Friday, 30 March 2018

Listening for Purpose

As mentioned in a previous article on “listening”, doing it properly is no easy feat.  It requires   If we are in “the zone” of actively listening to a friend or family member having a difficult time, chances are they will feel better, even if it is only momentarily, but the listener is often left in a flurry, or a heap.
undivided attention, not only to the words but the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions.

The bad news is, “the zone” was probably just a little to the left.

As listeners, we tend to get caught up in offering solutions or trying to make the speaker feel better.    Often times, the friend or family member in a difficult time, needs to vent; neither solutions nor a pep talk may be sought, yet that is exactly what we aim to do.

While this is noble, the listener may feel taken advantage of – especially if the solutions offered require time and energy from the listener beyond the conversation.  When we are actively put in a listener role, we have the responsibility – both to ourselves and the speaker – to determine what our purpose is.  This can be done through a direct question, or by careful listening for cues. 

It is important to identify our roles in each conversation to ensure we do not feel taken advantage of and the listener feels supported in the way that is most needed at that time.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Back to Work Blues

“I need a holiday!”

This phrase is coming up quite a bit lately, and it’s coming from people who have spent a little over a month back at work.  It comes with much eye-rolling from spouses and colleagues and is assumed to be said tongue-in-cheek.  Except it’s not.

While most feel a twinge, or something stronger, of something when going back to work after a break, it should lift at some point.  Barring those going into a new position, department or company; or dealing with a colleague who is not returning, those “back to work blues” should be replaced by a comfortable routine.  If this is not the case, some investigation is required.

After ticking the boxes of all the must haves such as sleep and food, it is time to consider whether those blue feelings are only associated with work, or if it is a general theme.  A general, pervasive down feeling is indicative of poor, or a decline, in mental health (mental health is the more technical term for our feelings and coping strategies).  Often one event, such as going back to work, acts as a trigger toward feeling down and we tend to associate the feeling with the trigger, despite the fact that the feeling has migrated into other areas of life. 

Considering we tend to spend a great deal of time at work, it is common to think that this alone is the source of feeling down; taking stock of those emotions, their triggers and the areas they infiltrate can help determine if it really is just work blues or if some greater self-care is needed. 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Maintaining Relaxation

Many people experience the ‘Sunday blues’ where the end of the weekend brings a sense of sadness. massive difference.  How can we maintain those carefree feelings throughout the week, month and year?
For those prone to this experience, the end of a break from work can be a bit more painful.  Logically, there is no difference between this Wednesday and the one from two or three weeks ago – apart from the scenery perhaps.  Emotionally though, there is a

Take the time to think back to your time away from work, what was it that made the time so special?  Ok, apart from being away from work, what made it so special?  Barring the holiday you may have gone on, those special things are available to you throughout the year.  Granted you may not be able to do as much on a whim during the week but planning your week to include what makes you happy can free the weekends for those whimsical ideas.  If you tend to be a bit of a social hermit during the work year, consider why this is the case and challenge yourself to schedule a weekly or monthly ’contact’ with someone – with technology even your overseas special people are reachable for a cup of coffee.  It may seem counter-intuitive but working non-stop does not make you more productive.

If being away from your work space truly was the sole thing that made your break special, you may need to consider making some changes – whether it be to personalise your work space, ask for a raise, change your working hours, move to a different department, change companies or even careers entirely (with the latter being the most challenging).  While not everyone is smitten with their jobs, if there are no elements of satisfaction, the year will be very long.

It may also be time to consider changing what you tell yourself about the year:
December should not be a reward for working yourself to the bone – reward yourself often, healthily.
December is not an end – it’s a break: viewing December as an end sets your emotions up for disappointment.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The End of the Year

Regardless of whether you are spending the time with family, friends or yourself; at home, on holiday or at the office, this time of the year is stressful.  The change in routine and more time spent in different circumstances, is enough to rattle most, whether you are looking forward to the upcoming season or not.  And bear in mind that if this rings true for you, it is likely to ring true for at least some of those around you, which means there will be stressed people around stressed people.  Ah, the things movies are made of.

While it may be tempting to slip into the ‘responsibilities’ of the season (whatever they may be for you), ensure some quiet time to yourself over the next few weeks, preferably in between the bouts of activity to allow your body and mind to settle.  This is not the time to make up for all missed social events and holidays in the year.  As with life in general, it is vital to maintain balance.

If you feel yourself becoming frayed along the edges, be kind to yourself and consider that those around you may be feeling the same.  Give some thought to how you can notice the beginnings of becoming frayed and ‘quick needs’ that must be met to bring calm again: specific music prepped on the iPod; favourite tea stocked, etc.

