Category Archives: self care

Retaking Control

Do you ever get the feeling that you’ve worked twice as hard only to get half as far? That you’ve overcome so much pain and so many obstacles that you should be ‘ok’ by now, or ‘ok enough’, that just when you begin to think that you’re moving from survivor to thriver that you suddenly feel that things are beginning to get on top of you again?

I’ve been there many times. Life can be hard, but we keep getting up and keep on going as much as we can. Sometimes things get overwhelming though, and it takes time to get back on our feet again. I am back on my feet and going strong, or so I thought, but recently I have been struggling again.

This evening I find myself ‘sinking’ a little as depression and traumatic childhood memories, fears and feelings from being bullied and the years of distress and anxiety that followed begin to resurface. It can be difficult. It can feel sad.

I feel like I’ve poured my heart into some recent blog posts, and that these have perhaps been overlooked. I guess all of us are looking for connection and appreciation, and I realise that I have given a lot of good advice in terms of self care, well being, and mental health, that I need to take on board myself right now.

It’s time to retake control. I can’t let myself slip back into feelings of being overwhelmed or any other negative emotion. And I can’t look to people for confidence, courage or comfort, for ultimately that’s not where my strength comes from (Psalm 121).

I am sorry if this has been a muted post, but this is Life As It Happens To Be, and this is a real life, real time, struggling with real issues and real moods, anxiety, PTSD and depression.

Yet, I have come a long way. I’ll simply take a step back and regain my strength, and be on the road from survivor to thriver once again.

Much love. ❤ xx

 

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The Tortoise and the Hare – Sunday afternoon random ramblings on mental health and wellbeing…

 

Tortoise-and-hare-014.jpgImage Courtesy of Google Images.

Perhaps one of Aesop’s most well known fables is that of ‘The Tortoise & The Hare’….you know the one I mean, right? If not, Google or Wikipedia will be sure to put you right 😉 However, for the purposes of my illustration, I’ll try to summarise the fable in two or three sentences. Here goes:

So one fine day, a tortoise and a hare decide to have a race against each other (I think the whole thing began with the hare mocking the slow tortoise), the hare clearly having the natural advantage in speed over the oh so slow tortoise. To all intents and purposes this is the hare’s race, and he will win hands (or paws) down; knowing this, the hare speeds off while the tortoise is making miniscule progress, so the hare decides to have a nap. While the hare is napping, the tortoise perseveres and ends up winning the race (hurrah!), leaving us with the moral of the story as, ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

Sometimes we just need a good old children’s story, fable or fairy tale to help give some perspective to our stressful adult lives. Perhaps, right now in life you feel like you’re the tortoise while all your peers are speeding off ahead of you. Or, veering completely off the path of Aesop’s fable, perhaps every morning you look in the mirror and feel concerned that your ears are getting bigger, that along with a few more grey hairs you might also be sprouting whiskers, a tail and that your chiselled jaw line is in fact becoming more and more rodent-like as you don your work attire to join all the other rats in your shared race to goodness knows where. Or perhaps you’ve given up altogether on the idea that you’re actually in a race going somewhere, even if you don’t know where that somewhere might be, and feel more affinity with a hamster, and a discontented hamster at that, on a wheel, just scrambling on and on everyday with no real distance covered despite the many steps taken. Round and round you go, wishing that like the hare you could just take a ‘time out’ and have a nap or a sabbatical of sorts from the daily grind, while still inching ahead like the tortoise to ultimately win the race. Whatever will it take to make you feel ‘human’ again?

Firstly, let me assure you that you are not alone, and that much of humanity shares this ‘modern day’ dilemma. I would venture to say that we need to write a new story. One in which we do not feel forced to view life as a race, or a competition. One in which we know that it is ok to take a nap, or to go at a slow and steady pace. It’s ok, people, it’s ok! 🙂

I understand how hard it can be to give ourselves the permission to rest, to take time out, or just to stop and say, ‘enough of this race, already, I just want to go for a gentle stroll in a sunkissed woodland or meadow and hear the birds singing’.

