BUSY STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

BUSY  STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

I see many clients who report 10 to 12 hour workdays suffering either: stress, anxiety, depression or a breakdown in personal relationships but not wanting to reduce the corporate work commitments. They say they are happy working these hours, as they feel fulfilled. They are actually addicted to doing and not being, well their mind is so addicted.

When they return from a long holiday they experience how their lives have been hijacked by a corporate work ethic. After a few weeks back at work they are again addicted – or their brain is. Are you leading a pleasantly full life or a busy life? Is it time to be mindful or thoughtful about how you are living your life? It is an important question to ask don’t you think?

Peer pressure, public status, wanting glamorous life goods and the push to get as much money as possible are some of the drivers for people developing exhausting busy lives. What is a pleasantly full life is another question and is it naturally different for everyone? I think it is about increasing the connection with the real world – the natural environment and our relationships with family, work colleagues, our communities and friends.

How many internal thoughts have you had about observing people totally disconnected from the real world? The prime example is watching people texting while walking or driving. This embodies this disconnect, especially when witnessed at pedestrian crossings.

It is time to become thoughtful about spending more time with family, friends, taking walks in the country air, sitting outside watching life, cooking slowly, wearing cosy socks, comfortable clothes and reading a good book on the couch with the dog at our feet. Does this seem more nurturing to you and relaxing into life’s joys?

Our real lives of being rather than doing are under ever increasing threat. The fascination with the latest technology, instant entertainment satisfaction, wanting instant online sex, and experiencing a constant feeling of needing to do things faster robs us of a having a thoughtful pleasant life. Mindfulness is being thoughtful about what your true self wants as a life.

To make life changes we first need to acknowledge there is a problem, as we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Can you put technology down, leave your phone at home, stop texting so much, reduce your work hours, date rather than get casual instant sex and generally develop a plan for a new life of being over constant doing.

Having a simpler life might mean moving to a cheaper house, working less hours, doing creative things rather than only financial pursuits and generally slowing it all down and at the same time having a full life of non work activities.

My partner recently decided to take a year off from the corporate world and is experiencing life anew. But his friends insist he get back into the work force. Can you think of reasons why they pressure him to do so? I find the reasons for this peer pressure very interesting!

So maybe have a good think now on what you are doing with your life. Mindfulness will get you there because now you are thoughtful rather than repeating unconscious busy pursuits.

 

 

 

 

INTERNALISING HURT WILL MAKE YOU MENTAL

INTERNALISING HURT WILL MAKE YOU MENTAL

We are all guilty of it; internalizing hurts with problems in close relationships. Our mind seems happy to churn things over, day and night, inventing scenarios and stories on who is right or wrong. Exhausting stuff!

Let’s say you have been criticized or put down by someone and you feel very hurt and misunderstood. The resulting emotions are the kindle to get the fire raging in our minds. The problem is, this internal mind churning causes a huge mental imbalance and the longer we engage in churning, the greater the chance of some permanent mental damage.

Neuroscience is the study of how our brain works and the way it works makes us behave in a certain way. There is a part of the brain called the Amygdala that reacts to our emotions and when it gets all fired up the Pre-frontal Cortex, which governs our ability to reason, get shut down a lot. And when this happens we are become unbalanced – we are now crazy mind stuff. Spooky!

So the trick is first to be aware that internalizing upsetting issues is not healthy if we let it go on and on. This awareness should help you have some discipline over your churning mind. Of course the mind will keep trying to get you to create new stories of fairness time and time again. Just tell it to shut the fuck up.

Now what can help greatly is you talk to someone about the whole matter because now you are externalizing it rather than keeping it as you own internal story telling. The more you discuss it the less power it will have over you and slowly the hurt will be diluted as other things take more prominence in your life.

The next best thing is to consider writing it all down in a story. This is also externalizing it, this time onto paper. Once it is written down it becomes history and you can now see it unfolded on the outside of your mind. Maybe burn it.

The human brain is good at internalizing problems in the outside world. We would not have built bridges, developed the motorcar or got to the moon without trying to resolve problems in the real world. But internalizing problems in our human relationships long term will lead only to mental health health issues. What they said, what she said and then what they did, is really useless by hanging onto hurts long term. Let it go!

When an upsetting relationship matter happens, work out why you have these strong feelings and emotions, then consider what you are going to do with these emotions. Maybe let them sit for a while and then discuss the issue with the other party, or talk with friends for support and then write it all down. In doing so you are now externalizing the hurts, preventing them destabilizing you needlessly. Take care.

