Instructions on how to eat an Elephant

I love this saying on how to tackle a big project! When someone said this to me, I burst out laughing, appreciating how well those simple words captured the feelings and overwhelm but also gave a simple solution.

How do you eat an Elephant? One step at a time.

For you animal lovers out there who might feel this is inappropriate, there is the other one; How do you complete a long journey? One step at a time.

I have a strategy that helps to manage my anxiety and that is planning. I know it might sound boring to many of you but it works for me, so if I can share a few things, hopefully it will help you too 🙂

I am a big fan of lists and writing things down. If you have something to do, write it down. If you  have no time, break it down into smaller chunks and allocate a day and time for it. That way if you only have 10 mins a day, you can do a little and know you are going in the right direction.

Maybe have a plan of the week displayed so everyone knows what is happening when. This was great when the kids were little and we had loads of clubs, activities, work and chores. Delegate and share the load – maybe this plan can have who is doing what on what day?

What is your priority? If you get that clear in your head and know you’re working towards that, everything else can wait or you can let go of.

If you are struggling managing your time, energies and anxiety, give me a shout. I have helped many others figure out ways to get back on top of their lives and I feel confident I can help you too. It’s not difficult, it’s simply a case of spending some time looking at the bigger picture, breaking things down so they’re achievable and remembering what is important.

‘Me’ time isn’t a myth

My clients hate it when I say this to them. When I ask them about ‘Me’ time, they look at me like I’m talking a different language or offering them something alien.

Do you remember a time when you had time for yourself? Maybe not practically but time in your mind to think, to form a sentence (something I struggle with as a mum, for sure!). And when we have some time for a break, a breather, what do we do? Rush around doing all the jobs we have to do to feel a teeny bit of satisfaction and achievement that never comes.

Let me ask you this. When you say you have ‘no time’ to take out for yourself and recharge, what are you actually saying?
There is time for work, the kids, the washing, ironing, cleaning, dusting, reorganising your sock drawer, watering the dead plants, but no time for you.
So you’re saying you come below the dead plants? That is your level of priority?

You, who holds it all together, who is CEO of the house and family. YOU.
Below the dead plants and socks?

There is no judgement here but come on!! You are so worthy and valuable but you can’t see it.  We’re taught as women to be ‘Good’ which seems to encompass looking after everyone – BUT not at the detriment of your mental and physical health. We can of course look after others, but you don’t have to do it 24/7, every second of the day. And you certainly don’t need anyone’s permission to take a break or feel guilty about it.

I’m sure many of you have heard about the plane safety procedure of putting on your own oxygen mask on before anyone else’s in case of an emergency. And how many of us panic when our phone batteries need charging and we can’t find a charger?

How can you make time for yourself though?

  • Set aside 10 minutes a day just for you. Sit and do nothing. If your mind is racing, let is race, don’t judge or react to the thoughts, let them flow past like you would if you were sitting by a river.
  • Be mindful when you do things. Instead of rushing, take your time and use all your senses; what can you hear? see? smell? feel? What are you saying to yourself? Is there anything that is so heartwarming you’d like to save to memory?
  • Set clear boundaries. If you need time, make sure others know not to disturb you. It’s ok to want privacy when you go to the bathroom you know 😉
  • Be your own best friend. You know when you are tired, so why keep pushing? Be kind to yourself and acknowledge all you’ve done, then be gentle with yourself and say what you would to a friend, ‘hey, did you want a cuppa and a five minute breather?’. It’s a start 🙂
    Why bother with all this though? Creating time for yourself will help you be clearer about your life, where you want to be and where you’re going, about YOU. It helps you feel in control, less stressed and more able to cope at what life throws at you.
    Quite a lot of value and reward for a bit of time for yourself, don’t you think?

My Way to help you live life Your Way

I know I have talked about labels before and for those of you who have been with me for a while now have seen the journey I have been on; Family portraits, Healing photography, Counselling and now, a mix of Counselling and Phototherapy and soon, Coaching. This is me trying to figure things out and be more authentic, finding what I am meant to do in this life!

I have worked with the amazing Judith, a loving, no nonsense business coach, and I was so happy to see she had written a book (JudithMorgan.com/book). This book and Judith’s invitation to join her Blogfest ( JudithMorgan.com/blog), has inspired me to write this post.

You see, being in business is not easy, not at all! You have to be the Director to the Cleaner, master marketing and also do the actual work you want to do. Then there are the personal feelings, the massive ups and downs as you try and navigate and learn everything. Really, it isn’t easy, and that is an understatement.

Reading Judith’s book, I was reminded of the core conditions based in person centred counselling; Unconditional Positive Regard, Congruence and No Judgement. These are the simple but powerful 3 things that make a great counsellor, make the relationship with client work and most importantly, help the client to be more themselves.

