Monday, 28 December 2015

New Year, New Opportunity.

As the air becomes rife with both reflections and resolutions, it's clear that the chapter of 2015 is coming to a close. Whatever did or didn't happen this year simply can't be changed now, but we can begin to write our ideal drafts of the New Year's opening paragraph.

Looking back can stir up plenty of emotion depending on how we perceive the year we've just had. There may have been change, challenges, setbacks or triumphs - whatever there was, we'll likely be selective about how we're choosing to look at it. As with anything, I'd be an advocate of focusing on the positive and seeking out the learnings. Yeah I'm sure some or plenty of it wasn't ideal, but isn't it fantastic to know what you don't want to bring into 2016? Isn't it helpful to be able to identify stuff you want to work on?

The New Year is a brilliant time to start fresh, to awaken your eyes to its vast blank canvas and start thinking of how you want to fill it in. This isn't a time for beating yourself up or making unrealistic demands of yourself. This time is tailor-made for thinking about what you want and even what you want to leave behind. It's the time to grab your aspirations and scribble them valiantly across the pages of the months ahead. 

Why not think about what you actually want out of next year and get really curious about how to make that happen? Things that matter to you, not just stuff that everyone else is doing but the real substantial things that you believe will enhance your life. This is a chance to chase what is important and reap the benefits of putting your own values first.

Take that moment to actually write down what you want, where you see yourself in a year's time and how you're going to feel when you get there. I know it might seem a bit airy fairy but deciding to go after what I want has only ever shown me more of what I can potentially have. Shifting the focus from struggle to solutions removes the restrictive perspective of life that we can get so accustomed to. It means not settling for less when we want and know that there is more.

I wouldn't particularly recommend resolutions, but maybe just making the choice to take responsibility for getting the positives that you want in your life. 
Here's some suggestions to take into the new year: (essentially a variety of clichés that I've found to be helpful ;) )

Let Go or Be Dragged
  •  Sure we all make mistakes and yeah of course we might repeat them more than necessary but at some point we've got to take stock of the negative behaviours that could be holding us back. These are the bits of 2015 that maybe we want to Tippex out and these are the things that we want to let go of before we embrace the brand new year. If it's not serving you, why keep carrying it around? Let go of anything that no longer satisfies, recharges or nourishes you.

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
  •  Maybe we want more adventure, fun and excitement in 2016 but Fear is stepping in and mocking our plethora of plans. If these are your goals, do yourself a favour and give more energy to your ambitions than your anxieties. Overcoming fear will only ever be empowering and it's pretty hard to argue with a bit of empowerment isn't it? Build up your strength against fear and you'll simultaneously build up your enjoyable experiences.

Get out of Your Own Way
  • Self-limiting beliefs can have a powerful ability to keep us pretty miserable. As fears and low confidence increase their volume, it's as though half of us wants to pursue our dreams while the other half is telling us how much of a waste of time that is. Silence that argument and just get on your own side. Stop putting up roadblocks and create stepping stones instead. The soundtrack of your mind becomes what you believe, so what do you want to be telling yourself on repeat? Use your own mind to create the pathway that you want.

Be Your Own Best Friend
  • It's fascinating how we treat the one person we'll always be with isn't it? Some of the things we say to ourselves, we'd never have the audacity to say to anyone else. We berate, put down and discourage ourselves on a daily basis and seem to think this is normal practice. Becoming a friend to myself has been crucial for me to embrace living life in the way that I want. Speak to yourself as you would a friend, treat yourself as you would a friend and advise yourself in the same way too. Give yourself the priority that you deserve in your own life. Take yourself to the places you want to go, use the fancy shower gel, get the dessert, go shopping. Get to know who you are, what you like about yourself and what you genuinely enjoy doing. Putting time into this is invaluable and holds immeasurable advantage.

