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 do you plan a New Year when the one you love is not there?

This is the time of year when much of the discussion revolves around people’s plans for the New Year. Here in the Southern Hemisphere it makes good sense. One academic year has ended and another is about to begin. Many people have a lovely holiday. It is as if everything has worked up to that point and a lovely summer shutdown with all the public holidays is a wonderful opportunity to relax and reset. Going back to work/school is a whole new world. It is natural to review the year that has been and plan the year to come. Or at least decide what you would like to do in that year.

At this time of year it seems that everyone is talking about their plans for the year ahead. All the things they are going to do, wonderful of course. All the plans they have.

What do you do when the new year you have is not the one you want?

But you have experienced a loss. When each day is daunting, how can you set resolutions and make plans for the year ahead?

It can be difficult to get up after experiencing a loss. Facing the day seems so incredibly daunting. Emotions are high and staying in and away from others may feel safer than dealing with them.

All this is natural. Withdrawing is the automatic response of most people.

But here is a thought of what you might be able to do instead.

The Woman With The Disappointing Year in New York

I was reading about a woman who had a scholarship to study in New York for a year. She was so excited. She found herself a lovely apartment on Manhattan and looked forward to all the activities she was going to do while there.

Then she lost something.

It wasn’t the loss of a loved one, but the impact was still devastating. She lost the expectations of her wonderful year. She became very ill and found it hard to do her work or even get through the day. Suddenly her year and all her plans were shattered remnants.

She didn’t lose someone she loved, but she lost the person she was and the year she had planned. She realised this was as devastating for her as when she had lost her brother. The plans and expectations of her future were shattered.

How She Learned To Cope

Having been through grieving for her brother she had some ideas of how to cope. Having been through the worst years of grieving for him and emerging into a world that was less shattered, she realised there was something she could do.

Once she started picking up the pieces after her brother’s death, she found herself thinking of all the things she did with her brother that were good. She discovered things about him and the life they shared to be grateful for.

She never thought she could feel grateful, but she did.

The Challenge of Just Getting Through a Day

In this time where every day was a challenge to just get out the door she realised she could use gratitude to get her through.

If she made it out the door she was grateful for that. If she had to stay in bed she was grateful for those who supported her on those days. When all she could do was lie in bed and listen to music because she was too tired to read, she was grateful for her music.

At the end of the year she had achieved her study aims and lived as much as she could. She had done the things she decided were important and managed some days of just chilling and having fun with friends.

Learning To See Gratitude

Her year had not turned out as she had planned, but it had been a year of achievements, fun and a lot of good things. As time went on she realised that she remembered more the things she had done, than what she had been unable to do.

It was the same with her brother. Looking back over his life she remembered the good things. Yes it hurt, but she had survived.

This Path is Never Completely Alone

Another thing she realised is that in both memories – the year in New York and her brother’s life – there were people who walked alongside her and supported her. Not always, but often enough.

You are facing a New Year without the person you love. This year is going to be one of surviving. Of learning to live with their loss and grieve. Of learning to live again, eventually.

Along the way you will find people who care and want to be there for you. That might not be all the time, it might be someone you encounter in a day who is there and gone, but they were there to support you for that moment. Don’t be afraid to let in the people who are able and willing to support you. Be willing to ask for help and the support you need.

Just as other people see the New Year as a time of new beginnings, know that you are in a time of transition and new beginnings as you grieve for what you have lost. Don’t be afraid to step out into that new beginning. Find the time occasionally to be grateful for what you have. Some day in the future you may look back and see gratitude for what was there in your life that got you through this year.

Can I Help?

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 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

5 Ways To Navigate Christmas When Life Seems Far From Ideal

Traditionally Christmas is a time when people get together with their family. That is great if you have a family you are happy to get together with. But not everyone is in that position

Maybe your Christmas is marred by memories of someone you used to spend Christmas with but don’t anymore. Maybe it is because they have died, or you are estranged, or they have moved away.

