Choosing To Be Anxious?

I’ve always struggled with the notion that we choose to be anxious. I don’t choose the knot in my stomach or the tightening in my chest. I don’t choose to lose the feeling in my extremities or the shivering and shaking however I’m realising that I choose how I react to these sensations.

I’ve lost a whole day of my weekend to anxiety and guilt. It’s been building up for about a week now. Every time those physical sensations arise my brain starts pulling up past mistakes and I go over and over the same thing, guilt consuming me and panic rising. I’ve been doing a lot of reading around staying in the moment and focusing on rational thought but it’s so hard to do. Very often by the time I’m realising that I’ve slipped in to these ruminations I’ve maybe been worrying about them for 15-20 minutes, just zoned out, going over and over things that I can’t change or fix.

I’m trying a combination of things to stay in the present but to distract myself from the thoughts – such as writing this blog post – but it’s easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I find that I do so many things on auto-pilot that it’s so easy to slip back in to negative thinking regardless of what you’re doing. I’m reading a particular gripping book at the moment but even little things like when they talk about people making mistakes instantly brings me back to the perceived problem that my brain just can’t get past.

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There’s a CBT technique around correcting your thinking that I’ve also been trying when I can catch the thoughts early. The idea is that when the negative thought arises you recognise it for what it is and call it out. If you continue to do this, eventually, in theory when the negative feeling/thought crops up your brain will automatically correct it before it causes anxiety.

I suppose I’ve always believed that we have the choice to not be anxious (at least on the thoughts side) but I’ve just never found a way to execute that. I understand that living in the moment is the only way to truly be happy. We can’t change the past and have no control over the future – rationally I know that worrying about either is just a waste of energy, taking away from the positive experience I could be having of the here and now, but try as I might, no matter how often I remind myself of that, I just can’t shut off the worrying part of my brain.

Do you struggle with controlling your negative/problematic thinking? Do you have any techniques that you find helpful? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

 

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Winter Health Kick

Autumn has arrived and winter is just around the corner. The nights are getting longer and the days are getting shorter. Like a lot of people at this time of year my energy levels dip and my mental health deteriorates. In order to attempt to counteract this I’m embarking on a weight-neutral health kick and I thought I’d share with you what I’m planning to do in case it could help someone else and it also might keep me accountable.

Drinking Water – Now I’m never going to be that constantly hydrated person drinking 3 litres of water every day. It’s just not going to happen and I’ve accepted that, however I’m going to continue to make an effort to drink enough each day even when the weather gets colder so I’m not feeling thirsty. Replacing some caffeinated beverages for water is meant to help with energy levels long term as well but the jury is definitely out on that one.

Exercise – Maybe this is true of everyone but in the winter months I seem to do less exercise which may in turn lead to more fatigue. This year I have a gym buddy who drives so getting home from the gym on those occasions we go together is so much easier and makes it more likely that I’ll go throughout the winter. On days when I don’t go to the gym, going for walks outside will be my go to activity. I know for maximum effect that’s meant to be done when it’s light however time won’t allow for that so I’m making do with before or after work. (Walking also my main method of transport so I get out and about a fair bit each day and never struggle to hit 10-15k steps.)

Eating Less Sugar– This is definitely the thing I struggle with the most. I’m a complete sugar addict and it’s very difficult for me to reduce the intake of something I love without feeling deprived and slipping in to a diet mentality. If anyone has any tips for this they would be greatly appreciated.

Keeping Up Basic Self Care – Drum roll please… Lately I’ve managed to stick to a skincare routine! Will wonders ever cease?! I’ve also started to keep on top of housework more regularly with the help of a weekly to do list and doing a few tasks each day. Although not technically health kick territory keeping up with these kind of daily tasks is more manageable when broken up into chunks and when these things are not piling up around me I’m told I’ll feel better in myself. That’s the plan at least. So far so good. Plus there’s no better morale boost than ticking off a to do list.

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Embracing A Bed Time Routine – I have been mocked by many a Tinder date about my “bedtime”. I need a lot of sleep and have accepted that and I like to be in bed before 11pm each night however I was advised by a psychologist I was seeing to go ALL IN: Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time everyday. Needless to say I haven’t managed this. I routinely stay up too late or go to bed too early and often sleep through my alarm. Also getting up at 6 on some week days so I can exercise isn’t sustainable as an every day wake up plan so I’m still working on this. If anyone has discovered the perfect bed time routine do let me know.

