For the past 3 years I have been tracking a lot of personal data.
No not my online data, but my offline data.
I’ve been tracking various aspects of my life using a journal.
Honestly... because I enjoyed the concept of habit tracking but also because of my Bipolar disorder.
It is always recommended that people with bipolar keep a close eye on their moods via a mood log/tracker. So that was the first thing on my list.
Within a month I could seen how my patterns were showing a bigger picture.
I started tracking other things I wanted to improve... like my weight, body fat, muscle mass, and my diet because I had also started on a fitness journey.
After a few months of tracking that I had already lost over a stone and I could attribute my new habits to the fact I was checking in on those goals daily.
This was so powerful I started tracking yet more things.
I started logging what I spent my time doing.
I logged the things I was thankful for each day.
I logged the things that were troubling me each day.
Soon I had so much data and when I looked through my journals I could see very clear patterns emerging. I could even start to predict when my moods were likely to change.
Today I noticed a small turn in my moods, one I might have discounted in the past, but this time because of all the other data I had I could see that I was tilting towards hypomania. This can be problematic because it causes very scattered thoughts, very strong impulses and unpredictability amongst other things when it is allowed to go on for too long. It can last weeks and a lot of damage can be done if someone is unaware. Thankfully I am now fully aware of my body and my mind and their rhythms and tendencies and so instead of feeling like I was being swept away on a wave of high mood I pulled on the brakes and made extra time to relax. Made sure I didn’t make any big decisions. Made sure I calmed my mind at every opportunity and now I’m heading to bed to get a good nights sleep!
Tomorrow I’ll be back to normal and it’s all because of my new found vigilance.
How could tracking more of your personal data help you?
In a long term relationship?
Wish you could fall in love all over again, and refresh your relationship?
I'm coming up to my 12th year of being married to my husband, Andy, and this last year has been the best yet.
If you'd have asked me 5 years ago I couldn't have said the same thing.
Like so many relationships, we have had some
really rough patches and it was around that time when we really hit make or break. We had just spent christmas day together and we argued all day and in the end I packed my bag and went back to my mums.
I was seriously wondering if we could continue.
We seemed to have grown apart in what we wanted from our lives together. I had chosen a career that took me away from
home. I was going through long periods of depression and Andy's anxiety levels were through the roof. We had moved house but still weren't happy.
We had stopped communicating effectively. We had forgotten why we were together in the first place.
Something had to change.
It was around this time that I really started doing some thought work. I had not long since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I had realised that though medications really helped, most of the work I was going to have to do to re-balance my life and emotions was related to my lifestyle and, most importantly, my thought patterns.
I knew that my relationship was something that needed urgent attention and so I set about trying to find out how to fix what seemed so broken.
What would it take to fix this relationship?
There were so many things I wanted to change.
I wanted Andy to be less anxious. I saw him suffering and I was also feeling all the effects of living with it.
I wanted to feel more loved and appreciated.
I wanted him to support my career.
I wanted thim to not see me as a financial burden.
The dynamic of our relationship seemed more like one of duty than a friendship.
But was I asking too much?
I saw that Andy had always been predisposed to anxiety (just as I had issues with depression).
I saw it just wasn't in his nature to be particularly demonstrative/showy when it came to love and affection, it's not like he had been like that in the begining so why did I expect it now?
He didn't like my career choices, not because he didn't want me to be happy but because of the impact it would have on us (and he was right about that at this point).
I was a financial burden at the time because bringing in enough work consistantly was tough.
So trying to match my WANTS to reality was just not going to work.
I would be trying to change him at a fundamental level and it wasn't fair.
It slowly dawned on me that problem was mine.
I was fighting mentally to change some things that just weren't mine to change.
And maybe, just maybe, some of these things didn't need changing at all.
So now what? Do we just throw 10 years down the pan?
At this point in my journey a piece of advice changed EVERYTHING for me, and ultimately for my relationship and that advice was this.
If you buy a dog or a cat as a pet, you don't buy it so that it will fulfil your needs for you. You buy it to love!
So why is it any different for choosing a life partner?
When you choose someone to spend the rest of your life with, you choose them to be in your life for you to love and that is ALL!
If you have needs going unfilled are those needs actually something you should be fulfilling for yourself!
Let go of all your expectations and just focus on your partner being there to love and then love them. Go all in!
I did this by learning how to fulfill my own needs. I let go of trying to change Andy, which was taking up so much mental energy.
I started to practice serious self care which took care of my needs for love and affection.
I found work that covered my financial needs.
I gave myself permission to support myself in whatever line of work I chose to do.
Then I found I was free to just enjoy having my husband there as my best friend and that is what he was always there for!
