Saturday, 27 February 2016

You Can Do Anything... But You Can't Do Everything.

Overwhelm. It's a word I've grown to sincerely dislike over the years. A word that to me in the past, suggested that I was incapable, weak - never up to the task. The idea of being overwhelmed never failed to bring me shame, y'know cos I seemingly viewed myself as some kind of invincible Superwoman or something, (probably minus the outfit...poor body image and all!)

Overwhelm is a word and feeling that swirled around me consistently; tornado-like in its suffocating surround. It appeared to have the unwavering capacity to make me feel inadequate, upset and stressed out, all in a mere whirlwind of my mind. Faced with that reaction to most things I pursued, I got stuck in a rut pretty fast and ended up pursuing nothing.

When I wasn't well, it was the simplest of things that ignited the incense of overwhelm. Its smoke serenading the panic within me, triggering the screeches of the overly sensitive anxiety alarm. Deafening, claustrophobic, unbelievably overwhelming. Simple tasks like having a meal, seeing a friend, going to school/work/college became synonymous with overwhelm. Each task was considered too much; it was something I absolutely couldn't handle. When we get overwhelmed, every little thing seems to be the biggest deal and fear tells us that we're just not up to the challenge.

Here's the thing though, life is a big frickin deal. And we are more than able for it.

Like any feeling, overwhelm is just a signal. It's just a little indicator to us that something's not right, we need a bit of an adjustment and we'll be right as rain again. Whether that's our thinking, perception, approach or whatever, it's always within our capabilities to change this feeling.

For me, overwhelm tends to announce itself in agitation. Emotions are heightened, irritation is almost guaranteed and I'm so on edge, I'm pretty sure I could fall off at any moment. And while it bothered me before and appeared as some kind of failing, now I've learned that that's not really a helpful way to greet it.

First off, we need to accept that it's going to happen from time to time. Life is full of.. well, everything. When you think about it, it kind of encompasses every single thing we can think of. It's a beautiful, haphazard patchwork of our fears, experiences, learnings, ups, downs, joys, challenges... everything.

So of course it's going to catch us off guard now and then. Although, this can come as a surprising realisation to those of us with a perfectionist predisposition. Surely there must be some way to react perfectly to any curveball life throws our way?! ...Nope.


I genuinely thought I'd be entirely rid of overwhelm when I recovered. I would be able to handle anything and everything and it'd all be so effortlessly easy, right? ...No, actually it'll all just be real. And I will be human and I will learn to deal with these uncomfortable feelings that I'm experiencing instead of hiding away trying desperately to avoid any discomfort, ever.

Before, I was overwhelmed about everything because I felt completely ill-equipped to deal with life. Now I'm getting overwhelmed because I'm so excited about everything I want to do in life. It's as though instead of going from 'paused' to  'play', I've fervently hit 'fast-forward' on my life without expecting that to be a challenging tempo change. 

Recovery beautifully paved my path from being completely lost to discovering who I am. But, I didn't quite account for the fact that who I am is an incredibly passionate person with a wide range of interests, hobbies and dreams. Turns out, trying to pursue every single thing I want, is pretty overwhelming.

See, in life, we can do anything. I firmly believe that the world is our oyster and there is abundant possibility for each of us. But we can't do everything, we just can't. There's not enough time or energy in any day for that.


What we need is Balance.

We need to breathe and take a second to step back and objectively see what's going on. We need to see how much we're trying to cram in and how exhausting it actually is. We need to nurture our own energy and realise that in each day, it is limited. 


We need to prioritise, we need to respect our boundaries, needs and limitations - we simply need balance.
How? Ask yourself:

What makes me happy? What do I enjoy?
What do I need, in this moment?
What can I benefit from doing?
What's most important to me?
What energises/recharges/nourishes me?
Am I respecting my boundaries?
Have I got the time to put into this right now?
What absolutely has to be done?

We all have incredible potential for giving life our all, but we need to appreciate our humanity at the same time. If we try to conquer the world, obviously we will get overwhelmed and that will feel absolutely sh*t. But that's not to say that we can't slow down and conquer it one country at a time. 

Regardless where it comes from, overwhelm is always trying to communicate something to us, neither good nor bad, it's really just a signal. Fighting it doesn't make it go away, but hearing it is the first step to making adjustments that will. As with any uncomfortable feeling, it's there to teach us something and point us in the direction of positive change.

"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it".








Sunday, 21 February 2016

You are Enough.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" Eleanor Roosevelt 

A common undercurrent of the waves of mental health challenges, is the feeling of not being good enough. Not thin enough, not smart enough, not interesting enough, not attractive enough. 

