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The Smiling Mind Podcast
The Smiling Mind Podcast

Season 1, Episode 5 · 1 year ago

Navigating relationships with Chantelle Otten and Veronica Milsom

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Coronavirus, social distancing, Australia's recession, there are many stressors you might have experienced recently that are impacting your relationships. In this episode, Dr Addie Wootten interviews relationship expert Chantelle Otten about how stress can get in the way of intimacy and how to best deal with those hard times. Comedian, radio presenter and entertainer Veronica Milsom joins the podcast after having a new baby and career change in the middle of all this uncertainty. Get in touch with us at podcast@smilingmind.com.au and call the podcast phone on 1800 955 700. This podcast was produced by Elsa Silberstein.

Hi, I'm Dr Addie Wootton. I'm a clinical psychologist and CEO of smiling mind thrive inside, is our podcast series where I interview experts and wellknown Australians about how to keep mentally healthy in uncertain and scary times. As we've talked about on this podcast before, the world has just experienced a huge upheople with coronavirus, and for many of us that meant constantly being under the same roof as our partners, our kids or our housemates for weeks on end, or feeling isolated from some of those special people we couldn't see facetoface. I'll speak to comedian and new mum of to Veronica Milson, who you'll know from triple Jay's drive program but right now I want you to hear my conversation with author and sexologist and relationships expert Shantell Otton. Chantelle Otton is a leading voice advocating for us to feel more comfortable in our skin and with our partners. She's also a practicing therapist, seeing clients with a range of abilities, sexualities and cultural backgrounds. She's in a loving relationship with her partner, Paralympian Dylan Orcott, who she spent isolated with so she's well equipped to chat to me today about how coronavirus is affecting our relationships. So, Shantil, thanks for joining our thrive inside podcast. We're talking about relationships in this episode and I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think about in terms of this recovery face? So we're heading back to normality. How can couples navigate this transition in the best possible way? How do they stay connected? How do they say close and intimate and supporting each other? Yeah, I think from what I've seen, you know, with patients and with people who follow me on social media and I put a lot of questions out there to, I guess, see where people are at, it's a double sided coin. So for a lot of people they've actually really thrived in their relationships during isolation and maybe they've been able to have some conversations that have been able to bring them closer or they've been able to have some more time together. Just comes down to healthy communication and saying how you feel. You know, I if you've been isolating with someone and you're excited to go see friends or maybe go back into a workplace or see your family. Just let them know so that there isn't too much separation anxiety. Would we say, you know, where are you going? What are you doing? Are you more excited to see them than you army? Because I don't think that that's the case. I think for a lot of people it's like, I've had such a great time here with you or you know, we've had some challenges and now I'm going to go do things that make me feel like an individual again, that make me the person that you fell in love with. That's really good advice. It's...

...really interesting to hear you talk about the potential for couples to feel like they're missing out or you know, that separation anxiety is really interesting because for the couples that have been isolating together that, if that's the only two people that they've seen and they haven't had those other outlets, I can imagine that they would be that that sense of loss or worry about spending time apart. And the the other side of that is the importance of being open and communicating, which you know, I suppose intellectually we all understand, but actually doing it can be really hard. How can we have good arguments or you know, convey our own feelings and concerns in a good and positive way. How can that actually help build a relationship? Well, I think that, you know, if you're not arguing once in a while, then I really wonder how you're communicating with each other, because you know they are always going to be things going on underneath the surface and if we let them build up they're going to become toxic within our system and is going to affect our connection in a relationship. So, in terms of fighting fair or arguing fair, I think before you get upset, you have to ask yourself why am I upset right now? Am I angry because of the person in front of me, or am I just really stressed out? Have I got cabin fever? You know, am I worried about things that are going on? And really take your time to think about your own feelings before you start an arguments and if you are going to have a little bit of a difficult conversation, discuss one thing at a time, because often couples, you know, that are really tense at that time can start to bigger and when you start bickering you're sitting on a mound of all these unmet needs and conversations that need to be had, but you're not going to get anywhere because they'll be criticism, they'll be defensiveness and then you're both just get flooded with emotions and not be able to problem solve together. So I think that, I always think that if you're going to bring up a topic that you're finding difficult, write down some notes first, write a few dot points and just say I just need you to give me, you know, a few minutes to talk and when I'm finished I'll let you know so that you can respond back. Of course, we don't want any degrading language in there. We want to express our feelings with words and take responsibility for them. So I feel upset, I feel angry, I feel hurt when you ignore my needs. Say It in the way that people get to your partner will get to know what you're actually feeling rather than criticizing them, because you're not going to get anywhere with criticism. And then, I guess, take turns talking. Don't don't put up a wall for each other, don't not say anything. I think it's really good to just get what you need out there, say it with your feelings and then, if you need to take time out. If things get a little bit too heated, then that's fine. Just attempt to come to a compromiser and understanding of some sort. That's really good advice. I think writing that list is...

