Post Lockdown Anxiety

So how is everyone?

Sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve managed to find the time to write something, I’ve been meaning too but full time childcare and yoga teacher training has taken over my life for the last few weeks and I just seem to have no time at all!

So lockdown is finally easing in the UK and this is good news right?  Well yes of course it is but unfortunately for me I have really noticed my anxiety about getting out and about has gone through the roof.  I am an introvert with OCD so not a great combo to start with, add in Covid-19 and well you’ve got an anxiety inducing nightmare for me.

I have worked incredibly hard over the last 2-5 years to build up the courage to do just simple things like; drive to new places, go to the supermarket, meet friends at playgroups and now it feels a little like I’ve gone backwards.

I haven’t managed to get out with the kids without my husband or mother in tow yet which makes me extremely sad.  When my second child was born it took me 7 months before I had the courage to get out on my own with the two kids so this is a bit of a blow for me.  I have friends who have never had mental health issues before who are feeling the anxiety at the moment so I realise it’s probably to be expected that it’s going to hit me a bit harder but still it’s a tough pill to swallow.

There’s also a sort of loneliness about getting out at the moment, in the past we would always be going out to meet friends and socialise but the kids are a bit small to understand social distancing currently.

So I guess I go back to taking baby steps and being kind to myself, I need to remember all the tools that are so useful when things get overwhelming.  Simple things like mindfulness, remembering to breath and even just putting a smile on your face can help.  Eating and sleeping well, not drinking and trying to get some exercise in where you can.

I think it will be a while before I manage to get to a shopping centre but the local park should be achievable right?  I know I am lucky in so many ways and these are the things to focus on for now, the rest will come over time.

I wonder if anyone else is feeling like this?  Hopefully my post will make you feel a little less alone if you are.

Let’s all try and be kind to ourselves in what is the strangest of times,

As always, Stay Strong xxx

 

Trying to Find Some Calm

To be honest I think I’ve stumbled at the first hurdle with this one when I’ve said ‘trying’ to relax.  Surely you’re not fully relaxed if you’re ‘trying’ to be.  Being truly relaxed is something that happens when we don’t even notice and so probably impossible to orchestrate and therefore out of reach for so many of us who want to be able to control everything, argh!!!!

So what can we do to set us towards this state without forcing it?  That is the million dollar question!

I’m going to start with making a list of things I enjoy doing and that I know make me feel calmer and do more of these things:

  • Spending time with my family
  • Being outside
  • Having the house tidy and organised
  • Eating well
  • Exercising – Doing Yoga
  • Watching comedy and laughing

On top of knowing what you enjoy doing having some good coping mechanisms in place is important.  Such as being able to deal with any situation that comes your way in a calm manner, this does take a lot of practice.  It involves being able to adapt and accept that you cannot control everything or everyone around you.  It also means you have to be able to let other peoples shit – which will be sent your way occasionally – wash over you and not effect your calm.  Some people will not be as emotionally mature as you are and that is their issue not yours.

If we don’t want to remove ourselves from society completely then we must find the best ways to deal with the situations life throws at us which we cannot predict, control or change.  Life is a roller coaster, there will be bad days as well as good, sad times as well as happy and if we can try to put a positive slant on every situation then we will be able to cope better.  Even the toughest times in life will teach us something.

Try and eliminate worry from your life, it is completely pointless.  Worrying about a situation doesn’t improve it, change it or help in any way.  If you are worrying about something and there is something you can do to change it then DO IT.  If there is nothing that can be done then you have to just let it go, know what will be will be and get back to living in the moment rather then the past or the future.  Worry really does spoil any calm you might have cultivated so don’t let it!

Write a gratitude list when you’re feeling low and appreciate all the things you have.  Always striving for the next thing and not stopping to appreciate what you already have is never going to bring you happiness and it’s very exhausting.

