Friday, 7 November 2014

Personal Crisis Management - knitting patterns

Life has a sense of humour, that is certainly true. As I began writing this series, my own personal crisis manifested. It was a bolt from the blue and in the nature of these things, it flattened everything in my emotional landscape.

As always, I believe it's not what happens that's important, it's the way you deal with it that contributes to the resolution. As the shockwaves rippled, I had a sense of deep recognition. This familiarity, gave me comfort and a sense of security, even though everything I held dear unravelled until my Life was a messy heap of multi-coloured wool.

I'd like to stay with that metaphor, because although I'm not a knitter, I have dear friends who love it dearly and I think in this context it works really well. 

When you're looking at a messy heap of wool at your feet that was your life, you have some choices to make. The thing is, you can't start making choices without getting the wool into a ball. That's what I've been doing in the past few months, getting my wool untangled and balling it up again. As I've been rolling it up, I've been contemplating the type of garment I'd like to knit with it. 

I have come to believe that Life is Meaningless. We are born, pay our taxes and then die. The Meaning in Life, comes from the Meaning we create. 

The question I have going round and round in my head: what Meaning do I want to create in my Life? I am now 44. Statistically, speaking I am at the mid-point in my life-span, give or take a bus or tree or two. How do I want to use my time? 

I had been laughing with a friend that now I'm in my 40s, I need to do another degree. My interest in Wellbeing is fundamental. I am still fascinated behind the science of thought, behaviour and healing. I want to know more. 

After a period of consideration, I've signed up to do an introduction to counselling course in Person Centred counselling. 

Now there is a philosophical contradiction between Neuro Linguistic Programming and talking therapies of any kind. NLP is interested in affecting change by addressing the How clients think, the Why doesn't come into it. It is merely a by-product of bad thinking in practice. The healing in NLP comes from better thinking and better decision-making. Talking therapies focus on the Why. By creating a safe place, the Why can be understood and in this understanding, there is healing. 

I've personally experienced both and I believe there is great merit to be found from both approaches. I've had my Practitioner's training in NLP and now I want to learn more. I am not concerned about the contradiction. Contradiction and paradox are a fundamental part of Life, consider how it's possible to love and hate the same person, equally passionately. It's how the contradiction is held, that is the key.

I don't know the shape or size of the garment I'll be knitting. The pattern will come in time. All that matters is that I've picked up my needles and cast on. 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Personal Crisis Management - No Wallowing

If you've been waiting for this next instalment in my series, my apologies. I've been away and you know how it is when you go away for a few days; there are mountains of things to do when you get back. It did give me a lot of time to think about this post before I sat down and started typing. 

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" - I believe this is a Buddhist saying.

Firstly, I want to distinguish between sitting with your pain and wallowing in it. 

I am not a fan of emotional intervention for the sake of it. I am not going to tell you when you are dealing with some of the toughest stuff of your life, that if you just have a positive attitude, the challenging situation will lickety splick be sorted. To me that's painting a dog turd with glitter. It's still shit, but now it's sparkly. 

Pushing pain away, isn't healthy. There comes a point when the stiff upper lip breaks...and then it gets a lot worse.

I suppose having experienced childbirth, I understand that while it does hurt, it's happening for a reason. If you've been dealing with some of the heaviest stuff you've ever had to deal with: relationship break up, financial difficulties, death and bereavement, it's going to hurt. And you know what, it's okay to let it hurt.

Wallowing, on the other hand, is sitting in the mud pit of your feelings with an internal dialogue that might run along the lines of:

I'm not worthy of love
It's all my fault
I'm too ugly
I'm too fat
I'm too old
Other people don't have to put up with this shit
The Universe/God/Karma hates me
The World is out to get me....

By the way, the above, those are some of mine. You might have a different Negative (Neggy) Chorus in your head. 

That is making it worse. 

The thing is, how you feel is transitory. Feelings, emotions are like a summer storm, Byron Katie says, you get wet, cold and soaked to the bone and then it passes and the sun comes out. However, 'real' it is to you at that point in time, it will pass.

It will pass.

Wallowing in the pit of your emotions becomes a negative feedback loop that sucks your energy, motivation and your ability to get on and deal with whatever went really wrong to cause this crisis in the first place.

