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Toddler Tantrums and Life Lessons

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Hear me out. I know no-one enjoys a toddler tantrum, but as I drove past a park the other day I saw a mum trying to lift her toddler off the ground. Said toddler clearly didn’t want to leave the park and was embracing gravity for all they were worth.

It struck me all at once how this little scene was in fact a lesson for how to deal with all sorts of people, tantruming or not. I mentioned it to my teen who immediately understood what I meant and why I thought it related to him, and his peers.


Parents lift toddlers all the time. They’re heavy, but moveable. Mostly because they’re all ‘up! up!’, and hold themselves up.

Toddlers who refuse to be lifted are a different story. It’s like they’ve sucked in gravity and it’s holding them bound to the earth. When you finally heave them up, you might get a kick in the stomach for your pains and a screech in your eardrum.


We can try and lift people, and help them, and support them, but sometimes they aren’t ready. Sometimes they’re lying on the ground refusing to get up. Sometimes they’re frightened to get up. They push us away, shout, cover their eyes.

When people want to be lifted, it’s a lot easier.

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This isn’t to say that we walk away from them when they’re not wanting the help. That might be necessary for our own wellbeing at times but mostly I think when we have the spoons we want to stick around to help.

What it means is that we can’t save everyone. We can’t always help people who aren’t ready to be helped. Who don’t want us there.

And that isn’t our fault.

It’s not a burden in particular that a teen or child needs to bear when friends or those close to them aren’t ready to be helped. I think it’s an important message to let young people know that they don’t have to be the saviour. They can still try and help, but they need to know that stepping back to look after themselves is okay. Refill the jug. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

The way I see it in teaching is that I can easily help a kid who is struggling in my subject but who wants help and wants to improve. It’s so very much harder when they don’t want to be there at all. Part of the rewards of my job is when, through patience and kindness, I can wait long enough for the student to shift, to be able to sit up and ask to be lifted.

Many people I’m more than happy to wait it out. Be there until they’re ready.

But sometimes we can’t do that, and it’s actually okay.

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When negative emotions overwhelm – 7 suggestions to deal with it

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Emotions are tricksy beasts. Especially the negative ones. They build up until they’re a roiling mess of sobs and anger and UGH lying just under a thin film of ice. At any moment the control can snap, the ice shatter, and everything just cascades out.

Negative emotions are not inherently bad. Sadness can have its place, as can concern and worry. It’s when they layer one on top of each other so you can’t breathe, or when they appear hand in hand with negative self-talk, that the problem starts.

Suggested ways to deal with emotional tsunamis

These are ideas that work for me, or at least can help a little.

One: Write it Out

Maybe because I’m naturally happy writing, but I’ve always written out my emotions. In letters that I don’t send (and some that I do), in diaries, in endless lists and mind maps and jotted notes in planners and bits of refill.

Research shows that writing out your problems and emotions can be just as, if not often more, effective than talking it out. This article explains it well, and this one gives some advice on how to do it. Writing your feelings helps you to structure your thoughts – we naturally think in paragraphs or bullet points when writing. We edit ideas and words and definitions. This earlier post of mine shows the process I often go through. Writing can help me parse my thoughts and reframe my catastrophising.

You don’t need to do regular journalling to benefit from writing out your emotions. To be honest, the most therapeutic benefits I’ve experienced is from simply allowing myself to spill out all the thoughts and fears and demons that sweep down to roost at various times.

Two: Talk With Someone

Although writing can be just as therapeutic in many ways, there’s no doubt for me that talking is important. I think it’s the whole “a burden shared is a burden halved” thing.

Telling someone you trust about your problems, about the emotions threatening to explode out of you or the sneaky ones eating away at your sense of being – that talk can be such a weight lifted off. For me it’s that I’m no longer hiding how I feel. And honesty and openness are, I believe, healing.

Opening up to someone also means you end up with someone else in your corner, someone ready to have your back. And that’s helpful when dealing with either the negative self-talk, or emotions about something you can’t control.

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Three: Look! a Squirrel! Distraction Distraction

Honestly? Sometimes we just need to fill our heads with something light and fluffy and different. Baking shows. Comedians (I love Michael McIntyre for this purpose). Golden Buzzer winners. Puppy pictures.

Chris Evans Laughing. No, really. Evidence below.

Told you it is good.

Four: Exercise and Sleep

I know, sometimes sleep is impossible to achieve when those emotions keep you up in the middle of the night, brain whirling, or worse – tears falling. Routines help here. Doing the same thing every evening at the same time can help train your body into falling to sleep mode.

And this is where exercise helps too. Not just for working out those emotions and getting those sweet endorphins, but for helping you sleep.

