May The Force Be with You

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. ~ Alice Walker

Sometimes it is hard to remember that we write our own stories.

Life throws curve balls however as much as it may seem like the external world can bring us down, ultimately we each have the power to define ourselves and the life we lead. The question is whether we choose to use it, or not.

Having felt totally out of wack lately I once again found myself confronted by the fear of losing myself again. In the toughest of moments it is so hard to see the wood for the trees. Your thoughts are your own worst enemy. You want to run away, hide from the world. You hope that when you next open your eyes things will be different, that horrible sinking feeling gone and it will be a new day.

How do You make it through in one piece?

There is no quick fix, that’s for sure. Whether you are battling with depression, anxiety, rejection, loss, grief, lacking in direction or more, the only person who can bring you back from it is you. There is never one way, and it is different for each of us but this is what has brought me back this past week.

I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become. ~ Carl Jung 

Stop and Accept

It is okay to not be okay. We all need to be gentle with ourselves at times. There is no shame in admitting we’re not okay, to ourselves and to others. It is all too easy to keep going. We distract ourselves, tell ourselves to keep going but deep down inside all is not well. We have to stop and accept what has happened.

Talk

I have never opened up to people the way in which I have this past week or two. It was the best thing I could have done. We tend to think people will judge us the harsh ways in which we judge ourselves, not true. It is at times like this where you find out how awesome people really are. Be brave, be bold and even if it is just to one person say it out loud, “I am not okay.” People will surprise you.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Avoid procrastination and escapism

Eeek, this one is hard. Dwelling on the past and going over and over every minute detail of your day is bad news folks. Reliving every time you have felt rejected or believed you failed is a big no no. No drink, drugs, excessive shopping, meaningless sex, over working or anything else that enables you to avoid facing reality and ultimately leaves you feeling ten times worse. Be gentle with yourself. Be present. Be realistic about what is going on right now and don’t allow the past and past behaviours to creep back in.

Accept help

It is all too easy to be proud and to try and manage by yourself, however you do not have to be alone. I spent years battling by myself and I wish someone had told me this at the time. Let go and allow others to  help you. Whether family, friends, or therapists, there are people out there who will support you.

I’m stronger because of the hard times, wiser because of my mistakes, and happier because I have known sadness. ~ Unknown

Do what makes you feel good

This one is entirely personal. After time in nature I feel a zillion times better. Dogs never fail to make me smile. Inspiring quotes give me a boost. Cheese and chocolate bring comfort, as do bubble baths and fluffy blankies. I have my healer on speed dial and my gratitude diary at hand. Whatever it is that makes you feel safe, comforted and cared for do it. You’re worth it.

See the humour

Find things which make you laugh and when you are ready you will smile.

Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Living with Mental Illness

I forget that I am mentally ill more often than I like to admit. But I am, aren’t I?

The diagnosis, the drugs and my own words confirm it, yet how do I forget?

I haven’t been sick for a while now so when it hit me last week it was like a hurricane. It nearly took my head off and tore my heart apart.

I have known for a while now that I have to manage my ‘triggers’, but what are they? To the best of my knowledge I have narrowed them down to (1) extreme stress and (2) extreme excitement (this one’s a toughie, as I get excited about absolutely everything, no matter how big or small).

The problem that has arisen is that while I had identified my triggers I hadn’t put anything in place to manage them, and identifying them alone is evidently not sufficient. One might say, it has been a total fucking howler.

Trying to explain what a bipolar low, or high, is like may not be possible but I’ll give it a shot.

It’s in my head, everything is in my head. It literally feels like the weight of the world is trapped in my head. I honestly think it may explode with the pressure. I can’t focus but I fight against it. Now my head is rushing, as if on drugs. Hours pass like minutes and I achieve nothing. Paranoia sets in and I think everyone can see that I am falling apart. Suddenly I am not me anymore.

This time I am trying so hard to manage it. I should have walked away when it hit, I know this now. Had I removed myself from the initial situation and triggers maybe, just maybe, I could have prevented the spiraling episode that ensued.

I now haven’t slept properly for two weeks. I got so drunk I can’t remember getting home. I can’t think straight. I cry everyday. I am still not myself. My resilience is now almost non existent. I am so fragile I may break. I begin to hate myself. This is not me.

But it is me, and this is my life.

I write about surviving mental illness and being in recovery but sometimes you just have to exist and get through the days. Right now this is how I am living, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. It is really hard.

