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Stress Management And Future Uncertainty: The Stress-Less Game Plan

TSA Footballer Soccer Cartoon Stress Management

Who Knows What the Future May Bring?

It’s an exciting thought, but also the source of much stress for many people. We live in an age of opportunity. And, although the socio-economic status of our readers varies greatly, you have internet access, so you’re already at a huge advantage! Vast opportunity is generally seen as being positive, although it can bring with it a degree of uncertainty. Who knows where you’ll end up in 10 years time? What if you haven’t progressed? What if you pursue the wrong opportunity, and it was all for nothing???

Put Your Stress to Rest… But not all of it.

A degree of stress can motivate us towards achieving our goals. It’s normal, and necessary. But if we succumb to it, then it can hinder our ability to capitalise on opportunities when they present. The ability to think clearly in stressful situations, comes from a general understanding of the internal (or micro) and external (macro) environment (a business analogy, where YOU are the organisation). The internal environment includes the things we can control, whereas the external environment covers the things we can’t control. Stress that stems directly from the external environment is generally unnecessary. This will only slow you down. Although it is good to be aware of external environmental factors, so that you can adapt accordingly. Your ability to adapt, refers to how well you manage your internal environment. These are the issues that you have the ability to change. So, exercise your control.

Exercising Your Control.

If there is an issue in the external environment causing you stress, consider what changes you can make internally to better cope with this issue. This is the process of exercising control, or explained simply, putting yourself in the driver’s seat. Lets use this theory in an example. Perhaps your employer has increased your hours, without a pay rise. Definitely a stressful situation. Whilst you can’t decide on your own pay increase, you can control your response. So lets focus on this. Perhaps you (diplomatically) express your disenchantment to your employer. You negotiate, however an agreement is not reached. You could strike, you could wait, you could find a new job. But, you can’t increase your own pay (external environment). Of course, you could take control of your own pay, by starting your own business. A difficult and extreme solution to the original issue, yes. But still within your control (internal environment). The lesson here, is that there is always a course of action that you can take within your internal environment, to influence the external environment.

The Stress of Uncertainty, and Taking Your Opportunities.

It’s easy to get caught up in the stress that is presented by the uncertainty of one’s future. For a student, the question might be “what career will I choose to work in for the rest of my life?”. A scary thought indeed. But the reality is that you don’t have to get it right the first go. Whats more important is your ability to recognise a worthwhile opportunity when it presents itself. Sometimes, you won’t know whether or not it is worthwhile until you give it a try. Whatever doesn’t work out, will serve as a valuable experience for the next opportunity. There is a very solid lesson here also, and that is that opportunity breeds opportunity. That’s not a typo, every opportunity that you engage will present another opportunity. Somewhere, somehow… You just need to be looking for it. It might present as a valuable lesson. Or perhaps be the refinement of your goals. Maybe it’s the career opportunity you’ve been searching so hard for. Eventually, all of these opportunities will lead to something special. Not taking your opportunities, is the only mistake that won’t teach you a lesson.

The Stress-Less Game Plan.

Lets outline what a stress management plan might look like if it were a game of football. At the end of the day, life is but a game. Success and stress go hand in hand. So tag it out of the game early, and reduce it’s negative impact on your life. Remember, there is no ‘I’ in team. The entire field must work together if you (the coach) ever expect to hold the premiership cup.

Offense

The best form of defense is offense! In other words, be proactive. Don’t wait for your stress to mount. By developing a firm understanding of the internal and external environment (what you can control vs what you can’t control) you’ll be well equipped to deal with stress when it does start to impact your game. So, critically analyse your environment, and sort the internal from the external. Beat stress before it makes it’s way into the back half!

Defense

In a football match, there are ebbs and flows. The ball simply cannot stay in your forward half forever. The same can be said of life. So, when stress does get on top, you need to exercise your control, and fight back. Put the external environment aside. Focus on what you can control. Make a positive impact by actioning the areas that can influence the external environment. Send a nice clearing ball into the forward half…

Midfield

Always involved in the play, this line represents the resilience, determination and accountability that will get you through the hard times. The midfield must help out the defense when they are under attack. They also have to create the zone, to make sure the ball doesn’t easily find it’s way out of the offensive half. This is an attitude towards life. A midfielder’s job is never done…

Final Note

The undertone of most of our articles is ‘accountability’. It’s all about self-help, in the direction of self-improvement. Back yourself, it’s never over until you say it’s over. Don’t yield to stress, follow the steps to manage it better, and allow yourself the opportunity to take your opportunities. Thanks again for reading, feel free to leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Financial Stress: 6 Simple Management Strategies.

Monopoly financial stress

The Pressure of Financial Stress.

Pressure and stress can be factors that motivate us to work hard. But, if they’re not properly managed, they can hinder our ability to perform at a high level. Not only can this make it more difficult to appropriately manage our finances, but it can also be the cause of many stress-related health issues. There are a few simple ways that we can better manage financial stress, starting by simply taking a seat, and pulling out a pad and pen… Budgeting is the most obvious strategy, and we’ll discuss that in more depth later. However, one strategy that is often over looked by many people who suffer from financial stress and pressure, is the insatiable desire to compete with their neighbour. That’s why we’ve included this strategy at the top of our list:

6 Simple Management Strategies for Financial Stress

1. Ignore the Competition

Monopoly. Dubbed ‘The Game of Life’. Sadly, it’s a truth that is all too real. Many of us lose track of why we set out to earn in the first place, and tend to measure our financial achievements against those of our friends and family. Do you live to work, or work to live? What are your priorities? Before you start looking at how you will spend your money, or how you can save more money, you need to consider the why. You may not need all of the lovely expensive things that your wealthy friends have. Don’t put yourself under severe financial stress, and over-extend so that you can achieve somebody else’s financial goals. So, before engaging the following 5 strategies, put the competition aside, and focus on what suits your lifestyle. 

