Honour the season your soul is in

As the season is turning to spring in the UK, new growth can be seen in the ground and the birds are singing with joy. The air feels fresher and warmer, welcoming us out.

Nature can be a great example on how to live our lives. We can apply the seasons to us and how we are feeling, for example;

Spring – excitement and getting ready to step out, new growth, new beginnings

Summer – we are visible, active and doing what we want to do, we are in flow, sociable, blooming, at our best, feeling happy and expansive.

Autumn – we are starting to get tired, maybe slowing down, lightening our loads, stopping some things altogether and getting ready to rest, to sleep.

Winter – we are spending time on our own, cosy and safe inside, maybe reading, nourishing ourselves, keeping protected from the harsh winter, not wanting to go out in it.

What if the weather is bad though? In this case the weather could be any external influences; a bereavement, massive changes to your life eg retirement, a new baby, a new illness, redundancy, a break up.

When it is snowing, we do not go out in our summer clothes do we? Instead we wrap up warm against the weather. The same goes for our mental health; when we are going through a tough time, we need to protect ourselves, keeping safe however we need to, be gentle with ourselves, keeping warm, keeping protected while we wait it out, respond and process what is happening.

It is easy to put pressure on ourselves to always be in ‘summer’ mode, always being active and switched on and happy but we need to respond to what is happening externally. We need to pause, to reflect on our feelings and seek support if needed. We can not stop external things happening to us but hopefully we can be self-compassionate and support ourselves with gentleness to get through, hopefully coming out stronger for having gone through it.

What season is your soul in?

What do you need at this moment in time?

There is no shame or judgement, just as in nature, it is a cycle and this is the moment you are in right now. It is not where you will be forever and this will change too, just as the seasons change. Just remember, it is important to respond and honour the season your soul is in.

Busy to Balanced

So many of us in today’s society live a very busy life. Busy seems to be the new word defining our status in society. If we are busy, oh so busy, ALL the time, we have somehow made it in life.

We are on a Busy treadmill, going from one thing to another, no time to stop because we are so Busy.

Our to do lists are ever growing, there is so much to do in our lives; work, school, children, homes. So very much to do.

Being busy is quite nice and does give us purpose but we need to keep an eye on just how Busy we are. When does the enjoyment of having a life become stress and anxiety we struggle to manage? When does our to list start feeling like dread in our chest, maybe manifesting as actual pain in our chest from the moment we open our eyes in the morning?

Many of my clients have come to a point where their lives are taking over. They are living just to manage their lives and not actually living their lives they want.

Maybe it is saying yes to too many other people at the detriment of their own health.

Maybe it’s not having any balance and not resting or switching off.

Maybe they have been so busy with life they suddenly look at themselves and don’t recognise themselves or their lives as something they want.

The only antidote to the anxiety and stress of a busy life I know is Mindfulness. Not quite sitting zen like for hours on end but instead being aware and conscious of our lives. You see, we do go from one thing to another almost without thinking. We rush around, always thinking of the next thing, worrying if we have done enough, if we are enough.

If you are busy, the wise men say we need to meditate for an hour, and if we are really busy, we need to mediate for two. It feels counterintuitive to our Western ways of thinking but it is in this extremely simple way of living that our answers lie.

There are a number of ways we can help ourselves if we feel we are starting to feel frazzled by our lives:


  1. Take note of where you are in this exact moment in time, without any judgement around it. You can engage all your senses to take it all in; What can you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?

This is a good way to reset your mind, body and soul if you feel anxiety is taking over.

 


  1. It sounds so simple but the simple act of breathing can help you get back in control of You. You can focus on your breathing for a couple of breaths or for an hour, whatever you need to get back in touch with yourself. If you are struggling to do this on your own, do a quick online search and find a guided breathing meditation. There are so many out there and the trick is to practice it until you are able to do it on your own.
    You have been breathing all your life, you can get this wrong. This practice can help you check in with yourself to see what is important and therefore what is a priority, it can help check in with your emotions and feelings around something or someone, helping you to know yourself better. In the simple act of breathing, you are connecting with yourself and in turn, connecting with other humans on a species level and connecting with your place in this world.
  2. Set Boundaries.
    It is so difficult for us to say No these days. We worry we might offend or upset someone but it is necessary if we give so much of ourselves away that we feel a shell of who we used to be. By setting boundaries, we can learn a new way of being; We are telling others what we find acceptable and not, we are spending our energy wisely and are not running out of energy when it comes to ourselves. By setting boundaries, we are in control of our time, we are managing our time and therefore, we can choose what we are doing when, creating that much needed and very important rest or down time.

  3. As adults in our busy Western society, play is something we think of as an after thought, if we think of it at all. We think of play as something we did as children but actually, we need to play as adults too. Play helps to give the brain a rest, reduces anxiety, builds self confidence and self esteem and can help us to connect with others and certainly with ourselves. It can lift us from within, give us enjoyment in life and improve our wellbeing. Time and space needs to be created for play, so have a think about what you enjoy doing, without judgement or justification.
  4.  

