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

Journey to the centre of me..

Hello all.

Today is another personal post of sorts but am excited to discuss a bit more about it after the last few weeks. One of the things I am quite proud of is my self-awareness and knowing who I am, especially since for many years I have experienced identity crises. However, times are changing and I along with it. In recent weeks, I have been in the process of not only changing my relationship with food, but also my spiritual relationship and studying Buddhism.

Relationship with food

I have not had a healthy relationship with it since I was 11. After my panic attacks started I felt like I needed something to control, however, had I known the long-term impact, I would certainly have found a healthy coping mechanism. These days I often binge eat and have lost control. I have tried diets, HIIT workouts and facing my fear of food by trying different things occasionally. This was thinking my weight was causing my unstable habits and a diet to me was a “healthy” way of recovery. It is not. A person whom I look up to suggested Intuitive Eating a while back and just a few weeks ago I started reading the original works by nutrition therapists and registered dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

I devoured this book within hours, learning of the ten core principles and finding it made so much sense, I was eager to start respecting my body, honouring my hunger and rejecting the diet mentality, along with the other principles. I was quite anxious about how I would cope. I am very much an emotional eater, often eating just because I am bored. But the first few days, I was pleased with being able to truly listen to my body and all of its needs. 

I have not binge eaten in weeks, I think nearly a month. I am slowly learning my hunger and fullness signals too. Understandably, it’s a long process and there’s still more to learn but I am already noticing a change in how I view food, it’s purpose and what I need. 

Buddhism

I understand religion can be a contentious issue, let me start by saying I believe religion and spirituality are a personal choice but thought starting to share my journey may be of interest. Personally, I have always been spiritual, believing in something divine, otherworldly. I have always felt it took a large space in my heart. I have over recent years expanded in to researching and seeking out guidance. Having the country in lockdown gave me time to think and really reflect on my worldview and values.

It sort of hit me that values and actions I have taken in the last few months almost aligned with Buddhism. I have always had a great respect for their teachings, a part of me had long enjoyed Buddhism and in a moment I knew I needed to seek out guidance. I messaged a well-known meditation teacher and Buddhist monk, Gelong Thubten for advice. He directed me to Tergar. 

I am now undertaking the beginning course to deepen my meditation practice which I can already witness is giving me greater clarity of mind and heightened awareness in my day to day life. Those around me have also noticed positive differences. I am also slowly integrating Buddhist teachings and following them as best I can right now. I am so excited for what the future holds in store for me as I learn.

Peace and love to you,

L x

Article inspired: wellness overload

Welcome, welcome all.

I occasionally like to read well-being magazines so today’s post has been inspired by Issue 30 of Breathe magazine. The “wellness overload” article written by Jade Beecroft was rather thought-provoking and I felt it needed speaking about, especially on a mental health and well-being blog.

Beecroft states that wellness has become an industry, that it is no longer about simply being. She states that we find social media full of “influencers” in yogic poses, with juices and meditating at sunrise. She goes on to say that inadequacy will arise when we try to fulfil many goals related to self-care and trying to fulfil so many wellness aspects can actually leave us worse-off. She then interviews some respected people such as holistic coaches to try and give alternatives for well-being for those who may be strapped for time in our current society.

I fully agree with many of Beecroft’s points, they are poignant and powerfully thought-provoking. Wellness has become an ever-expanding industry where things can become dangerous. I am aware of MLM schemes selling over-priced shakes and products under the guise of wellness when in actuality they have been proven to do more harm than good (think Herbalife and Arbonne). Then on social media the “influencers” consistently talk about growth, and new health whilst in a myriad of poses showing what people “should” be doing. Wellness has become a commodity and for the everyday person it can seem overwhelming. When I first got into wellness and different aspects I thought I had to sit for over 30 minutes straight away not letting thoughts into my head as I attempted to meditate. 

