Category Archives for "Simplicity"

A simple gratitude practice

Ever tried writing a gratitude journal? It's a beautiful idea - every day, take a few minutes to write down 3 things you're grateful for. After all, it is not happiness which necessarily makes us grateful; but rather gratitude which makes us happy.

The struggle I have with this practice is that I am a person who lives very much in my mind. For much of my life it has seemed that my body is barely attached to my awareness at all, and my emotions rise to my conscious noticing from time to time before receding beyond my thoughts again. This means that I sit there writing the things I think I must be grateful for, rather than the things I feel grateful for. I fill reams with these lists, while remaining unmoved myself.

If you find that this familiar gratitude practice is enough for you to increase your mindfulness and happiness, then that is wonderful. Stick to it. But if journalling feels like a chore or writing lists keeps you stuck in your mind, then consider this simple variation on gratitude.

  • as you lie in bed before sleep, turn your mind to reflect on the people and events you are grateful for from that day and more broadly
  • expand on the details of the reasons for your gratitude until you fall asleep
  • during the day, focus on the people  you feel grateful towards 
  • cog
    pick one specific person and find a way to communicate your gratitude to them - a text, email or card expressing what they mean to you is guaranteed to make their day and expand your happiness, and takes no longer than writing a gratitude list

This practice of not just identifying our gratitude but also expanding and expressing it ensures that you get out of your head and into the emotion of gratitude. The side effect? You get to make someone else's day too.

Let me know in the comments - how will you express your gratitude today?

Are you feeling unsupported?

When my unborn child's heart stopped beating I remember a scream echoing through the clinic. Vaguely I was aware that it was my scream, but all I knew was that I had to get home. Get to my room. Crawl into bed. 

I stayed there for ages. Maybe it was two weeks - I have no idea. Sometimes there was a gap in the silence where I raged, and had to trust my husband to keep us both safe. Mostly, it was silent. 

A few people came over. I am not even sure if I said anything that made sense, but I was deeply grateful and it was a relief to feel gratitude amongst waves of anger, bitterness and grief. Many people didn't come over. For a long time this seemed as horrifying as anything else.

But then something else happened. The space and quiet led me to a deep place of meditation, prayer and connection that I've carried with me since. New insights about my life and new dreams began to emerge. When we're not spreading ourselves too far, we have the chance to dig deeper.

Sometimes you may find yourself in the midst of the unthinkable, and feeling alone. It can feel like trying to remember which way to swim while being thrown by a massive wave. We would do anything for something to hold onto until the waves subside enough to swim again.

If this is you, my heart is full of love for you. And know that there will be something to hold on to. We can't always rely on people knowing how to be there for us, or having the emotional bandwidth for it. Since my experience I've seen many people comment that they "declutter" friends who don't show up for them. I think there is room for a different approach.

Take care of your self

When we are suffering or struggling, people will often say to us "Take care of your self". But what does that even mean? Here are the ways I offer you to provide yourself the care you need:

  • Allow yourself to retreat and nurse your wounds. Cry. Curl up in bed and sleep. Surround yourself with soft pillows and warm blankets. 
  • Feed yourself nutritious comfort foods. Try to avoid eating rubbish - because that's how it makes you feel. But don't punish yourself if you do. Be gentle and kind like you would to a precious friend. If it's too overwhelming to contemplate shopping and cooking, order a supermarket delivery of ready made casseroles and soups and the healthiest least processed things you can find. Or get a meal delivery service. If you know someone who loves cooking, ask if they'd make a large pot of soup for you. Many people would love to know something constructive they can do to support you. Stock up on gentle soothing herbal teas.
  • Express what's on your heart. If your friends aren't showing up for talking things through, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or similar services where you live, or book in to talk to a psychologist or counsellor. But one way or another, find someone to talk to. And pick up a pen - journalling is another way to express your thoughts and feelings. Don't censor yourself, just pour your soul onto the page. If you want to, burn the pages later to symbolise releasing the emotions.
  • heart-o
    Be comforted through touch. Instinctively we want someone we love to hug us or hold our hand when we struggle. If you are not with people you love, wrap your arms around yourself, wrap up in soft warm clothes, have a magnesium salt bath, get a massage.
  • heart-o
    When you can, make a list of what else you're needing and find ways to have these needs met.
  • heart-o
    Allow silence and aloneness to be a time to look within, practice mindfulness meditation, gentle yoga asanas, prayer and journalling. When you are ready, begin a gratitude practice.
  • heart-o
    Hold space for yourself. If you are feeling alone and fragile, sit and begin nurturing yourself. Place one hand over your heart, and the other over your belly. See this as a symbol for giving yourself kindness. Sit this way and allow your breathing to calm and deepen. Notice the movement over your chest and your belly as you breath. Sit giving yourself this kindness until a sense of calm is present within.

