How to Develop (and stick to) a Health and Fitness Routine.

How to Develop (and stick to) a Health and Fitness Routine.

Changing habits and incorporating more exercise into your life can seem daunting at first. I’ve talked about change before and how challenging it can be, but I also know that it can be a really rewarding and worthwhile pursuit!

I know this because 6 months ago, I decided to change my lifestyle for the better, and since then I have felt the happiest, healthiest and sanest that I have felt for a really long time. It is amazing to see what an impact changing my diet, fitness and lifestyle has had on me. My migraines have become less frequent and less intense, I have become more present with my clients at work, my moods are more balanced, I am less reactive and less irritable with my loved ones, I have lost weight, and I am generally a happier and healthier version of myself. It’s a no-brainer, really.

Our minds and bodies are connected, and we need to nurture both of these to create an overall sense of balance and equilibrium. Taking care of your body by eating nutritious food and exercising regularly is the ultimate act of self-love and self-respect, but it’s not easy…. Developing (and sticking to) a health and fitness routine can be extremely challenging, especially if you’re a perfectionist. So I thought I’d shine some light on how I have managed to do it, and how you can too!

Take it slow.

I guess the first step for me was to set realistic goals. I was already exercising, but just not enough. I initially set myself the goal of running for five minutes and walking for thirty. I tried to do this three times a week, and do some stretching and yoga on the days in between. When I started off, I could barely run for five minutes. I was huffing and puffing and I honestly thought there was something wrong with me! Looking back on it now, I realise that I was just extremely unfit. I remember feeling pretty defeated that first time. At that point, I could have thrown in the towel and given up completely on the whole thing, but I didn’t. I thought about all the other big achievements in my life and that to achieve them I had to be persistent and consistent. I applied those same principles to this and simply slowed things down.

I also realised that it was unrealistic to think that I would be able to run non-stop for longer periods of time without increasing my fitness slowly. So, I increased my running by 1-2 minutes every time I ran, and I can now run for 25 minutes without stopping. For me, that is a massive achievement, and I’m so proud of my efforts. If you’re perfectionistic, it can be easy to start comparing yourself to other people, to feel defeated and to give up before you’ve even started. So don’t compare yourself to other people, just aim to be better than you were yesterday. Being healthy is a personal goal, so you’re only competing with yourself. Do it for yourself and in three months time, you will thank yourself.

Keep going. In three months, you will thank yourself.

Find out your “prime time” to exercise. Using a weekly goals planner can also be helpful for this. Look at your weekly schedule and see what days and times you can realistically fit the exercise into, but also when you know your body is going to want to. For me, I knew it would be easiest to achieve Friday-Monday when I have the evenings off, and more challenging Tuesday-Thursday when I tend to work later. I’m not a morning person and even when I try my hardest, I just can’t convince myself to wake up early to workout… it just doesn’t happen. I know this now, and don’t feel guilty about it anymore. Instead, I try to listen to my body and exercise when my body tells me that it wants to. It’s much easier to stick to the routine when you are doing it because you want to, and not because you’re forcing yourself to.

Be kind to yourself if you slip up. Changing habits takes time, so be patient with yourself. The “stages of change” theory in psychology dictates that when you’re actively trying to change a behaviour, you will go between the maintenance and relapse stages multiple times before you are able to sustain the change permanently over time. This is normal and natural! Relapsing doesn’t mean you are back to stage one. You haven’t gone backwards; so don’t beat yourself up for relapsing into old habits, it’s pointless and a waste of energy. Instead, figure out what went wrong for you to relapse in the first place, so that you can be better prepared for it next time. Most importantly, keep going and don’t dwell on it. Aim to be better than yesterday.

Think about how you want to feel, not how you want to look.

