Planning, ruminating and finding fulfilment

Planning

Planning things in detail seems to work for me:

  • Plan meals, when I will shop and when I will prepare food.
  • Plan exercise – what classes or groups I will go to throughout the week.
  • Plan what time I’ll go to bed and what time I’ll wake up.
  • Put the alarm clock on the other side of the room so I have to get up to turn it off.
  • Set a time to start getting ready for bed – phone away, clean teeth etc. Try doing this early in the evening when I’m not so tired then all I have to do is  to get into bad. When your depressed, why does cleaning your teeth feel like such a  mammoth and relentless task?!

Ruminating

Things I can do when I’m ruminating on things that aren’t helpful – like how bad things were and my time in hospital. I think some of the reason that comes back up though is because I haven’t really spoken to anyone about it properly – there are things that I need to say, that weren’t said or seen then. I will write about it here one day soon. In the meantime here’s what I need to try:

  • Meditate.
  • Practice moving my attention around my body or the room.
  • Get up and move – change the environment.
  • Play some music.
  • Get outside.
  • Exercise.

Finding fulfilment

I seem to constantly struggle with the meaning of life – what it’s all about, why I am here, what am I doing with my life?

  • Deal with it practically – thinking about these big questions on a daily basis won’t help.
  • Think of it like a flow chart – do I have the money to do the things I want to do? If the answer is no, then I can either accept that and make the most of what I have, look for meaning in other ways etc or I can decide to save and make plans for a point in time when I will have the resources.
  • Plan to check-in at a particular time frame e.g. in six months or one year. Postpone the worrying. Ask myself – am I happy? Am I fulfilled? What am I missing?
  • Keep planning regular treats and rewards – don’t give them up to start saving – need balance and compromise.

I like the idea of postponing things until a more useful time – it works well for me with anxiety. Sometimes a thought pops-up and I can decide not to give it any attention right not but to park it for a specific time – it seems to work!

The main thing to remember when I am stuck and ruminating is to focus on the small changes that I can make right now – sleep, food, exercise and routine.

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“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

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

 

Embercombe Experience Weekend

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend at Embercombe, a beautiful sustainable community in a valley in Devon overlooking Dartmoor. I spent the Solstice weekend staying in yurt under a clear sky lit up by the planets and stars. There was cooking – nettle picking for nettle soup and nettle pesto, weeding the potatoes – a job that took more than 20 people most of the day – and cleaning the yurts ready for the next group arriving on Monday.

Embercombe

The founder of Embercombe gave us a tour of the land and asked us all three questions on Sunday afternoon:

  1. What is it you love?
  2. What are your gifts and talents?
  3. What are your responsibilities?

You will live a happy life if you live in accordance with these values. He also reminded us of the importance of cultivating gratitude and appreciation, of taking action that we feel to be right regardless of the outcome and whether we will it will make a difference.

This made me think about all the things I was grateful for that weekend – and that if felt like enough – the log fires, compost toilets, no phone or internet. I question whether I am trapped by the things I have at home – my flat, my dog, my job. However I’m also really grateful to have those things and know that if I didn’t have them I would crave them.

Arriving at Embercombe reminded me of something my meditation teacher has often told me when I’ve been struggling with anxiety “widen the view“. Standing at the top of the valley and seeing the hills, the woodland and the clouds soothes my anxiety, puts things in perspective and reminds me of the bigger picture. I felt my whole body exhale a sigh of relief as soon as I got there.

It also confirms something I already know: that I need to live somewhere green. It’s good for my soul and makes me happy. I want to live a simpler life more connected to the earth. I’m reminded of that every time I visit Devon.

The weekend also made me reflect on my work again and how it doesn’t nourish my soul. It stimulates me intellectually, but I need to do something that I feel makes a difference and gives me a sense of connection.

Something else that was said on the Sunday afternoon talk really resonated with me. Mac was talking about how he never believed he would meet ‘the one’. As soon as he said this my whole body gave a massive exhale and it made me see that I don’t believe that I will find ‘the one’ or have that relationship in my life. Whenever someone tells me ‘You’re still young, you have plenty of time’, I don’t feel hope; I feel sadness and fear. On the way home I questioned what difference starting to believe that I will meet someone would make. Would it attract someone into my life? And as my therapist said, what am I getting from not believing?