I feel this from Judith, and she reminded me that I need to apply these conditions to myself. Trust me, from the start of my studying, I have been trying (again, it’s not easy!) but she broke it down into the practicalities, sharing what others have been feeling and saying. In answering those questions, I didn’t feel alone and I felt inspired!

You see, when we start out in life, on a new journey, on a new project or task maybe, we are a clean slate. We start with motivation, enthusiasm and hope. But as we go on, others start judging, we start comparing, we listen to all this and lose who we are and our original mindset.

We respond to the conditions put on us and we try to conform, fitting in so we don’t stand out but the result is we move further away from our True Selves. It is only with Unconditional Positive Regard, or Love as I like to call it we can get back to our True Selves. Love in the bigger and wider sense, pure Love given to another being for simply existing; no judgement, no expectations but full of support and care and compassion.

But being our True Selves with all these conditions isn’t easy – in life or in business, or in any role. It means we have to look at ourselves with the light on, in detail and face what we fear, what we don’t like, what we can’t cope with. Feelings are tough to face, fear of failure, fear of standing out and being visible, not being a ‘Good Girl’ and being judged and criticised for doing it wrong, for not fitting in.

But the only way to move forward is to trust our instincts, we need to create strong boundaries so we can create spaces of quiet. We need to become our own best friends to really hear what we are saying to ourselves through our feelings, especially the negative ones. And worst of it, we need to to this on our own. Sure there are people out there for support – like Judith, my personal counsellor, my supervisor etc are to me, but essentially, this is a journey we do on our own. That is why it’s most important we have Us on our own side, that gentleness, that self compassion and care.

And what can we find in the quietness? Our True Selves, self worth, self belief, confidence and deep knowing of our own truth.

Sounds fab, doesn’t it? I wish it was easy for me, I wish it was easy for my clients but nope, not easy. Then again, life would be boring if it wasn’t easy, right?

The biggest thing I’ve struggled with is finding my voice. I have so many ideas but how to put it across to help others? And I live with depression, so sometimes my voice is like Eeyore, who wants to hear that?

For a while now I have been putting my self care first (especially after some personal traumas) and encompassing all that means; resting, putting my health first and meeting those needs, accepting support from others (why is this so difficult??), letting go of what is not serving me physically and mentally by decluttering and slowly fixing broken things (again, physically (yay, no more leaking shower!) and mentally).

There is a huge element of being still and quiet, finally finding the time and space to actually hear my own voice and learning to trust my own intuition, without guilt or needing permission. I have cut away so much ‘noise’ in my life, expectations, obligations, shoulds and conditions. It feels so nice to create quietness and to simply be, without judgement and with full acceptance.

I’m trying to write something every day, being self compassionate when things don’t work and being brave and putting it out there. I am learning to trust in my intuition and have learned to see that each business I focus on, each area I study in, each thing I do are all stepping stones to where I want and need to be. It will take time but I’ve got to do it my way, at my pace and learn what I need to say. After all my clients need to SEE me to be able to trust me and work with me. This is my motivation, keeping the bigger picture in mind and I keep telling myself, if I only help ONE person feel happier, then I am successful.

I have been a counsellor now in private practice for a couple of years and feel confident as one but I needed more. The counselling world feels limiting and the more I practice, the more I find Me coming through. Introducing phototherapy has been a dream I have had now for 6 years and having seen the simple but powerful results, I am so happy I took that step. I am realising there is time (as Judith says in her book!) and I will be offering coaching packages soon too. I haven’t come across other counsellors offering phototherapy so I feel very much on my own in doing this but the flip side is I can make it truly my own unique way of working, ensuring each client gets bespoke support tailored and developed just for them. Now THAT feels very congruent and energising!

There is still a long way to go, after all (as cliché as it sounds) it is a journey and by no means am I done yet. The only thing I know and have as my strength is that I have to be honest and true to myself in everything I do. It’s the only way I have found to be truly at peace and be content which puts me in the space to be able to lovingly support others.

A lesson really, that when we try to do anything, becoming a Mum, running a business, trying anything new or simply living, it’s got to start from within.

Not alone in our loneliness

Loneliness seems to be a theme for this week; everyone I am meeting from new mums, elderly neighbours, dog walkers to self employed colleagues. Everyone is feeling lonely.

Maybe it’s the time of year? The quietness after Christmas? Trying to get back into a routine? I don’t know, but it seems everywhere.

What I find quite interesting though, is that we all feel it. New mums feel it being stuck at home with a new baby, self employed colleagues working long hours on their own and elderly not having things to do to pass the day.

It’s interesting to me that so many people from different walks of life all feel similar things. I personally think loneliness happens when we don’t connect with others at levels we need. When we don’t feel any resonance in others, when we don’t see anything of us reflected back when we look at others.

And in all these cases, these are new situations where people are trying to find a new set of connections because the others have gone or not the same; maternity leave, leaving work, retiring etc.