Think about how you want to feel, not just how you want to look. For me, this is a really important one, because aiming to feel healthy, strong, happy and fit is more important than aiming to look a certain way. Self-love is an inside job. Changing the way you look on the outside so you can feel better on the inside never works. If you haven’t done the work on the inside, there will always be something else you want to change or improve, and you’ll be stuck in a vicious cycle of jumping through hoops to get to some unattainable place. It also means that your motivation is extrinsic. Instead, focus on how you want to feel on the inside, and structure your health and fitness routine around this. For me, when I’m running, I feel invincible, strong, empowered and capable, so I focus on that feeling and that’s what inspires me to keep going. On days when I am lacking motivation, I remind myself of how I felt the last time, and that is enough to encourage me to move my body again. If your motivation to change is intrinsic, you will be more likely to sustain it over time.

Let exercise be your stress reliever, not food.

If you’re someone who uses food to regulate your emotions, start using exercise as your stress-reliever instead. The more you do that, the more you’ll start to see what difference it makes. Endorphins can be just as addictive as chocolate, but better for you, and you also won’t feel guilty afterwards. Get out of the guilt cycle by being kind to yourself. If you’re feeling sad, stressed, angry or anxious, do something NICE for yourself. Don’t feed the anxiety/depression with food; feed it with love, your body will thank you. The first step is to use mindfulness to notice when you’re using food as a way of regulating your emotions, and to create the space and time to respond effectively to what your mind/body needs in that moment. Observe your cravings. Use a journal to document your observations if it helps.

Get addicted to endorphins!

The more you respond effectively to your emotions, the better you will be at regulating them, and the more likely you will be to sustain the change over time. Short-term gratification is never worth it. Eating food to avoid distressing or uncomfortable feelings is engaging in a pattern of avoidance, and in the long run you will feel even more stuck and reduce your distress tolerance. Don’t give up what you want most (to feel healthy and happy) for what you want right now. It might feel like that ice-cream or chocolate will make you feel better, and perhaps in that moment it will, but remind yourself of your long-term goals and think about whether it fits in with those. Try some other distress tolerance skills instead. Take a few deep breaths, drink some water, go for a walk, draw, write, read…. Use whatever works for you. If you respond to your emotions effectively in other ways, the cravings will pass because you won’t be reinforcing them. And best of all, you’ll start to actually ENJOY your food instead of using it as a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings.

Don't give up what you want most or what you want RIGHT NOW.

Change things up if you get bored. I’m someone who likes variety. If I do the same thing over and over again, I get bored easily. So to combat this, I try to do lots of different things, or the same things in different environments. For example, if I get bored of running on the treadmill, I go and run in a park or around a lake; I do yoga in the living room or in a class; I go to Zumba classes for a bit of fun and dancing; I do bike riding with my partner; I go up to the Dandenong Mountains to do the 1000 steps, to walk in beautiful gardens or try new walking tracks; I do strength exercises in the backyard; and next week I’m going to try swimming again. Basically, if you’re bored of the same exercises, change them. Changing your exercise routines also helps your body to adapt and to use different muscle groups, which is good for you!

Most importantly, have fun, believe in yourself and enjoy working toward your goals! Share your exercise tips with me on instagram!

P.S. Follow my blog and stay tuned to read about the equipment, tools and motivational tricks that I use to help and motivate me on my workouts.

Finding the Balance in Life: Overcoming Burnout, Procrastination and Perfectionism

Life only demands from you the strength that you possess.

Something I’ve realised over the last few years is that life only demands from you the strength that you possess. It’s really important to know yourself and to be realistic about your limits. Yeah, yeah… we’ve all heard the sayings, “nothing is out of reach” and “you have unlimited potential”, and they are true… but the saying we most often forget to implement in life is that you can’t run before you can walk. Your abilities and limits grow in small increments. It’s therefore so important to pace yourself if you want to work toward a long-term goal or dream, because if you throw yourself into the deep end of life, and you don’t even know how to swim, you will soon drown.

Welcome to burnout town, where you will run on empty, feel fatigued, foggy, irritable, anxious, overwhelmed and generally shit. It’s not a good place to be. This is the place you will end up if you don’t have the resources to meet the demand you are placing on yourself.

