Carole has written for many magazines. She has written nationally, provincially, regionally and for specialized magazines and newsletters. She writes a monthly column for the local newspaper.
You can contact Carole by email: email@example.com
or call: 250-550-0316.
She shares a few of her columns here and hopes that you will enjoy them!
Bless 'em all
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
It happened almost nightly, just before dark. The whine of sirens pierced the air as a woman and her two daughters gathered up their blankets and pillows and walked quickly to the nearest air raid shelter. Air Raid Wardens would go door to door, making sure no one was left in their homes during this time. It was 1940 and the location was Belfast, Northern Ireland. The woman and her two daughters were my Grandmother, my Mom and my Aunt. They would spend the night propped up against a wall in the shelter, or curled up on the hard floor trying to sleep, hoping that when they returned the next morning, their house would still be standing. My Grandfather had died in 1938, so the onset of WW II came as yet another troubling event in this young family’s life. One night the bombs felt like they were falling frighteningly close. The next morning everyone hurried out of the shelter, exhausted and fearful at what they may find. Sadly and traumatically, my family found only rubble where a warm and welcoming home had once stood. They lost everything, with nothing left to salvage. The combined experiences of losing a husband and father one year and their house the next year, had a long lasting effect on my Grandmother and her two daughters.
At age 17 my Dad had been eager to join the British Army. He showed up at the recruitment office and was told he was too young. But he was encouraged to come back again the next day when he would be “older”, wink-wink-nudge-nudge. He signed on in 1937 and proudly served in Field Marshall “Monty” Montgomery’s 8th Army. When he first joined up, he learned how to take care of horses, which were once a necessity in any battle. But things quickly changed and soon he was driving tanks and other army vehicles. In June of 1940 he was on the beaches of Dunkirk, where two of his childhood friends were blown up beside him. He was wounded in that battle and was fortunate to be rescued by a British naval boat. Dad was also involved in the Battle of Normandy, a battle that went on for 3 months in 1944. His physical and mental reserves were challenged on a second to second basis during his time in WW II.
After the war, when my parents met and married, they were both working in Germany for the Intelligence Branch of the British Control Commission. The work they did during that time was full of tension and high risk, but they were young and their life seemed to be romantically exciting. The fact that the work was highly stressful didn’t even enter their minds.
The experiences that many people had during WW II and shortly thereafter redefines the word that we all over-use on a daily basis. Stress. Their stressors were life and death situations as opposed to the sometimes self-created stressful lifestyles we have chosen in generations since. Yet, with the unique type of stress that only war can trigger, came some good times, as everyone made sure to celebrate the important things in their lives. The small daily annoyances of life became unimportant in the light of trying to survive another day, or week, or month. People were forced to focus on the things that really mattered. I think there is a lesson here.
I am in awe of anyone who has fought in a war. I am so very proud of my parents and their individual contributions in helping to keep their country safe and free. They both sacrificed a lot in the war, as did many others like them. My heartfelt thanks to all who have taken part in any conflict that has assured the freedom of others.
Bless 'em all, bless 'em all
The long and the short and the tall
Bless all the sergeants and W.O. Ones
Bless all the corp'rals and their blinking sons
For we're saying good-bye to them all
As back to the barracks we crawl
You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean
So cheer up my lads Bless 'em all,
Do You Hear My Secret Calling
…a true love story
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
“So, was it an eyes-meet-across-the-room-thing and you knew you were destined for each other instantly?”
I asked my Mom. “No,”
she laughed, “it was a swinging-door-thing and once we met, then we knew it was destiny.”
It was 1946 when my parents met in postwar Oldenburg, Germany while working for British Intelligence. Dad (a.k.a. Peter Russell) had survived WW II after being in many challenging battles. He was a “frightfully English chap”
who grew up in Brighton, England. Mom (Blanche Moore - a.k.a. Pat Russell) had experienced the war in a different way. One of the many bombing raids on Belfast, Northern Ireland had demolished her family home.
It only took Dad one week after he saw Mom going through the now infamous swinging door into the Intelligence Offices, to make sure he was introduced to her. Once they met, they were inseparable and spent many hours dancing at the Officers Club in Oldenburg. Mom and Dad were known for being fabulous ballroom dancers and other dance participants would frequently stand aside and watch them together as they swirled around the dance floor, eyes locked on one another. Dad was a tall, lean, and handsome in his British Intelligence Uniform. Mom was and still is a petite 5' 2" pretty Irish woman with twinkly eyes with a penchant for laughing a lot.
As they danced together, Dad would sing (in German):
“Do you remember the precious time when we came together for life,
My heart sang a little melody for you day and night.
Do you remember that beautiful time?
Even though youth will fade, songs of love will always stay.
Should fate ever darken your happiness,
My song will always light it up for you.”
They were the first British couple to be married in Oldenburg after the war. They were transferred to the village of Brake on the Weser River in Germany as a husband/wife team with British Intelligence specializing in political and counter intelligence. Dad had a network of agents under his supervision. He and his agents contributed to the break up of the Communist party in that area of Germany. “Peter and Pat’s” cover for being in post war Germany was the interrogation of returning prisoners of war from Russia.
But it was at night that their real work would begin. Dad would direct and rendezvous with various agents in the field. Another agent, would cautiously make his way back to Mom with stolen documents. This home rendezvous would usually happen after midnight, Mom waiting nervously for the agent to arrive. She would then translate and type the information immediately, so that it could be sent to the head office of British Intelligence in London, England. It was a tense and nerve wracking time.
“Do you hear my secret calling
Open up your sweet loving heart,
When you have longingly thought of me tonight.
Then I will be with you in your dream
Let me look at you once again
Show me your much loved face
Then turn off the light
My heart will not forget you
Please go to sleep”
Dad died in 1989 in Salmon Arm, BC, seven years after retiring as a Special Agent for the Canadian National Railroad Police in Prince George. As well as being named Citizen of the Year in 1972, he was also the recipient of the Governor General’s award for his contribution to the youth of that city.
In the years since his death, Mom had searched for their special song. She wrote to CBC radio, and she had asked people she met who were of German descent if they had heard of the song. She was nearly ready to give up until the Spring of 2004. She was in the hair salon having her hair done, when a gentleman came in to have his hair cut. As he had a German accent, Mom struck up a conversation with him and asked him if he had heard of the song. He said he hadn’t, but promised to look into it for her.
