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 email@example.com.
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 momebt, regardless of what you are doing is also linked to happiness.. Based on your experience, what do you think? I'd love to know.
If you would like to look at this further, and are curious about mindfulness, I invite you to be a part of my upcoming, and last one for the year, Introduction to Practical Mindfulness mini-course starting on the 10th October - World Mental Health Day.
Until next time, take care of yourself
Yesterday the roadmap was delivered to Victorians. As a Victorian living in Metro Melbourne, the roadmap was worse than I had anticipated.
Worse both personally, and for the larger community.
I am looking for strong forward sustainable leadership in regards to future town planning which maximises the resources available in each person’s 5 km bubble. Maybe that’s coming, but it wasn’t there yesterday.
I am looking for leadership that supports family connection, and that wasn’t there yesterday. There are at least 7 weeks before I can see my parents, or any member of my family again. And at least 11 before we can come together as a whole family. None of my family are within my 5km radius.
There are at least 7 weeks before my children can look at resuming a proper education – ranging from High School to University.
So, yep it sucks.
So yesterday I wallowed, a little bit. Something clicked in my brain and I slipped into self-sabotage mode. To me this is often a combination of not doing anything and over eating – not a healthy combination – and getting angry.
If I am to name my anger, it would be disappointment, fear (the above will only happen if certain parameters are met), some envy and resentment.
There will be no grand final meet up with family.
If I’m going to be stuck in a 5km bubble, I want a better 5km bubble! I want a beach, or a forest, or a river walk, and/or some family! I have a lake .2 km out of my bubble. Do I risk it?
In crisis it becomes the gap between the haves and the have nots - geographically, financially, emotionally, and socially becomes so apparent.
In a crisis, this gap becomes a chasm.
There are many of us who don't have friends who check in on us and who take the effort to make our iso birthdays something special.
There are many people stuck in worse 5km radius than me. Those who don't have the money to indulge in Netflix, Foxtel, online purchasing, take away meals, or other distracting behaviours.
There are many who don't have the resources or energy to get dressed each day, let alone create and finish any sort of project.
And of course there are those stuck in a loveless or abuse relationship, unemployed, detoxing, the list goes on.
The above, and more contribute to the anger I feel.
So what, if anything, is the antidote to this anger?
Do we just wait it out the best we can?
Well, yes there is that but, here are a couple of things that may help
You know those thoughts and feelings going around and around in your head, perhaps sabotaging you the way mine do? Get them out. Write them down, talk them aloud, acknowledge them, show them in the light and own them as yours.
Now this is not denying that other people may have it worse. This sort of comparison does not help.
This is acknowledging your hurt and your loss and all the reasons you may be feeling anger.
From here there are a few options.
If you have uncovered a sense of loss, hurt or suffering you may like to look at the Three Steps of Self-Compassion.
You may like to channel the energy of that anger into something you can control, that fits with what is important to you. It might be writing a letter to your MP, starting a home construction/demolition project, going for a run, dancing to loud music, actively contacting (or recontacting) everyone you know in isolation to see how they are doing.
Or you may wish to reconnect with a passion, a person, a therapist, a positive habit.
I’m taking stock (again) today. Looking at doubling down on exercise, doing something in the garden, taking pressure off myself to complete work projects and slowing down a little bit, spring cleaning the house. I’m also going to keep connecting with the people I care about and…find a new Netflix series. Vampire Diaries you’ve served me well, but you’re almost over.
And, I’ve had one week off since March and am about to go and schedule in a couple more weeks when I finish this. Because, yes you can still burn out in isolation, in fact it can be even easier to do so.
Where ever you find yourself day, take time to reflect on how you are really feeling, what you are really thinking and then act upon this feelings. If you would like some support with that I’m here for you. Whether that’s through self-care coaching, supervision, mentoring…simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk about your next steps.
Until next time, take care of yourself
Kim Dunn xx
I was looking at old home videos today, and I noticed I really miss those days when my children were little and just wanted to be with me.
And, I also remember how isolating many of those days were. How hard it can be responding to unrelenting love and need for attention.
I'm not going to tell you that one day you'll look on those demanding days and miss them, because it doesn't help.
You're smart, you know this, but right now in this moment, when you just ache for some time for yourself without the guilt you feel as your youngest child runs down the driveway telling you to come back because they miss you... now is not the time to tell you you'll miss it.
What I can do is help you not carry that guilt that is trying to follow you down the driveway...
Having a child cry that they want you to come back, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child scream that they hate you, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child kick out at you because they don't want to be in their car seat, does not make you a bad mother. Having a child refuse to go to school, does not make you a bad mother.
It sure has heck feels like it sometimes though....
