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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How Discipline Will Set You Free

“I’ve learned over the years that freedom is just the other side of discipline.” Jake Gyllenhaal

When you hear or see the word DISCIPLINE how does it make you feel?
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It always used to make me squirm, conjuring images of restriction and rules and rigidity.
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Discipline seemed to be the opposite of my free-sprited nature, something to be wary of. A crusher of boldness and imagination and dreams.
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But not any more.
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Now I love the concept of discipline with a passion because I’ve come to realise that discipline enables us to be free.
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Let me explain…
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Discipline helps me get up each morning at six, to start the day running in the hills as the sun comes up. This in turn sets the tone for the rest of the day. I feel energised, alive, happy and calm. I write more and I write better. Discipline helps me create.
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Discipline helps me eat healthily which in turns enables me to get more done to go more places to feel happier and lighter. Discipline fuels my dreams.
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Discipline helps me create workable writing schedules which in turn helps me to up my production. I’m currently working on two book series and a script plus some freelance editing. This work load would have made me cry before but discipline keeps me calm in the knowledge that I will get it done.
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Discipline helps me to meditate every day which in turn helps keep me sane in this crazy world. It reminds me to not sweat the small stuff and reminds me that Love is all that really matters. Discipline gives my heart wings.
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Discipline and freedom are two sides of the same coin.
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Discipline is the grounding that allows you to fly free.
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If you’re in need of some dream-spiration my new novel, The Moonlight Dreamers is available 

on Amazon here.

A beautiful book about friendship, standing up for what you believe in and finding the courage to be yourself and find your own unique place in the world.’ Lamont Books
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Sensational and unforgettable, falling in love with this book came as naturally as breathing. The best book I’ve read all year.Blog of a Bookaholic

The Sweet Creativity of Doing Nothing

This is my bed.

I spent most of last Sunday here, doing nothing.

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Doing nothing but drinking ginger tea and eating fruit cake and DAYDREAMING.

For so long I thought that doing nothing was a waste of time.

In all honesty, doing nothing made me feel afraid.

Afraid of not earning enough money … every self-employed person knows that TIME IS MONEY.

Afraid of missing out … who knows what world shattering hashtag might be trending on Twitter.

Afraid of feeling lonely or bored … surely it would be way more fun to see who wants to come out to play.

But here’s what happens if you never do nothing; if you never let go of all the crutches and succumb to sweet solitude.

Your brain goes into overload, so full of ‘should‘s and ‘have to‘s that there’s no room for the fresh and the new. There’s no room for inspiration. And there’s every chance you’re going to short circuit.

As I lay on my bed, listening to music and watching the tree outside bobbing in the breeze, all the thoughts that had been cluttering my mind for the past week – about the unfinished projects, and the imminent house move, and the frickin’ cupboard that I still haven’t cleared – began filing themselves away.

I felt light and summer breezy.

The only questions that troubled me were which album to listen to next and which side to lie on.

It was blissful.

And then, completely unexpectedly, some brand new dreams began budding into life.

Instead of being plagued by ‘I should‘s I entertained myself with ‘I could‘s.

I could write this. I could create that. I could travel here. I could have an adventure there. 

It was as if inspiration had been waiting patiently for all the din to die down.

When’s the last time you intentionally and deliberately did nothing?

When’s the last time you carved a serious chunk of time out for some serious daydreaming?

When’s the last time you disconnected from the outer world so that you could reconnect with the inner?

Take out your diary now and make an urgent appointment with NOTHING.

Underline it for emphasis.

Don’t break your appointment with nothing for anything.

You’ll thank me for it, I promise.

And so will your dreams.

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If you’re in need of some dream-spiration my new novel, The Moonlight Dreamers is available 

on Amazon here.

A beautiful book about friendship, standing up for what you believe in and finding the courage to be yourself and find your own unique place in the world.’ Lamont Books
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Sensational and unforgettable, falling in love with this book came as naturally as breathing. The best book I’ve read all year.Blog of a Bookaholic

 


Five Life Lessons from Mother Nature

Recently, I spent some time in the Andalucian region of Spain. Surrounded by mountains and olive groves and orchards of orange, lemon and walnut trees, all nestled beneath a canopy of the brightest, clearest skies, it was impossible not to be awestruck by Mother Nature.

I learned a lot too – just from being still and really watching.

Here are five of the key lessons I learned – which I hope are just as applicable to you.

Lesson from the Olive Tree: Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is just be there for another

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The first time I came across this tree I felt compelled to sit on the white stone between its roots. As I leaned against the gnarled trunk, nestled between the roots, it felt as if I was being hugged by a giant. I felt so safe and protected by the tree’s presence. And, just knowing that I could rest in its strength, made me think about love and how so often, the most loving thing we can do for another is just be there for them. Not interfere or tell them what to do, or what we would do if we were them, just be there and really listen so that they can soak up our strength. I realised that I need to be more like this in my own relationships with my loved-ones – not race to try and fix things all the time but be strong and still for them so they can find their own way.

