Peace in this valley called HOME

It is Monday morning.  It is the month of October.  The year is 2019.  With much resistance, I have dragged myself out of my very snuggly and warm bed to get ready for work.  I check my messages on my phone.  Lift-club is not happening this week, so I have to drive myself to work.  Someone has a tummy bug, so we better all be cautious, just in case… We finally leave the house; I drop off big and small living in my house for them to start the day. Then I join the river of cars in one of Johannesburg’s busiest roads which leads to the hub of the business centre.  As I watch the car ahead of me, hypnotizing me with its brake lights, and Bruno Mars singing a fading “When I see your face…”, as the news bulleting commences on the radio station, I start praying.  I find myself praying for the traffic – for it to stop – and go away – so that I can have a break – so that I can sleep late and have coffee in bed – so that I can wear my slippers all day and not comb my hair – so that I can have a sandwich on my couch and tea in my favourite cup by midday – so that I can pull my best friend called the laptop closer and start working at 14h00 – so that by 17h00 when daddy dearest arrive with all our offspring he can start supper while I take a pre-nocturnal nap – so that later I am fresh and ready to catch up and Binge a little on Netflix – AMEN!  Please put up your hand if you can relate to my urgent outcry for deliverance as in my prayer above.  Yes, I see your hand.  I appreciate your honesty – thank you so much.

Now I had a very special Grandma. She said things the way they were. Many a time in my life, from her wise mouth I heard: “Be careful what you wish for dear. It may just come true”.  I’ll give you one opportunity to guess where all South Africans (like myself) found ourselves on the 27th March 2020 after the big announcement from our president earlier that week?  Yes, you are right.  We all woke up to a VERY silent South Africa because the national lockdown regulations of the Covid Pandemic determined that for a few weeks in this country, no one will be going anywhere.  If anyone were to go anywhere, they would be few in numbers and only really if it was essential.  I could not believe my ears! It was like a dream come true – the very “traffic prayer” was answered!

With great excitement and disbelief, I joined the bandwagon of eager shoppers to stock up on groceries and other essentials in the house.  My heart was racing as I chose item after item while trying to gauge how long each will last. Suddenly I had to cater for everyone’s individual needs. I also had to make sure that all the snacks and sweeties were exactly that which were requested.  Eventually, the long-awaited day dawned.  The national lockdown has begun.  No walking in the streets allowed, no driving around, no visiting friends and family, no schooling and only working from home will be allowed unless you are an essential worker.  This was too good to be true!  The long-awaited break I was praying for – it is being answered! My dream of staying at home and having a break – it is actually coming true!  Or so I thought…

Week one at home with my true love daddy dearest was awesome.  I even shed a tear or two (of joy) when I watched him play with our little ones as he explained that as a family, we will now spend time together at home doing schoolwork and working because no-one in South Africa is allowed to move around as per usual.  Week two was a little bit more challenging.  My time seemed not to be my own. I just made too many sandwiches per day. By week three, the demands from father and children became unbearable. Please let me add little doggy who also had its own requirements suddenly because walking in the park was now prohibited. I could actually not believe that there was a week four and more…

Just as the experts predicted and observed, working from home as the “new normal” is like expecting people to change form like in the movie Transformers.  Although time and other stressors like travelling to the office suddenly seemed much easier, the isolation and social interaction could in effect lead to depression and anxiety for many people.  The new culture of working from home could lead to a struggle of maintaining healthy boundaries and poor family relations.  It is found that people work much harder, take less breaks and work into the wee hours of the morning and even over weekends.  It has become common for colleagues to contact each other after 6pm at night or even later because the perception has been created that everyone is and will be available if needed.

The following are some useful tips to manage the telecommuting situation and create a healthy balance between work and home life:

  • Plan a schedule – have designated tasks and times for everyone in the household; create routine (children enjoy routine)
  • Designate spaces – if possible, keep work space separate from sleep space and relaxation space
  • In the morning, dress as if you are going into your workspace or office – then later, get back into comfortable “home clothes”
  • Take regular breaks – enjoy a tea break and have lunch
  • Minimize social media distractions – only log in periodically in order to remain focussed on home and office tasks
  • Set and maintain boundaries – disable mobile e-mail apps on your phone, and set an alarm to remind you to switch off computers when the workday is over. Include your work hours in e-mail signatures and update status with away/not available messages for those unexpected calls after 6pm.