...such a circuit breaker as well, isn't it? It can actually help you try and figure out how to articulate what you're feeling rather than just lay it out there and go with your full emotions. Obviously this pandemic has had a big impact on many people's jobs. There's lots of insecurity, many people have lost their jobs and that it can obviously create a whole lot of anxiety and stress, not only for the person that's lost their job, but also for their partner. What would be your advice to a partner who is trying to support their loved one who has lost their job, who might be feeling down and, you know, cranky or angry? How would you encourage that person to support like? How would you approach that? We've got to let people feel. I think we've been taught in the past maybe to just push on, keep going, but I actually really like to let people around me feel their emotions. If you are sad, you're allowed to feel so much. If you're worried, you're allowed to feel worried, but at the end of the day, if you're in a relationship, it's you and that person against whatever problems are coming your way. So, you know, I've heard a lot of people going and just you know, I'm not doing anything, I don't have a job, like I'm a loser. I am like worried about the future, and at the end of the day it's not about that. It's about getting up, trying to be, you know, the best that you can be, even with the difficult circumstances, and communicating well with your partner. The more that you swallow it down on the more your partners going to feel ostracized or like it's about them, and I don't think that that's the right way to go about things. I think it's okay. So I'm pretty flat today. You know, just give them a head d ARP as to your emotions and let them know it's not about them and then see what you can do to make each other feel better. You know, maybe that's nice food that you like eating, maybe that's going for a walk outside, or maybe that's even just a head scratchy or like a massage something like that to keep you connected and bonded. Get some skin on skin contacts and dopamine release and I hopefully you'll be able to guide each other through the difficult times. HMM, that's really good advice. I think it's so important to remember that we're all human and those emotions are so natural that they are everyone will go through a really difficult time in their life and unfortunately, lots of people are going through that time right now. So I think that's really, really good advice. I stay honest, be be expressive, tell each other how you're going and keep that channel of Communication Open. It's so important you can or that you need to be looked after. I think that that's one thing that people don't say that often. I need attention or I need you to look after me today. These are really key, important things and as a partner, you like to look after your loved one. You, but sometimes you need to be told if you're a bit off in your own world or in your own head. You just need to be told I need you. Everyone wants to feel needed. So I think this is a really key word. Yeah, Yeh of it. What about intimacy and Romanticism? Or like that special feeling. I think for some couples that really does drop away when...

