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PARENTING, PHYSICAL

Postpartum exercise…

I have received quite a few messages through my social media accounts around postpartum exercise. The messages have mostly asked questions around how long I waited until exercising again, what I am doing and how do I have the time or energy to do so?
I am internally highly competitive and so knew that I had to set myself healthy and safe boundaries in regard to exercising, particularly after having a c-section birth. My midwife also knew this about me and so she was very clear in what I could and shouldn’t be doing (the importance of a good midwife!!)
I started doing pelvic floor exercises that softly engage the core about a week after Layla was born. I was able to walk to the shop and back three weeks postpartum, around the block at six weeks, and 10 weeks after delivery I did my first barre class (knowing my limits – more on this later). At just on 12 weeks after my c-section I started back on our X-trainer, some light weights and core movements.
It is so important that exercise is about loving your body…it is not a punishment! With that in mind, find movement that you enjoy doing! Barre is the perfect exercise for me, as it is a cardio workout that uses Pilates principles. This means the focus is on wengaging the core for a strong and healthy spine, breath, using the correct muscles for movement e.g not letting my quads do work that my glutes should, and getting the spine mobile. It also develops flexibility and is fun! Unfortunately, with having an exclusively breastfed baby attending these classes is time dependent and so I need to be doing something else as well.
As fitness is a priority for me, we have exercise equipment at home so I am able to workout at home, whenever works for me. We have a room set up and I can go to ‘my gym’ whenever I want, and it removes the excuses of it’s too cold, wet etc! This also means that rather than trying to figure out fitting in an hour and a half plus, and doing it around feeding, and my husband being home from work I can do thirty minutes of cardio at one point, and thirty minutes of resistance work later in the day. Though I have been reminded I need to exercise earlier in the day rather than right before bed…it takes me too long to come down from the exercise high!
When you are time poor, or like me are working around feeding a baby it is important to use your time wisely. I plan what I am going to do before I go into my gym so I spend the time exercising and not mucking around figuring out what I am going to do.
What this really boils down to though is priority and support. This is a priority for me. My physical and mental health is priority – for both me, and Layla. I also have a husband who is an equal parent. When he is home from work it is US parenting, not me with a babysitter. He realises that exercise is important to me, and let’s be honest it makes life easier for him when I am healthier and happier. This has meant he will move things around to ensure I can attend classes, and be a parent while I exercise at home.
There were quite a few questions around how I have the energy to do this? For me, this is simple, exercise gives me energy. When I exercise I eat and sleep better. This gives me a clearer mind and a much more positive disposition. Although some days it is harder to start the exercise, it only takes a couple of minutes and I am happy I am doing it. It is hard to beat those endorphins! I understand this is not the case for some people, and this is where discipline and creating a habit come into place first (before you find and are able to do the exercise you love to do)!
Finally, know your limits! This includes letting your body heal before you even begin getting back into, or starting, exercise. Don’t rush into it too early, check in with your midwife or GP if you need to. When you do start your postpartum exercise make sure you do so understanding and responding to the changes in your body (umm where are you core?). In barre classes I make certain movements smaller, some I do at a slower pace, and some of the intensive core work I modify so it is a completely different movement. Ask the instructor taking a class, or a trainer at the gym if the movement is safe for you, or if there is a modified version you could do. Most importantly though, listen to your body! You may be told something is safe, and maybe it is, but if it doesn’t feel right, stop!
I will keep you updated on my journey on social media, particularly my IG account @melhwellness
Mel H x
PARENTING

With a new role comes self-doubt…

We’ve all heard the comments about the lack of a manual when you take home your baby, so we know this is reality. We logically know that nobody knows what the hell they’re doing when they get that little baby home, and it is the ultimate ‘learn on job’ experience.  However, what I wasn’t prepared for was all of the self-doubt that would come with this new chapter.

From the moment I get up in the morning, I am making decisions for another human’s life.  One that is solely dependent on me to survive.  Some of those decisions I can and do make confidently. What baby products to use is an example of this – I can research them, look at ingredients lists and decide.  It is very black and white – wipes, cleaning products, anything that touches her skin.  My criteria is constant and lets me easily make these decisions – free from chemicals, ease of use, and cost (not having to re-mortgage the house is always a plus), easy, decision made!

