What now??……

Some months ago, I created my space. The writing room. I obsessed over the details, the cushions, the footstool, the light box and the candles. I got it just right. I felt comfortable and relaxed in my little space. Then………………….. I promptly forgot about it!!!

Why, you say?

Well, that is the million dollar question. I thought it was because I didn’t have time. There have been a few weeks where the usual routine has been disrupted and it all fell off the wagon. There simply was no time for me to be selfish and sit in a room alone with no particular goal in mind, just to write.

Today, here I sit. In my lovely room. The door is open, the breeze is flowing, the birds are chirping. I have Coffee, a cinnamon scroll and a computer. I have time.

And yet …………………………….. the mind is BLANK.

I still find myself fighting with myself. What exactly am I wanting to do, to achieve? Do I have to achieve anything? Is this the real reason I have not found the time to be here? Do I actually have nothing to say??!! Am I scared?

The last 10 months have been some of the hardest in my 40 years. I have fallen down, got back up, taken on too much, cut it back, fallen down again. I have laughed, cried, shouted and whispered. I have worked, I have relaxed. I have enjoyed the best holiday ever. I have pushed myself, I have gone easy on myself. I have been criticised, I have been applauded.

Yet, still I don’t know where I am going.

But, really …………. do I have to be ‘going’ anywhere?

I think I might just sit here and see what happens. If nothing happens, I doesn’t matter. I haven’t lost anything. I guess I just need to stop evaluating myself based on achievements. Ticks in the boxes. Most of the time no one else is paying attention to the boxes!

SAA

 

 

Simple things

Sunday afternoon consists of:

Beach

Food

Playground

What more do two kids need? In fact the whole family ……….. because when the kids are happy, Mum and Dad are too.

But……. it took a lot of convincing to coax them away from today’s distractions of iPads and Xboxes.

This fast paced lifestyle has so many drawbacks. The answer to so many of our stresses, is to simply go back to basics.

We don’t need all the stuff! We are a generation constantly striving for stuff. And that is all it is….. stuff. It has little meaning and will likely end up in the bin next year.

All we really need is fresh air, good food, fun, compassion, family and friends. No clutter. Just simplicity.

SAA

World mental health day 2018

How are you spending the 2018 World Mental Health Day? Well, for once I can say, I am spending it looking after myself. A stroke of luck means it falls on my day off work, and gives me the perfect excuse (not that I should need an excuse) to think about me.

It started with getting my hair done. This is one of the few luxuries I allow myself every 6 weeks. Today I am feeling grateful that I can afford this regular treat, because every cent is worth the feeling I get when I walk out a new and confident woman.

Today, so as not to waste this feeling, I have headed to the shops. I needed some clothes but have been avoiding shopping. To be honest, I don’t really enjoy it. Except……. when my hair looks great and I can look in the mirror and feel good. Don’t worry husband, I haven’t bought much! Just a new top for your do on Friday night! Oh….. and a couple of practical t-shirts!

Now, it is coffee time.

As I sit enjoying that familiar bitter but warm and milky taste, I realise I need to write. To share my feelings and thoughts on this day and to acknowledge mental illness.

For so long this part of our health care has been neglected by health professionals, by ourselves and ultimately by society. It is now beginning to seep out there. It is almost ok to admit you are not ok. I say almost, because there is still so much more that needs to be done. Did you know that most private health hospital funds cover hospital stays for physical illnesses but not psychiatric admissions??!! Why not?

The campaign ‘Are you ok?’ is a great start, but does anyone know what to do if someone says ‘No’. How do you help? Or are you too, now burdened with the weight of their mental health issues? Where should we be sending them?

I will be watching over the next few months and years to see exactly how mental health treatment changes in Australia and around the world. People need to know where to go and they need to be seen to quickly, currently we are just not equipped……. the suicide rates are proof.

For the meantime, sometimes just knowing someone cares is enough to get people through a bad spot, so please continue to ask your friends and family if they are doing ok. A listening ear and a shoulder to cry on is better than silence and loneliness.

SAA

Find your reset button!

Everyone has a reset button. Mine is the coast.

