Women’s Health and Wellbeing Services is a not for profit organisation that works with women and families in the community to reduce the impact of mental health problems on families and to help foster growth, for strong women and strong families. Your small change will make a big change!
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I was keen to complete the Circle of Security programme as it appears to be highly regarded. The women’s health service in Gosnells ran the group at a time that fit for me around my child & work commitments. While it was a little bit of travel for me, it was at an affordable cost & well worth the effort. I found the facilitator to be professional as well as warm & relatable. I also found reception staff to be particularly helpful & friendly. The circle of security course was indeed invaluable. I feel I RESPOND more to my little girl now, rather than simply REACT. And of course for those times that I do still react, I am less hard on myself & am able to repair/reconnect with her. My knowledge & confidence has definitely increased. There are other programmes & services that I am interested in attending in the future.”
“My story starts with me going to the Gosnells Relationships Australia, unfortunately they could not see me at the time they referred me to 2 other organisations in the building.
One of the organisations was the Gosnells Women’s Health Centre and when I walked in there holding back the tears I asked if I could see someone, unfortunately they were very booked up and said they didn’t have an appointment available for a week or so I think the receptionist could see how much I needed help at the time and said she would put me on the waiting list for any cancelations. Luckily they managed to fit me in the following day and I stayed over my appointment time but they were absolutely fabulous such a kind and calming place.
I had just been physically restrained by my father in-law and not allowed to leave our house with our children and he was telling our employees I had a mental problem and needed help as he was dragging me out of vehicles and would not even let me leave with one of the employee’s at the time, the children and I were very frightened and had to hide in the paddock as he was driving around yelling at us from the car not to be stupid and go home.
When my husband got home he was very upset with me and the next day he said he was going to kill me because I had upset him by making things difficult for him with his father, my husband had physically assaulted me previously on more than one occasion and was braking and throwing things and getting very angry at the time and I believed he might follow through with his words this time.
So when I arrived at the Womens health centre I was quite upset and confused I believed that it was my fault that I should just do as I was told, its very hard when you have a whole family convincing you that you should be doing things a certain way and you are to scared to talk to anyone about your situation.
So to speak with someone openly about what was happening was a blessing and I’m so very grateful that their doors were open to me and my children if needed, it has helped me to open up to people around me who care about me and not feel so ashamed about everything that has happened. I doubt anyone will ever know my full story but I have already started to see the support has gone along way to helping me regain my life and hope that it continues to be there for anyone else who needs it in the future.”
“Several years ago I was at my lowest point, kids left home, mum sick, home business struggling. Your one on one counselling and self esteem course plus the anxiety course gave me so much understanding of what was going on in my world. I felt safe in your care, and made friends in each group. I now use the skills I learnt to help my grandchildren when they are worried. My grandson was so proud the other morning when he slept in his own bed all night. I used the 5 things mindfulness idea, along with a cuddle. My grand daughter now in year 2 still tells remembers the day care area I would leave her in. She wants to come back.!!
Thankyou all lovely ladies.”
A home birth after 2 caesarean (hba2c) birth story
1st birth 2015- private OB in private hospital. I knew very little about birth and our birth culture and perhaps naively thought going private would mean a more individualised approach. Instead I felt like a number in a factory production line. Uncomplicated pregnancy, offered induction from 37 weeks for no medical reason, fought to wait, spontaneous labour at 41 weeks, the night before a scheduled induction. During labour was under pressure to progress, was full of fear, had epidural, OB broke my waters without my consent during a routine vaginal examination, baby decels, co-erced into c-section with threat of “sick baby” if I didn’t sign. Baby born with good apgars, and OB sliced baby’s cheek during c-section by accident- my now 6 year old still has a scar. Many struggles postnatally with processing birth, breastfeeding, and poor confidence and competence as a new mother.
