Finding Creativity At Work

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The little waitress.

Most people who know me, know that I worked in hospitality for a number of years. Running food, washing dishes, making drinks and taking orders – the usual front-of-house/all-rounder duties. Although I enjoyed hospitality for it’s fast-pace and it’s people, I could not be creative. I could neatly arrange table decor, fold pizza boxes and garnish fresh smoothies (I LOVED doing these tasks), but I could not pour beautiful latte-art for the life of me. One reason was that I lacked training, and the other was that the year I tried latte-art, was the year I knew something finally needed to change. Instead of creativity, I focused on building rapport with customers, doing my best to ensure they enjoyed their experience wherever I worked (I have previously worked in cafes, restaurants, clubs).

At home, I loved to cook, draw, watch creative videos about food, dance and culture. As each year passed by, I realised that most of my time was spent at work or school – so I needed to find an environment that allowed creativity and connection.

Most people like myself have to do what needs to be done (work in an industry they no longer see themselves in), to get through life. Whether it’s rent, bills, family or car-payments, we all have responsibilities. Because of this, our values don’t always line-up with our day-jobs.

The art of applying for jobs.

When I made the decision to apply for a retail job, I had been actively looking for work for about 12 months. I wasn’t expecting a call-back, to be honest. I found it difficult to stay positive.

Toward the end of the year, I finally received 2 call-backs: 1 for administration work and 1 for retail. Although I tried to practice interview questions, I did not do well at the administration interview. The retail interview on the other hand, felt like a much more natural conversation – despite my nervousness. I did my best and felt like it was actually enough.

About a week or so later, I was offered the job and immediately started training! YAY! There were new processes and many new people I met. I was transitioning in the workforce. I still worked shifts at my other jobs for financial stability, but I was on the way!

New job, new me.

When I started working in the store, it was a bunch of shambles. Christmas was around the corner and customers were shopping in droves. I felt like a fish out of water.

As time went on, I felt more comfortable, styling customers, finding out what look they were after, and even styling myself like I used to in high school – freely and creatively! I’ve noticed that retail is more of a relaxing environment compared to hospitality. Customers are kind and building rapport comes naturally. Women have shared their sad and joyful stories with me – something I find quite moving.

Now I am excited to go to work, thinking of new ways I could wear items, finding the balance between practical and stylish. Some days, I just want to wear sneakers and a hoodie, but I have yet to find the perfect ones… so far, what I love about retail is that I can change and progress creatively. Hospitality was an industry I was doing well in, but retail is where I currently excel.

Where do I belong?

A conversation with a past manager, reminded me that sometimes we must find where we belong. It’s important to work with people that share the same values and act accordingly. Back then, I experienced many obstacles where values weren’t shared and I suffered because of that.

According to a SEEK survey, 74% of respondents believe their job has a significant influence on their overall quality of life and 71% say it also affects the emotional states of those closest to them.

Personally, I found myself feeling more frustrated, tired and drained from working in an industry where values no longer aligned. My boyfriend noticed my increasing irritability and emotional instability.

Although I learned so much and made many friendships in hospitality, I am grateful I made this change.

Now, I rarely feel fatigued and feel supported and encouraged where I work.

I’m not saying, “Up and quit your job!”. I’m saying, if you have noticed your mood, mental and physical wellbeing on the decline, reflect on your life. Is it a lack somewhere in your diet, or lack of exercise? Is it a personal issue you could see a professional about – doctor/counsellor/psychologist? Is it your work environment: do you feel valued and supported?

At a workshop I recently attended, the organiser said “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.”

I have worked with amazing, supportive managers and even got along with many higher-ups. However, a few times throughout my work-life, I’ve found this statement to be true. It’s important for owners, managers and employees alike, to check-in with themselves for the benefit of the company and their own lives.

Have you found where you belong? If not, what small steps can you take to work on it?
For example, listing your strengths and incorporating those into everyday life. Or starting a hobby for your own mental and physical wellbeing.

It’s all a learning journey. Start where you are.

Embrace change!

Mindful Meditation

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What is it?

Mindful meditation is a practice that trains the mind to focus on the present moment, without judgement. Being aware of your surroundings, thoughts and feelings. It can be practiced on your own, in groups or during retreats. Exercises during a meditation session include focusing on the breath, exploring the senses like taste, smell, touch and sound.

