Are you moving on or running away? : Eight keys to navigate life transitions

Are-you-moving-on-or-running-away

Transitions are never easy. We’re often faced with them after a season of stability and apparent ‘safety’, and this means the idea of rolling the dice on a new adventure, relationship or experience, is terrifying.

Transitions provide us with three options: stay where we are, leap into a new experience, or run away. If you’re a self-doubter like me, you may even sway between two or three of these options, unsure what the next step is. You may doubt your motives, your readiness, or be in complete denial about what the next step in your life should be.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer in transition. Each of us will respond differently when they arise, and the best and healthiest course of action will vary. Often, the answer lies in our ability to recognise whether we are running away from a situation or if we’re naturally moving on to something new.

Are you in a period of transition? I sure am, and these are eight questions I’ve asked myself to assess my best course of action for my future.

  1. Am I afraid of the future?

Sometimes, the fear of the unknown and what may go wrong (or right) keep us from moving into a new phase of life.  We can all take steps to prepare for the future, but there comes a time when we need to take a risk and move forward. Don’t let fear hold you back.

  1. Am I afraid of staying still?

Perpetual transition and the inability to put down roots is the trademark of someone who is afraid to stay still in life. If you’re afraid of what life could be like if you stopped and invested in relationships, a community or a business, then it may be time to stop running and plant yourself for a season.

  1. Am I afraid for the safety of my loved ones or myself?

One of the most common transitions comes when we step out of a relationship. In any long-term or marriage relationship, it’s important you see a counsellor (preferably with your partner) as it’s always preferential that you save a relationship rather than break up.

BUT if you fear for your safety and the emotional wellbeing of yourself and your family, it is time for you to leave. Call it running away or moving on—it makes no difference when your wellbeing is involved.

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse or violence, call 1800-RESPECT.

  1. Do I have commitment issues?

If you’re scared of being in a long-term relationship, you’ll consistently run away from anyone that threatens your independence. Sometimes this happens before a relationship can evolve, and other times you’ll casually date or hook up before the other person asks for a commitment and you run for the hills. Don’t be in denial about it. You are allowed to live a single, happy independent life, but if you’re living it out of fear of committing to a single person it’s time to do some work on yourself.

  1. What are my responsibilities?

Whether you’re moving on or running away from responsibility—and whether you should—will largely depend on what they are. Responsibility for your loved ones, especially children, will always come first. Sacred responsibilities like this should never be run from, just nurtured so you feel supported in the process.

However, if your responsibilities are work related, or are tied to unhealthy family or relationship attachments, then a different course of action may be required. Unrealistic expectations that negatively infringe on your health, happiness and the people around you shouldn’t be adhered to.

You need to move on from these responsibilities, either by seeking new employment, gaining external support through a counsellor, or changing your routine so you live a healthier and happier lifestyle.

  1. Am I prepared?

Are you prepared to stand still and fight for your relationship? Are you willing to take a leap of faith and make a new life for yourself with a new job, relationship or community? Are you ready to leave the pain of the past behind?

Preparation isn’t just physical; it’s emotional too. If you’re willing to make an emotional commitment to the next (or current) phase in your life, you’re ready to take the next step.

  1. Who am I doing this for?

Irrespective of whether you stay, run or move on, the people you do it for will determine how healthy the transition is. Committing to a relationship or working on a current one are both risks worth your time—they are about your happiness, and the happiness of the people around you.

However, if you’re basing your next life transition on the unhealthy expectations of others or unrequited love, believing you will be more ‘whole’ if you take this step, you need to stop and reassess. Who you are is enough, and transition is about becoming more ‘you’, not proving yourself to others.

  1. What do I want?

What do you want for your life? Do you want safety, security and a place to belong? Or maybe you want to live an adventurous and exhilarating life, full of unexpected moments and people. How you answer this question will help you determine if you need to stay, take a leap of faith or move on to something new.

Are you going through a life transition? Are you running away from something or need support to save a relationship? 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.

4 tips to cultivate and enhance your daily life and well being in 2014

cultivate-and-enhance-your-daily-lifeRecently I had the very LIFEGIVING experience of visiting Disney World in Florida.

I am using the word LIFEGIVING very deliberately, because my experience was just that!

For the 2 days that I had the opportunity to explore some of the parks, I could not stop grinning such was my happiness. Being at Disney World was a catalyst for releasing my inner child: I enthusiastically hugged Goofy, the Chipmunks, one or two Disney Princesses; I jumped up and down with delight as I watched the street parades and waved to Mickey Mouse; I sang along with gusto to the beautiful orchestral music that permeated every corner of the parks; I gasped with awe as I witnessed the glorious firework display, and I experienced enormous pleasure at the unfailing willingness and enthusiastic service of every Disney employee I encountered over the two days. If I could bottle my Disney experience and bring it home, I would have the instant ‘pick me up' for every mediocre day forever after! It was a LIFEGIVING experience.

