SelfCare is not always candles, music and meditation! It can be but it will be different for all of us and different for each one of us, depending on what is going on in our lives at the time.
I may live on my own but my life is full of connections and commitments. Some I find easier to honour than others. When I find myself reacting to particu;ar situations (OK usually after I have reacted, if I'm honest!!), I usually recognise another part of me needs more healing.. Once we have opened the can of worms that is our past, it takes a lifetime of awareness, blood, sweat and tears to find that inner peace and tranquility we search for.!
The tools I share with others are always there for my personal use but there are times when I am so caught up in the 'stuff' that's going on, I need a reminder to practise what I preach! This beautiful picture of a spiral resonates very strongly with me during the times when I have been 'hijacked' by my old stuff. Every time it happens and I use the many tools I have in my 'toolkit' I feel a little lighter. I hope it helps you too.
Today was one of those days. It was going to be a slighty unexpected SelfCare day. The work planned had been postponed due to the teachers' strikes and I saw a beautiful oasis of time stretching in front of me. It started well with a slower start, followed by my physio exercises and yoga practice. but a phone call broke the tranquility and the rest of the day changed. I felt a huge surge of resentment and frustration and shared that, unfiltered, with the person at the other end of the phone! It's ok, I knew it was ok to share in that way with that person.
I had planned to get back on my bike for the first time since before winter and had thought I would surprise a friend by arriving for lunch. Cycling is something I love and something I want to be including in my weekly routine more regularly again. That was not going to happen now. When I got off the phone, I took those three mindful breaths I encourage everyone to take and felt my body calming. Why didn't I manage to do that earlier?!
As my mind and body settled, I began to find solutions:
1. I could still go for a bike ride, just not as long as I had planned. To be fair, that was probably a good idea, as it was my first bike ride in a while and it wasn't the best day weatherwise.
2. I could find out if what I was going to have to do could be delayed until slightly later in the day. The reply was yes, that was possible.
3. In tricky times I always go to the 16 Guidelines cards. I laughed out loud when the random card popped out and revealed 'Forgiveness'!!! When I turned to the 16G handbook, the first thing I read about 'Forgivness' was "Forgiveness is the capacity to reclaim our peace of mind when somehing has happened to disturb us." As always, the 'right' card had appeared. I will allow 'Forgiveness' to filter through the rest of my day and notice what solutions or answers it brings.
I am full of gratitude for the support I receive from all my tools. What are your favourite tools when something has happened to disturb you?
Consistency is Key
"Success doesn't come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently."
As some of you will know, I competed in my first triathlon for eight years in September 2022. This was a massive step for me, after a long road back from Sepsis in 2015. I had thought my triathlon adventures over, but not only did I compete, I was second in my age group! I decided to enter a couple more triathlons in 2023 and started to check out dates and races. However, towards the end of the year, I began to experience severe pain in the middle of my heel, so I went to a physiotherapist who told me it was plantar fasciitis. From there, we found a few more imbalances in my body which in turn would have put some strain on other parts of my body, possibly leading to the pain I was now in. A huge kick in the rear end to return to a more consistent approach to yoga, pilates and other core exercise.. Youth is no longer on my side and I can't leave anything to chance any more! Suffice to say, I am back to regular yoga practice and I have been consistent in carrying out the physio exercises I have been given. Little by little, the pain has been lessening and I am very close to trying out the running shoes again!
The importance of this consistent approach got me thinking. There is no way I could have gone for one physio appointment and expected to have a pain free foot. Equally, I couldn't have expected to improve if I hadn't been consistent in carrying out the exercises I had been given. I have chosen to continue with the physio in order to find out how I can improve some of the other issues we found, so that my longterm physical health is more secure.
Consistency is also key in the work I do with humans and animals, as they work through either mentally or physically challenging times. It is very rare that one appointment or session will completely solve whatever issue has been presented. We are complex creatures! Equally, if the tools and exercises I have shared aren't consistently integrated into the lives of the animals and humans I work with, how can we expect longterm positive results?
