How to Stay Sane … When Your Newsfeed Goes Bonkers

Yesterday, I met a friend for lunch in my favourite part of London … Southbank.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, London’s Southbank is a colourful, vibrant area, nestled on the bank of the Thames. It’s crammed full of theatres and restaurants and a skate park and second-hand book stalls. It looks out on many of London’s most famous landmarks – St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye.

But yesterday it was dank and grey – all of the landmarks obscured by a cold, grey mist.

Normally, when I have lunch with this particular friend, we’re full of sparkle.

But yesterday our moods perfectly matched the weather.

And this was in large part down to recent news events.

In the past week I’ve seen numerous posts on my social media feeds from other friends feeling equally down-hearted.

Although the internet can be a great source of up to the minute news, when the news goes crazy and we’re bombarded with stories we find upsetting / disturbing / annoying / WTF-ing it’s easy to feel trapped beneath an avalanche of gloom.

So, here’s my take on how we can maintain our sanity and inner peace in the heart of the current crap storm.

Ration your time on social media

I’m not saying come off it altogether and stop being informed. Now, more than ever, we need to be informed. But be informed in small doses. Don’t get sucked down a Facebook hell-hole, clicking on depressing link after link for hours. Get your news and go, in bite-sized sittings.

Unfollow or unfriend the people who make you feel bad

Don’t become an online rubber-necker; stalking the profiles of people you know will make you feel bad. This way insanity lies. Yes, it’s shocking and disappointing to discover that people you know (or thought you knew) and love turn out to be closet racists / misogynists / xenophobes … but don’t keep picking at the wound. Let go with love. There are far more important things that need you energy right now. Which brings me neatly to my next point…

Do something

It can be so easy to feel completely powerless in the light of global events but never forget that the power of the people is far greater than the people in power. Find out what you can do to try and bring about the changes you desire. It doesn’t matter how small it is – signing a petition, going on a march, phoning your representative, donating to a cause you believe in – all can help you feel engaged and proactive … always a way better option than disengaged and reactive.

Let your feelings out

When we’re bombarded with news stories that cause us to feel anger or fear there’s a danger of those feelings building inside of us like a pressure cooker … unless we let them out. Let them out in a way that’s constructive and won’t bring others down. So by that, I mean, no more ‘Oh great, here comes armageddon!’ posts, that are just going to spread the fear. Let your negative feelings out by writing them down in private, in a journal. Or literally shake them out of your body through some kind of physical exercise like running or dancing or going for a hike. Let your anger move through you, don’t let it corrode inside of you.

Turn your fear into fuel

Another great way of dealing with destructive feelings is to turn them into something positive. Turn your anger and fear into fuel. Create something great with it … a powerful poem, a striking piece of art, a rousing song, a funny protest banner. Think of all the great art that gets made in times of strife. Take inspiration from it and create art that will uplift and empower.

Seek out the positive

When my friend and I were chatting about this yesterday I told her that I could see real positives coming from the current situation. ‘People aren’t apathetic anymore,’ I said. ‘Events like the Muslim ban force people to look deep inside of themselves and decide which side of history they want to be on.’ I find it heartening to see just how many people are coming down on the side of love and tolerance over fear and hate. For every bad news story there’s a heartening tale of lawyers rushing to airports in the dead of night in their pyjamas to help an immigrant in need, or protesters creating a safe space in an airport for Muslims to pray. Seek out stories of hope and unity … and share them widely. Let love go viral, not hate.

Top up your inspiration tank

Another way to counter the negativity is to regularly read, watch or listen to the things that inspire you. A motivational podcast, the biography of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the quotes of Gandhi. Seek out your positive friends … the people who lift you up rather than suck you down. Keep laughing as well as crying. Laugh out the stress so that you’re able to then double down and get things done.

Trust in Love

Put your faith in something bigger than you and political systems. If you believe in Love, have faith that Love is always stronger than fear in the end; that love – not hate – is always the answer. Take inspiration from Anne Frank, who was able to find hope in the most terrifying of circumstances…

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness; I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

When it all gets too much, go outside, look up at the sky and, like Anne Frank, know that tranquility will return once more.

With love,

Siobhan

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Reclaim their Insults … and Wear them with Pride

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the power of words.

More specifically, the power of words to hurt.

There’s a saying from my childhood that has always annoyed the hell out of me:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”

Anyone who has ever been bullied will be able to tell you that this saying is a load of crap.

Words can harm … a great deal.

Writers often talk about how, no matter how many positive reviews their work might get, one nasty review will haunt them for weeks or months to come.

Adults often talk about how an insult made by the playground bully years ago still has the power to take them down.

