My Yoga Journal – Letting go of my FOMO

Etsy cusion

fomo_definitionAt the beginning of the year I deactivated my personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts just to see what would happen. The universe tends to whisper things to me like “could you be feeling exposed, paranoid and anxious because of Facebook?” Or, “have you noticed how depressed you feel after spending hours on the computer – mostly on Facebook?”

It reminds me of the film “The Matrix”, when Morpheus gives Neo the choice of the red or blue pill: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

I chose the blue pill because, quite frankly, the rabbit-hole blows my tiny mind.

It’s not that I was on Facebook for hours, but as I run my business from home – which of course has a Facebook page (I’m happy to WORK in Wonderland, I just don’t want to LIVE there!) –  I would dip into my personal “feed” as a means of a mental break (having given up the fags last year – Facebook has to be healthier than that, right?). But the Facebook mini-break meant an hour at the computer became three.

If the kids were home while I was trying to “work” I would get snappy with them for “interrupting” me when I was trying to get a work project finished – when really it was me who was wasting my own precious time!  I think Annemaree calls that “projecting” (that which annoys me about me I find fault with in you).

So, I listened to the whispers of the universe and I dropped out. Like an addict having to throw the whiskey bottles in the bin I had to fully deactivate accounts, unsubscribe from lists and delete apps from all of my various devices – I had to go completely cold turkey.

Once I did this, the mutterings of the universe got louder and louder. I kept seeing articles about more and more people feeling the same way. I read once (probably on Pinterest – and I re-pinned it of course!) that “comparison is the thief of joy”. Facebook had become for me a yard stick against which to measure my life in comparison to others’. And it did steal my joy. It gave me feelings of anxiety, of inferiority, of missing out.

From a yogic perspective, one cannot possibly live “in the moment” when you are constantly thinking up your next status update or checking what else is happening; what else you could be doing; where else you could be. This friends, is FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. There is no place for FOMO, or living fearfully, in a yogic life.

Oddly, in this desperation for connecting with one another, we are becoming so utterly disconnected from ourselves and one another. I absolutely cannot bear it when someone is checking their phone whilst I am having dinner with them. It is like meeting someone at a party who is looking over your shoulder to see if there is someone more interesting in the room. And please, keep it in your handbag and not on the table!

In the early days of “dropping out”, if I had a compulsion to share something (an outrageously witty, insightful, fleeting thought) I would send a text message to my husband, or my best girlfriend. Neither of whom are – nor have ever been – on Facebook! The irony is too delicious. So, two of the most important people in my life who know me better than anyone else and actually care what I think, have been excluded from an inner life I chose to share publicly with acquaintances.

Now, when I take a gorgeous photo of my children being funny, weird, angelic or outrageous – I email it to my husband. Their father. Probably the only person actually interested in seeing a photo of my kids. Previously, he missed out on this. By not being on Facebook, I am in more regular contact with my husband – just sharing nice things throughout the day. I am closer to him. I am not excluding him.

When my friends hear from me, via phone call, SMS or email, they can be assured that I have put real thought into who actually receives contact from me. This makes THEM feel special. More importantly the people who HAVE NOT heard from me don’t know! They can’t see who I am in contact with and can’t be hurt by assuming a non-existent, passive-aggressive snub.

I have to confess that Pinterest and Instagram have slipped back through the net. Although, in the absence of the true ego-fest that is Facebook I am questioning what the point is of Pinterest? Am I creating a persona for the world to see by pinning pictures of clothes I don’t own, interiors I don’t have, words I don’t live by and food I don’t cook onto boards so people I don’t know will think I’m terribly stylish and interesting?

I reinstated Instagram mainly to keep in touch with our extended families who are photo-mad Insta-fanatics. They all travel far and wide doing terribly interesting things so it is always lovely to see a photo of where they are and what they’re up to – and share our interesting exploits too. But, I think I need to cull the list of Instagrammers I am following – if I see one more damn photo of someone’s smoked salmon and poached eggs on sourdough I will bring up my own breakfast.

