People are often surprised when I share the darker experiences of my life, like my struggle to fit in at school, or losing my father to suicide when I was only 7, or the stories of my aggressive brother and my absent mother. They struggle to equate these tales of woe with the happy, smiling person in front of them.
For years I masked my pain with exaggerated happiness. I experienced extreme highs and lows, going from drunken party animal to floods of tears in the fetal position. I used men as a distraction. I used alcohol as an excuse, and an escape.
Eventually, after experiencing suicidal thoughts following a traumatic ending to a short-lived relationship, I realized I could no longer live this way. I began making small changes in my daily life and routine to pull myself out of the pit of despair I had created.
I found a therapist.
I read self-help books, shocked at how well the authors seemed to know me. Tears fell as I turned the pages of Eat Pray Love. How did Elizabeth Gilbert know my pain so well? Was it possible I wasn’t the only one who felt like this?
I found yoga and meditation.
I found a friend at meditative yoga who allowed me to experience true friendship.
I made real connections. I found a partner to share my life with me.
I found structure. I meditated and practiced yoga every day, for 30 days, as an experiment to manage my fear and anxiety attacks.
I found my voice. It wanted me to write, so I did. Now I’m able to write with a deeper sense of who I am.
After years of feeling like I was balancing precariously on a rock, while the tide was rising up to my head, I’ve now found solid ground. I have space to breathe and space to look around and reflect on what is happening. I have space to feel; no longer numbed by fear or anxiety. This has cleared space for good things to happen in my life.
I’m smiling now as I write this, because this is what gratitude means for me. I have the ability to reflect on all that is good in my life, and the beautiful steps I took to bring me to this place, regardless of where I’ve been or what has happened to me in the past. Gratitude provided a path out of the darkness and into the light, and out of this light, came joy.
I loved reading the steps Siobhan took to make changes in her life so much that I asked her to elaborate on each of those steps, and WOW did she deliver! Below you will find an in-depth look at the tools and resources Siobhan used in her journey of transformation. This is definitely worth a read. I’m confident you will walk away feeling inspired, empowered, and even a bit joyful! ~Caroline, CGO Founder
Siobhan’s Book Recommendations:
- Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – this one really did blow my mind.
- It was Brene Brown who held up a mirror and showed me a way through the challenge of feeling stuck. The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly formed the building blocks of the life education I had been missing.
- Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest work, Big Magic, has also been truly eye-opening, as I’ve progressed on my creative journey.
- On a more light-hearted, wacky but brutally honest note, Jenny Lawson’s books, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy, showed me that a crazy childhood and struggles with mental health should not be a shameful secret. They can instead form the basis of multiple best selling books. She has inspired me to be increasingly honest in sharing my stories.
Siobhan’s Meditation & Yoga Practices:
I have tried Buddhist meditation classes at Rigpa London and timed silent meditation at home, but I’ve found the Headspace app to be the most effective for me. I’ve used it every day since September 1, 2015, and it only took a few weeks for me to feel my brain calming and settling. It felt as if my brain was being rewired! On the rare occasion that I miss a day, I can really feel the difference. It’s as if my anchor came loose, and I’m slowly drifting to sea.
- For yoga, I first found Satyananda Yoga, which is a meditative practice.
- I have since grown to love Vinyasa Flow for its energy and physical progression through poses.
- I used to attend weekly classes, but now I use online videos such as oneoeight.com from Rachel Brathen, Yoga Girl, and I’m also trying 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene, for comparison.
- Regardless of how much time I have, I get on the mat. Even just a few minutes of checking in with my body makes my meditation so much better and more effective.
Siobhan’s Writing Process:
- I write in short bursts, usually around 500 words in about 20 minutes. I find sitting on my sofa works best.
- I’ve recently been using the Pomodoro technique to motivate myself to begin. I set a timer for 25 minutes, open my laptop, and type the first thing that comes into my head.
- I try to write at least once, if not twice a week, and I don’t pressure myself to do any more than that, just yet.
- I want to write more, but it’s something I love so much that it scares me to do it sometimes. I’m struggling with the transition from a corporate 9-5 mentality to a lifestyle that allows me to spend my mornings practicing yoga and meditation without opening my laptop until almost noon! It’s a work in progress.
Siobhan’s Self-Care Secret Weapons:
Whenever I feel anxious, overwhelmed, or generally ungrounded, I do one or both of the following:
- I find myself a quiet space (at work, it’s generally the bathroom), and I practice balanced breathing by covering one nostril and inhaling deeply for approximately 4 seconds. Then I cover the other nostril and exhale for approximately 4 seconds. I usually repeat this 5-6 times. No matter what’s going on for me, after a few breaths, I feel the stress and tension melt in my body, and I come back to the present. Honestly, it feels like magic every time it happens. I absolutely love it.
- If I’m feeling confused regarding a course of action, I mentally check in with how my Head, Heart and Gut are doing. I received this tip from Katie Winterbourne, a professional intuitive. When using this practice, I feel the difference immediately. If I’m feeling particularly ungrounded, I will continue the check in with my Knees and Toes. This immediately helps me connect back to my intuition, and it helps me become clearer on the next steps I should take. I try not to make decisions when I am not grounded.
Siobhan’s Gratitude Practice:
Apart from taking moments, whenever I’m able, to appreciate the beauty around me, I intentionally include the following gratitude practices into my routine:
- Regular connection to nature, and taking the time to appreciate it: I’m fortunate to live in the English countryside, where I have lakes, fields, and hills on which to feast my eyes! At least once a week, I try to go for a short walk to a lake near my house. The stillness of the water calms me, and I feel so grateful that I get to experience this, right from my doorstep.
- Journaling: I write in my journal every morning, both before and after I have practiced yoga and meditation. As my mind settles, I notice a difference in my thoughts; they become clearer. I consciously identify elements of my life for which to be grateful. I find the practice of writing them down makes me more aware of them, and makes them feel more real.
- Joy Jar: I’ve read about Joy Jars in Brene Brown’s work and on the NOI Club website, and this year I have finally implemented it. Since January 1, 2017, we have kept a Joy Jar in our home. We simply emptied a large Kilner jar, and now, every time something good happens, that brings a smile to our faces and makes the day a good one, we write it down and put it in the jar. Again, the act of writing these down makes them feel more real. Seeing the jar nearly full, after only three months, makes me smile every time I look at it. I’m looking forward to opening it at the end of the year and reading about all the good times we’ve shared.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: SIOBHAN KANGATARAN
Siobhan Kangataran is a writer and the founder of ToGetHer Further: a community of women helping other women at work, by sharing their personal experiences openly and honestly without judgment. You can read more about her work on www.togetherfurther.org or join the ToGetHer Further community on Facebook (link below). You can also read more of her personal writing on her new website: siobhankangataran.com.
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