A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life.

Are you lacking direction in life?

Not sure which way you should turn?

Do you have a big problem with no idea how to proceed?

Like whether you should quit the job you hate?

Or perhaps you’ve lost your job and have no idea what the hell you should do next?

Maybe you’re simply having a bit of trouble processing difficult emotions?

Whatever it is, my fine readers, fear not – for I have something that can help you formulate the ultimate solution (no promises)!

Introducing the CLEAR model! An outstanding structured approach for decision making and problem solving in everyday life!!!

(Is it just me or did that sound like a 90’s television commercial?)

Let’s get into it.

The CLEAR model stands for:

C – Clarify what the problem is.
L – Look for information and ideas.
E – Evaluate options.
A – Act on your decision.
R – Review how it is working.

Simple yet elegant I think you’ll agree.

Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant formula?

A great question Bob, thank you for asking.

The answer is I stole it of course!

As pilots we are taught it as a way to deal with problems we may encounter outside our normal day-to-day operations.

It achieves this by providing a series of defined steps that we can work through in order to (hopefully) achieve a safe outcome.

As the brain is a single channel processor that can only do one thing at a time (yes multi-tasking is a myth), this helps prevents it from being overloaded during periods of high stress and/or workload.

And I think we can all agree that it’s a time of high fucking stress Bob (if not workload)!

The problem with high levels of stress is it may overload your very simple single channel processor (I know it does mine), which can result in one or more of the following:

1 – Tunnel vision (or fixation) – focusing on one input to the exclusion of other vital data.

2 – Unconscious rejection of conflicting data.

3 – Slowing down of your decision making or, in the extreme, inability to make any decisions at all.

4- Impulsiveness – the desire to restore control makes you leap into action too early.

I think you’ll agree those aren’t very helpful responses Bob, especially for pilots.

But why exactly do you think a model designed for flight crew to problem solve on the flight deck of an aeroplane would be of any use to me in my normal day to day life?

Another great question Bob!

I asked myself the exact same one and let me tell you the answer I came up with:

Why not?

But don’t just take my word for it Bob, let’s examine a working example completely unrelated to the realm of aviation.

Let’s examine how we might apply the CLEAR model to someone who is dealing with depression and/or anxiety – hardly the sort of problem flight crew look at solving on a aeroplane I think you’ll agree Bob!

THE CLEAR MODEL AS APPLIED TO DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY:

1 – CLARIFY

People who are depressed will often state I am depressed or I am anxious. However no one is depression, no one is anxiety. These are merely things one experiences.

One of the big problems so many people with mental health issues have is this kind of identification. They believe it is part of who they are. But this isn’t true.

Already we can see the importance of clarifying the problem.

A much more accurate thing to say would be, ‘I am currently experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ This is a very significant shift in terminology that can help you to step back from your emotions.

If you want to go a step further by introducing some deep Buddhist wisdom (and I know you do bob) you might say in third person, ‘James is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ So as to introduce the idea (and reality) that you are not your ego. The I is not me. (Wow, my simple single processor is on fire!)

Anyway we could go on about how to properly clarify the problem but I don’t want to bore you Bob. At any rate, I think you’ll agree, we’re off to a winning start!

Let’s continue.

2 – LOOK

Observe. Simply be with whatever it is that is arising. Obviously this will work best if you can find somewhere quiet to sit without distraction. (Yes Bob, that means you’ll need to put away your phone.)

Once you have, be sure to take a few deep breaths and settle yourself. Maybe run through a quick body scan – place your hand on your heart if that helps – and then simply sit and observe.

Remember you’re not trying to achieve anything at this stage. You’re simply trying to observe what is going on from moment to moment. Run through your five senses if that helps. Use this time to gather information about what your emotions really feel like within the body.

If a thought arises, simply note it then come back to feeling your bodily sensations. Ultimately you want to go toward your negative emotions so you can observe them in fine detail.

Don’t resist them bob! Trust me.

This won’t be easy of course, especially if you’re new to the game of meditation but I promise you the long term benefits of having such a practise whenever faced with difficult emotions will pay off handsomely.

Anyway I’m sure you don’t need me to run through a meditation routine with you on here. You get the point Bob. Sit and look.

Next.

3 – EVALUTE

This is the part of the session where we introduce some curiosity. Maybe you can ask some questions such as,

What triggered my emotional state today?

What was it that caused my reaction?

What false belief or narrative are driving these feelings?

Moreover what emotions am I trying to avoid that I need to feel?

What are those feelings trying to tell me that I don’t understand?

After asking these question sit back and see what arises. I find this kind of exercise extremely useful for deriving insight whenever I have a reaction to something I don’t fully comprehend.

There are of course many different kinds of meditation practises you could apply to dealing with such emotional states but once agin I don’t want to bore you Bob.

Moving on.

4 – ACT

Now this will depend on what responses you derived from part 3 of this exceptional CLEAR model and how bad you suffer from said emotional problems.

It goes without saying that the most obvious thing to do if suffering from any kind of depression or mental health issue is to seek professional help.

Are you a therapist bob? No?

Worth a shot.

Anyway the next best thing, if you can’t afford a therapist or don’t feel you’re ready to face your demons yet (I won’t judge – it took my simple single processor a long time to pluck up the courage and ask for the help I needed) is to talk to your loved ones.

You’re not burdening them by opening up. If they love you they’ll want to know. Trust me Bob. It burdens them more not knowing.

Aside from those very obvious actions the next thing you can do is practise self-compassion. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself, it’s ok. I’m here for you. Let me feel you. Whatever kind language speaks or works for you.

It’s important to state that you don’t fight depression or anxiety (contrary to what so many toxic positivity blogs tell you). You’re meant to accept it.

As Carl Rogers once said,

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Moving on.

5 – REVIEW

This brings us to the final part of this most astonishing CLEAR model. Review or reflect.

Some questions you might consider:

How did that work out?

What can I add to the practise next time that might help me?

Maybe I can add journalling as a way to write down what arises during such a practise?

Am I still suffering from the same issues and thought patterns that I have for years on end?

If that last one is true then maybe it’s time to concede that you really do need professional help. I strongly encourage all with such issues to do exactly that. At the end of the day all these tools are helpful at managing your mental health but if you have some deeper issues it’s imperative you seek the professional help you need. There is absolutely no shame in this. Remember it is never too late to get the help you need. Never.

That’s all from me today Bob.

I hope this helped.

(Once again fine readers thank you so much for hearing me out. Applying tools from my professional life to other areas such as mental health and vice versa had been of enormous benefit to me which I why I wanted to share this idea with you today. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section below. Maybe give it a go and apply it to a different problem then let me know how you get on? Otherwise if you know of any other problem solving type acronyms I’d love to hear them as well. I’m a sucker for a good acronym! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog.)


SOURCES:

http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:clear

MENTAL HEALTH HOTLINES/WEBSITES:

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me, 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile. 

Love to all X

(To my 2 regular readers: you’ll notice I’ve been playing around with the title. Do you like Motivational Mondays? If not, do you have any other ideas about a good title for this weekly post? If so please do leave them in the comments at the bottom. I’d be grateful for your suggestions.)


4 x Thoughts From Me:

One question to check if you have grown as a person: “Do I still believe the same things I did a year ago?” If the answer is yes then you haven’t grown. Growth comes from challenging your own beliefs so you may come to a greater understanding. You can always come to a greater understanding. 

We would all do well to think of seeing a therapist in the same way we do a doctor. We rarely think twice about visiting the doctor when we have physical pain we don’t understand. Why do we hesitate asking for professional help when we can’t understand the reasons behind our emotional pain?

The beauty of a moment comes from its impermanence. The moment you cling to it, it’s destroyed. 

