Sunday, 28 June 2015

How Resilient Are You?

I’m officially in remission for a month now but have still been feeling really tired. I keep wondering what it will take to address this fatigue and just how much longer I’ll be struggling. I look so forward to the days where I don’t need to have an afternoon nap to survive as it really does take time out of the day. I’d love to do yoga a few times a week and be relaxed about going out more than once a day.

I’ve finished reading the book The Resilience Factor and I found it to be really helpful. In the design of a happy life, resilience is really vital. No-one can have a life without adversities, and it’s how we handle them that defines our happiness. The book provides a range of strategies to combat flawed thinking and poor responses when things go wrong. I found it to be really practical and powerful in helping to manage life’s blows, although I cannot say that I have mastered all the skills.

The book states “First you must become aware of the kind of person you are, and that means examining your deep beliefs and values about yourself, your world, and your place in it.” The authors urge us to identify the thinking patterns that are holding us back and to challenge our limiting beliefs.

As I’ve mentioned before, in designing a happy life and pursuing your passion, it is imperative that you know yourself first. Knowing yourself in this book’s context is about how you think and getting to understand your beliefs. By listening to the narrator in your head during adversities, you can uncover why you are reacting the way you are, and challenge beliefs in order to have a more appropriate response. Examples of how we think is whether we attribute problems to ourselves or to others and whether we feel that the issue affects everything in our lives and will always be there. How much control we feel we have over the problem plays a role, as does our level of optimism and our ability to accurately assess the situation. Resilient people are able to derive meaning from failure and feel empowered to take action.

Some of our beliefs are well-known to us but many are deep-rooted and difficult to uncover. Some of the self-development work I have been doing lately involves challenging beliefs that do not serve me. There are a few healing modalities such as Theta Healing® that help you to uncover these beliefs and even replace them with more constructive ones. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the negative self-talk and our inner critic can be really harmful and needs to be addressed if you want a happy life.  

The person who has helped me the most in my healing journey has to be Meryl. She is skilled in a variety of healing modalities that appear quite complex to me. I must confess that I am confused about all the modalities that she practices but this time we worked on limiting beliefs, those that lurk far beneath the surface and that are affecting my energy levels.

The relief that I felt and still feel after visiting Meryl is nothing short of magical. In a one hour session she seems to have lifted a great burden and I feel far less fatigued. I must admit that if anyone said this kind of thing to me I’d probably roll my eyes and think them a little loopy. But nevertheless, that was my experience. I am yet to fully understand what she does and I’d love to write a blog post on it to give you more details but that will be for another time.

Boosting our resilience through challenging limiting beliefs remains a powerful method of personal growth, regardless of the method used. Since our beliefs govern our behaviours which can have dramatic impacts on our relationships, it’s worth knowing under what context we are acting. Knowing yourself allows you to be better equipped to handle life’s challenges and to manage the stress before it becomes serious.

Do you understand your thinking style? Do you tend to jump to conclusions in your thinking, or to mind read? What beliefs are holding you back from being the best you can be? What are the beliefs costing you and are you prepared to challenge them?

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Healing Series Part 1: Body Stress Release

In this healing series, I’ll explain the various healing practices that I’ve experienced and what I gained from them. I truly believe that in taking an active role in healing myself that I have sped up my recovery. Today’s topic is called Body Stress Release, or BSR for short.

Even before I became ill I met a wonderful lady called Lourentia at a business networking breakfast. I have since abandoned the networking breakfasts but it was a real blessing to meet such a quality person. I have been going to her sporadically for many years and at stressful times, ironically, I scaled back on the visits. After my diagnosis of my stress-induced auto-immune disease, I started going for BSR again.

Lourentia asks me each time where I feel discomfort or pain in my body. In the past I’d have aches and pains due to running injuries or stiffness. Since my diagnosis, I usually just feel tired, and not surprisingly have a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders. So I tell her all the areas that ail me so that she knows where to focus her efforts.

I take off only my shoes and then lie face down on a treatment table, much like the ones used for massage. I can breathe through the hole in the table my feet must dangle off the edge of the table. Lourentia then begins her treatment by putting her hands onto my back. She gets a feel of where the body needs work and goes ahead with the treatment. You are required to turn onto your back midway during the treatment in order to access all parts of the body. 

Just as the name suggests, the premise of BSR is to release, by small touches to pressure points, the stress that is trapped in various parts of the body. The practitioner tests for stress in many areas of the body and then works to release it. They use the feet as a means to monitor the effects of what they implement. I feel sensations in my body as Lourentia performs the releases, almost like a little ripple of something travelling up my spine or down my legs. Sometimes the pressure needs to be quite hard and the points can be quite tender but overall it is a very pleasant experience and something that has helped me a great deal.

