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

Beating OCD Top Tips

So this year I haven’t managed to post as often as I’d like, Covid-19 and my yoga course have taken most of attention and I do find the OCD isn’t affecting me as much.  Is this because I am so busy?  Partly I think yes but I am definitely not naïve enough to think it has gone away completely.  Some days I can feel it there at the back of my mind, ready to come back with a vengeance when things calm down and this is quite a scary thought.  

So I wanted you all to know that I haven’t forgotten about you and hopefully the yoga will come together with this blog to give me more tools to help us all in conquering OCD completely.  

I’ve looked back over the stats for the year and still right out in front is the post I wrote on Pure O and False memory OCD. It has double the views of any other post and to be honest having had OCD it’s pretty obvious why it’s up there in front.

I think Pure O and false memory OCD are arguably the worst parts of having OCD, they’re completely hidden from view so people don’t know they’re happening and the thoughts are so terrifying at times that just the idea of uttering them to another living sole can be completely debilitating.  In fact OCD works in a way that it will find your deepest, darkest fears and go to town, making you feel like the worst person alive – you’re not by the way.  

Here are a few things to remember;

  • The first thing is that OCD likes you alone and isolated, it wants to be your only ‘friend’. Laughable isn’t it, OCD is probably the worst friend you could possibly have, the one who just takes from you and only gives you shit in return, if we had a friend like that in real life we would get rid of them pronto! It might not feel like it at times but you are separate from your OCD and you can be in control of it.
  • However hard it is you must try and speak to someone, even if initially it’s just yourself.  This might sound odd but I’ve found even by verbalising the thoughts out loud their power is reduced. I think most of the time we know the thoughts aren’t real and so by saying them out loud  it can reinforce this.   
  • Always remember everyone has these thoughts! You should take comfort not fear in the fact that the thoughts repel you and make you uncomfortable, this is the natural reaction and 100% means you would never act on them.  
  • Believe in yourself, you are not a bad person – self love is essential for recovery.  
  • Be mindful and live in the now, it is all we have, your version of the past only exists in your mind.
  • Avoid alcohol and other mind numbing substances, they are only short term fix’s and will actually make the thoughts worse overall.
  • Write it down – when I started this blog it was for the purpose of passing on helpful tips to others struggling but surprisingly it has also become a form of therapy for me as well.  Putting things on here detaches them from myself, allowing me to look at them more objectively.  
  • Remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, I still have very dark days but I am far enough into my journey now to know that that feeling doesn’t last forever and the darkness does lift – even though at times it feels like it won’t.  
  • You are not alone – though at times you will feel like you are – around 750 thousand people suffer from OCD in the UK and that stat is closer to 2.2 million in the US.

Wishing you all the best Christmas and New Year, I’ll see you in 2021!

Lets hope it’s a good one!  
As always,
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

The mental implications of lockdown and isolating

So somehow, it’s now September and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to sit down, collect my thoughts and actually try and write something.  It’s been a tough old time heading back to work with my husband having to work away and me still having to look after my children.  I’ve felt my motivation dwindling, my patience disappearing and my positivity hard to keep hold of.  My kids went back to preschool last week and managed a day, yes just one day before my little boy had a cough, could we get a Covid-19 test?  Nope, nothing anywhere and so just when I thought things were getting back to normal, bang we’re back at home, stuck in again!  This was a big blow and I’m not going to lie pretty much broke me last week, I’ve been an emotional mess with my mental health incredibly fragile ever since. 

I’ve honestly been a bit worried about myself more recently, I’ve started to feel quite trapped and have pretty low depressive thoughts, I’ve been crying a lot and unable to focus.  I’ve also seen a return of my sciatic pain which is pretty emotionally draining as well.  Sorry if this all sounds a bit dark but I wanted to be honest about things as I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this way.  The mental impact of everything going on at the moment and the pressure being put on parents in particular is extraordinary and I honestly feel there’s only so long the government can expect people to go on in this way.  

So, deep breath, let’s try and be a bit more positive and look at how to refocus myself. 

