Withstanding The Storm

What a fitting time to talk about the metaphor of a storm, as I sit here cocooned inside watching the fierce ocean slam against the cliffs. A rather anticipated storm brews at sea off the East Coast of Australia, bringing with it huge amounts of rain and wind.

I was recently in the Pacific, on an island in Fiji, when a similar storm unfolded. As tranquil and picturesque as this place is, there were times this couldn’t be further from the case. There were reports of an XL swell expected to hit Cloudbreak, so we knew it was going to be pretty wild. But nothing would prepare us for what would happen on Monday 23rd May 2016. It was a pretty horrific sequence of events, stormy conditions with around 15ft waves. Hawaiian surfer Aaron Gold wiped out on the first wave of the day, and didn’t resurface for 3 waves. He was rescued by a jetski and pulled from the water unconscious, where he was then resuscitated. After receiving CPR for 5 minutes, he regained consciousness, was rushed to shore, then hospital, where he made a full recovery. A very lucky result, in a life and death situation.

What did I learn that day? Regardless of how prepared one might seem, never underestimate the power of the ocean. Always respect mother nature and be prepared for the worst. In this instance, it was thanks to some quick thinking and immense skill, that got him to safety in the imperfect storm.

Alex Gray, WSL were broadcasting live from Cloudbreak for the stike mission. Photo: Beau Pilgrim

For those experiencing mental health issues, it’s often referred to as a storm. We can feel hopeless at times, being tossed around in a sea of inner turmoil. The dark clouds can represent conflict and feelings of depression or despair, as if we are being drowned out by the squalling rain. I’m a big fan of metaphors, and I particularly like the analogy of the lighthouse in the storm to represent mental health, as it powerfully conveys the emotional challenges that can be experienced.

When dealing with the blows that life can throw at us, it’s easy to get sucked into the storm and focus on surviving the rough seas. But in fact, adopting the position of the lighthouse can often act as a stabilising factor. Rather than allowing ourselves to be influenced by what happens around us, stepping back and acting as the lighthouse, allows us to be an observer from a distance, providing stability and direction, instead of getting emotionally drained by reacting in the moment. The lighthouse remains constant in all weather, continuously glowing and guiding regardless of the conditions.

Might I add, it’s easier said than done. I’m guilty as charged at times, as it’s easy to get too close and caught in the middle of chaos, rather than objectively watching it pass you by. Whether it’s relationships with family and friends, a conflict at work, or a situational crisis, maintaining perspective is key. This metaphor is used in a form of clinical therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which helps to clarify values through the power of the juxtaposition. We are all susceptible to the storm, but for someone experiencing a diagnosed mental health condition, it can be even harder to differentiate. There’s a big stigma surrounding asking for help, but speaking with a professional, and surrounding yourself with people who are honest and you can trust, can make all the difference.

6 6 2016 Photo: Beau Pilgrim
A shot of me from yesterday. Photo: Beau Pilgrim

I hope this little blurb can help you take a step back and be a beacon of reflect on your own situation. In the meantime, change your lantern and let your lighthouse shine bright!

Joel x

Keeping Balance

Work-life balance

There’s increasing research supporting the notion that work-life balance is less of a reality and more of a myth, due to the increasing pressures of life and employers. But in fact, the majority of these pressures come from our innate desire to succeed. We take great pride in self-sacrifice and hard work, often thriving on feeling needed. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of checking work emails at all hours and on weekends. My guess is the majority of you had a hand up. I’m guilty as charged. Rather than conformiimagesng to the notion that work-life balance is merely a myth, it’s time to find the right fit for you, the balance that will allow you to accomplish both professionally and personally with immense satisfaction.


The biggest contradiction of all 

I’m part of the team who manage and run OneWave, a non-profit organisation promoting mental health through surfing and saltwater therapy. We strive to raise awareness of the need to look after your mental health and talk to supportive people when you’re finding it tough. Despite our efforts in changing the conversation, we constantly overlook the most important part… ourselves. We’re subliminally opposing the essence of what we’ve created. With teamwork, open communication, and spotting each other, we’re turning things around, moving and striving towards a cohesive sense of wellbeing.

