How to do what seems impossible.

Have you ever had a goal or vision for your life that seemed so huge that you had no idea how to even get started?I have definitely had that feeling before, you look at whatu want to achieve and you have no idea how or where to start.

This is one of the most common reasons why people fail to start working on their goals or fail to meet their goal. That feeling of overwhelm, being stuck and not knowing where to begin can be scary however, being scared does not have to stop you and I have my own formula for attacking big or little goals. Most people use or talk about the acronym “SMART” but I find it a bit overused and sometimes unhelpful so this is how I coach my clients. Examine your mindset. Do you believe in yourself? Are you willing to go all the way even if you think people may not get what you are doing? Will you keep going when it gets hard, when no one seems to care and nothing is happening? Preparing yourself to be in it for the long haul is the first step to success

Examine your motivators. Are they mainly extrinsic(external) or intrinsic (internal) factors. E.g. I want to lose weight so I can get a man or so people can like me is extrinsic. I want to lose weight so I can feel good about myself and have better long term health is intrinsic.  Having goals linked to extrinsic factors can work but inherently they are not linked to sustained and long term success. So you might lose weight in the short term but what happens when you lose weight and you don’t find a man? Finding intrinsic factors to power your goal may help you stay in for the long run

In the 3rd part of the process we put together some of the SMART criteria especially ensuring your goals are specific, measurable and achievable. Wanting to lose weight is not specific but wanting to lose 10 kg in 3 months is specific. Also we need to have realistic expectations when we set goals, expecting to lose 20 kg in a month is unrealistic, expecting to lose 4kg in a month is realistic and definitely possible

Once all of the above are in place, the next piece of the puzzle is to take baby steps. Fear of stepping out and failure can really stop us from doing anything but if we design our plan around taking really small steps that move us away from doing nothing and actually get us in the direction of our goals then we are off to a good start. So now you can set about moving towards your goal by having a plan

I talk about a way to do this in my reels from yesterday. (to see my reels, visit my Instagram page @avoda_wellness I had so much fun messing around with that yesterday and using the speeded up voice, it made me laugh! and that brings me to the final bit of my process…..

5. Have fun! Enjoy the process. 

https://www.instagram.com/avoda_wellness/

Taming the beast that is anxiety.

Anyone who has ever suffered from anxiety will understand why I refer to it as a beast, it’s presence in your life can feel large and looming and impossible to tame but I can assure you that having anxiety does not have to be a life sentence of misery, worry and fear. This article will share with you how to tame the symptoms of anxiety and ways to manage and overcome the effects of anxiety so you can get on with the simple act of living your life.

Anxiety is a simple word but the emotions and challenges that it presents when it is present in full blown range is extremely complex hence why I refer to it as a beast. Indeed, there are many that say you can never fully tame anxiety and perhaps that is true but I know you can certainly find a way to manage and live with it and actually having anxiety can have some advantages such as making you more resilient, more empathetic, more strategic in your thinking and planning.

Sometimes, people are unsure as to whether they have anxiety or are simply just overthinkers so here are some of the symptoms of anxiety. They can include but are not restricted to worrying obsessively, panic attacks, feeling nauseous and sweaty, feeling overwhelmed, procrastination, uncontrollable overthinking, depression, racing thoughts which may include feelings of dread, inability to concentrate, irritation, lack of appetite, inability to enjoy anything, feeling that something bad is about to happen all the time, feeling disconnected from or disassociation from yourself. These are just some common symptoms, there are many other symptoms which may point to anxiety. If unsure, please consult your doctor

One of the most common questions I get asked is where does anxiety come from or what causes it?. This can be a difficult question to answer as the causes are varied and it can also be caused by a multitude of factors. However, in general, anxiety is usually caused by some sort of trauma or negative experience that we are not able to get past.