What do I mean by LIFEGIVING? I initially encountered this term through an interest in the study of Spiritual Formation. I discovered that the term LIFEGIVING was a helpful way to recognise good spirit – that which had a calming, nurturing, grounding, centering and positive impact on my well-being. Anything that is LIFEGIVING grows, nourishes and enhances life in me. Conversely, when something depletes, minimises, drains and de-centers, it is a bad spirit and life destroying.

Whilst I cannot bring Disney home in a bottle, I can still encounter that which is LIFEGIVING in my ongoing everyday experience because I have developed the habit of noticing the things in my daily experience that enhance life and well-being in me.

Here are 4 tips to cultivate and enhance your daily life and well-being in 2014:

1. Using each of your 5 senses, take notice of the things in your everyday life that soothe, calm, centre, ground and/or bring you pleasure.
sight – a favourite object, photo or scene
smell – a flower, herb, tree, candle or particular object that calms or holds meaning for you
touch- a smoothe stone, a silk scarf, a beloved pet or a warm bubble bath
sound – the sea, rain on your roof, a favourite piece of music,
taste – a drink of hot chocolate, a glass of red wine at the end of a long day, the first cup of tea for the day, your favourite sweet

2. Take 5-10 minutes each day to journal the things that you notice are LIFEGIVING and reflect on what it is that makes it so.
Is it the colour, the size, the reminder of a pleasurable memory for instance?
Your answers will provide further insight into what it is that is particularly LIFEGIVING for you.

3. Practice DOING MORE of the things that are LIFEGIVING.
Makes sense doesn't it? I have noticed that inspite of what I know about what I NEED for well being, old habits die hard and self sabotage is my brains natural de-fault position! Making a new habit requires PRACTICE. By daily practice and journaling your discoveries you reinforce that which is LIFEGIVING.
RITUALS are a very powerful way of providing order and rhythm to your daily life. It may be as simple as going for a daily walk early morning, lighting a candle each evening or saying a prayer upon waking and going to bed.

4. Make your home/workplace environment LIFEGIVING by using decor that calms and centres you.
Be aware that your mood may well be enhanced by a certain colour or sounds.
Do you function better with more light? Do you prefer a window? Is there a particular plant or flower you would like to bring indoors? Do you require a quiet place where you can relax and find calm?
Consider how the environment you are in, impacts your mood and sense of well-being. You may well have to think creatively about how you can make the environment you are in, more LIFEGIVING for you.
Make a point of removing the things that de-energize you physically, mentally or emotionally.

By following these 4 tips you will begin to develop your own daily experience of noticing that which is LIFEGIVING for you. The benefits will include an increasing sense of calm, inner peace, and centering as you invite more of what is ‘good spirit' into your daily experience.

If you would like to explore this theme more fully within a group setting, Watersedgecounselling will be conducting a Women's Wellbeing Workshop, facilitated by Colleen Morris, on Saturday, February 22nd at 9.30am – 4.30pm, level 1, 24 Moorabool Street, Geelong. For more information, go to www.watersedgecounselling.com/events or call Colleen on 0434337245

If you would like a personal consultation on how to cultivate and enhance your daily life and well being, you can call Colleen for a FREE 10 minute consultation on 0434 337 245 or if you would like to make an appointment to see Colleen, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling's online appointment diary.

6 Tips For Transitioning Into Marriage

6 Tips for transtioning Into Marriage

Introducing Guest Blogger, Anna Kosmanovski

Anna is a gifted and passionate writer and a delightful young woman. As a newly-wed, Anna is eminently qualified to write on the subject of transitioning into  married life. If you would like to read more of her work you will find it at http://www.annakosmanovski.com

 

Having just recently got married, my husband and I joke that we are “marriage babies”, happily waddling around together in our diapers. We have our own experience on how to do married life but considering we’ve just celebrated the three month mark, I feel understandably inadequate to write on that.

 

What I can give my thoughts on, however, is the transition process from being single to being engaged, and then from being engaged to being married.

 

1. Get pre-marriage counselling

We did a five week course with two other couples. This included a dazzling array of desserts and complete privacy as a couple for the group conversation time. We went over common issues like household chores – who does what – as well as gave us insight into important issues we hadn’t even thought of yet!
For us, this represented a conversation, or series of ongoing conversations, on how we were planning, and wanting, to do life together after the wedding.