PREVENTING ALZHEIMER’S WITH WALKING

Research has shown the enormous health benefits of mild to moderate exercise, especially for those over forty. 30 minutes exercise four times a week has enormous benefits. Walking is a mild to moderate easy exercise that can greatly help you to not only improve your fitness but also prevent Alzheimer’s early onset. Walking is also extremely valuable with reducing anxiety and depression symptoms.

But none of us wants that Alzheimer’s shocker!

IMPORTANCE TO MOVE BLOOD AROUND BODY

When you exercise you promote the movement of blood to all areas of the body, including your brain. Tiny blood vessels are opened up and filled with oxygen, giving life to surrounding cells. After exercise you also feel great because warm, fuzzy and happy brain chemicals have been released into your system. Our bodies are made to move from ancient times, however modern luxury life has made us sedentary beings.

WALKING AND TALKING

Talking while you walk has great therapeutic benefits as well. The act of body motion and talking creates the free flowing of ideas and thoughts, called streams of consciousness. When walking and talking you free yourself to express, with others, your innermost thoughts, while the brain is being stimulated with happy chemicals. Take a look at people walking together and talking constantly. Great stuff!

Go on call a friend to walk with you 4 times a week for 30 – 40 minutes. It’s lovely thing to do first thing in the morning or at dusk. You might have to get up half an hour earlier but you will love it. You will talk freely as you walk without direct eye contact and in the rhythm of movement. We can help each other’s mental health as well by allowing our friend to freely talk about their lives and ours.

Walking therapy – fitness building and improving mental health at the same time.

It’s a win/win no brainer – pun intended.

 

 

 

Personal Unresolved Conflicts and our Partners

The influence of individual internal conflicts is often forgotten in couple counselling. George has been in a relationship with Helen for 15 years. They have great domestic creature comforts, good friends, holiday a bit and like the company of others but deep down there is something amiss.

Well maybe the main problem is not about them as a couple but more about their own unhealed personal internal conflicts. Helen was lied to in a previous relationship and lacks trust. George deep down feels he is not as capable as others either at work, socially or at making decisions.

George also had an alcoholic father who verbally, and at times, physically abused him. Helen had an over protective mother who was obsessed with the body functions of her children and their cleanliness. These secret and unresolved internal conflicts are at play in their daily couple relationship, without them being fully conscious of it.

We all have different childhood experiences that have made us the way we are as adults.  It stands to reason if these personal internal conflicts are not healed, or put to bed, then having them in the background will affect all relationships at a base level – at home, at work and at play.

If you are in a relationship and you consider you have unhealed internal conflicts then maybe it is time to address these first in individual counselling, before seeking couple therapy. You will feel empowered if you can clean your own slate first before negotiating changes in your relationship. In the end the only person we can change is ourselves.

I often find in couple counselling one partner wanting me to take their side to tell the other they are wrong. Couple counselling is not about finding blame but more about negotiating new pathways. To do that partners need to reflect on the value of their own decisions – are they really the right ones all the time?

Personal therapy, to dilute the demons of our mind, can change our behaviour in all aspects in life. It can make us happier at work, socially, with our families and in our lives with our closest life partner.

Courage to be Imperfect

You have invited your best friends over for dinner, the entrée is wonderful and so is the main but the apple pie was slightly burnt and you consider the whole dinner party an utter failure. Welcome to the world of a perfectionist. You get upset because your partner fails to make the bed in the morning or leaves dirty dishes in the sink some mornings. This is the life of a perfectionist who will in the end worry himself/herself into misery.

Being and knowing you are imperfect will give you a wonderful feeling or release. It is so human to be imperfect. It does not matter about being right all the time. Say, “Stuff It”, and enjoy the serendipity state. Sit back and see what happens to fill the void. Nobody is or ever has been perfect so having unrealistic expectations of yourself and others will only lead to negative thinking, unhappiness and depression.

Perfectionists tend to think others are thinking and reacting negatively towards them when there is no real evidence to support it. Friends are actually getting on with their lives, in their own heads, and they don’t care, or even give it a second thought, that the apple pie was slightly burnt. It fact it made them feel better about their own past cooking mistakes if anything.

It is very hard to live with a perfectionist and they need lots of encouragement to let things go and not to be right all the time. There is good research evidence that an unhappy childhood can cause people to take extreme control over life matters for their own security. This highly developed internal sense of control then carries on into adulthood, never trusting serendipity. To be mentally healthy we need to have a balance of a sense on internal control and enough trust of the outside world to let people and events in.