Life is full on nowadays and it can be difficult to switch off at times but finding the quiet in all the chatter is important for your brain, how can you relax unless you have time to stop for a moment?  Meditation is brilliant for this, unfortunately I think a lot of people hear the word ‘meditation’ and start to tune out, either because they feel they ‘don’t have the time’, or it’s a bit ‘hippie dippie’ for them.  I’ve thought both of these things in the past and I admit I still find it hard to find time to just ‘meditate’ and be with myself.  I manage to attach some mediation to my yoga practice and this feels a bit less intense to me but it can definitely be hard if you’re not a fan of your own company (and many of those suffering with mental illness aren’t) to find time to just be with yourself.

Mindfulness can be a smaller step in this direction and much easier to do immediately, just focus in on anything around you even just your breathing and off you go!

I hope you have a few more ideas on how to help find your calm and be more relaxed now.

As always, Stay Strong xxx

 

The chatter

I’m pretty sure this is something that we all suffer with and if you don’t then you are incredibly lucky.  My internal chatter has been pretty loud of late, it’s something that I am incredibly aware of and have been for a long time because of my OCD.  Anyone with OCD will have a very loud internal chatterbox, it’s so hard to escape the noise inside your own head!

I have become pretty good at quietening mine down with practice over time.  Nowadays I try to speak more positively to myself, I have become very aware of my pessimistic,  glass half empty attitude so I have been pro actively trying to be more positive and change my natural thinking patterns.  I have been being pretty successful and have had some really great days but one place I don’t seem able to tune out the negative chatter is at work.

I went back to work about 5 months ago after having my second child.  Whilst I was off there have been a lot of changes to the way we work and I am struggling to keep up with the pace (or so my mind keeps telling me), my boss is amazing and all the stress is self imposed but I can’t seem to get myself out of this hate cycle where I just think I can’t do my job anymore even though I’ve been there for nearly 9 years now!  I have HUGE episodes of impostor syndrome where I just feel like everyone thinks I’m ridiculous and can’t do my job and the amount of times I thought about leaving as surely someones going to notice I can’t do my job at some point soon anyway!

I have made such huge strides forwards in my personal life and OCD recovery but work wise I just can’t seem to think positively.  It’s a huge vicious circle as well, as the time I spend worrying I’m not actually focusing on work!

So what to do about all this?  It’s a good question, I think to start a list of all the reasons to give myself a break and be a bit kinder to myself:

  • I’ve had 2 babies in the last 3 years and have had two years off work, its going to take a bit of time to get back up to speed
  • I only work part time now and don’t have the same amount of time to commit to work anymore
  • You’ve done your job for 9 years, you are able to do it
  • All the pressure is self imposed and is only coming from you
  • If you focus your mind on the new work rather then worrying about it you will be able to do it quicker – stop worrying, start doing
  • Be realistic about what is possible and stop trying to be perfect, you’re not going to keep up with the 18 years old’s who have all the time in the world!
  • Try to add in some daily relaxation
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Use positive affirmations – you can do it.

I’m pretty sure if one of my friends came and talked to me about the same situation I would tell them to be a lot kinder to themselves and stop expecting perfection.  Why are we so hard on ourselves?

Hopefully I can put some of this plan into action and start enjoying work again soon!  I hope some of this is helpful to others out there too, we probably all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves.

Happy new year all (can I still say that or is the 16th too late?), here’s to a fab 2020, and as always,

Stay Strong xxx

 

Just smile

OCD and anxiety can be so isolating at times and the more time you spend alone the stronger their hold on you becomes.  One of the things we need to fight constantly is to keep going out to places, being social and interacting with people.  This of course is more easily said then done.

One of my biggest hang ups has always been supermarkets, I hate them.  I hate the carparks full of people walking in any direction they fancy, the busyness inside, people walking into you with their trolleys, having to make decisions on food choices and
ignore all the associated OCD thoughts.  I will admit for a long time I avoided them completely, I’ve only recently started to go back into them now and I still wouldn’t dream of doing a whole weeks shop.  This is something I’m working on and in the mean time I am so grateful for online shopping!
Anyway I’m digressing, if you are an OCD or anxiety sufferer I am sure you have places that trigger similar thoughts for you, whether it be the car, driving, shopping centres, wherever.

