Emotions & Resilience

Lessons from Anger Management: The Strength of Commitment

anger tired dragon buddhist death life rebirth
The tiger and dragon are symbols of the journey through spiritual life, death and rebirth.

I began supporting young adults in Anger Management courses back in 2011. The groups ran for 6 sessions, mixing lifestyle choices, peer-support and neuroscience in the education aspects. Practically speaking, we led mindfulness exercises, drew on flip charts, and used boxing gloves.

This was the job where I truly learned the power of mixing education and theory with practise and guided support. During one session, a phrase about commitment came up, which I have carried with me over the past seven years:

“I’m more committed to being happy than to being ‘right’. That’s all you’ve got to do; be more committed to making your life work than being right. It’s your choice.”

That comment, made by a teenager who had chosen to attend these voluntary sessions, followed me, and my own anger around for a solid year after. At first, I found its truth annoying: I’d almost go as far as to say it haunted me.

Anger thrives on a sense of control, a sense of ‘righteousness.’ It’s a strong, natural response to a sense of threat, and yet, in the modern day, not every ‘threat’ requires the physical response.

Conditioning from Childhood Experiences

The house I grew up in had a very specific atmosphere. Being different was being wrong, which was also “ridiculous”, “stupid”, and often, “was something everybody knew was stupid/ridiculous” (except me). A lot of my “I must be right” was a form of OCD-like perfectionism drilled into me from a young age, propelled by fear. 

I didn’t know any different, following the path, where people who were right, people who could see those wrong things were obviously stupid could be aggressive and feel justified in that act of oppressing others.

Each of us has some experience of conditioning, and the first step towards balancing that experience is reflection. By recognising that this was a very one-sided view. I co-facilitated that programme for two years, and each time, I found myself delving deeper into those core beliefs, the background assumptions and the threats which arose for my brain.

But through running that group programme, I was also making a choice. 

Each week, I showed up to teach theory and practical exercises, hear anecdotes and support 16-25 year old’s with their anger and anxiety. I worked with over 35 young people, from homeless bullies, to those in care, misusing drugs or supported by the youth offending service. 

If these young people with minimal education, disabilities, were bullies or were on probation could learn to manage their anger then I, a Master’s student, had to have faith in myself.

I made a choice to help these people, to learn from them, but also to face my own anger in an open and safe space.

This was my first taste of redefinition: of the chance to make active choices to map out a potential I sought. 

Making a commitment is strong. With each new group of participants, we made a group agreement, stating boundaries around physical violence, swear words and treating other members of the room. It was an open commitment we all made.

But the commitment about being happy was a real motivator for my journey towards reaching for my potential.

The tools of awareness, of realising we can change – is a key foundation of the process of redefinition.

The secret of finding awareness is the present moment. Each moment is another chance for that reminder –

“We are committed to this relationship working.”
“I can choose my response to this action.”
“I have a commitment to being a kind and compassionate person.”

Whatever the goal, there’s a choice, a decision made and a commitment to keep.

Making The Decision

Even as an adult, I find myself redefining myself. When I left home at eighteen as an angry, verbally aggressive, being I took everything personally and was terrified of being wrong.

I still struggle with emotions sometimes: I am, after all, still human. Sometimes, I do still struggle with being wrong, and I can be strong-minded about certain views. The difference is that those views are now relatively well-researched from both sides. What time has done is give me a large perspective, a softer viewpoint. A safer space.

Empowerment & Seeking

Create Successful Systems with Neuroscience and Cats

There are hundreds of tools, tips and techniques to succeed in your goals and reach your potential… I’d even recommend some of them, but one thing I have learned is that alone, no single tool will meet every requirement of each situation.

But having a system in place can make things that bit easier…

Case in point…

I hiss at my cats.

When we were planning pet adoption, I researched a little bit how best to train animals, since language and that whole ‘other species’ thing is kind of a barrier.

One recurring theme in the books and videos was that cats are innately wary of hissing noises. Theories link this to snakes, which makes sense, since you kind of want to back off if a snake is nearby, and you’re a fluffy cat.

Our Munchkins: The Cats

When we adopted our little munchkins, Smoke and Ember, they were 18 months old. They’d lived with their mother, and a forth cat alongside their human owners. They had different names, and were specifically introduced to us as nervous cats with one of those lovely “will need patience” labels the rescue places often use.

It took a good few weeks to get them to come out of the ‘cat room’ we created for them, and even 12 months down the line, Ember still freaked out at strangers/new noises way more than she should.

But once they’d settled in with us, we began training them with a low, soft ssssssss responding to any behaviour we were aiming to discourage.

Only twice have they ever been scared by the hiss, which have been used in a loud, sharp manner only when they have caused physical harm. Normally, it’s a low warning hiss, and both cats do that slow turn to look at me, as if to say: “Hey, I’m on the table, oh you’re doing that hiss, really, can I be bothered to take you seriously… one more step… okay the hiss is getting louder and longer… I don’t like it, I’ll get down and sit on the carpet like I was always planning to do that.”