Whilst the past 12 months have been some of the most difficult of my life, I can see how much stronger and resilient it has made me. I have a clear sense of what works for me and what I need to do to keep well. I need to keep evolving and not stand still – keep trying new things, meeting new people, arranging things to look forward to. Some things on my list to look into over the next few months:

  • Attend a day retreat at London Insight
  • Visit Lyme Regis
  • Watch some live music at Ronnie Scott’s
  • Camping trips
  • India – starting researching a trip in my Lonely Planet
  • Visit friends who live further away

Things that (always) make me worse

A couple of days ago inspired by Matt Haig’s book, Reasons to Stay Alive, I posted a list of ‘Things that (sometimes) make me feel better.’ So today I thought I’d post part 2 – Things that (always) make me feel worse:

Lack of sleep

Waking up at 4am

Eating too much sugar

Watching too much TV

Too much time alone

Making myself too busy

Feeling ignored, abandoned or not seen

Comparing

Putting pressure on myself

Too much travel or driving

The darkness in Winter

Christmas

Beating myself up

Not cleaning my flat

The news

Spending too long on my phone

Spending too much time around friends with children

Just writing this list now has made me see how so many of the things on it involve too much or not enough of something. It’s not that these things on their own are necessarily bad – it’s about balance. At least having some awareness of the things that do and don’t help me means I can try to find the right balance for me.

 

Dear mind, please stop thinking so much, I need to sleep.

“HOW BLESSED ARE SOME PEOPLE, WHOSE LIVES HAVE NO FEARS, TO WHOM SLEEP IS A BLESSING THAT COMES NIGHTLY AND BRINGS NOTHING BUT SWEET DREAMS”

I came across this quote yesterday from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it immediately resonated with me.  How envious I am of those who can get a good nights sleep!

I’ve struggled with sleep on and off the last four or five years, and for me, difficultly sleeping is often a sign that I’m becoming unwell and need to make some changes to release pressure.

I’m hoping this current bout of sleeplessness is the more effect of reducing one medication and starting a new one so I’m trying not to worry about what it means, and hoping it will settle in the next week or two.

A few months ago I read ‘Tired but Wired‘ by Sleep and Energy Expert, Dr Nerina Ramlakhan. After following her advice for a couple of weeks I started sleeping solidly for eight hours, so it feels like a good time to remind myself of some of the things that helped me get a better nights sleep in the past:

  1. Eat breakfast within 30 to 45 minutes of rising
    I found that my body got into the habit of expecting food, making it easier to get up and out of bed!
  2. Switch off all technology an hour before going to bed
    This was the biggest change I made and involved buying an alarm clock for my bedroom and leaving my phone in another room overnight. My new wind-down routine involves putting my phone down by 9.30pm, taking a shower or bath, drinking a cup of warm milk and getting into bed around 10pm. That gives me an hour to read or journal before going to sleep by 11pm.
  3. Go to sleep feeling grateful
    I keep a notebook by my bed and write down a few things each day that I am grateful for. There is so much to say about this practice that I will save it for another post!
  4. Never check the time if you wake up in the night
    Whilst it’s temping, I just end up worrying about how many hours sleep I haven’t had and how long it is until I need to get up.
  5. Avoid putting on the lights if you wake up in the night
    So now I stumble to the bathroom at the other end of my flat in the dark, trying to avoid treading on my dog!
  6. Make time for creativity during the day
    Writing, drawing, colouring in, scribbling with crayons, making a collage – anything that channels my creative energy. I find doing one of these things a even couple of times a week is enough and I feel more restless when I don’t.

These are just some of things that worked for me and they might be different for you.If you want to learn more, take a look at Dr Nerina’s blog on The Huffington Post.

Things that (sometimes) make me better

I recently read ‘Reasons to stay alive‘ by Matt Haig and was inspired to write my own list of things that (sometimes) make me better.

Good sleep

Exercise

The sea

Sunshine

Running group

My dog

Taking a shower

Clean hair

Clean teeth

Healthy food (Even if it’s only poached eggs on toast, and even better if they come from my uncle’s hens)

Thinking of special friends and family that I know are there unconditionally

Daylight

Early nights

Jazz – especially Jamie Cullum’s show on BBC Radio 2

Reading

Slowing down

Being outside

Spinning

Being around others who have been there and understand

Writing

Doing some art – I’ll post some of my ‘angry art’!

Taking some form of action, it doesn’t matter what it is, just making the decision to do something

Documentaries – especially about travel

Taking a bath

Having something to look forward to – especially a holiday