are ready to have a conversation. When you have no topic to discuss, conversations tend to follow well worn paths. If those well worn paths are the contentious ones, then that is what you are going to end up having a conversation about.

  1. REDIRECT THE CONVERSATION.

Preparing ahead safe topics to discuss will allow you to quickly redirect the conversation to a safer topic that is related to the contentious topic. It is easier to pivot if the topic is related somehow, so if someone brings up a humiliating episode when you were a child and were swimming, you may bring in a conversation about wonderful beaches to visit and direct people to that topic. In that situation, the chances are that others in the conversation are not happy to bring up the humiliating episode either and will welcome the change to change the topic.

  1. REHEARSE WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY.

When you are under stress, you will tend to do what is habitual. So well used responses to others will tend to be used. This will quickly derail your intention to steer away from the uncomfortable conversations. So practise what you will say. Have imaginary conversations where the other person says something they usually say, or makes a comment about a situation they usually comment on. Imagine redirecting the conversation away from that contentious comment and what you will say. While you are doing this, imagine being relaxed and able to deflect any triggers in their words. Imagine calmly setting a boundary, or redirecting the conversation, or making a statement.

While you are imagining this conversation, practice taking calming breaths and imagine you are releasing all the tension and it is flying away as you breathe out. As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing in peace and calm.

If you have a family member who makes highly politicised comments, or makes racist comments, or expresses strong extremist viewpoints, practice a statement that acknowledges their opinion but indicates it is not up for discussion. The well tried response to this is to “agree to disagree” and have no more conversation around that.

Sometimes these statements are deliberate attempts to bait you into responding. Don’t. Set the boundary and try to change the topic of conversation. If the person still persists, walk away. Take a walk around the block if you need to calm down. Just remain calm until you are somewhere where it is safe for you to be upset. More on that later.

  1. BRING OUT THE OLD HAPPY MEMORIES.

This is another redirecting technique. Bringing out a positive family story involving a happy memory. The more family members involved in this memory the better. If you start off saying “Remember when xxx” you are inviting others to add their recollections of the memory. Not only is that fun to share in happy reminiscences, it also shuts down anyone negative due to the weight of people participating in a new conversation.

Remember, a family member who is difficult for you to get along with, may also be difficult for others to get along with. Other family members may welcome your efforts to redirect the conversation and be more than happy to jump in with enthusiasm. After all, everyone wants to have a lovely day.

  1. FOCUS ON FUN FAMILY TRADITIONS.

There will no doubt be things your family enjoy doing together on family occasions. There are families that love to gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols. Others love to play games. Others have a post Christmas lunch walk.

If your family has traditions then make sure they are carried out. If they don’t have any, then introduce some new things you think family members will be interested in. Prepare the ground for this. Talk about this “fun” idea with family members you think will be useful allies in this so that when you introduce the idea it will be supported by other people. These traditions are a great way to distract from unpleasant conversations.

  1. PRACTICE GRATITUDE.

In the lead up to Christmas, think of at least 10 things to be grateful for each day. Write them down and say them out loud, followed by three thank yous. Slowly introduce gratitudes for family members.

Don’t force the jolliness. Find things you are genuinely grateful for. They may range from extraordinary things to the seemingly mundane such as your health, your home, your job and so on.

Each day add gratitudes for family members. Start with the ones you love seeing. As you get close to Christmas think about the ones that cause you grief. Is there anything about them you like? Anything about them you admire? Try to find something to be grateful for about them. One might be that they are diligent about attending the family Christmas every year. Another might be they help with the washing up. Another might be they love their car. Find something to be grateful for.

Finding positives help you to feel more empowered and more in control of those difficult situations. It also helps to see the main protagonists as people with less power than you thought they had.

  1. FIND ALLIES.

Think about who will be at the Christmas event and identify those you find supportive. They may be the type who will speak up and support you at the time of the difficulty, or they may be someone you can speak to later to help you calm down.

It is easier to manage in stressful situations when you know you have support.

  1. PRACTICE CALMING TECHNIQUES.

One of the easiest ways to calm down is breathing. It is best to practice this technique in advance so that it is second nature when you need it. If you try this for the first time when you need it, it is unlikely to work effectively.

a) MINDFUL BREATHING

The best way to practice is to start small.

