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

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

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

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