It takes time to set up new connections, so please be gentle with yourself but do know, it will happen. Maybe the first step is becoming comfortable being alone and being with the quietness of lack of others? Maybe we need to learn how to be when we are not with others; what would we do? What interests us? Excites us? We are pack animals but I believe we also need breathing space from others otherwise how do we know who we are? Especially when embarking on a new identity; New Mum for example.

I know I have talked about loneliness in super simplistic terms and appreciate there is so much complexity to it along with a host of emotions but hopefully this has brought Loneliness to the surface for you and will help you look at your own situation and reflect on it.

What are your experiences of loneliness? What are your thoughts on it and how to help yourself?

Time to talk

I’m sure many of you  have seen Time to Talk being promoted on social media and hopefully many of you were brave and talked about your experiences with others.

I wonder how it was for you telling others about something so deep and secret, laying yourself vulnerable to others?
Were they surprised?
What did their reaction bring up in you?

But now what?

Starting the conversation is just the first step, in my opinion. There is so much more that needs to happen but the first step is often the biggest and hardest.

What else?
I feel we need to educate those around us on how we live with our illnesses and what it means to us.

I have always tried my best to be as open as possible with my family (hubby and kids) about how I was feeling and what I needed at the time; some days I needed nothing and had the energy of 10 mamas, blasting through chores and being in control. Then there were the other days when getting out of bed was the most difficult task in the world, my head feeling like lead and no strength to lift it.

It is important to know your own highs and lows, good and bad days to be able to ask for help, to delegate, to seek support, to be cared for in the way you need. This might be another tough step because most of the time, we have got so good at hiding how we are and our feelings from ourselves.

If those around you love you, they will step up and support you. If their reactions are less than you’d hoped, it will be hard to digest and deal with but at least you know where you stand and you are being honest. Perhaps you might need to change your relationship dynamics and put some boundaries in place to help you feel safe? Only you know what you need to do and who is in your support network and where they stand.

Mental health is very unique in how you can help heal and feel better because it is these very connections that hold the power, the magic and the healing. It is very important to get your support system right, to keep yourself safe and to only share what you feel comfortable with.

Talking about it is the first step but mind how you go on this journey and keep safe xx

Relationship with food

“I hated my body. I hated me. I used to cry myself to sleep most nights. I fell into the deepest, darkest depression and I was so lost and lonely. I avoided mirrors, hated it whenever we needed to go out because things simply didn’t fit anymore. I didn’t want to see anyone, because all the other mums looked like they had it together, they were coping and looked great. They’d gone back to pre-pregnancy weight and shape. To lose my weight, I started skipping meals and only eating chocolate or puddings. I was horrible though, so grumpy, shouty, snappy. Eventually the weight did come off but looking back I can see what a damaging way I treated my body.” Words from a client

What is your relationship with food and your body? Do you skip meals to lose weight? Or eat for comfort?

Our relationship with food is one that some of us don’t even think about or we obsess about it. Our relationship with food is extremely complex, some of it from our childhood, maybe even from when we were weaned onto solid food. It is sometimes the only thing we feel we can control but it has also been used to control us.

With my busy clients, food seems to be the first thing that goes, simply ‘forgetting to eat’. Or scoffing down comfort, high energy, low value food while feeding others well. Or with those who are feeling low, there is simply not the interest.

Where would you start with trying to sort out your relationship with food though? This is something so ingrained in you and you have your default reactions and actions, habits difficult to break.

I would say self compassion and self love which in itself isn’t an easy step to take. If you do see yourself as someone to take care of and love, the first question would be, “What would you like to eat today?”. Use that gentleness you would use with your best friend, your child and start to look after yourself.

Not eating well contributes largely to our mood, so it is a good place to start. If you’re struggling with this, as many of us do, please seek support. You’re not alone in this xx

 

 

The jungle path

It might be a cliche but I quite like comparing creating a path through the jungle to our mental health.

Actual paths are created in our brains when we do something over and over again so when we try to change something, we are literally creating a new path. Fits in quite well with the jungle path, don’t you think? (Something about neurotransmitters or neurons …need to research this a bit more but I am more about the emotion than the practical side of things!)

If I imagine us standing in the jungle, knowing where we want to get to but there isn’t a path, we need to create one. Where do we start?

We’d need the right gear first – are we suitably dressed? Shorts when we know there are stinging nettles? Maybe not.
Are we setting off on this journey keeping ourselves safe from harm?

Tools; What would we need to clear things away? It might be painful to just use our hands to pull things down. What about cutting stuff away?
Are we using the right tool for the right job? And are we in the right mindset?

Self care; This applies to both the real world and the analogy, are we drinking, eating and resting enough to keep ensure we are able to do this job? Something we all too often over look when embarking on big changes. Actually, maybe the first thing that goes!

Can you think of anything to add? Trying to change things is not easy but it CAN be done. Maybe look at it as you are trying to create a new path in the jungle, maybe that will take the overwhelm away and help you to see things in a new light.

