Live a life worth living

A life worth living

“You are not a priority”

“You can wait”

“You are not important”

Did I hear you getting annoyed reading that? This is because they are not true, and you know they aren’t true.
Though, these are all the messages we send ourselves when we fill our days with tick lists and commitments.

What is the problem with sending these messages to yourself?

Well, sooner or later, you start believing them. For those who found themselves agreeing with those points, chances are this has already taken place. Though I can hear you desperately wanting to believe the opposite – which then means that you don’t really believe those messages to be true – because they are FALSE!

Believing these messages can affect how your children behave, how you can discipline them effectively, and instilling value in themselves.

So, how can you change them?

Usually we look at the behaviour to change our thinking, though this is the hardest way. First we need to identify our values – as it is our values that direct our behaviour.

As you are desiring to believe those messages, chances are they are values you hold; as you are finding yourself in a internal debate, the odds are high that you are just not seeing them as a high priority.

Life will have a purpose once again, for we were created with a purpose, we are not accidents, and our creator desires to see us to live abundantly in the peace He offers.

Think on this:

If you are not seeing yourself as a priority, how can you have the energy to meet your other commitments?

If you believe your needs can wait, how long will they need to wait for?

If you don’t see yourself as important, what gives your commitments value? After all, if this is the case, then you aren’t needed for those tasks to carry out, even more for the loved ones in your care.

There is one very simple thing you can do today, in fact everyday – because ultimately you are the one who sets your daily agenda.

Take a moment for you

That’s it, just a moment.

Gradually this moment will grow, you will find that you are meeting your deadlines more effectively and with more joy.

That internal debate will quieten down, giving more focus to your loved ones.

Life will have a purpose once again, for we were created with a purpose, we are not accidents, and our creator desires to see us to live abundantly in the peace He offers.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 ESV

 

What moment can you take today? Share your plans in the comments below!

The deadliest epidemic that mankind faces: What can you do?

The deadliest epidemicOur children are dying. Simply put, no beating around the bush; our children are dying and we are standing around watching helplessly. Oh yes, we all exclaim “what is happening in the world”, though that is often the extent of our response.

Simply because we have no idea what we can do about it!

Last week I wrote about addiction proofing our children and the week before that we explored what addictions are.

This week I want to explore practical steps that we can do to act now against what I believe is arguably the most deadliest epidemic facing humanity:

Suicide!

According to Psychology Today, people with substance use disorders are 6 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Rehabs.com, an American rehab database website, highlights that while addiction increases the likelihood a person will take their own life, it also sets the wheels in motion as the means of carrying through with suicide are at their disposal and a reduction in inhibitions that might otherwise deter them from such a consequential decision.

So the risk is high – though we have more resources than we realise!

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

First things first, we need to have an understanding on suicide and what we need to look for. While this isn’t preventing addictions, it will give you something to implement now for those who are already in the grips of an addiction.

According to SuicideLine, there are 4 key points that all professionals, trained in identifying suicide risk, use – and you can use them too!

Thoughts:

  • Are suicidal thoughts present?
  • When did these thoughts begin?
  • How persistent are they?
  • Can they control them?
  • What has stopped the person acting on their thoughts so far?

Plan:

  • Has the person made any plans?
  • Is there a specific method and place?
  • How often does the person think about the plan?

Important note: A suicide plan or preparation for death, such as saying goodbyes and putting affairs in order, indicates serious suicidal intent.

Means:

  • Does the person have access to means to carry out their plan? For example, is there a firearm available?
  • How deadly is the method?
  • Type of occupation? For example, police officer, farmer (access to guns), health worker (access to drugs).

Important Note: If a person has developed a potentially fatal or effective plan and has the means and knowledge to carry it out, the chances of dying from suicide are much higher. 

History:

  • Has the person felt like this before?
  • Has the person harmed themselves before?
  • What were the details and circumstances of the previous attempts?
  • Are there similarities in the current circumstances?

Communicating with an emotionally distressed person can be difficult, but it is important to persist and gather the information required to estimate the risk, identify protective factors and determine the appropriate management.

To summarise the above, go through this list:

Have they had suicidal thoughts?
If yes 

Do they have a plan to carry out the suicide?
If yes

Do they have the means to carry out the plan?
If yes

Have they attempted suicide before?
If yes, then the risk is high and you need to seek help from a professional.

Below are services that are open 24/7 and trained to attend to crises just like this, though if you feel that the threat is imminent, call the police on 000 for immediate assistance.