Anxiety will usually be triggered by a big event such as a bereavement or a series of small events such as financial difficulties which get worse over time. It is important to recognise that what causes anxiety in one person may not cause anxiety in another as individuals have different levels of tolerance and resilience and also experience things in different ways. This is why it is very important to not compare your symptoms or the way you feel to someone else just because they have experienced a similar life event to yours. We all deal with trauma differently.

It is also worth noting that there are different types of anxiety e.g. social anxiety, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks and many more. I will be speaking in general within the context of this article about generalised anxiety disorder also known as GAD.

Feeling anxious, worried or scared is a normal feeling we get when we are facing something that we are worried about or is new to us such as going for a job interview, meeting new people, walking down a dark alley etc. When we are anxious, our bodies experience a physiological response commonly known as fight or flight. This response was very important for prehistoric man and for humans in general as it helps us to determine whether a situation requires us to flee or to fight and this is supported within the body by the production of a number of hormones primarily adrenaline and cortisol.

It is these hormones that are responsible for the physical symptoms of anxiety such as nausea, feeling faint, heartbeat getting faster, mood elevation, increased blood pressure and many other symptoms. This response is usually self-limiting and once the perceived threat is gone, the body adjusts itself. However, in a person with GAD or other forms of anxiety, their perception of what is dangerous may have become altered through a number of negative experiences and the body may interpret situations that are not dangerous or fearful as such therefore initiating the fight and fight response which will result in the physiological response and production of hormones. Continuous exposure to stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) damages the body and can cause a lot of illness, disease and malfunction.

In addition the fight and flight response in itself is only useful when there is a real threat, when there isn’t one you end up experiencing the quickened heartbeat, nausea, feeling faint and other physical symptoms which then make you feel unwell.

So what can you do to manage these symptoms?

Well the first and most important point to note is that if you notice that you start feeling unsafe in situations that are actually safe, it is because your brain has been rewired to think so (due to your experience of stress or trauma). Your first step is to work on changing how your brain reacts to situations and this comes from changing your thoughts.

Acknowledging you have anxiety is a good starting point, once you have done that, you may want to start writing down your experiences of your anxiety episodes and trying to identify the triggers and where possible avoid them. (E.g. watching news/consuming media can be a trigger, this can be easily avoided). In some cases, it will not be possible to avoid every trigger so you need to retrain your brain to see that the situation is safe by repeating safety mantras for example or reminding yourself of times when the said situation has occurred without any danger. (E.g. fear of driving in a car, remind yourself how often you have done this without any danger or the number of people who do this daily without danger, acknowledging that there are risks but they are minimal and more so, being trapped at home is not a way to live your life and you will find more happiness if you learn to overcome this and other fears is a line of thought that may be useful)

It is very important to remember that, your thoughts affects and creates your emotions and your emotions will determine what sort of behaviour you display. So if you can change the way you think then you can alter your emotions and hence your behaviour.

However, I know this in itself is not easy and can take time to master particularly if you have had anxiety for long periods, so here are some practical tips to help you manage your anxiety

  • Talk to someone. It is so important to speak to someone and express how you are feeling, this can make such a difference. If you don’t have close family or friends, speak to your GP or you can consider contacting any one of the hundreds of charities that support people with this. Alternatively, you may want to speak to a life coach or therapist.
  • Exercise has been shown from many studies to impact anxiety and depression positively, it will make you feel better about yourself and the feel good hormones that are produced when you exercise can negate your negative moods
  • Be careful what you eat and drink. Food is very powerful and what many people fail to realise is that the types of food you eat can harm you or heal you. Limit your intake of sugars, caffeine and alcohol as they can make your symptoms worse. At the other end, a Mediterranean diet which emphasises more healthy fats and comprises a good variety of fruits and vegetables, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, wholegrain and legumes has been shown to reduce the symptoms of anxiety
  • Spend time in nature, go for walks in the park or any green area or natural spaces.
  • Make time to do things that you love. Even if its for 30mins a day, always make time for yourself and choose to spend the time doing something that makes you happy
  • Try mindfulness meditation or yoga. Mindfulness is learning how to live in the moment, focusing on the moment and enjoying each moment as opposed to worrying about the future. Mindfulness practice has been very successful in treating anxiety
  • Try to improve your sleep as poor sleep has been linked to anxiety and depression. The body rests when you are sleeping and if you are not getting enough sleep this can lead to elevated levels of stress.
  • Practice Gratitude. Find things to be grateful for. When we practice gratitude, it can shift our perspective of things and give us a more positive mindset
  • Deep breathing can be important especially when you are feeling stressed, when we are anxious, we tend to have more shallow breaths which means oxygen is not distributed as well to the body and this can result in us feeling like we are out of breath or cannot breathe properly which causes more panic and elevated levels of anxiety. Deep and slow breathing, inhaling for 4 and exhaling for 4 can be helpful. Try to do this for a count of 10 times.
  • Finally, they say laughter is the best medicine. Find something or someone that makes you laugh. I usually turn to a comedy series that is guaranteed to make me laugh that I enjoy such as “friends”. It never fails to cheer me up. Find your own source of laughter.