Mindfulness is being present and noticing where we are right now. If we can keep focused on the present and not worry about the things we can't change, we will bring down our stress levels considerably. This practise is not easy to adopt, but with consistency, it is possible and will lead to a clearer mind, more focus and energy, and a more positive attitude.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) aka Tapping is a wonderful tool to use in our daily lives. In between session with a practitioner, it is a good way to de-stress and work through all sorts of issues that have followed us through our lives. Again, consistent practise is the key.
Reiki is such a special selfcare treat but that is just scraping the surface of the true value of integrating Reiki into your life. Regular Reiki treatments, can be life transforming, as can completing Reiki Level One, which enables you to share Reiki with yourself, as well as your family.
EMMETT 4 Horses is a fantastic tool for physical and emotional ailments, but again, a one off session is not necessarily going to be the answer. Regular treatments are extremely beneficial for both your horse AND you. The horse and the human become more and more receptive to the EMMETT every time it is experienced.
DoTERRA essential oils have also made a big impact in my life, and again, I couldn't expect to use a few drops for a short period of time and expect everything to change. It has been integrating the oils into my daily life that has made the greatest impact. Due to the purity of the DoTERRA oils, I can also use them with animals and am currently enjoying learning more, so that I can share more with my animal clients.
Life is not a set of clear choices and decisions. It can be messy and muddy along the way, but if we can find tools to consistently use, we stand a better chance of leading a healthy life, both mentally and physically.
My Hibernation has begun...
Nearly 30 years ago, I walked into my GP appointment and announced that I had SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)! The GP questioned my diagnosis but after listening to the symptoms, agreed with me. As it happened, the practice was expecting 3 SAD lamps (their first ever SAD lamps) to arrive imminently and I was offered the first ‘prescription’ of a 3-month trial. Within a few days of using the lamp, I could feel the fog lifting and increased energy levels. At the time I was a young mum of four very young children, so it was a huge relief when I began to feel more like the Gillian I knew in summer months. I quickly ordered my own lamp and have used one every winter ever since!
30 years on and my winter routine is simply a way of life, but I thought it was worth sharing.
As soon as the darkness begins to creep closer to 8PM, I start using a SAD lamp in the morning/early afternoon. These lamps have become more sophisticated over the years, but the idea remains the same. It involves glancing towards the lamp over a period of time (best to follow the instructions given for each lamp). I also have a Sunrise – Sunset alarm clock which I use during the week. The ‘sun’ rises for 30 minutes before the alarm goes off and there’s a similar process for the ‘sunset’.
Exercise is very helpful to combat the effects of SAD, in addition to getting outside as much as possible during daylight hours. Exercise is often a walk with Sandy but I do also run and cycle. It’s up to you what you choose to do, just get outside (even if it's cloudy)!
SAD can make you crave sugar and carbs, so it’s important to be aware of that and eat a very ‘clean’ diet. Foods that can be very helpful include pumpkin & flax seeds, lentils, spinach, quinoa, Brazil nuts (I’m allergic to nuts, so don’t eat these!) and dark chocolate. Ensure that you are also taking Vitamin D and have Omega-3 in your diet.
Make a plan before winter sets in, to make sure you have social engagements in the diary, activities to go to and reasons to get out as often as possible.
Bergamot, Rose and Lavender essential oils are also particularly beneficial for nurturing us when we are feeling the effects of SAD. These can be diffused, added to a hot bath, or used topically. Please get in touch if you would like to learn more and order essential oils.
Do I always get it right? Definitely not! However, I do try to keep the routine going. In the summer I can be out walking Sandy (my dog) until midnight, but in winter months, I am often tucked up in bed by 9PM (sometimes before!!). In times gone by, we would have hibernated in some way, so I allow myself to follow a mini-hibernation cycle.
Feel free to get in touch if you would like to chat further about any of the above.
With everything that is going on in the world, I wasn't sure about writing this post. Yes, I have been through difficult, dark times but I have never had to leave my home with a backpack, not knowing if I will ever return and if I did return, that my home would still be there. However, I have decided to go ahead and share some of what I understand to be 'building resilience'.