This is what I’ve come up with;

Step one – Find a way to give myself a bit more time/space

I’ve done this by increasing my son’s days at preschool.  This has been a difficult decision but he’s been off with me for six months now and his behaviour has deteriorated more recently, he needs the structure and I need a bit of breathing space to make the time we do get to spend together more fun.

Step two – Exercise

For me this is my Yoga, it has always helped with my focus, my sciatic pain and also my mental health, it needs to be part of my daily routine and this should be non-negotiable.  

Step Three – Be kinder to myself

I have beaten myself up so much over the last few weeks/months; ‘I’m not a fun mum’, ‘I’m letting them down’, ‘why can’t I cope, when everyone else can’, ‘I should be able to do this’, ‘why don’t I want to spend all my time with my kids’, etc, etc.  Why do we do it to ourselves?  At the end of the day we’re all doing our best and I love my kids more then anything, I know that.  I need to stop the negative chatter when I notice it and replace it with positive words instead.  ‘I’m doing my best’, ‘We do lots of fun things and the kids are happy, ‘no one is perfect and Instagram isn’t a reflection of real life.’, ‘you are good enough’.

Step Four – Stop looking at the news

Let’s face it, there’s nothing good on there!  As long as I know the rules to follow, I don’t need to know anything else! 

Step Five – Breath

So simple but most of us aren’t doing it right, we need to take time to check in with our bodies each day, in fact most of us our breathing backwards!  This was a complete revelation to me when I was told.

Take a deep breath in now

Did your chest raise and your tummy go in?  Yep that’s backwards breathing! 

When you breath in your chest should expand and your belly go out, like you would see a baby/child do.  Over the years we start to breath into the top of our rib cage and suck our belly’s in – as is socially acceptable nowadays – well this is wrong, wrong, wrong!  No wonder we’re all so flipping anxious.    

Step Six – Eat well

We need to fuel our bodies well and reduce things we know will affect our mood like, caffeine, alcohol, sugar etc. 

Step Seven – Sleep well

We need to get enough sleep to make sure we can function properly and enable us to implement all the other steps above, good sleep is the key to so much.

I’m betting most of these things aren’t relations to you, but sometimes implementing them all can get a bit overwhelming and I’m right there with you, this is not easy, if it was, we’d all be feeling great.  Annoyingly some sort of discipline is required to remain in equilibrium and so we should aim to do our best but not to set unachievable targets which are just going to make us feel rubbish when we don’t meet them!    

Look at the list above and find the quickest win, mine was finding some more time for myself by extending my sons preschool days but maybe it could be going to bed half an hour earlier, or sitting when you wake up in the morning for 2 minutes and listening to your breath.  It could be swapping one chocolate bar for an apple each day or changing one of your caffeinated drinks for a decafe.  Make it achievable and then you will feel like you have succeeded and that you’re heading in the right direction.  Small quick wins which are sustainable, that’s the key! 

Even writing this is giving me hope that I can start to take some small steps towards making myself feel better.  I know it’s been a long slog and we’re not out of it yet but you’re not alone and never forget to

Stay Strong xxx

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

 

Conquering OCD Turns Three!

So conquering OCD is three years old today and that’s a pretty momentous thing for me.  Thank you to to everyone who follows me I so appreciate your support.  Passing 100 followers towards the end of 2019 was a pretty magical moment for me as it was always a little target I had.

When I started this blog it was mainly to try and share some of the things I’d learnt along my OCD journey.  Things that had helped me in the hope that it would be able to help others too.  Unexpectedly for me it has also turned into a sort of therapy tool, somewhere I have come to process my thoughts, make sense of them, separate myself from them and then turn them into something useful to share with others – wow, I really didn’t see what one coming.

Over the last 18 months I haven’t spent as much time writing posts as I’d have liked, this is for two reasons I think:

  1. A very busy home life
  2. I haven’t been suffering as much with my OCD as I used to, yay!  I’m not a therapist so I don’t like to just preach, I like to have experienced something.  Then I am able to share how I made my way through it and out the other side, then hopefully that can help someone else too.

I have started my yoga teacher training now, which is amazing.  I’m hoping in the future I will be able to share some of the skills and practice I am learning to help deal with calming the mind and relaxation – we definitely all need a bit more of that at the moment.

