10 Unmindful Road Blocks

Yes – To be fair, no can be just as unmindful. Yes, makes the list as it can certainly bring opportunity, freedom, joy, excitement and a lot of other really awesome thoughts, feelings and experiences. It is saying Yes when you shouldn’t, and handing over time, action and priority to meet someone elses needs, expectations or deadlines as more important than your own.

Maybe / Perhaps – It suggests inaction and uncertainty. Within reason it is either something to commit whole heartedly to as authentic to your hopes, passions and needs. Otherwise, it is something that may not connect with your own values, beliefs, needs and/or expectations. It therefore either heck yeah or not for me thanks.

There – Momentum with ‘there’ is a societal beast and continues to increase in its power. It is the idea of being anywhere and everywhere, but not here and not now. If we are always heading towards a ‘there’, we will never be present in the ‘here’ and I imagine never actually jump of that conveyor belt enroute to somewhere else.

Tomorrow – Never forget yesterday, but always live for today, because you never know what tomorrow may bring, or take away. So, Carpe Diem isn’t just a ‘go to’ tattoo, but a pretty could point.

Should – The expectation placed on yourself by an assumption of the perception of others. It is living in a place of otherness and pursuing what you should do rather than what you would like / need to do. You should get engaged, you should get married, you should have kids, you should go for a promotion, you should have a bigger house and on and on.

But & However– (I’m putting these together)- negates everything that precedes this statement. It’s like a word perfect apology to a partner or friend or colleague that is delivered and lands wonderfully. “But….you did start it with”. Know what needs to be said and said with honesty and maturity.

Can’t – Go with “Not Yet” instead. There are too many folk out there that are pretty quick to define what you aren’t or what you can’t do. So, don’t join in the mindless, useless and often uninformed script and celebrate and shout out loud (figuratively speaking that is) your strengths, abilities and potential.

Too Busy (Cheating with two words here)- Society has high praise indeed for busyness, whether it is real or just being busy telling folk how busy we are. We absolutely need to stop, look, listen, breathe and be truly present in that space and moment. There really is no excuse as we should take absolute responsibility and ownership of our decisions and what we choose to do or not to do.

Life Lessons from a Dribbling Mess!

Life Lessons from a Dribbling Mess!

Slightly harsh, but quite accurate in that the dribbling mess is in fact my 15 month old son. I stand by my description, quite literally as i am stood beside him with a snotty nose, spaghetti in his hair holding a spotlessly clean bib…go figure. Today, I kept him home from day care so we could hang out whilst his big brother was with friends, and his mum hard at work.

I like many others have studied long and hard to establish professions in the field of wellbeing, children, family, counselling and really striving to best understand humans and what makes them tick and blow. Turns out, that we perhaps knew all along, and can save ourselves years and tens of thousands of dollars in student fees by just reconnecting with the 15 month dribbling mess versions of ourselves.

Here is what I was shown and reminded of today:

  1. Be you and nothing and nobody else. You rock that epic wobble with your belly out and keep putting your hands in the air like you rightly don’t care!
  2. Get shit done that needs to be done. No lists, no procrastinating just get it done then crack on. Quite literally! Obviously nappies help, but those things that just need to be done without any deep and meaningful process simply get done and then you move on to the trickier stuff.
  3. Get Outdoors. Tears inside, big smiles outside. Fresh air, nature, space, exercise…
  4. Look and listen before you talk and do
  5. Importance of good connections. Keep your family and friends close and strangers at a distance, not daft advice at all. Perhaps as grownups we invest in relative strangers a tad more than close family and good friends.
  6. Listen to your body. Sleep, eat and play. I know it gets a tad greyer when you get older in more ways than one, but everything starts from strong foundations.
  7. Spontaneity. Be open to new experiences and challenges.
  8. Smile, for no other reason but you can and want to.
  9. Express yourself – Quit controlling the uncontrollable. When it tickles you pink then laugh out loud, if it makes you sad then shed a few tears.
  10. Give it a go first and then know when to ask for help.
  11. Be open to new learning / things.
  12. Move on. When it is done, then get over it and get living.
  13. Listen to those that care about you. Really take notice and act on advice from those you love, oh and a big massive dose of unconditional love, hugs and snotty kisses.
  14. Give without expectation of it being returned now or later. Altruism at its best.
  15. It’s okay to climb and push your limits – but to test our upper limits rather than reach a set goal. Yes, I know developmentally the body, including brain have been fast tracked. However, perhaps it’s their boundless commitment to exploring their own limits and not those placed upon them that has a big hand in such exponential growth. No sign of a glass ceiling with these guys.
  16. Play! Wow, do these guys give a master class in how to have fun. Doing fun things and actually having fun are two very different things.
  17. Mindfulness. Being absolutely in the moment. The bugs, dogs, people, food deserve every bit of your focus and attention. No one of the senses gets left out.
  18. If you fall, have a quick look at the closest loved one to you, and if they smile then take that as a vote of confidence in your resilience, and a nod to all your limbs being present and correct. Then carry on being epic.
  19. Listen to your gut and pick your team wisely. Ever noticed how the kids tend to make a confident b’line for some kids and not others. Be cautious of the negative and go climb trees with the positive.