And if you need help, you know where I am <3

Why I don’t ask “How does that make you feel?”

Ok, I do ask it at times, I won’t lie but it is such a stereotype, isn’t it? I have heard a few people laugh saying it must be easy to sit there getting paid to ask, “How does that make you feel?” in response to everything a client says.

For me, this is basic counselling, counselling 101. In training, it’s almost the go to question when you can’t think of anything else to ask. For sure, there is a place for such a question, as with reflecting and all the other things we are taught. I think Samaritans actually gave us a list of was to respond to those calling and it was really helpful at the start, when I felt flustered and worried about saying the wrong thing. In my recent training I challenged myself not to ask that question and I found I worked on a much deeper level.

Now though, it’s just me. And I want to go deeper. I do want to know how it feels and MORE. What are you actually saying without words?
How does it manifest in your body, in your life?
How can you start to cope with what you’re telling me?
How can you face your feelings with the right tools?

This is why I have found the counselling world so limiting; perhaps because when training there is a certain element of being stuck at ‘text book’ stage but then steps have to be taken to own what has been learned and use all the skills to ensure the client benefits the most. Sort of like you have lessons to drive a car but then you learn to Drive.

I do work in a very unique way and first and foremost I make sure my clients have the right tools. I wouldn’t have sent my kids out in the winter without a coat, hat, gloves and the right shoes, so I would not expect my clients to face difficult feelings without tools. (Which we work together to figure out what will work for you)

I’m not going to be a scary counsellor so get rid of that stereotype out of your mind. I put you first, and I care, from deep in my heart. I don’t want you to struggle on your own because I know what it’s like. I also know that each and everyone of us has got the answers within (cliche I know!) but like a jigsaw, you just need a bit of help piecing it together.

This is YOUR journey and I want to be the one who help you, support you by holding a safe space for you, and helping you figure out things YOUR way.

So tell me, How does that make you feel? 😉

 

On becoming a Mum

Many of my postnatal clients experience a huge panic when they become mothers, the pressure of parenthood overwhelming and crushing them and they respond by becoming depressed.

When we work through things, what comes to the surface is interesting; their own experiences in childhood come back and their relationships with their parents, mostly mothers, is weighing heavy on their minds.

Becoming a mother is a massive step into adulthood and many feel it is a right of passage, an initiation to finally being a grown up. But what doe this mean for their relationship with their mothers? Are they still children? Does the relationship need to be redefined as they are now Adult and Adult and not Child and Adult?

And what of mothers who clients do not feel where there for them and feel their emotional needs were not met? How can they be good mothers if they were not shown by example how it is done? But worst of all – what if they pass on the behaviours they struggle with to their children?

In these situations we look at the here and now; you are the mother now and this is your child. This is your little family and no one can come in between that. Boundaries need to be set to ensure this which can then bring up issues of self esteem and confidence about standing up for yourself.
You can choose how you parent and create your own positive habits that you can pass down to your children. You can use this time to learn how to change and live in a more authentic way, more you, true to you and your heart.

It is difficult but childhood experiences do stay with us and have played a part in forming who we are today. Again, in therapy, you can change this and learn a new way of being, learn to give your child-self what it needed, learn to let go and learn to live congruently as an Adult now.

I feel that a new situation does bring about a new identity; the old you is destroyed to some extent and many seem to feel like they have lost who they are. When things are broken, it is a good opportunity to remake it but without the parts you didn’t like. It’s a chance to start fresh, a clean slate.

And new mums, don’t forget, you don’t have to do this all in one go. You have time, perhaps think of your new identity as a mum as your child. There is lots to learn and you can’t run before you can walk (or crawl!). Baby steps, New Mum, you will get there but take it a little baby step at a time.

We are not taught how to take care or manage our mental and emotional needs but there are strategies and tools to help, which you can develop and change to suit your specific needs and way of being. And just think, as you think of new ways, what wonderful things can you pass down to your children?

And if you’re struggling, you know where I am. You’re not alone and I’m here to help <3

 

How to get off the hamster wheel

Photo by My Name on Unsplash (unsplash.com/@zimbahcat)

Photo by My Name on Unsplash (unsplash.com/@zimbahcat)

Is it just me or do you sometimes feel like you’re on a hamster wheel? Running so fast, doing so much but it’s never ending, there’s no rest.

We all do it, I’m sure. We’re almost designed to live like this in this modern day society. I guess it’s ok to some extent, you get so much done, right? But are you able to come down from the adrenaline rush? From that panicky feeling of ‘so much to do’?

You see, we do need a bit of adrenaline to wake us up, to be with it, to keep up but are we able to realise when we’ve had enough and need to slow down again?

If we keep going at the fast pace we go at, this high level of adrenaline, of stress, becomes our normal. We we into the habit of fire fighting, of being on high alert, of reacting. We carry on like this until we burn out, after all, we are only human and have our limits.

How do we get off the hamster wheel though?