For now, thanks again and as always,

Stay Strong xxx

Looking after your mental health

So a lot has been happening in the world since I last posted on here.  This is a terribly anxious time for us all regardless of whether you have a mental illness or not but if you are already trying to deal with something then this could be a particularly tough time.

I know a lot of my coping strategies have had to go out of the window recently because of social distancing and isolating and this is difficult.  I know if I look at the news too much or overthink what is going on I start to spiral and so I am doing what I can to stay informed without loosing myself in it all.

Things that have helped me so far:

Limiting News – Just reading headlines once a day – stay informed but don’t consume too much media

Distraction – whatever you enjoy doing (in the house of course), use it to distract yourself from your thoughts.  A few ideas are as follows:  Reading, writing, playing an instrument, watching Netflix, baking, playing with your kids, playing a game, creating, crafting, colouring, yoga, online exercise classes, FaceTime, WhatsApp, zoom, cleaning, gardening.

Mindfulness – This can be really simple things such as: feeling the sun on your skin in the garden, hearing your kids laughing, feeling the ground beneath your feet, bake something and smell the aroma.  Whatever you choose to tune into, do it multiple times a day and really feel and be in that moment.

Meditation – If you can meditate.  I know people find this one hard, I also find it difficult to calve out time for it specifically but I know if you can find the time (and you should) then it will help calm your mind.  Try and find an app or podcast to support you and talk you though the process, this can help to give it some structure and make it feel more achievable.

Move around – I have definitely found I’m not hitting my step count most days but it’s important to try and keep yourself moving so we don’t cause ourselves other issues.  I have some niggling sciatic pain at the moment and I know it’s from the dramatic change in lifestyle.

Yoga –  I would highly recommend Yoga as I personally love it and I’m currently doing my teacher training but if you can carve out some time to do some exercise this is going to boost your mood for sure.

Eating well – It can be very easy to comfort eat at times like this, but try to be mindful of the knock on effect it is going to have on your mental health.  Last week I had to work long hours to fit my work in around looking after my children.  As a result I drank too much coffee and I felt the effects of this for a couple of days.  It’s not always worth the short term fix and this week I will be sticking to my usual one coffee a day.

Look for the positives – Yes it’s a difficult time and at the moment the end is pretty hard to see but try and focus on the positives which are coming out of this situation, sometimes life can be about how you choose to look at it.  For instance, I am getting to spend a lot more time with my family which although at times is hard it’s also completely amazing and an opportunity I will probably never experience again in my lifetime.  There are also environmental benefits coming from the reduction in industry which shouldn’t be overlooked and a feeling of community coming out of people, knowing we are all in this together.

I really hope wherever you are and whatever you are currently facing that you’re all OK.  Now more then ever it is so important to,

Stay Strong xxx

Be afraid and do it anyway

I am the queen of self sabotage, I seem to enjoy putting myself down, talking myself out of following my dreams and continuing to do things which I know aren’t good for me.
Why do I do these things?  Is it easier not to change and stay in my comfort zone? Am I scared of failure if I try?  Ummm well Yes but then if I don’t try then I’ll never grow or give myself the opportunity to succeed and is that worse?  I’m guessing a lot of us feel this way.
Recently I’ve decided to make a change, I am going to leave my job of 9 years and try for a new career.  Now this has not been an easy decision, I have worked in my current role for a long time and I am very much in my comfort zone.  I work with a great group of people and the work is stimulating enough to keep it interesting (I’m a software developer), I get well paid, have flexibility with being able to work from home and I live close to my office – am I mad to leave?  Well maybe, my mind has definitely been telling me that (got to love the chatter) but I know in my heart that I am never going to love this job and so I am never going to be amazing at it.  I don’t have the enthusiasm for it that I see in some of my work colleagues and I want that passion for something.
So I am starting my Yoga teacher training at the end of this month, Yoga is something I do love and do feel passionate about.  Realistically I won’t be making as much money for a while and so I have had to save and we will have to adapt to living on one income for a while but with my 35th birthday approaching I honestly feel like it’s a bit of a ‘now or never’ moment.
I will be leaving work at the end of May and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified but I truly believe it is the right decision and so I have to block out all the chatter and negative vibes and believe in myself (always a tricky one for me).  The affect all this is going to have on my mental health has been another really scary consideration for me.  Work has always been a very secure anchor in my life and has kept me stable through really hard times but I have to stop my mental health getting in my way and know I am tough enough to do this.
For anyone else thinking about making a similar life changing decision here are a few positive affirmations for you, I know I will be using them a lot in the coming months!
  • It is never too late to be what you might have been
  • If you ever feel like giving up just remember quitting won’t bring you any closer to your dreams
  • Be afraid and do it anyway
  • You’re either fighting for your dreams or fighting for your excuses
  • Just relax nothing is under control
  • The real challenge is to overcome how we view ourselves
  • Just a little progress each day adds up to big results
  • Be obsessed with your own potential
  • If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small – Richard Branson
  • If you never try then you’ll never know what might have been
  • Believe in yourself, you got this!
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