I feel that having goals can be useful in life, they can give purpose but only if it is congruent with who you are. Only do activities you feel match who you are. You don’t have to be some guru to be into wellness. Taking five minutes to just breathe and relax with your favourite beverage could be considered wellness. You also don’t have be in constant self-improvement mode, in fact,that also is not healthy. What exactly are we trying to attain again and again as we try new methods?

It all comes back to balance. You know yourself best, do you really want to be doing yoga at 5am for an hour? If not, then don’t do it, that is completely okay. Wellness is a process where you need to find ways of being a nurturer to yourself, having a toolkit of activities and processes you can go to when you need to.

I have spoken about different aspects in the past, like my little routines, I do them because they help me, I meditate a lot now because I have found myself in Buddhism. But I don’t drink celery juices because I don’t like them. There are infinite possibilities about what wellness looks like. At the end of the day, what is right is what works for you.

Please don’t ever feel pressured to do things that don’t feel right.

Much love,

L x

Quitting social media

Hey people, welcome back.

Today I thought it would be good to discuss something a little bit different and something I have done recently. I quit social media.

I have always been on some form of social media since I was a pre-teen (11 or 12 years old) from Piczo, Bebo, MySpace, Facebook to Instagram. In my younger years with Piczo, I just loved redesigning my website again and again, it seemed “harmless”. But by the time I came to having Facebook as a teenager, there was always that pressure to have everyone added and showing off your life. Research has shown that many people end up with an anxiety-related disorder due to social media.

In recent years, I was feeling sick of Facebook, I tried to remedy it by deleting countless “friends”. It wasn’t enough, I had to delete my whole account. I was tired of seeing hate and scandal more than unplifting, insightful, inspirational content. From this I joined Instagram thinking I could find a bit more community, and for a time I did. Though I didn’t post regularly I enjoyed the scrolling, it was addictive. But lately I have found the algorithm bias, I found I compared myself to many people and that is not healthy. I practice what I speak, so to quit this entirely meant putting my mental health first.

The day I did it, I messaged a fair amount of people telling them I haven’t been blocking but deleting my account (I like to avoid conflict at all costs) and the first few hours after deleting my account I was unsure of what to do. I now had all this time to be present and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I actually missed Instagram for a few days but have found some inner peace not allowing myself to endlessly scroll for hours each day. I take a more Stoic approach to social media in that it’s neither good not bad, it is how it is used by individuals and groups that determines it’s goodness. Personally, social media in general is not for me right now and that’s okay. I have plenty of other ways to stay connected to people, whether by text or good old fashioned letters.

As Cal Newport said in his TEDx Talk on quitting social media I have gone through a detox process, and I am rather glad I have now got more time to myself and placing my habit energy into more positive pursuits.

Check out that video if you’re interested!

Much love,

L x

Ted talks

Happy Sunday my dear readers, I hope you are all having a lovely and relaxing morning.

Lately, I have been feeling like I haven’t been making the most of my time, as you know, I struggle with simply being a lot. I have been wondering how to feel like I have accomplished something whilst still being mindful of the present. And I have found something. TED talks.

TED in a non-profit organisation that was founded in 1984 and covers short powerful talks covering all topics and communities. Their mission is to spread ideas and spark conversations. They do this through conferences, independent talk series or through education series.

Many of you may already watch the content of the speeches, found inspirational stories or new knowledge. I certainly have. There are so many on innumerable topics. Some are more personal than others. 

In my own experience, I have found that they are engaging, intriguing and thought-provoking. Watching a couple every so often has helped me to feel like I have done something to activate my brain and my mind that day whilst being still in myself. The joy of this kind of content is that it is accessible and can be consumed at any time, such as when doing housework, homework or coursework, even when just laying in bed feeling a little low or restless. 

A short one I particularly like is this one. Adam Liepzig was rather light-hearted but quite inspirational at the time and helped me to place my life purpose into perspective.

If you have any TED recommendations, let me know!

Much love,

L x