Other decisions are more difficult. Should I be introducing a bottle? A dummy or not? Rocking baby to sleep? Self-settling? What time to start the ‘night time’ routine? Baby led parenting or a routine? Should I introduce a dream feed? Am I overstimulating, or am I not doing enough? When should they go into care? What type of care? What about a chiropractor? The list could (and does) go on. This is where the self-doubt creeps in. We all want to do the best we possibly can to ensure that our child gets the best start to life, and it all falls completely on us. The decisions we make set them up. This leads me to question my decision making and can cast doubt on whether I am doing the right thing.

To make the best decisions we can, we rely on our support networks and their experiences, scientific research, blogs, health professionals, and of course, our own experiences and gut instincts.  Unfortunately, it is very rare for all of these to line up perfectly in to the ‘golden answer’.  Instead, we have to navigate through a range of possibilities and then make our own decision.  In today’s world this means wading through an endless amount of information in which you can always find an article or opinion that advocates for every possible outcome.  I like to research and to find reliable information.  They really should be recruiting mum’s in to the FBI – we all know that there is nothing like a mum’s worry or concern to dig up every nugget of information out there!  But when there is so much conflicting work out there, making any decision can be a stressful exercise. 

What I am learning in my new role is that some self-doubt is inevitable, it’s part of being the type of parent who wants the best for their child.  It tells me that I am doing my job well.  That I want nothing but the best for this little life.  But, I am also learning how to keep that self-doubt to a healthy level, a level that does not cause me to berate myself, to freeze in decision making or engaging in negative self-talk (being useless, I can’t do this etc).  So far, I have found that aligning myself with other parents who have similar values and parenting beliefs is key.  I think about what I want as my outcome then turn to my ‘go to’ parents.  If their advice/experience/thinking matches mine, then I’m normally pretty happy with making that decision.  If, however, it does not align, then I will spend more time doing research in the area.  Of course, if it’s a decision that requires a health professional, then I will seek their guidance as well.

It has also been helpful having an amazing support network who do remind me that I am doing a good job.  We all need reassurance at times, and when we’re doing such a crucial job and making decisions that we have never had to contemplate making before, it is so comforting to be told we are doing well.  

So let’s make sure we’re encouraging other mum’s, and telling them that they’re doing a good job!  Find other parents who’s styles and ideals align with yours, so you can reach out and talk about their experiences and ask for their opinions.  But, most importantly, we all need to realise that self-doubt comes with the territory and it really is part of parenthood.  Just ensure you keep those internal thoughts and conversations are kept to a level that is not harmful to yourself, or the enjoyment that comes with parenting. 

SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

I am grateful, but…

Oh, how badly I wanted a natural birth process. After relying on the medical world to conceive a child, of which I am beyond grateful, I wanted to feel ‘normal’ and that I could do it, my body could do what it was ‘supposed to.’

(Note: Our baby was conceived via IVF/ICSI after a very long journey)

Unfortunately, this was not to be, and after an induced 31 hour labour, which included three lots of gels, my waters being broken, an epidural and the syntocin drip, it ended in a caesarean section. It was the opposite of what I had hoped for, it was in a hospital, included most interventions known to man, and our beautiful baby girl ended up being cut out of me. I had told myself, and others, that I was prepared for whatever was to come our way, and that I was open to all processes, and I honestly did not realise how much I had my heart set on a natural birth, and how disappointed I was that this did not occur.

For three days following her birth I got on with it; feeding, not sleeping, nappies, feeding, healing and feeding, and in all fairness was too wrapped up in my love for our baby to really process my own thoughts and feelings for myself. It was not until I got home that it hit me. I spent the better part of the afternoon and evening crying, and grieving for the process I so desperately wanted, and dealt with the disappointment I had in myself.

I questioned why I couldn’t do it, told myself I was weak, and felt like I had let myself, my husband and everyone down. I felt as though I was inadequate.

We all feel this way at times.

Even with the work I do, I am not immune to self-doubt, to self-limiting beliefs and to just feeling really shitty about a situation. I work on these pieces for myself regularly, know how they play out, and I recognise triggers and stressors that inflame them. I am able to use the logical part of me to work this out and set myself back on the right track. This was not one of those times. With the hormones, lack of sleep (about 7 hours from Saturday morning until Thursday afternoon), huge change in my life, pain, pharmaceutical intake, focusing on our girl, and not being able to cuddle my fur-babies logic really did go flying out the window.

On the one hand I am just so incredibly grateful to have the most beautiful gift ever, but on the other hand I still felt ripped off with the whole conception to birth process. This in turn, made me angry at myself for not just being grateful. We thought this would never happen. I know the pain that we felt during that journey, and I still have friends struggling in this space. So why wasn’t I just happy beyond belief? I spend a lot of time with myself, and others focusing on gratitude and yet at this time I couldn’t practice it, and it was being overridden by my thinking of “it isn’t fair.”