If you will be around children, have nap spaces available.  They thrive on routine and while they may be thrilled that there is no school and there is more flexibility, they are easily overstimulated and overwhelmed.  An afternoon nap will do them wonders.  It works for adults too.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Slow Down

“Mindfulness” is a term that is found in abundance of late, and has become synonymous with another
catch phrase: being present.  Although the one is far more than the other, both can be difficult to implement and maintain long term.  And because of the connotations behind these words – being closer to family, more understanding etc – not achieving these goals can result in feelings of guilt.

I suggest starting smaller, with a simpler process of slowing down.  This is especially important at this time of the year when the end-of-year-brain-drain affects almost everyone.  Attentions are divided between completing end of year projects, children’s exams, holiday planning and general tiredness.  Rather than applying this in an all or nothing way, choose a few areas in your life where control seems to be slipping away.  Something as simple as sleep.  As the to-do list balloons at this time of the year, scheduling your needed hours of sleep can make all the difference to your mood and productivity.

One of the greatest areas to slow down is our thoughts.  Easier said than done (I know), but segmenting your day to allow for time to ponder on your holiday destination, or google that all important end of year recipe will pacify that thought for the mean time and give you the focus to get the other jobs done.  Another way to slow down is to use your daily travel time to listen to music you enjoy rather than the radio, or listen to an audio book; turn your phone on silent so you are not tempted to check if a notification is important, or just sit in silence.  Or use this time to brainstorm ideas out loud and record your thoughts.

None of the above may apply to your life; we all need to look at what works for us, as an individual. But slow down.  Where you can.

Friday, 6 October 2017

School Readiness

It seems that with every passing year December seems to arrive quicker.  Admittedly I too have been caught a bit off guard this year and this post on school readiness should have gone out two months ago.  I am not alone here as there has only now been an influx of school readiness assessments.

The final term is generally daunting as little ones begin to understand more and more the move that will happen in the new year; even if they are staying within the same school, there will be a shift to another part of the school, a new uniform, a new bag – lots of newness.  Which applies to the parents too: whether it is your first child or not, the move into grade one is big.  Apart from all the talk and shopping about the new year, the final term is filled with assessments to ensure the littlies are ready.  What happens to those who are not?

Generally, an independent school readiness assessment is suggested to find out where the underlying pitfalls may be (poor colouring may be due to poor fine motor development, lowered muscle tone, eye sight, motivation or simply just not an activity that is enjoyed). The scoring procedures are used to determine objectively where a child’s current level of development is and options provided to overcome or at least close the gaps between age and performance.

Parents are often upset to be told late in the year that there is a possibility their child will not be ready for grade one the following year.  Unfortunately, it is a difficult course to navigate because a few months makes a huge difference in a young child’s development and areas which may have been identified as weak in April, are found to be within age appropriate ranges in September.

There is a tendency to focus on the academics, however, the emotional and physical development are just as important.  Children who are emotionally young tend to struggle with the volume or pace of work, even if they are cognitively capable; the more structured environment with less free time may also be difficult for them to accept.  Children who are less co-ordinated may also struggle with the pace or volume of work as their little bodies tire more quickly than their peers; they may be less co-ordinated and battle with the games at play time resulting in disagreements or avoidance of the game.  This last example may result in feelings of isolation or not ‘fitting in’ which, if perpetuated, can negatively impact on the academics.

Knowing where your child is emotionally, cognitively and physically can make the rest of this fascinating, exciting, scary time a bit more manageable.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Some Counselling Myths

Counselling still has a bit of a bad rap and I would like to debunk a few myths I have heard of late.

Myth 1: Counselling is (very) long term.
Counselling can be relatively short term – it depends on the issue at hand.  Dealing with a stressful work colleague, for example, needn’t result in months of counselling.  There are different facets to counselling and one of them is termed psycho-education where information is provided within a specific context to enable clients to make more knowledgeable decisions, or better handle similar situations differently in the future.

Myth 2: I have to talk about my past.
This again will depend on the issue at hand, but also on the counsellor’s training and theoretical model from where they operate.  There are theories that focus entirely on the here and now; and on the other end of the spectrum there are those who find benefit in resolving the past in order to resolve the present.  This is something you can ask when first making the appointment.

Myth 3: Counselling is very expensive.
The cost of counselling varies depending on the qualification of the person you seek counselling from.  Psychologists, Registered Counsellors, Social Workers and Lay Counsellors are able to offer a different level of service and therefore charge accordingly.  As with any profession it is important to check the health provider’s credentials.

Myth 4: If all I am going to do is talk, can't I do that with friends?

Absolutely.  Discussing pertinent issues with friends and/or family suggests a steady and reliable support system which is vital to overall mental health.  However, while a good winge or cry often makes us feel better, if the matter is a more serious one, this is a temporary fix and may result in us becoming “that person who always talks about the same thing”.  Counselling involves talking, but it is guided and solution oriented – where you identify possible solutions (and therefore consequences) for yourself.    Which is far more empowering than following a well-meaning friend’s suggestion to put a laxative in your stressful colleague’s coffee.