Priorities; look at what is important. What needs doing NOW, what can wait, what can be delegated. We try to fix it ALL right this moment, do it ALL at once but trust me, we’re not meant to live like this on an organismic, species level.

Time management; ok, that sounds really officy and businessy but it’s true. If we manage our time and tasks, we can manage our stress levels and anxiety. What would help you? Writing out all you have to do in a planner? A diary? Maybe seeing it all in black and white, assigning times to tasks will show you that actually, you do have time, you don’t have to rush.

Signs; I didn’t realise I had anxiety for a long time and it got so bad to the point that I couldn’t eat from feeling nausea from the nervousness. Now, I look out for early warning signs so I can put in my coping strategies. I tell you, it really helps!
Where do you first start to notice the stress in your body? What outside factors cause you stress? How do you react? Do you push through or stop to listen to what you’re trying to tell yourself?
Some say they get headaches, stiff necks, a tightening around the chest, raised heart rate, butterflies in their tummy – so many physical signs. Where do you feel it first and how does it escalate?

Self compassion; I bet you guys are sick of me saying this as I think it must be in almost every post but yes, self compassion.
When you start feeling stressed, what do you say to yourself? Only you can give yourself permission to stop, to get off the hamster wheel and take a breather. Only you know when you need to do this. Are you gentle with yourself or do you beat yourself up, ‘You’ve still got loads to do, don’t sit down, lazy cow’….or worse?
I know it’s not easy if you’ve got little kids or caring for an elderly relative or someone with a long term illness but that’s all the more reason to be extra compassionate and go easy on yourself. Give yourself the permission you need to rest.

Rest and recharge; getting off the hamster wheel means stopping that panicky, rushed feeling inside you but what do you need to do to stop this?
Different things work for different people. Some listen to a song, 3 minutes to lose yourself completely is pretty achievable – and fun! Some have a nap, full on shut down and recharge and some can nap for 5 mins. Power naps, I think they’re called. Some play, losing themselves in pottery, painting, drawing, knitting, sports.
What would work for you? When was the last time you felt rested and recharged and what did you do? It can be a whole range of things with a range of times but do remember, it’s important.

We are trained from a young age to go on our hamster wheels and keep up with society’s pace but I am telling you now, you don’t have to. Neither do you have to beat yourself up if your pace is different. Look at how much you have going on, I bet it’s a lot; be it looking after or supporting others, living with an illness, coping with a trauma, you are doing a lot!

Go easy on yourself though. Some fear they have anxiety disorders or fear having a breakdown. Use this as your motivation to change things.
Cars break down don’t they? But we do our bit to maintain them, keep them clean, put fuel in, service them, replace parts etc. It is the same for you. Learn strategies that will help make things easier for you, to maintain your stress levels.

This is your life and you’re in charge. Doesn’t matter what others around you can cope with or don’t get stressed about. If you’re feeling it, listen to what you’re saying to yourself and please, look after yourself.

How to photography your kids without tantrums

 This is not a technical guide full of ISOs, shutter speed and aperture information. If you want that, it is easy enough to Google and down load a guide. This guide is from my experience as a mum and photographer on how to get the best photos of your kids you will cherish forever.

Not everyone has a DSLR and I would not expect you to rush out and buy one. Nowadays most of you have quite good cameras. Even the cameras on the latest phones are better than the first digital camera we ever owned! (2 megapixels and that was 17 years ago!!)

These are a few of my tips on how to enjoy photographing your children.

I have seen far too many families forcing their children to sit still and be photographed and it has got to stop! We are not stuck in the Victorian era, we actually enjoy our kids and we now have the technology to move as quick as they do.

Relax. Create an environment that you and your kids are relaxed in and are happy. There is no point trying to take photos when they are tired and hungry and you are trying to get dinner on and running the bath…that’s just common sense! Capturing who your children are is not a race, take your time, breathe, relax. You need a lot of patience and it is tiring work. Physically and mentally.

(Saying that, have your camera around to capture those magical moments that can emerge from utter chaos and great photos of grumpy kids to use against them when they are older)

Distract them by putting out some of the toys they love, get them playing with bubbles or best of all (or maybe worst?) paints to do hand and foot prints! Just let them play (and remember to…relax!)  If you can, do the activity somewhere where there is lots of natural light as this will give a nice tone to the image.

Get down low so you are at their eye level. This gives a real perspective. Saying that though other angles are good too – lie down or from above. Ask them to show you things as they are doing it. Once in a while make a comment like ‘oh, look up at that big butterfly’ or even shouting, ‘who loves mummy?’ (Now this needs training beforehand because the reaction has to be ‘ME!’ with both arms up in the air, because just one arm just isn’t enough :))

The biggest secret – and it isn’t a secret really is don’t stress about smiles. Don’t get pushy and start  forcing them to look at the camera and the worst thing to do is to keep shouting ‘smile!’, ‘look at me’, ‘smile at the camera’…that just annoys them – wouldn’t it annoy you?? We are so trained to say smile and smile when we look at cameras but we don’t need to. Capturing the concentration with their tongue hanging out or big sister being bossy or amazement at seeing bubbles are all good. Much better than a fake ‘Smile!’ photo.

