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.
* 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.