Start Thinking About What you Are Thinking About.

The more research that I do, the more presentations that I do, and the more that I meet one-on-one with people, the more that I become convinced that the thoughts we have can make a big difference in our lives.

All of us all of us worry to a greater or lesser degree, all of us have an inner critic to a greater or lesser degree, all of us have a younger self (usually half our age) to a greater or lesser degree, all of us have an imposter to a greater or lesser degree, and all of us talk to ourselves to a greater or lesser degree.

Why is that these things are to a greater or lesser degree? Is it nature or is it nurture? The answer is a big YES. We know more than ever that everything to do with who we are is impacted by both nature AND nurture. Studies on identical twins have now been largely dismissed because all of us are influenced not just by our genetics, we are also influenced by what we do, who we meet, where we grew up, what our parents tell us, etc.

However, all of us, regardless of genetics or upbringing, talk to ourselves. And we do it a lot! If you are thinking "No I don't", then you are doing it right now! Talking to ourselves are simply noting more than, thoughts. Furthermore, thoughts are nothing more than mental (mind) cognitions based on our ideas, opinions, and beliefs.

Our thoughts have the ability to influence our emotions, and that's the important key here, our thoughts influence our emotions. Often, we aren't thinking about what we are thinking about. Worse still, we aren't thinking about the implications of those thoughts. Yet, we can become all-consumed by them.

Research shows that the longer we think about something the more real the thought becomes until we actually begin to believe our thoughts, thoughts that we made up in our head which come from our genetics, culture, beliefs, education, physical condition, etc. And, these thoughts impact on our emotions which impact on our wellbeing, one way or the other. Bring into the mix our natural negativity bias and you have a 'mix for mess', all made up in our mind.

There are many ways to control our thoughts. The most common, we are told, is to acknowledge the thought then let it go and move on. For me, this does not work because once I have had the thought I then feel the emotion and emotion which hooks me into that thought for whatever reason; guilt, regret, fear, revenge, disappointment, or failure. If regret is involved, the thought then keeps repeating itself.

I prefer to get rid of the thought altogether; flick a rubber band worn on my wrist, blink my eyes and say the word "STOP" inside my head, shake my head and think of the thought going into a rubbish bin, or refocus on what is around me.

Regardless of what you do to get rid of your negative thought, keep doing it. Let that be your new thought, getting rid of negative thoughts, because thoughts DO matter and DO make a difference, to you.

Whose thoughts are they, yours. Who can help you with those thoughts, you can. Importantly, who can control them, only you can. Start thinking about what you are thinking about.

Let's talk!

Looking For Help, You May Not Have To Look Too Far.

The more I work in the personal resilience space the more that I am convinced that the most sustainable way to help others is to get them to help themselves, with a little guidance if needed. Furthermore, not accepting the first or single solution may not be enough, we should keep looking for more options.

When we have a challenge/problem/issue/behaviour that won't go away or we want to change and is always on our mind, the longer that we delay fixing it the more it plays on our mind. The more it plays on our mind the higher the likelihood our brain will exaggerate the negative, the greater the exaggeration the harder it becomes to find a solution, the harder it is to find a solution, the cycle goes on.

The importance of doing something practical as early as possible cannot be emphasised enough, when we have a problem that is continually playing on our mind it becomes all-consuming. Additionally, the more we focus on the problem the greater the likelihood of tunnel vision which closes our mind.

There are many reasons why it might be best to take personal ownership of our challenges;

  • We have personal involvement in the solution therefore become more determined.

  • We have control of the solution, the journey, and the outcome.

  • It gives us something practical to do thus keeps our mind active and focussed on the positive outcome.

  • We learn about ourselves, what works best for us or what may not work as well, and we can adjust the solution as required.

  • The more occasions that we take practical action, the easier it becomes, the greater the reduction in stress and the easier it is to find solutions.

So, how does it work?

  1. Find a person who you can trust, it need not be a family member nor a close friend as these people may also have a closed mind from knowing you too well.

  2. Write down your problem at the top of the page and then start writing down as many solutions that you can think of, no matter how silly they might seem. There are many resources that you can use to find solutions, the internet is the go-to these days but ensure that you are using a credible source.

  3. Eliminate the ridiculous solutions and then order the remaining solutions from the simplest to the hardest.

  4. Start working on the easiest solution for a minimum of 60 days, it takes at least that time to form a neural pathway and change patterns of behaviour.

  5. Evaluate how the solution went for you at the end of each day to see what positive changes you have made. If you find it helpful, also write down the challenges but only so that you can eliminate these from the following day.

When we want to change something, doing the same thing or doing nothing are not options. After all, nothing changes if nothing changes.

Let's talk!

Are You Thinking About killing Yourself?

"Are you thinking about killing yourself?" This has been promoted as what we should say to someone who we think is suicidal to establish if indeed they are. I have been against saying this sentence for a number of reasons.

Firstly, let's clarify that this sentence is indeed what you should ask someone if you think that they are considering suicide, but only if you are a trained crisis negotiator. It is something crisis negotiators use when intervening in a suicide attempt.