The worst case scenario can kick in at 3 am when it's just you and your mind and you can't see a way out of it. Richard Bandler points out many a time suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem

I know it will pass because the sun rises every morning. If you have had a couple of nights like this, then call someone, do not delay. Call your GP, your best friend, the Samaritans. You are not alone and you may need a bit more support. This is the sensible thing to do, when you suffer.

So what to do when it hurts?

Personally, I throw a Pity Party. I have learnt to make a conscious decision to sit with the pain. To let it hurt. To watch sad films, cry my way through sad books, listen to my favourite sad songs. I eat my favourite comfort food. I shut the door. I don't answer the phone.

How is this different to wallowing? It happens for a finite time. I choose when and where I throw my party. I choose who to invite - self doubt, negative body image, low self-esteem, the Self-Pity Gnome. I give it a day, a couple of days maximum and then I throw my 'guests' out. I go have a shower, change my clothes, air out my house. I put on my Big Girl Pants, my Arse Kicking Boots and I get on with it. I still hurt, but it doesn't occupy the same space as it did previously. I make sure I have people around me, who will help if the Pity Party turns into Wallowing. The point is, it is not permanent.

I'm very lucky in that I was able to train with Richard Bandler and his amazing team. The one big thing I took away from my training, is that it's okay to hurt, it passes. Emotions are a complex interaction of chemistry, physiology and experience. It is so easy to manipulate them. Recognising this, freed me from my inner darkness. 

You may not have a spare £3,000 + for the NLP training. However, there are some really good resources and people available. Have a look at Paul McKenna and Richard Bandler, if times are tough, order the books from the library. NLP is not a magic pill, but it might help you learn to drive your brain better. My mentor often said to me in the beginning of our work together, that we are all given a brain and this fabulous organ doesn't come with a set of instructions; NLP is part of the manual.

I'm not taking on new clients at the moment. If you are looking for a practitioner, I still might be able to help. I am lucky enough to still be involved with the network. I will happily refer you on if I can.

The main points I want you to take from this, is to be kind to yourself first, foremost and always. Avoid the Neggy Chorus. Do not wallow. 

And if you do end up wallowing for too many days in a row, seek help. Talk to people who are not involved in your current situation, who can provide a reality check for the Neggy Chorus. If you must put something off - procrastinate the wallowing. 

It will pass. 

*  *  *

A couple of points I would like to reiterate before I finish. Please be clear that I am focusing on Crisis Management, external issues causing internal distress. I am not covering depression or other mental health issues. If you are depressed these posts may not be helpful for you at all. 

The second point is that I am currently not Practising. I am on hiatus for the moment, but I enjoy writing and thinking about personal development. I will let you know when I open up my list again.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Personal Crisis Management - Don't Make Things Worse

You were given some bad news. You have the most awful day at work. Your husband/wife/lover/cat walked away from you without a backward glance. You are so broke, identity thieves don't even want to know...whatever happened to put you in Crisis...DON'T MAKE IT WORSE.

People who are hurting, hurt other people.

They don't mean to, but when the shit goes down, they lash out. Their nearest and dearest end up paying the price of their hurting. Don't worry, you're not alone. This is one demon I fight with on a regular basis. It's really hard to resist turning into Snappy Bitch from Hell, when your world has turned to ashes. You're really angry, frustrated and disappointed and you think that things can't get any worse.

In my experience, there's always a worse option waiting.

You are made redundant, in a fury you drive home and get a speeding ticket, or cause an accident. 

You are rejected and someone tries to help, you snap at them.

Don't Make Things Worse should be an entire book, not just a single blog post. But I want to cover some of the essentials to bear in mind, when the shit hits the fan.

First off. If you are in crisis, you are not going to be in your most rational mind. That's not a criticism, it's a fact and it's okay. It really is okay. If you are in emotional shock, although you aren't going to want to attend to yourself, the first thing you need is emotional First Aid. 

Be gentle with yourself. 

You have no control over what other people do, or what they say. Your focus must be on your emotional good health. 

Be gentle with yourself.

I want you to imagine your Personal Crisis - what you think and how you feel as a storm. You are standing in an open field and the rain of your thoughts pounds around you, while your feelings buffet against you.