Or maybe Christmas is a time of having to visit family when there are difficulties in relationships. When you feel you have to endure contact with people you are frightened of, or may have hurt you, or are downright unpleasant.

Or Christmas may be a reminder of past traumas.

The Cultural Importance of Christmas

Whether you like it or not, Christmas is important culturally for many people. There are those who believe in Jesus and see this time as a celebration of Jesus’ birth, often with family. There are also people who see Christmas as a time to have fun and catch up with family and friends.

If you watch the myriad Christmas movies that exist, you will see a constant message of people having a lovely, perfect time. Suddenly everyone is friendly and old rifts are healed. People are included. There is fun and laughter and all good things.

The reality frequently fails to meet the expectations of the movies.

Christmas Has Significance In Many Lives As A Time To Be With Others

The significance of Christmas as an occasion in our lives means that it takes on a significance that is hard to ignore. Few people report being happy to spend Christmas alone. Many experience stress at what to do for Christmas. Many are alone, and not happy about it.

Christmas can be a joyous time if you have people to celebrate with. But it can be a sad time if you have lost someone. It can be a stressful time if you have traumatic memories of past Christmases that were horrifying. It can also be a stressful time if catching up with some family members is far from pleasant.

An Experience of a Christmas With Gratitude

I recently had a conversation with a man who was facing yet another Christmas alone. He was estranged from his family after the death of his brother, and had experienced many lonely Christmases. He was looking for something different to do for Christmas and decided in the end to plan his own special Christmas camping somewhere he loved.

His choice for Christmas is not everyone’s idea of a fun Christmas. But his attitude may be helpful. He had decided last year he was going to stop fighting the fact that he was alone at Christmas and instead be grateful and seek gratitude in the season. His plans for this year were the result of that decision.

These are his tips for a joyous solo Christmas.

One. You Belong.

It is easy when on your own to think Christmas is not something for you. After all, the images we see everywhere of Christmas are of people in groups. But being on your own doesn’t mean you don’t belong.

You do belong.

He worked out a few years ago that looking for things in his life to be grateful for reminded him that he was loved and worthy even though he was alone. He saw Christmas as a time to have fun. To relax. To eat all the foods he felt he couldn’t eat at other times of the year. To indulge in special foods.

He listed all his friends and the way they showed throughout the year how much he mattered. So many of them had family Christmases and caught up with him at other times near to Christmas. Even though they couldn’t invite him to their family Christmas, often a long way away, he still belonged.

He decided to see Christmas as a time he may be alone, but not lonely. He decided to be grateful for the friends he had and the richness they brought to his life all year around.

He chose to see his life as a gift to himself and to others and decided to plan a Christmas that honoured this. In his case, it was to go camping in a favourite spot and spend a few days doing what he loved to do, knowing he belonged even if he was alone.

Two. Give Yourself Permission to be Real

He found that as a result of practicing gratitude he was able to accept his life exactly as it was. He didn’t try to deny the reality of his life. He accepted it for all its wonder and all its warts.

He was happy to realise he had given himself permission to see his life as it was and be okay with that.

He allowed himself time to feel the pain of the family estrangement. He allowed himself to be honoured by acknowledging this pain. What he found was that honouring that pain and giving it space did not make him miserable. It actually allowed him to accept what was and find joy in the things he decided to do at Christmas.

Life is full of hurts and absences. Fighting those things only makes it more painful. When you accept what is, you are able to find a way to move forward in life and find joy.

Three. Stop. Look. Go.

As he was researching gratitude he came across this practice of grateful living. The practice is to stop. To pause. To not rush into decisions, action, reactions, but to pause.

Once you stop, look around and within. What are you feeling? What opportunities can you see around you? What does your heart tell you?

Once you have given yourself time to examine your future direction and you are comfortable with what you have discovered, then proceed.

As you proceed keep stopping, looking and then going. You may need to try different approaches to see how they fit. You may have an idea and find you can’t proceed with it. You may start doing something and not be happy with it. Be ready to adapt what you are doing and to go on when you feel ready.