You can’t pour into all the areas of your life if your own cup is empty

 Let me get one thing straight here: your dreams are so worth any struggle, and without struggle, you will not move forward in life. It’s great to have ambition, to push past the fear and to reach for the stars, but it’s also important to be realistic about how much you can handle. The recipe for keeping everything in balance in life has to be just right. If the scales tip out ever so slightly, other areas of your life will be neglected, and more likely than not it will be your mental health that goes first. So, if you’re planning to take on more work, be aware of how much extra self-care you have to add to the mix to find the right balance again. Remember, you can’t pour into all the areas of your life if your own cup is empty.

What’s the difference between burnout, procrastination and perfectionism?

I think the fundamental difference between burnout and procrastination/perfectionism is fear. Procrastination and perfectionism are fuelled by fear, which can be paralysing, whereas burnout is a consequence of pushing yourself way too hard. Procrastination and burnout are both forms of self-oppression, however burnout is on the extreme opposite end of the scale to procrastination. When you’re burnt out, you have literally used up all of your energy and resources and you have nothing left to give; you’ve exhausted yourself either mentally, physically or both. You feel stuck and it’s not because you’re lazy or scared, it’s because you’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits and you have nothing left in your tank.

life doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be lived

Overcoming procrastination and perfectionism.

Overcoming procrastination and perfectionism involves addressing your fears: fear of failure, fear of things not being perfect, fear of missing the mark or fear of fear. It can also involve having to convince yourself not to give up what you want most in the long term for what you want right now. Working toward long-term goals therefore involves delayed gratification. Choosing your own aims in life can help to create a sense of motivation, but so too can creating SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Write your goals down and regularly review them. The top one per cent of successful people in the world do this, and it actually works… so do it. Overcoming procrastination involves FIGHTING for yourself to FREE yourself from fear… believe me, three months from now you will thank yourself. Freedom is on the other side of fear… social freedom, emotional freedom, creative freedom, financial freedom, time freedom and spiritual freedom. Sitting and worrying about whether something is going to turn out perfectly is quite frankly a complete waste of precious time, energy and resources.

When I was writing my masters thesis I lived by this motto: first drafts don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be written. This same motto can be applied to life generally: life doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be lived. Do you want to look back on your life and remember all the years and years of “thinking” about taking action, but not feeling ready, or do you want to look back and remember a rich, meaningful life full of intention and purpose, even if there were a few mistakes along the way? I think I know which option I want to take. The only things in life that can derail our efforts are fear and oppression. So stop making excuses for yourself and just start. Clear away all the distractions and make room for taking action!

Time is the currency of life and how you spend yours is YOUR choice.

How do you find the balance?

Overcoming burnout involves listening to yourself and your body and responding effectively. Hard-working minds and bodies need rest so build a regular self-care practice into your daily routine. Use mindfulness to pay attention to your energy levels and to check in with yourself on a regular basis. It’s better to notice and intervene early than to let yourself crash. Use tools to manage your time effectively and to ensure that you have a good balance in the life domains of health, wellbeing, social, work, family, relationships and spiritual life. All of those life domains are equally important, so don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours if you cut back on one area in order to make more time for another! The scales will tip out and believe me, you will notice. Be strict about how much work you take on. Learn to prioritise effectively and to say no to things that are not going to serve your long-term goals. You have limited time/resources/energy and you can’t do everything, so be aware of that and don’t overload yourself. Time is the currency of life and how you spend yours is YOUR choice, so take your power back and use your time effectively. If you’re spending too much time on something that isn’t serving your long-term goals, then stop. For me, it was my personal social media use, so this week I decided to scale back on it. Just like that, I created an abundance of time to use toward other endeavours, such as my writing, exercise, self-care and business planning. If you are willing to be honest with yourself and evaluate how you spend your time, you will be surprised by how easy it can be to create more balance in your life and to avoid burnout.

What helps you to overcome procrastination, perfectionism and burnout? Share your ideas with me on Facebook or Instagram.

