Pure O During Lockdown

I have had OCD for the last 25 years (man that stat sucks) and generally I have become pretty good at keeping it at bay but more recently with everything going on in the UK I have noticed I am slipping more often and there just aren’t as many of my normal coping mechanisms around because of lockdown.

My mental health feels very fragile and it’s quite scary at times as I can see how easy it is to slip backwards, it doesn’t help matters that my physical health has also not been 100% and normal routines have slipped over the holiday period. I have felt my patience lower and my irritability rise along with reduced energy levels and motivation, all this has resulted in my resilience being lower for when the intrusive thoughts hit me.

I have had to sit back and reassess how to deal with a new outlook where not all my normal coping mechanisms are available to me. Normally I would throw myself into seeing friends and family, exercise and getting out and about but not all these are currently possible.

So what am I trying?

  • To get out everyday for fresh air and a walk with the kids and dogs
  • To spend some time on my yoga mat everyday, whether this is just sitting still for 5 minutes or doing an hours workout. I currently have some issues with dizziness and I am getting over a cold so some days all I can do is sit and I need to remember to be kind to myself and accept this.
  • I have ordered a wellness journal and I am hoping this will focus my mind on positivity and gratitude rather then negative self talk.
  • I am taking some vitamins, and looking a little more carefully at my diet, replacing fast food and easy sugary snacks with fresh fruit, salads and veg.
  • When the negative thoughts come I am trying to just let them be and let them go as I know this is the only way.
  • I have felt very up and down over the last few months and I am trying to learn to sit with the downs when they come and know that they are part of life, I know now that they do pass with time.
  • Making sure I get enough sleep
  • Drink more water, I have found a good way to do this is to drink warm water as it is easier on my sensitive teeth and is absorbed into the body more easily as it’s closer to body temperature. This has really helped to clear my head in the mornings.

I know we’re all finding the current climate tough, if anyone else has found anything that’s working for them then please share in the comments below.

Happy New year, I hope you’re all OK out there, you’re definitely not alone!

Stay Strong xxx

Adult ADHD

So the other day I tumbled down a bit of a rabbit hole and it ended up being a bit of a revelation for me.  Whilst doing a bit of research into kids yoga I stumbled across some information on ADHD and how it presents in adults.  

In the past – whether rightly or wrongly so – I’d always associated ADHD with kids bouncing off the walls. Even though I was a very active kid I wouldn’t of said I was anything on the extreme side but now I look back I can see signs of it from when I was younger; inability to concentrate or sit still, bad short term memory, constant fiddling with hair and anxiety to name just a couple of examples.

Then I started to look at the adult list;

  • Lack of focus
  • Disorganisation
  • procrastination
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impulsivity
  • Intolerance of small frustrations
  • Depression
  • Emotional issues
  • Poor self images – mostly as a result of the above
  • Lack of motivation
  • Neglecting health
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Tendency for addiction
  • Sensitivity to sugar
  • Higher risk of other mental health issues
  • Inability to stick to a project/task

Golly it was like looking in a mirror!  The only other time I’d really felt the same way was when I found out what OCD was and it was like ‘Wow, yep that’s me!’.

Obviously to a certain extent this is just new information and doesn’t change anything, but it does help me to understand myself better and it gives me a few more tools to throw into the mix to help.  It also allows me to put it up here in case there’s anyone else like me who’s going to read this and think, ‘wait a minute…’, I hope it does help someone!  

As with OCD one of the best things we can do is look after ourselves. Exercise seems to be right up there at the top of the list along with a clean and healthy diet which is rich in protein. Exercise releases endorphins and dopamine into the brain which help to regulate mood and improve attention. I’m also going to start looking into some memory improvement options too and work harder on my meditation as I’m terrible at getting myself to sit still, but I need it so badly!  

Once I have some more information I hope to write a follow up post but for now I just wanted to share what I have discovered.

