How’s it going with you?
Anyone sick of hearing the phrase ‘unprecedented times’?
I guess there’s no way of getting away from it, things have changed. One thing I have realised is that in many ways being an acupuncturist has to some degree prepared me for these changes. By supporting others with their ‘ups and downs’ it’s given me insight on my own behaviour patterns, how to understand stress and how to move forward.
This time two weeks ago I was pretty much in meltdown. It lasted about three days as I realised my income was ending and the life I took for granted had abruptly vanished. The three key emotions I faced was anger, fear and frustration. A pretty potent mix.
One of the fundamental laws of Five Element Acupuncture is ‘there is always change’. Whilst experiencing the ‘melt’ it was helpful to remember that those feelings would change and I knew from observing myself in the past that my negative feelings may come up regularly but they change pretty quickly, normally into positive actions. I have now figured that negative emotion is now the beginning of something better, as long as I make it so.
When lockdown first started, I didn’t have a plan. To be fair I’m not much of a planner, I prefer to go with inspiration and be flexible, constantly assessing new information and then acting, there’s no master plan just a cluster of small, short term plans that generally move me in the right direction on reflection.
In the second week of lockdown, I started to notice the following list forming to help me move forward in a positive way. Without fear, anger or frustration. Maybe you’ve read about most of them elsewhere but if just one of these helps someone, then it’s worth the twenty minutes it’s taken to write them out..
Control what you can and forget the rest – seriously, forget it! There’s loads we could stress about at present. What’s the use? NONE. Be proactive, take positive actions, protect yourself, then chill out. Let the stress go, work with what you’ve got. Maybe this time is important for us to decide what it is we want in life and when the time is right, act on it.
Watch your narrative – this is make or break! The story you tell yourself about yourself and your place in the world is important. Two weeks ago mine was ‘I’m going to be poor and pointless’ Frankly, what ********! I decided that ‘I can overcome adversity one step at a time’ was a far better narrative. Rather than being a victim of circumstance, I was going to make circumstance work for me. There’s now so much I want to do during lockdown I haven’t got time for a pity party. This led me on to…
Create a new routine – humans thrive with routine. It’s fair to say humans generally benefit from some structure and routine to feel safe and secure. This routine should be based on positive, self caring, supportive routine as far as possible, not a humdrum one. This has been the greatest struggle for me so far. It was useful to realise this early on. Now, I’m up and at it each day without even having to think, by…
Exercising each day – before I even get chance to think in the morning I am getting up and getting out for an 8000 step walk. I get up super early to avoid other people (no offence) and get it out the way. I’m not a natural ‘exerciser’ and find jumping around in front of Joe Wicks on Youtube boring. However, walking for me is different as there is so much to see out there that I normally thunder past in the car.
I noticed immediately that these 8000 steps utterly transformed my mood. It also motivates me, something that I can struggle with. I feel lighter, clearer minded, happier, more content and ready to be productive with the rest of my day. By the time I really wake up in the morning I’m already 4000 steps in and this feels good! This morning my walk made me realise this lockdown is an opportunity to…
Expand my consciousness – rather than having a long list of things to get done this morning I was totally present, in the moment, thanks to the birds! I suddenly became aware that I could hear the skylarks out by the ring road. This was an exciting moment.
I’ve done this walk many times before but my mind was full of other stuff and I simply yomped past without noticing. WHAT A WASTE. From noticing the Skylarks I then noticed there were Lapwings and it went from there until I was pretty much fully absorbed in the landscape. This felt amazing. To be part of something much wider, noticing more, expanding my conscious mind to my surroundings rather than a truck load of unnecessary mental trivia.
Try something new, regularly – this helps keep our brains elastic, ready for change and interested. So far, I’ve done ten online jigsaws (who knew I’d find them so relaxing), I’ve tuned into the radio, normally music around the house irritates me, now I love it and it also helps with my routine as I’ve begun sitting down with John Suchet on Classic FM at 11:30am for a cup of tea. I’ve also reconnected with my childhood by switching on Heart ’70s! In addition I am teaching myself how to grow veg, on Pinterest, as a cheap option to feeding myself, healthily.
