Christmas + mental health

Not another mental health post, some of you may be thinking. Where are the pretty travel pictures and travel stories, others of you may ask.

They’re here. I’ve got them. I cannot wait to share them, but with only nine days to go until Christmas I have something else on my mind.

Mental health. Not mental illness, not mental disorder, and certainly not mental problems. Mental health.

Christmas to my family is incredibly important, we love Christmas. We love being together and cooking and sharing thoughtful gifts, blasting Christmas music and wearing silly hats and telling terrible jokes from our Christmas crackers. My favourite memory of many of my christmases will always be that moment when I simply could not continue, I was full and exhausted, I’d had a day of fun and it was finally time for bed. I will always hear my mum and dad saying Merry Christmas darlin’ as I headed to bed each year. That is my favourite Christmas memory.

The holiday season is not always a happy time for some, for some people it brings with it memories of loss, a time of grieving, feelings of sadness and confusion. For some it means nothing but anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts.

Christmas is hectic. The holidays can be a real trigger for many people out there and we have a responsibility to check in on others.

For one of my friends, she lost her Mother on Christmas Eve. Another lost her best friend to depression on Christmas Day. Some people no longer have anyone to put their tree up with them. There are families who cannot afford to eat. Families without homes. Families doing their best to keep everything together, even though it seems impossible.

My favourite Big Issue vendor in Brisbane, Nathan is someone who stands outside of the 7/11 on Adelaide Street and wishes a Merry Christmas to ever single person who walks past him. I always make the time to stop and ask him how he is and have a chat. December brings with it a lot of hurt and sadness to his life. Not only is he homeless, but he lost his Mother, Step-Dad and his brother in various December’s. Still he wishes you a Merry Christmas. When I see people ignore him or even scowl at him I feel nothing but disgrace for the human race.

Last year, the week before Christmas, Nathan was telling everyone it would be his last week in Brisbane, he was moving to Hervey Bay to be with his son. His happiness was contagious, he hadn’t been that genuinely happy in months. I was silently rooting for him.

When I saw him on that same corner in January, my heart broke for him.

Missing out on the Portman’s dress you wanted for Christmas is not a tragedy. Working Christmas Eve instead of partying with your friends is not sad. Spending Christmas with your family-in-law or annoying Uncle / Cousin / Sibling is not depressing. They are all circumstantial situations.

I want you to enjoy your Christmas, be kind to everyone. Forget misgivings, remove toxic people from your life. Remember the reason for the season and practice kindness. Smile at your Big Issue vendor, if you have $7, buy a magazine. Chat with them. Ask how are you and be ready to listen and to mean it. Be socially aware.

Christmas is not shopping. Christmas is not presents. Christmas is not enduring Christmas with family, it’s an honour.

Christmas is love.

Practice love, always.

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Personal Freedom & the human spirit.

The women in my family carry guilt and regret like you would not believe. In many ways, it is slightly ridiculous – you shouldn’t be thinking about something you said in 2006, at 2.30am on a Sunday night/Monday morning (as I was this week).

Personal Freedom – doesn’t it sound fantastic? The thought of it is absolutely liberating, how I would love to have better control of my emotions – to no longer be my number one enemy. I found my next book through a list on Pinterest or the internet somewhere, under the guise of ’20-something books you should read’ (apologies, I cannot remember exactly the context of the list, but it was generally along the same lines).

The Four Agreements (A Toltec Wisdom Book), by Don Miguel Ruiz (1997): A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. I borrowed this book from the library when I was feeling very down and disjointed, I thought maybe I could (as well as counselling and new medication), try to obtain knowledge on how to stop beating myself up so much. Don explains that Toltec knowledge has been embodied and passed on through generations, veiled in secrecy, ancient prophesies and it arises from the same essential unity of truth as many sacred traditions found around the world. It is not a religion as such, but it does honour spiritual mastery taught on Earth.

