On Saturday afternoon I sat down to watch the North Melbourne versus Brisbane Lions AFL game. As I like to do I wanted to follow SuperCoach* scores on a particular website.
SuperCoach* is a competition where you are given $10,000,000 at the start of the AFL season and choose a team of players who you think are going to play well. Each player is allocated a price, so picking your team is about choosing a balance of great players, good players and the unknown. You are allocated into a league where you compete against others on a head to head basis to win (based on how well your players score). I like playing it during the season, riding the ups and downs and generally berating myself for making poor choices. It’s a constant exercise in frustration tolerance and self-forgiveness.
Back to Saturday afternoon. Whilst the game was on I was keeping an eye on how my SuperCoach team was going. The website I was following was being very glitchy, and I was becoming quite frustrated as the scores on the website for the players were not matching. I also could see that some of the players in the team were not showing up on the website, despite numerous attempts at reloading the website.
Despite this it was a great game.
Toward the end of the game (about two hours later) my son came in from his man cave. He sat down, looked at the game, looked at me and said Mum, you realise this game is a replay. He then pointed out how some of the players were now playing for other teams, one was suspended and not playing in the real life game that I was actually not watching.
The penny dropped.
It wasn’t the website that was wrong.
It was all me.
I had been lulled into the fact that it should have been a live game, because the replay had the live label up in the corner. They were the right teams playing, it’s just the game was about three years old.
I was not mindfully watching. I was watching for interest in the game, but they are not teams I usually follow. Now admittedly I was also reading and doing a couple of other things at the same time as watching the football, but how did I get it so wrong?
I saw what I thought I was seeing.
I looked at the live label, looked at the teams that were playing and thought I ‘should’ be watching the game. I am currently watching games on the Kayo App which for various reasons I found sometimes difficult to navigate, and thought I had pressed on the button for the current game.
So, in my mind I was watching the right game, and everything else went through that lens.
The fact that the website figures didn’t match the game, the fact that the website didn’t have all my players on it (because they weren’t actually playing!). This evidence was dismissed because it didn’t match my currently held belief – that I was watching a live game.
If I had tuned my attention fully I would have realised what was going on.
If I had actually tuned into my common sense I would have realised what was going on.
If my mind had been clearer and not full of everything else I was thinking of. Because I rarely sit for two hours and watch a game of football – it is interspersed with other tasks.
When it was pointed out to me, it was so obvious.
Isn’t this the way with so much.
You see what you expect to see, what you want to see and dismiss evidence to the contrary. In fact you gather evidence (consciously and subconsciously) to support your own belief. This is also known as confirmation bias. In my case, it was that the website had been glitchy and couldn’t be trusted.
The power of the mind to convince us of things that just aren’t true!
Ok, don’t leave me hanging here.
I know I’m not the only one that does things like this. We all do it. When was the last time you fiercely gathered evidence to prove you were right, when you were actually wrong?
What to do about it?
Situations like this are a great reminder of the importance of living mindfully. To be aware of incongruences and to take the time to explore. They are also a reminder that perhaps it’s time to focus cognitive self-care and nourish your brain.
Slowing down a little, taking the time to actively look for a different perspective, realising when your brain is stuck, allowing that other possibilities exist, are all important for your brain health. (If I'd taken the time to go through some basic problem solving steps, I’m sure the brainstorming part would have thrown up the option that I was watching the wrong game.)
As is realising your humanity and be able to laugh at the silly things you do from time to time. I had a great laugh at my own expense as I realised what I had done, rather than add to any stress by beating myself up for being so stupid.
Ways to Love your Mind
You can tune in this week to the Creating Connection podcast where I will be talking about Loving your Mind, and in particular problem solving. But in the meantime you can catch up with my most popular episode this year – 9 keys to successful habit creation.
Until next time, take care of yourself.
Are you loving and thriving in your work at the moment, feeling invincible? Or are you struggling and feel like you're moving through quicksand? Or maybe somewhere in between?
Wherever you are, that's OK.
