Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Archive for 2016

Mindful Monday: You Don’t understand.

I have written a lot about depression this year. There has also been much more publicity about the subject in the past year and yet for too many people it remains a taboo subject, poorly understood and readily dismissed. This situation makes it difficult for those suffering from depression to talk about it. Most people still don’t fully understand depression unless they have experienced it first hand and so there are many misconceptions about it:

  1. You don’t look depressed. Depressed people are very good at hiding their symptoms so don’t be surprised that you didn’t know.  For some this causes it’s own challenge because those who find the strength to talk about their depression may find that others discount it because have not seen and signs of it.
  2. That’s not what depression is. Just because you have read about depression or a depressed friend has described their symptoms to you, don’t assume that you understand all depressions. This condition comes in many different forms and may not always present itself in the way that you think it should. Many people still think that the depressed have no interest in anything, are completely withdrawn and are unable to get out of bed. where depression sufferers don’t fit this image they are often not believed.
  3. So are you always sad? Sadness can often accompany depressionMan-with-depression but most depressed people describe themselves as detached from everything and simply feeling nothing at all.
  4. You are a positive thinker so just decide to be happy. It does not work like that. Depression is a real medical illness, an imbalance in the chemistry of the brain. You can lessen the symptoms but you cannot just wish it away or think your way out of it.
  5. Come on just get up you’ll be okay. If only it was that easy. As already described, a common symptom of depression, is having a numb feeling with no interest in anything at all. For this reason it often appears as if there is no point in getting up. In fact this can lead to a feeling of chronic fatigue leaving you without the physical strength to do anything.
  6. I thought you were going to talk to someone about this? For many sufferers the desire to ask for help comes and goes with many thinking that to do so will mean appearing weak. Unfortunately that feeling is all too often confirmed by the reactions of others. The depressed need to understand that there is strength in disclosure.
  7. But I love you so let me fix you. Love cannot fix a head cold or a broken rib so it cannot cure depression. Loved ones however can be an enormous positive support just by being there without judging. The flip side of this is that the depressed person may already be feeling guilty because they want to get better for the one they love.
  8. I’ve heard that exercise can cure it? There is no magic bullet so no exercise will not cure it. For some it does help since it increases serotonin levels in the brain. Putting this kind of pressure on a sufferer who is unable to exercise can feel like blame and add to the stress.
  9. Why are you scared of it? Because I hate not being in control. I hate not feeling myself, but I just don’t know how to get over it. It really frightens me.
  10. What do you mean you want to give up? The suicide rates are really high among the depressed because they just become exhausted struggling against this thing every day. They can tire of fighting a battle that they don’t seem to be winning. The sufferer may end up feeling that it would be better for everyone if they just gave up.

Mindful Monday: Take a Breath

A couple of weeks ago I talked about some simple techniques for focusing the mind (Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness) Those techniques took advantage of nature and the beautiful Autumn season. Today I want to describe a simple, easy to master, technique which also dispels the notion that you need to set aside long periods of time for mindfulness meditation.

The Three Minute Breathing Space.3

First minute: First of all you need to focus on your location. Whether you are sitting on a cold garden bench or a warm fireside chair just pay close attention to where you are and what bodily sensations you are feeling.

Second minute: Now shift your attention to your breathing. Be aware of it but if your mind wanders (perfectly normal) first acknowledge where it has drifted too and then gently pull it back to the present moment.

Third minute: Once your attention has settled on your breathing, the next minute is spent moving your attention to the effects of your breathing has on your body as a whole. Notice the feeling of your lungs filling and emptying and the way that you chest and ribs expand and contract.

That’s all there is to it. Three minutes of your time and a breathing space just for you. Let it become a regular daily activity. Go on, give it a go.

Mindful Monday: Coping with Stress

I have written before about strategies for coping with stress and there are probably as many hints about this as there are stressed people. When I came across a teacher’s list a couple of months ago I knew it would be worth reproducing at some point.

Psychology teacher Brett Phillips has been handing out this typewritten list to his new class at the start of the school year for many years now. He understands how stressful teenage life can be and wants to help them to learn simple ways of coping. The difference this year is that one of his California High school pupils shared the list on Twitter and it quickly went viral.

I am reproducing the complete list here with grateful thanks to Mr Phillips and to his student, Alina Ramirez who brought his work to our attention. I believe that this applies to a lot more people that just Californian teenagers:-
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier
    3023c9624398ac675aaf7c4c789ea399

    SMILE!