Even though it's really hard, hold on to the thought that the storm will pass. You don't have to believe anything you think or anything you feel. Despair, loneliness, grief...all of these may attack you...but they will pass. This is part of the process. Let the wind blow, let the rain fall. You are hurting. It will mess up your hair and make you wet to the bone, but stand tall in the field. Nothing here is permanent.

It will pass.

Cry your way through a box of tissues. Play the depressing songs. Be how you are in the moment. Don't be afraid to say how it is to people around you. If you're in the midst of a crisis, don't waste energy on trying to appear like you're keeping it together. Chances are it won't work and frankly, you've got to conserve your energy. You'll just appear to be more crazy than you really are. Plus, if you tell it like it is, you'll give people around you the opportunity to support you. 

Be confident in the fact the storm will pass. Storms always do. It might take awhile. It might test your resilience to the core. But it will pass. How did the ad in the 80's go? Don't make a drama out of a crisis. The important thing is not to lay waste to everything important around you, so when the sun comes out and you're looking at the remains of your life in a muddy field, you don't have extra bits to rebuild. 

The more gentle you can be with yourself at this stage, the better. You are more likely to be gentle with the people around you and the stronger your primary relationships will be. And you know what? This isn't a science. Be prepared to screw things up despite your best efforts. It's okay. It's to be expected because you are in the midst of a crisis and you're not properly yourself right now. 

Be as mindful as you are able and when your aren't, apologise. It's okay. It's to be expected. Acknowledge when you've got it wrong. You will give yourself the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and it will nurture the relationships around you. Keep breathing, keep putting one step in front of the other. You're not alone. 

I hope this is useful to you. Please share your thoughts on this post, below in the comments. I really would like to know what you think.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Personal Crisis Management - How to Survive when Life comes a'kickin'

For some time now, I've been thinking about what I can bring to the Personal Development table. There are so many really good life coaches and NLP practitioners out there all of whom are well trained, very experienced and frankly, pretty damned good at what they do. It has seemed to me that I haven't really been able to add much value to the field.

Today, that changed. It occurred to me that there is one section, which doesn't get much coverage in Personal Development, but is something I know intimately - that of Personal Crisis Management. 

My life experiences have given me a unique perspective on Personal Crisis Management. I understand what it's like when Life pulls the rug out from under you, you hit the ground hard and then The Bastards start kicking you with steel-toe capped boots. I have stood outside at the 3 o'clock in the morning believed I was the only personal alive on the planet, awake and hurting. There have been times when I hurt so much I was frozen in place, I wasn't able to move from my chair. 

In those times, I would have done physical harm to the person who would have dared to give me the "it's all in your attitude", "it's what you attract" or "think positive to create the outcome you want" speeches. 

Don't get me wrong, I do believe there is value in those things, but frankly, they aren't particularly helpful when you are fighting an external situation that totally blindsided you.

This is the beginning of a series of posts about coping strategies; what works and what to avoid. They are based on my own experiences of dealing with Life's lovely little surprises: the end of significant relationships, death, financial uncertainty, career/job uncertainty and collapsing relationships. There have been times when I felt that I what I was going through was so ridiculously awful, if I had written about it as a book, my readers would never have been able to suspend their disbelief. 

The work of Dr Richard Bandler and John & Kathleen LeValle in Neuro Linguistic Programming has been instrumental in the shift in my thinking. Training with them taught me one of the most valuable lessons: however I feel, no matter how much emotional pain I am in, it will pass. 

Emotional pain, no matter how awful, debilitating, crucifying and intense, it will pass.

I repeat, it will pass.

However, difficult and seemingly unending your trauma is at this instant, it will pass.

There is a card in Major Arcana of the Tarot, called The Tower. When you look at it, it's fairly clear what it's about: your Life as you know it, crumbling away from underneath you. Death, divorce, redundancy, illness, relationships ending (in their many varied ways), relocation etc. The Big Things. The painful things. 

The situations that once you survive, you know your Life will never be the same again. 

Winston Churchill is credited as saying "When you're going through Hell, don't stop." 

That Ladies and Gentlemen, is advice you can take to the bank. If you are in crisis mode, don't stop. Your every waking moment must be about putting one foot in front of the other. Even if you only manage one, small baby step, or can only crawl on your hands and knees.  This is not the time to sightsee. Don't stop to take pictures. Don't be a tourist. 