2. Set Financial Goals

Goals provide us with the direction and motivation needed to succeed. Of course, it does take a little more than simply setting goals in order to succeed (mental toughness for one). But it certainly is a great place to start. Set a long-term goal, and then a series of short-term goals that will act as ‘stepping stones’ towards achieving that long-term goal. To break it down further, you can brainstorm some daily, and weekly activities that will help you in reaching each goal you set. For example, if your long-term financial goal is to purchase your first home in 2 years, a short-term goal might be to save $10,000 in six months. Your daily/weekly activities might be cooking everyday, instead of eating out, or counting and reviewing your expenditure every week. 

3. Create a Budget

The absolute staple of every financial planning/management article you’ll ever read. Budgeting is important, as it helps you to set realistic financial goals. It’s also a great way to consider how your finances can best serve your lifestyle/priorities. Using the example above, perhaps purchasing a home in 2 years is a goal for you, although you are unwilling to sacrifice regular brunch dates. Thats fine, if thats what fulfils you, although you may need to reconsider the time frame you’ve set to purchase your first home. Depending on your circumstances, you might like to use a budgeting template, or just create a very simple one yourself. Make sure you track your in-goings and outgoings, and ensure that you have a realistic savings goal so that you always put money aside. 

4. Enjoy Without Spending

The advertising industry has you convinced that you can’t have fun without spending money. It’s a lie, but for some reason, we all believe it. Usually, the lies we believe are the ones that are convenient for us to believe… But this lie is extremely inconvenient! So, instead of subscribing to this common misconception, find something fulfilling that you can without spending money. Can you converse with your friend whilst walking in the park and eating a banana, instead of sitting in at a cafe and eating poached eggs with avocado? Probably. We won’t ramble on any longer about all of the great things you can do for free, but to immediately relieve some of that financial stress, go and find something!

5. Live Within Your Means

Living to excess in any facet of life can be dangerous, and a major contributing factor to financial stress is excessive spending. Credit card debt, personal loans, and crippling mortgages won’t make life any easier. Each of these examples of over-spending are usually quite avoidable, simply by exercising some restraint. Once you’ve sat down and budgeted, you’ll have a better idea of what you can and can’t do financially. Your goal will one day be to make a significant outlay in order to satisfy a ‘want’, and that’s fine. But excessive spending in the mean time will not help you to get there any faster. So, be smart, and be disciplined. It will pay off. 

6. Consider New Opportunities

This is a step that might not suit everyone, but it can’t hurt to add it in. Opportunities for new revenue streams are a click away these days… I mean hey, you could start a blog! If it’s something you are passionate about, it might also double as your new ‘free’ hobby. You could be creating a new opportunity to earn, and saving yourself money at the same time. Of course, there are a multitude of opportunities out there for those who are actively seeking them. If supplementing your income is something you’ve always been interested in, why not do a bit of research? But don’t wait until tomorrow, it may never come… 

Final note…

Financial stress is bound to strike at some stage, so be proactive in your approach to stress management. Check out our previous article about managing stress, and get across ‘The Stress-Less Game Plan’. As always, thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

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The Success Blueprint: Defining, Planning And Achieving

TSA Success Cartoon

What is Success?

Success can have a number of definitions, depending on who you’re asking. That is an important lesson in it’s self. Success is relative. Relative to your environment, level of ability, and goals. Often, people tend to focus on the success of others, and forget to consider their own achievements. If you’re an actor, don’t belittle your efforts that were recognised by the local theatre’s awards night, simply because Leo has an Oscar. Each small victory is a stepping stone towards your next successful endeavour. The recognition and confidence attained from being crowned the best local actor will translate to personal growth and development. If you have the work-ethic to match, this will expose you to a new environment, with new measures of success. But remember, every good idea needs a plan…

The Success Blueprint.

It doesn’t just happen. You need to make it happen. You can’t wish it’s way into your life, nor can you purchase it. So what is it, exactly? That’s the first thing you need to figure out… What does your success look like? This leads us to step one of the planning process:

1. Defining Your Success (Long-Term Goals).

This is how you will define and measure your own success. Perhaps start with one major goal to begin with. This goal may seem far away, but don’t sell yourself short just yet. If all we did was set long-term goals, we’d almost never reach them. So, we need to map out a path towards achieving these long-term goals, which brings us to step two.

2. Paving the Way (Short-Term Goals).

Your long-term goal probably looks pretty scary right now… Fear of failure is normal, and often a motivating factor towards achieving our goals. However, sometimes it can prevent people from ever embarking on the journey. If you can map out the steps required in order to achieve your goals, you will give yourself a greater shot at success. So, in chronological order, what minor successes will you need to achieve in order to reach your long-term goal?

3. The Daily Grind (Regular Practices)

This step breaks down the goal-setting process even further. What activities, processes and practices will you need to consider on a regular basis in order to achieve each short-term goal that you have set for yourself? Often, these are the activities that require discipline and a strong work-ethic. Ideally, your vision is something you are passionate about, and therefore you should enjoy the process of achieving it. But, reality tells us that you won’t always enjoy it. So, are you willing to endure? This could be the make or break of your overall success.

