Someone recently apologised for calling me Karen and not Kate on an email. The auto-suggest inserted it without her noticing.
And it got me thinking. Like all the labels we take on, what's really in a name?
I didn't choose my name. My parents named me Kathryn after Loch Katrine in Scotland (photo above). And I never liked the "ryn" part so, when I was younger, my friends called me Ka (pronounced Kay) and then, at some point in my late teens, I grew into a Kate.
I like Kate. It's straight and to the point, like me. It's cool (how I'd like to be). It's strong (yes, I'm usually that - at least outwardly). The heroine of a movie is often a Kate.
And my parents rarely called me "Kathryn" directly, unless I'd been VERY bad. No, I'd be "Katie", "Gloops" or "Katie Gloops" or "K.G.". Gloops was from a comic strip in the Star newspaper from Sheffield (UK) of a cat with big dimples, like me!
Here's Gloops and me for comparison - you decide !
I miss being a Katie now my parents are gone. But Ron calls me Katie sometimes. Or Kato ... I often think I'll be a Katie if/when I publish that book ...
So I answer to many names these days and that's OK by me. Because they're not me. And I wasn't even born a Kathryn - I'm adopted and my birth mother called me Amanda. So that would have been a whole different ballgame - Mandy, Mandi, Mand, Manda ..?
When Ron and I married, we were told we could choose any name we liked. Completely change all our names if we wanted. I wish I'd had time to reflect and I might have picked something that fitted me better. Something just for me. By me. But in the moment I went for Kate, dropped my middle name and kept my surname. Simple, easy and no fuss.
So what's in a name? I guess it's different for us all.
What does your name say about you? Do you like your name? What would you change it to, if you could?
And, now my mind is wandering to why, when we talk ABOUT a person or an animal we care about, do we use their given name, but NEVER when we're talking TO them? Unless we're angry with them and then, oh yes, we do, always!
I'll explain what I mean by way of some examples:
My husband is "Ron" unless I'm talking to him and then it's "Ronner" (it's our joke about cricket commentators on BBC Radio 4 LW).
And when I'm talking about my cat Sid (see photo) I always call him "Sid", nothing else.
So much for keeping names short and simple! Is this just me? Do you do this too?
And maybe this doesn't just apply to living things.
Some people are very close to their cars .....
Main Photo: https://pixabay.com/fr/users/PicturesofScotland-8052601
You know that thing we do, when we keep something we don't really need, just in case it comes in handy? Or when we keep too much stuff through guilt or duty or sentimentality?
And we do this over and over again. Until the attic gets full of forgotten stuff in boxes.
Maybe we'd love to convert the attic into an office or an art studio, but we don't want to go up there, because it's dark, dirty and musty. And everything's covered with cobwebs. And maybe the mice have moved in ...
So we shelve that passion. And we add more stuff, more boxes as we try to ignore how we feel about it all.
I find physical clutter extremely stressful. So I have to keep things very simple (and easy to clean). Just enough furniture to be comfortable and a few ornamental things. And everything must be something I love. Including my clothes. I tune into an item before I buy it and if it doesn't give me a happy, relaxed feeling then it's out (Marie Kondo tip)!
Here's a great article I read recently about stress and clutter.
And what about our relationships? How many do we tolerate through duty or fear of confrontation, rather than letting the relationship go or establishing better, healthier boundaries? This article has some great tips about managing our intimate relationships ...
And the ultimate stress is a cluttered mind. Maybe it's our beliefs, our limitations, our programming, our feelings ... with us 24/7. Making life so much harder than it needs to be.
So how do you know you're cluttered on the inside? Often it's a feeling - maybe a recurring, uncomfortable emotion. Or something physical. Maybe a pain, an ache or even an illness.
Mindfully tuning into that intuitive, inner voice is a skill that can come amazingly quickly with regular practice. And it's the vital first step to decluttering yourself.
You might need help to tune in at first. Because, although your subconscious is very strong, its voice can be barely a whisper. Or it may like to communicate with images or memories instead. Or there could be something blocking the transmission. Or your subconscious may have given up trying to talk altogether. Maybe now it's doing something else to get your attention - causing suffering in some new, inventive way.
But as soon as your subconscious mind feels heard, it turns off the alarm bell. The mind clutter and pain can disappear like magic and you get a beautifully clean, roomy attic back.
Now, I wonder, what could YOU do with all that space ... ?
Image by Levelord on Pixabay
To calm down a stressed out mind, one brilliant thing I recommend to my clients is "The Tahiti Pose".
It resets the stress response and brings you back to a calm, relaxed state in just a few minutes. You can do it anytime and it really helps with sleep just before bed ...