  • Prepare for the morning the night before
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes
  • Avoid relying on chemical aids
  • Set appointments ahead
  • Don’t rely on your memory… write it down
  • Practice preventative maintenance
  • Make duplicate keys
  • Say “no” more often
  • Set priorities in your life
  • Avoid negative people
  • Use time wisely
  • Simplify meal times
  • Always make copies of important papers
  • Anticipate your needs
  • Repair anything that doesn’t work properly
  • Ask for help with the jobs you dislike
  • Break large tasks into bite-size portions
  • Look at problems as challenges
  • Look at challenges differently
  • Unclutter your life
  • Smile
  • Be prepared for rain
  • Tickle a baby
  • Pet a friendly dog/cat
  • Don’t know all the answers
  • Look for a silver lining
  • Say something nice to someone
  • Teach a kid to fly a kite
  • Walk in the rain
  • Schedule play time into every day
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Be aware of the decisions you make
  • Believe in yourself
  • Stop saying negative things to yourself
  • Visualize yourself winning
  • Develop your sense of humor
  • Stop thinking tomorrow will be a better day
  • Have goals for yourself
  • Dance a jig
  • Say “hello” to a stranger
  • Ask a friend for a hug
  • Look up at the stars
  • Practice breathing slowly
  • Learn to whistle a tune
  • Read a poem
  • Listen to a symphony
  • Watch a ballet
  • Read a story curled up in bed
  • Do a brand new thing
  • Stop a bad habit
  • Buy yourself a flower
  • Take time to smell the flowers
  • Find support from others
  • Ask someone to be your “vent-partner”
  • Do it today
  • Work at being cheerful and optimistic
  • Put safety first
  • Do everything in moderation
  • Pay attention to your appearance
  • Strive for excellence NOT perfection
  • Stretch your limits a little each day
  • Look at a work of art
  • Hum a jingle
  • Maintain your weight
  • Plant a tree
  • Feed the birds
  • Practice grace under pressure
  • Strand up and stretch
  • Always have a plan “B”
  • Learn a new doodle
  • Memorize a joke
  • Be responsible for your feelings
  • Learn to meet your own needs
  • Become a better listener
  • Know our own limitations and let others know them, too
  • Tell someone to have a good day in pig Latin
  • Throw a paper airplane
  • Exercise every day
  • Learn the words to a new song
  • Get to work early
  • Clean out one closet
  • Play patty cake with a toddler
  • Go on a picnic
  • Take a different route to work
  • Leave work early (with permission)
  • Put air freshener in your car
  • Watch a move and eat popcorn
  • Write a note to a faraway friend
  • Go to a ball game and scream
  • Cook a meal and eat it by candlelight
  • Recognize the importance of unconditional love
  • Remember that stress is an attitude
  • Keep a journal
  • Practice a monster smile
  • Remember you always have options
  • Have a support network of people, places and things
  • Quit trying to fix other people
  • Get enough sleep
  • Talk less and listen more
  • Freely praise other people

Bonus: Relax, take each day at a time… you have the rest of your life to live.

Season of Mists and Mellow Mindfulness

Mindful Monday: Autumn (with apologies to John Keats).7ed7db5c469d22bc3a21b807d664f8e8

After a busy Summer season, Autumn/Fall is the ideal time to slow down and still our minds. In a feast for the senses we are made aware of our surroundings. Rich leaf colours or flocks of migrating birds flood the sight. The sound of leaves underfoot while frost glistens on the grass and mist pools in hollows and along waterways. All these things call us to be mindful of our surroundings and our place in the here and now.

Mindfulness not only helps to keep us grounded but it has proven benefits to both mental and physical health. Simple techniques can teach us to focus in on the present moment rather than shutting it out as more traditional meditation might do.

Perhaps the simplest of these techniques is the walking meditation. Just take a leisurely stroll even if you only allow an extra few minutes going to or from work. Be aware of those things which stimulate the senses. What is it which catches your eye or triggers some memory or sensation? Don’t try to change these thoughts, just observe them and be aware of the feelings that they create in you.

Another simple technique involves using just one of your senses. While you are out walking or even when sitting relaxing quietly, be aware of all the sounds around you. Outdoors it may be the sounds of rustling leaves, tree branches moving in the wind, birdsong or flowing water. Try shifting your attention just to the area in front of you. Now to the area behind you. Try shifting it to the right and then the left of you. How do the sounds change?  Of course these natural sounds change in time and so are different at any one moment. This is a great way to attend to the present moment before it moves on to the next.