The other struggle playing out in my head was why did I care so much about how she came into this world? Birth is birth. The fact that her head was positioned in a way that made it impossible for her to move through my pelvis does not say anything apart from simply that. Why then had I assigned feelings of inadequacy to this? Why did I feel as though I was weak? I spent 31 hours in labour, 8 of those hours with intense contractions, how is that weak?

At the end of the day, I made decisions based on our little girl’s and my own health. I put aside what I had wanted for a healthy delivery. I went through processes I was hoping not to have to experience to ensure our baby was safe. That is not weak. That is strength.

 

My take away messages from this experience of being so devastated and disappointed that Thursday afternoon are:

–          Lack of sleep and hormones can break even the strongest mind. If you are struggling with sleep, do something about it. If we are sick we go to the doctor, so if you are not sleeping go and see a naturopath, a dietician, a trainer, a counsellor or a doctor, depending on the root cause.

–          Stop letting society define my norms. We are told natural is best, and there is definitely judgement (even if it is just my own) placed on non-natural processes in regards to birth. Similar with how bottle-feeding mums feel with the “breast is best” mantra we are bombarded with. But my life, is mine, it is only experienced by me, and so I make the decisions that I live with. Simple.

–          I am allowed to feel this. I say this so often, which is probably why it shocked me that I was not walking my talk, nor did I recognise that I was shutting my feelings down. I am allowed to feel ‘ripped off’ and disappointed and that it wasn’t fair. By trying to shut those feelings out, they were just laying dormant, and as to be expected they all came exploding out at once. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. It doesn’t mean wallow around and keep yourself in a particular emotion for a period of time, rather feel it, then deal with it. We choose our emotions. So choose it, feel it, reflect/learn/grow/deal with it, then move forward.

–          I am grateful. Just because I was also feeling other emotions, does not mean I was not also (and am) extremely grateful. It doesn’t need to be the case of one or the other, I can feel more than one emotion at once. Situations are often complex and bring about a vast range of emotions, and one does not make the other less than; feeling disappointed does not make me less grateful for this miracle.

–          I am strong. I went through a five year fertility roller coaster, faced my needle fear head on by being an IVF/ICSI warrior, grew a human life in me for nine months, laboured for 31 hours, was cut in half with a caesarean section, and then met the needs of a new born, including feeding round the clock. How did I ever question my strength? If I ever go back into that space of self-doubt I will be sure to come back and read this section!

–          Self-care is key. Even in times of stress and change (and a severe lack of sleep) it is important to take some time for yourself. Reading in the bath for 20minutes (timed between feeds of course), putting a record on and just soaking up the music, spending 15 minutes journaling and writing in a gratitude diary are all things I have done in the last week since being home. Next week I will add in some mindful walking in the fresh air. If I had not spent this time for myself, unwinding, focusing on my needs and digging into this emotional turmoil I had experienced I would still be feeling discontent, disappointment, pain, and the imbalance of my emotions. In order to take care of others, I first need to take care of me (between feeds haha).

–          Vulnerability is important. Trying to hold it in, presenting myself as ‘strong’ does not do anything for me, or anyone else. Sharing my feelings and inner thoughts with my husband helped me to start to reflect and refocus my head space. Sharing this with friends made me feel better through the connection and common ground that the few also shared. That connection, the realising you are not alone and the community it creates is important. Finally, sharing it here is amplifying that last piece, and hopefully it may help one other person realise they are not alone, or give someone the connection to reach out, or maybe it gives a reader an idea of something they can do.

 

We all experience time of emotional upheaval, stress, immense change that mess with our equilibrium, our wants, dreams and emotions. This is normal. This is what makes us human.

Feel it. Reflect on it. Learn from it. Deal with it.

I am also sure that this will be brought back to my attention at different stages of this new phase in my life, and I will be better prepared to experience it all.

 

Mel H x

 

Note: I apologise for grammatical and spelling errors, and a lack of real cohesive flow with this blog. I am playing the “I have a two week old baby” card here ok!

THOUGHTS

Survivor’s guilt…

After a 5 year journey to conceive a child, including being told that we would not be able to have our own biological child, our miracle occurred. I am currently 37 weeks pregnant with a little girl, through the IVF/ICS process. It seems however, that even when infertility becomes a thing of your past and you now have a fertility story, it never really leaves you.

