Tag: change

Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

Parenting, anxiety, and smudged nail polish

It happened. There’s no going back. There are certain moments and events that change your life. Irretrievably.

No matter what happens from now on, I have been forever changed.

Exactly five weeks ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. We’re parents. To be honest, it’s still a surreal experience for me. I still catch myself staring at my son in a state of disbelief. In a good way. A great way.

They say that nothing can prepare you for parenthood. And yet, we still attend antenatal classes, download the apps, follow the blogs, etc. Does it prepare you? I think that selecting the correct classes etc for you can help to prepare you to a certain extent.

The thing that best prepared me for being a mommy? My journey through depression.

And no, I’m not talking about postnatal depression here: on the contrary, I have found the first five weeks of motherhood to be incredibly fulfilling.

So just how on earth did the most trying and devastatingly dark periods of my life prepare me for the most overwhelmingly poignant experience?

Ironically, my journey through depression (“through” implying that you can in fact reach the surface and gasp the fresh air) has taught me many invaluable lessons. Not only have I gained insight into my own psyche, for want of a better word, but I have also come to understand what kind of life I want to lead, and the best mindset and approach to realise this.

The goal-oriented, perfectionist, compulsive nature of my anxiety just doesn’t wash with the daily reality of being a mom. I sat down last week to write a blog post. I got as far as switching on my laptop. That’s it; no further. There is nothing perfect about parenthood. Nothing. I decorated the nursery exactly as I had imagined: a perfect replica of my vision. Two days ago I found myself moving furniture into the centre of the room so that I could wash off projectile pee from a large section of wall and nearby furniture. As for being compulsive, it’s simply not an option. Especially when you have a newborn who has a finely tuned sixth sense that wakens him as soon you step into the shower, pour a cup of tea, or apply a fresh coat of nail polish.

My resultant level of anxiety? Nada. Why?

Before becoming a parent I decided that I would try to be as mindful as possible. I decided that I would not set goals. That I would not entertain ideas about being a supermom. That I would adapt my days to my child’s routine to the best of my ability. That I would not read a single pregnancy or parenting magazine. That I would take each day as it came. That I would trust Mother Nature to give me sufficient maternal instinct to ‘wing it’ for the most part.

So far, I’m managing. Of course, it’s only been five weeks. I might be singing a very different tune next week. Or at three o’clock tomorrow morning. Regardless, my point is that depression and anxiety have provided me with countless opportunities for growth. Sure, I did not grasp all those opportunities. But I did take advantage of some.

It is this ongoing process of reflection and growth that I hope will stand me in good stead in this new stage of my life – smudged nail polish, tepid cups of tea, and all.

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A Flying Pink Shoe and Creating Yourself

A Flying Pink Shoe and Creating Yourself

It’s funny how your mind can play tricks on you. Like when you get hit in the head by an unidentified flying pink shoe.

My husband and I went out for a spontaneous day trip with my bestie and her husband. Firstly, we visited a German beerfest ‘Church fete’. After failing to win the bottlestore raffle, we resorted to seeking a salve for our broken spirits. We drove to a nearby coastal city to sit on a wharf and eat deep fried ice-cream. As one does. It was a beautiful sunny day – perfect for a lazy calorie-laden afternoon indulgence.

I leant back on my chair and drank in the seaside atmosphere. Comments drifted over from a nearby group of people. They were discussing the rugby match that was dominating South Africa’s attention at the time. Out of nowhere, something slammed into the side of my head. For a split second I thought it was the rugby ball from the game under discussion. Delusional? Absolutely.

There was a stunned silence for a moment as we all looked in disbelief at a bright pink shoe that was lying in the middle of our table. Not quite a rugby ball. A very embarrassed mother approached our table to apologise profusely and retrieve her daughter’s shoe.

Despite a smarting face, I returned the shoe with hysterical laughter gracious understanding. Likewise, her little girl’s apology that was ‘encouraged’ a few moments later.

It made me think of myself as a little girl. Not that I ever managed the feat of kicking my shoe and launching it several meters into someone’s head. I had neither the skill nor the talent. (Although my younger brother did once claim that I could “kickstart a Boeing”.) But had something of the ilk happened to me, I would never have had the courage to approach a table of laughing adults and apologise for assaulting one of them with my footwear. To be honest, I probably would have dissolved into tears and hidden behind my parents. (My dad specifically – my mother reaches a whopping five foot. When standing.)

Today, however, I am anything but shy. It just goes to show how we do grow and develop as we get older. Reflecting on that little girl’s apology renewed my optimism in people’s ability to take charge of their progress in life.

 

You do have the ability to be the person you want to be. It’s never too late to take charge of your life. It’s never too late to grow. It’s never too late to discover the true you.

self belief

How have you changed and developed since you were a child?

Overcoming geese and other fears

Overcoming geese and other fears

I am afraid of geese. Seriously. It all stems back to an incident in Hyde Park, London when I was two years old. Unsurprisingly, I have no recollection of the event. But upon confessing this rather bizarre fear (especially because I never encounter any geese anyway), my mum recounted this event from my childhood. Freud would love this stuff!

