Category Archives: anxiety

When the going gets rough…

It’s hard, when we’re on a journey towards feeling better about ourselves, to accept the rough times that come our way. I mean, the whole point is that we feel better, not worse, right? Our friends and family would like to see us looking more happy and healthy, not down in the dumps or angry enough to smash a few plates. I mean, don’t know about you, but as someone who worries what others think, I tend to always wonder if what I’m feeling is acceptable to others; like I need their permission and acceptance in order to deviate from the standard human emotion of being ‘fine’ or ‘OK’.

So here’s the thing, and here’s what I really need to remind myself of right now:

  1. Other people’s lives belong to them, and mine belongs to me. Living it for other people means never truly owning my own existence. It’s OK for others to feel sad because I’m going through a hard time. That’s part of their journey, not mine.
  2. The bad times don’t actually have to be perceived as ‘bad’. They are simply part of the ebb and flow of life. We can’t have light without dark, or joy without sadness.
  3. Difficult times don’t just appear for no reason – they are an opportunity for us to learn something more about ourselves and/or the world and to realise how we might be preventing ourselves from living our best possible lives. I mean, when I think about all that I have gained from the hard times, I absolutely wouldn’t want to be without them. Plunging into the depths of sadness and loneliness has taught me what it means for me to be at peace with myself, and that no matter what, I am absolutely never alone.
  4. Often, when the going gets tough, it’s because we’re doing amazing things that are testing our limits and stretching us to the point that it feels temporarily uncomfortable: a bit like doing yoga for the first time! All of which is a hell of a lot better than standing still and not growing in any way. The worse things feel, the bigger the opportunity to feel good. I read this somewhere a while ago, and it really is true; our greatest heartaches hold the key to our greatest joy, if only we’re brave enough to explore what really makes us tick – possibly with the support of a friend, therapist or a good self-help book or three!

So you know what I’m going to try and do? I’m going to try to embrace the contrast, and appreciate it for what it is. I won’t judge it as good or bad, or tell myself that I must be getting something horribly wrong. It’s simply part of my journey.

Thanks go to me for writing this and reminding myself of some important truths. Yes, that’s right – I just thanked myself for writing this blog post, because it’s helped me to feel less sorry for myself and a little more empowered. I hope it’s done the same for you, whoever you are.

And remember: you are 100% not alone. We’re all here reading this aren’t we?!

Love and peace x

Do the things that make your heart sing, and your soul soar

I went swimming a lot as a child and young adult. From life-saving lessons, to speed swimming and diving – my sister and I did it all. We also spent hour upon hour mucking about, doing handstands in the pool and guessing what each other was singing whilst under water. Swimming was my exercise of choice, and pretty much the only one I enjoyed, since I’m quite a lazy person by nature. But the magic of being in the water was enough to counteract the call of sitting down with a book or watching the telly.

We’re not all alike, which is one of the wonderful things about being a human being! We all share so much more in common than the mass media lead us to believe, but in the end not one of us is 100% the same. I have a friend who hates being in the water, to the extent that she has the quickest bath she possibly can just to get it over and done with. Swimming in an open air swimming pool in a beautiful little village in the Derbyshire countryside (as I did today) would not have been her idea of a good time, but to me it was revitalising, refreshing, invigorating, and kind of a relief (since I haven’t been swimming for a few years now). It fulfilled a part of me that I had allowed to go unattended for such a long time.

Worrying what other people think of us depletes our energy and our sense of who we are. We question ourselves and try to bend and twist to please others. It’s the opposite of having someone with you to support and encourage you in all your endeavours – it’s like having a devil sat on our shoulders, whispering to us that we’re not good enough and that people will only love us if…

Doing the things that make our hearts sing and our souls soar replenishes our energies and our sense of who we are. It makes us feel stronger and more balanced, and we care less what others think of us without even having to try. Every activity we choose to do has the potential to either feed our sense of who we are, or to deplete it. Every thought and every choice is based on either love (I am enough) or fear (I am not enough). In a world where far too many of us are stuck in fear-mode, why not start to choose love instead?