We all have different battles, different challenges and we all have different levels of resilience. But we do all have resilience. We all have the ability but we sometimes need a bit of support and encouragement to believe that the resilience is there. There are simple steps we can take. To start with, go to the internationally recognised 5 Steps to Wellbeing.
Practising these steps regularly will begin to help build up a more positive mindset. For some people, the above 5 steps will be challenging. Celebrate each time you manage one of them! Then begin to find new, small challenges. We are all different, so our chosen small challenges will all be different.
I tested my resilience last weekend by taking a dip in Knockburn Loch. The ice had to be broken in order for us to go in so it's fair to say it was cold!! I wasn't sure I could do it but I focused on my breath, took my time, didn't beat myself up about having doubts but reminded myself that I have overcome my negative mind many times before! I am NOT saying that you all have to dip in freezing water to build up your resilience but do challenge yourself in some way this week. As I have said already, we are all different. That is what makes the world a more interesting place!
We have much to be grateful for. It's not always easy to practise gratitude, but today I am grateful to have a home, a bed to sleep in and a night without bombs crashing down around me.
PS I am wearing the pink hat because i am currently taking part in a Cold Water Challenge in aid of Cancer Research UK.
'Contentment' in Uncertain Times?
'There is enough in this world for everyone's need, but not for anyone's greed.' - Mahatma Gandhi, India
'Aspire not to have more, but to be more' - Archibishop Oscar Romera, El Salvador
After randomly picking 'Contentment' as the 16 Guidelines focus for March, I found myself having to dig deep. However, in my experience, I have always found that picking a card that makes me step back or feel resistance, is when I will learn the most about myself, so stay with me and let's find out how we can use the filter of Contentment to support us, as we witness the horror of what is happening in the Ukraine.
'Contentment is a state of mind that has nothing to do with money, objects, or other people. Nor does it concern itself with how much we have, or how little. Instead, it's about finding a point of stillness within ourselves which allows us to be quietly happy whatever our situation might be, and to be at peace with who we are.
Unless we learn to live in the moment, and to accept it as it is, we may never function well or feel fully alive. Contentment releases us from the restless desires that drive us blindly forward, and which prevent us from being open to the needs and gifts of others. It frees us up to direct our energy in fresh and more conscious ways. Can we discover how to enjoy contentment despite the hurry and worry of our contemporary existence?'
16 Guidelines Handbook
For me, after reading the above quotes, I feel that focusing on contentment is helping to put any of my own worries or concerns into perspective. It is helping me to be grateful for what I have and gives me a greater desire to do something to help. Most of all, it has given me a lot to mull over.
2022 - A Year to Celebrate!
'To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.' Jack Kornfeld.
I fully appreciate that the title of this blog might meet with resistance from some but I gently invite you to stay with me and follow through. Over the years, I have experienced what I might have described as 'good' years and 'bad' (even horrendous?!) years. However, looking back, I can see that not of all of any year was completely good or completely bad and I would go even further to say that in my very worst years, there were golden moments when I realised that good will always shine through.
In recent months I know several people who have lost a partner, parent or a four legged friend. It is only natural that they will be experiencing the pain and grief of what they have lost but I have also been aware of how their individual communities have come together to support them. This has been in practical ways like providing food (copious amounts often!), offering to sit and be, reminiscing over old photos, going out for long walks, sending cards or messages and hugs - thank goodness we can do that now with those who are close to us. My hope for them is that the positive memories and experiences will begin to gently ease and balance the pain they are experiencing in this moment.
Later this year I celebrate 60 years on this amazing planet of ours. The guideline I randomly chose for this month is 'Aspiration'.
'Aspiration is the profound longing for purpose and fulfilment, joy and happiness, which lies deep - and sometimes buried - in our hearts, and in the heart of every living being. It is the voice inside that urges us to use our life well and to make the best of whatever gifts and passions we possess. The way we choose to respond to that voice will determine all the other choices we make in our lives.' 16G Handbook
This defininition of aspiration resonated very strongly with me. I do believe that I am now 'using my life well and making the best of whatever gifts and passions I possess.' I am now open to that voice deep in my heart and follow it to the best of my ability. It was not always possible.