Four. Be Open to Opportunities

Last year, he discovered an elderly neighbour who was alone at Christmas, having just lost her husband. He decided to share his Christmas meal with her and give her a simple present at Christmas. The day turned out to be a special one for both of them, especially as the elderly neighbour died during the year.

He saw an opportunity and acted on it.

His planned camping holiday was another opportunity that arose for this year and he has decided to take it.

Being alert to opportunities is a way to honour your life for all it has to give and for all you are able to receive.

Five. Say Yes to Joy

This last point was one he was delighted to learn.

He felt to be happy, to experience joy, would be a betrayal of his brother.

Instead he found that his happiness and joy was there alongside his sadness at his brother’s death and his family estrangement.

He saw the reality of the advice he had read that joy can be present alongside sadness. That joy is an affirmation of life continuing. He also realised the courage it takes to hold the past in the present and experience joy alongside sadness.

He realised he wanted to enjoy Christmas and he chose to live it doing something he enjoyed. Yes it was going to have its sad moments, but it was also going to be a wonderful day.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about the things happening in 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

The Cost Of Love

I recently had a conversation with some bereaved parents facing their first Christmas without their son. This is what they wanted me to share with you in the hope that it may bring comfort to others in a similar situation. As well as changing anything that could identify them, I have put their thoughts into words that I hope will do justice to their pain.

I am going to call my parents Joy and Father Christmas. That is not their name of course. But they rather liked the idea of those being their names.

Joy And Father Christmas’s Story

As Christmas and many celebrations of family weddings, birthdays, births approach, we realised we needed to take a deep breath and prepare ourselves for the events and the pain.

We tried to plan for joyous occasions and how we could show joy without breaking down in the morass of our own pain.

We planned ways we could quietly and unobtrusively leave.

We felt we were no longer part of this happy society. This group of family and friends going about their lives as through nothing had happened. And for them it hadn’t. Life went on for them in all its glorious joys and splendour.

The Darkness Of Our Pain

But for us life was dark, devastating and full of pain and tears.

All these celebrations with family at their core were devastating for us when we were bleeding and our family was ruptured by the death of our son.

We dreaded the approaching Christmas.

I Used To Love Christmas

In the before time, before our son died, I loved the warmth and generosity of Christmas. I loved getting together with friends and family. I loved the warmth of belonging to a wonderful group of people.

Cooking For His Absence

I love cooking. It is what soothes me. So I have been cooking. A lot. And I have been inviting people over because someone has to eat the food. They come and there is joy and love and warmth and we are surrounded by their love.

But all I see is the one who is missing. The one who would always have been there.

So much of what I find myself cooking is what our boy loved to eat. And it hurts so much to cook these dishes, knowing he will never eat them.

I serve meals for my family with one less place set. And that hurts so much. But setting a place for him seems wrong as well.

Going Through The Motions

We go places. Dutifully attending events of our family and friends. We don’t want to go, but feel we need to, so that we don’t drown in our misery.

We get into the car and there is an empty seat.

Our journeys are marked by the absence of his incessant chatter at all the things he could see flashing past the car window.

It hurts so much.

But no one ever sees.

Time marches on.

All The Firsts

Our other children have had birthdays since he died. Each one a first birthday for them without their brother.

I watch my other children growing older and feel pain that he won’t grow older.

I see friends son’s his age and wonder whether he would be getting taller. What size shoes he would be in now. What his interests would be.

He is forever frozen in time and we try to move on, but it is so hard to escape.

After The Funeral

It has been a few months now and people have stopped asking us how we are. There are no more casseroles at the front door, cards in the letterbox, emails and text messages asking how we are.

We feel as though we have taken on an extra job. We are trying to support our other children. Smooth them through their bereavement. Attend to their every need. Notice every hesitation or sign of being stuck in their pain.

Reaching Out For Support

We try to look out for each other, but that comes a distant last after the needs of our living children.

