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As we are in the year 2020, I am reminded of the concept that 20/20 represents perfect vision. I feel that this is a time to connect to our inner knowing.
A time for appreciating and making use of our insight rather than waiting to have hindsight.
I come across so many women who know that if they continue as they are burnout lies ahead, yet it is difficult to change path.
We are often such good listeners and take everyone’s opinions into account whilst our own voice remains silent.
When it comes to what is best for us our emotions, thoughts and ideas are most important.
Many of us have been raised to value our thinking over any other aspects of ourselves so we tend to underestimate the messages we get from our emotions and physical sensations.
Pause for a moment and consider how well you know the other parts of yourself.
What does tired feel like to you?
Who or what depletes you?
Who or what nourishes you?
Is there a place that feeds your soul?
If you can answer questions like these then I’m guessing that you know yourself well. If you don’t know where to begin with these questions, then today is a good day to start your reflections.
Sometimes we’re scared to look at alternatives to the status quo. Or we feel more comfortable with the challenges we have than the new ones we might encounter if we made changes.
Whatever the case it’s good to recognise what we are choosing and feel empowered in this.
One of the ways we can explore our inner world is through writing; jotting down thoughts, feelings, memories, hopes and fears. This is writing from our conscious and unconscious. It could be shared in a small group with others on the same journey.
I often write like this and find it helps me to figure out my feelings about things, offers me a record of how things change and gives me space to explore possible choices.
Therapeutic writing, as it is known, can be even more expansive and include objects, images, poems, lyrics and other stories. As I continue to learn more and facilitate sessions, I find it a very powerful and fun way to connect to and listen to our internal world.
You can start with journaling and see how that feels to you. I will be running one session per month from April and you can book a session here to try this out for yourself. There’s nothing like experiencing something to know if it might work for you.
Do get in touch if you’d like me to design workshops for a particular group. It can apply to many settings and life challenges.
Here’s hoping your 2020 year is filled with more insight than hindsight.
How do these ideas resonate with you?
Shirley Anstis is a counsellor, author and former magazine editor. She uses counselling, therapeutic writing and mindfulness to support others to work through their past, connect to their present and step into their future. Outside of this her interests include parenting, photography, nature walks, diversity, food and films.
Book for my next session here.
I’m surprised by the women (and men) I speak to who often see themselves as half empty and lacking something. They compare themselves to what they view as perfect lives online and decide that they are not good enough.
The problem is our peer group has greatly evolved over the last decade or so.
In the past, our peer group were people like us who lived in our communities or geographical area. They would have similar lifestyles to us.
But we now compare ourselves in a global space, with great disparities in wealth and power, to people who have vastly different lifestyles to us. They are the tiny percent who are wealthy, beautiful and celebrated. We damage our self-esteem if we constantly compare ourselves to these people and find ourselves lacking. They can help to motivate us in small ways, but our aim cannot be to become them. There is only one of you and one of me, with our very own strengths and weaknesses. Human beings are imperfect.
We do well to acknowledge all that we have learnt and experienced in our very unique life. Awareness of who we are helps us to make the best decisions. Denial of who we are encourages us to make bad decisions.
With so many examples of success in the world it can seem that it comes easily to some. I know from my training, my work and myself that we all have struggles, although these may not be visible or made public. (On the plus side, we get to see so many different ways of living a successful life and can step towards one that resonates with us).
Talk to the people in your life and ask them how they’re doing. You may find many are struggling with something. 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 8 young people will have a mental health problem.
As we acknowledge #Timetotalk let’s reconnect to people in our circle, speak our truth, listen to theirs, and be non-judgemental.
There’s a lot to be said for simple appreciation and encouragement. As we give so we receive. Everyone benefits from a kinder world. Judge less, listen more. Let me know what you think by commenting below. Thank You.
Can we be more present to how food connects to our feelings?
I’ve been reading WOMEN FOOD AND GOD by Geneen Roth. This book came out some time ago but I never got around to buying it. When my local library was selling off old books I thought I could give it a new home but wasn’t sure what to expect.
It’s been a really interested read. As I’ve become older, what I eat and how I feel in my body has become more important than it was. I have a busy life and need foods that energise me for long periods of time. Thankfully I’ve always liked healthy food and been of average size. But I’ve also liked large Caribbean portions and that is less forgiving as I age.
In my experience ageing is not just about the body but the added responsibilities which can become stressors. This inevitably leads to a reduction of downtime and leisure activities. This means that I need to be particularly kind to my body to stay well and feel at my best.
One of the key messages in the book is that weight is not so much about what we eat as it is about why we eat when we do. It’s about being honest with ourselves and recognising that sometimes we eat when we are not hungry.
We, or others, might tell us that we deserve a treat – even though too much of that thing could be bad for our body. We might also be judged for not wanting extra cake, coffee or alcohol. In my case, I enjoy dark chocolate and I know that there is diabetes in my extended family.
Every gathering, including churches and schools, now have an unhealthy food option. It’s not enough to choose what you eat in your home or what you pick up for lunch, but you need to be prepared to make, and possibly explain, your public choices from limited unhealthy options.