This last year we have both reaped the benefits of learning to take care of ourselves better and then getting to spend our free time together laughing and joking, making exciting future plans together, like we should all be doing.
So what about you? Are you willing to let go of the baggage and just decide to love your partner again?
What is YOUR type?
The Enneagram has been the most powerful personal development tool that I have learnt in my coaching journey.
WHAT IS THE ENNEAGRAM?
The enneagram is a personality typology system which looks in to our core motivations.
The system says there are 9 different core motivations that we all fit in to, but the system is not there to put us in to boxes, it’s there to show us what boxes we are already in and HOW we can learn to move past the fixations of our type.
OUR TYPE IS THE LENSE WE SEE THE WORLD THROUGH.
I use this system with all the people I Coach because it gives you a really great roadmap towards self improvement.
WHAT THE ENNEAGRAM HAS DONE FOR ME:
- It's shown me that I’m not alone in some of my life views. I often felt like I was broken because I saw things differently to many people in my life and I realised that was because I have a different underlying motivation. No one type is better than another, they are just different.
- It’s changed my relationships to friends and family because knowing their type means I can understand them better. Imagine if you could learn to literally see the world in the way say your partner does? My husband is a type 6 and 6’s have a primary focus on Safety and Security. I used to think that my husbands ocd like attention to certain things around the house were ridiculous and frustrating but now I can see why he sees certain things the way he does and I have more empathy for his point of view.
- It’s allowed me to let go of some of the issues I’d often get fixated over and which caused me much frustration. I have always been obsessed with freedom and not feeling fenced in. My type helped me see why. I now know what to do when those feelings come up.
I would love to chat type with any of you that are interested. I am an Enneagram coach so can explain the system and I have work sheets I can send out if you want to know more.
FOLLOW THIS LINK TO TAKE THE TEST!
Screen shot your test results as there is a lot of info in there
You can read about your type and all the other types here on the Enneagram Institute website:
Comment your Type below!
How many of us have felt like we weren't normal because we have had to go on diets and watch what we eat or drink?
I have been thinking about this lately because in the past what I really wanted was to be slimmer and to not have to worry about what I ate because I put on weight so easily.
I wanted to be normal. I really believed that normal slim people didn't have to worry about what they ate and that eating what you want when you want was normal.
So many of us have said things like.. "it's not fair, I only have to look at cake and I put on 10lbs" and that we wish we could eat cake whenever we want to and still be slim like X does. But is it really NORMAL not to have to think about what you eat?
Who are these normal people? The only people who genuinely don't have to think about their weight in today's society are people who are very active and manage to burn off more calories than they consume or who are gifted in the metabolism department? But are these scenarios normal? I'd say they are more often than not exceptions to the actual average person because so many of our jobs are office based and sedentary which means we have to supplement our lifestyles with exercise and because food is so plentiful (I mean it's everywhere) we all need to keep an eye on how many calories we take in, and remember that we only really need to eat to fuel our bodies/minds.
I spent so many years feeling I was being denied normal pleasures when I had the strength to say no to the free cakes in the office or when I had to swap from drinking beer to drinking a low calorie spirit. I felt like I was being denied a NORMAL life. But was I?
I guess our perceptions of normal come from our societal habits and expectations which have evolved organically over time.
For example, we happen to have come to celebrate birthdays and weddings and
other milestones in life with CAKE (sugar & flour) or ALCOHOL, so they seem NORMAL, but is it really normal to consume more calories than our bodies really need or is it slightly disordered thinking?
Of course I'm not saying we shouldn't have occasional treats and celebrate with delicious cake or a glass of champagne but I want you to think about how normal it actually is to do any of these things? Thinking about this has made me realise that I shouldn't NEED to make
excuses if I choose not to eat cake just because it is there and everyone else is eating it, and it's become expected.
I also don't need to feel like I'm defective because I have to be careful about what food I take in seen as I work in a very sedentary job.
What other things do we consider NORMAL which actually don't necessarily make sense and which we could benefit from decoupling our perceptions with reality?
It's definitely worth thinking about!
How to Boost your Emotional Intelligence
Our emotions are how we experience the world and physically process information. We often refer to our Emotions as our Feelings because they are just that.
They are physical feelings.
We all know that positive emotions feel good and we know that many negative emotions can give us real feeling or sensations of pain or discomfort.
Love might make us feel all warm and fuzzy and grief can hurt like a knife through the heart. The human language has given us words for all of these emotions
because they are common human experiences.
To feel emotions makes us human!
So what is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence, for me, means being able to recognise and identify the emotions that I am feeling at any given time, or that I recognise in others around me.
