When the holidays aren’t the happiest time of the year

when-the-holidays-are-not-the-happiest-time-of-the-year

During the holidays, there’s an overwhelming sense that we should be happy. Christmas carols are sung, decorations are put up, family and friends reunite and people swap gifts. All of these activities can be wonderful, joyous things. But for many of us, they’re not—and that’s okay.

There are lots of reasons the holidays can be difficult, notably the fact that it feels like everyone expects you to be ‘happy’ and have the Christmas spirit.  But if we’re honest, that’s not always possible.

The holidays are a time when grief comes to the forefront. If we have lost a loved one, recently or in years past, we remember them all the more clearly when they’re not celebrating with us.

If a relationship has broken down with our spouse or significant other, Christmas can be an awkward time. We feel lonely, and disappointed that our life isn’t going the way we planned. If the relationship has affected children or extended family, this becomes even more paramount, as they try to maintain a congenial relationship with both parties.

Having to see an ex over the holidays, or feeling like you must ‘share’ your family with them makes the season fraught with tension.

If a loved one is experiencing a debilitating illness like dementia, depression or chronic fatigue, the need to care for them can take over any festive spirit we have. We wrestle with anxiety, frustration and anger, desperately trying to give them a wonderful Christmas experience at the expense of our own.

Or if we are ill, we are simply unable to join in the celebrations or enjoy them in any capacity. Whether we’re stuck at home, are in hospital, or are consumed by thoughts or feelings of anxiety, we feel isolated and lonely.

Throw in elements such as distance, monetary stress, estranged relationships with the family, trauma and work pressure, and this season can fall well short of the ‘happiest time of the year’ everyone boasts about.

So where does this leave those of us who don’t feel festive, but are expected to celebrate anyway?

It’s important you know it’s okay to feel broken this season. If you feel pressure to ‘get over it’ and your loved ones don’t understand your struggle, you don’t have to justify it to them. Recognise that your experience is just as valid as the friend who sings Christmas carols at the top of their lungs. Accept that your holiday season looks different to theirs, and know it’s okay.

When we accept our own brokenness and pain, we are able to work through it.

If you are grieving, use the holidays as a tribute to a loved one you miss. Visit their grave, or do their favourite activity in remembrance of them.

If you are heartbroken, allow yourself to cry, and then feel the love of your friends and family.

If your loved one is ill, give yourself permission to rest for a moment before you continue caring for them.

If conflict arises and there is no easy resolution, table the issue and give yourself permission to tackle it in the new year.

If you are alone, volunteer, attend a local church service, or a find a community group to belong to for the day.

If you are sick, love your mind and your body for what it does bring to Christmas Day—you. And despite the confines illness puts you in, give yourself permission to smile if you feel like it.

If the holidays are difficult time for you, tell a friend why. You don’t have to explain your feelings to the whole family or friendship group, but by opening up to a person you trust—someone who is empathetic and understands—you will find strength to get through the season.

If you find yourself in a crisis during the day, call a 24/7 hotline (find a list of international hotlines here).

It is okay to feel broken this holiday season, so be gracious with yourself. You can survive this Christmas, and you will.

Are you dreading the holidays? Do you want to begin the new year afresh? Here’s what you need to do: Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.

Six ways to stress less this holidays

Six-ways-to-stress-less-this-holidays

December may be full of fun parties, good food and long weekends, but the holiday season still comes with a lot of stress. Between family reunions, work functions, Christmas day preparation, decorating and shopping, the holidays can make us anxious, lethargic and reactive.

Rather than letting yourself continue the cycle of holiday stress, make the decision to revitalise the season for yourself. By changing your mindset and following these six steps, you can enjoy it a little more this year.

  1. Pre-plan

We’re mid-way through December, but you still have time to plan ahead. Instead of stressing about everything you ‘have’ to do, set yourself a schedule and delegate tasks to other family members. This might mean decorating early, asking your spouse to help with cooking, assigning seating at the table or shopping for gifts online.

By divvying up your responsibilities and setting a timeline for each, you give yourself the chance to breathe, enjoy or recover from each experience.

  1. Practice self-care

We all feel the weight of expectations during December. Parties, work break-ups and family functions are on every weekend, and it’s difficult to find ‘you’ time.

Make the conscious decision to practice self-care this year by setting a side time for yourself. Have a cup of coffee, going for a walk or read a good book.

Knowing that food and drink is plentiful this season, try to keep your every-day diet healthy as well. You can still indulge at events, but use this as a treat rather than an excuse to let your health fall by the wayside for a whole month.

  1. Don’t catastrophise relationships
    Without a doubt, the most stressful part of the holidays are seeing family members you’ve previously had conflict with. Talking to estranged spouses, ailing parents, in-laws or siblings can be difficult, especially when we hyper-focus on what ‘could’ happen instead of what will.

