Last night my family celebrated Christmas in July at my house.

Christmas is a bit of a tricky time for my family – we have a lot of bad memories from when we were growing up and it has led to more than a few meltdowns on Christmas Day over the last 25 years.

But three years ago we started celebrating Christmas in July – which is all about wearing silly jumpers, the food and spending time together (no presents) and for some reason it works – no meltdowns. It’s just a heap of fun.

So we started a new tradition. And as part of this tradition, my two youngest nieces stay the night at my place (one of them lives in Melbourne so the cousins are so excited to catch up) and we go out for ice cream for breakfast.

The ritual happened by accident.

Last year I took them to the park first thing because they were the first people awake, but it was too cold and it started to rain and so we went looking for something else to do. We ended up at the Parade, Norwood. Not much was open on a Sunday morning, but a cafe that does breakfast also sold ice creams. So as a treat – and because I am the auntie that will let them get away with almost anything – they had ice cream for breakfast.

Now it’s a ritual. A once a year ritual which the three of us love. The girls have talked about ice-cream for breakfast all year.

Rituals are gold for developing culture whether that be at home or at work. And some of the best rituals happen totally by accident.

 

So I am back on the exercise horse. I have been getting up at stupid o’clock every day and doing some exercise – a run (with a lot of walking thrown in) or I go to the gym and use the most boring piece of equipment ever invented (the treadmill – which truly was created as a torture machine).  

I have generally just exercised on my own.  Set my own pace, pushed myself but only as hard as I decided to go.  I love being by myself. I love having some time in the morning to think, listen to podcasts and just prepare myself for the day. 

But recently I joined a group, the Grand Challenge, where a number of us have all put in a $150 each to go towards a prize of $1000 which will go to the person who loses the greatest percentage of body weight over a 12 week period.  We have also raised enough money that we have bought two memberships to a personal training program which we are sharing.  

So I went out to the group personal training session on Monday to go for a run.  Let me tell you – I was completely out of my comfort zone.  

I am not an athlete. I am also not very fit at the moment and I have a dodgy back and really annoying tight calves that over-react to running way too often. 

The rest of the small group was made up of a person who had just completed a half marathon, another full-on running enthusiast and another woman who had significantly more stamina than me.  

I felt terrible. I wanted to go home; to run on my own.  I couldn’t keep up and my calves hurt; really hurt. The PT was fantastic.  The group were incredibly supportive and they had a process whereby they did laps to ensure that everyone stayed together. No-one cared that I was slow but me. I cared a lot. 

I don’t like not being good at things. I am usually the person in the front of the room. I am usually the person who makes decisions and organises the troops.  I was out of my comfort zone and I felt like a burden. I hate being a burden. 

But it was my thinking that was the problem.  I was projecting my feelings of being a loser and an irritant on to everyone else in the group and that wasn’t fair. 

So I am going again this Thursday. I am going to keep going to these sessions and sit in my discomfort so that I can work on managing my unfair projections on to other people.

Sadie is my 16-month-old granddaughter.  She is adorable. She is wickedly funny, cheeky as, incredibly assertive and the second coming of her mother.  

I am in awe of this toddler. Despite her limited vocabulary, we have no issues communicating. She is very clear.  

She smiles, kicks her feet or claps her hands when she is happy.  She laughs loudly when she gets the joke. However, she will not smile when she is not happy or if she is in a bad mood.  

Sadie is very clear when she has had enough of being at our house or the playground.  She literally grabs her parent and starts heading for the door.

When she wants something she asks for it – she doesn’t always get what she wants but she is more likely to get it from Grandmama than anyone else.  

She likes to do her own thing but she will regularly come up for a quick hug or cuddle and then get back to exploring her environment again.

When she is tired she gets quite grumpy and we all know that she needs a nap.  And if she hurts herself we give her a cuddle, soothe her until she feeling better and then we send her back to take more risks. 

Sadie hasn’t learned how to manipulate people by being pleasing or cruel. She doesn’t pretend because she doesn’t know how to. And we are not offended when she clearly decides that she has had enough of us or she doesn’t accept something that we have offered her. 

Sadie is uncomplicated and a joy to spend time with.