Your Body Is Your Temple: Why You Should Move Your Body

Your body is your temple. Moving your body is the ultimate form of self-love and mindfulness

Moving your body is the ultimate form of self-love and mindfulness.

I have always loved to move my body. As a child I loved to swim and a dance (ballet and jazz), but over the past 5 years I have mostly moved my body through Zumba, yoga or walking. I started running about 6 months ago, and I can honestly say that it has changed my life. I have never been more present and aware of my body than when I am running. Running makes me feel alive in a way that no other form of movement ever has. It allows me to be in tune with my body; I can feel my muscles burning; I can feel the breath moving in and out of my body at an even pace; I can feel the momentum of my stride; I can feel the rhythm of my heartbeat and the rush of endorphins. For me, running is a form of moving meditation.

Running is a form of moving meditation

Running allows you to honour the process of change and transformation.

As I commit myself to moving my body, I am amazed by the gradual, but measureable, change that is happening to my body. There’s nothing more incredible than watching your body slowly transform. Every time I move my body, I feel stronger, leaner and more perseverant than the last time. I can run faster and longer but I’ve also learned to listen to my body. I’ve learned to trust myself and to push past the fear that was previously holding me back, but I’ve also learned to be aware of what my body is capable of in that moment or on that particular day. Thanks to running, I totally “get” the mind and body connection.

Moving your body helps you to honour the process of change and transformation

Unite with your higher self.

The word “yoga” makes reference to this. The root, “yuj” means “unity” or “yoke”. Yoga is one of my favourite forms of movement. Whilst running connects my body to my mind, I feel that yoga connects my body to my spirit. Yoga is special. It’s mindfulness in motion. I love it because it’s so grounding. With openness, curiosity and willingness, yoga can take your body to a whole new realm of experience. I feel so uplifted and in tune with myself after practicing yoga. One day soon I will write a blog post all about yoga.

P.S. I’m currently completing 30 days of Yoga with Adriene, which is really amazing by the way! You should try it!

How do you like to move your body? What helps you to feel in tune with your body? Tell me.

Mindfulness: How to Be Here Right Now.

Be Here Now

Mindfulness is the latest sliced-bread of psychology. It’s all over the media. There are countless books, courses, journals, videos, apps and even colouring books on it! However, I thought it would be worthwhile to give you a summary of what the underlying principles of Mindfulness are, and how you might go about incorporating it into your own life and self-care practice.

Mindfulness has its roots in eastern and Buddhist philosophy. Jon Kabat-Zinn was the founder of the modern form of Mindfulness and he was also the founder of the Mindfulness-based stress reduction clinic. Weirdly enough, Kabat-Zinn is a Professor of Medicine and a Molecular Biologist. Although he has been trained in Buddhist principles, he doesn’t actually follow the Buddhist religion and prefers instead to think of himself as a scientist. He published this big fat bible-like book about Mindfulness in 1991 called Full Catatrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.  If you want a really deep understanding of Mindfulness and the mind-body connection, I’d highly recommend getting your hands on this book. However, there are some other books around now which are more concise and perhaps easier and quicker to read. I’ll suggest a few of my favourites at the end of this article.

What is Mindfulness?

So, you’re probably wondering, what is Mindfulness about anyway?

Kabat-Zinn reckons it means, “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”. Well, that’s the bite-size version!

The purpose of mindfulness is basically to bring a greater sense of awareness to the present moment. When life gets busy, we get so caught up in thinking, planning, remembering and worrying that we often get stuck in autopilot mode and we forget to check in with the present moment. Mindfulness gives us the tools and skills to be able to do this effectively and to gently pull ourselves out of the vortex that is our mind.

It’s important for me to clarify a few points:

The goal of Mindfulness is not relaxation. Although relaxation can be a bonus benefit of engaging in a regular mindfulness practice, it’s not the goal. The thoughts that Mindfulness brings into our awareness are not necessarily always pleasant, however, Mindfulness does help to give us some distance from them, and it also brings a greater sense of acceptance to them.