I believe that many of us don't take time to work on our emotional intelligence and we limit ourselves to a very basic range of emotions and therefore limit our human experience.
How many times has someone asked you how you feel and you said ... “Fine!” or “I'm good.” or “ I'm feeling ok.” or when you have felt negative emotion you have said you feel “down”, or “sad” or “anxious” but you are really just reaching for general cover all language.
I believe if we increase our emotional vocabulary and learn to see the nuanced differences between each one by practicing recognising what we feel and regularly checking in with ourselves, that we can enrich our experience of life.
Look through the list of emotional vocabulary attached.
All of these emotions FEEL different.
Take a minute to look through the list and think about whether you know what each one feels like for you?
When did you last feel that emotion?
Are there any on there that you have never really felt at all? (Very possible).
Are you open to being able to feel all of them, even the negative ones?
Now i challenge you to try to use more of these words in your everyday life.
Next time someone asks how you feel, ask yourself if “FINE” or “GOOD” actually does your real feelings any justice?
Right now I feel driven and enthusiastic.
This morning I felt exhausted after a night of coughing.
When I was working on a problem at work yesterday I was feeling perplexed.
Why not keep a mood log to see how much of your emotional life you are really in touch with?
What Does It Mean To Be Self Aware?
If you had asked me if I was self aware at the age of, say, 25, I’d have said yes, but I’m not sure I’d have truly understood the concept. It’s only through doing a lot of personal work over the past 5 years that I’ve fully understood what it means to be self aware and how important it is that we all learn to practice it. And it is something we all need to practice.
When I talk about being self aware, what I’m referring to is a state of having a deep understanding of who you are, how you show up in the world, the impact you have, and what your underlying motivations are.
Looking back at myself at 25, I knew very little about myself apart from some very surface level values, most of which were borrowed and not truly my own. I was acutely aware of my weaknesses. I was acutely aware of my struggles with mental illness and feelings of emptiness and unfulfillment but I couldn’t have told you WHY I was feeling those things. I was very ego driven and was very easily hurt by criticism. I took things intensely personally. I was not an objective observer of my own behaviour.
It’s only through the regular practice of focusing on the following things that I have really had a much more objective view of myself and it has now become a passion of mine to help others do the same through my coaching.
To Have Good Self Awareness You Need To;
Understand Your Values/Beliefs Systems
You need to know and understand your core values and beliefs. We all have core personal values and they influence so much of our lives yet very few of us can name what our values are.
Be Able To Observe Yourself Objectively
We need to learn to become compassionate observers of our thoughts and behaviour. We all have aspects of ego which surface in our behaviour in day to day life and it’s so important to learn to identify the patterns that emerge, positive and negative. We are as a species blessed with the skill of being able to think about what we are thinking about. This process of observing ourselves is in essence the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in recent times and people tend to think it means we all need to be meditating for hours a day, but it is merely the act of being able to be present and conscious in our lives. Most of us are on autopilot 90% of the time and we don’t give ourselves space to stop and check in with what we are thinking and feeling in any given moment.
Work On Becoming A Better Listener
Again, I have probably always thought of myself as a good listener but if I’m honest I’ve been a terrible listener. I still have to work really hard on this but my coaching has helped me refine this a lot recently. To be a good listener you need to be able to resist the urge to react or make judgements in real time in conversations and to be able to hold space for others to express themselves fully before responding. Why is this good for self awareness? Because if you can hold space for others you can learn to do it for yourself. To observe without judgement is a real skill.
Keep A Journal
One tool that I found invaluable in this was Journalling. I keep a bullet journal which has all of my diary and to do lists in it, but it also has space for reflection on aspects of mindfulness. I keep a log of what I’m grateful for in my life every day. I keep a log of my moods, I log what I eat, when I exercise and much more. This allows me to not only observe mentally, but to physically collect data on what is going on with me on any given day. As someone with bipolar I needed to track my moods, but that wasn’t always giving a very full picture of what was going on. Once I combined tracking moods and what I was feeling, with tracking what I was eating and when I was exercising and what was going on in my life on a day to day basis was I able to see very strong patterns which could help me predict my behaviour in similar situations.
What is the Benefit of Greater Self Awareness?
It takes away a lot of the guess work. When did you last feel off or down and you just didn’t know why? How many times have you had an emotional outburst and only realise days later that it was probably hormone related? How often do you find yourself over eating or over drinking in order to avoid your feelings? I think I used to be afraid to find out what I was really like inside. I was afraid that I was broken or damaged in someway. Then I found out that I had bipolar disorder and instead of feeling broken I realised that I was actually just made this way and that I could avoid the suffering by becoming more self aware so that I could nip any future mood issues in the bud before they became more than they needed to be. I think we are all the same in some respect. Maybe you get anxious or depressed or stressed and you wonder if it’s something that makes you broken but I promise you you’re just fine and there are very simple things, like those above, that can help you get back in control of your emotions and your life.
