My doctor told me last week that ‘change management’ is no longer the term du jour; it’s now called ‘managing ambiguity’. The theory goes that the rate of change is now so rapid and changes in our modern life are so frequent, that each kind of rolls into the next creating this maelstrom of ambiguity rather than clearly defined changes that we can manage through specific techniques.

It certainly rings true for my life this year. And it made me feel a little bit better about the level of overwhelm I’ve been feeling lately. Not overwhelm on a day-to-day level, but more on a birds-eye, information overload level. Life is just taking up a lot of my emotional energy and I don’t have a lot left for anyone else. It’s caused me to make even more changes in an attempt to really simplify things and preserve as much emotional energy as possible.

Firstly, I have taken a break from wellbeing coaching. I love it and I’m good at it and I know there is a strong need for it in the world. But it requires a level of physical and emotional energy to hold space for clients that I just don’t have right now. I always want to show up for the people I’m working with and I can’t show up right now. That’s not a perfectionist, overachiever ‘I can’t give 150% so I won’t do it at all’ decision, either. It’s an ‘I’m struggling to even give 70%’ feeling and I know it’s the right decision for me right now.

Secondly, today I moved out of the office I’d been sharing at the local coworking space. I liked it there and I love my office buddies, but just being there at the moment was taking up too much mental and emotional energy. I was finding it difficult to concentrate on all but the most mindless of admin tasks, and with the amount of writing work I’ve been getting recently, I needed all my mental energy just to get those tasks done. While I enjoyed being in the space, I just feel the need to be at home in my own space with no other human drains on my energy while I’m working.

It’s an interesting feeling. I realise all this talk of energy might sound a little woo-woo. It’s the only way I can describe it. My bandwidth for interpersonal interactions at the moment is just really narrow and I can’t explain why. The important thing I’ve realised is that I don’t need to explain why. This is just what I need at the moment. So I’m listening to my body’s signals and going with it.

The third way I’m dealing with this ambiguity is to get really boring and repetitive with a number of aspects of my life so as to avoid decision fatigue. I already had a bit of an unofficial uniform but I’ve been wearing the same 4 – 5 outfits on high repeat lately. I’m getting back into eating really habitually. Unless Stuart cooks, I’m eating the same plain few meals over and over. Chicken and veg, pork and veg, boiled eggs, green smoothies, strawberries and yoghurt. Repeat. As little thinking as possible at the grocery story or in the kitchen.

I’m going to yoga more instead of the gym or even going jogging on my own. When I’m at yoga, not only am I getting meditation moments which means I don’t have to add meditation in as another thing on the to-do list at home, but I also get to just follow the instructions and not think. I like jogging and I like going to the gym, but they both take mental energy I don’t have right now in that I have to be self-directed. I want to move my body, but in a way that doesn’t require mental energy. So I just turn up, do what I’m told and allow my body to receive the beautiful stretching it so enjoys.

I’m reading more formulaic romance novels than usual. I have always had a few laying around but I’m churning through them at a very fast rate lately. It’s an escape for my mind and I don’t have to think too hard. There’s very little suspense or anxiety about the outcome of the plot.

I’ve also taken huge steps to disconnect from social media. This is probably the most drastic change. The more Facebook has been something I’ve had to use for ‘work’, the less I’ve felt like using it. Also, the more time away from it I have, the more I can look at some of the content that comes through my feed and see that my reading it does nothing but upset me, changes nothing for the better in the world and my not reading it also makes little difference to the causes I follow but has a huge benefit for my mental health overall. So, I’ve unfollowed and in some cases unliked a bunch of people—in particular some activists whose work I really admire but is in areas that are generally depressing to think about, e.g. domestic violence, disability rights, LGBTI, refugees—and anyone that triggers me.

I’ve also removed my phone from the bedroom and that led to me being much more aware of and intentional about using it when Stuart is around too. All in all I’ve broken the huge need for it to be with me all the time and I just feel far less urgency about the online world altogether. I’m just letting those little red numbers increase as the notifications add up, and I’m freaking loving it. I know there’s a bit of Obliger Rebellion in there but I don’t care! It feels GOOD and that is reason enough.

I’m also working on outsourcing what I can in my life, too, where finances allow. I’m investing in some software to help me with the transcribing work I’m doing, I’m getting a VA to help with some menial online admin tasks and I’m going to outsource my websites as soon as I can. I’m also going to get a cleaner at home as soon as I can, and get my eyebrows done more often too. It might sound strange, but my thinking about making the effort to pluck my own eyebrows right now is just too much. I just feel a strong need to take some things off my plate to free up space for the more important stuff. And I know that having groomed eyebrows is hardly a massively important, life-or-death kind of thing, but they’re a priority for me right now because it takes up mental energy so I might as well get them taken care of and remove those thoughts from my brain.

My laptop is getting fairly old and slow at the moment, and in many ways my brain feels like that too. The software and programming was built for a different time. I can keep up with the demands of the modern world, but the rainbow wheel of death is popping up more and more often, forcing me to shut down and reset a couple of times a day now. I can keep working but I just can’t do everything the world tells me I should be able to do because the operating system just can’t keep up. With the laptop, I know an upgrade is in order sometime this year. With my body and brain and life, I’m fast realizing that in fact the upgrade is in not listening to the messaging of the world telling me to keep up and let life become ever more complex. In fact, the antidote is to become more and more focused on simplicity.

How about you? Where can you detach, unfollow, disconnect and simplify in your life?

The New Harmony Agenda

When I started this blog in January 2014, I wrote a post called The Harmony Agenda, explaining what it meant to me and why I chose that name for the blog. It was mostly about choosing the agenda for my life, as opposed to following the paths and goals other people had set for me. The harmony part was about the way the many different facets of life (work, health, family, love, money, hobbies, etc) can come together to create a harmonious whole. It was also a play on words because at the time I was working as a music teacher so I liked that it alluded to that part of my life and the importance of music, and over the years my mind has extended upon the harmony metaphor in many ways that I never ended up writing about here. I plan to change that in the coming months, if only so that I have actually gotten those ideas out of my head and onto the page.

I’m writing this at 9.50am on a Monday morning from my living room table, after having been for a long walk at my favourite park, listening to one of my favourite podcasts, stopping at the shops on the way home and putting a chook in the oven to roast. It will be ready when Stuart comes home for lunch, and then we can start the week with leftovers ready to go, which is part of my current agenda for getting my health back on track.

