Easter Digital Detox

As much as we are all probably more connected with each other than ever before somehow sometimes we can feel totally disconnected with ourselves!!

It feels that we are constantly bombarded with information and notifications and yes you have a choice whether to respond and engage with these however at times it can seem too much.As I live on my own and run my own business social media allows me to connect to many different people on many different levels and in a way makes me feel part of something so I don’t feel isolated.

But I have to admit that there are times when I’ll use social media to procrastinate doing things that actually will benefit me in the long term which I avoid doing as they are hard; things like self-reflection, challenging self-limiting beliefs or breaking habits that don’t serve me well.So I decided to take the plunge and unplug, now I know that I’m in a fortunate position to do this, my family live miles from me so don’t have commitments to see them. I don’t have a partner or children at the moment (What I’d give to have these is a whole other blog post!!!) so my time is my own and the long Easter weekend seemed the ideal time to do it.

In all honestly I couldn’t wait for Thurs evening to come so that I could turn off my devises and escape into my own small world for four whole days. In years gone by I used to dread this four day weekend as I wasn’t comfortable in my own company and found it incredibly hard, as I’ve matured being on my own is something I love and yes I do spend hell of a lot of time on my own but I never tire of coming home to an empty house (well apart from Sophiecat) and being able to shut the world out.

I know some people might find this really hard, I remember watching a programme a few months back where individuals were asked to spend a number of days cut off from the world in a furnished shipping container with only themselves for company and out of the 4 or 5 people who started the experiment I think only 1 was able to last the full allotted time, most went a bit stir crazy, one participant didn’t even make it past 12 hours!! It feels that although technology and social media has improved our lives in many ways it has also damaged our lives in some ways. This need to always feel connected, fear of missing out… But is this actually doing us any good? The ability to entertain yourself, the use of imagination to pass the time, boredom and thinking time/space to name a few things we don’t seem to do anymore.

As well as turning off the internet I also decided that I would try to watch less TV, I initially thought I’d turn it off for the 4 days but decided in the volatile world we live in that it might be a good idea just to check in with the news and allow myself a few hours in the evening to watch a film. This was going to be one of the hardest things for me as often I put the TV on just to have noise in the house and then get sucked into watching mindless or mind-numbing programmes!!

I wasn’t totally cut off as I also decided to leave my landline on, the main reason for this is that my dad hasn’t been well recently and so thought it best that if my parents/sisters did need to get hold of me they could ring me. However I asked them not to unless it was an emergency. This might seem odd to some people; in our family we’ve always gone on the principle of no news is good news so not speaking to my family regularly is a normal thing.

When I woke up naturally on Friday morning, well as naturally as you can when you have a cat who likes to be fed at a certain time and bothers you until you give in to their demands!! So I went downstairs to feed her and made myself a coffee, turns out it was 7.30am which is a lie-in for me. I came back to bed and thought what now? Usually at this point I’d grab my phone and tablet and have a nosey at social media and before I know it a couple hours have past. Instead I picked up my journal made a rough plan of how I was going to spend the next four days. There were a few things that I’d like to do and a few things I needed to do and decided that my weekend would look like this:

  • Friday – a bit of work, house chores
  • Saturday – chill day, reading
  • Sunday – writing and reading
  • Monday – more work

Work mainly consisted of:

Writing a presentation for a talk I’m giving later in April, I’d spent a couple of hours on Thurs downloaded research papers on my subject area and so all I needed to do was pull it all together.

I also had some paperwork to complete for a couple of funded projects I work on as an associate, paperwork is not my strong point so put this off all the time!

I wanted to do a business review of the last 12 months (my financial year end) and just reflect on what I’d achieved.

Reading:

I have so many books I start to read and then don’t find, books I’ve bought and not even started and books I’ve read, loved and want to read again!! I love reading despite being dyslexic but I don’t do it very often and find other things to do like social media or watch the Tellybox as they are easier. But once a book has grabbed me I do find it easy to while away the hours reading; most the books I read are personal development focused as I believe we never stop learning and developing as people.

Writing:

When I hit an age milestone last year I decided that I wanted to write some “Thank You” cards to people who have influenced my life journey thus far. I spent most of last year and early part of this year making the cards and so thought Easter Sunday would be a nice day to set about writing the cards.

It’s now Monday lunchtime and how’s it been?

The first word that comes to mind is quiet, I’ve not put the radio on (I usually put it on as soon as I get up and it stays on for most of the day, just in the background) and the TV has stayed off for most of the time. I did put it on more on Sat and Sun but was quite disciplined to turn it off after watching a certain programme or film.

Things I noticed:

Not having my phone on meant that any pictures I wanted to take I had to use my actual camera, which 1st needed charging and turns out I’ve not used it for nearly three and half years!! And it felt all a bit alien to use it and at time of writing this, I’m not sure how I’ll get them off the camera onto the PC to put in this blog post!

Not having the internet on meant any word I couldn’t read or know its definition I had to look it up in my dictionary. Being dyslexic I often use the internet to look up words, if I can’t read them I can at least know that they mean so I still can understand what the writer is trying to say.

