Create your own self-care jar!

Attending to the basics of self care can bring stability, joy and connectedness into our lives.

Have you noticed that things in jars are very popular right now?

Kale smoothies in a jar, milkshakes in a jar, salads in a jar; EVERYTHING seems cooler when it’s in a jar!

So running with the theme, here is a handy little self care ritual that you can do in under an hour, that creates a resource for you to (literally) dip into when you’re feeling low, and of course features a funky jar. The good news is, if you’re not into fads like these, you can use a treasure chest, jewellery box, makeup bag or whatever else you have laying around that can create a contained space.

When we’re feeling our worst we often forget what makes us feel better. 

What you will need:

  • 1 mason jar (any size that appeals but it doesn’t need to be large)
  • printing paper & access to a printer
  • scissors
  • the self-care toolkit list provided below
  • OPTIONAL: Acrylic paint, sharpie or paint pens to decorate your jar OR collage items and wide clear packing tape
  • OPTIONAL: kitchen string or raffia

Instructions:

  1. Download your Self-care toolkit list HERE. Save it to your computer or memory stick.
  2. Print out sheets you just downloaded (using black and white, single sided printing).
  3. Cut out each rectangle along the black lines without reading them in detail (as best you can). Mix them up on the table in front of you.
  4. Take some deep breaths and gently think back to the times you most need solace or comfort, that are still an issue for you in your life and likely to come up again – when are they? (You might like to write this down). This is what this jar will be focused on.
  5. Now pay attention to the pieces of paper. Begin looking at each of the pieces of paper you have cut out. Sort them into two piles ‘relevant to me’ / ‘not relevant to me’ – Determine this by figuring out which ones ‘speak to you’. Discard the not-relevant ones (pop into the recycling bin or compost).
  6. Look through them, and if a key behaviour or message that you think is also useful for your self care is missing, feel free write out a new one on a small rectangle of blank paper and add this to the pile.
  7. With the ones you are keeping, you might like to decorate with a symbol or drawing on the blank side
  8. Place each of these into the jar and as you do so imagine that you are wishing your future self love and care for the times when things feel difficult. You might like to fold each one in half or leave them as is.
  9. If you would like to decorate the jar with a word or an image, a doodle or a small collage please do. Perhaps tie a ribbon or some string around the jar and add some beads or dried flowers.
  10. Finally, put the lid on the jar and think or say a few words of intention or prayer to mark the end of this gentle self care ritual. Know that this resource of carefully thought-out reminders is here for you when you next need it.

Once you have your jar set up you can use it in a number of ways:

Place it somewhere visible so you are reminded that it is there, and anytime you find yourself feeling much better after doing something you might like to add that to the jar. Similarly if you find a comforting thought or new script (message inside your head about yourself or your situation) you might like to add that to your jar.

When you feel stressed / lonely/ blue / worn out go to the jar and see if you can find just ONE thing to do and ONE thing to think that might make yourself feel better that day. You can do this by reading them or by picking a ‘lucky dip’ from the jar with your eyes closed.

You can stick the strip of paper you choose to your computer screen or inside your journal if you need a physical reminder of the self care action you plan to take.

When you’re feeling well, you can use the jar to help plan self care actions for future such as vacation time or to check in on how you’ve been going the last month on self care (upend the jar and have a rifle through and see which ones you’ve remembered about and which ones you’ve maybe forgotten about). You could do some planning for the month ahead and see what kind of self care you’d like to focus on.

If you notice that you have already been doing a number of these things – CELEBRATE! Give yourself credit for all the great practical things you’ve been doing to care for yourself. Notice how far you’ve come.

Remember, there is no one right way to do self care, and no one right way to use this tool. You are unique and your path is unique, so take what helps you, and don’t be afraid to customise the process so that its helpful for your unique context.

Good luck! Email me to let me know if this has been helpful or if there are additional self care actions you’d like to see added to the list.

 

Please note: this tool is not intended to assist with a mental health crisis or intended as medical advice. It is a tool for ongoing self care and wellbeing. If you are feeling unwell please consult your doctor about physical and mental health. You may be able to access a Mental Health Plan under medicare through which you can access free or discounted sessions with a psychologist. For crisis support call Lifeline. Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 – a confidential telephone crisis support service available 24/7 from a landline, payphone or mobile.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Year in Review – Prompt #2 Peaks and troughs