In our busy lives, so much happens that we don’t even notice or remember. It is in the little things we can see what is important to us, what makes us happy and acts as a reminder for ourselves and others. Journalling is a good way to build a relationship with yourself, so if you enjoy writing, why not treat yourself to a new notebook and pen and simply write to yourself. Write down all you have achieved in the day, no matter how little. Note down all the things you are grateful for in your life, the things that make you smile, make you happy, that you could not live without.
If writing is not your thing, maybe take photos of what you are grateful for, what catches your eye, what is important to you in your life. Or you can get creative and make some art. You see how play is so important now and can play a vital role in helping you record things?

We can carry on being busy in our lives, running from one thing to another, getting more and more anxious and stressed or we could slow down and remember that we are living our lives, we are in control. We deserve to live balanced, happy lives and if you are struggling, I hope these few pointers will help you to help yourself, if it all still feels like too much, then please do seek support, maybe from a counsellor. Let us redefine what success means and instead of being Busy, let us be balanced and happy.

3 ways to start loving yourself

3 ways to start loving yourself through the power of photography

1 – Be kind to yourself

As women, there are far too many of us who are quick to put others down to feel better about ourselves. We make quick judgements and deliver cutting, hurtful comments. This seems to be normality and the worst part is, we teach our children to do the same and worse still, we do it to ourselves. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a kind world where we celebrate our differences and see positives in others and ourselves?

Every time you get a negative thought about yourself or someone else, think of three positives to balance it out. By doing this regularly, you will see your thinking changing, you will become more positive and much kinder. And the bonus, you will find yourself being much happier in your own life and body.

So, for every negative thought, think of three positives equals a happier YOU

2 – Self portrait

We seem to be trained as women to not like images of ourselves. Perhaps if we are seen to like our images we are seen as big headed or full of ourselves? Or is it a deeper feeling, that by seeing images of ourselves, our every flaw will be highlighted and on show to the world? A bad photo of you is just that, a bad photo. It does not define you as a person or a comment on any failings you feel you have.

Take a photo of yourself. Don’t think about it being good or bad but simply sit with the image and see it as an image of a person. Remove all emotions.

Now, give it a title and write down 3 things that describe the person in the image. What 3 things are missing from the image and what 3 positives can you see?

3 – Your place in the world

To feel really happy and worthy about ourselves, we need to belong. Many of us belong with our families, perhaps we have a good group of friends or we are a vital part of a team at work. We have our place in the world and belong because of what we are like as a person.

Have a think about your place in the world and put a collage together. Remember to use only positive images that make you feel good.

What is your world like? Who do you have surrounding you in your world? Can you see a theme running through the images?

Now give it a title and write down three things that are missing and three positives that jump out at you.

 

Living Consciously

The first thing I learned about on how to manage my mental health illneses was Mindfulness.

I was no good at sitting quietly at the beginning so I researched and learned different ways of being Mindful.

You know how on the London underground, they are always telling us to ‘Mind the Gap’?

For me Mindfulness is similar, it is about minding our surroundings, gaining awareness of what is going on inside us and with our interactions with the world around us.

It helps us to respond and not react, it helps us to feel more in control, more at peace and finally be able to live the way we are meant to.
I feel it is living awake, living consciously rather than being in our numbed out, zombie mode of going from one chore to another. 

The simple act of breathing and slowing down can help so much and I feel passionately about sharing my unique way of being Mindful – Living Consciously.

As humans, as animals, we are not meant to live the way we do in modern society. The rush, the chaos, the never ending tasks and not resting or recharging. We charge our phones more than we do ourselves!

If you are interested in working with me please email jessy@paston.biz

Self Compassion

Many people make promises to themselves and many people break those promises. This can be a very disheartening and repetitive cycle which can affect our mental health negatively. I am going to suggest something for you to try which might go against what you are used to; self compassion. 

To simplify things, compassion is basically being nice, caring with tenderness and kindness. Nothing complicated, nothing far reaching. 

The tricky part comes when we try to do this for ourselves because we are taught from an early age that we need to put others first and being selfish is seen as a bad thing. 

Being self compassionate is the one thing you can do to improve your mental health and wellbeing. But How do we do this? 

