Archive | October, 2013

Coping Mechanisms That Are No Longer Serving You (and what to do about them)


Ahh Natalie Dee. You said it girl!

“Why do I keep doing that?!” was my catchcry for many years.

I couldn’t understand why I kept doing the things I didn’t want to. The things that were standing in the way of my goals, of my dreams, of my happiness.

Why did I keep eating junk food when I was trying to lose weight? Why did I keep biting my nails even though it hurt? Why did I keep injuring myself when I exercised?

Do any of these sound familiar?

The thing is, all of my actions were coping mechanisms. Sure I didn’t like them - but they actually served a purpose.

They helped me cope with overwhelming anxiety. 

And I didn’t have any other methods to address it.

Luckily, these days I’ve got a bit of an arsenal to help me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not perfect. I haven’t got this epic perspective that means I never reach for a cookie when I’m stressed.

But the more I practice using the ‘good tools’ vs the ‘damaging tools’ - the easier my life is.

Here are my top six coping mechanisms that I’ve used over the years plus some other tools that have helped me to replace them. - click to tweet

Hopefully by shedding some light on them, you’ll be illuminated too :)

Coping Mechanisms That No Longer Serve


This is my top one as food is pretty much my drug of choice. Whenever I feel stressed, tired, happy, nervous, bored, ecstatic etc etc - my reflex is to reach for something to shove in my gob.

Food is everywhere. Think of every single activity we do as a group, and you bet there’s food involved. Parties, weddings, funeral wakes, office morning teas. We bond over sharing a meal. For me food is linked to just about every emotion I can think of.


I used to use exercise as punishment for overeating. And then I’d feel awful and go eat something. Vicious cycle much?

I’ve written before about how overtraining can lead to some pretty damaging outcomes. As a Personal Trainer it helped me a lot to see that part of muscle growth is rest. In fact, muscles don’t grow when you’re working out. They grow as you rest during the days after the workout.

Fingernail Biting

Sometimes I used to sit on my hands to stop myself biting my nails. Sometimes when I was watching TV my partner would pull my hands out of my mouth, only for them to drift back up a few seconds later.

It was mindless auto-pilot fretting in physical form.

Calorie Restriction

At uni, friends and I called them ‘No Food Days’. Problem was, by the end of the day I’d be so famished I’d usually end up going home and bingeing (see point one). When I’d put on weight I’d try to restrict or diet, get hungry and fed up, give up, binge, overtrain, feel fat and awful, try to restrict or diet…

You get the picture.

Obsessively Planning

I’m the queen of lists. When I used to go camping with friends I was the girl scout of the group who always had a torch, a first aid kit, extra toilet paper, extra blankets, etc etc.

And there ain’t nothing wrong with being prepared.

But sometimes when I’m particularly nervous about all the myriad of events happening in my life, I tend to double up on lists. Sometimes triple up. I spend so much time planning all the things I have to do, that I’ve got less time to actually do them.

Looking for trouble

When overwhelm hits I go running around looking for trouble. And I don’t mean trying to get into fisty cuffs. I mean I go searching for other things that I could possibly worry about too. It is a vortex of doom.

I turn specks of dust into molehills and molehills into mountains. I would have anxiety about my anxiety.

*Panic stations everyone.*


So if all these coping mechanisms are borne from anxiety, the tools to replace them are ones that actively address anxiety…

Better Tools That Serve You Completely

Intuitive Eating

IE has been an excellent tool to help me learn how to understand when I’m truly hungry and when I’m feeling ALL the feelings. Because unless you’re physically hungry, food will not be the solution. Otherwise you’re not craving food, you’re craving connection.

If emotional eating is something you really struggle with, this post might also be helpful.

Yoga / Reformer Pilates

Pretty much the antidote to the crazy, high intensity workouts I used to push myself through. (PS I still like to workout hard occasionally, but my intention is much better).

Yoga and Reformer Pilates help me to reconnect to my body in such a joyful way, riding each breath and moving with grace. I feel full of energy and light after a good session.


This has been an excellent tool to help me with fingernail biting. It’s been a difficult habit to break, and one I still sometimes do. But when I practice mindfulness the biting disappears naturally.


Another mind-body practice, Kinesiology again helps me get to the root cause of emotional blocks that are stored in my body. We are such psycho-somatic beings, that often what helps the body helps the mind, and vice versa.