What is quite clear from this book and from life, is that if we do not get to our underlying issues, then weight, via aches, pains, immobility, leisure restrictions and travel restrictions, will become the issue. We use food to express any number of emotions as well as a means to avoid staying with uncomfortable feelings. Comfort eating could be an irregular occurrence or a daily one. Can we allow ourselves to experience the difficult feelings such as disappointment, frustration, loneliness, sadness, depression, anxiety and regret without using food to keep them quiet?
The other thing she raises in her book is eating because we are impatient with the progress of our life. Let’s say we expected to be somewhere and we’re not there yet so we’re eating to avoid being where we are now. But as she says if we can’t be in the present then when we get to that holy grail of future success, we won’t be able to be present to that either.
What I take from this is that being in and with our present experience is the best that we can do. Being more mindful of why, when, how and what we eat gives us good information so that we can make better choices. Negative feelings are best dealt with rather than ignored. Therapy, journalling and mindfulness are just a few of many options to ease our difficult emotions. If we ignore one issue, we can easily create another one to add to the first – now we have two problems to work through. This is not about size or what other people think we should eat but about us – you and me – listening to our bodies as they are today. Does any of this resonate with you?
For a while I’ve been able to work on one thing whilst having several other things floating around my head. We’ve all tried multi-tasking but perhaps I’ve stretched that to my limit. It no longer works for me.
There are too many incomplete tasks and they are beginning to distract me so that my focus is never fully on the thing I’m doing. There is a real risk of doing several things to a lower standard rather than giving focused attention to each.
I tend to have several different lists for different parts of my life and then I often fall back on memory to help steer me forward. I recognise that I need to make changes for things to be different. I know from my counselling that if we don’t adapt when change is required then we risk making things worse or becoming unwell.
This is why I sought out ‘Free to Focus’ by Michael Hyatt. I know I will always have varied interests that stimulate me and projects at different levels of completion. How do I set limits around quantity and quality of my work? How do I incorporate my wellbeing, client work, creative output and routine tasks in the best way possible?
In his book ‘Free to Focus’ Hyatt brings together several well tested ideas. Some ideas, like making good use of sleep and creativity, I already use. There are other things however that I’ve not made decisions on which I now need to address. I can’t and shouldn’t say “yes” to everything that comes my way. Even if I am very efficient I will not be able to fit in everything, so I need to be able to say “no” to some things.
By not cutting out some things we end up with a list of things that we can never get to. But by being more realistic and making conscious choices about what goes onto our plates then things become achievable. That way things that matter, around values and goals, do not drop to the bottom, overtaken by easy tasks and distractions. The starting point, and a challenge for me, is cutting out some of the easy activities which do not align with stated goals.
But before we can cut out any extras we need to stop, decide what we want and evaluate our course.
As he suggests, big shifts can come from knowing when to automate, designate and delegate. I know that my answer lies in deciding to designate 3-5 hours at a time to big tasks (e.g. Writing or CPD) that require extended periods of focused work. Remembering to switch off notifications (constant disruptions) is another answer.
Routine is also essential, even for those of us who are self-employed creatives and often push against it. He suggests having a ritual for the start and end of each work day which then saves on the need for constant decision making and can be supported through better use of technology.
This book has inspired me to do things differently so that I can reduce overwhelm and maintain wellbeing. What about you, are you overwhelmed by it all or do you have an effective approach that leaves you fulfilled? Please share and comment.
Therapeutic writing – on identity
Identity is such a big concept that it can be difficult to get a hold of.
We share a human story, but our individual identities are unique and varied.
What does identity mean to you?
It might be the story of your origins, the background to your life. This would include ancestral links, ethnicity, culture, religion, first language, place of birth, sexuality and so on. Already this may throw up several identity leanings that support or conflict with each other.
But there is also a place for how we lead our lives now. Our identities could be linked to our passions and pursuits, who and what we choose to spend time on.
Then there are the people who have helped to raise, socialise and shape us into the people we are today. They have helped us to develop a sense of self. For some this role was done by parents. But for others it could be someone in the extended family, a teacher, a youth leader or a coach or the first boss.
Perhaps we’re still seeking and haven’t settled on an identity.
Perhaps there is conflict in how we see ourselves and how the world identifies us
Perhaps we’re hoping some future self – slimmer, fitter, kinder, richer – will be our real identity.
Or maybe we are becoming true to our core identity, but the process is uncomfortable and messy.
Whether we think it or not we often tell ourselves stories of who we are and who we’re not.
Where are you and the concept of your identity?
Join me to spend some time thinking and writing about this in my next workshop. Book here.
If you missed the workshop you can get a copy of this book , An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today where you will be guided to reflect on different aspects of your identity. It’s a good place to start. Let me know how you get on.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter and it stems from a desire for equal outcomes between men and women. Equal achievement and life chances provides role models for others and allows everyone to celebrate the success of the many rather than a handful of women being outliers.