One month later, Mom went to her weekly hair appointment. As she sat down, the hairdresser turned to her friend, who happened to be the German gentleman Mom had asked about the song and said, “I forgot to turn on the radio today. Would you turn it on for me please?”
Soon the beautiful words of the song “Do You Hear My Secret Calling”
were being played throughout the salon. Through contact with friends in Germany and with the help of a popular newspaper columnist the song had been found on a CD of hit songs from 1934 to 1943. Mom was completely overwhelmed with happiness when she heard the song again after 50 years.
My parents shared the special kind of intense and enduring love alluded to in this lovely song. It was their heart song. Now she can close her eyes as she listens to the music and from her memory bank, imagine that she is back on the dance floor, being tenderly held in the arms of her beloved as he sang to her.
“Just as autumn and spring will always be,
So will sorrow and joy forever change the earth.
Every hour of sadness is followed by a day of sunshine,
Every parting is followed by a new embrace.
Storms in life will pass as long as we will understand each other.
When your heart fills with sorrow, quietly sing my song again.”
How To Do Self Hypnosis
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
“Can you teach me how to relax Carole?” was the question a client asked me not too long ago. Yes, as a matter of fact I can and if you’d like to give yourself the gift of relaxation, keep reading.
You can help your body to slow down and totally relax. It’s important to do this at least once per day. So I’m going to teach you how to do self hypnosis.
- Find a quiet comfortable spot where you know you will not be disturbed for ½ hour – 45 minutes. Turn off your cell phone. Get nice and comfy. Sometimes it is helpful to have meditation music playing in the background.
- Close your eyes and become mindful of your feelings. Identify any feelings of stress, anxiety or other issues. (see if they are affecting any parts of your body – sore shoulders, achy bits, tension headaches, etc.) Visualize these feelings leaving. See yourself waving good-bye to them.
- Identify the tension in your body. Starting with your head, concentrate on relaxing your skull, your forehead, all the little muscles around your eyes, your cheeks, your mouth, your nose, jaw and work all the way down your body, finishing with the feet. Visualize each part of your body as you do this and consciously relax to the point you feel like you may be floating. Try to become as relaxed as a rag-doll.
- Take nice deep breaths in and out. Breathe in calmness and peace and breathe out tension and negative emotion.
- Once you have completely relaxed your body, imagine yourself stepping into an elevator that has 10 floors that go down. Seen the elevator and notice that the inside of the elevator is surrounded by a beautiful aquarium. In your minds eye, push the DOWN button. Visualize the word “DOWN”. As you are going down – 10 – 9 – 8 – feel yourself becoming lighter and more relaxed. Do this slowly and really ‘see’ the numbers. When you finally arrive at floor number one, imagine the elevator doors opening and see yourself stepping out into a beautiful garden, filled with your favourite flowers, or shrubbery or animals. (you can imagine anything you like at this point. If you’d prefer a beach, or a lake, you can use that as a visual instead of a garden)
- In your minds eye, visualize five steps that go down into your special place (garden, beach, lake, etc.), so counting the steps down to the scene, becoming aware that when you get to the bottom, you will feel the surface that you are stepping onto (grass, sand, etc.) Concentrate on this feeling and allow peace and calmness to wash over you. Really feel it.
- As you become aware of the grass/sand, etc., you will know that you are very relaxed. This is a good time to give yourself some positive messages. i.e. I am very relaxed and calm; I am confident; I am healthy; I am happy and content…….
- When you feel nice and relaxed, you can begin to return slowly to the room. Step onto the elevator and push the button that says “UP”………….and slowly counting from one to ten, start to come up.
- Once you get off the elevator on floor 10, become more aware of being in the chair or couch you are seated in and begin to bring yourself back into awareness. Once you have opened your eyes and are back in the room, say, out loud, “I am now awake” and this will bring your mind back to the conscious state. (or if you are doing this at night – just drift off to sleep if you haven’t already done so)
This is an excellent exercise to do at night if you have sleep issues, or after a stressful day at work. It helps to slow down your brain waves and is mentally and physically very beneficial.
But like anything that is good for our body and minds, only doing it once will not make a huge difference. It is something you need to incorporate into your life.
If you have chronic pain issues, self hypnosis can help to ease the pain, because pain causes tension in the body and it becomes a cycle of tension and pain. Self Hypnosis can help to ease this.
It will take some practice to become deeply relaxed, but don’t give up. And don’t worry if you don’t remember all the steps – make up your own steps. The more you practice encouraging your mind to quiet and slow down, the happier your body will be.
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
Monkey mind ~ comes from a Buddhist term that means unsettled. Like a little monkey in our heads, our thoughts swing from one neuron to another and we are fussing and worrying and over-thinking and feeling anxious – just when we should be going to sleep or trying to wind down and it really does make us feel unsettled. Sound familiar?
Keep reading, as I’m going to give you a technique that may help to stop your personal monkey and allow you to relax and/or head to the land of nod.
There have been all sorts of suggestions and solutions offered up over the years….. from counting sheep for help with going to sleep, to progressive relaxation (relaxing your body consciously from the toes up to the head) for help with stress. Then, of course, there’s self hypnosis, meditation and yoga. All of these techniques are beneficial.
But, the fact is, we are all unique and different techniques work differently on each of us. (Plus, we need to be consistent with some of these things, and this can be challenging, as life can get in the way.) Perhaps we’ve even become habituated in how we deal with stressors. I like a quick little technique called “square breathing” (and I don’t know who came up with this idea – but it’s quite effective). You could do this sitting at your desk at work.
Here’s what you do. Close your eyes and visualize or imagine a square. If you have a hard time visualizing, then assign a favourite colour to the square. Then, in your minds eye, go along the top of the square and breathe in to the count of four. When you get to the top right hand corner, go down the side, holding your breath to the count of four, then left along the bottom, exhaling to the count of four, and up the left side, inhaling for a count of four and so on.
It’s great for calming your nerves when you feel anxious, stopping worrying thoughts in their tracks, or when you just can’t seem to let go and relax.
