The Circle of Perspective

When you are in a difficult situation it can be hard to see a way out of it.

Often the way out of the situation is to change the perspective on that situation.

This is what I describe as moving around the circle of the problem.

Moving Around the Circle of the Problem

If you imagine the problem as an object in front of you.

Imagine there is a circle around the problem and you are standing on a spot on that circle.

The spot you are standing on is one of great difficulty with no seeming way out of the problem.

But what is you took a step to the left or right around the circle? What would the problem look like then?

Using the Circle of the Problem

This is something I have used for most of my adult life. It is something that is possible to learn and apply with determination and intention.

The next time you find yourself with a problem to solve try this.

Imagine yourself standing on a circle looking at the problem.

Then imagine you are taking a step to the left or right. As you take that imaginary step, do so with the intention of seeking the problem from a different angle.

It is amazing how solvable a problem looks when you just take a step to one side or another of a problem.

Take Time to Consider the Problem

Sometimes you need time to sit with a problem before you are able to see it from another perspective.

There are many ways to give yourself time.

Sometimes sleeping on the problem can be a good way to prepare to take that step. Things are always easier to attend to when you are well rested.

You can also put the problem aside and do something else. Maybe you decide to have a walk, go out with friends, meditate.

Find a Trusted Confidant to Share the Problem With

Another way of preparing to take that step is to discuss the problem with someone else who is prepared to listen and be your sounding board. The ideal person will listen and ask questions to allow you to explore your feelings around the problem and to test the various solutions you may consider or different perspectives you may have. You need someone who can be neutral and not push their solution on you.

This is where a counsellor can be very helpful. We are trained to listen and help you explore all options and your feelings around them.

Can I Help?

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

3 Questions That May Help You With Those Thoughts That Go Around And Around In Your Head

So many people struggle with thoughts that go around and around in their heads. Not nice thoughts, but ones that bother you and destroy your enjoyment of activities during waking hours. Thoughts the keep you aware at 1am, 2am, 3am and so on.

If you are going to be thinking in circles about something then why not turn your thoughts to seeing if you can resolve the issue that is bothering.

Here are the questions to ask:

  1. Am I Aware How Long I Have Been Having This Thought?

Have you actually been thinking about this thing for a long time, or does it just feel like it. Maybe it is a thought that keeps repeating and it just seems to be going round in your head.

The next question to ask yourself is”

2. Is now a good time to be thinking about this?

If the thought is bothering you the answer is probably no.

Then you need to ask yourself the next question:

3. Is There Something I Am Avoiding?

So often something that is bothering you spins around in your mind but you don’t explore it. This is often because the thought is so overwhelming that you don’t feel you can manage what comes next.

The reality is, exploring this thought further can help you resolve it.

When those distressing thoughts revolve in your mind they are often indicators of something deeper that needs processing. This is why you ask the question.

When you ask the question be prepared to sit with the question and wait for the answer to arise.

When the answer comes to you, allow yourself to explore it further:

• Where in your body is the thought?

• How long has it been there in your body?

• What is the thought about? There is often something that you have not processed that is bugging you until you process it.

• Is now a good time to work through this thought? You might be at work, or it may be the middle of the night and you feel you can’t attend to it. If that is so then set a time to attend to it. Visualise yourself putting the thought on that time and tell yourself that is when it will be dealt with.

When Exploring A Question Doesn’t Bring Relief Try Something Else

Sometimes recurring thoughts are too difficult to resolve, and you may need help. It is unlikely you will get help immediately. In the interim you may need to put that thought aside until you can attend to it.

If this recurring thought is during the day then change what you are doing and do something that will occupy your mind.

Maybe you want to do something that requires your full attention.

Maybe you want to talk to someone.

A change of scenery can dislodge that thought. Try changing where you are working. If you can, go for a walk.

Observation using your senses can also be useful.

• Look around you.

• Name 5 things you can see.

• Now name 5 things you touch. Name what they feel like to touch.

• Now name 5 things you can smell. Name them.

• Name 5 things you can hear and describe what you are hearing.

If it is the early hours of the morning, rather than tossing and turning, unable to get back to sleep and those thoughts just going on and on then get up and do something else for a little while.

Maybe you have a good book to read. Maybe you can listen to music. Just choose something that will not wake you up too much and so that thing until you feel able to go back to sleep.