My experience.

Generally speaking, I thought I was quite self-aware. However, until I started using mindful meditation, I realised how much I could benefit from such a practice.

Rewind two years. I noticed that my heart would palpitate out of nowhere, constantly feeling that something bad was going to happen. I was exhausted all the time and found it difficult to sleep. I stumbled upon a channel on YouTube that posted guided meditations. The comments seemed to rave on about how this channel helped them through many tough times. I thought, if so many of these comments were saying it helped them, why not give it a try? During the day, I’d listen to these voice-overs to ‘escape’ the bustling world around me. I would sit in my car, just to be alone and listen. I learned to focus on my breath. I also learned grounding techniques, thanks to a counsellor I was seeing at the time.

Although I was working through functioning during the day, I was still struggling to sleep at night. So I decided to listen to guided meditations. This was the best decision I made! Within thirty minutes or less, I’d fall asleep! My phone would be left charging overnight, while the rest of the meditation video played through. However, if you feel safer in doing so, turn off electrical devices just before drifting off to sleep.

9 times out of 10, mindful meditation allowed me to have a deep, restful sleep! Finally.

Fast forward to today. I still use these meditations to sleep at night. Now, I am going to try and practice mindful meditation in the mornings – for extra motivation and focus!

Where do I start?

Personally, I would find channels/podcasts that are popular and have good feedback. Not all channels may appeal to you, so find one that you connect with.

I frequently visit a YouTube channel created by Michael Sealey. He has an array of videos targeting anxiety, depression, chakra cleansing and over-thinking to name a few. His voice to me, is very grounding, making me feel calm and at ease.

Mindful meditation can encourage self-compassion, slowly changing the judgemental tones we sometimes find ourselves using in our heads. You know that critical voice, always making us feel unnecessarily bad about ourselves/actions? Yep, that one. Change that voice and it’ll change your thinking for the better!

The other day, I downloaded an iPhone app called “Calm”. It’s great, because it has different ‘topics’ like mindful eating, mindfulness at work, 7 days of calm as well as many others. So far, I have found it very helpful for focus. It’s helped me feel more motivated in the mornings! Be aware that some topics are locked as it requires a yearly subscription fee.

From YouTube channels, smartphone applications to podcasts, there are many options out there for you to try.

Benefits of Mindfulness

According to a study conducted at Oxford University in England, mindfulness (coupled with cognitive therapy) has been said to reduce symptoms of chronic depression.

According to a study conducted at UCLA in America, mindfulness meditation could be a factor in improved memory and focus. They found that those who had been meditating long-term had more ‘folds’ in the brain’s cortex, suggesting improved information processing and the formation of memories.

In day-to-day life, mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress and anxiousness. It can also raise your self-awareness and help you to recognise thoughts and feelings that may or may not be serving you. Check-in with yourself, from time to time. Make time for self-inventory.

It’s not a smooth journey, but it is a path worth exploring for better mental health and wellbeing!

If you’d like to learn more, I’ve listed links below:

Applications to download:

  • Calm
  • Mt. Focused (for study)
  • Headspace

Image by Jared Rice.

A lot of us, we feel that meditation is about silence. No, it is about awareness. – Ralph Smart

Let go of what no longer serves you.

You are not your past. 

Namaste.

Let’s talk about sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment: any behaviour that is unwelcome and unwanted, often causing feelings of intimidation, humiliation and offence.

My story.

Some stories are positive, to highlight that there are good people in the world.

At age 11, I learned what the word rape meant. I interpreted it as ‘something being taken away from another, without permission’. My parents feared for my safety, and banned me from staying over anyone’s house.

At 12, I was catcalled constantly in front of an adult I trusted. He said it was my fault because I was wearing shorts that covered everything that needed covering. I started wearing pants, even in the humidity and heat.

At 14, during a 15 minute walk home in the afternoon, an unknown man in a blacked-out car motioned me toward him, slowing down.

At 15, another man stopped along the side of the road to offer me a ride home. Thankfully, he was a family friend.