Being an ultra-marathon runner I have a strong belief in the mind-body connection as it is very clear that your mind tides you through the end of a tough race. This connection has been even more evident to me this year as I’ve understood how stress has caused my body to turn on itself. Thankfully I am in remission now and the feedback from Lourentia also points to a much greater recovery since last year.

There are many ways in which BSR can help improve your overall health such as better posture, released tension in the neck, shoulders and back and even things like sinus. There are no side effects and it is a non-invasive treatment. I have benefited from BSR in treating a variety of ailments but in current times, to diminish the stress held in my body, particularly neck and shoulders. It must be said that with the many healing experiences I'm undergoing, it's difficult to attribute improvement to one discipline but overall, my sinus is not nearly as bad as it usually is during winter and my immune system is getting stronger. 

If you are interested, you can read more about Body Stress Release here:

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

One Chance?

I watched a lovely movie this week called One Chance. It's a true sorry about the discovery of unlikely opera star, Paul Potts. From a child he had an unrelenting talent for singing and he always knew that opera was his destiny. At one point in the movie he suffers a setback in his journey when he gets criticism for lacking confidence. He almost gives up and tries to live the life his father wants for him but it's no use, the passion is too strong.  

I've been thinking about how hard it is to remain focussed on your destiny in the face of rejection or doubt. I am mainly focussed on recovery now but I cannot ignore the fact that I have no income. I have resigned from my business in order to spend more time recovering. I can't embark on something new when I only have a few hours a day to dedicate to it. I'm pretty much an all or nothing person and I'm not very good at half measures. If I can't run ultra-marathons, I probably wont run at all. I'll throw myself into something that I can really succeed at but only once I can. In the interim I need to focus all of my attention on getting well and getting enough rest. It is hard, however, not to worry about how I will make money out of my talent and whether I'll have to sell out and get a dreaded job again. 

The movie ends with Paul Potts being selected from Britain's Got Talent and ultimately winning the competition. After a lifetime of struggles he is finally living his destiny, proving all the naysayers wrong. When changing career paths, I think it is vitally important to remember stories like this. As if it's not enough that we battle our own inner critic on a daily basis, but there are plenty of people out there ready to give us a plethora of reasons why not to follow our dreams. It is only your true friends who believe in you despite the interim setbacks on the way to your dream. 

Watch the Paul Potts first audition by clicking hereI love how he is so unassuming, the very thing he was criticised for when he almost lost hope. I think his humility is part of his charm. There is a lesson in that for all of us - being true to ourselves and persisting to bring the passion that lives within us to life. 

What dreams have you given up on? What passions are you yet to bring to the world?

Monday, 22 June 2015


I have always judged people who run away from their families harshly. But not anymore. I understand why people run away from their children. I too, feel that despair today. The childcare is completely relentless. As a person struggling with illness, it doesn’t take away their need for love, attention, food, fun etc. It never gets easier, it’s a never-ending struggle and you completely lose sight of yourself. Between the lunches, the demands of the teachers, homework and relentless feeding, pouring juice, wiping bottoms, there is nothing left for me. I don’t have the strength to care for myself, let alone these kids.

I have felt that I really wished to be hospitalised with this illness. Even for three days, just to have someone feed me and care for me and to let me read and sleep. I’m the only one around me who seems to understand that it’s pretty serious. I’m the only one who can feel my exhaustion and know how much strength it takes to get out of bed and out into the cold to take a child to school. As much as your loved ones say they care, compassion runs out at some point. People get sick of helping the one who has always been so capable. Well, just so you know, I’m sick of it too. I’m sick of feeling tired and having headaches and struggling to do the things normal people do. I’m sick of asking for help and compassion. I’m sick of it all but I don’t get to escape this fatigue.

The exhaustion makes me ratty and I end up shouting at the kids. Then I feel guilty for being a bad parent and yelling at them all the time. But I just can’t seem to see a way out.I can't go out to escape them because I'm really exhausted most of the time and going out makes me even more tired. But they are here, all the time, wanting things from me. Even when I have a nap, I feel obliged to get up after an hour or so because they might be starving, or without toilet paper or cold or lonely. The feeling that their 24 hour care is on your shoulders entirely is a great responsibility and there is no respite. That in itself is exhausting. Just to have to be the responsible one all the time. 

