Monday, 26 September 2016

How To: Harness Hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops, at all" Emily Dickinson

Hope may seem like such a small word, but it's one of such significance that I strongly suggest recognising the magnitude of what it has to say. It's a word that has echoed throughout my own journey, relentlessly reassuring and pulling me through. 

And I've seen it work its magic time and time again, cultivating strength from suffering and survival over struggle. It is a word of overcoming, of fighting, of empowerment in the face of desperation. Hope is a little word with big impactpotential and power.

As such an incredibly fundamental tool toward unlocking our freedom, it might be worth considering - Do we use it enough? Do we amplify its importance? Do we give it a voice in our own stories? 

Or do we shut it down, saying it's silly, it's idealistic, it doesn't get what we're going through?

Because of course, not only is it a mere four letters, it also seems so simple, maybe airy-fairy hippy kind of spiritual sh*t which, when we're drowning in our own negative narrative, is the last thing we want to hear. Maybe we don't reach for hope because we're busy trying to intellectualise the anguish in our lives, making attempts to organise our symptoms into a neatly labelled box. Maybe we become so preoccupied with finding out the 'why?'s, we forget the 'what next?'s'. Maybe we become so programmed to ignore the possibility of hope we bury ourselves deep within this box.

All the while hope spreads its wings, swooping around the walls that surround us, asking us to look up for a change and join it in its unlimited freedom instead.

And maybe it's finally time to turn our eyes towards it.

In a video shared on our Facebook recently psychiatrist Dr Peter Breggin says that depression occurs when we have a total loss of hope. I personally find this fitting as I think that when we lose hope, we lose ourselves. We lose our capacity for life, our reason for being because if there's nothing to hope for, what's the point? If we can't connect to any hopes for ourselves, we become detached, isolated and entirely hopeless. What would we want to live for then? 

Hope has always been an important word for me. It was a spark of light, regardless how small, that always said, this will get better, this too shall pass. From a caged, limited, constricted view of the world, hope was the key. Ready and willing to unlock the life within.

Which is exactly what it did.

As humans, we need hope. We need something to believe in, and if I can suggest anything, this would be it. So how can we get our hands on it? 

WHO ARE WE?

A helpful step towards hope, is looking inward. With self-esteem, confidence and belief seemingly non-existent, it's gonna be challenging to find hope and positive feelings about our place in the world. So, we need to ask who we are and get really interested in that person. Because, that person is the one who is going to make this better. That person is the one who can carry us towards what we want. But we need to get to know who that is, get to respect, trust and believe in them wholeheartedly.

Of course, when we lose ourselves, we lose our handle on our world. We lose connection and motivation and purpose. And without all that good stuff, we feel worthless and inevitably, hopeless. Self discovery is an enriching exploration to igniting hope. It encourages that we ask questions about who we are, seek out our qualities, our idiosyncrasies, our opinions. We need to ask what makes us different, what makes us smile, what makes us feel safe. We need to consider our strengths, our talents and our capabilities. When we begin to look at ourselves as worthwhile people instead of worthless burdens, our little sparks of hope begin to catch fire.

WHAT MATTERS?

What matters to these people we've discovered ourselves to be? What lights a fire in our belly? What gets us up in the morning? We all have something, even if we've been burying it in dismissive doubt, it's not about to go away without a fight. Finding hope comes in focusing on our matters that matter. Discovering our passions and dreams and goals. This is what we need to gift with our time, these are the resources to reconnect with. 

We all have values and beliefs and causes that whether we like to admit it or not, we care about. There's qualities we admire in our role models, choices we believe are worth making, causes we'd like to be involved in, things we really want to do. When we're coccooned in apathy, we forget this stuff and that makes the world a depressingly different place. Without ourselves in the picture, without anything to aspire to, hope has little oxygen to breathe. 

WHAT DO WE WANT?

For me hope is a word laden in possibility, it opens up the world and the opportunity that we're blind to in its absence. So when we unearth hope, we unearth the way to fulfilment, enjoyment and contentment. 

But, what do we want? I think we're afraid of this question sometimes, fearful of sounding ridiculous or silly. But what are we here for, if not to find out what we want from life? When we discover ourselves and our passions, we've begun a significant undertaking. We've created a foundation for freedom, the freedom to pursue the lives we want to live, lives we can get excited about and value as much as we've learned to value ourselves. That may sound out of reach now, but we can still see that it's something we could want, can't we? So what else do we want?