SuicideLine

Lifeline

Suicide Call Back Service

Kids Helpline

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

If you have lost someone to suicide or are having thoughts of suicide, please contact one of the above crisis lines today to get the support you need, whether it be counselling or referral to the best services for your needs.

Addiction proof your child

Habits

This may be a shock to you, though 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis; 7.7% of Australians aged 14 and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes once or more in their life; 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life; 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life; 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life; Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol).

As you can see, substance abuse is up and running in Australia, these stats aren’t even addressing all substances that are often abused and it isn’t addressing other areas of addiction such as pornography/sex addiction, gambling, technology/internet, co-dependency, and the list goes on.

I mentioned in a previous blog, that addictions are defence mechanisms used to protect oneself from the real world. Unfortunately, addictions tend to have an alluring persona to begin with. People seek out different areas in their life, waiting for the hit of ecstasy (either the drug or the emotion), to help them to get through the moment – though not always considering the life long consequences.

There are many things we can do to prevent addictions from developing, though when someone is determined that life will be better with just one more hit, then we need to recognise we don’t have the control we desire to have to save our loved ones.

Consider this thought – that your child is not under your complete control as they age.

How does that feel?

Personally I feel very insecure and worried about my child’s future.

Will she make the right decisions?

Will she consider the needs of others in these deliberations?

Does she understand how important she is to so many around her?

I don’t know yet, she is only 5 and as far as I am concerned, she is actually under my control. I say when bed time starts and screen time ends, when it’s time to eat and time to sleep, time to wash and a time to play.

How long this will last for, I am yet to find out.

Though what can I do in the meantime, while she is under my control, while she remains a captive audience to my every statement and observation?

As much as I would like to give you all the answers now, I can’t.

This is such a complex and far-reaching issue that to give 5 steps to avoiding addictions will simply just not give it the justice it needs, much less deserves. Instead I would like to invite you to join me on a journey to discover a world that so far has remained elusive and transparent; intriguing and beguiling to the unarmed wanderer.

Through this journey, let us work together to work towards ending the life of addictions, releasing one person at a time.

Public Tantrums: How to remain the parent

Angry Girl

We have all been there, in fact you can read about one of my experiences here. As our children get older, theoretically the tantrums get easier to deal with, we can explain things more, empathise with how upset they are about not getting every single toy that catches their eye, they become a little more conscience on how to behave in public.

Though there are always going to be times when they are tired and no amount of reasoning can console the heart-wrenching screams of agony wailing through the aisles.

What can we do then?

The most obvious option is our initial reaction: through gritted teeth inform the child that “no means no”, pick up said child, walk out of the shops to the car and go home.

The next option we have is to give into the child, though this may only work the first 10 times before we run out of money and resort to option 1.

Sure, these are options, though not as effective as we would like them to be.

There are 5 stages we can employ as tactical operations:

  1. Anticipation:
    We need to anticipate that when we go to the shops, these tantrums will be a likely hazard. In this anticipation, we need to make sure that we are not building up our defences to brace ourselves, instead we need to accept that this is likely to happen, though in our preparation we can remain in control.What this does is prevents a self-fulfilling prophecy of our emotions transferring to our children, they smell stress and it causes anxiety for them.
  2. Preparation:
    In this stage, we can assertively (not aggressively), explain to the children while in the car, “I just need to let you know that we are going to the shops now to buy a birthday present for Sally for next week. Now when we get there, I only have enough money to buy this present and get a few groceries for dinner, so I won’t be able to buy anything else today, okay?”
    This conversation isn’t going to stop them from asking, if it does – cheering! Though this conversation is vital for the next stage.
  3. Diffusion:
    So you walk into aisle four with all the Shopkins toys proudly on display, you have already checked with Sally’s mum and she confirmed that yes it is a highly desired product, so it is an unfortunate aisle to walk into with your child who also desires to collect this line of plastic.

    It starts off well, your child is excited to pick out things that they like under the guise of “Sally would really like this!”, so a gift is chosen and it is time to leave, when the whine begins.
    This stage is crucial, it is a tightrope and sometimes it fails depending on the circumstances.
    At this point we need to remember that we cannot 100% control anyone else but ourselves. Look at your breathing, take note of your body language, what message are you sending?

    Crouch down to your child’e eye level, firmly explain that you “can see that you really want this toy and to not have it makes you feel really sad. I do love you and sometimes I need to say no because I love you. Remember in the car when I said I only had money for this present and food for dinner? This means that I really can’t buy anything else, does that make sense?” and allow your child to respond without being interrupted.