Using A Sunrise Alarm Clock – I use a Lumie Bodyclock Alarm Clock which simulates sunrise in the morning and sunset in the evening. The idea being that you fall asleep and wake up more naturally. I use it all year round and in all honesty in the winter months I’m still very groggy in the morning and the light alone rarely wakes me up and the back up alarm is required. Ironically in the summer I definitely wake up from the light alone. Some people seem to have great success with these lights so if you struggle in the mornings they are definitely worth trying. Cheaper brands are available, the link above is just the one I happen to have.

That’s all I’ve got planned at the moment but if anyone has any other tips do leave a comment below as I’m really hoping to avoid a bad mental health winter.

V ❤

 

Going Back On The Pill

I ran a twitter poll a couple of weeks ago asking what people wanted me to write about and going back on the pill won out. CW: This post will touch on a few issues that people may be sensitive to including weight and mental health.

It seems that the current trend is coming off hormonal contraceptives in favour of natural alternatives. There’s many a blog post and Youtube video doing the rounds at the moment detailing why someone has stopped taking the pill/had their implant removed, so why have I bucked the trend and started taking it again after a few years off?

Why?

My hormones have gone crazy. That’s the long and short of it. My cycle was reaching around 50 days on average and when my periods did arrive they were making me really unwell. On top of that I have no sex drive whatsoever, my skin is a mess and I’m slowly but surely becoming as hairy as my cat.

Because I have a history of migraines, my blood pressure is smidgen high and I’m slightly overweight the combined pill is not an option for me so I have returned to my old favourite pill Cerazette. It’s one of the safest pills on the market in terms of at risk groups but definitely mention any specific risk factors you have to your doctor as there may be something that suits you better. As it is the mini pill it’s unlikely that it will help with any of the additional hormonal symptoms I mentioned above, but what it will do is stop my periods. Everyone’s body is different and some people spot/bleed regularly on Cerazette but for me I get no period or bleeding whatsoever. This also means that I avoid the fortnight of pain and discomfort before my period finally make an appearance.

Hormones are very fickle things. The last time I came off Cerazette after a couple of years my periods settled back in to a regular routine of every 35 days but since early this year they have been getting more and more irregular and other hormonal symptoms have been worse than my “normal”. There’s no clear reason why. Yes, I’ve been mentally unwell this year but I have spells of ill health every year and it’s never affected it before. The doctor suggested changes in weight can cause these issues but over the past couple of years it’s the first time my weight has been stable in a long time. Blood tests and ultrasounds, historically have always come back normal so we no longer try to treat the problem just the symptoms.

The Experience

I started taking Cerazette just under a fortnight ago and so far so good. No bleeding or spotting since my period finished. The doctor I saw warned me that our bodies can react differently to medication that we’ve used before but fingers crossed the results will be the same this time.

In terms of side effects I’ve had tender boobs which seems to be improving now but the most noticeable thing has been increased appetite. I wake up every morning really hungry and it continues pretty much all day. At first I was finding it really difficult to deal with while still eating intuitively but not wanting to put on a lot of weight and cause myself more hormonal issues down the line. So far it seems to be working out OK. I’ve actually lost 2lbs which means I’ve returned to my normal weight.

A lot of people notice a difference in their mental health when taking contraceptive pills. It can go either way. I wouldn’t want to categorically state that this is because of the pill but I’ve been far less anxious recently. That probably has more to do with the fact I’m not having to go to CBT anymore but either way it’s a bonus.

Would I recommend Cerazette?

This post is not an endorsement for birth control or Cerazette. Taking a hormonal contraceptive for whatever reason is a big decision and should definitely be discussed fully with a Doctor/Pharmacist first. There are so many different options out there and some may be more appropriate for you than others.

Do you use a pill at the moment? Have you had any side effects (good or bad)?

V ❤️

What Comes First, Poor Mental Health or Poor Self Care?

Before writing this post I went to the polls (would have been topical if I’d written this post on time) and had a bit of a debate with a couple of people regarding the question do you think that your mental health slips first or your self care. 

For me it’s a no-brainer, my mental health goes down the pan and then I don’t have the energy, motivation or inclination to do the most basic of self care tasks however it was interesting that someone stated categorically that for them they thought that their self care slipped first.  When they elaborated they explained that if you don’t treat yourself with care because you feel worthless etc then your mental health will worsen. Maybe I’m lucky in that when I’m well I have a good relationship with my self and so if I’m not looking after myself it’s because my mental health has already worsened. To me that feeling of worthlessness that was described is part of poor mental health.

That being said, I have noticed that when I’m sort of on the up and making a conscious effort with self care I do feel slightly better. I recently set myself some self care goals and for the first few days I was managing with them, staying hydrated, eating and making some effort to stay on top of housework. Sleep was still a struggle but I was doing all I could. Yet as within a week I was feeling awful and my self care had gone back to being non-existent. That’s what led me to this question. Did I feel worse because I wasn’t doing it or was I not doing it because I felt worse? 

