Five ways to beat stress

stress-april

Around the Easter break, stress comes to the forefront of our lives. We’re rushing to finish all our work in time for vacation, or we bring it home to get on top of everything.

Then there’s the stress that we experience around the holidays—seeing family and friends, cooking and entertaining, not to mention making sure your in laws don’t start a debate about international politics. Before long you’ve got a headache, your back starts to spasm, and spending time with the kids feels like more of a chore than a privilege.

Can you relate? If stress is controlling your life this Easter break, these five tips will help you get it back under control.

  1. Stop and breathe

It may seem simple, but when we’re stressed and on a deadline, taking the time to stop and breath feels like the most difficult step of all.

If everything feels like too much and pausing feels impossible, give yourself permission to stop for a minute. Exit to the bathroom or the hallway, and take five deep breaths in and out. This will clear your head and ease the tension in our body before you go back to your task. You will be more productive, and your stress will lessen significantly.

  1. Make a list 

Some people have so much to do that they spend more time leaping from one task to another rather than actually finishing a task! If that’s you, then make a list. Prioritise your tasks from what is most important or time sensitive, to what can be put on the back burner. Once you’ve made the list, follow it and complete each task one at a time. This will give you a sense of clarity and control. Plus, crossing an item off your list is a great ego boost!

  1. Take a walk

Spending time outside and exercising are natural stress reducers and will lift your mood. Take half an hour to walk around the block or grab a coffee, and use the time to centre yourself. Focus on nature, the taste of your drink, or the wind on your face. This will settle you before you go back to the grind.

  1. Set aside time for rest

Working non-stop is a natural response to stress, but it actually perpetuates the cycle and hinders your heath. Designate a set time for your work, rest and fun. That may mean not taking work home with you, or not working on weekends. It may even be as simple as not checking your email before you get to work!

  1. Meditate

Meditation and mindfulness will still your mind, and in turn, relax your body. Our friends at Audio Mental Training provide you with a number of Mindfulness Meditation programs that you can download and start using immediately (our favourite is Optimal Health). You can find out more by visiting their website HERE.

Are you stressed to the max? Are you scared that if you stop, everything will fall apart? 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.

10 conversation starters for awkward holiday parties

10-conversation-starters-for-awkward-holiday-parties

December is prime time for awkward conversations. There are work break ups, and family reunions, catch-ups with friends and community gatherings—all which require a certain amount of social prowess.

As someone with social anxiety, these events exhaust me. Having to navigate awkward questions about my relationship status and side step political banter means I don’t have a lot to give when it comes to starting conversations.

Come January 1, lots of us feel this way. So to help you along the way, we’ve come up with 10 great conversation starters for you. Pull one out next time you’re standing next to an introvert or when your second cousin once removed is seated next to you on Christmas Day.

All going well, this will create a conversation deep enough to go beyond weather talk, but light enough to avoid the unmentionables—politics, religion and having kids.

  1. What do you do with yourself when you’re not working?

This is a fail-safe way to find out about a person’s general interests. Maybe they’ve just started Cross Fit, are taking the kids to basketball practice, or belong to a religious community. You may even have something in common!

  1. What are your plans for the New Year?

This general open-ended question gives the other person permission to talk about whatever they want—holidays, new goals in the work place, their hope to start a family, or their plans to travel.

  1. Have you seen any good movies lately?

Short of having someone say, “I’m not really a movie person,” this is bound to start a conversation about the definitive ranking of Star Wars movies, great rom-coms, historical masterpieces or your favourite superhero. 

  1. Tell me about your work.

Some people can go on about their work for ages, so this opens up a lengthy conversation that will also identify what their vocation is and how they entered the industry. Steer clear of this if you’ve heard someone is searching for work or has been unable to go due to health reasons. If they’re searching, just say, “Oh, great! What are you looking for?”

  1. Do you have any animals?

Because who DOESN’T want to talk about their fur babies, and want to show strangers the collection of adorable photos they have of them on their phone?

  1. What are your kids interested in?

Obviously this is only useful if you’re speaking to a parent, but children are a great talking point—especially if you’re a relative. You’ll hear about their school work, their extra curricular activities, their health and their favourite TV show. Some parents will be more comfortable talking about their kids than themselves!

  1. Did you see [insert name of TV show/movie here]?

If you’re talking to someone in a similar age bracket, there’s a good chance they at least know about the TV shows and movies you’re into. If not, choose a generic movie or TV event few people miss—like Carols in the Domain, the New Years Countdown or a long-awaited miniseries about an iconic person. 