    This can feel like it takes a huge amount of time, though consider how much more time and stress would be involved if those first two options might take stage.

  4. Advance onto the next destination:
    To help your child to forget about those toys, moving onto the next task as quickly as possible will really help to prevent a major meltdown.
    Children love choices and being given decisions. As the next task on the list is to get some groceries for dinner, here you can engage in conversation of what to actually have for dinner, this should also help for a quick exit without getting distracted by other strategically placed desirable objects.Now here is another hidden difficulty, we need to make sure we don’t get distracted by anything else on the way, otherwise this communicates to the child that we have double standards – we need to remain self-controlled for our child’s sake.
  5. Debrief:
    Well you have hopefully made it back to the car with your shopping list ticked off and with minimal tears. This stage is important to continue this new cycle the next time you go to the shops and any other time you go out in public.Take the time to debrief with your child how things went and express your appreciation for how well your child did, ask them how it felt and point out that it feels a lot nicer than when they lose control. This is another moment you can come back to in the future when they start to get angry for not getting their way, to remind them they can do it and how nice it feels.

    Then repeat stages 1-5 whenever going into public, it will start to become more natural and effective the longer you apply this approach.

Now I feel it is important to mention here that this is not a foolproof procedure, many different circumstances can challenge it’s effectiveness – stress and fatigue factors, time constraints, physical health, etc.
If you are reading this, chances are this is an area that is really causing some difficulties for you; and chances are you have applied absolutely every tip, technique, and strategy under the sun and it just isn’t working. You may need a more individualised plan tailored to your needs, so who can you turn to from here?

  • A parenting course (you will also get support from other parents in similar circumstances);
  • A parenting expert – there are people who specialise in this area;
  • A counsellor – there may be some approaches that have been handed down through the generations and looking at the family dynamics on a whole may shed some light on the issues at hand;
  • A GP – there are many health issues that may cause mood swings and uncontrolled emotions, it would be helpful to rule out any potential causes.

A reminder you are the parent, you have the control and you can do this!

Drugs and the addict: A destructive relationship

Addict

“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”
Stephen King

Have you ever heard of anyone that began taking drugs with the intentions of becoming an addict? Addictions often start slowly, just one use at a time, then before we know it, a person is hooked. There are many different reasons one may try drugs in the first place, whether it is curiosity or a pain so intense nothing so far has been able to dull the intensity.

For whatever reason, one thing is certain. The person begins to rely on the drug to the point where it feels normal. Like Stephen King’s quote, it feels like it fits where it is. It doesn’t feel like anything is wrong, a perfect dream – until it is too difficult to tell the dream apart from reality. Suddenly the fog begins to lift alongside a whole heap of undesirable consequences and the harsh reality of the control the drug has begins to become clear, though at this point, life without the drug feels incomprehensible. It is no longer a choice, but a necessity for survival.

Unless we have been in that place, it is difficult to appreciate the complexity of the situation. The most commonly asked question is “why don’t you just stop?”. Good question, though don’t expect the answer to be simple or straightforward.

The decision to say good-bye to addiction needs to be made by the addict themselves. No amount of begging, pleading, desperate actions, or harsh words can possibly cause the addict to change their lives around. This is because the addiction has a toxic hold, it promises to make everything better, to treat them the way they are supposed to be treated – not the way their family and friends are treating them by trying to stop them from feeling good.

No. It is an entwined, toxic relationship. One in which there is only one person who can end it.

So what can you do to help your loved one with their addiction?

This will feel like it is totally in the wrong direction. Though the biggest thing we can do, is to support them. Now I don’t mean enable them. What real support looks like is giving them what they need – not what they physically feel like they need. So what is this?

Well, what do you need as a person?

  • Respect?
  • Love?
  • Relationships?
  • Encouragement?

Everything the drug provides. If the addict can see they can get what they need elsewhere, consistently and genuinely, they will feel safer and more empowered to make that life-changing choice.

Though again, it is still up to them. You cannot take responsibility for their decisions. Once you accept that you are powerless to change them, you can then freely provide what they need from you in the way they need it.

Mental Illness: What does it mean?

 Freedom Mental Health
With all the promotion and education going around, a lot of us have a basic understanding of what mental illness is, though unless we have experienced it, it is generally on a factual basis. This is good, we need to know facts, facts are powerful. Though what does it mean if I am diagnosed with a mental illness?
There are 2 points we need to look at here:

  • What does it mean for me?; and,
  • What does it not mean for me?

What does it mean for me?