Sometimes we are encouraged to dive into a vision for the new year without processing the year that has been. Have you ever experienced that?
As an art therapist and coach I know that feeling, accepting and integrating our feelings, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is an important part of good health, and an important part of feeling authentically energised for the future.
Through the last two months of 2018 each week I’ll be sharing some end of year reflection and journaling prompts I have developed to help you integrate the experiences of this year and finish up feeling clearer and more accepting of yourself and the year that was.
Here is the second Year in Review prompt….
—–
Peaks and troughs
Take an hour and some pen and paper (or laptop and coffee) and consider the following prompts:
– What were the highlights of this year in terms of events or peak experiences? The things that felt most fun, energising, connecting, satisfying etc. Take 10 minutes and and make this a list or write a few sentences about each if you like.
– What were the hardest moments of this year in terms of events or experiences? The things that felt sad, disappointing, frustrating etc. Take 10 minutes and and make this a list or write a few sentences about each if you like.
Try to give each of these lists the same amount of time, use a timer if you like.
Take a few deep breaths and sit with any feelings that arise, knowing that whatever you have experienced you have made it through to the here and now, showing strength, flexibility and perseverance. Reread the highlights list before you move on to the next part.
Now take 10 minutes for each of these questions:
1. Looking at these two lists, what do they tell you about what you care about; that is what you hold dear, what is important to you, what you value?
2. Looking at these two lists, what do they tell you about your strengths and resources as a person? What personal qualities, support networks and resources helped you navigate all these experiences?
2. Based on that information, what are some things you would like to include in your life next year? What strengths and resources will you draw on to make that happen?
—–
That’s it!
Enjoy.
And remember to be kind to yourself as you reflect and write – accept and be kind to yourself about whatever you experienced, whatever you did or didn’t do, whatever you felt, whatever you were drawn to.

Let’s celebrate our positive impacts

Today I want to celebrate the positive impact we can have by just being ourselves, gloriously, messily, unashamedly ourselves.

I read somewhere that for each person who reads our blog and leaves a comment, another 3 or 4 or 5 or however many have probably also read it and been inspired by it. Similarly if we work 1:1 the ideas we share may influence or inspire that client and how they work with their own future clients. The techniques or tools we share may then be shared to their friends and colleagues.

It’s easy to discount these little ripples. So if you are a health professional, social worker, blogger, coach, therapist or wellbeing practitioner and feel like you are having only a small impact – listen up!

 

We make positive impacts…

Each time we show up and the person who has not yet found their voice is inspired to do so too.
Each time we own all our parts and someone still struggling to feel OK with their shadow feels a small opening up of their heart towards their own messy human self.
Each time we make friends with our creativity and model that it is safe and enjoyable to write, or make art, or to sing or to create great projects we pave the way for someone else to step more fully into themselves.
Each time we make an inclusive space and connect people we help combat loneliness and disconnection.
Each time we talk without shame about money, or perfectionism, or about self-doubt, or sexuality, or the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, we help make this space safe for others.
And for those of us who speak also about recovery from mental health challenges, or burnout, or childhood neglect or abuse, we help others accept themselves more fully and wholly.

 

So today I want to celebrate the positive impact we all don’t even know that we are having. The small ripples, often unspoken.
Our most meaningful contributions may be the small gestures, and quiet words as much as the large followers and giant projects. Keep offering with good intentions, commitment to ethical practice and quality, loving observations of our own needs and boundaries, and hope for the best!

Working with a coach isn’t always easy

Working with a coach isn’t all ticking off tasks and getting things done. Coming up against resistance, freaking out, feeling annoyed, resenting the tasks, questioning everything, procrastinating can all be part of the journey.

I think the very act of being in a coaching relationship as we try to work towards something we care about helps us see ourselves and our experiences more clearly.

And it’s sometimes very challenging!
We can think that therapy is deep work and that in contrast coaching is all about light, easy and fun: ticking off tasks and being transformed instantly into a unicorn loving, organised, shiny superpreneuer*. But in reality it’s not.

Changing how we act in the world and what we do can deeply challenge our view of ourselves and bring up all sorts of fears. Writing a blog post for the first time can trigger all those voices of criticism that you internalised from childhood about standing out or being too big for your boots. Updating a CV and going for jobs can make space for grief about your career to surface. Naming a vision or a dream can bring up all your feelings of worthlessness, or pessimism, or whatever else is laying beneath the surface.

But that’s OK.

The cycles of awareness, then accepting, and then bringing compassion to ourselves is the deeper work that happens underneath the ‘getting tasks done’, ‘working towards a goal’ or ‘getting systems in place’.

So what I mean by that is if you’re finding it a bit challenging,  ‘you’re doing it right!’.

Coming up against resistance, freaking out, feeling annoyed, resenting the tasks, questioning everything, procrastinating can all be part of the journey. As can feeling relieved, feeling inspired, feeling supported, feeling focused and getting things done. We will just bring gentle awareness, acceptance, curiosity and compassion to all these experiences.