We have joined groups of other parents who have lost children. We have sent out children to counsellors and groups to help them work through their grief.

We draw comfort from the experiences of other parents, from realising we are not alone in this isolation of grief.

The Forgetting Of Life Moving On

We wait for other people to notice he is missing. To mention him. Some do. Most don’t. That hurts.

We attended a baptism and then a wedding. Both were excruciatingly painful. We left early, worried that our pain would mar the joy of the happy parents and the happy wedding couple.

I run into people through work who don’t know about my son. They ask how the family is. I don’t know how to answer. Do I say each child’s name and what they are doing then add that my son is dead?

I just change the subject.

There are still people in our community who don’t know. Who ask when they see me. Your son used to play soccer, is he not interested any more? No. He is dead that is all. I usually mutter something and get away as fast as I can.

Some days I come home early from work, before anyone else is home, and I can’t go into the house. He is not there and I can’t bear the silence his absence brings.

Hiding My Tears

For so long I hid my tears from my son. I wanted his last months to be happy ones. I didn’t want him to see my misery. Now I hide my tears from other people. They feel uncomfortable when I cry, so I don’t.

Seeking Counselling Support

After the counselling we received. Something that helped us both be able to express our pain without fear of hurting anyone else. After that counselling I realised a few things.

I can look around and see the many who, like us, are facing their first Christmas without the one they love, the one whose absence has left a massive hole in their life and heart.

I realise this is an aspect of being human that we tend to ignore. My resolve is to acknowledge the universality of grief. In acknowledging the pain of loss. In acknowledging the frailty of our human bodies, of the tenuous and frail hold we have on life. I realise that the present moment, each day, is important and not to waste it by worrying about trivial things.

It will hurt this Christmas. Our little family will feel the pain of his absence, but we will also know that our lives are better because he was in them. Because we loved him and he loved us. Love always carries a cost, that of pain when the living relationship ends. But the joy of knowing him was worth the pain of losing him.

Can I Help?

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 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

Trauma Impacts Your Adult Life, Even When You Don’t Think It Has

“Few of us have escaped experiencing trauma in our human life. I define trauma as a difficult life event that was too overwhelming to emotionally process when it happened. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, trauma is stored in your body, waiting for another time in the future to be digested, resolved and healed.” ~ Shelley Klammer

Many of the difficult feelings that are experienced in life are never dealt with. Maybe at the time there was too much going on to be able to process what had happened. Maybe there wasn’t support available to help you process what had happened. Often these traumatic experiences occur in childhood.

Frequently other people don’t understand how traumatic seemingly (to them) unimportant events can be to a child. If others don’t comprehend the impact the event had on you, then they can’t help you process it.

Sadly, not all children have adults in their lives who are attuned to them or have the skills to help them process the difficult things that happen in life.

So You Think Your Childhood Trauma Didn’t Impact You?

I have witnessed so many people who claim they were never impacted by the difficult things that happened in their lives, but the way they react to things and the difficulties they face in life tell another story.

So often individuals are unaware of the impacts because they have covered them up for so long, at first as a matter of survival and later because they have covered them up so successfully they can no longer see them as existing.

My Journey Of Discovery

I know. I did the same thing. As I grew older, and learned more, I started to try to understand what was happening for me.

My mother dying helped, as her hold over me was broken. It was like waking up and seeing the things she did to me and hearing what other people had observed but I hadn’t been ready to hear until she was dead.

When I studied counselling I discovered a lot of places where trauma had impacted me. I was able to see that shadow side. The trauma side.

Along the way I sought my own counselling to help heal the trauma impacts.

Shame

I was also able to acknowledge the shame I felt at being abused as a child.

Shame is a major part of childhood abuse. The child is often told the adult’s bad behaviour is the child’s fault. Even if the child is not told that, the child concludes they are bad and shameful because it is the only way they can make sense of what is happening to them.

Trauma Healing Is Active And Lifelong

I continue to discover places where trauma has impacted me. I suspect I will continue finding these impacts until I die. They are not major now, but they are still there.