Sleep is so incredibly important for resilience. And resilience is what helps us cope with emotional overwhelm in the long run.

I feel hypocritical advocating exercise when I’m possibly at my unfittest, but I also KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that when I’m fit, exercising, I feel better. I have more energy, I have more confidence, I feel more capable.

Exercise can be as simple as a walk, or some stretches, or dancing in your living room (dancing also gives happy vibes so that’s extra bonus points).

Five: Use Logic

So what I mean here is – I catastrophise. It’s easy to do, especially when those emotions are roiling. Logic makes me stop. I think backwards from the horrific end point my catastrophising has filled my brain with and at each step I question ‘how would THIS have happened?’. In the end, I usually prove to myself that whatever overblown fears my brain has cooked up are unlikely to happen.

If it’s a reasonable fear it’s a bit trickier. That’s when I use logic to tell myself things like; ‘It’s 3am. I literally can’t do anything about [Big Problem] now, so thinking about it will have to wait until tomorrow.” I follow that up with a promise to myself with a set time: ‘I will look at this or think about it at 11am tomorrow.” Middle of the night jotted out lists also help me go back to sleep because I’ve tricked my brain into thinking I’ve dealt with it.

This is reminiscent of ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy where you acknowledge the emotion, assess whether it’s useful, and if it isn’t, ‘thanks Brain but that’s not helpful right now.’ It isn’t about denying emotions, or even about solving them, just recognising that they exist but aren’t necessarily helpful. Then choosing a direction to take that is more helpful. Have a read about it here.

Six: Cry

Pretty self explanatory.

Sometimes we need a good cry.

Those emotions that are roiling under the surface? Sometimes we need to let them out in a safe space so they don’t explode at inopportune moments in ways we regret or are embarrassed by.

Stock up on the tissues and let it all out.

Seven: Be Kind To Yourself

This is kind of my go-to advice for most things really. Let yourself feel the emotions. Don’t beat yourself up for having them. Don’t tell yourself you’re weak for having emotions or for not being able to cope with them. That’s human. And feeling intense emotion is not a bad thing. It probably means you have a strong amount of empathy and empathy generally = good.

Don’t be horrible to yourself.

Give yourself time and space to deal.

Have that cupcake if it will help.

Snuggle in the blanket and feel sorry for yourself.

But also be kind enough to look after yourself – do the things that will help you feel better in the long term, not just in the short term.

That brings me to my final point

Bonus: Seek help if it’s really bad

Seeking help from trained professionals (General Practitioners, Counsellors, Psychiatrists, Psychologists) is never shameful. It isn’t weak. Seeking help is about one of the strongest things you can do. And it’s a big part of being kind to yourself.

I hope that some of these can help, and remember – you are not alone. There are others out there on the rising tide of overwhelming emotion as well. Maybe if we help each other out we can build a life raft that takes us to calmer waters.

happiness, inspiration, life, motivation, Personal, self care, Uncategorized

A decade of Clem – aka has it really been 10 years??

Rollercoasters are pretty cliche for describing a life journey but that’s the image I find myself returning to again and again when trying to pin down the last ten years. Those highs, sometimes reaching such pinnacles that you can feel the drop downward about to hit, leading to twisting paths that have you careening out of control with no idea where you’re headed or why, and the lows *shudder* the terrifying or stomach churning lows where you’re sure this is it–there’s no further to go. And then a jolting lift upward again.

It gets very exhausting.

Then when we factor in the way the world is going…Eeek. Sometimes we want to get off the rollercoaster. Have a break for a bit. You know, a cuppa and a nice cookie and tune out for a while. Look at some cats.

This last decade gave me some mighty lows and some real scares. It was the decade my marriage ended. The decade I had to get used to sharing custody of my children. The decade I had emergency bowel surgery and up to six members of my family in hospital in one year. I gained weight–lost weight–gained it-lost it and, yes, gained it again. I’ve spent thousands of dollars at the dentist and hours in pain. I spent years working myself into burnout and a solid year suffering clinical depression. I lost myself–found me–lost me again. My dogs died. My aunt died. My grandmother died.

Looking at it like that makes me glad I try not to focus on the negative things because there were some major bad things and they hit more than just me. The bad things that hit my friends and family, and the downward spiral so much of the world has sunk into, wraps around me as well.

But – through it all there were highs. I applied for and achieved two promotions. I’ve presented at two local and two national conferences on something I’m passionate about. I took on a mortgage on my own house and I like my house a lot. I have a study with a nice computer to write on. I may have lost my way fitness and health wise after finding it again BUT I’m not going to let that diminish my accomplishment of working hard for it in the first place. I took my kids on holidays.