Why, because it gets the person's attention. Often when people are suicidal, they have no idea what they are doing at the time, hence the reason why some will take their life without considering taking the lives of others while doing so. They are lost in their negative thoughts as part of extreme fight-or-flight.

By asking this question, despite the person obviously considering doing so, crisis negotiators will literally snap the person out of their thoughts and bring them back to their position. However, it is only ever done so as a last resort to get the persons undivided attention. And, it works.

We are then told, that should the person answer "Yes" to 'that' question, we should go on to ask them if they have made a plan yet, what is that plan, and how much preparation have they made. Are these not superfluous questions, they have already said that they are considering suicide so we therefore must take the person for help!

My concern, apart from the fact that I am aware of parents periodically asking their children 'that' question, and of one parent who does so daily, the impact on the person asking the question must also be considered.

Currently working in the rural sector where suicide is sadly still common, I know of many people who cannot bring themselves to ask 'that' question and worry about about the consequences if they do or don't ask it. It worried one person so much so that it partly contributed to himself going into depression.

A recent article, provided to me by a friend and qualified colleague, shows that although asking someone if they are thinking of killing themselves does not cause someone to do so, when harsher questions are asked, it is much less effective. -

Additionally, when 'that' question is asked preceded by an apology for needing ask 'that' question, it may cause feelings of shame and isolation in the person you are trying to help.

So what should you ask? Here are some suggestions that may be helpful, organisations I have worked with are now using them;

For loved ones - "I (we) am so concerned that you might hurt yourself or something even worse. Promise me you aren't thinking of that, I love you too much and will do whatever it takes to help you."

"I care about you, I can see that you are hurting, and I want to make sure that you will talk with me if ever you have thoughts about taking your own life/suicide."

For colleagues - "Are you considering taking some drastic action like taking your own life/suicide."

"When we become overwhelmed, we sometimes have thoughts of suicide, are you having those thoughts, or perhaps had them in the past?"

For both - "Professional counselling/support does help, please let me get some support for you, we can go together if that would help."

Getting expert attention is imperative if you have any concerns that someone is thinking of committing suicide, preferably from a registered psychotherapist/psychologist.

Finally, prevention is the key. Look after yourself - be selfish to be selfless.

Let's talk!

Helping Our Struggling Children.

Whenever we run coaching sessions on personal resilience, the question always arises - "How can I look after my child who is struggling with anxiety but won't go for professional help?" It's a tough one, very tough, so tough that there is no definitive answer to cover all situations.

Here's what we can say about the increase in what I refer to as, ADS, Anxiety, Depression and Suicide. The marked increase in these things is due, in most cases, to one or all of three things;

  1. An overload of information for our prehistoric brain - social media, Google, too many choices and other contributors that have caused our brain to work much faster than previously. Not to mention the devices themselves that are impacting on our neuro-wiring.

  2. High expectations on ourselves and on others - we want things now and done correctly, we strive to have the best of everything, we sometimes compare ourselves to others and want to be like them, we must get the best marks, our school reports are like performance appraisals, and perfectionism is increasing.

  3. Social isolation - we don't talk face-to-face across the generations as we once did, we use devices more and more to communicate, we listen far too much to the voice inside our head that tells us 'I've got you, you can work through this', and when we are truly struggling we are reluctant to tell another because we feel like we have failed. We feel alone.

Current research indicates that it is not the big things that necessarily impact on us the most, it's lots of little things that accumulate and make as vulnerable when the big thing does happen. The above list is just that, lots of little things that accumulate.

To counter what is currently going on with our young ones, introducing a few little things can make a difference;

  1. Reducing the use of smart technology - it's a balance between doing practical and tangible things along with the use of technology.

  2. Spending one hour across the day talking face-to-face with people - not necessarily with friends, not talking with family, but also talking with; teachers, bus drivers, fellow passengers, shop assistants, the barber/hairdresser, any one and no one in particular, just with people of all generations. Listening to music is good for us, listening all day is not so good for us, removing the headphones every so often and saying hello with a smile is beneficial for both.

  3. C's gets Degrees - there is nothing wrong with striving to do the best that we can, in fact science shows us that putting ourselves under a little bit of pressure is good for our brain. However, if we have constant high expectations of always wanting the best, getting the best, being the best, we become disappointed when it doesn't happen. With our negativity bias, we remember the negative things much easier than the positive things, so they accumulate. Slightly reducing our expectations, immediately managing any disappointment when we don't get what we wanted, and making a plan to move forward following the disappointment all help to mitigate the negative impact when we don't reach exactly what we sought.

  4. Get outside and walk, run, bike, slide, fall, etc. - exercise, play, sun, fresh air, each of these things make a difference to our wellbeing. Join them all together and they make a massive difference.

  5. Breathing - when we become anxious our breathing is the first thing to change, we breathe short and shallow. There are three breathing techniques that we recommend, all breathing must be done through the nose;

  • To manage anger (our default setting) - Take a deep breath, hold it while counting to 4 inside your head, breathe out fully, count to 4 inside your head before breathing in and resuming normal breathing.