We weren’t designed to be in a constant, unending state of fight or flight. For our mental health and wellbeing it is important to take time out for ourselves EVERY DAY simply to BE. Today, I would encourage you to take a step back and just quieten your heart and your mind and your breathing. Be still. Listen. Pray. Grieve. Whatever it is that you need to do or be in the quietness, take time to experience that. Life is not a race, but it is a journey. We may spend long stretches walking or crawling alone while at other times in our life’s journey we will have encouraging companionship, or even hostile opposition. Where you are right now is alright. I would urge you to commit to your own wellbeing by doing the things that make for peace in your life. The simplest but perhaps one of the most effective places to start is with your breathing. Something so simple has had a profound effect on my wellbeing, as someone who has PTSD, complex trauma, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and severe clinical depression. So I don’t say what I say lightly, I say it because I care and I know it helps. Make it a practice everyday or as often as you can to focus on your breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale deeply from your mouth. This helps to regulate your nervous system, calm the fight and flight mechanism and ‘anxiety hormones’ if you will, and still the mind. Like a runner in a race (yep, back to races again…if you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention! 🙂 ) you will need to practice, exercise your breath and your mental strength, and stay in training. This is core work, just as you would strengthen your core physically through exercise, regulating your breathing is essential to your wellbeing.

Keep up this exercise throughout your life, yes, slow and steady 🙂 and supplement it with building mental strength and resilience through the way you regulate your inner ‘self talk’. Be kind, compassionate and encouraging to yourself, but be real with yourself too. Perhaps you may find it helpful when taking time out to keep a notepad and pen beside you so that you can jot down the thoughts or worries that come to mind, and even ideas for projects or solutions or inspiration. Relax, take your time, realise that this is not a race, but it is LIFE, your life, and it is happening now, and sometimes the best way to ‘get ahead’ is just to stop, take time out, rest awhile, lean against a tree and look up at the sky, and simply ‘BE’.

Until next time, take care and be kind to yourself, and to those who are part of your life’s journey in this season.

Much love. xx

 

Simple Self-Care Challenge # 3 (What’s in your Toolkit?)

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Hi Friends,

I hope you are well today. However, even if you’re not doing too well, part 3 of the simple step-by-step self care series is very much for you.

(Parts 1 and 2 can be found here: https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/simple-step-by-step-self-care-series-simple-self-care-challenge-1/

and here:

https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/simple-self-care-challenge-2/).

Take it at your own pace, and revisit the previous ‘challenges’ as often as you like, just do what works best for you.

What is a Self-Care Toolkit and why do I need one?

Today, as you will have gathered from the title, I’m going to be talking about your ‘Self-Care Toolkit’. So, a good place to start is to discuss what a self-care toolkit is.

Like everyone, I’m sure you have your ups and downs. Some days are very good days, and others, not so much. However, some of us who suffer from and struggle with longer term health challenges such as depression, anxiety, PTSD…..the list goes on and on! the bad days can be very difficult indeed! To limit things from getting so bad that they become overwhelming and we feel that we can’t cope, we need a strategy. Even if you don’t feel that you struggle with these more severe conditions, it is still important that you are aware of how best to take care of yourself.

I find that it is usually when we are having slightly better days that it is a good time to plan ahead for the days when we will struggle.  One way of doing this is to have a ‘toolkit’ for your self-care and wellbeing. The ‘toolkit’ isn’t so much a physical thing as it is a bunch of ideas for you to keep at hand so that when you are struggling  you know what your ‘go to’ helpful things will be.  However, you can also keep a toolkit of physical things too.

So, what goes in the toolkit?

Just as we all have different learning styles, we will also have different approaches to putting together our self-care toolkits. I’ll share some of my ideas of what works for me to give you a starting point from which to develop your own.