Stop multitasking – this is utter luxury. Instead of spinning all the plates to keep two businesses running and a home etc, I’m just doing single tasks and concentrating on them. It was difficult at first as I keep feeling that I need to be rushing onto the next thing but now, I don’t. Lockdown has given me the sense of having more time. Better organisation in the future, when things return to normal, can help me maintain this feeling and stop the unnecessary mental race.
Be helpful – this one I have yet to conquer! Helping others makes you feel useful, part of something, less isolated and content. As yet, I haven’t figured how to be of use. I feel confident that once this massive gear change has settled in that I will figure this one out. Being helpful, from a distance, seems like a challenge.
On a final note I have also accepted that if there’s a day when none of this can help, well shucks, that’s fine too. I don’t know what’s ahead but this list is a start to help me deal with what ever it may be. I hope that some of these utterances may help you. I’d be interested to hear how you are tackling this new situation. Drop me a note…
STOP PRESS: on a practical note, Vitamin D has been shown to significantly help the body fight virus infections. Most of us will be deficient. I regularly take a Vitamin D spray. You may wish to research this yourself and get one ordered for delivery.
Patterns are everywhere. Look up now and see. They are on that feature wall opposite. They are on our clothes, furniture, our finger-tips and all around in nature. The universe is based on them. Seasonal patterns, growth spirals in plants (137.5 degrees), planet orbits, mating cycles, they can be found all over the shop.
Yin-yang theory is a pattern too. A pattern of life and death, growth and retraction. An ever-changing cycle following a set pattern.
A set pattern.
A set pattern!
How many set patterns exist in your life? I’m talking about patterns that you dictate, routines that you live and think by. Stop for a moment and think about your set patterns. This can be tricky as they can be so ingrained that we can find it difficult to separate ourselves from them and objectify them.
Let me show you some of mine and let’s see if you recognise them?
A recent one that has emerged is falling asleep too early in the dark evening, say 9pm and then waking at 2pm wide awake and ready to go. I then lie in bed for an hour reading the news, checking emails and generally flooding my brain with blue light from my mobile. I then drift off back to sleep at about 4am and re-wake at 7am feeling tired.
My friend, this pattern is not working for me!
I would assign that pattern to a behaviour pattern. What about other patterns in my life? How about patterns of thought?
A routine thought pattern I fall into is lazy-lacking-motivation-boredom-frustration pattern. This one really aggravates me and it takes a while for me to work my way out of it. It normally results in some over reaction humongous house/business restructure overhaul to get me out of it and re-motivated. I feel exhausted just thinking about it, frankly!
It is fair to say that some patterns work well and others don’t.
Are you aware of your patterns that do and those that don’t?
Think of how much easier life would be if we could constructively critique our own patterns and use more of those that work and shed those that don’t.
The good news is, WE CAN!
And, it’s pretty easy. Here are some pointers to get you on your way:
- Start small
- Notice some of your daily routines such as getting ready for work and analyse them for their comfort and effectiveness
- Notice if they make you feel ‘in flow’ or ‘at odds’
- Act accordingly, grow the ‘flow-ers’ and ditch the ‘odders’
- Use this reflective technique to assess your thought patterns too
- Create a ‘mental watcher’ to keep an eye on your own thought patterns. This just means being more aware of your own thoughts and see if they work for, or against you
- Take people with you. Encourage those who share your life to help look at how your patterns work for each other. Talk about the concept, reflect on your ‘together patterns’ and see if they are working for you
- Try to incorporate this pattern of observation every single day to keep your life flexible, responsive and fresh.
We are about to be bombarded with the whole “New Year, New You” hog-wash.
I hate it. It’s a cliché. It’s normally propagated by someone trying to sell you something!
