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The gift of “You” this Christmas

I let my eyes close. I can hear the rustling of foil. There’s a gentle tug on my scalp and the chill of dye cream touching my scalp. In the background I can hear the roar of hairdryers, slow atmospheric tunes, the rising and falling of voices and the gentle patter of rain on the window. Outside it’s getting dark and even with my eyes closed I sense the afternoon slipping away. I’m here in this moment and yet I’m also transported.

The many versions of me

I imagine a kaleidoscope of different versions of me, shifting in and out of focus as my senses remind me of all the times I’ve sat just like this. It's as if all of those times suddenly merge together. There’s 18 year old me: off to Uni and having her hair dyed for the first time in a salon. Unsure of herself and embarrassed to say what she wants, stumbling over her attempts to explain and express herself. Then there’s “first professional job” me: anxiously hoping that a transformation on the outside will bolster her shaky confidence. Here’s “new mum” me: Trembling inside at the luxury of time alone, clutching a book to read as an escape into another world for a short time. Breathing in big gulps as the enormity of her latest transition wreaks havoc on her sense of self. Faster and faster the images go by until, finally, I’m back here in this moment: this "Me" has so many identities: "Mum of teens" me, "business owner" me, "peri-Menopausal", "therapist" many roles.

No matter what's happened and who I've been, there’s an essential “Me” that’s always been here. Even when I can't see her and doubt her (which is often!). Getting to know THAT "Me" is the gift I'm discovering in the sometimes savage unravelling of the Menopause transition. As my body has shifted and changed with fluctuating hormones, there's an awakening happening.

It's powerful and sometimes feels like being grabbed by a great force and shaken up.

Restoring your Unshakeable You

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost touch with who you really are? Or that maybe the 'You' that you've cultivated all these years has actually been about what other people wanted you to be? That somewhere, underneath the busy-ness of life and the demands on you, you’ve forgotten yourself? It's a feeling that I've experienced and it's common among the women I work with. This time of year, things seem to speed up even more. We get drawn into the roles we’ve always played. Other people's expectations, as well as our own, guide us to behave a certain way and race around to make things perfect. It can make you feel disconnected and wonder why it isn’t making you happy. Even the “fun” times feel like you’re going through the motions. “What’s wrong with me?” you might even demand of yourself.

What gets in the way of being You

When you enter peri-menopause, it's the beginning of your sex hormone production slowing down as you head towards Menopause: the time when your periods stop and egg production and fertility are over.

What this means is that the stable and predictable way your body and mind used to respond gets completely shaken up too. The fluctuating hormone levels can create turmoil as your body tries to adapt to ever-changing conditions. It's like being on unstable ground and constantly trying to find your footing.

When you throw in the years of trying to please and achieve and be what you're "supposed" to be, it's a recipe for disintegration. If you don't tend to it and make changes, it can extend beyond this transitional time and into your post-menopausal life.

Would you like to connect back to an unshakable sense of your true self? So that no matter what happens, you know that you’re anchored to that place…a place where there’s always joy and peace available?

It starts with Awareness Christmas can be a magnifier of all of these things. A time when all the expectations and demands collide and bring you into close contact with the struggle. What can you do if you don’t want to get sucked into the whirlwind? Or if you need to rediscover what it all means?

You might not be feeling the frenzy yet. Perhaps it still feels a long way off, or maybe there’s a big hole where Christmas should be because of loss and difficult times. Whatever your situation, you can choose how this festive season carries you through.

The antidote to perfection is, surprisingly, something as seemingly benign as mindfulness. That quality of paying attention on purpose to exactly what is, without judgment.

The 3 Types of Awareness and How to Use Them

When I sat in the hairdressers chair, I was flexing my awareness muscles. Zooming in, zooming out, going backwards and forwards in time. Most importantly of all, I was in the driving seat. So often in our lives, as we’re focused on endless “doing”, our attention isn’t under our conscious control. In fact, research shows that as much as 48% of the time, our mind isn't where our body is...and it makes us unhappy. Dr Amishi Jha is a neuroscientist, professor of psychology at the University of Miami and author of the book 'Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention' which looks at the science of attention. So let’s explore the 3 types of awareness she describes and how we can use them to take back control:

1. The Spotlight This is our ability to shine a light on one thing. If I suggest that you pay attention right now to the bottom of your feet, chances are you’ll suddenly become aware of the sensations there. It’s also likely that before you read those words, you were completely unaware of those sensations. Just like having a torch to light the way in the dark, when we deeply focus on one thing everything else can be ignored and left in the dark.