Seeing Trauma Impacts As Different Parts Of You

I have learned to be able to see those impacts as a child of the age when the trauma occurred. That helps to be more objective about the impacts.

It helps to have compassion for the child, rather than judging her. It helps me to understand better how hard I had to work as a child and how well I have done to be fairly normal as an adult.

Mindfulness, reflection and compassion are my tools for exploring all those hurt places.

You can learn this too. On your journey you will find it hard to be able to do this alone. This is where a trauma trained counsellor is helpful.

Can I Help?

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

“Few of us have escaped experiencing trauma in our human life. I define trauma as a difficult life event that was too overwhelming to emotionally process when it happened. When you become emotionally overwhelmed, trauma is stored in your body, waiting for another time in the future to be digested, resolved and healed.” ~ Shelley Klammer

Many of the difficult feelings that are experienced in life are never dealt with. Maybe at the time there was too much going on to be able to process what had happened. Maybe there wasn’t support available to help you process what had happened. Often these traumatic experiences occur in childhood.

Frequently other people don’t understand how traumatic seemingly (to them) unimportant events can be to a child. If others don’t comprehend the impact the event had on you, then they can’t help you process it.

Sadly, not all children have adults in their lives who are attuned to them or have the skills to help them process the difficult things that happen in life.

Subheading So You Think Your Childhood Trauma Didn’t Impact You?

I have witnessed so many people who claim they were never impacted by the difficult things that happened in their lives, but the way they react to things and the difficulties they face in life tell another story.

So often individuals are unaware of the impacts because they have covered them up for so long, at first as a matter of survival and later because they have covered them up so successfully they can no longer see them as existing.

Subheading My Journey Of Discovery

I know. I did the same thing. As I grew older, and learned more, I started to try to understand what was happening for me.

My mother dying helped, as her hold over me was broken. It was like waking up and seeing the things she did to me and hearing what other people had observed but I hadn’t been ready to hear until she was dead.

When I studied counselling I discovered a lot of places where trauma had impacted me. I was able to see that shadow side. The trauma side.

Along the way I sought my own counselling to help heal the trauma impacts.

Subheading Shame

I was also able to acknowledge the shame I felt at being abused as a child.

Shame is a major part of childhood abuse. The child is often told the adult’s bad behaviour is the child’s fault. Even if the child is not told that, the child concludes they are bad and shameful because it is the only way they can make sense of what is happening to them.

Subheading Trauma Healing Is Active And Lifelong

I continue to discover places where trauma has impacted me. I suspect I will continue finding these impacts until I die. They are not major now, but they are still there.

Subheading Seeing Trauma Impacts As Different Parts Of You

I have learned to be able to see those impacts as a child of the age when the trauma occurred. That helps to be more objective about the impacts.

It helps to have compassion for the child, rather than judging her. It helps me to understand better how hard I had to work as a child and how well I have done to be fairly normal as an adult.

Mindfulness, reflection and compassion are my tools for exploring all those hurt places.

You can learn this too. On your journey you will find it hard to be able to do this alone. This is where a trauma trained counsellor is helpful.

Sub heading Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your trauma impacts, 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 do I cope with grief at Christmas?

Right now it is hard to avoid noticing that Christmas is almost upon us. In fact it is three weeks away today.

There are Christmas parties everywhere. You may have been invited to several.

The shops are full of Christmas decorations, Christmas themed window displays and Christmas wrapping paper. The muzak is Christmas themed. Everywhere there are people buying up presents, food, decorations. It is busy and endless.

For many people, this time of year is very exciting.

But for others Christmas brings painful reminders that the person you love is not there.

This can happen with the first Christmas, or the 50th. There is always a memory of the one who isn’t there.

Planning for Christmas and New Year

You may have already planned for this Christmas, knowing it will be hard. It doesn’t make the pain any easier, but from my own experience I find it helps to understand that the pain I am feeling is normal. And that I am not the only one feeling this way.

