Creating Balance- Day 50 Of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

DONT LOOK FOR BALANCE CREATE ITSelf-care is actively creating balance in your life

I have a packed diary for the next two weeks. Some of it is leisure, some is business. Both categories cause my anxiety levels to raise.  I can very easily get overwhelmed. The main reason for this is that l put far too much pressure on myself, to do things to a high standard in my personal and professional life. I know all too well that I have the control dial for my expectations of myself turned up far too high. Even though I know this, and cope far better with my increased self-knowledge of how to deal with it, it still of course comes up at times.

One of my main coping strategies is to make sure I have a clear day at least once a week where I can take a mental health day if I need it. Time to sleep in, stay in my pyjamas, and generally recharge my batteries. This helps me to regain my balance. However, I do not have a spare day free for a while now and this is adding to my feeling of being overwhelmed as I am worrying about where i will find balance.

I realise that I do not in fact need to look for balance, but rather create it. I dont have to rush through all my commitments and then crash on my designated ‘regain my balance’ day. I can instead choose to mindfully look for ways to create balance , in amongst all the busy days ahead.

On realising this, my self-care yesterday (as I am posting this late!) was to say yes to my best friends request to join him on a night out, after his date unfortunately had to cancel. Initially I thought, I cant do this, I have too much to do. But actually, going out, having a nice meal, spending time with my friend, listening to amazing music, was just the balance I needed and I created it.

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Balancing Healthy Habits – Day 49 Of #365daysofselfcare

The Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

healthy habitsSelf-care is developing healthy habits without being hard on yourself

Myself and food have a constant love hate relationship. Although I do have a far healthier attitude towards eating than I once did, it is a constant battle. I can go a period of time where I eat really well, then I have some down days and comfort eat, or simply just stop paying proper attention to what I am eating.  I cycle like this all the time.

Over the last couple of months, I made a lot of progress in moving again towards healthier food. I even lost some weight after putting on an awful lot. Then I was diagnosed with a low thyroid. I decided to stop giving myself a hard time about losing weight and to just eat sensibly and revisit my need to shed a few pounds once my thyroid levels had levelled out.

However, I seem to have used it as a bit of an excuse to stop making any effort to eat regularly and healthily. Since starting the thyroid medication I have lost weight without really trying, even when I’m eating comfort food I am not putting on weight . This means I am really lacking incentive to improve my diet.

Today, I went shopping and bought some healthy food. I cooked myself scrambled egg on bagels and as I sat eating them I remembered how much I really enjoy nutritious food! It is just too easy to grab a quick processed snack but it is never as tasty. Its helpful that I now have a partner, someone else to cook for (yes those of you that know me will be surprised to hear that I am the chef in the relationship, his cooking skills are worse than mine!). I need to remember that it is about balance. I don’t have to go full steam ahead and become a food saint. It is not about setting hard restrictions, it is about little changes that become habits.

 

 

Practicing Gratitude – Day 46 to 48 Of #365daysofselfcare

The Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

self care instaSelf-care is developing an attitude of gratitude

Gratitude comes easily to me because I have so much to be grateful for. I am reminded of this from the moment I wake in the morning. Throwing back the duvet, I smile at my hairy, masculine body. I reflect on the previous day, of which I remember every detail without the haze of alcohol or the sting of shame. I speak and my deep voice resonates within the walls of my clean, debt free home. I look at the pictures on my wall and my hearts swells with love, for all the wonderful and supportive friends and family I am blessed to have in my life.

I’ve spent the last few days in Brighton, During that time I have found myself on many occasions, smiling gratefully at just how many wonderful things I have in my life. It is because of recovery that I have this healthy, hairy body. Its because of this body that I am able to have a relationship with a loving and gentle man. Recovery has made me more able to make balanced decisions. Clarity of mind means I can trust myself to make the right ones. It is for that reason that I am back here in Sussex and very happy to be. Recovery has given me resilience and personal responsibility, which means I no longer allow my mental health challenges to hold me back. For this reason, I have wonderful friendships, especially my best friend, who I love sharing the ups and downs of life with.

Gratitude is such a powerful self-care tool. It keeps me clean and sober as I know all of these things would disappear if I picked up a drink or a drug. Gratitude helps to soften the blow during difficult times as really, compared to all the wonderful things I have in my life, difficult times are tiny and fleeting. Gratitude keeps me upbeat and positive as I only have to compare my life today with my life seven years ago and suddenly I am beaming.

 

Making Time For Self-Reflection-Day 44 & 45 Of #365daysofselfcare

This blog takes part in the #365daysofselfcare challenge

2018-06-13_15.54.32-01.jpegSelf-care is using balanced self-reflection

I am a deep thinker. In the past, this caused me a lot of unnecessary distress. I would over-think absolutely everything and go over and over things that had happened. Over the last seven years, since finally beginning to engage with, and take responsibility for, my mental health, I have learnt to use this tendency in a positive way. Balanced self-reflection is now a vital part of my self-care,

Self-reflection is a valuable skill to add to a well-being toolbox. It is an active, conscious process, unlike the over thinking and negative self-evaluation I used to engage in. It’s a balanced action of not regretting things that have happened but also not locking them away.  Everything we experience is a chance for self-growth. The ability to be able to stand back and objectively look at aspects of our inner selves without judging, allows us to learn from mistakes and understand ourselves on a deeper level.