 

Lesson from the Flower: Authenticity is beautiful and requires no effort

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Spring had just arrived in Spain and the first splashes of colour from the flowers were a beautiful contrast to the faded greens and greys of the olive trees. So much of today’s online-based world is phoney and filtered but none of the pictures in this post have been ‘Instagrammed’. They didn’t need to be. When I came across this flower I was struck by its beauty and it led me to make the following jotting in my journal: authenticity is beautiful and it requires no effort. Faking – whether it be in our relationships, work or on our social media – requires a hell of a lot of effort. But when we can let go enough to let our true selves bloom it’s effortless and it’s beautiful.

 

Lesson from the Rocky Path: When the going gets tough focus on the present

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This trail dates back to the middle ages, when merchants would transport their wares via donkey to the remote villages dotted around the mountains. There were places where the path got so narrow and so slippery under foot it was impossible to think of anything other than where you were going to plant your next step. If you got distracted or started gazing off along the trail there was the real danger you would lose your footing and go tumbling over the side. Once again, I was able to see how this lesson from nature could be applied to life. When the going gets tough, stay firmly rooted in the present moment. Don’t worry about what might happen in a day or a week or a month, focus on what’s going on right now.  Tackle the present one small, careful step at a time and the future will take care of itself.

 

Lesson from the Orange: Nature is full of gifts, physical and emotional

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There was something so lovely about this picture to me. One solitary orange against the faded background of the olive tree. What a splash it makes! As I stood in front of it, marvelling at its beauty, I thought to myself that it was way too beautiful to pick. There was something so therapeutic about seeing an orange in its natural habitat – as opposed to stuffed in a crate in the supermarket. But then, as I was about to walk away, the orange fell from the tree and landed at my feet with a gentle thud. It was as if the tree was giving it to me as a gift.  So I sat down on the grass and ate the orange and it was the sweetest, juiciest orange I’ve ever tasted. The whole experience reminded me that plants and trees don’t just sustain us physically but emotionally too – if we remember to let them!

 

Lesson from the Mountain Top: The higher you climb, the further you see

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One day, we climbed to the top of a mountain to visit a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Many of the world’s spiritual traditions believe that there’s true wisdom to be found at the top of a mountain. Having now experienced it for myself, I can whole-heartedly agree. The silence at the top of the mountain was so thick you could practically slice it and I was instantly overcome by a tremendous sense of peace. As I looked down on the world below I was able to gain a whole new perspective on my life. My so-called problems seemed tiny in comparison to the majesty of the mountains and this was probably the greatest lesson for me. The higher you climb – be it physically or spiritually – the wiser you become and the further you see.

 

Challenge…

If you’ve been inspired by this post, I challenge you to go to a place of natural beauty close to you – a park, some woodland, the beach, a canal – and soak in the surrounding nature for any lessons it might have for you. Before you set out, think of any issues currently troubling you and ask that you might be guided to find the specific answers you need. (If you do this I would LOVE to hear how you get on in the comments).


Some Loving Words for When You Need to Be Strong

Sometimes in life, we’re called upon to be the ‘strong one’.

When a partner is made redundant.

When a friend is given a scary diagnosis

When our kids get sick.

There have been many times in my life when I’ve had to be the strong one.

As a teen, when my parents split up.

In my twenties, when my marriage broke down.

In my thirties, when my partner got sick.

Each time, I’ve cried and ‘why’-ed, then picked myself up and got on with it.

You can do this, you’re the strong one,’ I’d tell myself. ‘You’ve always been the strong one.’

Then, this summer, someone very close to me got very ill and they needed my support.

But instead of feeling strong, I felt wrung out.

The ‘strong one’ title that I’d held on to for years suddenly seemed to be sliding from my grasp.

‘I can’t do this. I can’t be strong any more,’ I thought … and that thought terrified me.

Then I did what I always do when I get desperate – I hit my knees and I began to pray.

Why do I always have to be the strong one?’ I cried. ‘Why do I always have to be the rock for other people?’

(Please note: This isn’t true, I have loads of people who are there for me too, but what can I say? When you’re in the middle of a self-pity party logic and reason aren’t on the guest list.)

Because being strong for other people is how you get to experience true love,’ the voice of wisdom answered inside my head. ‘If you choose to see it that way.’

If I choose to see it that way.

I thought about my situation.

I saw myself at a crossroads, with two possible routes.

I could choose fear.

Or I could choose love.

Something deep inside of me shifted.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself – which wasn’t going to help anyone at all, least of all me – I realised I should embrace the chance to choose love.

When we choose to love others selflessly and unconditionally we unleash a superpower within us.

When we focus on how we can love, we block out why we might hurt.

If you’re being called upon to be the strong one right now, try it and see.

Instead of filling your head with fear thoughts, ask yourself the simple questions: How can I bring love into this situation – for the other person and myself? And how can I navigate this minefield gently and in peace?

Whatever the situation that’s calling upon you to be strong, choose the loving path to get you through it.