It is important as you face this season with your grief to be honest with yourself. Yes, it will most probably hurt. It is helpful to adopt some strategies to help cope with the pain.

Don’t Feel You Shouldn’t Be Enjoying Christmas

One other thing to mention is that you may actually enjoy some aspects of Christmas. That does not mean the one you have lost isn’t important. It is perfectly okay to enjoy yourself.

Being miserable won’t bring your loved one back. Enjoying some aspects doesn’t make you uncaring and doesn’t mean you didn’t love this person. It just means you are finding joy in some aspects of Christmas.

Some people enjoy Christmas as part of their grieving. As a way of honouring the fun they had previously with the one who is gone.

But being honest about what hurts is important. Be honest that it hurts and accept the way you react. Whether you react with avoidance, sadness, joy or any other reaction, it is absolutely okay.

Make Plans For How You Will “Do” Christmas and New Year

It is helpful as Christmas approaches to make plans around how you will acknowledge and celebrate it.

Some people adopt new traditions, marking the “after” part of Christmas.

Other people set a place at the table for the one who is no longer there.

Many people visit the grave, place where their loved one’s ashes are, or a special place their loved one enjoyed being.

The Importance of Planning

Whatever you do, it is important to plan Christmas. To plan what you want it to look like.

Although it is tempting to forget about celebrating it is important to mark the occasion. As I have already suggested, maybe you want to start a new tradition.

Maybe this tradition will be something that you enjoyed doing with your loved one.

Plan also to do something to honour your loved one. I previously mentioned setting a place at the table. Another thing people do is to light a candle in their memory, or buy a special ornament to represent them.

Another idea is to have some moments to acknowledge the loved one, even having a moment’s silence in their honour.

Knowing Christmas Is Hard Doesn’t Make It Easier But It Can Help With Coping

Understanding that Christmas can be a difficult time for those who are grieving may not make it easier, but it can help you understand and accept your reactions.

Acknowledging that this time of year won’t be easy, and making specific plans to prepare for it will be helpful to you.

Find Someone Understanding To Talk To

It is also helpful to talk to friends, family or a counsellor who you know will be supportive and allow you to express your feelings without trying to shut you down.

Do let people know that his Christmas is different and you may be doing different things this year. You may not even feel like having much of a celebration.

All Emotions Are Valid

Remember that all emotions are valid. It is okay to feel angry, sad, grief, happiness, excitement, and more. Don’t compare yourself to other people. The way they handle their grief, even if it is for the same person, is going to be different.

Remember there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. Don’t isolate yourself. Find those who are supportive of you and spend Christmas with them. And don’t forget to look after yourself.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about your grief and managing Christmas and New Year, 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

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

When Shame Blocks You Grieving Properly

Grief is a natural part of life. Ever since humankind was capable of feeling love, we have grieved for the loss of that love.

It is natural for us to cry and reach out to others for comfort. That is considered the way grief has happened for millennia. Part of grief is to allow the putting into the past of our grief.

Shame is a big emotion that causes other emotions, mainly sad ones, to be stuck. When Shame complicates grief you are unable to put grief in the past and it just keeps on in the present.

Grief and Shame Often Appear Together

When I work with people who are grieving I have noticed that grief is often experienced alongside shame.

Grief is designed to help us loosen, release and reach out. Shame has the opposite effect. It causes us to freeze and isolate from others.

Shame leads to endless loops of worry and rehashing the shameful episode. This keeps it in the present instead of the past where you fervently wish it would go.

Grief involves crying and grieving for what has happened and putting that grief in the past.

Grief needs to be worked with in a different way to shame.

Complicated Emotions

Complicated emotions are difficult. They require different approaches and sometimes need to be separated in order to work through them.

This complication is probably why most people dislike complex emotions in themselves or in others.

Interestingly, children have no difficulty managing complicated emotions. It is as if that maturing, and learning to identify our emotions, stops us from being able to work with the different emotions we are likely to feel at any time.

