Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Life is Getting Us Down in 2020

This year I’ve noticed many more people talking about how they’re feeling demotivated, distressed, fed-up and down in the dumps.  Many people have begun to let their healthy diet and exercise routines slide, and their waistline expand.  The affects of the global pandemic on our well-being are really starting to become apparent as it drags on with no end in sight. The uncertainty, isolation and risks to our health and lifestyle are all factors in causing this decrease in our state of well-being.

Our well-being won’t just miraculously improve if we don’t make an effort to change our routines.  We have to work at it because it’s all too easy to be lazy and get into bad habits.  Frequently people get into a rut and can’t see any end to their current situation.  It’s as if a black cloud is over their head.  A few down days can lead to depression.

Clinical depression needs to be treated by health care professionals such as psychologists and medical doctors. (I am not a trained professional in these fields. Please refer to my disclaimer. This article should be used for informational purposes only).   I’m not talking about depression in this article, rather the low mood that many of us are experiencing due to the current pandemic.  If your mood has not improved after a few weeks, please seek professional help. 

How I’m Working on Improving My Well-being 

I talked recently about how my long recovery from surgery has been affecting my well-being.   As time drags on and I’m still not well enough to go back to work, I’ve had days where I feel really down in the dumps.  What have I been doing to help myself deal with these feelings?  

I’ve had to be proactive and work at maintaining my mental health.  My tendency to shut down and go into a shell, wallowing in misery, didn’t work for me in the past.  Over time I’ve found there are activities I can do to improve my mood.

When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being.  The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood
When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being. The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood

How to Use All 5 Senses to Improve Your Well-being When Life Is Getting You Down

You can use all five senses to improve your mood and your well-being.   For example, who can deny that the fresh whiff of coffee in the morning doesn’t immediately heighten your sense of smell?  Or that a warm hug from someone you love doesn’t make you feel calmer and happier? I am a very sensory person, and I’ve found the following have helped:

  • TOUCH: I had a massage.  I normally have a remedial full body massage but I still can’t lie on my front so I had a sitting massage instead.  To make the most of it I used deep breathing techniques to relax my muscles.  These tiny Thai masseurs are so strong, you feel like you’ve done 3 rounds with a sumo wrestler!  But it works.
  • SOUND: Listening to uplifting music.  I was born in the 60s so I love 70s and 80s music.  I can sing as loud as I like to my favourite hits  and it’s always a mood booster.
  • SMELL: A splash of my favourite perfume lifts my spirits.  I don’t save my scent for special occasions.   I use it daily because it makes me feel better to smell nice.  Using scented candles and reed diffusers has also helped.
  • SIGHT: Taking time to watch the sunset, or admire a beautiful scene is uplifting.  While I’m out walking my dog every day I take time to look at my surroundings.   I’m lucky to live where I have lovely parks and waterways nearby.  My dog’s a social butterfly so we end up meeting lots of dogs and their owners.  It’s nice to say hello or stop and chat if they’re up for it.
  • TASTE: I’ve done lots of cooking.  It’s starting to show as the weight’s starting to creep up.  Only 1kg but since I lost 17kg last year I’m very wary of gaining any weight.  So I’ve gone back to basics and getting back on a healthy diet.  It’s easy to grab convenience food when you’re feeling low, but taking the effort to prepare fresh food will boost your mood.  Eating lots of fruit and vegetables,  quality protein and healthy fats will make you feel more energised.

Other Ways I’m Boosting My Mood

Sometimes we have to push ourselves to be proactive in improving our well-being.   I know what depression is like and it’s easy for me to slide into that state of mind.  Rather than just allowing myself to stay in a rut, I push myself to do activities that I know will boost my mood.  