Ignore it this year and instead, make a resolution to keep your patterns at the fore of your mind and keep them working for you every day of the year.
This January I will be using the theme of patterns in a great deal of my acupuncture work. Have a think about your patterns and maybe come with some ideas and puzzles that we can chew over.
Have a fantastic 2017!
I had this idea last September for developing small events called ‘Acupuncture Gatherings’. The idea is simple, as the best ones are. You and two friends can have a relaxed, in fact, very relaxed get together in my comfortable clinic surroundings for no other reason than to have some fun. I have ‘piloted’ the idea a couple of times and it has worked really well. It goes something a little like this:
Today’s menu of relaxing activities:
Enjoy a drink
Ask questions about your session
Have a go with my favourite point of all time
Sit back with the four-point peace combination (hands and feet)
Learn how to turn your phone into a haven of tranquility
Learn stress-release acupressure points to take away
I said it was simple! The event can be tailored to your own specific requirements and as always I am happy to answer any questions you may have about acupuncture gatherings and how they can be booked. The gatherings are only available in York as I do not have sufficient space in the Harrogate clinic.
The event is a great way to have a very different celebration with friends or family. Or it can simply be for no other reason than a kick-back, do something unusual and learn a few new methods to chill.
Prices start at £15 per person and the gathering lasts for about an hour and a half to two hours.
I love this idea and would be delighted to share more ideas with you about your event.
In this blog I have a think about how helping others can support our own wellbeing. Helping can Help you too!
In this blog entry I explore how experiences of acupuncture treatment can differ. Have a browse and see what you make of my scribblings:
Adventure with me into the winter world of hygge. What is it and how can it help you this winter?
Well that got your attention. You are possibly thinking I am about to spin you a tale about oiled-up Japanese warriors in uncomfortable undies imparting some great piece of life advice regarding sumo and acupuncture. Not quite. I’m talking about the other SUMO…
Shut Up, Move On.
I can’t clearly remember when SUMO exactly entered my life. It was around the time I was working in Cornwall on an ‘arms-length’ project with Caradon District Council. We were a very small team that was charged with creating a new service to help people in crisis. It was a complicated and frustrating process as well as highly rewarding and frankly, a bit of a laugh. As a team we used ‘SUMO’ a great deal when various economic, procedural and colleague issues arose. We had to, there was no time for sitting and dwelling on our numerous operational problems, we had to deliver for clients and funders.
Since those days I’ve used SUMO to help weather the things in life that are sent to test. I regularly tell my patients to SUMO and it proves to be a liberating mantra when we get caught up in lifes’ trials.
I still have the privilege of working with people in crisis. As I am sure you are aware, acupuncture is more than just a pain treatment. I firmly believe it helps nourish the human spirit also. How? I’m not entirely sure exactly how, but I see it happen all the time. Mostly it’s receiving support from someone who is on your side, listens without judgement and can be trusted. In combination, the needle part then allows the body to relax and the mind absorb new perspectives. Frankly, I do not spend too much time over thinking the ‘how’, more the ‘how can I do it better’ for the next patient through the door.
The crises we face vary greatly, but some of the things we can employ to help mitigate them do not. I have put together a hit-list of things we can do to SUMO when things get tough. It is a list as much for myself as it is for any other. I genuinely use these tips day to day.
When the going gets tough, try these..
- Use mantras. I do this all the time, with my fav being SUMO. I also use ‘I choose peace’ if feeling anxious and ‘F*ck It!’ if frustrated. I say them out loud as a constant reminder to break negativity and try and take a better path in my mind.
- Watch who you spend time with. Do they radiate positivity or spread doom? Minimise the doom-mongers if you are feeling off.
- Get rest and breathe. Deep breaths help release tension, feed the brain oxygen and lower heart rate, overall making you feel more chilled.
- Axe the unnecessary. When you are up against it, cut out the unnecessary activities. Crisis can bring along a lot of extra work and so some of the regular tasks need axing. It is not possible to ‘do it all’, so don’t even try. Prioritise, by making a list of the most urgent and necessary tasks.