So, tomorrow I intend to let my pasty belly hang out and stride down my hallway with my hands in the air like I just don’t care and then take it from there. Fingers crossed!

A is for Anger

A is for Anger!

We know what it is, but what pushes our buttons?

What fears, griefs, insecurities…past hurts?

Understand your anger and you can overcome it.

Anger might make you enemies, but enemies don’t make you angry. Your thoughts do.

Control them and everything will be just fine and dandy.

1. Think before you speak

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

2. Once you’re calm, express your anger

As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

3. Get some exercise

Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

4. Take a timeout

Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.

5. Identify possible solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.

6. Stick with ‘I’ statements

To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” instead of “You never do any housework.”

7. Don’t hold a grudge

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.

8. Use humor to release tension

Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what’s making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

9. Practice relaxation skills

When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

10. Know when to seek help

Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.

Knowing When to Hold on Tight or Let Go?

An earlier post ‘let it rip’ gave a bit of an insight into where this one may be heading.

I had the good fortune to be in a lovely MRI machine yesterday. Oh, it is a sweet pleasure indeed…maybe not, but it got me ‘pondering’, again.

There was the awkward moment where I misheard the radiologist say “everything except for your boxer shorts”, what I heard was “everything but especially your boxer shorts need to be jettisoned from your fine physique”. Fortunately the radiology gown, some quick movement from me and a lazy eye from the operator saved any embarrassment. Well, until the damn gown kept getting stuck and I was lying with my legs spread directly in the viewing line of the radiographers.

What could I possibly have been pondering at such a magical time I hear you ask?

As a counsellor or with self development, is it best to ‘go to town’, which means really invest in the situation, problem or challenge? Or… look elsewhere to clearer paths and brighter skies in the hope the crap stays in the past if we race forward faster enough?

I was lying in this machine that was about 10 inches from my face. In support of this confined space I was then placed in this helmet thing that offered about an inch of space from my face. I was in this tight space for over an hour with this god awful banging and buzzing throughout the whole thing – and that was just the radio station that they were playing, but the machine made a far louder and definitely more intense acoustic version. All of this had been preceded by lots of information and questions about being claustrophobic. Well, I wasn’t until they asked that many times that I was soon feeling less than happy, as to be asked that many times could only mean that I should be freaking out so therefore perhaps I should oblige.

As a disclaimer my approach is solution focused, CBT, Mindfulness on a firm base of person centered counselling. When I work with trauma I do work along a narrative approach to explore unhelpful or inaccurate scripts before explore where clients need and want to go. There is a very strong emphasis and understanding in counselling that you rock up for a session and keep rehashing the crapness of what is going on and then it will eventually become less crap. An image that keeps coming to mind which possibly offers an insight into the weird and wonderful world of my mind is someone sitting in a bath of shite. So, would I ask that person to sit, savour, smell and taste the brutal and quite disgusting texture and reality that you are sat in a bath of your own shit. If you are made to sit in that bath for an extended period of time then you will continue to add to the mess that you are sat in. This then reinforces a sense of guilt, shame, frustration, anger etc. in yourself. Or, would it be useful for the person to take a moment to acknowledge that, yes they are in fact sat in a pile of shite, before exploring a preference of whether to step out and clean up or to commit further to the exploration of the situation. It’s a timing thing, I believe anyway.

Back to the MRI machine. How I dealt with it is perhaps one strong contender of how to approach ‘stuff’ or being ‘in a bath of shite’. That is, I acknowledged where I was, but I also clarified the whens, whys and hows etc. to reduce anxiousness through eliminating the unknowns. I then reassured myself that there was an end in sight, I simply had to get in and on with it and tap into my coping toolkit. I took my mind elsewhere, it in no part meant that I was running away or in denial of where I was or what I was experiencing. It was investing my energy and effort into where I wanted to go rather than amplifying the crapness and claustrophobia of where I was.