So here is the short version of square breathing: (easy to clip out)
Imagine a square and colour it - then following the lines of the square
- Breathe in to the count of four
- Hold for the count of four
- Exhale to the count of four
- Inhale to the count of four
This little exercise keeps several crucial parts of your mind busy at the same time, and therefore helps stops the “Monkey Mind” in its tracks and helps you to relax.
The person who knows how to relax will likely live a longer and happier life. Being able to relax is the best way to deal with stress, because as we all know, stress is one of the primary culprits for illness. Our body is more vulnerable if it belongs to an individual who is stressed all the time.
As a Clinical Hypnotherapist I regularly help people to achieve deep levels of relaxation. Simplistically stated, this is what hypnosis is – a deepened state of relaxation, a slowing down of your brain waves. It can be likened to day dreaming. A lot of you have likely experienced driving somewhere and not being aware of the drive when you arrive at your destination. This is called ‘waking hypnosis’.
Deep relaxation allows access to the subconscious mind and can help with many issues……….fears, phobias, anxiety, pain management, calm birthing, smoking cessation, weight loss and stress management.
A hypnotherapy colleague in the U.S. (Michael Ellner) says that our lives would be enhanced if we had a happy heart, a peaceful mind and a playful spirit.
I agree, but we need to work on getting rid of that monkey first.
Our Interesting Journey
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
The journey to get to where we want to be can be, frought with challenge so enormous that it may seem to be almost impossible. We sometimes really believe that we will not achieve what we hope to achieve.
That thought has the power to stop us in our tracks. Everything begins in the mind and our thoughts have incredible power. We believe and subsequently achieve what we think.
Sometimes our own minds are sabotaging us, due to the power of what we perceive to be real. This perception has been coloured by our life experience.
Perhaps we have learned at the knee of a well intentioned parent who looked at life with skepticism; or perhaps we have had a run of negativity in the things that have or have not happened to us; or perhaps we unknowingly (subliminally) buy into the negative media that surrounds us.
But there is a key to stopping those thoughts, brushing them aside and moving forward. Know that everything is temporary. We can influence the time that we have right now, in this moment but have no control over the future, so it is futile to worry ahead of when things will happen.
'Temporary' can be defined by our own personal measurement of time. Do you notice that when things are going well in your life, time seems to speed up? Then, when we are being challenged and are feeling stuck, time seems to drag like never before?
A busy challenged brain moves forward with purpose, while a not so busy (and perhaps depressed) brain focuses on ”what isn't” and this adds to the frustration and “grows” the issue that can keep us stuck on the ol' gerbil wheel of our mind.
There will always be issues in our lives that we have no control over, but the one thing that we do have control over is ourselves and how we choose to respond and think about situations and events.
Happiness and satisfaction come with having goals that keep life moving along in a positive direction. Whether our goal is to walk for 15 minutes daily, or to help someone else, or to stop snacking at 7:00 pm every evening, or to finally get to a project we have been procrastinating about, the payoff is the feeling of accomplishment when the goal has been achieved.
It is important to have an achievable realistic goal every day if you feel yourself floundering about emotionally. Personal goals can assist us in sending positive messages to our brain putting us in the drivers seat of our thoughts. This will help us to stay focused on resolution, and keep us moving ahead with some positivity and purpose.
Winston Churchill once said, “If you are going through hell, keep going”. He knew that by keeping focused on the end result (the goal) we would eventually come out the other end. Challenges in life are temporary – depending on how we think about them.
If you feel there is a cloud hanging over you every step of the way, know that it is a temporary part of your life's interesting journey.
The great Churchill also said, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up”.
Self Esteem and You
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
I have been reminded recently that we are all more alike than we are different. We start out in life as somebody’s child, then grow up to be somebody’s partner and perhaps become somebody’s parent and on it goes. The family tree grows taller and the branches spread out wider.
The common denominator in any relationship is the need for love and acceptance. We all need to feel accepted for who we are and subsequently feel loved because of this.
From the moment we are born, we are searching for the love that nurtures us physically, emotionally and psychologically.
But it isn’t always smooth sailing. There can be unresolved issues that have been passed on generationally that create roadblocks to that elusive feeling of happiness, or get in the way of feeling satisfied with ourselves and our lives.
The inability of a family member to show love usually stems from the lack of love shown to them. It’s one of those cycle things. Round and round it goes.
It affects us on all levels. One of the most important areas and the one that can negatively impact our lives is self esteem. If you have low self esteem and you become involved with someone who has low self esteem, or work for someone who has low self esteem, the result will be partners or staff or family members who constantly walk around feeling unworthy.
The domino effect of low self esteem can be powerfully pervasive.
Decisions made in this state of mind will frequently be inappropriate or reactive as low self esteem breeds personalization of everything. Your thoughts become unbalanced and you take everything personally.
If you think this might be you, remember that when someone says something unkind, or treats you as though you are ‘less than’, you do have choice.
You can understand that this person is mirroring to you, how they feel about themselves, or you can reframe it for yourself by focusing on something special and wonderful about you. (easier said than done, but still do-able if you are mindful of these situations).
I believe that the biggest impact we can have on humankind is a very basic one.
If we were to treat everyone the way we would like to be treated (and yes, I know this isn’t an original thought, but obviously one we need to hear as often as possible), it would change our experience on this earth.
We would become tolerant, kinder and more understanding of one another. We would focus on our shared experience and not on our differences. Everyone’s self esteem would improve, making for even more appreciation and validation of each other.
Does your self esteem need to be tweeked? Start with applying the same understanding and kindness to yourself as you would like to receive from others.
Perhaps make it a goal to start feeling better about being you. You’ll find it to be contagious as you start on the journey toward healthy self esteem.
Stress and The Amygdala Hijack
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
Don’t you just hate it when something happens in your life and you react, wishing moments later that your brain had kicked in faster? You might feel foolish, or embarrassed or even annoyed with yourself. You know the feeling - open up mouth, place in foot.
You are not alone. In fact, it’s possible that your emotions may take over your actions. When this happens, it is referred to as “The Amygdala Hijack”. The Amygdala is that part of the brain that controls our responses, unless we choose otherwise.
When the amygdala gets triggered due to stress, anger or other emotions, it can create a response that's inappropriate and that you might later regret.
Of course, if you feel happy about your life (generally speaking), it may mean that the bumps that occur will be less dramatic or annoying as will your reactions. It will also depend upon how you look at what happens to you in your life.