Get in close to the kids. I don’t mean shove the camera in their face and take photos. For one thing it will distort the face horribly, giving big noses and wide faces! You certainly don’t want that! Sit near them and zoom in with your camera’s zoom. Focus on the eyes and capture all their emotions.

Take in the background. Ideally you’d want the background to be blurry so your kid’s face is in focus and the only attention. But, you know what? Don’t even worry about that. Just try and keep the background free of any distractions if you can. Capturing surroundings can be great when you look back and see old decor, cars, buildings. These photos you are capturing now will be part of social history.

Follow them with through your viewfinder so when there is a split second expression on their face, you can quickly click and you get the photo you want.  Kids are honest and open and have not learnt to hide their feelings resulting in great honest expressions. This is when you physically get tired! Remember to take lots of breaks too.

Get creative and have some really fun photos like playing with scale such as a toddler wearing Dad’s big shoes or carrying mum’s biggest handbag.

Share the love, teach them to take photos and sit back and watch as they record the world they way they see it. It is a fascinating insight to their minds and shows what is important to them.

Take photos from your heart and with love and whatever you capture you will treasure forever. The camera is just a tool, what you take photos of is what is important and what you will look back on for years to come. Trust me, when they are older they will appreciate the time and effort you have taken to record so much of their lives. This is a way to show them how important they are to you and what you’ve been through together.

Enjoy the process of being with them too, not just recording them. These moments you are capturing will include feelings and thoughts. Take some time out to really see them and be thankful for the gift. Really see them and pat yourself on the back for all the hard work you’ve put in. Well done 🙂

Ask them what they think of the photos and if they have any ideas. They can be surprisingly creative and it shows them how important they are to be included in the process.

Don’t stop taking photos of them. Kids are wonderful when they are little but somehow as they grow and we get busier with life, we seem to stop taking random, everyday photos of them (messy hair, slouching on the sofa etc). How they change and grow might not be as dramatic and quick as with older ones so keep snapping away and recording everything about them, their activities, their friends, their messy rooms, their lives.

I promise you, when your kids are older, they will find magic in looking back at old photos, memories and your life together. Without words, they will see how they were and are the centre of your world and how much you love them. They will learn what is important in life, treasure loved ones and pass the magic down future generations. 

“Photographs are footprints of our minds, mirrors of our lives, reflections from our hearts, frozen memories that we can hold in silent stillness in our hands — forever if we wish. They document not only where we have been, but also point the way to where we might perhaps be heading, whether or not we realize this yet ourselves…”  Judy Weiser, R.Psych., A.T.R, Founder/Director of the PhotoTherapy Centre

How to look good in photos

Everyone worries so much about how they look in photos, here is a quick guide to help you relax and be more comfortable having your photo taken – and seeing yourself in images!

Did you know that many of us suffer from Petit Mort when a camera is pointed at us? Yes, we freeze and have a ‘little death’!!

DO:

  • Show your good side (it’s often the side where your hair parts).
  • Lower your front shoulder slightly to create more dynamic angles and elongate your neck.
  • Stick out your chin a tiny bit to prevent double chin.
  • Express yourself through your eyes: think positive thoughts or just bring energy into your gaze.
  • Blink halfway through a count of three (if the photographer gives you one) so that your eyes won’t be mid-blink for the shot.
  • If you’re posing for a full body shot, turning your body three quarters of the way towards the camera, with one shoulder closer to the camera and one foot in front of the other. This will make you body appear slimmer than if you were facing the camera face on.
  • For seated shots, extend your neck and then tilt your head down slightly to get rid of double chin actions, as well as views up your sinuses.
  • Forcing a fake chuckle will transform your cheesy smile into the genuine you inside. Think of a funny joke, pretend the photographer is naked, or just think of someone who makes you happy – your natural smile will emerge and make you look a lot better.
  • Remember, action is your friend.  Place your hands on your hip, and laugh. Smile at another person in the photo and engage in a short joke. Let your personality shine through your activity and you’ll be surprised at how much more photogenic you really can be.
  • Make sure you feel proud of who you are. If you feel like you are ugly, then you won’t look your best in the picture. If you’re uncomfortable with your teeth, learn to smile with your mouth closed and ‘smile with your eyes.’ Remember, you can experiment with all different kinds of emotions. The main thing is to always be aware of your body.
  • Feel comfortable, confident, and have fun!

DON’T:

  • Face the camera head-on; you don’t want to look like you’re having a mug shot!
  • Stand too far apart when posing with a group. Even if standing much closer than usual feels odd, it will look natural in the photo.
  • Hesitate to take a lot of shots—the more pictures you take, the more you’ll have to choose from when it’s time to select your favorites.
  • Just stand there! Experiment with poses and give the photographer a range of expressions.
  • Don’t try to bend your body into uncomfortable or awkward poses – just be yourself and let your mood take over your body.
  • Don’t just settle for a half-felt emotion – commit fully to the shoot.