I know that prioritising yourself, making hard decisions around self-care, saying NO is still hard as a psychologist, particularly in a time where we are seeing a continuing increase in demand for mental health services as we struggle with the impact of COVID19. You want to be of service, and of course you need clients and you need to work.
However, you also need a sustainable business. Squeezing in an occasional extra client or going without a lunch break once in a blue moon happens for many reasons. However, doing this on a regular basis starts to add up.
Without appropriate counterbalances, work overload often catches up with people in the end. And in the end, there is burnout.. The overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and poor productivity impacts on you, your clients and the profession.
You can come back from this, people do, but recovery time is not measured in days or week, it is sometimes measured in years. Depending on the source of burnout, it can be exhibited in leaving employment, career change, early retirement, retraining, and/or withdrawal from direct client services.
But I don’t have time for self-care
Ever gave an excuse for not doing something as "I ran out of time", or variations. "I didn't have enough time"?
Stop for a moment and Imagine that the thing you didn’t have time for was your most favourite thing to do in the whole wide world. Would you have had time to do it?
I’m guessing that most of the time you are going to say ‘yes’ or ‘probably’.
So, it's not the time involved in self-care.
Okay, so what is it?
Here are four real reasons why you say you don’t have enough time.
1. Your current values and priorities don’t allow this task to fit. Life can become full of anything you choose. Work, study, children, children’s activities, gym, coffee dates, meetings, etc etc. There is no shortage of things you can do.
Hard question alert.
Q: Is what you are currently doing congruent with what is most important to you?
2. Distorted thinking. What about if I do this thing and it doesn’t work out? What if I spend my limited time and resources on …… and it still doesn't make a difference. I’m not sure what I’m doing and I don’t want to look stupid. I should already know how to look after myself.
3. The words have become an easy way out.
In a world where being busy is seen to be a badge of honour, “I’m just too busy. I don’t have enough time” has become a default. It’s easier than saying ”I know I should do that, but I actually don’t want to/it’s too hard for me at the moment/I don’t like it/I’m ignoring all things people at the moment/etc”
How about trying to be super honest (at least with yourself) about what you really want to say.
Here are some alternatives
4. You don’t love yourself enough.
This can be hard to hear.
Whether it is because you are putting your needs last out of habit, or, you genuinely believe you are not as deserving as others.
If you find yourself saying, Oh, I don't have time to sit and meditate for five minutes, I'll just take 10 minutes for lunch time because I have a report to write, I don't have time to prepare a healthy meal. I don't have time to go for a walk. I don't have time to journal. I don't have time to X, whatever it is. If these are common responses to decisions you are making, firstly look at the three points above, but then look at what you are saying about your relationship with yourself.
You are worth it. Okay. You need it. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your family. You owe it to your clients.
What you can do about reducing your busyness.
You ARE a limited resource. No matter how hard you work, there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Shifting your boundary fences to extend your clinic hours, adding on a new extra- curricular activity for your child, taking on extra clients, volunteering, pushing through…..can be a slippery slope to burnout.
I've been there, I've said yes to doing more and more because my clients needed it. When what I needed was to say NO and spend more time with my young family.
Another hard question alert
Q: What do you need to say NO to?
I know it's not quite that simple, many factors go into why you say 'Yes' instead of 'No', including
(In the Essential Self-Care for Psychologists course, the module on boundaries is definitely my favourite one - wish I'd understood all this when I first graduated).
When you check what is behind the statement of “I don't have enough time”, you get to restart your life. It's a really good trigger to set off in your brain that things just aren't the way you want them to be.
You HAVE to look at your priorities and values.
And if you don't, if you just keep saying it and not change anything, nothing's going to change.
You might find that you start to feel resentful and neglected. As the demands pile on and you are not taking care of yourself, you may start to hate your life, crave for things that just aren't there. Burnout may start to creep up on you.
So, take “I don't have enough time” as your cue to dig deeper, examine your beliefs, your priorities, to engage in honest communication, and to work on removing those barriers that stand between you and your self-care.
Be kind, and go gently.
What to know if you are experiencing burnout? Go here.