4. Implementing, Refining and Achieving

You have set yourself long, and short-term goals. You have considered the regular practices and activities that will allow you to achieve those goals. You’ve recognised the level of discipline and mental toughness required to complete these regular activities. Now, you are ready to implement your plan and start achieving. As you achieve each small step, and immerse yourself in ‘The Daily Grind’ activities, your knowledge of what is required in order to achieve your goals will develop. This generally means that you’ll need to rethink some aspects of stages two and three of your ‘Blueprint’. All of this refinement, as a result of engaging your plan, will bring you closer to the success that you’ve been working towards.

Managing Your Expectations (and failures).

It would be nice to see everybody achieving their goals, and being happy, and helping one-another.  But if you’re waiting for that to happen, you’ll be waiting for a very, very long time. The reality is that we won’t all get to achieve the success that we’ve set out for. But that’s what makes success so special; the inevitability of failure. Failure is not the end of success, but rather an important part of achieving our goals. It might even be the reason you navigated your way to this post to read about success in the first place. What better way to describe it’s role in the process of achieving your goals? An understanding of this balance will help you to better respond to the challenges that will present throughout your journey towards success.

The Journey, Not The Destination.

A classic cliche that you’ve no doubt heard before, but one that we all need to constantly remind ourselves. Embarking on the sort of journey outlined in ‘The Success Blueprint’ will create opportunity. And opportunity breeds opportunity. Your idea of success will grow and develop, as you continue to. Your goals will shift, and you’ll be met with many more challenges and opportunities along the way. Most people will opt-out, and choose a far less stressful existence. For those who choose to persist, success will be as inevitable as failure. And that’s as good a ratio as one can ever expect.

Final Note

Setting yourself goals and finding the discipline to achieve them comes with a variety of challenges. You’ll need to understand how to manage pressure and stress, and develop the mental toughness to maintain focus when failure presents. As always, thanks for reading and we wish you all the success in the world! If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, we’d love to see them in the comments section below.

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Managing The Pressure Of Finding A Relationship: 3 Golden Rules

Relationship Easter Bunnies

If the thought of being single has ever worried you, then read on. Today, we explore the origins of our emotions, and the societal pressures that can influence our decisions when it comes to seeking out a life-partner. Following this, we’ll analyse the circumstances and influences of men and women in the various stages of their ‘relationship years’. We’ll also cover the 3 Golden Rules of managing pressures that can influence our decisions.

Men vs Women

Equal? Yes. The same? Absolutely not. Men and women have various strengths and weaknesses that can both compliment one another, and also be the cause of many an argument. It’s reasonable to assume that these complimentary differences were an evolutionary tactic to ensure survival, and reproduction. Were the physically stronger men supposed to protect mother and child? Were the emotionally intelligent women supposed to teach the children how to love, and nurture? It seems a reasonable assumption, but what does it look like in today’s society?..

Homo sapiens (Modern humans) vs Neanderthals

You’re probably not living the survivalist lifestyle that your neanderthal ancestors once did. Emotions, feelings, and relationships served a purpose that was far more transparent – survival. Our feelings still work to ensure our survival, but it looks much different in a society full of rules. You can no longer expect to wield your club, shout “UGG!”, and leave with a suitable mate (although we are told that this does still happen in nightclubs around the world). Times have changed, as have the roles of men and women. But thats not all. The influential pressures that can set us into a mad panic to find ‘the one’ have also evolved. Just as we have considered the origins of our emotions, and the purpose thereof, we can also consider the origins of the societal pressures that evoke these emotions.

Overcoming Societal Relationship Pressures.

Societal relationship pressures can influence people to make rash decisions in order to secure a life-partner. For men and women, our circumstances and influences at particular stages of our lives will vary. The following analysis is quite broad, so it won’t apply to everyone. However, the process of analysing your environmental influences and circumstances is never a bad idea. Hopefully it will provide a point of reference on which to compare your own experiences. Lets start with the late adolescent years:

Teens to Early Twenties.

Boys and girls are beginning to develop feelings for one another, and already our emotions are leading us astray. In the school environment, one of the largest influencing factors will be peer-pressure. This factor will be present in just about every stage of your life, although perhaps never as powerful as now. We are desperately trying to find our purpose in the world, and being somebody’s ‘squeeze’ doesn’t have to be it just because that is what your friends are doing. There has never been a better time to abolish yourself of relationship pressure, and pursue your interests towards becoming a valuable member of society. In summary, peer-pressure and insecurity are the most influential factors of societal relationship pressure at this stage. Recognise it, and don’t fall victim to these new, and sometimes overwhelming emotions.

Mid to Late Twenties.

At this stage, you might have experienced a relationship or two. The smelly teenage boy with acne is now a young man with serious career prospects. The beautiful young female, is now a beautiful young woman pursuing her chosen career path, too. The pressures of finding your way into a committed relationship have eased somewhat, although are still very dependent on your peer group. However, you are beginning to understand your place in the world. Considering all of this, the insecurities of your adolescent years have probably lessened too. But after a couple of failed relationships, you might be left wondering if you’ll ever find ‘the one’… The best piece of advice at this stage would be to let them come to you. Leverage your strengths, indulge your passions, and grow and develop.

Late Twenties to Early Thirties.

Yep, theres a bit of an overlap. This is generally around the time when we throw ourselves back into the midst of school-yard pressures. Our peers have found partners, our insecurities are encouraging us to make poor decisions. There is a stigma that comes with being single past a certain age. And to add to all of that… Time. This is now one of the biggest pressures we place on ourselves – “If I don’t find some one by X years old, I’ll be alone forever!”. Take your hand off the panic button, and ask yourself, “how did I get here?”. If 10/10 people say ‘bad luck’, then some of them are probably mistaken. Perhaps some critical self-reflection is on the menu. This doesn’t mean you should blame yourself, it simply means you should seek understanding. If we accept responsibility for our situation, then we also recognise the responsibility we have to improve it. The advice again, is to focus on personal development, rather than continuing the desperate quest for a life-partner. Don’t de-value yourself, re-find your value.