If you are a “the glass is half full” kind of person, then unplanned or disappointing events may seem less upsetting to you. But if your glass is “half empty”, then you might feel the full force of disappointment, perceived failure, anger or other emotions that can get you into trouble.
Of course, if you have any unfinished business or unresolved emotional issues in your life, then you may be more susceptible to being triggered by specific situations that relate to your personal issues.
Worry, doubt and fear can fuel an over-reaction. So, by becoming mindful of situations you may over-react to, you might be able to control how you respond.
The good news is you can fool your amygdala, by using two parts of your brain at the same time. (both thinking and responding) According to Joshua Freedman (an educator, writer and emotional intelligence guru), we can control our response by using what he calls “the six second pause.”
Stop, take in a big breath and divert your mind by naming six of the 10 Provinces. It’s kind of like the old notion of counting-to-ten-before-you-say-or-do-something-you-regret thing.
Not always the easiest thing to do, particularly if you are wired to react, more than you are wired to reason, but it is achievable and you can learn to change how your reactions affect your life at work, home and socially.
My personal favourite is laughter. Laughter changes negative thought process. If you need to be stimulated to laugh, think of a funny situation or your favourite joke; if you have learned how to simulate laughter, start laughing.
You’ll find that your original negative feelings and subsequent potential response have vanished long enough for you to stop and think about the situation.
Take control of your amygdala, do not allow it to be hijacked and you might discover that your journey can be more relaxed and enjoyable. At the very least, it may help to prevent “foot in mouth” disease.
The Laughing Buddha
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
A tiny figurine of the Laughing Buddha sits on my kitchen window sill. It was a gift from someone who made me laugh. We could laugh for hours together because we both shared the outlook that there isn’t too much in life that laughter can’t ease or soften. With this person, I proved that laughter does indeed beget laughter. The more we laughed – well, the more we laughed. It was absolutely wonderful.
The Laughing Buddha got his beginnings from a mix in Buddhist, Taoist, and Shinto religions. It is said the jolly monk symbolizes good luck and abundance.
According to the Wikopedia Encyclopedia (on the internet) “The image of Hotei (Laughing Buddha) is almost always seen carrying a cloth or linen sack (that which never empties) which is filled with many precious items, including rice plants (indicating wealth), candy for children, food, or the woes of the world. Sometimes it can be filled with children as they are seen as some of those precious items of this world. His duty is patron of the weak, the poor and children.”
I love anything that symbolizes happiness and is expressed with laughter. Combined with the right attitude and outlook on life, joyfulness helps to make positive change in our lives. I know - I’ve said this before, but it can’t be said often enough, laughter is good for your soul. I really do believe it helps to cleanse our bodies and releases the negatives in our lives.
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake – an acclaimed biologist discovered “morphogenetic fields”. In other words, Dr. Sheldrake has proven that we live in fields of energy, despite the fact that the human eye cannot actually “see” this.
His book, “Seven Experiments That Could Change The World” tells how a cell can be removed from someone’s body in one City (we’ll use Vancouver) , preserved in a Petri dish and flown to another City (we’ll use Toronto). When the owner of the cells gets excited in Vancouver, the cell in Toronto vibrates in the Petri dish. Our cells, no matter where they are respond to our emotions.
Dr. Sheldrake applies this theory to animals as well. For some time now, my Mom has been telling me that my dog Huey knows when I am coming home. (Mom is Huey’s doggy daycare) She says that no matter where he has been in the house or the patio, his behaviour changes and sometimes he will sit on the mat in front of the door waiting for me to walk in.
Well, guess what – Dr. Sheldrake has written an entire book about this – “Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home”. Some animals are connected to the energy of their owners. But then, we have heard of animals that can “predict” storms or illness or death. They sense the energy change in a person.
So, if we are made up of energy, we now know that positive energy (laughter, happy thoughts, feelings of satisfaction, kindness, caring for others) will make a huge difference on a cellular level, in our personal lives and the lives of those we come in contact with.
Obviously, our energy field is more important than we realized. Perhaps one day we will be able to use our own energy field and heal ourselves of disease. This appears to be an untapped resource in our own body.
If you want to keep your cells vibrating with happiness and work toward lessening the negative emotions and feelings in your life, pick up your own little Laughing Buddha to help remind you to stay on the sunny side of life.
Perhaps the Laughing Buddha knew something we didn’t, all those years ago. For more positive reinforcement, visit my website at www.amindfulconnection.com
Your Unseen Emotions
© 2012 Carole Fawcett
What unseen emotions, feelings or thoughts walk alongside you daily, impacting on your sense of self worth? Can you identify them?
Did you get the message as a child that you should be seen, but not heard? Were you abused in any way? Perhaps given messages that you were not important in the grand scheme of your family? Was your upbringing very rigid or lacking in love?
Was what other people thought more important that what you thought? Did you have a happy childhood, or do you have segments that you have “forgotten” (or stuffed down so deep that you no longer have to acknowledge them by remembering?)
Likely some of this applies to everyone who is reading these words. Your unseen emotion may have taken you by the hand and led you through life on a journey that may have been difficult. But, it’s never too late to make the changes that will help to enhance your life.
“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out, also keep out joy.” Jim Rohn, was the motivational speaker who made this statement (1930 – 2009)
Sometimes we unconsciously nurture our negativities. They have become so real to us that we fan the flames of the negative way of thinking about ourselves – no longer requiring anyone else to do it for us.
Simplistically speaking, we may fall into different categories. The Worrier excels at “what-iffing” thereby promoting anxiety in their lives. The Critic (shoulda – woulda – coulda), attacks their self esteem. The Victim (why me? It’s always me!) can turn into depression. Then there’s the Perfectionist (It’s never good enough…) promotes chronic stress, because we can never meet our own unrealistic expectations.
It seems easier to grab the negativity and hang on to it, particularly when we see it, hear it and feel it almost daily. It’s harder to find the positive when the world is in turmoil, as it creates turmoil in our personal well-being.
We worry about what has happened, along with what has not happened. It then seems natural to make predictions about what “might” happen and this insidiously takes over our thoughts.
The negativities in our lives may manifest with eating too much, smoking, drinking too much, as we sit sloth-like on the couch watching violent television shows that desensitize us to the real violence in our world.