What I continually teach people in my work is that people are just toddlers in grown-up bodies.  We all have needs and wants. There will be times when we are not feeling happy and we don’t feel like smiling and sometimes we just want to go home or do something just for us.  

But over the years we have learned to pretend to be happy to keep the peace; we have learned that if we are pleasing or agressive we will be more likely to get our own way.  As adults, we become increasingly complicated and our communication is not always clear. We stop being able to ask for what we want; we doubt ourselves. Many of us become significantly less assertive.  We worry more about what others think about us; than what we want and need so that we can look after ourselves. 

And when we see an adult in pain, particularly when it comes to mental health issues, we often say “get over yourself” or “pick yourself up” because we don’t know how to respond.  So we don’t always provide a safe caring space for that person to feel their pain and build their resilience. 

Sadie is fast approaching the age where she will start testing the boundaries; where she will become frustrated when her parents say ‘no’; when her body won’t do what she wants it to do and when she can’t explain herself. 

But I truly hope and pray that she will continue to only smile when she is happy; that she will continue to ask for what she needs no matter what is going on in her life and that she will be assertive (like her mother).

Header image by Jackie Wood Photography.

I am writing this in June 2019. I am feeling very sorry for myself. I am tired, bloated, short of breath and I have higher levels of stress than I have had in years.

I am also frustrated and disappointed in myself.

I have fallen off the wagon.

Not the alcohol wagon. I haven’t had a drink since 19 January 2014 but the health and fitness wagon.  Life has been so crazy busy and/or stressful for the last few months that my early morning routine has gone to the dogs. As a result of not getting up early and going for a run, my eating habits have deteriorated and my sleep is all over the place. I feel slow and flabby and my energy levels have nose-dived.

I have also picked up a terrible cold and I constantly cough and sneeze and blow my nose and look terrible. Being a good self-employed martyr I have continued to work through ill health because apparently, you can’t take a day off.

So I am feeling very sorry for myself.

On the upside, I have finally taken myself off to see a psychologist.  She’s great. I’m getting a deeper understanding of the issues that have dogged me forever and I am working out a plan of action to manage them in the long term.

I am sitting in my ill-health and accepting that I can’t do as much work or physical activity when I am sick. This situation is not forever and maybe it is a reminder that I need to take my own advice – you need to slow down to speed up.

I am actually in an exciting phase in my business and the horizon is looking pretty great.  I just want to go fast. I like to go fast. I hate waiting.

But just right now I have to be kind to myself, give myself some space to get better and gently get back to rising at stupid o’clock and going for a run.

 

My psychologist said to me the other day that I was burnt out.

I have done some contract work for a Government Department for nearly 20 years.  It’s difficult work. The parties are usually very stressed, the decisions I make have a direct impact on people’s lives and I have had to be a bearer of bad news over and over again for 20 years. It’s reasonable to assume that it would take its toll.

I was so relieved for my psychologist to say that I was burnt out. I was glad to hear from a professional that there was a reason for why I was feeling so awful, so tired, so stressed.

I told my family and some other close friends and they all said – we have been saying this to you for ages. They said, “this is not a surprise to us.”

So why couldn’t I hear the same information from other people? Why did it take a psychologist to confirm what was as obvious as the nose on my face?

  1. I wasn’t ready to hear the information.
  2. I needed someone with authority to make the diagnosis.
  3. I was scared that I wasn’t as resilient as I have always thought.

I have probably been burnt out for the last couple of years. I have probably been pushing through the stress and feelings of overwhelm. I am a very hard worker. I have always worked hard – no matter what’s going on – I work hard.  This was just me pushing through – again.

But the signs that things were not right when I really started struggling to sleep again. My brain would light up like a pinball machine just as I wanted to go to sleep or two hours after falling asleep. I started my night time movement from bed to couch to bed. Trying to find somewhere different, where my thoughts would change, where I could listen to music to distract me, to try and find some relief from my noisy brain.

So it is real for me now. I am dealing with burnout – again (I’ve been here before in 2014).

How to deal with this – look after me. Do what I want to do.

Go well.

 

In 2014 I had a really significant health scare. As a result I made significant changes to my lifestyle that probably saved my live.