The 3 Golden Rules of Managing Pressure.

In order to combat any sort of influential pressure, consider the steps below…

1. Deconstruct Your Emotions

When we are pressured, it makes sense that we will experience some negative emotions. Although an influential factor might pressure us to reach a positive outcome, the negative emotions associated with pressure itself, can do the opposite. So, slow down, and think about why you feel the way you do.

2. Critically-Reflect

You’ve considered your emotions. Now examine how you have responded in the past. Did you reach the outcome you’d hoped for? If not, why? The last thing you want to do is continue making the same mistakes. Reflect, so that you may refine.

3. Take Action

This refers to the process of taking steps towards achieving a desired outcome. If the influential factor creating pressure was encouraging a positive outcome, then putting a plan in place to achieve this outcome is a great idea. Goal setting might be an important consideration as part of this step. If the negative emotions of pressure were causing you to make poor decisions, perhaps steps towards improving your decision-making skills would be a good place to start.

Final Note: General Advice Reminder.

Trying to generalise the common relationship experiences of an entire population obviously has it’s limitations. However, it does allow a platform to explore the emotions and experiences that can go hand-in-hand with relationships, and the societal pressures that can influence our decisions. As always, thanks for reading, and we’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

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Get Physical With Mental Illness: 5 Mental Toughness Tips

Get Physical with Mental Illness

Mental Illness and Over-Diagnosis.

If you didn’t read our previous article about depression and over-diagnosis, then you may not be aware of the growing epidemic in current psychiatric fads, and the damaging effects they can have on our society. In this article, we will explore the link between mental illness and physical health, and how we can improve both by taking full responsibility for our own wellbeing. In particular, we’ll focus on how exercise and mental toughness can improve our mental health.

Mental and Physical Health are Interdependent.

We rely so heavily on our minds, that we often forget to pay attention to what our bodies need. The stress of ordinary life can distract us from some of the most basic tools we have to combat mental illness – exercise and a healthy diet. Neglecting these basic tools only increases one’s level of unhappiness, leaving us in a state of poor mental and physical health. However, when we do engage in regular exercise (even when we don’t want to) and eat properly (even though doughnuts), studies have indicated that symptoms of anxiety and depression can decrease greatly. The issue remains, that in a society filled with band-aid solutions it can sometimes be tempting to seek out an easier alternative. So, the need to recognise and accept that there is NO ALTERNATIVE for regular, sustainable exercise and a healthy diet is imperative.

Exercise Can Build Confidence and Self-Esteem.

This can have an enormous impact on our overall mental health. These two attributes shouldn’t be solely based on our perceived level of physical attractiveness, but rather on our physical and mental ability. We are all born with a predisposition for various strengths/weaknesses, but much of our mental/physical capabilities can be developed. If we are to be resilient in the fight against mental illness, then we should be building our resilience through exercise too. But what does this mean exactly? Well, exercise presents challenges both physical and mental. Overcoming the physical challenges, is largely attributed to our ability to ‘push ourselves’, which could also be defined as the mental challenges of exercise. The ability to push ourselves encourages the development of ‘mental toughness’. This gives athletes a competitive edge in the sporting arena, but also the confidence to face the challenges presented in their personal lives too. This principle is not exclusive to elite athletes, but rather for anyone willing to learn.

How Can I Be Mentally Tough?

The road to becoming mentally tough is a long and arduous one. In fact, the thought alone will scare most people away. That’s why so many of us are stuck in a loop, looking for the shortcut that isn’t there. So once you have accepted the fact that there is no alternative for hard work, what follows? Being mentally tough is quite an abstract concept. You can be mentally tough during stressful situations, and you be mentally tough when your body is under extreme exertion. However you look at it, your mental toughness is generally in response to performing a physical action. This being the case, let’s explore how we can develop strength of mind through regular, challenging exercise, which can then be applied to situations of mental stress too.

1. Start Exercising.

Regardless of your physical capability and level of experience, you can still challenge yourself with exercise. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the only way to understand what you are truly capable of is to get into it. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, its a good idea to chat with your doctor to understand limitations and precautions.

2. Find Your Mode of Exercise.

Mental illness presents in many forms. In the case of depression and anxiety, exercise is thought to prevent the onset, and possibly even treat symptoms. If you are new to exercise, or just getting back into it, there are an abundance of resources online to get you started. Perhaps you’re interested in functional training programs? Or yoga? Or martial arts? It’s also a great idea to engage in group training sessions, to ensure you are performing exercises correctly. Watching other people push themselves might also encourage you to do the same.

3. Find an Activity You Enjoy.

This is an important one, but it may take some time. As you become more active and aware of your capabilities, you can begin to explore some physical activities that interest you. This is a great way to motivate yourself during training, as it gives purpose to your blood, sweat and tears. When the reason for your physical exertion makes sense to you, it will be far easier to block out the voice in your head that is telling you to stop.

4. Set Yourself a Physical Goal.

This goal might relate to your new-found passion. Or perhaps reconnect you with an old one? Either way, goal setting is a great way to stay motivated. But don’t chase the horizon… Set realistic short-term goals. As you achieve these goals, you’ll begin to recognise the value of your hard work. These short-term goals will be the road to attaining your long-term goal. Keep your goals in the forefront of your mind as you continue to push yourself, both mentally and physically.