I credit my improved sense of well-being to the following:

  • Putting a bit of make-up on every day.  Then I don’t feel so daggy.
  • I’ve had a couple of phone sessions with a counsellor.   Getting the perspective of an impartial person about my long recovery time has really helped.  My takeaway from the sessions – I’ve been looking after everyone else for the last 30 plus years so it’s time to look after myself.  And let others look after me (which I find hard to do).  
  • I’ve been spending time socialising.  My nature is an introverted homebody so I  tend to stay home where I’m in my comfort zone.  I know that the most uplifting activity for me is having meaningful conversations with people.  So I make an effort to meet someone to talk over coffee or a meal.  Phoning them is the next best thing.  It improves my well-being so much.
  • I’ve been de-cluttering and tidying.  Just one area of the house at a time.  There’s nothing better than a good cleanout!  I can’t do too much housework because it increases the pain and swelling, so I just do a little bit every day.
  • I’ve been spending time in my garden every day.  Spring is upon us in Australia and the spring growth has begun.  It’s been a very long winter because time has dragged by for me and I’m really looking forward to warmer weather.  We’re lucky to have a pond with fountains in our garden.  The sound of cascading water is music to my soul.
We have a pond with fountains. The sound of the water trickling is music to my soul. I love the sound and find it very calming

What ways do you use to improve your well-being?  Share them here so others can benefit.

Just a head’s up, I saw my surgeon a couple of days ago, and because my swelling and pain are ongoing he’s going to operate again on Monday.  I’ll be in hospital for a few days and have a drain for a few weeks.  While I’m in hospital I won’t be allowed visitors which will be horrible. Not having the support of my family will be really hard but I know this is necessary to assist my healing and prevent further complications.

Because of this, I may be a bit inconsistent with my blog for the next few weeks.

shared on Life this Week, a linkup by Denyse Whelan

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2020 – My Unpredictable Year

2020 My Unpredictable Year

2020: The Year That Changed Everything

Who could have predicted how 2020 would pan out?  This has been my most unpredictable year to date, and that’s saying something.  It feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under me, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. It has been an unpredictable year for many reasons, both personal and external. Change and uncertainty can add to the emotional burden of the other world events such as the pandemic.

“Life is What Happens To Us When We’re Making Other Plans”

Allen Saunders, 1957

At the dawn of the New Year I wrote a post Don’t Hold Back.  Full of optimism and excitement for the year ahead, I planned to learn new skills and apply for positions that would take my career into a new direction.  My older son, inspired by my enthusiasm, planned to travel and push his music career to new levels.  We often talk about how our year has not panned out in the way we planned it.

My son had to put his music on hold while we were in lockdown – he couldn’t drive to Brisbane to practice with his band, and gigs were cancelled for months while venues were closed.  He was extremely frustrated – musicians need to perform.  When their creativity is put on hold a major part of themselves is affected.  Travel is also out of the question.

"Life is What Happens to Us When We're Making Other Plans" Allen Saunders.  Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.
“Life is What Happens to Us When We’re Making Other Plans” Allen Saunders. Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.

Changes in the Family Home

The first shock of the year came when my other son decided to move out.  The Half Empty Nest is the post I wrote at the time when I was going through a grieving process as I came to terms with it.  As it turns out, I’ve coped very well with my son moving out and very soon my other son is leaving too, then I’ll be an empty nester for the first time in 28 years!  It’s wonderful to see my sons “adulting” – they need to move out for their own personal growth.

BRCA2 and its Impact on my Health

The next shock, in February, was my diagnosis of a genetic mutation, BRCA2, which increases my risk of cancer.  At the beginning of this year I would not have believed that I would have four operations, two of them to fix complications from the other two, and that I would have most of this year off work.  My recovery has been prolonged, and at this stage I’m looking at even more time off work. 

 As a Registered Nurse in a busy surgical ward, I am unable to return until I can complete my role 100%, including performing CPR and patient handling.  The loss of that role has been extremely upsetting to me.  I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years and it’s part of my identity.  It’s taking me a while to come to terms with that.  The impact of the surgeries and complications has also taken a toll.  My body is different now, and I have new issues to deal with that will remain with me for life.

Pandemic Pandemonium

March saw the Pandemic drive us all into lockdown.  I doubt if anyone in the world has not been affected in some way from Covid-19.  I’ve been isolated from some of my family since then, and unable to spend time with some of my closest loved ones.  Not being able to travel to be with family during life-changing events like a death in the family, has taken its toll on many of us.  