- Asking for help is a skill that few people possess during difficult times. Have some compassion for yourself and let others muck in. In most cases helping others is a rewarding experience, give them a chance to feel useful.
- Flip-think. This is a new one I am learning about. It kind of falls into the ‘silver-lining’ Ven diagram of disaster! Instead of concentrating on the downside to the crisis, thinking about what this time of perceived turmoil might be bringing in terms of new possibilities, new paths, new opportunities, reviewing existing plans, meeting new people, learning about yourself and others.
- Guillotine the guilt. Humans seem to be drawn to guilt. It creeps into all kinds of situations and takes hold without us even realising. Take time to try and recognise its’ existence. Analyse why you are feeling it, then cut its’ flaming head off. Guilt is mostly a total waste of time. It’s often a self centred emotion that tries to make everything about us. Well, newsflash, unless you have done something truly vile to someone else, it’s a waste of time. If you have done something vile, then tough. Maybe this dose of guilt will teach you to be a better person!
- Try and laugh. Seeing the lighter side of life can be a real tonic and humour helps us put things into proper perspective and enables us to deal with tough stuff. Seeing the lighter side is not disrespectful, but a way of diffusing intense emotions. Have a little titter with trusted friends, just be careful who you do it in front of! Raucous laughter at the expense of others can be damaging, so have tact.
- Put the kettle on. Make tea. Be British. When it all comes down to it, a nice calm brew can work wonders. Plus, it’s what we British do best.
fresh new season
In line with Chinese Philosophy I have been very busy during the creative season of Spring. Spring is seen as the season of ‘Wood’ in China and possesses qualities of renewal, growth, creation, moving forward and vision to the future. It is without doubt my favourite season and I relish the new outlook it brings. By the end of February I am well and truly over the whole winter ‘thing’.
This Spring has brought a new flush of creativity as after seven years in practice I decided to have a makeover. Not me, my logo. Plus, my website was ageing (aren’t we all!) and needed some serious cyber-technical-wizardry to bring it up to speed. So, it’s goodbye little black stones and hello ‘Five Element Lotus Petal Icon’ (or Felpi for short!). I decided to embrace the world of social media and advertise for a graphic designer on www.peopleperhour.com. I’d never used this site before and thought it worth a shot, rather than ringing around designers in the area. After uploading the job onto the site and then heading off to bed I was pretty freaked out to sign on to over fifty proposals from as far a field as Pakistan, Iran and the United Arab Emirates! This I had not expected. I spent most of the morning sifting through all the talented people who had responded and plumped for a designer in an exotic and foreign land over the Pennines, Manchester! We had a brief conversation over the phone, where I pretty much told him what I didn’t want (helpful) and he set to work creating me a new look. I think ‘Felpi’ looks great and hope you like it too.
Next, the website needed an overhaul. That decision was simple and I texted my mate Emma Heptonstall in Vietnam. Thankfully she was only there on holiday so we arranged a meet up for when she got back and she told me what I wanted! I love Emmas’ no nonsense approach and within a week the fledgling site was built. She even coaxed me into using orange! Not a colour I would have thought about, but I think it looks brilliant. Thank you Emma, you’ve made a potentially intimidating process an absolute breeze.
I suppose at some point in this blog entry I need to ‘nutshell’ some kind of message and here it is:
It ‘feels good’ to refresh and renew aspects of your life. Moving forward is important. At the same time it ‘feels good’ to draw on the people and things in your life that enrich and support it. They bring different perspectives and help you learn and grow. This Spring has been a great example of this for me. How has it been for you? Think about what makes you ‘feel good’.
Oh and by the way ‘Feel Good’ is my new little strap-line for my practice as I am pensioning off ‘Relax, Heal, Enjoy’.
Hello brave new world!
The experience of several of my patients this summer has got me thinking about the stories we share about ourselves.
