Time for you

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In recovering from my own depression and seeing clients taking this on, has proven to me this is an essential part of maintaining good mental health. All too often we are so busy doing things for everyone else, we forget to look after ourselves. We all work so very hard all year then maybe, if you’re really lucky, you get 2 weeks a year off.
I’m going to suggest a new way of being if you’re up for it;

How about having a little ‘holiday’ every day?

Can you even imagine that? Resting when you need to, doing something fun every day, creating a life that you actually want and makes you feel amazing in yourself. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

All this can be achieved from simple time management.
Maybe you are already really organised but have you allocated time just for you? As in actually blocked out time, like a doctor’s or midwife’s appointment? An appointment for you?
If you create space to spend time just with yourself, you will be able to stop, breathe and look at the bigger picture of your life.

Are your needs being met? If not, which ones are not and what can you do about it?
Are you getting enough rest? Especially important if baby keeps waking you in the night. Also, don’t forget, we need more rest at a time of change / transition as we are learning new things and our brains are working harder as you think about new things and take them on.
Are you playing enough? Are you doing things that keep you, YOU? What fun things can you do, by yourself and with baby (then maybe with other loved ones)

Use a diary and block time out when you need or want to do things.
If you get overwhelmed at the amount of things you have in one day; spread it out over the week. Still overwhelmed, spread it over the month. Ideally, just have one ‘thing’ to do a day and you can build on it. Remember not to beat yourself up if you achieve nothing. Self compassion, remember!

You will not forget appointments this way, you will take away that feeling of not having enough time, of not having enough hours in the day. Instead, this will help you feel calmer and actually show you how much you are coping with and managing.

By managing your time, YOU can create the life you want. YOU book in what you need, YOU can say no to things that do not serve you.
YOU are in charge of your thoughts and feelings, your actions, your appointments. Your appointments in  your diary will show you what you are giving time to, what you are seeing as a priority and stop the feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and get rid of that ‘I don’t have the time!!’ feeling.

Self Compassion

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Self compassion
I am going to make the assumption that you are the kind of person that is probably very hard on yourself, right?
You get annoyed and frustrated, maybe even out right angry, at yourself if you don’t do things right or if you keep getting things wrong.
Going one step further, I bet you tell yourself off lots too using the following type of language;

“You’re so stupid! You should have known better!!”
“Look at all the jobs you haven’t done!”
“You’re so useless sometimes”
“You don’t deserve ______________” (fill in the blank)

Write down 5 things you say to yourself that you would NEVER EVER dream of saying to someone else:
__________________________________________________________________________2.__________________________________________________________________________3.__________________________________________________________________________4.__________________________________________________________________________5.__________________________________________________________________________

How do you feel having written these down? What reaction do you think you would get from, for example, your best friend if you said the above things to them?

Spend a few minutes jotting down a few words here:
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If your Self talk is as bad I think it might be and what you have said to yourself, you would never say to anyone else, I want to ask you,

“Why is it ok to talk to yourself like this?”

Self compassion is the one, most important wellbeing practice that few of us do. What we tell our minds, we believe. Our words turn into scripts and these stories determine what our lives become.

In our everyday lives, there will always be people who are quick to judge us, tell us off, criticise us, block us, hinder us, hurt us, damage us and so on. So what do we do? We join in with them! We’re not even on our own side, we don’t even support ourselves. If anything, we are harsher to ourselves than anyone else is.

THIS CHANGES NOW!

You now have a little person in your life now who will change absolutely everything. You have a new identity now and I bet you, your life will not be the same again.

What we forget is that change takes time.
When you started school, you had to learn to be away from home, learn to be in a classroom, learn to learn, learn to be with other children etc.
When you started driving, you took lessons, had practice drives, did a test and still you continue to learn.
Maybe when you started a new job, you had an induction, settle in time, things were explained to you, your manager guided you, maybe you had a team to support your work, maybe you were given a desk etc.

Think of a time of change in your life that you have gone through.
Was it difficult at the time?
How did you get through it?
How did you cope?

Having a baby and embracing your new identity as Mum is the same and self compassion will be your best tool to start with.
Self compassion simply put is being nice to yourself, supporting yourself, being kind and caring towards yourself.

So next time you start the negative self talk, think how you would talk to your best friend, your partner – or your new baby.

After all, you wouldn’t tell your new baby off for not running a marathon right now would you?

Take the time you need, the space you need and give yourself the care and kindness you need during this time of change.