We shut off from others by thinking we have “friends” on a computer web-site, but we don’t actually do face to face ‘friend’ things, like see one another over a meal, or go for a walk. We may work for abusive bosses, or in extremely stressful jobs then go home and isolate ourselves.
Things like fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, chronic fatigure, anxiety, psoriasis, arthritis, depression, sore backs, headaches, neck tension and more start to appear in our bodies. As Author Caroline Myss states “Your biography is your biology”.
Interestingly, (and annoyingly) the emotions we’ve stuffed for decades can pop up when we are in our 50th decade. Everyone’s life experience is different, so with some it may be in their 60’s before they feel the need to examine what they have stuffed.
We may keep bumping into the same type of relationship problem, health problem, or feel we are self sabotaging ourselves with our thoughts. We don’t need to carry the burdens of our past with us.
Is it time to unpack your baggage and cleanse your emotional soul?
Think about it.
Are You Cocooning
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
The politics of any work environment can be a challenge from time to time. Most of it is due to stress in the workplace. The higher the stress, the higher the incidence of stress related behaviours or illnesses.
We work in environments where expectations and rules change at an alarming rate. Technology has apparently brought progress, but at what price? A financial institution in British Columbia requires their employees to take distance ed courses at night, after a long day at work – on their own time. Some of these employees, having been with the company for decades, are now in their late 50’s, but are expected to add to their days work and to their stress level. They are required to take several of these courses in the next four years, despite the fact that the courses may not have anything to do with the job they are currently doing. If they don’t take the courses, which could take up to 4 months to complete, they could lose their jobs. It boggles the mind.
Have you looked for work recently? Even for the lowest paying job the interview process can be quite involved. At a well known coffee chain they do two or even three interviews with one person. For some bizarre reason resume formats keep changing and there are people with four year degrees, hired by the Government teaching the most basic skill of resume writing. We have things that used to be straight forward and we have made them complicated.
Another phenomenon is occurring. People are so geared to working alone at their computers, that we are losing the ability to communicate effectively with one another. We are not only working in our own headspace, but in our own physical space as well. I believe the term is cocooning.
There is a new phrase out there these days. It is called “self care”. We never used to consciously think about this. It just happened naturally as we came home from work. We would visit with our family, maybe play some games with the kids, walk the family dog, take a short nap or read a book. It was called relaxation and it was assumed we could all do this. Now, with computers and televisions we have this isolating technology in our own homes. So, we not only cocoon at work, we come home and continue to do so for the evening as well.
We don’t laugh as much now as we did in the 1950’s. We used to laugh for 18 minutes each day and now we are lucky to squeeze in 6 minutes of daily joy. In our quest for success and at the expense of our happiness, we have foolishly changed attitudes and become extremely serious in all aspects of our lives. Simply put, we have forgotten how to play and have fun. Despite this, our minds and our bodies are wise beyond our comprehension and this fact is now being proven on a scientific level. If we choose to laugh more and be more joyful, our body’s response is immediate as blood vessels open up, blood pressure drops, pain lessens and we feel better.
Amazingly and quite wonderfully, we are still in control of how we choose to work and to play. Help yourself and make smart choices for your life. Laugh, smile at everyone you come in contact with and inject some play into every day. It will make a huge difference in your quality of life and will help to alleviate the effects of stress. That’s a promise.
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
“We live in a fear-based society” has almost become a cliché. It’s no wonder. Have you noticed the language some television media have chosen to use when they have been covering the H1N1 virus?
Listen carefully the next time there is some major event and hear the words the media chooses. They are frequently inflammatory words that promote fear.
We have become more aware of what is wrong with our world rather than what is right about it. Our motivation becomes the fear of ‘something’ and it builds on the internal negativity that a lot of us carry around.
Here’s an example taken from a News Web Page………..”A Vancouver man was found gunned down early Wednesday morning…” Now if the word “shot” had been used instead of “gunned down”, it wouldn’t be as dramatic.
Here’s another example, “Seventh severed human foot found washed up on B.C. shore”. Does the word “severed” need to be in the sentence? Isn’t it obvious that the foot had been severed because it washed up onto the shore all by itself, minus the rest of the body? But “severed” adds drama and an element of fear to the sentence.
The downside of increased instant communication is a tendency to exaggerate or overstate something, particularly when it is played over and over and over again. New ways of telling the story have to be created and after you’ve told the story twenty times or more, the choice of words used in the telling can become limited.
There is a difference between passing on information from other parts of our world as opposed to repetitively and almost obsessively reporting it non stop. I realize the choice is ours as to whether or not we watch and we can hit the ‘off’ button at any time. How many of us do this?
Our little neurons dance with unabashed glee at the thought of processing something exciting and we get ‘hooked’. We get an adrenalin fix sitting on the couch, voyeuristically peering at others through the lens we call television or computer screens - our personal windows on the world.
Sometimes we do the same thing with our own issues in our mind. After all, much like Pavlov’s dogs, we have been conditioned by the very thing we view as entertainment. We unknowingly indulge in rumination, which means that like the gerbil, our same thoughts play around and around in our personal head-wheel.
We can get stuck there and our issue feels insurmountable and almost paralyzes our ability to problem-solve for ourselves. We self-sabotage with our private thoughts and are sucked down into a vortex of negativity.
We attach feelings to these thoughts and the wheel goes faster making it challenging to get off. Here are some suggestions to help you stop your wheel.
Talk to a good friend. Sometimes talking about it helps you feel better and helps you to see things with more clarity.
Become mindful of your thoughts and change the way you are thinking.
Look for the positive in the problem and try to focus on that.
Keep a journal and write down 5 positive things about yourself every single day. Watch sitcoms or comedy. Laugh as often as you can.
Watch the news only once a week if you like to keep in touch with what is happening in our world. (as opposed to nightly)
Consciously choose to make the changes you know you need to make.
It can provide a wonderful opportunity to find the peace or the joy that is lacking in your life. See a counselor if you feel your issues are entrenched and you feel stuck.
Remember, you are worth the effort.
The Value of Friendship
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
True friends are one of the gifts we receive as we go through life. They listen, they care, they call or visit when no one else will and they accept us for who we are, warts and all.
