Be Kind To Yourself

What have you been doing the last couple of weeks?  Feeling super positive and bettering yourself?

I’ve spoken to lots of people who feel a little rubbish after watching other people doing all kind of things in lockdown (fun things, productive things) because they’ve just about got through the days.

Equally I know there are people out there who are pushing on with projects and trying to make the best of the situation but are finding that even after having an ‘on paper great day’ they still feel a bit rubbish and don’t know why because they are doing everything ‘right’.

Honestly, I feel like a bit of a fraud at times right now asking how others are or trying to support them if they need it, when I myself don’t feel like I’ve got it all together right now.  I don’t know if that’s me being silly or something other people are feeling too.

Then I think we all feel a little like we maybe don’t have the right to complain.

Maybe you’ve had one of these thoughts:

Struggling to work from home?  Well at least I have a job. Furloughed and in limbo / bored?  At least you’re getting some income in?  Self employed and lost your income?  You have the opportunity to still earn or look for other income streams.  Struggling with home schooling?  You have family around you and can spend time with your kids. Student, no income, education in limbo? You will still be able to get your degree and maybe be doing lectures remotely.  We should grateful.  And yes of course we should.  In the grand scheme of things staying indoors to keep safe is probably one of the easiest sacrifices a country has ever asked of it’s citizens in times of emergency.  But all of these concerns above and many more are really valid, it’s ok for us to feel stress and upset over them.

I think right now there is a pressure on anyone who admits to struggling with what is going on in their life that they should look on the bright side as they will be better off than someone.  Of course that’s true.  It’s always true not just in this situation but in general, but what is different about this situation is that we don’t really have much control over it and it all happened so suddenly it’s a lot for any of us to process and deal with.

So I think it’s important right now to go easy on yourself.  If you manage to progress your business or learn a new skill be proud of that but also know that doesn’t mean you can’t have bad days.  If you get through it by being kind to yourself and doing what needs doing then that is ok too.  If some days are good and others are bad or if you are there for people even though you don’t have the answers all of that is alright.

It’s hard at the best of times to admit in public that you might be struggling with your mental health, even now there is much more coverage.  This situation has bought mental health much more to the forefront of peoples minds but also doesn’t make it any less difficult to say when you might need a bit of support.

I’ve written and podcasted a lot about how you can work on you fitness and nutrition during this time.  For some people perhaps I myself am making them feel bad if they really don’t want to think about that right now (you don’t have to by the way but if you want to and it helps why not).

There was a lot of talk just a month ago about being kind and we need to remember to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others right now and do what you need to do to make yourself feel ok.

What Day Is It?

What day is it? Have you started to lose track a bit?

I’m still working so week v weekend still has some structure but not teaching classes means I’m a bit lost on the actual day. Normally the class I’ve taught that morning indicates the day of the week!

It becomes really hard to think of new things to write about, talk about when you stuck indoors almost all of the time.

I could talk about setting new goals or trying new things, using the time effectively, but actually as much as you might want to right now (and may even be doing so) it’s really tough.

Because yes you might have more time now.

But the other conditions in your life are different.

So you’ve been wanting to start that project and have just needed a few clear days, now you have them, but the project might have required things you can’t currently buy or going to locations you can’t currently get to.

So yes, now could be a great time to work on your side hustle or upping your game. Equally maybe those projects may have to be out on hold. That doesn’t mean your failing.

Perhaps instead there are other things you could do. These could be money making ideas but equally they could be self care things, things that do something positive for you.

Again I really didn’t know what to write about today because days are getting a bit Groundhog Day like.

But whatever you’re doing at the moment, it isn’t any less important than what anyone else is doing.

Overwhelm

This year has been tough so far, I’ve been stressed an because of that I’ve found myself training less and eating chocolate like it’s the only food on the planet.  At first it was lack of time stopping me training.  I normally do most of my sessions on my lunch breaks at work but I’ve been busy and kept thinking if I just work through my lunch today I can catch up.  Of course I never did catch up but I have got myself completely out of the habit of training.  I normally eat chocolate quite frequently anyway, that’s fine, it fits into my diet perfectly well but as I’ve been more and more stressed I’ve turned to it more and more, it’s a comfort food thing I suppose.

The issue is eating well and training are anchors in my life.  When I am in my normal routine of a short training session most days and getting some good meals in me along side some chocolate I feel good, I feel capable of dealing with stress and juggling lots of roles.

