Thursday, 28 June 2018


Yes, it is the middle of the year.  Very soon social media feeds will begin the weekend countdown to  Rather than fall into this annual spin, mid-year is an opportunity to reflect on the first half of the year and choose an area that could be improved upon in the second half.  Being the middle of winter, grumpiness reigns in many homes and board rooms, so some kindness to oneself in this regard is recommended.
Christmas and the headlong rush toward the end of the year will be set in motion.

The beginning of the year tends to start with [often unrealistic] ambition and energy which subtly wanes into complaisance.  This complaisance runs through our relationships as well and is the focus here. 

Reflecting on the past six months, what role(s) have you played in your personal and professional relationships?  Have they all been positive?  Have they all been necessary?  Most importantly, did the role(s) sit well with your sense of who you are as an individual?  We all know the common sayings around hindsight, but it makes an excellent reflection tool as much as it does a self-beating one.  Chances are there are some negative patterns that are being repeated in relationships – some knowingly, others not – the key is to get to the bottom of why and make those moments of reflection more positive.

Thursday, 31 May 2018


Without going into a debate about whether exams are really necessary, or if they really prepare anyone for the pressures of the working world, let us focus here on what can be done during this time to make it easier on the family.

Despite what the exam writing child may feel, this time is stressful for everyone in the house.  Anyone feel like a trip out for hot-chocolate?  Forget it – exams are being studied for.  Want to have some friends round for dinner?  Forget it – exams are being studied for so early nights are important.  In many households, much comes to a standstill to make studying easier for the child(ren) writing exams.  While it is noble, it may not necessarily be the best idea.  Having time away is important for reflection and general good mental health which benefits studying.  (This is not to be read as “socialising is more important than studying”).

Once the basics have been covered – good diet, sleeping well, suitable study space – it is important for studiers to create their own timetable of what to study when.  Some schools will provide a timetable for children but it does not take into account which subject(s) your child needs to spend more time on, or which days there are extra-mural or family activities which shorten the available studying time.  Dotting this timetable around the house lets others know when studying is taking place and that this Saturday is a very full day so it is best to decline the invitation out without having a big family discussion (which would make the non-studiers feel less important, and the studiers feel that exams are ruining their life).

Breaks are vital to studying and should be taken every twenty to fourty minutes depending on concentration span.  Sitting for two hours straight is not as productive as it looks.  A break should be time enough to get something to eat (if necessary), drink something (preferably) and go to the toilet (to avoid this being used as a procrastination tool).  Jumping jacks outside, or a run around the house will get the circulation going and improve mood – and it is definitely easier to study when not in gloom-mode.  (This is not to be read as a half hour gym exercise that requires a half hour recovery time).

When the exams are over, it may be time to seriously look at what is covered in a week and set aside some time to do regular revision notes so there is less preparation to do before the studying starts for the next exams.

Thursday, 26 April 2018


“We’re just a normal family.”
“She doesn’t behave like a normal five-year-old.”
“I wish he would speak in a normal voice.”

What is normal?

This word comes with such a loaded connotation of a certain standard that is easily attained.  It is just as loaded with the connotation that anything not meeting that standard is abnormal, and no-one wants to be abnormal because it implies they don’t “fit in” and soon as they don’t fit in, they are destined to live a lonely existence.

We need to be careful about chasing a “normal” life to be happy.  Although the dictionaries have fairly consistent definitions for the word, people don’t.  “Normal” differs from culture to culture, home to home, and person to person and it is common to think our way of doing things is the normal way.  This creates a great deal of conflict in the workplace where we have little control over the people we interact with; but it also plays a role within friendships and families.

As relationships evolve and new milestones are met, we share more of ourselves and learn about ourselves in new situations.  Always assuming what we do is perfectly normal.  When this normality is challenged, it can throw quite a bit of the relationship off-kilter.  Often times we can reconcile the differences and find bring the other person(s) over to our side of normal and sometimes we create a whole new version of normal – without giving it another thought.

Sometimes though, it is more difficult to reconcile these differences of normality and here counselling can be a great help.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Listening for Purpose

As mentioned in a previous article on “listening”, doing it properly is no easy feat.  It requires   If we are in “the zone” of actively listening to a friend or family member having a difficult time, chances are they will feel better, even if it is only momentarily, but the listener is often left in a flurry, or a heap.
undivided attention, not only to the words but the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions.

The bad news is, “the zone” was probably just a little to the left.

