Maybe It's Just Me?

Following the tragic events of last Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand (NZ), things seem different. Or maybe it's just me.

For the last few days, a lot of us have been trying to come to terms with the horror that unfolded. 'Surreal' is the most heard word used to describe what transpired. It doesn't happen here, this is not who we are, NZ is a caring country. Yet, it happened.

Feelings of numbness, sadness, guilt, regret, and anger ebbed and flowed across most of us.

Over the last few days since this tragedy, have you noticed how people seem to be more caring, more polite, there's no longer a rush any more. People are talking, sharing, caring, grieving, and crying.

Not me though, I am different and can handle this stuff, it's what I do for a living, keep moving forward, onward and upward. Maybe it's just me?

Like so many others, I continued about my day, stopping every so often on to reflect on what had occurred, but carrying on as there's work to be done. Sometimes feeling grateful that my family was safe, that the perpetrator was arrested, that he wasn't from NZ, that justice will prevail in the end, that time will heal all, that we can move on, that everything will be alright in the end.

Then, today, I went to Christchurch.

I went to Christchurch for a couple of meetings - one with my friend Nathan Wallis, the other with a caring organisation who helps workplaces with wellbeing. Great meetings; lots of talking, lots of sharing, lots of positivity, and a hug or two for comfort in what we had talked about. Friendship in the face of adversity.

In tragedy comes many things, the one that shone the most today was 'reaching out'. Nathan, the Executive GM of TriEx, the ex-colleague, the regional manager from the Rural Support Trust, the CEO of NZAA, the friend from my childhood who was on the plane home, all reached out to say "Hi".

I try to avoid this stuff, I do not need to feel what is going on, I do this for a job.

I did not recognise most of them, and had my head down as I often do, thinking about 'things'. Yet, they took the time and went out of their comfort zone to stop me and say "Hi". Humbling how strong the human spirit can be. Or, maybe it's just me.

Then, I arrived home at Auckland airport. As I walked out a voice called, "Hey Lance". Unexpected, as no one should be there to greet me. A man stood smiling in front of me, I did not recognise him but smiled back to greet him. "I was in your session at Fulton Hogan and remembered what you told us, it has helped me so much". "Thank you" I replied, "I am so pleased".

"I am here to meet my brother-in-law, he was killed last Friday".

No words.

The best I could do was, "I'm so sorry". And I hugged him, many times. For him first, and then again for him, and then again for him, as we chatted. The last time the hug was not for him, but for me, and I told him so. I selfishly wanted to feel his love. I was overwhelmed with sadness, with grief, with wanting to connect and to make it all better, to make it go away. But, maybe that's just me.

We each shed a tear, or maybe again it was just me.

Tragedy strikes when we least expect it, that's why it is called a tragedy. If we knew it was coming then we could prepare for it and it wouldn't be called a tragedy. The way to get through a tragedy is to open our hearts, not our heads, to grieve, to cry, to share, to feel, to care, to hug, and to love. That's how humankind (human kind) has survived, by caring for each other.

Grieve, feel pain, feel anger, feel hurt, feel sorrow, feel love. And, talk about it, openly, in a respectful and caring way. It is normal to feel this way, it's not just me, it is you as well.

We will get through this, together. Let's talk!

We Just Need To Adapt

I start all of my presentations with what I call a 'Got your attention now' opening line. I once started with "You'd think that I'd be much taller" when there was a long intro into my background and experience. It then became, "Yes, I specialise in suicide intervention, come and see me later if you are feeling unwell". Those two opening always got a laugh, the second more of a nervous giggle.

Today I start these presentations with, "Anxiety, depression and/or suicide (ADS) is in very family in the western world, and it is in yours". No laughs, just silence. And, sometimes a tear.

Then I grab them with, "Let's see what is going on and what we can all do about it, together". That's the key, together.

So is ADS in every family in the western world? Here's a conversation Donna and I had today in a Mall in Vancouver.