Interested in finding out more about Imposter Syndrome? You can access a paid webinar here.
I had my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccination yesterday.
I understand why some people will not be vaccinated and for others why it’s such a difficult decision to make.
Reading social media, or even print media, you could be excused that it’s as simple as taking sides. Vaccinations are good, vaccinations are bad.
But life is never really as simple as we would like it to be.
When my first child was due to have their vaccinations as a baby I seriously did not know what to do. Although the vaccinations they were having were well established, there was a small risk associated with them. There were also very loud voices of anti-vaxxers, particularly with regard to the believe that Autism was related to having vaccines.
Your brain is designed to keep you alive, to protect you from danger. When there is a threat, or a perceived threat, your mind evaluates the threat and if deemed necessary it switches to a stress response – usually described as fight, flight or freeze.
Being an anxious first time mum, my brain went into evaluation stage. I read everything I could, spoke to all the experts I knew and made a decision. I went ahead with the vaccinations, but spaced the viral load out. I split the vaccines instead of having my children receive them all at once.
Currently, most of us can recite what threats having a COVID-19 vaccination poses. For me with the AstraZeneca it is dying from a clot. And even though the scientific evidence states that the risk is something like 1 in 800,000 (less than the contraceptive pill, and I survived being on that) the side of my brain that wants to keep me safe says”
Because you cannot deny that this vaccination is something new. It feels rushed. Because no other vaccine has undergone so much public scrutiny you read about all the problems that have occurred in clinical trials.
All of these factors combine to create fear and doubt.
Governments and science get it wrong, frequently.
For me, the decision to have a vaccination is based on protecting others around me the best I can.
Being over 50 the AstraZeneca was the vaccination that I was booked in for.
Having had it, I still would have preferred to have the Pfizer vaccination which has less known side effects. Side effects can appear between day 4-20, so my kind, anxious brain will be watching me like a hawk for the next three weeks.
In America one in 600 people have died from COVID-19.
We have been relative fortunate in Australia, but we don’t know what the next variation will bring. And if possible I do not want to contribute to passing this disease to my children, my family and friends or my clients.
So, I rolled the dice and rolled up my sleeve.
Let’s see what happens next.
I have a question for you.
"How are you feeling right now?"
Many people have no idea, or provide an automatic response like, "I'm feeling good, I'm fine."
If you have difficulties with knowing how you feel, you are not alone.
There are many reasons why you may not be able to easily identify what you are feeling - including the fact that many people who ask you how you are feeling, don't really care! It's just a societal nicety to get out of the way.
But knowing how you are feeling IS important.
Combined with knowing what you are thinking and identifying what your body is experiencing, it's one of the key ways you make sense of the world around you. This awareness is a part of living a more mindful life and taking responsibility for your overall self-care.
Below are five habits or behaviours that might be getting in the way for you understanding what you are feeling. Note, I do not discuss trauma in this article, or anxiety and other mental health conditions that can cause difficulties in accessing emotions. The five habits discussed are behaviours and habits that everyone can fall into with realising it.
5 feelings habits or behaviours
The first is DISTRACTION. There are so many things that distract us and take us out of ourselves on a day-to-day basis, not the least being, the 24 hour digital world we live in. Whether it be social media, watching YouTube videos, Netflix or Foxtel, there's so much you can tune into any second of the day and never have to be alone with yourself, your thoughts and your feelings. Distraction is a huge blockage that can get in the way of knowing how you really feel.
Did you know that the statistics around how often people pick up their phone is amazing. It’s about once every five or 10 minutes. And the number of people who, the first thing they do in the morning is not check in with themselves, but check in with what random people are doing on Facebook or Instagram. Hands up if you can relate to either of these things. I know I definitely get hooked into this from time to time.
The next three obstacles I’m grouping together and calling them REASONS. This covers justification, blame and shame. In these situations you can identify what you are feeling but you are stepping into your logical mind instead of allowing yourself the experience.