...there's high levels of stress and anxiety. It's sort of an easy thing to push aside or or, you know, feels like it's not quite the right time. Do you have any advice for couples who, you know, want to maintain that romantic element in their relationship? There's some other things that couples can be trying to do that will help spark that that feeling or keep that feeling going. Yeah, I think. Well, look, stress and intimacy doesn't really go hand in hand. We want to feel calm and good. So I think if you want to maintain that level of intimacy and Romanticism, it's it's about planning, it's about having fun together, it's about humor. I think it's about not putting pressure on to perform. There's not a goal at the end. You know, that doesn't mean that you're going to be you know, in bed. It's about lying together on the couch, rubbing each other's, you know, heads and s shoulders and getting some spin on skin, looking in each other's eyes, having good conversations and, you know, maybe playing some games together board games, having a shower or a bar together, just sneaking in little elements of romance will make this whole journey a lot easier and we don't have to have the full three course when you when we're talking about romance. We can just break it down into a little bite size pieces. Yeah, great, amazing. And do you think that like from that thinking? Are they things that we can take from all that we might have learned during this time that we can take with us into the future as we navigate the post covid world? Is there anything that you've learned during isolation that you think you know we can carry on into the future? I think that we've learned that we don't actually have to be that busy all the time, that it's absolutely okay to slow down, it's okay to take arrest and it's okay to do nothing. There was so much pressure at the type of isolation for people to upskill, to learn the language, to know do a course, and that's way too much pressure. It's not often that we get the opportunity to be able to sit down at home and talk. You're allowed to stay home, you're allowed to work from home. You know, you're allowed to just take it easy, easy and watch keeps of movies, and I think that we really have to embrace that, essentially, and really look at the little things that make us happy and analyze what doesn't make us happy in our life. You know, are they work situations? Are there people? Are there, you know, environments that we don't particularly like and that don't make us you know, that don't fill our cup? Essentially, yeah, I hope so too. Why do you think mindful? Of? I'm not mindfulness. Obviously, smiling mind is all about mindfulness and we teach people about mindfults. Where do you think that plays a role in in that ability to let ourselves just be, but also in terms of our connections and our relationships with others? You know, why do you say mindfulness playing a role in all of that? I mean, I recommend mindfulness, I recommend...

...smiling mind to all of my patients, you know, all of my friends, especially if they're feeling overwhelmed, if they're getting the heart flutters from a bit of anxiety, or if they're just waking up a bit flat in the mornings or going to bed a little bit lost. I think it's about taking that time, you know, once a day in a specific time, to really clear all of these cobwebs away and just have space to be reflective and to feel what's going on in our body a little bit more, and maybe also to just relax into intimacy, to drop into a situation where you can be present with the person that you care about or love, even if you feeling overwhelmed from too many calls or, you know, too much work ry telecomference, to take that time at the end of at the end of all those calls, to wind down, be able to drop into the situation, because we have a problem where we just don't know what's a week day and what's the weekend anymore, and it's really hard to defind that, you know, without a glass of wine in hand. I think that we need to just remember that we're allowed to transition in a really healthy way between where we're meant to be in our weeks. So mindfulness is a really good way of doing that and breaking up the day. Yeah, fabulous, fantail. Thank you so much for your time. I are we coming to the end of our our episode, asking all of our guests three questions. What are you reading, what are you watching and what are you cooking. Oh this is good. Okay, so I am reading. I'm writing my own book actually at the moment, so I'm not actually reading too much except for a lot of my old work and writings. So I'm kind of doing a little bit of breathing and writing of my own stuff. If that's tens of assissisted, that's fine. I'm just trying to get it done. What am I watching? I just finished watching normal people with my partner, which everyone's reading about at the moment. It comes from a book and they've made it into a really excellent TV show on stand and it's so raw and vulnerable. It shows how relationships are really complex and you know, I guess, how trauma from your past can infiltrate into different relationships as well, and we found it incredibly beautiful. And what am I cooking? I'm to set back and cooking because my partner's just being watching master chef every single night and the we runs and he's never cooked in his life because he's he's in a wheelchair, so he's always been a bit scared that something's going to fall on his lap and now he's just really into cooking and so I'm taking a set back cooking wine and I'm watching him, you know, master the arts. It's really great. Now, good, that's fabulous. You know alone. Actually, yeah, I think a lot of people are actually twitching roles and letting other people take the cooking reins. That's really interesting to bear. We're all learning new things in this code of it the era. Well, chantail, thank you so much for your time and your insights. I think there's so much there to...