Kids, eh?

This is our current behavioural training technique, and it works 9/10 times. Which, having worked in social care, I’m aware is pretty good odds for any behavioural technique!

Why Does This Matter?

Because back in 2012, I worked in a nursery. And I tried to teach myself not to swear. I had moments of winning. And moments of failing. I felt guilty. I felt like a failure. All the usual, standard goal-setting stuff we humans tend to respond with when things don’t quite go our way.

About a month ago, I picked up a plate that was too hot, in someone else’s home. And I hissed.
I instantly felt guilty that I may have scared the cats, only to realise they were 50 miles away, back home.

It appears, I have created a system.

The Theory

Behavioural Psychology has known for decades about pairing things to create a rule or system the body follows subconsciously. For example, training a dog to salivate when it hears a bell.

But the key concept in habit formation and learning is a phrase that was practically breathed throughout my Master of Science:

“Cells that fire together, wire together.”

I practically dreamt that phrase the year I completed my Neuroscience degree.

In general terms, that means that actions, behaviours, thoughts and experiences which occur together build their own connections. Thus, building a system of those web connection involves completing the same two actions together, regularly. In my case, I basically hiss whenever I would normally be primed to shout or swear.

It’s a conscious decision around my cats, unless I’m being mauled (seriously, that only happened once) but those behaviours have ‘fired together’ regularly for two years, and I haven’t really hissed outside of that scenario.

Consider Your Own System

What creating a habit or crafting our map forward, it’s important to consider the whole system of our actions, situation or experience.

  • What environmental cues are you experiencing while trying to change your habit?
  • Is there a specific sound or movement you could save for ONLY using with that habit?
  • How can you use other, already-formed habits to ‘scaffold’ a new idea onto?

Again, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating a system that supports you, but there’s always a combination that will work for each of us, at least most of the time.

We just have to craft it mindfully.

~

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Creative Tools, Empowerment & Seeking

12 Quick and Simple Acts of Self-Care for 2018

This is part manifesto, part skills-training and part to-do list for feeling good and staying mentally well in 2018. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting point, and I’ve tried to include a few “less often shared” ideas for self-care. There’s also a free 18-page workbook available at the end of the post covering each step in more detail, with space to write your own answers in. 

I know all of these things, but sometimes I forget about them.
And self-care sometimes feels like just another item on the to-do list.

The Self-Care Checklist

So, I thought I’d make a little list and figured, if I struggle to remember this, and I teach it; what are the chances you could do with a reminder too?

This checklist is designed to give you a little guidance for those moments when you don’t have a lot of energy or time, but want to make a tiny positive step to improve your day. Because baby steps add up.

Let’s do this.

 

Put On Your Signature Costume

No matter what we’re doing, feeling comfortable and “okay” about ourself really makes a difference to how we feel.  Apply whatever armour will make you feel confident. For a lazy day, this is my jeans, tank top and all of my rings. For a work-day, it’s my favourite earrings, a really subtle bracelet I can play with, and a bit of eye-liner.

Breathe In

When we’re stressed or on autopilot, we tend to change our breathing. Try to breathe out slightly more than you breathe in, and as you exhale, relax your shoulders. Take a moment of space whenever you remember. Put a reminder on your phone if it will help.

Physical Health

The mindset of looking after ourself has a ripple effect on our mood and how the day feels. Make one ‘healthy’ choice. That could be drinking a few sips of water before lunch. Perhaps do 5 squats in the loo cubicle before you return to your desk at work. Maybe the above breathing technique is your small healthy step.

Make Progress

As humans, we thrive on a sense of progress. It doesn’t matter how big or small: just tick something off your list, or make some kind of progress towards a goal.

Wash up one cupSend that email that’s worrying you. Take the rubbish bin out. Put the clean washing away in your bedroom. Then counting “putting it away in the wardrobe” as a second task: and a second tick.

Connect

Disconnection and Loneliness is killing us. Connect with anything and anyone. Pet the cat outside. Smile at the person walking past you. Text a friend “how’s it going?” Tell someone you really appreciate the help they gave you last week.

Be Spiritual

Or make a personal, inner connection, somehow. For some, prayer is an option. For others, stand barefoot in the grass outside. Hug a tree. Care for something: water a plant.

Labels

We all want to feel seen and recognised. Label the thoughts and feelings in your own mind to help soften their shouts.

“This is fear. I’m worried about paying my bills this month. I feel tearful.”

This won’t make the worries go away, but that sense of “Hi brain, I hear you. thanks for letting me know. I’m working on that” can sometimes take some of the pressure off those negative thoughts.