I guess it’s impossible to say for sure. Some days when I’m not feeling great if I force myself to do even the most basic of self care like drinking enough water or cooking, I get really dark moods so as far as possible I try to just listen to myself. If I’m not in the mood to do it or today is not that day then I just don’t. Simple as that. Maybe it’s not the healthiest approach but at the moment all I can do is do the best I can each day and some days will be better than other.

Here are the goals I set myself in this post. 

  1. Drink 2l (or there about) of water a day. – For the first few days this was easy enough if not the most exciting but as soon as I got bored/maybe when I had a few bad mental health days, this slipped by the wayside and I haven’t really been doing it since. 
  2. Eat 3 meals a day. – I’ve kind of being doing this but my eating habits have been all over the place, letting myself get ridiculously hungry, skipping breakfast and not having anything until mid to late morning, cereal for dinner etc. The usual fails that have now triggered my IBS. Hopefully being in pain will be a reminder to eat this week. 
  3. Get in to a bed time routine. – I think I sort of have one and I’m trying out a new sleeping supplement and pillow spray that seem to be helping. Watch this space. 
  4. Spend an hour every evening doing something not related to internet/blogging. – Since I stopped daily blogging I’ve had over a week off at the time of writing this and it’s been great. 🙂 BUT I probably still don’t spend an hour a night not online. 
  5. Do a 30 minute clean every day – This definitely didn’t happen. Doing a big clean over the weekend so I can just try to maintain a reasonable level over the next week. 

 We are very quick to berate ourselves for the things we haven’t done rather than celebrating the things we have so instead of dwelling on what I haven’t achieved here are some things that I have achieved since that post. 

  • I’ve attended work everyday no matter how tired or ill I felt. 
  • I’ve looked after Misty, my furry friend, managed to take her to the vet and have started tackling knotted fur, much to her displeasure. 
  • I’ve managed a few really good gym sessions but also rested for a full week when I wasn’t up to it. 
  • I’ve written a few blog posts and had a few really open and difficult conversations about why I don’t want help for my emetophobia. 

It’s so disappointing that I’m finding things so hard at what is traditionally an easy time of year for me but I will keep plodding along and hopefully you guys will keep me accountable. 

Do you have any personal goals that you are working on at the moment? Let me know in the comments. 

V ❤ 

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Thoughts on Getting Help For Emetophobia

TW/CW – emetophobia, anxiety, panic attacks

Recently I’ve been looking in to treating my emetophobia. My generalised anxiety/stress has reached a point where the only solution is likely to be medication that I won’t take due to my phobia. As a result the only logical solution is to deal with the phobia. If only things were straightforward. I wrote previously that I’d had public panic attacks and they were due to the stress of contemplating getting help for my phobia. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and I want to elaborate on why.

Like a lot of sufferers I feel like my phobia keeps me safe – and in a lot of ways it does. I live my life in certain ways to avoid getting sick. It affects my diet, the ways I choose to travel, places I’m willing to visit etc. Yes, some people would say it’s restrictive but that’s the price I’m willing to pay to not get sick. A huge part of the battle is the fact that my phobia also means that my body fights the urge to be sick. It’s not a pleasant experience – I go to a primal place in my brain and my whole body shuts down – but it stops the urge to vomit. I’m terrified that if I no longer have the phobia I won’t be able to stop it and then if I let it happen once it’ll keep happening. My phobia at this point is a finally tuned system to prevent me being sick and I don’t want to ficker with it.

The logical counter-argument to this is if I didn’t have the phobia anymore then I wouldn’t have to worry about being kept safe because I wouldn’t be afraid to be sick. This is where my irrational thoughts take over. For someone who would rather die than be sick it’s hard to imagine a point in time where they would ever be ok with being sick. I know it’s possible because I know of people who have recovered, I also know that emetophobia has one of the lowest rates of success when it comes to treatment as it’s one of the phobias with the most powerful emotive response. The fear is also based on your own bodily function and through life is something that may be impossible to fully avoid and so it’s an ever present fear that you can never get away from.

The idea of whatever the therapy itself may involve is also, quite frankly, terrifying. I’ve read horror stories of exposure therapy that in all seriousness could lead to me developing PTSD on top of everything else. It may be useful to have something like hypnotherapy again to help me learn a bit about why I have the phobia but even that is very daunting.

It’s almost a self fulfilling prophecy because as long as the phobia has a grip on me I won’t get help for it and then the cycle continues. At my last GP appointment she referred me to psychiatry in order to discuss options. I’m trying to keep an open mind even though all of the thoughts above keep whirring around in my brain telling me not to do it.