I'll let you in on a secret, well it's not really a secret, but it does seem to be something that people don't talk about much.
Some children are more difficult to look after than others. They're the ones who don't want to go to sleep, who don't want to eat the food you make, who are quick to anger or cry.
It doesn't make you love them any less, but they are harder work. And it's OK to accept this fact.
You may even find that letting go of the idea that it is your fault your children are difficult and accepting what is, helps lessen the feeling of guilt that is following you around.
If this is something you struggle with, we are here to help.
Simply call us on 0408533515 or email email@example.com to book a parenting consultation and let us help you move from overwhelm to calm.
And to help you get started we have created a special resource that helps you identify one of the first things you can do help reduce that feeling of overwhelm - if you don't have it yet, click here to access your First Step to move from Overwhelm to Calm.
My eldest turns 21 today. He is having a birthday in isolation. That means no -one over to celebrate, not going out with mates. He's stuck with me and his brother!
It was today 21 years ago that I became a mother (yes that's me and infamous baby who didn't sleep all night until he was 5)....
I'm so proud of him today and I've shared that on Facebook, but your children's birthday's are also a time for personal reflections.
I look at this photo and I see how young and beautiful I looked. I was 32.
Nowdays I am not so young or beautiful, but I am younger and probably more beautiful than what I'll ever be again.
When I was much younger, I loved going out and dancing. Connecting, and just being with the music and the friends and strangers around me. Whether it be ‘sock hops’ at school, listening to pub cover bands, or going to bushdances. It was fun!!
Then for a while, the music stopped. With the unrelenting fatigue that accompanied the jump into motherhood.
There was no more dancing and the isolation of motherhood became real.
The only dancing was the swaying that happened trying to soothe the babies, or the bouncing and rolling around on the Swiss ball as they were jiggled off to sleep.
And then the babies grew and even the swaying disappeared….
The music changes when you become a mother, well it did for me. Suddenly you have children who depend on you, who trust you implicitly (until they become teenagers anyway) and look to you for guidance in everything they do. And often, we don’t have all the answers, we can’t fulfill all their needs, we can’t even fulfill our own needs of sleep, and that sense of failure to be perfect can lead to isolation and times of despair.
So, although I had my mother and my family, and friends, I lost the music.
So how do you get the music back? You start by giving yourself permission to hear it.
When you embrace your imperfections, your authenticity, and follow your life rhythm you find others who resonate with you, who will support you, challenge you and join in your dance.
You may find as I did, when you make a commitment to embrace your vulnerability, you create space to make new soul connections with your family, your friends, each other.
It's OK, it's normal to lose the music, to get overwhelmed, to reach out for guidance and support. I've been there, swaying in the corner, waiting for it to change.
I get it.
Remember we are all connected, and although you may feel it at times, you are not alone.
The music, the dance, the connections are there. Sometimes we just need a little help to rediscover them.
And then you become older and the music and dance, and often connections, change yet again. It's time now, for me again to rediscover what the sound and the movement are for me, in this next stage of my life.
Until next time, take care of yourself.
ps…. And I totally love my children, and always wanted to be a mother, and I will always be their rock and their comfort. They make my heart sing, even when I can't always hear the music.
There is no doubt that the presence of the Coronavirus / COVID-19 is causing emotional distress in the community and amongst individuals. In this article I outline why this happens, how you can manage your anxiety, and why it is important that you prioritise your self-care now.
Some initial research into the first month of COVID-19 found mental health difficulties were at least twice as prevalent as in non-pandemic circumstances. For some people the restrictions around COVID-19 are a blip in their lives, for others the impact is significant and ongoing. And, as to be expected, the people most impacted are the most vulnerable in society.
The need for practical, positive, flexible self-care to manage this ongoing anxiety and stress is clear.
WHY DOES THE PRESENCE OF COVID-19 TRIGGER FEAR?
In many people the presence of COVID-19 and being in the midst of a panademic triggers fear (as well as anger and sadness). At its most basic a pandemic represents a threat to life. You are given daily updated global totals of how many people have died. Additionally, the presence of COVID-19 threatens your health, your liberty, your place in society, and exposes the divide between the haves and the have nots, both locally and globally.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FLIGHT, FIGHT AND FREEZE RESPONSE?
When fear is triggered your body responds on instinct. It sends you into an acute stress response. Without you thinking about it, physiological changes in the body happen that are designed to keep you safe. These instinctive and primitive reactions cannot tell the difference between threats – that happens next. So your body responds as if the threat is right there – like having a ferocious tiger appear in front of you.
Once your brain identifies something as a threat to your safety, it sends a message to your adrenal glands requesting energy to take action.