  • To reduce 'thinking' (of which we do far too much these days) - Breathe in to fully expand our lungs at exactly 6 seconds, breathe out to fully deflate our lungs at exactly 6 seconds, repeat this for 2 minutes, twice a day.

  • To get to sleep (if you wake in the early hours) - take 9 deep breaths; for the first 3 breaths imagine that really cold air is going up one or the other nostril (but you are breathing through both nostrils), for the next 3 breaths imagine really cold air is going up the other nostril, and for the last 3 breaths imagine that really cold air is going up both nostrils.

The big hurdle as a parent is sometimes getting our young ones to listen to us. Often, they won't and we push them more because we want to help them. These days, pushing on our young can end up pushing them further away. Coax them instead, do some of the things listed above yourself and maybe they will follow, this might lead to doing some of them together.

If they won't listen to you, maybe they will listen to this person -

If it is the little things that impact on us the most, then let's start with the little things. Our brain does not like to be forced to change, that's sometimes why we stay down in the mire. Doing one small thing daily is the way to make a change in our lives. Mt Everest was conquered in this way, just one small step at a time.

Let's talk!

It's story time.....

As you might know, we offer free advice and support to those who are struggling. As I put this post together with a tear in my eye, please take a few minutes out of your day to read the heart-warming feedback received from a man who took the courage to reach out and ask for help. Names have been removed to respect his privacy.

“I thought I'd let you in on how things are going now, in case you want to catch up.

You may recall, I seem to be a magnet for helicopter crashes, witnessing 2 in six months. One a mechanical failure, one a pilot failure, foolishly testing the theory that helicopters and power lines can become buddies (For the record, they don't).

I was told that I had a case of the PTSD and that I needed medicating and professional help. I felt that the word 'needed', was quite strong. I have been known to recreationally medicate in the past, I declined the offer this time, having experienced anti depressants in the past, I deal better emotionally, if I feel the emotion.

I went to see a Doctor, who seemed to glance over the issue and went straight to how to fix anger problems, I feel she heard all the things I was feeling, and found 'angry' was the easiest subject, she had experience in this field, and pamphlets, lots and lots of pamphlets.

I then went home and had a wine, actual wine, not a whinge, and thought things over. Medication wouldn't help, and the doctor didn't seem to offer any help either. The only way to get through this was by letting the people around me in, and being positive about the actions I take. In walks my 3 year old daughter.

She might only be 3, but she is going on 26. She is my best friend, my rock, my life and the entire reason I live. She could not sleep that night, so sat with me on the deck. She looked me in the eyes and said, 'whats the matter dad?'. I told her my head was sad about the helicopter crash, and that it was really hard for me to think straight, and I was angry that I was always angry at the time. She held my checks in her hands, looked me dead in the eyes and said...… 'Big breath dad, in through your nose, 1 2 3, out through your mouth, 1 2 3, see now you feel better, now give me a cuddle' (this is how I deal with her panic/tantrum/night terrors) I realised then, to look at everything as if I was a child, it’s so much easier that way. To her, a cuddle is this magic thing that fixes damn near everything. Since then, every day just before bed, she asks 'hows your head, dad?', and every night she gives me a cuddle regardless. My 3 year old is the best therapist I needed at the time.

I also bought gifts for my family, it took 3 days to hand out. Night one, at dinner, I talked about how my wife and I meet, the adventures we have had, the life we have made, the love we have for each other, the plans we have made for our future, and ultimately, how much I love her. I gave her her gift.

Night two, I talked about how my 3 year old therapist was born, how scared I was in the hospital, she was pinned to my wife's hip, face and shoulder wedged and how they thought she probably wont make it out alive. How my fear moved from being a father, to never meeting my baby. I spoke of the emergency C section, and hearing her cry the first time. I told how I wept for joy, how I could not sleep that night. I sat by the cot watching her sleep. How she is growing up and how proud of her I am. I gave her her gift.

Night three, I told of my 9 month old son, how he has the cheekiest grin, how I know he is going to be trouble, simply because he is my son. How I cant wait to see him grow, teach him to make things, ride a motorbike, dive, shave, and be a man. I gave him his gift. He ate the wrapping.

I did this to tell everyone that they are important to me, no matter what, I also did it to tell myself that when all the chips are down, and the darkness creeps in, and when its hard to see the hands at the end of my out stretched arms, if I just try hard, I can see them there, and they are reaching back to me, I know FOR A FACT, they will not let go.

Since then, its been a pretty steady upward curve, at times, its hard, but I feel like I'm back to being me.

Thanks Lance, for giving a shit when I needed it, I know your a busy man, It meant a lot for you to reply so fast, and call me.

I am in awe of what you do, standing in front of a crowd, telling everyone that feelings are all good, at the same time as telling sufferers, that feelings are all good.

Keep up the good work Lance, and if I can ever return the favour, it would be an honour to help”

We can do this, together, so let's talk!