It means I have been diagnosed with an unseen illness. Mental illness is serious and does affect life as we know it. Our bodies are designed amazingly well, when one of our five senses are no longer functioning well, our bodies and mind included, compensate. If it wasn’t for the four year old eye sight check, my daughter would be going another year without apparently much needed glasses. Since receiving her glasses last week, her behaviour has been much more co-operative; not that she always misbehaved, rather she would become tired and moody quite quickly. This is because her mind and body was working overtime to compensate for the difficulties she had seeing – though she didn’t know what she was missing out on and she compensated so well that I didn’t even consider eye problems.

Very similar to mental illness, the mind and body compensates in different areas depending on what is needed, this takes extra resources and can mean that some things are not as easy as they used to be or what we see others do.

Relationships are usually the most difficult of all challenges, these are incredibly taxing on emotions that, and in situations of mental illness, are often running in overdrive as it is. In recognising this, it would be really helpful to consider employing a third person to help mediate between relationship difficulties. We all need relationships, though we don’t always have them running in the way they need to.

Like myself and my daughter, I couldn’t see what was wrong with her, I put it down to typical four-year old behaviour with a stubborn streak that would pay off when she became an adult. Instead we actually needed a third person to help bridge the gap with facts, which changed our understanding which meant we can approach any issues with resources that would actually help our relationship.

What does it not mean for me?

It does not mean life has ended. As demonstrated above, we seek knowledge and understanding; we use this knowledge and understanding to explain issues. I was quick to put an explanation to my daughter’s behaviour down to information I received from all over the place that her behaviour was normal. Though this did little to help either of us.

As with mental illness, we often try to reason away any difficulties observed and experienced based on the knowledge and facts that we have acquired along the way. Thanks to previous messages, these often include:

  • “I should be locked up”
  • “I am not good enough”
  • “I can’t do anything right”
  • “I am fake”
  • “I am weak”

These are all false.

You may not be able to do things in the same way others do or the way you used to, though in all honesty we rarely do things exactly the same anyway. Sometimes we need to ask for help and sometimes we need medication to give us a boost so we have the resources to complete the required activities. I don’t know about you, but for me to ask for help takes a lot of strength and willpower but the benefits outweigh the initial cost.

Being diagnosed with mental illness doesn’t have to be a life sentence – if anything it can be life-giving. The diagnosis isn’t what causes the illness, it is recognition that it isn’t because you are weak or a failure, it simply means you need a different approach to overcome obstacles. This can give you direction to explore different options that will work so you can actually live life to the full.

Saying NO to the Addict you Love

 
Saying no

Empowering words from Karena for anyone who loves an addict.

Does your HSC result determine your future success in life?

Life after the HSC
Sweaty palms, deafening heart beats, shallow breathing, panic setting in staring at the blank piece of paper.

They are my memories of the HSC. I remember them vividly, and, I am still alive. I have a roof over my head, I have a loving family, and a career that brings me a great sense of purpose. Though if you went off my HSC results, I shouldn’t have the life I have now.

They were low, quite frankly I had burnt myself out in year 11 and was just over study – I didn’t really care anymore. Until the actual exam time came around. Then there was panic, sleepless nights, what would happen to me? Why had I not studied harder earlier?
Yet, here I am. Relieved that all those bad dreams did not become a reality.

The HSC results don’t have to dictate the rest of your life, they may have an effect on your short term plans, though there are always other options – sometimes they are better than your first choices.

In my year 11 exam for Senior Science, I achieved almost 100%. This was a real surprise because I was sick, I had very little sleep, and I was just over it – I didn’t care anymore. I finished that exam 1 hour early. Apparently, because I let myself off the hook, because I just tried my best and accepted it was the best I could do, my mind could recall things a lot easier than if I had fogged up my mind with stress and worry.

So, as you head into that exam room, remember:

1. You are more than a number;
2. Life will carry on;
3. Do your best and know that it is the best you can do;
4. The less unnecessary stress you put on yourself, the clearer your mind will be.

You are important and valuable, regardless of what your marks suggest. Walk into those exam rooms strong, focused, and confident that you will walk out as the same important and valuable person who walked in there in the first place. Ready to take on life after school.

Helping others: 5 questions to boost your helping productivity

Helping OthersGrowing up I dreamed of having 6 kids, going to Africa to help with missions, explored every opportunity to sponsor kids, I jumped at every opportunity to help others before considering what was involved.

I still do mind you, though I have improved a lot.

A lot of my desire to help others, was actually to feel good about myself; that I was contributing to the lives of others, to be seen as a hero.

