Archives for category: Life skills

Reflecting on our moods can be fun. It’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves. We can be so concerned about our changing moods, fretting about feeling down and concerned about moments of high anxiety, that we may even be tempted to analyse ourselves and come up with some important sounding label.

It may be useful to simply accept that our moods fluctuate and that this is quite normal. Feeling up or down, calm or anxious is part of being alive. On reflection, we are usually able to pin point the reason for our change of mood and can sometimes have a good chuckle!

This blog is obviously not trying to make light of mental illness, it is simply saying that we sometimes take ourselves too seriously. In fact, even when contemplating our eventual death we can become far too morbid because we focus on the demise of our “important” selves and forget that we are an integral part of the great mass of humanity.


Sending up a few thought balloons on the above subjects…
Security…how we long for it! We look for it in all kinds of places. Some places are appropriate, others not.
We turn our homes into fortresses, sometimes with devastating results! We demand security from our partners, placing an intolerable burden on them. We expect guaranteed financial security from our investment advisors. We are attracted to churches that offer spiritual security, some used to call it “pie in the sky when you die”.

Certainty…a close cousin to security. We want certainty at all costs! We expect our loved ones to provide complete certainty with regard to their feelings for us; the intensity of our relationships must never change. We put enormous pressure on medical doctors to explain every aspect of our illness and give us every assurance of a good outcome. We will not pursue our dreams because there is no certainty regarding the hoped for outcome.

Decisions, decisions…how hard it is to make decisions! It is much easier to vacillate, procrastinate and stay the same. We are frightened by the vast number of choices, mutations, options, alternatives. We become confused and we are either frozen by indecision and anxiety, or overcome by the vast complexity of life. We fail to grasp that the making of a decision will bring calm to our troubled minds.

In the hierarchy of needs, safety and security are near the bottom. In other words it is a very basic part of being alive. Once we have discovered a degree of realistic security, we can cope better with the demands of life and we can move forward to address our other more sophisticated needs.

Whether you are living with anxiety or you are an O.C.D. personality type, you may find it helpful to stop “looking back”. When a bout of worry or anxiety arrives, try to focus on it and develop ways of coping with it; for example, it may be helpful to re-direct your thinking. Focus on something quite different; even making a cup of tea or going for a walk in the garden may be useful. In other words do not waste mental energy on trying to work out why you are anxious.

Even when physical ailments occur, try not to think of reasons for the head ache, upset stomach, back pain, etc. Just concentrate on dealing with the symptom as best you can and try to avoid worrying about the cause. It only makes the situation more stressful.
Good luck!

The whole world is hidden in the details. Tear from one location to the next and you will miss it entirely. Don’t just stop to smell the roses, linger long enough to touch the petals, trace the veins on the leaves and register the shading of the colour.
When you rush into yet another airport, stop scratching in your bag for your documents. Pause long enough to feel the cool air pouring down the corridor, look out over the concrete expanse of the parking area and note the faces of the ground staff stationed along the walkway.
Walk slowly into the fancy restaurant, let your eyes absorb the colourful murals, greet the waiter by name and spend time with the carefully prepared menu. Smell the flowers on the table, select your wine with anticipation and excitement.
Try to “paint” or “sketch” the people and things you encounter in your head so that you may refer to them for years to come. A hasty snapshot or selfie is no replacement for a complete  immersion in the vigour of the moment. Take everything in as if it is your last day on earth!


Inspired by life and Alain De Botton; The Art of Travel

“He was a mate…and he would do everything to keep him alive. Because courage, survival, love  –  all these things didn’t live in one man. They lived in them all or they died and every man with them; they had come to believe that to abandon one man was to abandon themselves”

“For a moment (he) was bewildered as to where he was. Still not entirely sure, he laid the letter down next to his bed and went out into the rain. Thinking: The world is. It just is”

” …no one up there on the Line much believed in God anymore, it was hard to believe either in the devil. The Goanna (guard) just was, much as many wished he was not”

Richard Flanagan; The Narrow Road to the Deep North; Chatto & Windus; 2014

When the chips are down I believe in what is real, existential, tangible. Don’t spin me yarns about “saving grace”, miraculous rescue or God’s will! I believe in those who are present for me…I believe in you.