By “missing out” I have more time, better relationships, less anxiety and I receive a lot more phone calls from people who ACTUALLY want to talk to me!  So, let go of FOMO and embrace JOMO! The JOY of missing out.

Until next time we meet,

Om & Out

AQAxxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton

Image: http://www.etsy.com (Yes, you can buy FOMO cushions)

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My Yoga Journal: Out With the Old and In With the New

Six weeks ago I quit sugar.  I didn’t think it would be too difficult as I didn’t think I had much in my diet anyway.  How wrong I was.

Whilst not a sweet-tooth I have been staggered to learn just how much “incidental” sugar was in EVERYTHING I ATE.  I’ve learned how to read those pesky nutrition labels and what an eye-opener that has been. Forgetting the obvious – chocolate, sweets and sugary drinks – the sweet little white granule has infiltrated almost everything in my pantry.

The premise of giving up sugar is eliminating “fructose”; I won’t go into the science-y details of it all, there is plenty of excellent information out there. I have been following Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar programme’.  Apparently fructose is a nasty little sugar that our bodies cannot metabolise and it is stored directly as fat.  Not healthy “feed your vital organs” fat, but unhealthy “is that a Christmas ham or me in a bikini?” fat.

Now, fructose is in fruit, so initially I had to cut out all fruit too.  I know I know fruit is natural blah blah blah, but it contains high levels of fructose and while you wean yourself off the white poison, the fruit – temporarily – has to go too.

The general rule of thumb when reading your food label is that you cannot consume anything containing more than about 4g of “Sugars” (a subset of Carbohydrates on the nutrition panel) per 100gm/mL.  My pantry has been completely overhauled over the past six weeks, but here’s the idea from a random assortment I pulled from my current store:

  • BBQ Shapes                                       0.9g/100g
  • Weet-Bix                                             3.3g/100g
  • Peanut butter                                      7.8g/100g
  • Corn Flakes                                           9g/100g
  • Diced pears in fruit juice                   11.2g/100g
  • Vanilla yoghurt                                   12.8g/100g
  • Tomato sauce                                   20.8g/100g
  • Tiny Teddies                                      27.7g/100g
  • Yoghurt topped Muesli bar                31.5g/100g
  • Honey                                                82.1g/100g

The “Lite” or “Lo Fat” version of any of these have even more sugar added to replace the taste lost in removing the fat content.

The first two weeks were quite difficult for myriad reasons.  I was extremely unwell with flu so I didn’t really eat anything at all for one week, just inhaled cups of tea and penicillin. The following week I was recuperating, school holidays began and I was pre-menstrual – it was a perfect (s*#!) storm and I struggled. I had a close girlfriend staying with me for a week of this so – sure!  I stayed off the sugar; I simply replaced it with wine and cheese.  The fructose in wine is eliminated in the fermentation process to create alcohol…. Do not follow my logic on this one. Sarah Wilson will be slapping her forehead right about now.

You can see from the list that a logical temptation is to replace Tiny Teddies with BBQ Shapes – which I did for a week or so – which is fine – but only for a week or so.  More than six weeks on I find all white foods (bread, pasta etc) have become quite unpalatable.  White bread tastes to me like cake. Strange but true.

My reason for this undertaking was to lose weight and I may have lost a kilo or two.  Annemaree did it with me and hasn’t lost a cracker, although has lost almost two centimetres from her waist, bum, tum, arms and thighs.  Compared to me, Annemaree has the virtues of a saint, but chocolate has been her biggest bug bear.  This exercise has cost her a small fortune as she has replaced her afternoon tea and choccie fix with a walk….to the shops.

I’m not unhappy about not losing a lot of weight because I have learnt so much through this process. I will not be taking up sugar again anytime soon. I have realized that since jumping on the yoga, meditation, health and wellness bandwagon (Annemaree and I have banned the word “journey” because it makes us want to ralph)  that this too is an exercise in mindfulness.  It has made us both far more aware of what we are actually putting in our bodies and it is knowledge that can’t be unlearnt. But be warned – Annemaree will trample your granny if she comes within coo-ee of a Haigh’s Chocolate Peppermint Frog;  her mantra at our weekly check-ins with one another is “There is no way I am giving chocolate up in this lifetime”.  Meh, maybe in the next.