Most people find it takes half an hour or so before they have cleared their mind enough to go back to sleep. If you can’t, allow yourself to accept that and find something enjoyable and restful to do. Yes you may be tired the next morning, but you will be less stressed. Maybe you will sleep better the next night.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your incessant thoughts or attending to the underlying issues, 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

The Importance of To Don’t Lists

It is very easy to get caught up in the pressure to do more. This is particularly so at this time of year when people are sharing their wrap of the old year and their plans for all they are going to do and achieve in the new year.

I recently read an article that suggested another way to respond to this pressure. Instead of a To Do list, it involved a To Don’t List.

How Much Is Okay To Do In A Day?

Before I continue I want to qualify that it is fine to add extra things to your day, if you can do it without overburdening yourself.

For example, A few years ago I found myself waking up between 4 and 5am in the morning. It became an unproductive time for me because I would lie awake worrying about things. This resulted in me waking up feeling quite stressed and often fairly down.

So I decided to add into that time a morning meditation routine. That worked a treat. Instead of lying awake worrying, I spent the time relaxing and focusing on positive things. This was the birth of my “Paint Your Soul” routine and workshops.

When Adding Extra To Your Day Is Not Helpful

But what if normal for you was you sleeping soundly until the alarm sounded and getting up to start your day?

What if you decided to get up earlier to do something you wanted to fit in to your day? What if getting up earlier was not something your body coped with? What if instead you found yourself tired for the rest of the day?

Whereas my earlier start and morning meditation suited my situation, an earlier start may not suit you.

Making The Decision To Pull The Plug On Too Many To Dos

During the years I was raising 4 children, attending to the needs of the family and working part time, I found myself increasingly burdened with too many things to fit in to a day. As a result I was constantly exhausted, struggling to do everything and getting very stressed.

I realised I needed to reduce my workload. It wasn’t easy to do. I decided my priorities were my marriage, my children, clean clothes, clean dishes and food. Everything else was drastically reduced. If it didn’t serve me, it went.

Sometimes to protect yourself and your health you need to be brutal in making decisions to cut back on activities.

Writing A To Don’t List

In this article the writer talked about having a To Don’t List.

This was a decision made to set strict boundaries around her time.

I had To Don’ts. I just didn’t realise I had them.

One was that once the family sat down to eat in the evening the phone would not be answered. I had an answering machine (yes this was a couple of decades ago) so I knew people could leave a message. This allowed the family to focus on eating together, sitting down after dinner to talk or watch television together, and put the children to bed.

Another was to restrict how many invitations a week I accepted. Once I reached the limit I said no to any more invitations. It was hard to miss out on things, but I found it got easier as I enjoyed the time I had to attend to what was important.

Why A Written To Don’t List Works Better

You may have things you decide you won’t do, but find yourself falling into the trap of agreeing to do things on the spur of the moment.

For example, you may decide to spend your day off visiting a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. You haven’t put it in your calendar but you are planning to catch up with them. Then you get a phone call from the group you volunteer with to fill in for another person who is sick. They are so desperate. There is no
one else. You find yourself saying yes and cancelling your friend’s visit.

So here’s a worst case scenario. You miss out on catching up with your friend and are never able to have that catch up because your calendars never have a matching gap and your friend suddenly dies.

The charity you volunteer for? You get there and find there are more people there than needed. Later you discover you were the first person they rang and there were a number of people who would have been happy to fill in that day.

You don’t know when you are asked to do something what the future holds. You don’t know if you are desperately needed or not, or whether the person ringing you is anxious about filling a gap in a roster and wants to fill that gap with the minimum number of phone calls.

When you write your To Dont’s down it is easier to stick to them. There is something about the act of writing things down on a list that you can see that makes them harder to ignore.

Someone once told me that she puts everything in her calendar, including taking time out for “me” time. That way when someone contacts her wanting her to do something that clashes with her me time she just says no. It is in her calendar and she has learned the value of “me” time.

Guarding Your Time Is An Ongoing Process

I still fall into the trap of doing too much, especially as so many people want to see me before Christmas and I have so many friends I want to catch up with at many Christmas Gatherings. The past few Christmases I have found myself staggering over the finish line of Christmas Eve and spending Christmas feeling very unwell. Next Christmas? There will be a formal list with To Don’ts around the number of people I can see in a day. I won’t exceed my limit of people I see on a normal day. This is because I love catching up with my friends. Now that my children are grown up I have added my friends to my priority list. They are essential for my well being.