Rather than anticipating an argument erupting at the dinner table, imagine how you want the day to pan-out, and do everything on your part to make this come to pass.

This could mean shelving contentious issues or past grievances for the day, setting time limits on how long to spend at a function, or asking a loved-one to act as your buffer for the day.

  1. Be child-like

The holidays always had a certain ‘magic’ when we were children. The lights were brighter, the Christmas carols were sung louder, and the anticipation of receiving gifts made December the best month of the year. Unfortunately, as we grow up this wonder ceases, and it is difficult to find it again, but not impossible!

The key to finding your child-like wonder, free of stress and responsibilities, is embracing what you loved as a child. Make time to watch your favourite Christmas movie, play holiday music around the house, go Christmas light-hunting in your neighbourhood and decorate the tree as a family.

  1. Don’t do it alone

We feel a lot of responsibility during the holidays, and even the most avid party planner will feel overwhelmed by it. Despite what everyone (and your inner monologue) is telling you, Christmas festivities are not something you have to do alone.

Instead of carrying the season, spread your responsibilities around. Ask your spouse or partner for help, get the kids to make Christmas cards for the family, and ask a colleague to help organise a work function. You are allowed to be honest with the people around you, so if you feel stressed, let them know and ask for help.

  1. Be realistic

We can plan-ahead, hold back sarcastic comments and try to keep conversation light, but it’s not realistic to think the holidays will go perfectly. After a long day, old tension could arise, you might slip up, or grandma Ethel may feel compelled to say something about your current relationship or how you parent.

You can’t control everything at Christmas, but you can take responsibility for yourself. So be gracious to yourself and loved ones on the day, knowing that stress gets to all of us. Consider what ‘could’ happen, without dwelling on it, and know that when it’s over, you did the best you could.

Are you feeling stressed about the holidays? Do you need help navigating relationships this season? Here’s what you need to do: Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.

This is how porn affects the brain

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After Pamela Anderson spoke up about the harmful effects of pornography in recent months, the epidemic has been given more attention by the media. The fact is though, porn has been affecting people for years. And while it is often viewed as ‘normal,’ and even ‘harmless’, research has shown that viewing porn has the exact opposite effect on people.

This infographic by Fight The New Drug explains what pornography does to the brain. Like any other addiction, it creates a cycle of dependency in the brain and literally rewires it chemically to crave porn. The more you consume, results in less of a reaction, which means the person needs harder and more graphic porn to receive the same high they received when they started.

Aside from the detrimental affect porn has on the brain, it also dramatically impacts peoples over all health and relationships. People who view porn are often struggle with feelings of depression, stress and anxiety, and their sexual desire, levels of aggression and perceptions of the opposite sex are also impacted. This is why relationships suffer when one partner views porn, and many break down.

To find out more about porn’s affect on the brain, visit Fight the New Drug.

this-is-how-porn-affects-the-brain

Is pornography affecting your relationships or wellbeing? Is your partner or a loved one addicted to porn? Here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

27 bloggers who overcame tragedy to inspire the world

27-bloggers-who-overcame-tragedy-to-inspire-the-world

When we’re faced with a crisis or a shock diagnosis, we’ll often feel isolated and alone. Financial hardship, relationship issues, chronic illness and bullying can throw a definitive punch, and we’re left reeling. Never mind making plans for the future, it can be difficult enough taking it a day-at-a-time.

When we go through hard times, they’re made a little easier when we realise we’re not alone. Friends, family and professional help can help us to dig our way out and find new purpose for living.

Hearing inspiring stories by people who have been there before can also give us the gusto to keep fighting. Laura Tong of PositivelyHappy.me put together this list of 27 bloggers who have overcome great adversity and now share their wisdom with the world.

Ranging in nationality, occupation and experience, this phenomenal group of people all have something unique to offer if you are going through a hard time. Take a look at the list here, and scroll through until you find a topic that resonates with you.

There’s no easy solution to our struggles, but a little inspiration goes a long way. Thanks for sharing this fabulous list with us Laura!

Have you experienced a crises or tragedy? Do you need help navigating the future? Contact Colleen 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

25 Thoughts for Better Living

25 Thoughts for Better Living

It’s easy to find one inspiring quote on the internet, but a lot more difficult to come across a collection of compelling and relevant thoughts that allow you to instigate wellness in your own life.

HR Tech Weekly approached 25 wellbeing professionals and asked them to share their thoughts on better living. From relationships to self-acceptance and mental illness, their quotes give a well-rounded and positive perspective on what it means to be happy and healthy.

Colleen was also approached by HR Tech and asked about parenting. The stunning quote she provided is here:

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We encourage you to read through each quote, and meditate on how it affects your life. While reading a quote is a small step towards a brighter future, it is no less significant when you put it into action.