Said in spite, words have the power to etch their way on to our psyches, leaving a deep scar.

A word that I’ve seen said in spite a lot lately is SNOWFLAKE.

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According to Urban Dictionary a snowflake is someone who is ‘overly-sensitive’.

And according to Wikipedia, today’s young adults are known as Generation Snowflake because they’re more prone to ‘taking offence’ than previous generations.

And according to my social media feeds these so-called snowflakes tend to be overly sensitive to and take offence at trivial little issues like racism and bigotry and inequality and climate change and pussy-grabbing and conversion therapy. You know … nothing major.

The other day, I saw a post on Twitter mocking a group of so-called snowflakes and initially it made my blood boil.

How dare they insult young people for daring to care, I ranted. How dare they call people like us (for I too, care about these issues) snowflakes?

But then I had a light-bulb moment.

Being a snowflake isn’t an insult at all.

How can it possibly be a bad thing to care about things like injustice and intolerance and hatred and greed?

Have we seriously become so bitter and jaded as a society that it’s now acceptable to mock people for having feelings?!!

The snowflake haters seriously need to get a grip of themselves.

But in the mean-time, us snowflakes need to take their insults and wear them with pride as badges of honour.

And this really isn’t hard at all.

Not only is it easy to feel proud about caring, the snowflake also provides a beautiful metaphor.

A snowflake (in the true meaning of the word) is beautiful in its design and completely unique … no  matter how many of them fall, no two snowflakes will ever be identical.

Snowflakes might be small and delicate individually but when enough of them come together, they can bring entire cities to a standstill.

A bit like what happened on the Women’s March on Washington (and around the world) the other day.

So, to snowflakes the world over … keep being sensitive, keep caring about the things that matter, and keep coming together to bring about much-needed change.

 

Speak Out

Are you a young adult who cares passionately about what’s going on in the world?

Would you like a platform to share your views?

I’m currently looking for guest writers to feature over on the Moonlight Dreamers website.

If you’d like to be featured or find out more please get in touch via the CONTACT page on this site.

Thank you!

 


Achieving Your Resolutions the One-a-Day Way

Is it raining where you are?

Is January doing her worst?

Is it gloomy and dark and cold and uninspiring?

Is Donald Trump about to become ‘leader of the free world’?

Same here.

But … I have a tiny glimmer of light to offer you in the gloom.

A tale to tell that will lift your spirits and encourage you to pursue your dreams.

This year I have one main focus – to keep things simple.

Simplicity = clarity = space = freedom.

So, I began by applying the rule of simplicity to my new year’s resolutions.

This year I would have just three resolutions, as short and sweet as can be.

And they are:

  1. To have FUN
  2. To make LOVE my mission statement
  3. To WRITE books for adults again

 

Simple.

And, to make the pursuing of these dreams as simple as possible, I vowed to do one thing a day towards achieving at least one of these things.

Now, the one-a-day way to achieving your dreams isn’t loud and brash.

It isn’t all ‘in your face‘ and ‘on the case‘ … it’s more ‘slow and steady wins the race‘.

Sometimes, the one thing you do will achieve next to nothing.

But it will achieve something.

And every so often that something will turn out to be a big thing.

Like the one small thing I did the week before last.

It all started here…

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I’d gone for a walk in the hills near my home and I was thinking about my dream to write for adults again and the novel I’ve just started writing.

The novel is set around a pub – about someone who works in a pub.

But – although I’ve spent plenty of time in pubs – I’ve never experienced them from behind the bar.

I need to chat to someone who has worked in a pub, I thought to myself as I walked. Or, even better, I need to experience working in one myself.

I hiked on.

Maybe I could contact my local pubMaybe that could be the one thing I do towards achieving my 3 dreams today. I could send them a message asking if I could come in and have a chat.

Almost immediately my inner voice of doom sprung into life.

Don’t be stupid. They won’t want to help you. You’ll just be annoying and get in their way. Etc. Etc.

But, as I made my way back home, I couldn’t help thinking, yeah but what have you got to lose?

Realising I didn’t have that much to lose at all, I sent the pub a message.

Within an hour I’d got the loveliest message back from one of the pub’s owners – he’d be delighted to meet and chat with me.

So, a few days later, we met and chatted. And chatted. I got loads of information and it was so much fun.

Just as I was about to go, he asked me if I’d ever run a writing group before.

This question is my personal version of ‘Is the Pope Catholic?

I LOVE running writing groups and have run loads over the years. Since moving here a few months ago I’d started running a mini group in my living room but had run out of chair space.