The Four Agreements[Thank you to Jill Conyers for the images – via Pinterest]

1Be Impeccable with your word – speak the truth. Speak the honest truth. Live your honest spoken truth. This is the hardest one to master and I definitely think after reading Don’s book, the hardest one to honour. It is the reflections you have with yourself and with others. Your word has the ability to permanently wound or lift another person up (or yourself). The words you speak, form agreements. What you say about yourself – becomes an agreement (you believe what you say). What you say to others is also an agreement. As Don very powerfully wrote – ‘the power of the word is completely misused in hell. We use the word to curse, to blame, to find guilt, to destroy. Of course, we also use it in the right way, but not too often. Mostly we use the word to spread our personal poison – to express anger, jealousy, envy and hate’. After reading this I most certainly will be more mindful of the ‘black poison’ I too spread both within myself and on others. Our spoken word becomes an agreement, the words/thoughts/message is out there. We all need to be a little more mindful, a little gentler and certainly more honourable.

2Don’t take anything personally – Nothing other people do, is personal. Other people’s actions are completely outside of your control. This goes for actions and spoken words. Don’s states that we ‘take it personally because we agree with whatever was said, as soon as we agree, the poison goes through us and we are then trapped with this’. Just remember – nothing other people do is because of us, it is because of themselves. Just remember ‘whatever people do, fee3l, think, or say, don’t take it personally’.

3Don’t make assumptions – As Don states and as we all know, we, as humans, make assumptions about everything. When we make assumptions, we then assume and believe this to be the truth. Don writes that all the sadness and drama we have lived is due to assumptions we have made. Whilst I am not prepared to blame all of my sadness and drama on assumptions, I ABSOLUTELY believe this statement to be, in part, the truth. The quote for this agreement I have noted is ‘Whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally; and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing’.

4Always do your best – Under any circumstance, just do your best. You cannot be criticised for not doing your best. Your best will change over time, and as you develop the above three agreements, this fourth one will also develop. My favourite quote for this one is ‘Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your family, to your community, to everything, but it is the action that is going to make you feel intensely happy’.

So I myself personally, will be working on breaking my old agreements. I am striving for personal freedom, at the moment I am not free. I am not free from negative thoughts or destructive patterns, I am not free to be who I want to be, my spirit is not yet free.

I will continue to work towards this though and if you, like me, every suspect your personal freedom is at risk – then what have you got to lose reading this book?

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

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I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

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Finding my Zen – Part 4 (tea, candles and colouring-in)…

I woke up nice and early this morning, I have been sleeping with the blinds open and waking with the sun, which is quite nice. Mum’s dog has become my new best friend since I got here on Saturday, our family dog passed away last year and it has left a gigantic hole in all of our hearts, so it is nice to bond with Greta. Typically our dogs have always slept in our laundry, so Greta was beyond excited to be sleeping in my room with me.

When I did get up, I found myself automatically reaching for my phone – to (as per usual), start my day by looking through my social media account son my phone. This is toxic, I am convinced that this habit is one of the worst ones our generation has. So I deleted FaceBook and Instagram from my phone. I haven’t deleted my accounts but I have taken them off of my phone. I don’t want to be obsessed with my phone and this is not the first time I have had to do it. At first it builds out of habit, then boredom and then before you know it, it is as automatic as breathing and that is not healthy.

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Guess how many times I automatically went to my phone throughout the morning to check? I lost count, how sad is that? Once lunch had passed, I knew not to check and I felt good – felt as though I was not a slave to my phone. Which is always nice! I also turned off all of the notifications which were coming through to my phone, so I could actually enjoy a proper break.

I spent the morning out in the garden, playing with my camera and trying to work out all of the new settings, I had no idea how markedly different my 80D was going to be to the 550D and I really want to be able to master it, before our big trip this year!

I also managed to force myself to go to the gym and get my blood moving, try to get some movement. It just felt like the same old routine though, so was not at all relaxing. I really need to learn yoga or pilates or something.

I have started reading more about where we are traveling this year, looking up fun activities we can do while we are away. It is the equivalent of daydreaming and I love every second of it. I am really glad I have taken some time just to relax, to stand on the grass and be in the sun and have cuddles wth a tiny sweet dog. As well as be able to say goodnight to my Mum in person and go to sleep in our home together. It is definitely the thing you miss the most when you move out!