Despite not losing any weight, I feel absolutely fantastic. I cannot isolate it completely to giving up sugar because so much has changed, gradually and gently and with no real noticeable effort on my part. Since October of last year, like peeling the layers of an onion, I have removed:

  • Anti-anxiety pills and anti-depressants
  • Smoking
  • Drinking (at least four days out of seven, I’m no Mother Theresa here)
  • Sugar – from my diet and drastically reduced it in my children’s
  • Negative self-talk, fear and catastrophising (this only returns after drinking which is telling me something quite loudly and clearly, but I am not ready to listen…yet)
  • Saying sorry all the time and people-pleasing

Since giving up sugar I have noticed:

  • I am less bloated in the body and less puffy in the face
  • I have clearer skin and brighter eyes
  • I get up early easily in the morning and have more energy
  • I sleep better – one glass of wine and I experience nightmares and a broken, fitful sleep
  • My tolerance for alcohol has evaporated
  • I am more even-tempered, calm. Reducing it in my children’s diets has resulted in a much calmer household all around. Far fewer tears and temper tantrums – not just mine
  • How much sugar is crammed into children’s lunchbox foods! Seriously, take a look next time you’re in a supermarket
  • I feel in control of each day rather than at the mercy of it
  • I sailed through a full menstrual cycle (sorry boys) without a single brain-snap – not one ruffled feather
  • My (sorry everyone) pee has become clear and odourless – apparently a sign that my inner workings are less acidic

After all that I have taken out, I have also added in:

  • Yoga once a week (ideally I’d like to add another class and some home practise)
  • Meditation and deep relaxation once a week (hoping to build to daily practise)
  • A 45 minute walk each morning with a good friend – the sense of obligation means I don’t hit the snooze button and roll over
  • Whole foods have replaced processed foods
  • Cheese has replaced chocolate… I told you I was a work-in-progress.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

Cartoon Source:  toothpastefordinner.com

My Yoga Journal: Enlightenment might be nice – staying sane will suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Anita Atherton [Hello Anita]. I have been doing yoga and meditation for about six months now [Oprah applause].  I just wanted to say that I wake up every day feeling happy and positive [Insert Oprah “Everyone in the Studio Audience is Getting a CAR!” applause].

But seriously, I am in a much better space than I was six months ago. I had no idea how bad it was until seeing how good it can be; but this is something I have to do on my own. I can tell people how great it is and what a change it makes – but most people don’t want to know.

At first I was terribly hurt and offended, but each day my wisdom, empathy and compassion grow and I appreciate that for me too, it wasn’t until I was ready to seriously make some changes, that I was ready to receive any help.

I remember a university teacher of mine telling me years ago to “take the Mickey out of yourself before anyone else can”. This was with respect to conducting a sales presentation, but it resonated with me for a long time. It became my “shtick” to overcome extreme shyness.

Growing up, I was shy and self-conscious – I am very tall, my ears stick out and I used to turn the colour of beetroot if anyone looked at me sideways; I felt silly.  In high school – I felt like that  pretty much all of the time. However, I was studious and conscientious and it paid off in terms of results.

I went straight into University after leaving school which is right about where the wheels fell off. The main thing I remember in the first year was hearing that Marketing graduates could earn up to $32k in their first year of employment.  I was 18, I had my driver’s license and my first car, and this was my ticket to financial emancipation!  So the subject matter was excruciatingly tedious and mind-numbingly boring (for me), THIRTY TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS?  Where do I sign?!

Truth is, the subjects WERE incredibly dry – economics, statistics, accounting – I hated them all in their own special way.  My work ethic went straight out the window, I failed subject after subject time and time again – but I made some firm friendships at the pub on campus!

Outside of school, I didn’t know that life could be enjoyed and not endured.  No-one said to me that maybe I was failing at these subjects and partying too hard because I was doing the wrong course. Rather I came to believe that I was failing this fine course because I was partying too hard and not working hard enough.  So, believing that I was not very intelligent or hard-working after all, I heeded the “Take the Mickey” sales advice and adopted a new persona to see me through the course and my subsequent career.