What are the things that you love to do? What desires have you let go unattended for far too long? What advice would you give to your best friend? Start giving that advice to yourself, and watch the magic unfold!

Bye for now x

Is it OK to feel bad?

I’m going to level with you – I feel pretty bad right now. Really emotional, and like I don’t know what I’m moving towards (or whether I’ll be able to complete the journey as I’d hoped I would be able to). I feel lonely, even though I am surrounded by people who love and cherish me.

I am a hugely fortunate person. I have good health, a loving family, a modest but beautiful roof over my head, a wonderful beyond all measure little black cat, whom myself and my husband love like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve had many wonderful life experiences and opportunities, and many more ahead of me. And believe it or not, this is one of them. This moment of feeling like total sh*t is a great big opportunity, staring me in the face and waiting for me to put all the pieces together and make something wonderful out of it.

How do I know this? Well, partly because I’ve read a few wishy-washy looking self-help books which reassure me that to feel bad is an opportunity to discover what actually makes me feel good. But mainly it’s because I’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced real joy in my life, of the variety that I suspect many people never get to experience. I’ve felt the joy of being who I am, and knowing that that’s OK. I’ve felt the exquisite relief of feeling like a valid part of the universe, rather than a small, insignificant dot trying to prove myself worthy at every possible opportunity. I’ve felt beautiful, not because I’m necessarily all that beautiful, but because I’ve recognised a beauty in myself that we’re all born with, regardless of what we look like or how others perceive us. I’ve felt purposeful and motivated and enthusiastic and loved. OK, so I haven’t felt like this for years on end, and I don’t feel like it right now, but I have felt it, and do you want to know how I got there? I reached a point in my life where I couldn’t ignore myself anymore. I could no longer put my own needs to one side in favour of my usual people-pleasing routine. I had to listen to my deepest longings, and to what my emotions were telling me. I’ve known people on countless occasions say that when you feel bad, there’s often no logical reason for it, and after a few years of personal experience, I have to say that this is not at all true. If we are feeling sad or anxious or angry or worthless or small, it is absolutely 100% a valid human experience and 100% worth listening to. By this I don’t mean that we should all wallow in our feelings and see how long we can drag them out for. But rather that we should accept the emotions for what they are, and use them as our subconscious minds wish for us to use them – to figure something out about ourselves, our relationships or our current life circumstances. And please don’t mistake all of this for a ‘lesson’ that life has conjured up so that we can do things better next time. Life isn’t about lessons, it’s about opportunities to become more and more of who we are. Or at least that’s how I’m coming to perceive the world.

When we judge others, and fear their judgement of us, there is an insight to be gained about how we view ourselves and the world around us. Two people living exactly the same lives will have completely different experiences because their ideas, perceptions and upbringings are different. Life isn’t what we make of it – it’s how we choose to see it (and ourselves).  The people who have caused me the most pain and upset in my life have been the ones that challenge how I perceive myself, and that is always the root of everything when it comes to worrying what others think. Usually these people mirror an aspect of myself, so when I rally against them, I am actually fighting against myself. Making peace with who we are, and coming to the reassuring realisation that there is absolutely nothing wrong with us, is the only way to deal with the fear we encounter when we believe someone sees something unworthy or unlikable in us.

So, can I trust this current moment of contrast in my life? Yes. Does it feel good? Absolutely not, but there is a deep sense of inner peace when I finally come to a place where I can accept how I feel and not judge it as a bad thing. The trouble is, no one (including yourself!) wants to see you down or upset or crying, so we grow up with the belief that it’s not OK to feel this way. It’s good to feel good, and bad to feel bad, and that’s the end of it. Or is it? Do we need to think again and begin to value and treasure all of our experiences? Seeing them for what they are, and taking as much goodness from them as we possibly can. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we’re just in a good old-fashioned bad mood and don’t want to see the blessings in anything! And that’s OK too. We all need to have a good moan from time to time, and to feel downright sorry for ourselves. But once the initial storm has passed, that’s when we need to start looking beyond the dark clouds to where the light is.