Woes of being New

5155783-3799102610-shutt It is normal to have ‘newbie’ anxieties when ever we start something new that we are not familiar with…like starting a new job or having a new baby.

The only way to get to grips with being new at something is to take it easy. I know it’s easier said than done, trust me, I know but it is the best way, take it easy and take it a step at a time. As you get a feel for the new role, get used to lots of new things, those anxieties will go as your confidence grows.

Remember what it was like learning to drive a car? You had to think of everything, every little thing; having to look at the gear stick to get into the right gear, not being able to multitask (I mean, come on, hill starts?!?), forgetting to look in the mirrors or to indicate. And now? Now you’re able to simply concentrate on the road, aware of others and figure out where you’re going. All those details you used to worry about are now second nature and you don’t even have to think about it, you do it all subconsciously.

The same will happen in your new role; all these things you are learning will become second nature. Be gentle with yourself and take it a moment at a time, day at a time and before you know it, you will not be a newbie 🙂

Antidote to Overwhelm

I often get quite exhausted by life and the pressures society puts on me, and I’m sure you’re the same.

Why do we get so tired? So exhausted?

I have a theory; you see, I think we spend too much time in the detail of life and all the things we have to do. We go from one thing to another, probably without any breaks, running at 100 miles an hour on what feels like a never ending list of to do lists.

We end up overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted, tired, fed up, low, depressed.

What can we do to stop this?

Look at the bigger picture. Imagine you had a photograph in front of you, now imagine going in so close that you can only see one item in the photo. THIS is what we do in life, we concentrate so hard on one area in our life, taking on each little detail and this one area takes over our whole lives.

Now imagine that same photograph and imagine looking at it all, whole, the bigger picture. You can see there are different elements to the photo, light and dark, maybe different colours. There is so much to take in when looking at the whole photo but this is important too.

In our modern lives we spend so much time focusing on the details, we need to regularly take a step back, breathe, see the bigger picture and review things. Then we can dive back into the detail and carry on with our lives.

We need to step back to make sure we are heading in the right direction, we are being who we want to be, need to be, we are raising our families with core values and ethics and deep connections.

We need to step back to make sure we breathe, rest, appreciate how far we have come, what we have achieved and think of the next steps to take.

 

What do I need?

When was the last time you asked yourself, ‘What do I need?’, ‘What do I want?’.

Many of us never ask ourselves that question and we carry on, regardless of what is going on around us and regardless of our needs.

When we’re full of anxiety or so low and depressed, we still carry on like nothing has changed. We are the ones with the problem and we try to ‘fix’ it with coping strategies – some good and some dangerous.

How about trying a different way of doing things? Maybe a better, deeper and more fulfilling way?

When something goes wrong and we end up living with something like anxiety or depression, we are trying to tell ourselves something. We are screaming at ourselves to change things but we don’t hear it because we are not listening.

Take anxiety for example. Why have you got it?

Are you doing too much and not resting, keeping your mind and body fully alert, even when it’s not needed?

Are you putting yourself in situations where you are out of your depth, with little or no support or guidance?

Is there too much going on and you feel like you are spread too thin and being pulled apart trying to keep everything going?

There is a reason you are feeling anxious, maybe many reasons.

A good way to deal with this is to hear what Anxiety is trying tell you. Maybe you need to write a list of all the demands on you and talk to someone in your support network to talk about the pressures you are under.

Write down what is immediate, in a few months and what is long term. Breaking it down like this will help you tackle things at the appropriate times. Anxiety loves to think and stress about everything (even something 20 years in the future!). By breaking it down, you will be able to see, clearly what needs to be actioned or thought about when, releasing some of that tension.

Keep asking yourself, ‘What do I need right now’ and hopefully you will start to listen to the answers and learn to trust your instincts. x

Permission to say NO

Boundaries are the most difficult thing to put in place with those around you. For so many years, you have been allowing things to go on as they have been, unquestioningly accepting the conditions, obligations and pressures that have been put on you.

But are you happy with this? How do you feel after you have been with someone who drains you? Takes your energy from you? Doesn’t listen to you and expects you to do as they say?

Ok, maybe these questions are a bit extreme but do think about those around you and how you feel after being with them. It doesn’t matter who they are, treating someone well is treating someone well. Only you know who you need to put boundaries up for; your mum? dad? siblings? particular friends?

And you know something huge?

IT’S OK TO SAY NO!!

It really is! The people who expect you to be a certain way will find it difficult to accept at first but if they are deep and unconditional connections, they will learn to accept it and learn to respect those boundaries you are putting in place.

