“Door Openers”

Every now and then we all come across someone who, inadvertently, with kindness causes us to unlock a part of our memories that we have hidden away. I refer to these people as “Door Openers”. Usually these memories are locked away because those they are too painful, or too traumatic, to face.

I had a situation like that yesterday, when my wife was getting excited because it was the first time she will have shared my birthday. I cried, but I did not know why. She was excited and I felt touched by her kindness and enthusiasm. In the afternoon I realised that my sadness had been caused by the reality that I have never had someone so excited about my “special day”. No one really seemed to care, so  I began to try and not care either.

Every other year I tried to treat my birthday as just another day, but deep within I wanted someone to at least make an effort to acknowledge how special the day was. I became good at hiding the pain and the sadness and got to a stage where I would not tell anyone what day was my birthday.

Yesterday I came to a realisation that my wife had actually unlocked a door that I had securely locked up for years. The pain came flooding out and I cried and cried. I found the situation to be a catharsis that allowed me to find healing in that area.

In your life you will have “Door Openers”enter and unlock a door that has been bolted tightly shut for years. Allow the door to be opened and face the raw emotions that poor out from behind it. Not only will you find healing, you will also realise that you have become a stronger person!

Please do not force the door open, for doing so means that you are not ready to deal with what is locked behind it. When the time is right, someone will come along with the right “key” and unlock the door. It is at this time that you will be ready to face the pain, the torment, the anger that surfaces when those memories are released from where the have been kept under “house arrest”.

Advertisements

The Stress WMD!

Hi folks!

Over the past several posts I have offered you all different ways of combating stress with different relaxation techniques. As the final post in this series (I hope you all have found something that works for you!) you may wonder which technique is the best. To be honest, they all have their merits and I recommend that you use all of them.

To me I consider the techniques to be individual parcels of a bigger “Stress Buster” package. Individually the different techniques provide beneficial affect in helping you alleviate and reduce stress, but as you use the techniques together the affect is tremendous! Just think of a Weapon of Mass Destruction blowing away stress!

How does the WMD work? It works by you employing all the techniques daily as you combat the stress you face. During the day do a body scan when you feel yourself getting tense. Stop and do deep breathing and visualise the stress melting away. When you have a break throughout the day, you can do some subtle progressive relaxation and deep breathing. At the end of the day you can take 20-30 minutes out of your schedule and do some meditation and/or visualisation exercises.

When you use the techniques in combination you will maximise the benefit that they have. Just think of it as a “Stress Buster Synergy” – the effect of the whole is greater than the individual parts.  Remember that it is important for you to do this daily. In a month, stop and take stock of the stress level(s) in your life and you will be surprised at how much more relaxed, calm and at peace you are.

Get Tense!

Welcome to the third installment of my overcoming stress series!

It may seem ironic that the title to this post is “Get Tense”, when the whole idea in overcoming stress is to alleviate the tension in our bodies. However, deliberately tensing your muscles is the whole purpose of the relaxation exercise I am going to teach you. It is a “Progressive Relaxation Exercise” which enables you to identify the difference between your muscles feeling tense and feeling relaxed. 

Once we are consciously aware that a certain part of our body is tense, then we work on relaxing that part. So, what exactly is “Progressive Relaxation”? It is an exercise in which you deliberately tense each muscle group of your body and then quickly relax it. The goal is for you to feel your body completely relaxed at the end of the exercise. It should take around 15 minutes. If you have never done this type of exercise, then it is recommended that you do it twice a day (2 x 15 minute sessions) for two weeks. 

Here is how to do Progressive Relaxation (tense each muscle group for 5 seconds and then relax for 20 seconds before moving onto the next group) :

  1. Wear loose clothing and sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes if you like. Take in several deep, relaxing breaths and visualise your body starting to relax. 
  2. Curl you toes as tight as you can and then relax them. Tense your feet and ankles as tight as possible and then relax them. Now tense your calf muscles and knees, then relax them. Finally tense your thighs and buttocks and relax them. 
  3. Make tights fists with your hands and fingers and then relax them. Tense your forearms and elbows, then relax. Do the same with your biceps and shoulders.
  4. Tense up your back as tight as you can, then relax. Tighten your chest and then relax. Do the same with your abdomen.
  5. Tighten your neck, feel it getting tense and then relax. Scrunch up your eyes as tight as possible and then relax. Tense up your jaw and then relax it. Tense up your forehead and relax. 
  6. Now just sit and feel how relaxed your body is. Does it feel different than it did before you started the exercise? How does it feel different? Explore the sensation. Become familiar with it so that you can recognise when your body is completely relaxed as opposed to tense. Don’t rush through the exercise. Take your time and get to know the difference between when you are tense and relaxed.
  7. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes. 

Please be careful when doing this exercise as you do not want to hurt yourself (I will not be held liable if you do). 