So are you ready for coaching? Are you feeling brave and like diving inwards as well as getting stuff done in the outside world? Are you feeling like you would like company and support on the journey? Are you feeling like shining some compassionate light onto the shame and ‘should have’s’?

Does any of this resonate with you? I’d love to hear how coaching has helped you, or what you would be most excited about experiencing if we were to work together.

*Oh yes I made that word up myself 🙂

 

Highly sensa… what now?

Highly sensitive person (HSP). The phrase gave me the heebie jeebies when I first saw it.

Not another category! I thought.

Not another ‘them and us’ I mourned.

Not another label that whiffs of ‘oh I’m special and you’re not’ I huffed and puffed.

I also thought it sounded a bit like ‘highly complainy people’.

That was until I read about it more.

And then I thought ‘thank F- that someone has written about this, and it’s not just me’.

It gave me a lens (the concept of sensory sensitivity) to see myself and better understand myself through.

I mean I was pretty comfortable identifying as introverted, I knew I needed time alone (or around very safe feeling people) to recharge, but I’d never really thought about how sensory input overlapped with social-emotional inputs to overwhelm me.

As an introvert I couldn’t figure out how an hour’s train ride by myself on an almost empty train didn’t feel relaxing, or why time around people could be extra exhausting if I was in a loud bar compared with sitting around a quiet dinner table.

For me, I realised that I am very sensitive to some noises. That faint beeping of an appliance two rooms away, I can hear it and it’s bugging me while you try to speak with me. The tv on in the ‘background’ while we try to have a conversation? It’s like two conversations shouting simultaneously in my brain. I find it hard to ignore many sounds and they don’t really fade into the background for me. Working in a busy open plan office was extremely stressful for me, because even with ear plugs I could hear the spontaneous standing meeting happening in the cubicle over and the phone call behind me, and , and … You get the idea.

I’m also sensitive to smell, and will sniff out offending smells or get distracted by smells I can’t place. I frequently recognise what my chef husband has cooked during the day just by the scents on his work clothes (he doesn’t super love it when I sniff him and guess!).

So now I know that being in loud, strongly smelly, ‘jangly’ environments is not relaxing for me, even if there are no people there.

Does that mean I’m special or extra finely tuned? I don’t imagine so. I guess it just means that my senses are turned up LOUD so the info comes in at full blast.

It also means that if it comes all at once I tense up and find it harder to process.

A schreechy train with strong oil smell and gusts of cold air as the doors open at each station is a lot to take in. Especially if there’s someone sitting near me and facing me.

A quiet cosy non smelly train with a double seat to myself and an almost empty carriage – another story!

Sitting with my back to a walkway in a cafe where knives and forks are being dried and clanged into a box, with concrete floors and screechy acoustics and stressed staff bitching about a coworker feels very different to sitting with cafe music and coffee machine white noise in a dark corner where the staff are chilled.

What this means is that I absolutely can be an annoying person to go to a cafe or restaurant with (“Let’s sit here, ooh no, hang on what about here, oh no actually THIS table!”) BUT what it also means is that I pay a lot of attention to setting up spaces that are calm feeling for my clients, that have nice light, smell fresh, look pleasant, feel peaceful.

The book that I really enjoyed on this* was written by an occupational therapist. She describes people with severe sensory issues, where the slightest touch hurts for example. It made me think more deeply about the full spectrum of ways that people experience sensory input.

Sensory sensitivity is often associated with autism, and some parents and advocates have been trying to make changes to how public spaces cater to the diverse needs of customers who can find their spaces overwhelming.

“Imagine going to a concert but being unable to block out any of the noises, touches, smells and movements happening around you. The volume of each of these sensations is turned way up: Whispers become yells, the odors of hot dogs and popcorn are stomach-churning, flashing lights are blinding. This can be the experience of people with sensory processing issues — since they can’t filter out sensory input like those with neurotypical processing systems, they feel bombarded by every piece of sensory information occurring in a space all at once.” – Hailey Reissman 

I’m really interested in how developmental experiences, including trauma, also affect our sensory experiences. The child who never got to explore diverse tactile sensations through growing up in neglect, who now finds sensory stimulation overwhelming. The teenager who grew up around violence and now startles when hearing loud noises. It makes me wonder how each of our experiences of senses are shaped by our childhood environments and relationships, as well as genetic factors.

So, on balance I’m glad the concept exists and I’m interested in research going on to explore it further. I think it creates a framework to help some people understand themselves better and create environments that suit them best.

 

*‘Too Loud Too bright, Too Fast, Too Tight” by Sharon Heller, 2002 HarperCollins

 

 

 

 

Want to be an actor?

Fantastic!