With every day, as my belly has grown, with every kick as our girl develops, and every milestone we reach to ensure this has been a viable pregnancy I am torn between screaming from the roof tops and sitting with this feeling of guilt.

This guilt exists from being a fertility success story.

A lot of time and energy gets put into trying to conceive, there are countless tears, and heartbreaks. Your world really does evolve around it. Eventually a new normal is formed, you create a (sometimes new) support network, your perspective is altered and consequently this becomes an identifier. All of this becomes a badge of pain you wear, that others in the same ‘club’ resonate with. Nobody else understands the struggle, and how utterly earth shattering it is unless you have walked in those shoes, and so what happens when you move to the other side? Who do you identify with when you have conceived? Which group do you belong to now? You really do feel as though you have betrayed your fellow infertility warriors.

A lot of these questions have been swirling in my head over the last few months, along with not wanting to inflict any pain on others. When so many people (1 in 4) struggle with fertility in some way, shape or form, how did we get so lucky? I still have friends battling through this painful journey and on top of feeling guilt that I am no longer on that side of the ledger, I do not want to compound their pain by exposing them to more pregnancy news, posts, photos or milestones. I feel as though I am walking such a fine line sometimes, with wanting to celebrate and be present in every second of this pregnancy and wanting to just keep it within the privacy of our own home.

In a lot of ways, it is similar to survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt is the self-guilt one suffers when they survive a tragedy, while others do not. With it comes a lot of questioning around ‘why did I survive?’ ‘do I deserve to survive?’ Along with a very real need to prove that you either did or didn’t deserve to survive, depending on one’s frame of mind. I don’t want to seem like I am being over dramatic, as it has not been my life on the line, but I am sure you understand where I am coming from with this comparison.

Working through this, and the questions it has raised here are my current thoughts:

          I will always be a part of the infertility community. I lived that struggle. I understand what it is like.

          It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

          I am a success story which can hopefully inspire hope to others who are still in their own struggle to have a child – in whatever way that may be.

          I deserve to, and intend to, enjoy every single step of this miracle.

          This does not mean I have to talk about or post every little thing, particularly those things I know caused me pain. I can still have empathy in what I say, post and do.

So, as I move further down my journey, I use all this learning as further stepping stones for this path.

I am an IVF warrior AND a soon to be mother.

Mel H x

SELF HELP

I didn’t know what to say…

So, I have been MIA in recent times, but it has been for very good reason…let me explain.

We were supposed to start our IVF cycle in July, but due to a booking error (for the good) we actually started in June, of which we only found this out on May 31st! After a very fast drug education session occurred the following day we were ready to start this process.

The first two weeks of June were taken up with injections, which I proudly did myself, blood tests, scans, drugs, and a couple of procedures (google the IVF/ICSI process if you want more information here). The last two weeks of June were spent in the most intense emotional waiting of my life. After going through all of that, and after 4.5 years you have all your hopes hinged on a blood test, and waiting for that blood test is sheer hell. I don’t think that people really understand that you go through all of that in the HOPE (which is about 32% in total, less successful for us *cough* mature women) that it works for you, and that you will have a baby.

Lucky for us, it worked. Hearing the news that our HCg levels meant we were pregnant is something I will never forget. Although, I can’t remember a thing she said afterwards as I was in tears. The roller coaster did not end here though, our second blood test showed the hormone levels had not gone as high as they would’ve liked and so we had to have a third blood test and a scan done to ensure it was not an ectopic pregnancy (where implantation occurs in the fallopian tube and is not viable so has to be removed). Happiness followed as we saw implantation had occurred in the uterus, and the hormones had picked up speed again. Two weeks later we had another emergency scan to check that a miscarriage was not happening. By this stage most women are just discovering they a pregnant, not us! We had spent four years testing, trialling, paying, finally going through the IVF/ICSI process, and to top it off we had also had  an ectopic pregnancy concern and a miscarriage scare!

Finally, at just over 12 weeks we saw our baby moving, flipping, rolling, kicking and heard a heartbeat. All of those things you are desperate for when you are unable to conceive.

While we have had all this going on, as well as everyday life, I guess I have been quite hesitant to blog as all my coherent thoughts are wrapped around this and I haven’t wanted to write too much on it for a few reasons:

1.       Not to jinx it. I am sure we all feel like this with certain things.

2.       Two friends and I are currently, and almost finished, writing a book on the infertility journey and I don’t want to write content that will be in the book.