IMG_9316Mum and I had dinner together, we watched some t.v and then I decided to finally have a go at the therapy colouring-in book. I have tried to do this in the past but have become bored within 5 minutes, so never finished one. Last night however, with my relaxation music playing in the background, I spent around an hour on one picture and it worked, I felt relaxed. It calmed me, I could almost feel myself taking deeper breaths. Amazing!

As much as I am loving being here, I am also really missing my Husband. I am going to try to do something lovely tomorrow, before I head back up to Brisbane. Not too sure what that is just yet, but sure I can put something together.

Happy Tuesday!

x C x

 

Finding my Zen – Part 3 (storms and sprinkles)

Day 3, of my initial 5-day ‘reset’ plan moved much slower and more peacefully than day 2 and that gives me hope! I woke up relatively early and decided to do a jail-break with my Niece and head out of a look at the beach and get a coffee. My Niece has just turned four and she is one of my favourite humans.

 

It has been raining pretty intensely here in Queensland, so the weather was not the best heading out, but in saying that – have you ever seen the coastline after there has been a storm? It is absolutely beautiful!

There is something so calming about watching the surf roll in, especially when there is such power behind the waves, we took our picnic blanket and an umbrella and sat by the water and just enjoyed the view for a while.

IMG_9676On our way back my Niece ‘shouted’ us a drink (Mum had given her some money, adorable) – we stopped into the local coffee shop near Mum’s house and I watched little L ask the server ‘Hello, can I please have a baby-chino with one white marshmallow and one pink marshmallow….and a toffee for my Bunty’  (toffee = coffee & Bunty = Aunty). It was so sweet and when she found sprinkles on her baby-chino there was a perfectly delivered ‘I didn’t see that coming!’. So cute.

My Niece also held me hostage into the ‘when are you having a baby’ conversation. We don’t really discuss that in our family, we get that it just is not anyone else’s business to pry or harass each other. My Husband and I have been together for nearly five years now and I would say people have been asking us for four of those (people outside of my family). In saying that though, a four year old asking is cute, not invasive. I feel like at the end of the chat she was semi-satisfied with my vague responses.

I had a really nice and calm dinner with my parents, watched some lazy t.v with them and also just listened to music and did…nothing. It was nice.

IMG_9686Then I realised I had not really challenged myself for the day, I had been comfortable and had a real sense of peace after such a nice day, but I had not done anything to challenge myself or push my limits. So (and don’t laugh because this was big for me),  jumped on AirTasker, decided to push myself – tried to get a couple of jobs. Came close but ultimately no cigar. The extra cash would have been nice, as well as doing something outside of my comfort circle, but it was not meant to be. Which was okay.

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I was a tradie for the evening when all the power went out, it was raining and everyone was asleep. I would like to say I did it all on my own, but really I had to ring my sister and asked her where the fuse box was. Anyway, somehow I managed to solve that at midnight and I was pleased as punch in myself. My Husband has asked me to refrain from calling myself a tradie for this one heroic act though.

I guess the best part of Sunday evening, was knowing I was not working on Monday and realising that taking some time off just to relax and spend some time with my family was the best choice I could have made.\

x C x

 

Finding my Zen – Part 2 (a five day turnaround is not looking good…)

Day one. Okay, so there were no earth-shattering revelations or learnings in terms of self-help, no defining Eat, Pray, Love moment and I am far from centred. I did do a few things out of order though, to shake things up.

pexels-photo-904616.jpegI slept in. Until 9am. This was super weird, I felt lazy and all in all a bit strange.
I did not go to the gym. On a Saturday. Which is normally habit for me.

I drove in sh*tty peak-hour traffic down the coast on a Saturday, in the rain. Again, something I passionately avoid. I did NOT lose my mind doing it. Made it to mums, discovered my step-father had AGAIN left the wrong keys out. Could not get into the house. Again did not lose my mind, just tried every one of the 73,467 locks/doors around the house until I had success with the screen door and got inside.