Say NO when you feel pushed into a corner to make a decision
Say NO when you are being asked to do something you are not comfortable with
Say NO when it feels like it is too much emotional, energetic or financially expensive.

You are allowed to have YOUR voice and it is important.
YOU are important and valuable and you have the permission you need to say NO to whatever makes you feel less than you are, makes you feel uncomfortable or obligated.

 

Perfect vision

They do say hindsight is 20/20 and almost everyone I know does this; We look back at the past and we beat ourselves up with the most commonly used words, ‘I should have known better’.

So many of my clients say this to me, ‘I should have known better’, or ‘It was my fault’ and there is great difficulty in forgiving themselves.

How do we start to turn this around though? How do we start to feel better about our regrets from the past?

Of course it’s easy to look back, knowing the full impact of decisions and events but at the time, you only know what you know. (you know!)

In any moment in time, we can only do the best we can, at that time. Perhaps we are tired, exhausted even. Perhaps we were rushed, or we reacted and it was all just too overwhelming.

The only way to let go, is to acknowledge you tried your best at the time, you know now what would have been better BUT at the time you didn’t. Perhaps you will do things differently but the main thing is to realise that because of what has happened, you are wiser and you know more. Some call this life experience and we do learn the most from mistakes and bad situations.

You couldn’t have known better because you maybe didn’t have that particular knowledge at the time.

Remember, you are always doing the best you can (taking into consideration all the drains on you) and you can’t know everything. Trust yourself and your instincts, learn to be your own best friend and talk to yourself to meet those needs no one else can meet and learn from bad situations.

Turn your ‘I should have known better’ to ‘Next time, I will know better’.

Breathe, be in the moment and forgive yourself.

It’s ok to let go and move on.

It’s ok x

It’s nightlife, but not as you know it

When I did the night shifts at Samaritans, it used to take me days to get back into to a good routine.

When I get disturbed at night now, I’m useless the next day!

It got me wondering how on earth did I manage with a baby and a toddler?!?! Those nights when one was sick and the other would wake. Or just get used to having a baby in the first place needing a feed every 5 mins (felt like it anyway!)

This is something we don’t seem to appreciate as new mums, as partners, as families or as a society to some extent.

We’re still expected to carry on as normal and do ALL that we did before, forgetting that simply having a baby is much more, perhaps more than everything we’d done before.

Working 24/7, non stop, very few breaks, hardly having time to even have a hot shower, hot meal or even a hot drink. And going to the loo in peace becomes a distant memory.

So you lovely mums, please don’t forget that even though it feels you’re not doing much, not managing all those tasks that were part of your unthinking routine, you ARE doing LOADS!

You’re learning a new job, a new routine, juggling new dynamics with conflicting advice, judgements and self doubt.

And looking back now with my babies 18 and 16 I find myself remembering those silent nights feeding them, when it was just us, when those heart melting smiles when they were happy to see me, when I felt pure love and gratitude.

So whatever you’re going through now, it will not last. And, luckily all those nights when we were both crying, when I felt lost and alone, like a failure, frustrated and angry…and those negative feelings seem to be dissolving, leaving snippets of beautiful memories.

You’re doing great and are just where you need to be, in THIS MOMENT in time. <3

Thank you for all the work you are doing xx

To you, Mum

To the mom hiding in her bathroom, needing peace for just one minute, as the tears roll down her cheeks..

To the mom who is so tired she feel likes she can’t function anymore and would do anything to lay down and get the rest she needs…

To the mom sitting in her car, alone, stuffing food in her face because she doesn’t want anyone else to see or know she eats that stuff…

To the mom crying on the couch after she yelled at her kids for something little and is now feeling guilty and like she is unworthy…

To the mom that is trying desperately to put those old jeans on because all she really wants is to look in the mirror and feel good about herself…

To the mom that doesn’t want to leave the house because life is just too much to handle right now…

To the mom that is calling out for pizza again because dinner just didn’t happen the way she wanted it to…

To the mom that feels alone, whether in a room by herself or standing in a crowd…

You are enough.

You are important.

You are worthy.

This is a phase of life for us. This is a really really hard, challenging, crazy phase of life.

In the end it will all be worth it. But for now it’s hard. And it’s hard for so many of us in many different ways. We don’t always talk about it, but it’s hard and it’s not just you.

You are enough.

You are doing your best.

Those little eyes that look up at you – they think you are perfect. They think you are more than enough.

Those little hands that reach out to hold you – they think you are the strongest. They think you can conquer the world.