Crying does not mean you’re not capable of dealing with your emotion. It means you are dealing with your emotions. 


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King

“It’s time to stop denying the dark side of our nature. We’re all sick twisted fucks to some extent. The denial of that fact only encourages more destruction. It’s only by accepting it that we can bring it into the light.” – Mark Manson 

“Whatever you’re doing, a sense of superiority will make you worse at it. Humility, on the other hand, will make you better. The moment you think you’ve got it all figured out, your progress stops. Instead, continue to advance and improve by reminding yourself how much more there will always be to discover. Confidence is positive and empowering, but arrogance is deadly. Be confident, but not at the expense of your respect for others. Don’t burn up all your energy proving how great you are. Invest your time and energy being thoughtful and helpful. See the victories not as proof of your supremacy, but as opportunities to offer more value to life. See the defeats not as personal affronts, but as chances to learn and grow stronger. Take care not to waste your time in delusions of grandeur. Embrace the power of confident humility, and live well.” – Writer Ralph Marston on Confident Humility


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This Tim Ferris podcast with Hugh Jackman on Best Decisions, Daily Routines, The 85% Rule, Favorite Exercises, Mind Training, and Much More. I particularly loved their discussion about trusting your intuition. My personal notes and quotes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Don’t settle. Find the thing that gives you the energy to go further. 
  • Your religion should be in your actions.
  • You cannot over invest in education – if you’re ever in doubt of what to do go and learn more. 
  • Everyone needs to be appreciated and to be seen for who they are and what they give. 
  • Always keep your word even if it doesn’t suit you!
  • It’s the most important thing to work out in your life – how to trust your intuition. When you have that gut feeling. Go with it. Even if it doesn’t make sense. 
  • I had much more fear of being on the wrong path than I did of any failure on the right one. 
  • You shower every day without complaining. Meditation and exercise need to be looked at the same way. 
  • The 85% Rule: Aim to workout or perform at 85%. Going at 100% doesn’t work. You actually perform better because you relax that little bit.
  • The art of living is being sensitive to the little things, to the detail.
  • The best of the best remain coached till the end of their careers. Why wouldn’t we employ that for (the art of) living.  

2 – This article from CEO Magazine titled: The everyday device in your home killing hundreds around the globe. Can you guess what that device is? This article will wake you up to the reality of how dangerous your mobile phone really is, especially for your mental health. We all need to be spending far less time on our phones and be far more cautious about putting them in the hands of our children. If you don’t have the time to read it, then have a read of these quotes:

The number of pedestrians killed on US roads has risen by a staggering 51% since 2009. In 2017, pedestrian fatalities in Australia jumped by 20% in a year, with police blaming the stupidity of smartphones.

The fact is, we are, as a species, becoming addicted to both the dopamine hits of satisfaction that our smartphones give us hundreds of times a day, while being simultaneously assaulted by the dangerous levels of cortisol they send coursing through our bodies.

Anyone over the age of 10 is already unable to imagine a world without smartphones, and as they grow into adolescence, they are likely to be gifted one of these dangerous yet vital devices by their own parents… This is “like giving them cocaine or heroin”, according to David Gillespie, the author of Teen Brain – Why Screens Are Making Your Teenager Depressed, Anxious And Prone to Lifelong Addictive Illnesses – And How to Stop it Now.

“Between 2007 and now, the rates of teenage pregnancy, and alcohol and cigarette use by teens all dropped – they’re all about half of what they were, it’s a huge achievement and I don’t know why we’re not talking more about it,” he says. “The rates of anxiety and depression for teenagers should also be halving but, instead, the rates of those things in teens have actually doubled over the same period. 

These devices were designed from day one, by Steve Jobs and company, to be “beautiful, easy to use and hard to give up”. And, knowing how addictive they would become, Jobs famously declared that he wouldn’t let his own children near them...


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

My son has been a little confused about the difference between pooing and farting recently.

So much so that every time he farts, he looks at us and says, “poo poo.”

The first time he did this, we got everything ready and changed his perfectly clean nappy. 

The second time we were fooled again so tried explaining to him what the difference between a fart and poo is. 

He thought this was hilarious.

The third time he said, “poo poo,” we had the foresight to check his nappy first.

Still nothing.

My wife looked at me and said, “He’s the boy who cried poo.”

Brilliant. 


Till next week…

Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

What do you cry about that isn’t true?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

How Parents Can Promote The Evolution Of Feminism Mindfully

Following on from my previous post – Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do – I want to talk a little more about how that relates to feminism.

I feel we need to be very careful about what we tell ALL children, including our young girls. To make sure the false narratives that have so visibly divided the sexes throughout history, doesn’t continue to be the narrative that writes our children’s future.  

It’s a well worn discussion that bears repeating, and for that reason I’ll keep my thoughts and this post short. That said I do want to raise a point that’s maybe been missed in our attempts to rewrite the story for our future girls. 

With regards to the feminist movement in particular, we need to be especially careful about how we manage its evolution. 

When I think about the way in which mainstream media has started to reflect this changing narrative, I wonder if we are unwittingly going down a dangerous path. 

Not because we are telling young girls to stand up for themselves more. 

Not because we are telling women they’re every bit as capable as men. 

Not because we are telling them to be their own heroines – not to expect that they will be saved by some bullshit knight in shining armour.

No!

These are undeniably good things to teach our young girls in order to find greater equality going forward. 

What I’m taking about is something more subtle.

The well worn narrative of what it means to be a man – macho and independent – to not need anybody’s help. Specifically that asking for help is a sign of weakness (Something I talked about at length in my previous post).

This is exactly the kind of narrative responsible for the statistic that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, despite being nearly half as likely to develop depression. For the undeniable fact that us ‘macho men’ are actually less emotionally resilient than women.

I think it’s this narrative that has put distance between many of today’s male leaders and their own hearts. It’s acting in the pretence of what society believes to be strong that is, in no small way, dividing nations and destroying our earth.

There’s nothing wrong with challenging the narrative women are less capable than men which, of course, is complete BS, but to teach our girls the same things we’ve been teaching our boys is not a smart move. 

The way we teach girls to have greater emotional intelligence. To pick them up and hold them when they cry. To let them understand the importance of knowing their emotions intimately. 

This is a great thing. 

We need to teach and show our boys more of this. Not women less. 

To teach them not to cry and be like a man, or grow a pair, so to speak, would be a disaster. 

A world in which neither sex is able to properly process or access their own emotions – where girls are told ‘not to cry’ – is a world we cannot allow. 

We must stop denying our children their true nature.

(As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. I’m always keen for a dialogue and to be told where and in what ways I’m wrong so I may grow. Thank for taking the time to read.)


SOURCES:

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190313-why-more-men-kill-themselves-than-women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035568/

Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do

Why is it always said, he cried like a little girl?

We never say, she cried like a little boy, do we? 

For that matter, we never say she cried like a little girl either.

Of course I’m forgetting that’s because it’s acceptable for girls to cry! Silly me. It’s just boys who don’t cry!

Except that’s not true, is it?

Last I checked, little boys cry too. 

In fact I know it’s not true, because my two year old boy cries every single day.

And let me tell you something, he’s the happiest person I know.

The. Happiest. Person. I. Know. 

It’s odd don’t you think?

How happy and peaceful children can be, yet we adults have such a hard time accessing those same emotions?

It got me thinking as to why that might be. I wondered, ‘it couldn’t be related… could it?’

Could crying, as one example of allowing ourselves to feel and process negative emotions, be exactly what we need to do in order to access positive emotions like peace and joy?

I decided to do a little research.

My first findings confirmed what I suspected – that crying from time to time, contrary to popular chauvinistic belief, is actually a pretty fucking good thing for you to do.

This article from Medical News Today on the benefits of crying noted,

Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.”