Unfortunately there’s never an easy fix for these things (sorry!) and what we have to do is reprogram our minds and get to the root of what is so anxiety inducing about these situations.  I know for me there are a lot of OCD triggers in supermarkets but I am slowly working my way through them, taking time to breath when someone knocks into me and knowing I will be OK. Picking up the first carrot I see rather then wondering what each little mark on it may be and giving myself time to let the anxiety fade as I know we cannot stay in an elevated state permanently.

A new strategy I’ve recently learned which I am starting to try in the hope it will help is to smile, sounds simple I know.

The brain is suspended in darkness and can only react to the feedback it receives from the senses.  If you are heading towards a situation that would normally make you anxious or you are experiencing some anxiety/OCD thoughts for whatever reason then try  and smile your way through it.  It is reassuring for the brain, it thinks you are happy and it helps to reprogram your automatic responses to situations.
There’s also the added benefit that a lot of the time if someone sees you smiling then they will smile back and then you get more positive reinforcement for your brain that you are safe and happy and that there is no need to trigger any fight or flight anxiety inducing responses.

It’s so simple and so easy to do and can be so powerful.  I know sometimes smiling probably feels like the last thing you want to do but just give it a try, I know I’m going to.
I hope it helps and as always,

Stay strong xxx

Dealing with anxiety

Over the last year anxiety has become my constant friend, everything seems to trigger it and though I continue to try and push myself to do things – knowing that I have to go through it to get better – it really doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and so I find myself thinking, ‘will it just always be there?‘.

This is a very scary thought but is it a realistic one?  So many things seem to trigger it and so how am I ever going to get to a stage where I can just, not be anxious?  Sometimes I’m not even sure why it’s there at all?  If I’m in a new situation, meeting someone new or in an unfamiliar place I get it but why would I feel anxious when trying to decide what to cook for tea?  Or getting ready to go out for the day or even just walking along the pavement?

Are we all just a bit more anxious nowadays? 

Life is incredibly busy and we do put so much pressure on ourselves to be – or at least appear to be – perfect.  Is social media to blame?  Do we honestly think that everyone else has it ‘sorted’?  Are we afraid of looking weak or less than?  Do we think others will judge us?  Why does it matter if they do?  Or is there just some deep bedded shit from our past that we have to work through?

I’m personally not sure how we are supposed to process this stuff but being aware of it I would guess is the first step.  Ultimately you’re trying to reprogram things that have been ingrained in you for years and this takes a lot of work and being present, you can’t just expect the body to change without being conscious of what it is doing.  So how do we tune into our bodies more?

Yoga

I have recently upped my yoga attendance as I find this practice really helps me tune into my body, I have done yoga for years but more recently it has taken on a new meaning to me.  I used to go for exercise, to increase my flexibility and to help with my sciatic pain but I almost feel like I used to do it mindlessly, just following the instructors commands and not really understanding the affect the postures have on the body.  The meditation at the end I just used to find boring and I didn’t really get the point of it but now I tune into my body and feel it buzzing with energy after a practice, something which has made me cry on more then one occasion!  I am so obsessed with Yoga now that I am doing my teacher training next year and can’t wait to understand more about the practice.  I would highly recommend it to anyone feeling anxious.

Mindfulness

We need to live outside of our heads more and not be consumed by our thoughts. It is far too easy to live mindlessly day to day, our mind actually helps us to live mindlessly by putting our daily activities into routines so we can do things without really thinking about them.  Does this sound familiar:

Get up, eat breakfast, shower, brush teeth, get in car, drive to work, switch PC on, etc, etc

How many new thoughts did you have along the way?  The mind thinks it’s helping you out by taking the thinking out of your repetitive daily activities but actually it’s doing you a disservice as you are mindlessly moving through life.  Try and mix up your morning routine, or any routine if you can.  Drive/walk a different route to work or change what you have for breakfast so you are consciously making decisions and being more mindful.