I hope you find this helpful, feel free to add any tips that you find particularly useful in the comments as it may help someone else.

If you need someone to talk to, I am happy to chat, please contact me by email or direct message.

Tayo xoxo

Why we need failure tolerance.

Nobody likes to fail. There is some sort of stigma that we attach to failure and even just saying the word can bring some people out in a cold sweat. Failure makes us uncomfortable. Failure hurts.

Many of us have come to despise failure so much that when it does happen to us, it can completely derail us. We can feel shame, disappointed in ourselves, guilt and a lot of embarrassment worrying what people will think of us.

I remember when I had my first experience of failure with a business, I was so sad and ashamed when it failed, I withdrew into myself. I thought people would make fun of me and I would never be able to do anything else. Of course, that was nowhere near true. Yes, some people were not very nice but these people on reflection were not real friends and I did not need them in my life. I found that the people that truly loved me, my family and true friends did not care about the fact that I had failed. I was still the same person as far as they were concerned. Yes, they were sad for me because I was sad about the way things ended but nonetheless they still stuck around and were there for me. More importantly, i learnt a lot about myself and my own tenacity.

There may be situations where our failures causes us to lose friends or family, e.g. in a marriage breakup or a falling out with friends, even then we have to hold on to that fundamental truth that failure is okay and we will survive it. Yes, it is helpful to have support from others but this is not always going to be the case, there will be times when we need to stand strong on our own and be our own cheerleader.

This may also be the case in situations where we may have to go out on a limb by ourselves and the people around us may not be particularly supportive, When we fail in such instances, it can be a lot harder to pick ourselves up especially if we are concerned about what people will say or think. Reminding ourselves that failure is part of everyday life and that everyone fails at one point or another will be immensely helpful.

We all need to remember that failure is an inevitable part of life and I would argue that failure is a necessary experience for us as human beings. Failure is something that happens to everyone at some point. Even the most successful people in the world have failed at some time in their lives. If we are going to try new things and take chances, then it is most likely that some of our attempts at doing something different are not going to work out. That is totally okay and if we cultivate a mindset that accepts that failure is a possibility then it is much easier for us to be courageous in the way we live our lives.

It is understandable that failure has a negative vibe for most of us after all, we have all been conditioned to see success as the ultimate goal. We are constantly bombarded with images and stories of successful people and their lives. Interestingly, we only find out about successful people when they become a success. Social media is also really good at marketing success. No one posts about their failures on social media. All we see are what people have achieved, what they are good at, be it financial or material success.

However, we have to remember that everyone no matter how powerful, rich or successful they may seem, will have faced setbacks and challenges. It is in fact the challenges that help shape our future self more than our successes. Being failure tolerant means that we are able to accept that we will face a certain amount of failure at one time or the other.

I have had many failures in my life, and when I look back at each one, I realise, each of those failures came to teach me something very valuable about life and about myself. I have become emotionally intelligent, more resilient and self assured from each one of these experiences and I would not be the person I am today without all of my failures.