Accepting Complicated Emotions

One of the best approaches to working with complicated emotions is to accept they are there. To accept that they just are.

Shame is one of the emotions we fear the most. One of those reasons is that when shame is present, we can’t process our emotions as we are supposed to. Instead of being processed and moved on quickly, they remain stuck by shame. Emotions are manageable when they are processed quickly, but when they remain unresolved, they become difficult to manage.

Shame does have a purpose. Its purpose is to keep us safe by lowering the intensity of other emotions. This allows us to curb our reactions to emotions such as anger. That is fine if we then later attend to these emotions. But what happens more often is that shame binds with those emotions and they remain.

All those bound emotions makes for one crowded mind. And a mind that struggles to process emotions. And shame creates an endless loop of being trapped in emotions.

Working Through Grief and Shame

Most people who come to see me about their grief have shame caught up in the grief as well. When I work with you, it is important to identify all the emotions you are working through and then separate them all out to deal with them.

If I don’t attend to your shame and help you work through it you will be stuck in your grief. Usually that stuckness is what brings you to me.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and shame, 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

What you seek is what you are

This quote from a Tara Brach lecture is a reminder that you need to find your purpose in life. This is not some mystical endeavour, it is actually relatively simple.

What are the things you love doing?

What is your passion?

Not what others tell you that you are good at, or that you should be doing. No. This is about what you love doing. What you dream of doing.

What Makes You Happy?

Think of the things you long to do. The things that make you happy.

When you identify what makes you happy let your purpose come to you. Practice mindfulness. Sometimes meditate on the things the make you happy.

Explore without agenda, just with curiosity, what it is about those things that makes you happy. Allow the exploration to lead you to where it sends you.

Learn To Listen To Your Intuition

If you haven’t already done so, learn to listen to your intuition. That feeling in your belly that alerts you to things that you are uncomfortable with and things you love doing. That feeling that longs to do things.

Do the things you love. Allow your imagination to dream about them. Follow your intuition. In time create your ideal reality. Realise that the longings you feel, the call you hear, is calling you for a reason. This is the path, the path you follow with purpose. This is your purpose in life.

Your Purpose

Your purpose is what YOU follow. Nobody else has to follow that path. Nobody else has to understand why you follow it. Nobody else has the right to criticise or judge your path. It is your path, your responsibility, your choice.

Finding that path is great. Following it is often daunting.

Following Your Purpose

Tara Brach talks about how in times like this you forget your oceannness. You identify with the waves crashing on the shore, tossing you around when you swim in the surf. Those waves can be scary. They are hard to learn to ride. Even experienced surfers fall off waves frequently. That can be scary.

But Tara reminds us you are not the waves. You are the ocean. Never forget your oceanness. You should be identifying with the ocean, not the waves. The ocean is vast and powerful and the waves have little impact on it. The ocean is bigger than the waves and you don’t have to be afraid of the waves, because you are the ocean.

You Are The Ocean And The Waves Are Thoughts and Feelings

See the waves as thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Just listen to them. I love to watch the waves on stormy days. Their power and their ferociousness is awe inspiring. But if you look out beyond the waves, the ocean if fairly flat. If you were to travel out way beyond the continental shelf you would see the vast ocean, stretching as far as you can see in all directions. This vast body of water that hardly moves at all.

The waves have little impact on the ocean itself. And your thoughts and feelings have no power over you. Using the essential skill of mindfulness meditation, you can listen to those thoughts and feelings. When you ground yourself in the present moment, in reality, and use mindfulness, you can take a step back from those thoughts and feelings and just observe them.

Learning To Identify With the Ocean

You are the ocean and you are not the waves breaking on the shore. You can see them and observe them, but they have little impact on the deepest part of you.

When you identify with the calm, deep and steady ocean and use mindfulness you can just observe the emotions and realise you may be experiencing them, but you are not the emotions and thoughts. You are the calm, deep, steady ocean.