I have a dear friend whom I have known since the age of 6. I know that when I speak to her I can count on her to listen and to care. She knows me like not many other people do, because she walked beside me for a number of years in school. She came from a family of 5 children while I was an only child. I was amazed by the noise and the interactions between the brothers and sisters. We loved going to each other’s houses because of the fact it was so very different from our own.
We remember each other’s birthday, we call every now and then to make sure the other is doing okay (we live in different cities). It’s nice to know that someone out there, aside from family, who know the real me.
It is a known fact that having and being a good friend is very important in life. Most challenges and stressful situations can be overcome if someone is there to soften the fall, help you get up, listen and assure you that you are not going crazy, tell you that you are valuable, compliment you on being you and generally be kind and gentle toward you. Their words and actions can help you to feel worthwhile as a human being.
Friendship is a self-esteem builder and can be a stress reliever as well. As Henry Ford once said, "My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me."
In todays seemingly speeded up world, we don’t seem to have as much time to nurture friendships. We are all rushing from one place to another and not taking the time to notice our fellow human being. No wonder we feel stressed, we are missing an important ingredient. Human interaction.
That wonderful and very valuable time where we stop using our working brain and switch to our “hey, how ya doin?” brain………and allow ourselves to wind down and just connect with others.
Have you got a friend you haven’t connected with for a while? Stop what you’re doing. Put the paper down and call them. It’s important. I’ve got a few on my list that I’m about to call.
The Science of Laughter
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
The title I chose for this article makes me smile. The science of laughter? Laughter, one of the things we used to take for granted, is now the subject of scientific study. In some ways it’s quite surprising what has been discovered, but in other ways, it’s probably not surprising at all. After all, we know intuitively that it is good for us.
While studying the effects of laughter, Dr. Lee Berk of Loma Linda University in California proved that laughter boosts the immune system. Dr. Robert Provine’s book, Laughter – a Scientific Investigation, documents that even Chimps laugh, although with different stimuli. In his book, Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins, a respected journalist, wrote about how he dealt with the diagnosis of ankolysing spondilitis, an arthritic condition that left him bedridden and in horrible pain. With his Physicians permission, Norman moved out of the hospital and into a motel. His idea was to remove himself from the pain and suffering of others and create a pleasant environment, where he watched funny movies sent to him by his friends in Hollywood. He made the happy discovery that ten minutes of belly laughter gave him 2 hours of pain free sleep. He recuperated and went on to live many more productive years.
We know that laughter is one of the best ways to relieve stress, but it has many other benefits as well. It is, as Norman Cousins once said, likened to internal jogging for the inner organs. As an aerobic exercise it is very good for the heart and lungs. The word aerobic means “with oxygen”, so laughing increases the amount of oxygen in the body and this in turn, is very good for the respiratory system. It can help to lower blood pressure; it increases endorphins (the body’s natural morphine), serotonin levels increase and other important stress fighting chemicals are released as well. In fact, one study showed that serotonin, when put into a test tube with cancer cells, killed the cancer cells. It seems that laughter can help to heal our bodies.
When I explain that, as a laughter therapist, I teach people how to laugh, I get many interesting responses. Since the body cannot differentiate between simulated and stimulated laughing, it may feel awkward at first to pretend to laugh. But with a willingness to step out of one’s comfort zone, simulated laughter soon turns into genuine guffaaaaaws. People who are struggling with unresolved life issues may have a difficult time with this concept, but for those who can participate, it’s truly a delightfully upbeat way to combat stress. I am fond of saying that “laughter begets laughter”, and once you get used to that idea, you might be surprised at how much you can achieve by smiling and laughing your way through each day.
It’s a sad fact that, as children, we likely laughed 300 – 400 times a day, but now, as adults, we are lucky if we laugh 12 times a day. While in the 1930’s it was estimated that people laughed approximately 16 – 18 minutes daily, it is estimated that now we are doing well if we manage to laugh for six minutes every day.
Laughter is very good for us, feels good and is enjoyable as well. We don’t need to go through each day with “terminal seriousness”. Even for those of us who work in difficult environments, maintaining our sense of humour and being able to laugh at the challenges that face us daily, will help us to be happier people at the end of each day. A positive attitude will not only help us to feel better, plus have a beneficial effect on our general health, but it will have a wonderful spin-off effect on the people around us. Remember, “if you’re happy, tell your face”.
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
It was a rough week. We all have them. I’m happy it was only a week. I used to have rough years. I had to pull on all my resources to remain calm and centered. I believe that we attract what we experience. So, for some reason I had attracted energy that felt like it discounted me and it was painful.
At least that is what my mind observed. Then, when I felt undervalued I responded accordingly, which probably did not endear me to those whose behaviour triggered my feelings of ‘less than’ to begin with. It’s a circle thing – someone’s behaviour or words/actions create angst or pain and then we react to this, creating in turn, more angst and pain and on it goes. It’s hard to give a quality effort to a job, a friend, a relationship or anything that involves other human beings, when your own feelings of self worth are undermined or seemingly not valued. But while it is not an easy thing, we can choose how we respond and refrain from taking any of it personally. It takes a focused awareness of what is happening to arrive at this place and put it into practice on a daily basis.
I know this, as I do my best to achieve this as much as possible. But, every now and then I slip and negative words crawl into my mind and start to work their poison. Soon, I am on the train of only-being-aware-of-negative-energy.
It’s almost as though I have several universes in my one mind. I cross over to different universes dependant upon the experiences of my day. Mostly I only stay in the positive space, but this week I gave the power to others to push me into a temporary negative space. But thankfully, my stay there was short lived. (Like an unwelcomed guest, I pushed the negativity out my minds door)
Of course, it is not just me. I am talking about all of us. Life is complex. The negativity gains entry by triggering the baggage we all carry around. No matter how much baggage we think we have dumped, there is always more to be opened and gone through. When some wise sage once said that our purpose in life is to find the joy within, I used to think how ridiculously simplistic that sounded.
I now believe that this is our purpose and know that it is anything but simple. It is a complicated journey and if we can, we learn from our experiences with others and grow from it.
So when you have a bad day, week or month, look within to see if you can find the part you played to create this experience. It can be challenging and difficult, but you’ll come out the end of your introspection a kinder and more patient person. You’ll learn to keep the words and feelings that nurture you and you’ll dispose of those that don’t.
To quote Author Annie Dillard. “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives”
. Choose to live your days with joy and life will become pleasant. When negativity in any form, knocks on your minds door, refuse entry.