Sound a bit weird to you? Try it. What have you got to lose?

Mental Blocks

Equally, distracting yourself from those thoughts can be healthy in small doses. Dance, run, watch a comedy DVD or name 5 things you can currently see which are blue. Take a break from your thoughts: they’ll still be there when you get back.

Grow

Again, we’re looking at that sense of progress. We thrive on growth, on learning, on understanding.

I grew up with this quote by Gail Sheeny taped to my ceiling:

If we don’t change, we don’t grow.

If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.

Inspiring

In this modern day, we spend so much time going through the motions: we exist rather than experience.

So this step focused on re-connecting with who you are and that feeling of being alive. For you it might be volunteering or donating to charity. It might be listening to classic audiobooks. Watching war films.

Maybe one of the earlier tips automatically ticks this off: I love dancing to violin music, standing with bare feet in my back lawn and reading autobiographies. They connect me to other humans, to the world around me and remind me how it is to feel alive.

TA DA! List

A fantastic tip I first saw from Ellie Di Julio, rather than a list of pressures you have to do today, reflect on what you accomplished. What’s on your “ta-da!” list today?

Motivation

Finally, one of the key issues with making changes is that lack of motivation. One of my favourite ways to combat this, is to find a “big why,” to identify a quest or value that will motivate me whatever the weather. What’s your personal quest? What are you here to do; what’s your legacy? 

Will you Prioritise Self-Care this Year?

Again, this is not an exhaustive list. But it does give us a few things to think about. Baby steps add up, and some only take a few moments each day. And in time, that effect is cumulative.

~

Download the free workbook with space to write in your own answers to these well-being ideas? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to grab yourself a copy of the 2018 Resilience Check-list! 

Emotions & Resilience

No Reason: The Problem With Asking ‘Why?’

I was browsing some social media groups for business owners this week, when I saw a comment asking how people find their own sense of power when they’re struggling. This is something I feel I can offer support with, so I clicked the comments, and saw two responses essentially stating: “Ask yourself why. Get the root of the problem to solve it.”

The Core Reason

Now, if you know what has triggered, brought up or caused a particular obstacle of difficulty, that can be hugely useful. I would never say that seeking that possible trigger or core reason is unhelpful in the first instance.

However, the human existence isn’t quite that simple, and sometimes, asking ourselves ‘why’ can dig us deeper into the hole of frustration, low mood or stress. In short, sometimes there isn’t a definable reason.

The Effects of Questioning

When we question, or even make a judgement on how we’re thinking, feeling or behaving, we sometimes end up dropping further into that spiral which has a hold on us.

Partly, we feel there should be a reason. Which makes not knowing it very distressing or frustrating. Equally, when we can’t find it, we feel useless or defeated, we feel victimised and perhaps even out of control.

When there is a reason, its good to reflect, to recognise it. However, this reliance on believing there must be a reason can also be unhelpful.

The Alternative Path

We deep thinkers are often caught up in the shoulds, and it’s definitely a hard habit to break. But it can be done. When I’m focused on an emotional state, I complete three steps.

  1. Check you’re not in horrific danger.

This is a grand move for those of us who are prone to pockets of anxiety. I ask myself three questions, to check I’m okay:

  • Am I physically injured? Essentially, do my five senses still work, and am I in pain?
  • Am I breathing? Can I still breathe?
  • Is the earth still under my feet?

If the answers are all yes, then I know I have time to deal with whatever’s going on. If not, I assess the most important next step. But in that case, ignore this advice because it doesn’t apply, and panic away!

  1. Reflect on whether there is a known or recognisable reason for how you’re feeling.

As I said, it doesn’t hurt to ask this question once: sometimes knowing why you feel as you do can take all the pressure to “not feel this way” and can stop us from searching for “a reason.”

  1. Finally, DISTRACT. Seriously. 

If there ISN’T a ‘core reason why’, accepting it and not giving it any more of your precious energy and attention is key.

Distractions may include:

  • dance to happy music
  • do 10 press ups
  • play with a pet
  • draw a silly stick-figure doodle
  • count backwards
  • name five things which are green in your environment

If you don’t have a clear reason, then you won’t gain anything else in continuing to focus on the unhelpful feeling.

~

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Empowerment & Seeking

Dealing with Criticisms: The New Year’s Resolution

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions. Then I used to spend December reflecting and consolidating the year gone, ready to plan “thorough goals” for the new year. Then I stepped back, and chose a “Word for the Year” instead. Finally, I used a guiding word to ‘theme’ my goals for the year, broken into sections.

But equally, I see all this “Forget the new year, it’s meaningless.”

So I’m beginning this post with a disclaimer (and a free worksheet at the bottom to help you find out which method works for you).

You do not need to wait for New Year’s Day to have a fresh start.
If you find the buzz and shared support of the community starting all together helpful, Go For It.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to make change.
And telling other people what will or won’t work for them doesn’t benefit anyone.