  •  Think of a situation in your life that is causing you stress, such as a health problem, relationship problem, work problem, or some other struggle. 
  • Choose a problem in the mild to moderate range, not a big problem, as we want to build the resource of self-compassion gradually. 
  • Visualize the situation clearly in your mind’s eye. What is the setting? Who is saying what to whom? What is happening? What might happen? 
  • Can you feel discomfort in your body as you bring this difficulty to mind? If not, choose a slightly more difficult problem. 
  • Now, try saying to yourself: “This is a moment of suffering.” ƒThats mindfulness. Perhaps other wording speaks to you better. Some options are: This hurts. Ouch. This is stressful. 
  • Now, try saying to yourself: “Suffering is a part of life.” ƒThats common humanity. Other options include:I’m not alone. Everyone experiences this, just like me. This is how it feels when people struggle in this way. 
  • Now, offer yourself the gesture of soothing touch that you discovered in the previous exercise. And try saying to yourself: “May I be kind to myself” or “May I give myself what I need.” 
  • Perhaps there are particular words of kindness and support that you need to hear right now in this difficult situation. Some options may be: May I accept myself as I am. May I begin to accept myself as I am. May I forgive myself. May I be strong. ƒMay I be patient. 
  • If you’re having difficulty finding the right words, imagine that a dear friend or loved one is having the same problem as you. What would you say to this person? What simple message would you like to deliver to your friend, heart to heart? 
  • Now see if you can offer the same message to yourself. 

5 Steps to Good Mental Health

“I don’t know how to deal with mental health”

Hands up who feels like this? Mental health is scary, right? We hear of stories of someone with Mental health issues shooting people, maybe stabbing their partners, or suffocating their babies.

These are extremes but these are also the examples we are given of what Mental health is. So when we are faced with anything concerning Mental health, for many of us, there is a stigma attached, from society and from ourselves.

We’re not as bad as the stories we hear, so we don’t seek support or help. I have to say, awareness is growing and part of my work is to raise this awareness.

First step is to be aware that we ALL have mental health, just as we have physical health. And just like physical health, we can have good and bad mental health.

We know a lot about physical health; what to eat, how to look after ourselves and we do things everyday to keep our physical health good like brushing our teeth. Look around you though, not everyone is at their peak physical health are they? There are differences, because we are all different. There are different levels because we all have different abilities. The same can be said for mental health.

We are all at different places with our mental health; some of us can bounce back from a crisis, some cope under pressure, some take changes in their stride, some are very positive. The majority of us though, I suspect, struggle a little every day but do not feel the need for support because this is how it’s always been.

For healthier Mental Health, let’s start doing a little bit everyday; just like we do with our physical health (brushing our teeth, combing our hair, showering etc). I want us to start looking after our mental health.

The way I see it, if we found a lump; we’d be straight at the doctors. We wouldn’t wait until it was stage 4 cancer, would we? So why do we do this with our mental health? We wait until we are at crisis point before we seek help. This does not have to happen and we can start by simply getting into good daily practices.

As part of raising awareness and improving your mental health, I have put together a chart, just for mental health: Your 5 a Day for Good Mental Health. Please feel free to download your very own copy and start filling it in today – you can write a word a day, or use it as a guide for your journaling.

The simple things work best, and this guide is here to help you have better mental health.

So, what are the steps?

1. Self compassion

At first, as most say, it means being your best friend, being in your own corner with kindness, gentleness and love. The first step is observing the way you talk to yourself. Observe what you are saying to yourself but without judgement. If you are being mean, don’t then beat yourself up for being mean to yourself. Take a step back, take a deep breath. Whenever you catch yourself being mean, bullying or unhelpful, simply use that kind, caring voice.

2. Journal

Journaling is great because you are doing something physical and it because of that, it forces you to take time out of your day just to sit with yourself, talk to you yourself and before you know it – you start forming a relationship with yourself. You start to figure out what experiences are teaching you what, which people energise you and who drains you, you start to give yourself advice even and dare I say it – you start caring and loving yourself just that little bit more. This helps reinforce the self compassion as it is in written form.

Go on, give it a go. Buy yourself a lovely notebook and start writing in it.

3. Gratitude

We’re so busy, aren’t we? We don’t stop to appreciate, we don’t stop to realise how much we really have, we don’t slow down enough to SEE any of it, to FEEL any of it.

You can start by simply saying, “Thank you” to things, out loud or in your head. Gratitude is opening your heart to see and feel what is around and not join this modern world game of always rushing to the next thing.

If you want, you could also write in your journal, perhaps at the end of the day, things you are grateful for.

4. Ta-da list

All too often we look at what we haven’t done, don’t we? Perhaps at the end of the day, list all the things you have done and TA DA!!! Wow, look at how much you have done!

Focusing on achievements gives a sense of accomplishments, boosts self esteem and confidence and gives a feeling of calm that you are going in the right direction, things are getting done, you can slow down the pace and yes, it will all be OK.

5. Play

Why don’t we play as adults? We seem to get into a rut of work, chores, passing out, work, chores, passing out (note I didn’t say sleep…)

Those adults who have hobbies they can dive into and time flies are happier because they are resting on so many levels. And no, it doesn’t have to be the gym, although exercise does help.

I’m talking about fun here, playing, letting your inner child out and taking the lead.

What does play mean to you?