It’s the most productive morning I’ve had in a while, and also the most well I’ve felt in about a month too. On Saturday I posted on The Harmony Agenda Facebook page that I’ve been feeling fairly unwell for about a month, but went to get my blood work checked on Friday to find out what my thyroid and other hormones are doing, to rule that out. In the last month I’ve also had a cold virus that seemed to take forever to fully shake, and have been eating really poorly, and not exercising much. Anxiety has also been more and more present lately, and I have dramatically changed my social media habits to try to combat that, and the impact it was having on my sleep. I’ve also been pulling out of things I’d signed up for and cancelling things I’d promised to do in my Self-Care for Teachers business because I just don’t have the emotional or physical energy.

I’m feeling a strong urge to hibernate, retreat, go within and reset. So this morning is kind of the beginning of that. It’s also the first day of the new moon cycle, which I feel is a bit symbolic and a lovely new beginning.

I’m writing this before I’ve checked any social media for the morning, which is part of the new harmony agenda. I went to the Toowoomba Writer’s Fest on Saturday and the urge I’ve been feeling all year about how much I need and want to write more regularly just for myself and for The Harmony Agenda was reignited. Then somewhere over the weekend I heard mentioned on a podcast something called The #500words Project, where you write 500 words of any kind before you check social media in the morning.

I thought it sounded like a perfect idea, and a perfect time to start it given my recent change in social media habits anyway. So it feels like everything has come together for me quite well at the moment and it’s finally time to start the new harmony agenda for my life and actually share it with you.

Don’t waste the opportunity of a good crisis

My Mum said this to me the other day when we were talking and I was telling her how physically and emotionally exhausted and mixed up I’d been feeling lately, and how that was sparking some changes in my direction which were quite exciting. Clarity has been coming thick and fast. I wouldn’t really say I’ve been in complete crisis—it doesn’t feel nearly that dramatic or dangerous and I don’t want to belittle true crises—but the sentiment of using this low point as fuel really rings true.

So, in no particular order, the following are the different aspects of the new harmony agenda that I intend to cover as topics for The Harmony Agenda blog, and that are already pretty big parts of my life.

  • Extreme self-care
  • Creating
  • Curating, learning, teaching, sharing
  • Money, business, personal finance
  • Fun, Ease, Rest, Flow
  • Cycles, Rhythms and Rituals
  • Decluttering, clearing and healing
  • Collaborating, Connecting, Directing, Producing, Conducting cool and interesting and useful things
  • Work/Life Harmony and Melody
  • Connection with myself and with others, relationships and family, intra- and interpersonal dynamics
  • Giving back and dreaming for others (inspired by Naomi Arnold and her beautiful Dream for Others Podcast)

So expect more about all of these individual topics in the weeks to come. If I explained them all here and now the post would go forever and I’d not get any work done today. I’m planning to build a daily habit of writing so all will be explained in due course.

Now, I think I’ve earned my first Facebook fix of the day… 😉

Reflections on rest, renewal and renaming

Something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately is the way life works in cycles. The seasons of the year, the phases of the moon, the mostly cycle of my body. I am really connecting with and listening to these cycles, and the opportunities they provide for me. Within each of these cycles there is a time of high energy and action followed by a time that seems built for rest and reflection. One without the other is dangerous. Too much energy and action leads to burnout. Too much rest and reflection without any action leads to stagnation.

But life has larger cycles also. I am coming to the end of several of these cycles at the moment, I feel. Not only am I in the last year of my twenties, and possibly my last year of non-motherhood, but I’m also in my last few weeks of my teaching career. More on that later…

Another phase of life that just ended for me, officially, today, is my maiden name. Although we got married over 18 months ago, I only just officially changed my name this week (and only because my looming licence renewal notice prompted me to stop procrastinating!). This is significant I feel. It’s been a really big decision for me. I won’t go into all the feminist stuff that came up alongside (at least, I won’t go into it right now!) but it has also been a very large identity decision.

Before we got married, I thought I’d take his name and lose my maiden name altogether. But the day after we were married when I went to change my name on Facebook (Facebook official!) I felt sick. I couldn’t do it. So then for a while I thought I’d keep my maiden name. But that didn’t really feel right either.

It took me 6 full months to finally settle on double barrelling my surnames without a hyphen. So, I am Ellen Ronalds Keene.

Even though I’ve had that as my official Facebook name for more than a year now, and also as my name at work and at the hair dresser, I hadn’t actually legally changed it. Until today.

Do I feel different? I’m not sure. I certainly feel that procrastinating on the name change was initially vital — I had to figure out what I wanted, who I wanted to be. But lately it had felt more like resistance.

There’s a lovely metaphor I use in coaching sometimes about monkey bars. When you want to move forward on the monkey bars, you have to let go of one rung before you can grasp onto the next. For a moment, brief as it may be, you are hanging and swinging in the air with only one hand to support you. It’s fear of that transition phase that keeps you holding onto that earlier rung a little longer than you should. The longer you hold on, the more tired your arms get, and the greater your anxiety about having to let go.

That’s how I feel a bit about this name change. I know, logically it’s what I want. But a part of me has to grieve the loss of the old me. Not so much the single me, more the child/adolescent me who was far more carefree and blissfully ignorant about much of the world and its problems.

Who is Ellen Ronalds Keene? Well, she’s a woman, not a girl. She’s a professional, a business woman, a successful and wildly wealthy woman. She’s an author and speaker, a coach and a creator. She’s also a wife and, in my mind, a mother. She’s a mature, capable, intelligent, strong, decisive, discerning force of nature. She doesn’t take crap, she has exceptional boundaries, and she stands up for what is right. She’s in touch with her soul and her emotions and she’s giving and generous while being an expert practitioner in the art of extreme self-care. She’s brave, she explores new things and doesn’t let fear hold her back. She’s radiant and she lifts others into their own radiance too.

And yet, I don’t feel like those things yet. I so often still feel like a vulnerable little girl, an imposter and a wimp. But I’m learning and changing and growing and perhaps someday I will be the Ellen Ronalds Keene of my vision. For now, Ellen Ronalds Keene is just hatching out of her shell, trying to figure out who she is today, now that she officially has 2 last names (no hyphen!). It’s the beginning of a new phase, and an exciting one.