At 16, a man at a bus stop relieved himself near me. He said he was waiting for a friend. He then said I must’ve seen many dicks at my age. And since it was 7:30 in the morning, his “size” was smaller than usual. He asked me to go for a walk. I declined. I was terrified to walk back home, in case he followed me. The bus finally came. His “friend” never got off the bus. I honestly didn’t feel like going to high school or catching public transport for some time. No one took me seriously whenever I spoke about this incident.

At 17, a stranger offered me a hug as I was crying at a bus stop. He even gave me a chocolate bar as a kind gesture. He said it affected him seeing people hurting.

At 18, I cried because I wanted to say no.

At 19, I was groped in a crowd, multiple times.

At 19, a guy decided I wasn’t allowed to leave to find my friends. He held my wrist with an iron-tight grip. I will regret that night forever.

At 20, some guy decided it was okay to touch me as I was getting into a taxi.

At 21, another woman saw I was struggling to walk (as I had been drinking most of the night). She helped me to the bathroom and stopped random guys trying to talk to me. Afterwards, she insisted that my boyfriend took me home immediately.

At 23, an old man winked at me and asked me to sit on his lap while I was at a family gathering. I was in shock. No one said anything. I was always taught to respect my elders. I know now that respect cannot be given. It must be earned.

At 24, a stranger asked, “You’re not afraid of me, are you?” while we were alone in an empty car park.

At 24, a group of tradies catcalled me, making loud assumptions about why I was walking around the city at 9PM, on a Friday night. I had just finished a 12 hour work day.

At 24, I’m realising how many other women have similar experiences to mine. It’s not okay.

At 24, I’m so fucking done, taking shit from strangers and people I thought I could trust.

I have lived a privileged life, growing up out of poverty, having access to education and basic needs. Unfortunately, sexual harassment was one of the experiences that nobody could have foreseen or protected me from.

Facts based in Australia:

  • Almost 1 in 5 women (18%) and 1 in 20 men (4.7%) have experienced sexual violence (sexual assault and/or threats) since the age of 15.
  • In 2016, on average, police recorded 52 sexual assaults each day against women and about 11 against men.
  • One in two women had experienced harassment in the course of their lifetime and one in four men had experienced harassment too.
  • 38% of women between the ages of 18 to 24, reported acts such as inappropriate comments about their bodies and sex life, indecent exposure or unwanted touching, kissing or grabbing in the last 12 months.
  • 4% of Australians have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the last five years, compared to 11% in 2003 (2008 survey).
  • For those who did not make a complaint (2008 survey):
    • 43% did not think it was serious enough
    • 15% were fearful of a negative impact on themselves
    • 21% had a lack of faith in the complaint process
    • 29% took care of the problem themselves.

The psychological effects:

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare:

  • Mental health conditions were the largest contributor to the burden of disease due to physical/ sexual intimate partner violence, followed by suicide and self-inflicted injuries.
  • For women who have experienced domestic violence, this can include poorer physical and mental health than women who have not experienced such violence. Increased rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and illicit drug use than those who had not.

According to the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault (ACSSA):

  • Anxiety and intense fear are the primary responses following rape. Some research has found that this peaks at around three weeks after the rape; however, it can last for more than a year for a significant number of survivors.
  • Distressing flashbacks or reminders of the assault may occur.
  • For some women, particularly from marginalised communities, sexual assault can reaffirm assumptions about themselves as devalued persons (insidious trauma), and about the world being unsafe and dangerous.
  • Feelings of low self-esteem, self-blame and guilt can endure for months and years after the assault.
  • People may experience emotional shock where they have an exaggerated sense of unreality and disassociation. (SECASA)

According to American clinical psychologists and an employment attorney:

  • Sexual harassment has been associated with diagnoses such as depression, anxiety and PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).
  • Somatisation: The normal, unconscious process by which psychological distress is expressed as physical symptoms. For example, a person with clinical depression may complain of stomach pains that prove to have no physical cause. Counselling can be helpful to overcome somatisation.
  • Neurotransmitters found in our brains are also found in our gut. It’s a real thing: this is why we tend to get sick when we get stressed, and over time, if we’re in constant stress or if it’s too much to handle, then there are physiological consequences.
  • Physical manifestations of stress: hair falling out, hives, weight gain or loss, sleeplessness and lethargy.

At 24, I asked my partner if he would stand with me. And now, I am asking you to do the same.

Women, we must stand together. Men, please stand beside us. Society, we need to do better.