In addition the article also noted that crying reduces stress, boosts your mood, aids sleep, fights bacteria and even improves your vision (remind me to tell some of my older pilot co-workers of this fact).

Jebus!

I figured it must help, but I had no idea it helped this much.

I wonder then, does this account for why we adults (and men in particular) have a much harder time accessing feelings of peace and happiness?

Do we not allow ourselves to cry enough?

Thinking about my own life it certainly makes sense.

Years of depression was a result of not allowing myself to feel exactly what I needed. After uncovering some hard truths and facing those demons head on, following months of therapy, I finally allowed myself to break down (or ‘break open’ as my therapist referred to it, which I much prefer).

It was such an enormous relief to finally let go of what I’d been fighting for so many years. Afterwards I’d felt an inner peace I’d not felt for years. I remember sleeping like a baby that night.

Now I understand the science behind why that was.

More importantly though the harmful narrative I’d clung onto for years finally began to shift. My life has been immeasurably better ever since.

Of course this wasn’t purely because I allowed myself to cry, but I do believe I’d never have been able to properly process and let go of those difficult emotions without doing so.

Recently I’ve been allowing myself to cry more often. I can tell you that’s not easy for a man who has been conditioned by society to keep him emotions under lock and key. Yet in doing so, my life is now filled with far more beauty and meaning.

I cried the other day when holding my son simply because I became aware of how precious it was while he hugged me during a quiet moment. I let myself cry in front of him. I wanted him to know that this is both a normal and healthy thing to do.

I wonder if any of you thinks this make me less of a man?

Did crying when my son was born make me less of a man? When I first held him in my arms?

Did crying on my wedding day make me less of a man? When I stood in front of all my friends and family as I read out my vows to my wife?

These were some of the happiest, most meaningful days and moments of my life.

If the answer is yes then I formally request to be a female because allowing yourself to cry, allowing yourself to feel your emotions, is what makes life beautiful. It’s what allows your difficult emotions to pass. It’s what allows you to find greater peace.

Luckily I don’t have to go through a sex change operation to allow myself to cry.

As it turns out – newsflash everyone – men can cry after all!

Not only can men cry, I found out that it doesn’t result in your life falling apart or your penis falling off.

Unbelievable news I know but completely true! I can confirm this, you see, because last I checked it’s still there.

In fact, I’ll double check now for you… Yep, still there.

Phew!

Do you want to know why men cry?

Because it’s not a female thing to cry. Shock, horror… It’s actually a human thing to cry. It’s in our nature to cry.

I mean of course it is! Evolution wouldn’t have up with crying pointlessly. Think about it.

Why are we the only species on the planet to deny our nature?

This is exactly what makes us all a bunch of lunatics.

Anyway I’ve gotten away from the research that backs all these opinions up, so let me get back to it.

When I dug a little deeper for this post an extremely bizarre statistic stuck out for me like a sore thumb.

I assumed that men, being more prone to bottle up their emotions and ‘do it alone,’ would almost certainly have higher rates of depression.

WRONG.

Women have been found to have higher rates of depression by a factor of nearly two.

There are a number of reasons for this including gender inequality but studies suggest biological factors to be the major determinant.

At any rate, without getting sidetracked into another very important debate, that wasn’t the bit I found weird.

What I found particularly bizarre was the finding that men are three to four times more likely to take their own life than women.

Why would men be three to four times as likely to die from suicide if they are half as likely to become depressed in the first place?

Assuming my very rough maths is correct and assuming that those who commit suicide have first developed depression, then a man with depression is actually 6 to 8 times more likely to kill himself than a women who develops depression does.

Of course you have to take that with a huge amount of salt, but even so…

Wow!

Talk about being a man hey? Or ‘manning the fuck up’ as some my friends might say.

Talk about the strong emotionally resilient men we have built as a society.

Clearly we’ve done a great job at giving men the tools they need to process their own emotions right?

Or maybe not.

Maybe, instead, we ought to rethink our narrative.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our boys not to cry isn’t such a smart move.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our young boys to ‘man up,’ or ‘grow a pair,’ or ‘stop being such a pussy,’ actually hurts both sexes, especially men.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to redefine what it means to be a man in the first instance.

What do you think?

I’ll tell you why I decided to bring this subject up.

I overheard someone we had hired to babysit our son tell him not to cry. It was a women, by the way, it case you were thinking it must be a man. She clearly didn’t mean any harm but I had to say something.

I asked her if she’d have said the same thing to a girl, or whether she would, in fact, have picked her up and comforted her?

(FYI Research shows that mothers talk more on average with their girl children, including sharing and identifying emotions, as opposed to their boy children.)

I let her know how damaging I believe telling children not to cry is.

I told her that I hope my son always allows himself to cry if he feels the need and that I will never allow him to be shamed for doing so in my household.

Never.

After going away and giving it some more thought, I realised something else.

A deeper problem that many of us might have with other people crying. And how this problem can likely be attributed to telling our boys not to cry.

I suspect many of our distraction techniques aren’t about helping the child so much as a strategy by adults to avoid issues they themselves have about how crying makes them feel.

I believe it’s the adult who often has the problem, whether they are conscious of it or not.

I know whenever my child cried, early on in the weeks shortly after he was born, it brought up intense feelings for me. I felt like a failure every time I was unable to settle him. I would say, “why doesn’t he like my breastmilk as much as my wife’s?”

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with that joke.

Seriously though, on occasions he’d cry for long periods, without successfully calming him down, I would get very angry with him (not historically an emotion I’ve had a lot of trouble with). I would get so angry that I had to leave the room. Now I was never going to hurt him, but that anger was new to me.

It felt very intense.

What quickly followed, whenever I gave up by leaving him in another room, was intense feelings of remorse.

How could I treat him like that?

How could I just abandon him in his cot when he’s crying?

Why am I taking an infant crying so personally?

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Clearly I had some serious shit to work through. Yet in a typically male way, I didn’t seek any help, didn’t talk about it, nor did I let myself cry.

I just beat myself up.

(FYIAll of these can be explained as reasons why men have a harder time dealing with depression and why they are more likely to commit suicide – see this article for more details)

It wasn’t until one day when I got home from work that I saw my son playing on the living room floor. In that moment I felt nothing but an overwhelming repulsion to get away from him. I didn’t want to be with him. I didn’t want to father my son. My gorgeous boy.

This time the remorse that came flooding up was too much. I went to the bedroom closed the door and started to cry.

I cried like a little girl.

No.

I cried like a man.

I let myself really cry. When I was finished I remember seeing with such clarity, there was no doubt about what it was I needed to do next. I reached for the phone and spoke to someone. I finally asked for the professional help I knew I’d needed for a long time.

Crying was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

It gave me the clarity to see what I needed.

It gave me the courage to ask for help.

I can’t emphasise that last statement enough.

Crying gave me courage.


CLOSING WORDS

To all men who feel conflicted about their need to cry, it’s important to understand that crying doesn’t mean you’re not capable of dealing with your emotion. It means you are dealing with your emotions. Please understand it’s perfectly ok to do so.

Equally don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in this. There is nothing unmanly about asking for help or showing emotions. We all need help from time to time. That’s part of the human experience.

Don’t think you need to ‘man the fuck up,’ or stop ‘crying like a little girl.’

If it helps consider the phrase, ‘man the fuck up and cry.’

In doing so you might just shatter the bullshit stereotype of what it actually means to be a man.

In doing so you might just have a greater understanding of what it is to be human.

In doing so you might give this world something it needs more than another macho man incapable of accessing his own emotions.

(Thank you to all for taking the time to read. I’m very curious to know your thoughts and get a proper debate going. To challenge my views so I can grow. Please help me cry by leaving your comments below. I welcome ALL opinions.)