In JUSTIFICATION you are explaining your feelings. For example. “Oh, I'm feeling pretty tired, but I didn't sleep real well. And you know, maybe if I've gone to bed early or I wouldn't feel quite so tired” or “I'm feeling okay today, but you know, I had time to myself and I was able to go for a walk and unlike other days where I don't get that sort of time”.
BLAME is when you are attributing your feelings to what someone else did. For example, “I'm feeling really angry and it's your fault because you cut me off” or “it's your fault because you didn't do the dishes”. “I'm feeling really frustrated because they didn't ring me when they were supposed to”. So your emotion is all about what someone else did to you.
I'm not saying some of these things didn't happen and some of them might not have contributed to your frustration or your anger or your happiness or whatever you're feeling. However, allowing yourself to go down this train of thought is taking you away from what you are feeling right now and interfering with your ability to experience that emotion fully.
The next reasoning obstacle is SHAME.
Journaling can help you find and connect with your authentic self.
Have you ever felt lost?
Like me, have you felt that somewhere along the way you took a wrong turn, veered of the path, or just became bamboozled with what life threw at you?
It can feel like a battle to create your own space in a world that is often driven by consumerism, material success and 'progress'.
However, there is a growing movement of people who know that tapping into personal and universal energy can create a sense of oneness and wholeness that transcends the artificial.
Welcome to my corner of the world, where you can find practical ways to claim your own space.
And you don’t have to claim this space in a huge way with lots of trumpets blaring.
Confidence can be found in the quiet determination and focus actively connect with and pursue what is important to you, erect your boundaries and live your calm.
When you actively move to discover what is most important to you and live a life of integrity and authenticity, you become part of the movement that is aiming to heal the world.
Now, that’s exciting.
There are many ways to actively connect and pursue what is important to you. Counselling, coaching, manifesting, prayer, meditation, visualisation, goal setting, intention setting, to name a few.
One way of reconnecting with your authentic self is through writing, or journaling. If you have never tried tapping into the thoughts and emotions inside you in this way, I encourage you to give it a go.
However, many people find there is a slight problem with this.
Maybe you have experienced putting aside the time, sitting down to write....and then
....your mind goes blank.
You know that your mind isn't actually blank. In fact you have 10's of 1,000s of thoughts each day.
What is probably stopping you is not getting it right.
Maybe you're worried about your spelling, or handwriting. Maybe you think that what you have to say is not important. Maybe when you were at school you were criticised for your writing.
I encourage you to write whatever comes into your mind. Even if it is 'I can't think of anything to write', or your shopping list, what you dreamt last night, your school memories, what you would do if you won tattslotto, Set yourself a timer of 5 minutes and keep writing until it comes off.
The most important thing when you first start is to create the habit of writing.
To help you get started, I have created a 14 day Self-Connection journal, specifically to kickstart your journaling process.
Your 14 day Self-Connection journal contains a carefully selected quote and complementary prompt for each day.
You can find out more about it here https://positiveyoungminds.vipmembervault.com/.../view/9.
Do you feel the weight of expectations at Christmas? if you do, you are not alone!
This week I share 18 gift tips that can help with that weight, and my Creating Connections that Matter podcast provides some practical strategies to help you choose how you want to do Christmas this year (albiet within appropriate COVID guidelines.
18 GIFT TIPS
🌟 It is experiences that contribute to our happiness. Not stuff! Here are 18 tips for reducing the stress around buying gifts at Christmas.
🌟The simplest way of making gifts easier is to reduce the number of gifts you buy, and the number of people you give gifts too.
Tips just for kids
A Kris Kringle is when each person buys a gift for just one person in a group, hence reducing excess and cost. There are many variations. Names can be drawn and allocated (Secret Santa) or it can be pot luck – everyone brings a gift. If it is pot luck , here are three variations of how to distribute the gifts.
Of course, gifts are not the only potential stress at Christmas, maybe the Christmas Tree presents a dilemma for you. I've got that covered as well - with Three Tips to Reduce Christmas Decoration Stress.
CHRISTMAS NEW YEAR HOURS
This year I am having a break from the 18th December to the 11th January. I encourage you, if you haven't already, to book your appointments prior to Christmas here. There are still places available.