2nd birth 2016- (17 months post first c-section). Attempted VBAC in public hospital system with private midwife. Armed myself with all the info, did ALL of the things (chiro, acupuncture, spinning babies, yoga, pilates, active birth classes, naturopathic herbs, dates….) Anything that was going to marginally increase my chances for VBAC, I did it. In hindsight, I was probably a lot in my head, and not actually very attuned to myself, my body or my baby; nor had I done much emotional work/processing, which likely impacted on me going in with more fear and anxiety than I really realised. I also think in hindsight I put a lot of subconscious and perhaps unfair or misguided pressure on my midwife; naively expecting that I’d already done ‘the work’ in simply changing models of care and hiring her, and that she would just ensure I get the birth I wanted. Had a long pre-labour, which I ironically actually wasn’t prepared for. I got into active birth action mode early and ended up exhausted too early. Went to hospital too early, which resulted in pressure for monitoring, and interventions. Midwife attempted to advocate for me, but hospital didn’t support her or me.. arguments ensued through labour between midwife vs hospital, whilst I felt stuck in middle attempting to trust and relax into labour. I was in fight/flight mode and needless to say, I progressed slowly. Had epidural, decels got worse according to CTG, hospital pressure and strong Dr coercion, I sensed midwife fear, and on a background of my own fear and poor sense of own intuition, consented to c-section after 31 hours. Baby born healthy with perfect apgars.
Postnatally- in many ways a much better postpartum experience- much more settled baby and had support of private midwife to debrief and journey postnatal period with. But in other ways I possibly struggled more emotionally, in that I’d made a lot of different choices and prepared a lot, yet still couldn’t understand why/how the birth had ended this way. I blamed myself and felt I’d failed myself, my baby and my midwife. I also found the physical recovery harder, and ended up with post surgery infection in my scar.
3rd birth- 2020.
Although unsure if we’d have a 3rd, I started mentally preparing for this birth long before conception. I did a lot of unpacking, processing, and emotional work. I saw a psychologist, sought a support through online groups and the personal friendships I’d formed within it, did a lot of journaling and reflecting to support me in understanding more about my fear, my relationship with my body, my gut/intuition, and finding my own voice and owning it. I think I stopped trying to “do” and instead just “be” in my approach to this labour/birth, which was an added and different layer to my previous birth preparations.
I went with a private midwifery model of care again, but through a challenging decision-making process, chose to go with a different independent midwife to my previous birth. The desire to make this birth be a new journey, a fresh slate to write a new story on, drove me to seek the change.
Pregnancy wise, I was kind of a little disconnected or more nonchalant about the whole pregnancy and birth prep this time around. Maybe busier with 2 other kids, maybe covid related, maybe I felt I already knew enough; whatever the reason, it served me well as I didn’t seem to overthink things as much. I tried to just do what I wanted or felt good/right to me, rather than what I worried I ‘should’ do. I tried to take more responsibility for my decisions; rather than depend on my care provider, medical system, or well-meaning friends/family to influence/make these decisions for me. I chose not to do the GTT, and also declined the Group B swab. It still felt scary at times, but it was good learning as it helped me tune in more to what felt right for me, and contributed to feeling more empowered and in control.
I was booked in to birth at the public hospital, but I did discuss homebirth with my independent midwife (IM). My husband wasn’t really onboard with homebirth, although he did understand how the fear of the hospital setting could impact my labouring negatively. I knew I wanted to feel safe in labour and confident in the knowledge of a physiological birth process. Our plan was always to stay at home as long as possible; but as labour grew nearer (and after a couple of hospital appts that involved fear mongering masked in the guise of ‘safety’; which resulted in trauma type responses for me) the plan shifted more to staying at home until a need presented to go to hospital. My goal was a safe birth, but that ‘safety’ also included my own psychological and emotional safety. I chose to not really share the possibility of a desired home birth with many friends and family out of self-protection, in not wanting the possibility of their well-intentioned but unhelpful fears projected on to me. I stopped focusing so much on what if things go wrong and instead engaged more in visualising the possibility of birth going really ‘right’; and that I was worthy/deserving of that and it didn’t make me a selfish or bad mother to desire and plan for it.
At around 38 weeks, we made a fairly quick decision to throw an offer in the ring and was successful in buying a house! My husband then decided that it would be a good idea to get our house ready for sale asap and try get it sold before the birth. (I had gone to 41 and 40+3 with my previous pregnancies so we assumed we had a couple of weeks at least). It seemed crazy at the time, but in hindsight it actually served as excellent distraction for us both, and allowed me to use the mentality that “birth will still be ages away” as a technique to distract me from overanalysing any little symptom or sign.