ADDITIONAL SOURCES/FURTHER READING

BBC Article: Why more men than women die by suicide

Medical News Today Article: Eight benefits of crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears

Happiness is here blog post: 10 things for parents to say instead of ‘stop crying.’

Janet Lansbury’s blog post: No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

This study examined gender differences in emotion word use during mother–child and father–child conversations.

This study explores why depression is more prevalent in women

For those who might be dealing with depression and/or struggling with thoughts of suicide it goes without saying I hope you can find the strength to reach out and talk to someone. Coming back from the brink isn’t easy, but it’s never too late. Never. Below is a list of various hotlines and websites in which you can seek help.

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person (Plus Some Advice On Dealing With Anxiety, Depression and PTSD)

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to land a commercial jet?

As you’ve travelled somewhere excitedly looking out of the passenger window and thought what the view is like from the front as you come into land?

Well I can tell you, on a good day, it’s truly exhilarating.

To safely bring one of those big birds back to earth. Gliding onto the tarmac with some 300 passengers behind you. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. 

On a bad day, however, it can be more of a poo-your-pants kinda feeling. Or, to put it another way, it can be shit scary!

The following is a story about a particularly bad day ‘at the office’ for me. A story of my most traumatic experience as a young pilot. One that took me some time to recover from.

That said, it is one I now look back on as a defining moment in my career. One that led me to seek the help I needed and shape me into the man I am today. I’m not only a better pilot because of it, I’m a better person.

Before I continue I want to first say, I don’t mean to scare anyone with the following account – especially those who might already have a fear of flying (maybe stop reading now if you do) – but only to talk openly and honestly about what was a fairly traumatic experience for me in the interest of raising awareness around PTSD.

I also want to talk about how I coped afterwards in the interest of helping others who might have suffered similarly and might be looking for some guidance. 

I hope you find this helpful.

Anyway, allow me to start with the story. Deep breathes everyone, here we go…

(I’m going to try to avoid using too much aviation jargon but will leave links attached for certain phrases in case any of you are unsure of the meaning)


The Story Of My Most Traumatic Experience As A Pilot

As we flew back to Hong Kong over the South China Sea I reflected on how the day had gone. I was pleased. We had flown to Kuala Lumpur without incident during which I managed a challenging approach followed by a decent landing. It was still early days during my Junior First Officer training and my landings had been less than consistent, so this was something of a relief for me. Still, I couldn’t help but doubt myself when thinking about our approach into Hong Kong. I tired to shake it off as we set up for the arrival.

I should say the idea of safely landing a passenger plane based on my skill alone was somewhat daunting for me at the time, especially given it was only my sixth sector ever as the pilot flying a jet (an Airbus A330 for any interested parties) with passengers aboard. I’d also spent the 3 years previous watching on as a Second Officer – without doing any hand flying except occasionally in the simulator – wondering if I was capable. Looking back I realise that I didn’t really believe it. What I’d done by constantly asking the question was reinforce the idea that I wasn’t. As so often comes up in the story about my past the big issue for me had nothing to do with capability, but self-belief.

The weather into Hong Kong was benign except for the wind that was coming from the south (which can mean the possibility of mechanical turbulence from the winds passing over the hills and buildings to the south of the runway, especially near the threshold of 25R – our arrival runway that day).

After briefing the arrival we started our descent. ATC told us to take up the hold while they dealt with the many arrivals typical that time of the day. I began to feel the butterflies build.

As we slowly descended in the hold, the Captain mentioned noticing how I was frequently wiping my hands on my trousers. He told me how Captains tend to notice these kinds of nervous ticks. I didn’t know what to say. I thought about how such a comment was suppose to help?! I knew I was nervous. I wasn’t trying to hide it. Anyway, was it not normal given I was still learning how to fly the damn thing?! I kept quiet and tried to focus on the task at hand.

When we finally joined final approach, my nerves worsened. I tired my best to ignore them but the butterflies were in overdrive. I began to wipe my increasingly sweaty hands with greater frequency – now acutely aware every time I did so! I told myself to breathe. We took the gear down followed by our final flaps. I then asked for the landing check list. Shortly afterwards we were cleared to land. 

It was crunch time. 

As I took the autopilot out, I felt the mechanical turbulence rock the plane. I tried my best to keep my scan going but had a habit of looking down at my PFD (Primary Flight Display) instead of outside. (As part of our scan we should be alternating between both, slowly increasing the amount of time looking outside as we get closer to the runway. Eventually you should be completely ‘heads up’ – only looking outside while the other pilot (the pilot monitoring) continues to monitor the instruments. I had a habit of fixating on the screen (PFD) a little too much instead of looking outside (Not uncommon for trainee pilots)).

When we passed over the threshold a positive wind change caused the aircraft to ballon slightly. At this stage I was looking up but had left it too late to get an adequate picture of what was going on. Instead of counteracting the ballooning effect by pushing the nose down, I did the opposite. In my nervous haste, with the runway growing bigger, I pitched the nose up, flaring way too early.

Then I froze. 

Everything within my field of vision seemed to fade away and all I could feel was an overwhelming sinking feeling. Like my whole being was collapsing in on itself at the pit of my stomach. 

I didn’t know what to do.

We floated and floated, for what felt like an eternity, well beyond our desired touchdown zone, as we hovered above the runway. 

The next thing I remember hearing was the captain announcing, “I have control.” He placed his hands on the thrust levers driving them fully forward to select maximum (TOGA) thrust. It took a while for the jet engines to spool up before we got the proverbial ‘kick up the ass’ and climbed away. When we eventually did the captain then announced, “Go-around, flaps.” 

The rest is a blur. 

I remember cleaning up the aircraft – retracting the flaps and gear as per our standard operating procedures during a go-around (an aborted approach to landing) – but little else except for how I felt. 

What it felt like was the whole world had fallen apart. That my worst fears had been confirmed – that I wasn’t capable and didn’t belong in an aeroplane, let alone one with 300 passengers – and that my lack of ability was responsible for nearly having an accident. (To give you an idea of the dramatisation going on inside my head – the Training Captain was always in control of the situation.)

To reassure you lovely readers, while It is rare for a go-around to happen because of a botched landing, it does happen. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. It would be more alarming had we tired to continue with the landing. To explain, for those who don’t know, a go-around (an aborted approach) is a standard and very safe option available to us at any time during the approach should we elect discontinuing to be the safest course of action. In this case, as we had floated so far down the runway, flying away instead of landing and trying to stop on the limited amount of runway length left available was the safest option. (That didn’t stop it from shattering my ego of course.) I would also stress that this was during my training. Like any skill it takes a while to get the hang of it. Flying is no different. It’s also not uncommon for Training Captains to take control or help via a dual input (the Captain acts on the controls from his seat on the lefthand side of the cockpit at the same time as the pilot flying in the righthand seat does) when teaching inexperienced pilots to fly on a new aircraft type.

As we flew back around for a second approach, the captain asked if I was ok. I shook it off as best I could given the circumstances and declared confidently that I was. I can tell you now, I was not!

The second approach to landing happened quickly as ATC gave us priority to join final approach. I don’t remember much else except for the landing that was long as once again I flared too early. This time the Captain helped to bring the plane down safely by adding a dual input before we plonked onto the runway. A graceful landing, it was not!

As we taxied off the runway and to our parking bay I felt like the smallest person in the world.

The debrief afterwards was hard to take. The Captain tried his best to reassure me and get me to see the bigger picture – what a valuable learning experience this was, etc. – but all I wanted to do was go into hiding. To runaway, crawl under a rock and never come back out.

When I made my way from work on the train home, I remember reliving it over and over again in my head. I kept wondering what the hell had happened? How had it come to this? I couldn’t make sense of it. My initial base training (where trainees fly circuits at a remote airfield without passengers boarded before flying commercially) had gone so well. I had felt so confident but now it felt like I’d fallen into the abyss. I knew it was going to take everything to climb back up. It was everything I didn’t believe I had. .