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
I am very fortunate and rent a little cottage on acreage in the country. The house is small and very cozy, tucked away on the side of the lot. Behind me is an apple orchard. It is an idyllic setting and is enhanced by the animal and bird life I experience. It is my personal healing and de-stressing zone.
I hang humming bird feeders and I also put out bird seed for the birds. I do this year ‘round. So this attracts an amazing (and constant) variety of birds. The hummingbirds are truly amazing wee birds. I love watching them hover near the feeder, assessing whether or not they should sit on the perch and have a drink. They do of course and it’s a gift to be able to observe them up close. They are so delicate like mini helicopters as they zoom forwards, backwards, up and down.
Whenever I look outside, it is pure eye candy. Just today, I saw morning doves, humming birds, a male pheasant, quail, sparrows, a variegated woodpecker and chickadees. Also visiting with some regularity are lazuli buntings, red winged black birds, rufus sided towhees, orioles and stellar jays from time to time.
My favourite have to be the quail. They gather under the big ponderosa pine and murmur and cluck amongst themselves as they peck at the fallen seeds They seem to be such busy-bodies and appear to be very social as they all eat together. Sometimes they quarrel and there is great leaping and road-runner type scooting about, looking indignant and huffy.
Two days ago I watched as a mischievous magpie jumped onto my feeder purposefully making it swing, so that the seed would fall to the ground. He would then jump down and gobble up as much as he could. I watched as he repeated this exercise several times. He had figured out he was too big to fit on the feeder and was bound and determined to obtain his share of the seed. He ended with a nice long refreshing drink from the birdbath, nearly tipping it over as he flew off.
Then there was the time that a moose (yearling) was caught in the orchard. I was sitting at my computer very early one summer morning when out of the corner of my eye I saw a rather huge form move past the window. “Wow, that’s a big deer” I thought. I looked out and saw the back end of a moose majestically walking in between the apple trees.
While still in my night attire, I grabbed my camera and went to run out the door, when I realized that the automatic sprinklers were on. So, when one sprinkler moved to one side, I’d run to a big tree and hide behind it. Then another sprinkler would change direction and I’d run to the corner of the storage hut, and then the final sprinkler would change and I sneak down the side of the hut to hide behind the bushes. Of course by this time my pj’s were wet and my slippers were sodden as well. The moment I’d give up and return to my computer, Mr. Moose would wander by again. I’d go out again, with the same results. I did this several times and the last time, the moose actually stopped and looked in the window at me. He might as well have said “nyah, nyah, nyah”. It was one of those funny moments in life and I remember laughing out loud and thinking how smart he was.
Mother Nature is the best stress reliever. Slow down and enjoy the buffet she has to offer.
My Excellent Adventure
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I have had an excellent adventure that was special, wonderful and memorable.
I had been asked to do a “Wake Up To Laughter” presentation in Creston, B.C. So when I told my friends about my presentation and that it would be included in a day called “The Journey of a Woman” their interest was piqued. So, four of us packed our bags, jumped into the car and drove to Creston. Woo Hoo!
It was a beautiful drive with the Autumn colours at the height of their glory. The air was fresh and clean smelling and it felt great to be alive. We started feeling energized almost immediately. We tentatively explored how far we could go with one another and soon learned there were no boundaries. We got as far as Hwy 33 and we were sharing like we’d known each other for decades. With apologies to Helen Reddy, “We are women, hear us roar!”
Two of us work in the same type of environment and the other two work in unrelated jobs. One of us is a bean counter. (which was handy because when it came to figuring out the bill at meal times, the rest of us couldn’t have calculated our way out of a penny jar!) I mean, try figuring out 15% without a calculator. Jeeez Louise.
It was truly one of those woman-bonding weekends. We laughed and laughed and laughed. Then we laughed some more. Our laughter on the return trip became that noisy snorting laughter, followed by silent laughter. You know what I mean, the type where you-can-barely-breathe-laughter.
Our topics of discussion were varied and included our workplaces, our children, women’s issues and of course the opposite sex. We spoke of life and death, our hopes and dreams, how we feel about aging and so much more. We were four like-minded women on a journey of bonding and friendship.
We attended the day long event and loved every single minute of it. Included was a wonderful woman who spoke with emotion about her experience with the residential school system, a session on body image and the stereotypic nonsense that goes along with that. We made a collage of our journey in life, we drummed, we danced and laughed. It was a delightful day planned by a vibrant and creative group of women in Creston.
I couldn’t help but think of the irony that exists there. While we were celebrating our womanhood, I thought of those oppressed woman souls at Bountiful. (the polygamist community about 1 hour outside of Creston)
I know we all grew in some manner that weekend. Perhaps the laughter was cathartic for all of us for different reasons. One of us said their face hurt from laughing so much. Another said their stomach muscles were getting a work-out. The more you laugh, the more laughter will be attracted into your life. It will change your world.
Just prior to my excellent adventure to Creston, I had been told that I was intimidating. (a.k.a. strong woman who knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to say it). At the time it was said, it felt hurtful and took me by surprise.
So after sharing this with my three car-mates, they took every opportunity to add “well, that’s because you are so intimidating” after everything I said. It was hilariously freeing.
They understood that there is still the double standard of how men and women are perceived. A strong man is admired. A strong woman is called intimidating. Strong women themselves, they have no doubt experienced similar situations.
Thank you my friends for your friendship, support and laughter. While the work I have chosen to do is always fun, it would not have been quite as much fun had I gone alone. This particular wave of joy will feed me for a long, long time. Like the James Brown song says, I feel good!
Said Robin to Sparrow
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
Said the Robin to the Sparrow, "I should really like to know, why these anxious human beings
rush about and worry so". This was part of a poem written by E. Cheney in the 1930’s. Here we are 70 years after that poem was written and it still speaks to us. So perhaps some things never change.
September has arrived with all its busyness. School has started, clubs start to meet again, tourists leave and we get back to the business of work.
We start off with good intentions and lots of renewed energy. Then we do it. We over-schedule ourselves. By the time October/November arrives we are feeling like our stress levels have gone over the edge.
If you work at a job where deadlines have to be met all day long, (and most of us do) then go home and continue to do the same in your personal environment, you can expect to have some repercussions.