We had just arrived after delayed flight and little sleep. Groggy, we couldn't find a table and Donna asked if we could sit next to two young men (teenagers). Of course. During our first meal ever in Canada, one of the two said - "Hey, are you both from Greece", we were eating Greek food. No, we are from NZ. "Wow, you don't look like Kiwis". Compliment accepted.

He then asked to me "What do you do?" "Fix heads" I said. Ha! I said I try to help people who are struggling with negative thoughts, right down into depression and suicide. He said - "Oh you can start right here, we both tried to kill ourselves". His mate followed with "I jumped off a bridge".

Wow, welcome to Canada, eh!

We talked for some more, I was so lucky to have my wife with me to keep me from becoming too emotionally involved. After a chat, I grabbed my phone and asked them if they trusted me, "Of course" they said. (Very trusting these Canadians).

We spent 30 seconds doing the latest breathing technique we have just recently published. Looking at them both was awesome, I asked one, "What are you thinking". His reply "Nothing, there's nothing in my head". Job done. He went on to say that he cannot stop from talking to himself all the time.

What are the chances of two Kiwis flying into Vancouver, sitting in the same Mall, at the same table, and finding the one thing in common, suicide. The chances are high, if it is so common.

I post this, not for the work that we do, but for what we are all going through. ADS is in every family, it is in mine and it is in yours.

We, all of us, have a duty of care. To care for ourselves first so that we can then care for others. This epidemic known as suicide can be stopped, and we will do so, together.

Firstly by opening up the conversation about the causes, next by removing the stigma, thirdly by learning how to adapt to our dynamic world through taking a moment in time to breath for just a few minutes.

By sharing our little story, Donna and I hope that this post has helped in some small way to encourage you to keep moving forward, because that's the direction that we are all heading in, breathing as we do so.

Just Breath!

Thanks for all of your feedback on the 6-second repeat breathing technique. Here is a full description of the best method of utilising this very latest scientifically evaluated relaxation technique.

Set a timer to beep at 6 second intervals for a period of two minutes. The timer that I use in my presentations/workshops is called "Interval Timer Tibetan Bowl" which is available free in the App store.

At the first beep, keep breathing in through your nose until you hear the next beep at 6 seconds. If you have breathed fully and stopped before the beep then you are breathing too fast. Breathe out for 6 seconds ensuring that you reach the end of your deflation breath just as the beep sounds. Repeat this for 2 minutes, ensuring your timing is as close to 6 seconds as possible. Do this exercise twice a day.

Here's how it works - by regulating your breathing to the exact timings, neuroscience shows that this will put you into an 'Alpha' state which is at the base of your conscious awareness and is the gateway to your subconscious mind, the point at which we reach as we just go to sleep.

You should notice nothing else but your breathing and your brain will slow considerably to the point where there are no 'real' thoughts.

This works for both adults and for children. However, with children we are finding that if they are quite anxious at bedtime then this particular breathing technique relaxes them so much that it puts them to sleep much faster than the other techniques because they have to concentrate on their counting with the other techniques, thus keeping their brains working rather than relaxing.

Our recent feedback indicates that 2 minutes is the longest it has taken for the child to go to sleep (4-year old) and the shortest is just 4 breaths (12-year old). Both of these children had trouble sleeping.

Happy breathing.

Things Have Changed, So Should Your Breathing.

The more that technology advances, the more that we research, and the more that we discover, the more we are finding that the way we once dealt with stress no longer works as well as it once did. Well, not that it doesn't work, it keeps us back in our early evolutionary brain while the world moves on.

Let's look at breathing - used to reduce anxiety and stress - and controlling thoughts - used in meditation and mindfulness techniques.

In early times when a lot of our current stress management techniques were discovered, life was much simpler. Most of us know that life is much busier today with so many choices; computers and technology was supposed to make life easier and we know that hasn't been the case.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge that meditation and mindfulness, with their associated breathing techniques, do work. However, if you follow my blogs you will know that I like to question convention, based on recent neuroscience and/or research.