Dealing With The Aftermath And How I Eventually Overcame My Inner Demons

That evening I’d made plans to have dinner with my parents. When I arrived at their apartment I explained to them what had happened. I didn’t realise at the time just how important it was to simply talk. How getting those words out in the open immediately lessened the power they’d had over me, trapped inside my head. Had I gone home that evening my natural inclination would have been to lock myself away. I know this would have definitely made things worse.

One big problem I’ve always had is talking openly about my problems. Instead my defence has long been to withdraw inward – something I picked up from years of being bullied as an adolescent.

Instead my parents were there to pick me up when I needed it most. They helped me to see how it was something from which I would learn and grow. Something for which I would one day look back on be truly grateful. It was difficult to see at the time but they were, of course, right.

It’s for this reason I strongly believe having people in your life that you can talk to openly and honestly is something we all need.

Still this was only the beginning of a long road to recovery for me. To give you a little more background, my problems extended well beyond the event itself. I had deeper issues to do with low self esteem yet to work through – inner demons that undoubtedly contributed to what happened that day. Although I did eventually seek the help I needed, it took a long time to find the courage to do so. I dreaded going to work. I worried incessantly during my spare time. When I was at work I became especially nervous about performing landings. I remember feeling my heart beat so hard I thought it was going to come out of my chest! I regularly thought about throwing in the towel and giving up. Yet I didn’t. I kept going, against all the will in my being, something inside me wasn’t prepared to let this event define me like that. That this time I wouldn’t let it end in failure.

(Again I want to reassure you lovely readers that I did seek help for PTSD following what happened – however the help I’m referring to above relates to the larger issues I had with both anxiety and depression that long preceded this event. In both cases when I did seek professional help, it was never their opinion that I needed any form medication or that I was a danger to myself or others or that I should stop flying. Had they thought so, they had the power to ground me. Before you jump on my back for continuing to fly despite suffered from mental illness, I want you to know I never believed my issues were so bad I couldn’t perform my duties. I’m confiding in you all now partly because I believe there is still a very unhealthy stigma surrounding mental illness – especially in aviation – where such topics are still strictly taboo despite the crucial need to talk about them!)

Ultimately it was getting back in the seat and facing my demons head on that allowed me to overcome them.

I managed to overcome my fears by proving to myself I was more than capable. Little by little, flight by flight, landing by landing, the anxiety that gripped my heart began to loosen. I went on to complete my Junior First Officer training and then First Officer upgrade the first time of asking and to a very good standard, with no other hiccups along the way. Following that I flew for years around the region with so much exposure that landing the plane became second nature.

Still, there was a feeling that wouldn’t go away. A feeling that continued to plague me. A feeling that I knew if I didn’t face, it would continue to plague me for the rest of my life. I put it off, out of fear, for as long as I could. Eventually I couldn’t take it any longer. I reached out and finally got the help I knew in my heart I’d needed all along.

When I did everything changed for me. I can honestly say I don’t suffer from depression or PTSD anymore. I’m still working through some issues regarding anxiety but even that has lost its hold over me.

It’s for this reason I will always be a voice for encouraging others, especially for anyone who is reading and has suffered from any sort of trauma or mental illness, to ask for the help they need.

I can tell you from experience that that later you leave it the harder it is to solve.

That said, it’s never too late to get the help you need. Never. And solve it you can.

I really hope I can inspire others who may have difficulty getting the help they need, to find the courage to do so. To come out and talk about their problems openly and to know that there is no shame in this whatsoever. Whether talking to a professional, friends and family or simply leaving a comment here – we all need to be having far more of these awkward discussions. We are all human and part of being human is to know we can’t do it alone. Together we are stronger and together we can help one another change. However difficult the road might be for you, please know that change is always possible. It starts with talking.


Fly The Aircraft To The Ground” – Some Closing Thoughts

The day after the landing that wasn’t, I remember getting a call from work. Another senior Captain called to ask how I was and discuss a recurring problem he’d noticed when teaching Junior First Officers to fly. He said he’d noticed how many of them stopped flying after the flare. If you can nail the flare exactly this isn’t such a big issue, but if you flare early, or wind conditions cause you to land long, he’d noticed a tendency to let go even if the aircraft hadn’t landed yet. He said “you have to fly the aircraft to the ground.” 

I never forgot that advice. Not only because it was a very practical tip that summed up exactly what I hadn’t done. But it resonated with me on a deeper level.

You have to fly the aircraft to the ground.

Don’t think because you’re on final approach you can relax. Don’t think because you’re almost home you can let your guard down. You have to keep flying. You have to keep going. Keep taking responsibility for your life and your problems. Life isn’t just one big problem to solve and then you’re set. It’s a series of never ending problems for which you have to take responsibility right till the end. You have strive to stay in control. You have to believe you can deal with it. Should you get it wrong, then you need to let go of you ego and go around.

You can always go around if you don’t get it right.

There is no shame in this. Don’t be afraid to go around and try again. But try again you must. It’s up to all of us to manage our own journeys in life and to make sure we come home safely. I, for one, have ever faith that you can.


For Additional Information regarding PTSD please follow the links below:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/about-ptsd/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Other Sources:

https://www.psycom.net/aerophobia-fear-of-flying/

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passenger-aircraft/a330-family.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_simulator

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_officer_(aviation)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Turbulence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runway

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Holding_Pattern

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_approach_(aeronautics)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Primary_Flight_Display_(PFD)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeoff/Go-around_switch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-around

https://captainong.com/what-is-base-training-base-check-line-training-and-line-ch/

In Honour Of A Boy I Never Knew

I found out today what you did.

I never knew you yet you lived so close.

Just four floors above and yet you might as well have been on the other side of the world.

We must have passed many times – side by side in the elevator – and yet I never noticed.

Did I smile?

Did I show you kindness?

Or did my preoccupations blind me from seeing you?

I’m sorry if you thought the world didn’t care. If the world didn’t pay attention.

I shed a tear for you today.

I never knew you, but I’ll never forget you. I’ll never forget how you must have suffered.

I want you to know your life was not in vain.

In your honour, I will be better.

In your honour, I will strive to keep my eyes and my heart open.

To really see the people I pass by. To see the people I don’t know but are every bit a part of this shared world.

In your honour, I will be kinder.

In your honour, I will strive to be the best version of myself.

In your honour, I will love my life to fullest extent possible.

In your honour, the boy I never knew.

May you rest now in peace.


Those who have never experienced the darkest corners of their mind, will never be able to comprehend why someone would contemplate suicide. 

I myself can’t, but from experience I believe I can, at least, appreciate how it might lead there. 

To those who might label them as selfish – who are quick to judge – I would ask you to think for a second and consider this. 

If a man were burning alive and you handed him a loaded gun, would you judge him for shooting himself?

Living with a depression that drives people to take their own lives is something very few of us will ever be able to fully comprehend.

What I can say with some degree of certainty, however, is judgement won’t help those in the battle to save their own lives.  

They need our love, compassion and understanding. 

They need our help.

Be kind and if you think someone might be suffering, reach out. 

Something as seemingly simple as asking for help, is anything but easy when you’re drowning. 

You never know just how powerful a lifeline you might be offering.

To those who are suffering, who don’t know how to ask, who can’t seem to find the strength, please know there are people waiting to embrace you when you do.

There are people who still love you and know you have what it takes to come back from the brink. 

If you can find the courage, I’ve left a list of links below where you can seek help.


HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free.

“A few modern philosophers assert that individual intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protect & react against this brutal pessimism… With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”ALFRED BINET (early 1900s)

I’d lived with a fixed mindset for years.