In Brisbane, my favourite Kinesiologist is Melissa Sandon. If you’re elsewhere in the world, ask around for a recommended practitioner.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Take a deep breath right into the bottom of your belly. Now slowly exhale through your mouth.

Feel better already?

It is impossible for you to feel anxious while breathing deeply. By using your diaphragm you’re activating your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) - the one that is on when you’re relaxed. The PNS triggers positive physiological changes such as lower blood pressure and yummy, happy neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.


Dah doi. You knew this one was coming didn’t you? ;)

Meditones helped me as a beginner to access those deep states of bliss everyone was always on about. Now I combine my other meditative practices like mindfulness and pranayama (breathing exercises) whilst using meditones to really enhance my practice.


What about you? What coping mechanisms have you replaced with awesome anxiety-reducing techniques? Let me know over on the Facebook page where lots of discussion happens.

Got a friend with anxiety? Let them know about this post. These tools could really help them out.

Need a Fresh Perspective? The Power of Neuroplasticity


You know those ‘aha’ moments? Those epiphanies? Those moments where ideas just come flying smack-bang outta the blue?

Well - science boffins have figured out where they originate and how you can increase their likelihood.

How cool is that?!

If you’re an Aussie geek like me, you would have been blissfully nerding out at Todd Sampson’s new TV show called Redesign My Brain.

In each episode, Todd gets to practice super cool brain training exercises, undergo functional MRI tests, and talk to researchers on the cutting edge of neuroscience.

Yep - it’s a neuroscience fangirl’s wet dream.

It’s in his latest episode, Make Me Creative, that Todd gets to experience and measure first hand what an ‘aha’ moment looks and feels like.

They call it insight and I adore it as Insightful is one of my Core Desired Feelings.

You see insight involves the right anterior temporal lobe - the area that processes and connects distantly related ideas deep within the brain.

“A eureka moment forges unique connections in your brain.” - Todd Sampson {click to tweet}

Interestingly, when you’re trying to analyse a problem logically, it’s the frontal cortex that’s involved and it actually blocks those eureka moments. Guess what else blocks eureka moments? Anxiety.

So how do you boost the probability of having an epiphany?

According to Todd you need to learn to trust your insightful thinking.

But apart from going through the cool exercises that he goes through on Redesign My Brain, got any ideas of how else to reduce anxiety and increase insight?

If you guessed meditones than you comrade, are correct.

That’s because meditones stimulate the whole brain - balancing the left and right hemispheres - and help you form new relaxed neural pathways.

I’ve personally had quite a few bonza creative ideas whilst using meditones.


Of course the wonderful thing about brain training (including using meditones) is that it’s like exercise for your grey matter. It not only boosts creativity, innovation and insight - it keeps your brain young by forming new neural pathways.

See, years ago, the accepted theory was that you were stuck with the brain you were born with. Over time your brain just degraded into mush until you died.

Now, it’s known that the brain is constantly rewiring and this process is called neuroplasticity. There have even been phenomenal cases of people retraining their brain after strokes and traumatic head injuries.

One such example is the wonderfully inspiring Jill Bolte-Taylor. In a “one-in-a-million” story, Jill is a neuroanatomist who witnessed her own stroke.

She documents it in a powerful book called My Stroke of Insight and her TED talk is featured on my Top 10 TED Videos list.


So if you’ve been feeling like there’s no hope that you could ever change your mind about your body - take heart. You’re not as stuck as you think you are. Your brain certainly isn’t. It holds all the potential for new and unique experiences.

The science of neuroplasticity PROVES you can change your mind!

And you can actively tap into these experiences with creative brain training or effortlessly through meditones.

Remember - meditation isn’t just another thing to add to your to-do list. It’s the catalyst for change you’ve been yearning for.

Got a friend who could use a fresh perspective? Give it to them (with a large serving of hope on the side) by sharing this post.

~ Original photo by Mackenzie Brunson

5 of my go-to tools for positive mental health


Improving and maintaining positive mental health is something I’ve always been drawn to.

Probably because I’ve struggled with lots of mental health problems - like depression, anxiety, panic attacks and self harm.

Thankfully a lot of the stigma around mental health is dissolving these days, but I still remember what it was like to feel isolated and ashamed by my ‘issues’.