There's a serious deficiency of worth within ourselves that we try to mask by people pleasing, self-destructive behaviours, trying to be someone we're not, ignoring our boundaries or doing whatever we feel makes us look 'better'. Rife with doubt and a lack of self-respect, we continually exhaust ourselves trying to convince the world that we are worth something.

But we actually don't need to hustle for our worthiness. I remember hearing Brené Brown saying that phrase and relating to it so much. We don't need to silence ourselves to fit in, we don't need to put on a show to be liked, we don't need any of this. We don't need to prove anything or try to convince people that we're actually worthy of their approval, love or acceptance.


We always have been, we always are. We're already good enough. 

Feeling like we're not enough is a horrible feeling. It's exhausting, it's painful and it can get increasingly ingrained if we don't decide to tackle it. From experience, anything I undertook in an attempt to feel 'good enough' never led me there. It just led me further from myself, putting my self-worth in the shaky hands of others to affirm. Problem is, when you don't own your own worth, it may as well be about to tumble out of their hands at any moment.

Because it's not something you can get from someone else. It's not something that they can confirm you have or you deserve because you've 'earned' it. You need to feel it from the inside, you need to believe it, to be aware from your core the whole way out that you are absolutely enough exactly as you are in this moment and every other one. In the moments where you're upset, where you've made a mistake, where you get jealous, where you feel like you've failed - You're enough. 

We need to let the expectations and pressure fall away. We need to stop berating and belittling ourselves. But when this has become a habitual practice, it may take a little learning to help it along.

So yeah, like all the most valuable lessons, this can be a challenging one to learn. When we don't feel like we're enough, we become so accustomed to being hard on ourselves, to expecting perfection, to demanding so much out of ourselves we that bleed ourselves dry. 

But like anything, this way of being can change. We can decide that we are sick of feeling like this and we can take the steps to move away from feeling inferior. We don't need to move into a place of superiority, that's definitely not the answer; We just need to feel that we are worthy.

Here's some suggestions to do this:


Stop Comparing

Comparison is the thief of joy. Stop looking around to see what everyone else is doing and comparing it against your own life. Get rid of the measuring stick that you're leaning up against the supposedly successful lives of others. Everyone has their own stuff and we don't know what's going on in the minds of others so why would we base our own worth off that? 

Circumstances and situations can be very different from their external projection. So whether it's size, success, or social lives, comparing to others doesn't have any benefit or solid foundation. Look at yourself, your own journey and your intentions. That's where the focus needs to be at all times. This is your life so pour your energy into making it one that you love.


Get Rid of Pedestals

You know what happens when you put someone else up on a pedestal? You've left yourself behind, on the ground, getting a pain in the neck from looking up. It's about time to break that pretentious pedestal down. 

This isn't about putting others down or acting as if you're better than anyone - it's simply about making yourself an equal. We are all human and none of us are perfect. We don't need to impress or gain the approval to those who we perceive as being better than us. Approve of yourself first. When you see someone else as amazing, that doesn't mean you aren't amazing too. There's plenty of room for everyone's unique qualities to shine when we're all on level ground. Put yourself in the picture and give yourself credit where it's due. 


Accept 

This is one of those words that can be thrown out and get confusing so there will be another post on it, but acceptance is key. When you're denying yourself who you really are, you haven't accepted yourself. We need to realise what we have to offer, what we're afraid of and what we want to change. Acceptance means honestly taking stock of where we're at and coming to terms with it. It's not cause for panic, over-analysing or a close eye of critique, it's just checking in with what we've got going on and accepting it as it is.

Acceptance never means stagnation or settling - it's the platform for change that we want in our lives. So if we don't feel good enough, we accept that that's how we feel and we begin to embrace changing that feeling. We can change our thinking and make this go away. But first we need to accept that this is how it is, without judgement. We need to accept what we become aware of within ourselves. 'The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change' Carl Rogers


Affirm

When we accept the issue, we can get cracking on the work required to melt it away. If you don't feel like you're good enough, you don't realise all the value that you actually hold. You don't recognise your own individual worth and significant place in this world. 

We can't wait around for someone else to validate us and tell us that we're ok or we're actually finally good enough. Yeah it's lovely to hear, but I'd much rather have that sentence on tap. I'd rather have a bank of affirmations that remind me of all the truth about why I'm worthy. 

From experience, descending into the overwhelming delusion of how 'nowhere near enough' I was, I would have a stock pile of reasons, a crippling list of things I needed to do to somehow become better. Affirmations shut this lot up. Whenever I dissed myself, I could affirm 'I am enough', 'I love and approve of myself', 'I am worthy'. Affirm what you like about you, affirm compliments you have received, affirm all the reasons that make you worthy of love, belonging and contentment. 