As listeners, we tend to get caught up in offering solutions or trying to make the speaker feel better.    Often times, the friend or family member in a difficult time, needs to vent; neither solutions nor a pep talk may be sought, yet that is exactly what we aim to do.

While this is noble, the listener may feel taken advantage of – especially if the solutions offered require time and energy from the listener beyond the conversation.  When we are actively put in a listener role, we have the responsibility – both to ourselves and the speaker – to determine what our purpose is.  This can be done through a direct question, or by careful listening for cues. 

It is important to identify our roles in each conversation to ensure we do not feel taken advantage of and the listener feels supported in the way that is most needed at that time.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Back to Work Blues

“I need a holiday!”

This phrase is coming up quite a bit lately, and it’s coming from people who have spent a little over a month back at work.  It comes with much eye-rolling from spouses and colleagues and is assumed to be said tongue-in-cheek.  Except it’s not.

While most feel a twinge, or something stronger, of something when going back to work after a break, it should lift at some point.  Barring those going into a new position, department or company; or dealing with a colleague who is not returning, those “back to work blues” should be replaced by a comfortable routine.  If this is not the case, some investigation is required.

After ticking the boxes of all the must haves such as sleep and food, it is time to consider whether those blue feelings are only associated with work, or if it is a general theme.  A general, pervasive down feeling is indicative of poor, or a decline, in mental health (mental health is the more technical term for our feelings and coping strategies).  Often one event, such as going back to work, acts as a trigger toward feeling down and we tend to associate the feeling with the trigger, despite the fact that the feeling has migrated into other areas of life. 

Considering we tend to spend a great deal of time at work, it is common to think that this alone is the source of feeling down; taking stock of those emotions, their triggers and the areas they infiltrate can help determine if it really is just work blues or if some greater self-care is needed. 

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Maintaining Relaxation

Many people experience the ‘Sunday blues’ where the end of the weekend brings a sense of sadness. massive difference.  How can we maintain those carefree feelings throughout the week, month and year?
For those prone to this experience, the end of a break from work can be a bit more painful.  Logically, there is no difference between this Wednesday and the one from two or three weeks ago – apart from the scenery perhaps.  Emotionally though, there is a

Take the time to think back to your time away from work, what was it that made the time so special?  Ok, apart from being away from work, what made it so special?  Barring the holiday you may have gone on, those special things are available to you throughout the year.  Granted you may not be able to do as much on a whim during the week but planning your week to include what makes you happy can free the weekends for those whimsical ideas.  If you tend to be a bit of a social hermit during the work year, consider why this is the case and challenge yourself to schedule a weekly or monthly ’contact’ with someone – with technology even your overseas special people are reachable for a cup of coffee.  It may seem counter-intuitive but working non-stop does not make you more productive.

If being away from your work space truly was the sole thing that made your break special, you may need to consider making some changes – whether it be to personalise your work space, ask for a raise, change your working hours, move to a different department, change companies or even careers entirely (with the latter being the most challenging).  While not everyone is smitten with their jobs, if there are no elements of satisfaction, the year will be very long.

It may also be time to consider changing what you tell yourself about the year:
December should not be a reward for working yourself to the bone – reward yourself often, healthily.
December is not an end – it’s a break: viewing December as an end sets your emotions up for disappointment.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The End of the Year

Regardless of whether you are spending the time with family, friends or yourself; at home, on holiday or at the office, this time of the year is stressful.  The change in routine and more time spent in different circumstances, is enough to rattle most, whether you are looking forward to the upcoming season or not.  And bear in mind that if this rings true for you, it is likely to ring true for at least some of those around you, which means there will be stressed people around stressed people.  Ah, the things movies are made of.

While it may be tempting to slip into the ‘responsibilities’ of the season (whatever they may be for you), ensure some quiet time to yourself over the next few weeks, preferably in between the bouts of activity to allow your body and mind to settle.  This is not the time to make up for all missed social events and holidays in the year.  As with life in general, it is vital to maintain balance.

If you feel yourself becoming frayed along the edges, be kind to yourself and consider that those around you may be feeling the same.  Give some thought to how you can notice the beginnings of becoming frayed and ‘quick needs’ that must be met to bring calm again: specific music prepped on the iPod; favourite tea stocked, etc.

If you will be around children, have nap spaces available.  They thrive on routine and while they may be thrilled that there is no school and there is more flexibility, they are easily overstimulated and overwhelmed.  An afternoon nap will do them wonders.  It works for adults too.