Archive | January, 2011

Live more. Stress Less.

27 Jan

What’s important to you? Take a look at my home environment and you would be spot on for believing that apple pie order is a priority for me.  Yeah, I’m a clean freak and my hubby is a neat freak. Match made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. If you visited our house, you would no doubt leave wondering how we manage to keep it looking so spotless and uncluttered, particularly with young kids running round. The dishes are always done, beds made, bathroom disinfected, toys stored in colour-coded boxes and the toilet paper folded into a pretty triangle after every use!  Well, almost.  

It takes a certain level of commitment on a daily basis to live that way but it is high on my list of essentials because it makes me feel calm, collected and like I have my sh*t sorted!  It’s not something I feel compelled to do in order to regain a sense of control in what can sometimes be a very chaotic state of being. Or is it?

Excessive drinking, smoking, shopping, and yes, even cleaning, can be distractions.  They take our focus from one area and move it to another place that offers temporary respite.  These habits are often the things we do unconsciously to fill a gap or get a rush of feel-good endorphins when panic threatens to overwhelm.  Is this a surprise in a modern society that generally values the busiest and seemingly most productive members?  Moreover, am I the only one with kids who feels like daily life is sometimes a battle of epic proportions??  Having one child, let alone three before the age of 30 can be a bit of a challenge.  Just ask my husband!  There are times when you find yourself running around in a blur of ‘doing’ -feeding, bathing, calming, cleaning, playing and screaming. It gets ugly sometimes people!      

Obviously I am far from immune to such distractions, but I’m getting way better at identifying my survival mode and squashing it.  How can I tell when I’m in survival mode? My actions start getting more frantic.  I try and do more in less time and I try and do it all at once.   The stress levels rise, jaw-clenching begins and eventually I get to a point where I am no longer able to think clearly. Sound familiar?

For me, the antidote is a mix of prevention and learning to refocus on the present moment.  It’s the age old saying about having a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than an ambulance waiting at the bottom for someone to fall.  Making time to read, exercise and relax regularly may seem like lofty ideals when you have a family, work and social life to contend with.  However, I have learnt the hard way that they really do help to prevent my stress levels from rising to a furor.  I like to refer to them as my ‘preventative activities’ or things that I choose to do on a regular basis to stop my mean girl coming out. Nuff said.

Learning or attempting something new, with a certain degree of difficulty can also be hugely beneficial.  Doing difficult things helps foster personal confidence and strength. Over time, these challenges lead to a sense of personal mastery and accomplishment that can boost our limits of endurance.  Maybe it’s tackling a foreign language, learning to play an instrument or revisiting a sport that you last played when you were ten. Initially it can be a little uncomfortable and frustrating.  But with time and determination, a little bit of progress can be made each day. In a year or two, your learning and performance in this area will have improved profoundly.  Additionally, you will reap the residual effects of learned persistence.  The activity in question is going to be different for everyone.  Figure out what is meaningful or just plain fun to you and pursue it.  Not half assed but whole-heartedly!

 Choosing to remain in the present moment is another proven stress buster for me.  It’s a habit that I am still practicing but I’m telling you, it works.  Learning to shake off life’s’ inevitable annoyances is not always easy, but it is possible. You can get irritated when your four year old chats loudly and incessantly, wiping yoghurt on her freshly changed top and demanding you watch her every dance move when you are trying to get some work done.  Similarly it can be disconcerting just how slowly small kids walk when you are already running 10 minutes late for school and have a meeting to get to. In situations like this, I try and remind myself that I can choose to react in an irritated manner or I can take a breath, give a little laugh and just go with it.  Ok, maybe not a laugh, but at least a half hearted sigh.  Either way, we can always choose our response and attitude in any potentially stressful situation and make it work for us.

 I’m not saying I have it all down-pat. Far from it (just ask my husband!).  There are times when I fall back into that stressed out survival mode but I try to remain aware of it and take a moment to refocus myself in the present.  Sometimes it just takes a few quiet deep breaths or a second where I can look into the eyes of my girls and experience that deep sense of connection. Other times, I crank up the stereo when I’m driving and sing loudly and unapologetically, while sucking up some of our beautiful Queensland sunshine.  Immediately I am brought back to the present and able to identify with that core that is free and adventurous.   Boo yah – I’m back in the moment and feeling fine!

The point is – this is your life. Design it the way you want to live it.  You can choose to survive (something so easy to fall into when you have little people to look after), or you can choose to LIVE.   You can get by on those to-do lists and endless obligations, struggling to keep up with the Joneses and buying more stuff which frankly, you do not need. Or, you can dwell in the land of small pleasures, powerful intentions and boundless opportunities.  