You’ve got to admit this is terrifying!

I don’t have a phobia. Although I have discovered that it extends to other large birds with large beaks. Like the African grey parrot that used to wander around my mother-in-law’s living room. But then there are more serious fears – the kind that limit our development in life.

What is the predominant fear in your life that’s holding you back?  Failure, rejection, humiliation, or something else entirely? What’s that one moment in your life that you would ‘do over’ if you could?

overcoming fear and failure

In order to move forward, you have to place your fears and failures to one side. Like so many things (perhaps everything?) in life, it’s much easier said than done. But dwelling on current and past fears and failures will get you nowhere. It will just give them a more dominant position in your consciousness. Ironically, if you try to force these thoughts out of your mind, the same thing will happen. There’s a trick to this…

Although you cannot simply forget these things, you can choose to reconcile and focus. Accept that these things have happened, and that there is nothing you can do to change that. You cannot redefine the past. Reconcile yourself with these things, and accept that you can and must move forward.

It’s natural that you won’t forget your fears and failures – they will enter your thoughts. Take a step back mentally when these negative thoughts arise. See them as just that: thoughts. Remember, thoughts are not facts. Adopt a neutral stance, one of an observer who it neither critical nor judgmental. And then gently focus your attention on something else, something that is positive and rewarding.

overcome failure

We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all been paralysed (metaphorically) by fear. We’ve all failed at things. In this way, we are all the same. But here comes the difference: some people are crippled for life, whereas others bounce back. What makes a difference is choosing to place fears and failures to one side and move on, or choosing to be overwhelmed. The choice is yours.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your crazy (like geese) or serious (like failure) fears?

The real truth about creating new habits

The real truth about creating new habits

I initially thought that the title of this post would be ‘Create 7 Habits in 7 Days’. Clearly I was feeling somewhat overambitious that day. Let’s just say that I put the ‘C’ in OCD.

One night when I was plagued with insomnia, I was reading through various blogs. (Just so you know, it’s a great habit to read blogs. Nothing like a bit of shameless self marketing thrown in here and there…) Anyway, the point is that I came across a post that was all about using a checklist to develop new habits.

new habits

At first I thought it sounded a little twee. But I never can resist a list. Or an opportunity to use colourful pens. Or an excuse to start a journal of sorts.

Now I must mention here that the post did argue the logic and merits of focusing on developing one habit at a time. I decided that I would work on seven. Simultaneously. Like I said, I put the ‘C’ in OCD. So my checklist looks something like:

  1. Wake up on time
  2. Go to gym
  3. Use Pomodori (learn about the Pomodoro System here)
  4. Meditate
  5. Plan meals for next week (More than a serious rut, my cooking is in a bottomless crater.)
  6. Buy groceries accordingly.
  7. Do some crafts on Friday.

(In hindsight I see I forgot: 8. Get a damn life!)

So out came my once-forgotten journal and my stash of pens. I selected seven different colour inks for no reason other than I thought it looked pretty. (Now who’s being twee?!) I created a weekly checklist where I could keep track of how efficient I was being in adopting these new habits.

My idea of heaven…

At first I thought that, like so many simple ideas, this works. It’s ridiculous how much I love ticking off items on a list. Now I may not be Catholic, but I did experience some guilt when items were not ticked off for the day.

And then life happened.

It’s so easy to plan something, like a list of things you want to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine. But I find that we often plan in a vacuum. We forget that things happen. Errands need to be run. Interruptions occur. You get distracted. You get tired. You discover a concussed baby monkey in your garden (true story). A cat moves into your home. The cat takes over your life for the first week. You have to hire a carpenter to install a cat-flap. You need to take your cat to the vet. You get the picture.

But I do think that using lists and checklists has its merits, especially for the conscientious types. (That’s me. Oh the shame!) If nothing else, you start developing systems, and I always think that systems deserve more focus that goals. Because with the right systems in place, you will achieve your goals as part of the process.

And what is life, if not a long-term process during which we’re trying to achieve fulfilment? Be mindful of the systems you create in your life, because they will ultimately determine your happiness. And happiness should always be the ultimate life goal.

I’d love to hear about your successes. How have you managed to adopt new habits?

The best time to adopt a better lifestyle

The best time to adopt a better lifestyle

I have this theory that the timers on cardio machines were developed in Hell. They operate slowly in order to extend your torture and agony. There is no way that twenty minutes on a treadmill is the same as twenty minutes in real time. It’s some sort of Hellish cosmic joke where we’re all victims of this never-ending hoax. And then, to add insult to injury, we keep on returning to gym.

Sometimes I get the better of the hoax and avoid the gym. But then I get sucked in again. And the agony is always worse once you return after a break.

You know that feeling when you are sweating it out and you need to distract yourself from what you are enduring? I was on the rowing machine at gym, looking out the large glass windows at the trees on the surrounding hills. The beautiful colour of the changing colours of Autumnal leaves captured my attention.

There was one tree that really caught my eye. The changing colours were incredible. Perhaps it stood out so predominantly because the forest behind it was still green. Even in Nature, things grow and develop at different times.