Maybe we want to connect to people with similar ideas. Maybe we want to move, to create, to inspire. Maybe we want to be inspired, to learn, to grow. Do we want love and relationships? Do we want travel and adventure? Do we want to do something worthwhile, to make an impact, to use our voice? Dream a little. Dream a lot. The more we see potential, the more hope we can have. If there's something, anything we can hold onto, that we can look forward to, we have our hands on hope. 

***

This is not always easy, this journey we're all on. It has its challenges and its headf*cks and its days where we just have enough. But pain ends, difficulty ends, the hard times end. If we choose to hold on to hope throughout, we get to look forward to all of the exciting new beginnings that come next. We can make this all more enjoyable, more interesting, more exciting. We need to engage with our lives, become a part of them again and harness the hope that will allow us to be glad that we are. 

Hope is here, it's everywhere. It's within us and around us. And, it's always, always, ours for the taking.

"When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.'”

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Autumn: Time for Change

'Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change', Jim Rohn

It's somehow already mid-September and change is undoubtedly in the air. Autumn has beautifully announced its arrival in an artistic splatter of colour, carpeting the ground in leafy gold and allowing nature to let go of the old and prepare for the new. Which, in less flowery terms, essentially means; the chapter of summer is well and truly over and it's time now to embrace change.

Change is a big topic. And while it can potentially be scary, daunting and uncomfortable, it also has the capacity to be an exciting, recharging and extremely helpful undertaking.  

Having been so fearful of the concept of it before, I've learned to love it now. I welcome it, continually want it and feel that it's a necessary thing for each of us to embrace if we want to get the most out of our experience.

We're not made to live in boxes walled by rules and restrictions. We're not here to do the same sh*t day in day out and call it a life. For me, we're here to grow, move, impact and become the people we want to be in a life we love living. None of that is possible without change.

Here's what I've learned about it so far:

'The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new' Socrates

Change asks that we move forward. It's a step away from ruminating and regret and offers a brand new platform of possibility. We don't need to look back and berate ourselves with the 'should've, would've, could've's - what we actually need from ourselves is to see where we'd like to move toward. There's such an abundance of opportunity lying ahead of us that we'll just miss if we keep trying to fix things from the past. 

What changes could we make now to create the new things we want? What could we start doing differently to move away from staying stagnant? This is where our energy needs to go if we want anything to change in our lives. 

'If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading', Lao Tzu

If we want anything to change, we need to tune into where we're genuinely at right now. I believe change demands self awareness and a serious dose of self honesty. If we're in denial about our situation or keep telling ourselves that the way we're living is 'Fine', then that's exactly how it's going to remain. I think we need to show up for ourselves and become aware of what really isn't fine right now, what isn't serving us and what we don't need to keep clinging on to. This is a choice. Of course we can stay the same, we can keep barely getting by and staying in our box. But personally I'd prefer to change direction and chase something better.

'If nothing changes, nothing changes.'

If we want and need change in our lives, we need to be making the difference that makes the difference.We can declare our desire for change all we like but if we're not actively committing to change, then we are absolutely not going to get it. It's easy to complain, it's easy to make fleeting promises to get our lives together but if we're talking more than we're doing, we're essentially lying to ourselves. Change is an active process. It requires taking responsibility for how we feel and the experience we're having and choosing to do something about it. And yeah, this is not so easy. Maybe that's why it's so worth it though, because it pushes us to move forward and to nourish our lives in ways that we haven't before. It teaches us to grow through things instead of get overwhelmed by them. It allows us to overcome fears and embrace new challenges. 


'When something feels off, it is' Abraham Hicks

This one may be a more personal one, but I've found that the need for change is an innate feeling for me. I've discovered that when I need to change something in my life, I get agitated, uneasy and have itchy feet. It may be that I'm getting too stressed or overwhelmed or am deficient in self care. Whenever I've found that something is off, I know that change will likely remedy it. Maybe changing the way I'm speaking to myself, the way I'm doing things or just a little shake up in my routine. I think listening to signals is a great help in implementing change in our lives. Listen to the signals, to what doesn't feel right, to what's not okay. In relationships, work, hobbies, internally - listen to what isn't sitting well with you and hear the signal for change.
  
'Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous in the end' Robin Sharma

Change is a process, it can be made up of a multitude of little steps but they all work together to make it happen. Even if some of these steps go a little bit backward, we can always start moving in the right direction again. It can of course be challenging initially and it does kick us out of our comfort zone (which can be an uncomfortable nuisance sometimes) but yes it is entirely gorgeous and worth it in the end. If we really want it, we can make it through the tricky bits and persevere until we get to where we want to be.

'If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies' 


Monday, 12 September 2016

2 Steps to Self Support

I distinctly remember the care-work session in which the concept of self support sunk in for me as an idea I could actually commit to. Having become an unintentional expert in beating myself up over the years, this moment was one that I was thoroughly excited to welcome.

Of course I'd heard the wonderful spiel of being 'my own best friend' and 'my own cheerleader' time and time again but as much as I thought I wanted to connect to them, they remained at arm's length for too long. As often happened, I embraced them entirely in their capacity as beautiful theories and enticing ideas yet allowed their actual practice escape me.

But then it finally made sense. And then I could finally see the critical importance of implementing this very lovely idea in a practical way in my life. And I've never looked back since.

The thing is, we spend so much of our time and energy working against ourselves that I don't think we even notice it. In some way or other we know that we want to enjoy our lives as much as we can, but instead of being there for ourselves and helping this become a reality, we berate, punish and disrespect ourselves.

We're harsh and overly expectant and sometimes just straight up cruel. We seek the approval of others incessantly, diminishing the value of our own opinions, we starve ourselves of the power we have within by ignoring who we truly are and what matters to us. We tell ourselves we can't, we're not good enough and we're nothing compared to others. We tear ourselves down again and again and then wonder why we feel so sh*tty.

And for some reason this becomes habit. We don't try new things for lack of self belief. don't let people see the real us for fear of judgement and don't achieve our goals because we don't feel good enough.


And that's not okay.

Self support is crucial to getting ourselves to where we want to be and we need to learn to embrace it, prioritise it and habitually live it.


1. LANGUAGE

Each of our thoughts are just words that we speak within. These words create our feelings which create our behaviours, which then shape our habits. Within our minds our words are constantly weaving opinions of ourselves and who we are. If we take a moment to become aware of them - do they sound supportive?

No doubt there's mean things we'd say to ourselves in our heads that we'd 100% cringe about if we had to say them out loud - So why is it okay in there? What we say about the person we are matters and just because we're putting ourselves down in the confines of our own minds doesn't mean we're not listening.

We need to use our words to shape our own self support. It's about time to introduce compassion and kindness into our tone and realise that if we wouldn't speak to a friend like this, then it's not acceptable language for ourselves either. Using our voices to support ourselves means building ourselves up, being gentle and kind, and softly encouraging our own progression. 

Those affirming comments, compliments and encouraging words we crave from others? Why don't we think we can give them to ourselves?! Your voice is an empowering tool if used in an optimal way, treat it as such.


2.  ACTIONS

Being a month of self care, it's a perfect time to focus on how we treat ourselves. When we don't support ourselves, we ultimately neglect our needs. We put ourselves under pressure and stress, attempting to run around on empty (and giving out to ourselves when we can't). Battered by high expectations, perfectionism and people pleasing, we wear ourselves thin, with little reserve left to go after what would actually nurture our authentic selves.

In order to treat ourselves in a supportive way we need to embrace the necessity of self care. Self care allows us to notice and nourish our needs. It reminds us to lower our extreme expectations into the bounds of reality. It nudges us to nurture our talents, passions and creativity instead of belittling their importance.  When we commit to taking care of ourselves we provide sufficient support to our bodies, minds and within, through consistent nurture, understanding and love. We recognise what is lacking and discover how to replenish it.

Treating ourselves well is how we give ourselves what we need to succeed. Be it conducting ourselves in a respectful manner, living by our values or even making sure to recognise our need for boundaries - it filter through our actions everyday. In each action we make we can work with or against ourselves, choosing to nurture or neglect, to support or suppress. Our actions pave the way for us to move into the direction of change . 


***

Self support to me is what helps us get through anything. It's the helping hand we need when we don't feel able. It's the pat on the back when we've done our best even if it's not perfect. It's a warmth of reassurance that tells us that 'It's okay,' and that we're okay.

Self support is the song of self belief; a respectful rhythm that reiterates with each complex chorus that we deserve better and are going to help ourselves get it. 

Essentially it's just being there for ourselves. Honestly, consistently and reliably being there for the raw and real people that we are, even when those people are down or messy or confused. Self support gives us the strength to pick ourselves up and keep on keeping on, regardless what life throws our way. 

