Finding What Works For You -Day 64 Of #365daysofselfcare

This blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

THE RIGHT WAY IS YOUR WAY.jpgSelf-care means knowing that what works for you is right for you

Yesterday was a big day, I travelled to London to take part in a filming event with Pan Macmillan Book Break for Pride Month. It was an honour to be asked to take part, I had an enjoyable evening, and I met some lovely people. However, going, to new places, meeting new people and speaking on camera causes me a tremendous amount of anxiety. I have woken up feeling utterly exhausted. This is my usual response to a high anxiety event. It takes a lot of mental effort to calm my thoughts and my breathing, and this inevitably leaves me thoroughly wiped out for a day. Today I need to make some changes so that I can have a quiet, restful day.  Ironically, this is making me smile, as it is confirming that my choice to begin the path of becoming a self-employed freelance writer is the right one.

This might sound odd to anyone who doesn’t experience mental health challenges. Why put myself through all of that if I know it will make me crash like this? The answer is because I love what I do and I refuse to let my mental health get in the way of me leading a productive and fulfilling life. I have a massive passion for recovery and change and for empowering people. For so long I have desperately been trying to fit my square peg self into societies perfectly round hole so that I can work in this field. All that did was make me feel like a failure when I inevitably couldn’t manage it.

Having the realization that I could carve my own way forward has been a revelation. I am only in the early stages of self-employment but I get inner confirmation that this is the right path every day. Like today, I can barely move, I’m in bed, but I’m working. Im writing, I’m networking, I’m creating.

I can do things like yesterdays filming, that cause me to have an anxiety crash because  I know I can find the time and space I need after the event to take care of myself. If I was working, in the usual sense of the word, I would have no choice but to take a sick day. That would constantly put me in the mindset of being ill and would, of course, hold me back in my career progress. In being self-employed, I don’t have to declare myself ill or take a sick day, I just rearrange my day to work around my self-care needs and it won’t halt my career progression.

Self-care is liberating ourselves from other peoples definitions of ‘the right way’. There is no right way to do things, only what works best for you.

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Pushing Through Fear-Day 38 of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is knowing when to push through fear

2018-06-08_14.01.53-01When you have mental health challenges, one of the hardest things is to balance the times when you push through anxiety and when you allow yourself to avoid the anxiety. Knowing when to do which takes a lot of self honesty.

After yesterdays anxiety, I almost cancelled today’s driving lesson. I also had my boyfriend staying over and so my mind was thinking up all sorts of excuses. However, I knew that on this occasion, pushing through the fear was the best self-care action I could take. If I had cancelled, it would only have strengthened my inner critics voice which insists on telling me that, “… I can’t drive, I’ll never pass my test, my instructor hates me…” etc.

As it turns out, I had a really good lesson, proof that the things fear tells us often just are not true!

 

Keeping Things Simple-Day 37 Of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is keeping things simple on difficult days

2018-06-05_20.16.19-01In stark contrast to yesterdays high, today I feel low, uneasy and incredibly anxious. I had a Skype call this morning, phone calls always make me anxious, video calls even more so! I thought this was the reason but the anxiety remained after the call.

It can be so hard sometimes to accept how I feel, especially when there is no apparent cause. I’m so happy, I’m dizzy with new relationship fuzzy feelings, and yet here I am today feeling awful. Urg.

It could all be down to my thyroid still, my levels are due to be re taken soon. It also could be a bit of a come down from all the highs Ive been feeling. However, I have learnt that at times like this, trying to work out why, is not always helpful. Instead, its best to move into acceptance, practice self-love and simplify my day.

Today’s self-care then, was to cancel all but the most important tasks I had to do today and remind myself that this will pass.

 

 

Being Honest About Emotions-Day 25 Of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

Self-care is being honest about your feelings

IMG_20180525_115930_040I have had awful anxiety all day, which started last night. I have been finding it hard to stop my brain from over thinking things. I am not sure if this is new dating nerves or simply down to my low thyroid. Its frustrating to not know my emotional self very well at the moment, due to my low thyroid complicating things.

Rather than sit at home all day worrying and stressing, I made myself get out and get a fresh hair cut. This always makes me feel better and feel more confident.

My date arrived and l was honest about my anxiety. I said that l knew it had no basis, but felt l wanted to be open about the range of feelings I’m going through. Honesty is the only way, even when it means sharing your most vulnerable side. Ive learned over time that self-care means honouring and speaking your feelings, even when it is difficult as keeping them in does so much damage.