I love my children too much to run away from them. But I’m really exhausted. Weekends are hard. Today I feel that it is hopeless for me to have any dreams at all. How can I aspire to be anything and to follow my destiny when I’m so exhausted from just parenting? I can’t follow my life passion because I’m too busy just keeping them alive. At times I wish I had no ambition. I wish I was born being content to do the lowliest of jobs and to merely exist. Then I wouldn’t feel this despair of not being able to follow my dreams.

So what should I choose? Neglect the kids and get myself well so that I can have some future to look forward to? Or care for them and take months or years to recover fully? It wont do them a lot of good to have a mother devoid of hope. If anyone has any advice or solutions, let me know. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Are you Learning the Lessons?

Sometimes I wonder why I seem to be experiencing the same thing in a different form. And I have noticed those around me having similar experiences over and over. One cannot help wondering if we’re being given a lesson that we keep failing to learn.

In my corporate days I had a wonderful team of staff. We all worked together well with a similar outlook on the kind process and effort required to deliver high quality software. One of the contractors I hired into my team wanted to change job function. I gave her the opportunity to learn the new role, with my mentoring and support. She blossomed and was a solid member of the team within a short while. We had a lot of trouble keeping a good Project Manager, however, and finally we got one who was good. She was no nonsense but seemed to connect well with the team members and delivered well on the timelines. These two women were a similar age and started going out in the evenings together.

Within a short period of time the Project Manager started to challenge my leadership and drove a wedge between me and some team members, in particular her new friend. I could not believe what a betrayal it was when I had given her the chance and support to change direction in her career. I had done nothing but support her and a newcomer was able to poison her against me within a few weeks. I felt so disappointed by the other team members who didn’t have the courage to stand by their convictions in what they had confided to me about her.

I raised the issue with my manager, looking for some advice. His first comment was ‘get rid of her’, referring to the rotten apple Project Manager. My instinct was to be professional and to keep the Project Manager for the sake of the projects. My manager found it really suspicious that my integrity was strong enough to put the organisation above my dispute with this woman. In retrospect, not getting rid of her was a really big mistake because the longer she stayed, the more she created dissent and a divided team is not a productive team.  Needless to say, my legacy in that particular organisation far surpassed that of the Project Manager’s. Breaking up cohesive teams is not a strategy that can endure for long.

In the ‘family’ business that I ran for the past five years I had a rotten apple as well. She resisted me and challenged my authority from the moment I entered the business. Granted, no-one bothered to tell any of the staff that I was the new leader. But still, the resistance, underhanded sabotage and negative influence on others persisted for years. I should have weeded her out at the outset as it would have changed the entire dynamic of the business going forward.

I have always been a person who hires for attitude because skills can be learned. Inheriting people that were hired by the previous leadership can be really challenging, especially in our labour environment where it’s really difficult to fire someone. I have learned the lesson that a rotten apple or a toxic element in your environment is one of the most harmful things. To the team, to the business and to the leader, particularly a sensitive person. I don’t think I’ll be in an office environment again because it’s just not for me. But at least I have learned the lesson.

If I ever initiate or take over a business, I’ve learned that the first step is to root out any toxic elements. Once you have a team of motivated positive people, you can achieve almost anything.  

Have you noticed any trends in your life? Do you tend to have the same conflicts or the same issues arise again and again? What lessons do you think you’re supposed to be learning?

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Alternative Medicine – Homeopathy

I had always been quite suspicious about alternative healing practices and practitioners until 2012. I was the mother of a three month old baby and as expected was sleep-deprived and pretty stressed. Labour law in our country specifies that mothers are entitled to four months of maternity leave, paid or unpaid. I was working in our ‘family’ business at that time and as a business owner, there’s really no such thing as maternity leave. I recall having meetings at my house feeling so frazzled that it was difficult to concentrate. I had to issue instructions from my home office and keep up to pace with client requests and insubordination from a staff member who challenged my decisions to modernise the business.

After three months, I went back to work, despite being highly emotional about leaving my tiny baby at a preschool. I elected to work half days for the first two weeks so that I could manage with the discomfort of feeding and to ensure my baby adjusted to the new routine. On 1 February 2012, my first full day back at work, I had a cold and was feeling awful. I didn’t feel justified in staying home, given the fact that customer billing was due in the first few days of the month. Mid-morning an irate family member attacked the office with a hammer and a screwdriver as a result of a marital dispute.

Being the only person of authority around, I had to confront her to try to calm the situation down and to mitigate the damage to the business. Furniture was thrown around, computers smashed, signage ripped off the front gate, pot plants tipped over and various places smashed with the hammer. When I confronted her I was verbally abused and the hammer was smashed against the wall within a metre from my head. By the wild look in her eye, I was concerned about not surviving the day or being permanently brain damaged. I thought of my little baby and how my husband would manage with our two kids in the event of my death or disability. The violence of the situation was truly a traumatic event, at a time when I was already fragile.

