Grounding technique: keep a small, safe object handy for when you need to feel grounded. This could be something like a pebble or stone, something that won’t break easily, or perhaps some children’s ‘putty’ / play-dough that you can squeeze, or anything you think will help to ground you. Make sure that you can’t hurt yourself on it, that it doesn’t have sharp edges, won’t break if you hold or squeeze it, and that makes you feel calm when you hold it as a grounding object.
If you feel like you are experiencing anxiety, panic, dissociation, dizziness, confusion, intrusive thoughts or mental and emotional distress, use this object to help you ground yourself. Focus on how it feels to touch, what it looks like, observe it, the way the light touches it, its texture and so forth and focus intently on this safe object while calming your breathing. Keep it in your pocket or take it with you so that you can use this to help you when you need it. The good thing about a small object like this is that other people most likely will not even notice it in case you are worried about that.
Also, you can try the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ method as a grounding technique where you focus on being aware of your five senses. Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
As much as possible, try to stick to a routine, or have a routine or plan written down to fall back upon. This will help you if things get mentally foggy, confusing or overwhelming for you. Ask for help if you need to create a plan or routine and take small steps to stay well.
To survive this winter season, and to thrive as you journey through it, I’d like to encourage you, and myself, to have regular mental health and self care ‘check ins’. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on taking care of you. It’s easy to get lost in the many things going on around us, to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. So along with all of the other tips in this season, let’s make our wellbeing and our mental health a priority. Once again I have loads of helpful tips and articles on these issues on my blog, and the many things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience, so I’m with you friend, I know it can be hard, but you’re important and your mind matters, so do what you can to take care of yourself, to regularly make some time just to be kind and look after your wellbeing so that you can be and feel your best this season. x
I’m a good few years (and maybe almost a decade) late to the party when it comes to the medical drama series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, as I didn’t really know what the fuss was about and only started watching it earlier this year on Amazon Prime, but already I’m embarking upon Season 11 (of the 15 Seasons available!)…so you could say I’m enjoying the drama.
These young doctors, a few of the young women in particular, like to shake off their stress and deal with emotional situations by having a ‘dance party’ – by that, it’s simply putting on some music, and either by themselves or with one or two or three other friends just ‘dance it out’ there and then.
Hey, if you’re feeling a bit stressed and need a quick ‘go to’ Winter Survival Guide tip that you can do in the comfort of your own living room with a few of your favourite seasonal tunes (is anyone else thinking of Macaulay Culkin as Kevin in ‘Home Alone’ Rocking Around the Christmas Tree? 🙂 ) why not have a little ‘dance party’ of your own to shake off the stress and have some fun?
This time of year, as nostalgic, fun and relaxing as it is ‘supposed’ to be, can often bring with it stress and an ever lengthening ‘to do’ list.
It is so important to be aware of where you are at with your mental health, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, and in more in depth articles throughout my blog.
There are expectations that we place upon ourselves and that family, friends and society places upon us. Expectations that might be completely unrealistic and out of our grasp and that leave us feeling worn out, stressed, worried and even at ‘breaking point’ at times.
Look back over some of my previous posts, or search my blog for posts on ‘mental health’ related topics.
For this post, I’ll try to keep it simple: Break it down to avoid breaking down.
I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve got things organised for one week, I’m at the end of the week and needing to start all over again. Your tasks might be work oriented, or to do with keeping up with commitments, events and nurturing your friendships and relationships.
Today, ‘life as it happens to be’ sees me looking at a countertop of dishes needing washed and put away, recycling bags needing emptied, bins to be put out and clutter to be tidied away, food shopping to be done, and other household tasks to attend to, over and above all of the other things I want to do with my days and my life.
I often encourage myself and other people to break things down into smaller, more manageable ‘chunks’ to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed. At this time of year there may be more things popping up in our diaries and calendars, and it can be hard to get around at times and to keep up with it all, which can lead to stress and anxiety or the exacerbation of existing conditions.
Some people are natural organisers, but even if you are not, you can work at finding a system that works for you to enable you to do what needs to be done, and thereby feeling more relaxed to take the ‘time out’ that you also need.
I have a lot of blog posts on mental health, organising, strategizing, and the different tools, techniques, ‘games’ and systems I use to make the load a bit lighter for myself mentally and emotionally and to even find the fun in being productive.
I need to keep reminding myself of these things, and that includes in attending to my list of ‘to do’s’ today.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ‘frazzled’ or don’t know where to start, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your health and wellbeing is far more important than living up to certain expectations that may be unrealistic, and to getting everything done a certain way. Take your time, break it down, put on some calming music and just take the next step. Don’t try to do things all at once and try to make it fun. Ask for help when you need it, and give yourself some kindness and encouragement. Search and browse through my other posts on mental health and getting and staying organised and hopefully you’ll feel less overwhelmed, find something that helps you and reminds you that you’re not alone.