I am not going to pretend that failure does not hurt, it can be painful, humiliating and devastating depending on the level of the failure but it is up to us how much time we spend agonising over the failure. Once we acknowledge our failure, it is useful to take some time to process it and decide what lessons we can learn from it. This also gives us time to grieve any losses that we may have had as a result of the failure.

Once we have done that, we must accept that it is now in the past and we must avoid the temptation to fret or spend too much time worrying about it. If we stay too long in that space of worry and rumination, we will find ourselves trapped in a prison of self doubt and fear. This is a bad place to be as it leads to us procrastinating and unable to take our next steps into a different experience.

It is important to reflect on our failures but it is just as important to have realistic thoughts about a particular failure. We should be willing to take responsibility for our part in the failure and be willing to adapt and change so we are not constantly making the same mistakes over and over again but at the same time we should not let the fear of failure keep us from trying again.

This is the case regardless of what area of our lives we have failed in, be it in our career or business, weight loss goals, relationships or family. Let us learn not to see failure as the be all and end all, instead let us face up to our failures with courage and humility recognising that this is part of life, this is living and this is how we grow.

We cannot sidestep the pain that comes with failure but that is actually part of the process of growing from our failures, Failure makes us so much more resilient and empathetic. It teaches us what does not work and points us in the direction of what might work. Dealing with the pain and allowing that to be, is important but once that is done, you can move on knowing that you are stronger for the experience.

When you fail and you are able to survive the failure, you realise your own strength and that in itself can be so liberating. It reminds you that you can get through difficult things and life will keep moving on regardless. No one really cares about your failures as much as you care about your failure and if you can stop seeing failure as a big deal then you will not be afraid to try again.

No matter what you’ve failed at, be reassured that it happens to everyone and you can get through it. Your failures do not define you and when you do become successful, it will be all the more sweeter because of those failures.

Tayo xoxo

Do you need a social media detox?

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and so on are all social media platforms that have become increasingly popular in recent years. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population is now using some form of social media. We can therefore conclude that social media and all its associated technology is here to stay.

Social media has irrevocably changed the way we communicate, work and socialise especially in the last 10 years and particularly in the last year with the worldwide pandemic forcing most people to work from or spend more time at home meaning we have more time to spend on social media. There are those who would say social media has been a force for good while many others would argue that the challenges and negative issues from the long term use of social media far outweigh any positives.

Like many forms of technology, social media requires us to access it via a device such as a phone, laptop, TV, etc. This means that as more and more people spend time using social media, we are spending far more time on these devices. For a long time, I rallied against the use of social media, I was very careful as to how much time I spent on it and would also warn my kids about the dangers. I could see my children spending less time interacting with me and more time interacting with their phones. This used to drive me mad and like many other households up and down the country, resulted in countless arguments over the use of phones. However, with so much of our world and how it works changing I started to realise that whether I liked it or not, technology was here to stay and it was in my best interest and that of my kids, for me to learn how to use social media but also to understand it. So, I decided that in order to better understand the challenges, I needed to become social media savvy. This has come in useful in the last few years as most of the work I do is now being done online.

The way that our children learn and interact has massively changed and a large part of education is now done via devices and with the aid of technology. Dating and meeting people is now largely done over the internet on a variety of dating sites. The way we shop has also changed with more people choosing to shop online now more than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic brought its own challenges and has probably changed the way people work, shop and communicate for ever. With everyone forced to stay at home, companies who had previously been reluctant to embrace home-working raced to provide employees with the resources and support needed to allow them to continue working from home as this was vital to the continued existence and profitability of their businesses. So in essence, all of the important areas of our lives are now firmly embedded in one way or the other in some form of technology.