Once you become proficient at Progressive Relaxation you may find that you do it during the day when you feel yourself becoming tense, and it will not have to take the 15 minutes that this initial exercise does. You may sense tension in your neck and so you do progressive relaxation with your neck only. It could be your shoulders or stomach tensing up due to stress and so you concentrate on those areas only. Whatever area it is, just remember…Get Tense and then Relax!!

 

Breathe…Relax!!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to the latest installment of my series on how to identify and overcome stress. In my previous post I discussed a technique that you can use to identify any areas of tension in your body. Now that you know how to find where you are tense it is time to learn how to relax! 

Notice how this post is titled “Breathe…Relax!” and not the other way around? (Relax..Breathe!) That is because breathing helps our bodies to relax. When it comes to breathing there is a “good” breathing and a “not so good” breathing (I was going to say “bad”, but at least you are still breathing!). There are two ways in which we breathe: diaphragmatic breathing and chest breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is the “good” breathing. When we do this kind of breathing we are in inhaling deep into our lungs, oxygen is then taken into our blood system and carbon dioxide exhaled. Whilst sleeping, it is diaphragmatic breathing that we are doing. It is deep, slow breathing which assists our bodies to relax. 

Chest breathing is the “not so good” breathing. It is shallow and does not utilise the full capacity of our lungs. You may not even know that you breathe into your chest only! This type of breathing can lead to hyperventilation. Anxiety and panic attacks can result in chest breathing. 

So, how do you know whether you are breathing from your diaphragm or your chest? (Take comfort all you chest breathers, you can learn how to become a diaphragmatic breather by doing the exercise I include later in this post.) To determine whether you breath from your chest or your diaphragm, do the following exercise:

  1. Lie on you back on the floor. Place one hand on your abdomen (just above your waist) and place your other hand on your chest.
  2. Take a few breaths and notice whether your chest rises and drops with your breathing. Or was it your abdomen that rose and dropped as you breathed?

If you noticed mainly your chest rising and falling in this exercise, then your are a “chest breather.” If it was your abdomen that rose and fell, then you are a “diaphragmatic breather.” 

Diaphragmatic breathing allows our bodies to relax. It removes tension in our muscles. If you have determined, from the above exercise, that you are a “chest breather” you can become a “diaphragmatic breather” by doing this exercise. Also, for all of you who have found out that you breath from your diaphragm, there is no reason why you can not do this exercise too! 

  1. Take a long, deep breath through your nostrils. Feel the air entering deep into your lungs. Feel your lungs expanding to their full capacity. Focus on the air entering your lungs. How does it feel as you inhale? Can you feel the air descending into your lungs? What sensations do you feel as you breath in. Become aware of these. Explore the sensations. 
  2. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds.
  3. Exhale through your mouth. How does the air feel as it leaves your body? Can you feel your lungs? What sensations are there as you breath out?
  4. Repeat this exercise for about 5 minutes. Inhale through your nostrils and exhale through your mouth. Focus on your breath. 

What you are doing is taking full advantage of your lungs and allowing a maximum flow of oxygen into your body. You will be amazed at how relaxed you will feel! It is also important to focus on your breath. Why? Because any thoughts that had that caused the tension can not be entertained whilst your mind is focused solely on your breath.  

It may take a bit of practice until you are proficient at “diaphragmatic breathing”. Whenever you feel yourself tense up (such times are when we are susceptible to “chest breathing”), stop, breath and relax! 

 

 

I’m Prosperous and Rich!!! (Are you really…?)

We live in a world where success seems to depend on the size of your bank account and the flashy house you live in. How many of us are trying to keep up with the Joneses? Who are they trying to keep up with?

In our materialistic society, your prosperity and success in life is determined by such things as those mentioned above. Is that an accurate description of prosperity? I would say “No!” 

One can have all the money in the world and yet still be poor. How so? They could be socially impoverished, spiritually impoverished or emotionally poor. Prosperity stretches well beyond the realm of materialism.  

Imagine this scenario: A person has a billion dollars in the bank. They are prosperous right? What if you found out that the individual is always lying awake at night worrying about losing all the money, scheming ways to get more. They have superficial friends who will quickly abandon the person if ever the person became completely broke. Now the person is striving to maintain the friendships with these shallow people. Also, this individual is married with 3 children. Yet in order to maintain the lifestyle that the family has become accustomed to, this person is constantly on business trips and very rarely sees their spouse and the children. 