Meditation

Here’s one that’s supposed to be transformative but to be honest I struggle with this one too!  I will do anything to try and avoid it or ‘not have the time’ for it.  It’s so important to try and tune into your body and notice how you are feeling, this is how we pick up on the little things the body is trying to tell us.  I am going to try harder at this one.

Less sugar and caffeine

Trying to keep your body in equilibrium so it’s not spiking and dipping all day is also really important but again another really tricky one which I’m not great at either, I really do love my coffee.  Maybe moderation and baby steps is the way to look at this one to make it achievable?

Spend less time on your phone and more time in the real world

I probably don’t need to explain this one, we all know we do it and just reducing it maybe before bedtime, during meal times for first thing in the morning will have a positive effect.  Technology is part of life, like food this one is all about moderation and knowing when you’ve been on your phone too long.

Get outside more

Again this one is probably pretty obvious but try your best to spend at least part of your day outside, even if it’s just a walk at lunch time and take some deep breaths while your out there!

Be kind to yourself

Look after yourself and don’t beat yourself up, you’re doing your best and you won’t always get it right but as long as you’re trying that’s all you can ask of yourself.

I’m still working on some of these myself but I’m really hoping my anxiety levels are going to start to improve over the next few months. I think a lot of the time we know what we should be doing but actually making the changes seems hard work,  Just take one step at a time and don’t expect radical changes these things happen slowly, we are trying to change habits which have been formed over a lifetime and that’s going to take some work.

As always,

Stay Strong xxx

You’re not going to win everyday!

Life is full of up and downs and I think we probably all know this, so why then do we give ourselves such a hard time on the days we aren’t quite ‘feeling it’?

As a mother of two, who works part time and is studying as well I often feel like I’m not quite doing everything up to my self imposed ‘standards’.  I beat myself up if I’m not cooking from scratch or I’ve forgotten to buy the present for Jamie’s birthday party on the weekend but ultimately I just need to give myself a break.

You’re not going to ‘nail it’ every day no matter who you are I promise!  We all need to remember this, there will be days where everything goes to plan and you feel like you’re winning at life but there will also be days when nothing seems to go your way and for some reason you’re feeling a bit crappy about yourself or life.  You know what that’s OK, that’s what makes you human and the world is not going to fall apart if you have an off day.

I think it’s very easy to catastrophise the bad days and forget about the good ones.  We are very often our own worst enemies and we have to stop doing it and be kinder to ourselves, I know I definitely do!

How to help with the bad days

  • I know on the bad days it’s incredibly hard to think positively so maybe do some prep in advance for when they hit.
  • Write a list of the good things in your life so you can read it through when you’re feeling low
  • Make a list of the things you have achieved and if you do something that makes you feel good write it down so you can re visit it when you feel down.
  • If you’re fatigued/burnt out then allow yourself to rest and don’t feel guilty about it – I’m terrible at this – you are allowed some down time.
  • Talk to people, I’m sure they will have a much better opinion of you then you do of yourself on a bad day, they’ll help you remember how amazing you are.
  • If you’re feeling mentally low then get out of the house and get moving, exercise can normally help shift a bad mood.
  • Don’t look on social media and compare yourself to others – this is a highlights reel which is not achievable.
  • Socialise – loneliness is your worst enemy and will only make you feel worse
  • Know what makes you happy and do it even if you don’t feel like it, this is exactly what I do when I feel low now.  Even if I don’t feel with it mentally I make myself physically go through the motions, so I’ll go for a walk, eat something I enjoy, talk to someone, socialise with friends, exercise, eat healthily, write blog post.  Basically all the things I know help me and eventually one of them will start to work.
  • Be kind to yourself – give yourself a hug, you’re doing great.  

I have had low periods for as long as I can remember and some times they last for several days but you know what I’ve learnt from experience, they always, ALWAYS pass and if you do the right things they’ll pass quicker.