Have you had professional help for a phobia or anxiety disorder before? Did it work for you? Leave me a comment and let me know.

V ❤

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Goodbye May, Hello Summer

The last day of May has arrived and here in Aberdeen it is feeling particularly summery. It’s been a funny old month for me personally, professionally and in my blogging life. I feel like I’ve packed a year’s worth of ups and downs into one month and I will be glad to see the back of it in a lot if ways.

Looking forward to June there are a few things that are happening for me and the world in general that I want to share some thoughts on.

June is my birthday month, on the 7th I’ll turn 26. In my current mental state my birthday is filling me with dread rather than excitement, not least of all because I have no plans to do anything to mark the occasion having accepted the fact that everyone will be too busy etc and it’ll just be a massive flop. I know part of this is my mental health but also partly from my experience of trying to organise any kind of party or social gathering over the past couple of years.

Next week Britain goes to the polls again. This time it’s a General Election and hopefully we will be saying goodbye to May in another sense. I know it’s a really slim chance but we have to hope that people will actually show up and make it known that we’re not happy with the status quo. The big concern is that many Scots won’t see the bigger picture and continue to vote SNP in this election which will hamper Labour’s chances of any kind of majority. Watch this space.

The most important event in June is Orange Is The New Black Day which this year falls on the 9th. If like me you have already booked the day off work to binge watch prepare to be shook. I’ve read some of the media relating to it and I’m unsure about the way they have planned this season – it sounds like we will definitely be left wanting more ASAP – but it will also be a binge watch dream.

On my blog in June you can expect lots of body positive content, a couple of period positive posts and I have a fitness post planned. I won’t be posting daily. Hallelujah! I haven’t quite figured out my schedule yet but I know I won’t be posting again until the 4th.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you are most looking forward to in June.

V ❤ 

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It’s OK To Need A Break

I’m writing this post as a reminder to everyone who is struggling at the moment – It’s ok give up. It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to admit that you are overwhelmed and need a break. 

The irony  that I’m posting this so I don’t fail in the challenge I set myself to blog every day this month is not lost on me.  Life is hard. This month has been particularly difficult for me and tonight I feel at my lowest for a long time.

I met up with one of my closest friends tonight and it was lovely to see her and chat but I still felt very on edge and under pressure. On the walk home the dark cloud descended and I genuinely didn’t think I’d be getting this post up tonight. To add insult to injury my cat is ill and had been sick and had a “toilet accident” on my bed. Today was a terrible day.

Terrible days happen. My originally planned post was things that nobody tells you about being an adult, that’s definitely one of them. Even on the worst days no one is going to handle business for you. Today I spoke to a friend who is also ill at the moment and I told him to do just one productive thing. Just one. And it made me realise how well I’m doing. Yes my house is a disgusting mess again and I had cereal for dinner but I’m adulting in other ways. I’m holding down a full time job and whatever this side hustle is.

Let’s celebrate these victories on days when it’s all just too much. I’m sure no matter what, you’ve done something this week you can be proud of.

V ❤

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Progress Not Perfection – Self Care Goals

Today I did a scary thing, tomorrow’s blog post will be all about it, but having that hanging over me for a while among other things has made this month a bit of a write-off. I know what you’re thinking, I’ve blogged every day, held down my job, looked after my crazy elderly kitty and you’re right. But that doesn’t mean that other areas of my life haven’t suffered as a result.

I’ve been terrible at self care in the most basic sense like eating healthily, drinking enough water and getting enough good sleep. I’ve missed three of my closest friends’ birthdays – Tamzin, Cat and Kirsty if you read this I’m really sorry – and if you’ve been waiting on a reply from me on Facebook messenger you’re still waiting but as I’ve done the scary thing now and going forward it’s just a waiting game I figured now is as good a time as any to create an action plan for the next week/month.

  1. Drink 2l (or there about) of water a day. This one should be achievable especially now the weather is getting warmer but sometimes I forget to drink anything until lunchtime when I’m exhausted/anxious.
  2. Eat 3 meals a day. Usually I’ve still been managing this but for example today I didn’t eat anything from breakfast until 4.30pm and then squeezed in my 3rd meal at 8.30pm.
  3. Get in to a bed time routine. It’s not very exciting or sexy but tossing and turning then eventually falling asleep to Seth MacFarlane and co’s dulcet tones at 1am is not conducive to a productive day.
  4. Spend an hour every evening doing something not related to internet/blogging. This one may be a challenge especially as I’m at work all day so my evening is full of writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others’ posts, tweeting, scheduling tweets etc etc BUT I think it’s really important to have some genuine downtime.
  5. Do a 30 minute clean every day. Like most people when my mental health is rubbish my flat becomes an absolute disgrace. I found a really great “quick clean guide” on YouTube by chance that I will be sharing on the blog within the next few days and it’s really motivated me to be proactive.