I personally find that I can make sense of things better with lists and categories. Therefore, I will group ideas into the following two categories:

  • Emotional and psychological self-care
  • Physical self-care

Emotional and Psychological Self-Care

Depending on your general wellbeing you may wish to incorporate some of the following ideas into your self-care toolkit:

  • Contacts – trusted people whom you can reach out to. These might be close friends or family members, support workers, a psychologist, or even helplines that you can contact. Your resource list of contacts from organisations will depend on where in the world you live, so if you think it will be helpful to you take some time to do a little bit of research online, ask people you know or as health professionals. Make a note of contacts in your self-care journal that you started in week 1.
  • Distractions – can be greatly beneficial when we find ourselves struggling or slipping into a negative mood or unhelpful thought patterns. They bring you back into the present, out of your head, and provide enjoyment and relief that can tide over your ‘bad spell’. Some of the distractions that I like to absorb myself in include: adult colouring in books (there is a plethora to choose from!), art and craft hobbies, writing, photography, music, watching a comedy, doodling, planning ahead in my diary to keep focussed on the future and planning in positive things to look forward to no matter how small they might be, reading, meeting with a friend, going outside, etc. Have a think of what your healthy distractions could be and write them down in your self-care journal 🙂

Physical Self-Care

Physical self-care is equally as important as emotional self-care and you will find that a lot of aspects of both overlap with each other. Here are some starting points to consider:

  • Is there anything you need to intentionally avoid in order to stay safe during difficult times? If so, have a contingency plan and where possible make sure you have a couple of trusted people that you can be accountable with.
  • Plan ahead with healthy meal ideas. Nutrition is so important for both physical and mental wellbeing. If you take some time out to write down some healthy meal ideas, then when you feel stuck and unable to think of what to eat (and equally what not to eat), then you will have something written down to refer to. But don’t forget you are allowed to treat yourself every now and then aswell.
  • Drink plenty of water and make healthy snacks a part of your every day routine.
  • Make a note of any medications you require to take should you be likely to forget.
  • Get fresh air and exercise, and where possible spend time in the beauty of nature.
  • Have a bubble bath.
  • Do some self-pampering at home such as making your own ‘foot spa’.
  • Get the right amount of sleep.
  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation.

You may also find it comforting to have a little box of ‘goodies’ of special objects or things that make you feel calm to keep at hand for times when you need that extra boost, or that just make you happier even if you already feel alright.

So, have a think about these suggestions as a starting point, and remember to make them your own. Do what works best for you, and make a note of them in your self-care journal, and I will see you soon for the next ‘challenge’.

In the meantime, stay well.

Much love, x.

 

 

Simple Self-Care Challenge #2

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Picture courtesy of Google Images.

Hi friends, and welcome back to the simple self-care series, or Welcome! for the first time if you are just joining us.

Here is the first post in the series, but if you have a browse through my blog you will find longer articles incorporating themes and aspects to do with self-care, mental health, and much more. My blog is called ‘Life as it happens to be’ which is just that, and really can and will cover just about anything as it happens in my life. But this theme is also a big part of it. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/66574131/posts/1489611501

So for the second challenge in this self-care series, having written down some of the character traits you appreciate about yourself, in this exercise I encourage you to set aside some quiet time for yourself, grab a tea, coffee, hot chocolate or comforting beverage of choice 🙂 , find somewhere quiet and cosy where you can spend some time thinking about what you like about yourself physically this time.

You can approach this in whatever way you feel comfortable with. The reason behind this exercise is to encourage positive ‘self talk’ and viewing ourselves positively. This doesn’t need to be in a prideful way, but simply being grateful for who you are. I know from personal experience that this can be challenging. Gentle hearts often give out so much appreciation and compliments to other people, but are we as good friends to ourselves, or do we constantly condemn, criticise and belittle ourselves with negative self talk?

I could give examples here, but I don’t want to use any ‘trigger’ words that might make this place seem less safe or empowering. You’ll know what goes on in your own mind and how you ‘talk to yourself’, and believe me, you do and that’s normal. 🙂

It might be a struggle to get started on this depending on where you are in terms of self-image and self-esteem.  Here are some suggestions to get you started, and there is no limit to what you want to write down with this exercise. Write down one thing if that’s what you’re comfortable with, or write down one hundred things. It’s your time, your space for self-care, and it’s up to you. Keep it in your little notebook as discussed in the previous post, or blog it if you want to share with others and link to this page if you want to share the journey – totally up to you with what you feel comfortable with. But write it down somewhere for yourself.

