12 March 2015

Free your mind from worry - a diary - day 1

Today is a day for reflection... for putting my house in order.... for clearing out the cobwebs, stopping the blockages, freeing my mind to move on.
From the bottom of the mountain looking up to the climb ahead

I've spent too long worrying. In the current phase of worry I'm averaging three hours sleep a night. Do that for a week and you start to feel the stitching coming loose. So I'm turning to that great soures of wisdom, the internet, to find solutions to this current stateof mindlessness I'm in. And here are the results:

I know that worry gets you nowhere but it seems the human brain is programmed to worry in order to survive. We used to face real dangers like being eaten by predatory animals, or not finding food and shelter. Worry made us focus on the threat (problem) and try to eliminate it. Those days are long gone but it is still in our nature to be constantly looking for threats and trying to eliminate them.

Psychologists refer to this as the negativity bias, which means while there may be a lot of positives in our lives, humans tends to focus on the negatives, which are the threats, like the predatory sabre tooth tiger, we need to eliminate.

“Your mind is conditioned to fixate on the negative and dismiss the positive, because evolutionary speaking, the positive presents no threat to your well-being.”- http://www.existing2living.com/your-brain-is-programmed-for-failure-heres-what-to-do-about-it/#sthash.D7KqS6pz.dpuf

Other factors which perpetuate the negative side of things include the availability heuristic. Which, put simply, means that we are more likely to recall negative events than positive ones. The other factor is the perpetual chaos of our brains.

“....bestselling author and psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that “contrary to what we tend to assume, the normal state of the mind is chaos.” - http://www.existing2living.com/your-brain-is-programmed-for-failure-heres-what-to-do-about-it/#sthash.D7KqS6pz.dpuf

All of this thankfully explains why the worrying, negative, chaos can take over and small problems loom large and appear insurmountable. And this is exactly what has been happening to me, here and now.

Because one worrying episode leaves me stressed out and tired (unable to sleep) which in turn makes me more susceptible to anxiety, more negative, and less able to cope with ordinary normal life. Ordinary, normal things then become a worry, because I am in such a state that I'm unable to carry them out and so the negative spiral into chaos and hyperanxiety continues.


Thankfully, there are some positives that I can draw on and that I do draw on meaning instead of descending into total depression, shutting out the ones I love, self-hating, and being a crap and short-tempered parent to my kids... I now know myself well enough to see the light through the murky sleep-deprived haze that I'm in.

I know that certain things help with stress. Exercise is a key one here and I've been doing this regularly now for three months. And it has probably saved me from a deeper pit than the one I'm currently in.

Positive thinking is another one that cannot be understated. As hard as it is to think positively when you feel dreadful inside, forcing yourself to look on the bright side, not beat yourself up but sing your own praises and see that the world and the people in it are out to do you good and not harm.

Practising universal admiration, is another – looking around and wondering at the amazing world aroound you. Admiring how that bookshelf was designed, how well-that book was written, how clever that coffee machine is for bringing you hot piping delicious coffee.

Daydreaming is actually good for you. “On a neurological level, the mind cannot distinguish between something that is vividly imagined and something that is real. Your brain will light up in the same parts if you physically engage in an activity as it will if you just imagine yourself doing it.” - http://www.existing2living.com/your-brain-is-programmed-for-failure-heres-what-to-do-about-it/#sthash.D7KqS6pz.dpuf

Moving elsewhere, it's time to tackle it.

Gleaned from a selection of sites, these seem to be commonly agreed anxiety reduction techniques which I'm gonna embark on, some of them I already do, some of them I could do more of and some I'm willing to try.

  1. Don't fight the anxiety, accept it. (ok, tick, I'm accepting it, this blog is proof, right?)
  2. Learn how to self-soothe. This can be different for different people, for some people a hot bath with some essential oils, for others a stroll in the park, a visualization to put yourself in a nice place, diagphramatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, listening to relaxing music. (Today it's gonna be some yoga, visualisations and muscle relaxation)
  3. Positive self-talk - stop beating yourself up, you're wonderful! (Tick!)
  4. Eating well avoiding caffeine and alcohol. (Hmm, need some work in this area definitely!)
  5. Get exercise. (Tick- woohoo, 3 times a week on average, today excepted)
  6. Look after your gut – probiotics can actually effect your mood! (ok then, I'm paying attention, I actually do have a lot of digestive problems, could this be causing me strife? I'm finding out more now.)
Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/finding-cloud9/201308/5-quick-tips-reduce-stress-and-stop-anxiety

26 June 2014

Seven weeks to fitness

So it is that I've started jogging. It's not come out of the blue. Rather, it's been going to happen for a very long time since I realised that my arse cheeks had dropped a further few centimetres and the most exercise I got on a morning was walking to the list and pressing the button!

And that point in time when it "was going to" happen has arrived.

Yes, I'm back in England, in summer, in a lovely part of West Yorkshire where I have absolutely no excuse, non whatsoever, for getting a little exercise..... (self-motivational language required here to keep up the momentum).

So this is day two of this challenge to myself to get fit in seven weeks, i.e. the seven glorious weeks I have stretching in front of me in the UK.

Day#1 involved a jog to the park (8 minutes), followed by two circuits (6 minutes each) so a total of about 20 minutes. It was tough, and despite the stitch after the first lap I carried on to complete my two lap

Day#2 involved a jog to the post office with Isaac on his scooter, back again, then after dropping his little tired five year old legs off, I continued down Bleach Mill Lane, back and then up Moor Lane which totalled about 25 minutes, with a couple of stops.

The results? Well, so far so good. I think mostly I feel mentally better because I'm physically doing something, and vice versa probably. Today was also easier than yesterday so that is a start.

