stress management

Happy New Year!

It’s a mild and calm evening on the 5th Jan 2015 and I’ve decided to open a bottle of red and reflect on what’s been happening in my life over the last couple of weeks. I felt I needed to take a wee break during the Christmas period, you might say a Christmas holiday. So I backed away from all the projects I had been currently working on and put the laptop away. I even took a break from the mindfulness course I was currently doing, as some of you may already know and might have even read my blogs. Part of the reason I had started the mindfulness course was to help me find some balance and to take back control of my life again, after a somewhat stressful year. I remember around two weeks ago saying to my partner, right that’s it…. the computer is going off for the next few weeks and I’m taking a break from everything and I’m going to enjoy getting into the Christmas spirit and spend some quality time with my family and friends. The next day I woke up not feeling so good, I haven’t been sick in about two or three years, this was going to be a disaster as it was Christmas day soon! I’m also a musician so I couldn’t afford to be sick, this was one of the busiest periods of the year. It started out in my head and sinus, sure I’ll be grand and just got on with it, but I really wasn’t, and it wasn’t long till it moved into my chest and then it was starting to effect my singing which wasn’t good for business. So after a week of herbal remedies and potions with no sign of improvement, I took myself off to the doctor and got the dreaded antibiotic. About a week in and today is the first day I actually feel back to myself again. For the last two weeks I have been feeling pretty rotten, low and fearful of the new year creeping its way closer and closer with each passing day, and not feeling any way prepared for it.
I don’t really know why I’m writing this, I may not even post it but I just feel the need to express some of my thoughts because I feel I am a completely different person to the one I have been over the last year. Not to mention the last two weeks. Or maybe I’m just finding my way, back to myself? I think some of you reading this may be able to resonate with what I’m trying to say, it’s just I think for a lot of people out there in the world, many of them are struggling in the daily grind of day to day living, with so many demands and so many commitments, and I think to myself, it can’t be “just me” that tends to worry about nearly everything, and feels overwhelmed when things get too much or don’t go to plan. Just to break it down last year I kinda went through a period of loosing my life’s purpose, it’s a long story and it will remain locked inside of me, you don’t need to know the details. All you need to know is that when the darkness comes, and you “want” to step into the light, some day the light will shine in on you and you will see everything differently. For some this light can last a life time, for some it can last a year, 6 months or even just moments. For other’s they might not want to step into the light at all. But when it does finally come you feel so alive. I felt that today, for the first time in over a year. The real me was emerging again, hallelujah!! While I was sick over the last two weeks, I totally switched off from the world, I watched TV, ate what I wanted, stayed in my pj’s and just vegged out. Did I feel guiltily? Yes. I don’t know why…surely I could let myself away with not feeling guilty, after all I was sick….. but sadly I did. At that time and in that frame of mind I was secretly dreading the new year, how was I going to achieve all the things that I wanted to achieve, there was so much to do, suddenly I was feeling really overwhelmed, so I gave up thinking about that too, I just numbed my mind with box set TV hour after hour. Once I finally surrendered to my sickness I was finally able to say “Fuck off” to any worry or negative internal dialogue that tried to creep it’s way into my mind. It’s funny but I actually think I really needed to do that, I think my body needed to switch off so that it could shut down and then reboot when it was ready.
If I wasn’t allowing myself time to switch off and take a break, I mean a proper one, then my body was going to step in and do it for me. Even though it was Christmas and New Year, I’m actually really glad I got sick. It was hell at the time and I really felt totally out of sorts, lost, and pretty down with all sorts of negative thinking patterns. But if my body hadn’t stepped in that time I announced I was actually ready to take a break, then I don’t think I would of totally been able to switched off.
So today the 5th Jan I now for the first time this year feel excited about the future. I have recovered in not just my body but also my mind. I realize what is really important and I now know what I want. I am ready. I have my goals, so as far as I’m concerned this is the first day of my new year, and for the first time in a long time I can honestly say “happy new year” and feel good about it!

