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You Can Frighten Yourself… But You Can’t Tickle Yourself

 

Think about this for a second – you can frighten yourself… but you can’t tickle yourself. Odd, isn’t it? Why would our bodies prevent us from feeling the positive effects of being tickled, but make it so easy for us to scare ourselves silly? It’s the same with laughing. Have you ever sat all day giggling to yourself? No. And you’d be seen as strange if you did. But we bet that you’ve spent all day worrying about something before… so much so that you ended up frightened. 

Why does this happen? It’s evolution. In caveman times, being hypervigilant and alert was the way to survive against physical threats such as predators, and the brain was hardwired to provoke urgent responses and keep us safe. It’s what we term fight or flight. Nowadays, the same level of physical threat doesn’t exist – so we find ourselves responding to the negatives, but not needing the physical response, so it manifests in over-worrying and negative thought patterns.

Psychologists called it ‘negative bias’ and it means that our minds and brains register the effects of negative stimuli much more strongly than positive. Our bodies do too – we cry, we shout, we feel physical pain. Although we have phrases like ‘jump for joy’, we could probably count the number of times we’ve done it in our lives. And that’s not because we’re sad or pessimistic – it’s just that our bodies are scientifically programmed to respond more strongly to bad news than good news.

This is why the media is largely full of negative stories – because they get more attention than positive ones. In daily life, one bad point in an overall good day can take over and be the thing that we remember most and dwell on.

So how do we handle it?

 

Ways to beat the brain

While this is how we are wired as humans, there are ways that we can beat the brain leading us towards a downward spiral:

◾ Recognise it’s normal: We often beat ourselves up for having a negative outlook on life. But, actually, that’s what we’re supposed to do – or WERE supposed to do to stay alive. Recognising that it’s normal is the first step in giving yourself a break. 

◾ Focus on the positives: Nobody wants to simply be told to ‘look on the bright side’ – it’s truly annoying when you’re finding things tough. And mental health issues like depression certainly can’t be solved by simply cheering up. But where and when possible, trying to recognise the positives of a situation can really help change your state of mind.

Distract yourself: When you find yourself ruminating on negative thoughts, actively do something to distract yourself. Choose something you like doing like reading, listening to upbeat music or going for a walk. Mindfulness activities are also becoming an ever more popular way of coping with the strains of modern life.

Replay the positives: Think about the last time something bad happened that you replayed in your head time and time again. A comment from a colleague at work, cross words you had with a friend. Why not do it with the positives too? Next time you get a compliment, replay it over and over again and concentrate on the feeling it provokes in you. 

This can be tough. There’s no denying it. It takes significantly more effort to look and recognise the positives than to dwell on the negatives. But being proactive can have huge benefits for your health – both mental and physical. 

 

We’d love to hear about times when you’ve turned your thinking around to focus on the positives. Share in the comments below. 

Are You Feeling Peer Pressure?

 

Peer pressure is something many of us have felt during our lives. It’s more common when you’re younger and trying to find your place in the world. Maybe you were encouraged by your mates at school to try smoking, or to skip lessons. On some level, it still exists in adult life too. There will always be moments when your friends try to convince you to do something you know isn’t the best idea… like staying for ‘one last drink’ at the pub instead of going home for the early night you know you need.

As a general rule, though, if you’re surrounding yourself with the right type of people, peer pressure isn’t something you should struggle with in adulthood. But it can creep back in at times of insecurity or new experiences, or when life throws you a curveball – much like the parent guilt we spoke about in our blog: Parent Guilt – It’s Times Like These Where It Raises Its Ugly Head.

The world is in a very funny place at the moment. It feels like a form of limbo. We are post-lockdown, but we are far from back to normal life. We are allowed to do some things, but not others – and people have different levels of comfort zones. Are you finding that peer pressure is creeping back into your daily life when friends and family are suggesting get togethers you’re just not comfortable with?

 

Peer pressure can hit you from all angles

Peer pressure isn’t isolated to one area of life. It can hit you from all angles – home, work, school, your social life. Maybe your boss is wanting you back in the office and everyone else is ok with that – but you’re not. Maybe your partner or housemate wants to throw a birthday party as a one-off, saying ‘What’s the harm?’. The idea makes you anxious. Maybe your friends are all off to the pub, but such public places are still a no-go for you.

Analysing each and every situation is exhausting – trying to find where you stand amongst so many different options and approaches to Covid restrictions. And it’s horrible to feel like the odd one out. But there’s nothing wrong in that and those around you should respect your choices.

 

Stand up to peer pressure

Peer pressure often comes from good intentions. Your friends just want you at the pub with them. Your boss wants you in the office as you’re great motivation for the rest of the team. The fact remains, though, that if something makes you uncomfortable, then you shouldn’t be doing it.

You have to be really strong to stand up to peer pressure. You hate to be the party-pooper. But better that than casting your principles aside and finding yourself in uncomfortable situations. Covid has really highlighted the fact that everyone experiences situations differently. One person may be ok with group gatherings, while the next may prefer to stay at home. Whatever your beliefs and feelings, stick to your guns. Standing up to peer pressure doesn’t have to mean a confrontation – just be honest, explain how you feel and, if people respect you, they’ll understand.

 

How have you dealt with peer pressure in recent times – or in the past? Leave your comments below.

It’s Time For Honesty

 

How often are you truly honest? Even if you’re a super-honest person, there will be times when you opt for a safer option than the truth. It’s in our makeup to skirt over things and put a brave face on. So when someone asks us how we are, we often reply ‘fine, thanks’ with a smile on our face, even when we’ve just had a day from hell. Why? 