Hold your friendships lightly

It's easy to feel disillusioned if you thought your friends would turn up in the tough times and they don't. And when you reflect on some of these friendships you may see that it was unhealthy or one-way. But don't assume your friends don't care about you. Keep in mind that people show their love in different ways, and some don't know how to give you the support you need. 

  • Make a list of your friends, in writing if you can, or just in your mind. As you consider each friend, consider what is actually on offer. Rather than feeling disappointed that your best friend isn't visiting with casseroles, or your mum isn't ringing you up to ask how you feel, ask yourself if this is the kind of thing they do anyway. What do they offer in your friendship? If your best friend is great for a laugh and for watching old movies together, ask that from her. And if your mum is better at hugs than heart to hearts, accept her hug
  • Provide your closest friends with a bit of education and honesty about what you're going through. Don't make them guess. And although it feels infuriating that people don't automatically turn up, on the days when you have the capacity, tell them what would help. 
  • Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Just because someone didn't visit, didn't mean they didn't care. Notice the ways people DO show love, even if it's not the way you really wanted. Live in the grace of letting people show love and letting yourself receive it, in many forms.
  • heart-o
    Find your new tribe - the people who have been through the same thing and get it. Whether it's a local support group or a Facebook group, there are people out there that will help you feel part of a community again. Allow yourself to open up as it feels safe to, and find the understanding you crave. Hold the awareness of the risk of some communities remaining stuck in this one event, and find those that feel like healthy supports.
  • heart-o
    Remember that even if your friends haven't been through the same event as you, they have had many of the same feelings. You may feel no one understands your experience, but be assured someone will understand anger, grief, loneliness, sadness, fatigue or apathy.

I hope you find something on this page to hold on to. Let me know in the comments below which strategy you'll be trying, or perhaps a new way you might show up for a friend. 

How multitasking can decrease stress

Back in the day multi tasking was the way we were all going to become efficient goal achievers. Only problem was, we got burnt out, and multitasking was in the bad books.

Then, single tasking became the way we were all going to live in a state of mindfulness and flow. 

Only - have you ever noticed how days seem to be getting busier? And it's hard to fit in work, family, personal transformation, fitness, nutritious meal preparation, connecting with loved ones, maintaining a home, financial paperwork... aaargh. Who manages juggling all this and approaches eahc task with flow?

I used to have perfectionist standards when it came to my own personal growth. I tried to work out how to fit in journalling three pages each morning with an hour of meditation per day, an hour of yoga and reading inspirational works. I'm sure I could have managed it, if only I'd given up my studies, job and friends. My approach to mindfulness was burning me out.

Now I see things differently. I see one minute of meditation as a triumph, that you meditated. I see yoga while listening to a business training as inspiring. When I fell into the habit of taking my daughter driving to get her to sleep (I am very forgiving of my shortcomings as a mama - my methods are imperfect but my love is perfect is my mantra) I listened to audiobooks at the same time.

So there's a benefit of multitasking - when we do it mindfully, for optimum benefit not out of a frenetic attempt to do more, more, more. Sometimes doing things small means we get to do them, when waiting for perfection means they don't happen at all. And sometimes fitting the personal growth, fitness and spiritual practice into our day means we live from a place of inspiration rather than frustration.

Here's how I use multitasking mindfully:

  • 1
    Pair up a task that can be done on autopilot, with one that stimulates the mind or soul. This might be listening to a lecture or audiobook while driving, meditating while commuting to work by train, or saying your affirmations while taking a shower.
  • 2
    See the worth in practicing a new healthy habit in tiny increments. Jog on the spot while you wait for the kettle to boil. Recite a mantra for the duration of a commercial break. 
  • 3
    Lying in bed waiting for sleep is a great time to meditate. Sure, people preach that you should try not to sleep while meditating but the way I see it, any meditation is great, and if it helps you sleep even better.
  • 4
    If you finding yourself waiting for a friend, or in a queue or waiting room for an appointment, have a book, notebook for sketching or mind mapping, meal planner or knitting at the ready to feel like the time has been well used. If you find yourself without something to do, consider it an opportunity to practice mindful breathing and grounding visualisation rather than sitting there tapping your foot in frustration.

The difference with multi tasking this time round is it's not about cramming in as much as possible to get as far as possible. This time, consider the goal fitting in things that matter and making slow schedule adjustments until you find your sense of balance and flow.

I'd like to hear from you - do you have practices you haven't found time to do perfectly so they haven't happened at all? And how could you fit in something nourishing in a small increment or a multitask?