38+6 weeks- was exhausted and had come down with a bad head cold after a long week, but house was ready for first home open the next day. I had midwife appt, and remember talking through fears that I’d spent all this time cleaning/decluttering, and that I should be doing more birth prep, (reading or journaling or getting acupuncture or gaining more tools for pain or something) and my midwife looking at me calmly and reassuringly saying “Fran, you’ve already done the work!”. I left the appt sure I would see them for my next appointment the following week, and my back up midwife predicting ‘if you sell the house, you’ll ‘let go’ and baby will just come’.
The next day, at 39 weeks we had our first home open, which went amazingly well, and received knowledge of potential offers coming in that afternoon. That night I didn’t sleep great, was awake for big parts of the night. I’d felt low level cramping all during the night but nothing significant enough to make me think it was early labour.
The next day 39+1- I woke still having some cramps, but still didn’t think too much of it, telling myself birth would still be weeks away. It was a Sunday, we had no plans for the morning, so decided to take kids out for a scoot and babycino. Just before leaving home I got one more intense tightening and decided I didn’t feel comfortable going out in public, so my husband just took the kids and I stayed home.
I set up a mattress and a kind of comfort zone in our lounge area, with fitball, pillows and music, and just lay down and tried to rest. I was humming through the tightenings when they came but still dozed on and off, and just kept telling myself this wasn’t ‘it’. Decided to get up at some point and just pottered around the house, although wasn’t achieving much. Kids had come home by then and were playing about the house. I was having contractions on and off but they were pretty inconsistent, in timing and intensity. Mild cramping was continuing all the time in between. Around mid afternoon I started losing a bit of mucous plug.
Spoke to my midwife a few times throughout the day. Part of me was becoming anxious about what ‘to do’ and she was encouraging me out of my head and instead to check in with myself around what felt right and to go with what my body was telling me. She reminded me that I’ve been here before, my body was doing all the prep and to just keep going with it. I remember her telling me that if this is ‘it’ that this is exactly what I’ve been waiting for and rather than shy away from it to embrace and welcome it, and enjoy it. She also reminded me that baby was leading the way, and if baby was ready it would ramp up if we let it; and if something else was needed, baby would also let us know. I remember relaying the midwife conversation to my husband and him saying ‘Yes! we either want this to completely fizzle out or completely ramp up!’ It made me realise I was perhaps holding on, with fear of the pain, and tried to let go more then and just let it be whatever it would be. Meanwhile, throughout the day, my husband had been fielding a few real estate phone calls, which he mostly kept to himself… we had 3 offers coming in on the house and negotiations were at play in the background.
It was sometime in the late afternoon, when labouring on all fours with the fitball that I realised my mantra of “birth is weeks away still” was probably not that accurate anymore and didn’t feel this was going to just ‘fizzle out’. I was using stress balls each contraction, squeezing them tight and moaning through on all fours to get through them. My 5 year old was massaging my neck but I could tell she was starting to worry a little about me the louder I got. My 4 year old seemed to think I was rather entertaining, like I was pretending to be a zoo animal. He started running his fingers over my lips when I moaned so that I made a ‘blah blah’ noise, which he thought was hilarious. When he climbed on my back to ride me like a cowboy, I remember mouthing to my husband to ‘get these kids out of here!’
Hubby took them to deliver to my mum’s house for a sleepover. In hindsight, I’m quite amazed I wasn’t too concerned about being left alone to labour. Not long after he returned, the real estate agent rocked up with paperwork for us to sign re offers on our house. I remember feeling a bit shocked and firmly telling my husband to NOT let him in the house! He spoke to him outside and then brought the paperwork in for me to sign. He took a photo of me while signing the paperwork to accept the offer, and we joked about whether my signature was ‘legal’ considering my ‘labourland’ mental space! I couldn’t believe we’d actually sold our house in like 24 hours, whilst in labour! Things likely picked up from there on, knowing the house stuff was done.
It was around 7pm ish I think (the ABC news was on) and I remember being unable to focus on much in the outside world and felt a real pull to go in more. My husband set up the tens machine on my back but I couldn’t really get it to work for me. It didn’t seem to be strong enough and was too fiddly along with using stress balls to squeeze (which were working well). Hubby suggested I go in the shower, which surprised me at first, because I was still thinking I was in early labour and was conscious of not wanting to use up too much in my toolbox too early. Hopped in shower, set up on hands and knees (with knees under my kids pool kick boards- great tool to soften under the knees!) and water pressure hitting back. Traded stress balls for wet flannels to squeeze every contraction. My husband sat on the bathroom floor with me and would offer coconut water through a straw in between each contraction (I was really conscious of staying hydrated and drank loads in labour). I had no concept of time, I was just in it, in my zone, managing each one as it came.
