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 starting, 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
  • beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • vvcs.gov.au 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.


3 Ways to Manage Anxiety in the Morning.

One Saturday morning, I woke to memories of a bad dream I had. Feelings of worry and anxiousness lingered. As the morning continued, I felt worse and worse. I couldn’t sit still. I almost made the decision to get up from where I was sitting to distract myself – either clean the lounge, tidy the bedroom or sort out the laundry. But I didn’t. I felt paralysed.

Plans I had that afternoon were cancelled. I was relieved. I had this strange feeling that something bad might happen if I left the house.

Looking back, there was a cycle that was occurring: I had worrisome thoughts, which set-off anxiousness that fed into fear. Thoughts>anxiousness>fear. My thoughts reinforced my emotions. I’m learning that to shift my emotions, I must be aware of my thoughts. I know, waking up anxious can leave us feeling like the day is doomed, but different approaches can help turn it around! 

What was my approach this time? YouTube. Yep. Good old social media.  I’ve found that in times of need, watching educational videos or listening to podcasts about what I’m feeling/going through really helps. So I typed into the YouTube search bar something like, “waking up anxious”. I found a channel called The Anxiety Guy (Dennis Simsek) and decided to let the video play in the background while I sat still and breathed. I quietly reminded myself that I was safe and that things would be okay; I’ve gone through this before, I’ll get through it again.

The Anxiety Guy’s 3 Steps: 

1. Negativity journal. The first point he made was to write into a negativity journal in the first 2 minutes in the morning. This immediately inspired me to write this post. So I typed out the worry and fear. Releasing how I felt  helped. Maybe a journal and pen by your bed would be handy, or a private blog if you’d prefer to type it out. No matter the method, expressing how you feel can be a source of catharsis and relief. 

2. Gratitude/stretch. The Anxiety Guy then shared how gratitude can shift our focus. In the past, lists have helped me to arrange my thoughts and gain clarity. I do my best at the end of every night, to list things I’m grateful for. On this particular morning however, I admit, instead of focusing on what I was grateful for, I tried to find reasons for the anxiousness. Shifting your focus from fear to gratitude can be a powerful tool. I will do my best to try this in the future.

As for stretching/yoga, I haven’t done that in a while. When I used to practice yoga, it helped me feel grounded; I would definitely recommend it if you feel inclined. Even walking with a friend around the city/neighbourhood is a form of exercise. So ask a friend to join you!

3. Magic mirror exercise. Now, imagine you are looking at your future self in the mirror, and think of 3 questions to ask. E.g. Instead of asking, “Why me?” flip it and ask, “How did you overcome your fears?”. Switch the negativity into positivity!

“Life is about the questions you ask yourself.” 

The Anxiety Guy

I often speak about my future self having overcome my current fears/worries. I am hopeful that once I’ve worked through unresolved situations, my fears/worries will fade.

An important thing to note, is that we all have personality traits which predispose us to certain emotions. For instance, I have scored high in neuroticism (which include emotions related to anxiety, worry, anger etc) and I am learning how to manage it. Personality traits tend to remain stable throughout our lives, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to manage it if it affects us greatly. That has been a key learning point for me: there is always a way to manage life’s struggles and that’s what matters!

So, if you wake up anxious, try and take a few minutes to yourself to firstly write down/type out your fears. Second, remind yourself of the things you’re grateful for – shift your focus from fear to gratitude. Lastly, reframe negative questions into positive ones. Change can be difficult but it is totally possible. I believe in you!

I hope this post has helped you today and given you a few ways to manage anxiousness in the morning.

Remember, you’re not alone. Thank you for being here. 

Stay well friends! x

Image by Lena Bell.



 

Psychology Sessions | “I’m not good enough.”

Psychology Sessions | “I’m not good enough.”

I wanted to start a series of “Psychology Sessions”, where you can have a glimpse into what I have gone through with my psychologist/past counsellors.

I want to use this platform to be open and honest about how self-improvement happens. It’s not just waking up one day and feeling different. It’s difficult, emotionally-laboured work that takes time and dedication everyday. If anything resonates with you, please let me know in the comments.

*Be aware that there may be distressing/triggering content.*


Let’s begin The Session.

What is a belief? A belief is something considered to be fact.

Where do beliefs come from? Beliefs come from the environment around us (external). It can also be formed by our own thoughts and sensory experience (internal).

The thought, “I’m not good enough” can be experienced by most of us at some point in our lives. For some, it is more prevalent if we have had past experiences that ingrain this kind of thinking. It can affect our self-esteem, confidence and progress in self-improvement.

The good news is, beliefs can be changed!

My psychologist drew up a table of two lists on her whiteboard. She asked me to list evidence for why I was good enough and why I wasn’t.

Listing evidence for why I wasn’t good enough was easy. My psychologist and I then spent about five minutes expanding each piece of evidence – what was the circumstance? How did that lead to the belief? Was this evidence substantial enough? I realised: instead of moving forward, I forced myself to take fear with me from my childhood and adolescence and used the events of my past as justification.

Listing evidence for being good enough was not as easy. Slowly though, achievements came to the surface. It affirmed that there were positive things I have accomplished. For example, I moved out at 18, I learned how to save money and I learned how to budget. I realised that many things I have done in the past, required skills and sometimes, strategic thinking!