And remember – break it down to avoid breaking down! 🙂
Are you a people pleaser, a perfectionist, or someone who regularly over commits? Do you often say yes to other people, even if doing so is detrimental to your own physical, mental and emotional health?
If you are any or all of the above, or you habitually say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, even when the words you are hoping will come out of your mouth are ‘I would if I could, but no thank you…’, then this post is for you!
This time of the year can be a tricky balance between sharing peace and enjoyment with our nearest and dearest, and taking on the lion’s share of the burden of organising, planning, getting things done and keeping everyone happy.
There may be some commitments that you are obligated to fulfil, and can’t get out of. But what about the other things that you end up doing (and I wonder if this is more applicable to the ladies out there) to look after others, help people out, and make things run smoothly simply because everyone else knows you are good at it, have done it in the past, or just expects you to. And of course, you don’t want to disappoint anyone, do you? But what about yourself? Where does your wellbeing come into things if you end up saying yes and overcommitting yourself, leading to stress and anxiety, when what you really want and need to do is to say ‘no’. It’s not always easy to do, but setting boundaries and managing expectations is important in good communication and healthy relationships for ourselves and other people in the long run, as the other person or people may have no idea that you don’t want to do something, and may think you actually enjoy it or want to be the person to do it.
Ok, so maybe there are some family commitments that you know you have to take the lead on or contribute to. You’re looking after what is closest to you. But what about all of the other things that are more on the periphery of your duties and commitments?
Someone asks you to go to an event, but you are feeling ‘stretched’ on all sides, and know that by going you won’t be able to manage your time and commitments in other areas, and it will leave you feeling stressed if you do go. But you don’t want to disappoint the person who asked you. What do you do? Could you try saying a polite ‘no’, thanking them for their offer, and explaining that you have a lot on at the moment, but you appreciate their invitation?
You need to make sure that you are looking after your own health and wellbeing, and that saying ‘yes’ to things is held in balance with what is wise to do. Just because you are an excellent cake maker it doesn’t mean that you need to say ‘yes’ to everyone who asks you to make something for a Christmas party or family event if you are ‘juggling’ other commitments and trying to manage your time and priorities in other ways. Saying ‘no’ might actually give someone else an opportunity to say ‘yes’ to something for a change. What can you think of in your life this season that you might have to pluck up the courage to say ‘no’ to for the sake of your own health and well being? If it is the source of stress and anxiety, consider how crucial it is, and if it is not that important in the grand scheme of things, then try saying ‘no’.
I’m a chai tea latte kind of a girl. Just saying 🙂
These seasons quite often not only get a lot colder, but become much busier as well. For a lot of us busier can equate to things being more stressful. However, all is not lost, as with the approaching winter season, coffee shops, cafes, tea rooms and the like all start introducing those wonderfully named and flavoured festive drinks to keep us warm, cosy and happy.
So don’t be afraid to take care of yourself and take a break. Self care is important all throughout the year, but during the winter seasons we can sometimes put ourselves last while trying to tick a lot of the boxes on our ‘to do lists’ while also trying to be charitable, helpful, get things done and keep everyone else happy.
A cosy break and a hot cuppa every now and then can do wonders. Especially with so many new varieties of flavours to try, it is the season to be cosy! Or even to sit in your own home on your own, with your family or a friend or two and sip a hot drink while eating some sweet treats and catching up or watching a film….or even, writing your amazing blog posts!
It’s also nice to remember others at this time of year, and extend a ‘cup of kindness’ yet as Auld Lang Syne. Maybe that cup of kindness could be in the offering of a hot drink to a homeless person out in the cold on a winter’s day. As we care more for ourselves, we also are able to care and give more for others.
So, what festive flavours take your fancy? Hot chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin spice, mulled wine, toasted marshmallow, gingerbread latte, or something equally exciting that I haven’t heard of before? Drop me a comment and let me know what your cuppa of choice is. Personally I think you can’t beat a good old fashioned tea, or chai tea latte (with cinnamon), or of course a good old hot chocolate on a cold winters day!
Take a moment to consider whether the thing you are allowing yourself to get stressed about will be significant to you in five years time, and whether it is worth so much of your mental energy right now.
I wonder if you’re a bit like me. If in childhood you caught the ‘reading bug’ and became an avid reader, transported from one world to another, and set on a course of imagination and possibility?
“When I was just a little girl…”
As much as I was an adventurer, a little girl who loved to play in nature, under this vast sky, some of my fondest memories also include being absorbed in books. I still remember vividly the big old library with wooden winding staircases that my mum and I used to go to when I was little, in the days when our library cards were actually made of cardboard 🙂 I loved the smell of books, the touch, the feel and the worlds within a world that I could embark upon to spark my own imagination. I loved books, everything about them. Some were beautifully illustrated, others were text only, but I had an affinity with them, as perhaps many of you did too.
My passion continued.