Hmph. Life really isn’t easy sometimes, and the human experience certainly seems to be a more complicated one than say a well looked after cat or dog. But we are human, and there’s not much we can do about that except to navigate it with as much compassion and patience as we can muster up.

I know, I’ve gone all philosophical on you. Sorry about that – feeling low always makes me into a deep thinker! And it helps for me to come here and say what I need to say. So thank you for being there for me.

Peace out guys. See you soon! x

No offence but I don’t care what job you do

Well actually I do care. I care if it makes you happy, I care if you have the financial stability you crave, and I care if you are stressed out due to looming redundancies. But in terms of what you do actually meaning anything in the grand scheme of life? Well it just doesn’t. Of course it may have personal and emotional significance to you and/or your friends and family, in which case it is hugely meaningful. What I’m driving at here is that it doesn’t mean anything about you as a person. It doesn’t make you better or worse than any other human being, and it in no way defines who you are. We all have a certain sense of snobbery about us. Even as I write this I am aware of moments in my life where I have been a snob. Having worked at a university and earned a professional wage, I recently did a stint of cleaning work in my local neighborhood. I’d quit my job, was looking for something less stressful for a while AND I happen to genuinely love cleaning. So why not do some cleaning work? My parents were obviously a little disturbed by this sudden change in direction – and social status! They used to enjoy telling people I worked for a local university, and they were very proud of me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I was proud of myself, in fact. But do you know what I was even more proud of? My decision to quit a job that in the end was making me miserable and do something completely different. It took guts to do that, and it was much more of a personal achievement than any successful job applications I’d ever made. But despite this, and despite really enjoying the work, I still had moments of shame about it. Intense shame whereby I didn’t like to admit what I was doing, especially to former colleagues and other academically successful friends of mine. It was OK in certain situations, but mostly I felt it made me unworthy and I was too embarrassed to chat openly to anyone about it.

It’s a shame really, don’t you think? A huge, colossal sized shame really. Because deep down we all know we’re born equal and die equal. That someone may be cleverer or more beautiful than us, but that it doesn’t make them a more worthy individual. How could it possibly mean that? In a world where people are born into different social and cultural environments and have different experiences and opportunities?  It just isn’t a thing. I often think that if aliens were to land, and we explained about the varying perception of two people because one works in a posh deli in a quaint little village, and the other in a cafe selling fried food in a busy town centre, they’d be frankly a little baffled.

Have you ever noticed how obsessed we are as a society about what we do to make money? If you go on a gameshow you give your name, age and occupation. As far as I’m concerned two of those things are irrelevant, unless the contestant is especially proud to have just celebrated a milestone birthday, or they’ve just got a new job that they want to share with the world. But otherwise, what difference does it make if you’re a retired police officer or a part-time bin man?!!!!

The question: “and what do you do?” always baffles me too. I always want to answer with a list of daily hobbies and activities, ending with: “and right this moment I’m stood here talking to you”. That’d surely make them wish they’d never asked.

And what’s with paid work carrying more kudos than the equivalent role but in a voluntary capacity? It’s all work.

Before I get too ranty about the whole thing, I’m going to sign off here and leave you to ponder what a great big bunch of snobs the human race can be.

Peace!

There’s beauty in chaos

I feel as though there is this wonderful life trapped inside of me that I could live if only I’d allow myself. I have moments in life when I feel completely connected, empowered and at peace with myself, but then something arrives to put a spanner in the works. I’m utterly fed up of living a life dictated by others, of not believing in myself and of generally feeling that there is something I should be doing or someone I should be.

One of the good things – the pearls – that often emerge from my moments of chaos is that I am forced to re-examine what it is that makes me happy. What am I most enthusiastic about? What makes my heart sing and makes me feel like I’m experiencing heaven on earth? Well, a lot of the time it’s people. People make me happy. Not everyone, obviously, but generally speaking, I am a sociable person who likes to interact and bounce off of other people. This is something I definitely need for myself; a sense of connectedness; a feeling that I am part of something bigger than myself.

