My new routine

Hi all!

Today is just a little update on my routines, I thought a little ramble and a small, easy-going topic might be appreciated amongst everything going on in the world.

So a few weeks ago, I became unwell, quite badly. But after a day embroiled amongst my emotions I knew I had to take control. So I re-started my routines, in order to give my days structure. Using the behavioural activation techniques I learned at the start of therapy I formed an outline of how my days would look. For example, when I would study and which module/topic, when I would need to do things such as budgeting and housework or laundry. I also set time for reading which has become my main hobby.

This instantly boosted my mood, having a framework to plan against lessened the decision fatigue. I also have a firm reminder in my head it can change if needs be, depending upon my state of mind, or how my body is (currently in a 3 months long flare up of something, currently awaiting to see a rheumatologist).

It looks like so (Monday to Thursday):

Around 8am – awaken, read dharma texts, get ready, sort piggies, meditate, housework and other jobs I need to do
Around 10am – study
Around 12pm – see to bun-bun, have lunch
Around 1.20pm – study
Around 3pm – tidy away, change clothes, meditate
4pm onwards – read, dinner, read, watch a bit of TV online
6pm – journal, take meds, prepare to rest in bed

I know it sounds silly going to bed so early, but I have found I do need more sleep at the moment, I will fall asleep around 9pm to awaken at 7, which I spend again, relaxing in bed.

This routine works for me, I feel like I am making the most of the day I can, I will reiterate that this is but a brief guide for me, if I have appointments or seeing friends I move my schedule around, simple as that.

Have anyone else got a daily routine and amongst morning/night routines? Anything you’d like me to try?

Sending loving-kindness your way,

L x

A good day

Credit to chibird.

I love a good day, don’t you?

But what does a good day mean to you? Much like the adorable picture above, I imagine we all have a very different picture in comparison to one another. There is so much variation that makes a good day, and having these days are worth living for

For me, a good day lets me have that happy feeling at the end, where I am refresh feeling refreshed and light hearted but knowing I had accomplished something that day. No matter how big or small, such as being able to do some housework, even sending an email.

The beauty of a good day is in its uniqueness. You could accomplish so much, hit some personal targets, or good do what you needed and rested. I think the most important part is feeling happy at the end of the day: feeling good.

What constitutes a good day is up to you, whether it is filling up the day with hobbies, or what needs to be done; the brightest way to see if the day has been good and joyful is through reflection. A way to do this is through the classic ‘what went well’ exercise used in positive psychology. By listing things that went well, no matter how small, much like gratitude, and then writing down why it went well, how it went well, you will find the good in almost every day.

We need to fill our heart with happiness at this time, in all our accomplishments, no matter how minor they may seem. Because we not always have good days, but there is bound to be some goodness in all days.

I wish you all happiness right now,

L x

Why we shouldn’t avoid the negative

*Content warning: mention depression and suicide*

Welcome back, are we settled in?

Now, talking about the negative I don’t mean the news. Avoid that all you want if it worsens your well-being. I am talking about our negative experiences, our emotions today.

I have long been fascinated by the scope in which humans feel, the array of emotions and moods we face. I have also been fascinated by why we try to avoid feeling anything resembling ‘negative’. I thought today, I would share some of my thoughts on this, and this is purely my opinion and experience of emotions and pain and is not representative of other people’s experiences.

Having experience of mental illness has obviously meant that I have seen all emotions, both highs and lows in the most intense way due to my personality disorder. Looking back, it feels like since I was 15 I lived in nothing but emotional turmoil, always wanting to die. I always wanted to escape the pain, I would try and fight it and lock it away in a heavy safe to chuck in to the ocean. I despised my own experiences, understandably. However, since having therapy I have learned a thing or two about the purpose of what we view as negative emotions and suffering and the purpose.

I am writing this as I feel in a position to feel okay talking about it, if you must know, I am feeling very cosy right now wrapped in a fluffy blanket with fluffy socks on a very grey day…

I feel like there is this notion within society that to be a perfect human, everything in life must be perfect and happy and all sunshine and rainbows. Nothing less. It is also one of the worst lies I have ever witnessed. For life to be real to us, we as humans will experience the very depths emotionality and experience have to offer. No filtered façade. We experience things like anger or rage and worry and sadness for very real purposes.

Anger teaches us when our values or boundaries have been crossed. Worry tells us when something is wrong or we may feel guilty because we know we have done something wrong. Sadness teaches us the meaning of loss or change from what we knew. I feel we learn a lot more about ourselves during these harder times than we ever would as someone constantly seemingly happy. I say seemingly on purpose. Because no everyday person goes on in life without experiencing these emotions.