As always,

Stay Strong xxx

Maintaining your mental health

This one I hate to say does not have an easy fix, it takes some commitment and a promise to yourself to be kind.  It needs to be worked at daily if you want to stay level and in control.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this, in the past it felt easier to self medicate with alcohol and drugs and just ignore issues but I tell you now from experience these quick fixes do not work.  If you don’t process your pain/anxiety/stress etc then it will most likely come out anyway, potentially when you’re not expecting it and you’re completely unable to control it.  By holding it in you can become tightly wound, touchy, stressed and probably not a very nice person to be around.

Now we all have an idea of what is good for us, even if we pretend not to, we know cigarettes are bad and too much alcohol will make us feel rough.  We know if we sleep in, only eat beige coloured food and do not exercise then we’re not going to feel great or have much energy, so then why is it so hard not to do these things?

Is society stacked against us?
This is such an interesting question and to a certain extent I think yes.  I think socially nowadays it’s really tough to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  So much of our culture revolves around drinking and eating and so opting out of these things can feel antisocial (which can have it’s own mental health impact).
When you walk into a supermarket a lot of the advertising is targeted towards the quick, easy fixes and highly processed foods which aren’t great for us.  Our lifestyles nowadays are hectic, trying to fit in as much as we can, work pressures, family pressures and the general pressure of society (and social media) to live a ‘perfect’ life.  As a result we run on auto pilot a lot of the time as doing things out of routine takes a bit more thought and brain power.  With our hectic lives there isn’t always enough time or energy left at the end of the day, generally if someone offers us a quick fix its just easier to take it.
In the short term it’s probably easier not to ‘be good’. We’ve all heard the phrases ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, ‘It’s Christmas’, ‘go on treat yourself’, ‘Don’t be boring’.  We all have good intentions but you have to be pretty strong to stick to them when society seems like it’s pretty much stacked against you.
Think though, if we’re constantly doing what we know subconsciously we shouldn’t be then our we always feeling subconsciously guilty?  I’ll leave that one for you to ponder. 
I was listening to an interview with Matt Haig the other day who was saying as a society we’re almost programmed to be slightly anxious so that businesses are able to sell us more products.  Think about it: makeup, face creams, hair products, cars, holidays the list goes on and on.  Your life will be complete when you have these things, you must need them, right?  Putting you into a constant state of unease and discontent.  
So what do you need to successfully change?
  1. Community/support
    I think it’s incredibly hard to succeed on your own, you really have to make a conscious decision to change and that can mean removing yourself from social groups which aren’t supportive and finding other like minded individuals.  I’m not sure of the stats but I would say you’re much more likely to succeed at something if you have the support of a friend or group of friends around you.
  2. Motivation
    You really have to want/need to do it.  A lot of my changes have come through health issues (so a need), my mental health is fragile and needs constant maintaining along with my gut health and so diet.  Even though my journey started as a need it has now become a want, I see the positive affects of the changes I’m making and I want to continue to benefit from them. My other huge motivation is my children.  I want to set a good example for them and make sure they have all the tools they need to be happy and healthy.
  3. Baby steps                                                                                                                            Don’t change everything at once, you will fail. There are probably a few things which will need to be all or nothing such as smoking – at some point you just have to say enough is enough – but don’t quit smoking the same day you go on a diet and join the gym!  Take it one step at a time and be kind to yourself, these are forever changes so there is plenty of time.
  4. Results                                                                                                                                           I have worked at my health (mental and physical) for a good 5 years now and it is a working progress, I don’t always get it right I go backwards as well as forwards but more recently I can see myself changing.  I feel calmer, happier, socially less anxious, freer almost.  I still have dark days and I know I have a long way to go, I’m not sure 100% is actually achievable for anyone but it’s nice to be heading in the right direction at least.
  5. Take time for yourself                                                                                                      Make sure you make time for yourself and treat yourself well, be as present as you can day to day and try to be mindful as much as possible.
I really think small incremental steps is the way forward, it’s not about, ‘in two months I’ll have lost a stone and be vegan’, it’s about adding in a short walk every other day to get some fresh air and exercise or making one vegetarian meal a week.  All of these small changes will add up over time,  Try not to get focused on big target dates, it’s all about the journey.
Stay Strong xxx

Brain Fog, Cured?