It turns out that the pub owner had been wanting to host a writing group in his pub for a while but didn’t know who to ask to lead it.

Hello, serendipity!

Long story short, from that one simple act of sending the message to the pub, I’ve found out loads of great pub details for my book, done a spot of work experience behind the bar, and been asked to run a weekly writing group in the room upstairs.

I enjoyed it so much it’s also made me want to find a part-time job as a bartender! And who knows where that might lead…

All from sending that one simple message.

It doesn’t matter how small the steps you take towards achieving your dreams are – what matters is that you take them.

One by one. Slowly. Steadily.

Simply.

You never know where it might lead…

(For daily inspiration achieving your dreams, follow my DAILY DREAMSPIRATION posts on Facebook here.)

 

Do you need help with your writing resolutions?

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I love helping other people achieve their writing dreams.

Find out more about my one-to-one Finding the Plot sessions here.

Alternatively, you can find out more about my book, Dare to Write a Novel, here.

 

 

 


When Life Knocks You Down – Keep Saying YES

The other day I was thinking back to a rock-bottom time in my life.

A time when I seriously couldn’t see how things could get any worse … and I seriously couldn’t see how they could get any better.

But, with the gift of hindsight, I’ve realised that this rock bottom ended up being the catalyst for much needed change.

And it led to unimaginable happiness.

It wasn’t that someone waved a magic wand over me and the issues disappeared in a puff of glitter.

But, if I had to condense the reason for my transformation in fortunes into one little word, it would be this one…

YES.

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In spite of my heartbreak and fear and despair I kept on saying yes at a time when all I really wanted to say was no.

I stayed open to the possibility that life could get better … and I said yes to every little chance to make things better.

And as I look back on those dark days from my current happy place, I can see the string of ‘yes’s that led me here.

In saying yes to the notion that I could train as a coach and mentor other people as well as write I pulled myself and my son out of poverty.

In saying yes to my very first public speaking engagement – even though it scared the hell out of me and I was a quivering, stammering mess – I took the first step on a path that would lead to me travelling the world giving talks. And, more importantly, it would massively repair my self-confidence.

In saying yes to an appeal in a magazine for entries for a book award, a novel that I’d self-published ended up winning and my career as a writer was transformed. I’ve subsequently received publishing deals for eleven different books off the back of that one yes!

Are you starting to see how important your own choices can be?

How one simple ‘yes’ today could lead to happiness and success tomorrow?

You could say yes to a party invite and end up meeting the love of your life.

You could say yes to a fitness challenge and end up healthier than you ever imagined.

You could say yes to a random job opportunity and finally discover your true calling.

And, if you find yourself in the deep dark depths of rock bottom, when all you want to say is ‘why?’ or ‘no‘, try saying ‘yes’ instead to life and to hope.

I know it’s hard, but use what happened to me to inspire you.

Say yes to every opportunity to make things better.

And have faith that your own string of ‘yes’s will lead you back home to happiness.

 

Do you need help writing a book or starting a business or achieving another life dream?

Check out my coaching page here to find out how I could help you.

‘Siobhan is a caring, empathetic and insightful life coach with the ability to really understand where you’re coming from, whether in your business or personal life. She possesses the ability to enable you to see your own solutions without prejudice, which is an invaluable talent.’ Suzanne Burgess

 


Let Love be Your Leader

For anyone feeling anger, fear or despair from this week’s news…

My parents met at an anti-apartheid meeting … that my dad had organised.

I grew up on a diet of Pete Seeger songs and protest marches.

Writing letters of support to political prisoners and sponsoring children in third world countries was the norm in my childhood home.

Fighting against discrimination and injustice is woven into my DNA.

So, when the UK recently voted for Brexit, on the back of a fear-based campaign that incited a dramatic upsurge in racist attacks, I was both gutted and furious.

It felt like such a massive step backwards to me. And seeing the far right scuttling out from beneath their rock of shame feeling legitimised made me sick to my stomach.

I met my dad for lunch a couple of days after Brexit, expecting him to be similarly hopping with righteous anger.

But while I ranted and raved he just listened with a peaceful smile upon his face.

‘How could they do it?’ I asked him. ‘How could they fall for the lies and the fear?’

I was expecting him to start raging about other people’s stupidity but instead he put the focus back on me.

‘You need to come back to a place of Love,’ he told me. ‘Don’t let fear uproot you.’

He helped me to see how the people who voted for Brexit – and the politicians, press and media that encouraged them – weren’t the only ones coming from a place of fear.

I was too. And it wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t helpful. And it certainly wasn’t healthy.