I have carved a career for myself out of self-reflection, in the development of my YouTube channel and in my writing. Most of my creations are reflections on aspects of my personal growth. I really enjoy the process of experiencing and then reflecting on aspects of my inner and outer world. I think sometimes people are concerned that this reflecting means I am not OK with what is. It’s not that I am not OK, but rather that I wish to move deeper into understanding a particular thing. I want to move from simply experiencing to fully understanding. That can only happen in deep, active reflection.

Over the last few months, my life has been crammed with significant and life changing events. There is so much new information to process, fresh understandings of myself, of who I am and what I want in life. My new relationship, in being with a man, is causing the filing cabinets of my mind to fly wide open and spit out their contents. I realise that so much of what I thought about myself, is not true at all. I need to spend some time reflecting on and understanding this. I took some much-needed self-care time, yesterday and today, to allow myself to freely mull over everything and write down my reflection’s. This is why you are now seeing a number of new posts and vlogs!

I do not regret at all the oddly winding road I took to arrive here, where ironically, I find myself back where I started, albeit in a different package. Neither do I wish to shut the door on it. It is because of the journey I took, that I am now fully able to embrace who I am. I simply wish to unpack my previous understandings and re-visit them through the lens of this new knowledge of myself. This will allow me to make sense of the past and know myself on a deeper level.

Embracing New Beginnings-Day 40-43 Of #365daysofselfcare

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is allowing yourself to trust in new beginnings

2018-06-11_09.17.49-01At the beginning of this year, I decided to start dating again. This was for two main reasons. The first was because l really needed to get my own life back after being so focused on looking after mum for the last 7 months. The second reason was that l still hadn’t had a significant intimate connection with a man and l really wanted one. My thoughts about my being attracted to men were still a theory. I felt pretty sure that these feelings were real, but they were still largely untested. You can think about strawberry ice cream all day long and imagine what it would taste like, however, until you actually taste it, you really can’t know for sure, can you?

I wasn’t looking for a relationship. Neither was l purposely not looking for a relationship, but l certainly wasn’t expecting to find one. To be honest,  I wasn’t sure l was ready, what with everything in my life presently being incredibly physically and mentally challenging. I also didn’t think l was ready to share my life in any significant way with anyone, and l wasn’t sure l wanted too either. I’ve been burnt too many times now and it is not easy putting your hand back in the fire. More than anything, I just wanted to date, to meet people and explore my sexuality.

My first venture back into the world of dating was with Chris. I was attracted to him instantly and after the first date, he made it clear the feeling was mutual. Even more than that, it quickly became apparent that we both felt very strongly for each other. This has continued to grow in strength in the 5 weeks since then, and we’ve even been discussing a future together. This is something that has surprised us both.

I feel wonderful. He makes me smile. He makes my heart feel like its going to burst out of my chest. Alongside that though, are a bundle of nerves, as is the case with new relationships. l am afraid of being vulnerable, of opening my heart and laying myself open to the possibility of being hurt. Additionally, as l have mentioned previously in my blog entries and my videos, my mental health and recovery cause extra concern, as being hurt can really set me back.  However, as l have also discussed, l refuse to let my mental health stop me from enjoying life, l just need to proceed with balance.

This week, l experienced an abrupt and distinct internal shift in these early nerves. Chris and l were sat having a coffee on the seafront, and l suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of acceptance of the intensity of my feeling for him. I moved into a wonderful feeling of trust, in both the way l feel about him and in my belief that this really is turning into a relationship with a future.

This is what has made me decide to break my silence around his identity and publicly share who he is. Despite it still being early days at 5 weeks into seeing each other, I know I want a future with him ,and I am fully trusting this very promising and magic beginning.

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Life Hacks For Coping With Anxiety

ANXIETY WORDPRESSI have lived with anxiety at varying levels all my life and have a diagnosis of anxious/dependent personality disorder. Although this has improved over recent years, I still get times, such as I’m experiencing now, where my anxiety levels significantly impact my daily life. One of my major ongoing challenges, as is common for people with anxiety, is coping with being outside. I used to need a lot of support from other people to manage this. However, over the last few years, I have learned tools which allow me to be able to get on with my life independently, as best as I can. In recently revisiting these tool, I thought I might share them to hopefully help others in a similar position.

Preparing to go outside 

Virtual Support

Ask a trusted friend if they can be on standby to be available for a call or text should you find yourself struggling outside. For example, I have a friend who works from home and I know I can send him a message for some encouragement, support or just for a bit of distraction if I find myself getting overwhelmed outside. Having this in place before you leave the house helps to provide reassurance and the sense of not being alone.