Today we spent a lovely day enjoying our local wonders. We were lucky enough to follow the progress of two humpback whales (we think a mother and calf) as they made their way down our small section of the coast. There was water spouting, fluking, breaching, lob-tailing and spying as they quite obviously had a good look at the boats around them. At one stage I swear one of them waved to us. You would think they were putting on a show especially for us.

All this from the beach! We were amazed by how close they came to shore. The kids were mesmerised. The volunteers counting the whale migration were mesmerised. The tourists were mesmerised as well as us locals. We were all in awe of these great colossal animals.

We hopped into the car and drove off down the road another few kilometres and watched them enter the next beautiful, blue bay of crystal clear water. We laughed at ourselves when we mistook a bird or a boat for a whale. We saw crabs, lizards, skinks, gannets, seagulls and ducks. We saw the world.

Fresh air, wind, water and a spectacular view. What better way to reset the mind. And boy did mine need resetting! Sometimes the mind is our biggest enemy. It criticises, it destroys confidence, it questions too much.

Get outside your head. Get into the great outdoors and live.

SAA

Self-fulfilling prophecies

How much of what happens to us and the stress we are under, is caused by self-fulfilling prophecies? I was just thinking about this concept today and the impact that it has on my daily life.

A common scenario….. I think my day will be busy or bad and guess what………….. it is busy and bad.

So why do I do that? Why can’t I wake up and think …………’Ahh today is going to be a good day?’.  I don’t know why, yet is it such a simple concept. In fact, I would like to know if many people these days really do wake up thinking that?!

I feel like I am not alone when I say, most days I wake up weary, and my first thoughts are, ‘Right what is on today? How many things am I squeezing into the next 24 hours?’. There is no excitement about what the day might hold, about possibilities, surprises or spontaneity. It is a pre-planned schedule, designed to achieve and fit in the most things possible. And heaven forbid, if I don’t get all the scheduled things in. The day is obviously bad and I am a failure.

When someone says ‘ How are you?’ my standard answer is ‘busy’. But worse still, I say it like it is a badge of honour, like it is what I am meant to say and how I am meant to behave. Why are we doing this to ourselves? A few years ago, I used to say ‘Good thanks, how are you?’. Albeit often an automatic response, but at least it was better than ‘Busy’.

There is a pandemic out there. I know for certain I am not alone. There are millions of us living out our day in our mind in those 5 minutes we are awake in bed…………….. then we get up and GO, GO, GO because that is what we think we are meant to be doing. Achieving, achieving, ticking things off.

We allow no time to be, to live, to experience.

Somehow, we think there is time for that later, when we have done all the jobs and achieved all the things, got the promotion or finished the study or won lotto. But that never comes, there is just more to achieve, to tick off the list. Really all we are doing, is cheating ourselves. We are missing out on living.

But how on earth do we change this mentality?? I am welcome to some ideas because I really feel like I could do with some tips. Tomorrow I am going to try really hard to wake up and lie in bed for 5 minutes contemplating the possibilities the day might bring, the things I might see and the people I might meet (even during an 8.5 hour day at work, while juggling kids on school holidays).

SAA

The importance of sport

With grand final day upon us and the end of winter sports season, it has got me thinking……… Do we place too much emphasis on the results of sport? Is watching the West Coast Eagles beat Collingwood in the dying minutes, good or bad for our kids to watch?

There is sometimes a very fine line between enjoyment and stress, physical health and mental health. As the TV cameras pan around to the Collingwood players, it is plain to all, the disappointment and despair they are feeling.

As a parent of children playing sport, we want them to have a positive experience. We should first and foremost want our kids to enjoy what they do. Want them to build friendships and relationships with their mentors and coaches. To build resilience, self control and strength as they negotiate the ups and downs.

In Australia, there has been a big push to shelter children from losing, with many sporting organisations opting not to have winners and losers or a season ladder. Everyone wins. This means children are being introduced to losing at an older age theoretically when they should cope better. However, often the opposite happens. Kids grow up not knowing how to lose graciously. They are entitled and think they should always ‘win’.

But that is not real! Sometimes in life, we do lose (unfortunately).