Just over a year ago I wrote a post on Brain fog.  It is something I have suffered with for a long time and something I was slowly trying to unravel the cause of.  Having done a bit of research into it, it was starting to become quite obvious why I suffered from it but trying to pin point exactly the changes I could make that would clear my head was a lot harder.

I’ve mentioned a few times on here that I have Ulcerative Colitis and I am convinced there is a link between my brain and gut health and so my mental and physical well being as well.

A few months ago I went for some intolerance testing (I wrote a blog post about this at the time) initially it felt all very overwhelming and I still haven’t managed to implement all of the suggested lifestyle changes however one change which I have pretty much (about 95% of the time) implemented is removing dairy from my diet – this seemed like the easiest initial step as I had eliminated lactose for a long time already.

Get to the point!  I hear you shouting.

So I have recently noticed that I very, very rarely get brain fog anymore, I’m not saying it’s gone completely but considering I used to get it EVERYDAY this is MASSIVE for me.

I should probably mention that I have also started taking a probiotic drink for gut health around the same time as eliminating dairy.  I personally believe that both changes will be improving my gut health by reducing inflammation and so in turn improving my mental health.

I am delighted that I am now able to focus better on things.  I feel more
involved in life and not like I’m constantly watching it go by from behind a fog.  I also have more energy and want to do things which is HUGE for me.

I realise that I still have work to do and that I still struggle some days but I am getting there and I am starting to work out what works for me which is great.

Stay Strong xxx

Mindfulness

So what feels like years ago I said something along the lines of,

‘I’m going to give mindfulness a go because I’ve dabbled in it and it seems to work’. 

So it was actually Oct 2017 and to be honest I haven’t really got any further along my mindfulness journey which is incredibly disappointing.

Recently I’ve been feeling incredibly stressed and anxious, my stomach problems have been getting worse and I’ve felt quite out of control – which I HATE – I don’t seem to be able to find a diet which suits me and I am struggling to think clearly as my mind fog comes and goes.  Even sitting myself down to write this blog post has been a challenge but I know it is important that I do.

So also about a year ago I downloaded a mindfulness app, it has a feature that lets you put in an alert so that every day you get a reminder to do just 5 minutes (initially) of mindfulness meditation, should be easy right?  Every evening I see it pop up on my phone and every evening I just ignore it and carry on with whatever I am doing – I obviously have no time for that.  Writing this now I know my husband is going to give me a hard time about this, I know alright, insert rolling eyes emoji here.  I also know he only does it because he loves me.

We are very self destructive as humans, we almost rebel against the things we know do us good.  We know we should eat well, exercise, drink in moderation, not smoke or do drugs, we should meditate and sleep for 8 hours each night etc etc.  So why don’t we do these things?  Is it because we think it makes us boring?  I know personally when I start  trying to do all these things I feel very overwhelmed and you have to be very determined as no one else seems to be doing them so there’s very little support.

I went round a friends house yesterday and out on the floor were two cakes and a bag of cookies and then the conversation was all about trying to loose weight.  What is wrong with us?  Does it just take a bit more effort and therefore we can’t be bothered?

Anyway I digress, this post was supposed to be about mindfulness meditation.  So this week when that notification on my phone pops up, an much as I know I’m not going to want to I’m going to try and take that five minutes and tune in with my body because I owe it to myself.

I will let you know how it goes, stay tuned and of course as always,

Stay Strong xxx

 

Hangry

So the definition of Hangry for those who aren’t sure is:

‘bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger’.

Now this is definitely something I’ve been ‘suffering’ from over the last fortnight.  As a result of some intolerance testing I had done (because of my Ulcerative colitis) I was advised to eliminate dairy, wheat, gluten and reduce my intake of some other foods like oats and soya, honestly the list was pretty substantial and very overwhelming.

