A letter of inspiration


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I want you to do this:
When you are not feeling too stressed or sad and not anxious at all, and hopefully feeling pretty good about yourself, I want you to write a letter of encouragement to yourself that goes something like this:

Dear (me, your name, wonderful person….)
You are an amazing, strong survivor.
You might feel bad right now but that is just how you feel right now.  Your emotion does not define the person that you are – the person who is resilient and has been through this pain before.  The person who is going to make it.
This is why you are brilliant………….
This is what you are going to do to be amazing……….
This is why you are special……………
This is what you are thankful for…………

(Add anything else that you would like to say to yourself that is positive and motivational)

You can do this and you will do this!

I know that we live in the digital age but write the letter on a piece of lovely paper (or on a boring piece of paper that has been lovingly decorated or illustrated).
Add a picture of yourself that makes you feel good about yourself.  If that is really pushing it then add a picture of something (or someone) that makes you smile.
Now put it in an envelope (you remember those things that look like the mail icon on your phone) and write a message on the envelope like “open when you are feeling sad” or “a message for an anxious kind of day” and put it in a safe place or stick it into your journal for exactly that kind of day.

Read whenever necessary.
Repeat as often as needed.

Take this moment


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Having control over our lives is what we all want.
Having control is what most of us don’t have.
We fantasize about it, we dream about it, we work hard at getting it back yet it seems that there are always going to be times when control is just something that we don’t have.
It is so difficult to feel that your life is not really yours, that there is some unseen force that is making your life miserable.
And to make it worse, there is always someone around you who seems to have it all sorted out – they drive a better car, have a better job, have more success, their kids are high achievers.  This makes you feel even more miserable.

What if you can let all of that stuff go?
Can you make this moment, this moment right now, the best moment for now?
I’m not saying it is brilliant, but just for now, you have absolute control over the moment.  You can decide how deeply to breathe, you can decide whether you want to walk or run or dance.  You have a choice to smile or to frown, to sing or to stare out of the window.
They may not be big things, but they are yours.
Make the absolute best of this time.  It is the only thing that you can do.
What will happen next?
I don’t know!
Are you going to be okay?
I don’t know!
But I do know this – you have the ability to keep on surviving, to stand tall, to make a difference, to let go of some of your worries, to throw caution to the wind.
You can do all of this if you just take this moment for you.

Stress busting smoothies


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I have been asked numerous times for recipes for the smoothies that I drink – often to the horror of the people who are sitting in my therapy group thinking that I am drinking mud, scooping off the top of a murky swamp or even worse, sipping on blood.

For all smoothies, just throw all the ingredients together into your blender and blend until smooth (hence the word smoothie….)

Mud smoothie
This looks like mud because of the mix of purple and green.  What you should know is that any food that is purple or green is a super nutritious food filled with vitamins and anti-oxidants so this is really good for you.  Plus all the vitamin B is brilliant for your nervous system and will help you to deal better with stress.
1 apple cut into eighths (or big chunks)
1 handful of blueberries (I use frozen blueberries)
1 teaspoon of grated ginger root or a good shake of dried ginger
1 teaspoon of spirulina powder
1 teaspoon of chia seeds
1 cup of water

Murky swamp smoothie
Very green – very healthy
1 apple cut into chunks
a few pieces of pineapple
a few pieces of cucumber
a sprig or two of mint if you want
1 teaspoon of spirulina powder, wheat grass powder of a small handful of fresh wheat grass (grow it on your kitchen window sill – it is very satisfying to watch)
1 cup of water or cold green tea

Vampire’s smoothie
Thick and red and blood-like (I’m one day too late for Halloween)
Unbelievable anti-oxidants and superfoods
2 small or 1 big beetroot – peeled and cut
1 carrot – peeled and cut
1 teaspoon of grated ginger (okay I like ginger)
1 cup of water or cold strong rooibos tea
Sprinkle with cinnamon