Capture the Moments
  • One thing that I want to really take with me into the new year is capturing moments. The ones that make me smile, the ones that leave me in awe and the ones that make me see real beauty. I want to take note of those little nuggets of life that make me so glad to be a part of it. An idea I want to implement this year is writing down one lovely/memorable thing that happens each day and putting it into a jar or somewhere that I can dip into at the end of the year. I'll likely miss some days, but I want to make a point of capturing the moments that matter and being able to dip into a jar of smiles whenever I wish. Life is full of these but sometimes we forget to pay them the attention they deserve.

There are so many more possibilities for the year ahead, that given half a chance I'd go on about for ages but this is your new year so it's up to you to nail down what you want and need out of the upcoming chapters. Self care, credit, gratitude or connection could all play an incredible part in creating the year of You, or it could be something completely different; a creative project, a new hobby or just a commitment to change. The main thing is to let go of pressure and let passion guide you into your own pages of potential.


Friday, 25 December 2015

Dear You,

So the day has now arrived and I'd say this may be met with mixed emotions. Some of you may be counting down the hours til the damn day is finally over but others might be genuinely excited to see what's in store this year. Either way, this Christmas message is for you, because regardless how it is this year, I want each Christmas from here on out to bring more and more joy to your life.

Because that's exactly what they've brought for me and I couldn't be any more grateful.

I get that Christmas is a challenging time. I completely understand the dread, the depression, the desire to lock yourself up in your room for the day and stay away from everyone and everything. (Speaking from experience) I struggled hugely with it in the past and between the food, the people and the pressure I'd completely overthink and over-stress about it. My destructive mental state would dominate and suck every potential ounce of joy right out of my day.

This year, I've seen more than a few similar tales regaling how very tough this season is for people. But to me, that's limited in its helpfulness. While of course it effectively raises awareness of the challenges Christmas presents, I just feel that you don't heal a wound by constantly poking at it.  This blog has always and will always be about awareness of hope. So, I'm not going to go on about how hard it can be and how hard it was in my past. I just want to tell you how much better it can be and encourage that you gift yourself with the possibility of making it better for you too.

When I chose recovery back in a January a few years ago, I didn't even really want to. You can probably tell a bit about how that Christmas went, as I landed up seeking therapy within a matter of weeks. But from rockbottom, the only way you can go is up, so as reluctant as it may have been, it was still a choice that I made. 

Choosing to recover is a choice that is the most important gift I've ever given myself and it's one that keeps on giving. 

My life now bears little resemblance of that anxiety-ridden, self-loathing Grinch that I was before. It's hard to even put into words how much I've gained through working on myself and choosing to make my life better. It's been an up and down journey, of course it has, but I wouldn't change a single part of it. It's whole and it's mine and it's what has allowed me to get thoroughly and indulgently involved in life. 

I had no concept of how I could be when I began the path of recovery. I kind of thought I was always going to struggle, I just 'was that way'. I kept writing this story for myself of how useless I was and how I was plagued with this un-wellness that simply would not go.

Well it's gone now. And as much as I don't like being wrong, I'm delighted I was this time. I can't encourage you enough to also choose to write yourself a new story. Realise the potential that you have and go pursue it. This is the most crucial gift you can get your hands on. There is so much opportunity out there, there is so much laughter and connection and pure joy to grab with both hands. There's experiences, there's tears, there's challenges, there's all the elements the culminate to give a wonderful authentic life. When you genuinely release yourself into life, you're unstoppable. 

I always find times of the year like this so poignant; birthdays and special occasions remind me how different my perspective is compared to how it used to be. I just have an inexplicable gratitude for what I have now. When I realise how much I dreaded so many days in my life, from special occasions to the mere everyday, it's crazy to think how much more ease I can approach them with now. There's just no benefit from dread or any of that negativity, I get nothing from it and never did. It'd keep my mind busy and my life restricted. And that's not good enough for anyone, you and I deserve more.

This year, I'm content. Within myself and within my life. Food is just food, people are just people and Christmas is a day I'm going to enjoy. I'm so excited for the new year, for new changes and to continue to see what life has to offer me. 

It doesn't mean that my life is perfect but it means that I'm embracing it for what it is and finding the magic in the messiness.These feelings wouldn't be possible if I had chosen to stay stuck. They wouldn't be possible if I had given up. They wouldn't be mine to enjoy if I had decided that recovery just isn't for me. Recovery is for everyone, Merry Christmases are for everyone, even Merry Mondays are ours for the taking if we decide we want them.