Like buses, there appears to have been a spate of knee replacement operations this spring and summer amongst my flock of regulars. Clearly this has brought concern, worry and anxiety as well as the eventual realisation that the long term gains far outstrip the short term inconvenience and discomfort. Each person has had their own experience and this has had a great deal to do with attitude, general health, listening to and taking appropriate advice. However, there appears to be a ‘dark’ side lurking to this experience that every person has experienced; that of the experience of others!
We all love to share our stories. Should it be at the expense of others? Every individual this summer has mentioned the ‘story of doom’ that a so-called friend, family member or neighbour has dumped on them, detailing how things have ‘gone wrong’ for them.
I have to say I’ve been in stitches (not literally) regarding some of the thoughtless and crass over-sharings that have been vented in my treatment room. My dark humour gives way when it clearly has an impact on the wellbeing of patients, soon to go under the knife.
So, I suppose the question behind this blog entry is….’if our stories do not positively contribute to someones challenge, is it better to keep quiet?’ I think the answer is a resounding YES!
Stories help us relate to others. They can help us off load and give us a sense of being heard or better understood. Which is fine. Stories that undermine the experiences of others or bring messages of doom and woe are unwelcome. This neither helps the teller nor, the listener as it makes them look thoughtless and lacking in empathy.
Putting a filter on our stories of doom for the benefit of others also has a wider implication for ourselves. Think about the back story you present to the world for a moment.
An acquaintance of mine regularly crowbars the fact that they were made redundant several years back. It is understandable that such a traumatic experience leaves a very big impression. They have gone on to create a fabulously successful business, with more opportunity and creative expression than the previous job could ever have offered. They make more money, have more control over their lives and are fundamentally better off in every respect. So why hold on to the story of doom?
By looking inward only they can answer that question. It is a question we should all ask of ourselves to make sure we are holding on to the good stories and not dragging the bad around with us unnecessarily.
Here’s hoping you are living ‘happily ever after’!
I’ve just got back from ten days in Wales and the weather was amazing! I’m not here to brag or bore you with another long re-hash-holiday-story. Just to bring you a couple of ideas that I have to keep reminding myself about.
The photo is taken early one morning before the world and their dog arrived on the beach to enjoy the glorious day. The strange thing about this visit was it made me a bit sad. I often visit this beach in my head and think about the soft sand, gentle breeze, ice cold sea and the exhilaration of watching the dog race up and down the beach to her hearts’ content. However, whilst actually standing there, in reality, I felt a little black cloud hovering right above my head. I realised that the thought of having to leave the beach, the beach that I had been day dreaming about for the last twelve months, was bringing me down.
So, what did I do? Well, I had a little word with myself…
Firstly, I told myself to buck up and not waste the opportunity to enjoy the moment. Far too much of our time is wasted by wandering minds. I brought my thoughts right back to what I was doing, where I was, who I was with and stopped thinking ahead.
I then made a point of making the absolute best of every second on that beach. Which included running into that freezing cold, jelly-fish-ridden sea, running up and down with the dog, rolling on the sand and taking lots of photos.
My friend also joked that we needed to take ‘memory-photos’ to keep with us after we’d moved on. Cheesy, yes, but important.
Finally, I decided that I would use the fun memories that I was creating by living in the moment and revisit them when ever I felt the need (most days) as a way of taking a holiday whenever I liked. Holidays are a state of mind as well as a time away from home. It is possible to achieve that holiday state of mind every day, if we just make some effort. However, it is important to remember that a great state of mind does take some effort.
Just like our bodies, our minds need to have a ‘work-out’ from time to time too. To achieve and maintain ‘good mind’ is just as important as eating well and exercising.
To sum up my holiday-a-day plan:
- take time to live in the moment.
- make sure you build great memories by valuing and appreciating that which is around you. There is always something to appreciate, just remember to look!
- make time in your head for experiencing the joy of holidays, regularly.
- make time in your day for doing something relaxing and enjoyable, even if for a few moments.
Thats my plan! I’m off to the beach.