Suggestions of what you might appreciate about yourself physically (whether ‘aesthetically’ or ‘functionally’, there are different ways of interpreting this and being kind to yourself):

  • Beautiful eyes.
  • Eyes – sight, a window to experience the world, see wonderful things, learn, read, be creative, etc.
  • Long hair.
  • Nice smile, friendly, positive, encouraging.
  • Hands that can reach out to others, feed, clothe yourself, play the piano, write, draw, paint.

I’m going to stop there, as this is a space for your creativity and self-kindness. You can write a sentence, a paragraph, a story, be creative and design some ‘word art’, write a poem, write a song, but take time to give yourself the compliments you deserve, to build yourself up and strengthen patterns of healthy self talk and a positive ‘self image’, just as you would do for your friends.

Go for it, and enjoy yourself.

Much Love. x

 

Simple Step-by-Step Self-Care Series… Simple Self Care Challenge – #1

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Self-care is such an important practice to incorporate into our lives on a regular basis. But what even is it, and where do we start? I will blog in more detail on why this is important in a separate longer post, however, I want to keep these simple challenges ‘short and sweet’ and as accessible as possible so that if you so wish, you can follow along and incorporate some of these suggestions into your life.

Each of us is unique, and therefore what is important in terms of looking after ourselves, may vary significantly from person to person. However, we all do share similar basic needs in terms of health & wellbeing both emotionally/mentally and physically, so hopefully you will find something of value to enrich your life and relationship with yourself through this simple series.

So here goes, and keeping it quite simple for the first challenge:

~ Invest in a notebook that is just for you. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive as there are plenty of places nowadays that you can buy a very inexpensive yet beautiful notebook. Just something that you are happy to look at and write in.

~Make it your aim to use this notebook ONLY for your self care challenges, i.e. not for shopping lists, or writing down friends’ birthdays or daily ‘to-do’s’ – this is your special personal space, just for you.

~And once you have your notebook, here’s a task for you. Think about someone you admire for their qualities and characteristics. This can be someone you know, someone from history or someone you’ve heard about through the media or through friends. Now think about what you admire about them, not physically, but in terms of character traits, such as kindness, gentleness, passion, commitment and so forth. Don’t write it down, just think about it.

~Next, gently and compassionately think about yourself. It may be hard to think positively about your own character traits, but just as you are able to do so for other people, now is your chance to do so for yourself. The difference this time is that I would like you to write down three to five character qualities about yourself that you admire, and think about at least one way for each of these qualities that you have displayed them.

Take your time over this, this is your time. Think about and appreciate what is special about yourself and write it down, with pen and paper preferably as I find you are more connected, but if you prefer to blog it, and link to this series, you are most welcome to do so, I would love it if we can go on this journey together and share insights as friends.

To help you out, I’ll give it a go myself.

Qualities about myself that I feel positively about:

1. Kindness ~ I have a genuine care and concern for other people and seek to do what I can to be helpful, kind and caring to them. In the past I have done special things for others such as making personalised gifts, giving food to homeless people and helping someone in a fatal accident before they died.

2. Loyalty ~ I am a good friend to people, and I love my friends and family. I seek to build and maintain good relationships with the people in my life and have long-lasting relationships with close friends and family as a result.

3. Creativity ~ I find inspiration almost everywhere, and long to share this inspiration with other people. Creative things that I do include photography, writing, blogging, ‘doodling’ and the occasional collaborative project with creative friends.

Ok, so now it’s your turn! Pretty simple, but important, and a good first step. I’d be delighted if you want to share with me, but there is absolutely no pressure to share your self care with anyone but yourself! So go for it…be kind to yourself today, and I’ll see you soon for Self-Care Challenge # 2. 🙂 xx

 

Where you are right now…

may not be where you wish to be.  The daydreams of your youth seem to have faded now into obscurity.  You have already learned so much, and this is your journey.

So take a breath, take time, not to worry about the stretch of road ahead of you that seems so arduous, but take the time just to be.

And know that you are important, you are loved and you are enough, as you are. Right now. In this moment.

Take time to consider the blessings you already have. Know that you are not alone and that other travellers will meet with you along life’s often confusing or difficult way.

Take heart. Have courage. Have faith. Enjoy this moment. Just be.