I debated writing this but I would be a hypocrite if I only wrote about being in recovery when all is fine and dandy, or just reflecting on tough times. I started this site to break down stigma and with some small hope of helping others. Well, this guys is really what it is like living with mental illness. It is painful. It is scary. It fucking sucks.

While my work, friends and family, and of course any reader knows, I am very open about my condition. However, speaking up when you are ill is another matter. I feel pathetic. I feel a failure. I fear that everyone will see me in a different light. I will lose my job. I will lose friends. I’ll become unloveable, unlikable even. This is what I fear. I feel ashamed.

These past two weeks I have cried in front of colleagues, in front of people I don’t even know that well. I have refused to follow old patterns and I have done everything I can to keep going. I have been honest. I have shown up everyday and I have said “I am not in a good place”. Do you know what, not one single person has made me feel anything less than supported and cared for.

So, if you’re reading this and can relate I want to give you hope that confiding in people could be the best thing you may do today. Without it I may not have shown up for work or even for life this week. I could so easily have just curled up in a ball and hidden from the world once more. But I didn’t.

Through speaking up and not giving up I am getting there, albeit very slowly. I am learning to live with mental illness. It is not easy and it may never be but this it. This is me and this is my life.

I am scared. I am scared one day an episode may be too much for me, so I just focus on today. I am scared that no one will ever love me, so I focus on those who do and surround myself by them. I am scared I will fail and lose my job, so I focus on my successes. I am scared of so many things.

Underpinning my survival is the fact I speak up and as a result I realise that people care. People will support you. People won’t judge you. People will like you and love you, just as you are.

I am scared to post this, so I remind myself that I am not alone and that the only way to educate and bring about change is to speak up.

Spirituality and Happiness

Russell Brand occasionally gives me a headache but ultimately his unequivocal commitment to the consciousness revolution rocks, and his way with words makes me lol, a lot.

I once had the pleasure of talking to the brilliant Richard Dawkins, who has been called the ‘Abu Hamza of atheism.’ (It was me who called him it, just then.)

Okay so, science is undeniably awesome, right? However, despite all its amazing gifts, can science give us what we really need in this moment of life on Earth? Physically, boom, it’s our rock. Humanity’s core problem is not material, is it. It’s spiritual. Genuinely happy people would not fuck up the world the way in which we do so well. Can people without some degree of spirituality be truly happy? Ergo…

What the heck is spirituality anyway?

Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some of us, it is religion: going to church, synagogue, a mosque, etc. For others, it’s more personal and individual. Some of us get in touch with our spiritual side through prayer, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, music, creativity, long walks, and more.

There is no one definition, but in general, spirituality:

  • is something everyone can experience
  • helps us to find meaning and purpose in the things we value
  • can bring hope and healing in times of suffering and loss
  • encourages us to seek the best relationship with ourselves, others and what lies beyond.

Who doesn’t want that?

Research suggests that people with a sense of spirituality – which can be religious or non-religious – are likely to experience greater happiness and wellbeing. Spirituality can provide us with meaning, a sense of vitality (or aliveness) and a sense of connectedness to others and to ‘something bigger’ beyond our daily lives. People who feel their life has meaning are happier and healthier too. ~ Action for Happiness

The thing is folks spirituality doesn’t need to involve flowers in your hair, dancing naked or myth and mysticism in any form. It doesn’t even have to be linked to organised religion (although people with strong religious faith often experience high levels of well-being, fyi).

Don’t you want to experience inner peace?

Having a spiritual dimension means finding a sense of inner peace – both peace of mind and peace in the heart. It also means allowing our inner values to guide how we interact with the world around us – our concern for others, our connection with the natural world and our interest in making a positive contribution to society. ~ Action for Happiness

What does spirituality mean for you and what role does it, or could it, play in your life?

Have a think about the following questions. Take your time, consider them one by one. You may not know the answers straight away. There’s no rush.

The source of spirituality for you?

  • Where do you experience a sense of spirituality in your life?
  • What or whom do you call on or turn to in times of difficulty?
  • Which people in your life help you think about what spirituality means to you or bring out your best spiritual qualities?
  • What do you hold sacred in your life?
  • When do you feel the presence of the sacred in your life most strongly?
  • When do you feel the sacred is not there?

What has influenced your sense of spirituality?