And everyone bought what I was selling.  My self-deprecating humour was framed as “ability to laugh at oneself” – really a shield to protect enormous self-doubt and insecurity.  Outwardly I was calm, confident, successful, funny, popular and easy-going.  But that wasn’t really me.

The “real me” was the voice in my head telling me what a fraud I was.  Every single day she reminded me that I don’t work hard enough, that I’m not intelligent enough, that I don’t really know what I’m doing.  She told me I drank too much, smoked too much, that I am pathetic, that I am fat, ugly and lazy. She told me that my friends didn’t really like me because they didn’t know the real me.  She told me my husband would leave me if he knew what I flake I really was. She told me I was a bad mother and my kids would probably end up alcoholics as well. She told me I was too weak to do anything about it, she told me it was too late to change.

She was a real bitch, actually. If she were an external friend I would have un-friended her on Facebook a long time ago!  Instead, I put her in charge and believed every word she said.

Living with this inner turmoil was a living hell. I suffered with chronic anxiety.  Medication and alcohol provided such sweet, sweet relief from that yakkety-yak that I turned to it more frequently and in larger quantities.

If my husband asked me to do even the smallest thing I could snap. That cow upstairs had such a long to-do list lined up for me, whilst telling me I was fat, ugly and lazy – and reminding me of every unkind thing anyone had ever said or done to me and devising knock-out blows for a revenge strike upon those unsuspecting persons… well!  If HE thought I had time to fit in what HE wanted…it got ugly.

Weirdly though, for a long time the pain was of great comfort.  A case of better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, I guess.

The pot of gold at the end of this bleak “rainbow” is that I took a small step in a different direction towards yoga and dabbled in meditation.  Look, I can’t explain how or why it has happened for me, but that bitch upstairs has now left the building.

It is my aim here to be a yoga enthusiast, not a bore. Whilst here I feel comfortable sharing my experience, I have learnt to keep it to myself as well.  I have found along the way that many people – often those closest to me – actually do not want to hear that I am happy and have actually lashed out in the unkindest of ways. While I’m looking up not down and smiling not frowning and all that – many people seem quite keen to throw me and my skipping rope under a lorry.

The cow who used to live upstairs would have told me that they were right. Who the hell did I think I was anyway?  Did I think I was better than them?  Why did I deserve to be happy?  Why me anymore than the next person?

But I don’t care what she thinks.

I am not addicted to smoking, medicating, spending, drinking or people-pleasing anymore.  I don’t desperately need people to like me. I like myself very much and I can say no. I don’t get on the scales anymore – this fabulous body delivered my two gorgeous children AND it can now do a pretty decent shoulder-stand.  *I don’t suck my tummy in anymore because according to yogic principles a soft belly equates to a warm heart– and besides, tight abs hinder digestion. Hello! Is there a downside to this ancient practise?!

I know how to live fully within each moment – or drag myself back there if my thoughts carry me away. If the old tart that used to live upstairs pops in, I give her my best Buddha smile and offer her a cup of tea – but she never stays.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

* Stephen Levine, an American meditation teacher who has written extensively on healing counsels that the state of your belly reflects the state of your heart.  By consciously softening your belly again and again, you can let go and open to the tender feelings in your heart.

 

My Yoga Journal: Catastrophising – (Just eat the cheese!)

The first time I heard this term I was sitting in my GP’s office having my anti-anxiety medication script re-filled. Cool as a cucumber, she looked at me and said “Anita, have you been catastrophising again?”  It’s a great word – applicable to myriad scenarios.

I decided to write about “catastrophising” a week or so ago and since then it has manifested itself in many conversations.