USE IT TO.... bring you back into this moment when you feel overwhelmed by a million things happening at once.

2. The Floodlight This is our ability to be aware of everything all at once. If I suggest that you try and notice everything in the space you’re in, the chances are you’ll experience zooming out. Suddenly you might notice the sounds around you, the light in the room, your body doing whatever it’s doing. I’m evolutionary terms, it’s this ability to be aware of our surroundings that helps us scan for danger and threat. So that even as we focus on something we can be aware of everything else. This floodlight of awareness can be really helpful if you find yourself stuck ruminating or worrying. You can zoom out and notice that those thoughts are there but you also have a body, with sensations, sounds it can hear and things you can see, smell and touch. USE IT TO...give you perspective so you can reset when you find yourself lost in obsessive focus and rumination.

3. The Juggler This is our ability to develop flexible awareness that can helpfully keep us connected to what’s important. In reality, our minds are always filtering out what we notice. If we really noticed every piece of stimulus in our environment, both internal and external, we would explode! Instead our minds are always zooming in, zooming out and deciding what to prioritise. Often we’re doing this without paying attention to it. Ever find yourself halfway through a task and then you bounce onto something else without realising? The trick to being connected to yourself, that real “you” that goes missing in modern life, is to stay aware of awareness itself. What that means is to notice what you’re noticing...

What are you paying attention to right now? Are you reading this and completely zoomed in, unaware of your surroundings? Or are you also have paying attention to everything else going on in the background? Rather than letting the spotlight and the floodlight come and go without conscious control, Neither the spotlight nor the floodlight are inherently problematic. They are both useful and resourceful states. But, and here’s the kicker, only when they’re used at the right time for the right job.

The juggler is your connection to the 'You' that can observe it all and hold it lightly.

USE IT TO... get back in the driving seat so you can feel calm in the chaos

Growing a Helpful Attention Muscle

If you close your eyes for a moment and just notice what you’re noticing, what are you aware of? Are you zooming in or zooming out? And which “You” is aware of what you’re noticing? Can you sense and connect to a deeper “You” that can observe what you’re paying attention to? That “You” is the real you that gets lost under the busy. It knows what you need. It connects you to all the external versions of “you” that you’ve been, that you are and that you will be. It’s the essence of you and it’s very powerful.

Build Your “You” Muscle

At its core, meditation is a way to train your attention. There are many ways you can begin and the good news is that you can’t be “bad” at it. It's why it's the foundation of all my work because without it, you can't create the life you want or eliminate the things that aren't working. Even if you notice that you’re mind is busy and won’t settle, you’re developing the ability to be aware of your awareness. Each time you close your eyes, you’re simply practising noticing whatever is there. I have two simple ways I can help you:

1. A really simple way to start is my “Get Started Now!” Meditation Mini Course. It’s designed to give you the fundamentals of a meditation practice in 5 short videos. “I just want to say that your techniques are amazing - you’re the first practitioner that’s enabled me to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my daily life” Dr Esther Cole, Lifespan Psychology You can find out more here 2. The 21 Day Calm and Clarity Reset: This will guide you to build sustainable practices that will build you a flexible toolkit. This is also available as a gift voucher if you know someone who needs this in their life! It comes FREE with membership to Be., so you can get started and by Christmas you'll feel so much clearer.

What members say:

the explanations are super- helpful, as when many people start meditating they don't keep it up because the benefits don't seem big enough or instant enough, so they give up and come back when life gets even harder. I think your explanations really help with the bigger picture and why, ultimately, meditation is such a powerful practice.”

Since joining, I have become happy to realise that I do what I can, what I do is enough and that i won't achieve more by doing more. I will achieve more by realising more peace and calm in my life.”

“One of the biggest unexpected impacts meditation has had has been on my quality of sleep. I've never slept particularly well, but it's something I'd got used to and hadn't even considered that meditation would impact it. After meditating regularly for a while I noticed to my surprise that I was sleeping SO much better, and consequently feeling so much better during the day." You can find out more here I’d love to know how you get on if you give it a try. I’m here to support you and cheer you on every step of the way.

PLUS, You can always ask someone to gift Calm to you for Christmas! Check out the gift options here Whatever this festive season brings, I hope you can find peace, calm and joy. You deserve it. Take care Laura


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