2016 is also the end of the first phase of my working life. My career as a high-school teacher is coming to an end. I have spent 24 of my 29 years on the planet at school. It’s time. I’m tired, very tired. I’m also becoming jaded and disillusioned which I don’t enjoy and I don’t believe is productive. Even apart from all that, I have spent 5 incredible years at my current school, which happens to be 100km away from my house. Environmentally, my conscience can’t and won’t keep allowing that because it makes my footprint far larger than it needs to be. Physically and emotionally, all that driving and the very long days also takes a toll. And cyclically, I’ve seen a whole cohort through their high school years at this school, and it just feels time to move on.

But with that comes a level of grief. I’m accepting of that and I’ve been contemplating it a lot in the last few weeks. Especially in the last week, as I have been recovering from a nasty virus. Even now, 11 days after initially falling ill, I am extremely fatigued. Tomorrow will be my first day back at work in a week and a half and I have to say, I’m nervous. My body is not yet 100% and I don’t like soldiering on, although I am feeling much more myself and I really do need to get back to work. But I know how my body recovers from viruses. I am going to be extremely careful in the next month, which also happens to be my last month in this job, to protect my energy as much as possible. I can’t afford to wear myself out any more than I already am and I certainly can’t afford to give myself post-viral chronic fatigue syndrome again.

This time of enforced rest and reflection has felt rather timely. Somebody told me recently that often we begin and end cycles the same way. I began my teaching career as a preservice teacher with a chronically sore throat and persistent fatigue. It seems apt that physically I am there again, at the end of my teaching career. And it confirms my decision to leave a profession that requires me operate in a system that is bad for my health. This is yet another opportunity to practice prioritising my health amidst a myriad of end-of-year pressures, many of which are increased because I have to tie up a number of extra loose ends as well.

It seems that this time of lower energy, need for rest and time for reflection is descending upon me at the end of this cycle and the beginning of the next. I had hoped to do so much on my website and business by the end of the year to really kick start 2017 with a bang. But I see now that isn’t going to happen. I intend to heed the warning signs my body is sending. The next cycle will begin when it begins and the time of high energy and action will return.

But for now, I allow myself to settle into this slower phase to allow my mind and heart and spirit to adjust to all the changes ahead: a new name, a new career, a new decade and hopefully in time a new season of life.

Grace and peace, darlings x

High vs. Pleasure

This article is in response to this amazing video with Mama Gena talking about all things femininity
So, on Monday, my therapist and I had a very interesting conversation. We were talking about extremes of emotion, and how some people go on roller-coasters and bungee jump in order to get a ‘high’. He asked me where I get my high. I was stumped for a moment. Actually, the truth is, I don’t really get high. It doesn’t interest me at all. I’ve been kind of perplexed by that and pondering it since.
I said at the time that a lot of the people I know who are adrenalin junkies seem to be pretty fucking miserable in their everyday lives and it’s like they desperately NEED the high to look forward to and to remind them they are alive and to feel ‘good’, except it isn’t any kind of good that I’m interested in. It’s not really happiness, it’s just a high.
To me there’s a huge difference. I said that I want to live a life without the huge ups and downs, but that is generally quite happy overall. I don’t want to NEED a high just to get me through the drudgery and misery that is my day-to-day. Fuck that. Seriously. Fuck that right off. That is not my idea of good feelings. That is not my idea of a good life.
Then today I watched this video with Marie Forleo and Regena Thomashauer about her new book ‘Pussy: a reclamation’ . I have ordered it and I cannot WAIT to read it.
In the interview (go watch it now before you read the rest of this article) they talk about the patriarchy and femininity and how our masculine society approaches life with this ‘no pain, no gain/harden up’ mentality and how that is super fucking bad for women because it keeps us in a state of stress and because we need the feminine values of slow, receiving and…pleasure!
And a light bulb went off in my mind. Not only was I already fist pumping along with this Mama Gena woman who I’ve only just discovered but apparently has been around for years and who is speaking out loud everything I think about our rat-race society.
But I realised WHY this whole conversation about getting a ‘high’ felt so off to me. It just holds NO appeal to me and I couldn’t articulate why, even though some other part of me was like ‘but isn’t that how I’m supposed to live, isn’t that what the world says is right?’ (which, by the way, my therapist was definitely not implying, it was just part of our conversation.)
The concept of getting a ‘high’ feels off to me because it’s purely adrenaline based. Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands and is a form of stress on the body. Stress on the body is not pleasure. Getting a ‘high’ from some thrill-seeking activity is the very opposite of pleasure for me. And PLEASURE is what I’m aiming for, not an adrenaline-fueled high.
And just to be clear, I’m not just talking about sexual pleasure (although there’s nothing wrong with that, but if adrenaline or cortisol are pumping through your system good luck getting anywhere near orgasm). I’m also not just talking about momentary pleasure that you feel when you eat a piece of chocolate or slip into a hot bath (although, I do love those moments). I’m talking about taking pleasure and feeling joy and absolutely revelling in the pleasure of the day-to-day. The beauty and peace and, dare I say it, sacredness of life. Just en-joy-ing the experience of where, what and who I am at this particular point in space and time.
Maybe this doesn’t make a lot of sense and I don’t particularly care! I’ve spent a lot of time the last 3 months really exploring my experience of the world, my understanding of the sacred, and wrestling with the very cynical, uber-critical inner demon-on-my-shoulder, mean girl and ego inside me who says that it’s all woo-woo rubbish and science is king (another subtle message that the masculine must be superior) and if you can’t see it, or even more important, argue it with perfect articulateness then you will be shot down by vitriol from male, anti-theist trolls. Except they’re not even trolls, some of them are friends. I see some of the stuff they post on Facebook and it makes me want to shrink and hide my feminine heart even more because I know if they knew I was exploring and thinking and valuing some of this stuff they’d be extremely blunt and frankly mean with their dismissal of it.
But I don’t want to hide. I don’t need their approval, and in fact they’re not even people that I actually see in real life anymore. And by some of the vitriolic stuff they post on Facebook, I’m not sure I’d want to have a conversation with them about any of this stuff anyway. Actually, I definitely wouldn’t want to do that.
So I unfollowed them. Not unfriended, because there are reasons I’m friends with them and I actually think they are pretty great humans in general. I don’t have a problem with men and masculinity. I want to make that super clear. It’s just a few men I know who are very publicly anti-theistic and critical. Since I want to remove that voice from my head and allow myself the space to explore and enjoy exploring what I want, when I want, that starts with removing that message from my Facebook feed.
All of this is just to say that I am choosing pleasure in my day to day life as a goal. I want to eliminate things in my life that cause me unnecessary stress and fuel my inner critic. These particular people on social media do that. And it felt really PLEASURABLE to consciously choose to unfollow them, and instead prioritise the inspiring, hopeful, sacred, wise, funny, kind and enjoyable social media posts instead.
Mama Gena said in this video: “When you hate on yourself, you can’t love a sister. It can only happen if you take that radical and revolutionary step of standing for your own pleasure, which leads to self-love.”
Yes. AMEN, sister. Let’s love each other and share that love around the world.
I stand for my own pleasure. It’s a small but revolutionary change in my approach to life. It requires me to shut down that voice in my mind, and that voice on social media, the one that hates on me. I choose love instead.
I invite you to do the same and together, we can make the world a better place.