I hope today at least you’re all having a good day,

Stay Strong xxx

 

 

Anxiety

I think anxiety has been part of my life for as long as OCD if not longer. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt completely relaxed, always questioning myself and my abilities, always thinking I’m not good enough and trying to please others. I naturally put myself down and the other day I even talked my boss out of promoting me at work because I didn’t think the people I would be managing would respect me enough to see me as senior! I’ve also noticed recently that I hold my breath, all the time which I’m currently leaning is terrible for anxiety.

I have created so many negative patterns over the years – similar to my last blog with the self defeating thoughts – that I’m surprised I’m still surviving to be honest.  I’ve even been tempted to give up this blog a few times as, “I know I’ve never been good at writing and who would want to read what I have to say anyway”.

I’m pretty sure a lot of my issues – particularly the breathing ones – stem from when I was young. I had terrible teachers at primary school, a terrifying father who
I just wanted to please all the time so that he wouldn’t loose his temper and just no good role models to show me good habits.  So here I am at 34 trying to wade through all the sh*t. Letting go of things which are very deeply rooted, some maybe even completely hidden from me still seems like an impossible task but I’m slowly trying to chip away at it day after day.

I’m guessing we’ve probably all got a bit of baggage stored up somewhere, if you’ve managed to get to where you are in life without any then you’ve done extremely well and please let me know the answer! Some people I think are calmer and find things easier to let go of or flow over them (this is what I’m working on). Other people probably don’t even realise that the reason they loose their temper so quickly or grind their teeth at night is probably rooted in something subconscious. Some people simply don’t want to face their issues and other perhaps can’t or don’t feel strong enough to.  It’s definitely not an easy road that’s for sure.

My ‘baggage’ for want of a better word started to make me ill; OCD, anxiety, UC, so I didn’t really have a choice but to look at things.  I am trying with this blog, therapy, diet, exercise, breath work and meditation to work through my issues but even I’m scared to open some of the doors to what I know is going to be horribly hard. There’s also a fear there particularity with the OCD that I will get pulled back in and that is absolutely terrifying.  Some days I feel like I’m clinging on and I might slip back, other days I feel strong and can face exposing myself to my past. The journey is long and bumpy but somehow I have to stay on it.

So I started this post about anxiety and how I feel like it’s connected to my breath, I’m currently going through a book, ‘And Breathe’, by Rebecca Dennis, which I would highly recommend as I believe it has helped me already. Just understanding how breathing properly can help you control your emotions and anxieties when they hit is the most fantastic tool.  I have been feeling more energised and positive just by doing 20 minutes breathing practice a night, it is nice to feel a little bit more in control and to have the energy and motivation to want to cook more healthily and exercise more.

I hope you’re all doing well this week,

Stay Strong xxx

Subconsciously self-defeating

Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘You’re your own worst enemy’?  Well I’ve definitely got that one down.  I’ve become so good at it in fact that I now do it subconsciously!  It wasn’t until very recently – whilst going round a supermarket – that I could hear myself saying:

‘You’re really stressed out’

‘I feel so anxious’

‘Why is this so hard?’ 

‘Don’t look at anyone, head down and just get what you need’

Of course if you then add in all the OCD thoughts on top:

‘That looks a bit like blood’

‘That person just knocked me, what if I’ve caught something from them?’

‘I had a bad thought when I picked that carrot up, maybe I should put that one back and pick another one?’

‘Are the ingredients in this going to give me cancer?

you get the gist, completely exhausting.

So basically I go round day after day giving myself a hard time and pretty much setting myself up to fail from the outset.  My mind is constantly telling me that I’m not good enough, I can’t cope and that I’m feeling anxious.  I really don’t stand a chance and to top it off most of the time I’m doing it without even realising!

When I realised I was doing this I did try to turn the phrases around and speak more positively and kindly to myself but of course I have to notice that I’m doing it before I can be proactive about it.

I think we probably all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves, I mean if we can’t be kind to ourselves then what chance do we stand and yet I bet most of us are our own worst critic.

I am going to try and think of 5 things each night that I like about myself and when I look in the mirror I’m going to try and look at the things I do like about myself rather then the things I don’t.  Trying to change the habit of a life time is not going to be easy though, so many things happen without me even realising.