It felt great when I did actually help others, though when there was a lull, when no one needed me, I felt really low. I couldn’t see my purpose.

The big question is: was I actually helping people?

It felt fake, it felt like I wasn’t helping people because they needed it, it felt like I was helping people because I needed it.

What was I doing wrong? I wanted to genuinely help people because I see everyone as valuable.
Through challenging myself, I came up with 5 questions to genuinely help people – and they all involved looking at myself:

• Do they actually need my help?
Usually we are in conversation when I hear of a need and my usual pattern involves me starting to think about what I could do to help. Though too often they are actually needing someone else to do something about it. They may need a social worker, counsellor or doctor? They may need their spouse, family member or friend to specifically help them. In that case, am I content to refer them on to someone more appropriate? Leading to my next point…

• Have I understood what they need help with?
Are they actually asking for practical help? Or are they just wanting the opportunity to explore things, get outside of their head and just vent to think clearly?

• Do I have the resources?
In times when they are actually asking for help, I need to consider if I have the resources. This does not necessarily mean can I carry out the task, it also includes how much is it going to cost me and those around me. Have I said yes to a number of different people recently? Do I have any looming deadlines that need priority? Have I had enough me time? Sleep, exercise and rest. If I don’t, I need to explore the next point…

• Is it urgent?
Can the request wait? I might have the resources available soon, can I say yes at a certain time? If the request can wait, I do not need to jump in with the help straight away and do a half job, I can wait and do my best job which would be more helpful in the long run.

• What does it mean for me if I say no?
Finally the biggest question of all. If I say no, what does that say about me? Does it mean I am a bad person? Or am I being genuine in wanting the best help for the other person and not promising myself when I am not able to?

After all, it is only when I say ‘no’ that my ‘yes’ truly has value.

As you can see, we can only help others when we invest in ourselves.

Foundations for Discipline

Children and Tantrums

We were all set to enjoy a leisurely afternoon wandering the many aisles filled with many helpful and unnecessary items for sale. It was the first week of the school holidays, the shopping center was packed with bustling bodies all there for various reasons.

Though we were only there for five minutes when the first “I want” demand was announced. After trying many different tactics for 20 minutes (bargaining, distracting, demanding, physically removing from the item in question) – we found ourselves heading straight back to the car, admitting defeat and feeling embarrassed by the loud, obnoxious scene that was right there in full view of the public.

As parents, we expect that children’s behaviour will be difficult, and yet when it comes to our own children, we are often shocked at this unruly, disrespectful behaviour.

Why the shock? When we see bad behaviour we often put it down to either difficult children or bad parenting.

It is the “bad parenting” that scares us. I don’t believe that people deliberately decide to be bad parents; we do the best with what we know. However when our child starts acting out especially in front of strangers; our guard goes up and we desperately try to curtail the screams of a child’s tantrum, which often just ends up causing more noise and pain than it would have if we just ignored the situation.

Though we cannot ignore all tantrums. This is the important point – people often say “ignore them, they just want attention”, when the opposite is needed! We actually need to pay attention because they need direction. How far will they push the limits to make us teach them where their boundaries are?

Children cannot be held at the same level as adults, the way children learn their boundaries is to push them – can they be trusted? will the safety net fail? are they allowed to go there?

So how does this affect our approach when it comes to discipline?

1. When your child misbehaves, isn’t a pure reflection on your parenting – so try hard not to take it personally.

2. Misbehaviour may be an indication that there are boundaries that the child is unclear about – this comes back to not taking it personally – if we take this personally chances are we will not notice what the boundary is which needs to be addressed – adding confusion to the child and therefore increasing the chance that they may push that boundary once again (if not many more times).

3. Create clear family rules (broad rules, e.g. is it kind, is it safe, is it fair) and ensure the child is familiar with them.

4. Stick to those family rules – before reacting to certain behaviour, identify which rule has actually been broken, if the rule had not been addressed, consider does it actually need to be included and revise the rules accordingly.

5. This is the hardest point – Ensure you have self-control yourself. Discipline is ultimately training a child in the way they are to go, by correcting them in anger and frustration is not just teaching them that what they did was wrong, it is actually teaching them how to communicate when they are not happy.
Instead, take time to calm yourself so you can send your message clearly and correctly. This is still a work in progress for myself, and I dare say it will continue to be for a long time yet.

Discipline is not just an act of correction – it is a lifetime of direction. By keeping these five basic points in mind, we can start to see a difference in both our children and ourselves.