 

 

 

 

Radio interview from 4 years ago

Sorting out my folders from way back, I have come across this interview. It is amazing how I am talking about using photography to help others heal. Very much in the first stages of photo therapy!

I talk about how the question of ‘If you had 6 weeks to live, what would you do?’ My motivation to start on this path and actually start living my life.

Talking about body image and how so many women used to ask me to photo shop them to look ‘better’ but in principal, I never did. I talk about how the first steps to body confidence is to learn to like ourselves and turn all the negative talk from others to positive talk within ourselves.

I talk about gratitude practice and how it can change our perception of our lives and help with our mental health. I used to offer listening sessions but now as a qualified counsellor I feel confident in offering these sessions, knowing I have had the proper training to hold a safe space for others.

I had been offering online courses where others were being helped so much with one participant coming off her antidepressant medication from doing the photo exercises and a woman facing a midlife crisis accepting herself.

And I define what success for me is; seeing clients feel happier in themselves and knowing I have done my part and given back to the wider community at large.

This journey is not an easy one, with lots of ups and downs, learning so much about myself, changing, building my self awareness and being the truest self I can be. The first step, stopping myself standing in my own way.

And my one bit of wisdom I would tell my younger self? Trust your instincts, believe in yourself, ask yourself what your needs are and what you need to do to meet them.

Have a listen and let me know what resonates:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepathtofabulouslysuccessful/2013/09/02/jessy-paston

How do you see yourself?

For many of my clients, body image comes up as an issue and it has been an issue with most women I know. When I was doing family portraits as a photographer, this is one thing that came up the most.

We are simply not happy with the way we look!! We are forever comparing ourselves to others and feel ‘not good enough’. We view our bodies with a warped perception of how we look.

I wanted to share this video with you, not because I think you have a disorder but just wanted to highlight the point on how we can distort what we see about ourselves. This video really made me stop and rethink things about me and I wonder if it will help you.  Have a look…

You tube video

Now have a look at yourself in the mirror.
What are you focusing on?
What negatives can you see?
Is it really as bad as you see it?
What positives can you see?

A non post about Momma

“Those friends who have had lovely, gracious, supportive mothers – how I envy them. And how odd that they are not bound to their mothers, neither phoning, visiting, dreaming, nor even thinking about them frequently.
Whereas I have to purge my mother from my mind many times a day and even now, ten years after her death, often reflexively reach for a phone to call her.
Oh, I can understand all this intellectually. I have given lectures on the phenomenon. I explain to my patients that abused children often find it hard to disentangle themselves from their dysfunctional families, whereas children grow away from good, living parents with far less conflict.
After all, isn’t that the task of a good parent, to enable the child to leave home?”
 
By Irvin D Yalom, ‘Momma and the meaning of life’
 
Why have I chosen to share this with you today? More and more I am seeing a pattern emerging from my New Mum clients. A pattern I am keen to investigate and explore to understand at a deeper level.
 
When a woman becomes a mother, her own experiences with her own mother seem to come to the foreground and all sorts of emotions and fears come up;
 
“I don’t want my child to feel the way I did”
“I don’t want to pass on these family beliefs”
“I don’t want to be like my mother, I need to be better for my child”
 
So much is thrown under the microscope and there is that panic and anxiety of where to begin, fear of hurting and damaging this new being like you have been.
 
So what jumps out for you from that passage from Yalom’s book?
His difficult relationship with his mother still haunts him, even after her death. Her voice still so powerful in his mind.
He is still seeking her approval, knowing he will never get it.
He is a trained professional and KNOWS intellectually but emotionally, he still has to go through a process of ‘purging’.
Perhaps it isn’t just the mother, he does also talk of dysfunctional families, perhaps is our ability to cope with our experiences from those first relationships?
 
It also makes me question what abuse is. We are gaining more knowledge of emotional abuse but what comes under that label?
 
A mother is the first person we form a relationship with and I hear from my clients that intense pressure to get it right and not harm their new babies. But surely in simply being human we are going to make mistakes? Mistakes that will be internalised and perhaps haunt our children for their life times?
 
Then there is the last sentence ‘task of a good parent is to enable a child to leave home’. Now that resonates not only on a professional but personal level too, as a mother and a daughter.
 
What makes a good parent (that eternal question!) and is it to enable our children to leave home, in all senses?
To teach them all they need to know to be able to stand on their own? Physically, emotionally and mentally?
 
I fear this most is more questions than answers and I haven’t got the answers, which is why I’m putting it out to you, trusting in the process; what did you get from that passage?
 

Celebrating at a one year old’s party

We were invited to a 1 year old’s party the other day and oh my!!! There were so many kids there (duh, it’s a party!)
 