To summarise. This is again the pondering of a lifelong learner and curious mind of a counsellor. Primarily it is the ramblings of someone in pursuit of wellness and what this looks and sounds like for me but also those I interact with professionally and personally.

Like ‘letting it rip’ I do wonder if we absolutely acknowledge where we are and the challenges which we are faced with. I am leaning towards an increased investment in time and energy in exploring where we want to be, and then ‘going to town’ on how we get there, and stay there through developing resilience and an ability to cope along the long journey of life, not just one step at a time. That is not for every person and every challenge, but would certainly relate to a massive majority of my own challenges and the clients I work with.

How? It’s taking a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle with wellbeing at the front, middle and end. Connectedness with self, with others and our environment. It’s diet, exercise, mental health and a positive excitement and optimism about your potential and what that may look and sound like and how it would positively ripple in to the lives of those you care about and anybody else that comes in to contact with your contagious awesomeness.

Games and our Kids: Silence isn’t always Golden.

Knowing what our kids are playing and taking a second to think of the implications, now and later.

Well, I don’t know where to start on this because I don’t know where it would finish or even if it could finish without writing a novel.

‘It’s awesome! If you finish the level quick enough then you can kill the baby when its still sleeping and upgrade your gun!” This came out of the mouth of a six-year-old child I was seeing as a counsellor. I had been called into a school to help improve the behaviour of some challenging wee ones. To give a bit of context, I’d barely sat down and asked how the week had gone so far. The game is called Duck Hunt (search duck hunt horror – if you see the red eyed dog, you have found a version) and he put an impressive amount of energy behind reenacting how to move and shoot with speed and accuracy. Now, my generation will remember that game as one where you shot ducks as they flew across the screen. Its not that one! I didn’t believe what he was telling me at first, so I looked into it and quickly found what he was playing. He was right! It starts quite harmlessly as a basic shoot’em up (birds) game, before it quickly enters a room with a family all sat in a lounge. Depending on which family member you shoot will dictate which gun you upgrade to. The graphics are damned realistic too. This is just a game that this six-year-old fills a bit of time with and far from the worst he plays. The exception, absolutely not!

I am a counsellor working with kids from 5 upwards as well as the grown-up work I do. I have been doing this for over a decade and therefore believe I have a pretty fair reflection on what is going on purely from experience rather than from afar in a research paper. I have seen a direct correlation with behaviour challenges to the games used. I intentionally didn’t say technology as that isn’t the case at all. Demands on parents are increasing and work patterns have changed massively. On my way back from a run or the gym at about 6.30am day cares are already receiving their first drop offs.

With this increased busyness and kids that by the very fact that they are kids are a bundle of fun, energy and thirst for time and entertainment. Digital devices are gold for keeping young ones still and quiet. They are however, far from safe. Any parent will tell you noise (within reason) is the norm, but silence – that will get me jumping up to see if the boys have drawn on the wall or hand fishing in the toilet. It is kind of like that with kids and games, just because they are out of your hair for 5 mins don’t start celebrating until you know for sure what they are up to.

Firstly, I am completely pro technology and certainly see its abundant benefits. Having access to information is invaluable, especially when in academic land and completing research.

This post is raising a flag on how technology is used by our kids. It’s a bit of common sense really, but I get how life can result in a few blind spots.

  1. First, have a think on what your values and beliefs are.
  2. Explore what they may look, and sound like for you and then your kids.
  3. Then take a look at the games that they have, regardless of age. You pick what is appropriate for your kids not the games company or censorship committees. Google the highest-ranking games in the world right now- well keep tracking back over the last 10 years- it’s the same result. Every one of the top games is a shoot ‘em up and the graphics are bloody realistic.  Grand Theft Auto is a cracking example. Pull over, once you have evaded police, and then kill as many people as possible to get some money. You get even more money depending on how creative you are in your murder. Not to mention the rewards for killing female characters.  Then ask, how does this look compared to my image of the values and beliefs I thought of earlier. What is it normalising and desensitising our children to? As an ex police officer, I have seen my fair share of the dark side, murder and violence. Maybe that’s why I might be a tad ‘sensitive’ and ‘overprotective’, or maybe not.
  4. Take a second. You are at a barbeque with some friends. You see your wee angel playing with a few other wee angels. You listen and look a bit closer. One of the other kids pretends to shoot your angel in the head with a gun whilst shouting ‘take that biatch!’. In the meantime, the other kids want in on the action and pretend to kick the crap out of your little angel because they too can get some points if they inflict a bit of damage too. They then turn on one of the other kids shouting, “now you can be the police” we are gonna f.&k you up! Would you smile and nod to one of your friends and smile before sharing a “kids aye” moment? I think not.
  5. Fortnite– the latest global phenomena game- is not unheard of by any means with many of my young and old clients.