Try these simple things and let me know how you get on.

The Gift of Time

 

This summer I was fortunate enough to cross the Atlantic9c9d2cd02e699e189d853f42585334df on the incomparable ocean liner Queen Mary 2. Every morning on the ship’s TV channel  our Cruise Director Paul O’ Loughlin had a breakfast show and he always ended it with a positive thought for the day, just as I try to do with my morning Facebook posts. One morning he read a piece called Value The Present which struck a chord with me. I’ve heard the content before in other forms but I liked this and sought Paul out. He was more than happy to give me a copy which he said came from a business conference he’d been on although he did not know its origin. I’ve read it several times since but would really like to share it with you, my friends.

 

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with £86,400.

It carries over no balance from day to day.

Every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.

What would you do?

Draw out every penny, of course!

Each of us has such a bank.

Its name is TIME.

Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds

Every night, it writes off as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose.

It carries over no balance.

It allows no overdraft.

Each day it opens a new account for you.

Each night it burns the remains of the day.

If you fail to use that day’s deposits, the loss is yours.

There is no going back.

There is no drawing against ‘tomorrow’

You must live in the present day’s deposits.

Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success.

The clock is running.

Make the most of today.

To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed an exam.

To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask the mother who gave birth to a premature baby.

To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who just missed a train.

To realise the value of ONE SECOND, ask the person who just avoided an accident.

To realise the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.
10421394_10204263318480117_6446475820806183303_n

Treasure every moment that you have.

Treasure it more when you have shared it with someone special,  special enough to spend your time with.

Remember that time waits for no-one.

Yesterday is history.

Tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift.

That’s why we call it THE PRESENT.

Goal Setting

Or – Tell me what you want, what you really really want.1424555_604448232945474_114601826_n

How are you doing with those New Years resolutions? This weekend marks the time of the month where statistically speaking, most people start to fail on those resolutions made just ten days ago. Resolutions are soft fluffy things that just don’t survive in the real world. We need something stronger and more resilient, something in which we can engage with and have an emotional investment in. We need solid goals.

We live in a rapidly changing world which can generate a feeling of helplessness when we are not in control of our own path through the craziness! As a life coach it is my job to be your guide on that journey and the first thing we must establish are the goals, so that your journey has a destination.

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going, so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.

-Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Without Goals we cannot be in control of our own destiny and we will tend to drift from crisis to crisis on waves of uninspired intuition. Once we set some goals we have purpose, drive and we can make good choices. We can start to develop our own path towards happiness and fulfilment. These goals must not be vague or woolly. So often when we ask anyone what they want the first response we get is a list of what they DON’T want! We need to delve deeper and ask searching questions to get to ‘what you really really want!’ It is essential that your goals are challenging, achievable and measurable.

Are you in earnest, seek this very minute. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Just begin and the mind grows heated. Continue and the task will be completed.

-Goethe, Faust.

Our goals must be SMART:

SPECIFIC – This can be the most challenging part of the process, requiring deep questioning to arrive at one clear phrase or sentence which is personal and  positive so that it fires the imagination.

MEASURABLE – It makes sense that any meaningful goal must have some measurable objective, such as weight loss achieved, book written or salary earned. Some goals may not have such a clearly defined end point, but it may help to set the goal in the present tense so that you can say that the goal is achieved “When I am …” One example for a confidence goal might be “When I am speaking to people in a much more confident and relaxed way”

AGREED – Goals should be written down. They must be congruent with your personal values and beliefs and they must be morally and legally acceptable. There should be an understanding of why your goals are important to you. Of course, just setting goals will improve nothing unless there is a commitment to action. Part of the process must be a set of actions that you need to take in order to achieve your goals.

REALISTIC – There is nothing to be gained by setting goals which are not achievable. If you are a heavy smoker, very overweight and not used to physical training, would it be realistic to set a goal to compete this years Olympic Games in Rio?

TIMED – All goals should have a start date date and a finish date in order to focus the mind and fire the imagination. It may also be useful to set specific  ‘step goals’ along the way in order to measure progress towards the end goal and fulfilment.

 I dream my painting and then I paint my dream – Vincent van Gogh

Going through life without goals is like trying to sail a boat without a rudder. You will be at the mercy of outside forces controlling your destiny for you.  How often have you heard the phrase ‘Fail to plan and you plan to fail’ ? Take all the time you need to set meaningful goals which have emotional power for you, then take action to achieve your dreams.

10593190_10205267842638147_8567227496682301999_n