They say blood can get "stuck" in your big leg muscles when you're stressed because your body's preparing you to run for your life. So to get a more balanced blood supply to your brain, you need to help your leg muscles let go, so more blood can drain back to your head.
All you do is lie on your back on the floor and lift up your legs to get your hips quite close to a soft chair or bed. Put a cushion or folded blanket under your hips so your upper legs are not quite straight up (keep a slight angle to ensure circulation is maximised). Then you bend your lower legs to rest on the top. So you make a sort of "step" shape. See the photo here. Experiment with putting your arms out level with your shoulders on the floor or keeping them by your side. Right now I prefer my arms out ...
Your face will probably feel tight for a while and when that tight feeling goes, you're done! Usually 15 minutes or so does the trick. Extra points for a stomach rumble which shows you've really nailed the rest/digest relaxed state.
The Tahiti pose is a simpler version of a yoga pose (photo here) where you put your legs up against a wall. if you prefer this one, remember to ensure your legs are not totally straight up by putting a cushion under your hips to lift them slightly. Or just keep your hips away slightly from the wall.
And if you don't have the opportunity to lie down, then do something more vigorous with your body - like a few star jumps or running up some stairs. This can reset your stress response and keep it calm for hours. Perfect for when you know stressful times are gonna hit soon.
Maybe you've already tried some of these? Or maybe you know a variation?
Do please share in the comments so we can all benefit ...
Image by MabelAmber-1377835, still incognito - Pixabay
My mum used to collect four-leafed clovers. Whenever she found one, she'd press it in a book between sheets of tissue paper. She suffered with chronic illness and depression so, as a kid, I'd spend hours looking in the grass around our home, just so I could take one to her and bring a smile to her face for a moment. And I remember wondering why those leaves never seemed to work their lucky magic for her.
Some of my clients use the "luck" word. Whenever something "good" happens they say they were "lucky" and it can take some deep mindset change to realise they actually deserve the rewards for all the hard work they've put into their lives. But, of course, if something "bad" happens, then it's always their fault. Luck has done a great PR job on itself, taking all the glory and none of the blame!
I don't believe in luck. There! I said it again and nothing "bad" happened. Nor will it. Because I know I make my own luck.
Luck, like confidence, is not something I have, it's something I do.
The really meaningful stuff in my life only comes from putting in the effort and making things happen. If stuff comes too easily, it tends to leave easily too. If I get a windfall of unexpected money, then there's always an unforeseen bill to take that money away again soon after. I have to work for the stuff that stays around. The worthwhile things.
I do believe when I'm making an effort and I'm on the right road for me, then I become "lucky." Things just seem to go my way. Like all the traffic lights turning green as I approach. I'm in this amazing "flow" state where life is beside me, cheering me, helping me.
I use the feeling of everything going well as a compass ... a litmus test for whether I'm doing the "right" thing in my life.
Because whenever I stray from that road, making well-meaning effort in the wrong direction, I become "unlucky" and misfortune seems to follow me around. It's painful. And it lasts.
Of course, even when I'm on the right road, I'll go through hard times. But there's always something important I really needed to learn, when I look back. And those hard times are life's way of testing me - it's like I have to pass regular tests to stay on that road. To get what I want.
So when those testing times come, I trust they'll not last long. If they do, I listen to my intuitive inner self, because I've made a wrong turn somewhere. And I make a change to get back on track.
When I was sorting out mum's things after she died, I found that book stuffed full of beautifully preserved, four-leafed clovers. I didn't keep them - partly because I felt saddened by them and mainly because I didn't need them.
My compass is set and I'm taking a baby step forward each day ...
(Image by meineresterampe-26089, Pixabay)
I get rather caught up in my mind. So I've found a few things that work for me to help my mind shut down at night and to disperse the morning brain fog when I wake.
This is how I set my mind up for success every day:
First there's my night-time reset ...
I know the morning I have is always a reflection of the night before, so I try to sleep the 8.5 hours my mind needs to wake up fresh and ready for action each morning. And I know my mind works best when I stick to the same* bed time and waking time every day (*well almost - you know, sameish .... and yes, this means even week-ends and holidays).
If my mind is still busy at bedtime I like to simply imagine I'm an empty vessel letting go of my thoughts, layer by layer, until it quietens enough for sleep.
If I really find it hard to shut off my mind, I drink camomile tea or take a 200mg magnesium* supplement (magnesium glycinate or citrate are good options for me) an hour before bed. And I try not to eat 3 hours before bed or else I can wake up in the middle of the night as my blood sugar takes a dive.
I am quite sensitive to the effects of caffeine, so I try not to drink caffeine or eat chocolate after midday (and even then a quarter of the caffeine will still be in my mind at midnight).
*or taking an Epsom salt bath if there's a bath available....