5. Positive Self-Talk.

Don’t beat yourself up! When your mind tells you that you can’t do it, shift from this negativity and fight back with positive self-talk. This should be practiced consistently, in order to remodel your self-talk strategy from negative to positive. You may lapse from time to time, but that will only highlight the effectiveness of your positivity. Next time you’re in the dirt, let it be you who picks you back up.

Final Note

Reading and writing about mental toughness is easy. It will be much harder in practice, but don’t let that get you down… All good things take time, so allow yourself some! As always, thanks for reading our article. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Depression: Over-Diagnosis And Management Strategies

The Short Advice Depression Post

Depression and Over-Diagnosis

Depression, along with other mental illnesses like ADD, has been in the media spotlight for some time. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, although some experts consider many of these diagnoses to be somewhat inflated. Allen Frances MD states that over-diagnosis of mental illness is making normality an ‘endangered species’, and threatens to increase the already alarming percentage of the population diagnosed as having a mental illness. So, with diagnostic inflation in mind, how can an individual presenting symptoms of depression know for sure whether they are diagnosable, or are simply facing the inevitable challenges of everyday life?

The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis

The internet can be a wonderful place. After all, it did bring you The Short Advice… There are a plethora of helpful resources online that offer support for various conditions, and can assist in making a diagnosis for mental illness. Whilst finding advice online isn’t totally unadvisable, it’s generally a good idea to confer with an expert before concluding that you have a medical condition. As stated above, over-diagnosis is currently considered an ‘epidemic’ by some medical professionals, and self-diagnosis has been highlighted as a contributing factor. So lets say you’ve done some online research, and decide to pay a visit to a psychiatrist. They tell you that, based on your symptoms and behaviours, you likely have depression. Let’s not forget now, that over-diagnosis by medical professionals has also been cited as a contributing factor to the epidemic… So who do we trust? Well, that’s a difficult question, and unfortunately there is no answer. Although, if you do agree that over-diagnosis is real, then anybody diagnosed should not rule out the possibility that perhaps their diagnosis is a stretch.

Depression vs Ordinary Life

So perhaps you are exhibiting some common symptoms of depression. It can be difficult not to be caught up in the hype of psychiatric fads. Yes, it is a mental illness. But, with the over-diagnosis of depression, it could also be considered a fad. Sometimes, trusting a diagnosis as widely-accepted and de-stigmatised as depression, is an easy way to explain, label and justify one’s suffering. Of course, de-stigmitisation is largely viewed as a positive outcome for patients. But it might also encourage others to buy into what is already an epidemic of over-diagnosis. So before you choose to medicate, take the time to engage in some critical self-reflection – at least make the pharmaceutical companies sweat a little… Lets start with 5 simple questions:

  1. Can you identify what exactly is causing you to feel depressed? i.e. Work pressures, bereavement, relationship woes, uncertainty about the future.
  2. When did you begin to feel depressed? (This might help to answer question 1)
  3. What (if any) changes were present in your life when these feelings began?
  4. What changes has your mood/current mental state caused in your life?
  5. Have you taken any steps to improve your situation? What are they?

Making Sense of Our Emotions

Hopefully you’ve been able to pinpoint some of the events in your life that have caused you to feel depressed. In this case, we are using the word ‘depressed’ as a temporary emotional state, rather than an illness. If we allow these issues to go unaddressed, what should be a temporary feeling of depression could turn into something far-less temporary. When we don’t properly deal with our emotions, and allow ourselves to fall into a ‘rut’, we get a snow-ball effect of poor decisions. These decisions only contribute to an elongated period of feeling depressed. And so, the hole gets deeper. A more effective management plan would be to address our emotions as they arise. Consider why you are suddenly feeling depressed. Is it an abstract concept, like fear of the unknown? Or perhaps something more concrete, like a fight with a loved one? Understand when you feel this way, and note other times you have felt the same.

Management Strategies for Building Resilience

Whatever the reason for your negative emotions, you need to develop strategies to counter this. It’s all part of ‘earning happiness‘, and developing resilience. If we immediately succumb to the challenges that are posed by ordinary life, and choose first to seek a diagnosis, it is almost as though we are ducking responsibility for our own emotions. So, the first and most important step is to:

1. Take accountability for your situation, and the improvement thereof.

Now you can start taking positive action to combat your negative emotions. It’s normal to feel depressed from time to time. We can’t always be happy. But falling too deep into self-pity is a trap that almost everyone can relate to. So feel sad, and pay heed to the negative experience. Understand the cause, and consider how you can minimise the effect of this should it happen again. This is a necessary process that helps us better manage our emotions the next time round. But, after you’ve focused on yourself, and improving your situation, the next step is to remind yourself how valuable you are. The best way to pull yourself out from under the blanket of self-pity is to:

2. Do something meaningful for somebody else.

Perhaps a family member, or friend, or maybe even a stranger. Helping others can be a humbling experience, that takes our mind away from our own problems. It is of mutual benefit for both the person helping, and the person in need of assistance. You might even be able to relate to some of the challenges that others are facing, and find that those challenges are indeed a part of ordinary life. Through helping others, you might also be helping yourself to find solutions to your own problems. Our third and final step for today’s article is an important one, which focuses on resilience:

3. Embrace the challenge.

Nothing worth doing is ever going to be easy. Accept the reality that you will not immediately find your happiness again overnight. You will have ups and downs, but the quest for happiness presents amazing opportunities to explore new avenues towards achieving a better balance. Your experiences, both positive and negative will continue to shape you, and your response to such experiences will define you. If you have experienced immense sadness, then moments of euphoric happiness await if you choose to work towards them.