This weekend I attended a monthly Drumming Circle near Tarland, where I was brought up. The site looks onto Morven, a very special hill to me. It is a hill I have walked and run many, many times and it is where my Dad's ashes are scattered. In the circle on Sunday, we drummed on a negative thought, emotion or feeling that we had brought with us that we wanted to let go (or let be?) and mine was 'insecurity'. I hadn't realised that was what I had brought until we began drumming. It felt good to be drumming it away and letting it go - or letting it be! The following round was something we wanted to invite in, to fill the space that had been left and the word that popped in for me was 'courage'. I felt lighter and brighter as I drummed confidence in.
On the drive home, I pondered on what it all meant. I recognise that I have often felt insecure in particular situations but I feel a shift! I am not perfect. Life is not perfect. To be honest, I'm not even sure what perfect is?! However, I do believe that I am 'good enough' and my life is 'good enough' and, for me, that is good enough!
So, I invite you to join me, supporting each other along the way, and celebrate 2022. Let's celebrate the joyful moments but also take time to acknowledge the moments that cause us sadness, because that's how we experience and appreciate the rich tapestry of life. Through it all, I invite you to remember that:
'To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.' Jack Kornfeld
'Delight' is the randomly chosen guideline for December. It was picked a few days before the 1st December, as I prepared for the month ahead. I was 'delighted' because I thought of the various festivities taking place over the next few weeks and thought how lovely it would be to find 'Delight' in life. Then Storm Arwen happened...
A week on from Storm Arwen and there are still people without power and water. So many people have experienced freezing conditions, with little access to hot food or water to make a cup of tea. It has been a very difficult time, especially with the new variant of Covid that's making plans for Christmas uncertain, yet again.
All of this has quite possibly affected you. You might be feeling more anxious than usual, more stressed and maybe finding it difficult to relax. Take time to acknowledge how you are feeling. It's normal to have a reaction to such a difficult time but once you have established how you are feeling, decide what you are going to do to help yourself. It's how we recover and move forward from tricky situations like this that influences future challenging situations, building resilience and creating a positive mindset.
Be kind to yourself. Take time for some mindful breathing. Focus completely on the in-breath, (not changing anything, just noticing) be aware of the chest moving in and out, the feel of the air as it comes in through the nose, notice the details. Then focus on the out-breath, again noticing the detail. It's good to do this for 10 - 15 minutes but it will help if you take just THREE mindful breaths. The more you practise, the quicker you will respond to mindful breathing when you are feelng a bit stressed. It's a great calming tool.
If you are needing a bit more support then please get in touch. The AndBreathe123 tools can help ease stress and anxiety, leaving your mind clear and more able to meet the ongoing challenges in life.
So, back to 'Delight'... It's at times like this that I find that the guidelines from 16 Guidelines most powerful. When times are hard and we find ourselves down a dark hole, we can find it difficult to climb back out. Holding 'Delight' in your thoughts over the next few weeks may help you to begin to look at life with a different perspective.
In the past week, since the devastating storm, we have begun to hear heartwarming stories of communities gathering round to support neighbours who have not been so fortunate. I know that my sister was delighted when her electricity went on after 5 or 6 days with no power. We take electricity for granted but it's moments like this, where we can truly find delight. Being able to switch on a light with the flick of a switch. Being in a warm home once more. Having a hot mug of tea or coffee. Having survived the storm. Having a roof over our heads.
Once we begin to find delight, we begin to notice it more and more. It doesn't change or diminish the challenging experiences we are going through but bringing 'Delight' into our lives can help to change our perspective, strengthen our resilience and positive mindset. Let me know if you notice a difference!