It was a mindset driven by a deep seated belief of not being good enough. Not being smart enough.

Simply not being enough.

I told myself all sorts of lies based off this. Lies that sounded so strongly I became crippled with depression and anxiety.

My mind tortured my heart until it shut off completely.

I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place now.

I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. I’m calmer, more confident. My thinking is clearer. I trust in my heart again.

I’m beginning to wake up to who I truly am.

One of the reasons, I believe, is an understanding that nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.

Through true insight gained from asking for help, I’ve been able to gradually change the harmful narrative I’d spent over a decade strengthening.

I didn’t realise it then, not in these terms at least, but one of the major reasons I managed to overcome depression was because I started to cultivate a growth mindset.


For those who’ve never heard the termonolgy before, Maria Popova from her blog post: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives explains it well:

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.[1]

Much of our understanding on the idea stems from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck as outlined in her brilliant book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve.

At the crux of her argument is the idea that those with a growth mindset understand just how valuable effort is over any sort of innate talent.

They understand effort = intelligence, and so fall in love with the process of improvement. On the other hand those with a fixed mindset are so worried about what failure might say about them, they come to dread doing what they have to in order to succeed. In extreme cases they avoid doing all together so as to avoid the pain of failure.

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

When I began to think back over my own life in these terms, I began to see how damaging a fixed mindset had been throughout my life.

Failure to me was confirmation I was one.

I hated doing certain work from a young age. Languages, in particular, were difficult for me. I was led to believe, by many teachers nonetheless, I wasn’t good at English and/or Languages.

The result?

I didn’t bother putting any effort into those subjects. I remember thinking what’s the point. I’m not any good so might as well concentrate on what I am.

The trouble is it worked in reversed too!

I was regularly told how good I was at math – that it was something I should pursue because it will open many doors. This was drilled home to me.

The result?

I completely lost interest in a subject I once loved. I still managed to scrape an A during my GCSE’s, but much to my father’s disappointment, I decided not to pursue it as an A level. I didn’t want people to find out, that if I put in the effort and failed, I might not be that good after all.

My parents, who I know believed were doing the right thing, didn’t realise how harmful praising my natural abilities were. It turns out that praising a child’s natural ability, or telling them how clever they are, is extremely damaging because it fixes a child’s mindset.

As Dweck notes,

“The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent… In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.”

I’ll tell you a story of another teacher who never made mention of my abilities in English. She had me moved into her English class for the top peers in our age group (even though I belonged in the bottom). She made sure I sat at the front and paid keen attention (she was somewhat terrifying which helped). Despite not putting much effort into my coursework during those years, because of her, because of what I learnt through the effort I was forced to put in, I achieved B’s in both English Language and Literature.

You might think so what?

Well given my coursework material, which counted for a large percentage of the final grade, averaged between a C and a D, I must have aced the final examinations. I would also point out, before I joined her class, I was far, far behind the rest of the pack. On top of which I was going through some very difficult times in my life (I’ll get to that shortly). To this day they’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

Forgetting the grade, however, what she proved was far more important, even if it didn’t fully register till years later. She proved that if I chose to apply myself I was more than capable. She helped plant the seed for developing a growth mindset that would bear fruit many years later.


Image Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/

Prolonged bullying can instil a fixed mindset. Especially if others stand by and do nothing… Victims say that when they’re tortured and demeaned and none comes to their defence, they start to believe they deserve it. They start to judge themselves and to think they’re inferior.

I would love to say from this point everything got better. That I understood and moved forward with a newfound belief and started to grow.

But it didn’t.

I didn’t.

It got worse. Much worse.

My problems stemmed from many variables, but bullying played the biggest role. Those years of secondary school were brutal for me. I was bullied every day at school for years.

This was compounded by the fact my parents couldn’t see what was happening. I was at boarding school halfway across the world. They didn’t know.

They couldn’t.

The trauma of being bullied repeatedly hardwired my response to withdraw from everyone and everything. I shut down as a way to repress the overwhelming emotions I didn’t know how to process. It was depression in the making.

Ultimately this was a major problem because it prevented me for doing what I needed the most.

Ask for help.

What followed makes perfect sense to me now.

When my first love of two years broke up with me during University, I fell apart. I had no confidence I was capable of being on my own. No belief I was lovable, or that I’d be capable of finding it again.

Similarly, when I messed up a landing so badly during my early Junior First Officer training as a pilot (that the Captain had to take over and go around), it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I put on a brave face but when I got home I broke down. The feelings of inadequacy came flooding up. It was too much for me.

(For those who don’t know in aviation, a go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach.)

Carrying on afterwards, whenever I faced failure of some kind, was extremely, extremely difficult. Difficulties would often trigger a bout of depression that could last for weeks if not months at a time.

What my fixed mindset always wanted was to give up. To retreat into my shell. To shut down rather than fail and confirm what years of bullying had led me to believe.

It took everything I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To understand these were just lessons on the road of life which all of us go through.

Still, something in my heart kept my head above water.

The small voices of a growth mindset, planted there by various people including my parents, my high-school English teacher and my wife, to name a few, who all understood I really was capable, were enough in the end to pull me through. To all of them I am, and always will be, extremely grateful.

Yet it was all much harder than it needed to be. The major problem wasn’t my fixed mindset, but that the depression and paralysing anxiety it caused, prevented me from reaching out for help. I knew I needed it but for years I simply couldn’t find the strength.

It wasn’t until after my son was born, when I came home from work one day consumed by a regular bout of depression. As I sat with him and looked into his eyes, I realised I didn’t want to be around him.

I didn’t want to father him.

The familiar feeling of wanting to runaway and hide, to withdraw into my shell, to shirk all my responsibilities – including that as a father – broke me. The remorse and guilt was too much to bear. I left the room and the tears fell.

I let the sadness consume me.

I cried and cried. I cried until nothing was left but a strange peace. Something inside me changed. Something that said this time I couldn’t let depression win. I won’t. I didn’t think about what to do next. I simply picked up the phone.

I reached out.

I asked for help.


“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives”

I rate it as both the most courageous and important decision I’ve ever made. Since then the changes have far exceeded what I thought possible.

Am I out of the woods yet?

No, not a chance.

But I can honestly say after I sought help, after over a decade of suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as long-term depression, I’ve not had an episode since.

I still struggle with anxiety and other emotions that surface, especially in the face of adversity. However the difference is they don’t consume me like they used to.

I’m acutely aware of where those emotions and the false narrative are coming from. This has helped me to gradually let them go.

I also realised through the flooding of my subconscious with positive thinking and reading (the same way bullying can flood your subconscious with negative thinking), you can change the narrative in your head. You can literally grow out of a fixed mindset. You can literally grow out of depression!

Of course I don’t want to underplay how difficult this all was or, indeed, still is. To this day being bullied remains one of the most difficult topics for me to talk about personally, let alone publicly, but I now understand the need to do so.

In not facing your demons, you only give them strength. You only strengthen your fixed mindset. By not asking for help you only make it harder to do later on.

Ultimately if there was just one message I could convey to those struggling with depression – to those who suffer from an all consuming self-doubt – it would be to ask for help.

To somehow find the courage within you and reach out.

I know how hard it is.

Trust me!

But please remember, asking for help is simply asking someone else to help you grow. We all need help from one another – from the day we’re born till the day we die. The last thing it shows is that you’ve failed or that you’re incapable.

It shows the exact opposite.

It shows that despite everything you’re still willing to show up. It shows you’re not willing to let past demons fix in you any false belief. It shows that you understand that within you is another voice. Another mindset that knows you have so much more to give. A mindset we all have.

It is only you who can set it free.

It starts by asking for help.