Decide what you want. Decide to gift yourself with a life that you want to live.

Merry Christmas, I hope it's a a great one and the start of something new.

All the best,

Dare To Live 


Thursday, 24 December 2015

Tips From A Carer for Christmas

Being a carer of someone with mental health issues can be a tricky task at the best of times but Christmas in particular can be a very challenging time for all - both the person who is suffering from the illness and the people around them.

Christmas is such a time of festivities that when you're not feeling quite yourself it can be tough to cope with all the jollity and it can even bring you down further when you just don’t feel capable of joining in.

I have spent several years with my two daughters who have battled mental health issues and suicide ideation was particularly prevalent at Christmas time. During this period of time we put a few strategies in place in order to help them and then hoped for the best. Below are just some suggestions that might help you.

Ø We always let our children know that we loved them.

Ø That they were important to us.

Ø That we were there for them.

Ø We stayed in contact with them during the days and nights.

Ø We made sure we knew where they were going and who they were with.

Ø We had phone numbers of friends.

Ø They would contact us when on way home, so we knew what time to expect them.

Ø We would not leave them on their own in the house when they were particularly vulnerable..

Ø We would give them their space.

Ø We would bring the madness of Christmas down to a low hum.

Ø We would let new traditions be made if they couldn’t cope with the old ones.

Ø We would be available to talk to them whenever they needed to talk, day or night.

Ø We played games and watched films together, and if the person needed a time out by their self then that was ok. Pressure to continuously engage needs to be lifted from someone who is suffering from emotional distress issues.

Ø We let them know that we believed in them.

Both the girls suffered from an eating disorder so food at Christmas was also an issue and the way we combated this was by,  

  • Buying less food.
  • By having a Christmas menu that suited everyone. After all who's really mad about turkey and ham?!
  • Having food that was nutritionally dense and that they felt comfortable with. This food was then there for everyone and not just the person who was suffering with the illness. This way they didn’t feel different.
  • We respected that they may need to eat more regularly.
Give your loved one the time and space, the love and peace that they may need. Christmas does not appeal to everyone but everyone’s interpretation of Christmas needs to be respected.

Peace and Happiness to everyone during the festive season from a Mam, a Carer, a person who has been there. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

10 Gifts to Give Yourself This Christmas

Conquering Christmas Week #4

The Christmas season is a fantastic opportunity for giving. A quick peek into any shopping centre this weekend would confirm just how eager we are to embrace this. We flock to the shops, lengthy lists in hand to seek out gifts for those special people in our lives. Hours go by agonising over decisions, joining never-ending queues and sitting in crawling traffic. 

It's no easy feat but we go through the rigmarole because we want to have something to give to others on Christmas day. We want to see them smile and we want to show that we were thinking of them. Not only do they benefit, but in the process of giving we end up feeling pretty good too.

But what about the most important person in our lives? Where are we on our lists? Considering the feel-good after effects, surely it'd make sense to give ourselves a bit of this love and thought too. Not only would we get to reap the beautiful benefits but it's even an easier gift to give because we know exactly what we need and want. No queuing, buying or sitting in traffic necessary.

Instead though, we can choose to be hard on ourselves, thinking we don't deserve anything or just trying so hard to please others that we forget ourselves. Under pressure and stress to take care of everyone else, we leave little resources to get ourselves the gifts we could actually really do with. 