Using public transport 

Comfort/distraction items 

Public transport can be very difficult to negotiate when anxious. Finding ways to self-soothe or distract yourself when anxiety runs high can be very helpful. Those that know me will know I travel everywhere with a small stuffed sheep called Lambycat. He has become a permanent lodger in my rucksack since I split with my partner a couple of years ago. He is now my substitute outside support. I am a very tactile person and touch really soothes me. I can easily stick a hand in my rucksack and stroke his ear and it settles me. I don’t care what people think if it helps me to manage a journey without a panic attack then what does it matter!

The item doesn’t have to be a stuffed toy. It could be a favourite scarf or another item of clothing that makes you feel comforted. It could also be a fiddle toy such as a fidget spinner. Mobile phones now come with a huge variety of apps and games and you could equally use one of those to help to calm you and distract you on your journey.

Using things such as these, help to focus the mind on something other than stressors in the external world or on racing inner thoughts.

Navigating roads 

‘Secret crossing button’ 

Anxiety can negatively impact our ability to concentrate and make decisions. For myself, this happens when I attempt to cross a major road which is a daunting task when my anxiety is high. Even using crossings can be challenging as I can get overstimulated by watching cars and people and then not see the green man appear or hear the crossing beep.

A few years ago, I discovered that some crossings have a small cone under the button panel. These are designed for blind and or deaf people and it rotates when it’s clear to cross. Its so much easier for me to lower my eyes so I can calm myself and not be overwhelmed by cars and people and concentrate on feeling it start spinning. I make a point of knowing which ones have them in my area and on a high anxiety day, I will use them.

Finding your way around 

Google Map mobile app

Finding your way to a new place when you are anxious can be all too overwhelming. Using Google Maps has been a lifesaver for me for several reasons. Using the app makes it so much less stressful to attend appointments in new places, as the map gives me step by step guidance.  I can even find familiar places hard to get around in if my anxiety is very high as I can forget where things are. At times of extremely high anxiety, I can find that a familiar place just drops out of my mind, like an inner map has been deleted. I can see where I am, and I can visualise the place I want to get to but for some reason, I cannot work out how to get there. Google map has saved me from a huge panic so many times with this. Additionally, I like the ‘time to get there’ feature which can be changed from transport to walking. This is really useful as  knowing how much time I have to reach my destination makes me feel reassured and calmer.

Coping in crowded places 

Headphones

Anxiety can make it very hard to be around people, due to the noise and the crowds and the worry that someone might speak to you. I carry around headphones, but mostly for things other than listening to music. Listing to music on public transport can be soothing but I find that listening to music whilst walking actually makes me more anxious and paranoid. I worry that I won’t hear someone speak to me or creep up on me. However, having headphones in my ears without music dulls the outside noise enough to make the sounds less intense. Also, they serve as a signal for people to not talk to me when I am too anxious to make conversation.

Meditation apps

Meditation is such a powerful tool in dealing with anxiety. Developing a daily practice helps to train you into the habit of being able to quieten your mind and calm yourself down in times of high anxiety. Learning to meditate has been a huge turning point in learning to live with my anxiety and managing to function on a daily basis. There are lots of wonderful apps to help you to learn and to use on the go. My favorite is Buddify as it has meditations of various lengths for various situations, such as coping with difficult emotions and crowded places.

Safe spaces

Having someone safe to retreat is vital. I make a point of knowing a few places where I feel safe and comfortable such as a café, local library or local park. Even a familiar public toilet can be useful, just to have a private space to sit for a moment and calm down before venturing back outside.

Self-kindness 

Importantly, if you have tried everything you can, and the anxiety is just too much, don’t beat yourself up if you need to get home. You have done amazingly well to get out of the house in the first place so congratulate yourself and then try again another day. Dealing with mental health is difficult and exhausting. Any steps, even the ones that seem tiny, are actually giant leaps forward. Its all about progress, not perfection.

 

I hope these are helpful to you. I have also made a video about anxiety to accompany this blog. If you would like at add any hacks, tips or advice that you find helpful I would love to hear them!

Loving Your Body – Day 39 Of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is showing your body you love it

2018-06-08_14.53.54-01Today’s self-care was buying myself some new clothes! I needed new jeans but the trouble is I have an awful lot of trouble buying them. I find it so hard to find ones that fit as my legs are short at 29 inches and also because my hips are bigger than the average male. Its always a dysphoria inducing task and most of the time I end up buying baggy jeans as I feel it hides things better.

However, today I actually bought jeans that fit, and not just any jeans, slim fit ones! I did have a brief… “I have female hips,” moment, but it didn’t spiral into huge dysphoric levels, it was more of a niggle than a nag. Even more of a bonus is that I managed to fit in size 30 jeans! I had been wearing 36!

Happy boy with 2 new pairs of jeans and a flamingo top!