My son’s version of a healthy smoothie
This is very thick and icy and he says that the effort required to drink it through a straw and the (irritating) noise that he makes when drinking helps him to deal with stress…
1 large heaped teaspoon of the finest cocoa powder
2 flat teaspoons of sugar
A lot of ice (yum, yum)
Cover the ice with milk

My husband’s version of a healthy smoothie
He may have a point here since chocolate is rich is feel good chemicals as we all know
1 cup of milk
a large scoop of chocolate ice cream
drinking chocolate powder
top with grated chocolate once blended


Taking control


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One of the most difficult things to deal with when life gets really stressful is trying to get ‘control’ back.
By control we mean getting life back to where we feel familiar with what we are doing.  We want things to function the way they have always worked.  And life has a funny (okay really not that funny) way of pushing you way out of your comfort zone which leaves you reeling and fighting to take control back.

But what if you weren’t meant to have control over it in the first place?  As terrible as it sounds, and no matter how much we hate it, when we lose control it is just not worth fighting to get the control back.  You have to find a new way of doing things.
Losing control gives you a new perspective and a different angle on your life.  It gives you a chance to start again.
When it seems that everything is out of control and you feel that you are falling apart tell yourself:

– I take responsibility for myself
– I do not blame others for my problems (not that it isn’t their fault but that you don’t give them power over you)
– I can take control back by changing the way that I do things
– I can make decisions for myself
– My emotions are determined by me

You have no idea how strong you really are or what you are capable of until you go through this.  I really hope that one day you will look back at this stressful time and be really proud of yourself for overcoming this and taking control back in your own unique way.

World Mental Health day


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Today is World Mental Health Day so here are some ideas on how to mark the day and make it meaningful:

1.  Sit down and discuss your diagnosis with somebody who may not understand mental health issues.  You don’t need to tell them about your problems or what happened to you but just share some information on what it is like to have anxiety, depression, bipolar etc.

2.  Do something nice for somebody who you know is going through a difficult time.  Buy them a cup of tea, share your chocolate, give them a flower, give a compliment.

3.  Do something to nurture yourself today – treat yourself to a manicure, lie down quietly with a book, doodle on a scrap of paper, start a journal, meditate, light a candle next to your bath.

4. Eat or drink something healthy and nourishing.

5. Offer to help somebody in need.

6. Greet every person that you meet with a smile (don’t worry if they don’t smile back – that’s their problem).

7.  Take a moment to count your blessings.  Write them down or share them with somebody.

8.  Spend a few minutes just breathing deeply (preferably outside in the fresh air)

9.  Send an sms or whatsapp to somebody that you haven’t spoken to in a while – tell them that you are thinking of them and that you care.

10.  Tell your manager (or your partner or kids) that it is World Mental Health day and for the sake of your mental health, you will be leaving work/responsibilities early today (okay if not today, make sure you schedule a day off or a few hours off for quality ‘me time’).

Too blessed?


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There’s a saying that I hear people using all the time – “too blessed to be stressed”
It’s a lovely saying but I think that sometimes it’s a challenge to feel that way.  It is implying that if you have blessings (which, let’s face it, we all do) that you can’t get stressed.  Everybody feels stress and sometimes your stress can become overwhelming.
What helps is to accept that you are going through a stressful time but also to be mindful enough to recognise what you have right now (other than stress) – notice the good around you.  Even if all you can think about is that you are still breathing.

After a week of experiencing losses and deprivations – from the loss of my dear friend, to my son going overseas and going through the insomnia that comes with those worries and then going through the fast of Yom Kippur with no food or water for 25 hours, I was really aware of what I was missing.  But I was also very aware of what I have.  To be starving but knowing that a great meal is waiting for me at the end of the fast is far more than most people have.  Some people feel that way on a daily basis and they have no end in sight.

No matter how much you are going through, when your mind starts racing ahead to worry about what you haven’t got, learn to focus on what you have.
You may not be too blessed but you definitely are blessed.