Writing wise I’m proud of myself. I started the decade with no real intention to write, just a ‘wouldn’t it be cool to write a book one day’ kind of thought. Since 2014 I have written five (unpublished) books, and a host of beginnings of other ideas. I started a blog. I had a story published in an anthology. I entered and won contests. I queried and had full requests. I haven’t got the agent or the publishing deal *yet*, but I’m feeling much, much closer to it than I had thought possible at the beginning of 2010. More importantly (to me, anyway) I began to identify as a writer. Not just a teacher who writes part time. That’s been an important and wonderful shift for me.

It strikes me that one of the things I look back on and am proudest of is often the struggle, or the striving. I’m not just proud I wrote and entered contests, I’m proud that in the middle of severe depression that targeted negativity around my writing, I still wrote. I learned to revise. I had the courage to query and to push the ‘send’ button even though my heart raced and my stomach churned at the thought (and I’m not hyperbolising – I genuinely panicked every time I pushed send on my first 30 or so queries).

I’m so glad I didn’t give in to the panic. I’m so proud I felt the fear and did it anyway.

I am proud I learned to deal with and accept rejection.

I went to school and did my job even as my health and mental wellbeing staggered along. I’m proud that as I tried to balance teaching with parenting and a marriage break up and finding a new passion – I still managed to inspire and touch students’ hearts. That’s what keeps me going back to teaching, the connection to students. I noticed that over this Christmas with my son in hospital. I saw three ex-students working in pharmacies or in the hospital and one of his nurses was the aunt of an ex-student. It makes me feel part of a community.

The most special part of this decade has been my children. Their support and joy and humour and how they’ve learned to deal with pain–all of it has been a privilege to see. Watching them become who they are, the leaps they’ve taken, has been so amazing. I look back and I feel that HERE, with this important job, I did my best. I don’t know what I did to be so blessed, but I do know I’ve tried my hardest to teach my boys about kindness and empathy and social responsibility and awareness of inequality. They might not keep their rooms tidy, but their hearts are huge. I know which I see as a bigger achievement.

I’ve learned so much over this decade. Some of it through experience, some from advice from others, and some from giving advice to others that I’ve realised I should follow myself. I’ve learned that vulnerability terrifies me–until it doesn’t. I’ve learned that my tendency to run away from and avoid big problems CAN be overcome. I’ve learned to appreciate the small beauties of life and that spending time stargazing or stopping to look at the daisies in the field is never time wasted. I’ve learned that humour makes life a gazillion times better. I’ve learned I’m strong, even when I don’t want to be. I’ve learned that I’m worthy of being treated better than I was. I’ve learned that letting others help you and be your cheerleaders doesn’t make you weak. I’ve learned to apply my own oxygen mask first and that boundaries are important-to refill my jug before filling others’. I learned to say No.

When I think back on the good things though, what really made this decade is very clear to me. They are the small things. The conversations with my children. The kindness from strangers. Laughing with old friends. The dewdrops on a rose. I’m so pleased I kept my happy jar going for so much of this decade. Looking back on years of small moments of happiness is such a good reminder that yes there are dark times and sometimes we can’t escape those, but there is goodness and kindness and joy to be found as well.

Ultimately that’s my belief about the world. There is darkness and many (far too many) people living in awful times and facing racist and increasingly authoritarian and elitist power structures. But there is too much kindness and too much hope to give up. Resistance and ally-ship and tagging in to help those who can’t, refusing to lose ground on the progress society has made – those things help make the world a community. And I have met, and taught, too many great kind people to think that the world is all awful. That doesn’t mean I think we can relax. This decade also showed us how much we’ve taken for granted and how desperately bigoted and small minded people cling to their harmful ideals. This is the time that we must pick up the torch and keep pushing, keep striving, keep trying. And not just to save ourselves but to save others.

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I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have the most amazing people in my life: a wonderful family who support and encourage and love me; friends new and old who lift me when I’m down and remind me I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am – that I, in and of myself, am enough.

They are the ones who have made this decade – this turbulent, bizarre, uplifting decade – what it is. They are the ones who have helped me to make me what I am.

And I find, at the end of this decade, I like who I am.

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Art on the Streets – a photo essay

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Being picked up near a cafe in Morningside

I love Street Art. Whether it’s a painting on the side of a cafe wall, or an open air exhibition, I love running into creativity in unexpected places. It speaks to something deep inside me that humanity has such an urge to create, to share, to express. I wanted to share some of my favourites with you. If anyone knows the artist of any of these works I’d love to know and to give them credit.

Art in public spaces can change the environment from an unwelcoming empty wharf yard to a gallery.  Continue reading “Art on the Streets – a photo essay”