Malaysia | Bohey Dulang Island

Malaysia | Bohey Dulang Island

When we arrived, we walked down a jetty over beautiful, crystal-clear water. You could see the bottom of the sea bed. Other small islands that were nearby, looked like mounds of broccoli. I’m not kidding. The trees were so vibrantly green!

Cases of stairs started off this short hike. Within two minutes, I realised the mistake I’d made. Steep inclines are no joke! There were several times I thought of turning back, but something kept telling me not to give up. I was also walking with my boyfriend, so I wanted to reach the top as a team. It would be an experience (good or bad or both) that we would endure together.

Almost immediately, I realised that this was not only a physical challenge (being unfit to start with) but also a mental challenge. I needed to stay focused. Be aware of my breath. Remember to drink water.

We stopped several times to catch our breath. The higher we went, the thicker the air and the hotter the temperature felt. Many other tourists were scattered throughout the trail either heading back down or taking a break. At some point half-way through the climb, we lost the rest of our group. Every woman and man for themselves!

The View

Around the last bend, the dirt ground was tightly packed from thousands of feet walking over it. At last, we reached the top! It was essentially a cliff-top overlooking the ocean and smaller islands. People were taking photos, selfies and just admiring the view.

Thinking over this experience, it was a great memory that is a testament to the beautiful country that is Malaysia! Although there are many hikes out there in extreme climates, this short hike definitely challenged me.

What I Learned

It taught me that as long as I’m not in poor health, I can push my body to it’s limits. Now that I think of it, I am so grateful for this body I have. Grateful for my feet. Grateful for my legs. Grateful for my eyes to see the views I did.

It’s incredible how many difficulties in our lives are a mental challenge too. Sometimes we have stories in our minds of ourselves – how we are as people, how we ‘should’ respond, how we react to situations. The main takeaway is that these stories we tell ourselves, can be changed for the better.

This short hike ultimately taught me that taking small steps to change/challenge my usual way of thinking can lead to a positive result!

Is there an experience you’ve gone through – whether it’s a hike, run or walk – that challenged you? Have you ever thought about expressing gratitude for the body you have? Take a moment to do so.

And as always, stay well!

The crystal-clear water. This is a view from the boat.
The stairs we walked along. At least 50% of them were entwined by nature!
The islands look like broccoli!

Bird Box | Children’s Needs

Bird Box | Children’s Needs

A few weeks ago, I watched the highly trending movie, Bird Box. In short, it involved survival of a woman and her children against an unknown force that took the form of their worst fears. If you see it, you die. Every character, including the kids, were constantly on high-alert of the life-threatening situation. Just to set the scenes, each child was only named Boy and Girl to ‘protect’ them from becoming attached should Malorie (main character) die and they were not allowed to hear stories of seeing/playing in the outside world again. Ever. They were to remain blindfolded whilst outdoors at all times. Should they hear a noise, the children were ordered to ignore it and continue with their task no matter how tempted they may be. You can imagine as children, they would be frightened and curious of what the mysterious and deadly entity may be.

After a long, dangerous journey, Malorie and her two children reached a safe-house filled with other survivors. At last, she began to express her love to the children and gave them freedom to be kids again; to play and explore in their new community home. Malorie also gave each child a proper name, honouring people she had lost in her life.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

According to American psychologist and humanistic theorist, Abraham Maslow, human needs can be categorised in the form of a pyramid (as above). He suggested that once a person has their basic needs met (physiological, safety, belonging etc), they can move up the pyramid of needs to ultimately reach self-actualisation/self-transcendence.

It is important to remember though that varying personal circumstances can result in fluctuating between these “stages”. Cultural factors like language and community beliefs can also affect a child reaching developmental milestones.

As stated in the pyramid above, all children deserve and need to feel safe in their environment, food, water and shelter, a sense of belonging and self-esteem. As children mature and their brains develop, their cognitive, aesthetic and self-actualisation needs can be met.