Right. Now we’re clear on that.

~

That was kind of the point of this post, but it’ a tad short. So here’s a little reflection on what works for me. Maybe it’ll be useful to some of you.

The Revelation

In 2011, I chose the word “Strength” to guide my year. By February, I had split this into 3 categories: Sprint/Mind, Energy/Diet and Exercise/Physical. But what made this year the most powerful for me in terms of the results, wasn’t in what I achieved. It was about the motivation to carry the word with me throughout the year.

So many statistics talk about how many people give up on resolutions by the end of January. But I reviewed Strength every single month, and somehow, managed to do *something* for each category each month.

How To Stay Motivated

This is not a new concept, but until I’d seen it work in my life, I didn’t really take the idea on board. It’s somethign that threads all the way through Danielle LaPorte‘s Firestarter Sessions and Desire Map [Affiliated], it’s an underlying theme of creating a vision board, or using the law of attraction and visualisation.

For many of us, motivation is not driven by an end goal of accomplishment, but rather a sense of being: an experience of feeling.

At the beginning of 2011, I wrote out a little paragraph about why I’d chosen Strength as my word.

Inspiration Leads to Desire

Without bringing the tone of this post down, I grew up in an environment which primed me to fear being weak.

So in a way, this had a deep underlying factor. I wanted to be a “skilled, strong woman. To have the knowledge and ability to heal, teach and advise. I want to train my mind-body connection.” 

Even reading that back, I get slight chills.

I thought back to the heroes of my childhood: Piper Halliwell, Xena the Warrior Princess, the Amazon Myrina from Theresa Tomlinson’s series. I am called toward my ‘personal quest’ of being the advisor; the medicine woman; the teacher and guide.

I’ve talked before about building a strong motivation for change, and this is where I really learned that lesson first-hand.

If aiming for a set accomplishment or goal doesn’t work for you, or if you don’t KNOW where you want to b at the of end of 2018, this might be something to try:

Find the core desired feeling or value you want to have.

One of my clients spoke about wanting to map her potential, but not knowing which direction was right, and not knowing how the destination might look. So we spent a session focused on the values that had guided her to now, and how she wanted to feel in the coming months.

When I look at 2018, I’m focused on the ‘attributes’ I admire. On the values I really… well, value. I focus on how I want to feel.

For now, I’m just reflecting on this year, reminding myself of these motivations, and giving myself space to wonder where 2018 could lead. Focused on the possibilities of how I could experience it.

~

If you are goals-oriented, or you’re clear on those attributes and want make a solid plan, pick up my free worksheet on successful goal making which combines these methods. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up for the Successful Goal Setting Worksheets!

Reflection & Patterns

Conquer Self-Development with the Right Practice For You

When it comes to self-development advice, we’re bombarded. Even I have a bundle of worksheets to help people find the tools which actually work for them. 

One thread comments on the importance of setting actionable goals. Another strand emphasises the role of visualisation and acting ‘as if.’ A third route professes the strength behind gratitude and just letting things naturally form in their own way: finding the opportunities and just saying Yes.

In reality, this is as useful as writing advice. The secret really is elusive amidst all the various advice and opinions:

What works is the tool or technique which ends up with you doing the thing.

Some writers need to plan ahead, to plot out the scenes and follow the map. Others find themselves inspired by hitting each crossroad and making the directional decision once they reach it. Some writers wake at 5am and do 3 solid hours of writing a day. Others stay up late, getting the words out in short, 15-minute bursts.

As for dieters, you know yourself best. I can easily stop eating chocolate by not having it in the house. I may crave it, but I’ll find honey or cocoa powder in a protein bar meets the need fine. However, if I have a 5-pack of chocolate bars in the house, I can’t just have 1 at a time. It’s not how I work.

In terms of self-development, the same rule applies.

Do What Works For You.

Now, this is mostly frustrating because at the beginning, its trial and error. And that includes that forbidden F-word: failure.

But equally, knowing which tools to try can be daunting. We’d all like to fail the fewest times possible before finding success, right?

The thing most people forget to do in this process, is Review each technique. Think back to the last goal or habit you attempted.

What ‘technique’ did you use:

  • an all-or-nothing approach
  • a well-planned strategy
  • small-but-steady steps of change
  • on-a-whim decisions
  • something else?

And did it work for you, this time?

Through reflecting on what worked for you, you’ll be able to learn which techniques are worth trying again.

Of course, we all change, and different situations may require approaches: but having an idea of what progress does or doesn’t look like for you, will speed up the process in both achieving your goals, and changing course as you notice things aren’t working.

It’s not the answer people necessarily want, but in reality, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We are all unique, and reflecting on our uniquity is the best way to discover what will lead us to the best results when it comes to self improvement.

 

Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!