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.

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Day 7 of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

IMG_20180506_232842_244It’s been a funny old day today. Woke at 7.30 so l could take my first thyroid medication. Fell back to sleep and woke at 10.30. Had every intention of going to the seafront for the Magnificent Motors event which started at 11, but l was just so exhausted it took me until 12.30 to actually make it out of bed. I decided to at least give it a try and headed to the seafront.

However, my mood was so low and anxiety so high that the crowds were too much. Did a quick walk through and then decided the best act of self-care for me today, was to just allow myself to come home. Once back indoors, I put my feet up, watched snooker and did a bit of colouring. Sometimes it’s ok to give in, do something else and not beat yourself up about it.

Day 5 of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge 

IMG_20180504_213822_229Today’s act of self-care, was to persevere with my local GP to be seen by a doctor, after weeks of trying and having no luck.

I am so glad I persisted as it turns out that my blood tests show l have an under-active thyroid! This could explain why my depression and anxiety has become so severe over the last six months and explain to crippling fatigue I’ve been experiencing.

I’m also low on vitamin D  and my cholesterol is high. Apparently this also all linked to hypothyroidism.  It additionally explains the carpal tunnel syndrome too!

I am of course not happy to know l have hypothyroidism, but I am happy to at last have a reason for feeling so terrible. I am very hopeful that the new medications will get me feeling back to normal soon. Thank goodness l managed to see a doctor!

After  a very eventful day, I am cow curling up in bed, watching Starwars, and then having an early night

Day 4 of #365daysofselfcare

This Blog is part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge

IMG_20180503_235112_019-01After yet another bad nights sleep , unsurprisingly, today has been another tough day. However, having self-care at the forefront of my mind, I decided to be gentle and allow myself a day in bed.

I really wanted to get some writing done so I simply wrote from under my duvet, in the comfort of my pyjamas.

I got up briefly to cook a decent meal, sing to some music, eat the meal, and then got back into bed.  My biggest act of self-care today, is reminding myself that sometimes the basics are all you can manage, and that is OK.

The 365 Days Of Self-Care Challenge

self care by finnThe last couple of weeks have been good mental health weeks for me. In realising the need to let go of some old ideas and refocus my direction, I have felt a welcome awakening of hope and possibility. I have really enjoyed feeling motivated and driven, a feeling that has been greatly lacking for several months now.

However, over this bank holiday weekend, I feel my mood has lowered somewhat. I have been finding it hard to get out of bed again. After making huge strides in getting my comfort eating under control, I have reverted to using Ben and Jerry’s as a mood lifter. The salad has gone brown in my fridge and the tomatoes have withered.

I find it extremely hard not to overthink things when a mood change happens. Being in a dark place is incredibly painful and when the light returns and warms my skin, I want to grab hold of it and never let it go again. When it inevitably does, the sadness of it leaving, in turn, adds another layer to the low mood. I begin to worry about how long the sun will be gone for and what I can do to get it back. My head churns over the question, “Am I going to feel like I did last week again or was that a one-off fluke?”.

When a shift in mood happens, I serve myself much better by just accepting that it is how it is. It may just be a low couple of days, it may just be because I’m tired. It may be because our British weather is as bipolar as my mood. Last week we had the ‘Beauty from the West’ and I was on the beach with my shirt off. This week we have the ‘Beast from the East’ and I am wearing the entire contents of my wardrobe whilst hiding indoors from the torrential rain.

Adapting to my mood is the most useful thing I can do rather than worry about it. After all, that is the entire reason as to why I have reorganised my life. Rather than my life having to come to a halt every time I cycle into a low phase, I am building a life that works around whatever mood I am in.

The most useful tool in any mental health tool kit is self-care. Adapting our self-care to how our moods present is vital. I know this, but when a low mood hits, all ideas of self-care go out of the window and I have to use every effort to make myself grab that tool kit, find something, and use it. Conversely, when I am on the upswing of a mood, I can forget that I need to still use self-care because I feel okay.

Self-care is vital for everyone but even more so for those of us who struggle with our mental health. Regardless of our mood, we must always make time every day for it. Some days, self-care is simply a promise to ourselves not to beat ourselves up when we simply can’t get out of bed. Other days it’s making sure we stop working at a sensible time in the day and reward ourselves with a warm bath or put our feet up with a film.

I need self-care more than ever now if I am going to venture into a new business of writing for a living. I need to make sure it stays being the positive thing that I intend it to be, not another reason to put pressure on myself and beat myself up when I’m not feeling on top form.

I noticed the hashtag #365daysofselfcare on twitter and felt intrigued. Researching its origins led me to a website called ‘Blurt’ who describe themselves as a ‘A social enterprise dedicated to helping those affected by depression’. On their website, there is a self-care starter kit which is available for free download and it contains a wealth of wonderful self-care information. The idea is to make self-care a daily habit and they encourage people to share each day of their self-care journeys using the hashtag #365ofselfcare on their social media platforms.

This is such a fantastic idea, it will keep me accountable and serve to remind me to practice self-care every day. It also means I can connect with other people across social media who are also on this journey. Connecting with people with similar experiences is another vital tool in any mental health toolkit.

I would love you to join me over on Twitter and Instagram with this! Tell me about your own journey with self-care, how do you find it? What works for you?

Keep on keeping on my friends!