For the six months or so that followed the event, I had a series of colds and flu that hit me with regularity that was disturbing. I picked up every conceivable virus that came my way due to exposure from a little child at preschool and a weakened immune system. I literally had a few days in between illnesses where I was OK and then I would get sick again. I was obviously under a great deal of stress in dealing with the situation itself and the aftermath in the office.

I had regularly visited a chiropractor to assist with my minor running injuries and alignment. I went to see her for the tension in my neck and shoulders as a result of the stress. I had told her about the traumatic event that I experienced and I was telling her all about my susceptibility to colds and flu while she treated me. She suggested that I might have adrenal fatigue and recommended that I visit a homeopath.

"Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress."

The adrenal glands on top of the kidneys are part of the endocrine system and they secrete adrenaline as part of the body’s response to stress. This article discusses the fight or flight response: Part of this response to stress is to shut down the immune system in order to deal with the immediate danger.

I was sceptical about homeopathy but interested in her evaluation of my health and how she could treat me. She felt my pulse and looked at my tongue, punctuated with writing a few strange symbols on her notepad. She confirmed that I had adrenal fatigue and provided me with medication to treat it. I spent months treating the condition and slowly started to improve enough to resume running.

I had been to my standard doctor many times and the treatment for each cold focussed on only the one incidence and merely on the symptoms, not the underlying cause. As much as I think western medicine is important and cannot be abandoned, I had discovered a solution and was being treated holistically for the first time.It is no surprise for me that a diagnosis of Graves’ disease is a malfunction of the endocrine system, also where the adrenals fall, and an auto-immune disease initiated by stress. I had been heading towards the diagnosis this year even as far back as 2012.

I’m open to new experiences and I find them energising.  With such a serious diagnosis I have been more than willing to investigate and explore as many alternative healing practices as I can. I have found some treatments more effective for me personally than others but I believe it is a matter of what resonates with you and also what ails you. In the coming weeks I’ll be doing a series on healing practices to share my experiences.

Particularly for the sceptics, you may get a kick out of this fun clip poking fun at homeopathy.  

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Meditation for the Layman

I am currently reading The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatt̩. The book has some wonderful strategies to build resilience Рa vital skill for the Highly Sensitive Person and for those susceptible to stress. One of the strategies the authors suggest is controlled breathing when you find yourself in the midst of an adversity. By taking deep breaths and by concentrating on your breathing, you reduce your heart rate; increase the amount of oxygen in the brain (for better decision making) and minimise the risk of an amygdala hijack

In this blog I have mentioned the fact that meditation has helped me in my healing journey of my stress-induced condition. I want to make one thing really clear however: I’m no expert. I’m trying to obtain the benefits of mindfulness and to implement calming strategies.  For the average person who has never tried meditating, it can be daunting. I found this article to be a great help on how to get started.

The strategy I use is simple: focus on my breathing and ensure that my belly rises as I breathe in, and falls as I breathe out. I downloaded an app on my phone in order to guide me initially. There are a few apps providing soothing music and some guidance in an ever-so-calming voice.

Now that I’ve become more accustomed to it, I simply use my timer on my phone which I have increased from the initial two minutes to ten or fifteen minutes. I focus on my breathing and try to clear my mind. That is the trickiest part and the more stressed and busy you are, the harder it is but also the more necessary it is too. At times I wonder if I've dozed off because I seem to be close to sleep. I'm not sure whether or not that is supposed to happen but it can't be harmful.  

“Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?” – Albert Einstein

Many people seem to solve problems or get ideas in the shower. Back in university I used to solve my programming defects almost as soon as I got into the shower. Perhaps when the mind relaxes, solutions are easily found. I encountered this fun list of reasons why we get our best ideas in the shower.

This phenomenon seems to happen to me when I start to mediate as well. All sorts of solutions come to mind for things that have been troubling me. If you’re thinking that I’m not doing it correctly, you’re probably right. It is a great struggle for me to clear the mind and I don’t always get it right. But I figure that even if I get it right for a few minutes of the ten, it’s helping me to be calmer and to restore order in a stressed and busy life.

One of my strengths is to implement strategies to mitigate the risk of problems recurring. I wish I’d known before I got sick, how important it is to still the mind and how much meditation helps to combat stress. If you are under strain I’d highly recommend finding some time in your day to implement a meditation strategy that works for you.

Passengers on the journey

Passengers on the journey