Our family experienced our own grand final this week. After weeks of training, weeks of planning and co-ordination it all came together. And just like The West Coast Eagles, we were winners! The kids were absolute stars, all of them. They had the most wonderful experience because of the support they had around them, from the coaches, organisers and parents.

But, it was not without some lows. There were penalties at crucial moments, homesickness, illness, injuries and parents who missed matches because of work or other commitments. There were tears……..lots of them, both of joy and of disappointment.

Someone said to me…….. “It is only a kids game, why are you placing so much importance on it?”.

I have thought about it and my answer is……. because it matters. Not whether they win or lose but because of the lessons it teaches them. Kids need to know what it feels like when things don’t go according to plan, just like they need to know what it feels like when hard work pays off. They need to know it is ok to feel like those Collingwood blokes, broken on the floor. Because, they also know they will see them stand up and fight again next season.

It has been a highly emotional and exhausting week. To all the players, coaches and supporters out there, well done. To the parents of kids……. we have a tough job. Encouraging but not too encouraging. Nervous but not too nervous. Proud but not too proud. The last one is the hardest!!!

It is time to breathe a sigh of relief! It is over until next year.

SAA

The wait is over….

The sun is shining and the carnival of the year is here! There is nothing quite as uplifting as watching a team of passionate kids get in there and play their favourite game. Playing hard and playing with heart.

The raw emotions are something else, not only from the players and coaches but the parents, family members and friends who support on the sidelines.

There are highs and there are lows. With each roller coaster ride, we only hope it teaches them resilience and makes them stronger people. We can’t help but worry if things don’t pan out as hoped. What if they can’t cope? What if the emotions get the better of them?

But……. I don’t think you can beat the lessons they learn. About themselves. About life. About diversity. About sportsmanship and team. About respect.

As long as the games are played with pride and respect you can’t go wrong. And today they most definitely were.

Go kids, we are super proud. That was proper soccer!

SAA

Waiting waiting waiting…

Sometimes in life, it just feels like we are waiting. Waiting for the tough time to be over, or waiting for the new job to come up or waiting for something good or exciting to happen. Often we are so engrossed by whatever we are waiting on, we completely forget to live.

I have felt this way lately. I have been waiting for the sun to shine. It feels like it has been the longest winter ever. The grey cold skies have done something to my mood, which has in turn made me feel things are just not right at the moment……… I feel like I am waiting for things to get better.

It is a hard thing to break, the thought that something better is coming. But…. it can be so detrimental to our mental health to think this way, because often it doesn’t get better or easier. Sometimes that thing that we were waiting on, comes and goes without much excitement at all and we are left with feelings of disappointment and worse still… failure.

We all (absolutely me included) need to learn to focus on the today. The here and now and the positives right here in front of us. The sun might not be shining, but the cloud out there the shape of an elephant is pretty cool, the flowers in the garden that are sprouting despite the greyness are amazing and it is great to know I am getting my monies worth out of the vest I bought this year!

Sometimes we really need to force ourselves to look for the positives. We have to stop waiting and look for things that are happening now. Who knows…… tomorrow might be better but today is pretty good too!!

Incidentally I was up at the crack of dawn coaching this morning and I did indeed see the sun, shining right in my eyes over the clear water of the pool, it was like seeing a long-lost friend!! She is hiding again now but I am happy I got to see her today!

SAA

Resilience

By definition, resilience is the ability for us to bounce back or recover after a difficulty.  It is something we talk about when raising children but not so much in adulthood. In actual fact this may well be the time we need to talk about it most, when we are middle-aged and have a multitude of stressors coming at us from all directions.

Let’s face it, at this stage in life, we have realised it is not all plain sailing. There are bumps along the way, things we never ever saw coming, happen. Reducing stress is often not about avoiding these bumps but learning how to negotiate them and bounce back from them.

For a long time I have been stuck in a mindset of…………’well perhaps I should just avoid the situations that stress me’. It has taken me a long time to realise, this is not helping me, because it doesn’t allow me to practice and build my resilience for when the unexpected ‘bumps’ come along.