  • How has your family and religious context shaped your attitudes towards spirituality and religion?
  • How have other key people or events in your life influenced your sense of the spiritual?
  • When it comes down to it what do you believe life is for and why do you believe we are here?

What is your spiritual journey?

  • How have you tried to develop yourself spiritually over the years?
  • What struggles have you encountered along the way?
  • What kinds of transformations have you experienced, if any?
  • What might your next steps be to bring more spirituality into your life?

Based on questions posed by Ken Pargament.

Let’s talk… Compare and Despair: The Power of Social Media with Lucy Sheridan (Proof Coaching)

Lucy Sheridan is the ‘Comparison Coach’. You may recognise her from recent articles in Now and Grazia. She has appeared on Oprah’s show three times and splits her time between the Yorkshire countryside and Brighton but coaches clients around the world.

Lucy’s fresh approach is full of pizazz and geared towards getting You where You want to be.

If you want to get clear, confident and on track with what you want, once and for all, you’re in the right place. 

Meet Lucy Sheridan.

Lucy Proof 003

Why is comparison so controlling in this day and age?

Via the power couple of technology and social media, we have never had more access to content to compare ourselves to which invites opportunities to benchmark, compete and strive for our own made up metrics of success. This means we’re dealing with a ‘Keeping up with Jones’s’ on steroids that our parents will never have experienced. For this reason we find it difficult to focus on ourselves and what we want because we’re constantly drawn to compare and second guess if we’re ‘doing life right’ – for many of us this leave us in a state of analysis paralysis.

Seeing only the showreel of other people’s lives creates the impression we’re the only ones that don’t have it figured out. This leads to feelings of jealousy, isolation, being disconnected and that we just can’t ‘keep up’ or be as good as those people popping up in our feeds.

How has your own personal journey influenced your work? 

Comparison has followed me round for a looooong time – my first distinct memory being observing my parents and what they were like with my baby brother compared to me – needy much?

I have, in the past, damaged my sense of self, emotionally beaten myself up with comparison and social media was my weapon of choice.  Not cool and not very life coachy, is it?

An example being around five years ago, a reunion at my very well to do school served to bring up my comparison ‘self nasties’ in a way I could never have expected. On the day itself I had a blast and was delighted to have connected and caught up with some real lovely girls and boys from that era in my life – the whole day was a real giggle!

Lucy Proof 002Unfortunately, the aftermath I created for myself was not so much fun – with all the renewed friendships came all the new Facebook contacts and, having experienced a very difficult time around that reunion (my partner’s business folded and we lost our house), via comparison, I started to feel really ‘behind’ everyone and a million miles from their perceived wealth and success. I binged on people’s posts and holiday photos and all the while thinking every win for them was a loss for me – like success was a zero sum game.

I became really insecure and looking back, quite obsessive. It was realising the toll it was having on myself and my relationships that led to a wake-up moment that saved me. The silver lining is I have some great friendships from that day but it was landmark in my comparison story. The full gory details are here in a post I came clean with last year. I received so much support afterwards that I felt so silly – when you know better, you do better!

Comparison today will still raise its ugly head with me but occurrences are few and far between! If I do start to silently compete or benchmark with others, or worse, bitch and moan about them, I can quickly get my self focus back through the mantra:

I trust the timing of my life.

How does your work help others?

I get people over the compare and despair of social media and focussed on their own lives – this means each client gains a plan for success on their own terms and also learn how to stop looking over the fences of others. It’s all about authenticity, in that, I help people stop acting from a place of ‘should’ or being a tribute act for someone else’s dream which is exhausting and confusing. There’s always time to create the life you want – we just need impartial support to get there sometimes.

Tell us about your coaching packages?

I love working one on one with clients – one off sessions are available but my most popular way of working with people is via my coaching package The Proof. I also get a lot of joy from speaking at schools or group meet ups to spread the #comparisonfree message!

Why is Social Media so bad for the soul, and WTF do we do about it?

Social Media is bad for the soul because it causes us to look outside of ourselves for answers and wastes the time we could spend investing in ourselves.

It’s not all bad – I love a bit of aspiration and inspiration and I get this in heaps by following people I respect Lucy Proof 009and accessing the brands I buy from or will buy from one day – life should sparkle! However, for many of us we don’t stop at being inspired, rather, we go down a rabbit hole of comparison feeling isolated and jealous of random people we met once as much as our good friends. It can play a big role in creating tension in real life, offline friendships because of the perceived personas we assume online. We’re all caught in our fame bubble and even second guess what to post based on expected likes or shares – in many ways we’re as image conscious as any of the Kardashians!