Optimistic October has a certain ring to it! It brings a wry smile to my lips, as historically, the latter months of the year bring the challenge of SAD (Seasonal Adjusted Disorder - more about this in an earlier blog) which has to be carefully managed, if I want to be there to support other people! It got me to thinking, I have said it so many times before but it's all about mindset.
I had a few personal challenges in September and found myself feeling a little sorry for myself. Like so many people, over the past eighteen months, I have missed seeing friends and had begun to imagine they had forgotten all about me! You see, even seasoned, mindful living people can have blips?! It pulled me up, so I asked the four questions that I find so helpful in life: 1. Is it true? 2, Can you absolutely know that it's true? 3. How do you react when you believe that thought? 4. Who would you be without that thought? They are the four questions from Byron Katie's, 'The Work'. Definitely worth searching out.
Of course, I quickly came to the reality that these thoughts were coming from my 'monkey brain', making mischief yet again! I got in contact with a couple of longtime friends and got caught up on all the chat. I also realised that they value my friendship as much as I do theirs. The chat about shared experiences of years ago, mixed in with our current lives and plans for the future left me with a warm glow! I value the loyalty of friends.
I came home from one such visit to randomly draw the 16 Guideline card for the month of October and surprise, surprise, it was 'Loyalty'! I love how the guidelines pop up at just the right moment. I will be sharing more about loyalty throughout October.
Loyalty has the potential to:
In response to my 'blip', and in preparation for the winter ahead, I have also been refreshing and embedding my selfcare habits. More about that another time...
A Lesson Learned...
A Lesson Learned…
Ego: a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
Gratitude: To acknowledge and repay the kindness of others
Over the past year there have been many stories about hillwalkers needing help in some way. Although sympathetic, being a hillwalker myself, I admit there have been times when I questioned if the hillwalkers had been prepared for what they had set out to do.
Yesterday was a big lesson for me. I have been hillwalking my whole life, across the globe, not just Scotland but in the USA, Himalayas, Europe and Kenya. I have been out in ALL weathers, including extreme heat and extreme cold, but yesterday I was not prepared and I became one of the statistics. Luckily I got back to base in time to stop the whole mountain resuce team setting out but I did need the help of the police officer and rangers at the centre, as well as other hill walkers out on the hill.
Having had Sepsis, I am told that my body has less ability to cope with any external stress now, so in addition to not planning for the extreme heat yesterday, I had also not taken that into account.
Next time I read about a mountain rescue call out I will reflect on what happened to me yesterday and yet again be so thankful we have people out there who come to our rescue when we need it the most.
What an amazing few weeks I have had! As I approach my THIRD anniversary as AndBreathe123, I have been reflecting on where I have come from and where I want to go. As if the universe thought I needed a push, several opportunities came my way and I wanted to share them with you!
This weekend I began my EFT Level 3 certification. I realise not everyone will be as excited as me but this level opens up even more possibilities with the work I do and I cannot wait to get started! One of the aligning moments came when I took part in a discussion about EFT and education earlier this year and became aware of Kathryn Temple. Lo and behold a few weeks ago I saw the ad for her Level 3 course and that is who I have shared my day with today. One of the most special moments for me was learning how she integrates music into her sessions. As a musician, that struck a chord (yup, I realise what I've said!). More about this soon.
A few weeks ago I began my training for EMMETT 4 Horses with Tony Sherry. I am developing the work I do with the equine community and the EMMETT technique is another tool for the AndBreathe123 toolkit, alongside EFT, Mindfulness and Reiki. All four tools can be used with humans AND animals! Being able to work with animals and their humans is a privilege.
Why the picture of the calf? Well, I have been practising EMMETT on calves and cows too! The result has been so heartwarming! One cow (a massive Friesian) bent her whole body in towards me as I worked with her and one of the calves began to push other calves out of the way so that he could get more EMMETT! Very grateful to have friends with a dairy farm!
I intend to send updates more often. Shorter and to the point but I want to keep you up to date with what is happening and what I am offering the AndBreathe123 community. There's so much more to come!
Have a great week!
Thank you for reading this far! AndBreathe... is a very exciting venture and I am glad you have joined me on the journey!