As I grew, my passion for reading, for literature, and for writing (I started writing stories and poems as a little girl) continued, unabated. I was commended and won prizes in school for my writing, and loved studying English, so much so that I went on to study English Literature as part of a joint-honours for my first degree (afterwards going on to complete a Masters in Human Rights, Women’s Studies, and International Development).
I loved reading, and I was introduced to a new way of looking at the world of literature through more focused analysis, intertextuality, literary theory, and so forth.
It was an amazing new challenge, however, part of me missed just being able to step into another world, through the gateway of reading, and to imagine without analysis.
Success and ‘Failure’.
I worked hard, studied and read a lot, put my heart and soul into my studies, and gained two First Class Degrees. I had achieved a dream in excelling in English Literature as a big part of my studies, and my identity, as it was part of the fabric of my being.
However, the victory would shortly give way to ‘failure’ in a sense.
My adverse childhood experiences from being traumatised from bullying and hate crime over an intense couple of years most particularly in the first two years of high school, coupled with having severe anxiety, and experiencing the stresses of young adulthood and looking for my first jobs, moving out, and other challenges, bullies in adulthood, close to 3 years of not sleeping, night terrors, and so forth all combined to trigger an ‘explosion’ in complex PTSD, and a few years ago everything collapsed.
My brain felt like it was exploding. Everything was terrifying. The smallest of things was overwhelming, and I didn’t know how I would take the next step or make it through life. I was devastated. My waking and ‘resting’ life was a nightmare, I was both awake during the daytime in a living nightmare even as I went about my day to day or tried to, and was unable to escape in the repose of sleep either.
And to make matters worse, reading had become terrifying for me. My head was exploding, everything was frightening and confusing and overwhelming, thoughts ‘screamed’ at me, sentences were a blur, I couldn’t focus, and when I did my mind couldn’t make sense of things, I was intensely fearful and didn’t understand what was happening to me. I knew I should be able to read, I had majored in English Literature as part of my undergraduate degree after all. And yet, I was broken, and could not read even one line in a book without fear and terror.
I could spend an age staring at one page, tears filling my eyes, the room swimming around me, utterly broken and devastated. What had happened? Why were books no longer a safe and comforting place for me? Why was my brain malfunctioning such that even reading one line in a book was a tremendous and terrifying ordeal?
Was it over?
Scrambling back up that mountain.
There’s a line in a song that encourages me: “Life ain’t over, life ain’t done yet, so get back up in your place, child’.
That’s what we’ve got to do.
The song goes on to say: “When you feel like it’s the end, no mother and no friend could love you more”.
The song is about the faithful love of Jesus, and He carried me through it all and continues to. Suffice to say I got help, and after years of persistence, I started reading again….including for pleasure.
A new way of exploring books.
Although I write a lot as part of my professional work, and have managed to push through and excel (high functioning! 😉 ) in my productivity at work, and although I have started reading again for pleasure, it is not quite as easy for me to just sit down and read a book as it once would have been. I used to be a ‘voracious’ reader, and I would lose count of how many books I had read in a month, in a year. Now, however, I can count the books I have read in a year on one hand. Maybe I’ll get back to where I was, or move forwards to something new.
Recently, however, I have been enjoying new vistas of opportunity for my mind and imagination: audio books. I have embarked upon a free online borrowing system with my public library that allows users the chance to borrow audio books online, download them and listen at leisure – for free.
Once again I am able to get cosy on a cold winter’s evening, and absorb myself in a good book. Only this time, someone is reading to me. I can go about my tasks while listening, or I can close my eyes and imagine the scenes unfolding before me as someone helps to lead me on that journey with their voice. What a pleasure to find a new avenue into the world of books. Of course, it is nothing new, audio books have been around for goodness knows how long now, and with technology, they literally are at people’s fingertips.
The hope of new adventures.
Sometimes we all need a helping hand to get us through. Even Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress found comfort from like minded friends on his arduous journey. Like faithful friends, the narrators of audio books are helping me through, from the slough of despond to being able to see in the far distance a promised land, a ‘Celestial City’.
Audio books are a new gateway for me, into new stories, adventures and realms of inspiration. I can listen to the Word of God, Scripture, biographies, factual accounts as well as fictional stories being read to me.
There is comfort in this. When I was a little girl, I also enjoyed listening to stories on tape and read along with the accompanying illustrated picture books. Perhaps this is like the adult version of that. Another form, another gateway into the realms of stories, of human life, of imagination.
A word of encouragement.
So what can you glean from my gratitude for and enjoyment of audio books? Perhaps that no matter what your challenge is, there is a way forward, it might not be the route you thought, it may seem like you are using a ‘crutch’ at first as you hobble on your journey, injured as you are, but nonetheless, as you persevere you may just find that what you thought was a crutch assisting you in your weakness actually turns out to be a blessing and a gift of comfort, strength and new possibilities as you continue on.
Today, spend five minutes doing the thing that overwhelms you that you keep putting off – you might just find the momentum to keep on going, but even if you don’t for now, at least you’ve made a start.