The Gracie Blog
What you will allow, is what will continue - the battle of the mind May 17 2018, 0 Comments
As a creative business woman with depression and anxiety I am highly aware of how my mindset can impact every aspect of my life. At the moment I’m noticing how most of my thought patterns are based around scarcity, not enough, not good enough etc. and it’s something I am seeking to change.
It’s such a damaging and frustrating cycle! Yet it’s completely within my control. Go figure. Funnily enough all those people saying “just believe in this, just do these three things every day and voila!” also don’t tell you as openly that like depression and anxiety – overcoming negative self-talk is a personal journey, and no you can’t just “snap out of it” and “be more positive” as if those things are a quick fix. This is a journey, and you’ve a) got to want to change yourself, and b) be prepared to fail heaps before you succeed, and even when you’re ‘succeeding’ you’ll realise that failing is still part of success.
I believe in positive vibes, in the law of attraction, and manifesting, but I struggle to fully harness these concepts at the best of times. It’s something I’m working on – not just in a business sense in terms of dollars in the bank, but also personally. So today, while I’m writing about this for you to read, I’m also secretly using this as a form of journaling for myself. Let’s see where this takes us.
In a sense, living with depression and anxiety can be boiled down to one thing*, no matter which way you look at it: not living in the present moment in your head. You’re either worrying about what’s to come or ruminating on what has passed.
Right now, you might be thinking, “No Steph, in this moment I DO feel shit, I DON’T have any good food to eat, I DIDN’T get enough sleep, so when I think about these things I AM living in the present” and you’ll tempted to stop reading but I implore you to persevere. Because in a way you ARE right, and I’m here to tell you that you DO need to acknowledge these things. These things ARE a reality of your situation right now and acknowledging that is very important. But – and this is the kicker, and where I really struggle myself – these things are not what you should FOCUS on with any weight. There is a solid difference between acknowledging something and focusing on something, and a difference between focusing on one thing in isolation, rather than focusing on the whole. You need to focus on what you HAVE passionately and acknowledge what you don’t have objectively.
There are two things you need to keep in mind here:
EVERYTHING passes, the good and the bad
Your body is wired to engage the fight-or-flight response depending on WHAT YOU FOCUS ON
A favourite quote of mine is “What you allow, is what will continue”. This is something I have told many people, and clearly some medicine of my own I need to take more often. You see – what you focus on, is what you attract. So, I sit here obsessively worrying about things, and simultaneously wondering why these exact things don’t change. With this worry comes higher levels of anxiety and stress, and so my fight-or-flight response kicks in, and I sit, and worry, and feel really crappy about everything. Who is winning here?
Two things have happened in the last 24 hours that have really hit home and inspired me to write this publicly, rather than in my personal diary at home. Firstly, due to human error on my part, I was paid less than the hours I worked for the last fortnight. Secondly, my friend surprised herself by making an epic dinner when she thought there was ‘nothing to eat’ in the house.
So why have these two seemingly unconnected things been so pivotal?
Both these situations highlight the need for focusing on what we HAVE, not what we don’t have. Right now, there less money in the bank than what there could have been, and yes, this worries me. I think about the bills, I think about the things I won’t be able to buy if I want or need them; what if an emergency occurs in the future?! But the epiphany I’ve had has made me realise that even if I HAD been paid those hours in this pay cheque, I would still be worrying about all of these exact same things.
So, it’s not the dollar value sitting in the bank that is the problem is it? The problem is where I am placing my focus. I am focusing on one thing and not acknowledging that this as part of a bigger picture that actually is totally is fine and manageable. If I were to focus on the bigger picture, and what I DO have right now, then I should be feeling pretty content and significantly less anxious – and it has nothing to do with a numerical digit I read on a screen.
And the dinner thing? This happened to me last week too. I spent ages delaying making dinner because I was so concerned with what we didn’t have. I used my most honed avoidance tactic of procrastination and just dawdled around the house, worrying and avoiding, until I was really quite hungry (and the 5-year-old was also evidently hungry too…woops!). Yet once I entered the kitchen and started focusing on what I had available, I ended up making one of the tastiest meals I have ever made with so few ingredients, and in such a short time. And I wasn’t wearing a bright apron, a full face of makeup and perfect hair while exclaiming ‘with just three simple ingredients, you can whip up any beautiful meal in less than 10 minutes’. I was in my track pants, I was stressed out, and it took me a while to come to the kitchen and think a bit more creatively about it all. Once I started looking at what I had and realising these few things were my only options, I produced something awesome!
At Unitec I remember various assignments where we were given a list of restrictions, either in terms of the materials available, or the techniques we were allowed to use. The whole idea was not to focus on what you couldn’t use, because that is SO blinding. The idea, and the only way you would succeed and probably surprise yourself with your ingenuity, was to focus on what you do have.
