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This year I have decided to make a New Year’s resolution that I am certain to keep

Gray Crawford

This is because my resolution is NOT to make a New Year’s resolution. 

Here’s my logic. 

After two years of our freedoms being taken away due to the fear of Covid, the main thing we need now is positivity. As the old song goes, we need “to accentuate the positive”. Therefore the last thing I need is to spend the next three months in a doomed enterprise of self-improvement; the sort of failed mission that merely adds a little self-loathing to whatever problem I was vainly trying to solve.

During Covid, it has been so easy to list all the problems with the world. We watch as wealthy nations protect their own populations, ignoring the experts chanting on the sideline: “no one is safe unless everyone is safe.” We watch as as our brittle societal fault lines, underpinning our systems and institutions, further deteriorate. An under-funded health system, especially within mental health. Institutionalized racism. The cruelty of aged care. The dysfunctional labour market. The degradation of the public sector.

When you think of these things, you find yourself falling into a deep well of negativity. This is because most people focus on the things to worry about rather than those that make them happy. That doesn't make us bad or pessimistic people. It just makes us human. Noticing threats quickly was the key to our ancestors' survival. This continues today. The human brain is better at paying attention to what's bad rather than what's good. We therefore shouldn’t blame ourselves. 

That’s why, this year, I plan to always climb towards the sunlight.

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Poor sleep affects your mind and energy

Gray Crawford

Sleep, both its quantity and its quality, can affect your mental health.

Recent surveys have found that more than one-third of New Zealand adults are unable to consistently get a good night’s sleep, with many having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. And Covid-19 has made things worse, even for those who were previously “good” sleepers.

Remote work gave many people more hours in the day for personal use, but at the same time turned the workday into a 24/7 endeavour, with emails, texts, and Zoom calls occurring at odd and often unpredictable times.

Working parents who lacked child care options or had to help young children with online schoolwork during the day have resorted to late-night or early-morning hours to get their own work done with minimal interruptions. They essentially became shift workers with erratic sleep schedules. Others lost sleep pondering whether their jobs were worth the stress and how they might reshape their working lives going forward.

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Building Self-esteem

Gray Crawford

Everyone wants to have high self-esteem — but attaining it can often be very difficult. 

Part of the problem is that our self-esteem is rather unstable to begin with, as it can fluctuate daily, if not hourly. Further complicating matters, our self-esteem comprises both our global feelings about ourselves as well as how we feel about ourselves in specific areas of our lives such as within our family or our work.  

But when our self-esteem is high, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well. Also when our self-esteem is higher we are also less vulnerable to anxiety.

Here are five ways to nourish your self-esteem when it is low:

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The benefits of walking

Gray Crawford

For many of us, walking doesn't seem like anything special. It's just something we do every day. But walking is one of the best forms of exercise out there.

Thousands of studies have shown that this simple form of movement has a wealth of wide-ranging benefits, including better mental and physical, increased mindfulness, and enhanced communication skills.

Here are several things everyone should know about this simple, yet beneficial, form of exercise. 

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Panic Attacks

Gray Crawford

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night having a full-blown panic attack?  

You are not alone. Panic attacks are surprisingly common. The latest research has shown that at least one-third of us will experience a panic attack at some point in our lives. 

While symptoms vary from person to person, they can include a pounding heart, shortness of breath, light-headedness, sweating, trembling, nausea, tingling or numbness in the fingers and toes, and an overwhelming sense of impending doom. 

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The Fear of Fear

Gray Crawford

People who come to Petersgate for counselling are often full of sadness and worry and it scares them. Some of them report waking up in the early hours of the morning, the monsters living under their beds filling them with feelings of dread that something horrible is about to happen. That they will then look stupid and be subjected to criticism, ridicule, and rejection. The resulting anxiety, anger, worry, and self-loathing then paralyses them into doing nothing because it’s always easier and safer to avoid the bad than search for the good.

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Personal Growth

Gray Crawford

Personal growth is real. I know the term is a bit vague and hard to pin down but for me it means the intangible process that people go through to either survive or thrive, even flourish. It's what happens to people who used to be unhappy in dead-end jobs but then change and are now doing what they love. It's the elusive factor that helps people finally walk away from bad relationships, embrace a new spiritual path or find a new passion. It's something we all want, even if we don't always know what to call it or how to get it.

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The Art of Acceptance

Gray Crawford

As human beings we like to remain in control.

This is why when things happen in our lives that we can't control it really bothers us. This happens even though we know deep down that, in reality, we can’t change something once it has happened and we can’t predict the future. The only thing we can control is how we react in the present to these events.

When I lie awake at night worrying about the past or the future I, instead, think about, what I call, the art of acceptance. This is all about surrendering to what’s beyond your control. It’s a way of cultivating presence, awareness and calm in the NOW. And once this is achieved it can change your life for the better.

For me, I’m never more calm, clear or confident than when I adopt the art of acceptance.

It is an invaluable tool when managing stress as it has been shown to effectively lower blood pressure, calm the nervous system and regulate the immune system plus so much more.

So, how do you incorporate the art of acceptance in your life?

It comes down to 3 simple principles:

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Gratitude 101

Gray Crawford

Did you know that practicing gratitude everyday enhances brain function and can even help prolong your life?

This is because when you focus on gratitude it helps calm down your limbic area of your brain while enhancing the judgment centers.

As a result people who express gratitude on a regular basis are therefore healthier, more optimistic, make better progress toward their goals, have a greater sense of well-being and are more helpful to others.

Here are 4 practical steps to bring gratitude into your everyday life.

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I worry a lot. Do I have an anxiety disorder?

Gray Crawford

“I am a professional worrier,” Gray Crawford, Business Manager at Petersgate Counselling Centre admits. “I sometimes joke to others that the amount I worry every day really worries me.”

“I would sometimes lie wide awake in the middle of the night, my brain, which should be resting,  somehow finding the energy to start pulling apart, piece by piece, every single thing that I did the day before and catastrophizing what might happen tomorrow.’

“I often think that it would be great if I could just reboot my brain, deleting all these negative messages, just like I would do with my computer when it gets jammed. Then again that could be fatal for humans.”

We are all different. Everyone has their own unique battles, sometimes arguing with themselves, sometimes feeling like we are failing in life, the imaginary devil on our right shoulder becoming stronger than the competing imaginary angel on our left shoulder because we give it far too much more attention than it deserves.

I am not crazy. I am just human. Everyone feels anxious and worries sometimes. It just goes hand in hand with our stressful lives.

Who I can thank for all this worrying is a small part of my brain called the amygdala which has evolved since caveman days to keep us safe. When cavemen were roaming the plains trying to avoid being eaten by lurking sabre tooth tigers the amygdala saved them by telling them that sabre tooth tigers don't like their tummies rubbed. In our modern age however there are not the same number of animals out there wanting to eat us (well at least not in New Zealand), so our amygdala creates  the same panic, sending cortisol and adrenaline throughout our bodies, as a result of more mundane, non-life threatening things like our meeting people for the first time.

The problem is knowing when being mildly anxious becomes serious anxiety and you need to seek professional help

Here’s how to tell the difference.

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Worry Versus Anxiety

Gray Crawford

Do You Know the Difference?

In today's cruel and random world of Covid-19, a certain amount of worry and anxiety are normal.

Most people use these terms interchangeably but they are entirely different things and have entirely different implications for our health and well-being.

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