I’ve now been at home recovering since mid-May, and had time off prior to that for my first operation.  The only positive is that I’ve been able to spend time on my blog, and work on my website to get it the way I want.  I really don’t know how I would have coped without this to do.  I would have gone crazy with boredom!

New Home for Midlifestylist

In the last two weeks I have moved my website from WordPress.com to a different platform.  I’ve been busy trying to get my website back up and functioning.  In the transfer process the last seven blog posts did not migrate to the new host, so I’ve been republishing them.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.  

I am so glad I took the plunge and transferred my website.  The potential is amazing – I have lots of ideas on which direction I want to take Midlifestylist, so watch this space!

Ongoing Health Issues and the Emotional Toll 

In order to cope with massive life changing events and my health issues, my ability to cope emotionally has been under strain.  I’m not coping as well as I was a few weeks ago when I thought that my life would be back to normal by now.  I reached out and I’m going to talk to a counselor to help me to adjust.

I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that you need counseling.  When your sleep is getting affected, and you’re crying at the drop of a hat, it’s time.  I’ll be looking into other ways to assist as well, like meditation and mindfulness.  Being proactive with your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I hope this resonates with some of my readers, and they find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in feeling stressed by the unpredictable events of this year.  Our ability to cope with all that 2020 has given us has been pushed to the limit.  Seek help if you’re not coping.  Don’t struggle through on your own.

I need to follow my own advice and take time for self care.  Read my two articles If you’re feeling stressed – Prioritising Self Care and Journalling as a Self Care Activity.

Please share – someone may need to read this today.

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Staying positive despite setbacks

Updates on Midlifestylist

It’s five weeks since my bilateral mastectomies and in that time there have been triumphs and setbacks. I’ve been trying to stay positive even though things have not gone as planned, and my recovery has been slow. I’ve been filling my time to help deal with my recovery time at home.

First the triumphs:

Midlifestylist News:

  • Midlifestylist is now officially a business! I registered the business name on the Australian Business Register and applied for an ABN (Australian Business Number). It’s exciting to see my business name on official documents. I first thought of the name seven years ago and bought a domain name but didn’t officially start my blog until October 2019. If I start earning money through my website I’ll need to pay tax so I thought it would be worth registering the name officially.
  • While I’ve been at home healing I completed a legal course for my website. I knew I’d need to get the legal side of things done before my website grew any further but haven’t had the time to sit down and tackle it until now. The course was very beneficial and included all the templates for Terms and Conditions, Disclosures, Privacy Policy and Disclaimers. A blogger that I follow had her blog plagiarised by a B-grade celebrity who made thousands of dollars off a book that she compiled from 4 or 5 bloggers’ work. The course I did covers copyright and what to do if your work is plagiarised. I recommend this course and if you’re interested, click the link highlighted. The basic course is free. If you buy one of the other courses I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Read the full disclosure here.

Personal news:

  • My niece Ally, her friend Coralee and I raised over $1000 for breast cancer research by taking part in the GO PINK campaign. We dyed our hair pink and did a live feed which was a lot of fun.
  • My husband and I baked bread for the first time. He did all the mixing and kneading because I’m still not able to do anything strenuous. We ate 3/4 of the loaf with some homemade vegetable soup because it was so moreish. We have a bread-maker on order but it won’t come until July. It looks like everyone else had the same idea when there were shortages of everything in the shops.
  • Our vegetable garden is thriving and we’re already eating produce from it. Every year it improves because with trial and error we’re finding the best ways to do things. The weather has been perfect for growing too with lovely sunny days and plenty of rain. Winter really is the perfect time of the year in Queensland.
  • I’ve been collaborating with other bloggers on some projects which are new and exciting. One of the best things about blogging is the community of like-minded individuals that you meet online. Reading their blogs gives you another perspective as well.
Freshly baked bread - learning new skills and trying new recipes have been some of the ways I have filled my time
Freshly baked bread

Now the setbacks:

  • I still have a lot of swelling and the wound is taking a long time to heal because of the massive post-op bleed I had on the left side. I had to have another course of antibiotics and I’ve been very restricted in what I’m allowed to do. I’m supposed to start back at work on Monday but I’m not up to that because nursing is a very active job and I’m not allowed to lift anything or do strenuous work yet. I was referred to a haematologist to try to get to the bottom of why I bled so much. It may be genetic because I’ve had a few other instances in my life of unexplained bleeding. There have been days when it all gets too much and I’ll be very down in the dumps and cry, but I’m able to bounce back and am in a positive frame of mind most of the time. I’ve had a lot of support so that definitely helps.
  • Because my mobility has been restricted I’ve been very tired at times. The worst week was when my husband went back to work after looking after me for 3 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to drive so was catching the bus and tram which meant catching 2 buses to get to my doctors’ appointments and 2 home, plus walking. I can drive short distances now and that’s been a huge improvement. We hired dog walkers so that my dog didn’t miss out on his walk and now that I can drive I can take him to a dog park where I can park so close that he can jump out of the car and go straight onto the off-leash area so I don’t have to hold his lead. He’s a big boy and at the moment I’m not up to him pulling on his lead.

The Pandemic and Social Distancing

The social distancing laws are gradually easing in Australia which is a big relief. The border between Queensland and New South Wales will open in a couple of weeks so I’ll finally be able to visit my brother who lives an hour away. We have a camping trip planned for the last weekend in August which has been delayed twice before. We’re really hoping we’ll be able to go this time. My sister-in-law’s 50th birthday party can finally go ahead as well – she was waiting for restrictions to ease. It has an Alice in Wonderland theme so I’ve been making a costume – watch this space as I may be brave enough to publish photos!

I hope all my readers are staying well and coping with whatever restrictions are on in your part of the world. This year has certainly put a lot of stress on to people and we’re all having to cope with current events. There’s still a lot of unrest from the Black Lives Matter movement, which I wrote about in my last post. I hope that this year’s events bring about lasting change for the better. The world has now woken up and it would be awesome if we all learnt the lessons that are available to us.

Taking my dog for a walk daily has been one of my favourite activities while recovering from surgery
Taking my dog for a walk daily has been one of my favourite activities while recovering from surgery

While recovering from surgery there are triumphs and setbacks. It’s important to stay positive and look to the future as this period in my life won’t last forever. I don’t regret making the decision to do risk-reducing surgery as it means my chances of getting cancer are reduced almost to zero. No matter how hard things seem right now, it is important to focus on the bigger picture. I’ve been through much worse than this in the past and I know I have the inner strength to get through this as well.

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Our own shameful statistics on Black Deaths in Custody

The news coming out of the US after George Floyd’s death in custody was incredibly disturbing. What followed was shocking to witness. I heard again and again “It’s disgusting what’s happening in America”. The reality is, however, Australia is no better than America. We have our own shameful statistics of black deaths in custody. I’m writing this because I don’t want to stay silent. As Meghan Markle said “the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing.” If we want change, we have to speak up.

Some Background on my own Situation

I grew up in New Zealand, where my life was stable and lacking in exposure to prejudice and racism. We grew up very close to our Maori and Pacific Islander friends and relatives. I honestly never thought about race in context of who to make friends with when I was a child. We learnt Maori language at school and learning New Zealand history included learning Maori history and folklore which was an integral aspect of our culture. We all learned Maori songs, crafts and art – it was as part of our education as maths and English were. I don’t remember ever witnessing racism during my childhood. That’s not to say it wasn’t there, but it was not something I ever thought about.

It wasn’t until I moved to Australia in the 80’s as a 19 year old that I ever had prejudism focused on me. Australia in the ’80s was very different to today. Kiwis were allowed to emigrate to Australia without any barriers and we had a bad name for coming here and going straight on the dole. We were allowed immediate access to Australia’s welfare system and it was very easy to become a permanent resident and citizen. Consequently we were not always welcome here. I had a very hard time applying for jobs and frequently had the phone slammed in my ear as soon as they heard my Kiwi accent. We were regarded as bludgers and probably deserved it due to many of my fellow Kiwis taking advantage of the system.