A little research in this area has come up with some helpful tips. I am going to put them in an order that is relevant to me, because I totally know how my brain works and what I think in these situations. It is likely that other stressaholics out there do the same. So here goes:

  1. Don’t personalise it. When anything goes wrong, the first thing I do is think…..what did I do wrong? Sometimes the answer is nothing. Sometimes it is a mistake I made but there are reasons for it and it wasnt intentional. Either way these thoughts are not helpful. Instead tell yourself the situation is not personal nor is it permanent.
  2. Remember the challenges you have overcome. Remind yourself that you have been through worse and came out the other side.
  3. Accept change. Nothing in life stays the same. So many people out there are resistant to change and forget that when things change, we are given an opportunity to grow and learn and these are never bad things.
  4. Practice optimism. Mum and Dad will laugh at this, I am forever the pessimist and this is not an easy thought pattern to change. But why do I do it? It certainly hasn’t served me well. Try maintaining a positive thought pattern and probably even more importantly surround yourself with positive people. Walk away from those who drag you down.
  5. Support others. It doesn’t have to be big, but this is part of developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Anything that you can do to support others in life helps you to move outside yourself, gain perspective and enhance your strength.
  6. Take breaks. Now this is an interesting point I have been making in previous blogs. We are never going to eliminate stress. We should be almost inviting stress into our lives as it allows us to grow and learn. But, we do need to allow yourselves time to have breaks from it. Time for the body and mind to recover.
  7. Challenge yourself. Whether it is training for a triathlon, retraining at work or sharing your secret desire to write ;>), any challenge you set for yourself is an opportunity for self-discovery. You will be pleasantly surprised by what you can accomplish.

As adults, we should be better practiced at self-control and self talk. Often we just need a little reminder or push in the right direction to help us build and grow. I read an article in the New York Times (25/7/17) that likened resilience to a muscle…………. we can work on strengthening it at any time. I love this analogy.

SAA

 

‘Fortnite’…

Dirty word in this house, how about yours? How can one game cause so much angst, upset and ………… you guessed it………………stress? The answer lies in its superior and mastered creation. It is unbelievably good at hooking them in with its target and reward systems. Seriously, who ever you are that invented this game…….. you must be laughing all the way to the bank!

Meanwhile, the rest of us mere mortals are entrenched in the battle of our life trying to save our kids from addiction. For those in Australia, you may have watched 60 minutes last night, what a scary episode. Our whole family watched it. I wanted the kids to see why we are so worried about it and why we impose restrictions. One child watched the whole thing with a concerned expression in disbelief. The other child (the bigger gamer) although trying to cover it up with macho behaviour and the ‘as if I would do that’ attitude, was shocked and scared by what he saw (as was I). He wanted to stop watching, to walk away and pretend it wasn’t real.

It is such a scary world in which to parent these days. The number of distractions out there is phenomenal. When even full-grown adults are falling prey to things such as ‘Fortnite’, our kids have little hope of negotiating a path of balance and health. They are just not capable of fighting against this. They need us to do it for them.

I guess, the biggest thing we can do as parents is model the right behaviour. As we all know, actions speak louder than words. If as a parent, we can mostly (lets face it we are all human) behave the way we want our kids to behave, then at least some of it will hopefully rub off on them. If we can lead balanced lives ourselves with work, sport, healthy eating, play, outdoors, indoors, reading, ipads, phones, computers, TV etc. It will show them that everything is ok in moderation. After all it doesn’t matter what it is, if one thing starts to take over, it is an addiction and it will cause problems.

Another thing we need to do, is make sure our kids know we listen to them. Make sure they know they can come and talk to us about the important things, that we will always have time for them. Some children will be more prone to addictions and other mental illnesses. This needs to be recognised and kids given the help they despirately require. Obviously this starts with parents but also as a community we have a responsibility to find ways to support these kids and their families.

I can only hope that we are doing the right thing in our house. We allow it, but we restrict it (admittedly sometimes not as much as we should). Each house is different and I personally try not to judge others……………….all I can say is GOODLUCK and keep doing your best for your kids, it is all we can do………. and perhaps cross your fingers and pray that they turn out ok!

SAA