Acceptance does not mean “liking” or “approving” of what comes into your awareness, it simply means, “sitting with” the thoughts, without a struggle. The struggle with your thoughts is what creates the suffering. Thoughts are just thoughts. It’s getting caught up in them, becoming preoccupied with them and consumed by them that causes problems. You see, as the saying goes, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. You don’t necessarily have a choice about what comes up, but if you notice it, you do then have a choice about whether you engage with it, struggle with it or simply allow it. You don’t have to control it or change it. If it changes by itself, that’s ok, if it doesn’t change, that’s ok too.

The goal of Mindfulness is not to stop your thoughts or to stop your mind from thinking. That is impossible. Not even Zen masters can do this. The goal is to simply notice your thoughts and to bring a greater sense of kindness and compassion to those thoughts. It’s about being open to, and curious to, whatever comes up.

You can't stopthe waves,But you canlearn to surf

Why should I practice Mindfuless?

 Well, why not? Struggling with painful or unpleasant thoughts is not fun! Besides this obvious point, stress is actually quite damaging on the human body. It stops your body from functioning normally. When we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is activated in what’s sometimes referred to as the “fight or flight” response. This is an evolutionary response to a perceived danger or threat. Our body cleverly channels all of our energy into fighting or fleeing a danger or threat, and while it does this, the parts of our body that are not needed are simply shut down. This means that our digestive, immune, growth and reproductive systems are all hindered during stressful times. This is a pretty handy thing for our body to do, especially if a tiger is chasing us. It’s a system which is in place to protect us, except that, in our modern lives, this system is being activated by things such as deadlines, running late, fighting with your partner, being cut off in traffic, overworking and other such things. It’s basically turned into a sensitive car alarm, which is going off when it shouldn’t. We all need a little bit of stress to get things done, but when it’s happening too much and too often, that’s when it can be damaging to our mental health and general wellbeing. It can cause stomach ulcers, heart problems, lowered libido and other illnesses.

While stress triggers a fight-or-flight response, Mindfulness activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” system. Our heart rate slows, our breathing slows and our blood pressure drops. Mindfulness is therefore restorative and benefits our wellbeing.

The benefits of Mindfulness are also well researched and empirically supported. In fact, a scholarly search on Mindfulness brings up a wealth of empirical evidence to support its benefits, effectiveness and usefulness.

BePresent

How can Mindfulness help me?

Reduces Stress. People who practice mindfulness meditation regularly have reported feeling less stressed and more emotionally balanced, and, according to research by neuroscientists, as you continue to meditate, your brain physically changes! How amazing! The part of the brain that reacts to stress was found to be less reactive in those who practiced mindfulness regularly.

Increases creativity. Aside from helping you to feel less stressed, Mindfulness has also been shown to promote creative thinking and to help you to generate more ideas!

Enhances focus and concentration. Mindfulness helps you to focus and concentrate. Being able to focus and defy distraction is linked to our ability to control our impulses, emotions and achieve our long-term goals. Remember, being able to focus on your goals is one of the keys to finding success.

Improves your relationships. Finally, it also improves your relationships. Not just with those close to you, but also with everyone else you meet. As you become more comfortable with yourself, it makes it easier for you to get along with others, and you may find it easier to accept them as they are too. Mindfulness is therefore not only beneficial for you, but also for those around you!

Now that you know about all the benefits of Mindfulness, let’s get on to the practical side of it all…

 How do I practice Mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be practiced formally and informally. The formal practice is usually called Mindfulness Meditation, which I’ll get on to in a sec. Informal practice can be doing things like having a shower mindfully, brushing your teeth mindfully, eating mindfully, going for a mindful walk, or using tools such as the “5,5,5” or the “Stop Practice”, which I’ll also explain in a sec. The important thing to remember is that most of the research on the benefits of Mindfulness is based on the formal practice of Mindfulness Meditation; so scheduling in some time every day to do a formal practice is what’s going to be most beneficial for you. Setting a reminder on your phone may help you with this.

