Back to work soon? Feeling Overwhelmed? Day 4 of 7 day challenge

Back to work soon? Feeling Overwhelmed? Day 4 of 7 day challenge



overwhelmed pic

Thanks to PublicDomainPictures

Are you back to paid employment soon? How are you feeling?

Today we’re on day 4 of the mindfulness challenge. What I’ve noticed is that doing some mindfulness first thing, before I even get out of bed, works for me. It’s so easy for the rest of the day to get swallowed up with a litany of tasks. The tracks I’m referring to, during these 7 days, come from “Quick Mindful Moments for Busy People”, a free CD I’ve put together from previous albums and upcoming ones. You can see album notes and here brief clips of this album here, on CDBaby and then obtain this album for free if you subscribe to my newsletter.

So here’s day 4’s suggestion.

Day 4: When feeling Overwhelmed (just under 2.5 minutes)

I’m not sure if this is relevant to everyone, but perhaps there are other emotions that “catch” you and have you in your head, rather than in the present moment. This exercise guides you to notice the feeling (replace “Overwhelmed” with the feeling you notice) and to breathe, let go of the grip of those associated thoughts, and become present.

Good luck!

The Vital Role of Self-Validation in Overcoming Overthinking

The Vital Role of Self-Validation in Overcoming Overthinking

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m used to writing about overthinking based on empirical research, which I am familiar with, and which I have been immersed in for over 15 years. This perspective about overthinking though, comes not from the literature, but from my clinical experience.

So, when we’re talking about overthinking (“rumination” in the literature), we’re talking about brooding, going over the same material repeatedly, feeling stuck, dwelling on problems, passively focussing on symptoms, etc. We know from the literature that those of us who overthink feel less support and more criticism from those around us. There are also specific parenting histories and backgrounds that make people more likely to overthink. Women overthink more than men do, and this gender difference explains the difference in rates of depression (women are 2-3 times more likely to become depressed, compared to men).

In my clinical experience, what I’ve come to see is that overthinking is sometimes used as an emotional validation strategy. When overthinking, the overthinker wants to know that their emotional response is justified. For example, after an argument with her partner, a woman might say, “It’s not fair that he said….” with a question in her voice. She asks me, implicitly, or explicitly, to validate her emotional reaction while, at the same time, doubting herself. I’ll be writing more about this Inner Critic and the Inner Vulnerable Child at some point. Attempts to re-hash aspects of the interaction or go over things seem like attempts to justify feeling a certain way. It seems to me that accepting feelings as they are and decreasing the loudness of that Inner Critic, are vital when overcoming overthinking.

I’ll be talking more about this in my upcoming workshop on Beyond Overthinking on the 13th of February, 2016, in Dunedin. I’ve just recorded a CD with mindful-based coping strategies/meditations/visualisations. Here’s a sneak preview of version 1 of the cover…still working on it! What do you think? Too orange?

Overcoming Overthinking V1

Self-validation is part of self-love. Here’s a beautiful blog post I saw about some strategies to start the day with greater self-love.


A Complicated Pregnancy? Strategies + CD out soon

A Complicated Pregnancy? Strategies + CD out soon

Those of us with a less-than-straightforward path to/during pregnancy aren’t alone. There are so many ways in which pregnancy can be complicated!

Kumari Pregnancy

I’ve finished recording four CDs this week with the lovely and talented Paul Sammes at Arthouse Media (Dunedin). One of those CDs is a collection of coping strategies, visualisations, and meditations for women who have a complicated pregnancy.

The desire to do this has been in gestation since the birth of my daughter, who was born, at 39 weeks, 6 days, after she unexpectedly left this world. Since then, I have been pregnant three more times. My second pregnancy was ectopic – in the course of life saving surgery, I lost a fallopian tube and was told that the chances of conception had essentially halved. During my 3rd pregnancy, I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid) which resulted in lots of testing, hospitalisation for almost three weeks, and, after lots of discussion, a planned c-section with an increased risk of needing a hysterectomy if things didn’t go to plan.