I offer a 6 Week Online Course called Meology which runs every month. This covers many of the core skills you need to develop to in order to help you find a greater level of self awareness. For more information on this course check out www.helengregorycoaching.com/courses
Things That Made 2018 Awesome
My Audible Audiobooks Subscription!!
One of my goals for 2018 was to read more. I’ve always been a self help genre fan because of the life changing things I’ve found and applied to my life in the past. I don’t, however have a lot of spare time so I hadn’t really done much reading at all in recent years. My husband is a massive book worm and goes through 20-30 books in a year easily. I had to up my game! He’d said he had an Audible subscription and would listen to most of his fiction books that way so I checked it out and was thrilled at the choice of the titles I’d been dying to read on there, so I signed up. Each month you get 1 free credit (1 book download) for your subscription of £7.99 and you can buy credits if you run out. I then replaced my morning ride to work sound track (which had, for the past decade, been the Radio 4 Today Show (doom and gloom central) with a positive uplifting book and it made such a huge difference. I started my day feeling positive and energised.
Audible have a HALF PRICE Black Friday deal on from today, until the 14th of December, £3.99 per month for 4 months, instead of the regular £7.99 per month. I 100% recommend it.
Here is a link to the deal
WHAT IS YOUR WHY?
I wrestled with this question for many years. If you ask most people what their why is they will tell you they live for their children, or they live for their work, or they simply don’t know... I was in the don’t know camp.
I love singing opera, I love being a scrum master and test analyst in tech, I love coaching individuals and teams. I am also a photographer, a blogger and embroidery artist / craftpolymath but I couldn’t honestly say I lived for any one of those things.
I don’t plan to have any children because I my partner and I made the decision years ago that that wasn’t something we felt we wanted and I don’t believe we really ever live for our jobs unless those jobs fulfil a higher purpose (as we are exploring here).
So what is my why? Why am I here...
I feel it’s important for us all to take the time to work out their higher level purpose because human beings need to have an aim. If you have no aim then it doesn’t matter what you do and that breeds apathy.
I’ve always believed It’s better to have an aim and miss than to have no aim at all.
So how did I find my why, and how can you find yours?
How did I find my why?
1. First of all I got a piece of paper and wrote down / listed all of my strengths, talents, skills, attributes.
2. I the identified and wrote down my highest held core values. I have an exercise I use with all my coaching clients which helps them identify what their top values are. This is a really powerful exercise. Get in contact if you’d like this worksheet.
3. I looked then patterns and connections between all of those things.
What did I find?
I found that what links my passions for music, performance, opera, photography, embroidery art, and psychology was story telling and communication.
I realised that my WHY was all about communicating the messages that are important.
- To tell my story about my journey with mental health, my fitness journey and to help others find themselves and to find joy after living with depression or anxiety.
- To communicate the beauty, power and emotion of music.
- To help others capture their stories in photos and in art.
I have since learnt that If I am doing these things then I know am living my life purposefully and with authenticity and that brings great peace of mind.
SHAME is the MOST POWERFUL and destructive emotion...
I had never thought about it until I read Dr Brené Brown. She has spent her academic life studying shame and courage and vulnerability.
Why is shame so powerful?
When we feel ashamed about something we feel like by talking about it will risk social rejection or isolation. And what does that do ... it makes us bury our shameful thoughts and feelings and it stops us communicating.
What is the antidote to shame?
Compassion, empathy and vulnerability.
How do we get that?
By sharing our stories with people who we feel will not judge us.
Have you got something in your life which is causing you to feel shame?
I think most of us would be shocked to know that we all feel shame about something at some point in our lives.
Know that no matter what you feel ashamed about, you are not alone. You are not the first person to have felt the way you do about whatever your situation.
Talking about your shame will stop it being bottled up inside where it can only cause negative damage to your mental and physical health.
If there is nobody in your life you would trust to hear you without judgement then seeking an external source like a counsellor or coach is the best solution. Someone who won’t judge you but who will treat you with the compassion and understanding that you deserve.
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For a safe space to talk to like minded people. People who believe that discussions about mental health are important!
MEology Life Facebook Group
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I absolutely love my USN 1ltr sports drink bottle! It’s the ideal amount of water to take to the gym or to have on my desk!
My partner loved it but wanted the larger 2.2ltr version and now these go everywhere with us!
A few people had asked where I got it from so I thought I’d share the link!