It is said that Life never hands you more than you can handle. I'm not entirely confident about that. There have been times when I sank like a stone. What I will say is that the sun will rise again tomorrow. It will pass. In the midst of disaster, every day becomes a new opportunity to try again. And if all you manage to do is to brush your teeth and wash your face, embrace each and every effort you make towards getting yourself out of Hell, as a triumph. It's one less step to make tomorrow.

Repeat after me, it will pass

Friday, 13 June 2014

Motivation and Personal Hygiene

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

I had a cup of tea with a friend recently. We hadn't seen each other in many, many months and were catching up with each other's news (a feat made far easier through the wonders of Facebook and Twitter), when she turned around and sighed.

"How did you do it? How do you get the motivation to keep exercising?" 

Last April, I wanted to go bike riding with my partner who is a mad, keen cyclist. I hadn't been on a bike in over 20 years and the first time we went out together I could have cried. My roadcraft was diabolical and worse - my fitness! I barely managed a half a mile and in that half mile, I had to stop 3 times.

I started with exercise DVDs. I had quite a few. Being fit was one of those vague goals I would dust off occasionally, I'd have a run of 3 or 4 workouts and then the DVDs would languish on my shelves. This time was different. This time, I started with the exercise DVDs. My workouts were 30 minutes at a time and I struggled to finish them. This time, I stuck with it until I could complete them. I started looking at what I ate. My partner and I cycled further and further every time we went out. Last autumn, I increased the intensity and frequency of my home workouts. I started frequenting health and fitness websites and logging my workouts. My partner bought me a heart-rate monitor for Christmas, perfect for the woman who likes to log everything in my diary.

In January, I agreed I'd run the City of Norwich half marathon in November, a daft idea for a woman who never voluntarily run for anything in her entire life. I downloaded a fantastic training app, laced up my shoes and headed out the door. I had to get up earlier and earlier to fit my workouts in my day. If they don't happen first thing in the morning, they don't happen at all. I went from the world's most lazy, bone idle woman, to getting up at 5.45 am to go running. I joined a gym! 

This May, my level of physical activity dropped. I moved my focus away from exercise to my work commitments. I'm not going to give you my excuses. I am having to work very hard to bring my level of fitness back from those 5 weeks and while I was giving myself a hard time I realised that even though my activity level dipped, I was still doing far more every week than I had 2 years ago. I went back to my exercise DVDs, I did yoga. I hadn't stopped, I had just dropped down a couple of levels. I remained committed.

But this is *my* story. What can you take from this?

You know exercise is good for you. You know eating well is going to have a positive impact on your general level of health and well being. 

Knowing that isn't enough to get anyone off the couch. You have to want to do it. 

There isn't much consensus within the Health and Fitness industry, but one thing you can take to the bank: diet is 80% of the battle, exercise 20%. Exercising regularly boosts your metabolism to enable you to lose weight. 

The other thing which is quite "shocking" is that dieting doesn't work!

There's a surprise. If you diet and lose weight, when you stop dieting and go back to the way you were eating before, you will return to the weight you were before and probably have some added extra as a bonus.

Therefore, the hard truth is, when you get off the couch, you've got to make and keep a promise to yourself never to sit down and stay down on that couch. Ever. 

You have to get off and stay off the couch.

There is no quick-fix. There is no magic bullet. Eating low-fat yoghurt with chia seeds and goji berries for 3 weeks is not going to make any long-term difference to your health. That 6-week to your ideal beach body plan in the beauty/fitness magazines will disappear by week 9.

How do you keep getting up in the morning to lace up your shoes?

You have to want it. Really want it. Adopt a Learning Mind. Be prepared to try a variety of different strategies until you find something that works for you. I do not believe that there is a "one-size-fits-all" strategy that will work. I can tell you what works for me, or what worked for a friend or a client. As it's going to be you looking at your alarm, weighing up whether to hit the snooze button, it's got to work for you. 

When things get hard (and they will, believe me), it really helps to have your back-up strategies in place, so you don't beat yourself up and slide back into your old ways. 

Take 5 minutes and share your strategies. How do you keep going when it gets tough? How do you overcome disappointments and setbacks? I'll let you in on a little secret - these are all great transferable skills (how's that for a buzzword?) 