How To Manage Overwhelming Thoughts and Memories

You can do this every time emotions or memories overwhelm you. Focus on your breathing. feel into the sensations in your body. Connect to the ground. Take that step back and observe the emotions.

Sometimes it is helpful to say “this too”. I have found this a really helpful phrase to remind me to step back from the emotions and observe them rather than be overwhelmed by them.

Be the observer watching the waves crash on the shore, not the person being thrown around by them, struggling not to drown.

Journalling after you meditate is really helpful. It is especially useful after you have meditated to manage overwhelm.

How Do I Learn To Meditate?

I will shortly be making available a recording of how to do a basic mindfulness meditation.

It often works better if you can get spoken instructions. If you were sitting in my therapy room, or the location where we have chosen to hold a therapy session, I would instruct you on how to do this.

For now, I will write some instructions. If you sing up for my newsletter you will receive a free mindfulness mediation that guides you to explore your feelings safely. It is a helpful interim measure and you may learn from it too.

Practicing Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is about allowing yourself to be present. Really present. It is about paying attention to what is happening in you and around you. Sometimes, too deep an exploration of your internal feelings can be overwhelming so it is often helpful to be mindful of your boundaries and what is going on
around you.

I am going to describe a mindfulness mediation that focuses on your boundaries and what is around you.

A Mindfulness Meditation

  1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit or lie. Somewhere where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. It can be helpful to listen to gentle music, there is plenty you can find online or you may have some in your music library.
  3. You may choose to close your eyes, or if that is too difficult to do, soften your focus so that you are not looking at anything.
  4. Breathe in deeply so that you feel your tummy rise. Then slowly release that breath.
  5. Pay attention to what it feels like as you breathe in, as the air enters your nose, as your tummy and chest rise.
  6. Then pay attention to what it feels like as you breathe out, your tummy and chest drop and you can feel the air leaving your nose.
  7. You may even hear yourself breathe in and out.
  8. You may choose to say to yourself “I am breathing in”. “I am breathing out.”
  9. You may choose to say to yourself “As I breathe in, I breathe in peace”. “As I breathe out I breathe out tension.”
  10. Continue breathing gently and easily for a while.
  11. When you are ready you may choose to check in with your body to identify how you are feeling. This involves focusing on each area of the body as you breathe in and out and noticing anything you are feeling there. It may be tension, pain, discomfort, heat, cold, relaxation. Don’t judge what you feel, just notice it.
  12. If at any time you find yourself noticing other things, maybe a thought pops up, just notice it and don’t engage with it. It is as if someone has come into the room and you know they are there but you choose not to talk with them.
  13. As I mentioned earlier, it can be distressing for some people to explore the body. If you notice that you may switch to observing your boundaries.
  14. Notice your body as it touches whatever you are sitting or lying on. Notice the feeling of the fabric where your skin is making contact. Notice the feeling of pressure where your body is making contact with the other surface. If your feet are touching the floor notice your feet touching the floor. If you are in a room with a breeze, notice the feeling of the breeze on your skin.
  15. Once you have paid attention to your boundaries (your skin) you can turn your attention to things you are hearing. Maybe you can hear a clock ticking, or a bird calling outside the window. Maybe you can hear rain, wind, cars, a far-off lawn mower, children playing. Just gently notice those things without judgement.
  16. Continue breathing in and out and just observing what you are paying attention to, whether it is inside your body or outside of your body.
  17. When you are ready you may open your eyes, stretch and go about your day.

How Often Should I Practice Mindfulness And For How Long?

Mindfulness meditation does not have to be long. I suggest at least 5 minutes at a time. If you can manage that once or twice a day then you will become familiar with this practice and be well equipped to practice it whenever you are overwhelmed.

Just practicing mindfulness when you are overwhelmed won’t work because you will be trying to learn a new practice when your brain is not able to do that. But if you practice mindfulness when you are calm then you can just quickly use it when overwhelmed and your brain will be able to use mindfulness to help you regain calm.

Can I Help?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with discovering your life purpose and/or learning mindfulness,, 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