I eventually did get a job, but not until I applied for a Government department that advertised their policy of equal opportunity no matter what race, sex, religion or sexuality you were. I pointed out the policy in my interview, and I like to think that my cheekiness had something to do with why I got that job. These days it is much easier to be accepted by employers but equal opportunity in those days was a new concept. Now it is in legislature, and rightly so. While I did experience some discrimination because of being a New Zealander, this was in no way comparable to the level of racism and discrimination that is facing by people of colour here and throughout the world.

I had a bit of a naivity in those days. My nursing career began in 1987 in a public hospital in Brisbane. It opened my eyes to the health issues facing new migrants and Aboriginals. Seeing how their health outcomes were so much worse than the general population was disturbing. I wanted to do something to help – I thought that I could make a difference if I worked in a small community with a large Aboriginal population. Feeling driven to do something to help, I took a job in a small outback hospital in the Northern Territory.

I was in for a major culture shock. I soon realised that the problems facing Aboriginal communities were way more complex and ingrained than what I had anticipated. This naive 30 year old nurse was pretty useless, especially when trying to assess Aboriginals who were living very traditionally. My questions were met by amusement many times because of the cultural divide between myself and them. My ignorance was the problem. They are beautiful people who are proud and self sufficient – even when they are extremely sick they will still make their own way to the bathroom rather than have someone help them. Even though I’m disappointed that I really didn’t do much to change their health outcomes, I learnt more from my year in the Northern Territory than I did in 10 years in the city.

Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

The statistics on black deaths in custody are appalling, and not just in the US. In 1991 there was a Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The key finding of the royal commission was that Aboriginal people are more likely to die in custody because they are arrested and jailed at disproportionate rates. That remains as true in 2020 as it was in 1991. In 1991, 14.3% of the male prison population in Australia was Indigenous. In March 2020 it was 28.6%. According to data released by Australian Bureau of Statistics this month, 4.7% of all Indigenous men are in jail compared with just 0.3% of all non-Indigenous men.

At the time of the Royal Commission, as now, non-Indigenous people died in greater numbers, and at a greater rate, in custody than Indigenous people. But then, as now, Indigenous people made up just 3% of the total population. That means more Aboriginal people are imprisoned and dying as a proportion of their total population.

“The conclusions are clear,” royal commissioner Elliott Johnston QC wrote in 1991. “Aboriginal people die in custody at a rate relative to the proportion of the whole population which is totally unacceptable and which would not be tolerated if it occurred in the non-Aboriginal community. But this occurs … because the Aboriginal population is grossly over-represented in custody. Too many Aboriginal people are in custody too often.”

Source: Aboriginal deaths in custody: Black Lives Matter protests referred to our count of 432 deaths. It’s now 437, The Guardian, 9 June 2020

What is the Solution to the statistics on black deaths in custody?

There’s no easy solution, and it would be easy to put blame on the Government and politicians for these appalling figures. Prosecuting law enforcers as in the US in the case of George Floyd is definitely a step in the right direction. Police brutality in America has been in the headlines lately, but unfortunately Australian police have been guilty of excessive force as well, with a record including fatal shootings, excessive taser use and overly rough treatment during arrests. Despite evidence in some cases of excessive force or neglect by police or prison officers, there has never been a criminal conviction for a death in custody in Australia. Chris Hurley, the police officer accused of killing an Aboriginal man on Palm Island in 2004, was acquitted of manslaughter. Two police officers are currently facing murder charges for the deaths of Kumanjayi Walker in the Northern Territory and Joyce Clarke in Western Australia, and both have indicated they will plead not guilty. The police have the power to use force, but only within the conditions set out in the legislation of their state. Stronger guidelines around what constitutes excessive force by law enforcement, and more awareness of citizens’ rights needs to be in place. Source: Shine Lawyers

How can we help the Black Lives Matter movement?