What I learned.

I learned that if I didn’t achieve things to a ‘perfect standard’ or made a mistake, I was automatically ‘not good’. As well as an avalanche of other negative thoughts/beliefs toward myself.

Some may wonder, “Well Angela, if it did you harm, why couldn’t you just forget this belief?” Let’s go back to the beginning. There’s this thing called egocentrism. As children, we are unable to process situations or events from another person’s perspective. As a result, we attribute another’s hurtful actions to ourselves, thinking, “I must be bad/stupid/dumb” (which is what happened to me).

So, how can we change our beliefs?

1. First, we need to know what our beliefs are. 
Self-work is not an easy journey but it is absolutely worth it.  To know what beliefs we have, we could take inventory of thoughts that come up. Whether it’s a positive one like “I can do anything I set my mind to!” or “I never do anything good…” – it could be worth identifying and changing if it does not serve you.

2. Make a list of accomplishments.
I love utilising lists to get a clear sense of tasks, goals or ideas. My strategy for changing this belief will be writing a list of all my life’s achievements. As time goes on, my list will evolve and grow. So whenever this belief creeps back in (which I have been guaranteed that it will) I can look at this list and remind myself, “You know what? Yes, I have made mistakes but I am good enough!”.

3. Remember that we all make mistakes.
There is a difference between taking responsibility and acknowledging a mistake and punishing ourselves over everything. Sometimes, we are our own worst critic! You don’t necessarily have to experience disturbing trauma to be hard on yourself. We all have a drive that pushes us forward. Just remind yourself of positive motivators too!

4. Be patient with yourself. 
Changing a belief is not easy. Same goes for mastering a talent, technique or academic topic. All of these have something in common: TIME. It takes time to change or learn something new. It takes time to improve a skill. So be patient.

Beliefs once formed, are ingrained and can be difficult/confronting to change – as you saw with my struggle. However, with support, patience and strategies, it is possible to live a life based on positive truth rather than self-deprecating lies.

That concludes our session today.
Thank you for being here.
Stay well! x

Image by Thu.

Avène Face + Body Moisturiser for Sensitive Skin

Avène Face + Body Moisturiser for Sensitive Skin

Humidity is the friend I didn’t know I needed.

While I was overseas in Malaysia, my skin thrived in the humid weather. Besides the sweating, I loved it! However, it soon dawned on me that returning to Australia would involve dry, merciless heat…  It was my mission to invest in a good quality moisturiser that I could bring back!

I was at a mall in Kuala Lumpur, browsing through a local pharmacy when I came across this brand, Avène. I’d heard of it, but never thought much about it. The pharmacy assistant explained this moisturiser was good for dry, sensitive skin. Now, I’ve experienced the horrors of all kinds of ‘suitable’ creams that didn’t hydrate my skin but made it dryer/sting/tingle or made no difference at all. This Avène cream was said to be appropriate for eczema and very dry, sensitive skin. It had no fragrance. Despite my hesitation, I decided it was time to give this product a go.

My review.

When I arrived back in Australia, as expected, my skin started to break out with dry patches around my face and arms. My eczema-prone skin started to itch. Flying on multiple planes probably didn’t help out, either. I immediately started using this Avène cream. Within the next few days or so, my skin started to feel smooth, hydrated and dewy without feeling ‘heavy’.

It has been about four weeks since using this cream, and the dry patches on my face are no where to be seen! Besides my nose, from wiping it all the time – thanks to an unwelcome cold/flu.

The Benefits of Avène:

  • Fast-absorbing. I’ve found this moisturiser to be relatively fast-absorbing so when I’m rushing to get ready for work, I can moisturise, dress and go!
  • Fragrance free. Although I am a sucker for pretty-smelling perfumes, soaps and lotions, this fragrance-free cream adds to the sensitive skin suitability. There’s no risk of reactions to a fragrance or feeling my nose itch every time I breathe in.
  • Slightly dewy. I find when I use this on my face, it does give a slightly dewy feel. I have been digging this look, especially whilst in this transitioning spring-summer weather! If you’re not a fan of this, then perhaps this product is not for you. However, I will say I use a little more than the amount of surface area I have. Maybe if I used less, my face would feel more matte, than dewy.
  • Clinical studies included. On the Avène website, there are 2 results of small clinical studies indicating hydration increase after 6-7 days of use. My psychology-based brain finds this inclusion quite intriguing.

How I use this moisturiser.

I use Avène once or twice daily. And powdered makeup over the top, if I feel like it.

For a few months now, I’ve steered clear of foundations/BB creams to give my skin some freedom. These days, I only use blush, bronzer and a brow pencil. The less I use on my face, the better my skin looks and feels. I make an effort to stay hydrated too. If my lips start drying out, I use this as an indication that I need more fluids! Thanks to this new Avène cream, I feel confident that my skin is being taken care of while I go about my daily routine.

I’ve always wanted to find ways to embrace my youthful 20s! And you should too. Regardless of your age, enjoy the beauty that your body + skin is. True, no one is perfect but it doesn’t take perfection to ‘radiate beauty’. Take time to look after you. Whether it’s a new skincare product or taking a break from a strict routine… Enjoy it.

When we are honest with ourselves and our flaws, confidence grows!

Stay well friends! x