If you haven't already visited - this is the Creating Calm, Connection and Confidence Hub. There are a number of free, or very low cost resources here.
Each year leading up to Christmas when we ask ourselves what we want for Christmas, I find is an inspiring time to actually look at what I have. We know that if you are looking to increase the happiness in your life that putting time and energy into experiences rather than things is the way to go.
However, things have a way of accumulating. Whether you have bought them with good intentions or whether they have come to you as gifts or through other means. And before you know it even things you love can just become part of ‘stuff everywhere’!
Sitting back and looking at your stuff can be a great way of reconnecting with what is important to you. By curating your stuff you can creating an environment that supports your current stage of life, your current interests and is uplifting.
Let’s start by looking at books.
Growing up we had a set of World Book encyclopedias. I loved them. You could open up at any page and learn something new about the world. Looking at them gave me a sense of wonder and thirst for knowledge. I probably loved my fantasy books (Enid Blyton anyone?) where I went into worlds where anything and everything was possible.
It’s the promise contained in books that I love.
As I grew older my relationship with books became a bit more complicated. Books I had to read – school novels, reference books. Books I thought I should read – parenting books, self-help books. And instead of being always about pleasure books also became a mirror reminding me of things I didn’t understand, couldn’t learn or highlighted my inadequacies.
Do you love all your books? Do you smile when you see them, refer to them regularly and rejoice in their wisdom?
Are their books on your bookshelf that taunt you with reminders about your failures? Cookbooks full of recipes you haven’t tried. Self-help books with exercises you haven’t completed. Novels you haven’t read. Parenting books that seem to mock you. Reference books you don’t use (or are way out of date).
Why are you holding on to them?
Marie Kondo speaks of holding things to see if they spark joy. And it’s an exercise I do every so often.
You take the books down from the shelves and hold each one. How does it feel? Do you feel inspired when you hold it? Or do you notice creeping thoughts such as I ‘should’ read that, followed by a sigh or accompanied by a self chastising ‘well that was a waste of money’.
(If you have electronic books that you’ve downloaded, although you can’t hold them you can look at the titles and notice what thoughts and feelings arise.)
From here you have two choices.
If you feel inspired, warm, joyful when you pick up the book - make the recipes, do the exercises, read the novels. Reconnect with the reason why that book is on your shelf in the first place.
If you feel nothing, or the weight of the ‘shoulds’, move the book on. Acknowledge your intentions when you bought the book. Thank the book for the hope it inspired, acknowledge and release any guilt or disappointment in yourself. Depending on the book you could donate them, give them to friends etc. Notice how you feel when you do this.
As you remove the stuff (and fluff) from your life that no longer matters, you make space for reconnecting to what is really important to you.
If you do this I would love to know what you discover. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As students are going back to school, some of the are running there and not looking back. Others are refusing to go back, and others are going back but struggling to get through the day.
Wherever your child fits into the picture, they are facing change.
Changes to school structure - including drop off and pick up procedures, hygiene practices and how they interact with their friends.
Changes from having you around more often to not seeing you during most of the day.
Changes from leisurely getting out of bed, to having to be out the door by a certain time.
Changes from perhaps only to do focused work for a short period of time and then having fun/computer time, to back to being highly regulated in their activities.
And change, as you know, can be difficult and worrying.
One of the best ways you can help them manage this change is through providing some individual quiet time, particularly if they are used to having your attention during the day whilst remote learning.
For some questions to help with conversation and some recommendations to help with calming them after school click here.
If you have ever wanted to improve your mental health you are not alone.
But how? Today, I focus on busting one unhelpful myth.
THE MOTIVATION MYTH
If I could just feel more motivated I would be able to achieve more/look after myself better / (insert your own saying).
Motivation can be defined as an internal process that directs and maintains behaviour.
It is thought to be what causes you to move towards your goals.
How many times have you said “I’m unmotivated”? Which translated means – I don’t feel like doing it.
I’ll let you in on a secret, you may not know -
Your brain sees change as scarey.