Do you think individual in the scenario is truly prosperous? True prosperity is holistic in that it encompasses all areas of you life. I suggest that prosperity can be divided into different areas:

  • Emotional/Mental: If you are happy with your life and satisfied with where you are at, then you are emotionally prosperous. If you do not lie awake at night worrying about things. If you can look at setbacks as challenges rather than failures and treat them as “growth” opportunities, then your emotional/mental bank account is healthy! 
  • Social: Do you have close friendships? Are they deep friendships based on mutual trust? How “one sided” are the friendships? If you find that people around you are taking more than giving, then it is time for you to analyse what is going on. Are you being used and taken advantage of? How well do you get on with those around you? Social prosperity can be reflected in the fact that people enjoy your company and praise your virtues. Friendships are deep, meaningful and reciprocal.
  • Home life: How much time do you spend with your family and your children? Society has a way of pulling our time and attention in all sorts of directions, yet the most important area needs to be your family. If you find that you are “in debt” in this area, then it is time to sit down and take stock of what is draining your time and attention, then change!
  • Spiritual: This area is highly subjective. If there is something that is robbing you of your inner peace and tranquility, then it may be time for you to gather some spiritual prosperity! It does not have to require a lot of time and effort. 30 minutes a day in mediation will do wonders. 
  • Materialistic: I would be considered a complete idiot if I did not think that we all need money. That’s why we work, gamble, save and invest. The greater the assets you have and the less the liabilities determines your “net worth”. If you find that you are constantly trying to make ends meet, then it is time for making some decisions (legal ones!) about how to either increase your income or reduce your expenses.  

True prosperity could be described as having all the above areas in balance. Then you can say “I’m prosperous and rich…in all areas of my life!”

 

Me, Myself and I – the selfish triplets!!

“Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!”

That is all that seems to come out of some people’s mouths. Everything has to be about them or revolve around them. I know a few people like that and it is draining! There are only three people that seem to exist in such people’s lives: Me, Myself and I

The other week I had a conversation with an older gentlemen. I made an inane comment to something he had said. I truly do not know if he heard me or not, but straight away his response was all about him! Have you ever come across people like that who have to turn the conversation around and make it all about them? I have met a lot of people that seem to have that knack. 

If you are not skilled in identifying people who are self-absorbed, here are some pointers that will help you spot them:

  • They are more interested in telling you all about what they are doing, have done, or are going to do, then they are at listening to what you are doing.
  • The conversation revolves around them.
  • They are always using the personal pronouns “Me”, “I” and “My”.
  • If they make a mistake, it is hard for them to admit to it. They are quick to redirect the blame and they get defensive if approached about the mistake. 
  • Very rarely do you hear them apologise. 
  • They usually have to try and be the centre of attention.

Maybe you may have identified yourself in that list. If so, you should be somewhat concerned.

Do we blame the person for being self-focused? No. We should try and understand the cause. Without knowing their entire personal history, it may be that the person seeks attention and glory to mask a fundamental insecurity. That is, they are always seeking praise and affirmation. They may have a poor understanding of the reciprocal nature of social exchange: Conversation is designed to be a dialogue, not a monologue all about you! These are just a couple of examples to indicate that the “self-absorbed” individual may be suffering a deeper psychological issue that needs addressing. 

What if you identify as such an individual? Is there no hope for you? Are you a lost cause? No! The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that there is one. If you are honest enough to realise that you have a problem, then the next step is to try and identify the fundamental cause: Is it an insecurity that you are harboring? Do you have an interest in the people around you? What are your social skills like? 

A step forward for those who are self-obsessed is to take your eyes off yourself, and look at those around you. Do a random act of kindness to someone. Ask someone how their day is going and show interest in their response. Offer to give someone a hand if you see them struggling in a task. 

If you make an effort to do some of these things then you will find that the selfish triplets of “Me, Myself and I” have been orphaned. You will have begun to adopt the more socially aware kin of “You, Me and Us”!

 

 

 

Live Life Out Loud

Hi folks!

So we reach the end of another year! Have you achieved what you wanted this year, or has just another year “slipped by”? If you have just let 2013 breeze past you and you feel like you have not reached your goals (did you have any ?), do not lose heart! You are still alive and kicking and so that means that you can still achieve all you desire. 

I want to share with you something I saw written a few weeks ago on the back of a truck. It was “Live Life Out Loud”. Make that your motto/mantra for 2014!! Forget about 2013, it is over. A new year is upon us. A year full of opportunity and potential.

Live Life Out Loud! That does not mean that you have to be boisterous or “in your face” with everyone. To me it means going out and enjoying life, having fun, aiming for the stars as you reach for the goals you have set. For me I had a few goals I wanted to achieve in 2013, I achieve some of them but not all of them. Does that mean I should quit? NO!! I just refocus and reset my goals for this year. 

If you are not a goal setter, do not be worried. I wasn’t either until, for some reason, I decided on New Years Eve 2012 to write down what I wanted to get out of 2013. I got some things and I missed some things. But I do not concern myself on the things I haven’t achieved, I celebrate the successes!

So “forget what lies behind”, push forward. Face 2014 with enthusiasm, expectancy and joy. Sure there will be ups and downs throughout the year, but use those times to grow personally and become a stronger person. Set some goals for the year, do not make too may though, otherwise you will be so overwhelmed. Make at most 4-5 goals (if you are ambitious enough you can make more if you want, but be realistic) and go for it! 

Make 2014 the year that you “Live Life Out Loud!”