3.       But mainly I don’t want to cause further hurt to those struggling. I understand the excitement for ‘one us of’ conceiving is quite different, it gives us all hope and we know what it took and the pain to get there, but I also have experienced the pain of announcements, scan photos and all that goes with it that I don’t want to add to anyone’s hurt.

So, if anyone is reading this that is still on their own infertility journey, at whatever stage it may be, my thoughts are with you. Sincerely with you. I know how hard it is, and I really do feel your pain. Please connect in this space, either with friends who have or are going through it, a stranger through social media who is, or join a Facebook group, it really does help.

They say that undergoing fertility treatment is as stressful as undergoing cancer therapies or recovering from a cardiac trauma, so please give those navigating fertility treatments the love, care and support you would to those in the other treatment groups.

I apologise for being a ghost on this blog, I really didn’t know what to say…

Mel H x

SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

Truth Sovereignty…

Following on from my last blog on self-worth, I thought I would focus in on owning our stories, our truth. In the self-worth piece, I discussed how an important part of valuing yourself included the parts of us we found less desirable, it was about owning all of who we are. The same goes for our story.

Truth: The body of real things, events and facts.

Sovereignty: Supreme power or authority.

We all have a past. This includes the mistakes we have made and those truths that we are not proud of. I know from experience, as well as working with clients, that a common way of ‘dealing’ with these areas we are not proud of is:

–          Avoidance; pretending it did not occur, never addressing this area of your life,    ignoring it

–          Numbing; using an external stimuli (alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, work, eating, exercise, internet) to avoid dealing with the internal pain/guilt/shame

–          Oversharing as a third person; regularly sharing this story, but it is very distant, as if you are telling it about someone else, very matter of fact, void of feeling.

By not addressing the pain or a piece of our truth we are actually giving it power over us. It becomes THE thing that we put extra effort in to avoid or prove wrong, it becomes THE thing that we think defines who we are, it becomes THE thing that we think will be the make or break for us. The only way to take the power from the past, is to own it. Take the power back. Establish your truth sovereignty.

I have recently exercised my truth sovereignty over a personal story of mine. I admit I have done the avoidance, I have done the blame, I have tried to numb it and I have done the oversharing too. I literally tried everything I could so I would not have to actually deal with it and own it. But I decided (with the help of two beautiful wahine toa – Kat & Binny so much aroha to you xx) to lean into the discomfort and really own it. In order to do this, I had to real lean into the hurt, I had to practice some mindfulness to keep the anxiety at bay in sharing such a hard story, I journaled A LOT, and it was mostly centred around acceptance and kindness to myself. It wasn’t easy, but as well as empowering me, it actually gave me the final piece of healing I needed in this space, and brought me my greatest value of peace.

This does not mean we have to tell everyone, I do not think this, or practice this at all. It means you own it, you take responsibility for it, you learn from it, you don’t let it define you and you share it with those who you chose to do so with. It is not easy sharing our darkest corners or deepest scars, people can react negatively, they can judge us, they can choose to leave our life. This only serves to reinforce our own shame and internal negative self-talk and internal reasons for previously avoiding, numbing or oversharing. So be selective with who you share your truth with, exercise your sovereignty here too.

I will say this though, if people choose to react in these ways, this is for them to own. Their reactions are theirs. You can’t control other people’s emotions, reactions, opinions or perceptions, so let it go. I know this is easier said than done but reinforce this messaging to yourself regularly. I also believe that if someone doesn’t love me, all of me, then it is for the best that they aren’t in my world anyway. I have too many amazing people I walk this journey with to waste any time on those who are not in my life to simply love. I think Marilyn said it best:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little bit insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”

Marilyn Monroe

This goes both ways too. Remember this when someone shares their truth with you. Walk in their shoes and recognise the pain they have dealt with to be in a place to be able to share this with you. Reflect on how you would want to be treated at this time:

–          Listen without judgement. We do not have to like or agree with choices others have made, just as they wont with our own, but we do not need to judge them for it.

–          Be empathetic, not sympathetic. I have written a whole blog on this topic (so have a read of that one “Feel with me, not for me”) so I won’t go into this one here.

–          Offer them the space to share. Listen. I mean really listen. Not for the sake of talking! And be present – put the phone away, don’t look at your watch etc.

 

When we own all that we are, and all the chapters in our story, then we can be truly authentic. We can accept and speak our truth, we have the power over it. We have truth sovereignty.

Mel H x

SELF HELP

Flaws and all…

How often do you hear self-worth these days? I read about it in books and blogs and social media pages, I hear it in podcasts, clips and even in general conversation.  A lot of this is focused on the “positive” elements of someone, and this is emphasised and hugely reinforced in social media. This is problematic. Let me explain why.