Final Note

Diagnosing clinical depression is difficult. There is no blood test or scan that can give conclusive evidence. Whilst there are many legitimate cases, there are also illegitimate ones. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should consider engaging in professional consultation (counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist, GP). However, never waive the responsibility that you have over your own wellbeing. If you have been diagnosed, it may be worth seeking multiple opinions, or simply engaging in a management plan (developed by yourself and/or a professional), rather than medicating. The choice to medicate/accept diagnosis must be your own.

As always, thanks for reading and we’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

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Decision-Making Skills: Influential Factors And The 5 Decision-Making Markers

Decision Making Skills The Short Advice

What Influences Our Decisions?

Your entire life you have been influenced by your environment, circumstances and the people surrounding you. Your genetics may have pre-disposed you to developing particular traits and tendencies, but ultimately, your personality, views and opinions have been moulded by that place you call ‘home’. Each decision you make is influenced by these factors. Consider how damaging this could be for someone who has been placed in a negative environment. The main factors influencing their behaviour and ideals may be particularly misleading. The further ingrained these ideals become, the less likely they are to change. That is why it is important to consider how we have been influenced over the course of our lives, and by whom/what. Arguably, the strongest influence in the life of a developing young mind is our parents.

BREAKING: Your Parents Are Not Always Right.

What we want for our lives might be significantly different to our parents’ expectations. So, we begin to question things that they’ve had us believe, and attempt to recount influential childhood moments. This is all part of developing our independence, and a sense of self-worth. It doesn’t mean that your parents are wrong as such, nor does it mean that they have tried to mislead you. But much like yourself, your parents are not perfect. Maybe it’s time to consider if some of the opinions/views that you’ve adopted from your parents are right for you? We’re not saying you should trash every piece of advice they’ve ever offered. We’re just saying that they’re not the masters and commanders of the universe. So as with any advice you are given, you should consider whether or not it is right for you. Ultimately, each decision you make should be your own.

Take Control of Your Decisions.

You won’t always make the right decision. That’s okay. Accept your mistakes and learn from them. You are responsible for your failures, as much as you are for your successes. You cannot have one without the other. This is how you will navigate your own experiences, and re-program the way that you develop your views and opinions. For example, perhaps you’ve acted in a manner that you have been taught to act in, with a negative result. This negative result might encourage you to reconsider that behaviour, or perhaps change your point of view. Through this process, we develop independent thought, that can often challenge the influential factors of our past. The next decision you make will be better informed. Not only will it be based on a lifetime of various influences, but also on your own personal experience. This should be a regular process of endless refinement.

The Independent Thinker.

You’ve begun the process of deconstructing your ideas and past decisions. Some are relevant, and everlasting. Maybe some are outdated? Others might be plainly wrong. This is a constructive process that further develops your sense of self, and ability to be an independent thinker. You will still be influenced by your environment, and the opinions of people you respect. That is totally fine. In fact, it is a good thing. But rather than simply believing/adopting these opinions, you now have your own process of weighing each thought against the values and principles that you’ve developed over time. These values and principles can then be applied each time you are faced with making an important decision.

The 5 Decision-Making Markers.

It sounds simple, although in reality, most of us will be faced with a multitude of difficult decisions in our lifetime. So, lets summarise some important elements in the process of making sound-decisions:

1. List the Pro’s and Con’s.

Take your time (where possible) and consider the various outcomes of each decision. What are the possible positive and negative impacts?

2. Apply Your Values and Principles.

A principle should be black and white, and unwavering. Your decisions should not compromise them. Apply your values and principles to every decision you make. Ask yourself, “is it the right thing to do?”

3. Commit to Your Decisions.

Once you’ve made up your mind, trust your good judgement and see your decision through. You won’t always get it right, but that’s okay – keep reading!

4. Manage the Outcomes.

Prepare for the various outcomes of your decision, and manage these accordingly. If you make mistakes, understand why, and learn from them. If you’ve reached a positive outcome, you can apply this to future decisions too.

5. Review the Process.

Re-evaluate the values and principles by which you measure your decisions. Do these need adjusting? Is there a principle that you have overlooked that might be contributing to a pattern of poor decisions? What factors motivate your decisions? Reflect on the process and refine where necessary.

Again, even following the above thought process, you may not always make the correct decision. Whatever situation you find yourself in, trust the process. If you are unhappy with your decision making process, you may need to refine some of the above elements. Reassessing the values and principles against which you are measuring your decisions is a great place to start. Perhaps you skipped some important steps in the process? Be less certain when approaching important decisions.

Final note…

Like any area of self-improvement, developing sound decision-making skills will be an ongoing process. Mistakes provide us with valuable opportunities to learn and re-evaluate. Our successes provide a benchmark on which to weigh our next decision. If you have any questions or comments, about this post we’d love to hear them. Thanks for reading!

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Conflict Resolution: The 5 Essential Skills

The Short Advice Conflict Resolution

Conflict management is an extremely important consideration for the well-rounded individual.