I hadn’t really expected there to be a mental backlash from these tests, in fact I was expecting to feel quite positive about the outcome, maybe there would be something I could work on to improve my health?

However what I actually experienced was:

  1. The initial depression which hit straight away from having to eliminate so many foods.
  2. Having not seen a dramatic improvement, there’s an element of feeling like I’m making huge sacrifices for very small benefits, very discouraging.
  3. It’s super disheartening when you go out as you can’t find anything to eat and the thing you normally end up having is something you don’t even want just so you can eat something!
  4. but the one that has hit me this last week is the anxiety.  I believe this has come as a result of constantly feeling hungry and unsatisfied and therefore too much adrenaline being released into my body.

When your body feels hungry your adrenal glands release adrenaline to keep you going until you can eat again.  It boosts heart rate, blood pressure and energy levels which is great in an emergency situation but if this is happening constantly throughout the day you’re body doesn’t know what to do and you are just in a constant state of anxiety.  

My anxiety hadn’t been up at that level for a long time, I had no patience, I was teary, snappy, feeling overwhelmed constantly and like I couldn’t cope, getting out was really stressful and to be honest I was feeling like I needed to go to the doctors and get myself on some medication as I couldn’t seem to get my head sorted.

I hadn’t felt like that for years and so I went and ordered myself a big meal full of all the things I shouldn’t eat as a last attempt to feel better and you know what almost instantly my head felt clearer, my stomach not so much unfortunately but yesterday I had to prioritise my mental health and as a result today I actually feel human again today.

It has been incredibly scary for me to feel so out of control after having a good handle on my mental health for a good few years now, I really need to be more careful before making big changes and just removing things from my diet, I have definitely learnt my lesson.

Mental and physical health is such a balancing act, food and eating well is a huge part of this, the last fortnight has been a scary reminder of this.

Stay Strong xxx

It’s all about balance

So I’ve chatted about my UC (ulcerative colitis) a few times on this blog, I’ve suffered with it for most of my life along with my OCD.  My diet has always been a bit of a balancing act for me and like probably with most people if I eat a lot of ‘junky’ type foods I know I’m going to suffer the next day.

For a while now I’ve removed lactose from my diet which has helped but more recently I’ve been advised to remove all dairy, wheat, egg and gluten, wow!  This really hit me hard, I already knew how hard just removing lactose was but I had found ways to make it work but then to have to remove two entire food groups and lots of foods I really enjoy – like cheese – was a real blow. It took me about two weeks to actually start to get my head around it, I really thought before the tests that I would feel positive afterwards and that they would give me something to work towards but actually surprisingly that isn’t how I felt at all.

So over the last month I’ve bumbled through at home and I do think I feel slightly better HOWEVER there has to be a balance for me because of my mental health.  One of the hardest things about cutting out lots of food groups is that it makes going out for lunch, dinner etc incredibly difficult, in fact I find most of the time there is only one thing I can actually have on the menu and even then I normally have to remove the sauce (the nice bit) to make it work.  It makes me not want to go to restaurants, to eat food that I don’t even want.  I know how important getting out and socialising is for my mental health so where does this leave me?  Well to be honest currently I’m not sure, this is the conversation I’m having in my head today.

Do I go and meet my friends for lunch and eat something I’m not going to enjoy or stay in and have a more enjoyable lunch but not see my friends?  This dilemma is coming up more and more for me and it’s tough.

So do I put my mental health or physical health first?  Of course we know that neither can work without the other and so I need to find a balance, not sure where that is yet but I’m working on it.

life is all about balance, anything done to the extreme is normally unsustainable and life isn’t black and white.  We’re all looking for that quick fix but unfortunately life doesn’t work like that.

If anyone else is experiencing anything similar and has any advice then please comment and let me know and as always,

Stay Strong xxx