...for couples to explore and to be open and curious and and honest with each other about how they're going. I think that your your advice around those areas is just so important and I hope that our conversation has helped a few people to spark some interest in creating some more intimacy or some romantic moments in their day. So thank you, thanks for having me. I really enjoyment. Hi there, I'm swilling mind's lead psychologist, Michael Hinds, just popping in here to share some evidence related to relationships and coronavirus. The key component of any close, well functioning relationship is that individuals see their partners as understanding and responsive to their emotional needs. So we all want to feel supported and that our partners are genuinely concerned for our welfare. The presence of any external stresser can create conditions in which it's more difficult for us to respond to each other's needs, and covid is no different. So when faced with any significant stress, we can find ourselves operating from what's known as the fight or flight response. So most people have heard of this and we've all experienced it. It's a physiological response to stress and it's a normal response to threatened danger. It's a company with a range of physiological changes that prepares the body for action, but there's also a number of psychological changes that occur. So the emotional center of the brain, the Amygdala, takes over and the air is responsible for regulating emotions and for logic and reason tend to go offline. So in some ways we lose a really important connection between the ears of the brain responsible for emotion such as anxiety and fear, and the areas that help us regulate those strong emotions. So this can mean that we find ourselves becoming overly critical of our partners. We might tend to be more argumentative, we're more likely to get caught up in unhelpful thinking and detach, and we're also often more defensive and reactive. Now for my conversation with Veronica Milson. Veronica is a comedian, entertainer and broadcaster. Up until she had her new baby this year, she co hosted triple J's drive program from two thousand and fourteen. Veronica and I had a safe, socially distance chat over the phone while she was holding her beautiful newborn baby, so you might hear some baby noises in the background. Welcome Veronica, to the smiling mind thrive inside podcast. It's great to have you here. HMM, such a pleasure. Yeah, and plus it's some something in my day that isn't just watching lost season three, so it's exciting. Yeah, I'm happy to help whenever you need a good chat.

Perfectly, I mostly have been doing monologs to a baby, so I so we're talking about the impact of coronavirus and how that's who, how that's interacted all of us in lots of different ways, particularly being at home with our families. Your base in Sydney and it's you know, Sydney has had the highest number of diagnosis of coronavirus and but it's also starting to get back on track and things are starting to return to normal. How has lockdown been for you? You almost feel guilty about saying that you've had a good time because it's had such crazy ramifications for so many people, with job losses and sickness and, you know, being scared about your parents and grandparents. But I have had a really lovely time because I've had this baby. So I had a baby eight weeks ago, really at the height of coronavirus. You know scares. Everyone was really worried about what was going to happen at that point and I had to be in and out of the hospital so quickly, like I went in an eight PM and then left at ten am the next day. It was really wild actually, now that I think back to it, they were like just get out of here, get out before it hits Oh my God. How did that feel for you to was that a worry? Um, yeah, it was a little bit, because I the ward that I went to, like the birth center, was just opposite where they did. They had like a coronavirus. They transformed another ward into being where people came who were being dealt with the coronavirus. So I am it was weird, as you walked in that you took your temperature and stuff and make sure that you were okay, but there were still not much information about how it affects pregnant women and babies. So yeah, there was certainly fear around that. It was it was pretty scary. And then coming back home and not having anyone be allowed to visit your house, you know, was pretty weird too, especially my all my family's and Victoria. So it was. It's been weird. They still haven't met Zoe, my now two month old. So yeah, we've we do zoom chats and like facetimes all the time. So they're very familiar with her and I pretty much only contact them when she's just had a feed and she's been really cute. So they've brought a really say do seeing the Nice Parts? That's right, that's right. That's it. It's like I'm showing them an instagram version of her, always cute. So and what is that like for you as a family to like that's such an important part of a new child, like bringing them home, showing them to everyone, connecting with your family? What does that mean for you guys as a family? Yeah, it's strange because it means that there's quite a lot of like tension in the house because there's only two of us ever putting...