WithCuriosity

Mindfulness Meditation

 There are 3 basic components to most Mindfulness Meditations: your body, your breath and your thoughts. First, let’s talk about the body – which also involves our environment and how we set it up for our Mindfulness Meditation. You should be in a comfortable and safe environment. With practice, you should be able to practice Meditation anywhere, but to begin with, pick a relatively quiet space, which is a comfortable temperature for you and where you are not likely to be distracted by others. This may be your bedroom, for example.

Some people like to create a meditation space or “altar” and decorate it with pictures, photos, objects that mean something to you or your meditation practice. Sometimes people like to light a candle or burn incense while they meditate, too. All of this stuff is optional and not essential to engaging in the practice, but it may enhance it.

Before you begin, you may wish to set a timer or alarm. If this is your first time meditating, set it for 5 minutes to begin with. As you continue practicing, you may wish to extend this time to be 10 or 20 minutes.

Now that you have the space and time, you will need somewhere to sit. Some people like to sit in chair; others like to sit on a cushion. The main thing here is that your posture is upright but not too rigid. Your posture should be one that is conducive to alertness and awareness. Remember, it’s not about relaxation, so sit naturally and comfortably but ensure that your back is straight and that there is a natural curve in your back. If you’re in a chair, make sure your feet are flat on the floor. If you’re on a cushion, you can sit with them crossed underneath you. You can place your hands on your knees with your palms facing down, or if you’re trying to cultivate a greater sense of openness, you may like to have your palms facing up. Eyes can be open or closed. If you’re just starting out, sometimes having them partially open and focused on a spot can help to increase your focus and limit distraction from thoughts.

Begin by just sitting in this posture for a bit. Just be aware of your body and any sensations you are experiencing right now in this moment. Notice what you can see and hear. Notice what you are thinking right now in this moment. Notice what you are feeling. Just notice. Remember, your mind will wander. This is ok. When you notice that your mind has wandered, gently bring your awareness back to your body, without judgment.

Next, you will bring your awareness to your breath. Notice your breath flowing in and out. Notice it as it enters through your nose or mouth, fills your lungs with air, and then makes its way back out of the body. Notice your tummy rising and falling. Imagine that you have a balloon in your tummy and every time you breathe in, the balloon inflates and every time you breathe out the balloon deflates.

Just keep your focus on your breath for the next few minutes. Use the breath as your anchor to this moment. Once again, it’s normal and natural for your mind to wander. Simply notice the thoughts, acknowledge them and gently bring your awareness back to the breath. Your mind will wander repeatedly. Every time it wanders, notice it and gently bring it back. You can sit and meditate for as long as you like, or until your alarm goes off to signal the end of the practice. Come out of your meditation slowly and gently.

withoutjudgment

When should I meditate?

You can meditate any time you like, but some people prefer to do it first thing in the morning to prepare them for the day, or just before bed to aid with sleep. It’s really up to you when you choose to meditate, how often and for how long.

Informal practice

As I said, you can also practice mindfulness informally…

Try eating a piece of chocolate mindfully. Pick it up. Look at it. Notice the texture in your hand. Bring it up to your mouth. Smell it. Place it in your mouth on your tongue for a few seconds. Taste it. Feel the texture. Bite into it slowly. Feel it melt in your mouth. Savour the taste.

Try going for a Mindful Walk. Take note of everything you see, hear, smell, taste, think and touch on your walk. Notice your stride. Notice the breeze against your cheek. Notice the birds singing. Notice your thoughts. Feel the ground beneath your feet.

Try taking a shower mindfully. Feel the water soaking your skin. Feel the temperature. Feel the texture of your hair as you shampoo it. Every time a thought enters your awareness, imagine it being washed away.