The importance of self-compassion

This past week, I had a massive reminder of the importance of self-compassion.

I had a great morning, out and about doing errands. It was a beautiful day, I had the day off and I had a nice day planned. Then on the way home from the bank I made a mistake in traffic and narrowly avoided a collision. It was very scary. It was also stupid. It was something I would never do on purpose. It was the textbook definition of an accident, thankfully without an actual crash.

I am safe, but I was very shaken up and I was holding back tears all the way home, which thankfully wasn’t far at all. Do I regret it? Of course. Can any amount of wishing or hoping change it now? Nope. Sigh.

And here’s where things got really interesting for me. Once I got home I didn’t actually cry. I spent the next half hour or so mentally tearing strips off myself. I was mean. I was so cruel. I would never say anything like that to anybody else in a million years, let alone someone who was clearly in shock and needed a hug.

I pride myself on my driving. I’ve never had a fine or lost points or anything like that. The only collision I’ve ever been involved with was when I was parked and somebody ran into me, so I was not at fault. I consider myself a good, careful, safe driver. But today something in my brain clearly didn’t work like usual.

As a recovering perfectionist, mistakes like this are a field day for my super-ego or inner mean girl.

But thankfully I’ve learnt enough about myself, life and human psychology to know that beating myself up doesn’t help. I caught myself in the act of self-abuse and consciously redirected my thoughts towards self-compassion.

What would I say to a friend who had just made a silly, dangerous mistake and was clearly angry at themselves and in shock? I would comfort them. I would not tell them that what they did was ok — that’s not compassion that’s enabling. But I would tell them that THEY are ok, that they are human and that they are safe and loveable and enough.

So I said those things to myself. And it helped somewhat, but not entirely.

Then I realised what was still broiling underneath: shame.

Ding, ding, ding! That’s the sound of my brain figuring out something important.

Brene Brown is a shame researcher and in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” she talks about silence being the biggest breeder of shame.

So I told somebody. It was the one thing I didn’t want to do. I don’t want people to think of me as a dangerous driver. I don’t want people to extrapolate that if I’m a dangerous driver I’m therefore also incompetent in other areas of life. I didn’t want anybody else to know about this embarrassing mistake.

I started with my husband and my best friend. Then I reached out in an online community I’m in where the culture is one of support and love, not judgment and criticism. And now I’m posting this here, on my blog, for all the world to see (although I don’t think the whole world is actually reading).

I want to be clear: I’m not looking for appeasement for my actions. I made a mistake, it could have had devastating consequences and it was wrong. I am sorry and I am owning that.

Owning my actions, speaking honestly about them and admitting that I was wrong…What I am doing is diffusing the shame and self-hatred I felt initially. I am practising self-compassion.

Because here’s the thing about mistakes, especially big bad ones: we think that if we punish ourselves enough we will learn the lesson, that we won’t make the mistake again. But that’s neither helpful or even necessarily true.

For a start, I did NOT do this on purpose. So punishing myself is not really going to help because it wasn’t the kind of mistake where I didn’t know better and now I do so  won’t do it again. It was an accident and I can’t guarantee I’ll never have another accident. I’ll do my absolute best, I will definitely be even more careful, but I’m a human and there are no guarantees of this kind in life.

But more importantly, pain isn’t the only way and definitely not the best way to learn a lesson. Staying in a place of shame and anger and self-hatred doesn’t actually do anything productive for me. We have this warped idea that has been conditioned into us that if we punish ourselves enough we can somehow “earn” atonement through our suffering. Then, someday, we will be able to feel good about ourselves again because we will have “earnt it”. Except, most of us make enough mistakes daily (little ones, for the most part) that keep us constantly in a cycle of mentally berating ourselves, that we never get to that far off time when we can allow ourselves to feel good enough again.

The only way to break that cycle is to decide not to perpetuate it, and choose self-compassion and self-forgiveness instead.

And later, gratitude. Gratitude that I am safe, gratitude that I have learned a valuable lesson, and gratitude that I am able to choose the path of self-compassion and self-forgiveness instead of self-flagellation.

Will you join me on the journey?

Gratitude + forgiveness = happiness

The New Harmony Agenda

Long time no type. Again! Seems to be a pattern of mine.

I got too busy again. I got kinda crook too. And updating my blog was the last thing on my mind. Even though I enjoy it. Even though writing is like a release for me. Even though I know it might help somebody else going through the same things as me. Even though I want to develop a consistent habit. Even though, even though, even though. But alas, I stopped anyway.

And here I am starting again (again, again).

And I have a plan. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last 6 months, or so. I’ve been studying for the last 2 years in formal courses to give me some new qualifications, and I’ve also been doing a whole lotta learnin’ informally too, about myself and my body and my other needs (physical, emotional, spiritual etc). I’ve been a content-consuming machine for years now. I love to read and listen and learn, and I want to help myself and help other people by sharing what I’ve learned.

So expect some changes around here over the next couple of months. I mean that about the website, but also about my life in general. I have reached a threshold or tipping point in my life in a number of ways.

Physically, I have become so fed up with my difficult and frustrating pattern of digestive issues that I’m about to embark upon a radical gut healing program called GAPS. I have also been working really hard on my fitness/health values and beliefs. I tried a program that was amazing but wasn’t for me, and I have begun jogging regularly with my husband the Exercise Physiologist. I have also been practicing and studying meditation and yoga, which have had profound impacts on my life. But still, there is fatigue and hormonal dysfunction (thyroid, adrenal, reproductive…) and major tummy problems. The list of foods that no longer agree with my body is getting longer and longer and at some point (that point is now!) I believe I have to stop treating the symptoms of whatever is going on in my insides and start actually looking at and treating the cause.  GAPS is nothing to be sneezed at, but hopefully it will help me heal for good this time.