We need to discover all the reasons why we are enough and use these to create a new concrete foundation of our worth. Any time a niggling doubt creeps in, we've gotta talk back. When we get down about ourselves, we need to support ourselves. We need to be there to call ourselves out and say, 'Acutally, you are enough'. Regardless what has happened, regardless what we think we've done wrong or how we feel we 'should' be, we need to constantly remind ourselves how f*cking amazing we actually are until it's a belief we hold wholeheartedly within ourselves.

Accept Yourself. Validate yourself. Celebrate Yourself.

You, me and everyone else, we're all enough. 





Sunday, 14 February 2016

Self-Love Sunday

Whether you love it or hate it, the blanket of red and pink has descended and if you manage to wade your way through the chocolates and roses, you'll see that Valentine's Day has arrived.

Inspired by the ever wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert in this post, I wanted to make a case for Self Love today. Of course I'd absolutely advocate milking the day for its many benefits - whether that's with a significant other or making a date with some friends, a movie or a slap up meal - but first I'd suggest taking a moment with yourself.

Self hatred, when you look at it from the outside in, seems like a crazy concept. You are yourself, you encompass every aspect, every intricate detail of who you are and have become so how could you possibly direct any hate inwards? As someone who used to be fluent in self-hate, I just didn't think there was any other way I could feel about me. It seemed to come so natural and I kept coming up with evidence to cement its credibility so it stuck. The self hate fed the self destruction and I whirled around in that cycle for too long. 

We've got to break this habit; this acceptance of anything less than loving ourselves. We've got to stop acting as though self-deprecation and belittling ourselves is okay. In our society today, yeah okay we take the p*ss out of ourselves and others, but realise that whatever you say, you are listening. We've got to stop ourselves every time we put ourselves down, every time we look in the mirror and wince, every time we don't give ourselves what we deserve. We've just got to stop this self-hate.

I didn't realise before, how much my self-hate stole from me. It robbed enjoyment, connection, experience, life, happiness, a tolerance to be in my own skin.  I didn't care about myself and that led me down a pretty dark descent. I can promise you, from experience, self hate is entirely fruitless - it will never make you a better person or give you anything worth having. 

See, hating your flaws doesn't make them go away. Putting pressure on yourself to become 'perfect' doesn't make you lovable. You can't decide that you'll 'love yourself when...' or you'll 'love yourself if...' That's not love, that's a lie laced with terms and conditions. As Martin Luther King said '"Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that". And it's so true. You wouldn't scrutinise your partner's every flaw in the belief that it'd make you love them more. When you love someone, it's complete and whole and it's not based on them doing x,y and z to become more desirable. 

So we need to start loving who we are, warts and all. We need to realise that everyone has imperfections and that's what makes us human. I've fought off the concept of being 'human' countless times deeming emotions, imperfections and vulnerability to just not be for me. But now that's what I've learned to love, because all of those things make me who I am. Humanity is absolutely beautiful. I don't know why we learn to fight it so hard. It's so honest, authentic and to me that's what's flawless - being un-apologetically who you are actually meant to be.

Self-love doesn't mean sitting on your own all the time absolutely delighted with yourself. It's not like you are now your own island that needs nobody else. It just means being kind and loving towards yourself, being there for you and looking after your needs. 
And no, you won't become conceited or arrogant when you love yourself either, the fact that that would even be a concern shows that it's just not how you roll. Loving yourself will just allow you to radiate more love outwards. 

We've looked at ways to love yourself more here but now I want to say why it's worth doing and why I'd strongly suggest making self love the gift you give yourself this love-filled day:

Self-love allows me to be me and stop trying to be something I'm not
It allows me to try new things and be a beginner
It allows me to go to the gig I want to even if I have no one to go with
It allows me to embrace relationships and really be a part of them
It allows me to trust others
It allows me to feel real joy 
It allows me to connect to people more honestly
It allows me to buy myself the things I want
It allows me to write things like this, because I believe in the topic and I trust myself
It allows me to stop worrying about what others think, because I already have my own approval
It allows me to look after myself
It allows me to know my limits and respect them
It allows me to love more freely
It allows me to go after my dreams
It allows me to treat myself more kindly
It allows me to nourish my body and connect to its needs
It allows me enjoy all the amazing things in my life.

Self love allows me to live the life I wanted the whole time I was busy hating myself. It turns out, none of those terms and conditions were necessary. All I needed was to build myself up, to enter a relationship with who I am and nurture the love I had been rejecting. 

Any of us can switch the soundtrack from one of hate to one of love. It's no more than we really deserve. Happy Valentine's Day :) 







Sunday, 7 February 2016

Thoughts Become Things.

You attract your dominant thoughts.