Let me start with a definition:

“When a person experiences an unhelpful emotion (e.g. depression and anxiety), it is usually preceded by a number of unhelpful self-statements and thoughts. Often there is a pattern to such thoughts and we call these “unhelpful thinking styles”.  One of the things we have noticed is that people use unhelpful thinking styles as an automatic habit.  It is something that happens outside of our awareness.  However, when a person consistently and constantly uses some of these styles of thinking, they can often cause themselves a great deal of emotional distress.”[1]

Some of the great catastrophisers of our time include Chicken “The Sky is Falling” Little and the child in Kindergarten Cop who suggests Arnold Schwarzenegger’s headache is most likely a brain tumor.  This may seem amusing, but this poor kid probably had a mother like me – I’ll explain later.

It’s a funny old world we live in, which facilitates, encourages and endorses a catastrophic way of thinking.  Just watch the news.  My 3yo once asked me why I watch the news; my 6yo answered – “it’s because you need to find out all the bad things that have happened in the world”.  My 6yo is a Master Catastrophiser (hence his nickname:  “Worst-Case-Scenario-Mario” or “The Master of Disaster”), but I think he is bang-on in this observation.

For a watered down (but doubly toxic) version of “monsters under the bed” reporting, catch a glimpse of  “A Current Affair” or “Today Tonight”! Helping you keep one step ahead of all of those trades-people and supermarkets that make it their life’s work to rip you off. Oh, puh-lease.

My husband comes home from work exhausted and beaten; dying a death of a thousand cuts – paper-cuts that is!  The industry in which he works is living proof of The Chaos Theorem. Instead of a butterfly flapping its wings in Santiago – if a man falls off a ladder in Broadmeadows, the rest of the building industry drowns in red tape and paperwork now – and ad infinitum.

When – exactly – did we stop taking responsibility for our own actions?

If I trip over raised concrete in the street – making me look and feel like a bit of a dill – should the council / the layer of the concrete / the tree’s roots that lifted the concrete / the planter of the tree / the creator of all things pay [me] for that?

Whilst catastrophising ensures I feel that EVERYTHING is my responsibility, I live in a litigious society which promotes the fact that it’s all someone else’s fault!

I choose to laugh at myself tripping over the tree root, bung a Band-Aid on my face and learn to watch where I’m walking. Accidents happen. Move on – more carefully. You can take this on good authority as a woman with a ripping scar and nine screws permanently in her left hand after a martini-induced dance-floor mishap. With friends…at home.

I previously worked in a sales role in which I lived and died by the monthly numbers.

Here, the world ended (for some people, quite literally) on the last day of the month. It began again on Day 1 of the following. It was constantly and oppressively stressful. It was an environment in which it was very hard to achieve just the sales targets, let alone navigate the vicious office politics.

A previous boss of mine, whom I hold in very high regard as a coach and mentor and who remains a good friend, offered me advice once on how to survive the environment. He told me to always prepare for – and expect – the worst, so whatever happens will always be better than what you imagined.

This person also unconsciously chews the hair off his arms under stress, suffered a minor stroke and has on-going heart concerns – so whilst I appreciate the sentiment, hindsight suggests I take these pearls of wisdom with a couple of handfuls of salt. He, on the other hand, should probably lay off it.

We are both out of that game now. Relaxed, happy and successful – able to enjoy a laugh about “those days” together with our families – over a few “too many” vinos!

Catastrophising is not purely a corporate phenomenon.  In fact, it was not until I became a mother that I truly unearthed my innate talent to catastrophise.

Becoming a mother raises the stakes immediately.  It begins in pregnancy.

The books. Oh! The books. I stopped reading the books.

I was convinced early in the gestational period that eating a single piece of soft cheese was going to result in my having a child with severe disabilities; one who would surely require round-the-clock specialist care; most probably within an institution – with a team of Swedish neurological experts (who would “tsk-tsk” (in Swedish) in my general direction, whispering to one another “this would never have happened if she hadn’t eaten the cheese”).

From this point, having children – I have heard described beautifully – is “like having your heart walking around outside your body”.

From a place of intense love and a primal instinct to protect, also comes a tsunami of catastrophising thoughts. You think your headache is an undiagnosed brain tumor (refer Arnie, earlier). You hear a cough from your child’s bedroom in the middle of the night and curse your GP for not picking up the resurgence of Bubonic Plague.

Why am I saying all this?