Those little mouths eating the food you gave them – they think that you are the best because their bellies are full.

Those little hearts that reach out to touch yours – they don’t want anything more. They just want you.

Because you are enough. You are more than enough, mama.

You. Are. Amazing. 💙💚

– Anonymous –

One as part of a greater Whole

I feel exhausted.
You see I’ve just had a session with my counsellor. Yes, even counsellors have counsellors.

You see, we are all human and we all have things happening in our lives. The biggest thing I have learned is that accepting help and support from others is part of self care. Where do we get this idea from that we have to do it all on our own anyway?

It is exhausting talking about your inner most feelings and fears but after the exhaustion comes a sense of relief and a feeling of lightness from sharing the load.

As a counsellor myself, I can hear what I’m saying and I can logically see what I need to do. As a person though, I have accepted there is an emotional side of me that needs to be heard.

And seeing someone who is trained gives me the safety and confidence to know nothing hurtful will be said, especially about my depression like ‘you’re being too sensitive’ or ‘your just wanting attention’. Or my favourite, ‘how can you be a counsellor if you have depression’.

Receiving help and support is a tough step to take but trust me, having the help and support there is helping me be the person I’m meant to be, unapologetically and is giving me the strength and ability to support others.

Quite beautiful when you see it that way, supporting each other to be our true selves. Being human and being part of humanity as we were meant to be <3

Managing anxiety

Anxiety is a really tough one to get through, especially when it’s a situation out of your control. Here are a few tips I found myself telling one of you lovely ladies when you emailed me; I actually hadn’t realised that I had these coping strategies until I was asked to help!

There are a few things you can do, that I do that you might find useful:

  • Being grateful is a great way of keeping things in perspective – especially when the days seem all bad. Look for the tiny things to be grateful for, the ground to walk on, shoes on my feet, the air to breathe, being healthy etc…it sounds really simple but it really does work.
  • Self care – get in lots of self care and self love, over used words, I know, but that helps too. Imagine your best friend was going through this, what would you do for her? Do it for yourself! You can give yourself hugs and be self compassionate, talk to yourself in a loving way, do fun things to counteract the stress/anxiety.
  • See your worth – easier said than done but I know from first hand experience stress and anxiety can affect your self esteem. So whenever you do something, no matter how small, congratulate yourself, make a list, tell others. Keep remembering that you are good at things, you are worthy and you are loved.
  • Breathe – if you get full on anxiety attacks, try to breathe through them in a meditative mindful way. Ground yourself, concentrate on your breathing and it can help calm you down and get you back to you. One great thing I say to myself is, ‘I am held in place securely by gravity, air and breathing is the one constant in my life, I belong, I am worthy, It’s going to be ok, I am ok’…it really helps!
  • Music helps too, almost ignore everything else happening and just lose yourself in a song – sing along if you want, or use up that extra energy to dance it out. Listen to every single note, it helps
  • Of course I would also take photos because that helps to calm and concentrate the mind but it isn’t always possible. If I haven’t got a camera and I’m feeling anxious, I do look around and pretend like I’m taking photos. So seeing things, framing them with my mind’s eye, seeing it from different angles etc…that helps me focus and be in the moment, really seeing what is around me.

You are not alone in this and I hope that has helped. Let me know how you get on, don’t worry, you’ve got this <3

How to free your space and free your mind

Have you heard the saying that a tidy space reflects a tidy mind?

Have a look around you and see what is there. Are you deeply happy in the space you are in?

Our environments have a huge impact on our mental well being and for many people, if the space is cluttered and disorganised, it could be reflecting or affecting the mind.

How can we fix this? Declutter of course!! Go through your things and get rid of anything that gives you a bad memory or makes you feel bad about yourself.

Let go of the ‘when I loose weight, I’ll fit into this and that’, let go of the ‘one day I’ll make this or do this’ and the ‘I’ll fix this’.

Don’t get me wrong, if you are going to, then do it, take control and set some time aside to do it but look deep within yourself, if you are not, then let go and give yourself that extra headspace.

If something has got sentimental value but is broken beyond repair, then take a photo of it. If you love a dress because you have great memories of when you wore it but doesn’t fit any more, take a photo of it.

Can you think of examples of things you need to let go of but haven’t because of how it makes you feel? Or the memories you have because of it?

You will also be amazed that through letting go of physical things, you will find your mind will be freer and have more space for new things – physically and mentally. Perhaps new opportunities? New hobbies? New friends? A new look showing the new confident you

Photographing these objects can help you keep those feelings and memories without taking up physical space.