Regardless where we're at (or think we're at), as a participant of life's unpredictable journey, it's always going to be helpful to have a litany of tools to tap into whenever the need calls. For me, these can vary from quotes, to videos, to books, to activities, to just remembering to slow down and breathe. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of what helps get me out of a funk and get my hands on that, pronto.

Along the journey I've collected my very own scroll of solutions, bit by bit. When I was feeling insecure, it was all Louise Hay everything - affirmations, videos, books. When avoiding vulnerability or emotion you can bet I'll be watching/reading/breathing BrenĂ© Brown. For stress I could connect with movement, self care, writing and as many scented candles as I could light without the smoke alarm going off. You get the picture; whatever I was feeling I discovered ways to meet my needs. Where there is a deficiency in our lives, we need to be able to provide for ourselves. 

What I'm learning now is that recovery doesn't mean that I'll never feel these things again; I won't be so mentally perfect that I'll have no need to delve into my store of solutions. I realise now that that makes no sense and that's not really the result I want at all. Recovery actually just means I'll know what to do for myself when I do encounter these feelings and I won't respond to them in a self-destructive way.

It's not about becoming invincible, it's about becoming capable.

With that in mind, I've been coming back to one of my most used and most crucial tools recently - changing my thinking. Now and then, we can get negative thoughts circling around our minds, maybe a worry or concern that we just can't seem to fob off. We can scare ourselves, doubt ourselves or unintentionally enter those thinking patterns that simply don't serve us. Personally I believe that what we think about, we bring about - so these thoughts have got to go. I love the fact that I now know how to change them and with practice, this works to make me feel better anytime I need it to.

1. Suppression Is Not A Solution.

Sometimes when we become aware of these thoughts, there's a reaction of shame and 'ugh I shouldn't be thinking this'. So we try to just shut them up, act as if they're not actually after getting pretty comfy in our subconscious. But unfortunately, in the same way that we instantly look for something when told not to, our mind darts to the thoughts that we try to avoid or suppress. Telling yourself you shouldn't be thinking about a thought just puts more focus on that thought. It's not a great system.

So we need to check in and ask, do we want this to be true? Allow yourself to become aware of the thought and accept it because that's what needs to happen before we can change it. That doesn't mean we give in to it, it means we say 'Ok I hear what you're saying, but I disagree', and then saying something back and saying it enough times and with enough conviction that it's all we can hear. Repeated theory becomes fact.

Be gentle with yourself when you recognise the recurrent thoughts that are there. I remember watching 'The Secret' back when my thoughts were mostly negative and freaking out about them all coming true and creating my life. I panicked about thinking them but of course that led to me just giving them more energy. Obviously this worry was not ideal or necessary, so make sure to take it easy on yourself when becoming aware - this is a process.

2. Change It

Once we know what we don't want, it's time to think about what we do want. The negative thinking creates negative feelings so how can we create positive feelings? I think this bit is particularly lovely because you get to think about all of the things you truly want. What do you want to be real? What reality would be more satisfactory? How would that feel? If you could choose anything, what would it be?

If I realise that I'm feeling insecure, I'll write how I want to feel - confident, secure, comfortable etc. I'll say affirmations to keep reaffirming this. We can say it out loud, write it over and over, whatever works. Any time that niggling negative thought tries to give us the same old story, we can have our new one ready at the tip of our tongue. 'Guess what, I am confident, good enough and I enjoy feeling secure within who I am.' Make it present, make it real, make it personal to you. 

3. Repeat, Feel & Believe It.

Negative thoughts can quickly become the dominant soundtrack in our minds, so we need to work to ensure that our new thoughts are being heard loud and clear instead. This means being vigilant and batting those thoughts away each and every time they come in. Take control and respond to them as many times as it takes. 

Something to note is that once you become aware of your thinking, you might be surprised by the frequency of the ones you don't want, (as said above, this contributed to my little 'Law of Attraction' freak out) but all it actually means is that we need to be consistent with our positive ones too. We need to keep repeating what we want and we need to believe it. Believe in the possibility, believe in ourselves and believe that we can create the things we want.

Step into these thoughts, feel what it'll be like when they come true. Step into how that reality is going to look. Visualise everything about it. Make it real. Even if it's a bit challenging to connect with it as a reality, fake it 'til you feel it. Imagine, dream, get creative. Allow yourself to commit to the vision of your life without these negative thoughts.

The practice of this is where the crux of change begins. Our thinking has incredible strength over our perspective and how we feel within our lives. We're not going to magically stop having negative thoughts, but when they do come we can have our tools ready to combat them. This is one I'll keep coming back to whenever I feel the need, quite simply because it works. 

"Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life". Tony Robbins.