There are so many things outside of our control and circumstances that mean we cannot always be calm, nor is it an advantage to always be so. However, there are many times when being calm, being present, being connected to our baby, can help us and, I imagine, our baby. There are also strategies we can use to help with those feelings of being overwhelmed, panic, overthinking, being not present, and making predictions. For example, in this free sample track (available on one of my other CDs), I guide you to centre  yourself and be in the actual moment, rather than in your mind. In conjunction with my CD, I am planning on a 2 hour workshop in Dunedin, on the 14th of February, 2016, where I’ll be covering those strategies. Workshop participants will get a free copy of my CD.

Overthinking? Going over and over negative scenarios in your mind? Rehashing things that have happened (or might happen?). I’ll be running a 3.5 hour workshop on dealing with overcoming overthinking on Saturday, 13th of February, 2016. I’ve just recorded an accompanying CD which will be free to participants. We’re just putting a package together for the combined workshops/CDs. Drop me a line ( if interested in the workshops! Please spread the word if you know anyone who might benefit! It can be a lonely and anxiety-provoking road having a complicated pregnancy…and there are things we can do to look after ourselves.



Helping Children Manage at Christmas – five tips + free soundfiles

Helping Children Manage at Christmas – five tips + free soundfiles


Children and young people (not to mention, their carers!) can find the festive season a challenge. There can be so much happening, new people to meet and relatives they may not have met often, delays in queues and traffic, carers can be stretched doing preparations or talking to other adults, there may be more sugary treats available (or different food than usual), and expectations about behaving well.

  1. Keep as consistent a routine as possible, especially mealtimes, naptimes and sleep. Are children having difficulty falling asleep? You may want to try teaching them progressive muscle relaxation. I have a free fun progressive muscle relaxation for children and young people (“Stretch like a Cat”) from my album, “Stretch like a Cat” album (available through CDBaby, Itunes, Amazon, and others.
  2. Model coping with stressors that arise – there can be lots of points of tension. It really helps to take a deep diaphragmatic breath. When you notice tension increasing, take a deep breath. This is a learnt skill. You want to breathe and fill your tummy with air rather than sticking out your chest.
  3. Children find it hard to manage long delays. Recognise this and involve children in small, structured activities that allow them to not feel that they have to wait too long. Hold off getting into the hype around Christmas.
  4. When dealing with difficult people or getting into situations that kids will find tricky or overwhelming, it may help to imagine a protective bubble around them. There is a free Bubble of Protection exercise on my album.
  5. Help children create and savour memories, rather than possessions. Talk to them about what they have enjoyed of the day. Slow down with them and really notice what’s happening.

By the way, these exercises work for adults too!

Best wishes for beating the Christmas frazzle!

Stretch like a cat 3

If you’ve found the exercises on “Stretch like a Cat” useful, please consider gifting the album to someone who can benefit. You can do this through Amazon or Itunes.

Free album “Quick Mindful Moments for Busy People” when you subscribe to my newsletter here. The album has a few tracks from previous albums and two tracks from my upcoming albums.

Are your ‘Shoulds’ feeding the Christmas Frazzle? Five tips

Are your ‘Shoulds’ feeding the Christmas Frazzle? Five tips

There is a lot of Christmas Frazzle about. It’s that time of year again and there is just so much stress that can be around.

The combination of increased expectations, having more things to attend, poor sleep, alcohol, and increased contact with potentially difficult people, can really make the Frazzle worse.

In this post, I’m focussing on something internal – our own inner dialogue. What we say to ourselves affects how we feel. Do you notice ‘shoulds’ in your language? For example, do you notice yourself saying:

I should have been better organised.

I should have had the cards ready.

I should get all the presents sorted.

I should be better at….?

Any of these familiar?

pointed finger

Image from ClipArt used with thanks

I’ve written a fuller post about the Shoulds, and how they feed the Inner Critic and don’t help with sticking to resolutions. I’ll focus here on five tips to decrease the Shoulds.