The ways to combat the dark side of social media are:

  • Notice what you notice: If you can feel your stomach tighten or nerves flare up around certain posts or comments online, then that’s a sign it’s time for action to get you back on track with what YOU want. All positive change starts with awareness and stopping any sort of ‘sleep walking’ behaviour.
  • Clean up your social media feed: Treat your social media channels like your living room – a fun place to relax and hang out. If certain people’s Facebook posts or Instagram feed make you feel inadequate, jealous or not good enough in any way, then it might be time to hide them or unfollow them for a while to allow you to focus more on what you want to do, rather than obsess about other people’s perceived standards, and conforming to those. Cleaning up your feed includes cancelling any notifications that can sabotage your good vibes or distract you from doing something which is worthwhile. Complete this sweep up regularly!
  • Remember the Filter Factor! An Instagram picture will never tell the REAL story – you’re just seeing an often cultivated and practiced presentation of a version of the truth. It’s about as real as Kim Kardashian’s arse on the cover of Paper magazine but we’re quick to forget that when we’re feeling a bit vulnerable. The Filter Factor makes us think everything is sparkly and that other people have it AAALLLL figured out when this is very rarely the case – again if you’re triggered by something you see try unfollowing it for a while
  • Don’t get caught with FOMO: Realise that we simply can’t be at every party, every workshop, every meeting, every reunion and our self worth or how much we’re liked by others isn’t dependent on whether we’re there or not or tagged in that post.
  • Swap competition for collaboration: One of the best things to do is to tune into the fact that we are all linked and connected not separate and in competition with each other. Reach out to those you feel you’re competing with, are ‘on your patch’ or in your face and instead of looking at how you can divide up and corner off what you share in interest, create something together and double the growth of what you both want. Collaboration and building relationships has only ever given me good results once I shifted from a place of being in opposition

What does Holistic living mean to you?

Lucy Proof 001Oooh I love this one! For me, it’s all about recognising that we’re connected to each other and anything I can do to make my connection with myself and others gets focus – sometimes with a twist. So for example, I don’t mediate sitting on a pillow, I leave my phone at home and walk my dog on the beach and while I do that I pray out loud and call in my angels to help me put my energy in the best place each day – I don’t wish or force future action – it’s all about that moment.

One big learning since I attended Gabby B’s conference, which has been key to a holistic approach, is to trust that good things are always on their way to me and ready to come through so I need to be careful of my ego getting in the way!

What is your message to cynics, sceptics, and the intrigued?

For the cynics or sceptics I say ‘love and light’ (only because it’s not my place to convince or persuade and I totally respect people’s different viewpoints)… and for the intrigued I say start somewhere and dive in… follow your nose and interest and see where it takes you… it will all happen in perfect timing.

Finally, what are your top five tips for self-love?

  1. Do not compare yourself to strangers on the Internet!
  2. Find your tribe – one of my greatest delights in life is being around, and connecting with, people that ‘get me’. Those with whom I can speak unfiltered and that will accept me at my best and my worst – some of my BFF’s I didn’t even know this time last year but because I went out and found my tribe they found me too. Make sure you’re evaluating the friendships and energies you allow in your life as it makes all the difference. It may not be very spiritual but I’m zero tolerance on a$$holes – I can’t save everyone and not everyone is my project and my self-love regime means I’m really choosy about who I spend my time with.
  3. Listen to your inner voice or ‘trust your gut’ – your feelings and emotions are there to act as messengers so tune in because your inner voice will never, ever let you down.
  4. Take time out – our modern world glorifies being busy but filling every minute will just run you down. Ensure you make space for fun and doing nothing – the world will continue to turn if you watch Netflix instead of clean the kitchen.
  5. Keep to your tools and know you can’t do self love wrong! I.e. if your meditation is a few gratitudes whilst you’re washing the shampoo out of your hair most mornings, that’s cool. If it’s a 20 minute meditation every day sitting on a special pillow and journalling twice a day that’s also the right thing. You can’t do it wrong – so just do it!