So, there’s a sweet life lesson for you (and me) on a cool Thursday morning in Autumn, wrapped up in a low pay cheque and some delicious food. Living ‘in the moment’ isn’t focusing on what you DON’T have but focusing on what you DO have. That shift in focus will have you feeling more positively, and in turn attract more of those same positive things. There lies the power to feeling overwhelmingly abundant, and to lessening some of the burden you carry when you’re feeling depressed and anxious.
I’m not telling you it’s a quick fix, or easy to do. It’s a practise thing. You’ve got to do it over, and over, and over, and over again, and again, until it becomes a habit. Life can be so overwhelming and this does need to be acknowledged so that you don’t burn yourself out! I haven’t achieved this mindset consistently either, so I’m no guru. But if this is something I’m learning right now, then chances are someone else out there is feeling the same, and perhaps this pieces of writing is the thing that will help inspire them out of their rut!
Big love to anyone and everyone struggling to deal with anything right at this moment, be kind to yourself. Find something you love and focus passionately on that for a bit. Let me know if that helps, even momentarily.
SIDE NOTE: the entire time writing this my sceptical inner voice has been parroting away with negative self-talk. The. Whole. Time. So, there is my challenge, and probably what has been holding me back in my work towards feeling more positive and abundant. All the above applies to basically anything in life, anything. If I look back to my darkest days I remember all the things I ‘didn’t’ have, and it saddens me to realise that I could have spent that time focusing on what I did have, not only because it would have made life so much more enjoyable at the time, but also because it is so much harder to recall now – all the positive things I did have during those times. Is this something you are also struggling with right now?
*This is my personal opinion right now. It may change, but this is what I’m feeling at the moment. Feel free to discuss other ideas with me! I’m open to growth and discussion and creating dialogue around these mental health issues!
Our Mental Story - a collection of experiences April 03 2018, 0 Comments
A friend of the usual 2-degrees of separation here in good old NZ posted that they were looking for submissions for a book they were putting together on mental health journeys. I enjoy writing, and find it a useful tool in my self-care tool box. At the time I was also really beginning to harness the true power of sharing my story, and wanted to find more opportunities to share in the hope of creating more dialogue and conversation around a topic that was so close to me. It was becoming clearer that the more I shared my journey, the more I healed, and the more I allowed others to heal too. How beautiful is that?
You can find my piece of writing at the link below. I'm really proud of it. Thank you to Liv Young and the team who have put more hours of work in to Our Mental Story than I can count.
You will also find a huge range of other beautiful stories on the Our Mental Story website, from everyday people from all different walks of life. Reading other peoples stories is so important. One of the worst parts of depression and other mental health issues is the huge, overwhelming feelings of isolation and loneliness. If we can combat that by simply sharing stories, then we have created something truly worth celebrating.
An edited version of my story was also published online on Stuff and in paper form in The Dominion Post. This was so nerve-wracking and I felt anxious for days. The above quote from Jimi Hunt is something I had saved in my phone from a while ago. I stumble across it from time to time, and came across it again while waiting for the story to be published in the public eye. The above quote is so important, and is a big reason why I didn't one day message the organiser to say 'no thanks'. After letting some close friends know how anxious I felt about the whole thing one of them described it as a 'vulnerability hangover' and I love that idea. Being vulnerable is hard, it opens up the most raw parts of your being and allows it to be examined by others who have no idea who you are. You have no control over how any one is going to react to that, and so the anxiety sits at your core as your overactive imagination comes up with the worst possible reactions and responses.
Instead of what my anxiety was telling me would happen, I have had complete strangers reach out to me. I well up with tears when I read these. I know how alone these people are feeling right now. I know how empty life can appear. I didn't have stories like this at the beginning, and I am so so humbled to be given the opportunity to be a voice that others can relate to and connect with in their times of need.
"I just wanted to say I read your article in the paper and was overwhelmed with how familiar your story sounded. Thank you so much for sharing, it makes me feel a little bit less alone with what I'm going through. I have never related to anything more."
"I just read your story on Mental. Right now at this point I feel as though I have hit rock bottom and I couldn't see any hope of life going uphill again but I just stumbled upon your story, and everything you wrote is exactly how I feel and I am so comforted knowing someone out there feels the same way I do."
So reach out and start that conversation; listen to the conversations that others are starting. Be brave, and sit through the hard parts. It will feel like shit, and at times there may not even be words to be said, but just be there, be open, and be ready.
The Parameters for Success March 31 2018, 0 Comments
March is always a ridiculous month. I was meant to get this blog post done at the beginning of the month.....hah hah!