My dictionary is a pocket one with a combined thesaurus which was bought for me by my sister when I found out about my dyslexia and has a limited number of words. So a couple of words I couldn’t find and have noted down to look up when the internet is back on. But I did enjoy looking up words and finding other words I’d forgotten!!

Time became less important, I use my phone as my watch and alarm clock and not having it on meant I listened to my body more and did things as and when I felt the need to rather than being driven by time. We all live to routines, some of these are artificial the routines we create ourselves to get stuff done and some are our natural inbuilt routines or rhythm (circadian rhythm) like whether you are an early bird or night owl. I found that on all four days I woke up around the same time between 6.30-7.30am and yes this might have something to do with Sophiecat but I think it’s also my natural waking time too!! Time seemed to slow down and I felt really calm.

I managed to get most of what I wanted done, all the things that were deadline driven (for someone else) got done; the other things (activity/goals generated by me) got started but will be continued over the coming days and weeks.

I have to say that I did miss talking to people and can’t wait to catch up with friends but overall I’ve found these 4 days to be quite restorative and have enjoyed the quiet contemplation of being with just my thoughts. No massive breakthroughs just a reassurance that I’m doing ok (there were less tears than I thought there would be, in fact I only cried during one of the films I watched, in recent years I’ve felt quite emotional/teary about things in my life) and that life on the whole is great and that I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

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End of the tunnel?!?

Over the last few days/weeks things for me have shifted, don’t know when or how but they have, well in my mind they have anyway!!

For probably the past 18 months I’ve kind of got sucked into focusing on my challenges and the lack in my life rather than focus on the positives and abundance. From the outside it might not have been noticeable as I’m good at putting up a mask but many people close to me had noticed!!

I’ve not been conscious of doing it until it’s been pointed out to me or I have re-read something I’ve written or heard myself say something that is quite negative. I’ve let negative thoughts dominate every part of my life!! This is very unlike me and I notice this a few months ago but couldn’t find a way to shake these feelings or thoughts.

However recently, maybe it’s got something to do with coming into spring, just the passing of time or the work I’ve been doing with a therapist or a combination of all three but I have to say that I’m feeling a whole lot more positive about my future.

While going through this negative time I have felt that it would pass eventually and these challenges are there to teach me things about myself that I need to learn and just “be” with the feelings!! This is quite hard to do sometimes as we are often taught that we should be “happy” all the time!!

As time went on I found myself feeling like things were never going to change and the more I felt like this the more it became reality or not really I just stopped noticing the good and focused on the bad!!

I’m a believer in universe and laws of attraction, without going into too much detail about this as there are plenty of books you can read about it (The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is a good one to start with). The premise of the theory is that “Thoughts become things!” So what you focus on become reality and even though I know this I was still unable to change my mindset.

We all have challenges in life, and to be honest without them life would be pretty dull!! However then these challenges as they had with me become all encompassing then it’s time to seek out help and support; as well as being very conscious of your behaviours and language you use with yourself!!

Over the years I’ve trained and become qualified in many disciplines (fitness, nutrition, business) and when I’m supporting others in helping them achieve their goals I’m able to give them the best advice possible and it works, I regularly see clients achieving goals yet.. I’ve stopped listening to my own advice…

I’ve stopped practising what I preach to a certain degree, and I know this is quite hard to do sometimes but if I did listen to the advice I give others how my world would change!?!?

Now I’ve realised this, I’m working hard at noticing the habits and behaviours that aren’t serving me well so that I can start to change them.

Also focusing on the things that I can do to impact my future rather than focus on all the things I can’t control. As well as being realistic and taking small steps to change.

I have everything in I need, my knowledge and more importantly the belief in myself that I can make sustained positive change in my life to make the future bright than the past 18 months have been!!

Watch out world, I’m coming for you…

It’s not always what it seems

As this is mental health awareness week #MHAW17 I thought I would share a story with you.

Last July I had a small mental health crisis – a kind of a breakdown. I now see it as the breakthrough I needed to move forward but at the time it was scary and I wasn’t sure how my future looked.

To the outside world everything looked normal; I was functioning as a member of society, still attending meetings and going to the gym, but inside I was in turmoil. One of the biggest challenges of suffering from poor mental health is that you look perfectly normal.

Over the previous few months before this episode, I had felt like I was ready to break; having run my own business for five or so years the pressure and stress of it all was starting to get to me. This is mainly the pressure I put on myself rather than other people’s influence, but pressure nonetheless.

One of the main things was that I felt I was being dishonest and anyone who knows me knows I’m a very honest person. This basically boils down to the assumptions other people were making about me – these were all good things such as running a successful business, exuding self-confidence and belief and so on. However, I didn’t feel any of these things were true!

Ever since I can remember I’ve been very good at putting on my ‘mask’ or ‘game-face’ and portray a very positive and together image of myself and my business even when I haven’t been feeling it. What I do as a business means that it is expected for me to be positive – my strapline for my business is sparking business energy and you can’t do that if you glum!

This lead to be having some very dark thoughts, which is something I’ve never experienced before. Yes, there were times when I felt down but this was magnified by thousands; basically I didn’t want to be here anymore and I thought the world would be better without me.