26 January 2014

Traffic violations in Qatar

I'm in the process of putting together an article aboiut traffic violations in Qatar.

This is something so many of us deal with on a day to day basis... and it almost becomes normal.

I mean, how many near accidents do you have on an average day here?

But instead of muttering expletives under our breath, or worse, wouldn't it be better to talk about it, find out what is being done, if anything, and suggest solutions?

How would you enforce traffic violations? What do you do when someone tailgates you inches from your bumper?

What is the worst incident that has happened to you so far on the roads in Qatar?

If you'd care to comment on the subject, please leave your name and comment below, I've already had quite a few via facebook, as you can see here:

17 December 2013

Beaten by Traffic

With the wind and the dust in my newly washed hair,
blowed dried in the fumes of the morning rush hour,
My little one strapped tight in the pushchair.
The traffic spewing from here, there and everywhere,

Looking for a gap to cross the busy street,
No zebra crossing, just run for it,
Me and my boy get stuck in the middle,
No gaps in the traffic, no friendly green man,
We make a break to the other side,
only to find not a taxi in sight,
and the traffic, the traffic still hurtling,

Then the man in the suit grabs one and he's gone,
We're left on the pavement, the wind making it's song,
My son points at the cars and shouts 'stop!',
but they don't stop they just go on and on,

Everyone in their metal box rushing to work,
eyes on the clock, mustn't be late,
I give up, I'm beaten by the dust and the wind,
You've got me, I quit, I'm not staying here,

I'm going back to the safety of my street,
to go back to my flat where the traffic can't reach,
I'll call for a cab, he'll pick me up at the door,
For me and my child don't need this anymore.

Then with one last wave on my hand,
the friendliest friendliest driver pulls in,
Mash'allah, thank god, at last,
The boy and me smile and get in.

25 November 2013

Sense of satisfaction

I don't usually cross post here but I'm feeling a little proud of myself for finally finding the time to update my other blog, which is basically my online work profile: josiehill.wordpress.org
If you at all interested in what I do as a journalist in Qatar and before that then take a look!

To make this post look a little more snazzy and a little more relevant to my present location in the world I've added the photo which has now become my new header for my other blog.

A seaside winter camp in Southern Qatar

01 November 2013

What we're doing is even harder when you're a million miles away from home

Two interchanges over the last 24 hours have made me realise that I'm truly exhausted and I really need a break.

1. A man, a total stranger at a place where I was giving a lesson, said to me, "Hi How are you? ...You look exhausted."

2. Then this morning Isaac asked for the Nth time: "Mummy can you help me?" And I proceeded to rant: "No I can't, stop asking me to help you, I am BUSY!"

His response: "But why are you always busy Mummy?"

"How do you answer that?" I thought. "....because I have to cook, clean, wash up, tidy, do the washing..." I said.

Completely lost on a four year old of course.

So I said: "If I don't do it, who should?"

"Daddy," he offers.

"Daddy has work to do!" I say, "are you going to do it?"

"No, I don't want to!"

"Well I don't want to either," I said, "but I have to."

So the conclusion I've come to is this: Being a mum, cook, cleaner and full time worker when you have no support network and no family nearby is FFFing exhausting.

And if I'm not insane already, then I will be very soon if I don't get an FFFing break!

If you have a different experience, or some advise here, please add your comments below. Some positive suggestions might help!

04 September 2013

It's Halal Haram - insights into Qatari culture #1

Gaining insights into Qatari culture just isn't as easy as it seems - especially given I'm living in their country now.

But since I have an over-inquisitive mind, and am intrigued by those who are different from me, I find myself treading a careful line between what I can and do ask and what I most definitely should avoid in a conversation with a Qatari.

Let's start by saying that I'm not even approaching any Qatari men here, since I'm married, they are married, so it would be entirely Haram of me to start asking complicated dicey questions about virtue, children born out of wedlock, what to wear and most importantly what not to wear, being gay in Qatar (I'm not by the way, but there are people who are etc etc.)

So back to the case in point. Today I had the good fortune to meet a Qatari lady and after the meeting was coming to a close, I started asking a few questions about dress, culture and what is Halal (permitted)  and Haram (forbidden) for most Qatari ladies.

She is someone who wears ordinary clothes when outside of the Gulf, with a headscarf, but, and this is probably true of 99% of Qataris, wears the Abaya when in Qatar. She admitted that her culture was very strict in some ways and even she didn't like to go out in the evening by herself, as much through her own fears of what might happen, as through community pressure not to be seen alone without her husband.

At home she admitted, she wears t-shirts, comfortable clothes, whatever she likes, but since the weather is still stinking hot outside, she says she prefers not to go out so much because (my words not hers) it's just not comfortable wearing all those layers.

There are very very few Qatari ladies who don't wear the abaya when in Qatar and of those she says, most will have to take it up if they want to get married as nobody would marry them if they didn't. The more conservative men would not consider a bride who's headscarf doesn't hide every inch of hair and scalp,  or whoes Abaya is even slightly open - which is another Haram in their eyes.

So so so, we also  touched on children born out of wedlock, whose mothers go to jail in Qatar and then get deported I believe, and although it was clear to me that this lady thought that perhaps this wasn't the best solution (she didn't say anything but people talk with their eyes you know); it was also clear that I had probably asked too many questions and our meeting was promptly drawn to a close and after Shukrans and Asalamu Allikums I was shown out the door.

On a completely unrelated topic and aside from the obvious and apparent restrictions or rules on being a Muslim, a Qatari and a female, they do have it pretty easy on the home front. This particular lady has three children and is considering having a fourth. And who wouldn't when you have four maids to look after your and your families needs?

"I have two maids for the children, plus one for the cooking and another to clean," she said proudly.