Around ?8pm I think my husband wondered if we should ring our IM. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t feel like I desperately needed help yet and I had such a paranoia of her coming too early (and having a similar trajectory to my 2nd birth). He did choose to go off and ring her and came back to me saying “She was just quite blase’ and said she’d come if we wanted”. He wasn’t sure what to say or suggest and I wasn’t much help in directing him. A couple of contractions later he said “I’m ringing her back and telling her to come!” When he did, she was already packed up and ready to make her way to us. I do recall feeling a sense of relief, thinking I only had 20 mins before she’d arrive, and so 20mins became the next milestone to reach.
I remember feeling happy to see her when she arrived, but also nervous, fearful about whether I was ‘doing this right’. She picked up on my fears straight away and reassured me that everything was happening as it should; I remember her declaring “You are in active labour Frannie!” and me feeling shocked saying “Really!? Am I!?” I think I still didn’t properly believe it. Not long after my 2nd midwife arrived, and I remember her cheeky, excited smile peering into the bathroom at me.
Vocalising (or vocal toning) helped heaps. It gave me an outlet, but also meant my jaw was relaxed. My midwife also brought her singing bowl, which I think helped with encouraging me to keep vocalising low. My mantra in my head now had shifted to “I can do this. I AM doing this. I am strong”. I also remember visualising my pelvic bones floating apart as my baby came down (a visualisation that was part of a meditation script I’d done while pregnant)
Based on how I sounded my midwife suspected baby may be close-ish, so started getting birth pool set up (turns out I wasn’t as close as she thought and I’m probably just a really loud labouring woman!) She kept coming back and asking if I felt pressure in my bum or sensation to push. This freaked me a little as I didn’t and was worried this meant I was doing something wrong. I knew the pool was being prepared, as the shower water/pressure practically disappeared. My midwife was apologetic, but it almost pushed me more, as the people pleaser in me wanted to prove I could still manage without strong water pressure! Once the birth pool was ready, my midwives helped me up from the shower to the loungeroom and I felt like I’d suddenly walked into this magical zone. The lights were dim, music playing, and my loungeroom had been completely transformed. They helped me into the bath, and it felt blissfully warm. I think it was about 9:30pm.
Not long after that my midwife told me to reach down and feel. I was shocked saying (in my head) ‘no way, you’re frigging kidding me!?’ as I really didn’t believe baby was close. I couldn’t feel anything and worried again that I was doing something wrong and assumed I wasn’t ‘performing well enough’. My midwife was unruffled though, and just encouraged me to continue on (she later told me she’d seen mucous coming out thinking I could be close, but it must’ve just been more mucous plug). So, we kept cracking on. More and more contractions. I changed positions a few times, but mostly was just on my knees draped over pool edge, holding on to my husband’s arms, burying my head down. My midwife kept checking baby’s heartrate throughout labour with the doppler and reassuring us that baby was fine and everything sounded good.
I wanted to know how much longer and started to become a bit paranoid in my head that baby was not ‘coming down’ and was never going to ‘come down’. I kept analysing for more sensation about baby ‘coming down’ but couldn’t feel anything different. My midwife tried to get me to focus on weeing. She wondered if my full bladder may be stopping baby from descending and suggested getting out of the pool to try wee on the toilet. I did and had more intense contractions on the toilet but still couldn’t manage to wee. It was such a weird feeling having a full bladder and concentrating mental energy on weeing but the brain not connecting! She then suggested a quick in/out catheter to try drain bladder, which I consented to. This was probably one of the most painful/difficult parts of the whole labour, because of needing to lie on my back. Experiencing a contraction in that position was so much more painful and I wondered how on earth people labour on their back. Once my bladder was emptied I returned to the birth pool.