And then there's my morning mind primer ...
1. As soon as I wake, while my eyes are still closed, I take a few deep breaths to calm the lizard mind.
2. Then I do a safety check to calm the monkey mind by asking myself “do I have enough food, shelter, warmth, health to get me through today?” Then I will silently express gratitude for all I have right now, knowing I already have enough.
3. Next (and most importantly for any stress already bubbling up), I calm the human mind by visualising myself feeling good at the end of the day having satisfactorily achieved everything I needed to do.
4. Then I open my eyes, stretch, get out of bed and vow to practice my “now” state throughout the day.
I sometimes add in other rituals to bring even more calm alertness to my mind, such as:
These are the things that work for me right now.
There's no one right way to get yourself fit for action in the morning, because we're all so wonderfully unique and also because our needs change all the time.
So all we can do is test and tweak to find what gives our inner self the best possible start to the day.
And then it's up to us to go make the most of it :)
Remember I posted before about how stress is actually good for us, as long as we really, truly believe it?
And that doing a strong pose like "Wonder Woman" or Superman" (possibly somewhere private!) can help us beat anxiety?
And now, this research says if we tell ourselves we're excited when stressed, rather than try to calm ourselves down, we get good stress instead of the damaging kind!
I had the opportunity to test this out earlier this week ....
I was driving the digger and we were using it to lift the (nearly 2 ton) concrete septic tank into a 2 metre deep hole we'd dug in the ground. We had one shot at this. If the lifting chains broke, the tank would smash to the ground and break. If the digger couldn't take the load, the digger would break as well.
All costly problems.
I was stressed.
So I had a chat with myself and decided to see it as an exciting challenge instead - I'd never done this before and probably would never have the chance to do it again. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for me.
So I went for it.
And it went in like a dream. Yay! Touchdown! Never touched the sides.
AND I was able to ENJOY doing it, instead of feeling that old, crappy stomach-churning, tears-pricking-the-eyes vibe.....
Yep! Cool trick! This one's a keeper .....
I was chatting with friends last night about how we find it so hard to get a decent photo that captures the real "us" for our websites. We agreed that a great photographer would probably be helpful, but also that it's about relaxing for the shot. Properly. Because if we're the slightest bit stressed, our lips go thin and our face gets tense. And the eyes can't hide how we're feeling inside.
We decided we were obsessing a little too much about our flaws. And we needed to just be ourselves and people will approve or not. To not stress about what we can't control. So we're keeping it real and not photoshopping our photos or posting pictures from decades ago. Not yet anyway!
And it got me thinking about how we judge ourselves so harshly. And how it's worse for people whose whole identity is strongly linked to their external beauty or an image they want to project. Because this can become a huge source of stress. Trying to get that perfect photo ...
Me, I never got that obsessed with beauty. Quite the opposite. When I was young, I thought I was ugly, because no one ever complimented me on my looks. Not like they did my pretty, younger sister. They would compliment me on my brain, my grades, my achievements. So I became obsessed with achievement. And being perfect at it. Yeah, right there was the start of my stress.
I know it's not helpful to praise kids for their looks. That's not my issue. My problem was I'd decided I was ugly and so I didn't feel OK with being "me" as I grew up. I'd made a false assumption and created a severe lack of self-esteem and confidence because of it.
And now, as I look back at those old photos of little me, I can see I was actually rather cute! I just wish I'd known that. Way back when. A lot of wasted time hiding in the background, feeling ashamed of being me ...
Nowadays I'm OK. More than OK. My work with NLP has released those old, limiting beliefs and, with them, the shame and the stress.
So now I appreciate my gifts. I love my big eyes, even if they're a little more lined than before. And by being OK with me as I am has brought out this new energy. A glow that is so much more powerful that physical beauty. Getting old is still a luxury on our planet and so I plan to enjoy the journey. And love my body for getting me every step of the way.
Even if I do wonder at times who that person is who looks back at me from the mirror :)
It is what it is.
I came across a video by Dove about women and their self-perception that expands on my point perfectly. Even though we all put ourselves down about our looks, others will always see us in a better light.
A forensic artist draws a woman's face as she describes it (she's hidden behind a screen). Then a stranger describes her to the same artist, who draws a second image. The woman then gets to see both drawings side by side. The results are quite moving.
Watch the 3 min video here.
Our brains are wired to look for the negative (focusing on and amplifying the things we believe are "bad" and ignoring the "good"). So we all need to work doubly hard to be notice beauty in the world. And in ourselves.
The only answer is to accept ourselves, warts and all. Because others don't really notice our warts anyway. They're focusing on their own warts. Their own dramas.
And when people spend time with us, what they really see is the person inside. Our real beauty within. And true friends really love us for it. And reflect it back.
