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Why Running Away With the Circus Doesn't Always Change Your Life

Have you ever thought about running away with the circus? I have. In fact, my best friend and I, in our teens, almost walked into a circus and asked if we could join. Of course, running away with the circus doesn't really work these days, though.


Have you ever thought about running away with the circus? I have. In fact, my best friend and I, in our teens, almost walked into a circus and asked if we could join. Of course, running away with the circus doesn't really work these days, though. It's not like you can up and leave just like that without parental approval and work permits. It's not 1890 anymore. There are rules and regulations.

Some people live so in accordance with the rules and regulations they've put down for their own lives that they forget to actually live -- they just walk within the confines of what they have been told to do. Others, like myself, are more prone to run away with the circus.

Those who never walk outside the confines of societal expectations often wake up one morning and ask themselves how they ended up where they are and why they aren't happy? (Ever heard The Ballad of Lucy Jordan? Sort of like that.)

Those who ran away with the circus (possibly even many different circuses) wake up one morning and wonder why they're running?

The truth is, we all have patterns. We all live within the confines of our mind.

My pattern is to run full speed in the direction of my dreams. I jump on the wagon for the circus and figure out how to work out the details after boarding the train. Usually my dreams are big, so the troubles after boarding the train are paramount. And there always seem to be multiple trains I want to be on at the same time.

This year I've decided to take responsibility. It's so easy to blame others and circumstance for where we are without even realizing. For three years I was furious with immigration and adoption laws in South Africa and my situation with work and financial resources as a result of it. I felt helpless. And angry. And sad. And frustrated. To get the visa I needed to get to adopt the kids I wanted to adopt I needed to raise R5 million for my business, all because supposedly Madonna took a kid out of Malawi which changed the adoption laws for foreigners in South Africa, meaning they now needed permanent residency to be allowed to adopt. How can loving children and working for a country not be enough to let you live there and raise the kids?

Besides, have you ever tried raising two kids from a township filled with issues, having a day job as a freelancer, launching a business and being involved with a not-for-profit at the same time? I was a walking wreck.

I had jumped on a wagon. Or quite a few actually. And I was furious as the end goals were so incredibly high up the mountain that no matter what I did, I didn't seem to reach them. In fact, I seemed to have all sorts of obstacles thrown my way. Someone likened my life to Pandora's box and it wasn't far from it. But I kept fighting for those big goals and I kept running myself to the ground and being miserable as a result.

Then, end of last year, I made a decision. I made a decision to take responsibility. I can curse South African immigration and adoption laws to high heavens, or I can work with what I have. I was so set on one end destination that I didn't make the most of my current situation. What can I do for the kids right now? What can I do for my work situation right now? What can I do for my business right now? Sure that end goal is great, but if I don't have the resources to create it, where can I start right now?

I just heard three gun shots going off in the distance, presumably in the township. People choose their actions all the time thinking they have no choice. But we do. And the obvious choice isn't always the right one.

So what can you do to create the life you love right now?

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I bet that if any of us opened up a thesaurus of health symptoms and conditions we'd be filled with serious concerns about our health after only a couple of pages. Health-related symptoms are one of the highest searched criteria on the web.

However, there are times when many of us feel jaded or despondent, our quality of sleep is not great, we're experiencing miscellaneous aches and pains. Sometimes being given a label only adds to the worry of it all by fuelling stress and health anxiety. It's important to be wary of labels, especially when self-diagnosing health issues!

As a long-established counsellor and hypnotherapist it's not uncommon for me to be asked for a diagnosis by my clients. 'Does this mean I'm stressed, depressed, suffering from anxiety?' they may ask. But, just as when you buy something from a shop which has a sticky label firmly attached, I often find that by giving someone a specific label to explain their feelings it can mean they need extra therapy sessions to then detach that label!

Yes, sometimes clients are relieved when they can put a name to how they're feeling, but oftentimes there are effective ways of dealing with issues without having to label and categorise them. It's okay to accept that there are times when we're weary, sad, stressed or overwhelmed. Things in life may gradually accumulate and result in us feeling battered and bruised. Not everything's a serious health issue though, and sometimes those times provide a nudge to sort out how we're running our life.

Learning effective ways to deal with challenges can teach us better ways to cope, to recover from the knocks life intermittently throws our way and then to turn each bad situation around.

- Accept that sometimes feeling tired, out of sorts, vaguely unwell is how it is. We may have a phase of not sleeping too well, of being a little weepy, of feeling grumpy or a bit down. Be gentle with yourself at those times. Occasionally our hormones, body clock, even a change in the weather or the cycle of the moon can throw us out of balance. Treat yourself with kindness; go to bed a little earlier, ensure you eat well, keep hydrated, take some gentle exercise, maybe get away for an hour or even a day or two.

- We teach people how to treat us. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said this, but certainly a high percentage of communication is done non-verbally. We communicate our responses to situations through cues so subtle that we may be unaware of them; fear, guilt, resignation, a desire to please are all evidenced through our breathing, stance, body language, posture. Tuning in and becoming aware of what we're projecting can turn a situation around.

- Remaining silent and uncommunicative, or alternatively always saying 'yes', can be interpreted as you being okay with how things are being handled. Take responsibility for how you come across and start to teach people to treat you well.

- Be careful not to compare yourself and how you're doing or coping with others. We all have different stories, priorities, situations we're dealing with, support networks, abilities and motivations. One person's nightmare situation may be another's piece of cake, and vice versa. Comparisonitis can result in massive insecurities.

- When we're exhausted and feeling low it may be because we're sorry for ourselves, feeling hard done by, unappreciated or taken for granted. Becoming appropriately assertive can be the way forward. All too often frustrations build up and then we explode over the smallest of things, crying, 'how dare you, it's not fair, after all I've done for you!' Or conversely we retreat into sadness, introspection and melancholia. Often a better outcome is achieved through love, affection and by staying calm and even-tempered. Learning to say, 'no', firmly and appropriately, perhaps without explanation or justification, can teach both yourself and others to appreciate and value you more.

- Being short of time is something many of us struggle with, but spreading ourselves too thinly can lead to burnout and overload. Clues that all is not well can be frequently going to bed later, getting up earlier, missing meals, cancelling breaks, exercise and fun. Again self-help comes from taking personal responsibility and communicating to others how you're feeling and what you need. Is there only you who's competent to do those tasks? Maybe it's time to train someone else, learn to delegate or be more realistic about your work v health choices.

- Deal with stress. Ensure that you have a set time when you switch off, unless there's an occasional, genuine emergency. Are there specific times when you frequently feel frazzled? We all have our early warning signals of stress. Become acquainted with yours and identify when you need a 'water-cooler' break, a piece of fruit, time for a game of golf or a long leisurely lunch. Research has found that we perform better, often bringing new ideas and thinking into a problem, once we've had some time away to detach a little.

If you find you're becoming increasingly stressed, snappy, not sleeping or are experiencing low mood booking a health check-up is advisable. However, many of us can learn to intervene early on and start to introduce positive, ongoing self-care. Appreciate you can only do so much each day before mistakes, accidents and poor concentration start to affect your health. By introducing good habits you achieve a healthier balance in your life, becoming equipped to deal with those unavoidable times when sacrifices have to be made, you need to work longer hours or juggle unanticipated demands.

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