Because ultimately, when it comes to helping others, there’s nothing stronger than being love.

SIDE NOTE: I’m not a member of any religion but I strongly recommend the power of prayer. When the chips are down, when the tears are flowing, when fear is all around, simply turn inwards and ask for guidance. Ask God. Ask the Universe. Ask Love. Ask your inner wisdom. It doesn’t matter. Then keep your mind open and still and wait for the answer…

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Dear Dare to Dream: How can I overcome illness to achieve my speaking dream?

Dear Dare to Dream,

I’m 16 and I recently bought your book True Face.

I am obsessed with it. I bought a journal to go with it and I follow all the little tasks you set. I find it incredibly helpful because for a few years now I’ve dealt with severe mental illness and confidence issues. You see, I have this disability called Marfan Syndrome. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. But because of this I have abnormally skinny legs and arms. I also have two leaking valves in my heart that I may need surgery on soon. But basically I’m telling you all this because I have a dream of becoming a motivational speaker. And I discovered that I wanted to do this about 3 years ago. But battling depression and everything else it has been insanely hard to start. The thing is I have no idea where to start. My mind is always telling me that I’ll never get there. Or it’s a stupid dream to have. My family don’t really understand either. I mean, they live very simple lives you know? Normal jobs, children, cook, clean, sleep repeat. That sort of thing. But from a very young age I’ve always known that what they have isn’t the life I want. I dream of way more. But they sometimes belittle me because of my disability and treat me like an invalid. They say that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself or anything.
Since I’ve been reading your book I’ve felt a lot happier about myself and about being happy. I am really determined to become a speaker and I realise that I’m going to have to fight my way through the negativity. But I just don’t know how to start and I’m scared that I won’t ever be able to do it.

Ps. Thank you so much for writing a book like True Face. I hope one day that I can be an inspiration to people just like you.

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Dear Inspirational Dreamer,

Thank you so much.

When I received your email I was lying on my bed crying my eyes out.

I was lying on my bed, crying my eyes out because someone close to me was very sick and I felt powerless to do anything to help them.

I also felt utterly exhausted.

Then I read your email and your words flicked a switch in my brain.

I read about your courage in the face of your illness.

I read about your subsequent struggles with mental health issues and the obstacles you encounter on a daily basis and the dreams you have in spite of all this.

And I felt humbled and inspired.

You say that you hope you can one day be an inspiration to people but you already are.

You inspired me that day and you warmed my heart with your kind words.

You made a massive difference just through the words of your email, so imagine what you could do in a motivational speech.

Sometimes, when we have big dreams, they can feel so far from our reach that we give up trying. The key is to break them down into smaller, more manageable goals.

You want to inspire people with your story and your words but you don’t know where to start.

Why not start by writing a blog?

Blogs are free and easy to set up – I recommend WordPress or Blogger. Also, writing a blog would be relatively easy to fit around your health issues and can be done from the comfort of your bed (guess where I’m writing this from?!)

Writing an inspirational blog would also enable you to build an audience. Then, when you take the step into motivational speaking, people will already have heard of you and I’m sure would be dying to see you speak in the flesh.

In terms of building your confidence as a speaker, I recommend the following:

Watch this.

Read this.

Check out Richard McCann’s website here.

Richard McCann is one of the UK’s most successful motivational speakers. He’s also an incredible example of someone who has overcome massive trauma and hardship to achieve great things. His mother was the first victim of Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’.

You can download a free presentation skills ebook on Richard’s site. He also runs fantastic training days as part of his iCan Speak Academy. I attended it a couple of years ago and it was the best speaker training I’ve ever been on.

You talk about battling feelings of depression.

One of the most effective techniques I know of for helping alleviate feelings of depression, stress and anxiety is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. If you’re not already aware of it, look it up online. There are loads of sites offering CBT exercises for free.

Another really effective technique is mindfulness.

Next time you’re feeling depressed don’t fight it.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive but it really works.

When we fight an unpleasant feeling or emotion it only intensifies.

Try sitting with the feeling.

Breathing slowly and deeply.

And really welcoming it.

It’s amazing how quickly the feeling can dissipate when we do this.

You will be able to do achieve your dream, with hope and dedication.

Any time you feel yourself slipping back into negativity and fear do something to reignite your passion for your dream.

Watch an inspirational TED talk on YouTube. Take note of the techniques the speakers use.

Start planning a talk of your own.

When your family don’t seem to understand, remind yourself that this is your life and these are your dreams.

Keep working away on those dreams.

And hopefully when they see how committed you are to making your dreams come true they will come round and support you.

Let me leave you with this quote. A quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which has really inspired me in my own career:

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” 

Ask yourself, how can I begin making my dream a reality today?

Take that one small step.

Then another the day after.

And wait for the ‘genius, power and magic‘ to strike.

Wishing you every happiness and success.

Siobhan x

If you’d like to be featured in Dear Dare to Dream please get in touch here.

You can read more Dear Dare to Dream posts here and here.

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