The Importance of Play

For children, being able to have unstructured play time allows them to develop social, cognitive and emotional skills. Play also gives children the freedom to express themselves through re-enactment and creativity. Further more, play time helps in learning and monitoring emotions of themselves and others.

The Stress Response (AKA the fight-or-flight response).

As it sounds, the stress response is simply how we respond to a stressful situation. Physiological changes occur in our bodies to prepare us to either “fight” or “take flight” (run) from a threat. It is said to be an evolutionary defence mechanism to ensure the survival of the human race.

For young children, stress responses to trauma can vary. Some children find it difficult to talk about the event while others repeat the event constantly. Other children may use their creativity to process an ‘alternate ending’. As I saw in the movie, Malorie’s children ’emotionally shut down’ in response to constant danger. There was no time to process emotions. They needed to survive.

Children may not have the capability to fight or run when faced with a stressful situation, which is why it is important that we do our best to provide for their needs like shelter, safety and belonging.

Bird Box in real life – the signs.

In order to help support children in the best way possible, it is important to know what signs to look for.

Signs of trauma/stress in children aged 3-12 years old:

  • Shutting down/withdrawing from everyday experiences
  • New/increased clingy behaviour towards a parent, carer or a staff member
  • Sleeping difficulties and nightmares
  • Drawing or re-enacting a traumatic event
  • Tantrums, grumpiness or misbehaving at home/in school
  • Complaints of unexplained headaches or tummy aches
  • Fearful of the traumatic event being their fault
  • Regression – reverting to a former/underdeveloped state in terms of speech or going to the toilet
  • Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating

How can we support children who have experienced trauma?

First, it is important to provide a safe environment. Like Malorie and her partner, they did their best to provide shelter from the elements as well as from the dangerous entity. As adults, carers or staff members, it is our duty to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable.

Another way to support a child, is to talk with them about what happened. Being heard can be powerful for a child experiencing distressing emotions. This can build trust and form a safe bond for children to feel secure to face life’s challenges.

If the trauma is severe, or if the child is suffering from a mental illness caused by a traumatic event, another form of support could be seeking the help of a mental health professional.

In Australia, there are many organisations here to help support, educate, treat and fight for children. I have listed them below.

I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.

Greatest Love of All – Whitney Houston

As always, stay well friends x

5 Ways to soak-up the Summer Season and Maintain your Mental-health.

Welcome to 2019!

Congratulations on entering a new year full of opportunity, learning and growth. After the Christmas/New Year holidays, we can get distracted by the demands of work, school or even family and we forget to practice self-care. As a reminder to myself and others, I’ve made a list of 5 things to stick to this summer to maintain our mental-health. Let’s get started!

1. Take your time in the morning.

Taking my time in the morning means that I can set my intentions for the day. What is it that I want to achieve? Am I going to be proactive today or just let the day roll by? I then write down a list of things I want to complete. Of course, with the holiday vibes, I get distracted and watch a movie… or three… The beauty of being a casual worker + student allows me this luxury. But, if you have a full-time job, or if you are raising children at home, I suggest either setting time in your break at work or waking up earlier in the morning to reflect and set intentions for the day. We can get so caught up in life, that sometimes we miss the goodness each season brings us. What can be done while the sun is up that would otherwise be left behind during winter? Is there something you wanted to do during December that you can finally get around to? Would you like to start new habits to help you achieve this year’s goals? Being proactive about our goals/passions can help maintain our mental-health, not just in summer, but all seasons!

2. Visit a local beach.

In South Australia, we are are so lucky to have beautiful coast lines. In the last few weeks, I’ve gone to Grange, Henley and Glenelg beach. Each one has it’s own characteristics. The beauty of summer is how refreshing the water is on a hot day. So, message some friends and enjoy the waves and night-life! Of course, remember to be sun-smart and use sunscreen, drink lots of water and wear appropriate clothes to protect yourself from the sun! Not only are you getting Vitamin D, but you are also spending time with people you vibe with!