 

Removing the Shame In Talking About Mental Health

UntitledI have been very honest about the fact that I am in the middle of a mental health crisis, one that I am finding very difficult to manage. My usual ways of coping just haven’t been helping. A lot of the time I have been so fatigued I haven’t had the energy to do the simplest of self-care actions.

Recently, I saw the hashtag #365daysofselfcare on Twitter and followed the link to the website Blurt. I decided that this is just what I need right now. It will get my focus back onto my self-care. Posting about it each day will help me to rebuild the habit and keep myself accountable.

Its been two weeks now since I started participating in the daily hashtag and it has indeed been beneficial. I am paying much more attention to taking care of myself and making time for self-care every day. There has also been an additional unexpected outcome of posting daily, it has got me talking about my mental health.

This really shouldn’t be a revelation for me, I write and make videos about my mental health all the time. However, when I write or make a video, I do so after the fact. I do talk very openly, but it is done in retrospect. My sharing is delivered in a reflective and measured way.

In contrast, the daily sharing I am doing with the hashtag on my Instagram and Twitter is raw and uncensored. I am sharing what is happening on that day, at that moment. In posting this way, I have often caught myself thinking, “I sound like I am a right state”, worrying about what people will think of me. Its been a surprise to notice that I still carry shame around my mental health, despite being so open about it.

Shame and stigma is a corrosive side effect of mental illness. It stops people asking for help and puts them more at risk of harm, isolation and worsening overall health. The shame is senseless, its an illness, what is there to feel shame about? Physical and mental health is part of everyone’s everyday life. We don’t shame someone for having a broken leg and tell them to pull themselves together, do we? We help them, supporting them while they heal. The same compassion needs to be extended to those who have mental health problems.

I am so pleased to see so many people and organisations talking openly this week as part of mental health awareness week. This must continue, not just this week but permanently. Living well with and recovering from mental illness, begins with removing the burden of shame.

Coping With Stress When Your Scale Is Already Off-Balance

balance.jpgThis week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is ‘Stress’. Sadly, stress is a common affliction in our fast-paced world and it is something that each of us need to be mindful of. However, when you have existing mental health challenges, being mindful of stress becomes even more critical.

I experience my own mental health as a set of scales which are always off balance. My various challenges and addiction history, mean I own a set of scales which are incorrectly calibrated. It’s almost impossible to get them to level out dead centre. I have learned to be okay with this, and to find ways to get them to balance and stay stable in their offset state. This works as long as my life remains fairly consistent and stress free. However, life is life, unexpected or upsetting events will of course occur. When they do, like many of us with mental health challenges, I’m affected far more by stress than people whose scales are more accurately calibrated.

In experiencing an additional stress, I find I am triggered in all areas. The shock of a stressful event can knock me for six, my physical health begins to suffer, I can start feeling ashamed that I am falling apart where others around me are coping. If I am not careful, this can send me into a spiral and put me at risk of a crisis or relapse.

Over the last few years in my recovery, I have learnt how to better manage a stressful event so that I can look after my mental well-being until the event passes or is resolved. These are some of the things that I find helpful, in order to reduce the impact of the additional stress.

Remind yourself that it is OK to feel whatever you are feeling

Enforce your personal boundaries – clearly state your needs and your limitations

Drop anything from your life that is not important – make things simple

Use your coping strategies to administer self-care to yourself

Contact a friend or support agency for extra help

Evaluate your well-being on a daily basis – it may take a while to re-balance

Stress is often unavoidable but with careful management, it need not compromise our entire well being and we can return to own definition of balance in good time.

Day 14 Of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

IMG_20180514_000655_104One of the most difficult things for me to manage is my anxiety, which is at its worst when I attempt to be sociable. It’s a strange thing because l genuinely love people. However, being sociable makes me so anxious and l’m often left feeling utterly exhausted afterwards from the sheet effort of controlling my anxiety.

I find that my anxiety can easily snowball as lot of it comes from being embarrassed about my nervousness. I can act a little odd at times. l get super hyper and animated and end up saying the most inappropriate of things! The best thing in the world is finding friends for whom this isn’t an issue and l can completely be myself with, no matter the state of my mood. These kind of friends are priceless and a vital part of my self-care. I’ve recently reconnected with my old high school best friend and it’s like no time has passed at all. We spent some time together on the seafront today, eating cake and being ridiculous.