I stopped drinking, started exercising and ate better. I lost 30 kg in eight months. I felt better than I had ever felt before.

Five years later and I still don’t drink.  I still exercise most days, but not as much as I would like to and I am careful about what I eat. I have put on a little bit of weight, don’t feel as fit and I have definitely finished 2018 feeling exhausted and run down.

I know I need to make changes in the way I manage my life in order to feel better.

2018 was a great year. I wrote a book, my business really took off and I wrote a lot of blogs that got a heap of great feedback.  I really felt that I had started to build momentum in 2018. But I was working 80 hour weeks on a regular basis to achieve those results and not really managing the small stuff, the admin very well.

I’m a big picture person. My brain goes 100 miles an hour all day every day. I am intuitive and I like to think that I am quite a good problem solver.

But I am terrible at the small stuff; like managing my money and my time.  Ask my accountant and my bookkeeper.

I say yes to nearly everything for fear of not making enough money and I am constantly thinking everyone knows how to run my business better than I do.  So I don’t trust my gut when it comes to business.

I have changed my behaviour before and I am going to do it again in 2019.

This year I will say no. I will trust my own judgment and go for it. This year I will work with my accountant and bookkeeper instead of hiding from them. This year I will learn to value the benefits of spending time in the detail.

So I am restructuring the way I conduct my business.

I am going to focus my energies on running my leadership program Teams That Thrive. I am going to help more people by creating a community that cares about themselves and others – The Thrive Tribe.

We’re going to work together to create a positive workplace, where people feel: –

  • valued,
  • that the rest of the team has their back,
  • trusted
  • Safe
  • And where people will have those tough conversations(because it’s better to know than not know)

I am ready for change; to look after myself and my family better.

Do you want to join me?  

For more information contact me on kate@theconflictcoach.com.au

Last night I had a dream — one of those really clear dreams that I could remember straight away.

It was about Dad.  I was in a big auditorium with him, and there was this big crowd of adults and children.  We had just found out that we had to present to them and we had an hour. I said to Dad, what will we do? And he said, “don’t worry, I’ve got this”.  And he left.

When Dad came back, he told everyone in the room that the first thing they needed to do was to go out and collect these cards with pictures on them. I went out with everyone else. I went into the gardens and found all of these small square cards with pictures of ordinary things on them. There were pictures of flowers on the cards in the garden beds where there were flowers. And suddenly, I realised the flowers in the garden were so beautiful. There were pictures of dirt and gravel on the ground where there was dirt and gravel. Everything looked so much more important now that there was a picture of it.

Everyone was very excited to be collecting pictures of things that they saw and experienced every day. It’s like they saw what was around them all for the first time. There was a lot of chatter and delight.

Then everyone brought their cards back into the auditorium. There was a lot of excitement.  Everyone was so energised. And there on top of the piano that was on the stage of the auditorium was this big pile of cards of ordinary things that people see every day.

And Dad said to me “Look for the ordinary. It’s all around you”.

And I came out of the dream. I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I felt so happy and so inspired by the message.

We don’t need to complicate things. We don’t need fancy theories or language.

We have everything we need. We don’t need to keep looking.  We need to value what we have and find joy in the simple.

Thanks, Dad.

There is nothing like a road trip. We drive to Melbourne to visit family at least once a year. I really enjoy the drive. I find the drive to be incredibly cathartic. The stress just drops away the further we drive.

My husband and I pretty much always stop at the Giant Koala.  We have seen it in its good years and seen it in its pretty run down sad years.

It is part of the journey. It’s also one of our stranger rituals.

We often go and explore landmarks. We go off the beaten track to see what the fuss is about. It takes a bit more time but for us it’s not just about the destination; it’s about the journey.

There was no way, when I was a kid, that my parents would have checked out any landmarks. The fact that we were going on a holiday was enough excitement for them.  We got to our destination as quickly as possible. Holidays were stressful for us as a family; best to get them over and done with.

But Graham and I like to do things differently. We love to explore; to check out the local history. We often stay in one place much longer than most people would think to do so. We like to get to know the people; to really get to know a place.