  1. Listen for the Shoulds and, if possible, write them down. Getting things out of your head, especially on paper, allows you to get a sense of what is happening and you may see the thoughts more clearly.
  2. Change your “shoulds’ to “coulds”. Shoulds compel us but make us feel guilty. Pick a word that indicates you do have a choice.
  3. Develop self-compassion – here is a wonderful (9 min) loving kindness meditation from UCLA.
  4. For that matter, practice mindfulness – being present, in the here and now. Mindfulness teaches us to step back from thoughts and see them as passing thoughts. Here’s a free grounding exercise to help you re-orient to the here and now, when you are overwhelmed, from my new album “Mind’s Ease: Making Friends with your Self, your Mind, and the Moment”.
  5. Develop a kind (and firm) inner coach rather than a critic.


Mind’s Ease – Make friends with your Self, your Mind, and the Moment CD OUT SOON

Mind’s Ease – Make friends with your Self, your Mind, and the Moment CD OUT SOON

MInd's Ease JPEG

I can’t believe it’s almost done! This CD represents my most commonly used exercises as a clinical psychologist. I’ve developed a few special exercises more recently (e.g., Gold Panning for Nuggets of Wisdom) and one exercise specially for this CD (Shaking the Dandelion head). All the exercises are about trying to develop a kinder inner voice (rather than that Critic), taking your mind less seriously, and being more present. Here is some information about the tracks themselves.

A huge thank you to Chantelle Clarke, whose suggestion inspired my subtitle. I had initially written “Mindfulness Based Coping Strategies” and was unhappy with this. Chantelle won a free copy of my CD. A huge thank you to Paul from Arthouse Media (Dunedin) where I recorded this CD. Paul edited my tracks *amazingly*.

01           Grounding [FREE to download] – this exercise is about tuning into our senses and becoming more present. We can go “into our head” and zone out of being present.

02           Calm Breath – this exercises focusses on the breath and tries to help you feel more calm and centered.

03           Affirmations – positive messages to help with stepping back from thoughts and developing a kinder perspective on yourself.

04           Safe Place Visualisation – a visualisation to help you develop a safe place you can go to when needed.

05           Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Short Form – this is a quick way to release body tension.

06           Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Long Form – a longer, systematic way to release body tension.

07           Soles of the Feet Mindfulness – an exercise, focussing on your feet, to bring your attention to the here and now. Good for centering yourself.

08           When feeling Overwhelmed – if feeling overwhelmed, this exercise gently guides you to becoming more present and less worked up.

09           Cloak of Protection – if feeling vulnerable or in need of some nurturing, this visualisation is about putting a cloak around yourself.

10           Gold Panning to find the Nuggets of Wisdom – we can have so many opinions (from ourselves and others) jumbled in our mind. It can be hard to decide what is useful or not. In this visualisation, we try to step back from our thoughts and see if the nuggets of gold can arise to the surface.

11           Blanket of Kindness – this is a visualisation to increase self-compassion.

12           White Light Visualisation – this is a visualisation to increase self-compassion and help relaxation.

13           Shrink the Inner Critic – ideas for shrinking that inner negative voice!

14           Shake the Dandelion Head – Dealing with Worries – worries can fill our head and we can get caught up with them. This visualisation is about stepping back and unsticking from worries.

15           Thoughts as Clouds Visualisation – a guided visualisation for unsticking from thoughts.

16           Urge Surfing – This is an exercise for managing those urges (e.g., overeating urges) that might not be helpful.

17           Restart. Reset – Feeling overwhelmed or like you want to give up? Did you get tripped up or make a mistake? Rather than lapsing back into unhelpful thoughts or behaviour, this exercise is about re-focussing and getting back on track.

Just waiting to get the okay on distribution so I can announce the CD’s release!!! Thanks heaps for all your support. I really appreciate it!!!

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