We learn our strengths. Our resilience. Our meaning and values. Maybe even our purpose.

I recently learned that to overcome problems, we must make friends with the problems (so our emotions, our thoughts…) almost as a “self-antidote”, there we will be able to travel the road much more easily. Shying away or putting our head in the sand, or distracting ourselves won’t help. It may temporarily ease our minds and our hearts but the problems will only get bigger.

Feel what you need to feel, but accept this and don’t fight, then, you may find a resolution just that little bit more easily. You then learn more about yourself.

I have definitely fought within myself countless times, from thoughts to feelings to actions I have done. I just wanted it all to go away. But it never goes away until it is dealt with, a tale as old as time. I understand the pain and wishing it all away on a lonely night, but trust me, put that fighting energy to good use, and find that resolution, seek out the light.

Much happiness to you,

L x

The power of journaling

Hey all!

So I have spoken a bit in the past about journaling and thought this week would be a good time to discuss it. As we come to Autumn in a few weeks and many people start to take stock of the year ending and year beginning. I find I am quite reflective as I cosy down in blanket nests, certainly.

So journaling, at its core essence, is writing your thoughts and feelings, privately for you. It has become quite a popular technique in therapeutic settings in recent years as well as in the wellness industry. Journaling has also become popular through a technique known as Bullet Journaling which can be made into art for many people, but I will not be discussing that. There are an endless amount of ways to journal, depending upon your needs and is a versatile activity.

Journaling for you mental health can be a brilliant tool and is recommended by a lot of clinicians, it has the benefits of reducing worry and stress, improving the ability to rationalise and improving mood. Using journaling can help you organise and priorities thoughts, reflect on behaviours, track moods and symptoms also.

I used to journal quite a lot when I was younger, often writing page after page after page my thoughts and feelings. However, by the time I started therapy, I realised I could turn this into a more effective strategy for me. This is because I did not really feel much better and when journaling can help us reflect, I cringed at what I read which should most definitely not be the case. I started a new method for a therapy journal last year using a key for what I had learned in the session, a part for my homework and a part for reflections.

For my birthday, my best friend gifted me a wonderful journal to track sleep and my mood, noting a cause of the mood but with only space for a couple of sentences. I loved this because it really made me consider my mood and be able to learn from what was going on. I learned just how sensitive I was to lack of sleep, or lack of food. I was still doing my rambles in another journal, but when I became really low I found that I just did not want to write anything, which lessened the impact of this well-being tool.

Now that journal has been filled up, I have created my own in a basic red notebook. Underneath the date I list the rough time I fell asleep, woke up and how many hours I had to sleep, then comment on the quality or if I had woken up. I then reflect on how I am feeling at the end of the day and briefly state why. I go on to create a ‘highlight reel’ of things I have done that day, no matter how repetitive or mundane it may seem, this helps me when I have an off day to see how much I did actually accomplish. Finally, I list a minimum of two things I am grateful for.

I have seen a greater increase in my own engagement with this streamlined journaling method, I can easily reflect on what I am doing well and where I feel I could make improvements upon my own life and spot patterns in my behaviour. I certainly think my method will change in the years to come but for the time being I am happy with what I am doing.

Do you have a particular journaling method, let me know!

Kindness to you all,

L x

Book review: the self-care revolution

Good morning, good morning sunshine!

I thought I would do something a little bit different today and give a little review on a book I have recently read. Naturally, it is well in keeping with positivity, it is called The Self-Care Revolution by Suzy Reading. I have to say, I really did like this book.

Blurb/About: The Self-Care Revolution is designed to help and restore your day-to-day energy reserves so that, rather than running on empty, you will have the strength and spirit to excel with whatever life brings. Discover the Vitality Wheel – a complete body and mind Self-Care Toolkit that will boost your health, happiness and resourcefulness.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

In general, this book is wonderfully organised with a bright and easy to follow design and some beautiful, relaxing imagery. As Reading is a Chartered Psychologist, she has definitely evidenced her knowledge of self-care and well-being. She follows through on giving guidance around the essentials of self-care with some added extras of yoga for each topic.