Expectations on the home and work front have increased and this has led to many people feeling incompetent and unsupported. Our general well-being as humans have been challenged like ships sailing unchartered waters.  All the stress, depression, fatigue, quality of life, strain and happiness has been thrown into one pot – and then we watched as it all cooked together and expected the perfect tasting dish ever found on earth.

Mental Health experts advise that the awareness of setting the bar too high for ourselves, is key to the maintenance of mental health during these challenging times.  We should know our limits to adaptability in order to cope with the “newness” created by the Corona Pandemic.  Telecommuting is here to stay, and although there are many benefits to it, personal care and our own mental health comes first.  Most importantly, the peace in the valley called home is the foundation and key determiner of our arrival after the storm caused by the Corona Pandemic.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Growing up as a child, we often use to play “cowboy and crooks” or “robbers and police” or role-play being in a war (like in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”), or doctor-doctor, and so the list goes on.  We use to have toy guns, or long sticks, like bamboo rods which, in hindsight, could have poked our eyes out. We attacked each other with mud bombs and coloured our faces with old shoe or floor polish – red or black as camouflage.  In the innocence of a child, I never would have thought that our little “creative games”, which was the source of a lot of fun and excitement and sometimes a blue eye or bruised knee, was actually a real and big issue in the adult world.  Many years later, upon enlightening myself with more knowledge around issues in the adult world, I discovered that these little games of ours, actually had a much different effect when it was “played” in the real world.

I learnt that for adults, instead of experiencing it as fun and excitement accompanied by lots of laughter and sometimes embarrassment if you lose, it had a much deeper and intense experience than what I believed as a kid.  It was nothing so positive. In the adult world, I discovered there is even a name for it – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  According to experts in the field, PTSD develops when one is exposed to a traumatic event or if someone close to us have such a traumatic experience.

I remember that as kids we would go back to the same “rock of defeat” quite a number of times.  We would try to beat the winners over and over again until we were crowned the champions.  In the adult world, people may be diagnosed with PTSD, and I have learnt that it actually works the opposite way for many people. Some people respond in such a way that they refuse to revisit the place where the actual trauma happened or avoid it at all cost. It may even become extremely difficult to speak about the trauma for many years.  Normal reactions to trauma include feelings of anxiety, intense emotions, sleeplessness (insomnia) and intense anger.  When all of these symptoms are experienced for a duration of two weeks or more, and if it impacts on the daily normal functioning of the individual, we now know that there may be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which may need to be addressed on a serious level with professional help.

The Corona pandemic that hit the world so unexpectedly, has left many people devastated and reeling in shock due to the trauma and life-changing events many had to face. The long periods of isolation, fear and worry have come like the long bamboo rods once used for fun, and poked out our sense of hope and meaning to life.  Many faced their own death or the death of a loved one and people very close. Mental Health specialists advise that during this time, PTSD may develop and one should be aware of the symptoms in order to seek help.

The hope we keep is that PTSD can be treated with medication, therapy or a combination of the two.  When we see that someone has reached the “rock of defeat”, it is time to stretch out our arms and help so that we fight the battle and its aftermath together…like with little children throwing mud bombs and swinging sticks in their innocence, to be one day crowned the champions.