Professionally, I have found a lot of clarity about my next steps and made some big decisions about the future recently. I have been granted one year’s leave without pay for 2017 from my teaching position in a state school in Queensland. This means that I will not be teaching in schools, other than some supply work (substitute teaching for those not up with teacher talk!). Part of this is because my husband and I would like to do some travel, and because I want to really focus big time on my health and getting really, really well before we even think about having babies. That is a big WHY. But it’s also because I want to focus myself full time on the creative projects that have been in my head for years. I want to write blog posts and articles and books, I want to compose music, I want to explore my creativity and I want to really put into practice the new qualifications I have gained over the last 2 years. I want to explore what it means to do all of these things without the constant pressure of trying to fit them in around the school term! But I also really, really want to make a difference in a very different way than I am currently able to do as a teacher.

I am launching a new business called ‘Self-Care for Teachers’ because I feel so passionately about preventing teacher burnout and supporting staff wellbeing in schools and ultimately I want to change the conversation (and maybe the education system!) from the ground up.

I am also going to be refocusing The Harmony Agenda as a website and as a business. Up until now I haven’t really had a brand and it has been mostly a badly updated personal blog. I have been coaching a little bit on the side of my job but I haven’t made that much of an effort to get new clients because I honestly haven’t made it a priority. But I’m ready now to really put myself out there into the world and make a real difference. It will remain a personal blog but I am planning to include a lot more informational topics too. The themes will remain the same: health, happiness, self-care, wellness, slowing down, listening to your body and befriending your emotions. But all the teacher stuff will be moving over to Self-Care for Teachers so the focus of each website will be more streamlined. I am multi passionate but I have felt scattered and confused trying to fit everything under the Harmony Agenda banner. This will hopefully help streamline my brain and what I’m offering to the world!

Oh, and I am also starting a podcast with my best friend Madison about our journeys with starting up businesses but doing them slowly and in a way that supports our health and happiness! So stay tuned for that!

Personally, I have just turned 29 and that has helped in the clarification process. I’ve had some major news about my thyroid recently that I promise I will update you on in another blog post (please don’t worry, it’s good news) but it brought a lot of big truths home to me. I’ve also been doing a lot of reflecting on the fact that next year I turn the big ’30’ and what does that mean for me? There have been a lot of questions lately about babies, or more specifically, when will we be having them. And the truth is, I don’t know when, but not right now. I don’t want to put it off forever, or even for 5 years, but I just know deep down that now is not the right time. My body is not 100% and hasn’t been for many, many years. If nothing else, that is reason to pause and heal so that one day I can be the best vessel possible for a new human being, and so that my own experience of pregnancy and being a new mum isn’t complicated and made more difficult by recurring health problems that could be fixed.

I also am faced with some decisions regarding whether I will even be able to teach with little ones, and the truth is I don’t think I will be able to. I am already part time and only just find I can manage my own health at this schedule. Most women go back to work after maternity leave to the level of part-time teaching that I am currently doing, so it doesn’t leave a lot for me to drop back to. I am aware there are many options and we won’t know until we get there and all of those other arguments. But I basically don’t want to be forced into a position where I have to go back to work at a higher fraction than is good for me. I’ve been forced to do that before (and there were no babies in the picture), and it was absolutely terrible for my health then, and I am under no illusions that it would be any easier if I had to do it again, let alone with the pressures of being a Mum (or the desires I have for being a present, healthy Mum instead of an absent, exhausted, ill parent). So the decision and the plan right now is to try to get extremely well and also build up some other income streams so that if I do decide to return to teaching after maternity leave, it’s because I want to and feel well enough to, and not because of financial desperation.

Plus, we want to do some more travel before we have babies, and I have so many creative ideas that I want to pursue too.

So the NEW Harmony Agenda for me is basically to enjoy the luxury that I have of being a middle class, Western woman with access to contraception and professional choices and amazing health care and a supportive family and with a world to explore. I am taking a gap year, not so much to find myself but to attempt to design my life so that it supports my health and my family plans and my other deep desires in life.

I am so infinitely grateful to be able to do this. The gap year doesn’t start until 2017 but planning for it starts now and I am throwing myself wholeheartedly into the process. I am excited and thankful and scared and excited all rolled into one! I hope you will stick around to hear how it all plays out for me over the next few months and into the gap year of 2017.

Chronically stressed? Self-Care is the antidote!

Like most people in the modern world, I have struggled a lot with feelings of chronic stress. In fact, it’s highly likely that the detrimental physiological and psychological impacts of stress have contributed significantly to my ill health over the last decade. Thankfully, I’m fairly well these days, and I am much better at keeping my stress levels in check. That hasn’t happened by accident, though. It has happened through a deliberate and conscious change in the way I approach life, and as per usual it all comes back to the importance of self-care.

So what is stress?

Well, there’s a number of types. We all need a bit of stress to survive and thrive. The positive type of stress is called ‘eustress’ and it usually relates to events in life that are exciting and joyful. Can you imagine how boring life would be without anything to get us up and moving? I’m sure you can think of a number of times in your life where you felt a bit of pressure to perform, but you enjoyed it and probably felt that you might not perform so well without that heightened sense of awareness. So a little bit of stress is actually quite good!

It’s ‘distress’ that we usually mean when we complain about feeling stressed. But even ‘distress’ is good for us, in small amounts. Our bodies are always working to keep us safe and alive. So even though it might not feel very nice, that adrenalin rush when you have a ‘near miss’ while driving in traffic, or the muscle tension and hyper-alertness you feel when you hear a noise in the backyard late at night are actually a good thing. They are your body’s way of making sure you are alerted to and respond appropriately to danger.

These uncomfortable sensations were first described by a scientist named Walter Cannon in 1915, but they are much older than that. It’s called the ‘fight-or-flight’ response and it’s one of the things that we share with other living creatures: an inbuilt survival mechanism, part of the sympathetic nervous system, that sees the body act first and think later. Within seconds of perceiving a threat, the body’s full energy potential is realised so that a person (or an animal!) can either fight or flee. It’s easy to imagine the scenario of a predator approaching and needing to fight for your life or run away and avoid the predator altogether. But it can also be about other threats to life, such as accidents and natural disasters, when you might have to fight a fire, hide from a cyclone or flee from a flood.