Reading has created a vitality wheel which encompasses every part of self-care as follows:

  1. Sleep, rest, relaxation and breathing
  2. Movement and nutrition
  3. Coping skills
  4. Physical environment
  5. Social connection
  6. Mood boosters
  7. Goal-setting and accomplishment
  8. Values and purpose

Reading starts off each chapter describing her personal experience of each of the above categories, goes on to talk about the benefits and what each section involves as well as tips and advice on how to implement healthy strategies, she has ‘little gems’ as a useful summary and concludes with yoga poses that can aid in implementing the right energy for each section. You do not have to read the book in the sequence given, you can skip back and forth as you need which I found to be really accessible. I love her style of writing and enjoyed the personal touch of her experiences.

I learned some new things and am definitely keeping this book handy as a reminder. The yoga is also useful for first thing in a morning and I enjoyed completing some of the poses.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are unsure of where to start your well-being journey.

Love to all,

L x

Arthritis, physical and mental health

Good, good afternoon everyone, how are you doing?

Come on in and let’s have a little chat – I am afraid that this post may not be as positive as usual and there is a content warning for this post: I speak around depression. But current circumstances are something I want to talk about.

Essentially, I have had problems with my back since I was in year 7 (12 years old), I slipped on ice and tore the muscles in my lower back. Every so often, I would have a flare up that resulted in some quite severe pain. I would go to the doctors and, like clockwork, be prescribed some pain relief and onwards I would go. In December 2017/January 2018, it was really bad. I ended up needing an MRI because of the sensations I was having down my legs; numbness, burning, pins and needles. The A&E stated it was muscular and that the MRI would show nothing. It turned out I have a couple disc protrusions and arthritis in the lower half of my back.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t pleased. But I went on with the pain and taking medication as needed. It eventually started in my hips over the next year and I ended up (and now) taking pain medication daily just to keep on top of the arthritis. Recently, my knees have now given way and the bad flare ups can last for a few weeks. But the toll it has taken on my mental health is something that needs to be discussed. I hope by sharing this, I can help someone else reach out if needed.

Most of the time, I can quite happily continue on with life, make light of my situation and just do things as best I can within my ability. But these last few weeks, with my knees being swollen and having odd sensations, I can barely walk for 15 minutes. I have had to rely on family to drive me to the shop, or to the vets for little Brenda. It is not a great feeling, I will grant you that. But each time a flare up occurs, it seems to feel worse. I hit a very low point, fuelled by frustration and panic. One thought that has recently stuck with me is: “if this is me at just 24, what am I going to be like when I turn 30, or 40?!”

It is quite scary how much I am impacted, because I worry about my physical independence, I have always hated relying on others, feeling like I should always depend on myself only. To me it is a very real possibility that I just will not be as mobile in just a few years or decades. It fuels my anxiety to an extreme. Most people will say not to think like that, but if I live in complete ignorance, then the shock of what may come will hit harder. That expectation does not get me low despite the anxiety, it feels realistic.

But when I have flare ups, yes, my emotions run high. This is because I suddenly feel so limited, unlike with mental health, I don’t have any warning signs, I wake up and am stuck in bed. If the pain is beyond control, I do become upset, I can become someone who feels like everything is meaningless – near nihilistic. I am like this for the first few days, just wanting to cry and do nothing else. When I become used to my “limited” capabilities, I adapt, so I can study in bed, have a little more assistance with the guinea pigs or getting somewhere I need to be. I am thankful I have such a great support network.

At the moment, I am struggling a little bit with adapting, I am unsure how many weeks this flare up has been going on for to be honest. It feels like a long time. But that is what happens with a chronic condition. The ways in which I cope I feel are healthy, I use the spoon theory to delegate my time well, I have found ways of adapting so things I need to do are still done without much impact on my body or mind and I have a support network to help keep my spirits up.

One thing I am truly thankful for is that I never feel worthless, I don’t feel as devalued because I cannot do as much. I remind myself, the pain is temporary, this is just a temporary new normal. If you suffer with chronic pain, I hope you know you are still as worthy as any other human, you are absolutely brilliant and I see you. I applaud your bravery for fighting every day and continuing on as the fabulous human you are. Because it is hard, at least in my experience. The impact on mental health is no laughing matter, and if you need help I hope you seek it.

Keep on going,

L x

Having a well-being toolbox

Welcome back.

Got a cuppa and ready for a light read?

I have been reflecting more and more recently about general things in life, a life I am currently in love with, with its humbled and ordinary nature. One thing I have finally realised is that I have a very full well-being toolbox.