We do the same professionally. It’s no secret that, during the Covid pandemic, businesses have struggled. Yet how many businesses carry on posting shiny, polished social media posts? Instead of being honest, they gloss over it and carry on as normal to the outside world. Why?

 

Why is honesty sometimes so uncomfortable?

Honesty can make us, and others, feel uncomfortable. So, sometimes it just feels easier to avoid it, easier to put a brave face on and carry on as if everything is fine and dandy. But does that really work?

It can do – to some extent. If a bad day just needs washing off and you know tomorrow will be better, sure, go ahead and give a dismissive ‘fine’ when someone asks how you are. But if it runs deeper than that, why not be honest?

Instead of skirting round the fact that if certain businesses don’t find a way to continue through these hard times, they will fold, why not be honest?

Because it’s uncomfortable. And that makes us feel vulnerable, whether it’s on a personal or professional level.

 

When honesty can open doors

The daft thing is, the discomfort of being honest can make someone feel more comfortable because they might be going through the same thing as you are. By opening up and confiding the truth in someone, you may just give them the opportunity that they need to do the same.

In some ways, Covid has helped people share more on a personal level. There have been very few people who have been fine throughout this. On varying scales, almost everyone has struggled in some respect or other. While some businesses have thrived, a lot have not. But honesty about how we really are often remains behind private and trusted doors. How would the world be if we spoke more openly and honestly about things?

 

What are your thoughts? Are you open and honest about your life, or do you keep certain aspects behind closed doors? Let us know in the comments below.

Parent Guilt – It’s Times Like These Where It Raises Its Ugly Head

 

Do you ever get overwhelmed by all the things you ‘should’ be doing as a parent? That feeling of guilt that you’re doing things slightly differently than ‘the norm’ can be all too familiar.

Parent guilt starts even before the birth of your first baby. As soon as you start to consider the trolley-loads of stuff you need to buy, you start questioning yourself. Argos, Mamas and Papas… JoJo Maman Bébé? Which pram, which cot, which mattress? Then we move onto how you feed your child, which school you send them to, logoed or supermarket-bought uniform, screen time limits… the list is never-ending. And it continues until… well it probably never stops. But, one way or another, we manage to control it and find OUR way. Until something sparks a whole new round.

For many, parent guilt has risen its ugly head again during the coronavirus pandemic as we try to navigate a situation that we’ve never experienced before.

 

What’s the best approach to Covid with kids?

The bottom line is, there isn’t one. Each and every family has such a unique situation that it’s simply not possible to give a best approach. It depends on what works for you. 

During lockdown, we suddenly had to become teachers as well as parents. On one end of the scale, you had the parents that were leading full school days, ensuring they included all parts of the national curriculum. On the other end, you had families that embraced a freer way of life, deciding it was time for other experiences. More usually, in between these two came a lot of parents feeling guilty because they were having to look after their kids while working at home.  

At the same time, many had to decide whether to take up precious key worker places at school, which were often in short supply. Again, guilt – do I deserve one more than the next person? Then came the decision of whether to send children in certain years back to school. What if you had another child that would still be at home? How would that work? Would you be putting elderly or sick members of your family at risk by giving your child some form of reality? Or maybe you were point blank against it but your little one’s friends were all going back and you felt guilty for saying no. Guilt, guilt and more guilt, whichever way you went.

As restrictions have eased, we’ve had decisions to make about letting our kids back to playgrounds, restarting extra-curricular activities, and deciding to go into someone’s house rather than stay in the garden. 

One thing is for sure, though – it’s exhausting having to analyse every decision you make. There’s often guilt that comes with the choice you make, because maybe it’s not what your kids wanted, or maybe your friend is disappointed you won’t join them on a trip out. Along with the parent guilt, you can also feel peer pressure start to creep back in… maybe a feeling you haven’t felt so strongly since your school days. Head over to our blog if this is the case: Are You Feeling Peer Pressure?

 

Is parent guilt something you’ve struggled with over the past months? Have you found a way of managing it? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.

Makin’ Monsters – Join Us In Solidarity

 

Over the past few months, nobody has been able to escape the effects Covid has brought about. Apart from the older generations who may have experienced wartime, the vast majority of us have never lived through a time that has changed our lives so fundamentally.

The well-known saying ‘we’re all in the same boat’ has morphed into ‘same storm, different boats’. We have one very strong thing in common – Covid – but our individual lives and how we choose to react to it remain very different. 

There are two choices in a situation like this: judge those around you that are doing things differently to you, or live the experience differently, but side by side – in solidarity. We’ve seen some wonderful and truly heartwarming solidarity – like the clap for the NHS. But this needs to happen on much smaller scales too, and breeding solidarity is what Makin’ Monsters wants to do – in all areas of life.

 

How can Makin’ Monsters breed solidarity?

Talking about a small worry can disperse it before it grows to be a monster in your head. This is what we want people to be able to do with Makin’ Monsters – a platform born from the belief that sharing worries is the best way to calm them. So, we want people to feel as though they can share, without the fear of judgement.

Just because you would do something differently, in terms of Covid or anything else in life, doesn’t mean you can’t support someone. Learning to live alongside people who decide to take a different path to you, without making them feel as though they are wrong, is a huge step forward in breeding solidarity and acceptance in the world.

So if you see a discussion in our forum that contains views that aren’t in line with yours, by all means, ask questions and show an interest in learning more about those views and the reasons behind them. This deepens our understanding, and, in turn, makes us less judgmental. But what we do not want, and will not accept, is negative, unkind reactions that don’t take other people’s feelings and opinions into account. There is a way to stand together even when we don’t agree.

 

Get involved in Makin’ Monsters and see who you can help control the monsters inside their heads by standing beside them and giving them some kind, positive and supportive words of advice.