In my day job as an education consultant, I come across a lot of people who strive for perfection. It’s something that I’ve noticed more and more in the teaching profession over the years, no doubt associated with the amount of testing, assessing, checking and re-checking (just in case things have changed in the three minutes since the previous assessment was made).
In trying to understand and help, I found this ‘perfect’ quote from Brené Brown, who is a researcher professor at the University of Houston, Texas.
“Perfectionism is armour. It’s not internally driven like healthy striving. It’s externally driven and fuelled by ‘What will people think?’ Perfectionism is a shield that keeps us from being seen. Here’s to a genuine, unamoured, messy, awkward, compassionate, less-than-perfect life.”
I love this attitude and strive for it daily, saying to myself that it really doesn’t matter what people think and it is perfectly acceptable to be seen. How about you?
And for more on the marvellous Brené, take a look at www.brenebrown.com.
Today’s blog is from a very special guest – Louise Marchal, a visual artist and writer, and a practice-led PhD researcher. Louise offers a fascinating view of the world through the eyes of an artist. Here’s her story.
“Art can be a valuable, non-verbal conversation, often when words (or we) are exhausted. We glimpse it and gaze and reflect. I’ve recently been looking into the transcendence that such visual study and reflection, a type of mindfulness, can give to us.
Knowing something through drawing, through following the physical form through your hands is like no other knowing – it goes deep, linking sight and touch – the finished thing doesn’t have to be good – it is the knowing you will walk away with.
I drew the bulk of this copy of Flora from Botticelli’s Primavera when my father was in intensive care with Covid-19 – for a precious hour or so every day it enabled me to escape the worry and tragedy with no other thought except the form in front of me. Find something, grab pencil, paper and get to know it deeply – or head over to my website and choose a window on the world!”
Louise is very generously offering a 35% discount for readers of this blog over April – her work is visible on her website www.louisiem.com, at Axisweb or at the Saatchi Online website.
Follow Louise on Instagram @indigo_polke.
Whether you subscribe to the notion that ‘you are what you think’ or not, there is something to be said for your thoughts having an effect on you. And if you harness the power of your thoughts by thinking ‘big’, amazing things can happen. You can rise above the little things too. No more keeping yourself small (and perhaps insignificant…).
It’s not only about thinking big either – you can believe big, act big, dream big, work big, give big, forgive big, laugh big, imagine big, love big, live big (are your eyes going funny because they’ve seen the word big too much?!). Take on this list of ‘big’ and you'll probably start feeling bigger. Be a believer in big and see where it takes you. An awfully big adventure awaits!
How often do we say this without really thinking about what it means? I thought it would be useful to do this week's blog on a bite-size intro to the stress response and how we can manage it better.
It all starts with the autonomic nervous system, which activates the sympathetic nervous system and sets off the fight or flight response. This is when lots of physiological symptoms start: a racing heart, sweaty palms, a need to go to the toilet... And these (plus lots of others) signify that the body is ready for action, to run away or to face something. Usually, after whatever has prompted the fight/flight response has gone away, the body can return to normal, and this is where the parasympathetic nervous system will kick in. It calms the body and allows us to return to homeostasis, where the body is working optimally and adrenaline levels have returned to normal. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
However, for anyone who is feeling a bit physically or emotionally depleted, this process can take longer, or indeed it might not happen at all. Therefore, the body is left in a state of high adrenaline and high 'stress'. It can be very debilitating and uncomfortable.
So, what can you do about it? Well, this blog has never been about giving medical advice, so please see a doctor if you are at all concerned about your health.
Something you can try is practising calming yourself down and leaving little room for stress and anxiety to creep in and linger. You can practise 'emptying your bucket' daily, so you don't carry around unnecessary stress from one day to the next. The simple act of breathing properly deep into your lungs can help get you back to homeostasis. You can try meditation (plenty of calming meditation guides online). Exercise, especially outside, can work wonders. Making sure you have enough sleep is another way.
And if you would like someone to guide you through this, you can download my rest and relaxation tools from my website: www.cleanwellbeing.com/relaxation-and-rest.html.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
A short blog today about how your thoughts have a huge impact on your life: if you always think the same, you will always get to the same place. If you think in a new way, you will find new solutions and ways of doing things.
You are in charge of your thoughts and your life and you can adapt to make the changes you would like to see in your world.
P.S. On 22nd March, I will have been teaching online exercise classes for a WHOLE YEAR – and to celebrate I’m giving away a month’s exercise class subscription worth £40!