After being back in the pool for a while I recall starting to get a bit over it, swearing and saying “this hurts too much!” At one point I asked my midwife if she could just break my waters, or check me, or do something!! I think I was searching for something/someone to help move things along. I felt like rupturing my membranes may release some pressure and help with the pain; but my midwife confidently and calmly said No, she wasn’t going to break my waters. She reminded me if she did a VE it was only going to tell us what my cervix was doing that very minute and wouldn’t give us any indication of how little or long is left, so it wouldn’t really be that helpful. I remember feeling annoyed but listening and agreeing, knowing I know those facts and it made sense.
Things went quiet for a bit after that. My eyes were closed, and I swear I was falling into deep sleep in between contractions. My husband later relayed that both midwives had also laid down for a little snooze-one on the couch and one on the floor; and he had looked around and thought ‘wtf are we doing, it’s just me left standing!’ Ha! They were clearly conserving their energy before things picked up. Not long after this, I hit a wall and let out a firm statement of “I can’t effing do this anymore!” I remember thinking “I’m done” (In hindsight this was probably transition). But then, when I realised if I wanted to change anything I would need to get out of the pool, get clothes on, get in the car, travel to the hospital… I then realised I wasn’t going anywhere, Ha! I also hadn’t actually pre-packed a hospital bag, which in some ways is telling in itself of where I was subconsciously and innately planning to birth. My midwife suggested I put my earphones in and listen to my hypnobirthing tracks, which I did, and went even more inward.
Not long after this, things really ramped up, and the sensations suddenly changed. I remember calling out “something just came out of me!” This was my waters breaking in the water. It was around 12:45am. After this I felt sudden pressure and an adrenaline surge. I was so excited that the contraction sensation had changed, I found the pushing phase of birth much more enjoyable. It had all become more real then, my fear that “baby will never come down” was overturned as I could actually feel the deeper pressure feeling of baby’s head moving down. It was less painful and just felt intense and exhausting, but exhilarating. So much energy going into the bearing down and so deeply vocal, I can’t believe I didn’t lose my voice by the end!
I had gone deeper into kneeling in the pool at this point and my husband was still trying to hold my arms over the pool edge. His arms were dead but he was too nervous to attempt suggesting for me to move or change position to support his comfort! Each contraction I was leaning so deep in the pool and vocalising so intensely that I was blowing bubbles into the water! I remember my midwife telling me not to drown, Ha! My midwife suggested I reach down and I could feel my baby’s head, which was just amazing. It was at this point that I realised I was actually going to do this. That feeling of internal power and quiet confidence was so empowering. She offered for my husband to come look at the baby crowning, which he did but not for long before I yelled for him to “get back here” to holding my arms!
My midwife started commentating through the pushing phase, explaining that baby’s head was becoming visible but then going back up, and adding that this was completely normal to keep encouraging and reassuring me. She didn’t touch me and just explained step by step what was going to happen and told me when to not push too hard to avoid tearing. I still had my head down and eyes closed and I remember my husband a bit panicked, checking in with me “are you listening babe? Are you hearing this!?” I was so in tune with my body and my midwife’s words though and was hearing everything. She coached me to hold baby’s head there and let it come slowly. I could actually feel myself tear internally in 2 places (a kind of stingy feeling) as baby’s head was coming out, but I didn’t feel worried. Once the head was out, I don’t remember really pushing at all for the shoulders/body, they just kind of slipped out and my midwife caught my baby, and passed him through my legs. I looked down and it was just like he was swimming towards me. It was insane. I just pulled him up on to my chest and kept saying “Oh my God, Oh my God”. He was born at 1:32am.
I remember feeling a little concerned that baby wasn’t screaming, but it was like my midwife had read my mind, and reassured me saying baby was still getting oxygen from the cord, and not to worry. He started gurgling and grizzling a little and my midwife used a sucker thing to try clear out his lungs a little, which helped; but overall he was still pretty calm and quiet. (And has been ever since- he is my most calm and chilled baby by far).
I just couldn’t believe I’d done it! I was in absolute awe of myself and body. I’m not sure my husband could really believe I’d done it either. I am so grateful that he trusted me and our midwives enough to support me there, in our home, despite his own fears and uncertainty. Our faces were both ones of complete relief and disbelief! I will forever be grateful to my midwives for believing in me and believing in birth 100%. I know the birth would not have gone as smoothly as it did without their unwavering confidence and trusting supportive relationship. The feeling of pride and satisfaction is hard to describe. I remember though in those moments after birth feeling a sense of grief too, realising that every woman deserves to feel like this after birth, and I felt an empathic pain for all the women who emerge from birth without this high. I also felt a sense of grief at the reality of this birth being over. It sounds a little silly, but I guess there’d been so much build up and preparation over years that had gone into this birth, and mere moments after his arrival, I just wanted to do it all over again!