Social media and the role in the lives of our young ones is a beast in itself that I’m sure I’ll talk about at some point. When it comes to computer games, it is really simple. How does the game look compared to your own family values and beliefs? We all make our own decisions, and these are my thoughts. They are however thoughts based on working with young ones for nearly 20 years and the last 10 specifically with child and adolescent mental health. I absolutely see a direct correlation between behaviours and the types of games and amount of time spent playing them.

As parents, but as adults and a society we really need to take as much responsibility of the safety and wellbeing of our children and future when they are sat in front of screens as we do when they are not. We can’t be too surprised or p’d off with the kids behaving in a way that is pretty out there. We need to step up first and then see what happens with behaviours and some very shaky wellbeing.

Mental Health: Let it RIP or Perhaps Not!

With the many weird and wonderful experiences that are part and parcel of life, you can’t help but ponder stuff. In my case it’s also professional practice.

Quite often I support and encourage clients to take quite an ‘assertive’ approach to mental health and dealing to the challenges to acknowledge and then take control. That is definitely one way that has proven highly effective for all the clients where we take this approach. But there are ‘horses for courses’ that need to be picked wisely for the best outcome. I still see a time and a place for this style but now I’m pondering quite the opposite.

What if sometimes, for some people, fighting mental health head on is in fact giving it more power than less. You make it front and centre, the be all and end all. The worst thing is you can’t see or hear it, so you are in fact swinging blindly.

I am surrounded by surfers and surf beaches, which is perhaps why approaching stuff like a rip tide, may in fact be a good way to go. For those that don’t know what a rip tide is then perhaps google it. In short (or this will make no sense at all) this one is for kids, which is bang on my level https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ76XfBVKq0 .  In a wonderful world the tide and waves beautifully all lap towards dry land and return surfers and swimmers to terra firma. A rip tide is a sneaky little beggar that bucks the flow and creates an invisible channel that takes you out to the big blue sea. This takes those not familiar to a rip by surprise. Instinct is to swim like your life depends on it -because it does, I suppose- towards land. As you’d expect a swimmer is no match for the immense awesomeness of the sea. This is what got me thinking. Sometimes by investing all attention and effort into fighting the rip tide (mental health) you are in a battle where there is only ever going to be one winner. The swimmer eventually tires and then is in real bother. For the sake of happy endings and a hop, skip and a jump. Hasselhoff or The Rock pluck you out of the sea and holds you in a safe embrace.

The alternative and the best way to deal with a rip is to stop and as soon as possible take stock and acknowledge that you are in the shite, well rip tide. This being a metaphor for mental health. At each point you keep raising your arm high in the air calling for help. Help being family, friends and better still a trained professional. In the meantime, simply breathe and know that the calmer you are, the clearer you think and in the meantime tap into your coping toolkit and resilience to ‘calm your farm’. If you take it easy and either float out to the back you will eventually come right, you could end up in some pretty dark blue water, which is a tad unsettling, especially if you too were traumatised by jaws and then topped it up with an unhealthy dose of In the Deep. So, this is where tapping into your tool kit comes in. As, you swim across and parallel to the beach you eventually get out of the rip tide and back into the waves that are taking you on a fast track back to dry land. This being a place of relative calm, balance and positive wellbeing.

Finding a good counsellor is all about finding the right fit for you and a style that will work. As a counsellor it can only be a positive to be able to change gears and styles to best meet the needs of the person or people that sit in front of you. So, I’m still pondering when to ‘deal to it’ and when to take stock and swim across and out of a rip tide. Better still I will keep looking at refining the skills and resilience that would enable and empower my clients, friend, family and of course myself to find the right way at the right time.

Taking Your Meds: Mindful Movement

Mindful Movement: Know Your Meds And Then Take It.

