Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Five Amazing Things

1) The tree fell down in our garden, but it avoided the house!
2) Aldi - the amazingly cheap and good supermarket.
3) The internet - keeping in touch with friends and family so easily these days.
4) Cuddling up with myself in my woolly cardigan.
5) Gazing at my wedding photograph, noting all the details for the umpteenth time, right next to the computer monitor when I am sick of looking at screens.

Monday, December 30, 2013

6 Questions to ask yourself when dealing with a loss, failure or crisis

1) Who can help me right now?
2) How specifically can they help me?
3) How can I prepare for this difficult patch?
4) Am I being open with myself about what the problems are?
5) What have I learnt from all this?
6) What are my coping strategies for daily life?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

How to prioritise daily when coping with failure/loss

1) Act on professionals' advice
There's nothing more important than our health.  This is the number one priority always.  Do you have to take medication to stay healthy?  Then take it as prescribed.  If you don't have to take medication but someone professional has given you advice - then act on it.  Perhaps you don't agree with some of it. A good friend of mine told me that her advisor asked her to 'compare yourself with others' - which I don't agree with.  I believe this leads to envy and depression.  But perhaps I shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  The same person said 'Consider all your options; contemplate and consider before making decisions.'  This is good advice.  Sometimes we may be more experienced in a scenario than the people we are asking for advice - perhaps more time is needed to make a decision about a course of action, perhaps further advice can be sought; a second opinion.  But remember, professionals are normally right - they are experienced in this, that is why they are professionals, they are paid to give you this advice. They will help you prioritise - for you.  They probably know you better than you think, and perhaps help you re-order this list and put different activities on it. Ignore professional advice at your peril.
2) Keep in contact if possible with family
Can you open up with family about your problems; your failures and losses?  They will most likely be very understanding and want to help - by talking to you and perhaps you could stay with them for a little while.  Perhaps tell them what the professionals have advised. Ask them what they think - do they agree?  Most families are there for each other in times of loss or crisis.  Keep the relationships strong at this time, cook your family a meal or send a thank you card for their support.

3) If family are out of the equation then keep contact with friends
You may find that your friends are your family.  Not a problem, your friends love you just as much, sometimes more so, than your family.  Keep in regular phone contact with them - they will want to know you are alright. Like your family, your friends may have an opinion on what the professionals are advising, perhaps worth listening to.

4) Seek ongoing support from the professionals
As well as acting on their advice - which could be a daily activity like taking medication, make sure that you are keeping your GP, counsellor, therapist, advisor or mentor up to date on your life.  They may not realise everything that is going on - this may change their advice of course so it is best to be as open as possible with the professionals, as often as feels comfortable and beneficial.  This could be weekly, fortnightly or monthly and could take place on the telephone.

5) Get plenty of sleep/rest
This is very important - for me at any rate.  I need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.  Go without and I start to lose the plot.

6) Eat good food
Eating good, fresh, wholesome food on a budget is possible in the UK I think.  Pasta and vegetables, jacket potatoes, boiled eggs, beans on toast.  You may find that a vegetarian diet is the way forward on a budget - better for you too.

7) Meditate
Breathe in and say calm on your out breath ten times.  Meditation is simply focussed relaxation - do whatever you feel relaxed doing to get in the 'Zone'.  Computer games might be the thing for you, for me burning incense and gazing at a fixed spot on the ceiling.

8) Do some exercise
Go running or start running.  You just need to put on some trainers and out the door you go, start with a few seconds running to start with, then a minute, then five and after about six weeks you should be able to run without stopping for 30 minutes. 

9) Manage your finances
Check your bank account daily, set up text alerts on your mobile with your bank so you get a text when you go below say £100.  If your life feels out of control, then reign it back under control and stick to your monthly, weekly and daily budget.