3. Enjoy the night life. (I don’t mean clubbing until 5AM, although, you are welcome to).

Around Adelaide, there are night markets and restaurants with outdoor settings to enjoy. These are generally available throughout the year, but something about a balmy, summer’s night encourages people to go out! Hot-spots are buzzing with energy, so soak it up! This summer, I’ve really enjoyed going to pop-up markets and outdoor restaurants. A quick Google will show you what events are on around your city/local area! Join a meditation group, cooking class or even art workshop. With the Fringe around the corner, there will be LOTS to do and see very soon.

4. Spend time with your loved ones.

Whether it’s brunch, coffee or ice cream from your favourite place, take advantage of the sunny weather! For me, quality time is so important to maintain my mental health. What I love about the summer holidays, is that it tends to bring people together!

5. Recharge.

If you work full-time and can’t relax during the “uni holidays”, recharge during your days off or on the weekends. Make it a priority, as little or as much as you need. Whether it’s curling up with a good book under the air-conditioning, or riding your bike down the trails in Adelaide, you do you! Some people recharge by spending time in big groups and events, whereas others find relaxation in being alone. And if you’re like me, I enjoy both! What helps you recharge? Remember, we only have one mind and one body in this lifetime! Find strategies that work for you, and make it a priority to recharge so you can achieve everything you set your mind to!

I hope this post was helpful to you. Don’t forget to like, comment or share, so I know what content to post!

Stay well! x

Declutter Series 2: Maintenaince

Declutter Series 2: Maintenaince

Clutter, Mental Health and Wellbeing

Survey results from an Australian Institute, Stuff Happens:

  • 42% of respondents agreed that their clutter makes them feel either anxious, depressed or guilty.
  • 88% of homes have at least one cluttered room.
  • 29% said that clutter stops them enjoying their time at home.
  • One in five (21%) said that clutter in their home impedes their ability to move around the place.

A lot of what these respondents felt, relate to my sentiments back then and even now. In my first Decluttering post, I wrote about the beginning of my journey. Just because I’ve started this journey, it doesn’t mean my house is completely spotless 24/7. That’s when I realised, maintenance is something not many people talk about. How can I keep my place tidy after decluttering? After a few years of learning, testing and trying, I have some tips to share with you, so keep reading!

What to do when things start to pile up.

1. Take inventory.

Choose one room or section to focus on. What items are piling up? Whether it’s books, dishes or laundry, make a mental note.

2. Put each item back in it’s place.

If from time to time, you leave items in places they shouldn’t be (like me), put the items back in their place. For instance, pens should be stored in a pencil case or pen jar. Socks back in the sock section of your drawer. Laundry in the laundry basket… you get the picture. If there is no home for this item, either discard it, re-use or donate to charity, family and friends who need it.

You’ll be surprised that once you make this a habit, your space will stay clean with minimal effort. Preventing things from piling up = less feelings of overwhelm, guilt and anxiousness. Stop the cycle.

3. Don’t be a hero.

Often times, we feel obligated to clean EVERYTHING all at once, to stop feeling guilty or embarrassed. I don’t suggest this – unless you have the energy. If you stop half-way or get distracted, you’ll only feel more guilty for not doing it all.

Take it one step at a time. Finish one section, then move on to the next. Anyway, one section that’s tidy, is better than none!

4. Check for appropriate storage.

When I moved in with my boyfriend, I had stacks of books in a box because I had no shelf. Once I had enough money, I bought a shelf and finally have a spot for my books.

When your items are sorted in specific categories, check whether you have appropriate storage solutions. There are many videos on Facebook and YouTube that could give you ideas.

Questions I ask myself: Is this useful? Does this fit with my lifestyle? Can I re-purpose this? Is it an item I enjoy? If the answer is no for any question, I either donate, discard or sell it online.

Next, let’s look at ways to stay motivated when cleaning, organising or decluttering.

How to stay motivated.

Remember why you’re doing it.