Last week we explored part one of balance – “That Thing Called Balance”. Scroll below to get up to speed with the first 5 points. This week I’m going to share 4 more tips which might just help you find the solution you’re looking for.

6. Sleep more 

Sleep makes the world go round. We concentrate best, make the best decisions, and are kindest to ourselves and others once well slept. Starting your day early is the best way to be productive, but it also means you need to get to bed! Some people can handle 6 hours sleep a night, and others need 9 hours. For me my magic number is 8 hours per night. People are often shocked when I tell them I’m not a morning person. The truth is I hate mornings. The thought of sleeping in is much more attractive than dragging myself out of bed to get in the freezing ocean or head to an early meeting. But I can assure you, once you get over that 10 minute barrier, the day is way better for it. Those who are early risers are not more motivated than most people, they just say yes more.

sleepy dog on computer7. Saying No 

Ok I’m guilty – I’m a chronic ‘yes-man’. Regardless of the situation, pleasing people or completing tasks, I find myself saying yes to everything. I was recently told, “you’re more defined by what you say no to, than what you say yes”. I’ve road tested this theory of late and it’s a personal breakthrough! By cutting out the things that you can avoid, you’ve got more emotional and physical energy left in the tank for what you need to achieve. Having a clear vision and purpose (your ‘why’), along with appropriate boundaries, is key to ensuring you stay on track.

8. Invest in relationships 

Balance doesn’t just fit with the black and white nature of work, and switching off from it. It’s key to ensure balance resonates through every part of your life, especially with the people that mean the most to you. My family are the first to tell me when I’m being ridiculous, absent minded/elusive or even a ghost. Listen to your loved ones, because as much as you don’t want to admit it at times, they are inevitably right. Relationships aren’t meant to be hard, they’re there to be the light beacons through the night and celebrate the wins.

9. Get comfortable with discomfort 

Daniel Flynn, one of the geniuses behind Thankyou, said “to change things, you must become comfortable in the uncomfortable”. I love this quote, as it couldn’t be more on point. I’m a true advocate of the fact that the more you can lean into discomfort, the greater your ability to evoke change will become. This is easier said than done, but when you find yourself in a daunting situation which would have sent you into a spin previously, there’s almost this eery sense of comfort and your ability to succeed becomes much greater.

Anzac sunrise Newi
How today started at the ANZAC Day dawn service in Newcastle

Thanks for tuning in. I hope you’ve managed to keep that balance this long weekend, and pay tribute to the brave ANZAC men and women who paved the way for this amazing country we live in – Lest We Forget.


That Thing Called Balance

During numerous mental health speaking gigs around the country, one of the key questions I get asked by audience members is, “With so much going on, and so many things you do, how do you unwind and find balance?”

We’ll get to my response in a moment, but firstly – what even is balance? It’s a concept that some say is dying in this day and age, due to the growing pressures and expectations (personally and professionally), constant stimulation and increasing pace of the world around us. All of these factors are real, and ever so present, but it’s how
we respond and deal with them that can make all the difference.


you-can-sleep-when-you-re-dead“Sleep’s for when you’re dead right?!” I used to swear by this phrase for years, pushing myself to achieve impossible deadlines, working late nights where a 3am bedtime was not uncommon. Though more recently, I’ve established just how important balance is in my life. It all comes down to the brutal fact that burnout is REAL. And it’s a bitch!

It got to the point last year, where all those crazy late nights, last minute deadlines, and the stress of managing two full-time jobs, had all hit the overload button. No matter how many times my body tried to shout “help, I need a break!” I kept pushing. The result – a super stressed, shell of a human. The interesting part however; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a trade off. I’ve learnt to listen to myself a lot more, and have come to appreciate the importance of balance – and as a result, I actually get more done!

Continue reading “That Thing Called Balance”