SOURCES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova


Dear readers, thank you so much for listening to what I have to say! In the interest of growth, I’d love to hear any comments, suggestions, questions or criticisms you may have in the comments sections below. Thanks again. Yours, AP2.

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – APRIL 2020 – On COVID-19, Fear setting, practising Compassion, Gratitude, cultivating Mindfulness and more…

Hello fine readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter – a series of my thoughts and feelings from my journal.

Included is a round up of what I’ve been reading and writing, plus a collection of my favourite bits and pieces from around the web, and finally a collection of thoughts and ideas from yours truly. I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

12 Personal Commandments for a Happier Life

As inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful Happiness Project, I decided to put together a list of my own 12 commandments for living a happier, healthier and more purposeful life.

5 Mindfulness Hacks to Help Bring You Back to the Present Moment

5 Mindfulness Hacks that I like to use informally throughout the day to help bring me back to and fully engage with the present moment.

How to Gain Enlightenment While Taking a Dump. – Favourite Books for Moments of Profound Pooing

A fun post about creating the habit of reading books while on the loo!

Am I doing this because of Fear or Love? – a question for motivation and guidance

A post based on the question; “Am I doing this because of love of fear?” that I heard from the following Tim Ferris podcast: Dr. Vivek Murthy — Former Surgeon General on Combatting COVID-19, Loneliness, and More  

Now is the time – What will you do with yours?

A piece to inspire action from isolation as inspired by the following Kitty O’Meara poem:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

The Nature of my Child

A short post inspired by my son/this quote:

“Every child has a god in him. Our attempts to mould the child will turn the god into a devil – A. S. Neill


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING

BOOKS:

2 books have dominated my reading and re-reading for the past two months – both of which I can highly highly recommend reading, especially during this time of great uncertainty.

The first is RADICAL ACCEPTANCE by Tara Brach

From Amazon: “Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance.” 

The second is AWARENESS by SJ Anthony de Mello

Although written some time ago now – this book is the best I’ve read that translated to me what spirituality means and why cultivating greater awareness is something we all need.

Another book I can highly highly recommend is the beautifully illustrated ‘THE BOY, THE MOLE, THE FOX AND THE HORSE’  by Charlie Mackesy. 

It’s not only deeply moving and thought provoking, it’s a beautiful piece of art in its own right. I could pick any quote and it would be worth sharing, but I’ll leave you with just one that hit home for me on a personal level.

“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy… 

“Help”, said the horse.


OTHER BITS AND PIECES FROM AROUND THE WEB:

Fear setting – who Tim Ferris described as the most valuable exercise he does every month – is an exercise in defining some of your fears about a difficult decision you are considering making, versus the longer term costs of doing nothing. I used it this month to consider what might happen if I lost my job and found it a very reassuring exercise.

This inspirational video of a speech by Orator Jonathan Roberts addressing graduating seniors at Harvard’s Senior Class Day ceremony on May 24, 2017 at Tercentenary Theatre.

THOUGHTS & IDEAS FROM MY JOURNAL:

ON COVID-19, DEALING WITH FEAR, PRACTISING COMPASSION AND BEING GRATEFUL:

Gratitude, with rare exception, gives you a more accurate interpretation of reality.

Do not try to change people, that’s the wrong approach. Instead try only to help people.

The inability to forgive each other and people’s unwillingness to admit they’re wrong go hand in hand.

The Chinese character for crisis translates as danger + opportunity. I think this is brilliant. Danger meaning a need to be careful and vigilant – a need to act. But as with any crisis there is also opportunity for growth and to learn – to profit from setback.

Make your mission about helping others, not validating the ego. Make your mission about inspiring hope, not criticising others for acting out of fear. After all, are we not all irrational when acting from fear? Have compassion for those who are scared and forgive those who acted rashly and misled the public based on limited, information. We are all fools in this together. Don’t attack. Be kind.

ON DEVELOPING THE MIND AND MINDFULLNESS:

As a rule: Clarity first. Action second.

The great thing about momentum: eventually is becomes easy.

It matters less what you choose to do, but that you give that thing your undivided attention.

Everybody’s mind is filled with bullshit. Wisdom comes from shifting through that bullshit and picking out what you know to be true in your heart. 

The egos need for validation will never be satisfied! When you feed it, its appetite over time only grows. You have to let it go!

Your insecurities prevent you from showing your true self.

The desire for others to say something positive about me is a reflection of my own insecurities. 

Your resistance to other people only serves to strengthen their position in your mind.

The mind is a tool – something to be used. If you fail to remain aware, the mind will take over and use you.

Learning to continuously question your beliefs, to unlearn everything you’ve been taught, to treat what you know with a very large amount of skepticism, is one of the most important skills one can cultivate.

ON PURSING YOUR DREAMS/DOING THE THINGS YOU LOVE:

Doing the things you love gives you the energy to the do the things you need but don’t. 

Better to be happy in failure than unhappy in success.

Ask yourself whether you are making this decision because of fear or love. A perceived need for more money is often driven by a fear of losing out, a fear of not having, or losing the things you already have. Of course thats not always the case. If you’re doing it for your family, for a better education for your children, a better neighbourhood for them to grow up, for certain their security, then those decisions clearly stem from a place of love. However that’s often not the case. What I want to stress is to the need be clear of the reasons for choosing to pursue a certain career or path. If the decision is about finding purpose – follow your heart.

ON PARENTING

I think in our efforts to make something of our children, we often do a disservice to that which is already there. I don’t need to make him into anything. I simply need to encourage what is already there, for him to flourish and realise his full potential. 

There is no need to force parenting, just be present and you’ll understand what you should do.

ON HONESTY, EXPECTATIONS & FORGIVENESS

Being honest with someone is important, but unless you do it compassionately you’re probably wasting your time. People aren’t willing to receive rocks if you hurl them – they’re either going to duck and hide, or throw them back. 

The truth hurts because we are breaking down that persons reality – pointing something out they didn’t want to hear. That’s why it’s important to be kind, but to be kind while being courageous enough to tell them the truth.

People often expect an apology before they’re willing to forgive. Forgiveness should come first without any expectations. Ones apology will often be returned with far more sincerity if you do. 

12 Personal Commandments for a Happier Life

As inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s wonderful Happiness Project, I decided to put together a list of my own 12 commandments for living a happier, healthier and more purposeful life.

As Gretchen says, ‘these aren’t meant to be specific resolutions but overarching principles by which to live’. At any rate, it’s a fun and creative way to help outline some core values should you have the time.

I should say the quotes are not mine, but ones that stuck in my mind from various readings over the years. Anyway here they are:

  1. “Live in day-tight compartments” – Live in the moment. There’s no point in living with regret about yesterday or worry for tomorrow. 
  1. “Don’t cry over spilt milk”You can’t change what’s happened. Only pick up the pieces and move forward. Forgive and forget. 
  1. “Pay Rapt Attention” – Meditate daily and show a keen interest in your daily activities and conversations. Stay in the moment and participate fully. 
  1. “Act and think the way you wish to feel – be fearless” – Smile and be happy. Stand up tall and be confident. We live in the mind whether we know it or not. The wisest among us use our actions to influence our emotions and not the other way around. 
  1. “Count your blessings – Not your troubles” – First – aim to get what you want and then Second – Enjoy it! Be grateful everyday. You’re exceptionally lucky. 
  1. “Be Yourself” – Imitation is suicide. Be your best self and embrace your uniqueness. 
  1. “Have malice toward none and charity for all” – Don’t waste a second thinking about those that have wronged you. It serves no purpose. We must harbour no bitterness. Instead find time to give and serve those in greater need. 
  1. “Order is Heaven’s First Law” – Clearing clutter will help create peace of mind. Set specific measurable goals, visualise them complete, then act on them. 
  1. “Lose yourself in action – Just do it” – Secret to being miserable is to have the time to wonder whether you are happy or not. Keep yourself busy. Work daily, Exercise daily and Play daily. The time is now so go!
  1. “Do what’s right, not what’s easy” – The easiest is rarely the best option. Strive toward a higher purpose and think before every word and action. 
  1. “Remember life comes from you not at you” – Give up blaming and complaining. Only YOU are responsible for YOU. Be honest with yourself and understand that belief is a choice so choose to believe!
  1. “Look to the stars” – Have faith you can turn around any situation. To profit from your losses is far more important than capitalising on your gains. Take the time to reflect everyday. 