For me, I clean because I don’t want my living space to be overwhelmed with clutter. If you don’t have a reason to clean, I would suggest to watch decluttering shows like Minimalism, Consumed, Hoarders and Extreme Clutter. Sometimes we resonate with people who are in a similar situation that we are in. Watch a few episodes and reflect. What parts of the show did you find useful? What parts of the show don’t apply to you? Years ago, I knew that having piles and piles of clothes without storage wasn’t the best idea, but I didn’t know that I could just declutter them – I was taught to keep/treasure items to the point of being overwhelmed with clutter.

Capitalise on the urge to tidy.

If you’re feeling the slightest urge to declutter/clean, I suggest to capitalise! There’s no better time than right now.

Reward > chore.

Some people may view cleaning as a chore. For others, it can be a source of catharsis and relaxation. For me, I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle. Thinking about needing to clean makes it feel like a chore, but when I’m actually cleaning, I zone out and enjoy the repetition. By the end of it, I feel rewarded because now I have a tidy home, ready for cooking, creating or even lounging. So keep that in mind: if your living space/house/apartment/room is tidy, there is more time to enjoy life! I am not encouraging you to clean 24/7, I am encouraging to take small steps each day to living a clutter free life.

Choose a colour palette.

This year, I have been transitioning from an all black, grey and red palette into colours including white, beige and orange. I spent some time making my own colour palettes I liked and searched on Pinterest for further inspiration.

Sticking to a colour palette has helped me purchase items I thoroughly enjoy and use, time and time again. Colour preferences may change throughout the seasons – that’s fine! What I want you to remember though, is having a palette-base will take away the guesswork when you’re shopping, thrifting or re-purposing. Keep it simple!

Ask for help and have fun.

I know, it can be daunting and you may feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. But if you have people in your life that you can trust, REACH OUT. Life’s struggles don’t have to be experienced alone. We are on this Earth to help each other. Perhaps a friend or family member can do the dishes while you tidy the dining area. More pairs of hands are better than one! You can make it a fun activity by scheduling a lunch or special takeaway dinner! 2 in 1 deal: a tidy home as well as spending time with people you care about.

Finding balance through living life simply has improved my mental, emotional and physical health. Remember, nobody is perfect and no home is perfect, so don’t hold yourself to such expectations. If you are cleaning today, don’t forget to have fun with it!

Stay well friends! x

Clean Up GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Photo by Priscilla. GIF from cartl.

Childhood Trauma Series | The Beginning

Defining childhood trauma

Childhood trauma refers to a frightening, dangerous or distressing event that threatens a child’s life or bodily integrity. This can also include being a witness to a loved ones suffering or pain (vicarious trauma). Events like natural disasters, emotional, physical or sexual abuse can have long-term effects on developing minds and bodies.

A trip down memory lane

It was a normal school day (besides my slipping attendance, which was not new). The year-level coordinator approached me after lunch. I was somewhat nervous but also oblivious to the conversation that would ensue. He asked me a series of questions regarding my lateness, whether I’d lost weight etc. After telling him a small portion of what was happening in my life, he used the word ‘abuse’ to describe what I had mentioned. This was a shock. How was I going through abuse? Wasn’t every other student experiencing this too? When he’d ask how I was faring from then on, I would assure him I was okay, even though I wasn’t. As a teenager, I thought I was right (typically) and it couldn’t be possible that what he said was true. Little did I know, pushing him away (as well as my pain), would cause an emotional overload, years down the track.

A few years later, I was studying Art Therapy. There was a particular module in the course based on The Inner Child. Most modules consisted of theory coupled with practical work. This practical exercise required us to trace the outline of our own body onto large butcher paper. Then, we needed to draw or create an item our inner child needed. I stared at my outline for quite some time. Eventually, I drew a heart shape and coloured it in with a marker. The flood gates had been opened… the next year or so would be one of the biggest struggles of my life.