If you want to create shifts in your life and the cookie-cutter strategies haven't been working for you - try a personal transformation package, tailor-made just for you.

Make your own sugar scrub

The basics of sugar scrub

Sugar scrub is the easiest thing in the world. And the cheapest. It also leaves skin silky smooth and moisturised.

The principles of making a sugar scrub is just to combine oil and sugar in equal proportions. Adjust to preferred consistency. And if you want to get fancy, natural spices or essential oils - provided they're safe to use directly on the skin - add extra benefits and a great fragrance without the hormone disruption of the artificial stuff.

My Sugar and Spice Scrub

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup macadamia oil

1 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (warming and cleansing)

Combine the oil and sugar in a bowl. Adjust the sugar: oil ratio to your preference.

Add the vanilla and cinammon.

Place scrub into clean glass jar. 

To use: apply and scrub over body before shower or bath. Please note: this scrub is messy so use IN shower or bath! Also, it makes surfaces slippery so take care.

Wash as normal. Enjoy your glowing skin!

Simplify your schedule

For many years I followed the slightly disturbing maxim "If you've bitten off more than you can chew, chew faster. Unsurprisingly, I drank a lot of energy drinks and lived on junk food in those days. My energy was propped up on caffeine, sugar and adrenaline. Why, hello burnout, I didn't see you come in...

Burnout teaches us a lot if we pay attention. It teaches us to seek fulfilment rather than constantly needing stimulation. Because when we seek stimulation, the line between boredom and stress gets way too thin, and the slightest unforeseen thing can swing us past our breaking point.

If you find your schedule is stretched beyond your capacity, create some breathing room in these steps:

  • 1
    Write down all your regular tasks and commitments. Mark all the ones which drain you rather than energising you.
  • 2
    Decide which can be cut out altogether. Or cut back in frequency or volume. Perhaps you can rethink what gets ironed, or whether you want to stop being on some committees or attending a meeting that goes nowhere.
  • 3
    Look for where you can automate. Have clients schedule their appointments directly with your calendar rather than going back and forth. 
  • 4
    Learn to delegate. Yes, that person won't do it the way you do. But they will work it out and you can do something better with the time you free up. Kids can help out more at home. Services can be brokered out. Call in the troops!
  • 5
    Where a task or commitment needs to stay with you, or you choose to keep it, find ways to make it streamlined and efficient. Or find ways to make it more meaningful or pleasant. This may mean having shopping home delivered for efficiency, or shopping at a farmer's market to make it more pleasant. Perhaps do like tasks together for efficiency, or listen to an inspiring podcast.
  • 6
    When you're doing an activity, keep your mind focused and do nothing else. Thinking of the next ten things on your plate as you try to focus on the one in front of you is a sure way to exhaust yourself. Instead, write a note to yourself if you need to remember something later, but otherwise immerse yourself wholly in your task and consider the task in front of you to be your mindfulness practice. When we immerse ourselves we get the task done in a state of flow which maintains our energy rather than exhausting it.

I'd like to hear from you - which of these ways of practicing simplicity calls to you? How will you implement one into your day? And if this topic is one you'd like more resources to address, check out my free guide to Reclaim Your Me Time.

Minimalism

I think I had a minimalist in me from the beginning. I remember even as a kid, wanting to stay home to sort my messy bedroom into order when my friends would be knocking on the door to play. I have a natural tendency towards disorganisation, and an equally natural one towards wanting to find simplicity, ease and essentialism amongst the chaos.

 In exploring ways to create meaning in my everyday life and live below my burnout threshold, I discovered that keeping life in all its aspects - possessions, time, relationships, pursuits, socialising, career etc - simple was pivotal. I stumbled across blogs through downloading Flipboard onto my iPad back when that was a cool and innovative concept, and one of the first topics to leap out at me was that of mimimalism. Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker and Courtney Carver were early inspiration, later The Minimalists joined the ranks as did Marie Kondo.

Language becomes important and powerful when we discuss embracing changes of lifestyle. At first the term minimalism was the only one I had for these ideas. And it's true that not all the minimalist blogs have the same benchmark exactly - some bloggers reduce their possessions to 100, their items of clothing to 33, their home to a tiny house etc. These stories captured my imagination. However, apart from the occasional fantasy of owning a tiny home (as my husband said, "Where will we put the wedding presents?"), what it boiled down to for me was keeping life simple, being minimalist in possessions while giving myself the freedom to go at my own pace, and creating space for what was essential for thriving in a meaningful life of my own creation.  I hold all these terms loosely, and allow the interpretation of what that means for my life to flow with the changes. I have no real desire to be minimalist in enjoying my baby for example -I rejoice in the adorable outfits, the snuggly blankets, the cute toys all as expressions of love and support and joy from others in welcoming our little girl. Gradually we will find our balance.