I might add I wrote this some time ago after I first read Gretchen’s book. After going through my old notes I thought it might be a great time to refine and update this old list. I’ll be sure to post it when its finished. In the mean time, if you have any personal commandments of your own please let me know in the comments section below. I’d be thankful for the inspiration.

A Pilot’s Guide to Self-Managing Back Pain – Core Strength & Flexibility

“It’s not the job of sports medicine professionals to look after your tissues and joints, whether you hydrate or whether you actively work toward improving and maintaining healthy positions and range of movement throughout the day. It’s up to you. Spend 10 minutes minimum per day. No days off. No excuses.”

– Dr. Kelly Starrett, READY TO RUN

In my attempts to nurse my back to full strength, I have spent a great deal of time researching how to manage my pain, while also looking at the best home remedies/exercises to help fix my injury and prevent similar ones from happening again in the future.

As a result I have decided to compile my research into this comprehensive guide regarding all the things I’ve found particularly useful for managing my back pain day to day, including some important what-not-to-dos!

Following on from my previous post – Sitting, Standing, Swimming – this post will explore core strengthening and flexibility. The following post will look at lifestyle tips and how to sleep properly. A final post will look at the use of drugs/other treatments plus some final thoughts.

It goes without saying I’m not a medical professional in any way, shape or form, so please, please, don’t take what I’m saying as gospel. I’m simply relaying what has helped me in managing my pain. 

Back pain is a complex issue that I believe requires a complex approach from a number of different angles. Trial and error is necessary in figuring out what works best for you and your condition. 

Hopefully this guide will help you as well in some way, shape or form. As always seek advice from a professional (added advice – seek more than one opinion) and do your own research.

I’ve left links to a number of articles throughout that I found useful/helped support my own findings. I should add I am in no way affiliated with any of the organisations mentioned or products that I recommend. 


CORE STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY ARE KEY

CORE STRENGTHENING aND FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES NEED TO be a top priority, not only to aid in recovery, but crucially prevent further injury down the line!

YOGA is an obvious go-to that COMBINES BOTH FLEXIBILITY AND STRENGTH well. It’s also easy to modify, as needed, depending on your pain/condition.

PILATES ALSO COMES HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by many health care professionals in aiding lower back pain.

Before you jump down to do 100 sit-ups there are a few things worth knowing.

NOT ALL CORE STRENGTHENING OR STRETCHING EXERCISES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR BACK. Sit ups, for example, put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine and are best avoided. Other stretches such as forward bends can be equally bad for those who suffer from lower back issues.

I’ve found the following TO BE problematic TO SOME DEGREE:

SIT UPS – BICYCLE CRUNCHES – RUSSIAN TWISTS – BOAT POSE – DOUBLE LEG LIFTS – TOE TOUCHES/FORWARD BENDS – DOWNWARD DOG – HAMSTRING STRETCHES

This list is not exhaustive – just off the top of my head. That said, I have been able to modify a few of these exercises/stretches to work for me – Hamstring stretches on my back for example – as opposed to bending from sitting or standing – doesn’t cause me pain unless I over do it!

It goes without saying but EXPERIMENT TO FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU and as always use pain as your guide. IF IT HURTS BACK OFF (more on this below!).

With that in mind here are a few tips I’ve found useful.

A key aspect for most core exercises is KEEPING YOUR TAILBONE TUCKED AND ENGAGING YOUR CORE AND GLUTES.

Similarly when performing ab exercises from your back you want to KEEP YOUR LOWER BACK GLUED TO THE FLOOR (imagine drawing your navel towards your spine).

Strengthening and improving flexibility both upstream and downstream of the problem area is also important. For your LOWER back this means your glutes, quads, hip flexors, HAMSTRINGS, upper back and chest, as well AS your core.

Below are a list of exercises & stretcheS that I’ve found work well without aggravating my pain. As always these are exercises I’ve found work for me. That might not be the case for you. Be cautions and let pain be your guide.

Rather than bore you with a description I’ll leave it up to you to look them up and choose which ones you would prefer to incorporate into your daily routine.

FYI there are a million and one great workout videos you can follow on YouTube or other such media platforms. Simply Google exercise videos for lower back pain and away you go. I often follow fitness blender workouts when on a layover in my hotel room.

On your front:

PLANK

BIRD DOG

PIGEON POSE

CAT 🐈 COW 🐄 

CHILD POSE

SPHINX/COBRA POSE

SUPERMAN 

On your back/side:

SIDE PLANK

BRIDGE

PELVIC TILT

PARTIAL CRUNCH 

WINDSHIELD WIPERS

GLUTE STRETCH 

HAMSTRING STRETCH

HAPPY BABY

From standing:

WALL SIT

FORWARD/REVERSE LUNGE

QUAD STRETCH

SQUATS

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/multimedia/back-pain/sls-20076265?s=3

https://www.everydayhealth.com/back-pain-pictures/the-best-and-worst-exercises-for-back-pain.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/ss/slideshow-exercises

https://www.self.com/gallery/core-exercises-for-lower-back-pain-relief/amp

https://www.self.com/story/the-abs-exercises-you-should-skip-if-you-have-lower-back-pain

https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/anterior-pelvic-tilt-exercises


LISTEN TO YOUR BODY BUT DON’T STOP MOVING

For the vast majority of injuries there is almost always a healthy and safe way to modify your exercise routines. Sure it might mean you have to stop running for a while or playing tennis (or whatever that sport you love may be) but it certainly doesn’t mean you should stop altogether. It’s not a death sentence.

I would argue NOT MOVING MIGHT BE THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO. I’ve certainly found this to be the case with regards to back pain. Remaining sedentary or trying to do nothing certainly hasn’t worked for me.

You need to move, stretch and strengthen everyday. You do, however, need to be smart about it. By this what I really mean is, LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR!

It was leading up to a weight training session that I felt a small twinge in the back of my lower back. The alarm bells were there. It didn’t feel like much so I pressed ahead determined to ‘get ripped’ like a jackass. The result? I put my back out doing deadlifts…

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. ONE MISSED WORKOUT IS ALWAYS WORTH IT TO AVOID INJURY. I’ll say again, if your body is trying to tell you something, listen. The same applies post injury too (something I’m also well versed in).

It might seem obvious but YOU SHOULD NEVER BE STRETCHING OR TRAINING TO OR BEYOND THE POINT WHERE YOU FEEL PAIN. .

When lifting weights you have to BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO OVER DO IT. Once again leaving your ego at home is highly recommended! Start small and build slowly. Never ever sacrifice your form for amount of weight.

Equally important to consider is the type of lifting exercises – which matter greatly depending on the particular condition and severity of your back injury/pain. IF YOUR COMING BACK FROM INJURY GO SLOW!!

When testing the waters with weights last week, despite lifting only a small amount, my back decided to complain considerably the next day. It was too soon. Until you’re back to full strength, AVOIDING IMPACT FROM BELOW AND WEIGHTS FROM ABOVE ARE GOOD RULES OF THUMB to follow! My weights remain firmly in the closet for now. I’ve already done a fine job prolonging injuries over the years. This time my ego will have to wait.