We see doctors and other health care professionals work tirelessly to save lives and care for those who face the reality of the impact of the pandemic.  This reminded me of the small pink sweeties we use to hand out as medication for those our fellow friends, who suffered the attack of a mud bomb or a bruised knee.  I still hold the memory that as kids, we just never gave up. We picked up our swords and off to battle we marched – time and time again.  I gain comfort in the knowledge that as humanity, we are actually more resilient than we think.  As little kids we already prepared for the battles of life. As adults we forget how many times we faced and conquered these many battles.  We forget that there are others to help us in the battles of life.  Then I draw hope when I realize I can face and overcome any illness, even PTSD. My heart feels warm because I also know that even as adults, we will be crowned as champions…


Breath, Anxiety, stress, Vista Clinic Blog, mindfulmoment

The only time I took the word “mutate” or “mutant” seriously, was in much earlier years where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were of interest to my young mind.  These days, I observe how many times I encounter this word, and it has absolutely no goal like the Mutant Ninja Turtles had back in the day.  The focus now is on how slow or how fast viruses like the Corona can become more dangerous and deadlier.  With that being said, the “mutation” of the Corona virus has now led to the grim reality of facing waves similar to that which the Titanic sailed upon years ago.

In South Africa, we are facing a possible third wave according to many health professionals.  We are advised to be aware. And perhaps even get prepared.

“What do I do?”, “What do I buy?”, “Will I get it this time round?”, “Will I get it again?”, “Do I vaccinate?”, “Do I not vaccinate?”, “Will we go back to level 5 restrictions – or level 3 or remain on level 1?” The list of questions is endless.  All the while I stand in the isle of the supermarket and think… “baked beans?” or “toilet paper?” Which one will in this round be the winner of the most sought-after grocery item?  I start to panic and I feel the anxiety creeping under and into my skin like a lazy anaconda. I do not know the answers to these questions. Clearly, my mind has gone into survival mode. And it refuses to acknowledge that the overdo of the first mentioned grocery item could possibly lead to the over-usage of the latter mentioned grocery item.  I smile, because I saw the light (or was it the toilet paper, I wonder?)


It is often suggested that anxiety caused by panic, can be extremely debilitating.  Experts sing from the same hymn sheet when they say that learning how to breath effectively in such circumstances, can be more constructive than robbing our bodies from oxygen or providing too much oxygen when in a state of panic and experiencing anxiety.  Here are some useful exercises on how to regulate our breathing in these difficult times to ensure that we give an “encore” to the experts:

Exercise specifically used to learn and maintain abdominal breathing

In an upright posture, inhale and exhale normally while holding one hand on stomach in order to feel movement and confirm abdominal use

Grounding is used to alleviate anxiety

When a person gets “caught” in anxiety the brain is going along a thought pattern that is causing that anxiety. In order to alleviate that anxiety, the brain must be “bumped” off that thought pattern. In order to do that the brain’s focus must be changed. To do this the brain has to be forced to refocus on “something” else. This is done by doing an activity that requires cognitive focus and thought. This is where breathing is useful. Forcing the brain to focus on a specific method of breathing will achieve this.

(checking your level of breathing)

This exercise is useful as a tool when shortness of breath, due to anxiety, is experienced

It can also be used as a grounding tool

This exercise will also alleviate asthma and sleep apnoea symptoms

This exercise is used to check on progress and to ascertain at what level breathing is taking place (Lower 10 bad – 10 – 20 acceptable – 40+ good, but will only achieve by including physical activity)

(short breath in – short breath out) hold and count until air hunger

Taking of the pulse can be used as a grounding tool, as tangible element i.e., feeling how one calms down

With more practised or very light panic attacks, pulse taking can also be used for grounding

Gently place 2 fingers of your other hand on this artery

Do not use your thumb, because it has its own pulse that you may feel.

Count the beats for 30 seconds, and then double the result to get the number of beats per minute.

After discovering all of the above exercises (and so much more), I feel like a soldier – equipped and ready for battle.  I feel calmer knowing that a small thing like breathing can help me to choose: baked beans or toilet paper. I smile again…and I remember to BREATHE…

How to deal with a heavy workload

Work stress is one of those things we simply can’t escape, but are you overdoing it?

I found this interesting info-graphic designed by Catherine Adenle based on some American stats. It holds a few interesting facts and tips to help you cope with a very heavy workload.

The Brain game: Facts and myths about the brain.