A perfectionist will feel; they must be seen to be perfect, others should do the right thing, find it difficult to make decisions unless all things are perfect (he/she is not suitable as a partner because he/she snores or is too thin/fat or has pimples) and in order to be accepted I myself must have a perfect body. Wow that’s a lot of things to get right in a world where we constantly struggle in disorganized chaos.

I hate to admit it but I have, in the past, been a bit of a perfectionist but now I realize how unrealistic and counterproductive perfectionism is. So what can you do if you are one or how can you help your partner to just let some things go and stop being one.

Tell them to get out of the house earlier than usual as they tend to take ages to leave, invariably getting to places late or in an extreme rush. Start doing things imperfectly deliberately. Run the vacuum cleaner over 80% of the carpet and leave the rest. Pile unwashed dishes in the sink. Leave the rubbish bin full. Just experience what happens in that void. The world will did not crumble. At first there will be a great sense of unease but move through the unease and release will eventually come. “Stuff it!”

In the long term perfectionism leads to anxiety and depression along with illogical and distorted thinking. Force yourself to not be perfect and consider a world where you are not placing unreasonable demands on yourself and others. Feel that great sense of relief and go out and buy/make a badge which says, “I Have the Courage to Be Imperfect.”

Attachment styles from childhood

Despite what some self-help or dating advice would lead you to believe, developing healthy emotional attachments with other people leads to greater happiness, productivity, and stability in one’s life. If your childhood was happy and supportive emotionally with parents you will develop a secure attachment style. If parents were critical you are likely to develop an anxious attachment style. If you parents were neglectful or abusive you are likely to develop an avoidant attachment style. Read on.

Attachment theory isn’t new, and its research is robust. It was developed in the 1950′s by psychologists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and has evolved and developed up until present day, encompassing the nature of relationships between family members, romantic interests and even friendships.

Your attachment strategy can probably explain a great deal of why your relationships have succeeded/failed in the manner they did, and perhaps why you’re here reading this right now.

Attachment Types

According to psychologists, there is FOUR attachment strategies people adopt: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant.

Secure: People with secure attachment strategies are comfortable displaying interest and affection. They are also comfortable being alone and independent. Secure attachment types obviously make the best romantic partners, family members and even friends. They’re capable of accepting rejection and moving on despite the pain, but are also capable of being loyal and sacrificing when necessary. Secure attachment is developed in childhood by infants who regularly get their needs met, as well as receive ample quantities of love and affection.

Anxious: Anxious attachment types are often nervous and stressed about their relationships. They need reassurance and affection from their partner. They have trouble being alone or single. They’ll often succumb to unhealthy or abusive relationships. Women are more likely to be anxious types than men. Anxious attachment strategies are developed in childhood by infants who receive love and care with unpredictable sufficiency.

Avoidant: Avoidant attachment types are extremely independent, self-directed, and often uncomfortable with intimacy. They’re commitment-phobes and experts at rationalizing their way out of any intimate situation. They regularly complain about feeling “crowded” or “suffocated” when people try to get close to them. In every relationship, they always have an exit strategy. Always. And they often construct their lifestyle in such a way to avoid commitment or too much intimate contact. This is the guy who works 80 hours a week and gets annoyed when women he dates want to see him more than once on the weekend. Avoidant attachment strategy is developed in childhood by infants who only get some of their needs met while the rest are neglected (for instance, he/she gets fed regularly, but is not held enough).

Anxious-Avoidant: Anxious-avoidant attachment types (also known as the “fearful type”) bring together the worst of both worlds. Anxious-avoidants are not only afraid of intimacy and commitment, but they distrust and lash out emotionally at anyone who tries to get close to them. Anxious-avoidants often spend much of their time alone and miserable, or in abusive or dysfunctional relationships. According to studies, only a small percentage of the population qualifies as anxious-avoidant types, and they typically have a multitude of other emotional problems in other areas of their life (i.e., substance abuse, depression, etc.). Anxious-avoidant types develop from abusive or terribly negligent childhoods.

Relationship Configurations

Different attachment types tend to configure themselves into relationships in predictable ways. Secure types are capable of dating (or handling, depending on your perspective) both anxious and avoidant types. They’re comfortable enough with themselves to give anxious types all of the reassurance they need and to give avoidant types the space they need without feeling threatened themselves.