A few days after our lunch I received a letter from my dad, in which he said this:

‘Well, you certainly reminded me of a (younger) me the other day – the anger, the righteous anger! – the disillusionment – despair. Been there. Many times. And it took me YEARS to get well. Yes, I’m saying, this is NOT a good way to be. The world is going to keep on giving us opportunities to reenact this anger / despair scenario and we can end up like a guy who keeps scratching at a wound – it NEVER gets better.’

And what do you know? The world gave me – and many other people – an opportunity to reenact this anger and despair this week.

But thankfully, the advice my dad gave me following Brexit had really sunk in, like some kind of Donald Trump inoculation.

So, when he won the presidential election I felt shocked and heartbroken and I cried for all the Americans who would be terrified at what had happened, but this time I didn’t get angry. This time I didn’t feel despair.

My dad finished his post-Brexit letter to me with a couple of quotes, which I’ve been clinging to like a life-raft this week.

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‘This too shall pass.’ It will – it always does. If you’ve been feeling anger or despair or fear at the election result, these feelings will pass. And I’ve found they fade a lot sooner if you focus on the second quote…

‘This, also, is for the good.’ I really struggled with this one when I first read it. How the *bleep* is any of this ‘for the good’? ! I think the point is, you have to find the good. Here’s what I’ve managed to find for the good this week…

:: It’s a massive call-to-action for all of us who believe in the power of Love over fear.

:: The time for simply talking or thinking or meditating about Love is over.

:: We need to make a concerted effort to counter the fear and division in the world through our actions, wherever we can.

:: We need to reach out to those who are discriminated against and show them we see them and we’re with them and we care.

:: We need to campaign for the issues we care about; make our voices heard.

:: We need to show up and rise up and speak up for Love.

:: And we need to do it with Love and grace not hate and fear. The kind of Love and grace that Obama showed when he invited Trump to the White House this week.

As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

As Jesus said: ‘Love your enemy.’

As Gandhi said: ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

So, don’t get drawn into the rhetoric of fear.

Unfollow or unfriend the people on your timelines who spout hate (I highly recommend this one, it’s made my life so much easier).

Don’t post about how much you’re terrified.

Don’t share things that will only incite anger or more fear.

Don’t believe that the majority of the population are racist or misogynist – they’re not.

And don’t blindly hate the people who are. Dig deeper for the real causes of their anger.

Feel compassion and understanding for those who felt so disillusioned and disenfranchised they ended up voting for Brexit or Trump.

Campaign for a more truthful and balanced and responsible press and media.

And above all, ask yourself what you can do to bring more Love to the world, every single day. 

I’m planning a major career change in the light of what’s happened and I’m working hard on being more loving in the smaller brushstrokes of my life too.

Don’t let a politician be your leader.

Let Love be your leader. Today, and all days.


We ALL Have the Right to Write

Yesterday, someone posted this message on my Facebook wall:

Hi Siobhan,

I’ve read your book and I want to take that next step and do this properly. I’ve been writing this book for 22 years and my busy working life has got in the way. I don’t want to feel frustrated any more. And being dyslexic doesn’t help either. Writing is all I think about and I want to learn…

I replied to the message on my wall but I couldn’t stop thinking about it because it struck a chord deep within me and I’m sure it will resonate with a lot of people reading this too.

Because expressing yourself through the written word can be so bloody hard.

And it can seem like so many obstacles are stacked up against us.

Lack of time.

Lack of money.

Not coming from ‘the right’ background.

Not having any contacts in the ultra middle class publishing world.

Not knowing exactly where to put speech marks or commas, or semi-colons.

Not knowing what a semi-colon is!

Not knowing how to spell.

But NONE of these things mean you’re not entitled to express yourself through the written word.

In fact, often, these things will mean that you have far more inspiring and powerful stories to tell.

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Let me give you an example…

For many years I worked as a freelance editorial consultant for a publishing company. I was the only person working for that company who’d grown up on a council estate – a fact that initially made me feel slightly awkward but would ultimately make me incredibly proud.

Every so often, the bosses at the company would announce that we’d have a young person coming to do some work experience for us.

Every time, without exception, these young people would be the son or daughter of a friend of the bosses. Privately educated, hyper privileged and with very little interest in publishing. They were there simply to tick the work experience box.

I’d watch them wasting the hours away, surfing the net or updating their Facebook and I’d feel so angry. It’s so hard to get a toe in the door of publishing. It’s almost impossible for most people to land a work experience role. It made my blood boil to see such a rare opportunity being wasted on people who didn’t want it.