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Moment’s of Mindfulness Matter Week four

Week Four – Personal experience of practicing mindfulness

Half way through my mindfulness course now and I almost feel like a new person. One thing I know for sure is that I don’t wanna look back, and into old habits. I like how I’m feeling now, I’m enjoying this new awareness in my being, and I feel I have created some space in my life to “get to know me” and to be with what is truly in line with my life right now. I feel I have learned so much about myself over the last few weeks, it really has been an amazing journey of self discovery. All of the reading materials, the video lessons and mindfulness practises have been very educating and it’s really helped me to understand on a much deeper level how stress effects our physical, emotional and mental well-being. I’m not saying that I’ve completely transformed as a person and I walk around all day with birds singing in my head. I’m just saying that even though I experience negative events or stressful situations (and we all do from time to time), I am noticing that I have a little more awareness of these events now, and how I react to them. I am still experiencing the thousands of thoughts that come into my head each day, most of which we’re all unaware of, but that’s just normal, and always will be. What has made a difference to me personally might not work for you, and this is why I’m writing my own personal experience. I’m not doing it for any particular reason, I’m doing it for me because I recognise that I cannot continue living a life that is filled with worry, anxiety and stress and ignoring the effects it is having on my overall well-being.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not always negative, I’m a very happy person and quite a positive person in general. But now that I am more aware of my negative internal dialogue, I have actually started taking some very positive steps to changing some of my core beliefs. When I say core beliefs I am talking about the things that I know, and the things that I believe are true for me, regardless of what anyone else thinks. For example I may have a core belief that I am a “kind and generous” person, and my actions may be that I am kind to others, and I happily give generously of that time to others. So this is my reality and I create my own reality, so if I create my own reality (and we all do), therefore I have control over my own core belief system.
I was able to recognize a negative core belief, this is something that I was unaware of as generally we are not aware of our core beliefs, it is just a way of being, and these positive or negative beliefs may stem from early childhood events. I had been working on a particular project this week, and I was struggling to really put myself out there in front of future possible clients. I was feeling nervous and unsure of myself, even though I knew I was good at that particular project role, somewhere deep inside of me I had this feeling, this questioning of myself and I realized it was my negative internal dialogue speaking for me, it was in fact a negative core belief that said to me “I am not good enough”. I was beginning to tune into my internal core beliefs, and question for the first time…probably EVER, is this really true for me now??? The answer was NO. You have no idea how a realization like this can impact someone’s life. Remember that you create your own reality, so you in fact have control over your core belief systems, and I was about to change mine. 🙂
So what would happen if I decided I was going create a new reality, a new core belief and decide that “I am good enough”, and really believe it. You might say, fake it till you make it. These re-framed thoughts will eventually become a part of us, because what we think about creates our reality. So I’m pretty excited about this realization, in fact I’ve already started practising my new core belief, or faking it till I make it, and I have to say that I’m actually REALLY starting to believe it! The results this week speak for themselves, I’ve been in touch with organizations and people I would have never put myself in front of before, and the feedback I’ve been receiving so far has been very positive. So my penny’s worth in all of this is…..if you feel stuck, if you feel you can’t do something, if you feel your not good enough or your afraid to put yourself out there. STOP and LISTEN to what is really going on, what is the internal dialogue and try to tune into it. Once you have acknowledged it, ask yourself is it actually really true for you right now? The likelihood is that it probably isn’t true fro you right now, so don’t believe its lies, face that fear head on, re-frame your thinking by flipping it around into the positive, and just by taking a small step outside your comfort zone you can achieve anything you want. Easier said than done eh?!! Look if it was easy everyone would be doing it, and I think you probably get the picture! 🙂

Meditation Practices

This week I am practising standing yoga and floor yoga meditations as well as alternating some of them with the breath awareness meditation. I just love all the meditations, I look forward to starting my day with mindfulness each morning, and its become a part of my routine now. I can’t say anything magical has been happening while I have been meditating, it is what it is. It’s just a very relaxing experience, and I enjoy the lovely sense of calmness and feelings of over all positive well-being during and after my practises. One thing that did happen to come to my attention during one of my meditations this week, were my thoughts in relation to this new project I had been working on. As you can imagine I was number one; excited to realise that I could change my negative internal core belief systems into positive core beliefs, and number two; this actually started a chain reaction of you might say, the universe giving me what I wanted. It was a little overwhelming, and my mind had already begun to race out of control. It doesn’t have to always be negative thoughts that spiral out of our control, it can also happen with positive thoughts too, especially one’s that excite us and we can’t wait to get going and think we need to do it all NOW! But I was able to catch myself, yep I was caught red handed, guilty as charged. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to recognise this, and I actually shudder to think of all the time, effort and energy I was about to throw myself into trying to achieve the impossible, I might as well of been kayaking down a rapid river, in the dark without a paddle…..all because my racing mind syndrome was telling me I had to do it all now. So instead I put the kettle on, relaxed back into my chair and decided that, that was no longer a road I will willing to go down.