One thing is for sure - this journey needs inspiration and support. Enter The Minimalists' recent speaking tour and their book (affiliated)  Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.

Their tour came at the perfect point in time, my sisters and I needed a night out together and what better way then to eat tapas and discuss what gives life meaning and creates ease? A favourite reminder from the evening was to focus on the why of what we do - if we are truly inspired by what something will do for our lives, the what and how will take care of themselves. This was balancing to my sometimes action-focused approach to simplicity. Questions and answers were poignant, baffling, funny (Australians laugh at everything) and reaffirming. Their classic quote reignited something within me, "Love people and use things, because the opposite never works".

Reading their work provided something more solid and tangible to accompany me along the actual journey. We are reminded to pursue meaning in our lives, and that aligning our short-term actions with our long-term values leads us to living purposefully.

My practical steps that I took from the book are:

1. Look within to discover what the "anchors" are in your life - the things keeping you stuck

2. After this honest audit, take action to remove these. Start with the easiest if you need to, but start.

3. Avoid "shoulds" which keep us powerless. The Minimalists recommend determining our "musts" for a meaningful life in the areas of health, relationships, passions, growth and contribution

4. Take small actions each day for these areas of life, to radically improve your life over time

The book then explores each of these in turn and a 21 day journey into beginning with minimalism in a style that is both simple and compelling. Occasionally I find their habit of referring to themselves in the third person and the presentation of themselves almost as a single entity as a bit grating, but really this is their creative choice and fades into insignificance compared with their grounded wisdom.

If the idea of living a more minimalist way of life instinctively calls to you as one of the paths out of stress and discontent then I highly recommend that you catch these guys on their next speaking event or have a read of their book.

And I'd love to discuss with you these juicy topics - what anchors do you need to let go of? What are your musts for a meaningful life? And what are you going to do about it?

Surfing the Overwhelm

My childhood summers were carefree ones. I stayed with my best friend at her beach house, and we spent our days running barefoot to the beach, taping (yep, it was that long ago!) songs from the radio and learning to bodyboard.

It took some practice. The waves were big enough to dump us, leaving us disorientated and not knowing which way was up. We had to learn to anticipate the wave as it came, to know when to jump on, and to paddle hard enough to stay afloat.

Overwhelm can feel like this. It's certainly a powerful enough experience to completely disorientate us, to leave us gasping and not sure how we might get through to the other side. But like a wave, we can learn to ride it. I've been dumped by the waves of overwhelm before, and know that enough waves one after the other can lead to longer term stress, anxiety and burnout. Learning to ride overwhelm is pivotal to staying afloat in our lives.

First, we need to become better at seeing it coming. For me, it creeps in by stealth through coping strategies like escapist TV/ social media, craving junk foods or feeling tired at the thought of what I feel I need to do. I now know these are my warning signs, and use them as a cue to cut back on projects and expectations, prioritise sleep and keep life simple.

Next, we learn our limits. I used to say that I had only 2 states at work - boredom or overwhelm. I always wanted more projects, more working parties and more clients to stay engaged and excited. But it was the finest line between engagement and becoming stressed and counter-productive. Too many projects and this adrenaline-junkie approach to life is intertwined with stress. The answer is not boredom! It lies in engaging more deeply rather than more broadly. Instead of flitting over 100 projects, deeply connect to a handful. Be present and practice mindfulness to draw fulfilment from life, rather than the pursuit of shiny objects.

We practice ​managing the expectations of others. I used to assume that those in both my personal and professional life expected me to bend over backwards for them, the way I expected this from myself. So imagine my surprise after a period of grief and burnout, when I set new limits in all my key relationships and no one battered an eyelid. Try it for yourself, you'll be amazed how the world keeps turning as before.

And finally, I surgically removed the word "should" from my vernacular. True, it tends to grow back from time to time, but I just cut it out more vigorously than before. If you take nothing else, try at least this. A large part of overwhelm lies within our own thoughts. When we remove the "shoulds" from our thinking, we allow ourselves room to fall short, to breathe, to be gentle to ourselves.​

When we do these things, we see the wave becomes smaller and more manageable as it rolls towards us. We find strength to paddle, and may even enjoy the ride.​

If you'd like to reclaim your time and ​learn to surf the overwhelm, I have a great 3 day video program, completely free for you below. And I'd love to hear from you - which of these strategies will you be using to surf the overwhelm? Let me know below! xo