The thing I find most interesting about the human body is, by far, the brain. The brain is comprised of trillions of neurons, brain structures, and networks. What is even more fascinating is how these networks communicate with each other and how they, in turn, make us function.

New research in neurology has found that the secrets of our brains don’t lie in one specific structure, but rather in how these structures form pathways, which form networks, which make us walk and talk and think and breathe and, well, make us do all the things we are able to do! Continue “The Brain game: Facts and myths about the brain.”

How to Keep Yourself Motivated During the Winter Months

Whether your New Year’s resolutions were to lose some weight or to adopt a healthier lifestyle, nothing threatens our hard work quite like the cold winter weather does. Don’t allow the weather to get the better of you or derail your goals! Here are a few tips to keep yourself motivated during winter, or if you don’t particularly like the winter – just how to get through it!


  1. Embrace the winter

The winter is here and there is pretty much nothing we can do to change it, so instead of fighting it, embrace it! The winter months may hold some great opportunities for your exercise and diet programme. Healthy soups and herbal teas are great ways to keep your dietary plans on par. Do some effort to research indoor exercise facilities in your area or better yet, Google some fun home exercise regiments. Take a walk; the winter months make afternoon walks with pets more enjoyable, because the weather is not as hot as it would have been in the summer months.

Continue “How to Keep Yourself Motivated During the Winter Months”

Fighting the winter blues.

Most of us hate winter and the changing of the season, but as the leaves start falling and we feel the bite in the air, there is no more running and no more hiding; we have to face it… Winter is coming!

For many, the changing of the season also means a change in their mood, and as they layer on the clothes, they also start to develop a layer of depression and anxiety. Here are some tips to beat the winter blues:

  1. Don’t sleep in

You may be very tempted to just lay in a little while longer now that the morning air is a bit cooler, but keeping to your normal, regular sleeping pattern may help with the transition into winter.

Continue “Fighting the winter blues.”

Truth above emotion

Gold Reef City.  I have been there only twice in my life and I must say it’s not fun for me.  All the different rides – up, down, turning, twirling, or a sudden fall – and most of the rides last only a few seconds.  These rides make me think of all the different kinds of emotion we experience every day.  There’s the Anaconda ride that is like the ‘wild’ side of you that says: ‘Let’s go wild and think about the consequence later!’ The bumper cars can be related to anger, when you pick a fight just because you want to take it out on someone.  What about the ‘Sudden Death Drop?’  The nervous feeling of waiting your turn and then the doubt of: ‘Did I do the right thing getting on?’

Continue “Truth above emotion”

How to Develop Emotional Regulation

When I was younger, I watched the television program “Desperate Housewives”.

Now the reason I am telling you this is not to discuss my poor taste in entertainment; I have a point, I promise!

In one of the episodes, some of the characters were extremely upset about something that had happened, but one of the other characters seemed to be the embodiment of calmness. When she was asked how she can possibly be this calm, she replied by saying that it is not proper for a lady to show her emotions. She said that one should imagine putting them away in a box, on a high shelf in a cupboard, and only deal with them when appropriate. Now my question is: is this even possible? Can we merely switch off our emotions, ignore them, or hide them away in some subconscious cupboard?

Continue “How to Develop Emotional Regulation”

Emotion dysregulation and 5 signs thereof.

Today we are taking some time to talk about emotion regulation, or more accurately, dysregulation. According to Google, emotion regulation is: “the ability to respond to an experience with a range of emotions in a manner that is socially acceptable and flexible enough to permit spontaneous reactions, as well as the ability to delay spontaneous reactions as needed.” What it comes down to is: it is the ability to experience and express your emotions in a way that is not threatening to the self or causes social distress. The problem is that this is not easy for everyone to do.

We all experience emotions, both negative and positive, on a daily basis. However, for some, these emotions can become very overpowering and can cause them to react in a way that may result in personal harm or upset to their social environments and relationships. Emotion regulation is the skill people possess that generally describes that person’s ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience, without the aforementioned personal and social disturbances.

Continue “Emotion dysregulation and 5 signs thereof.”