If you have had a similar experience to myself at all, in mental health services I was often asked what I did to keep well, or when I was unwell and it was a very small list – sleep or listen to music. In essence, a well-being toolbox is every activity that you can use to maintain or improve your well-being and mental health and I have come to my conclusion that I am now in a place to maintain my recovery with many tools are my disposal.

Each person’s toolbox should be as tailored as possible, and having activities that really work to maintain recovery. Some people may have more activities than others but this really is a case for quality over quantity.

I’m quite pleased that my list of two activities has expanded. For me, I have activities I do on a regular basis to maintain recovery and those that are there for when needed. For example, in maintenance I meditate every day, journal every day (I have streamlined the way I journal and will be sharing this in another post), plan the next day, have my routines. Each week I will have basic jobs such as laundry or cleaning out the piggies as well as budgeting my money, I also read quite a lot as it is a restful activity. I do also like to walk when I can, this is proving difficult in the last few weeks due to terrible weather and arthritis flare up but I hope to get back into it soon. Then for the days I need a little extra boost I know I have yoga, creative writing, origami, a long bath, power naps, my DOG days, baking and scrapbooking. 

This obviously paints quite the picture of who I am as a person, I am very much a beginner in a lot of these activities but that basic level is enough to bring me to my baseline and that’s brilliant for me. But these activities are mindful and can give me purpose just for that little bit of time. I love having that time of peace and my own calm. Others may need something more physical like rock climbing, gorge walking, cycling, DIY or renovating, painting, the list is endless.

What’s in your toolbox? 

Much happiness to you,

L x

The importance of rest

All cosy and rested? 

One of the definitions of rest (and the one we need for the purposes of this post) is to “cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep or recover strength.” Gosh, to me, even reading that seems relaxing?

Previously, I have spoken about my journey with resting, being prone to burn out and overdoing it when I feel good. I wanted to talk about the importance of rest as a gentle reminder for you all as you all matter and deserve rejuvenating rest. Especially during these times.

Sleep

Everyone knows it. We need at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night to have maximum executive function, a good mental state and good cognition to function throughout your day. But did you know 1 in 3 people suffer from poor sleep with stress often being blamed and that a severe lack in sleep can put you at risk of serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and can shorten your life expectancy (NHS)? 

It sounds quite serious, and yes this is with long-term poor quality and shortened lengths of sleep but sleep is so vital to us as humans. The occasional night may mean irritability the next day but after several nights you become far more frustrated, increase the likelihood of severe burn out and a large drop in mood. It would become harder to make decisions and concentrate properly too.

On a more positive note, having plenty of sleep means a boost in immunity, lessens the risk of diabetes as studies show deep sleep can impact how the body produces glucose. Of course, feeling like you’ve had plenty of rest can boost your mood and lower levels of depression and anxiety. 

On a personal note, I have seen both sides of the spectrum. I wasn’t always the greatest sleeper as a child and come 2012 in my depressive state I only slept on average about 3 hours for months before GCSEs. My sleep didn’t improve much beyond that for years averaging around six hours until 2018 when I went back to 3 hours or no sleep at all. I didn’t know what to do about it and everything in my life seemed to keep getting worse. My antipsychotic medication did help me, and now that I have a decent night routine that works for me and I have developed more of a daily routine I do find I settle much more easily. I found that even if I had a draining day I would sleep even worse, but having some downtime has helped.

The NHS offers some good reminders on what can drain you and reduce your quality of and time sleeping. One thing I have found incredibly useful as someone with a long-term illness is known as The Spoon Theory and I have found it such a powerful reminder (there are too many links but easily searched!)

Downtime

We are, of course, awake for most of the day but what we do with our time is just as vital as getting plenty of sleep. If we are constantly in doing mode, full of stress or worry or adrenaline, this can be just as unhealthy and can lead to a severe anxiety disorder. We, as creatures, are not built to be constantly switched on. As we have evolved so too have our ways of relaxing, it’s no longer purely sleep. 

This could be through hobbies, passions, routines, a retreat, getting away. It could be as small as ten minutes having a bit shower or a long holiday away. We all need a rejuvenation at the end of the day to prepare us for the next and regular time away from life’s responsibilities. I often hear people say “well there’s not enough time in the day!” Believe me, I understand this, but you need to make time, for the sake of your health. Physically block the time off in your schedule and do what you need to do to feel better. It’s for your health in the long run, hardly selfish. Remember that. 

How you do it is up to you and it make take some time figuring out what it is you need to sustain your well-being and rest, but start with hobbies and simple things like changing habits and go from there. the way you do it is as unique and as wonderful as you.