In any and all of these situations, the ‘distress’ we feel is extremely beneficial.

Without it, our conscious mind might take too long to respond and we might die! Our body is clearly operating from the perspective of “it’s better to be safe than sorry” when immediate physical danger is concerned.

The problem is that these days we don’t face a lot of immediate physical danger. Our basic survival is more certain than it probably ever has been in history.

We do, however, encounter a lot of mental and emotional circumstances that our bodies perceive to be emergencies.

A deadline at work, an angry interaction with a fellow human, a pile of bills in the mail, rush hour traffic and many other modern situations that pose no real threat to our lives still upset our mental and emotional equilibrium. Remembering that the fight-or-flight response involves the body acting first and thinking later, it’s hardly surprising that as soon as we perceive an emergency, despite it being no physical threat, our body immediately propels us into a heightened state of arousal so that we are ready to get physical (fight or flee), just in case.

Suddenly we experience a cascade of symptoms: eyes widening, heart racing, blood pressure spiking, muscles tensing, breath shortening and attention narrowing in on whatever it is that has triggered the response.

We usually are unaware of these symptoms at the time, but I’m sure they sound familiar to you. At one point or another you have probably noticed one or all of them. Yet, there are other responses in the body during fight-or-flight that you probably have never felt or noticed. Digestion stops, sexual function is inhibited and the body’s healing processes are shut down. After all, digesting food and producing sperm/releasing eggs is hardly a priority when one might be about to be eaten by a lion or crushed by a landslide. The body diverts all its energy and nutrients and endocrine function to basic survival, which is good…as long as it’s only for a short period of time.

The problem is chronic stress: our modern world bombards us multiple times a day with deadlines and pressures and frustrations that continually trigger our fight-or-flight stress response.

But we can’t fight or flee! Most of the time we have to just ‘suck it up’ and ‘deal with it’. So we are walking around in a chronic state of low- to mid-level fight-or-flight response. Our sympathetic nervous system is continually activated, which basically just makes us feel like crap.

It also means our digestion, sexual function and healing processes are constantly impaired.

That’s a big problem because our bodies are essentially not able to do what they need to do to keep us well. Is it any wonder then that stress related illnesses are so common?

Thankfully, there is a solution that is natural, free and relatively simple.

In an ideal world, after the fight-or-flight response gets triggered and the danger has been successfully fought or fled from, the body will go back to its natural state of homeostasis. This is when the parasympathetic nervous system is in control and it’s a state that is sometimes called ‘rest and digest’.

From that nickname alone, it’s easy to see why it’s important — that’s the state our bodies need to be in so that digestion, sexual function and healing can happen. It was discovered by Harvard scientist Dr Herbert Benson in the 1970s and it is literally the opposite of the fight-or-flight response in the body. It decreases the heart rate and blood pressure, decreases muscle tension, reduces the amount of adrenal hormones in the blood and builds happiness. Dr Benson called it ‘the relaxation response’.

The best thing is that although fight-or-flight is an unconscious response, the relaxation response can be triggered consciously and with volition. One of the best ways to do this is through meditation and purposeful muscle relaxation. Both techniques will slow down the breathing and this tells the body that it is safe and it can switch back on the rest-and-digest functions that are so important for our long term health. Of course there are other activities that can trigger the relaxation response too, like yoga and other exercise, doing something you love and spending time with people who make you happy.

And that’s why I come back to self-care: a regular habit of consciously triggering my relaxation response is vital for my health and happiness.

Just like brushing my teeth helps me manage tooth decay, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation help me manage my stress. Actually, some types of meditation can even be done while brushing teeth! By deliberately switching on the relaxation response, I am able to switch off the stress response and get my body back to doing what it’s gotta do to be well.

If you are struggling with the uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms of chronic stress, know that there is a powerful and simple solution that you can build into your self-care routine. Whether you do yoga or meditation, a favourite sport or hobby, or simply decide to spend more time with your favourite people, know that when you do so you are combating the negative effects of chronic stress by triggering the relaxation response. And best of all, it’s completely free!


Self-Care for first year teachers PART 1

Your first year of teaching is exciting, exhausting, scary and rewarding. There are so many new things to learn and so, so much work to do. Non-teaching friends and family don’t really understand the demands of the job, you are still feeling like a bit of an imposter (are they really letting me in the classroom by myself?) and the students can and will test you because you’re new. There are so many expectations to meet, a lot of new names to remember and lots and lots and lots of paperwork.

It is all too easy as a teacher to always put your needs at the bottom of the list. This is even more of an issue in your first year as you are eager to prove yourself and likely trying really hard to avoid any negative assessments of your abilities. But with anywhere between 8% and 50% of early career teachers leaving the profession in Australia, it’s absolutely vital that you look after you.

Here’s a few dos and don’ts for self-care in your first year:

  1. DO prioritise your sleep. I cannot stress this enough. It’s too easy to stay up until the wee small hours every night trying to get your preparation perfect and finish all the marking and get everything done. But without adequate sleep, you are no good to anybody, especially yourself. You will be far more productive and efficient with proper rest. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and good sleep is what will keep you carrying on for the whole term, semester and year. Practice sleep hygiene and be disciplined about making sleep a priority — everything else will be easier because of it. And, if you are having trouble sleeping seek help sooner rather than later.
  2. DON’T talk about teaching with people who don’t get it. Unfortunately, there are still people out there who think it’s “9 to 3, all those holidays and full of softy whiners”. If you are anything like me, you’ll be tempted to engage in a debate with them or try to convince them that actually, you are doing 60 hour weeks minimum and the holidays are often spent working too. But don’t do that. Conserve your precious energy and also your even more precious mindset. Just give them a token response and change the subject.
  3. DON’T over-schedule yourself. Err on the side of under-scheduling so that you build some slack time into your life for when things take more time than anticipated. And they will. Everything will take longer to do in your first year, so give yourself the benefit of being prepared for that. Be very discerning about what commitments and engagements you say yes to, both at school and at home.
  4. On that note, DO make time for a social life. It’s really, really important for your mental and emotional health. However, don’t spend the whole time talking about school! If you socialise with other teachers, make sure you plan to do some things that will completely distract you from schoolwork. Also, allow yourself to say no to social engagements that you know will leave you feeling drained. You know, the ones that you feel obligated to attend, the ones that you know you will have to spend time with people who distress you, and the ones that are on the night before report cards are due. DO socialise, but make it enjoyable rather than another stressful item on your to-do list.
  5. DO remind yourself that ‘this too shall pass’. This disaster of a lesson, this crappy day, this boring staff meeting, this stressful reporting period, this hectic term, this full-on first year….it WILL pass. But remember that that applies to the good stuff as well as the tough stuff, so remember to enjoy the great moments as they come and go too!
  6. DO incorporate some kind of daily relaxation practice. When we are chronically stressed we operate a lot of our day in ‘fight or flight’, which isn’t good for us over the long term. The antidote is to activate our relaxation response and trigger our body to ‘rest and digest’. I recommend doing this in the evenings, before bed. It makes for much better sleep! There are many ways to do this: a variety of types of meditation, guided relaxation, visualisation, EFT, sex, yoga….the list goes on. The trick is find what works for you. There are loads of videos on YouTube to get you started for free.
  7. DO plan snacks, and lots of them! There will be days when you will only get 5 minutes to eat here and there between classes and playground duties and lunchtime lesson prep and after school meetings. Have an abundance of quick, healthy, filling snacks to grab and go so that you can keep your motor running all day.
  8. DON’T be an island. Communicate with your colleagues and speak up if you need help, sooner rather than later. It’s so easy to be worried about being a burden, and sometimes our pride makes us feel that reaching out is weak. But remember that most people are happy to help, and it’s much easier to plug a small leak than repair a sinking ship. If you’ve made a mistake, admit to it early on — we’re all human, everybody makes mistakes. If you don’t know something, ask — we’ve all been first years, we know there’s a lot to learn. If you need to vent or help finding resources or back-up with a student’s behaviour or advice on how to discuss something with a parent, your colleagues are a wealth of knowledge. Yes, we’re all busy but we know that a rising tide lifts all boats.  Reach out, communicate, speak up — you won’t regret it.
  9. On that note, DO find a mentor, coach, professional adviser (or one of each!) and also DO practice discernment in your choice. Take note of how you feel after you speak with them. If you leave feeling worse than when you arrived, find somebody else to debrief with and ask for advice. It could be a trusted colleague who will be your mentor at school, or you might seek out the services of a professional outside of school.
  10. DO monitor your expectations. It’s going to be a busy year. You aren’t going to be perfect. You aren’t going to be able to do everything like the experienced teachers. You are going to get sick (kids love to share their germs!). You are going have good days and bad days with the students in your class. You are going to be completely exhausted and it is going to be a roller coaster ride.

Ultimately, it’s an amazing, exhausting, scary, rewarding learning curve. Remember to prioritise your needs. Self-care is so important and will be vital to your success both professionally and personally this year. If you would like some extra support, come and join the Self-Care For Teachers Facebook Group. And stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post!

Personal barriers to self-care

There are five main facets of self-care: physical, personal, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Most of us find one or two of the facets to be natural strengths. Similarly, for most of us, there are one or two areas that don’t come naturally to us. IMG_2715

I’m no different. Emotional self-care comes naturally to me. It always has. For as long as I can remember I have been very in tune with my emotions and I have found it like a default for me to consciously practice emotional self-care. I naturally, intentionally and consistently employ strategies to ‘tend and befriend’ my emotions, seeking extra care when I feel I need it in a timely and determined manner.

It’s partly a case of nurture also: simply be being female I have had more encouragement in our society to engage with my emotions than I would have had were I male. I also was fortunate in that my parents are both emotionally intelligent people with experience as counsellors, so that has definitely helped. Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that I have developed a fascination with and strong desire to help others tend and befriend their own emotions.

I realise that’s not the case for everyone — many of the coaching clients I work with are looking for some support in the area of their emotional self-care. Simply reaching out to a coach and acknowledging that this is something you’d like to work on is an important step, because it requires both awareness and action. There are also many people for whom coaching or some other form of therapy would be of great help, who either ignore their emotional needs altogether or who are aware of their needs but do not intentionally care for them. Self-care of all types requires both conscious awareness and intentional action to be successful. The emotional side of things just happens to come naturally for me, and was then further encouraged through nurture.

Personal care, on the other hand, does not come naturally to me. Of the 5 facets of self-care, this is the area that I have consistently put last. It’s the area that I have to put the most conscious awareness and effort into. In all honesty, I’m a bit lazy. I have often been known to try to stretch my hair another day before being washed, my legs another week (or three!) before being waxed. I would frequently have either no polish on my nails, or it would be chipping off. It was not uncommon for me to get 3 haircuts a year, and still feel like that was too many! I just find personal care to be a big effort and it always ended up last on my list of priorities. (I feel I should mention here that personal care and hygiene, although overlapping, are slightly different. I brush my teeth and wash my hands and bathe every single day. I’m good at hygiene!)

As a high school teacher it doesn’t really matter what I look like (as long as I’m dressed modestly) and, in fact, in terms of behaviour management, I find the plainer I make myself the better. The longer I have been teaching, the more comfortable I have become with making less effort with my outfits, and easily settled into a boring, comfortable uniform of polo shirts, jeans or denim shorts and sensible black sandals. In a small country school, this is perfectly acceptable. On special occasions like ANZAC Ceremonies and Awards Nights, I dress up a bit. But after my first year I pretty much completely stopped wearing make up to those events and I never wear it on a normal school day. I have friends who won’t leave the house without a full face of make up on, which I’d like to point out that I have no problem with. It’s just that I’m the opposite — whether from laziness, defiance or lack of time, I rarely wear make up on special occasions let alone day to day. Even wearing make up to my own wedding was a big decision, and I wore hardly any.

Personal care just doesn’t come naturally to me. I have realised, though, that just because it doesn’t come naturally doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. I did have to examine what about it I do and don’t like, and what parts exactly were barriers for me, in order to put it higher on the priority list. For example, it makes me feel really nice when I have neatly manicured hands and pedicured feet. But, I prefer to do this myself  in the comfort of my own home than have others do it. Similarly, eye make up is just a no for me, but I’m learning to appreciate a good base and blush and lip gloss!