Looking back, this counselling was so important to our relationship.

It helped us both recognise how we naturally respond to situations and what our personality types were. Personally, I realised that I tended to naturally bottle some things up and needed to work on my confrontational skills. I also realised my husband-to-be was unable to read my mind. Even just recognizing these things is helpful and gives you consideration as you go into marriage, as well as areas to “work on.”

 

2. Talk about expectations

We naturally talked about our hopes and dreams but it was very useful to also directly discuss what each other’s individual expectations were for our marriage and then our collective vision for this. Doing so brought about compromise … which they say marriage is all about. So doing this exercise – and working out what’s non-negotiable and what needs to be compromised – you can meet in the middle.

Talking about this can involve expectations big and small, with no topic big or small.

For instance, would one spouse expect the other spouse to do most of the cleaning? Do you both expect to share the cooking and cleaning? What kind of expectations do you have in parenting? Even talking about how you would both like to do the holiday season with children – if you are planning on having them – is a valuable expectation to discuss.

For us, even talking about how we envisioned Christmas to look in our household was a point of differing expectations with one issue. I am so glad we found this out before we were married – and worked out a compromise – otherwise one of us may have been surprised!

Relating to having children down the track, does one spouse expect the other spouse to be a stay-at-home parent, get back to work after six months or do whatever felt right to them? These are good questions to ponder for your future together, even if the future seems very distant!

 

3. Make a plan for finances

As well as the pre-marriage counseling, we also did a three week budgeting course. We were not yet engaged at this stage but both knew that it would be a good thing individually and as a couple.

We spent late nights working on Excel spreadsheets and figuring out the structure of our finances, as well as discussing our thoughts on giving and saving. The reward for that comes into play after you are married. It saves you from having arguments when both parties naturally want to structure finances the way they’ve always done it when that may not simply work now life has changed from one to two.

So much tension in a relationship can revolve around money: how to use it, how you save it, etc. Some couples like to pay themselves a “pocket money” into their personal account and have a main joint transaction and savings account. Others like to have just the joint account. Some spouses need tight organisation in this area to feel at ease while others are just happy to go with the flow. Whatever your thoughts are on money and marriage, make sure you are both at peace with this.

 

4. Do your homework – learn from other people

We all need people to look up to and learn from; people to inspire us. In getting married, it’s no different. We need to learn from those who have strong relationships. These couples could be in their mid twenties or late sixties.

We gratefully accepted dinner dates, afternoon teas and the opportunity to meet with other couples we respected. We found these couples happy to speak into our lives and give advice and experiences and answer questions. We observed how these couples communicated, noticed how they valued their spouse in public and heard wisdom and tips on marriage. Simply speaking, we were lucky enough to see how other people, “did life together” and learnt from them.

In this way, we saw practically what we aspired to, which helped build our own unique relationship, as well as vision for it. This was a privilege to see healthy marriages and be inspired for our own relationship.

 

5.  Put up boundaries to protect your relationship

This is a really important one and will look different for every couple. It’s an exercise in both protection and safeguarding your relationship. What was good, helpful and supportive from family and friends when you were single may have the opposite effect when you are married.
For us, we put our faith in God first, then each other, then family. By identifying our priorities, we cut through some ambiguities which could have potentially lead to boundaries being crossed.

So much heartache comes from unhealthy relationships and lack of respect about boundary issues. The television show, Everyone Loves Raymond, paints a hilarious picture of this. When we were dating, my husband joked that he watched that show with the intention of learning “not to do” in our marriage.

We all need to be in community with our family and friends, but in a healthy way. Particularly in your first year of marriage, you need lots of space to well, just be with each other and be able to make mistakes and learn together how life is best for you both. Plus, it takes time to simply get used to being married and even living together for those who did not live together before being married.

Use the transition period to find out your boundary issues. Your spouses, too. Counselling will help with this. Consider if there are any minor – or major – relationship adjustments which need to happen.

If you can help it, this is not the time to move in with your inlaws or even live in a share house with other people. You are forming your own household, physically speaking, and need the freedom to do this just you too. Emotionally speaking, some – or perhaps more – relationships with friends and family need to change. The relationship is still there, it just needs to be tinkered slightly.

 

6. Learn – and celebrate – your differences

The thing is, opposites attract. You can’t tell when you’re dating and engaged because it’s so exciting but there’s a good chance your partner is opposite to you in a lot of ways!