Give yourself a break and free yourself up from unwanted things in your life. Remember, taking photos of things can help you let go

Let me know if this has been helpful; What have you let go of physically but kept a photo for emotional reasons?

Tips on how to love your body

Quick 5 top tips on what to do when you feel really unhappy about yourself and your body.

1) Distract yourself; stop obsessing and thinking about it by distracting yourself. Go out and do something, meet up with friends, take a nice walk in nature, get your camera and take some photos.

2) Find out why you feel this way; really think about it. Were things said to you while you were growing up? Who said them? Has something else happened that has upset you?

3) Build your self worth and self confidence; do something nice for someone else, do something out of your comfort zone – what is it you’ve always wanted to do?

4) Remember all positive things that have been said to you; Start writing a list to yourself about your positives, start telling yourself daily, in the mirror, I am worthy of living, I am special

5) Don’t compare your insides with everyone else’s outsides; Everyone puts on mask to the world and hide what is going on inside them. Everyone else feels the same way so stop comparing yourself to others.

Have you got anything to add?

Photos never taken

Isn’t it funny how we are always smiling in our photos? When someone brings out a camera and points it at you, the most natural reaction is to Smile!

It is interesting that we have this need to record only happy moments. We want to look back and see our photo albums full of joy, closeness and love.

It’s not always the case though, is it? We have moments when we have huge emotions covered by a smile. Do we even acknowledge half the emotions we have? Or do we brush them under the carpet and sit on them because we are not ready to face them?

There are so many things thrown at us in life and I wonder how many of these things we actually deal with? Our feelings are not just in our minds, they are all of us, physical and mental. Positive emotions have great effects on our bodies just as the negative ones have negative effects.

So how about, as you go through your day observe what emotions you are feeling. Give it a week. Just observe without comment or judgement.

Then as you observe more, move into recording. If you feel sad, take a self portrait. If you feel angry, take a self portrait. If you feel happy, tired, grumpy…you get the picture. (excuse the pun)

You don’t have to look at these straight away but in time, set aside some alone time and put the photos together. You can create a collage, write the emotions you are feeling over the photos, display them as you want.

Have a think as you look at the photos:
What caused you to feel that particular emotion?
Was it because what was happening at the time, or did it remind you of a similar situation it the past?
How does it feel looking at yourself having different emotions?
What do you want to offer the YOU in the image during the emotion? (Words, hugs? etc)

Learning what we are and who we are is an important step to learning how to love ourselves. These photos of learning our emotions can help you learn the triggers and causes of emotions and in turn help you cope through the hard times and enjoy the good times.

Good luck and let me know how you get on x

Love your body – Step 7; Self portrait

This last exercise is a very simple one; I want you to take a photo of yourself. Simples 🙂

You can direct someone else to take the photo for you but make sure they are only pressing the shutter and not influencing your choices in the process. If you do not like the way you look, please still do this exercise. There comes a time when you put your trust in others and the time has come now. You are in a safe place where your efforts in capturing yourself will be appreciated and treated with respect.

You decide where and when, what you wear, your expression, what you’re looking at and if you are with anyone. This is your chance to spend time thinking and looking at yourself.

You have full control on how you want this self portrait to look but you have to park any emotions for now and you only get one go at taking the photo.

So if you take it and you think; oh I don’t like my hair in it, I look fat etc just sit with it. Accept it as it is. If any emotions come bubbling up or negative thoughts, stop them for the moment. Just see the image you have created as an image.

Let it just BE. Just look at it. Accept it.

You don’t have to love it, or hate it, be proud of it or want to hide it. It is simply a photo of yourself that you have created. Nothing more, nothing less.

Looking at your image, for one moment forget that it is you in the picture. See the person as someone else. Ask these questions out loud and write down the answers. If you find it easier, you can record them and watch your responses which will give you more of an insight to your emotions. Get into the moment and go with the first answers that pop into your head. That’s your subconscious talking to you.

Now think of the answers to these questions:

Who is the person in the image?

What are they doing?

What do they need to say if they could talk?

What is obvious about the picture?

What 3 things do you like about the image?

What 3 things do you NOT like?

Who would say these things? Where did you first hear that voice? Whom did it come from?

What or who is missing from the picture?

If you were to going to give this picture to anyone, who would it be and why?

Who would you NOT give it to and why?

When making this image, did you have someone in mind?

Did your answers surprise you? Is there anything new you have learnt about yourself?

 

 

Love your body – Step 6; Beauty in your eyes

The media and the rest of the outside world are so good at telling us what to think and how to be but it is time we stood up and made our own definitions.