Try the 5, 5, 5. You can do this anywhere, anytime. It’s a grounding practice. Notice 5 things you can see, 5 things you can hear, and 5 things you can touch. So, right now I can see my desk, drink bottle, notebook, candle, pen. I can hear birds outside, the TV on in the living room, my sister’s laughter, my fingers typing on my keyboard, the clanging of cutlery in the kitchen. I can feel my laptop keyboard, the clothes against my skin, my feet on the ground, my hair touching the back of my neck, and the chair beneath me. This practice is really good for pulling your mind out of quicksand, that is, when you are ruminating or getting caught up in your thoughts about something.

Try the STOP practice. The STOP practice is really good for stopping you when you’re about to react to something – i.e. you’ve just been cut off in traffic. Instead of reacting, you can:

Stop: Literally stop whatever you’re doing.

Take: A few deep breaths.

Observe: Your thoughts, feelings and surroundings

Proceed: In the most effective way.

Try colouring in mindfully. This is the latest craze and it really is a great alternative to the formal mindfulness practice. Just make sure you choose a colouring book with repetitive and simple patterns, so you don’t get distracted easily by the pictures/design and can simply focus on colouring in.

With Acceptance

Some other tools.

My favourite apps on Mindfulness

Headspace is a UK-based Mindfulness Meditation App with guided Mindfulness Meditations.

Smiling Mind is an Australian Mindfulness Meditation App targeted to young people, but it is helpful for all ages.

My favourite books on Mindfulness

Mindfulness for Life by Dr. Craig Hassed and Dr. Stephen McKenzie is a helpful overview of Mindfulness.

The Mindfulness Journal by Corrinne Sweet is handy if you’re wanting to incorporate writing into your mindfulness practice.

The Happiness Trap by Dr. Russ Harris is the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy bible.

The Reality Slap by Dr. Russ Harris is helpful for when there’s a gap between what you want and what you’ve got.

The Little Book of Mindfulness by Dr. Patrizia Collard is small enough to carry in a handbag.

The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons is handy if you don’t like formal mindfulness practice. Colouring in can be a helpful alternative.

A final note….

Mindfulness practice is not intended to treat acute stress in the moment, but rather, to be practiced daily over time to reduce your overall level of stress, which in turn will result in fewer acute episodes of stress. It is recommended that you practice these exercises daily even when you are not feeling stressed. If you only practice when you are stressed or anxious, you will not get the full benefit of it. Like any new skill, it takes practice to get the best results. Find a suitable time in your day to schedule in your mindfulness practice and commit to it as a daily part of your routine. Setting an alarm or reminder on your phone may be helpful for this. As you start to see the benefits of your daily practice, you are likely to want to continue with this.

Good luck and enjoy the moment.

Please let me know how you go with it and what you notice.

For bonus points: Go for a mindfulness walk and share what you noticed on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #mindfulnesswithkerry or #thekerryfiles

Buckets, Baskets and Self-Care.

Self Care

I’ve spoken about stories quite a bit over my last few blog posts. I like stories. I like telling stories and I like listening to other people’s stories. In my work, listen to a lot of stories. Sometimes, I wonder where I keep them all. A more accurate description for what I do would be “story keeper” because that’s essentially what I do. I listen to and keep people’s stories. I also sometimes (hopefully) help them to change their stories and write better endings. It’s a great job, and it’s very rewarding, but sometimes I feel like I have listened to, kept or changed so many stories that I might just burst or pop at the seams! The good news is that if I take good care of the vessel holding the stories (myself) then it’s less likely that those seams will pop. It also means that I can do a better job of holding all of the stories. It also helps that I love what I do.

#thekerryfiles

In my line of work, when your seams pop it’s called “burnout”, “compassion fatigue” or “vicarious trauma”. It’s not a fun place to be when you are all burned out. However, did you know that it’s not just people like me who are at risk of burnout? Yep, it’s true. Anyone and everyone can be at risk of burning themselves out by doing anything and everything.