You might be surprised to learn that your spouse is naturally introverted. Or perhaps you’re an introvert who has been pretending to be an extrovert during the dating/engagement period. You get married, life settles down to normalcy and your secret is revealed: you don’t want to have dinner parties every weekend! Or, maybe it’s the opposite!
Whatever your natural tendencies, it’s helpful to be aware of this and share it with your spouse or spouse to be!

This will give you both more understanding about each other, not to mention yourselves. Are you energized by people or energized by the solace of reading a book by yourself? By finding out how you are naturally wired, you can save time and tension in your marriage. Again, the compromise word comes into play! I’ll add another one too: respect. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to lean towards. Extrovert spouses can learn from more introvert partners and introverts are challenged by their more outgoing partners. Celebrate your differences and respect how the other person is naturally made, although don’t put them in a box either. People change and grow all the time: expect that will happen too!

 

7. It’s not about the wedding, it’s about what comes after

Some people thinks weddings are spelt “stress” not “wedding”, and with good reason too. Anyone who has been closely involved – parent, bridesmaid, groom, bride, sister, etc. – in a wedding knows exactly how stressful weddings CAN be. Table setting planning, costs involved, not being able to invite everyone you would like, civil wars within extended families: the list goes on!
Sadly, some couples have even separated during the engagement process because of the sheer stress of wedding planning, interference from others and other wedding related issues alone.

Two new families, two sets of values, a whole lot of differing expectations coming together and all of a sudden you have a wedding which is bigger than Ben Hur and nowhere near as noble.

In the busyness of this time, it’s a good idea for you and your spouse to take a step back and ask yourselves – are you even happy with how things are going ahead?

We needed to do this. Somewhere down the track, I realised that we had fallen into the trap of planning a wedding to please other people, the expense being ourselves (and our bank accounts.)

Tip: if you find yourselves constantly “joking” about how much easier it would be if you just eloped, you need to revisit your wedding planning with a very good tip which my husband’s aunty gave me.

It’s quite catchy, really: your day, your way!

If you need assistance to to navigate your present transition experience or need support as you experience your own transition contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.

 

 

Transitions: The Secret Of Change

the secret of change

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new. (Socrates)

Put simply, look ahead instead of looking back if you want to change.

As I have thought about this, a Bible story that I was taught during my early years attending Sunday School came to mind. It was a story that put fear in my heart telling of a couple who lived in the city of Sodom, infamous for some of its resident’s depraved behaviour. The couple had been instructed by God to flee from the city without looking back. Failure to do so, God warned, would be grievous. I can only guess what Lot’s wife was experiencing: curiosity, confusion and uncertainty, feelings of loss, doubt? The consequence of her action was swift and dramatic: she turned to a pillar of salt there in the desert.

The story reminds me of the real challenges a person faces when confronted with any transition in their life. Some transitions such as developmental changes, workplace changes, or the loss of a loved one are forced upon you. Other transitions are a consequence of the choices you have made: living together as a committed couple, marriage, moving location, a change in employment, recovery from an addiction are just a few examples. Irrespective of the nature of the transition you are going through, it is a stressful and emotionally challenging time. The story reminds me how easily you can become ‘stuck’ and even feel like you are ‘losing yourself’ during transition because nothing is familiar or predictable anymore. The ground is shifting beneath you and the natural desire to turn back and look at the old  familiar ways can be a temptation difficult to resist. It is a human tendency to go back to the comfort of what is familiar, even if it is doing me harm; to avoid the discomfort of the unknown and unfamiliar.

Trusting the process of change; permanent change takes a long time and tests our tolerance and patience. Transition is not a linear movement but a movement back and forward, testing out new behaviours, falling back on the old, learning by trial and error.

Fighting the old reinforces the old

  • You are confronted by ‘demons’ of the past
  • You experience an ongoing struggle to resist temptation
  • You become physically and emotionally exhausted
  • You are more vulnerable to the very thing you are fighting against (‘I feel like giving up’; ‘It’s too hard’; ‘Why am I even bothering?’)

Building the new inspires hope and purpose

  •  Your back is to the old
  •  You are thinking about possibilities and dreams
  •  You are focused on finding solutions
  •  You are focusing on the goal

Whatever transition you are presently going through, be it as an individual, a couple or as a member of a community, remember Socrates advice and focus your energy on building the new.

If you need assistance to  focus your energy on the new, would like to know more about how to navigate your present transition experience or need support as you experience your own transition contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.