...her to sleep. There's never someone else that will just like Jiggler while you're having a coffee and you be like, Oh, thank God someone else's whole held her for a while and given my back a break. Yeah, so that it's it's been pretty tricky, I think, particularly because Nick's been working since my husband, he's been working from home, and one of the things I feel like as happen from home is that you just never really clock off. So even unlike you take the baby now it's five o'clock. Oh No, you've been home all day. Yeah, you know, it's not like it comes home and it's a change of place and a change of environment. Yeah, what about your your other daughter? That is it, Lila La? Yeah, how is she gone adjusting to it? A new member of the family? She's obsessed with her to like an odd extent. Like I was checking with some of the other women that I know that have babies the same age and newborns and I was like, she just wants to hug her all the time. So the last thing, you know, is always the last thing she talks about when she goes to sleep and the first thing she talks about when she wakes up, like it's it's pretty strange, but I think it's because someone told us that a great technique when you bring a newborn home is that you say to the your other child, Oh, this is your baby. You know, I'm this is we're bringing home your baby. And she was like Oh wow. But she really is taken it too far, like she thinks that Zoe's hers and not, but also she's obsessed with this ideas, obsessed with this idea that she's having a baby herself as well. Like the other day we went on the scooter and she said, Oh, I can't go too fast because the baby will come out, and I was like, Oh hah, that's kind of cute and funny that you think that. And then she went on a friend's trampoline the other day and she was like, I can't bounce too high because the baby will come out, and I was like this is getting weird. We need to talk and you definitely don't have a baby. I do for the right yet. How old is she? So? She's two and a half, amazing, and it sounds like she'll have a really clear yeah, so she shit with so it like maybe this time of being together so intensely is a will mean that they have a really strong bond. How did you explain coronavirus, or did you explain coronavirus? Tell Lilah. Yeah, she loved talking about it because every time we pass a playground she'd go playground closed. Cost Coronavirus makes me sad. Like she always talked about being sad and lonely because of coronavirus. I was like, oh my gosh, this is so dupressing, but now she says coronavirus gone. Now make me happy. So it's like she has no concept of what it is. But it is very, very difficult to explain. What about in terms of like you've got to two young kids. You've gone through the pandemic, like all of us have, but I think with...

...young children sometimes it makes us think about the future a bit more than maybe other people. Do you think about the future and what the future might hold for your kids? Is there? Do you have any worries or concerns or are you just taking it day by day? Oh, a hundred percent. From everything that's happened this year with the bush fires, the droughts, like it felt like the country was on fire as I was reaching the third trimester and the end of the pregnancy, and I remember nick and I just looking across at each other in bed one night when we were both, you know, checking out fires near me how it was all going. Will like, is it he responsible to bring a child into the world at the moment? And I was like, well, it's a bit bloody laid because I'm about have it. But it has been really interesting actually. I'm like, I've started listening to a whole heap of podcasts about zero waste living and trying to make an impact where you can, and I think I had previously been like, Oh, you know, I recycle my soft plastics and I'll, you, try to use bees wax wraps and stuff, but now I'm really like maybe I really could reduce my landfill to being close to nothing. And that's really true for here with a newborn and two and a half year old. It's still is in nappy's overnight and stuff, but so I'm, you know, buying bamboo nappies and trying to do a whole heap of things to aid that. It'll be it'll get difficult when she starts eating and but I really feel like I am quite conscious of the world that they'll inherit and that's been exacerbated by the bush fires and state of the environment and what the government isn't doing about it, and and also about coronavirus and how scary and vulnerable the community is and the world like it's been so wild. Just wrapping your head around that. MMM, you've had well, you've had lots of transitions and changes. I think with changes come like those big questions that you're talking about. What you know? How do I live? How do I want to leave my life? You've had two babies in the recent lap few years. You've left working at triple J. we're talking about relationships in this episode of the podcast. I really curious to understand how uncertainty and change has impacted that for you. Yeah, it's really are. It's really interesting, isn't it like? Certainly my husband is very supportive of me and career changes, which is the only reason that I feel like I could like living in in a Sydney every thing is outrageously expensive. So I'm already nervous about my maternity leave cash running out and I feel so blessed that I could even get maternity leave, like the ABC was very good about giving that to me, considering I...