For your chance to win, send me your name (or the name of someone you would like to nominate to win – with their email address). I will put all names in a hat and draw out the winner on Friday 19th March. Entry closes on Thursday 18th March at 9pm. Good luck!
I found this recently and wanted to share and pass it on. It seems quite fitting at the moment…
"Know that to help heal others, you must first heal yourself. To do this, you must practise being gentle in all areas of your life. After working through all the emotions that you need to, release the ones that no longer serve you. Replace guilt with acceptance. Exchange fear for love.
You have a warm and caring heart. Every cell in your body radiates peace and because of this, you become an example of peace to others.
Know that in every situation, love and kindness is the answer. Be thankful to know this incredibly beautiful truth and practise it daily.
Love and kindness is the only answer."
Don’t worry if the tone of this doesn’t quite chime with your way of being. It’s really just a note about kindness and being gentle. That is all.
This month’s guest blog is from my delightful friend and colleague, Naomi Charles. We run Gabriels Wellbeing and Education together and have so much in common. Here’s her story.
“I have always felt most at home whilst out in nature. It is my healing place; the place that makes me feel most alive. I always knew that I wanted to work in nature but I also loved working with children and loved sharing my passion. I now combine these two passions and I feel like I’ve truly found my purpose.
From a young age I loved observing the seasons, being drawn to collecting parts of nature and smuggling them home. The washing machine would often be found with a conker, a leaf or a flower inside left behind from my collections! After university and travelling around the world, I went into Primary teaching: it’s in my bones, I love watching these wonderful souls grow in so many ways, teaching them skills that they can use for life. I took children to learn in the outdoors as much as I could and could see the difference that being in nature made to their well-being as a whole. By providing children with a safe space to learn, adapt and grow, they were building resilience, self-confidence and a deeper understanding of themselves and the world they live in.
After having my two beautiful daughters (who unsurprisingly are little nature wildlings), I decided to leave the mainstream school system and follow my dream of working with children fully outdoors. I joined the amazing team at Gabriels Wellbeing and Education back in 2018 and have never looked back!
Alongside Lisa and Joanna, I now run a range of successful groups that allow all areas of our community to learn within, about and from nature. We work with children of all ages to develop lifelong social, emotional and behavioural skills that enable them to lead a fulfilling future with meaning and purpose. Love, kindness and well-being is at the heart of everything that we do and I cannot wait to get back to running face-to-face sessions in early April!”
Many people believe that it is very difficult to be positive in a negative world… and a part of me agrees. Yet just as an open window or a pleasant smell dispels bad odours, the power of unpolluted and positive thoughts can transform the negative attitudes and atmosphere of any person or place.
This week, I shall mostly be opening windows (metaphorically and literally, for double the benefit!) and allowing positive thoughts to linger like a good smell.
How many windows can you open? Or how about spritzing a room with something fresh and positive?
Try it out and see how fragrant things can be.
This week, I’m posting about how being active can have a positive effect on how you feel, physically and mentally.
And today’s blog is about the psychological effects of being active.
I love a bit of research to confirm things we might already know! Here are some recent and very honest reports of studies into activity and mood.
The Journal of Psychology, Interdisciplinary and Applied researchers collated evidence from 38 relevant studies that examined the associations between exercise intensity, duration and modality and any effects on mood. They found lots of contradictory results so the information this is a run-down of the main bits.
As with anything to do with health and feeling better, you need to do what works best for you!
This week’s blog is all about communication. Don Miguel Ruiz, author of ‘The Four Agreements’, writes about this succinctly and clearly, so over to him:
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”
So often, we don’t ask enough questions, nor do we say what we really want or need. In my experience, clarity comes with brevity, so keep it short, simple and brief.
It’s guest blog time! This month, it’s Katherine from Positive Canine Coaching.
Katherine and I met in a hotel lobby in New York 20 years ago. We travelled through America and across Canada together and have been friends ever since. She has always been an animal lover and three years ago she left her former career to become a canine coach. Here are her thoughts about human/canine well-being.
“Right now, getting some fresh air and being at one with nature seems to be on lots of people’s minds, especially if they don’t have a garden to potter in. I live in a first floor flat with my pooch, Zelda, so getting out and about is something we do on a regular basis.