Simply avoiding conflict is not a viable solution in many circumstances, and certainly not one that is recommended. The longer we let our problems stew, the less likely we are to manage them in a rational, and solution-focused manner. And that brings us to our first essential conflict resolution skill:

1. Address the issue early.

Nobody is perfect. People will make mistakes and they will inevitably upset you. But communicating your feelings earlier, rather than later, can save you (and others involved) much heartache. A dangerous assumption that people often make is that their feelings are known, without them ever having communicated those feelings. “She knows what she’s doing, and she knows its upsetting me.” Hmmm, this may be so, but then again, it is equally as likely that the person is unaware of the stress they are causing. Or maybe there is an underlying issue contributing to their behaviour that you are unaware of. Either way, if you raise the issue early you allow the chance for everyone to better understand the full scale of the situation, and people’s emotions towards it.

2. Stick to the point.

Perhaps someone that you are not particularly fond of is doing something that you are also not stoked about. Always remember that the issue is with what the individual is doing, not who they are. It’s still okay not to like someone. There are a lot of people in this world, and we can’t be expected to get along swimmingly with everybody. But, we do owe all of these people a certain degree of respect, that is ultimately theirs to lose. So, set the example and treat the person with dignity as you address the actions that you have taken exception to. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be stern, or direct. Each situation will have to be judged on its merits of course, but you should always be mindful of presenting a factual, and less-subjective argument where possible.

3. Mind your delivery.

To ‘stick to the point’, is to focus on the actions and facts, not the individual’s personality with whom your qualm is with. To ‘mind your delivery’ is to be conscious of the way in which you communicate this message. Now, there are a thousand ways to deliver the same message, but only a few ways to deliver it well. Even the right message can be counter-productive if not delivered tactfully, so always bear this in mind when making your point. Whilst sarcasm can be heaps of fun, it’s generally not a good way to let someone know that they are in the wrong. Nor is yelling and berating. Rather, you should aim to take an informative, and educational tone (without being condescending). You are not assuming knowledge, but rather, informing them of the situation as you see it, and your emotions towards said situation. This is information that would be reasonable to assume this person does not know. Your calm and informative tone will hopefully encourage them to respond in a similar manner. We do all of this with the aim of creating a constructive conversation, rather than an emotion-fuelled argument.

4. Stay rational under emotional duress.

When we are trying to manage situations of conflict, we must also manage our emotions at the same time. It can be difficult to think clearly and make rational decisions when we are under such pressure, and so it is important to recognise that there is a tendency for people to become irrational during times of conflict. Unless you are made of stone, you have experienced this phenomenon before. You’ve said things you wished you hadn’t. You’ve done things you wished you hadn’t. So, as stated in a previous post about sustainable change, learn from your mistakes. Take a breath, and refer back to skills one, two and three. It’s okay to slow down and take your time. You don’t need to rush to a solution, because it may not be the right one. Next time you feel yourself becoming a bit agitated, change your tact, and remind yourself to be solution-focused.

5. Know when to walk away.

You can’t win them all. Well, it’s really not about winning or losing, is it? The right outcome for a situation of conflict might see you having to take responsibility for some wrong-doing. That is perfectly reasonable. But every now and then, we may find ourselves butting heads with an individual who is not as well-versed in conflict resolution as ourselves. Some people may simply be unwilling to allow you the chance to address your issue properly. Or maybe you are unable to appropriately manage your emotions in order to remain rational. Whatever the case, it is important to recognise when you are figuratively ‘banging your head against a brick wall’. In other words, you need to recognise when an argument is no longer constructive. Walking away might mean suggesting that the conversation be continued another time, after both parties have had a chance to consider the situation. This all depends on your relationship with the person in question, and the weight of the issue. If it is someone close, and likely to bother you in the future, it needs to be revisited. Don’t leave the matter unresolved.

Final note…

We hope you enjoyed reading about our 5 Essential Conflict Resolution Skills. If you have a specific matter of conflict you’d like some help with, head over to the homepage and give us the short story, and we’ll reply within 24 hours with the short advice. Thanks for reading, see you next time.

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Change Dynamics: Creating Sustainable Change

Change dynamics

Firstly, don’t change for anyone else.

Change must come from within. Sure, someone or something might prompt you to make a change, but unless you truly believe that there is need for change then it won’t be sustainable. Perhaps someone you care about is particularly disenchanted with something you’ve said or done. Maybe they have highlighted this as being a recurring issue that you need to address. If this encourages you to reflect on your behaviour, and you conclude that there is indeed need for change, great. But ultimately, it must be your decision. Just remember, you may not be the only one that stands to gain from your positive change. So be wary of who you allow to influence your decisions, and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

So, you’ve established the need for change.

Good start. Critical self-reflection is indeed a sign of intelligence. And as a contrast, one of the biggest cop-outs is “everyone should love me for me!”. Well, that may be true in many cases, but not if you’re a selfish, nasty individual. So anyway, you’ve highlighted an area of your life that you believe could use some improving. Is it an area that you have direct control over? Hopefully. Relying on other people’s change in order for yours to be successful is not a wise move. This should be a consideration before you embark on your important and life-changing journey. Okay, you’ve established that your change is necessary and in your direct control. Now you need to develop a course of action that will help guide your change.

What does your area of change physically look like?

That is to say, what actions are you trying to change? Your area of change will likely relate to a particular pattern of behaviour, so you need to understand specifically what actions you need to change. You should also consider the situations in which you are likely to perform these actions, so that you can be aware of when these negative behaviours are most likely to strike. Once you’ve considered that, you then need to consider those actions that will embody your new and positive change. Consider why these actions are important to your overall success, and the resulting positivity that will come of them. Now all you need to do (in a nutshell) is sub-out the bad actions for the good ones…

Is sustainable change really that simple?