  1. What are you reading/watching at the moment?

The perfect question for avid readers or Netflix fans—this gives people the opportunity to talk about what they love and why. You’re giving them an outlet for their obsession. Trust me, they love it.

  1. Take a look at this video!

Find a hilarious video on Facebook and share it with your long-suffering compatriot. Animal videos are always worthwhile, although you can find some holiday-themed gems as well.

  1. What surprised you about this year?

This is an out of the box question that is sure to get the wheels turning in their head. While they’re considering their answer, come up with your own. This will lengthen the conversation and give you a chance to really get to know someone else.

Do you feel anxiety around the holiday season? Would you like support as you navigate difficult relationships or awkward conversations? 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 on our online diary.

10 Things to do if you’re lonely this Christmas

10-Things-to-do-if-you-are-lonely-this-Christmas

While Christmas is often called the ‘Happiest time of the year,’ for many people who are doing the holiday season alone, it actually leaves them feeling isolated and lonely. Maybe you don’t have any friends or family to celebrate with, you may not celebrate Christmas, or perhaps the stress of the season is all getting a bit too much? We thought we'd put together a list of 10 great ideas and activities that you might be interested in. Hopefully this will make the coming weeks all the more enjoyable, and something you’ll remember for years to come.

  1. Volunteer

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer over the holiday season. If you’re lonely, go and help people and not only will you be in community, but you’ll feel great as well! If you just want a shake up or feel like you’ve lost the true meaning of the season, then contact your local church, charity or community centre and ask them if you can help out with a food drive, community dinner, or other activity.

  1. Become a tourist in your hometown

Mix up your day and become a tourist in your hometown. Go and see the major attractions, visit a shopping hot spot, take a historical tour or splurge and go on a coffee crawl for the day. You’ll distract yourself and have a wonderful time becoming reacquainted with your own city.

  1. Go to a carols service or New Years Party

If you’d like to feel festive on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, going along to a community carols event is the perfect solution! Listen to your community radio station, read your local newspaper or call a near by church and see what they have on offer. There may also be New Years’ festivities open to the public that are being advertised. Check out what’s available and get along to see the fireworks.

  1. Call an old friend

This time of year is perfect for becoming reacquainted with old friends and making peace with those you’ve had a falling out with. Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while and wish them a Merry Christmas. Ask them about their year, their family and what 2016 holds.

  1. Visit your local library, museum or art gallery

If you’re bored, head out and create an adventure for yourself by visiting the library, museum or art gallery. Take your time and enjoy the experience by visiting each section and appreciating what it has to offer. If there’s a café attached, bring a good book or buy one there and allow yourself to become engulfed in the environment after you’ve looked around for a few hours.  

  1. Make a Happy Box

The folks at Resilient App have come up with the great idea of putting together a Happy Box to soothe you when you are feeling down. Selecting objects like hand cream, a good book, M&M’s, bubble wrap (because who doesn’t like to pop bubbles?) or a scented candle and putting them in a box are all useful when you are feeling low or stressed. Make yourself a Happy Box over the holiday period and enjoy the long-term benefits of it in 2016.

  1. Treat yourself

Treat yourself to a nice meal and a movie. Sometime it’s more fun going and doing these activities by yourself, so go and choose a restaurant you’ve been bursting to eat at and see a movie you know you’ll love. It could be a chick flick, or it could be Star Wars- it doesn’t matter. Just treat yourself to an evening of pampering.

  1. Have coffee with a friend

We’re all busy this time of year, but you’ll find people are happy to catch up for an hour over coffee. Choose a near by café and take the chance to catch up with your friend while enjoying some yummy food. You’ll leave feeling happy and contented knowing you’ve truly invested in an important relationship.

  1. Learn something new

Pick up that cross stitch you gave up on, research a course you can join in the new year, or watch YouTube tutorials on how to become a photographer. The sky is the limit when it comes to learning something new, so take the time to read, watch, learn and practice a new skill. In the New Year you’ll blow everyone away with your brilliant new talent!

  1. Give a gift

If you feel isolated this Christmas, one sure way of feeling less alone is by being generous. Lots of charities partner with major retail outlets over December to provide Christmas gifts to people doing it tough during the holiday season. Go to the Christmas tree in the centre of the store (like Kmart or Target), pick a tag and make it your mission to find a perfect gift for that person. Place it under the tree, and come Christmas you know that a parent, child, teen or a grandparent feels a little less alone this Christmas thanks to you.