You could become emotionally fragile, your immune system could be compromised and you may become vulnerable to the virus of the month, plus health issues you already have could worsen.
Sound familiar? Of course it does, because you already know this stuff.
Despite the fact that stress can be a pain in the neck (quite literally) we continue to perpetuate our self destructive habits. We fool ourselves into thinking that it won’t affect us. Or, in our arrogance, we buy into the belief that no one else can do the job. Denial is a powerful belief.
What could you change in your life that would lessen the stress? Set aside some time for yourself. Studies have shown that meditation is a wonderful stress diffuser. This does not mean you have to sit like a yogi in a trance-like state (although if you can, that’s great too).
You could go for a walk and enjoy the visual feast of our world. Play with the dog or a child. Divert your attention from the things that are creating stress in your life.
If you can change some of the things that create stress in your life, then do it, but if you can’t, find diversionary techniques to help you cope. Do what a good friend of mine does. Plan to have personal time on your days off.
Your mind and body (to say nothing of friends and family) will be happier as you welcome calmness back into your life.
We can choose not to “rush about and worry so”. Make that choice today.
Laughter - The Best Stress Reliever
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
It’s free, we’ve known about it for centuries and there have been ongoing studies about it for decades. It’s one of the best ways to relieve stress. I’m talking about laughter of course. Just thinking about it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I can feel the giggles getting ready to bubble out as I type. But then I’m a giggler and proud to be one. You can be a giggler too if you wish. But, if you have a tendency to look at life as though the glass is half empty, you might have to work a bit harder. Think back to your childhood and ask yourself these questions. Were you told to “stop laughing” or told “don’t be so silly” or “grow up, it’s not funny”. Were you programmed to view the world as a very serious place? Was the message you received one of “you have to be serious to be successful?”
A slight shift in how you think about life can help you move from seldom smiling or laughing to seeing the funnier side of life more easily. Or, you can learn how to do simulated laughter exercises. The body does not know the difference between the genuine thing and fake laughter.
The physical benefits of laughter (fake or real) are:
- Decrease in adrenalin (which is released when you are stressed)
- Increase in heart rate (aerobic exercise)
- Increase in circulation (a problem we all have as we age)
- Decrease in blood pressure (big bonus here)
- Increase body’s ability to digest food (helps your metabolism work more efficiently)
- Increase in respiratory activity (great for asthmatics)
- Increase in blood oxygen levels (good for all parts of the body – especially the brain)
Psychologically, laughter is therapeutic and can help to increase your rapport with others, help to improve communication, decrease anxiety and tension, help to diffuse anger, is a great coping mechanism and definitely makes learning easier and more fun. Learning how to look at the funny side of life can also help with depression.
We know that stress causes illness. Dr. Hans Selye proved this with his discovery of the “fight or flight” response in the body. Basically, stress is our body’s response to a negative (or positive) stimulus. For most of us this is a learned response. If our body releases the harmful stress chemicals too many times we become ill. So learning how to get in touch with your inner child, giving yourself permission to see the funny side of life, changing your attitude and making better choices can all work together to make your life less stressful and more joyful. It is all part of a healthier lifestyle and goes hand in hand with good nutrition and exercise.
We used to laugh for 20 minutes out of every day. Now, it is estimated we only laugh for 6 minutes daily. We have become “terminally serious”. The lifestyle that was supposed to happen (more leisure time, more money for less work) didn’t. We have become workaholics and we are making ourselves sick.
Look at your life and assess how much you laugh (or smile) each day.
Milton Berle was right when he said, “Laughter is an instant vacation”. Do yourself a favour and plan yours today.
Gratitude - The Pathway to Happiness
© 2010 Carole Fawcett
As I wrote this, I was enveloped with the warmth of gratitude. You may remember that the last column I wrote, spoke of anonymously gifting others. Well, I’ve been the recipient of this very activity. Just prior to Christmas I received an anonymous letter in the mail that enclosed something very helpful and wonderful. I don’t think I am capable of articulating how special this made me feel. I had experienced a challenging day at work the day before and was still feeling the effects of that day when the letter arrived. The wonderful letter, the gift and the kind words it held changed my energy. Thank you so much to whoever this was. My heart is spilling over with gratitude.
Gratitude. The spiritual practice of gratitude can be called a state of mind and a way of life. To bring more of this into your life, practice acknowledging all the good things you experience every day. Make it your way of being and life will seem to improve almost immediately. When I find that perfect parking spot, I always say a quiet “thank you”. When I drive up to where I live (a beautiful location), I say “thank you”. When my dog greets me with wiggling glee, I laugh and say “thank you”. This is a great habit to cultivate, as it forces your mind to focus on the good in your life. I am not suggesting that you turn into Pollyanna, but I am promising that what you choose to focus on will grow. That’s a fact. You might well choose to “grow” happiness because of the wonderfully positive effects it has on your mind and body.
There was a time for me when every day felt horrible. Days, months and even years, were full of worry, pain, fatigue and sadness. I had health issues, loss issues, money issues and life issues in general. I felt miserable and angry that my life was not going in the direction I had hoped. So without consciously realizing what I was doing, I had focused on the negatives and they became almost insurmountable in my mind. These thoughts affected my physical health too. I became sick and tired of being sick and tired, as the saying goes. Then I discovered gratitude. It became my personal challenge to see the good in my life on a daily basis. I had a light bulb moment and quite by chance, stumbled across my prescription for personal happiness. Teaching others to be therapeutic clowns brought me more joy than is possible to describe in this short column. Educating others on the dangers of stress and then teaching them about the powerful benefits of laughter is my personal prescription for well being. It is my passion and I’m grateful that I can share this knowledge with others. It may sound a bit too syrupy, but I have proven that my journey can be joyful.
Studies have proven that people who describe themselves as being grateful are frequently more optimistic and enthusiastic about life. It is also found that they suffer less stress and apparently, are less likely to experience clinical depression.
Oprah helped to enlighten people a few years ago, by pointing out just how powerful being grateful can be. She encouraged everyone to keep a gratitude journal and write down 5 things at the end of each day that they were grateful for. Try it. It can be a powerful life changer.
Consciously create a new pathway of thought in your brain. Retrain your brain. Start off your year with a new and positive habit. Change how you think and work on developing your own attitude of gratitude.