Now let me know…
Is it standing in front of an adoring audience that brings you the ultimate high? (No shame if it is – plenty of performers love this feeling). Is it surrounding yourself with people in a theatrical tribe? Is it the chance to get outside your own worries and be absorbed fully in the moment that draw you in? Is it the rush of adrenaline? Is it the feeling of fully emerging into and understanding a character? Is it critical acclaim and approval from those who really know the craft and judge excellence your ultimate goal? Is it the physical, textural aspects of costume, set and stage that gets your heart pounding? Is it the ability to share deep important stories? Is it the feeling of connecting a whole group of strangers in the audience to each other through their shared emotions?

Barbara Sher reminds us to dig around and understand the core of what is most delicious to us about our dream. Your driver and mine might be quite different even if we are going after the same thing.

Knowing what ultimately is your ‘nectar’ – the thing you seek at the heart of the activity you like – will help you shape your dream to best meet your needs. Two people might love acting, but what really lights them up might be different.

If you love the rush of a large audience you might decide that musical theatre will get you there faster than small independent productions. Or if you know that storytelling and shared emotional experience really lights you up, you might choose scripts that really deliver on that. These are just hypotheticals, I’m not a performer so they may read clunky if you know this space. But do you get what I mean?

Knowing what is at the heart of your dream can make you more resilient in the face of ‘should do’s’ and clearer about what steps or opportunities will really light you up. This self knowledge makes it easier to find our own unique path that fits us well, like Goldilocks discovering the bowl of porridge that is ‘just right’.

Not every day is sunny

I have thought of giving up more than once, probably more than 30 (million) times on my ‘entrepreneurial journey’. The last time was briefly just last month. When I feel like that here are some variations of is what might go through my head to trigger or compound the thought – one of these is usually really loud when I fall into feeling hopeless:

  • ‘I’ve taken on way too much, I’ll never get it all done, this feels awful, run away!’
  • ‘I obviously have deep mindset issues that are holding me back, I’ll never get rid of them, there’s no point trying’.
  • ‘It’s not fair, look at them, they’re doing so well and I’m not’
  • ‘Oh my gosh I’ve squandered all my talents and experience and managed to make nothing out of it’
  • ‘I am overwhelmed by all the courses and coaches and training and I don’t trust that any of them will actually help me, I feel overwhelmed by all I need to learn and resistant to get started’.

Had any of those? Or similar ones? Yes me too.

I’m sick of ‘successful’ people who sell a carefully constructed two dimensional version of ‘success’ – some fantasy land where self doubt is entirely banished, every day is sparkles and rainbows and life looks like an instagrammed smoothie. I’m sick of it because in many cases it is just a calculating move to sell more things (I want what she’s having!) but worse than that, because it contributes to an expectation that this is how life ‘should’ feel (or look).

This expectation is suffocating.

I mean, seriously, it’s the human condition people. There will be laughter and tears, snot and baby poo, death, illness, dirt under the fingers. There will be wrinkles. There will be crumbs. There will be things that become tattered and frayed and some days we will feel a bit like that too. There will be ugly crying and hard things. No matter how gorgeous your bronzed bod looks twisting in its white one piece swimsuit at the beach at dawn one day (if you are lucky enough to live that long) you will get old and wrinkly. Lots more stuff than your snapchat filter can rub away.

Some days you might feel lazy, or grumpy, or catty, or incompetant, or just plain old scared. Yup. That’s going to happen. You might not like what comes out of your mouth or the thoughts you’re having. You might wonder ‘who is this angry b*tch who’s taken up residence in my head?’

Personally when I feel like giving up I need to stamp my feet and howl and write in my journal and cry real tears. I need to make big cranky art. I need to feel despair, real despair, and I need to cradle it like a precious thing. I need to complain to a friend or a coach or a mentor, someone kind who will listen while the storm rolls itself through.

I need to be petty and voice my crotchety annoyances. I need to imagine stepping away, imagine a big fat NO to all my projects.

And then gently I return to hope.

(And when I’m back to hope everything feels possible, doable, sparkly and fun.)

And despite all this, in and amongst it, I can still get things done.

If you wait until that perfect day when you are the thin, groomed, sunny, effortless, confident, multitasking, knowledgeable, wholly in your power version of you before you do anything you may never move.

Maybe we are actually birthing that version of ourselves, all of us, in every day that we cradle ourselves with kindness and allow the feelings out. Maybe the imperfect actions and acting without knowing all of what we are doing is what shapes and creates us.

If you want to work with someone who can help you get started on your dream project NOW – with all your wonderful flaws and quirks and inexperience and bad moods and self doubt, then look me up. We might just get along like a house on fire. And I promise I’ll forgive you your flaws if you forgive me mine.