10) Help others
You may find, particularly if you're getting professional help, that you start to feel better shortly after your failure or loss.  Are you in a position where you have a skill or asset that you could put to good use to help others?  This will help you feel part of the community and society again and do wonders for your self esteem at this critical time, getting you back into a routine.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Moving On: Five tips I have learnt from 'failure' and loss

Everyone fails or loses at some point or another, it's part of the human condition.  Some people argue that innovation comes from failure, that this is the impetus behind evolution.  But when we have a major loss or spectacular failure 'moving on' is difficult.  How do you do it?  Here are my five top tips:

1) Ask for help - or if you can provide help, then provide it.  It will be reciprocated. 
Take one day at a time to start with, just focus on how you're going to get through the day at first.  Silent and lonely grief and anguish can turn in to a negative cycle and lead to depression - can you nip it in the bud by asking for help? Perhaps you don't want to be on your own at this time - are there friends and family you can stay with?  Can you practice cooking or fending for yourself on a friend or family member?  Utilise all the resources at your disposal.  If someone has said to you 'let me know if there's anything I can do to help' now might be the time to call in that favour.    If there's nobody then ask the professionals.  Is there a structure at work you can tap into?  Are there free services out there you could ask?  Have you told your GP about this major challenge you are facing?  They can tell you about services you could tap into.  We're such an independent species that asking for help is the biggest challenge most people face.  If you haven't had a failure or loss recently perhaps you're in a position to say to someone you know who has, the most important question you may ever ask: 'Is there anything I can do to help?'

2) Preparation is key
I believe you can prepare for a major loss, like the loss of a parent.  In the brilliant book by Richard Reoch, Dying Well the last page suggests that we ask ourselves three questions which I have boiled down to two; 'How would you like to be treated if you were dying and what would you like people to say?'  As a result of reading this, I said to one of my great friends just before she died that we all loved her very much.  She said 'Thank you very much Anna'.  I'm glad that was our last conversation.  We need to concentrate on having positive interactions with our loved ones, as we never know when we are going to lose them.  Preparing well for loss is just about telling our loved ones how much we appreciate them and love them as often as we can.  Preparing for failure is different.  When we are preparing for failure we are visualising success. Once we've failed we need to prepare to get ready to 'try again' or go down a different route.  When trying again, have a plan that attacks your weaknesses from the failed attempt, work from the feedback and what you learned.

3) Be open
A tricky one this as our enemies can attack our weaknesses if we are open about them.  But you need to be open with yourself - why did you fail?  How come you are not coping with a loss?  Only by being open can the help be tailored to fit your needs.  By being open you are being a great role model for others, they will be open back to reflect your behaviour.  This openness challenges corruption and lies.  Love and truth stem from open books.

4) Write down what you have learnt
& Pin it where you see it every day.  'Be kind to myself', 'Prioritise my health' 'Count my blessings', 'Remember the good times'  & 'I deserve the best'.  If you can't come up with any learnings from your loss or failure, then pin up some motivational quotes, you can source these from the internet.  Also ask close friends and family to tell you what your good qualities are - stick these on your fridge or computer monitor.  Come back to these learnings in 6 months, a year, 5 years.  There will be other things you have learnt that you can add to your list.

5) 'KBO'
Winston Churchill's less famous quotation was 'Keep Buggaring On'. Or in other words when it gets tough, the tough get going. Just keep going; perseverance, endurance and persistence are the true hallmarks of a survivor. We must carry on in the face of adversity and keep trying to exist in this incredible world.  If you have problems with this, then go back to 1).

Friday, November 29, 2013

Demotivated? Have you tried these four things?