Anxious and avoidants frequently end up in relationships with one another, far more often than they end up in relationships with their own types. Avoidant types are so good at putting others off that often it’s only the anxious types who are willing to stick around and put in the extra effort to get them to open up. For instance, a man who is avoidant may be able to successfully shirk a secure woman’s pushes for increased intimacy. After which, the secure woman will accept the rejection and move on. But an anxious woman will only become more determined by a man who pushes her away. She’ll resort to calling him for weeks or months on end until he finally caves and commits to her. This gives the avoidant man the reassurance he needs that he can behave independently and the anxious woman will wait around for him. Often these relationships produce some magnitude of dysfunction as they fall into a pattern of chaser-chasee, which are both roles the anxious and avoidant types need in order to feel comfortable with intimacy.

Anxious-avoidants only date each other or the least secure of the anxious types or avoidant types. These relationships are very messy, if not downright abuse or negligent.

Knowing and Changing Your Attachment Type

If you don’t have an idea what your attachment style is yet and want to take a test, you can take this one.

If you’re constantly worrying about your partners, feel like they don’t like you as much as you like them, want to see them 24/7, need constant reassurance from them, then you’re probably anxious. If you’re comfortable dating people, being intimate with them and are able to draw clear boundaries in your relationships, but also don’t mind being alone, then you’re probably secure.

The good news is that your attachment style can change over time — although it’s slow and difficult.
Research shows that an anxious or avoidant who enters a long-term relationship with a secure, can be “raised up” to the level of the secure over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, an anxious or avoidant is also capable of “bringing down” a secure to their level of insecurity if they’re not careful.

Also, extreme negative life events, such a divorce, death of child, serious accident, etc., can cause a secure attachment type to fall into a more insecure attachment type.

For instance, a man may be more or less secure, get married to an anxious type, bring her up to a more secure level, but when they run into money trouble she falls back to her anxious level, cheats on him and then divorces him for all of his money, sending him into a tailspin of avoidance. He goes on to ignore intimacy and pump-and-dump women for the next 10 years, afraid to become intimate with any of them.

Secures exhibit both positive self-images and positive perceptions of others. Anxious types exhibit negative self-images, but positive perceptions of others (hence their needy behavior). Avoidants exhibit positive self-images and negative perceptions of others (hence their arrogance and fear of commitment), and anxious-avoidants exhibit negative perceptions of just about everything and everyone (hence their inability to function in relationships).

Using this model as a roadmap, one can begin to navigate oneself to a more secure attachment type.

Anxious types can work on developing themselves, creating healthy boundaries and fostering a healthy self-image. One of my most common pieces of dating advice is for men to find something they’re passionate about and good at and make that a focal point of their life rather than women.

Avoidant types can work on opening themselves up to others, and enrich their relationships through sharing themselves more. Another one of my most common pieces of advice to men is that it’s your responsibility to find something great in everyone you meet; it’s not their responsibility to show you. Become curious. Try not to be judgmental.

 

Anxiety and Mind Churning

We all come across people that really get to us over what they said or did. We also tell ourselves negative stories about ourselves during the day. We could have done this or that! There are times when something happened that we can not understand why it occurred. And what do we do, we churn. Over and over we churn over the events, we take mental positions, work out what we should have said or done. We then set ourselves up to become outraged, angry, bitter and really upset. What follows next is negative behaviour like depression or anxiety.

Churning is just our minds making up stories and presenting negative emotional responses. Churning never ever achieves anything positive so what can you do to stop this mindful obsession? Easy, tell your mind to shut up. You see you are not your mind. As humans you can observe your mind thinking and actually decide what it can think about. There is a gap between you and your mind. That gap allows you to say to your mind – Shut Up.

Training your mind to shut up takes practice but by addressing any useless churning you will become stronger mentally in a very short time. Self talk to tackle churning allows you to get above the upsetting stories your mind is very content to replay continuously, if you allow it to have its way.

There is a difference between consideration and churning. When your mind processes ideas and events it is seeking solutions to move towards insight. Insight is when you feed your brain information about an issue and the brain pops up a solution you feel will work. Mindful consideration is productive but churning never is.

Why not try and stop the churning today. Practice makes perfect. First decide if the stories your mind is playing are either consideration or churning. If it is churning tell your mind to stop. To help this along sing a nursery rhyme like “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Doing this is a humorous and a positive step to stop the churning. Maybe make up a song about what your mind is churning about.

You are right they should not have said or done that, we do tell ourselves negative stories and certain events should never have happened but life is always moving forward and trapping ourselves in the past does us no favours.

You won’t have to wait long for a negative story to pop up so be ready to tell your mind to just shut up. Maybe even use a swear word if that helps. Take care.

P.S. If you want 3 free lessons to tackle anxiety or depression, that you can do online, send me an email and I will send you the link to the St Vincent’s Anxiety Clinic.