Rest up my lovelies, I’m thinking of you,

L x

5 things depression taught me

*CW: mention of suicidal ideation in lesson 3*

Hi all.

So I am back with another series of lessons, I have previously discussed what I have learned from therapy and mania. Today it’s what I have learned from experiencing recurrent depression and low moods. Please remember these lessons are what I personally have learned, are an individual experience and not representative of other people’s experiences. If you have any questions for me, please ask away!

1. How to rest

This is absolutely the key lesson I have learned and it took a long time to learn. I started experiencing depression at 15 years old, quite severely so, after a few months I was placed on a medication to help ease the symptoms and at the time it didn’t, it would take another 8 years before I found the correct combination for myself. Under mental health teams I was always advised to rest. But it wasn’t until the last 18 months to two years that I really learned my long term ability in resting well in a way that helps me. I originally started out by sleeping all day, as I couldn’t sleep at night. I would binge watch and binge eat to pass time. That became my life at many points.

It’s common knowledge, especially to those who have done CBT, that not doing anything when in low moods can exacerbate the already present depression. In 2018, I knew these unhealthy coping mechanisms had to change. I had to change my own habits. So my idea of what rest meant to me changed. I started getting into routines, I would make my bed, on low days I would have one goal, one activity to accomplish. Resting would be reading a book, or creative writing, not just mindlessly watching films and shows that made me feel worse.

Rest for each individual is as different as people and for me finding a moment of contentment in meditation, reading or other activities that give me time for a state of flow is restful.

2. The joy of DOG days

I can’t remember when I came up with this concept, I believe it was early 2019. I felt I was missing joy in my days and wanted a day dedicated to goodness and joy. And thus, days of goodness were created. At first I would have one day a week for nothing other than activities I enjoyed like reading, yoga and meditating amongst other activities. Nothing that “should” be done was completed, not housework or university work. I felt like I had something to look forward to each week. Whilst I don’t have DOG days as often now, they still remain a part of my wellbeing toolbox and often act as a reset for me. They help clear the fog of my brain.

3. Strength

This lesson is a no-brainer. We never learn the true potential of our strength than in hard times. Or in my case quite often, so low I thought of suicide every second of every day quite actively. I just do not care when depressed, I can grow quite sick of living when low. But I have always, like many others, had people around me who need me to carry on. And so I did, so I do now. I was not at all stable 2 years ago but I had a fierce determination that felt quite unique to me to see this life through. I am glad I found that strength.

4. Curiosity

This was a very subtle quality I learned during therapy and when I was depressed. Curiosity. Curiosity about my brain, my mind, the future, what could be. It kept me going. I guess being a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, the curiosity in growth and knowledge has helped me to keep pushing forwards and learn more and more about myself.

5. To be truly appreciative of the good days

I believe I have mentioned this before. I have always loved my good days, but would take it too far and end up burned out. But gosh, aren’t the good days great? Now more than ever has depression taught me to be grateful when life just doesn’t suck. Thankfully, I am maintaining a positive recovery so the positive days FAR outnumber any negative times. I am eternally grateful for every good day I get to experience.

In the future I will be explaining lessons I have learned from experiencing mood swings and experiencing anger. 

Much love,

L x

Article inspired: hobbies

Happy Sunday!

I occasionally like to read well-being magazines so today’s post has been inspired by Issue 30 of Breathe magazine. I know many likes my previous post so thought I would have another small piece.

In this issue, Kat Smith wrote about hobbies being turned into “side hustles” and found that in our current society, society tells us nearly everything we do should help us turn a profit. The article states that turning something in to a business may end up being less fun in the long-term.

This is true, in our modern society, productivity reigns supreme and many people are finding that doing something purely for joy is falling further down their list of things to do. A New Zealand study found that having a “creative endeavour” can improve general mood until the end of the following day. 

When did this happen? When did we lose joy in doing things that being us contentment and boost our well-being? I am all for people having additional businesses and income. But I am even more for people having activities being done for pure enjoyment. 

There are so many activities that can be done from reading and creative writing to embroidery and cross-stitching, taking up a fitness class or tai chi, to mindful activities like calligraphy (which I am thinking of taking up myself). If something brings joy, carve time out for it, I promise you won’t regret it. 

Having hobbies in turns let’s us have a positive outlet for emotions and improve our mental and emotional well-being as well as an escape from the minutiae of life. So take this as a sign to do some searching and finding an activity you love just because.

Happy hobbying,

L x