Throughout my time studying Art Therapy, other peers would share their experiences and I felt somewhat detached. I felt sorry for them but I didn’t have the capacity to truly sympathise. It was like my brain switched off the department to feel pain for others. Including for myself. I began struggling to concentrate. I started skipping class. I didn’t want to do the practical work for fear of all the “shit” coming up in front of my peers. Feeling caged, and somehow ‘in danger’, I didn’t want to face it… face what? Class? Other students? The trainers? I was so confused. What was happening to me? I felt like I wanted to cry most of the time. My personal life was also affected: I was working in a toxic environment that caused panic attacks; my living circumstances were unstable; I had no one to turn to because I withdrew myself. Everything was overwhelming. 

The beginning of healing and discovery

At first, I wanted to see an Art Therapist to shed some light on what was going on. I completed one session but didn’t feel better. I started seeing a counsellor. As I was unravelling my childhood memories however, she mentioned something that made future sessions feel impossible. The college I was at, offered me a list of mental health professionals I could contact for further support. Going through the list, I searched each name on the web. After a few attempts, I came across a counsellor who was located in the city. I read through her website which 1. looked professional and 2. had a calming vibe. Her client reviews seemed positive too, which was great. That was the beginning of discovery and healing for me. 

This counsellor helped me through some harrowing times, past trauma and suppressed emotions. I learned from her how to care, be patient and acknowledge my emotions. I can’t thank her enough for her ability to hold space and offer unconditional support. It was exactly what I needed to begin healing. After a long time with C*, I noticed a ‘heaviness’ that I couldn’t shake – despite all the growth and learning that occurred. I knew then, it was time to find a new mental health professional. 

On-going self-work

A mutual friend suggested I see a specific psychologist that lived nearby. At the first consultation, the psychologist pointed out a possible ‘conflict’ that could hinder progress, if we were to work together. I was then referred on to my current psychologist, N*. 

Since I’ve started seeing N, I’ve grown and learnt SO much. I’ve noticed my thinking has changed a little over this time: I’ve begun thinking critically rather than reacting emotionally. Although my personality traits (that include being emotional) won’t change, I have been enjoying this shift in thinking patterns. Not every action requires a reaction! Sometimes all we need to do is put our ‘thinking cap’ on, and find ways to solve the problem at hand. Give ourselves space to feel what we’re feeling, and when we are able to, get to work on changing what needs to be changed! The power is in our hands. The power, is in our mind.

For me, talk therapy has been really helpful. Perhaps for you, other avenues like creativity coupled with talk therapy could be more helpful. Treatment isn’t a one-shoe-fits-all. What works for me, may not work for you and vice-versa.

Advice for anyone beginning the healing journey or going through it currently.

It may take a few (or more) tries to find a mental health professional that you feel safe with and connect with. Trust the process and be patient. Remember that healing isn’t overnight. Childhood trauma (or any trauma for that matter) can be complex, so be prepared for difficult days and nights. When we experience things during our childhood that shape our beliefs and values we hold, it can be terrifying to sift through memories. I know, I’ve been there. I’m still there. But with what I’ve worked through so far, it’s been the best choice in my life to ask for help and commit to doing the work. It’s time to move forward!

Another piece of advice I wish I had: make a tangible list of coping strategies that help you stay calm and centred in-between appointments. It can be scary, feeling overwhelmed from past memories. However, there is research out there that suggests techniques that help manage symptoms before your next appointment. Things that have helped me (and STILL do): yoga/general exercise, breathing exercises, guided meditations on YouTube, reading self-help books, learning about mental health and treatment, listening to podcasts and seeing friends/loved ones.

If you have any personal questions, contact me here. Please remember, there are people that care about you. Reach out to a trusted person or online community.

Here is a list of organisations that are here to help you:

  • blueknot helpline 1300 657 380 – complex trauma
  • 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support
  • ReachOut – youth mental health community support

 This kind of self-work is not easy, but worth it to move forward in life.

Stay well friends! x

*Names have been omitted for privacy reasons.
*Some words are hyperlinked for further information/learning.

Image by just_shot_of_jameson.