Live more. Stress less.  That’s what I’m doing today.

Staying positive in the face of disaster

17 Jan

 Queensland floods – January 11-13, 2011

The rain has been unrelenting over the past two weeks and yet, I still found myself as a Brisbane resident thinking that we were immune to the possibility of flooding. I’ve never in my life been in a city while a disaster, natural or human made, has occurred. The worst we get is some fairly heavy storms in summer that can knock out the power for a few hours.  That was, until two days ago when watching channel 9 news reporting on the deathly flash flooding in Toowoomba, less than two hours from where I live.  Continuing on from that report was the news that this devastating wall of water was headed towards Brisbane, joining forces with the swollen river and burgeoning Wivenhoe dam. Newsflash – Brisbane was going to experience flooding unheard of since 1974.

My thoughts immediately turned to my mother, who was working in Ipswich, one of the current danger zones. She was supposed to be relieved of her seven day stint as a caregiver for an at-risk youth that day. As I watched the news, I felt sure that she was going to be stuck there. My fingers hit auto dial and mum reassured me in her usual chirpy tone that she was just fine and would be home tomorrow. Less than two hours later, she called again to say that they had just been evacuated, that the water was rushing into the city at an alarming rate but that she was safe and not to worry.  Hello!  When it comes to family, telling me not to worry is like asking Shane Warne to stop texting illicit ditties to married women.  It ain’t going to happen! 

The past two days have been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. For hours I have had the TV firmly glued to Australia’s Channel Nine News, observing reporter Karl Stefanovic and Queensland’s’ Premier Anna Bligh as they recount widespread devastation, several deaths and the lingering possibility of disease.  I’m sure I’m not the only one to be shocked and confounded by the frightening footage of Toowoomba or Brisbane’s central district, now covered by an ominous muddy swirl.  The more I watched, the more my mood became sombre and quite emotional at times. People were losing loved ones, thousands had lost their homes and livelihoods.  In some less discernible way, it felt like our ‘lucky lives’ were being threatened.

One thing that remained unaffected was the demeanour of my girls.  They continued to laugh, dance, paint, and play with their Barbie’s. They complain about the fact that they are unable to swim in the pool and pester me to take them to the park, mall or even the “cold shop” (supermarket).  They glance at the news footage and fleetingly say “poor nana” and “their house is going to be dirty!”  Seconds later, they resume their version of Australian Idol where one sings or dances to Selena Gomez and the other two judge.   Kids, hey! 

Phone lines were congested for two days but when I eventually talked with my mum – I was once again amazed by her continued upbeat attitude.  To be honest, it was slightly bewildering; given the gamut of emotions I was feeling, just watching the disaster unfold on television!  There she was, a 60 year old woman with little food, no power or water, surrounded by catastrophe and yet she was laughing at her apparent luck!  

While my mother later acknowledged that it had been scary at times, she said that she was able to maintain calm because she had a young person in her care, who was understandably traumatized.  This girl had just lost all her worldly possessions and the only place she could ever remember calling home. For me, it was an enormous relief to know that they were safe and that my mum would get to return home as soon as the roads cleared. 

It was also a timely reminder that while anyone can maintain a positive attitude when everything is going their way – it is much more difficult to maintain that positive attitude when the going gets tough. 

Of course, it’s important to have compassion for those who experienced loss and devastation in the Queensland floods.  But surely you can be of more help to others with a smile on your face than someone who is depressed and sullen?  As irritating as it can be at times, my mother has always demonstrated that when you maintain a hopeful disposition and put on a happy face in a dire situation; it is so much easier to be happy on an everyday basis. 

The damage to Brisbane and in fact much of Queensland will no doubt have long term effects and require a lot of work, money and community spirit. There is more heavy rain forecast for the next month or two and a possible cyclone on Australia Day.  So, this is far from over. 

At the moment, my life feels slightly altered.  From now on, I will no longer be able to view overseas reports of natural disasters with the same level of denial.  I am immensely grateful for the daily luxuries that I usually overlook as part of modern living – clean drinking water, power, a home untouched by the sometimes brutal forces of Mother Nature.  

I am also reminded of the choice to stay positive in the apparent face of disaster.  Thanks mum!

Why 2011 is the year to just do it!

9 Jan

2011 is my year.  No it’s not some psychic, astronomy or astrology thang.