Having never felt like this before I wasn’t sure what to do but I was brave enough to reach out a few people (who I will forever be indebted to) to help me get through this crisis before I did something stupid. Over the week it happened, I spent a lot of time at home in bed; it was the only place I felt safe and knew I couldn’t do myself any harm. During one of the chats I had it was suggested that I read the book The Dip by Seth Godin which is all about quitting. It’s a small, easy to read book even for someone with dyslexia like myself. By the time I finished it I knew I had to quit thinking the way I was thinking about my life and the business.

I am a very driven person – once I set my sights on something I go all out to get it, but this had lead me to become very blinkered to the world around me.

The business sector I work in is Workplace Health & Wellbeing; this is a real passion project for me as it fulfils all the things I like to do and fits very nicely with the skills I’ve amassed since leaving school. However, it’s an area of my business that had yet to deliver any kind of business return and this was getting to me.

I’d spent a lot of time presenting and educating people about what I do and when I’m in the room I’d get a very positive response from my audience. I’d follow up as best I could (something I know I’m not great at) and I’d get tumbleweed/deadly silence in return. People would say I was great at what I do yet I still couldn’t seem to make it work; I really was at my wits end. I kept asking myself “What am I doing so wrong!!”
Well the answer was nothing.

I’d just become so fixated on something that I was blind to all the other opportunities that were being thrown my way and because they didn’t fit into my narrow tunnel vision, I simply didn’t see them.

Once I realised this with a bit of outside help, the black cloud lifted enough to see that life is worth living, well not just living but celebrating.

Since my breakthrough as I like to call it (which happened to be my word for 2016), things have changed; mainly the thoughts in my head but this shift has lead me to several new business opportunities, meeting new people and a renewed zest for life.

No one knows what the futures holds; all I know is that when life challenges us it because we need to learn something and without challenge you don’t get change.

None of us know when we might suffer from a mental health issue so let’s keep talking about it. And to anyone who is going through a tough time right now, my door is always open for you to talk to me; I might not be able to fix your issues but I can certainly lend you my ear and time.

Much Love, Rachel xx

Journey of discovery…

For as long as I can remember I’ve suffered from low self-belief/confidence & esteem, you might be surprised at this as I’ve become very good at hiding it and putting on a front/game-face when I’m out and about, be this at a networking event or presenting in front of a room full of people.

At times its crippling especially now that I run my own business and every penny I earn is solely down to me, one of the key strengths I constantly read an entrepreneur needs is self-belief so over-coming this is essential if I want my business/life to succeed.

I kind of know what’s caused it but that doesn’t help you overcome these challenges as it’s in the past & nothing I do now can change history, I have tried every therapy out there to help me deal with it, I’ve read numerous books with little success.

The last 12-18 months have moved me along a bit & I’m in a better place than I was just 2 years ago…I do believe life is a journey & we should enjoy the ride even if sometimes you just want to get off the roller-coaster called life & just observe for a while. During this time of struggle I’ve realised I’m a lot stronger both physically & mentally than I ever thought I was and I’ve got a lot of bouncebackability (or resilience), it doesn’t take much to knock me down given my low self-belief etc but I’m that kind of person who just gets right up again, dust myself off & keep going no matter what, I’m so glad that I have an innate positivity & optimism that drives the fire in my belly to carry on following my dreams no matter how hard it is.

Starting CrossFit has helped me improve these traits too as doing CrossFit has a lot to do with mind & how you handle the WOD not just the strength you have. I love CrossFit & it’s started me on the journey of falling in love with my body which I’ve hated for years which I believe is linked to self-confidence & self-esteem

So when my coach told me that Tony Robins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Robbins) was in the UK at the end of March doing this famous – “Unleash the power within” workshop & suggested I book onto it, I did as I was told & booked it… since booking I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been on this workshop & have spoken highly of it.

However, since booking on it, it’s been playing on my mind and now with it being just 3 days away I’m actually getting nervous about it & how it will change me. I’m stressing as it includes the famous “Firewalk” but also some very long days & late nights (my usually bedtime is 9pm) the first day we don’t finish until midnight, how am I going to cope with this?!?

I’m stressing about getting to the venue, finding my accommodation, food/drink during the weekend, in honesty I don’t need to stress about any of this, I’ve been to the venue loads of times before (ExCeL), I’ve got all the details of my accommodation & how to get there, I’ve bought enough snacks & water to keep me going for the whole weekend. My train tickets & event ticket are printed out, my pre-loaded Oyster card arrived a few days ago so really everything is sorted but I’m still checking it everything 2 minutes & worried I have forgotten something!!

If I was going to a conference/workshop for me as Firecracker, I wouldn’t think anything of it as I would be able to put on my Firecracker mask but as its me laid bare so to speak it’s actually quite daunting.

I’m going to remove all distraction for the weekend (Thurs-Mon) by de-activating my email accounts on my phone & deleting social media apps so I can purely focus on being present during all the sessions, so will fill you in when it’s over about what I learnt & how it’s going to change my future.

What have you done to overcome a barrier what stopped you being who you want to be? I’d love to hear your stories.