We don’t need protection. We need unity and solidarity. We need voices to SPEAK UP and people to TAKE ACTION. Pull up your friends, if they make inappropriate jokes. Call people out, if they make advances on women, men or children. Report suspicious behaviour especially in regards to children, as they may not trust adults to talk to. Support a survivor, if they share their story.

Change happens with awareness, education and action.

So please, educate yourselves and those around you. Know that sexual harassment and assault is a serious offence and can have dire psychological consequences.

If you or someone you know needs support, Health Direct has compiled a list of services to contact. View the list here: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sexual-assault-and-abuse-helplines.

Remember, change starts with you.

Image from Pinterest.

Boundaries in Relationships

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What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the ‘space’ between ourselves and the other person. This can be emotional, mental or a physical space. It can also be explained as “the line where I end and someone else begins”, stated by clinical psychologist Ryan Howes. Another way to think of boundaries is imagining state borders throughout the country. We all have an emotional/mental/physical border that keeps us comfortable and safe. These borders indicate to people what is okay and what is not okay.

Have you ever been in a situation where a friend leans in too close to you, and you want to immediately lean away? Your physical boundary has been crossed. Have you ever been part of a conversation and the other person shares too many details? That’s an emotional/mental boundary that is being crossed. Boundaries are applicable to all relationships. Whether it’s between friendships, family members or coworkers.

What’s an unhealthy boundary? Unhealthy boundaries include oversharing, being uncomfortably close to others, feeling extremely incomplete without your partner and being controlled by another. This can be observed in codependent relationships.

What does healthy boundaries look like? Healthy boundaries include keeping private information private, being considerate about your presence and not impeding on another’s personal space, taking responsibility for your own happiness and being open and honest with others.

How are boundaries formed?

Boundaries are formed primarily throughout childhood. If a child’s needs are met, they are able to develop a healthy sense of personal boundaries. However, if a child suddenly has to take care of a parent with an addiction/mental illness, there can be confusion as to what a healthy boundary is. Children who suffer verbal, physical or sexual abuse can also struggle with developing healthy personal boundaries.

Why are boundaries useful?

Healthy boundaries are useful as it helps to sustain our relationships, by giving it structure. We are able to communicate open and honestly, share our feelings and thoughts without impeding on other’s mental health. It helps to establish our own identity. It’s also good for stabilising our mental and emotional states.

If we don’t have boundaries set for ourselves, it may lead people to disrespect our time, our effort or our space. Unhealthy boundaries can even impede on our happiness.
For example, I used to keep my notification sounds on for my emails. Throughout the night, the “pinging” sound of my phone would wake me up. I started waking up annoyed because of the sounds. I’ve disabled the notification settings now. This is what setting a boundary looks like – although it is simple, it is effective and relevant for more serious situations. I respect my sleep and time-out from technology, so I took the necessary step to ensure this is respected.

How can we apply it to our lives?

1. Communicate!
First, communicate! Sometimes we may not be aware of our boundaries until it happens. That’s okay! Just make sure you communicate that with the other person so they know. Encourage them to also do the same with you.

2. Be honest!
This can also fall under communication. Be honest and clear about what is okay and what is not okay. You’re not just protecting yourself but also the other person from resentment, constant fighting or silent treatments.

3. Find support outside of the relationship.
Seek a professional that you trust to work through boundary issues. Sometimes it’s easier to navigate our feelings if there is a professional outside of the relationship, supporting us. Even a trusted friend or family member can help us through this.

4. Learn to say no.
If it is not in your best interest, say no. As humans, we generally have the innate ability to notice when we’re in a toxic relationship. It’s okay to walk away. It is within your ability and right, to say no and walk away. Don’t worry about what other people think!

5. Be aware of your needs.
In my previous post, I spoke about what ‘needs‘ are. If you prefer to be alone sometimes to recharge – don’t sacrifice that time. Prioritise space and distance to look after yourself.

6. Do your best to stay consistent.
Don’t look outward for self-esteem, search within yourself. The key to self-love is setting healthy boundaries. Always remember your own strength.

Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. In order to help others, we must first help ourselves. Think of ways you can start to make those positive changes. Is it by communicating with others? Or by writing down boundaries to work on? Maybe you can encourage someone who is struggling with this today. Life is all about learning and growing!