I just feel it in my bones – so whole-heartedly that I wake up most mornings with a self assured spring in my grand jeté and a little surge of adrenaline that is only half-caffeine fueled.  Call it blind faith or the culmination of self belief due to a long period of diligence, discipline and a healthy dose of self-doubt. I’m in the game this year and I’m here to win it.

As a coach and a friend, my ears prick up and my heart sinks a little bit, whenever I listen to the excuses of people who are not living their lives hard out.  As a mother, I take note when my kids whine about something they just can’t do.

“Let’s just see about that honey.”  “Do you want to do it together the first time?  Do you need some help?  Or should I just throw you in the pool to prove that you really are born to swim?”

Confucius says ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with the single step’.  A simple message that is perhaps so simple that many of us do not take heed.  

I say – be bold. Do the research.  Connect with what makes you excited and a little bit scared and then you will know you are on the right track. Take baby steps and you will be amazed at what you learn along your path.  Soon enough, that mountain will be scaled and trodden over with a skip.  You don’t have to do it all today but just start. Set some goals, break them down into bite sized chunks and take a leap of faith!  Share your goals with a friend and ask them to keep you accountable. The confidence that blooms from just doing it today will propel you forward for months to come.

Don’t be one of those “I wish I had of” people. Start shining now.                                                                           

I am.  I’m stepping up and out.  I’m doing it and it would be really nice if you would join me, because, frankly, it’s a little bit scary out here.

Have a happy day!

Living the Dream while Raising a Family

3 Jan

When I became a parent for the first time in 2004, I had little idea as to how much my world would change. You would think that a gestation period of nine months, a relentless desire to consume every leading birth and parenting book published in Australia, and a supportive, loving partner, would keep one in reasonable stead for parenthood.  Think again!

While I was forewarned about the loss of sleep, the re-direction of focus from myself to another human being and the need for a more restrained social life; I had not expected the all-consuming feelings of love, worry, guilt and at times, isolation.  Nor was I prepared for the painful loss of my wonderful father to that ugly disease cancer, just three months prior to having my daughter.  The intense grief was a lonely path that few of my friends had experienced and even fewer wished to acknowledge.  My guess is that it was just too confronting.  While my daily life seemed to be turning into a repetitious existence comparable to Groundhog Day, everyone around me seemed to be travelling at warp speed.  Life after the death of a loved one really does go on (at least for the unaffected around you), and that observation, hit me hard.

My new work environment (home) and the lack of consistent daily contact with friends and colleagues lead me to a lonely and confusing place where my feelings of positive self-identity morphed and eroded.  Now, when I looked in the mirror, I found myself unsteadied by the image of a newer version of me – one that I did not always recognise or feel comfortable with.

It seems that other people also had trouble recalling the old me.  Friendships were neglected or threatened by the fact that I was no longer readily available for late night outings or spontaneous adventures abroad.  I no longer received the Thursday night shout outs to see what was going down on the weekend, nor did I have personal work dramas to commiserate over with my fellow comrades. My invisibility as an individual became glaringly apparent a few years and a set of perfect twins later, when I questioned one of my husband’s friends about how he had fared in a recent job interview.  His response “Oh I think I nailed it! I knew all the answers to the questions they asked me. It would be like someone asking you about being a mum – it’s all you have ever really known so it was pretty easy.”

Ouch!  As I sat there with what I hoped was an encouraging smile on my face, my internal voice screamed something along the lines of like “Excuse me?! I have two degrees, have travelled to at least 10 countries having all sorts of life changing experiences, had considerable professional success in a range of areas, a passion for learning new things and a wardrobe of skinny jeans and high heels and I am not, (repeat NOT) JUST a mummy!”

Fast forward to almost 7 years of being “just” a mummy and I have to admit that it has only been the past three years or so that I have readily embraced the term.  Being a parent does not define all of who I am but it’s definitely my most important role. I have never worked harder at something, learnt so much about human psychology and physiology, or experienced such intense joys.

This blog reflects my personal journey to becoming a ‘happy mum at home’.  It is also a place where I will share valuable resources and information on how I choose daily to “live the dream while raising a family”.  As a parent, success coach and more importantly a human being, I believe I am a lot like you.

I strive to live a life beyond mediocrity, a life of greatness that is measured by the amount I live, love and learn. While I do not profess to have all the answers, I might just have some of them – garnered through a lot of study, research, reading, beta-testing, and numerous moments of frustration and despair!

So, as I welcome you to my blog, I also thank you in advance for your comments and sharing of experience.  I hope you enjoy it and find something of relevance to your life.

You can check out my business services at website  follow me on twitter    like me lots on facebook or email me at kirri@happymumsathome.com.

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