I think the more we pretend that everything is okay the more we damage one another.

Chicken Little may have been deemed a crackpot after the acorn incident, but at least the chick voiced its fears aloud!

By talking about our fears and anxieties THEY – not us – will break down. Sometimes giving your voice to the crazies – the monkeys – in your head can make them seem small and silly. Meditation gives me a small moment to look at them, sit with them, smile at them and put them aside.

Leaving them left un-checked inside can wreak havoc on you mentally, spiritually and physically. Believe me, I know.

Until we meet again,

Om & Out.

AQAxxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

[1] http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au

[2] Walt Disney image – ‘Chicken Little’


A Beginners Journal: YOGA & MEDITATION

(By contributing writer, student and ‘eternal work in progress’ – Anita Quigley Atherton).

I have been threatening to do Yoga for around 15 years and now, finally, am about to start. No more excuses. Believe me, there have been plenty. At 35 years of age, my well of excuses has dried up so it’s time to “feel the fear and do it anyway” to walk the talk and see what all the hoopla is about.

I need something. I’m not sure what. My divine GP diagnosed me a year or so ago (after years of career and lifestyle-induced anxiety and mild depression) as a “highly intelligent, over-achieving, perfectionist, control freak” – which are my STRONG points.

From my early 20s I pursued a high powered career in Marketing of which all of my key roles left me with heart palpitations, cold sweats, sleepless nights and a hangover that lasted for 10 years. Ah, the Good Old Days. During those heady days I preferred to worship at the altar of booze and fags and spent most of the late nineties and early ‘noughties’ either drunk or hungover– all in the name of ‘stress-relief’. It was medicinal and therefore okay.

In 2005 I had my first child. With the arrival of “God’s Handbrake” as I referred to my darling Sam at the time, recklessness had to take a back seat. I still thought I could do and have it all though. Sam went into childcare at 10 months old and I resumed full time work and encountered a whole new set of anxieties, which all fell under the caps lock, bold, italic, underlined heading of GUILT.

Combine Mother’s Group, childless co-workers, long hours, early drop-offs, late pick-ups, development milestones, deadlines, mix well and let sit for about three years. The boozing and fagging of my 20s at the hottest joints in town went underground. Instead, we entertained at home – a LOT.

Still racked with anxiety (Perfect mother? Fail. Perfect wife? Fail. Perfect employee? Fail. Perfect body, spirit and mind? EPIC FAIL) I went back to my GP and explained the new anxiety paradigm and was prescribed marvelous little pink pills called ALPRAZOLAM. For me, a miracle pill. Loved the stuff. No really. I LOVED it. The peace I sought in my mind and body had arrived, along with a mildish addiction to a highly addictive drug.

By the end of 2009 I had a second beautiful son – Gus (also in childcare from 10 months old – one must be fair), experienced my first professional redundancy and ensuing court case, lived in a dream home we could no longer afford on one income, a discreet bottle of wine a night – or two – habit; something had to change.

From that point my husband and I have made some monumental changes. We moved house, Sam started primary school, I had a delightful dip into Pilates (cut short by not only the change of address but also a series of short sharp expulsions of air from the nether regions while carrying out the Rolling Ball manoeuvre) which stripped off kilos and had me feeling fitter than ever. We decided that I would stay at home with the kids and work freelance with a select group of close clients.

So here I am at the end of 2011 about to embark on my first Yoga class – this Sunday in fact. I am on a constant spiritual quest. I read voraciously – Buddhism for Mothers is always at my bedside. I seek peace. I want to bring a peaceful me to every situation I face. I am fearful that I won’t be good enough; that I am not fit; that I am not bendy; that my beer-swilling, AFL loving husband will reject me; that the change might overwhelm me; and most importantly on the social quotient – that I will expel air sharply from the nether regions.

What am I expecting from Yoga? Not much.

What am I hoping for? Weight loss (emotional and physical). Bendiness. Quieting the monkeys in my mind. Inner peace. That Buddha smile. Energy. Enthusiasm. Finding my purpose. Emitting light. Yes. A full-on miracle.

Wish me luck. AQA xxx