Are you unsure what the next step to a brighter future is? Contact Colleen 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how I can best help you or press book now to book on my online diary.

Introducing When Hope Speaks

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Regular readers of Watersedge will recognise the name Jessica Morris. Aside from contributing to the blog, she also oversees the social media and editorial content on our website. She has been open and honest about her own struggles with mental illness, giving us an insight into her experiences of therapy, teen to adulthood transition, and moving away from home.

Today we are excited to share Jessica’s new book with you all. Titled When Hope Speaks, it is a memoir about her diagnosis with depression and an anxiety disorder. Using essays, letters, blog posts and poems, she unravels the story of her mental illness and how it shaped her from diagnosis as a 13 year old, to her life today as an international journalist.

Available on October 10—World Mental Health Day, this is an inspiring story reminding people who live with mental illness that they never walk the journey alone. Carers and loved ones will be encouraged, and professionals can use it as a tool to educate and support their clients.

You can read an excerpt from When Hope Speaks by visiting Jessica’s website. Available October 10 through Salvo Publishing, order your copy now at jessicamorris.net.

“I’m so proud of my friend Jessica. She continues to impress me, not only with her writing but with how she lives her life. You get to see both in this book—Jessica’s talent for telling stories and for living them as well. She does both with compassion, with honesty, and with grace.”

~ JAMIE TWORKOWSKI,
founder, TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS
New York Times Best-selling Author, If You Feel Too Much

Locals are invited to attend the When Hope Speaks book launch this Saturday October 8. I will be representing WatersedgeCounselling on a mental health panel to follow a reading and Q & A by the author. Starting at 7pm at the Mule Shed Café at 64 Separation Street, North Geelong, entry is by donation to Hope Movement. Click here for more details.

Do struggle with depression or anxiety? Are you concerned about the mental health of a friend or loved one? Here’s what you need to do: contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary

The Enneagram: Understanding Wings

the-enneagram-understanding-wings

Just like every person is different, each personality type has its nuances. On the Enneagram, we can understand this better by looking at the idea of ‘wings’. This principle says that each of us lean towards the personality types next door to us, and show characteristics of these numbers.

For instance, at its core, a Type 6 is a Loyalist. But those who have a strong inclination towards the cerebral nature of the 5 will be characterised as a Defender, where as those who are more free-spirited like the 7, will be characterised as a Buddy.

Take a look at our newest Enneagram infographic and learn what the wings looks like for all nine personality types. You can also go to our Enneagram page for free downloads of every personality type.

enneagram-wings

Do you want to know more about the Enneagram? Would you like to better understand yourself and the people around you? Here’s what you need to do: contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

 

5 ways to practice positive self talk

5-ways-to-practice-positive-self-talk

One of the first strategies I ever learnt in counselling was self talk. Initially it sounded strange—who talks to themselves? But I soon found it was one of the simplest ways to overcome fear and anxiety in my own life.

Though we don’t talk about it, we all have our own inner monologue. Whether we think, “I looked stupid,” “I hope they like me,” or “I feel confident today,” it’s what goes through our heads each day. And the monologue you have will depend on the truths and lies you have believed about yourself.

Self-talk challenges this monologue and enables us to change our thinking and our behaviour. Here are five ways you can practice it in your own life.

  1. “I am enough”

Many people struggle with feelings of inferiority and have a fear of rejection. You may have grown up feeling like you had to compete for attention, or had words spoken to you by significant figures, stating that you were worthless, a failure or would amount to nothing in life.

When you feel this anxiety and loneliness, repeat these words to yourself: “I am enough”. You won’t believe them straight away, but use these words to give you confidence that you will get through your circumstances. As you keep saying these words and outliving them, eventually you will believe them about yourself.

  1. “I am brave”

Are you afraid of a certain person, an activity or an environment? Repeat the words, “I am brave,” to yourself, and challenge your inner monologue that says you are fearful, inconsequential and should be taken  advantage of.

Follow these words by doing what you are afraid of—speaking up for yourself, leaving a poisonous relationship, or trying something new. You will enforce your self talk and soon, you will realise that you are incredibly brave and do not have to let fear control you.

  1. “I am worthy”

Do people take advantage of you, speak down to you or say that everything they do wrong is your fault? Repeat the phrase, “I am worthy,” so you begin to believe that you deserve better than this. By simply existing, you are worthy of love, respect, value and feeling safe.

Next time someone challenges this belief, stand up for yourself. You don’t have to waiver or be fearful that you are ‘wrong’ to speak up. You are worthy of having a voice and being heard.

  1. “I am responsible for my actions and feelings”

If you struggle to take responsibility for your actions or words, begin to repeat this phrase to yourself: “I am responsible for my actions and feelings ”. By saying this, you break the cycle of blame and empower yourself to change your circumstances.

