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
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
- Intolerance of small frustrations
- 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.
Stay Strong xxx
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?
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
I cannot speak highly enough about yoga, I flipping love it! I have done it for years just as a hobby really but it’s benefits for me are huge. It relaxes me, improves my mental head space, it gets me more in tune with my body, it also helps with my Ulcerative Colitis, it strengthens my body and improves my flexibility, the benefits are endless. If you’re struggling mentally for whatever reason or actually even if you’re not and you’ve never given yoga a go then you should really try it.
More recently I haven’t been doing as much exercise in general (this includes yoga) mainly because of a lack of time and energy (having just had a baby recently) but I am just starting to feel like I can get my head back into it and I have been bringing myself right back to the basics. It’s amazing how much you can forget, even the small things like how to breath properly and hold your core muscles. The foundations are so important – in everything not just yoga – you have to put in the time and effort at the start to make sure you reap the benefits at the end. Like with mental health recovery it is a marathon not a sprint but boy is it worth it in the end.