Why I’m writing my own prescription (and why you can too)

I often prefer to call myself a coach when I’m working one-on-one with people who want to make positive changes to become healthier.

Rather than being a health professional who tells someone what to do, I’m allowing people to tap into their own intuitive wisdom about what they really need to be healthy. Because while I know what works for me personally (or at least, I’m learning!) and I know what the Australian healthy guidelines are for topics such as eating and exercise, every human is an individual with unique needs, and they know themselves best. A football coach doesn’t think he could play the game better than the players themselves right? In the same way, I don’t think I know your health better than you do.

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 They already know what they need

Most of the people I work with have received at least somewhat of an education and have usually done their own reading and research into various topics, so they already know what it is they need, they are just having trouble doing it. Think about it. Is there an area of your life (moving your body, eating, work/vocation, finances, sexual health, spirituality) where you know intuitively that there is something that if you went about it differently, you’d have better health? I’m sure there is. So, it’s not a lack of knowledge that is missing. It’s a lack of motivation, understanding, action or knowing how to change that holds people back.

And that’s where I come in.

Often, people are looking for someone to be accountable to, someone to celebrate wins with and talk though challenges, rather than someone to tell them what to do. Of course, in my role as a health professional, if someone is really stuck, or asks me for advice on a specific topic, I am able to offer suggestions and ideas that they might want to try. But I don’t go in shouting ‘here’s an eight week plan I’ve made for you, off you go!’. It’s about sitting with people, helping them uncover their own desires, intuitive wisdom, and facilitate a deeper understanding of and communication with themselves. It’s quite a humbling experience for me, and one I’m grateful to be able to practice.

 I do this as well.

I’ve also been writing my own plan for living a meaningful life alongside depression. Writing this sort of plan for yourself requires some experience, knowledge and understanding of yourself. It’s necessary to spend time – days, weeks, months (years!) observing yourself and your habits. It also does take some discipline – sometimes the things we know are good for us are hard to do (stop watching TV, anyone?). However, the beauty of writing your own prescription is that you get to say what’s best for you. Because really, you’ve been around for your whole life – who else knows you better? Certainly not a health professional you’ve just met.

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 Doctors are still good, too!

There is no doubt that modern medicine has offered us many life improvements and saved many thousands of lives. Only last week I ended up with tonsillitis and was pretty happy about the existence of antibiotics. I’m not AT ALL saying that you should stop seeing health practitioners. If you have a complex or acute illness or injury, you need to get yo’self to a health professional, stat. What I am saying, is that you can start to take responsibility for your own health, and making movements towards changing it. You don’t need a doctor to tell you that you should exercise more before you start moving your body. You don’t need to wait until you are in the early stages of diabetes before you start making changes to your dietary habits. You can tune in to yourself now, and let your intuition guide to as to what you really need to be well. And if your intuition tells you that part of your prescription involves working with a health professional, whether a supportive coach or someone that offers specific treatment, then that’s awesome. Because that’s you, feeling empowered to do what feels right for your health and your body.

Do you ever have a hunch that you know just what you need to be well, but have trouble actually taking the action or making the change? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

Goodbyes are so hard (or, why I’m saying see ya later to TV)

I’m currently working on something that’s been years in the making.

That thing is: not being on anti-depressant medication. I have to say, it’s been pretty tough the last few months. Part of how I’m going about it is writing my own prescription for what I need to live a meaningful life. This involves a number of things, which I’m planning to write about soon in an up-coming blog post (stay tuned!).

One of the factors of my plan? Less TV.

This comes about because I’ve noticed a recurring pattern of action and response. The action is : watching TV, whether episodes in a series or a movie, usually with dinner (or lunch!), and may be anywhere from one twenty minute episode to three movies in a single day (yep, Oceans 11, 12 and 13 one after the other! Yes, it was epic).

I don’t have a belief that watching TV is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, rather, I’ve noticed that for me personally, when I switch it off after finishing, most often I feel a bit crappy. Either tired, or bored, or just kind of empty and frustrated. Which tells me: TV is not filling my cup or meeting my needs.

I’m also noticing that increasingly, while the TV is on, I’m picking up my phone and just casually checking in on instagram or something similar. Which tells me: I’m not fully engaged in the TV watching.

The hard part though?

I have the thought ‘All I want to do is lay on the couch and watch TV’ multiple times a day. It’s a really tricky part of depression, (and also everyday life!) where our thoughts really aren’t true, or helpful. In the case of this thought, I have tried appeasing it, and going ahead and watching the TV, and I’ve also tried opposing it, by going to work or going for a run, or doing anything else. As I mentioned, when I’ve been appeasing the thought, I’m mostly ending up feeling crappy. When I’ve been opposing it? I usually end up feeling better.

So I’ve decided to make a call – this thought is no longer helpful, and therefore I’m going to let it be there without letting it run my life. My more in-tune self knows that I feel better when I do something that isn’t watching TV, so that’s what I’m going to do.

goodbyes-are-so-hardThe problem remains, I’m still going to have the thought that I want to watch it. How do I deal with that?