Simple Awareness Practices

For the informal practice this week, I was to look for opportunities to practice the STOP (one minute breathing space) exercise, during the course of my day. So basically any time of day whether I’m experiencing a stressful event or maybe even when I’m not, I was to stop what I was doing or thinking and just take a minute out to breath. I would then check in with my thoughts, feelings and sensations at that particular time. Then carry on what ever I was doing. So one evening during the week I found myself having a difficult conversation with someone I care about. I could feel emotions beginning to build inside of me as the conversation went on. So in that moment I just remembered the STOP and breathe exercise so I decided to put it into practise. I was quite surprised at the outcome. During the conversation I was so concerned about my own feelings and getting my own point across, I wasn’t really listening to what the other person was trying to tell me. So in between the silences of that one minute, I actually heard what the other person was saying. Even though it was difficult to accept the outcome, I was able to, and I felt ok with it. I even surprised myself!
Another experience I had while practising this exercise, I found myself worrying about something, so I started the exercise by stopping what I was thinking about and just took a minute out to focus on my breath. By the way I was doing this while driving my car, so you really can practice this exercise in most situations, no one even need know your doing it! Anyhow I carried on driving and completely forgot what I was worrying about or that I even was worried in the first place and carried on with my day! This was a real eye opener for me. It’s so easy to get caught up in worry about something, the more you worry the more you have to worry about, and then your worried about being worried. All we have to do it change the station in our mind.

I’ve really, really enjoyed writing this blog and I never would of imagined myself writing about something that is so personal and sharing it with the world. But here I am tap, tap, tapping on my keyboard! I’ve decided for the next remaining four weeks (5-8), I’m going to merge them together into one final blog.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I hope it was of some interest or help to you. I’m looking forward to the next few weeks of the Mindfulness Course and sharing more of my “moments of mindfulness”.

Moments of Mindfulness Matter Week Two

Week Two- Personal Experience of Practicing Mindfulness

The first thing I noticed when I woke up this morning were my thought’s, I barely had time to open my eye’s until I was bombarded with my thought’s, negative thought’s, judgmental thought’s and what I should and should not be doing thought’s. STOP !!!! I called out in that moment……
…….and then, there was silence………..It was very empowering, the fact that I even recognized that this was happening was extremely liberating. I realized in that moment that I actually had control over these thought’s, and so I just let them go. I’m not saying that I suddenly realized that “I had control over my thoughts” for the very first time, I’m just saying that it’s the first time in a while that I have actually acted upon this realization. I actually made the decision in that moment to activity take part in this decision, this choice. I had made the commitment of allowing myself to fully embrace this 8 week course of mindfulness. It seems very simple but in fact it is not that simple at all. It’s only now since I’ve started this course that I am becoming more aware of my thought’s. I am learning to notice them, catching myself in that moment before my mind begins to run away with all these thought’s. It’s almost like a muscle that I’m learning to use for the first time, the more I use it the more it grows and develops.
It might sound strange, but it almost feels like a sickness of the mind. It’s only now that I’m coming to realize that I have been living with these thought’s, this racing mind, and it has started to spiral out of control. When I look back over the last 18 months, I realize that it had actually been quite a stressful year. This “racing mind syndrome” has been gnawing away at me over the last 18 months and the scary thing is, is that I wasn’t even aware of it.