Depression – What I Knew and What I Wished Someone Had Told Me

Depression is one of the most common mental health issues that people experience. As many as one in 5 Australians will have this illness at some stage in their life.Depression  and anxiety frequently emerge at times of transition as a consequence of the stress that life transitions bring with them. In my own experience, the transition from a single woman to couple and then couple to couple with children, was a very stressful time and as I now reflect, it was not surprising that I became depressed – but I didn’t see it like that at the time!

At that stage of my life, my husband and I were committed to and worked for The Salvation Army, having been raised within this cultural context. The Salvation Army had been like a benevolent parent who provided employment, housing, community, identity and support. It was all that we had ever known and I felt secure and happy however I had no idea that a life crisis was heading my way.  The ‘clouds of depression’ had been gathering over a number of years previous to my marriage, however I had continued to function, having no idea what the source of my constant fatigue was. The birth of our twin daughters was a joyful and exhilarating time however I could not shake off my feelings of sadness and isolation. My body constantly ached as I struggled to make it through each day. For 2 years I continued to push myself; good wife, mother, daughter, working professional; I fulfilled the roles assigned to me and the expectations that came by association.

The resources that got me through that time

1. Support

I had the support of 2 friends who listened, encouraged me and did very practical things like helping with the ironing and giving me a hand feeding the babies. These mature women understood the struggle I experienced and accepted me without judgement. I have always felt an unfailingly gratitude towards these women. If you have people in your life who want to help you, accepting their support is not a sign of weakness. It is  the recognition that you are not ‘super-woman’ but a normal human-being under significant stress.

2.Spirituality

I have always had a very strong sense of what is sacred in my life and practiced the discipline of meditation. My personal belief in a loving and compassionate God, nurtured within me a spirit of gratitude and the belief that every life experience has purpose and meaning. Your spirituality can be a rich source of inner calm and groundedness and can be viewed as separate from ‘following a religion. Religion is about following a particular belief system, its rules and rituals. For some people this is very ‘life-giving’ and grounding. I prefer to separate the two because whilst I enjoy meaningful rituals, in my own experience following a religious pattern became ‘life-draining’. This did not mean that I abandoned my faith, only that I needed to let go of religious expectations that had an exhausting and stressful impact upon me.

3. Hope

The hope that things would change for the better. This hope enabled me to hold on to life and not give up, though there were many times when I felt like it.

I survived with these resources for 2 years however they  were not enough to restore my wellbeing. As a consequence, I became seriously unwell, physically collapsing at home whilst caring for my 2 year old twin daughters. This finally drew attention to how seriously unwell I was however if I had known what I know now, I could have received the help I needed well before this and recovered much quicker than the 15 years that my recovery journey actually took. So here are some of the things that I know now that I wished I had known then. I hope they help you.

 

The Resources that I wish I had known about then

 4. Physical Symptoms are your body's warning alert system

Physical symptoms such as panic attacks, headaches, exhaustion, social anxiety, anger, insomnia, aches and pains are your body’s way of drawing attention to the fact that you need to take some time out to care for yourself. When you no longer have the physical, emotional or psychological resources to cope with everyday life, your body calls attention to itself in very physical ways.

 5. Practicing the things that calm you and nurture a sense of well-being will settle your anxiety, lift your spirit and energize you.

What works is unique to your needs; exercise stimulates endorphins in the brain to produce a feeling of well-being, meditation helps you to calm and ground yourself, massage,  a warm bubble bath, a fragrant candle, music, journaling, art,  are all resources that people sometimes find helpful. Avoid ‘self-medicating’; alcohol, unprescribed medication, illicit drugs, and other potentially addictive and risk-taking behaviours.  Initially these things may bring some relief however they are short-lived and have potentially devastating consequences.

 6. You are important. Your needs are important. Feeling guilty that you feel the way you do is unproductive and self-destructive.

Here is a paradox: If you take the time to value and care for yourself, you will gradually recover your own sense of wellbeing and be able to take care of the people you love.   On the other hand, when you fail to take time to care for yourself, ultimately you will be unable to care for the people you love.

7. Counselling

Talking to a counsellor about your experience provides you with a safe space  to explore your experience and provide clarity about what you need to recover your health and wellbeing and to develop strategies for your ongoing wellness.

8. Talk to a doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing.

Medication can assist you in your recovery to wellness. Anti-depressant medication is not addictive and can give you the necessary help to begin to function while you continue the counselling process. Once you begin an anti-depressant, it is important to take it as your doctor prescribes and continue to use them for at least 6 months. This gives your system time to fully recover and absorb the new messages you are learning about yourself in the counselling process.

If you would like to know more about how to navigate your present life transition experience or need support in coping with depression or any other mental health issue contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or go to www.watersedgecounselling.com to book an appointment.