I also love anything crafty, arty or experimental. How can I have missed this obvious fact about myself? I did a lot of crafts and artwork growing up, and was very good at it. But I somehow got into the habit of thinking of myself as an academic person. I did crochet as a hobby, but it never really occurred to me to join the dots and realise that this was an essential creative outlet. Making something which I can hold and look at and show to other people gives me a huge amount of satisfaction.

I am a very tactile and visual person. I like human contact, and love to get my hands on things like plants, food (when cooking), pets, wool…

I’m quite funny – or at least I have a pretty good sense of humour. Humour takes the sting out of life and brightens up an otherwise dull day, so being equipped with this skill can surely only stand me in good stead?

There is something very obvious about me which I’ve always seen as a negative, perhaps because it doesn’t fit with modern living, but I like to always be moving towards a new goal, learning something new, or seeing/doing something for the first time. I am easily bored, basically, and cannot stay still for too long without seeing a dip in my overall happiness levels.

I wish I could know and embrace all of these things about myself all of the time, and not need constant reminders. But I guess the more chaos I experience – and the more reminders I get – the more I can move towards living an authentic life.

Bye for now peeps x

To be angry, or not to be angry…

I am so often conflicted about how I should feel in situations where people have annoyed or upset me. As much as I realise my emotions are real and perfectly valid, I am also aware that the person in question:

a) is just an imperfect human being, same as me

b) probably has their own ‘stuff’ going on

c) didn’t deliberately set out to upset me…

The list could easily go on. Excuses as to why I have no right to feel hard done by, and shouldn’t think anything of it.

Thing is, if you feel angry, you feel angry, and trying to suppress that isn’t going to help anyone. A world where everyone was always just OK and never expressed any of their negative emotions towards anyone or anything would be very stifling indeed. Not a lot would ever change because we wouldn’t allow ourselves to acknowledge our need to move on from a particular friendship or situation.

And unless we deal with our negative emotions, they never really go away. They just get buried, only to pop out in unexpected places! This, I tell myself, is why people I encounter in the supermarket can sometimes be so aggressive and mean. They’re maybe in a bad home situation, and aren’t able to express how they feel in their day-to-day lives.

So, I am going to take my own advice, and allow myself to feel angry. Without going in to any of the details, I have a tendency to allow myself to get walked over, and right now I am feeling like I have been treated very poorly – albeit unintentionally.

I need to keep my emotions under control less, and express myself more. I need to let people know how I’m really feeling, instead of pretending that I’m OK all the time. I need to be authentic and honest and allow myself to live life in a way that feels good to me. None of this means that I have to start treating people badly – it just means that I wish to put myself in a situation where others aren’t able to take advantage of my good nature.

If I don’t start to express the full rainbow of my emotions, I might find that my good nature runs out, and I grow into a miserable old woman who shakes her stick at passers-by. And I cannot tell you how much I don’t want to be that person!

Thanks for reading.

Bye for now x

Know yourself

The only person who can ever truly know what is right for you is YOU. You, after all, are the person living your life. You have a full record of important memories and life events, and you know what does and doesn’t make you happy.*

*And if you don’t know what makes you tick, you deserve to take some time to figure it out. It’s something I’ve had to re-learn, and which still catches me out from time to time.

Anyway, as I was saying… Other people can make pretty good guesses at what you should/shouldn’t do, but they can’t ever know your soul, your inner-most desires, your darkest fears, or what you had for breakfast last Wednesday. What they have is part of a giant puzzle. They have some, but not all of the pieces.

So remind yourself of this next time someone is giving you some advice. It doesn’t mean that the advice should be ignored. After all, it might be very good advice! It just means that in order to filter out the advice that is no good (for you personally, not in general) you need to first KNOW YOURSELF and trust yourself to do this.

It can be so hard sometimes, when all the evidence suggests that you should be doing a certain thing…

“But everyone else I know is doing X, so surely this is what I should be doing?”

“But it might upset X, and surely it would be selfish of me to put my happiness before theirs?”

These are some of the things you and I probably find ourselves thinking when faced with a dilemma. But there is no dilemma! There is only one answer: do what you feel is right for you. It doesn’t have to be the perfect solution, and it doesn’t all have to work out as you want it to for you to feel justified in being authentic. It just has to feel right.