1) Prioritise yourself - your own physical and mental health - give yourself some free treats
Ask yourself 'What do I want to do now?' and do it. If you're at work then take a few deep breaths, take a ten minute break or plan something nice for your lunch break. If you're looking after someone else- can you get some fresh air?  If you're at home - then plan a nice breakfast, then lunch for yourself, then dinner. It could be that you are just having a bad day.  If so, then give yourself plenty of free treats and reassure yourself that tomorrow will be better. If you don't know what your 'free treats' are - now might be the right time to write a list, here's some of mine; lip salve, hand cream, hand massage, cup of tea, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, writing cards, writing lists, facebook time, twitter time, stroke a pet, phone a friend, read a good book, look at old photos, plan a break/holiday, count your blessings - five amazing things, text a friend with some good news, watch your favourite programme on TV, listen to favourite music, tidy your desk. Realise everybody's different. Your list may be completely different. Write your list and stick it on your fridge.  Mark the day out of ten too, this way you can see there are patterns you can address - and see yourself gradually getting better. Remember tomorrow is another day!

2) Ask for help - from friends, family and professionals
Write lists of the people you can ask for help for at 9-5 times - the professionals, retired/homemaker friends and family, and lists of the people you can ask for help 'out of hours' at the weekend or after 5pm.  When in doubt, ring the people on your lists - the people who have helped before will help again.  If no-one's helped you before and you are ill with it, then ring your GP.  It's best to be specific - try to break down what might be overwhelming you into discrete problems. Tackle these problems one at a time with the professionals, who can help you prioritise. Something as simple as getting an appointment may clear the imaginary log jam that's preventing you from getting on and doing the stuff you want to do. When someone's helped you - even on the phone, write down their name and a list of all the other people that have helped you recently - it will be useful to look back on it in the months to come when you may need more help with another problem. 

3) Plan a meditation session.  You may not even have the motivation to do this right now, but perhaps plan a session for when you get up tomorrow - just one yoga move or Tai Chi move for example will help ground you and remind you of the joys of being alive.  Or you could plan a session before bed time - just lie down, close your eyes and concentrate on the spot just above your forehead, breathe deeply and count to ten saying calm on your out breath.  A great one if you're having problems sleeping too.

4) Forgive yourself.  Imagine yourself walking along a misty beach - perhaps one you know. I imagine Harlech beach in Wales. You see someone walking towards you along the beach. 
You realise it is you - you are wearing the same outfit you are now.  Give yourself a big hug and say 'I forgive you' to yourself.  Feel yourself smiling at this ridiculous thing you are forgiving yourself for. Even reading this paragraph you will have gone through this visualisation in your head and it really works.  You deserve another free treat.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

If you're having a bad day...

Ask for help - ring up your friends and relatives... & ask yourself the following 13 questions:

1) Did you sleep well last night?
2) Are you putting yourself first now or soon?
3) Are you getting help with your problem/s?
4) Are you doing what you want now or soon?
5) Have you exercised today?
6) Have you meditated today?
7) Have you assessed your mental health today: https://www.moodscope.com/login ?
8) Have you taken action to deal with pain if you are in pain?
9) Have you taken action to deal with the reason you're upset if you're upset?
10) Have you spoken to another human being today?
11) Have you eaten well today?
12) Have you got something planned for the day?
13) Have you counted your blessings today?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then address it today, tomorrow or the next day - make a plan!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Twenty Amazing Tips - Top Twenty Tips to happiness

1) Prioritise your own health first. That's mental and physical health.  You can't have one without the other.  It's no good being super fit if you've neglected all your relationships and are quite frankly miserable.  So look after your mind, body and soul.  You can't do anything without your health so you must make sure you're happy and well in the first instance.

2) Don't compare yourself to others.  Just think about yourself, now, in this moment in time.  Especially if you're going through a tough time, and even when you're not, comparing yourself with others - whether they have more money, a better job, a better relationship, a happier family - is not a good idea. Why? Well, first of all you don't know if they have got all that - they may be depressed themselves. Secondly, adversity comes to everyone at one point or another so don't wish it on anyone. Thinking about others in a comparing and competitive way just hinders your own personal development.  Learn to think of others proudly instead of in an envious way.