Coping through Grief: The beginning and the endish…

The most common reason for not hitting the trails is I’m too busy and haven’t got the time. In terms of our wellbeing, especially mine, I can’t afford not to, and when I’m tired and busy that’s exactly the right time to hit the trails and recharge.

Imagine a little white tablet (in fact dissolvable with a taste that adjusts to your own preference…I’m thinking Banoffee Pie), that has seemingly limitless evidence to support its ability to prevent and manage; heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, dementia, stress, depression and anxiety. This very same tablet boosts happiness, sleep, strength and flexibility, self-confidence, memory, energy levels, immunity, creativity and relaxation. Oh, you’ll also live longer and it’s free. Well, these are just some of the benefits that come with regular exercise.

I am not one for labels and it may or may not resonate with you when I say Trail Running is my medication. Not, running, the gym and certainly not cricket, but quite specifically trail running. For me the mix in my meds that ‘rocks my boat’, is a steady dose of about 12k, with a smidge of beach and a mass of bush trails and a healthy portion of hill.

Keeping it up, but knowing when to up the dose.

Three years ago, almost to the day my family suffered a big loss. The grief was to put it mildly, painful. The day after and in the midst of making arrangements, without much thought I put on my running gear and grabbed my cash card before I stepped out of the house and started to run. Not as a mad man, or one being chased by a rabid dog, just one foot in front of the other. My journey started from Whangaparaoa and finished in Mission Bay after a swim (more of a less dramatic wade) across Wade River and a quick ferry trip from Devonport.  Needless to say this was far from my usual route or distance. The physical pain was a welcome distraction, as was the opportunity to step out of my thoughts and feelings. I was not running away from my problems by any stretch, I was coping with it as best I could. I had taken my ‘meds’ and the best therapy I could have asked for right then and there.

The endish… well that came from an unexpected source and time! This breakthrough was on my now less than trusty mountain bike. A few weeks ago my seat snapped clean off the post whilst sitting back into an awesome descent. When the seat gave way my crotch embraced a fast moving and well treaded bike tyre. With no feeling of pain at all, I assumed I was in shock, that was the only explanation for the lack of pain that I would have expected from the equivalent of a belt sander on my crotch. Turns out it was more of a glancing blow and my imagination was being overly dramatic. The bike mechanic who only 2 weeks earlier who had repaired the seat was the sole target of my inner rage.

A couple of weeks ago I jumped on the bike for a quick training ride. A tad nervous after my recent experience I couldn’t help but question if it was possible to get impaled on my own seat post, if the seat was to make a break for it again. Then my imagination floated unhelpfully to how would someone treat such an injury.

Anyway, the first few pedals in the bike was making all sorts of weird and wonderful noises. I would love to say it was groaning under the strain of the immense power I was exerting on my humble stead. The bike wasn’t happy, kept jumping gears and making a damned annoying banging sound. For this I allocated blame firmly with another bike mechanic.

The final straw to my ride was when I was peddling up hill, sounding like a one man band, with all the banging and scraping noises. A gent who, in my minds eye, had no physical right to overtake me, was doing so, whilst checking his Strava and eating a muesli bar. The cheek of the man to then smile politely as he greeted me good morning. The blame for this rested firmly with my work, as it took my time and energy away from exercising, whilst also still holding an unhealthy anger directed toward the two bike mechanics.

Well, the seat post incident, I knew the seat angle was off when I picked it up. I also knew this put too much pressure on the pin and was a matter of time before it would snap. It would have taken less than 30 seconds to fix this problem. I didn’t, so mechanic number 1, I’m sorry, my fault.

The banging and scraping noise, I had been told by mechanic number two that the chain was slack and needed replacing. This can and did do all sorts of damage because I chose not to act and ‘it’ll be right’. Mechanic number two, apologies my fault.

As for the fella that overtook me, apologies, my bad again, less chocolate and more exercise, simple.

The relevance of this may or not be obvious, but it was like a sledge hammer at the end of the last ride. I had externalised my grief and therefore power rested outside of myself and I became a spectator in my own process. With all my knowledge, training and experience in the very field of trauma, grief and loss I couldn’t seem to apply it to my own experience. I was blaming anybody and everybody, whether it made sense or not. As soon as I took back control and responsibility for my own wellbeing it is a very empowering mindset indeed.

For many reading this you too will have your own highs and lows throughout your own lives. You too will also know what running or being active means and does for you. It feeds and nourishes us physically,  mentally and spiritually. Keep taking your meds, its way better than any pill, it can get you through and you will be okay.