This is a chance for you to define what beauty means to you, not what others have told you but what you believe it means. It can be people, places, things, anything that you see beauty in.

This is another collage exercise. I want you to take photos, or find images of what you define as beauty. You can look at magazines but if you have any negative feelings or if you don’t feel good enough looking at an image, then don’t use it.

Use only images that make you feel good and show real beauty.

This is one photographer’s project on beauty http://www.chookooloonks.com/new-faces

If you can, try to take photos of beauty around you and if looking through online or magazine images, try to look at different cultures from around the world.

Are images of beauty from the villages in South America the same as the British? Or Zulu? Be as open minded as possible and discover beauty from the world, not just the country or culture you are from.

How about beauty from a different time? The 60s? 1800s?

You do not even have to stick to one species – how about beauty in the animal kingdom? Plant world? Landscapes?

Beauty is beauty, where ever it is found. You just need to open your eyes and look J

Once you do this collage answer the following questions:

What title would you give this collage?

Do you fit in this collage of what beauty is?

Was there anything that surprised you about your collection of Beauty?

Have your ideas of what beauty is changed?

 

Love your body – Step 5; Your place in the world

I believe we are born as a blank canvas and with every experience we go through, every memory we make, something is drawn or written onto our canvas. In time we get an overall image of who we are and what our life is.

I know I am not in the only one who thinks this way but sometimes we seem to go around and around on the same spot on the canvas. Like those spirographs we used to play with as kids. When it would get stuck, you just ended up drawing a circle over a circle instead of making a pretty pattern.

I feel our body image issues is similar to a broken spirograph, we are going around in circles focusing on one thing, negative things, not realizing the bigger picture around us. We may think of the bigger picture but I’m guessing your body image issues take up most of your headspace, right?

So put together a collage of YOU. You in the moment, right now. What you are about, what you love, your favourite places, people you love. You can take lots of new photos, use magazine cut outs, hand draw things, write things.

Again, this is about you so you have full creative control over what you do and how you do it. Remember to include images of you (use only the ones you feel positive about or take more photos of you)

After doing your collage look at it and realise that you are where you are in life because of you, because of the way you are and the person you are.

Here are some questions to answer:

What jumps out at you about the collage? (What are the main themes?)

Are you happy with it? Is there anything missing?

Did it come out how you thought it would? Or were there some surprises in there?

What portion of the You collage is affected by your body image?

Does your body image take up as much of the collage as it does in your mind?

What 3 things would you change in the collage? Are they body image changes?

Would you still have the people you love, the favourite things or be YOU if your body image was different?

Has this answer surprised you?

Extra if you want to:

Now this is completely optional, but you can expand on this exercise. Add another piece of paper before your collage which will be another collage but this time you are looking at your past.

What is important to you from your past? You can include images of how you looked, when you were happiest, things that have helped shape who you are, where you were born, your children being born, people who have passed away – anything you feel that encapsulates your past.

Now looking at the Collage Past,

What jumps out at you about the collage?

Are you happy with it?

Is there anything missing?

Did it come out how you thought it would? Or were there some surprises in there?

What portion of the past collage is affected by your body image?

What 3 things would you like back from the past? Are they body image related?

Now compare the Past and the Present You collages;

Are there any obvious changes?

Are you happier with the Present You collage compared with the Past or would you change anything?

What title would you give the Past collage?

Who is missing from the Past that you haven’t in the Present?

I believe the past is in the past and it is not healthy to dwell on it but rather look back and learn from it. Sometimes looking back can help you see if you are on the right path in life and if you are doing what you thought you would do.

Ongoing project (if you want!)

Now if you are really into it and to help with goal setting you could do a Future collage. This could include any dreams you have, things you want to achieve, places you want go to, things you want to do. This collage can be a reminder of where you are going and that this moment in time is only temporary.

Remembering that can help come to terms with the present if there is a situation you are unhappy with; YOU have control on your life and only you can change it through the choices you make and the actions you take. You will not be in the Present collage forever and one day you will be in the Future collage. What that looks like is up to you 🙂

Is there anything missing from the Future collage you want to add to? (This can be an ongoing work in progress)

Does it matter what size you are? Does it matter how your body looks in the Future collage?

Do you think you will lose loved ones in the Present collage because of your body so they do not appear in the Future collage?

Did the Future collage surprise you? Are you on the right path to achieve your goals? What do you need to change to be on the right path?

Is there anything new you have learnt about yourself?

