Navigating Madness

If we thought the world was mad before, COVID-19 has bought us to a new level of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, overload and what sometimes looks like madness. Lack of certainty and the consequences of fear have engulfed us worldwide. But don’t underestimate the importance of this time for affecting change.

We are tested daily by not understanding or knowing what the outcome of this pandemic and its ramifications will look like. Our collective anxiety around health, economics and survival is skyrocketing. Uncertainty about when the pandemic is going to stop and what we will be left with when it’s over. And on a very personal level, the safety of Aged Care facilities, concern about economic survival, including our investments and our fears for our children’s and grandchildren’s futures. 

Constant uncertainty feeds anxiety. But we still wake up every day and steer our way through what’s in front of us. Let’s not underestimate our individual strength and courage and our collective strength and influence. 

How can we connect to a hopeful future? How can we tune into confidence for the future? How can we collectively ride the wave through this? 

We need to become more resilient and hopeful. Now is the time for radical hopefulness. Hope is the ability to believe in the possibility of a better future. Hope is optimism and action engaged. Optimism on its own won’t cut it, we need to do something with our optimism. 

Many people are helping others in this time of pandemic, reaching out and speaking up more clearly about what they want from the world in the future. One where we can care for each other, look after our community and care lovingly for ourselves.

Our action can be a subtle or as big as we are comfortable with, but each of us can find more ways to be resilient and hopeful. Every little bit of caring for our community, our environment, and our families helps. 

Think big but start small.

This article first appeared in Your Life Choices, Friday 4th September, 2020.

Expectations

Letting go of expectations a tricky one to understand. How can we have goals but let go of our expectations of the goal? Being a goal setter and a visualiser since my teens, I found the difference lies in detaching from a particular outcome. 

Detachment is a vital part of goal-setting and visualisation, and yet it appears to be a paradox. Writing goals and creating a detailed plan of action with completion dates is essential, but I’m suggesting that, once set, to detach from a specific outcome. This allows for a vital element, creativity, to be ignited. 

Undue or fixed and over-determined attachment to a specific result or solution can inhibit creativity. Creativity occurs when there is an abundance of possible solutions and results; strong attachment to a specific outcome may blank out the possibilities of something even better happening. 

Detachment from the timeframe is important too. Sometimes the goal will manifest sooner than anticipated, sometimes later. Don’t give up because a goal hasn’t materialised on cue. 

Detaching from the outcome means that we remain committed to our goal, but release energy from the exact outcome. When we get locked into a precise outcome, we may not see an opportunity that comes out of left field, or the need to go in a different direction. If we keep our mind open to access creativity, we may achieve an even better outcome. 

Creativity is about allowing the magic in. Look around and notice the coincidences, and  the serendipity in this world. I use this magic every day to create the material that goes on my social media stream. I never know in advance what I will be writing about. I find a picture that resonates, then write about what it means to me on that day. My goal is to write a short article, but I allow for it to look or express itself differently than any expectation I may have. 

Self Care and Covid19

As COVID-19 takes hold, the way we live has changed indefinitely. Every family in Australia has been affected. As businesses close leading to mass job losses, families are struggling financially. Parents are living with the overwhelming fear of not being able to support their families. Emotionally, we are challenged by being asked to stay in our homes, away from family and friends, creating a sense of loss as families are isolated from parents and grand-parents. And the pervasive threat of the time bomb of the COVID-19 virus hangs over our heads. 

The stress and anxiety we are all feeling is real. 

If we fight against the reality of this virus, it hurts. Everything is close to home at the moment. Stress and anxiety are skyrocketing and freaking us out as a nation.

What are our commonalities as human beings right now? Our level of fear, dread, grief, heartache, panic, anguish, hopelessness, anxiety and the need to feel safe brings us together. In the past we have been told to think we need more security, more money, more success, to work harder, have a bigger house, to have a greener house, be a better parent, lose weight or be more organised and everything will be OK. But it’s not. 

Human beings think on average 100,000 or more thoughts a day; many of them are repeats of thoughts of the day before. We need to create new neural pathways in our brain – those stimulated by gratitude, kindness, optimism, cheerfulness, buoyancy and hope. When we think more hopeful thoughts, our bodies release dopamine and serotonin, two types of neurotransmitters that relax the nervous system. Both of these chemicals are linked with happiness.  

And be aware of our self-talk. It’s often not what’s happening that causes the problem, it’s what we say to ourselves about the event, because our self-talk usually takes the problem up a rung, whereas being in the moment takes things down a rung.

What we really need is to care for ourselves better and let our worried minds have a rest. Stop constantly accessing the news or having it on as background noise; at least take it down a couple of notches. Being hammered with the same event over and over again is not healthy. Rolf Dobelli’s recent book, Stop Reading the News is a manifesto of creating a happier, calmer and wiser life. Spending time in the outdoors, reading more, meditating, experiencing art and literature, these are the things that nurture our hearts and make us more peaceful and wise. How can we possibly benefit from seeing tragic events up close and personal duplicated on screens and social media? 