As a dog trainer, I like to walk my dog in quiet spots away from busy dog parks where you can guarantee there will be hundreds of dogs off lead and people throwing things to try and tire their dog out. I sound like I don’t like dog parks: I do, I just wonder when we started to call them dog parks; and it bothers me that people let their dogs off lead when they haven’t spent time training a reliable recall.
I love dogs, big or small, and it’s one of the reasons I became a dog trainer (as well as to help the humans), but I am fully aware that not everyone shares my passion. When you have a dog, you want to be able to let them run, sniff and have a good time, but making sure you’re ‘present’ is so important. Being present means knowing exactly where your dog is and what they are doing all the time. If they are heading towards an unsuspecting person, you need to make sure you’re able to recall even if you believe ‘It’s OK, he’s friendly’.
Not everyone likes dogs and some people are scared of them. Just because we adore our own dog doesn’t mean other people should and if your dog is not used to other people, they are not going to be particularly comfortable with that person either and may bark or even growl.
If you need any help with training your dog, why not get in touch?”
I heard a great phrase many years ago:
“No one else is going to blow your trumpet for you.”
Of course, this might beg the question of whether anyone needs to blow their own trumpet as it could be a little bit boastful. Yet aside from this rather measly way of thinking, I believe it is necessary to acknowledge yourself, what you enjoy and what you are good at.
This week, I’ve been featuring client testimonials on social media in a bid to blow my own trumpet. My clients have been sending me lovely comments about my work so I am sharing them. For me, it’s motivating to continue, it’s affirming to know that what I do is valued, and I believe it is good practice to acknowledge skill and hard-earned talent. I am shunning my old way of thinking that ‘no one likes a show-off’ and instead celebrating achievements.
How about you? How will you blow your own trumpet?
Do you like to multi-task?
For many people, the ability to multi-task is like a badge of honour, as if they are saying, “Look how many things I can juggle at once! Aren’t I impressive and capable?” But increasingly, they are finding that they don’t do any of these tasks particularly well. They can flit between several different things and think they’re doing something pretty special, when really, they are not doing anything very effectively. It all becomes a bit tiresome.
I like the phrase ‘mono-tasking’, when only one thing is done at any time. By focusing on just the one job, it can be done efficiently; and increasingly, I’m finding that I enjoy it more too. I can relax out of the whirlwind of being ever-so-busy and lean into the singular task in hand. It’s a great feeling to corral my thoughts and actions into one task, staying focused and in the flow. It takes a bit of practice, but like all skills worth having, I need to put the time in. From now on, it’s one thing at a time.
I know so many people who started 2021 by trying to change an aspect of their behaviour: doing more of something, doing less of something, or trying something new. And then, because of all the events of the past week, resolve can begin to flag, which is to be expected.
Being compassionate with yourself can help with keeping motivation and energy levels up:
It’s guest blog time, and this month’s comes from a very special person – Jenny from @hellolovelyplanners (with help from Daisy the dog!). I’ve known Jenny for a loooong time and we have talked about countless ways to help improve health and well-being – always being open to new ideas, no matter how alternative or niche. Jenny is artistic and creative, and her Etsy shop is beautiful (to which she has offered all blog readers a generous discount!). Do have a look after you have read her lovely words about Wabi-Sabi.
“How often do you find yourself chasing perfection? Whether it’s wanting to look younger, feeling that you should be happier, comparing yourself to others, having to achieve a certain lifestyle, or whatever pressure you consciously or unconsciously put upon yourself. When you base your perceptions of life through this idea of perfection, you miss out on the beauty that lies in the imperfections.
The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi allows us to consider that anything we perceive as wrong, a failure or not being at a good enough standard, can actually contain a wonderful sense of peace, acceptance and joy.
It’s about understanding that life can never really be perfect because it’s impermanent and ever-changing. We are all on a journey of growth, and growth at its essence is imperfection in motion.
When you make this mindset shift, you’ll notice a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression. So, take a little time today to think about what pressures you’re putting on yourself to be ‘perfect’ in all areas of your life. Allow yourself to reconsider that the beauty lies within the chaos, the incomplete or the in-between stages of life which are all perfectly (or imperfectly!) OK.
If you’d like to explore this concept further, I’ve created a Wabi-Sabi Journal that you can find in my Etsy shop, available in digital format for printing or using in your stylus-friendly tablet.”
Shop Link: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/HelloLovelyPlanners
Discount Code: CLEANWB30 to use at the checkout.
Hi, I'm Joanna from Clean Well-Being.
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Clean Well-being blog