#HigherSelfie

#HigherSelfie is the UK’s only spirituality unconference independently organised by Lucy Sheridan and Jo Westwood in collaboration with Yoga uber brand lululemon athletica. This one of a kind, never before experienced mind/body/soul house party will take place on Sunday 10th May and will be a complete takeover of this warehouse in Bermondsey.

As an ‘unconference’ the speakers on the #HigherSelfie stages will be decided on the day and all guests are invited to submit a talk to be chosen on the day and get the chance to speak in front of c.200 like minded spiritual dudes and babes. Ticket release is coming soon and all guests must have registered at higherselfielive to join the magic so sign up now!

HIgherselfie

Further Links

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk…Goddess Acumen with Helen Johnson

Oxford philosophy graduate. Barrister. Free Spirit. Helen Johnson is here to celebrate and explore feminine power and to offer inspiration, support, and direction.

Helen is passionate about helping people to thrive. She uses a range of powerful therapeutic and personal development techniques that work with mind and body. Helen specialises in helping women to find freedom, purpose and balance. It is her belief that the goddess energies are a powerful metaphor for understanding our lives as women.

Unleash your inner Goddess…feel balanced, powerful and free.

By exploring the goddesses, a person can understand the way that these energies are expressed and balanced in their own lives. We all have an inner goddess that is calling out for our love and attention. Developing Goddess Acumen means giving your inner goddess the opportunity to empower, inspire and guide you to abundant and successful living.

Sound good?

Meet Helen Johnson.

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What is the key to finding freedom, purpose and balance?

The key is to start listening to yourself… Turning down the chatter and letting your inner voice come through – the voice that isn’t governed by fear, anxiety, scepticism, or anything else that holds people back. It’s a voice that comes from a loving, positive place and accepts you as you are.

Why Goddesses?photo_1450_20060419

You know how there are a lot of different layers and aspects to our lives? Well, the Goddesses are a way of making sense of that. Women are wonderful, complex, multi-faceted creatures. Sometimes we have competing needs and demands. Goddesses celebrate femininity and women’s lives and at the same time offer a way of balancing the different aspects of ourselves. Also, it’s a fun way of looking at things… Fun but very powerful! People get new insights and it opens up new possibilities.

Goddessness, what’s that all about?

Goddessness is about taking your place in the world knowing that your are fabulous. End of. Then the only decision you need to make is how to let that fabulousness shine.

How has your own personal journey influenced the birth of Goddess Acumen?

photo_10098_20090418In short, I was brought up with the concept of being a goddess and eventually, years after my mum died, I read the book that my mum had got her ideas from (called ‘The Goddess Within’). My experience of reading that book was like my mother was guiding me. It was such a celebration of femininity and so wise that I decided more people should know about these Goddesses!

How does your work help others?

I help people to find their authentic self, to transform their lives, and to shine their light into the world. I enable people to release any thoughts, feelings or behaviours that are holding them back and to generate a greater sense of balance, purpose and freedom. As you help each Goddess to thrive, you thrive.

What do you see as the key ingredients to changing our own lives?IMG_0159

On a very practical level, I would say that everyone should learn tapping (also known as EFT) – seriously, tapping is insanely brilliant and effective! It is such a simple technique and really helps to transform your energy. It is a way of physically releasing thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that don’t serve you by tapping on certain parts of your body while addressing anything that causes you stress or distress. It basically helps to centre you. I have found it transformational.

What does Holistic living mean to you?

It means treating yourself like you are really special and important and like you have the time and energy to take care of yourself as a precious commodity. Not always as easy as it sounds but no-one said it needs to be done perfectly!

What is your message to cynics, sceptics, and the intrigued?

No matter who has come through my doors (and I’ve had a few sceptics!), they have always left a session feeling better and LOVING the Goddess work. Tapping is so effective that people are sold through just experiencing its effects. As for the Goddesses, they are used to explore different aspects of our lives as women. As a metaphor, this is both powerful and effective.  It offers a new perspective and a new way of relating to yourself – no-one is asking you to ‘believe’ in anything! In short, it WORKS and it can be transformational.

Finally, what are your top five tips for self-love? 

  1. Develop a daily practice that involves tapping
  2. Practice telling people what you need without being attached to the outcome
  3. Only say ‘yes’ when you mean it
  4. Forgive yourself, forgive others, forgive, forgive, forgive
  5. Set standards and stick to them (forgiveness doesn’t mean letting people/yourself cross boundaries)

Love Hearts

Further Links