When your body responds a cocktail of biochemical survival hormones are released such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, norepinpephrine and ephinephrine. These hormones influence everything you do, from eating and running to feeling, thinking and behaving. Your heart will start beating quicker as it pumps blood to the areas that your brain believes are needed right now, like your muscles. A rush of adrenaline causes your lungs to take in more oxygen which the heart pushes to the rest of the body. Your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow as the airway between the nose and the lungs constricts.
Examples of how the fight, flight and freeze responses are appearing in the community follow:
Includes arguing with the government and authorities, defiance (eg breaking the law and community standards – think house parties, extended family gatherings, toilet paper hoarding, refusing to be tested), blame, deflect, disbelief (eg conspiracy theories) increase of domestic violence, ostracization, and abuse.
Includes people fleeing to their holiday homes. Other people may avoid all societal contact, not even going out for daily walks.
Think stuck brain. Inability to change routines or do anything proactive. For example – binge watching Netflix, losing track of the day, not being able to adjust to current reality.
THEN WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE FEAR RESPONSE?
Usually when the situation that triggers the fear response disappears, your body starts to return to normal. The fear response is an emergency response and is designed for short term work. However, when a threatening situation is ongoing, like the threat of COVID-19, you can start to experience chronic stress.
Without engaging in intervention, like good self-care, your feelings can start to overwhelm you.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I EXPERIENCE CHRONIC STRESS?
Some of the common effects of chronic stress can include:
You want to look after yourself more, but seriously, who has the time (or energy) for that.
And really, what difference would it make anyway?
I get it.
When my children were young and didn't sleep very much self-care seemed like a luxury that I would get to , one day. I so wish I'd realised then, how incorporating little things that fitted what I was going through (no time, money or energy!) could make a difference.
Did you know that every time you make a choice you lose something? It’s called opportunity cost. It’s unavoidable because you can’t be in two places at once, you can’t browse Facebook and get the dishes done, you can’t eat pizza and fish and chips and Chinese for dinner – you have to make a choice.
And choosing to engage in self-care, or not…..
…is no different.
But first let’s take a brief detour and let me dispel a myth for you. Self-care is not all about pedicures, massages and pampering. Sure, whilst there’s no doubt that some people love this and it helps them rejuvenate themselves; it’s only one, small, aspect of self-care.
Self-care is all about YOU looking after your physical and mental health. The action you take can be positive, practical and personalised. That’s the best type of self-care – finding out what you need and doing what works for you.
Back to the opportunity cost of NOT prioritising self-care.
Not being mindful (one of the key self-care tools) can lead to forgetfulness, missing non-verbal cues in conversations and harming connection, not being present for the best moments in the day, missing the everyday beauty around you.
Not doing something that brings you joy can lead to resentment and sadness.
Not practicing gratitude can lead to envy and jealousy.
Not exercising can lead to depressed mood.
Not reaching out to others when you are feeling lonely can lead to increased isolation and lack of connection..
Not practicing self-acceptance can lead to a feeling of not being worthy and not speaking up for yourself.
Not going to the doctor can lead to undiagnosed and untreated physical illness.
Not enforcing boundaries can lead to burnout and a deep sense of being taken for granted.
So, in answer to the question that was posed at the start – what difference does engaging in self-care make anyway?
Incorporating positive, practical, self-care strategies that reflect YOUR needs can make a world of difference to your health, your mood, your life.
Now, just because it’s self-care, I really, really want to stress one thing.
You don’t have to do it all by yourself. I am here to help you work out what you need, what strategies will work best for you and your circumstances, and to teach you positive, practical strategies that take very little time.
Just to show you that these strategies don’t have to take long, here’s a simple one for you to try.
Look up from reading this and find something that catches your eye and makes you smile. Allow yourself to focus on this feeling and the thoughts that go with it. Maybe it’s something your chid made, maybe you bought it for a special reason, or at a special place. Maybe it is just beautiful or was given to you by a special person. Then, if this thing is cluttered by other things, make space for it to shine by itself.
That’s it. You have just practiced self-care. You have touched on emotional self-care, connection and meaning. You have also practiced using you Awe and appreciation of beauty muscle.
If you feel inclined to send me a quick email, I would love to know how you went with this exercise.
Ever shut up instead of standing up? Ever allowed others to shine whist dimming our own light. The world needs you to be at your best.
I talk about this and what may be stopping you in the latest podcast. How to stand up instead of shutting up. What it takes to express your authentic self.
And remember, if you want to be a part of the exclusive subscribers podcast group – all you need to do is subscribe to Creating Connections that Matter, leave a review, and email me a screen shot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For an update list on different ways I can help you click here. And of course, I am currently available for Telehealth Counselling or Telehealth self-care coaching - email for more details.
Until next time, take care xx
* 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.