You probably already know the answer to that question, so we won’t patronise you by saying ‘no’. In our article about laziness, we noted that creating a new habit can take some time. Changing or breaking a pattern of behaviour can also be challenging, and won’t happen overnight. It will take hours of critical self-reflection, and possibly some foreign and uncomfortable situations. Whilst we are speaking quite broadly, these feelings of discomfort/uncertainty are generally a pretty good sign that you’re on the right track. After all, it can be quite confronting to reflect on a situation from your past and realise just how far you once were from the person that you are trying to become. There may even be times when you once again find yourself making the same poor choices that you have been consciously trying to avoid. Absorb the negative emotions that come with this, and accept the consequences. Remember the disappointment and use it to motivate you. There is an element of trial and error in most things we do in life. So, do not judge yourself on your mistakes, but rather on the way in which you respond.

Accepting past mistakes (and their consequences).

Again, our mistakes do not have to define us. But whilst you’ve been on your journey towards enlightenment (good for you), your mistakes of the past have not been erased. Nor will they. Ever. Whilst it would certainly be convenient to simply say ‘I’ve changed, therefore I should not face consequences’, it may not seem particularly fair to the person/persons that you once wronged. Imagine a system where inmates could be paroled on account of their personal belief that they had changed (Australia circa 2050 if our justice system continues to head in the current direction). If you are truly committed to positive and sustainable change, you need to understand the following dynamics of control: The control that you have over your actions, and the control that you do not have over the consequences of your actions. Take responsibility for your mistakes, and rectify them/seek forgiveness where possible, but never deny them. This is an important learning mechanism that can be a major driver for sustainable change.

A final thought…

Be the change that you want to see in society. Lead from the front, and don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know to be right and true. Absorb the negative emotions that come with each of your inevitable failures. This must happen before you can experience true success, just ask MJ. Have the strength to be accountable for your actions, and remember that it is okay to adjust your behaviour and your views, as you learn more about the world and your environment. And, whilst you embark on your journey of change, your idea of what success looks like might also change too. Finally, you will make mistakes, so pride yourself on how you respond to them.

Thank-you again for reading! We really hope that some of today’s post was of benefit to you. Perhaps you’d like to leave us a comment below? Until next time…

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How To Live A Happy Life Starting Today

Being happy

Is being happy a basic human right?

No. Although, it would be fantastic if we were all inherently happy by nature, and could live happily ever after in our pineapples under the sea. But unfortunately (and fortunately) happiness is something to be earned, much like anything worth having. So where does the ‘fortunately’ part come into it? Good question. We are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to earn our happiness. Some people have greater opportunity to achieve a state of relatively steady happiness, whereas others may have to work much harder to find this…

So, how do I find my happiness?

Another great question. It is easy to dwell on the aspects of your life that you may deem to be unfair. It is also easy to consider the trials and tribulations you’ve had to face as a result of being born in the time, place and environment that you have found yourself in. Naturally, we tend to compare our situation to that of others who are quite privileged and well-off. A much harder thing to do though, is to be grateful for the opportunities that we have been given. If you choose to focus on this, then you’ll be one step closer to earning that relatively steady happiness that we mentioned earlier.

Okay, so to be happy, I need to be grateful… Then what?

When we choose to focus on the opportunities that are accessible to us, we begin to realise just how vast the possibilities are. What is it that you want? And don’t say money. Woops, you already said money, didn’t you? Okay, let’s back track then… What is it that you need? If you’re accessing the internet to read this article, then it’s likely your primary needs as a human being have already been met. Fantastic! That is definitely something to be happy about. So now lets pretend that all you have is the bare minimum to survive. Food, water, shelter. What is the next thing that you want? (Probably some clothes) But as you start to acquire more of the things that we as human beings want, rather than need, your priorities begin to change. And so, your list of wants becomes greater… Now lets throw the internet into the mix. All of a sudden, you can Google P-Diddy’s yacht party or some exotic travel destination, or every other amazing thing in the world that you don’t have/haven’t done. What a disaster! Now you have become an absolute beast of wants with an insatiable appetite for more, and the happiness that was waiting just around the corner seems miles away. What you need readers, is a reference point to gauge your happiness. These reference points are more commonly referred to as goals.

You need to set goals and have clear priorities.

How you choose to do this is entirely up to you. You can write them down (recommended) or you can simply verbalise them. Your goals can relate to any aspect of your life, so try not to focus solely on financial goals. Perhaps friendship is an area of importance to you? Maybe you would like to spend more time with your family? These may be your priorities, and a specific goal may be to visit your grandparents every week for dinner. Our relationships with those we love are a good place to start. This is something we have direct access to, to make a positive impact right away. The next step is to separate your goals into two categories; short and long term. For example, if your goal is to be a rockstar, then you might be sorely disappointed at the end of the year, when you are still blogging about rockstars in your parents’ basement (we do not blog in anyone’s parents’ basement). So instead, it is a good idea to have smaller goals like ‘become proficient on the guitar‘. Now you have the ‘what‘, so all you need is the ‘how‘. Using our guitar proficiency as an example goal again, we might break it down into tasks like ‘learn the major scale‘ and ‘practice fingering exercises‘. These tasks are realistic, yet challenging. They will provide the motivation needed to progress towards the ultimate goal of becoming a rockstar.

When should I begin my quest for happiness?

Today! Happiness is waiting just around the corner for those who choose to get out there and earn it. That is to say, happiness is a choice. Your friends will probably tell you that you deserve to be happy, and you might want to believe them. But if you’re not willing to take action, despite the vast opportunities that you have been gifted, do you really deserve to be happy? Don’t answer that question. Instead, start building your happiness now, brick by brick…

As always, thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this article, we’d love to hear your say in the comments section below.