I stayed in the pool for a while and remember my midwife putting stripes of vernix on my cheeks (apparently a vbac warrior trademark). I was in the pool for a while waiting for the placenta. My midwife kept saying to push whenever I feel an urge, but I never really felt it. Eventually (approx. 1 hour post birth) she suggested I stand up and try bear down a little which I did, and the placenta just came gushing and plopped out (such a weird feeling!) and my 2nd midwife was there, ready and waiting with a bucket, and caught it! It felt amazing for it to be out. They helped me out of the pool and on to the couch still holding my baby, with the placenta still attached. It was then that I realised I was suddenly starving and I demanded my husband hand feed me anything he could find!
The cord was completely white when my midwife suggested cutting it, and my husband cut the cord. My midwives then helped me to my bedroom and bed. She checked the damage- a little graze and couple of small tears but didn’t feel anything needing stitching and would heal fine on their own (which they did). They made hubby and I honey toast and tucked us up in bed, packed up the birth pool, cleared up and left us in our own bed, with our new baby around 4am, completely amazed at what we’d just done, drug and intervention free, in our own home, on our own terms. I felt absolutely euphoric.
In reflection later with my midwife, although no VE’s to confirm exactly, we guessed it was likely about a 6 hour active labour, with a 30-45min 2nd stage.
We named our beautiful hba2c baby Xavier, which means ‘bright, splendid, new home’, which felt rather poignant given his journey signalling the finality of our chapter in our house (effectively to the day, almost to the hour!); and marking the opening of our next chapter in moving to our new beginning, as a family of 5. He also brings such splendid brightness to our lives. We have taken his placenta to our new home to plant on his upcoming 1st birthday.
I still think about Xavier’s birth almost daily. It has been transformational and had ripples long beyond just his birth. It’s reframed my beliefs about myself, my body, my power & strength, and taught me a greater sense of intuition and trust (in both myself and my baby’s life journey). It’s also brought a closer sense of trust and deeper connection in my relationship with my husband.
I’ve found a stronger inner confidence in who I am and my own choices, but also that I am more ok with being vulnerable and honest about my own fears too. My journey with my previous 2 births make more sense now, in bringing me to this new growth. But all the lessons I’ve learnt through all of my births will likely continue to serve me, as my motherhood journey moves onward.
I feel my experience has deepened my wonder and gratitude for women in general, for those who’ve birthed before me, and those that continue to birth after me. I guess my hope in sharing my story is that it can of useful inspiration to other women, to know that birth can be wonderful, and that birthing on your terms, and on your baby’s terms is possible. To know and experience that women and our bodies are so incredibly powerful, and that birth can be a healing and transformational experience.
Yes, the Shifting Your Perception of Anxiety course was a total game changer for me. In short, when I started, I could barely leave the house. Now, I’m going shopping, meeting friends and doing the school run again. Thank you.
Yes I understand me better and I am liking me all my life I felt lost I am not lost anymore. I can deal with whatever comes my way.
I used to have panic attacks going to work because it was the source of many of my anxiety problems. Denise has given me the tools to help me go to work without feeling invalid. I also use the tools I’ve been given in other areas of my life. As a result I am more calmer and in a better mental state
I feel more confident and act with any changes to mental health
I have gained sufficient confidence and strategies to apply for jobs in the field that caused me to leave and created my problem.. I have now secured a casual position, thanks to WHWS
I feel better prepared to engage with things that may have been a little scary before.
I have recognised my strengths which has given me confidence that has improved my mental health
Absolutely. In my darkest times with PND, attending Mother Nurture Group helped so much. To talk about my experience with other mothers in similar situations made me feel it was ok to feel the way i was feeling. It also gave me a purpose to leave the house, every week for 10 weeks, even if i didn’t want to.
When I am confronted with a negative issue, I try to take a step back in my mind and ponder on the issue at hand and then try to re-act in a positive manner so as not to let the issue drag me down.