3) Treasure and nurture your relationships with friends and family.  Second in your list of priorities should be friends and family.  Our relationships with others are probably the most precious things in our lives, our true capital resource.  People who nurture their relationships, give to others, people who listen to them, are generous to others are the happiest.  Laugh with others and be kind to them.  This will pay dividends throughout your life. Happy time spent with friends and family is never wasted.

4) Meditate. Learning how to meditate must be one of the most beneficial things that any person can do in their lives.  Research is now showing that meditation lowers blood pressure as well as helping us sleep, relax and focus.  Simply set aside a  minute each morning to breathe in deeply to the count of seven, then breathe out deeply to the count of eleven.  Set a timer if you're unsure how long a minute lasts.  The next day increase to 3 minutes and the next day to five, increasing gradually to twenty minutes a day.  Just sitting or resting, breathing deeply, concentrating on your breathing.  You should never be bored again!

5) Do what you enjoy, what you want to do  Perhaps the most difficult tip this one, but important, you may have to save up money and do something you don't like for a while to be able to do this.  Spend time thinking about what makes you happy and try to do it, perhaps first of all in your spare time to see if you really do enjoy it, then go for it for a full time occupation if you can.

6) Be open It is difficult to be open when we feel under attack, but by being open, encourages others to open up and then makes tip number 3 easier which is nurturing relationships.

7) Ask for help. Most people find it difficult to ask for help when they need it, because we're a very independent species.  But when we struggle, one of the best things we can do is ask our nearest and dearest what they can do to help us regain balance.

8) Exercise regularly.  The government recommends each adult exercises to full cardiac fitness level for 1.5 hours per week - that means exercising until you get out of breath for that amount of time - quite a lot really.  It is difficult to fit it in, but when you do the endorphins and adrenalin released makes it worth your while both physically and mentally.

9) Help others - volunteer  This can be as small as contributing to online forums or forwarding informative tweets on twitter - anything that helps people gives you that buzz of happiness.  Make a meal for a friend,  bake a cake.

10) Coach yourself There are free coaching courses you can go on, just google Coaching academy.  Most life coaches give their first session free on Skype or face to face.  It's worth it to help you prioritise your life and for action planning.

11) Write to do lists everyday and cross things off! It is very therapeutic to cross things off your to-do list.  Writing lists or action plans keeps you focussed on the action which is resolving your situation, helps to prevent anxiety and depression before they start as you are focussed on the end goal.

12) Give yourself free treats every day Pin your list of your favourite 'free' treats on your fridge - whether that's a cup of tea, hand cream, lip salve, a chat to friends on the phone, surfing the net or cooking your favourite meal.  Try to give your free treats to yourself as a reward for taking action, so you get into a virtuous cycle of action, reward and achievement.

13) Forgive yourself and others  Forgiving yourself is the most difficult thing of all to do.  Just picture yourself meeting someone who is dressed exactly like you on a deserted misty beach.  As the person approaches you realise that it is you after all.  You are meeting yourself.  You give yourself a big, friendly hug and say 'I forgive you' for whatever you have done.  This is a powerful visualisation that really helps for bereavement for example. It is effective for negative emotions such as guilt, depression and loss.

14) Count your blessings every day. Every day preferably write down the smallest of lovely things that you see or that happen to you.  It might be the sun shining, the rain glistening, the snow reflecting glorious white light.  This gratitude helps you appreciate life.

15) Be flexible in your thinking.  Life is rarely black or white.  It is shades of grey. Very, very rarely will one problem or challenge ruin your life, and it is not healthy to think like that anyway.  We all make mistakes and what happy people do is learn from their mistakes.  Write down what you have learnt from your latest mistake and put it away somewhere, come back to it in a few years and you might find you have learnt much more.

16) Have high expectations. One of the most depressing things anyone ever said to me was that I had to lower people's expectations of life.  Surely this is the opposite of what life is about.  If we have high expectations of each other then it means we can trust, have events to look forward to and a society to be part of.