Do you want to live a whole and healthy life? Would you like support as you navigate life-changing issues or circumstances? 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 on our online diary.

Let’s leave 2016 behind

let-us-leave-2016-behind

After speaking to my friends and loved ones about this year, the general consensus is that 2016 was very…long. People have lost loved ones, battled with physical or mental illness, and have encountered new conflicts at home and work. With the addition of global and national crises and politics, it’s fair to say that a lot of us would like to leave 2016 behind.

We all hold out for the moment the clock hits midnight on January 1, hoping it will usher in a new season of hope, change, growth and beauty. But that doesn’t necessarily happen—especially when we hold on to old habits, relationships and beliefs that weigh us down.

To move on from 2016, we have to do more than scream and cheer at midnight. We need to make the decision that 2017 is going to be our year, no matter what we’re faced with. And that starts with being grateful for what went right this year.

Make a list of everything that went right this year. It may be short, but these moments reflect what to hold onto in the new year. Things like healthy relationships, going to counselling, taking up a new exercise regime or proactively dealing with conflict could all make the list.

From here, it’s time to make a list of everything that you want to leave in 2016. It could be illness, anxiety, an unhealthy or broken relationship, negative thought patterns, unhealthy eating habits, a broken heart, an abusive work place or fear of the future.

It’s one thing to list what you dislike about this year, it’s another to make sure you don’t carry this into 2017. So start at the top, and work your way down. Most, if not all of these issues will take a lot of work and you will see patterns re-emerging in the new year. However, once you’re aware of them, you have the power to change each situation.

Instead of resolving to change one thing in the new year, make a commitment to keep working on yourself over the 52 weeks to come. This could mean going to see a doctor and talking about strategies for managing your health. It may involve weekly date nights with your spouse, finding a new job, practicing mindfulness each day, or booking an appointment to see a counsellor.

2017 won’t be perfect, but it will be different to 2016 because you have made the choice to let go of the past and make significant changes in your life.

Happy new year friends. May 2017 be the most hope-filled year yet.

Do you want to leave 2016 behind? Would you like to create positive change in the new year? Contact Colleen 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how she can best help you or press book now on the online diary.

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.

10 Fun Ideas for the Holidays

holidays banner

While Christmas is often called the ‘Happiest time of the year,’ for many people who are doing the holiday season alone, it actually leaves them feeling isolated and lonely. Maybe you don’t have any friends or family to celebrate with, you may not celebrate Christmas, or perhaps the stress of the season is all getting a bit too much? We thought we'd put together a list of 10 great ideas and activities that you might be interested in. Hopefully this will make the coming weeks all the more enjoyable, and something you’ll remember for years to come.

  1. Join in the SANE for their Virtual Christmas

If you love Christmas dinner but don’t have anyone to share it with, then check out SANE’s Virtual Christmas as they invite people to sit down with their own meal, and join in a festive online chat so they can share the experience with other people. SANE holds a weekly Friday Feast online, so this is something to pencil in for the New Year as well. Visit the official SANE website here for more details.

  1. Volunteer

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer over the holiday season. If you’re lonely, go and help people and not only will you be in community, but you’ll feel great as well! If you just want a shake up or feel like you’ve lost the true meaning of the season, then contact your local church, charity or community centre and ask them if you can help out with a food drive, community dinner, or other activity.

  1. Become a tourist in your hometown

Mix up your day and become a tourist in your hometown. Go and see the major attractions, visit a shopping hot spot, take a historical tour or splurge and go on a coffee crawl for the day. You’ll distract yourself and have a wonderful time becoming reacquainted with your own city.

  1. Go to a carols service or New Years Party

If you’d like to feel festive on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, going along to a community carols event is the perfect solution! Listen to your community radio station, read your local newspaper or call a near by church and see what they have on offer. There may also be New Years’ festivities open to the public that are being advertised. Check out what’s available and get along to see the fireworks.

  1. Call an old friend

This time of year is perfect for becoming reacquainted with old friends and making peace with those you’ve had a falling out with. Call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while and wish them a Merry Christmas. Ask them about their year, their family and what 2016 holds.

  1. Visit your local library, museum or art gallery

If you’re bored, head out and create an adventure for yourself by visiting the library, museum or art gallery. Take your time and enjoy the experience by visiting each section and appreciating what it has to offer. If there’s a café attached, bring a good book or buy one there and allow yourself to become engulfed in the environment after you’ve looked around for a few hours. 