So here's my question; does meditation and mindfulness, along with their associated breathing techniques, still work in today's complicated world?

Like everything, it is not as cut and dry as a simple yes or no answer. But, I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you want to remain in the past then stick with the original methods of meditation, mindfulness, and breathing.

If you want to live in a modern world, change the way that you undertake both of these wonderful stress-reducing tools.

Find a practitioner who has modernised meditation and mindfulness based on validated science and/or research. Not many of us have an hour a day to sit and meditate like they did 100 years ago, (although we possibly should), most of us like to have our computer in our pocket, most of us like to have more choices, most of us want to live in the 21st or even the 22nd century.

Most of us simply need to adapt our brains, to find a quick solution so that we can reduce stress by using either meditation and/or mindfulness in a way that allows us to live in a modern world. None of us live in a monastery where a lot of these early stress management techniques were developed.

Back to breathing. Breathing, or more importantly, nasal diaphragmatic breathing does control stress. There are various forms to use in various situations, without the need to spend an hour doing meditation and/or mindfulness.

Controlling Anger

To control your fight-or-flight response, in other words when you feel yourself getting angry or afraid – take a long, slow, deep breath to fill your lungs. Next, hold your breath for at least 3 seconds counting inside your head as you hold your breath to control your thoughts. Then, slowly breathe completely out to reduce your heart rate, holding your breath again for 3 seconds before breathing in again. Do this just once or twice when angry, too many breaths may cause you to hyperventilate. 

Reducing Anxiousness

Sit up straight in a chair; Breathe in for 5 seconds to fully expand your lungs, hold your breath for 5 seconds to hold your current state, breathe out for 5 seconds which will slow your heart rate even further and hold your breath for 5 seconds before repeating the cycle. Count each of the 5 seconds inside your head, this will control your thoughts. Do this technique for three cycles, once each night, for 30 nights. You may have to start with 3-3-3 then progress to 4-4-4 building up to 5-5-5.

An alternative; Sit up straight in a chair; Set your phone to beep at 6 second intervals, at the first beep breathe in, at the next beep breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Do this exercise for 2 minutes, twice a day. This breathing exercise will take you to an alpha state, a light hypnotic state yet aware of what is around you. It is great for children who find themselves becoming anxious, sit and do the exercise with them.

For more breathing techniques, contact me through my website and I will send them to you;

Let's talk!

True Personal Courage

There are many levels of what true personal courage looks like - facing our worst fears, selflessly supporting others when we don't have much ourselves, battling a terminal illness without complaint, deciding to leave a long-term relationship, making a decision to euthanise a dearly loved family pet - each requiring strength.

Other lesser recognised forms of personal courage might include - facing up to a bully, asking for a pay increase or promotion, making a speech in front of a large audience, apologising for an error on our part, or inviting someone out on a date - these things also take a certain amount of courage.

Daily personal courageous acts might include - trying a new food, deciding not to drink when those around you are doing so, meeting a new neighbour - acts that are meaningful to you as a person that you can undertake daily.

Each of these types of acts requires a different level of personal courage, but each example is still courageous nonetheless.

The military rightly recognises courage with medals. Medals are often awarded for acts of bravery while in the presence of the enemy. For me, and in no way to diminish the military honour system, this same definition might also describe true personal courage - bravery while in the presence of the enemy.

There are many people doing wonderful acts while in the midst of their enemy. Those who have faced domestic violence working with perpetrators of that violence, or those who have been sexually abused working to help the abusers, or perhaps those who tell their journey of mental illness in front of those who are struggling themselves with a mental illness.

Each of these people are reliving their worst nightmare so that others may not.

Perhaps this is true personal courage. Not only are they doing something courageous in the face of their enemy, they are doing so again and again, often without recognition.

No matter what your description of personal courage might be, we should all be encouraged to undertake something courageous at least once a month as a minimum, no matter at what level, to become stronger.

Let's talk!