What proportion of the Past, Present and Future focus on your body? What proportion focus on loved ones? Things you have done or want to do?

Would love to hear your answers and thoughts on this exercise.

 

 

Love your body – Step 4; Self represented

Don’t you find that since you were born, you have slowly accumulated more and more masks to wear? Or hats?

When I’m at work; I am work me, at home; I am home me, around the kids; I am mum, with my husband; I am the wife and friend and so it goes on. There comes a time though that you’ve been so busy putting on different masks and being different people, you simply forget who you are when you are not wearing masks.

Who are you? Who am I? I fear this will be a question I will be asking myself for as long as I breathe. Maybe in some ways we are not meant to know because it is forever changing helping us to always progress? I honestly don’t know but I think that is a nice way of looking at it.

I do know that for a long time I wore a mask to the world showing them how happy I was when underneath I was dying and was simply a hollow shell of myself. I lost myself trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be. So when I decided enough was enough, I did a therapeutic photography project, Unmasked, (click to see the blog).

I allowed myself to take off my ‘happy’ mask and find out who I could be when not hiding. It was so liberating and allowed me to move on in my life.

Now it’s your turn to look inward, and find who you are without all your masks and find out about your inner self.

Think of your inner self or your true self and your outer self or the you for show to the world.

Now you can find some images to represent the inner/outer you or you can take photographs that represent you.

Using representation in this way often helps you be more honest and hear your soul or inner self talking to you. Like with all the other exercises, it is the process of going through it that gives you the answers, there is no right and wrong.

One example could be that your inner self is more like a rabbit, timid and scared but your outer self is a lion that growls and snaps if anyone gets close.

That was just an example but you can use anything to represent you; a tree, a piece of furniture, a plant, a type of pottery. Anything at all, as long as you can see yourself in the item.

“I wanted to talk about how ugly and unattractive I felt. I was growing older…the person I was on the outside was a completely different person to the real me inside. I felt ashamed, so when I was asked to find an image that represented the subject we wanted to talk about I chose the oldest, most deformed tree in the park.
As I was photographing this tree, I was struck by the strength of the trunk. I wanted to photograph the roots to show how stuck and tied down I felt, but as I moved in I also noticed that there was growth on some of the branches at the bottom. It might be old but still capable of producing new shoots. As I photographed the roots I was reminded of veins pumping lifeblood into the vast tree, seeking out hidden resources.
It reminded me of ME. Keeping everyone fed and watered, stretched so far I thought I would break. Yet I was struck that it was this same stretching out that gave this vast tree stability  For the first time in a long while, I felt quite at peace.
I returned to the group with my photographs and began to tell everyone about my discovery. I was very moved when someone asked if I felt that the image I had chosen primarily because of its age was really about strength  I keep the image and I look at this when I have the odd twinge in my back or my rheumatism plays up.
It makes me feel incredibly proud.”
Example in Exploring the Self through Photography by Claire Craig

Now answer these questions:

How did you feel expressing the inner you?

Did anything surprise you?

Are the inner and outer you so very different or actually quite similar?

Are you happy with having a hidden side to you?

Who would you give the images to? And Why?

Who would you NOT give the images to and why?

What would happen if the inner you was on the outside? Name 3 good things and 3 bad things.

Did you find beauty in either the inner or outer you? Or both?

Have your ideas of what beauty are changed?

You can also add to this exercise and take/find an image that represents your Ideal self.

What do you really want to look like? to be like?

What would you change about you? (Remember, it is what YOU want to change about you, not what you think others want changed in you.)

How would you go about making those changes?

What would make you happier?

What would make you love your body more?

 

 

Love your body – Step 3; Change body perception

Since we are little, we have seen ourselves in mirrors or in photos that someone else has taken of us.

How do you see your body? Take some time now to make a note of anything that comes to mind.

This exercise will gently help you start taking photos of yourself, in a fun way and will help you to see yourself differently.

Do you remember those crazy mirrors at the sea side arcades? The ones where you either look really tall or squished?

The images that you see in those mirrors are funny because they do not match up to the image in your mind about how you look. They are funny because your body is so distorted, in some mirrors, distorted to beyond recognition.

So, this exercise is about changing your perception about your body. Take lots of photos of yourself in reflections. The more distorted the better. I want you to see yourself as you never have!

This is a fun way to start learning how to take photos of yourself and to have a laugh at the images you create.

Taking photos of yourself is not a scary thing to do, seeing yourself is not scary and you do not look horrid, ugly – or any other negative thoughts that are popping into your head. (And are you batting them away with 3 positives?)