So this Christmas, why not give yourself a stocking full of self-care? 
Here's some stocking filler suggestions, feel free to add to the list what you want from yourself this festive season.
  1. Kindness - How you speak to yourself and how you treat yourself could always do with an extra dollop of kindness. 
  2. Time - Allow yourself to take your time and ensure to make time for what you want.
  3. Space - If you need space, take it. Give yourself breathing space amidst all the hustle and bustle.
  4. Nourishment - Make choices that will nourish you, physically and mentally. Check in with your needs regularly and make sure you're nurturing them.
  5. Fun - Do something fun, something you really want to do and will enjoy. This is the perfect time to embrace a bit of fun. Take advantage of the ice rinks, movies, walks, sports, board games - whatever will make you smile is the gift you need to give.
  6. Connection - Instead of shrinking away from social situations, make the effort to give yourself the gift of connecting to others. Daunting as it may be, it usually turns out to be a lot less of a pain than expected. Now is a great time to catch up with people and really reconnect.
  7. Relaxation - it's the ideal opportunity now to slow down and take a restful break. Make time for relaxing and de-stressing in the way that best suits you. Light those scented candles, use up all the bath gift sets or turn on some music, whichever method will do it for you needs to be prioritised.
  8. Experience - what memorable experiences could you give yourself this Christmas? Use the time to go somewhere you want to go or do something you've been wanting to do. Make it special and make it yours.
  9. Forgiveness - the end of year can be a reflective time, so if you're looking back with guilt or regret, forgive yourself. Let yourself heal and move into the new year with a fresh slate.
  10. Breaking Free - Free yourself of limitations that have been keeping you stuck. Take stock of things that you might  be believing or doing that don't serve you and free yourself. 
The list could go on and on, so it's worth taking the time to think of what you could really do with at this moment in time. Don't keep it as a wishlist though, prioritise these gifts as you would any others. These are just as, if not more, important. 

Enjoy :)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Conquering Christmas Week #3

Festive Fears

Most of our apprehension around Christmas time has its roots in a plethora of fears. Carol-singing, twinkle lights and gifts aren't exactly the most ominous, so what is there in a season of festive cheer that can actually cause so much dread? 

Fears are personal to us all, and whether we have few or many we're all familiar with that incessant uncomfortable feeling. It might be the foods, the people, our family, shopping, pressure, stress; the list goes on and on. There could be Christmas parties and social outings that we'd rather avoid. There's not exactly a one fear fits all to this time of year, so it's important to figure out what it is for you and how you plan to conquer it.

Regardless its origin, fear works in the same way once it rears its ugly head. But, that's my favourite thing about it - learning to overcome your fears is a transferable skill. What works for one fear will work for them all.

How do we conquer Christmas concerns?

1. Identify:

So, what is it that's causing fear to bubble up as the day draws closer? There has to be something that can be identified as the trigger, that persistent thought coursing throughout our minds. Different years for me presented with different fears. Sometimes it was the fear of festive food that boldly took centre stage, other times it was seeing people, some years it was even just the pressure to appear as if I was happy and enjoying the day when that was the last thing I was feeling. Even if it simply feels like a general sense of overwhelm, there is a key thought process creating the fear and that's what we need to seek out. Find it so you can fight it.

2. Question:

Once you know what you're dealing with, you need to cut it down at its roots. Fears manifest because we allow ourselves to fuel them. So stop the racing thoughts and throw out a curve-ball that questions the fear. Is this a real fear? What's the worst case scenario? Play the tape out and see in your mind's eye what would happen if your fear came true. Would you survive? Is the idea of the fear worse than the actual event itself? Fears are false evidence appearing real, that's all. Once they kick off, yeah it can be easier to blow them out of proportion than to actually let them go, but that pretty much just leaves us paralysed by panic. Questioning their logic will break them down bit by bit. Stay curious about the story that you're telling yourself and whether or not it's a true tale.

3. Change:

We have incredibly active minds and this is how the negatives can thrive so effortlessly - because we have the energy there to sustain them. In order to keep those waves of thought occupied, there has to be a change in what fuels the thought process. Everytime those familiar old fearful thoughts arise, stop them in their tracks and replace them with a thought of what you're looking forward to. Channel your anticipation into excitement instead of anxiety. Create your own change.

4. Focus on how you can prepare:

The day will come, whether we want it to or not. We can make a choice - to keep fearing it and avoid any enjoyment on the day, or to change how we're looking at it and embrace the festive spirit. We always have a choice and there is always a solution. Plan how to overcome the key challenges that keep cropping up. Take a step by step approach to minimise the fearful challenges into manageable parts. Give yourself the chance to work towards the day that you want it to be, free of fear and full of cheer. 