Meditation Practices

This week I am practicing the “breath awareness” meditation. I notice that when I am fully relaxed and in the moment that I am breathing into my tummy area, an exercise that I have practiced many time’s and taught in my stress management classes. But then I noticed my thought’s creeping in, these thought’s were usually in relation to something I needed to do later, something I might have been worried about and in those moments I noticed that my breath would shift from my tummy to my chest, a perfect example of how stress effects our breathing. I had gone from being relaxed and breathing fully and consciously into my tummy at one moment, to my tummy actually tightening as I experienced these racing thought’s, and my tummy was actually tense in those moments.
As the week progresses to day 3 I notice that I feel happier within myself. I feel I am beginning to learn how to have more control over my thought’s. I can just notice these thoughts, whether they are negative or optimistic, there need not be any judgement. Just notice them and let them go. I’m not allowing myself to get sucked into my “racing mind syndrome” for the most part. I’m also more aware of where I might be holding tension in my body, and I now have a new understanding of how my “racing mind syndrome” was draining my energy. Quite literally sucking the life out of me.
I even felt more relaxed in relation to having to practice these meditations everyday, in fact I now look forward to them because I have a deeper connection with myself during these moments. Even if my mind does drift away from time to time, I don’t need to get annoyed and “try” to focus my attention, in fact that’s not what meditation is about, it’s about learning to simply notice them as just thoughts and simply allow yourself to come back to the breath.
So now I am in day 5 of week two and I really do feel more present during my meditation. Practicing meditation allows me to live in the present moment without judgement and just notice my thoughts. I am not living in the past, “should have”, “I wish I had”, nor am I living in the future…. planning or worrying. I am just in the now.
As the week comes to an end I feel happier, more content and relaxed. I really do feel more positive about things in general such as goals I might have, and things that I am passionate about. Not just about things that “I have to” or “should do” but things I actually want to do. I’m not even going to act on any of these passing thoughts right now, which is definitely a huge step back for me, or maybe by me taking a step back from diving in at the deep end AGAIN is actually a huge step forward. I have a sense that I am allowing some space in my life to breath again, so that creative energy can be allowed to flow more freely back into my life again. I’m not constantly feeling that worried state of mind that was almost like a disease effecting my judgement and corrupting my mind before I even got a chance to open my eyes first thing upon waking up each morning. I am learning how to slow down a little in the day to day running of my life. It feels really good, and I’m glad that I was able to make that choice for myself, and understand that there is always a choice. I remember thinking to myself that in order for me to get the full benefit of this 8 week mindfulness course, that I was going to have to make some changes. One of these changes was to simply turn of the data on my mobile phone, and put it on silent every evening going to bed so that when I woke in the morning I wouldn’t be distracted with emails and other notifications and allow my mind to be sucked into the world of social media. I could start my day with mindfulness.

Simple Awareness Practice’s

This week I had to practice being more aware of how I experience and process pleasant events. Something as simple as noticing the sun on my face or someone smiling at me. I sat in my living room and just gazed out the window for a while just appreciating the beautiful Autumn morning. The colours of the morning light filled up the room I was in and I could feel the warmth of the sun coming in. I could hear the traffic and the birds, I could see the birds resting on the bare tree’s. A person walked by, I just watched them, they didn’t know I was there, and I wondered what thoughts might they be thinking. Were they worried, stressed or maybe happy and grateful? I was experiencing my own stillness in these moment, just watching and noticing how the world just continues to move with each passing breath. It was a very calming experience, I felt feelings of gratitude for this wonderful world we live in and how beautiful my home town is, the wonderful community that lives here and all my close family and friends that surround me. I am truly blessed.
While practicing simple awareness this week, I noticed that it always brought me fully into the moment, and experiencing living in the present moment. Being fully there. This is not a land that I have been use to living in over the past while, and I think that it’s actually a little sad in a way. To give you a few examples, I have many conversations with different people as I go about my day to day life: my partner, my family, my friends, the shop keeper or passers by on the street. But to be brutally honest there are many time’s when I’m talking with these people, that in fact my mind is else where, I’m not actively listening to them, truly hearing them or even connecting with them. I’m talking to my partner, while in my mind I’m deciding what I’m going to cook for dinner, or I’m visiting mum and dad and I’m rambling on about myself or scanning my face book feed at the same time. I have a phone call with a friend and I’m figuring out in my mind how I can best advise them about something they are telling me rather that actually listening to them fully, or I’m paying for my groceries and I’m too busy fussing over my purse and wondering why the cue is taking so long cause I need to get back in time before Eastenders. Are we all guilty of this? Has it become the norm? If the answer is yes then……what impact could this be having on our lives?

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and i hope it may be of interest or help to you. I’m looking forward to taking part in week 3 of the Mindfulness Course and sharing more of my “moments of mindfulness”.