March holds my birthday, several good friends birthdays, my brothers birthday, my sister in laws birthday, my step-daughters birthday, my husbands birthday is 28th Feb so its baaasically March, it's end of financial year, it's the last month of summer, it's my businesses birthday. This year I was also participating in the MoreFM Everest Challenge, it was my step-daughters 5th birthday so we had last days of daycare and first days of school, and as well as all this I decided to help foster THREE puppies, because clearly just the above wasn't enough for one month.
It's been exhausting.
I place HIGH expectations on myself at all times. Not on purpose, sometimes I don't even realise this until I look back in retrospect. I seem to have this constant desire to do better, to be better, to improve, to be looking for ways to add value, make things more efficient and effective, etc. But I end up spending so much time in my head, that by the time I actually come to doing anything that'll actually push me forward I'm already exhausted! Oooops.
This month my business turns 4. Instead of looking at that and giving myself a pat on the back, I look at that and think "but what 'should' I have achieved in 4 years?", "how do I know if I'm successful?" I compare myself to other people with completely different businesses, in completely different situations and I feel so inadequate.
One of the biggest things I'm currently learning to do it to lower these expectations. In the past I've always thought this meant failing. But in reality it's just allowing myself breathing space, allowing myself to be human. I still want to achieve the goals I set, I still expect a lot....but I'm easing off and focusing on the reality that these types of goal posts don't have to be concreted in to the ground. They can be flexible. They can move.
Everything happens for a reason right? So if a target wasn't hit...then it wasn't MEANT to be hit right now.
A fantastic example of this is last year. 2017 was nuts. My partner and I moved cities, we got new jobs, we relocated twice more within the same region, we got a kitten, we bought a new house and moved in to that the weekend before we got married, we organised a wedding, we went on a trip to Bali, we increased the care of his daughter to 50-50, so parenting became a much bigger job; my studio stayed up in Auckland for most of the year, so I was again working out of garage corners and damp sheds. It was an insane year.
And do you know what I was thinking through it all? I was UPSET and ANXIOUS because my business hadn't hit any of the milestones I wanted it to. I made hardly any sales, I didn't design that new range I've been talking about for a long time, I didn't email my stockists enough, I didn't post on Facebook enough, I didn't harness social media enough, I didn't do enough with my AdWords account, I didn't follow leads and opportunities enough.
I spent the whole year telling myself that I wasn't doing good enough.....yet towards the end of the year, when everything started calming down once again, I had a light bulb moment.
I realised that if my business HAD been thriving, if it had been growing and I had been making loads of sales and creating heaps of orders, then I wouldn't have been able to keep up. All those customers would have received sub-par care because I was so busy with everything else and trying to not sink into another deep dark depressive episode. There is no way I could have managed if I had been pushing and hitting all these sky high expectations I had been placing on myself ALL YEAR along with everything else that was going on.
This last year has really pushed me to look hard at what I consider to be my parameters of success. Do I track the numbers of my sales, orders, stockists, customers, likes, engagements etc....yes, I do. How could a business grow if you don't? But these numbers, right now, are not what I look to as my sole indicators of success. Right now my successes are derived from things much less tangible than dollars in the bank and social media stats. These parameters sit in the realm of adding value, making sure I am adding quality to my life and the lives of those I serve, not just quantity. I do not pump out jewellery in large numbers just because the stats will look good.
My current, most important parameters for success are:
Flexibility – being able to do what I need to do at my own pace to ensure I succeed in BOTH my business and everyday life is so crucial. Being able to make time to look after my mental health and well-being throughout the week is something I do not take for granted.
Authenticity – (such a buzzword at the moment) being 100% honest to what I believe in and what I think is important allows me to connect with the right people. If I continue to create jewellery and run my business to my personal values then I feel good, and the results will show that. Being able to make decisions based on my intuition (and mine only) is one of the biggest joys of running my own business.
Joy – if, with all the stresses and worries of running my own business, there are still moments of complete joy, then what I’m doing is right and I’m going to keep doing it! Making precious items for people to wear and treasure is so insanely cool. Having someone come back to me years after making them a piece to repair because they wear it literally every single day and it is worn to within an inch of its life….that is something so humbling and rewarding; and is what fuels me to keep going.
If I can stay true to the above, and continue tracking all the quantifiable stuff as well...then there HAS to be movement, there HAS to be growth. I've had so many people tell me that the way I'm doing things isn't a recipe for success. But we are clearly baking different cakes. I love what I do and I KNOW it will be successful. I'm slowly working out the correct formula to get this thing moving, I know it is out there, and I know I am close to getting all the pieces of the puzzle to click in and then the bigger picture will be clear to everyone. Perhaps this is a bit like a Wasgij puzzle for everyone else; all everyone else can see is what's behind me, and I'm looking ahead, connecting the pieces, knowing there is a complete picture to be found.
I might be doing this slower than other people would, I might be doing this differently that other people would. But this is business baby, this is MY business, and I'm in it for the long run. I am the tortoise. And I am proud.