“I need the sea because it teaches me”

I love this quote by Pablo Neruda and I’m posting it as reminder to myself to go to the beach this weekend. I’ve been running around the lake and harbour recently, but it’s not the same as walking along the sand and listening the waves lap against the shore. I’ve always found it a very comforting thought that however turbulent things feel within me, the sea is always there and the tide continues to come in and out. I guess it reminds me of my connection to something larger than whatever is going on in my heart, mind and body.

Sea 2

Habits of happiness

I was telling my therapist a couple of weeks ago how some of my healthy habits are slipping. I’ve been watching too much TV, spending too much time on my phone, eating badly and not exercising enough. It’s worth reminding myself though that I’ve been sleeping really badly which makes everything feel harder and taking prescription sleeping tablets which slow me down.

We had a really interesting conversation about habits, and why they are so important for people who struggle with their mental health.

Three reasons why habits are important to me:

1. SO I DON’T FEEL LIKE A FAILURE BEFORE I’VE EVEN GOT OUT OF BED

First of all, getting up at the same time every morning.  I’ve adjusting my work hours which means I get up at 8am and leave for work at 9am. However when I don’t get up at 8am and keep pressing snooze until 8.30am my day starts off on the wrong foot. It’s only 8.30am and I already feel like I have failed. Things I’ve found help with this are putting my alarm clock on the other side of the room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off, preparing as much as I can the night before e.g. breakfast and lunch, having a shower before bed and giving myself permission to have a nap later in the day if I’m tired.

2. SO I DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS WHEN HABITS SLIP

Having a routine and sticking to it, because if my routine starts to slip I start to worry about that means – am I getting ill again, is this the beginning of a downward spiral? However, I also need to allow myself some flexibility as I have a tendency towards all or nothing thinking, and some days some days things will feel harder than others or I’ll lack motivation. That’s not necessarily a symptom of depression – it’s like that for everyone sometimes.

3. BECAUSE THE MEMORIES OF REALLY DIFFICULT TIMES WILL FADE

The memory of how difficult things were a few months ago will fade over time and won’t be such a strong motivator. Therefore I need to establish healthy habits to fall back on, so things don’t require any decision making or deliberation – they are just part of my day. This quote sums that up perfectly:

There is no more miserable human being  but one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every piece of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. Full half the time of such a man goes to the deciding, or the regretting, of matter which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.

William James, Psychology: Briefer Course

 

Self care

The fact that I’ve started turning to food again to comfort myself has made me reflect on the things I could do instead. When I’m stuck in the trance where all I can think about is food, any alternative action doesn’t even enter my mind. So I thought I ‘d write a list to remind me of things I can do for 30 minutes or so until the craving passes:

  • Read
  • Go for a swim
  • Go for a run – even the lap around my block which involves running down and then back up a very steep hill!
  • Colouring
  • Art work
  • Take a bath
  • Make a cup of hot cocoa – I love Green & Blacks cocoa powder
  • Tidy – this has more appeal than cleaning for me and I feel calmer when I’m not surrounded by clutter, clothes that need putting away, unopened mail, dishes to wash etc
  • Get in touch with friends that I’ve been meaning to contact
  • Read some poetry
  • Listen to a dharma talk – Tara Brach is a favourite of mine as her talks are generally about self-love and self-acceptance
  • Skype my best friend who lives in America
  • Call one of my close friends for a chat
  • Watch a TED talk
  • Plan a trip – a day trip, weekend away or holiday
  • Plan an activity – something new like a class, workshop, concert or event
  • Book a massage to look forward to
  • Buy a magazine to read – this always feels like a treat
  • Write a blog post!
  • Look at some of the handouts my therapist has given me
  • Arrange to visit friends who live further away so I have something to look forward to

 

Running away from depression

To go on a run everyday is to have a kind of battle with yourself. That voiceless debate you have with yourself ‘I want to stop. No, keep going! I can’t! I can hardly breathe. There’s only one mile to go!’ That’s the debate of depression but on a smaller and less serious scale.

Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

This quote goes through my head every time I go running. I HATE running, but I LOVE the feeling at the end.

I’ve never been a runner, but running a 5k has been on my list of New Year’s resolutions for the last three years.

Last summer after I was admitted to hospital my psychiatrist encouraged me to start running – she said doing cardio exercise was the only way to get my metabolism going again and to lose the three stone I’d put on whilst taking quetiapene. Having someone to feel accountable to finally made me embark on that resolution – after all, the company I work for was paying her all this money to treat me and I knew I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I wasn’t doing all I could to follow her advice.

I started off following the Couch to 5k programme on the treadmill at the gym. To start with 60 seconds of running felt like eternity and I had to drink so much water each time I stopped, but I stuck with it three times a week and a few months later I felt brave enough to go to my local parkrun.

If you’re in England and haven’t been to parkrun then you definitely should! It’s a free timed 5k run every Saturday morning in parks across the country. It doesn’t matter whether you run or walk, or how long it takes; everyone is welcome. My local parkrun regularly attracts over 700 runners each week and it’s so much easier running with other people, plus it’s a great way to start the weekend.

Then someone told me about a local running group running a 5k to 5 miles programme on Monday evenings in my local park. I’m just home from week 3 having run 4.5miles – the furthest I’ve ever run in my life!

Whilst I spent most of the run questioning what I was doing, whether I should stop and walk and generally thinking about how much I hate running, the feeling of achievement at the end means I’ll be going back for more next week!

GRATITUDE

Following on my from my post about the Embercombe Experience Weekend, I want to share the list of things I wrote in my Gratitude Journal that weekend.

Since January I’ve got into the habit of keeping a notebook by my bed and jotting down a few things every night before I go to sleep. I’ve tried other ways of doing this in the past, even sharing with a friend over whataspp every evening – and whilst it was beautiful and nourishing to hear the things that made her heart sing, we weren’t very good at keeping it up!

Sometimes finding things to write in my notebook can feel hard, but there is always something to be grateful for and often once I start the list grows. I can also see how my mood has lifted recently as my list of things to be grateful for grows each day.

So here’s my list from last weekend:

  • The view
  • Full moon
  • Seeing the planets in the sky for the first time – Saturn, Jupiter and Mars
  • Staying in a yurt
  • Yummy wholesome food
  • Homemade bread and butter
  • Fresh mint tea
  • The animals – the sheep, lambs, chickens and horses
  • The beautiful scent from the rose bushes reminded me of making rose water perfume when I was a child
  • Remembering a beautiful soul who passed away suddenly last year
  • Father’s Day circle and listening to everyone’s reflections of fatherhood and masculinity
  • The dads and their boys
  • The children
  • Chats with the boys
  • Space to reflect on what’s important
  • Dessert – chocolate pudding, rhubarb and homemade yogurt