Develop a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. If you feel yourself falling into apprehension, when the fatigue of anxiety deepens, practical suggestions include, first recognising this state. Then calming yourself, stepping away from the area if things are getting too stressful. 

We need to be clear with ourselves and those around us about the difference between the things we can control and those we can’t and get cracking on the ones that are within our control. My daughter has a “feeling” seat in the garden. A place where she can go and feel her feelings of anxiety, anger, worry and fear. She may ask someone to sit with her, but not try to fix her. Just to hold her while she sits in the feelings. And when she feels any kind of small shift, she then connects with her five senses, bringing herself into the moment by noticing five things she can see around her, naming four things she can feel, three things she can hear, and identifies two things she can smell. Finally, she recalls one good thing about herself before she gets on with what she was doing.

Stop thinking about things that you are not prepared, or not able to do anything about. Turn off the television, have a break from your screens, re-runs of the day’s events are not necessarily in perspective and stepping them up is unhealthy and causes further angst and anxiety. 

Compassion is activated when we feel empathy for another person. It’s important to be able to care deeply for another, but not at the expense of caring for ourselves. It’s a healthy option to support others from a base line of deeply supporting ourselves. 

Create distinct internal boundaries of what you will and won’t do. Being clear in your mind about your values and live and reflect these in your behaviour. The only viable state is to give from a position of strength rather than giving from burnout and fatigue. Think: ‘What can I do right now that is going to have a positive effect on me and those around me?’ It is only sustainable to support and give to others based on having already supported and given to yourself. Self-sacrifice is not sustainable.

We’re all going to have to evolve if we’re to become the people who can navigate the turbulent waters of COVID-19 and steer our world into safer waters. Let’s support each other in doing that. This is not a time for giving in, but for managing ourselves through the weariness by build personal strength through having a healthy toolkit and finding hope.

Is It True?

These are the words most spoken by teacher Byron Katie in her work with others. 

About 28 years ago when I was struggling with a fractured relationship with my stepson, my friend Adrien asked me this question and three more: Can you absolutely know it’s true? How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? And, Who would you be without that thought?

A week doesn’t go by without me using the Byron Katie tools (wwwthework.com) to help me find some peace in everyday living. When I need to come back to myself and find the part of the problem that belongs to me, it’s Byron I turn to.

This morning I scrolled her website to glean some insight into something that’s been bothering me. I clicked onto a YouTube interview with her and Lewis Howes. Nearing the end of the interview, Lewis asks Byron if she had to take all of her work with her when she died and was only able to leave three messages behind, what they would be? Her answer: 1. All problems are imagined. 2. The Universe is friendly. 3. It’s obvious to anyone with an open mind to see. While I don’t profess to understand the depth of meaning to her three statements, I can marshal a small inkling to what those words mean to me.

This initiated me to question what I would leave behind. Easy to be flippant and say – drink great wine, laugh long and hard, and remember to clean your teeth. Truth in all of these, but my deeper answer for today is: 1. Find your talent. 2. Get off your arse. 3. Enjoy the ride.

People often tell me they don’t have a particular talent, so I ask them what gives them great pleasure? From there they are able to navigate their way back to their innate creativity. Creativity isn’t some lofty practice, if you are a problem solver, you’re already highly creative. Every time you come up with a new idea or solution to a problem, the creative process is activated.

Even though I have written thirty books, I don’t see myself as a highly talented writer. That’s where number two comes in: Get off your arse. Several years ago, at a screenwriting Summer School at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, I meet Steve a very talented writer. Where most of us struggled over the words we had chosen for our scenes, he seamlessly wrote great copy first go. It was a privilege to see such unbridled talent in action.

Over the coming years, a handful of us kept in contact. We sent each other our work, supporting and encouraging each other. Not long into our collective journey Steve dropped out of the group, said he didn’t have what it takes and slid into the hospitality industry. It was then I realised that everyone doesn’t have the drive and the determination to keep going. 

I believe that if we have even the smallest talent for something, we have to champion this for ourselves every day. Some creatives are a bit precious saying, ‘I’m the artist, it’s not up to me to advocate my work.’ Really? If we don’t believe in it and strive to support it to find its home, then how can we expect others to?

Which brings me to number three: Enjoy the ride. When interviewed about his life view, actor Barry Humphries said, ‘I’m just looking forward to the next wonderful thing to happen.’ These words of hope have sustained me through many difficult periods in my life. Through applying our talent, big or small, we can learn, grow and move forward with greater strength, personal power and enjoyment. 

Do You Suffer From Anxiety?

 

I’m pretty excited to have just sent off my 30th book to my publisher today. It’s hard to let go of something I have such passion for, to let someone else take it to the next level. This baby has been with me for over seven months, reading or writing this book has been my everyday companion. (more…)

What’s this gratitude thing all about?

I walk in gratitude every day for my creative spirt, for the ability to continue on my creative journey of writing, painting, learning and loving. By that I mean I am thankful for everything I create and experience. I don’t wait for greatness to happen to be grateful, I’m happy for the smallest things; sunshine, my morning chai, a paragraph written with ease or bother, this blog, the way my legs move when I get out of bed, my family, hot water; you can see where I’m going with this. (more…)