Sometimes I tell people that life is a lot like juggling a series of buckets or baskets. You have a basket for your work or school, you have a basket for your family and loved ones, you have a basket for your physical health, you have a basket for your mental health, you have a basket for your home duties, you have a basket for your friends and social life, and finally, you have a basket for yourself. Phew! That’s a lot of baskets!

The problem is, you only have a limited amount of energy in your “self” basket, and, if you pour all of that into only one or two of your other baskets, it’s a lot harder to juggle them all! If your self-basket is empty, then you’re going to have an even harder time juggling all the other baskets. It sure is tricky, this basket juggling business!

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) we talk about life domains instead of baskets or buckets. We help people to clarify what their core values are (basically, which buckets are important to you), and then this helps direct the energy into your life’s buckets. We also help people figure out what buckets they actually have. After all, if you don’t even know what buckets you have, how can you even begin to fill them? Finally, we help to repair any damaged buckets, too. If your buckets have holes in them and they are leaking, no matter how much you try and fill them up, they’re just going to leak out again and be all sad and empty. I like the baskets analogy, because it’s an easier way of understanding values, life domains and all this fancy-schmancy psychology terminology.

Now that you understand the buckets/baskets analogy, I’m sure you can also appreciate the value of taking care of your self-bucket, because this is the most important bucket of all! In psychology, we call this process of taking care of the self-bucket, “self-care”. Self-care is really important. Not only for people in the helping profession, but for everyone else too! Sometimes people think it’s self-indulgent to pour into their own vessel; particularly people who always tend to take care of others (e.g. children, spouses, parents etc.). However, to these people I say: you definitely can’t pour into someone else’s bucket if your own bucket is empty! You’ll do a much better job of taking care of everyone when you are taking care of yourself. You’ll be calmer, more energised, more alert, focused, present and clear. It’s true! Some people argue with me and say “but I don’t have time!”. Ahh… this is the best bit! You will find that when you take a tiny bit of time out to take care of yourself, suddenly (and almost magically) you will discover that you have more time. This isn’t some magic trick or illusion, I promise. The reason why you will have more time is because you will be more efficient with the time you do have. Tired, grumpy and sad people are not efficient with their time; happy, energised and motivated people are!

So, now that you know about the importance of self-care, you might be wondering what you can do to improve your own self-care practice. Well, this is the fun part. You can do anything you like! That’s right, anything. That’s the beauty of self-care; it’s all about you. So you can choose whatever you want to do in your self-care time. If you are new to this self-care business, this might seem a bit daunting. So, I thought I might help you with some ideas to get you started and share some of my own self-care practices with you.

Usually the best place to start when you’re trying to find your groove with self-care is to ask yourself a few important questions:

What do you like to do? Are you someone who enjoys going for walks in nature or are you someone who likes cuddling up on the couch to watch Netflix or a movie? Are you someone who gets their energy from spending a lot of time with others, or just by yourself? Are you someone who is creative, or someone who is automated? Do you like structure and routine, or variety and change? What makes you smile? What makes you feel energised? Do you like to move your body by being active, or do you prefer to relax it instead?

If you answered all of these questions, I’m guessing you’d be getting a lot closer to figuring out what your self-care groove is. Me, personally, I’m a bit of a changeling when it comes to my self-care practice. It really just depends on my mood and what I am in need of.

A Walk in Nature

Sometimes I need a walk in nature.
Sometimes I need exercise.
Sometimes I need to indulge in some aromatherapy.
Sometimes I need a pretty manicure.
Sometimes I need to read a book.
Sometimes I need to write.
Sometimes I need to connect with others and have deep and meaningful conversations.
Sometimes I need to create something.
Sometimes I need chocolate.

Whatever it is that I do, I always make sure that it’s something that I enjoy in the moment, it recharges me, and it makes me happy. It’s easy to forget to prioritise self-care in your life when you’re juggling so many baskets, but remember self-care practice makes self-care perfect!


SELF CARE PRACTICE
So, tell me, what do you do for self-care? What fills your bucket? Leave a comment here or chat to me on Facebook.