You know the story about the little boy who was frightened of the dark. His mother assured him that God was with him in the dark even if he couldn’t see Him. The boy replied, “but Mum I want a God with skin on!”

When things get tough, I just want to know that someone is alongside me urging me on. When the going gets tough, the tough need a tough mate to see them through!

The above quotes, from a great book that I am reading at present, sum up something of my current thinking.

In human society, especially, co-operation is an essential ingredient. People need to work together, towards a common purpose, if conflict is to be avoided and progress made.
Non co-operation takes many forms, it is not necessarily blatant. Anything that hinders, or slows down, the daily round and common task can be experienced as a spirit of non co-operation. If a member of a group is slow to act, or lazy, or procrastinates, or allows others to complete his tasks, or fails to do what is expected of him, the other group members will soon feel used or unfairly treated and group cohesion will dissolve. We need to be careful about obstructing others and thereby causing them to become frustrated or embittered.

Talk less and listen more! Yes, it is difficult particularly if you have a very active mind but life will be far richer if you try to listen actively.
Listen not only to the words of others but to the “words” of nature!

Switch off your electronic devices for a few minutes and concentrate on the sounds around you. You may be pleasantly surprised and your spirit may be calmed by the “sounds of silence”.

Enjoy the silence today.

Dr Irvin Yalom, in Love’s Executioner, indicates that one of the most provocative questions is “what do you want?” For many, the answer is “I want out!” I feel trapped in my occupation, marriage, family, religion, culture.
Everything points to the need for change but the courage to change is lacking.

And so the endless cycle of existence continues and depression or meaninglessness results. Sometimes the substantial adjustments that change will entail frighten people; “no pain, no gain”. The mountain range appears impassable and so they slide back into inertia.

What is the answer? Change can be facilitated by counselling or supportive friends but sometimes material security holds the trump card. A person cannot leave his job if he has little chance of finding another. So the answer to the big question may not always be achievable but it may be possible to arrive at a compromise.

I may not be able to afford a cottage by the sea but I may be able to manage an annual trip to the coast? Increasing insight, practicing flexibility and employing creative thinking can bring some rewards. It may not be possible to change the whole situation but it may be quite possible to make small changes that will make the status quo more bearable.

Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions, come on “what do you want?”

Hello Lucie! How are you? (silence)
What have you been doing while I was out? (silence)
Did you see anything interesting? (silence)
Did you hear anything interesting? (silence)
Did you have a nap? (silence)
Are you hungry Lucie? (silence)

This is clearly a one-sided conversation but does that imply that Lucie has nothing to communicate? Her eyes are large and bright as buttons, her ears are pricked, her body sways like a metronome and her tail wags furiously. She simply does not use my language; I have the responsibility of working out what she wishes to convey. Perhaps I should learn to listen with her intensity and spend less time prattling on and on…

The Internet has dumped a truck load of information in our laps but there is a down side to it. We need to read very carefully, verify the information and then avoid jumping to conclusions. The diagnosis of mental illness is a case in point. When you feel tired, sad or low someone will quickly say that you are depressed.
When you are feeling ebullient, happy or excited someone will conclude that you are manic. Similarly, if you are clean, tidy and organised someone will label you as OCD. Or if you are a worry wart someone will “diagnose” you as having an anxiety disorder. We have become familiar with the terminology but that does not mean that we have suddenly become experts in diagnosing mental illness. Let’s leave that job to the appropriate professionals! Expressing certain feelings or behaving in a certain way does not necessarily indicate illness! Everyone is different; we have different personalities and we express ourselves in different ways. Some of us are of a serious disposition and some of us see the dark side of life, others are light-hearted and easy-going while others again are frequently worrying about something. Let’s celebrate our differences and stop categorising others on the basis of a little knowledge (probably gleaned from the Internet) which is often a dangerous thing.