 

If you found this post helpful, please like, share or comment down below!
Love and light x

Image by Priscilla Du Preez.

 

 

Declutter Series 1: How to Start

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Clean your room.

Growing up, I was always told to clean my room. Me and my brother would get up to all sorts of mischief: throwing food in random parts of the house (don’t ask me why), building ‘castles’ using chairs and blankets, swinging from blankets attached to cupboards (don’t ask me about that either). No matter how many times we cleaned up, our rooms would be a mess again.

One sibling turned into three. At slightly different age ranges, we had so many different toys, books, pens, pencils, clothes… it was next to impossible to keep clean. My mum would often step-in and clean it herself, but it was a lot to deal with so eventually our rooms stayed messy. The cleaning habits of our mum, did not pass on to us.

I believe this occurred for a few reasons. First, cleaning was seen as a laborious chore to do when asked. Second, when I did clean, it was more of an organised mess afterwards. I didn’t know how to clean properly. Third, I was taught to be grateful for every item I received, so I barely threw anything out and convinced myself I could re-purpose it all. At one point, I was obsessed with horror shows so I wanted to collect the fake spider-webs that was displayed at Halloween… and let me tell you, it didn’t add to the space in an appealing way.

The years under 12, I suffered severe asthma and pneumonia. It’s not until today as a 24 year old, I realised the health impacts cluttered spaces can have on the body.

Years went by and less and less attention was paid to organisation. Floors needed to be vacuumed, dishes needed to be done, rooms needed to be sorted. The house was stuck on ‘pause,’ while life continued. Unless someone was coming over, no change would ensue. Multiple times, we’d unwillingly try and clean but it never stayed clean. A house of 7 and not one clean spot. (See what I did there?!) Even a close friend of mine tried to help. It was incredibly exhausting. I think it was a mix of trying to do it alone and the heavy energy that lingered in the house.

A few years later.

Fast-forward to my 18-year-old self. Although I moved out, I had too many clothes, shoes and random items around my room. It was an organised mess at the best of times. My clothes were stored in ‘clothe bins’ and whatever couldn’t fit, was thrown onto a spare bed.

Occasionally, I’d find the will to sort through my things. It was so satisfying. I still didn’t understand the importance of organisation, despite that. Whenever I looked long enough at my clutter, I’d feel overwhelmed. I legitimately had NO IDEA how to change the habits I’d taken with me from childhood.

Freedom.

Until I met my boyfriend Luke, organising and decluttering wasn’t on my priority list. One night, Luke lined up all my shoes perfectly, and although it was something small, that sparked something inside me to change. Around this time, I was also watching YouTubers who were taking on the “minimalist lifestyle”. It was fascinating to me that these people could live with so little and be content. I wanted to be content.

I finally plucked up the courage to clean my room. I got rid of many unused clothes, gave away shoes, trashed random boxes I’d collected from online orders… all that heaviness was finally gone.

I felt like a new person. The twenties are all about re-inventing yourself, after all!

The years that followed involved the usual occurrences of life… pain, lessons and striving to be better. De-cluttering to me, would feel like an emotional release. I didn’t need to hold onto pain, whether it was mental or in the form of material things. Funnily enough, when I’m mad, I clean. Quickly.

I have been working hard to live a clutter-free life.

There are still days when I feel lazy and not every single thing in the house is in ship-shape order, but I’ve come a long way.

I’ve set a new habit and expectation within myself. It’s so easy to look at my space now and think, “Do I need those spare envelopes? Can I find a new home for these shoes?”. I’m constantly looking for ways to live with less or cleverly re-purpose working appliances/furniture/storage items. Eventually, I want to cut-down on waste and live a minimal-trash lifestyle.

Those who struggle with severe hoarding tendencies or major disorganised traits, may need help. Be that friend who encourages. Be that friend who shows up.

Things I learned since starting my decluttering journey:

  • The job is never done until it’s done
  • Help is essential – it’s OKAY to ask for help
  • Accountability is essential
  • Self-control for buying is essential

If you want to clean your home and declutter, I have created a guide to get you started. Cleaning doesn’t have to be laborious. Break it up into small tasks. Effort goes a long way! It’s worth it, I promise you!

Decluttering Guide

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or leave a comment down below!

Photo by Thought Catalog.