I still make decisions that involve To Don’ts. Now that I have read about To Don’t Lists I will be formalising my To Dont’s and taking them more seriously.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with setting boundaries around your time and deciding what is necessary and how to fit it in to your life, 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

How To Stop Your Stories Causing You To Fail

“The stories we tell ourselves can either empower or weaken us. When we live in our heads, we don’t appreciate the current moment. Sometimes we are so busy crafting our stories that we miss the importance of what is happening right now. Take a moment to stop, take a breath, and notice everything that is happening. Appreciate what is and allow what is going to happen to enter naturally into your life.” ~ Emily Silva.

Getting Caught Up In Stories

When you are more caught up in the stories you tell yourself, you can cause yourself to fail in the things you do because you pay more attention to the stories than the present moment.
It is an easy trap to fall into. It starts when you are first exposed to traumatic events, most likely in childhood. Everyone does this to a certain extent. There are myriad ways a child can be traumatised. And there are myriad stories to manage the overwhelming and impossible to process feelings associated with those traumatic incidents.
When things are overwhelming and impossible to process, and the child does not receive any assistance resolving this issue, the child will write their own narrative to explain what happened.

Children Are Masters At Writing Negative Stories About Themselves

Sadly, children are very good at added 2 and 2 and getting 500. So often the stories the child writes are disempowering. Children are more likely to blame themselves for something, even when it is not their fault. A child lacks an adult understanding of what is happening and may not have an adult available who can help them understand. So the child will be less likely to understand the context of what happens and therefore think they are to blame for what happened.

Of course, children are often blamed for things that happened when what happened had nothing to do with them. Sadly it is the nature of intergenerational trauma that adults will often default to using the language that was used on them as children. So most of us will get some words spoken to us that are hurtful.

Affirming Stories Can Cause Distractions Too

Other words spoken to you as a child can be ones that affirm you. That tell you that you are loved, capable, good at something, able to do something well. Those words empower you.

But they can lead to stories that distract you from the task at hand, or expect you to be unrealistic about what you can achieve.

The Power Of The Narrative In Your Head To Distract You

The words that you hear become a narrative in your head. They may empower you and fill you with confidence. Or they may weaken you and fill you with anxiety and doubt.

They may fill you with the sense that you should achieve an impossibly high standard. When you don’t achieve that you can be left feeling you have failed when you have actually done very well, just not as well as you thought you should.

Your narrative may also fill you with the sense that you can’t do this so that achieving what you want becomes almost impossible.

Narratives Can Distract You

No matter what words the narrative contains, it can distract you from being in the moment and focusing on what you are doing. They can even trip you up and cause you to not be able to complete your tasks effectively. They can also stop you from enjoying and being part of what you are doing.
It is worth remembering to stop and notice what you do as you do it. Better to fill your head with awareness of the present moment, than be distracted by the narratives playing in your head.

When you stop and pay attention you are more likely to be able to evaluate how you are going and see the progress you are making than being caught up in narratives that cause you to lose sight of what you are actually doing.

Awareness of the present moment also allows you to make instant changes in what you are doing that increase your ability to succeed. You are more likely to succeed in your tasks if you are in the present moment.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with being in the present moment and changing your negative narrative, 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

Grief Is About Living, Not Just Losing

Everyone lives life with expectations about what life will be.

Eventually there is disappointment when life doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. The way you believe it should be.

In life there are two ways to deal with disappointment.

The first is to protest: I didn’t sign up for this!!!

Life has not turned out as you wanted it to. The trouble is you can get stuck in that protest place and feel miserable and never free yourself to grieve.

Or you can choose to grieve and transform the disappointment.

Some people have learned to transform. They take life as it comes and roll with the punches. They can manage with uncertainty. But for most of us, we have yet to learn this lesson and disappointment, coupled with surprise or shock, leads to grief at the loss of our expected life.

Learning to accept the uncertainty of life allows you to:

• See things as they really are. This allows you to understand life better.

• See opportunities you didn’t realise were there.

• Feel more at peace and comfortable as you switch your attention to what you have instead of what you want and don’t have.

Grief Is About Every Loss In Life

Grief is not just about losing someone you love. Anything in life that is lost, be it a limb, friendship, home, job, life expectation and so on is a loss that you grieve.

The fact that these losses are not recognised as things that are grieved for, makes it harder to grieve.

Examples of big losses in life that need to be grieved for are:

• Having a child born with severe disabilities that changes the expectations you had for the life of that child. You may love that child and determine to always support them, but you still grieve for the lost expectation.

• Future plans to retire and enjoy life changes when your partner becomes very ill and you have to be their full time carer.

• Losing a much loved and valued job.

Grieving Is A Skill

Grieving is a skill that you can learn. People who experience a lot of grief often learn the skills to allow them to process their grief faster.