And if you’re really struggling with the idea of being selfish (a word which seriously needs re-defining), just remember that everyone benefits from you living life as the happiest possible version of yourself. You will emanate something really positive for others to draw upon, and provide a good role model to others struggling with the idea of what their lives should look like.

Ooooh, that feels better. I just needed a bit of a rant on this topic, so thanks for lending an ear!

Bye for now x x x

Find your centre

So, when I was younger I found that I didn’t have much of an opinion on anything. Or at least I would have an opinion, but the second someone challenged my ideas with their own, I would assume that they must be right and change my mind. This process could go on until I had gone full circle and arrived back at my original belief system!

This exhausting and frustrating process served two purposes for me:

  1. It allowed me to doubt myself
  2. It allowed me to appear acceptable to others by agreeing with them

Now don’t get me wrong. I have always been able to see why racism is a load of bulls**t, and I have a strong moral compass when it comes to snatching handbags from old ladies. And I probably had the odd impassioned moment in my youth when I stood up for what I believed and had a strong sense of conviction and personal strength. No situation is purely black and white, and so I did have moments of allowing myself to be opinionated and stand up for what I believed. But all too often, in matters of everyday conversation, I would chop and change my mind to suit the situation.

Having an opinion scared me. It was simply too risky to lay all my cards on the table and not care if others agreed. I mean, if they didn’t, they might decide that they don’t like me! And this can only mean one thing – that there is something catastrophically wrong with me! No, this simply wasn’t a possibility for me during my adolescent/young adult years. Perhaps even more so in my 20s.

So what has changed? As we grow older most of us seem to go through some sort of awakening whereby we discover the things in life that really matter, and get our priorities and belief systems sorted out. For some this process can happen all of a sudden, perhaps due to a tragic or difficult family situation, or perhaps due to a life-changing experience whilst on holiday in Brazil. For others it is more gradual. Either way the feeling is one of liberation and joy:

I don’t have to be what everyone else wants me to be!

Even when I worried what everyone thought, I still made ‘mistakes’ and my friends continued to love me anyway!

I have always been wonderfully imperfect, but now I’m going to own my imperfections instead of running away from them!

I see now how much pressure I was putting on myself and others to meet certain expectations and how short life is.

And so on…

Perhaps you’re going through this process as I write this blog post. Perhaps you’re in your 40s and you’re only just starting to realise how much time you have wasted worrying about what others think of you. It really (really!) doesn’t matter. Each to their own. We all seem to have certain things to learn in our lifetimes and we all learn them in different ways and at different times. Give yourself a break and don’t worry that you haven’t yet learnt how to worry less about the small things.

So, coming back to having an opinion. Once you have begun to accept yourself for all that you are (notice I say ‘begun’ – very few people can claim to have completely accepted themselves, although that’s not to say that it isn’t within our reach), you can begin to own your opinions on certain matters and not worry too much about whether anyone agrees with you. As you begin to accept yourself, you step in to more of who you are, and spend more time doing things which you find enjoyable. It matters less if you are actually achieving anything, and more that you are having fun doing it! You start to develop a centre – a core. It’s like the essence of who you are, and it keeps calling you home every time you feel yourself feeling inadequate or compromised in any way. It’s the part of you that understands and respects what you have been through in your life and doesn’t need anyone else to tell you that you are valid and valuable.

Like with anything relating to personal development or spiritual growth, this is something we need to practice. The more re return to our centre, the more easy and natural it becomes. I haven’t mastered my inner voice perfectly as yet, but the more I listen to her the more we become friends and the more at peace I seem to feel.

So have an opinion! Be outspoken if it is something you feel passionate about. And remember that others will respect you more for standing up for your beliefs than if you just agree with what others are saying.

Be yourself.

Own your beliefs.

Respect your life’s journey.

Be free.

Bye for now lovely readers x

Get some ‘you’ time

Our lives are so busy that we sometimes barely get a chance to just breathe, relax, and re-center. In fact, we can be so busy that we forget that we even need to do this in the first place! This is why feeling ‘bad’ is sometimes not such a bad thing. It might not feel great at the time, but contrast is an essential part of life, and it acts as a useful reminder to ask ourselves how we’re feeling, and what we might be able to do to feel that bit happier.