Why are we so hard on ourselves anyway?

Over the years I have found that in general people don’t want to hear good things, it almost feels like you’re boasting if you say ‘well my relationship is great and I love my husband very much’, people just don’t want to hear it.
People seem to like to moan and then moan to each other about each other, what
is with that?
Society seems pretty broken when I think of situations like this.  It takes a very secure and happy person to be truly happy for someone else and I don’t think many people are there themselves so how can they feel it for other people?

We all need to work on our happiness and be a bit kinder to ourselves.  Maybe try saying some of the following to yourself.

  1. I deserve to be happy
  2. I am in control of my own happiness
  3. I am blessed with wonderful family and friends
  4. I possess the qualities needed to be successful
  5. I am beautiful
  6. I love myself and who I am (generally a really hard one for people with OCD  but so important for recovery.)

I hope they help, as always

Stay Strong xxx

 

OCD – Responsibility

I expect there is an official term for this type of OCD but I’m not aware of it.  Basically it’s intrusive thoughts which occur when asking other people to do things for you.

for example: Say I asked my husband to go and pick something up from the shop for me, I would then have intrusive thoughts about all the things that could potentially happen to him on the way or whilst he’s there and I would then feel responsible for those things: I asked him to go, he’s only there because of me. Therefore I am responsible for anything that happens to him during this time.

This is another way OCD can isolate you very successfully, not only are you scared to go out yourself because of your OCD thoughts and anxieties, but you also become scared to ask anyone to help you in any way in case something happens to them, making you feel more and more alone.  OCD is such a bully, it wants you to be alone and suffering in your mental torment forever.  It can also make you come across as indecisive as you internally struggle with whether to get someone to drop the kids off at school or pick something up from the shops on the way home.

Unfortunately I don’t have an easy answer for this one either, sorry.  You just have to be stronger than it somehow.

  • Distraction is probably a good method, ask someone to do something and then do everything you can to keep yourself busy.
  • Having the knowledge that the other person has their own free will and that you cannot control everything.  I think that’s a big one with OCD and anxiety, you have to accept that you cannot control or know the outcome to everything and actually you probably wouldn’t want to given the choice.
  • Practice your mindfulness, be in the moment now and not in the unknown future worrying about things that will probably never happen.
  • Ride it out, anxiety can only be at it’s peak for a limited time, your body cannot sustain it for too long so breath and know it will pass.
  • Don’t catastrophise – which you obviously have if you’re in this situation.
  • Talk to someone, it could even be the person you’re worrying about.

Hopefully some of the above can help, I work on these things daily and slowly things get easier but it’s a long old road and some days it’s definitely tougher than others.  Remember you’re not alone and as always

Stay Strong xxx

 

Breathing

So I’ve done Yoga for many years and for anyone who’s done Yoga at all you’ll be aware that there’s normally a bit of meditation involved and some deep breathing and to be honest I normally find this part a bit dull.  I’ve also been on courses where I’ve learnt about the importance of breathing to get through fight or flight and all about the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system and how to balance them, I’ve learnt about heart math and it’s benefits and I’ve even blogged on here for over two years about how important breathing and mindfulness is but it wasn’t until today whilst listening to a Happy Place podcast with Rebecca Dennis that the impact of my breath on my entire life really hit me.

A good few years ago when I first met my husband he used to say to me quite often:

‘You’re holding your breath again’

Now, I just used to find this ‘pointless’ information annoying but today it REALLY hit me that this is actually the root of all my issues.  This is why yoga and meditation when I do them actually help me A LOT.  I hold my breath literally all the time, I’m doing it NOW, whilst writing this post, I can feel myself doing it!

I honestly think this is going to change my life.  I have been doing my meditations more (admittedly not everyday) but even that is starting to help and I am definitely going to continue with it.

Just stopping now and listening to my breath, its not smooth its not even, I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long to be honest!

I am sure I will need to do some work on what has caused me to hold my breath in this way but at least now I am aware of it and I can move forward.

Hopefully this will help someone else too,

Stay Strong xxx