Author Archives: Mindfully Speaking

Extra day in Malvern

I am now two days at Malvern East – Tuesdays and Thursdays. Clients report really liking the Malvern room, so I was pleased to pick up the extra day there. Unfortunately, the building at Bentleigh is being sold, so I was unable to continue there on Fridays. For Fridays clients, I am now at Armadale Counselling Rooms every second Friday.

End-of-year reflection

As we near the end of 2013, I’m reflecting on what has passed –  the people I cherish, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve visited, the challenges, the experiences that bring pleasure and gratitude – and from all that, what I have learned.

I understand that many people find this time of year difficult. We are bombarded with messages and images of happy families and successful relationships. In reality, the pressure of expectations, time constraints and financial worry cause problems to surface, and we are left with the realization that our relationships are hurting.

And for those who have no family and few friends, the mismatch between the image of what the ‘festive’ season should be and their lives is truly distressing.

For each of you, I wish you a peaceful, reflective time – perhaps just some moments of realizing the beauty of who you are, your integrity, your true self, the spirit within you, or whatever it is that has helped you endure and survive.

For the clients I have had the privilege of working with during the year, thank you for sharing so much with me. I look forward to seeing some of you in 2014.

 

Mindfulness and Melbourne weather

Writing this on a miserable wintry Melbourne day, I’m reflecting on what we can do to lift our mood.

I often speak with clients about the day-to-day things they can do to improve the way they feel. Obviously, we are all different, and what works for one may not work for another.

As my business name suggests, I like to live mindfully. The problem is that it’s not easy to remember to be mindful, because we have minds that are used to managing various competing tasks, and a world that is fast-paced, full of deadlines and unrelenting demands.

What I suggest to clients who are distressed is to start focusing on something mundane and repetitive. Pay attention to the detail of whatever you are doing and try to focus exclusive attention on that task – whether it be wiping the bench, washing the car, walking or eating – and gently tell any interfering thoughts to go away and come back later. Be accepting and forgiving with yourself. It takes practice, but it’s worth persevering.

People generally say they feel better on a sunny day. But when it’s now sunny, try looking at the clouds. They can be beautiful in their own right. Their shapes, colours and changing formations used to fascinate me when I was a child. Try imaging things from the shapes – animals, geometric shapes, letters, whatever –  it’s all there, with some imagination.

If it is a completely grey sky and raining, try observing the rain as it comes down and lands on the ground, or the window. Watch the way the water falls, and forms patterns, the way it affects the light and colours.

Become lost in a reverie of weather observation! It makes an otherwise miserable Melbourne day more interesting.

Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse

There’s been a lot of media coverage lately of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

I know many, many people are disappointed that the terms of the Royal Commission do not include abuse by other perpetrators. We know that many people have experienced abuse within their own families.

Some of my clients have told me that they have welcomed the press coverage – that after years of silence they are hearing stories by others who have suffered like they have. They find they are not alone, and their feelings, thoughts and behaviours over the years are starting to make more sense.

Even though it is disappointing that the Royal Commission’s terms of reference are not wider, at least it is a start. Our community is finally starting to acknowledge the scourge of sexual abuse.  Perpetrators can no longer be confident that no-one will believe the voice of the one they once abused – the child’s voice they silenced is now an adult’s voice screaming out for justice. Institutions can no longer defend the indefensible.

If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you may be responding in a variety of ways. You may be actively seeking help, or you may not yet feel ready to take the next step forward. But remember: as a child you survived – you did whatever you needed to do at the time to stay alive and minimise the harm done to you. Those protective mechanisms worked well for you then. However, many adults find that those protective mechanisms get in the way of their living full, productive lives as adults.

Relatonship problems, heavy drinking or drug use, withdrawal from the world, overwork, and other behaviours can be a problem for adult survivors.

There are some excellent resources available. Check out relevant websites, particularly www.asca.org.au for further information. And if you decide you need to see a counsellor, ensure they have recent training in trauma therapy, because significant advances have been made in therapeutic theory and practice in recent years

I wish you all the best on your journey towards healing.

The Anxious Pregnancy

Pregnant BellyPregnancy is a time of change and anticipation. For many women it is the culmination of careful planning and brings joy combined with anxious moments; for others it is an unwanted event that causes great worry and distress. And for some, complications arise.

Pregnant women need support. That support can be provided by her husband, partner, parents, other family members and friends.  If you have previously been independent, it may be unfamiliar to you to need support, and asking for it may feel awkward.  But allowing loved ones to support you may strengthen your relationship.

Having worked in hospitals, I think it is important for pregnant women to be proactive with their health professionals during pregnancy, and suggest the following:

  • Talk to other people, ask questions about what worked for them with regard to doctors, midwifes and hospitals, but keep an open mind – your pregnancy is unique to you;
  • It is a good idea to keep a book as a record of what is happening when you attend appointments and write down questions before each appointment;
  • Take your partner or a support person to appointments, particularly if you have complications – another person may remember what was said if you become overwhelmed;
  • If you develop a complication, be guided by your doctor. Information on the Internet can be inaccurate or out of date. Ask your doctor if she can recommend a reliable Internet site.
  • Remember that health professionals are only as good as the information you give them. Write down your concerns and questions before appointments and don’t hesitate to ask questions, and more questions, if you don’t understand something.
  • If you write a birth plan, try to make it flexible. Try to be open to what may happen in different scenarios.
  • If you are one of the very small number of women who develops serious complications of pregnancy, try to be reassured that we have an excellent medical and hospital system in Australia, and you will receive first-class attention. Work with, not against, the professionals who are there to help you – they really want the best outcome for you as well. Try not to get ahead of yourself – take one step at a time, and don’t imagine the worst before it has happened.

If you find that your anxiety is increasing during your pregnancy, you should seek help. It is not healthy for you or your baby to be experiencing symptoms of anxiety over a prolonged period. Speak to your doctor, see the social worker at your hospital, or make an appointment to see a counsellor. You are not alone.