I will do an update next month on how I am getting on. The most important ones but probably the most difficult will be the sleep and relaxation. Fingers crossed I will have good news.

Do you have any self care goals at the moment? If not, would you consider setting some? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

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Never Miss A Monday

So the original post that was here was 35 words because I was not in a good place on Monday so today I’m re-writing this and turning it in to the post I wanted to write in the first place.

I want to talk about basic self care. Online there is so much information on self care and things we can do to help ourselves relax or feel better when our mental or physical health isn’t so good. Often these tips include things like have a nice relaxing bath, going for a walk, painting your nails, meeting up with a friend etc. All these things are great but sometimes we are not able to make that kind of an effort.

The things that when we are well we take for granted become self care when we are really struggling. Things like brushing your teeth, washing your face, cooking a meal, drinking water and cleaning up are all valid self care. So is sleep!

The reason this post originally was so short was because as soon as I got home from work I went to bed. I dozed and watched Netflix and I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. Being anxious a lot, working full time and trying to find time to do all the other normal grown up stuff that we are expected to do as functioning members of society is exhausting. Every day tasks feel overwhelming and then the longer you leave them the bigger the to do list gets and it just feel insurmountable. It’s for this reason I’ve created a little self care action plan for myself that includes spending some time every day on basic tasks like cleaning. My flat is not going to be pristine any time soon but by doing a little each day keeps on top of things and it’s also something that you can tick off as having achieved.

Lately some easy every day tasks that I carry out at work have been giving me ridiculous anxiety and one of them is listening to voicemail messages. I have no idea why but when I sit down to do it my palms get all clammy and my heart raises – thinking about it now I have a horrible butterfly sensation so it’s self care for me to get that task out of the way as soon as I get to the office and as soon as I come back from lunch in order to avoid getting worked up about it.

What I’m trying to say, in the most rambling and disjointed way possible, is that self care isn’t all face masks and brunch dates. It can be washing dishes or food shopping or any number of mundane grown up tasks. I’m challenging you all to do some self care and leave a comment to tell me what you did.

V ❤

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But You Don’t Look Ill?!

It’s no secret that I’m not well at the moment and there are a few different things going on. Living in a body/mind that’s ill but outwardly appears to be relatively healthy is tricky because people are quick to make assumptions based on appearance.

Take today, for example, my friend took me out to the garden centre where we had cake and bought plants then off to The Range where we bought a heap of junk and went on a little adventure. (All documented on my instagram story, link at the bottom). I didn’t look ill. I was laughing and joking, pushing a heavy trolley around, lifting a 40l bag of compost [or soil as I kept calling it] and having a good time with my friend. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t anxious and dizzy in the shop or that I’m not suffering with a mental illness.

I haven’t taken time off from my current job as a direct result of mental ill health but with the way things are at the moment and it’s got me thinking. I know that if my colleagues had seen me out and about today and I was signed off there’d be gossip going around the office tomorrow about how I don’t look ill. Do you have to monitor your behaviour to appear ill at all times?

Growing up, like a lot of parents, my mum set the rule that if you were too ill to go to school you were too ill to go out and play after the other kids got home and I think in a way I still apply that rule to myself as an adult. If I was off work I would struggle to justify myself going out and having fun with friends even thought that is exactly the kind of thing that can help when you are suffering from anxiety/stress/depression.

When Naomi messaged me on Friday asking if I wanted to go and get Pick n Mix today I was really looking forward to having a chat and a laugh and getting sweets. I don’t think either of us knew what we would end up getting up to but it was something to look forward to. On a Monday and Thursday night I go to the gym with my friend Megan and she’s suggested some dates for going out for pizza/having a Netflix and pizza evening and again, it’s a nice distraction. Plus this Friday I saw my friend Andie (and she brought me chocolate ❤ ), our weekly cinema trips keep me busy on a Friday evening. [I’ve only just realised that all my friends are feeders :’) ]

It’s a sad state of affairs to think that if I took the time off that I may need in order to get better I would feel guilty about doing all these things. I would probably even feel guilty about working on this blog. There would be a little voice in the back of my mind telling me that if I’m well enough to write blog posts I’m well enough to be in the office despite the fact that everything and everyone seems to be telling me the opposite at the moment.

Do you think there is a certain obligation for people to act or live in a certain way if they’re ill? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

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