So where is the problem? Well, there are many who argue that the reliance on technology and devices have created huge problems in how people relate to each other. With many now spending an increasing amount of time on computers, emails, social media and other forms of technology, not to mention TV, Streaming services and other technology based form of entertainment, it becomes more of a challenge to find time for stillness. Also the reliance on social media and technology for communication has somehow resulted in the deconstruction of the fabric of society and resulted in social fragility and emotional issues. We also have the challenges that with social media and technology, everything is now available at the click of a button. This can lead us to become reliant on instant feedback and may play a part in the high demand for instant gratification that many of us now grapple with.

When we interact on social media, it allows us to say things to people that we wouldn’t dream of saying in real life and there is a lot of nastiness and negativity online. In addition, there are added dangers as people can pretend to be anyone they. Technology has enabled a new generation of fraudsters and dishonest people to operate quite easily by pretending to be someone they are not. In addition, our children are exposed to dangers of meeting and building relationships with people online that may not necessarily have good intentions for them. The observation of other people’s lives on such apps as Instagram and Facebook can leave us feeling envious, drained and angry. Yet, in most cases what we see online rarely ever portrays a true reflection of the person.

When it comes to mental health, social media can be an enormous trigger for anxiety and depression as we can fall prey to the idea that everyone else has a good life based on what we see or we are bombarded with images of perfect looking people, homes, bodies that can leave us feeling short and that we are not enough.

I would argue that the issue is not just about Social media but about the way Social media is used. We have to accept that social media is here for the foreseeable future and that is totally out of our control. What we can do is look at what we can control in terms of our use of it. For those of us who also use technology and rely on social media for our work, it is definitely a two edged sword. I do share content on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter which means i sometimes find myself spending too much time on my devices which sometimes leaves me feeling exhausted and mentally drained. So I do ensure that I now have boundaries in place to ensure that I don’t spend too much time on my device. I have time limits and I avoid checking social media apps first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Withdrawing from social media for some period of time is a good way of reconnecting with oneself and the people around you. I actually love technology and social media but I am keenly aware of its downsides especially when used by children. The potential for bullying and perusing inappropriate or upsetting content is magnified on social media. It can also create a false sense of reality, giving children wrong ideas about body image and appearance which can create issues with self-image and obsessions with one’s body especially with young children who do not yet have a strong sense of self.

A social media detox can be as short or long as we want it to be. The point of the detox is not to do it for the sake of doing it but to enable you to create some distance away from the fakeness and the emotional seesaw of social media. It may even be that instead of a detox, you may look at putting some more safeguards and time limits in place to limit the amount of time you spend on social media as a whole.

As a life coach, I know how important it is to work on improving self-love and self-esteem and this includes limiting activities that may challenge how you feel about yourself. So carefully think about how much time you spend on social media and whether the time could be better used elsewhere. Monitor how much time you spend weekly or monthly and adjust as necessary. Most phones now have an option that allows you to check how much time you spend on the phone and you can also check how much time you spend on individual social media applications as this can help pinpoint become more aware of where you need to make changes.

If someone you follow makes you uncomfortable or leaves you feeling envious, jealous or dissatisfied with your own life, please unfollow them. Remember who you engage with on social media is up to you, you are in control

Social media can be a force for good if it is used properly, follow people who inspire you or who are doing good things in the world.

Uninstall an application if you find yourself unable to stop yourself scrolling, once it is off your phone, it is easier to wean yourself off it.

Have clear boundaries for when you are on the phone and when you switch off.

What you do in the morning can affect the rest of your day, avoid the temptation to scroll first thing in the morning. Even if its just some negative or upsetting news that you catch or a particularly upsetting video or rant, this can upset the balance of your mood at the start of the day which could ultimately affect the rest of your day

Same thing for nighttime, I always remind people that struggle with depression and anxiety in particular, that the images you see and what you hear are particularly important especially if you struggle to sleep. The worst thing you can do is watch something that is scary, violent, upsetting before you go to bed as this can elevate your stress hormones and could leave you awake worrying all night. I used to watch the 10 o’clock news as a habit for many years before I went to bed and soon learnt that this would leave me hyped up or agitated if I heard some particularly negative news and have now stopped doing this. It is also why i muted a lot of the Covid news after a while as the constant drip feeding of negative news can really wreak havoc with your mood.