17) Learn to Relax. Some people find it difficult to switch off, others easy.  The key is to finding out what makes you relax - everyone is different.  Meditation is great for some, others it's playing computer games (which you could say is a form of meditation!).  Do what floats your boat relaxation wise.

18) Keep positive. The maxim if you've only got something horrible to say then don't say it is even more true in our internet age.  People can get very worried about your health if you go around insulting others or denigrating yourself on social media, so avoid this.  Keep updates positive and upbeat.  If you must be downbeat - do it in person when you can be properly helped.

19) Carry on learning! We all learn something new every day - celebrate this and savour it.  It's great to learn new skills or read new books.  Share your progress with others so the positivity breeds.

20) Be confident.  A psychiatrist once said to me that he had never met a confident depressed person.  So confidence and happiness go hand in hand.  So focus on increasing your confidence if you feel down.  Confidence can be acquired through NLP, hypnotherapy, assertiveness training, an evening class.  Find the best ways for you to increase your confidence.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Ten Amazing Things in May

1) Spring is here!
2) It is warm
3) And sunny!
4) The blossom is out
5) The trees' leaves are starting to come out in a gorgeous light green colour
6) Had lovely time with husband last night
7) Actually done some work today!
8) Had a light lunch which meant I had more energy this afternoon
9) Am planning various celebrations
10) Life is pretty good in general

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ten Amazing Things in February - TAT

1) Set up successful #demphd to help students of dementia with their learning, on twitter.
2) We now have chats every Monday at 8pm.
3) Family is doing ok.
4) Sun is shining again.
5) It is actually not too cold outside.
6) Have had hundreds of hits on my other website - people like my tips to prevent 'PhD Panic'
7) Spring is on the way - it is light outside now when you wake up.
8) Had a letter from a mentor suggesting we meet up next week.
9) Am still cooking old favourites well - Connie's inauguration salmon last night.
10) Have learnt how to use Skype and am successfully using it to speak to friends and family.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ten Amazing Things: TAT

1) Found an article I thought I had lost
2) Am getting into a good routine
3) A mentor of mine posted a piece of good dementia news on twitter which got into my dementia news.
4) Got my wedding photos link going again - see opposite
5) Found my poster easily
6) Discovered #phdchat on twitter
7) Updating blogs
8) Hosted a successful vegan dinner party
9) met new and old friends in the real world
10) Meditating daily

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Coping in a crisis is actually easier than you think.  Here are my top ten tips:

1) Ask for help - family, friends, the professionals; whatever is appropriate in the circumstances.  If it's that bad dial 999 and then someone else; try to make sure you aren't alone in this.
2) Practise deep breathing.  Concentrate on breathing more slowly on your out breaths, count to seven in and 11 out. 7/11 easy to remember.
3) Can you take some time out? Even a few seconds for some fresh air while someone else deals with the crisis for a bit.
4) Distraction - great for taking your mind off things when you're ruminating on whatever the problem or crisis is.  If you know you can't do anything to control the situation, take yourself out of it and say 'What can I do to distract myself for 5 minutes?'
5) Talk to someone - see 1 above.  What would you advise your best friend to do in the same situation? Who is the best person you can talk to right now?
6) Make a plan - what can you do to get yourself thinking straight, rationally and reasonably again?  Are there some useful lists you could write? What has worked well for you in the past for previous problems?
7) Meditate
8) Self hypnosis
9) Positive self talk
10) Prayer. 7-10 tips are more or less the same thing in my opinion.  Keep positive in your language to yourself and keep your affirmations and personal requests to yourself as specific and doable as possible.  'Thank you for the blessings on this day, the sun rise, the beautiful seasons and my wonderful friends and family. I know time is a great healer and I want to appreciate every second life blesses me with.   Please give me the strength, fortitude, motivation, perserverance, determination, resourcefulness, power and control to do the little things every day that make life the pleasure it is and appreciate, counting my blessings every day when I can.  Thank you for my life'.