Firstly, I need to dig into what self-worth is.

Self-worth

noun

                            The sense of one’s own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect.

In its very definition it is about value. With an object we purchase its value is dependent on what it has to offer AND the needs it doesn’t meet e.g. a cheaper version will not last as long hence it is cheaper. So to our own value takes into account our internal assets AND our flaws. Yes…our flaws too! Those with high self-worth know their weaknesses, they don’t think, or pretend to think they are perfect. They acknowledge their flaws, and further they do something about them.

If you are only focusing on the strengths of yourself, are you ignoring parts of yourself? Are you ignoring them because you don’t like them, or because you feel ‘less than’ because of them? This will mean that when something occurs in life that forces you to be confronted with a personal flaw your self-worth drops. If you own ALL that you are, your self-worth will not fluctuate with external events, it may just be the reminder you needed to work more into that space.

This is the issue with a lot of what you see on social media. By only presenting the ‘positives’ of ourselves and claiming we love this about ourself, and so we are showing our self-worth, we are missing a huge part of the equation.

As a younger person I always had a firm grasp on the first part of self-worth. I was always able to list my strengths and my weaknesses easily. I had no problem acknowledging what I excelled in, what I was decent at, and what I really struggled with or needed to work on.

  • I have great ideas, but I struggle to see an idea right through to completion.
  •  I am very reflective but can over-analyse.
  • I am a passionate person, but I can be too narrow minded in the pursuit of something.
  • I am empathetic, and I can take things too personally.
  • And I can’t sing to save myself! I got a certificate in primary school saying “Sings well in groups” Even as a ten year old I understood what my teacher was telling me and thought it was amusing, because I totally agreed!

This doesn’t make me feel exposed, or ‘less than’ or weak by having areas of limited capability, and it rarely has. In this way I have always had strong self-worth. However, a few mistakes I have made in life, some pretty big, led me to question my own self-worth. I couldn’t understand why, as I knew myself well, I accepted my flaws as part of me. However, I was only accepting those flaws that I thought were the “ok” ones, you know the examples you give in interviews “I am too passionate,” “I am not very good at excel.” I was not so kind about the flaws that caused me hurt, and that I felt were not deemed to be loveable traits by societal norms.

Because I was not acknowledging ALL of me, I was also not working on these aspects of myself. You can’t work on something you don’t acknowledge to be an issue, or even be part of you. So I had to get honest with myself. I could no longer deny these parts of me, or those pieces of my story. And I had to get to work…on myself. It is all well and good to accept your whole self, but if you leave it at that, and let those pieces cause self-harm you can start to question your own worth – did I set myself up for this? If I can’t improve myself what can I add to the world?

Once I really started to work on those weaknesses (except the singing, I just couldn’t subject someone to that kind of pain) I really felt complete in my self-worth. This is not a tick box exercise, and some of these areas take a regular concerted effort, while others will continue to fill my journals up for life as I improve, grow and change in those areas. The point is, my self-worth no longer bottoms out when shit hits the fan, I just have to clean the fan!

Mel H x

SELF HELP

“Change your priorities and you change your life”

I finally got around to opening “The subtle art of not giving a f@ck” by Mark Manson, and I have to say, 20 pages in and it is really resonating with me. I spent a lot of these pages nodding and laughing as I recognised myself in so many of the key points.

For me, the title was misleading. I had conjured up the imagery of not caring, and cruising through life without setting goals or creating meaningful relationships. Because of this, I didn’t really think this book would be for me. I care deeply. I feel deeply. I am blessed with many meaningful connections, and I am most definitely a goal setter.

But here is the thing, I know what I care about, and for those things I give my all and do whatever I think is required at the time. The connections and goals in my life are created around these priorities. My energy is invested into these areas. I know my priorities. It isn’t about not giving a f@%k, it is about knowing what to give a f@%k about.

For all those things that do not align to my vision, my intentions and my people, my energy is limited. This is not to say I won’t do anything in other areas, nor will I not care at all. But here is what happens in the areas I have not prioritised: I say “No,” I don’t get wound up or over emotional, I brush things off (comments, negativity etc.), and I just don’t spend my time in these spaces.

Many people don’t set, or even know, their own priorities, which is something I see regularly with coaching clients. Not setting these for yourself can create the following issues:

          It can lead to spreading yourself too thin, and so nothing gets done at the level you would want, nor are you getting to spend the quality time on the areas that really matter to you. This in turn leads you to feel incompetent, which can cause you to put more energy into proving to yourself and others that you are…it is a nasty spiral!