Then I did some work for a charity that supports homeless teens. One of the girls I worked with was passionate about writing – and incredibly talented. Life had dealt her a crappy hand leaving her homeless at age 16 and she desperately needed a break. So I asked my bosses if she could do a week of work experience with us.

To my surprise and delight, they agreed.

Seeing her sit down at her desk on the first day of her work experience was the proudest moment of my writing career.

She was working class, homeless and black. Three things you hardly ever see in the publishing world.

And she worked her butt off for that week; happily doing all the admin jobs we gave her, asking intelligent questions, soaking up the experience like a sponge.

She even brought in biscuits to share with us – despite having next to no money.

Watching her work ethic and her desire to learn everything she could about writing was humbling and awe-inspiring.

But this is the one true advantage of being dealt a crappy hand in life … such as homelessness or racism or poverty or dyslexia … it puts a fire in your belly. A burning desire to overcome the odds and prove the doubters wrong.

I felt that same fire, growing up on a council estate and then again later, as a single mum.

I took the anger and fear I felt at my situation and I turned it into determination – to learn, to grow, and to share my stories with the world through writing.

And I urge you all to do the same.

If life has dealt you what at first appears to be a crappy hand, use the resulting anger and fear as fuel to propel you into better days.

Turn your frustration into inspiration.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you haven’t got what it takes to achieve your dream – especially if that person is you.

Remind yourself that all the very best writers and musicians and artists and creators went through hard times and they all turned their pain into gold.

Don’t waste any more time making excuses and giving in to doubt.

Know that you have a right to write.

Believe in yourself and your creative abilities and share your creations with the world.

It will be a much richer place for the inspiration you’ll bring.


When the News Gives You the Blues

I was once in an abusive relationship that left me so traumatised I even contemplated suicide.

It was a long, long time ago and I thought I was totally over it, until a recent news story involving a certain misogynist started ‘grabbing’ the headlines.

As I watched news coverage of this man trying to intimidate a woman he was supposed to be debating with I could feel an ancient fear deep inside of me spark back into life.

When you’ve lived with a man who needs to demean and terrorise women to make himself feel less small you recognise the signs.

And it made me feel sick to my stomach when I saw people defending this man on social media.

Just as it makes me feel sick to my stomach when I see people saying hateful things about refugees and other innocent people in dire need of help.

I can’t remember a time when the world was so full of hate and fear.

I can’t believe that bullying and racism are being legitimised by certain political leaders.

And, due to our 24 / 7 connection to the world’s news outlets via the internet, it’s impossible to ignore.

At first I thought that the answer was to argue back every time I saw a post on social media that encouraged hate.

But all that did was make me feel even more angry and fearful, getting sucked into pointless debates.

So, I took a few days out from the news and I came up with a plan.

And, if you’re also feeling sick and tired of all the hate, you’re very welcome to join me…

 

ONE: Sift through fear’s lies for love’s truth

First, I reminded myself that our press and media have an agenda. In a nutshell it’s FEAR SELLS.

So we’re fed story after story designed to scare and divide.

I don’t want the likes of Rupert Murdoch controlling my world view. So I’m going to seek out my news from other outlets, like the wonderful Positive News.

And in future these are the only kinds of news stories I’m going to share on my Facebook page.

Stories that educate and uplift and inspire rather than encourage hate.

I’m going to make it my intention every day to sift through fear’s lies for love’s truth.

 

TWO: Keep on hoping and dreaming

In the light of so much negativity it’s easy to give up hope.

Last week I found myself thinking things like, what’s the point of dreaming about new books and business ideas when so many people are suffering?

It’s hard to feel enthusiastic about anything much when you see children being bombed and turned away.

But now I’m thinking that maybe more positive and hopeful dreamers are EXACTLY what the world needs now.

Especially if our hopes and dreams involve doing good.

Which brings me to my next point…

 

THREE: Be a beacon of kindness

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,‘ Gandhi once said.

The only way we can ultimately defeat hate is with love.

Martin Luther King Jr knew that.

And so did Jesus when he told us to ‘love your enemy‘ and ‘turn the other cheek‘.

It can be really, really hard to come from a place of love when faced with hate, but we need to break the cycle or we’ll just keep on spiralling down.

Last week I set myself the challenge of doing at least three random acts of kindness every day.

This has changed everything for me.

It’s snapped me out of my angry, bitter thinking and given me something far more constructive and fun to focus on.

By actively seeking out ways in which I can bring more love to the world it’s helped me feel a lot less powerless.

I’ve signed up for charities I believe in, I’ve given away books to people who need them, I’ve donated clothes to refugees.

We’re not helpless.

We all have the ability to bring love.

So let’s start bringing it like never before.

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