You’ve got this! You can go through this stress and this worry and you will come through this on the other side.
Just keep reminding yourself that you can do it, keep focusing on right now.
“I have this, I am in control”

A last message for us


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Last week my dear friend and mentor, David Patient passed away. I’ve mentioned him a few times before because he did so much inspiring work in HIV as well as in teaching everyone to be survivors.
In true David style, he left a message to be posted on Facebook after he died and I really hope that he doesn’t mind if I share part of it with you.
“My final wishes?
Be kind. Kindness costs nothing. It need not be a grand gesture. A simple smile while looking someone in the eyes as you pass in the hall. Saying please and thank you. Acknowledging that the person in front of you exists. If they have a name tag, call them by their name. Be present with that person. The Zulu greeting is Sawubona and directly translated that means ‘I SEE YOU!’
Don’t squander time… you’re only a breath away from being a corpse yourself. It’s only when time is running out that you really get its value. Don’t wait to tell those you love that you love them. Stop assuming ‘oh well, they know’…tell them and do so often.
Cry until it’s funny and laugh yourself to tears… take off the mask and be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a strength not a weakness.
And don’t wait too long to find the funny side of any situation, no matter how dark.”
May David rest in peace and may we all benefit from the life he lead and the legacy that he leaves for all of us.

Take a compliment


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I work with people daily who have extreme work stress and almost across the board they have the same complaint. They never get recognised for the good that they are doing but if they do something wrong, then they get a lot of attention.
It really upsets me that this happens. Why don’t people get credit and recognition that they deserve?
One of the reasons is that it is expected that you will always perform brilliantly- you should never make mistakes, you shouldn’t put a foot out of line and you certainly shouldn’t challenge management.
The problem is that when you work harder you are expected to keep up that standard. So you push yourself harder and work more and become more stressed and burn out and make a mistake. And then you are punished – for being stressed. For being human!

So how do we change this? Well the difficult part is that we are not going to change other people’s perceptions but you can change your own:
1. Accept that you can’t always work at 100% and be gentle on yourself
2. Don’t expect compliments (sad, I know) – work hard because you enjoy doing it not because it is expected of you
3. Compliment yourself when you know that you’ve done well (and that might even include a little gift for yourself)
4. Take the fact that people notice everything that you do (good or bad) as a compliment
5. Insist on occasionally taking a ‘mental health’ day – time out for doing something that nourishes your mind, body and soul

Advice for Monday morning


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How to do Monday:

1. Get out of bed!
2. Eat something nourishing for breakfast
3. If you can, wear something that makes you feel wonderful (if you have to wear a uniform, wear your best undies)
4. Wear red lipstick (guys.. maybe not but I’m not here to judge you)
5. Pack a treat for lunch
6. Don’t overdo the coffee – you may be feeling tired but it makes anxiety feel worse
7. Put a smile on your face and a spring in your step even if you don’t feel like it
8. Remember that Monday is one step in the count down to next weekend
9. Compliment someone
10. Think of how blessed you are today

Use Kintsugi in your life


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In the 15th Century in Japan, a technique of repairing broken pottery was invented which came to be known as Kintsugi.
If a bowl was broken, instead of throwing it away or trying to repair it to its original state, pure gold was used to repair the broken pieces.  The bowl became a more beautiful, and highly sought after, piece of pottery.

When I learned about this exquisite technique, it made me think about how often we are broken into pieces through tragedy, trauma and loss.
Our instinct when we go through something really difficult is to try to repair ourselves so that we eventually go back to being the same person that we were before it happened.
We know well enough that this rarely happens because we are scarred.  But what if instead of trying to repair ourselves to our original state we create a new self?  We repair ourselves with gold.
Breaking down gives us the most incredible gift in allowing us to redesign our lives and ourselves.
Every time you long to go back to ‘the good old days’ remember kintsugi.

Tell yourself “I am not going back, I am creating a new me and I am going to be more beautiful, more brave and more interesting than I ever was before”