So it was okay that I was only on the rowing machine in May, my first real attempt to kick-start what should have been New Year’s resolutions. If trees can adapt to the seasons at different rates, so can we.

I had been beating myself up (not literally – that would be too excessive even for me) about the fact that it had taken several months for me to get my A into G. I realised that ‘should’ often involves undue criticism. We worry about what we should be doing, what we should look like, what we should be earning, and when we should achieve all this.

But that just focuses on the negative and fosters criticism of ourselves and others. It’s not about a specific date. It doesn’t matter when you start. So what if I only got back on track with a healthy lifestyle in May? The point is that I have. Who cares when I will get to the level of fitness that I once reached? The point is that I will at some point. Hell, I might even surpass it.

healthy lifestyle

So when is the best time to adopt a better lifestyle? It’s not about when. It’s not even really about how. It’s about developing a habit organically because you enjoy the process. And that is what my next post is all about: the truth about developing new habits.

When did you do something later than you ‘should’ have, only to realise the irrelevance of the timing and your self-criticism?

Find Your Life’s True Direction

Find Your Life’s True Direction

In the words of the rather eccentric modern version of Sherlock Holmes as featured in Elementary“I abhor the dull routine of existence.” It’s an extreme statement, no doubt. And yes, the character at the time was seeking some form of occupation to distract him from the all-consuming drug habit of his recent past. But that does not negate the valuable meaning behind his words.

Too many of us are guilty of repeating our dull routines without really giving any thought to our true purpose and direction in life. We live in a world where a person is considered lucky if she finds her job to be enjoyable. When you consider just how much time you devote to your career, that’s a pretty dim state of affairs. Life is too short to be spending hours doing something that is not fulfilling.

Whether it’s your career or your personal life, you deserve to live a life that’s enjoyable and enriching. You should be able to relish the feeling of following your true direction in life. You should be able to construct a life for yourself that allows you to grow as a person and develop in the true holistic sense of the word.

Life should not be dull. Mondays should not be awful monsters lurking in the background on Sunday evenings. Talent should not be wasted. Make use of your talent. You know what truly feeds your soul. Focus on that, and you will find your true path in life. If you want to feel empowered and motivated in your life, then you need to start focusing on what truly matters to you.

Getting out of the dull routine of your existence does not mean trying to find the next adrenaline rush. Or anything else that you employ to distract yourself from the truth of your life as it is now. Face the brutal truth of your life, and make the changes that will feed your soul and warm your heart. It is time that we all start leading the lives that we should be living if we are to give our own lives meaning and substance.

Overcoming Depression: Confessions of a Sloth

overcoming depressioDespite a sense of overwhelming optimism at the start of 2015, so far this year has not gone as planned. I’m not surprised that life doesn’t always go as planned. I’m not surprised that life has its ups and downs. What does surprise me, however, is realising that I’m not terribly bothered by this. Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m making progress in overcoming depression. That would be quite ironic, given how this year has gone.

So far, I have not managed to do what I know I should be doing on a regular basis. So far, I have not done the following:

  • follow a health eating plan
  • exercise regularly
  • practise mindfulness
  • pursue hobbies
  • engage in creative activities

overcoming depressionThat list is a pretty basic outline of what you need to do if you are intent on overcoming depression. But life is just not that straightforward. I have a long-held belief that one of the most debilitating effects of depression is that it fosters an inclination to do exactly what you should not be doing. It takes every ounce of willpower, and then some, to vaguely muster up the energy and determination to make a salad, go to gym, etc. It feels like every cell in your being is screaming for you to climb back under the covers – with a slab of chocolate.

So how do you climb out of bed and find your way to gym?

Overcoming depression is not a war: a war has an end.

Dealing with a chronic physical illness is an ongoing battle. Fortunately, the fight does get easier and a little less intense every time you launch an attack. And just how do you launch a successful attack?

  • Make the decision. I believe that you need to firmly and consciously make a decision to fight this illness. You need to focus your energy on doing whatever it is you need to go to rediscover your true self.
  • Get support. You need someone in your life who understands what you’re going through and can give you the type and degree of motivation you need to get going.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes a routine can help to get you going, but too much rigidity can induce anxiety that will see you under the covers again.
  • Don’t wait for Monday. As soon as you make that decision, start immediately. Don’t procrastinate even more.

If I make it sound easy, I don’t mean to. I was tired just walking up the stairs at gym to get to the treadmill. After fifteen minutes I had a headache and a blister from my running shoes. I made the decision to pull up my socks – literally – and keep going. There have been some lapses… A fondness for baking is not a great hobby if you’re trying to follow healthy diet, and yet I found myself in the kitchen baking some of my favourite goodies. But the point it, I’ve made a start and I’m trying. More importantly, I’m not beating myself up about the fact that I haven’t been doing what I ought to.

overcoming depressionIt’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learnt to simply accept that life happens. Overcoming depression means accepting that this illness has its highs and lows, and knowing that all that you can do is your best. And that’s what I’m going to do: try my best to look after my physical, emotional and mental well-being.