  1. Make a Happy Box

The folks at Resilient App have come up with the great idea of putting together a Happy Box to soothe you when you are feeling down. Selecting objects like hand cream, a good book, M&M’s, bubble wrap (because who doesn’t like to pop bubbles?) or a scented candle and putting them in a box are all useful when you are feeling low or stressed. Make yourself a Happy Box over the holiday period and enjoy the long-term benefits of it in 2016.

  1. Treat yourself

Treat yourself to a nice meal and a movie. Sometime it’s more fun going and doing these activities by yourself, so go and choose a restaurant you’ve been bursting to eat at and see a movie you know you’ll love. It could be a chick flick, or it could be Star Wars- it doesn’t matter. Just treat yourself to an evening of pampering.

  1. Have coffee with a friend

We’re all busy this time of year, but you’ll find people are happy to catch up for an hour over coffee. Choose a near by café and take the chance to catch up with your friend while enjoying some yummy food. You’ll leave feeling happy and contented knowing you’ve truly invested in an important relationship.

  1. Learn something new

Pick up that cross stitch you gave up on, research a course you can join in the new year, or watch YouTube tutorials on how to become a photographer. The sky is the limit when it comes to learning something new, so take the time to read, watch, learn and practice a new skill. In the New Year you’ll blow everyone away with your brilliant new talent!

Are you lonely? Do you feel down? 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.

5 Steps to Survive the Festive Season

5 Steps to Survive the Holiday Season

I loved Christmas as a child. My excitement for the season would build up over December as school ended and the summer holidays began. Soon illustrious holiday decorations were hanging around town, the Christmas tree would go up, and presents were being bought. Christmas was always so magical as a child. Even as I grew older and knew that Santa was just another term for my parents, I still loved to imagine his coming on Christmas morning. Christmas Day was filled to the brim with good food, good times and family, and I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world.

As I’ve grown older, Christmas has slowly lost its magic. It often feels like another thing on my hectic ‘To do’ list, and on top of managing my normal work load and everyday life, I also have to navigate the ebbs and flows that come with holiday festivities. The holidays have become more about survival than enjoyment, which if we’re honest, is not what Christmas is really about. That being said, here are 5 steps I’ll be keeping in mind this coming week so I not only survive the holidays, but can learn to love them again.

  1. Have a ‘Child like’ mindset

We all have responsibilities over Christmas, and it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of simply crossing things off our list. Next time you feel yourself tensing up, stop and remember what you loved about the holidays as a child. If you’re stressed about Christmas dinner, remember why you loved it so much growing up. Perhaps financial stress is playing on your mind? Remember how simple gifts and cards surprised you as a kid. Use the excitement to find the fun of the season again.

  1. Make time to relax

I can almost here you exclaim, “Relax over the holidays? You must be kidding!” but hear me out for a second. While you’re working tirelessly to pull off a wonderful holiday season for friends, family or colleagues, you’re neglecting yourself if you don’t pause and embrace the festivities too. Make a decision to stop working, and sit down with a family member or colleague at a Christmas party. Allow yourself to join in the banter and games that take place, and don’t be afraid to take five minutes for yourself so you can be centred.

  1. Keep things simple

I know, I know, simple and holidays don’t really go together these days, but it’s the simple things that you will remember most about the season: the smell of the Christmas tree, the warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you unwrap a gift someone has put thought into, and the warmth of a loved one’s hug. Don’t try to complicate the season with too many activities, over the top expectations, and stressful tasks. Just stick to the things that matter the most and focus on them.

  1. Keep family time light

The holiday season is prime time for family conflict to come up. Passive aggressive comments can arise over dinner conversation, arguments arrive over seemingly minuscule details, and issues and circumstances that occurred years ago can rear their ugly heads and make it a day we’d rather forget. While it’s important to work through your feelings, try not to let bitterness overtake your enjoyment of the day. Choose to not take things personally, and try to respond to remarks with positivity. Monitor how long you spend in difficult conversations, and allow yourself to debrief afterward in the privacy of your own home.

  1. Avoid negative coping strategies.

Yep, your mother-in-law just made another comment about how you’re running out of time to have children, so you reach for another margarita. Or maybe the stress of your holiday workload is getting to you, so you live it up one night in an attempt to forget about it. You regret it the next day. What do these circumstances have in common? You tried to survive using negative and harmful coping strategies. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy festivities, but don’t use alcohol, substances or other unhealthy habits as a crutch. You will hurt yourself and the people around you. Instead, try to implement steps 1-4. This will help you to cope with the season, and hopefully find the magic in it again.

If you are struggling to survive the holiday 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.