One problem (as far as I can tell) is that we live in a society which values self-sacrifice and un-selfish behaviour. To put your own needs first makes you a self-centered individual who needs to learn to think of others before themselves. But I personally hate the current definition and usage of the word ‘selfish’. I think it needs to be completely re-thought and reintroduced into the English language with a more positive meaning! Because to be selfish is to look after oneself, and to look after oneself is perhaps the most important task you will ever have in your entire life. You, I, we, are all as valid as the next person, and if we all went around looking after everyone but ourselves, no one would ever really be properly looked after. Am I making sense here? Do you know what I’m getting at?

You see, if you devote some time to yourself, you can still give to others, but from a more healthy place – one where you’re not totally worn out and emotionally exhausted. When we feel happy and content in ourselves. we tend to open up to the idea of helping others much more, simply because we feel more able to.

I can’t claim that these ideas are 100% my own, although I have experienced this first hand. But if you’d like to learn more about why it’s OK for you to relax and get some much-needed ‘you’ time, I can heartily recommend the book Life is a Gift by Gill Edwards. It was a life-changing read for me, and was recommended to me by a family member who had also found it utterly transformative.

Anyway, why am I writing about this? Well I was feeling all worked up the other evening. My brain was a whirlwind of shoulds and oughts and concerns about the needs of others and whether or not I was meeting them. I couldn’t get a handle on anything or think straight, so I took some time out. I went upstairs, put on the radio, and just chilled out for a bit. After a while, I found my centre and my brain started to calm down. Half the things I’d been worrying about disappeared altogether and the other half didn’t seem nearly as bad.

So there you have it. Go take a break. Re-kindle your love for yourself. Go and be at one with your radio or favourite book. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Bye for now x

Have a plan

So you have a ‘social situation’ coming up. A certain someone is going to be there and you just know they’re going to ask you about the one thing you really don’t want them to ask you about, because you’ll go from empowered to blithering idiot in the space of a few seconds and end up giving an overly complicated response and perspiring rather more than usual. Why can’t they just keep their nose out of it and leave me alone? (you find yourself pondering before you’ve even got to the party and had the pleasure of bumping into them).

We all have situations like this. Certain people, certain situations, certain topics – they just get to us! They hit a nerve and our usual coping mechanisms go out of the window. But we don’t have to approach these situations with our tails between our legs, already admitting defeat before we’ve even arrived at the venue!

What I’m going to suggest here is something which I have done myself on several occasions (when i can remember to do it), and it ALWAYS makes me feel better. It doesn’t guarantee no sweating or gibbering, but it will help to make you feel more in control of the situation and minimise the extent to which you feel you have to explain yourself to anyone. Because you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone – you know that don’t you? I mean, your life is yours, and theirs is theirs, and they probably don’t know anywhere near enough about you or the circumstances to make any kind of informed judgement anyway…

Anyhoo, what will this plan consist of? Well, it consists of getting your head around the situation before it presents itself. Find your centre. Remind yourself what you’re about, and how OK it is for you to be who you are, flaws and all. Remind yourself that more often than not, people ask questions about you with good intentions, and because they genuinely care about what happens to you. Or maybe they’re just asking a question because social convention dictates that they do (like when you go to the hairdressers and they ask you what you’ve been up to since your last appointment, or when you see a friend you haven’t met in years and they ask what you do for a living these days). Even if the person in question is a bit frosty and likes to watch people quake in their boots, remind yourself that this is their problem, not yours. Maybe they are in a loveless marriage and they are expressing their anger and resentment to the wrong people! Or maybe they’ve had a really, really shitty week. Feel a surge of compassion as you remember that they’re just human too – perfectly flawed in every way! They’re not evil, they just might be someone you’re better off not putting your energies into.

Once you’ve figured all of this stuff out, you can breathe a bit easier. You feel more centred and less defensive about yourself and how you choose to live your life.

Give it a try, It has worked for me, and given that we belong to the same species it’s likely that it will work for you too!

Bye for now x