In life we make choices.  If we are always all about the destination, chances are that we will miss out on the journey.  The journey teaches us so much. It connects us with people, places and experiences. We can apply that learning to help us make better decisions. Decisions that reflect the value of others and different thinking.

I challenge you to think about the journey. To take the time to visit often ignored landmarks or towns. Go off the beaten track and visit the town centre rather than using the by-pass. The world is a glorious place – check it out!

 

My dad said once, “The threat of violence is usually worse than actual violence”.

Living in fear that there might be violence is terrifying, even if there is no personal violence towards you.

My dad told me this as he apologised for all the threats of violence we had experienced throughout our childhood. My dad never hit me, my siblings or my mother but there were many threats of violence.  Dad could blow up very quickly and we would all hide in our rooms. We all believed that being hit was a possibility.

Dad was a three career type of guy.  He was a cattle farmer who had an epiphany and became an Anglican priest, who had an epiphany and became a psychotherapist.

It was in this final iteration that he realised the pain and distress he had accidentally caused us throughout our childhood. He was deeply and genuinely sorry and we were grateful that he recognised how hard it had been. His apology was part of the healing process.

In response to the threats of violence, I spent my a lot of my childhood being good.  Tidying up, keeping my siblings quiet, cooking dinner, doing dishes – whatever was needed to avoid another threat of violence.  We walked on egg shells for much of our formative years.

 

Dad worked from home for most of my childhood. Priests only go to the “office” on Sundays and for other meetings and special occasions.  For a lot of the time he was great; our go to parent. In fact, he was our main parent. He would make us beef and tomato rolls for lunch during school holidays, he would be the one to take us to and from school or sports events.  He fixed punctures in bike tyres and he was the one we hoped would answer the phone when we needed to be picked up or if we needed an adult to help us out. We needed Dad and most of the time he was there for us.

But he was also the one who lost it big time when he came home from a meeting at night and would find mum out of it again; he was the one who sometimes threw furniture, smashed things or punched holes in cupboard doors.

There were many reasons why we never allowed our friends to visit us at home.  The bruised and battered house that we lived in was one of those reasons.

What I know now is that Dad spent most of my childhood being extremely stressed.  Stressed due to the ill health of my mother; stressed because he didn’t have enough income to pay the household bills, stressed because he had four children living in a shoebox.  Stressed because he had a job that required him to be “on” all the time when he was with parishioners; because he was involved in everyone’s lives and had to deal with all of their pain and their problems. He had a huge amount of responsibility to his tribe. It was a really tough time.

I know that a lot of leaders get very stressed at work. They can keep it together at work but sometimes they joke about going home “and kicking the cat” or drinking a bottle or two of red. The people we love the most often see the worst of us, because that is our safe place. We can let it all hang out at home. We put our relationships at risk and we don’t necessarily present the best role model for our children.

If you are really stressed and finding it hard to keep it together at home or at work; then get some help. Find ways to better manage your stress; reduce the workload. Get out for a short walk every day, eat well, exercise and look for ways to better manage your stress.

And if this blog has touched a nerve; please find someone to talk to. It could be your GP, a counsellor or a psychologist. Don’t destroy your personal relationships because of work. It’s not worth it.

I regularly promote self care as a way of looking after your mental health. I encourage the people I work with to put the tools down, to sing their favourite song loudly, walk around the block or to go on a holiday.

I know that by taking time out we are much better able to manage the stresses of life.

I tell the story of how I ended up in hospital with morbidly high blood pressure and how I now have non-negotiables in my life, like getting up really early and going for a run every day

And then all of a sudden my life got ridiculously busy and I started fitting in work instead of going for a run. There weren’t enough hours in a the day and all of a sudden my non-negotiables became negotiable again.

Then something happened that made me stop and reassess my life – once again.

The fly on my favourite pair of jeans broke.

I hadn’t put on much weight (about 4 kg) but I wasn’t as fit as I was a year ago and suddenly all my muscle turned to jelly and BANG! Jeans don’t fit.

So I’m back to my non-negotiables. I am up and running at stupid o’clock every morning again. I forgot how much I enjoy being by myself at that time of day.  I am running (shuffling) again and I’m starting to feel like my old (good) self again.

I’ve got to walk the walk if I’m going to talk the talk.