I decided to explore the bush out the back of my mums house. I was overly ambitious and thought a toy poodle and i would go for a casual stroll down to the creek. It turned into a mild rescue mission, with a historical poodle losing her mind and me billy-goating my way back up the hill. Followed by intense sweating and all in all, a dismal physical display. There are likely bush turkeys laughing somewhere.

 

My sister and niece showed up at mum’s not that long after and then my mum, step-dad and nephew showed up. Cue mass excitement and noise. Again, this is not something challenging, in fact it is one of my favourite things in the world – loud noises, and mass family excitement is something which will always make my heart happy.

IMG_9267I went swimming in the rain (in the pool, not the ocean – I’m not quite that brave). It doesn’t sound that crazy, but I had already washed my hair and I threw caution (stop laughing) to the wind and leapt into the pool, in the rain – without even checking the temperature (stunt-woman?). Then my four year old niece and one year old nephew also came barrelling into the pool on top of me. We had an amazing time and swam until our lips were blue. To top this day off with another ridiculous thing I did, I slept without closing the blinds, and stared out at the moon and the stars as I drifted away.

I am out of control. Seriusly, somebody stop me! Okay. So I did a few things differently. I would give myself probably a 1/5 in stretching myself beyond my comfort zone. I will try harder on Sunday.

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How do you challenge yourself? Do you have any tips for me? I would love to hear them!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see!

Please note, I am not paid any sponsorships at all, I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels

x C

 

Finding my Zen – Part 1 (P.S – I have no zen, I am zen-less)

woman-hand-desk-office.jpgAs of 2016 there were 7.442 billion people in the world, 24.13 million in Australia, 4.691 million of these in Queensland and of that, there are 2.4 million are in Brisbane. As one of these 2.4 million people, I am very happily married, have a decent social life, work full-time in the Brisbane CBD (which I do love). I live in a set of 6 units, in a busy area and also take public transport to work. I go to the gym (also quite busy), try to run my social media / blogging accounts, message/call and FaceTime my friends and of course shop/clean/cook and immerse myself in books and tv where I can. So taking all of this into consideration and admitting that I am not living in Betoota, how can someone with such constant exposure to human contact and people feel so…alone?

pexels-photo-867453.jpegFor the last month I have gradually (and then very rapidly) felt my mind disconnecting itself from my body. I feel as though I have been observing myself, rather than living my day to day practices. Gym + work + routine +sleep – repeat. I get it, this is life, it is how every other functioning adult segways from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday and so on. I have worked full-time since I left high school, without a break. My reward for working hard has always been travel every 1-2 years, normally for 4-5 weeks, sometimes for less and just once for more.

pexels-photo-287240.jpegOur next big trip (the trip of a lifetime if you will) is in September this year, we have been talking about, planning and dreaming about this trip for five years. It is coming up on us fast. yet six months is still you know, SIX months away. I think the constant routine, saving money and the same day in, day out repeat has finally weighed on me. What a bizarre situation to find yourself in – no real acute event or clear source to pin where things changed, where you lost your spark. It has happened though. On a humorous note, I commenced a 12 week no-drinking challenge as of New Years Eve and it has been brought to my attention that my attitude is 100% worse than what it was when I was drinking. So pro-tip, quitting drinking does not make you feel better, it has in fact, made me feel bloody dreadful.

pexels-photo-372281.jpegSo seeing it is only March and I feel like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards, I clearly need to do something about this. This is not a normal or appropriate amount (or lack thereof) energy to have at 31 (I will not say 32 until my birthday looks me in the face). I normally save my annual leave days the way a butcherbird stockpiles snacks, but given the state of mind and intense feeling of fatigue (and an unwelcome reoccurrence of high cortisol and hypertension), it is time to take a few days off and re-set the clock.

I have come down to one of my favourite places on earth, my mum’s house. I am armed with x2 books – which I plan to read.I have my togs for swimming. Will try to get some swimming in, will have a crack at meditation and will also try to take some photos. I actually have zero clue on how to relax. Can you be rejuvenated after only a week? What are your tips?

I would love to hear them!

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see!

Please note, I am not paid any sponsorships at all, I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

To follow me on Instagram click here – courtneygaye_travels