 

OCD – It’s all a way of thinking

OCD feeds off self doubt, loathing and negative thinking spirals.  It will make you think you are the worst person in the world, that you are capable of horrible things and that you don’t deserve love and happiness.  It will isolate you and drag you down if it can, so if you’re fighting this bastard every day like me then you have to get very good at telling it to go f*uck itself.

One of the best things you can do is simply like yourself (I’ve spoken about this a lot before), know who you are and don’t waver.  You are a good person who deserves good things to come to you and you are stronger then the thoughts in your head, yep that’s all they are, thoughts, not even something tangible or real.

I’ve recently tried to take the next step in my recovery.  For quite a while now I’ve been using my husband for reassurance when something happens that triggers an OCD spiral.  It’s worked so well for me, whatever it is I’m stressing about whether it’s something that’s happened on the drive home or in the supermarket or wherever I just run it past him, he just shrugs and that’s reassurance enough for me to know that I’m worrying over nothing.

Now initially I didn’t even realise that this was a coping mechanism, it happened so organically over time.  Then a while ago I read something that basically confirmed if you do this to relieve a thought then it is a ‘coping strategy’.  Of course they’re right and ultimately I need to be able to process these thoughts on my own without my husbands help.  So I’ve been doing my best to do this, I’m going to be honest it’s super tough, it takes me longer to remove the doubt feeling but it does go eventually which is reassuring.

Last night something happened when I was picking my kids up from pre school and I immediately started to catastrophise it in my head.  I could feel the doubt pulling me down, all the ‘what if’s’ starting to flood into my head.  My mood started to drop and I could hear myself becoming irritable and snappy.

I made a decision that I wasn’t going to talk to my husband about it and that I was just going to sit with it and not think on it.  This was incredibly hard, I busied myself
with making tea when I got home and distracted myself as much as I could, the doubt feeling stayed with me all night, though it did start to loose it’s grip as time ticked on.  This morning the thought has popped into my head a couple of times but I have been able to dismiss it relatively easily.

Something that has really helped me to remove the thought is choosing to put a positive slant on the situation rather then a negative one.  I’m sure I’ve said this before but if you must catastrophise then do it positively!  Realistically if you are going to live your life fully then you are going to come across situations that are going to trigger OCD thoughts, FACT it’s impossible not to.  You cannot avoid them and you know what, even if you try to you will still hit them occasionally, avoiding OCD DOES NOT WORK (take my word for it, I’ve tried).  

The best thing you can do is look at a situation and think on it positively.  So don’t think ‘what if this could of happened‘ but think ‘that didn’t happen’ or ‘I reacted in the best way I could, now I know I can deal with the situation if it happens again in the future’. 

Know you can’t control or predict everything and that that’s OK, you probably wouldn’t want to even if you had the choice.  Know you are a good person and you will always do the best you can in any situation, that’s really all anyone can hope for.  It takes so much strength to overcome these thoughts but you can do it I promise.  Do not let OCD win, do not let it pull you down!

I really hope this helps, even getting it down is helping me process it.  Writing the experience down even though hard can help detach it from your mind, you can then go and burn it if you wish!  By writing it down it’s like an alternative to telling someone, it gets it out and then it’s gone, yes!

As always, Stay Strong xxx