• Set a reminder on your phone for every hour if possible.

• Now prepare to breathe for 1 minute.

• Set a timer for 1 minute.

• Sit quietly with your hands resting in your lap.

• You may choose to let your focus slip or you may choose to close your eyes.

• Now breathe in while noticing the feeling of the air entering your nose and your chest and tummy rising with the in breath.

• Now breathe out while notice the feeling of your chest and tummy falling and the feeling of the air passing through your nose.

• With the next in breath, imagine you are inhaling calming air. Imagine it is a beautiful calming colour such as blue or green, whatever your find calming. See that coloured air entering your nose and lungs.

• Now breathe out all the tension and difficult emotions. Imagine the air you breathe out is the colour of tension and difficult emotions such as red, whatever you find expresses what you are feeling.

• Continue breathing in calm and breathing out tension. You can say to yourself I am breathing in calm on the in breath. And you can say I am breathing out tension/anger (name emotion) on the out breath.

• If you notice your mind wander away from noticing your breath just return your attention to your breath without judging yourself.

• Continue until 1 minute is up. Notice how you are feeling calmer and more in control of your emotions.

If you practice your 1 minute mediation as often as you can you may consider the next day practising for 5 minutes sometimes and 1 minute at others.

Practice as often as you can. When you need this calming at the Christmas event you will find it easier to slip into the practice if you have taken the time to practice in advance.

You can use mindful breathing sitting or moving around. Many people practice as they are walking. This is something you might try if you need to get some space away from the difficult people.

b) RELEASING WALK

The walk works like this:

• Don’t rush to push the emotions you feel away. Allow yourself to feel them, name them and walk them out. Stamp if you need to, walk fast if you need to. Swing your arms around. Whatever allows you to release what you are feeling.

• Once you have allowed yourself that time and you have acknowledged and released the emotions you can then walk at a calmer pace at your speed.

• Notice what is around you. What can you see, hear, smell, touch or taste?

• Take a deep in breath. Notice the sensation of that breath entering your body as you walk.

• Release that breath and notice the sensation of it leaving your body as you walk.

• Continue breathing and paying attention to your breath.

• Remember to breathe in calm and breathe out stress, anger and/or other distressing emotions you are experiencing.

• As you notice yourself feeling calmer, you can start paying attention to the beauty around you.

• Remember to just return your attention to your breath if your mind starts to wander.

• As you settle into this calming routine, allow yourself to feel your feet on the ground. Feel the ground supporting you are you walk.

• Allow yourself to feel the air around you. Feel the air wrapping you in its loving embrace.

• Continue walking, feeling the calm and feeling the support that surrounds you.

• When you are ready you can return to the gathering.

• You may decide to stay there, you may decide to communicate boundaries, you may decide to leave. Do whatever feels right for you.

  1. MAKE OTHER ARRANGEMENTS

If you feel that it is too distressing to attend the family Christmas, make other arrangements.

Maybe you would like to attend a community lunch.

Maybe you know other people who are on their own at Christmas. Perhaps you can get together to celebrate.

Maybe you would like the day alone with some lovely food and a stack of movies/games/books you would love to watch.

You may even find other family members don’t like the event and would be happy to do something with you instead.

A FINAL WORD

You have prepared yourself for the family Christmas and it is still difficult. Be okay with that. Don’t forget your strategies. Set realistic expectations of how people will be and prepare for this.

Do take the time to take some calming breaths before responding to other people. It can help to name what you are feeling. This allows you to cope better. It also allows you space to decide to not react to this person. It is in this moment you may choose to walk away, or calmly say their comment is inappropriate, or not funny, or unacceptable or anything else.

People can get to you with their behaviour and comments because you have unresolved hurts. After Christmas, review the family Christmas. What came up for you? Is there something you need to resolve. Counselling can be really helpful to explore and resolve old hurts. You can also learn helpful strategies to cope.

WHERE TO GET HELP

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your unresolved hurts, 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

PLEASE NOTE PLENTIFUL LIFE COUNSELLING WILL BE CLOSED FROM 5PM 21 DECEMBER 2022 AND WILL RE OPEN AT 9AM ON 9 JANUARY 2023.

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