Three things:

  1. Practice ACT principles of making space for the thought through mindfulness and breathing practices, allowing it to be there, and make a choice to act based on my values, and
  2. Prepare alternatives for those times when I want to watch it.
  3. Not go cold turkey. I’m allowing myself TV nights on Friday and Sunday.

The alternative activities I’ve come up with so far are:

  • have a bath
  • read a book
  • do some colouring in
  • do some writing
  • do some cooking

Have you got any other ideas about what to do in the evening that doesn’t involve a screen? Do you want to watch less TV too?

Why a Bad Day is OK

It's a peupty day

We have high expectations, these days

With so much opportunity for having multiple careers, online business, doing it all, creating a life you love – it’s easy to develop the perception that you’re not doing well enough in life until you reach a point where every day you’re jumping out of bed, stoked to get going with your day, and looking forward to the times when you get to ‘work’ (because you love it so much it doesn’t feel like work).

As a bit of a follow on from my last post, about how it’s a normal human condition to have feelings such as rage, grief, shame and sadness (although often referred to as ‘negative’ feelings, I like to think of them as ‘uncomfortable’) I thought I’d share a similar story this week – it’s also part of being human to just have a Bad Day.

The Bad (Day) news

While the above description of creating a life you love every.single.day. is an enticing thought, I think having a goal like this is potentially harmful. Because even those of us who are working in areas we are passionate about, doing meaningful things, are still entitled to plain and simple Bad Days. A Bad Day could simply mean going about your normal day feeling a bit blah, or it could mean being curled up on the couch binge watching crap TV and going through two boxes of tissues – or maybe for you a Bad Day looks totally different.

It’s inevitable that you will have Bad Days. Because even in the most thoughtfully, purposefully crafted lives, shit happens. Life is unpredictable and sometimes chaotic. People change their minds, crises occur and lives are lost – every day. Sometime or another, these things will affect you. And sometimes? You might have a Bad Day when there is no apparent external reason.

The good news?

Having a Bad Day doesn’t mean all was in vain and you are failing at life. In a similar message to last week’s – all feelings are part of the natural human experience – having an occasional crappy, unproductive, unmotivated, shitty day is also part of the human experience. Depending on the circumstances surrounding it, even a Bad Week, or a Bad Month could be entirely appropriate.

Beating yourself up about not having achieved that life of perpetual bliss only adds to the Bad Day-ness. On your next Bad Day, perhaps you could consider offering yourself some compassion and acceptance?

Oh. I’m having a Bad Day. What could I do for myself in this moment that is kind and loving?

It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that – you don’t have to search for a reason, or worry about when the Bad Day-ness will end. Chances are, it will end*. Practicing acceptance and being kind to yourself in the moment though, will likely make your Bad Day a little bit more bearable.

How about you? Ever had a Bad Day?**Did you beat yourself up about it?

*And if it doesn’t – if it’s one Bad Day after another, for more than a few weeks – you might consider seeking some external support, from a place like beyondblue.

**(trick question – I know you have!)

I am, therefore I feel

Feelings (and thoughts, for that matter) are a natural human experience. For a while there, with pop culture movements like positive psychology, some people came to a conclusion that they should be feeling happy all the time. And if, for whatever reason, they weren’t feeling happy, then there was something wrong with them.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that idea.

Good and bad feelings

One of the reasons this came about was the categorization of emotions into ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ emotions. If I name four random emotions, lets say, anger, grief, shame and joy, can you pick out which one of those is the ‘positive’ one? I’m sure you can. But how about if a family member of yours just died? Would joy really be an appropriate emotion, or would grief fit the bill better? I’m going to go with grief.

When we move away from ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ and ‘positive’, and start to re-sort our emotions in different categories like ‘pleasant’ and ‘unpleasant’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘uncomfortable’ our previously perceived ‘negative’ emotions suddenly take on a different light. Now we can appreciate them for their relevance, and start to think about the meaning they might add to our lives.

A life with only happiness and joy would be: mania

Even though we’re conditioned to thinking that if we’re not feeling tip-top then there’s something wrong with us, it’s interesting to know that people who actually experience on-going, high levels of energy and pleasant emotions may be classed as experiencing a manic episode. It’s a normal and necessary part of life to experience times of less energy, of sadness, anger and other, less pleasant, emotions.

Try noticing your inner landscape

The human experience involves experiencing a whole range of emotions, from sadness, anger and frustration, to joy, love and excitement. You can’t be one without the other. Learning how to be aware of our current feelings and notice them for what they are without needing to judge them as good or bad is a huge step forward. You can practice this by:

  • Naming them (oh, I’m feeling frustrated) – this is often easier with a list or a set of flashcards in front of you
  • Noticing how your body feels – instead of focusing on the thoughts surrounding the feelings, noticing what physical sensations you can pick up.
  • Taking a time out when you’re having an argument or disagreement, and spending a few minutes tuning in to what’s going on internally.

 

Instead of trying to spend my life being happy, I’m now much more interested in being fulfilled. Fulfillment comes with a range of different emotions, and I’m trying to practice accepting these varied feelings as much as possible, even when it’s uncomfortable.

How about you? Do you strive for happiness only, or do you also appreciate the down times for what they are?