I also found this 2 minute video showing an alternative view, this time with men. I love the irreverent way that people take emotionally-laden stuff and just turn it on its head.
And it reminds me that I, too, can choose to take myself a little less seriously ....
Today is the UN's International Day of Happiness.
And to find out how happy you may be, based on where you live, here's the UN's 2018 report on World Happiness or a simpler overview of the happiest countries in the world here.
But wherever you live, why not make time for a smile right now? Yes. Go on. Smile.
Just for yourself. Because smiling lowers stress and simply makes us happier.
It's more comfortable to smile than frown. So give your face muscles a break.
And maybe that smile could turn into a laugh ...
Laughing tells your mind and body to relax, because you breathe out for longer than you breathe in. Remember those belly-aching laughs that make you feel you're gonna pass out until you finally gasp the air back in again? What better way to turn on your "rest and digest" hormones?
And then why not make someone else smile? Say something heart-warming or funny or simply smile at them. For no other reason than just to brighten their day ...
Smiling is contagious (check out this brilliantly funny poem) and so let's infect the world!
It takes patience to learn to listen to our wiser, true self.
To tune out the chatter in our heads.
But in my experience, once we've learned how to make that connection, we never lose it.
I get the strongest sense of my "self" in my gut - right in the solar plexus. I noticed in a yoga session that I could sense the whole of my body and my connection to everything from this place. Quite the awakening for this sensible scientist who can numb herself by living totally in her head!
And mindfulness helps me be even more aware of the messages my mind and body are sending and receiving.
All I need to do is stop and listen.
My work with NLP and hypnosis together with meditation has made me so mindful of that voice of "self" from my deeper, subconscious self. It started as a whisper, but comes through much more clearly nowadays.
And it's not so much a voice, really.
More of a knowing.
Very different from Ron, my husband. His subconscious shows him words on a screen in his mind. We all have our own way of tuning in.
I don't stress about a dedicated morning meditation practice. Kinda misses the point if I do! Sometimes I'm tired or I just can't be arsed ... so just a few deep breaths and a quick tune into my body will do.
I know it's good to do a 20 minute meditation at least twice a week (they say 12 minutes is the minimum for building your stress control muscle), but I also know even 5 minutes of focus has an effect. Anything's better than nothing ... but sometimes I do nothing! And that's OK too.
I find even a weekly meditation class is enough for most people to get incredible benefits - especially that moment of pause that starts to magically appear before you automatically react. Then you can decide if you need to step in and take the wheel or relax and just enjoy being on autopilot. To choose how you behave. How you feel. Self mastery in the making. And all for just a few minutes a week ...
As long as you do something regularly, it seems there's always some benefit.
And due to my practice over the years, I'm very mindful of what my head, heart and gut are saying to me throughout the day. And I'm tuned in to how relaxed I am in my body - especially my neck (where so much tension can lie for me).
And I've noticed that sometimes it's not in my gut, but a sudden, slight tension in my left calf muscle that tells me something wrong.
I look for that feeling every time I weigh up decisions or want to know what I really feel about something. I just think of the option or outcome and if my calf tenses up then it's a no! Cool huh?
It's simple, but it takes practice to tune in. To just stop for a moment. To listen and to learn.
And to earn that extra time before I react. That choice. Priceless.
I was just listening to "A Walk in the park" by The Nick Straker band on the radio.
Yeah, I know it's not the height of musical sophistication but, WOW! In a microsecond I was transported right back to the bedroom that I grew up in. I was 14, lying on my bed and taping my favourite songs on a cassette recorder from the top 40 on Radio One, as I did every Sunday night.
Just push "play" and "record". And once I had it recorded, I would write out the words so I could sing along :)
It was wonderful - I surprised myself, because I still knew the words. My mind just presented them to me, once sentence at a time, as I sang along. I didn't need to think or force it. I just sang and the words were there.
It always amazes me how our subconscious mind stores every tiny little detail of our lives. Even long before we thought our memory began. And unlocking these hidden memories are often the key to releasing our stress. To listen, learn and let them go.
A key to my stress release was to let go of some deep emotions surrounding my birth. Who knew that was in there? Consciously my first memory is at about 5 years old. Unconsciously I go way back.
Our whole life is all filed away deep in our mind. Just in case it becomes useful again.
And in there today, I discovered the words to an old favourite.
Singing along was such a simple pleasure. It's one of my most joyful ways to release stress. Singing (like humming or even gargling) activates the vagus nerve in the neck and lets our "rest and digest" hormones take over for a while.
I wonder how many other songs I've forgotten and would love to hear again? If only I knew what they were ...
I suppose I just need to keep listening, put myself out there and they will come :)
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