Saying these words does not make you entirely responsible for a situation or excuse the behaviour of another; it just allows you to take control of what you can change. When you take responsibility for yourself, you can begin a new chapter in your life.

  1. “I can do this”

These are simple words, but if you doubt yourself or are unconvinced you can overcome a situation, addiction or behaviour, then saying, “I can do this,” will compel you to move forward.

Challenge your inner belief that says you are a failure, and repeat this phrase to yourself before you go to a significant appointment, have cravings, or are ready to run away and live in denial.

Do you struggle with your inner monologue? Would you like to learn more about positive self talk? Contact Watersedgecounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or press book now to book in our online diary.

4 Steps to Manage Conflict

 

4-Steps-to-Manage-Conflict

People either embrace conflict or run from it. How we deal with it shapes our relationships and wellbeing, and if an issue is left unresolved, it can damage our couple relationship, the family unit, friendships and our work environment.

If conflict is avoided, left unresolved or approached unhealthily, it can cause people to become hurt and angry. It adds to confusion and can keep us from taking advantage of new opportunities.

However, it does have advantages. Conflict is a natural part of life, and provokes things to change. Some life lessons can only be learned through conflict, and these scenarios can also give us a greater capacity to become flexible, patient and understanding people.

Next time conflict arises, follow these steps and make it a positive experience.

Step 1: Treat the person with respect
Whether you have a problem with your spouse or a stranger, remember that the person isn’t the issue—their behaviour is. Avoid using language that insinuates they are ‘bad,’ ‘wrong,’ or ‘stupid,’ and instead use inclusive words, which allow you to empathise with them.

Step 2: Listen until you experience the other side
When you enter conflict, remove the mindset that you must ‘win’ or prove that you are ‘right’. Instead, make it your goal to understand the other person’s thoughts and ideas. Actively listen to what they are saying, and appreciate what their words mean to them. Put yourself in their shoes by asking yourself how they are feeling and what prompted their actions.

Step 3: State your feelings, needs and views briefly
It is important that you express your point of view and concerns, but do so with empathy. Avoid loaded questions that will startle them or put them on the offensive, and be honest about your feelings. Take ownership of the fact that while their behaviour impacts you; you choose to feel a certain way. Don’t skirt around the edges, insinuating what you mean. Speak honestly and mean what you say.

Step 4: Move on to problem solving if needed

If your conflict requires an active solution, rather than just a mutual respect of each other’s opinions, begin problem solving together. Depending on the quality of your relationship, you may need a mediator or counsellor to help you through this process. Problem solving will help you to define the problem, identify possible solutions and evaluate the possibilities that come from these. Once you have decided on a solution together, begin to initiate it.

This blog was put together using information from the Victorian Youth Mental Health Alliance, the Gippsland Mentoring Alliance and the book ‘People Skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others and resolve conflicts’ by R Bolton (1986).

Do you struggle with conflict? Would you like a mediator to help you manage this in your couple, family or work-related relationships? Contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute discussion or go to BOOK ONLINE NOW and follow the prompts to make an appointment.

Meet Joy, the new chat-bot that tracks your mental health

Meet-Joy

Earlier this year we did a countdown of the best mindfulness apps on the market. Now a new app, or technically a ‘chat-bot’, is on the scene, and it’s got everyone’s attention.

Named Joy, the bot is downloaded as an extension to your Facebook Messenger, enabling you to communication with the app like you would a friend. Not only does Joy track your mood, it also assesses how you are feeling, monitors your daily activities and suggests meditation and self-care techniques to benefit your health. Think of it as a built in best friend, who asks you about the nitty-gritty details of your life once a day.

Meet-Joy-2

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It’s important to note that Joy is still in the beginning stages. While the app gives you weekly reports on your mood and can ‘chat’ with you, it can’t yet understand everything you say. Created for people who aren’t seeing a professional therapist or counsellor, or who don’t regularly monitor their mental health, in the future it will encourage users to seek professional support.

This new take on self-care and suicide prevention has received attention from numerous outlets, such as The Mighty and Hello Giggles. According to Venture Beat, app creator Danny Freed created the bot after he lost a friend to suicide.

“My goal is not to replace therapists but rather to get more people who are in need to see a trained professional,” he said. “Right now, it’s pretty simple, but in the future, it could connect you with a trained human therapist or even perform basic reminders and routine check-ins automatically”.

You can find out more by visiting hellojoy.ai online. Due to an onslaught of traffic its servers have struggled, so visit Joy on Twitter as well.

Do you feel stressed, anxious and/or depressed? Do you need some support monitoring your mental heath? Then here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how she can best help you, or press book now to book on the online diary.