Finally, remember that ultimately, you have control over how much time you use social media and how you use it. If you start to think it is affecting your mental health and wellbeing then a social media detox may be the best decision you could make. The less time you spend on your phone, the more time you will have to focus on what is actually happening in your life and to enjoy the people around you.

xoxo

Applying grounding techniques for anxiety.

The mind of an anxious person can be very complex. When we begin to experience anxiety about something, it can be very difficult for us to see or hear anything else. We get into our own heads and a loop of “what ifs” which can take us down a path of negative thinking and catastrophising (the act of constantly imagining or expecting the worst case scenario).

With anxiety, the brain becomes used to a negative pattern of thinking and rumination and breaking this habit can be very difficult. When you are anxious or worried, you immediately imagine the worst case scenario and it can be difficult to believe that what you are thinking is not going to become a reality. This unfortunately, can be reinforced when something you dreaded does actually happen. Instead of chalking it down to life, you convince yourself that you were right all along and the world is truly a bad place and worse still you fear the reason this happened to you was because you spent too much time thinking about it and you determine to stop thinking about it but unfortunately for us, the minute we tell our brain not to think about something, the more it holds on to this thought. Rest assured, its not your thoughts that create events, if that was the case, I would long ago have won the lottery!.

However our thoughts have a powerful role to play in how we feel and what we think and ultimately in the way we behave so it is important that we learn a variety of techniques to help us cope with repetitive anxious thoughts.

There are several techniques that you can use for breaking this cycle and the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, which is used by psychotherapists, counsellors and coaches has been found to be particularly useful. There are many different types of grounding techniques and they all work as coping strategies to reconnect you to the present moment and disconnect you from your negative and repetitive thoughts.

When we get stuck into our negative and anxious thinking, we are in effect not living in the moment as we are thinking either about something in the past that is making us afraid and therefore increasing our anxiety or we are worried about something in the future that hasn’t yet happened but in our heads, we are already imagining all the things that can go wrong. Using a grounding technique brings us back to the present time and can disconnect us from the anxious thoughts long enough for us to get out of our own heads and try to change our thoughts.

Before you begin a grounding exercise, think about how you are breathing, Our breath plays such an important part in how we feel. Try to slow down your breathing by taking slow deep breaths. Inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds up to 10 times should help calm you down and then you can start the grounding exercise.

5-4-3-2-1 are the steps you go through in each stage as explained here;

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a picture, toys, curtains , a stain on the wall, anything in your surroundings.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your jewelry, a cushion, or the ground under your feet. 

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. If you are at home, you may be able to smell something that was cooked earlier or perhaps the scent of your perfume. If you need to move around to get a smell then do so.

1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like— your lunch, the soft drink you had or toothpaste from brushing your teeth?

By the time you have got to 1, you will find that whatever thoughts were making you anxious have been replaced by having to do this exercise.

This is one of many techniques that you can use to defuse anxiety. I also suggest writing things down in a journal especially when you get these anxious thoughts or panic attacks. If you write down things you were previously worried about and whether or not they actually happened, this can remind you that most of what we worry about actually never happens.

Of course, this is not to say sometimes bad things will not happen to you, the reality is that life is not always smooth sailing and there are going to be good days and bad days. However, remembering that most of the negative scenarios in your head actually do not come to pass can give you some measure of comfort.

In addition, it is also useful to combat your negative “what ifs” with positive ones. So, for example, say you are preparing for a job interview and you have anxious thoughts and are having thoughts such as “what if I do badly, what if I mess up, what if I do not get the job” and so on. You can change this narrative to “what if I do really well, what if I do not mess this up, what if I get the job”? The more often you do this, the easier it will becomes to not default to a negative thought pattern. As with all the techniques mentioned here, the more often you do this, the easier it becomes.

If your anxiety is something that you struggle with and it is affecting your quality of life, please speak to someone about it or contact your GP about getting support.