After you have a collection of photos, consider these questions:

Did you enjoy the process?

Did any of the images surprise you? What was the surprise?

Did any of the images upset you and why?

What emotions has it brought to the surface?

Which one is your favourite and why?

Is there a theme in your photos?

Did you find yourself concentrating on a particular area of your body?

Will you share your images? If so, who will you share them with?

What title would you give to your collection?

Make notes on anything else you notice.

 

 

Step 2 – Love your body; Detox your mind

I am sure you have heard of a body detox? Well, we are going to look at detoxing our minds.

I believe one of the main reasons we as women are in such a state about our bodies is because we are mean. Now, be honest with yourself, think about all your female relationships, or think about when you watch TV or flick through a magazine. What goes through your mind? What do you say when you have all your girlfriends together? When you talk about other women?

“Wow, she’s put on weight!”

“She’s so skinny, that bitch!”

“She really shouldn’t be wearing ‘skinny’ jeans”

Can you add some more? Be honest, what have you thought in the past week? Month?

Now turn it around and think about what has been said to you. Take a few minutes here to jot down some hang ups you have in your life because someone has made a comment about it?

“You know you’d look so much prettier if you did your eyebrows this way” or

“Your bum looks so big in that”

Ok, maybe those are lame examples but have a think and write down some examples of your own. Now have a think who said them to you. Where are they in their lives? Do you want their lives? To be like them? Have they actually got any expertise in the area? Do they have your best interest in mind? Does their opinion really matter that much?

What have you come up with?

The point is, there are people out there who are so quick to put you down to keep you from becoming confident.

By mindlessly bitching with your friends, or at the TV, you are training  your mind that it is ok to talk like that. It is ok to pick out imperfections. It’s ok because that means that person is not perfect so you can feel ok about yourself.

It’s ok to put others down so you feel ok.

Is it really ok?

We now come to the real reason why we need to retrain our minds. By talking this way about others, and training our minds that it is ok, it begs the question:

What exactly are we saying to ourselves?

You know, that voice in your head that says things. I’ll bet you that voice isn’t very nice to you, is it? You know it’s your voice and  you don’t like it but you let it say these things AND YOU BELIEVE IT!

Here are some examples of what other women have said from a survey I sent out:

“I am not good enough to be part of anything and can’t do anything.”


“I am just existing and smile through the pain, living in my own personal hell.”


“If anyone else treated me I do to myself, I would take them to court for abuse and yet I feel I deserve to do this to myself.”


“I have let myself go and am not good enough to be part of society. I don’t fit in, I don’t belong.”

Write down all the things you can think of that the voice has said to you. Has the voice been kind to you? Do you like it? Can you image living life without this negativity within you? What would that be like?

Be mindful of the voice and what negative things it is saying to you. For a day or so, just notice and make notes if you need to. Notice what you say to yourself, what your friends say to you, to each other, what is said on TV, in the magazine. Just notice how much negativity is out there.

You can’t really control what other people say or do but like I said in the intro, this is your life and you are in control, and you choose what you do and where you go next.

You CAN start changing your mindset.

Every time you hear yourself being negative, say THREE nice things to counter act it.

So if you see a large woman wearing a pair of skinny jeans a few sizes too small, and you’re thinking “She should not be wearing those!”, bat that thought away with “Her hair is a beautiful colour, her eyes are full of so much happiness, she has put that outfit together so well”

Try and think of three positives to every negative and you will soon find your mind is being retrained. Maybe you will even stop thinking of negatives all together? Maybe you will start seeing beauty in all these women around you where before you only saw flaws?

Now, can you image doing that to the voice in your head? For every negative thought you have to say to yourself, can you say three nice things?

3 positives – 1 negative = 1 happier woman!

I would strongly suggest you write down the positives, or if you wish, take a photos of the positives (don’t worry if you’re not ready yet, there’s plenty of time for that).  Collect these positives and look at them often, you will start seeing yourself in a new light and you will start believing how wonderful you are, and how beautiful you are and most importantly, how worthy you are.

Remember, you need to go through the process to see the results.

You can also try a Love ritual which will help you feel better about yourself.

Stand yourself in front of the mirror and say,

“I love you, you are beautiful, you have every right to have a place on this earth and you are worthy of everything.”

Do it as often as you can but promise yourself you will do it at least twice a day. Maybe when you’re brushing your teeth? That’s twice a day 🙂 Change what you say to yourself by all means, as often as you like, to suit what you need at the time, but make sure it is positive.