Whatever the cause of your grief, remember that it is normal. The normal trajectory of grief is that over time the grief diminishes and becomes less. You also start to discover meaning in your life again.

How Long Does Grief Last And Is It Always This Intense?

To answer this question, I am going to ask some questions of you first.

What Was Your Relationship To What Or Who You Have Lost?

If your emotional needs were primarily met by the one you have lost then you are going to need to find someone to meet those needs.

Initially a counsellor can help with that. You can also join a grief support group. In the long term you need to find ways to get those emotional needs met.

How Supportive Is Your Social Network?

The strong supportive social network helps you meet your emotional needs and is there to support you when you need help.

Do You Have Meaningful Activities In Your Life That Are Not Affected By Your Loss?

Having activities in place that are meaningful for you will help you continue with your life.

Part of grieving involves finding new meaning in your life. Having some meaning already can help shorten that process. For some people, their loss changes their life priorities. If that is you, then you may find you need to seek new ways of finding meaning in life.

How Counsellors Help

The biggest way I help people is to allow them to talk to me without any judgement or “fixing” from me. Being able to express your feelings in a safe place allows you to process them better. You can contextualise your grief better with counselling. You can also organise your grief better so that it is more manageable.

So What Does This Have To Do With The Grief Of Lost Expectations?

One thing to consider when you grieve lost expectations is to identify where they came from.

Society is great at teaching you what you should expect from life.

From birth you are introduced to concepts of the ideal life. From the story books you have read to you, to the children’s television programs. These all teach you expectations of what life will be.

As you grow up you observe what people around you are doing. You learn to expect your life to be like that of others. Older people in your life teach you this too. Maybe they talk about what you will grow up to be. There are expectations that you will have a job when you grow up. Expectations that you will find a life partner. Expectations that you will have children. Expectations that you will live in some sort of home.

Advertisements, movies, television series, the conversations of those around us. All these give you a picture of the life you should expect to live.

So where in this perfect picture does a disabled child fit? Or a partner requiring your care? Or you becoming disabled and needing to be cared for? Or losing that wonderful job that means so much to you?

All these things are contrary to what you learned to expect in life. All lead to grief. All need to be grieved.

Life Wasn’t Meant To Be Easy

That may be some put down by a politician, or a platitude thrown at you by someone uncomfortable with your struggles. But the reality is that all life contains suffering. Some people may get a lot more than others, but all will experience some.

If you allow it to, suffering can teach you things.

You may find good people who help you when you didn’t expect that to happen.

You may discover strengths you didn’t realise you had.

You may learn to appreciate life more.

You may find a different way of living that suits you better.

Expectations Around Your Latter Years

For many people I see whose long-term relationships break down once they are over the age of 50 there is often a lot of grief around the future. When you have been in a relationship with someone long term there is that expectation of a future together.

As the Beatles suggested in “When I’m 64” there is the expectation of being in the relationship forever and growing old together. What happens to that? Will you grow old alone? What does that mean for your quality of life? Will you have no one to care for you? No one to notice if you fall? No one to be there should you die at home? What about money? How will you survive? Will you actually have a home to live in? Or will you end up homeless?
These are very real concerns. So Grief is complicated by fears for safety and companionship in the future.

The Value Of Problem Solving

A lot of these lost expectations revolve around what you imagine will give you happiness.

But what if happiness, true happiness, is found elsewhere?

Researchers have found that people who solve problems in their lives report greater happiness and sense of agency than those who don’t solve problems.

That may sound strange but it makes sense.

If you encounter a problem in life it can feel very disempowering. But if you work out how to resolve that problem then you feel good.

Working through your grief and learning how to solve the problems that grief has caused is empowering and builds happiness.

How To Engage Problem Solving

So you had a picture of what your future would be like.

What was that picture?

How has it changed?

What is missing from that picture now?

You have identified what is missing. Now you know what you have lost.

Was what you thought the future would be like realistic? After all, we all imagine amazing things, but they rarely happen. And we are usually fine with that because on some level we know they were unrealistic. Also that realisation usually unfolds slowly, not abruptly when something major happens.

Identifying the unrealistic expectations can help with being able to let go of them.

What you are left with are the expectations that were more realistic. Maybe they were long cherished dreams that are now shattered. These are the ones you need to grieve. Because you put in the work to identify these deep losses, it is actually more manageable to work through them. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it is now a more manageable size.

You may be able to work through these losses on your own or you may need help.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grieving your losses in life, 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