Are you happy in your environment?

Does your environment work well for you? Is what you need right where you need it, when you need it? Or do the rooms you live in just accommodate your stuff? Could you do with the equivalent of a pond Sludge Buster, to clear the piles of unsorted papers, unworn clothes, unused recipe books, unfinished lotions in the bathroom, musty spices in the kitchen… all those accumulated reminders of past times and intended futures?

Our homes, if we are fortunate enough to have them, are where we stash our food, sleep, nurture our young, shelter from the weather. They are places to escape to from social pressures, and rest from the daily efforts to survive. Our living spaces feel safe and comfortable mainly because they are familiar. They are where we like to think we can ‘be ourselves’. But once your basic needs are met, you will not feel better to go on filling your space with things you can’t decide what to do with, or don’t have time to use, or which you hardly see any more except to edge around or to look behind when you have lost something else. Our possessions can become a burden and our surroundings confine us, instead of making us feel more calm and free.

If your life is feeling empty or stuck, any little change for the better will make you feel livelier; and the place to start is where you already are, or where you spend most time. But the latest in kitchen and bathroom fittings or an even bigger television or sofa will not add up to less stress. For a lasting home improvement, change your mind, not your décor. Do you want to be less anxious, more assertive? Begin with your immediate environment. Do you want more time to devote to what you love and value most? Then consider overhauling the way you manage the spaces you live and work in. You are in your element when nothing in your surroundings impedes or distracts you, but on the contrary, silently supports you in doing and being your best.

 

If you would like help in bringing more harmony into your life, mentally, emotionally and practically, contact me through www. annapowell.com

Further reading:

Andrew Mellen, Unstuff Your Life! Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life for Good

Gill Hasson, Declutter Your Life: How Outer Order Leads to Inner Calm

Confidence is a see-saw

Confidence is not a social flair that some have and others lack. It is the threshold in everyone where you cross over from believing you can’t cope, to knowing you can. You can’t happily stand up and give a wedding speech to hundreds of guests if you are thinking of all the ways you could muff it. But when you can draw on a range of previous experience, when you have something you want to say, and when you are having fun with friends, you see the situation as an opportunity, not an ordeal.

Anxiety and confidence work like a see-saw: as one goes up, the other goes down. When you are confident, you can meet difficulties with resilience, even with gusto. But as soon as any threat seems greater than your ability to deal with it, your anxiety increases and your self-esteem plummets.

Whenever you find yourself feeling helpless to do anything about a bad situation – such as ill health, declining sight or hearing, not having enough money, interpersonal conflict or frustration at work – up goes your anxiety, down goes your confidence.

How can you tip the balance the other way? You can reduce the seeming enormity of the problem; and you can increase your conviction that you can handle it.

Here are three ways to begin scaling down a problem from overwhelming to manageable:

  • Think of a problem as only a situation: difficult, painful or exhausting, perhaps, but not as catastrophic, shameful or beyond redemption as you may feel it is. Stay with it, experience it a little.
  • Acknowledge and put a name to the emotions you are feeling – fear, regret, rage – and let them surge around and eventually away, as if you were watching an extreme weather event from somewhere safe inside.
  • Focus on the facts. Apart from what is not ok, what remains ok?

Here are three immediate ways to scale up your ability to cope:

  • Take five minutes to do the ‘Five Things’ exercise. What five things do you see? What five sounds can you hear? What five sensations do you notice in your body? Come to your senses! It is much easier to relax and see things in perspective when you first pay full attention to here and now.
  • Encourage yourself. Think: ‘I can handle this.’ At the very least: ‘I am willing to try.’
  • Do one thing right away that is better than nothing. Phone a friend, have a cup of tea, clear out a cupboard. Every small decision you make empowers you.

Your mind has an inexhaustible capacity to learn, change and see things differently. Focus on what you can rather than on what you think you can’t, and your brain will steer in that direction until ‘Yes, I can’ becomes a simple statement of fact.

Time to Get Off the Couch

I love this cartoon of a drowning man shouting to his dog on the bank, “Lassie, get help!” In the next picture we see the trusty dog lying on a psychiatrist’s couch.

We all encounter many and various frustrations that we can’t always deal with on our own. But the idea that to ‘get help’ involves a tortuous process of introspection and confession is way out of date. It was based on the medical model of a patient-doctor relationship, and on Dr Freud’s psychoanalytic style in particular. His patients lay on his elegant couch, several times a week for years, while he sat invisibly behind them, puffing on his cigar and telling them what was wrong with them.

This woeful misconception lingers on in the popular imagination. People who would not think twice before phoning a breakdown company when their car won’t start on a cold morning, or a decorator when their house is looking tired, are still reluctant to ‘get help’ for themselves when they are unhappy or overwhelmed.

There is a welcome change in the way we ask now for professional help. We are customers rather than patients. We can choose between a wide variety of services on offer. We expect to feel better, sooner. We want the process to be safe, effective and empowering. But the client-therapist relationship is far more than a consumer-supplier negotiation. The analogy is more like finding a personal trainer with the skills to help you feel fitter.

As a cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, like a personal trainer, I do not need to know about your past or private life: only your present situation. At a difficult moment, it does not help to ask ”Why?” so much as “What to do about it?” Lassie saves the day every time, by being resourceful, practical and coming straight to the point.

 

Making changes that make a difference: please subscribe to my blog or see www.annapowell.com

This article appeared in the Test Valley Forum magazine March 2018

https://issuu.com/forum_publications/docs/test_valley_117_for_web

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