          It can create an emotional rollercoaster. There just isn’t enough time in the day, nor enough energy to care about all the things! To keep yourself more centred, you need to know the areas that you chose to invoke deep emotions within you.

          You can become the “Yes” woman. It is hard to say “no” to things if you are clear in what it is you want and need to say “yes” to. In turn, people learn you will always be the one to do something, consequently your load increases (again not in the areas important to you necessarily). We really do teach people how to treat us!

          This all can create an increase in stress!

So the art of “not giving a f@#k” for me, means to know what it is you do care about. Once you know this, you can declutter your mind, your time, your emotions and your energy by not stressing over everything else. Here are some questions you might want to use, to really help focus this, and work out your priorities:

          What is it you want out of your life?

          Where do you want your energy going?

          What and who do you want to be investing in?

          What is your purpose?

          What does your ideal life look like?

          What do you need to be doing to achieve your ideal life?

          Rank, in order of importance, your daily tasks. Does your time allocation match this ranking?

Some of these questions overlap and as such you do not need to answer them all. Different ways of asking the question help different people to clarify things for themselves, so see if any of these questions work for you. Brainstorm, take notes, or write freely after reading some of these questions and see what it is you come up with. You can then use this to say “No” to things and people that don’t align or go back to this when you are fretting over something to remind yourself of its lack of importance.

I wish I had done this years ago, really figuring out my own priorities. It would’ve saved me a lot of time, heartache, and stress from investing myself in areas that were wrong for me.

“The key is to not prioritise your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” – Stephen Covey.

Mel H x

P.s – Let me know how you go with answering these questions, did it help in any way, or what struggles came up for you!

SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

Slow and steady wins the race…

I have always been one to do things a million miles an hour. I have always been a sprinter, I get stuck into things as soon as they present, I put all my energy into it and I want it done now. As a child I would rush home telling my mum that I needed to get an assignment started now, and we should have been at the library yesterday. After questioning me, mum would soon discover I had just got the assignment today, not weeks ago as my agitated state suggested. Moving into the work force I applied the same attitude and behaviours. I eventually had a boss who pulled me aside to tell me not to respond to emails or get things done for people so quickly as it set up an expectation and would mean more people would come to me in the first instance. This would increase my workload and leave me less time for the project work.

This conversation led me to stop and reflect on why I ran myself ragged to get tasks completed as quickly as I could. After digging deep internally I realised that this behaviour was driven by a deep-rooted fear, the fear of being viewed as incompetent. I was constantly trying to show people that I was competent and one of the ways to prove this was by completing things before it was expected, and being able to carry such a high workload.

Once I realised this, I was able to address it; challenging my thinking and changing my behaviour.

Thinking:

–          I journaled a lot. I wrote down my thoughts and evidence that refuted the idea that I wasn’t competent. I recorded people’s responses, and wrote about assumptions and perceptions which helped me see that.

–          I read books around self-limiting beliefs, fears, rushing women and similar topics. This lead to a lot more journaling.

–          I used positive affirmations: I am competent. My competence is not hinged on others’ perceptions. My time is valuable.

 

Behaviour:

–          Plan in advance. By having my deadlines in my calendar and inputting checkpoints for my work I know where I need to be for everything. This helps me see how much time I actually have to do other pieces that present themselves.

–          Stick to my calendar. To allow for deeper critical thought, and to comply with my slower pace I keep to the checkpoints I have put into my calendar, rather than trying to get it all done in one sitting.

–          Not ‘squeezing’ people in. I don’t want to be rushing my catch ups with loved ones, nor do I want them to feel as though they are just another meeting. Rushing people is not who I am, so I have stopped doing it.

–          Knowing my priorities. I know, I say this in like every single piece of writing I do, but this is how important it is! For example, I know that exercise is a non-negotiable for me, I don’t put it in the “if I have time” category, it is scheduled, it is a priority. Knowing this means that rather than continuing to work on a project for hours on end at full speed, I know the tasks I need to move on to as they are priorities.

–          Breathe. An action we do so regularly at the unconscious level, yet it is such a powerful an important tool to use for peace, mindfulness, and in this instance taking a step back. When I feel that energy overload kick into my system, the adrenaline starts surging (oh yeah I am a self-labelled geek and I love it!) with a deadline or a new project I just stop and take some deep belly breaths. My mind clears and I am able to reflect back on my priorities before rushing off at a million miles an hour.