But how do we achieve progress that doesn’t take another 100 years? There’s a saying that ‘if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem’. This seems a bit harsh, but I guess it encourages influential leaders and employers to use their platforms to advance talented people from all genders and backgrounds. Of course, like many other awareness days/months it is helping us to focus on something we need to attend to all year round. Everyone has a part to play and as women our role is to encourage each other to try new things and celebrate each other’s successes. Sometimes we might even need to shield each other from harm.
Last weekend I attended an event looking at healthy female leadership. This used archetypal approaches and biochemistry to explain why, in order to remain healthy, a woman needs to lead through her feminine power. If she tries to lead through acquired masculine energies, she will eventually become ill or face burnout. The many case studies who shared alongside the psychotherapist, coaches and doctor were very convincing. We know so much more about the body-mind connection now that it is not hard to imagine that continuous acute stress will affect our health. If you are leading in any way, be sure to do it authentically and practice great self-care. Superwoman becomes ill.
But the truth is we all need a better way to find balance in our selves. Perhaps we can’t balance everything every day but maybe being aware of how we spend our time will help us. I’ve heard it said that women can have it all just not at the same time. Do consider what stage of life you are at. There are different challenges and rewards at different stages.
I myself have moved through various full-time combinations of working and study to my current position as a self-employed parent of a small child with a partner and petit business.
What about you? What are your current priorities? Your focus could be on your career; raising children; caring for elderly relatives; discovering the world or understanding your inner world. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it fully, don’t feel guilty about not doing the other things, this too shall pass. The journey has many twists and turns.
Different life stages affect our capacity to fit in leisure and rest. Like you I am constantly tweaking my schedule to find the right balance between work and play. I encourage you to connect to your real life, what is really on your plate and make the best choices for you. I’m more alert to the fact that this changes over time; be sure to review if you feel strained, depleted or depressed. Small tweaks can have a big impact. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
As a practising counsellor I feel I want to encourage people to have better conversations about mental health. But the phrase ‘time to talk’ is so well used now that I wonder what we mean by it.
I remember when I first returned to live in England how I had to concentrate on the person I was speaking to figure out when they were genuinely interested in what I was saying and when they were just being polite. The difference between the two and the subtlety with which it is communicated affects us all.
So perhaps we can: –
Decide that – it’s time to talk
Create space – to talk
Choose a time – to talk
Communicate a desire – to talk
Show up, listen, empathise and not judge. The people we connect to will appreciate it.
Most of us spend large parts of our day multitasking; at home, whilst travelling, at work, in meetings, with family and with friends.
What if we could create time to listen to ourselves? Is our self-talk supporting us or hindering us?
We too need the non-judgemental supportive space we create for others.
I also provide such time for myself as often as possible. Whether I am walking between appointments or having a relaxing bath I allow myself space to be mindfully present and listen to what is going on inside me.
Let’s find ways to really talk to each other and to actually listen to ourselves. Each of us deserves to be heard.
(First published in TODAY Magazine, no longer online)
I approach this review with some ambivalence. Like many of you I am exploring ways to live my best life and fulfil my potential. On the other hand, we can ask too much of ourselves and maybe we’re already doing enough. Read this review of The Miracle Morning with your own life in mind so you can take from it what is helpful and leave what is not.
In the free video on his website the author speaks of how the financial crash of 2008 brought him to rock bottom and made him look at his life anew. In an attempt to study the lives of successful people, he stumbled upon their top habits. The book is essentially different ways of sharing these habits alongside research and case studies.
One of the challenges for me is the linking of these habits to early rising. The idea is that you carry out these 6 habits on rising every day, before breakfast, work or taking children to school! For many of us that requires a big shift in mindset and, getting to bed quite early the night before. Certainly, there are studies that show early rising helps us to be more efficient although late risers point to contradictory evidence.
What then are these six habits that you can do every day to help you achieve your potential? The author has chosen the memorable mnemonic S.A.V.E.R.S. The letters stand for Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. He believes that doing these daily improves discipline, clarity and personal development. He calls these life savers and they can support physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development.
You may already do some of these. Many successful people exercise daily. Some of us may read from a religious text or another book. Reading is not just about reading on social media but choosing content to help steer our day. Silence can include things such as meditation and prayer. The benefits of scribing – or keeping a journal – is overwhelming and I can explore that another time.
Affirmations and visualisations are probably the least known aspects of these 6 habits although we now know that many successful Olympians use both. Affirmations are about replacing fear and worry with more positive thoughts. Visualisations are imagining the positive outcomes you desire. I came across visualisations on my counselling training and sometimes make use of these in individual and group sessions; they can be powerful.
The miracle morning is a simple idea. The author wants us to know that after a 30-day trial it will become a habit. One of my cheats is listening to audiobooks so I can listen on the move or whilst doing tasks. I know that one of my fellow counsellors sprinkles the habits throughout her day. You can also experiment in doing it for one minute each to total 6 minutes. It’s just another way to make small changes in your life. How does this sound to you?