Some where crying, some were crawling, some were toddlering around and some were running around screaming.
 
Oh goodness, the cuteness was lovely to see and certainly filled my heart with so much joy but the noise? the chaos? Wow!
 
You see, my kids are all grown up now so it has been a long while since I was in a situation like that and as much as I loved it (and was photographing it) it was an assault on all the senses.
 
And even though I spend most of my days with you mums feeling anxious, knackered and frazzled, it was so impressive seeing all the mums at this party.
 
They were smiling, struggling to have a full conversation, laughing, not eating a full plate of food in peace, trying to sit or stand with a group of people but having to run off for one thing or another. It was truly a sight. Beautiful, sad, funny, such a mix.
 
In a nutshell, this noisy, wonderful, chaotic, exhausting party summed up motherhood so well.
 
To all you Mums out there, WOW. You’re all doing an awesome job. Keep hanging in there and doing what you are doing because one day you will be where I am, with grown up kids and all this will be a crazy memory, like this crazy party.
And if you’re struggling, you know where I am for support <3

Healing is an on going process

My son’s birthday is coming up soon and he will be 17.
As I reflect on this time, I find myself looking at old photos from when he was born, when he was little and I am taken back to a NOT so good time.
The memories and feelings of the trauma, the struggles, the depression come back and yeah, it’s not fun.

But let me tell you. This is all part of the process. A broken leg aches well after it is mended and I see these moments like an aching. The majority of the healing has been done but they are complex memories, good combined with bad, happy combined with sad.

Each time we revisit a memory, there is more healing, until, hopefully, one day, we can acknowledge the bad and sad but remember the good and happy fondly.

If you imagine a spiral with a line through it – each time you visit a traumatic memory, you are in a better place, you are stronger and better able to cope and you can heal.

And don’t forget, the stronger, caring you can give yourself love and self compassion, telling yourself what you needed to hear at the time, helping with the healing.

If you need help to talk about your birth trauma, postnatal depression and the struggles that comes with, please do get in touch with me for support. You are not alone in this 

Stop living like a headless chicken

There is SO much to do isn’t here? Goodness, ALL those things to do!!! SO, so, so much to do!!!!!!!!!!
 
Do you catch yourself in this frame of mind? Unable to stop, breathe, rest and relax?
 
I saw this a lot this week and even caught myself feeling this way. You see, this is a sure sign that life is controlling you and you are reacting to all that is around you.
 
This is a place where overwhelm comes from, stress and anxiety live and breed and self worth plummets and those feelings of being a failure are reinforced.
 
You know can stop this though but I wonder what blocks are in the way? Blocks you are allowing to stay there, to keep you here.
 
Breathe. Then breathe again. And once again.
Take a break. Yes, you heard me. A BREAK. You are allowed, you have permission. Hell, you have a NEED!!!!
 
Write it ALL down. Do it in note form, a mind map, whatever. Just get it all out your head because it doesn’t all need to stay in there.
Talk to someone. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
 
This is a marathon, nay, it’s a walk.
NOT a sprint, NOT a race. You’re not a chicken without a head and your gauge isn’t set at 100 miles.
 
Breathe and enjoy life.
Much LOVE <3

Another new year…

12 days into January and I am still struggling to get back to a routine after the holidays.

I am also struggling with the whole, new year, new you theme. I am seeing people going on all sorts of challenges; vegan, gym, diets. And announcing all these wonderful and profound things they will achieve in 2018.

For me? I’m keeping it simple.

No massive challenges, nothing profound.

I am finding myself tired of it all – the what-feels-like-shouting from everywhere to do xyz because it’s abc…I say enough is enough.

For 2018, I think all I want it peace – from within and around me. Peace and quiet to be able to think, to be able to be who I’m meant to be without conditions, judgements or struggles.

Maybe with that peace is to not get back into a routine and enjoy just being. If a routine will come, it will come.
Maybe that peace is not even listening to all the noise from all around but to sit quietly and listen to what is being said from within.

At the moment, all I can hear is LOVE.
Simply love myself and take care of myself.

Now that sounds a bit more manageable than any big resolution or challenge or struggle.

I know there is great power in the simplicity of love and when I am self loving and self compassionate, I know that is where magic happens and that is when I am able to give and support others.

So over to you – what do you REALLY want from 2018?
Challenges? Resolutions? Struggles?

Or Love?

Bigger Picture

Image result for future

Once you have created time and space to think and be, you can start looking at the bigger picture, asking yourself questions like:

What kind of person do I want my baby to see me as?
What kind of family do I want to have? (and not what society is telling me!!)
What are my dreams?
What do I want to achieve?

By managing your time, creating boundaries and getting time to yourself, you can start doing 1 thing every day, or every week to create the picture you want to reflect the life you want. This will take a long time and it is an on going practice.

As cliché as it sounds, it is all about the journey.