In March, I had a run of incredibly stressful days at work that left me crying in my car at night and feeling dread going into work and then I went to the gym. It's hard to feel ground down and helpless when I dead lifted 30 kg for the first time. I went into work that morning with an awesome attitude.

Let's share and over-share. Tell me what keeps you on track when it gets tough.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

In Search of: Living Well


It has been awhile. According to my stats, nigh on 13 months in fact. I have been having a long think, but perhaps more importantly, I've gone through this time 'doing'. This time for me has been about action, rather than contemplation. I have learnt a great deal. It has not been an easy or straightforward path, from May 2013 to June 2014, but I am here. Feeling a little older, a little fitter and perhaps more importantly, feeling far more uncertain.

Uncertainty is one of the most difficult feelings to endure. It is the tug in several conflicting directions, outcomes unknown. It is feeling the pressure to make a decision, but knowing the decision once made, cannot be undone.

It is about the Learning Mind. To sit within the space of uncertainty requires courage, patience and the realisation that you are completely responsible for the outcome. There is no one else to blame, should it all go horribly wrong.

There is the bumper sticker that reads: There are only two certainties in Life: Death and Taxes.

It is a universal truth.

However much you might try to argue with that, everything in between birth and death is subject to change. Life is change. Our moments here so very fleeting in the book of the cosmos.

What I say here, is my opinion. I say what I say with the best of intentions and I hope you read those best intentions in the spaces between my words. I write now with my Uncertain Mind. 

In the last 13 months, I came to realise that a person can do everything 'right' and follow all of the 'rules' and it all goes to shit.

There really isn't a Top 10 Tips to Be Happy, or Be Successful, or Be Amazing in Bed. There are good strategies to negotiate Life, I certainly am not refuting those. I just think 'being happy', 'being successful' or being whatever, is so personal and subject to the circumstances around the personal that to reduce everything to a set of bullet points, is missing the point completely.

Life is complicated.

And sometimes, it's very painful; and actually, that's just how it is.

I will dust off my Facebook Page, I haven't lost my love of the motivational memes, silly pictures and my drive to share good news stories. I would love your company. Please come by again.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Attitude of Gratitude

The lovely Savannah posted this today and I wanted to share this with you (if any of you are still here).

Coupled with this address by Joss Whedon, it kind of sums up where I am and where I think health and happiness lies - gratitude and self-acceptance.

I adored Whedon's take on contradiction. 

Contradiction is where the interesting things in Life happen. 

The most interesting people I've ever met have been filled with contradiction and paradox. 

In the last few months, I put NLP and self-help and personal development to one side. I've taken down my twitter and Facebook page. My focus has been on getting my life in order. My life is changing and I wanted to sit with the many changes going on with as little interference as possible.

I have been trying to live with as little interference as possible.

My interference and others.

It's been a huge freedom for me to realise that I don't need to interfere with my thinking, or my being. Learning not to interfere has not come easily to me. I've always been a Change Things kind of girl. Now I'm an Acceptance kind of woman. I'm learning (note it's a work in progress) that I don't need to change anything in me, or anything with someone else, or the world. I can't. 

Given that I have a degree in Development Studies (change the world) and I'm a licensed NLP Practitioner (change other people and myself), you see this is a mammoth task for me.

News Agencies and social media tell me, the World is going down the Toilet, if only someone would just bloody flush already. My daily experience is: I love my Boy, he loves me back. I love my partner, he loves me back. My friends and I try to be the best friends we can for each other. The people in the city in which I live are on the whole, good people. We all have good/bad/indifferent days together. On Facebook and twitter, it's pretty much the same.

I resolved the contradiction by being grateful. I keep an eye on the news, but I don't invite it into my brain or my psyche. My first stop is my direct experience and I chose the good things over the negative.

Ranting doesn't seem as much fun as it used to. Ranting at the world, politics, men, women, big corporations. Anyway, no one listens when you shout angry words. Yes, I occasionally have enjoyed a bloody good argument over the internet. But I got bored of listening to myself argue. Because that's the only person who was listening to me. The other person was busy listening to themselves and their arguments. Nothing I ranted at them made any difference.

So I've been doing different things instead. I find I am happy and content through the good days, bad days and indifferent days. It's all good.