...was quitting. But yeah, it's I'm already like, Oh God, I can't look at, you know, buying too much stuff because I am not going to be earning any money soon, which is sort of scary. But Luckily Nick is incredibly supportive and so my family, like I would know that I could always lean on them if anything happened. But yeah, it changes in career. Of been a like a scary time, but an exciting time to know that I'm going to be freelancing from now on and that they'd be opportunities potentially enacting. But now, since you know coronavirus, I'm like, Oh, maybe they just want me anything for ages, which will mean that I can just be a mum for a bit and chill the hell out, which, you know, maybe it's, you know, something that needed to happen to it's not shut up for Anka, no, but it it's like a good way for me to realize that I can just relax and be a good parent for a bit and spend the time, you know, cooing and looking into the my baby's eyes instead of always thinking about what's coming up next. Yeah, so it's been. I think it's really good. It's difficult with and Nick, my partner, being in the same industry as me, because even with his work, like he should put less of his calls on speaker phone because I'm way too interested in them. I'm like what's going on with her? So I'm my brains never really out of the game like it was when for Lilah, when he was actually at work and I was properly on maternity leave, just watching all of Netflix, you know. Yeah, well, it sounds like works important for you, that that's a big been a big part of your life, and it sounds like it will be for forever. Really it's huge and I kind of wish it wasn't, as much like I wish that I could not think about what I was going to do next. And partly, I reckon it's the problem of people around me who always say Oh, yeah, a baby, so what are you working on? And I'm like God, I need a good answer. You know, it's always felt a bit that day. Yeah, even when you when I was working at full time at triple Jay for, you know, eight years or whatever it was. People always wondered what else you had going on, which is just like, Oh wow, this is a full time job. How can people like you just rock up for the show right like no, you have to prepare everything. That place is, yeah, like wildly under resource you have to do everything. So, yeah, there's a lot of pressure to always have irons in the fire and stuff going on and be creating your own work. And even in the industry you kind of forgot and unless you're constantly have like a show that you're working on or a pitch that you're writing or a grant you're submitting or something, which is a lot to do, but you can't, you could never expect the work to come to you, especially in Australia where there's so few opportunities. You have to just constantly...

...be hustling. Yeah, it sounds like it's a really competitive industry. Can I switch gears a bit and ask you about mindfulness and how? What? What? How do you use mindfulness in your life? Is it part of Your Life? For sure, do yoga a couple of times a week, Youtube Yoga, which I'm a real convert for. It's so good, and I do that like three times a week at twenty minute session and then going for walks and listening to podcasts. Love that, with always one ear out in because something is weird is happening with the baby, and I really will. I've mostly know about smiling mind through YouTube. Actually you go. So that's mostly the connection that I have. And then I've listened to the PODCAST, which now I'm a part of. What did your you're on the podcast Verni aware coming to the end of our our chat. I am asking all of our guests three questions to get to know what it's been like during coronavirus lockdown. What are you reading, what are you watching and what are you cooking at the moment? MMM, I'm reading a book called education at it. It's a little bit like the Unorthodox Story, if you've seen that on Netflix, but it's about someone who grew up in a Mormon household. It's quite amazing. So I'm probably about a quarter of the way through it. I'm watching dead to me at the moment it's so easy and I'm nearly finish that. But before that I was watching lost and loving lost until it got too crazy. If you haven't seen it, I mean I got to time travel on the island and then I had I was like I have to get out of this, this is no good. But that will really suck the so much time out of your life. You really have to be invested and preferably breastfeeding. So so, yeah, there's like twenty three episodes of season and they're very long episodes, like fifty minute episodes. Yeah, and then cooking. My husband has this like just constant niggle with me about the fact that I don't ever think of new meals and every single meal I'm like just a just a bake up and like I just want to put all the vegetables in the oven and then fried Tofu and then I just think it's like a roast vegetarians. Yeah, right, but not for every night. I think probably is. Yeah, so mostly that's just what I want every night. If I lived by myself, I would just have properly and potatoes and tofu every night. Or I can, but I don't, so it means I have to try harder. Fornica, thank you so much for your time. I think your insights into real life stuff and how it's this coronavirus is impacted has been really insightful and it's really nice to hear a real story. Oh...

Gosh, yeah, no, thanks so much for having me. And if you just listening to this, I'm holding a baby and it is so hot a chest. So if it sounds like I was puffing and Shitzing, it's because there is a baby heater that is actually just making me feel really flusted. And are very, very cute baby too. She's adorable. Yeah, she's like a little possum. She does look like a boss. Thanks for listening. To thrive inside our first series of the smiling mind podcast. You can find hundreds of guided meditations in the smiling mind APP. Try Our relationships program it's got a range of guided meditations and activities to help you enhance the important relationships in your life. If you're enjoying this podcast, I'd love you to rate the podcast and leave a review. It really helps other people to find the show. See you next week. We're talking all about sleep.

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