And that is why it matters.



Sunday, 4 September 2016

Dare to Self Care this September

As our month of gratitude has wound to a close it only seemed fitting to explore where we might divert our attention to next.

As a season of change, transition and new beginnings, September can sometimes bring unease, anxiety and uncertainty. But in doing so it also presents an opportunity to shed old habits that no longer serve us, seek clarity and finally begin to embrace all the things that make us feel good, content and connected. We can choose to use this month to invest our energy in cultivating a strong and consistent habit of Self Care 

Self care can mean entirely different things for each of us and to discover these is of significant worth regardless who we are or what our situation is. 

Across our social media, particularly the @daretolivesos Instagram we'll be showing our own methods of self care in our day to day using #daretoselfcare for the month of September. It'd be great to see the many different ways each of us engage in self caring actions every day and even give eachother different ones to try out 

To kick off our month, we have a post from a carer about her experience of Self Care and its importance;

SELF CARE AS A CARER

As we start into a month of self care I thought I would share some of my experiences.
Growing up I engaged in various activities, from athletics to swimming to Irish dancing and gymnastics, camogie, knitting and DIY.  These were all things I enjoyed doing and got a kick out of. Even after finishing school and staring work I continued with some of these activities, but then life moved on and I got married and had children.

My priorities changed and my time became about my husband and children. My hubby and I often found it difficult to find time for  “our time” which in hindsight is not a helpful nor healthy thing.  Finally after 7 years of marriage and three children I became ill and we decided to take a “time out” and go away for a weekend.  This was the first time that I had ever experienced what it really meant to “Self Care”.  I missed my kids, I worried about them, but they were in safe hands and if there was a problem then I would be contacted.  I really had no excuse not to relax.

So we played some badminton, swam, walked and talked.  All uninterrupted, all relaxed and all just for some fun.  But once I got back home it was back to normality, back to running around like a headless chicken and back to not taking time out for myself. I did at one stage go back playing camogie and coaching, and true to form, took on too much at the same time.  But sure, I’m super human am I not??!!! 

Roll on a few years and the kids are teenagers and Eating Disorders hit our home.  Eating Disorders have so many parts to them like; self harm, depression, suicide ideation, panic attacks, anaemia, low blood sugars, osteoporosis etc etc etc, that I was suddenly in a mine field. This journey went on for several years as my eldest and youngest went through it at different times.

Once again, I thought I was invincible. I did everything I possibly could, good bad or indifferent to help and support them.  I was available to them 24/7 and guess what, once again I ran myself ragged.

It was only during the second child’s recovery journey, that I attended mixed group sessions (carers and sufferers) that I really heard the words “SELF CARE”.  As in really heard it, really began to understand the importance of it, really began to regret not having engaged in it throughout my life. But life is not about regrets, but instead action!

This did not mean that I suddenly switched off from my children and made it all about me, but instead it meant that I got some balance.  That instead of pouring all my time and energy into my children, that it is ok to pour some of the time and energy into ME!  It is ok to say, give me five minutes and I’ll be with you, it is ok to go out for a few hours by yourself, or with friends, it is alright to just breathe and take stock of your own life.

Apart from all the wonderful things that I learnt during my daughters’ recovery this concept of SELF CARE is the single biggest one.  Once I began to engage in some self care, it gave me renewed energy to deal with all the stresses and strains of what my children were experiencing.

So how do you SELF CARE? What does it mean to you?

If I go back to my childhood now, I realise that for the most part all the activities that I did were a form of self care, they were activities I enjoyed doing.

Nowadays though many of those activities are not quite possible for me, so I have had to find new ones.  One activity was Reiki, this gave me a complete time out and is something I can practice on a daily basis, before I even get out of bed.  I enjoyed it so much that I now have my practitioners certificate!

Other such self care activities could be simple things like,

  • A nice hot bubble bath,
  • Moisturising your skin,
  • Going for a walk, run, swim, game of tennis, badminton etc
  • Being creative, painting, sewing, knitting, arts and crafts etc
  • Lighting some nice candles or incense
  • Burning nice oils
  • Reading a book or listening to music.

These are just some ideas.  Dare to live SOS are having a month of #daretoselfcare, for September. Why not share your tips, ideas and experiences of Self Care, after all we are not Super Humans only Super Beings, so let’s be clever and give ourselves a chance.