Things I wish I’d told myself last week

Last week was really difficult – I was feeling hopeless, questioning everything in my life, having lots of horrible thoughts.

I’ve had the most amazing therapist for the last year who I’ve learnt so much from. So why is it so difficult to remember when I need it the most?

That’s why I write this blog, so I can look back and remind myself of the things that I’ve learnt and things that I’ve found helpful.

So last week, this is what I could have done with remembering. It would have been more useful than fantasising about how I’d cope financially if I can’t cope with my job, what I’d do if I give everything up and disappear for a year, or various ways to hurt myself and end my life.

  • Plan one thing at a time so I feel like I’ve achieved something. I don’t have to do it all.
  • Lower my expectations – when things are difficult I won’t meet my food and exercise goals for the week, but that’s ok. Give myself a break.
  • Do something creative instead of spending hours watching TV.
  • Less screen time and news – it helps me to slow down when everything feels like it’s going to fast and I’m getting overwhelmed.
  • Plan small things to look forward to.
  • Ask ‘Is there anything constructive I can do?’
  • Ask ‘What is this thinking giving me? Is it leasing anywhere constructive or useful?’
  • Can I address my worry by doing anything useful? If not, park the worry.
  • Change my environment, move around, do some art in response to negative thoughts.
  • Distress is inevitable. I need to learn how to cope with it.
  • Challenge my thoughts – I can cope. I have before and I will again.
  • Plan ahead food and exercise ahead in detail. That seems to work for me.
  • Set a date to review the bigger life changes.
  • Focus on small changes. I just need to move forward in the right direction.
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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.

Dealing with cravings

I’ve been struggling with eating too many of the wrong things and feeling bad about gaining weight. I found this list of advice that my therapist give me for dealing with cravings:

  1. Read mantas or quotes
  2. Think about how good it feels not to binge.
  3. Get outside and get some fresh air.
  4. Talk about it.
  5. Move around, change the scene.
  6. Read articles as a distraction.
  7. Do some art, make a collage.

I really need to practice distracting myself. I haven’t even remembered to try, let alone giving any of the things above a chance this week. So that’s my challenge for the next week or so.

I’d love to hear about anything that help anyone reading this post.

Advice for staying well

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written and I need to get back in the habit. I need some encouragement right now as the last month has been a bit up and down with a lot of worrying about everything and anything. It’s exhausting. I’m struggling to eat well and have put a little weight back on – I know I can lose it again if I put my mind to it, I just seem to fail everyday and then beat myself up for being heavier, how it makes me feel and how I look in clothes.

So here are some of the things I need reminding of sometimes to stay well:

  • Keeping planning treats and rewards to look forward to.
  • Plan a holiday for a few months ahead – especially in the winter when it’s dark.
  • Remind myself to practice being psychologically flexible – not indulging in black and white or all-or-nothing thinking.
  • Practice gratitude – I’ve been keeping up my gratitude diary each day before bed but it feels harder at the moment.
  • Ask myself ‘is there anything constructive I can do?’
  • Challenge my thoughts – recognize them and disengage.
  • Practice the opposite of how I feel e.g. if I feel rejected then give.
  • Believe I will be ok – I can and am doing this.
  • If things get difficult, go back to basics – healthy food, exercise, sleep, shower and work.
  • Get back on it asap if I slip with my eating habits.
  • Make myself do things even when I don’t feel like it e.g. exercising and socialising as eventually I will enjoy it and feel like doing it again.
  • Ask ‘What does worrying give me? Is it helpful or is it more likely to lead to what I’m avoiding?’. Can I address my worry by doing something useful? If yes, then do it! If not park the worry
  • Everyone’s moods fluctuate daily/weekly. It’s because my lows are lower than most that I get scared. Be in the moment, don’t engage with the fear and I might find things are ok.
  • ACT – take action that’s consistent with my values and goals.

Advice for difficult days

One of my friends has been struggling with depression returning this week, and as well as listening,  I’ve found myself giving him advice I’m sure I’ll need it myself in the future so I thought I’d write about it here.

Sleep

Get back to a good sleep routine. Mine consists of no technology after 9pm, a bath or shower, a cup of hot cocoa and getting into bed to read. It’s also helpful to get up at the same time each day rather than laying around in bed and feeling groggy for the rest of the day. I’m fortunate that for me it’s 8am. If I really can’t sleep I listen to a dharma talk, and if I can’t bring myself to get out of bed in the morning, try to do something useful with the time like watching a documentary, listening to a TED talk, reading, writing or colouring.

Eat and drink

Don’t forget to drink lots of water and have food that’s easy to prepare on hand. For me that’s soup, eggs, pre-prepared salads, fruit and yogurt. If I really can’t be bothered to cook then I’ll make a smoothie with almond milk, almond butter, spinach, banana and blueberries.

Take a shower

It’s amazing what a difference taking a shower and washing my hair can make to how I feel, even if I don’t have the patience to dry my hair. If I’m going out, putting on a little bit of make-up also makes it feel slightly easier to face the day. Sometimes it’s easier to have a bath instead of a shower as it takes less energy just to lay there in the hot water! Or I often shower before bed so it’s one less thing to do in the morning.

Get dressed

Even if it’s just lounge wear -comfy clothes that I can wear if I need to go out. Or put on some clean PJs and change the sheets so I have a clean bed to get into as well.

Get out

Get some fresh air – even if it’s just in the garden or looking up at the stars in the night sky. Driving in traffic is the last thing I want to do when I’m feeling rubbish so try to walk the dog around the block or walk to the shops for some food.

Schedule

When things are really hard, I write a to-do list for the day and it includes the basics like have a shower, clean my teeth and make some porridge. I also include things like open the post, read, watch a film so I don’t have to make decisions or feel overwhelmed by all things I could be doing.

Reach-out

Ask for help with cooking, cleaning or walking the dog. Also pull back when I need to. I don’t have to accept every social invitation – one or two things a week is enough sometimes.

Exercise

Even if it’s a 30 minute swim – it kills two bird with one stone as I get to shower and wash my hair at the same time! Commit to doing something whether I feel like it or not.

Be productive

Write a to-do list for around the house. Or a ‘done’ list of the things I have done so I don’t forget the small achievements. Break things down – I don’t have to clean the whole flat in one day – start with doing the washing up or dusting one room.

Be grateful

Keep up my daily gratitude practice. But don’t forget to express other emotions to – physical exercise, art and writing also really help when I have some anger bubbling away below the surface.

Loving kindness prayer

For myself and all beings

May I be safe and protected.

May I be healthy and well.

May I live with ease and with joy.

May I rest deeply on the earth.

May my cells be able to breath out.

May I love myself completely with no parts left out.

May I hold myself dear.

May I get what I need.

May I be soothed by the healing balm of compassion.

May I meet myself with kindness, gentleness and tenderness.