Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Stress relief: is there a 'quick fix'?

Sometimes this may be
your best option...
(in moderation, of course.)
I suffer with stress at the moment – everyone does sometimes.  I also suffer with Depression, and I’ve had my fair share of heart-breaks, loneliness and anxiety.

Recently, I heard somebody recommending ‘Rescue Remedies’ as a cure for stress.  Later that same week, I saw a stand in Boots pharmacy, stocking different varieties of the product.  Both of these events made me angry.

A few years ago, a friend of mine took part in the 10:23 campaign.  A prominent employee of Boots had openly admitted there was no evidence that homeopathic treatments were effective and yet, Boots, a trusted pharmacy, continued to sell them.  (If you’re unsure what homeopathy is, the 10:23 page has a good overview.)

The 10:23 campaign aimed to prove the fallacy of homeopathy through organising a mass overdose of homeopathic products.   The event proved the point: my friend took 30 times the recommended dose, and suffered no effects, positive or negative.

‘Rescue Remedies’ are a form of homeopathy known as ‘Bach Flower Remedies’.  If you read the label, it clearly states that the ‘medicine’ is a severe dilution of the ‘active ingredient’.   In reality, all that is left in the bottle is brandy.  (I’ll give them credit there: at least it’s not just water, as in many cases.  And I suppose a stiff-drink can sometimes help stress.)

These products are a placebo.  Nothing more. 

The reason they make me angry is because people believe they work, and so part with their cash for them (and they’re not cheap!), making someone very rich for ... nothing. 

A placebo may work – yes.  The brain is remarkable and the psychological impact of taking something you believe to work cannot be underestimated.  But many of the illnesses – such as Depression, for example – supposedly helped by homeopathy have genuine medical treatments, which are both effective and offer the same ‘placebo’ benefit of a...err...placebo.  And, the more money that is spent on ‘researching’, producing and stocking the placebos, the less there is for developing real treatments.

I wish there was a miracle cure for loneliness, anxiety, stress or the ‘Monday morning blues’ (seriously, it’s on their website!).  But there isn’t. 

There are, however, products that can genuinely assist with well-being – and I’m not just talking about prescription drugs.  For example, did you know black tea, bananas and omega 3 have all been linked with reducing stress?  (One of those three links contains several other stress-relieving foods!)

Please stop wasting your money on products such as Rescue Remedies.  If you’re taking anything branded as an ‘alternative medicine’, at least find out what it is and how it’s made first.

As Tim Minchin says in his song, Storm: ‘Do you know what they call "alternative medicine" that's been proved to work? ...


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

The secret to doing everything you ever wanted to do...

Many things can deflect us from getting
where we want to be.

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook recently about a method of getting up early in the morning by not thinking about it, but just doing it.  The article is here

I've been mulling it over and started thinking that most things are only difficult to do when we stop to consider the alternatives.  Like staying in bed rather than getting up, or watching a movie, rather than working on that creative project.

The moment we stop to think about it, we can come up with a dozen other things we could do, most of which might be easier or preferable to the thing we really should do.

But, if we stop even allowing ourselves to think of alternatives and just do the thing we are meant to do, then we’re probably more likely to get it done.  Which really goes without saying.

I’m re-reading a book at the moment: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  He talks a lot about Resistance and the different guises it takes to prevent us from doing the thing we ought to be doing.  He says that, as a result of giving in to ‘Resistance’, we end up feeling 'like hell': deep down ,we know we’re not doing what we’re born to do, and we become restless, seeking many ways of distracting ourselves: TV; music; games; sex.

But Pressfield, with great insight, writes: ‘We will never cure our restlessness by contributing our disposable income to the bottom line of Bullshit, Inc., but only by doing our work.’ (Pressfield, 2002, The War of Art.)

If we want to write a novel, there is no five-point quick fix method.  The only way is to write a novel.

If we want to get up early and go for a run, hitting snooze and staying bed won’t help.  The only way is to get up and go for a run.

The secret, then, to doing anything and everything we want to do is...to do it.

I’m trying to learn (note the tentative nature of this statement!) to block out the alternatives to ‘doing the work’; they will never serve to assist me with the projects I so desperately want to complete.

Don’t think, do. 

It sounds like something Yoda would say.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

How do you have fun?

Life can sometimes be work, work, work.
Fun doesn’t seem to feature in my life much.  I don’t really have time/money.

And I’m not sure this is a good thing.

I think having fun is important, I just find it hard.  When I use time on something meaningless, such as Football Manager, I consider it time wasted and feel guilty: I should have been writing.

The truth is, I’ve never really known what I enjoy.  My mother used to ask me: ‘Is there anything you do like?!’ after I had declared I didn’t like yet another activity: playing football, swimming, and youth groups, to name but a few.

Of course, there are things I do in my spare time: reading, playing music, or watching films, for example.  But I question whether I actually ‘enjoy’ them: are they fun?  Or do I do them to pass the time while I’m on the tram, or eating, or too tired lazy to write?

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned what I want to do: writing.  And I’ve found I can write and perform songs as a side-line.  But I don’t do them for fun.  In fact, when I sit down to write, it feels like far harder work than the time I sit at my desk 9-5. 

And having sat at said desk all day/week, which is itself particularly unenjoyable, it’s then difficult to  do the hard writing, even though I ‘want’ to do it.

In fact, it leads to great frustration: knowing I could do my writing, if only I didn’t first have to tire myself out in a day job in order to pay the bills etc.

Apologies.  I don’t mean to whine.

I think we all need time for relaxation, and fun.   If you’re like me, I recommend trying to allow yourself to have fun from time to time.  And maybe I’ll make it a belated New Year’s Resolution.

I could even schedule it in, and then it might feel like a work activity...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Making the most of the year to come.

‘A goal without a plan is just a wish.’
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer.

I love the start of a new year: it's a good chance to look back, take stock, and look to what we want the next 12 months to bring.  While I understand some people saying: ‘It’s just another day, you can make a fresh start anytime,’ I still think it’s a particularly easy time to do it.

For a few years I’ve promised I would finish my novel, yet still it goes on.

This year, I’m making plans: I’ve already written a workable schedule for my novel, and also for my non-fiction project.  And, I’m trimming out things I can live without, or distract me from my ambition.

I’ve spent much time in my life on things I’m not going to be proud of on my death-bed: Football Manager; late-morning lie-ins; re-watching movies I’ve seen time and again.  I’m not saying I will cut these out entirely, but they need to be in their place, not in place of my life’s goals.

Don Miller wrote recently about why New Year’s Resolutions often end in disappointment, and how to make ones that will stick.  You can read his blog-post here.  Basically, it’s about setting an exciting challenge, rather than a woolly dream, and then making a plan to achieve it.

Whatever you want to do in your life – whether it’s write a novel, record an album, design a fashion range, or settle down in a nice home – put the wheels in motion today, or at least start laying the tracks.  Make a plan; order an instrument; create space for a design-table; budget your finances and start saving.

Every year that goes by without achieving our aims is another year wasted. 

Life is finite. 

There’s no time to lose.