It's up to us how the day will play out, remember that you play a part in your own experience. Fear will only ever keep us stuck, keep us on the sidelines and keep us away from fully experiencing what life has to offer.

Don't let something with such feeble foundations ruin a day with such positive potential. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Conquering Christmas Week #2

What is on your Santa list?

Like most things as we grow up, the magic of Christmas seems to sneakily simmer away, eventually leaving us in that terrible category of  'grown up' where we actually have to think about the less fun parts of the festivities. 

With no jolly big man in a red suit providing whatever we want, that space can quickly be filled with us providing whatever we can worry about. As a child, all we had to do was write down what we wanted, be particularly good and more often than not, we'd wake up on that special morning to a stocking that'd make us grin from ear to ear. But now, we fill our minds with all the stuff we don't want, what we're worrying about, what we 'should' do, all the stuff that 'has to' be done.

In any scenario where we're creating more misery than magic - it's time to change something up. Regardless how little you want to embrace Christmas, fighting it with a fistful of fears and worries isn't making it a more bearable time by any means. 

So why not write your own list to Santa this year? Get your pen and paper out and think about exactly how you want this year's Christmas to be. 

1. What you think about you bring about:

If you've ever watched the Secret or even checked out our Facebook page, you'll be aware of the phrase 'What you focus on grows'. This is one that I personally would strongly advocate. If you're constantly worrying about weight gain, alcohol, socialising, family tensions, loneliness or whatever the Christmas season is bringing up for you, then that's all you'll be able to see. You will actually begin to create that for yourself as a reality. 

Worrying about the problem does not create any solutions. We need to shift the focus.

Think about what you do want.

2. Get specific. 

It's comical sometimes how incredibly clear we can be about what we don't want. The amount of energy we actually put into creating our worst case scenarios leaves little to work with for our best cases. There's no point just deciding we want a 'good' Christmas or we just want to enjoy it. That means something different for everyone so we need to figure out what exactly it means to us.

If you want to enjoy the day by going for walk or staying in and watching a movie, decide. Decide where you want to go, decide what you want to watch. Think about it and how you'll feel when you do it. Think of all the things that could go right, who might be there, who you want to see and how you want to interact. Just let your mind go and visualise it until your picture is crystal clear, step right into that picture and keep revisiting it until it becomes real.

3. Forget the fear & doubts.

'There's no point thinking about what I won't cos it won't happen'. Can I please urge that you don't engage in thoughts like this?  If you actually want to enjoy yourself, negative thinking and doubts need to be shot down before they even finish their depressing sentences. 

To really bring about what you're thinking about, of course you need to believe in it. You need to invest in this image as much as you've invested in the miserable ones. Make it your business to believe in positive possibility.

Fears will crop up, because they are trying to drive the dread of what's ahead. They'll sneak in and whisper that it's not possible, there's no point, it's always the same. Shut them down and just hit back with the image you've created of your very own merry Christmas. Fears are simply false evidence appearing real, it's nothing really concrete to go on. You need to be vigilant for their bullsh*t and bat each one back out as soon as it comes whirling towards you. 

4. Do what needs to be done.

The difference between this Santa list and the one that you probably last wrote, is you're going to need to be your own Saint Nick this time. You need to deliver the goods that you've asked for. Get into the workshop of your life and figure out what you need to start doing to create what you've said you wanted. What steps do you need to take? How much time do you need to put in? Get hands on about getting what you want. Make it happen for yourself.

It can be tricky to tackle all the many worries that have been stacking up in the run up to Christmas, so we need to keep it simple. Christmas is not about them. The season is not about food or looking a certain way or pleasing everyone or having the best of everything.

It's about something different to everyone, even if that's not in the forefront of our minds, we all have some idea of how we'd like it to play out. Whether it might seem tangible or not, the dream is there. To me, it just makes sense to bring that dream to the fore of our minds and let it be the soundtrack to our festive season.

What would you put on your letter to Santa?