So these school holidays I’ve been consciously and consistently making personal care a top priority. I had a massage a fortnight ago. I had my hair cut (at a nice salon too!) last week, and I took the time to straighten it the day I took this picture. I have been making sure I get dressed in nice clothes every day (not “holiday clothes” a.k.a. track suits) and have put on some makeup and jewellery almost every day. I had my eyebrows waxed today and I booked my next appointment as well.

I know for some this would all seem terribly ordinary, but it’s a big thing for me. It has required conscious awareness of my weaknesses, the obstacles and how to overcome them. It has also required intentional, consistent action. In other words, it requires discipline, which doesn’t sound very sexy or exciting.

Often people say the reasons they don’t practise more self-care is that they don’t have enough time and/or they don’t have enough money. Except, it’s not actually about the time or the money. It’s about what you value, and your priorities. People find time and money for things they really value. But, it’s also about discipline. Self-care requires discipline to be consistent, which is the only way to make it effective. It also is about having an understanding of yourself and your own personal strengths and weaknesses, and applying that discipline accordingly. What requires a lot of discipline to me (like putting on make up every day) is a piece of cake to someone else. That’s the thing about barriers to self-care: some of them are individual to us. A facet that comes naturally to one person is a conscious acquired skill to someone else.

So, which facets of self-care come naturally to you? And which require some more discipline? I’d love to know, so let me know in the comments below!

How to keep that New Year’s Resolution with 2 words and 3 steps

Happy New Year! I hope you were able to welcome 2016 in a way that was enjoyable for you. Me? I opted out of the party scene this year and was happily asleep!

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? I spend a lovely chunk of my New Year’s Eve writing some reflections on 2015 and I began my planning, goals, core desired feelings and creation list for the new year. My lists are not done yet but as usual, I hope for more happiness and self-care in 2016.

“Happiness is a consequence of personal effort.”

One of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, said that. She would know; she went on a world-wide personal quest to heal her depression and find happiness. She wrote about it in a little book that you may have heard of called Eat, Pray, Love. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

What I like about this quote is that it cuts through a lot of the crap about happiness that is floating around, spoken and unspoken, in our lives. For example, “I’ll be happy when” or “If only” and “It shouldn’t be this hard, it should just happen.” The thing about all of those messages that is wrong is that they ignore personal responsibility. Sure, you might be happier when or if, and sometimes it does just happen. But most happiness experts will tell you that that kind of thinking is keeping you unhappy, and that if you want to be consistently happy, or at least happier, you have to make an effort.

I’ve been mulling this idea over and I realise that it’s the same with self-care. It’s a consequence of personal effort. It doesn’t just happen, and it isn’t a do-it-once-and-it’s-over kind of task. Consistency is key. So is sustainability. And I believe that’s where a lot of people get stuck — their resolutions are dead in the water by Valentine’s Day, probably because their resolutions focused on a big, hairy audacious goal (which is a great start!) and ignored the consistency and sustainability factor of actually making that happen.

Do you want to avoid that pitfall and actually make more self-care happen for you in 2016?  Me too! And here are the three steps I’m using to help me keep that New Year’s Resolution:

  1. Less is more.

  2. No comparisons.

  3. Build your trust muscle.

Less is More

Small changes over the long term add up in incredible ways. Compound interest is a great example of this. If you want to make a big change in your life, break it down into the smallest part and just focus on that. Forget about the big goal, just focus on the smallest, easiest action and then do it sustainably and consistently. Small changes are easier to implement and are therefore more sustainable. A small change that you actually DO is way better than a big change that you make for 3 weeks but can’t sustain for the year, right? A bird in the hand, etc. Small changes are also much easier to be consistent with, which means the changes will become a habit. Habits are what make up our lives. Another one of my favourite authors, Gretchen Rubin, has a book about building habits that is high on my reading list this year: ‘Better Than Before‘. As a recovering perfectionist, I love the idea of not having to be the best, but just being better than you were before. So, do less but do it better!

No comparisons

Stop comparing yourself to people way further ahead on the journey. If you want to make a big change, it’s great to have role models and experts to follow and learn from. I love reading and listening to podcasts on my favourite topics, and I follow many different people who are further along the journey than I am in a bunch of areas: health, marriage, writing, happiness, business etc. But I often remind myself not to compare myself to where they are — that gap is way too big and it ignores all the effort and time (probably years!) that they have been working on getting to where they are. Comparing yourself to others further along the road is setting yourself up for failure: it is unsustainable and ruins consistency. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to be at their level in a short period of time. When you can’t sustainably meet the expectations, you’ll likely feel awful and lose your momentum, if not some self-esteem, and stop being consistent. Instead of comparing this year, I’m modelling others. Modelling means you incorporate into your life the actions and beliefs of the person who is where you want to be. It doesn’t mean you copy everything about them or their journey. You are not them, you are learning from them, and it’s important to recognise the difference.

Build your trust muscle

Trust in yourself, like happiness and self-care, is a consequence of personal effort. Trust in yourself is important when you want to make a change in your life, such as keeping a New Year’s resolution.  Trust in yourself is built when you follow through on small actions. I can certainly think of a number of areas in my life where I said I was going to do something and then didn’t follow through. If you don’t trust yourself, it’s likely that it’s because you have a lot of evidence to suggest that you don’t follow through on the things you say you are going to do, in one or many areas. In other words, you have evidence to suggest that you won’t be consistent with your actions. And I could be wrong, but perhaps that’s because the actions you are measuring are actually unsustainable over the long term. Are you noticing a pattern here? Sustainability and consistency are important for trust-building. The other steps of doing less but doing it better, and avoiding comparing yourself to others are also important in trust building. Focus on what you are doing, instead of worry about others, and building your trust muscle with the small stuff and the big stuff will take care of itself.

Bonus step: Know Yourself

There is actually one more step, and its importance will depend on your personality type. Which is kind of ironic because the bonus step is to know your personality type. Gretchen Rubin has a great system called The Four Tendencies, which is all about how different personality types respond to internal and external expectations. Knowing which is your tendency can help you with your resolutions, because it will help determine what is sustainable for you and how you can support yourself to be consistent. I am an Obliger and knowing this about myself has helped immensely. I highly recommend doing the quiz here to find out which type you are.

So that’s it. Less is more, no comparisons, build your trust muscle and know yourself. Focus on being consistent with sustainable actions and you will be well on your way to keeping your New Year’s Resolutions. Happy 2016!