Anything that disturbs your environment and is different, your brain processes as a potential threat. It then takes mental energy to work out whether it is a threat or not.
So let’s say you start with a great idea that you would love to change your life so that you were braver, calmer, fitter, healthier. You can see yourself and all that you’d be doing when you achieve that goal. And that involves change. Changing your mindset, changing your schedule, changing up your habits.
So, is your brain going to take all this change lying down?
As much as you stand there encouraging your brain – we can do this, we’ve got this, let’s go – it ain’t going to come easily. (imagine a toddler, in the supermarket aisle, not wanting to move).
So, what do you do?
You need a bridge.
A well constructed bridge to take you from here (frazzled, overwhelmed, exhausted) to there (in control, calmer, confident).
I can tell you one thing – that bridge is not going to be motivation.
It may have some motivation in there – but to work it’s going to need structure, processes, knowing how to create habits that stick, knowing what obstacles are going to pop up and what to do about them, support from friends, family and/or an accountability buddy, a clear understanding of why this change is important to YOU, an understanding of the change process and self-compassion.
This is why when I teach people how to improve their mental health – to get from here to there – it’s not just one session on motivation, dust my hands and say ‘you’ve got this’, and walk away.
I provide education, understanding, structure and fierce support.
Improving your mental health requires a considered structured approach. It takes your time, your open mindedness and your commitment.
So ask yourself.
What is important to you?
What really matters?
Give yourself permission to invest in yourself and get support to create the bridge.
Until next time, take care of yourself,
Of course, if you are experiencing significant distress please contact your GP, therapist or 000.
For resources that can help see - https://positiveyoungminds.vipmembervault.com
Emotions are complex. Feelings can scare you so much you can shut them down and walk through life feeling numb. Or may you live your live feeling trapped by anxiety or depression. Or spend your time chasing the euphoria that comes from happiness, and by trying to create it, miss the moments where it actually exists.
The following three factors are paramount in your emotional self-care:
1. Awareness and acceptance of your emotions;
2. Being able to express emotions in a healthy way; and,
3. Doing activities that cultivate joy/happiness.
Let's talk briefly about these three factors.
Very young babies communicate first through their emotions. Babies cry, scream, laugh ... way before they can talk. It is how they let others know that they have desires - for food, comfort and sleep - that need to be met.
From birth individual differences are apparent in how intensely babies feel and express their emotions. Some are born screaming at the top of their lungs - ever notice that some babies don’t just cry a little bit when they are hungry, need changing or tired, they scream at the top of their lungs. Whereas others are much more contemplative and seem to take it all in their stride. .
Over time as a baby learns that people will respond to their cries; as they begin first to use movement as communication, and then speech, their emotional response tends to reduce in intensity.
However, the ability to express emotions varies.
Emotional overwhelm (meltdowns) may occur when speech language development is delayed, when children are exhausted from not getting their needs (both real and perceived met) and/or when they are coping with high levels of stress.
And so it is with adults. Have you ever noticed how much easier is to be calm and rational when you have had a full 9=8 hours restful sleep?
And lastly a quick look at doing activities that cultivate happiness. To help you do this I have put some prompts below. I invite you to actively journal and write down some of your responses.
🌼When was the last time you felt happy?
🌼In whose company do you feel comfort?
🌼In what activities do you ‘flow’?
🌼When do you lose a sense of time and space and feel that you just 'are'’?
🌼Do you have something to look forward to?
🌼What excites you?
🌼Have you planned to do activities / made time for things that make you smile?
🌼Do you know when people are happiest?
🌼Have you planned to do activities / made time for things that are important to you?
Research indicates that doing what is most important, pursuing a meaningful life may be the true key to happiness. It also shows that being present and fully in the moment, regardless of what you are doing is also linked to happiness.. Based on your experience, what do you think? I'd love to know.
Until next time, take care of yourself
ps. If you would like to look at this further, and are curious about mindfulness, I invite you to be a part of my upcoming, Introduction to Practical Mindfulness Course. It's online, convenient and starts on the 20th April 2021..
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.