How can we help empower black people within our communities? Ask them what they need. Listen to their concerns. They have been dealing with inequalities and injustices for centuries. It’s clear that in 2020 they’re frustrated – they shouldn’t have to fight to be heard, or criticised for attending the Black Lives Matter protests. We need to be woken up! Wotna Moris, a Papua New Guinean lawyer and political analyst, wrote a very inspiring piece on how the collective voices of black people around the world combine in this one voice that is the Black Lives Matter protests.

Systemic racial discrimination is a worldwide problem that black people have combated since slavery and colonisation. And in that battle, every step taken by one of us, towards equality, is a step taken by all of us and has always been.

Wotna Moris, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/09/australias-pacific-minister-called-black-lives-matter-protests-self-indulgent-he-couldnt-be-more-wrong

Meyne Wyatt told us exactly what he wants in his powerful monologue on the ABC’s Q&A programme. His moving speech grabs at your guts and makes you sit up and take notice. They’re angry. Angry after more than two centuries of racism and prejudism. That anger is fueling the Black Lives Matter protests in Australia and around the world. I understand it, and I want to help! The best way to help is to listen to what they are telling us.

Meyne Wyatt on racism

Educate yourself about culture

Educate yourselves with regards to their culture. This is what I noticed with the difference between my education in NZ and my Australian counterparts. We were immersed in the Maori culture. We didn’t regard it as separate from ourselves. It was part of us. My Australian friends knew very little about Aboriginal culture, whereas we knew a lot. Education brings tolerance. If I had done my nursing training in New Zealand there would have been a requirement to learn so much of the language and have cultural understanding before I was registered. That goes a long way towards tolerance and respect of their cultural differences.

Children aren’t born with cultural biases – it is learned. Education needs to start very young.

In Respect of the Traditional Aboriginal Owners of my own City

In saying this, I realised I do not know anything about the traditional owners of the city in which I live. I need to educate myself so that I can show appropriate respect for the land on which I live. Aboriginal culture is very much entwined with the land. They were the original environmentalists who knew how to respect their land, and receive nourishment from it without stripping it of resources. Australian landscapes can be harsh but they found enough food to sustain them during drought, often traveling vast distances to achieve it. They know how to regenerate the land after bushfire and other natural disasters, all too common in Australia.

I live in the Gold Coast, a very glitzy city which caters for tourists – it is well known for Surfers Paradise, the theme parks and beaches. What isn’t as well known is that it is the traditional home of the Yugambeh people. The Yugambeh language people are the traditional custodians of the land located in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales, now within the Logan City, Gold Coast, Scenic Rim, and Tweed City regions whose ancestors all spoke one or more dialects of the Yugambeh Language. 

We acknowledge and pay respect to the land and the traditional families of the Yugambeh region of South East Queensland, including the Kombumerri, Mununjali, Wangerriburra and others, and their Elders past present and emerging.

https://www.yugambeh.com/faq

One of the most popular beaches in the Gold Coast is Burleigh. Burleigh was the ancestral home of the Kombumerri Tribe known as “The Salt Water People”. It is believed they lived in the area for thousands of years until around 1936 when they ceased holding their ceremonies there but many of the people remained at Burleigh Heads. The Aboriginal name for Big Burleigh is Jellurgul; Little Burleigh is Jebbribillum or the Waddy of Jebreen. Jellurgul meaning sugar bag or bee’s nest. Other reports from later say Big Burleigh was Jayling (black) and Gumbelmoy (rock), named after the volcanic black basalt rock of the headland. There is a cultural centre in Burleigh called Jellurgal where it is possible to learn more about Aboriginal culture. Source: https://www.burleigh.com.au/history.html

Burleigh Beach, Gold Coast, Australia

Moving forwards …

As a final note, I urge you to stand up to racism and prejudism when you see it. Be aware of your own biases, as we all have them. Speak up if you see someone being intolerant of anyone else. We must stand up for those who do not have a voice, those who have been pushed down their whole lives. I do not know what it is like to live in fear every time I step out my door because of the colour of my skin. I acknowledge my own white privilege. It’s only by standing together that we can overcome this problem in our society.

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