Over the years I’ve developed a treasure trove of tools that have helped me build resilience.

Some tools are mental, some are physical - after all, we are psychosomatic beings. Often our mind affects our body and vice versa.

So in celebration of World Mental Health Day, I’m sharing my toolbox in ascending order (always good to leave the best til last). If you could use a little more positivity and joy in your life, I encourage you to try these on for size.

5 tools for positive mental health

5. Vitamin D supplements

This is a new and unexpected one for me. I live in Queensland - the Sunshine State, for pete’s sake.

But after struggling with low energy and mood for a while, my holistic GP ordered some blood tests. She confirmed I had rock bottom vitamin D levels and since taking supplements my energy and optimism is through the roof.

You may not have low Vitamin D, but the point here is - don’t discount a physical cause that could be contributing to any mental health problems. I highly recommend seeing a good holistic doctor.

4. Diaphragmatic Breathing

When I was in the throes of a hyperventilating-wild-eyed panic attack, the ONE thing that helped me was the word ‘breathe’. More specifically - focusing on a long, slow exhale helped to calm everything right down. Additionally, having a daily deep breathing practice helped me stay calmer for longer.

3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT is a process of using logical thought to displace irrational thinking. It’s a way of reality checking, preventing shame spirals (ie “I’m a loser” / “Nobody loves me”) and halting ‘catastrophising’ (ie - “Why does this always happen to me? I’ll never be able to get it right” / “Oh no, I made a mistake - I’m totally gonna get fired”)

Rather than jumping straight to negative conclusions - CBT uses a questioning approach to find out if what we fear will happen is really true.

For example - “I’m a loser” can be combated by questions like ‘What evidence do I have that this is true?” By looking at your accomplishments, how much you’re loved by friends and family there is probably a large body of evidence to the contrary. Remembering that you are imperfect, just like any other human being and that you are born worthy of love gives rise to self compassion. You are able to see yourself in a more loving light. Ergo - you are not a loser.


2. Talk Therapy

I’ve done counselling, coaching and hypnotherapy. Talking is a great way of getting support and perspective from a nurturing expert.

Much of my healing I can attribute directly to the support I’ve had from these professionals. If you need help - ask. It makes a world of difference.

1. Meditation

Hands down one of THE best tools I use on a daily basis. Of course, my go-to tool for this is meditones because it makes meditation so quick and easy. Meditation is a crucial catalyst for positive mental health as it physically rewires your brain.

Science has confirmed the plasticity of the brain, meaning you can continually lay down new neural pathways for your whole life. You really can retrain your brain to be positive and peaceful.


Has this helped give you some more ideas for mental wellbeing? What about you? What are your favourite tools for great mental health?

Also - if you have a friend that could really use a boost right now, share this post with them. You might give them a tool that could change their life.


PS:  As I mentioned - coaching and meditation are two of my biggest tools for ongoing healing and growth. So I’m really excited to now offer a new, bespoke coaching and meditation service.

If you need a quick & easy way to rewire your brain for positivity and would like some 1:1 support then check out the Affirmation Amplifier - it’s a combination of your most powerful affirmations with my calming meditation music.

It’s perfect for:

+Anyone who wants to quickly and easily bust through a block, rewire their brain for more positivity, soar past upper limits and overcome limiting beliefs
+ Anyone who wants freedom from anxiety and a framework for resilience
+ Anyone committed to their own empowerment and who is ready to take life by the horns
+ Anyone craving sustainable motivation
+ Anyone who needs reminding of their own inner wisdom and power from time to time and wants access at the push of a button

Blogcademy Entry

Blogcademy is a fabulous 2 day workshop held in venues all over the world by globe trotting headmistresses Gala Darling, Shauna Haider (aka Nubby Twiglet), and Kat Williams (aka Rock’n’Roll Bride).

These fabulous superstars of the blogosphere are heading to little ol’ Brisvegas (my hometown) and I want in on the action.

Hence, this blog post is a completely self absorbed, willfully unhelpful post designed to get my sticky mits on a scholarship (Woo! Free stuff!) My apologies - regular programming will resume next week.

In the meantime, please to enjoy my video (best viewed as full screen).

So sit back, put your feet up, your headphones on and be transported into a delightfully hypnotic trance of generosity ;)

PS - Like the track playing in the background? Get the full track here