 

Having this “I must get it done quicker than humanly possible” mentality has had its benefits, but it also created a highly stressed individual who was always working to tick things off a list, struggled to stay focused on one task at a time, failed to enjoy the process and had moved critical thinking and peace down the list of priorities. As I already mentioned it was also driven by an insecurity, which was kept alive by this out of control behaviour.

This is something I have actively worked at for the last few years; just allowing myself to spend time on tasks, spend time on my own pieces and reducing my stress levels that were created by rushing around all the time. This is not to say that I don’t fall back into old habits every now and then, nor do intentionally choose to “go all in” on very specific pieces of work – though this is after careful consideration and for a range of reasons.

If you could relate to this need to get things done, the fear of being seen as incompetent or running at a high stress state regularly I encourage you to work deeper into this space. Try some of the things that I did, do some of your own research or reach out to me!

Mel H x

THOUGHTS

Don’t be a bystander, be a stand up human!

One of the intentions I set for 2018, was to call out racism, sexism, homophobia and the likes. I have been in uncomfortable situations where people are saying, writing or posting commentary that is dangerous to our society and I have not said anything. I am sure many of us have thought at one time or another “it’s not worth it,” “they are set in their ways,” “there is no point,” or something similar, only to reflect later and wish you had said something.

Here’s the thing I realised, when I was saying “it’s not worth it” what I was actually saying was its not worth it for ME at this point in time. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, or have negative feelings directed towards me. I was not focusing on the cause, those who were marginalised or the bigger societal picture. I also checked myself on my “there’s no point” thinking. How do we even know someone will reject our opinions until we express them? It may be the seed that gets planted, or it may be the last piece they need to have a paradigm shift. I am also conscious of the other bystanders. We never know who else could be listening or reading something which could influence their thinking or provide them support in a space where they are feeling the hate, judgement and oppression.

 

At first, I told myself ‘well its not like I am being racist/sexist’ to try and make this realisation easier to take, to make myself feel better, to feel more comfortable in my silence. And although that technically may be true, I am perpetuating it. I am not doing anything to challenge or change those thoughts, and in some cases social norms. I am letting people who say, write, and post about these things think I agree with it, think that it is ok.

It is not ok. I am not ok with that. This is not who I am.

This realisation was quite confronting. I thought I was someone who had strong social values, and a strong sense of social justice, who had fairness and equity in her DNA, yet my behaviour was not supporting this.

So, back to my 2018 intention of calling this out, and no longer being a silent partner in the fight for equity. I have unfollowed people on social media as a show of ‘voting with my feet’ of sorts. I have commented on posts that contain dangerous narratives, even if I am the lone voice and comments are made in other places that are negative towards me. I have told people I disagree with what they are saying, or simply questioned their statements. And it feels good.

Sure, people may in turn unfollow me, say negative comments or have ill thoughts about me. This says nothing about me, it says something about them. I am confident in my views. Sure, I have more to learn in these spaces, and I can still respect differences of opinion, however, I am confident that racism and sexism are never ok. And, as I said above, maybe I have given someone else the support or release, or voice they needed at that time.

The other part of this 2018 intention for myself, is about being ok with expressing myself from an emotional space or viewpoint. I do my research, I am connected with some pretty amazing people in both the feminist and racial equity spaces and engage with them regularly, my background is one rooted in education, and I feel like a good argument has sound evidence. However, this thinking, coupled with the societal push I feel for only having a perspective based in cold hard facts has meant I have dismissed my own anecdotal pieces, my own experiences and my own emotions. These topics are emotional. I am allowed to be emotional, and I will not try to hide this or pretend it is not part of my calling out. I believe there is so much research in these spaces, but let us not forget an individuals voice or story. I want, and feel some people need to see and hear the emotion that is attached to these areas.

I am already connecting with some amazing people, making new connections and being exposed to new opportunities through the calling out, challenging, deconstructing, questioning and not accepting of these attitudes and social norms.

So, there it is, one of my intentions for 2018. I will no longer stand by and be a silent witness to the ‘isms’, I am standing up.

In what areas, and how do you stand up?

Mel H x

 

For your reading and viewing pleasure…

www.thespinoff.co.nz

www.everydayfeminism.com

www.facebook.com/littlebrowngirlstories/

www.raedawn-martin.squarespace.com

https://www.ted.com/search?q=racism

https://www.ted.com/search?q=feminism

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8

http://www.inequality.org.nz/understand/

https://www.hrc.co.nz/your-rights/race-relations-and-diversity/

https://courageousconversation.com/about/