So falling out of these habits because of stress kind of creates a never ending circle where I’m not doing the thing that prevents stress because I am stressed.  Not great, especially as I suffer from anxiety and so keeping track of the anchors that make you feel good is really important.  As an added stress on top of this is that because I’ve been eating more and training less I’ve also put on some weight, whilst I’m still not overweight or dramatically busier my clothes feel tighter and I feel less comfortable, this of course doesn’t help when you already don’t feel great.

None of this is uncommon, lots of people have these struggles.  They are perfectly valid, we lead high stress lives these days and it’s easy to end up a bit overwhelmed and a bit crap.

For me I always think it’s bonkers that you’re a fitness instructor, so you know exactly what you need to do to fix it, because you advise and support other people with this regularly, but that knowledge doesn’t always equate to making things easy.  I mean most of us know we need to burn more calories than we consume to lose weight, simple concept, not simple to do.  Most things in life are really quite simple at their core, it’s the application that is the thing that trips us up.

The thing is it’s ok to fall into a this cycle but you do need to be able to pull yourself back out of it too.

So how do you pull yourself out of a cycle where you are struggling with your training / nutrition?  Small changes, focusing on doing small simple things that you know will make you feel better over time.  I’m not talking bubble baths and face mask style self care, I’m talking doing the easy practical things that will make you feel more purposeful and on track.

My small things for this week are:

  • Track calories for the week to see where I’m actually at with food consumption
  • Drink 4 litres of water a day
  • Take my lunch break very day regardless and go down to the gym and train for 20 mins
  • Stretch every day
  • Get in at least one long walk this week

I’m not expecting at the end of the week for these things to have magically made me feel amazing, but I think that if I do these things I’ll feel better than I do right now and that is a step in the right direction.

 

Be Kind – but please also read this

This is a blog post written in the aftermath of the death of a British celebrity who following a couple of months of intense (not positive) press coverage took her own life.

Yesterday and this morning there has been an outpouring of posts about being kinder, saying that they are there for anyone who wants to talk and other variations of these.

One hundred percent I agree, and this post will echo much the same but I also wanted to delve a bit deeper into a couple of my own thoughts that arose from the news and subsequent comments and posts.

Be Kind –

Variations of this will appear many times over the coming days. Fact is every person no matter how nice has at some point done something not kind.

We have all at some point said something mean, taken the piss out of someone, vented about people who’ve upset us, talked about people we don’t like. We will have always seen our reasons as just at the time, probably said something or written a comment and then thought nothing more of it. We didn’t think this could have a massive impact on the other person, had we thought that most of the time we probably would have shut up. But we’re humans – it’s natural we react then think, that doesn’t make us bad. I’m not saying it’s ok not to be kind – I’m saying you can say something and then reflect and change your mind and shouldn’t be lambasted forever for your past. Because if we can’t forgive each other or ourselves for what has happened then actually we still aren’t being kind.

I can’t say I’ve never said unkind things. I can’t change that, it also means I’m not inherently unkind and doesn’t mean I can’t try and be kind. Life is complicated right.

Speak out-

Again lots of posts saying I’m here if you want to talk. This is nice. To be fair I’ve always said the same – I’m an open ear.

But actually – beyond the specific mental health days etc. are we there to listen? Have you ever said to someone to stop moaning, be more positive? Posted a ‘Positive vibes only’ quote or meme? So we’re you there for that person when they tried reaching out? Did you put that person off from even trying to reach out because they were feeling the positive vibes?

Often people who need support will struggle to reach out to start with. We need to notice more of the people around us and try and help those people if we notice a change.

I’ll be honest this week my mental health has been shocking (nothing I can’t fix I’m tired and I know how I can help myself feel better and I’ve done that this weekend) but I’ve sat at my desk at the point of tears all week – nobody noticed or if they did nobody reached out. A death of a famous person shouldn’t make you offer help. Seeing someone you see or speak to daily a bit off form should (because actually just a do you want to grab a brew or something is a better start to helping someone than a do you want to chat might be)

Nothing is ever clear cut –

It isn’t. The press published a lot of stuff, she was in the news because of a court case. The police had to investigate because they had to. She chose to be in the public eye. That made the court case more reportable. Did you have a water cooler conversation about it? You did because she was famous.

It’s not as simple as people said mean things so she took her own life. It’s a disservice to Caroline and everyone else if we simplify this. It’s awful but also how do you think the people who reported on her in the news, the CPS person who decided to prosecute her feel today? They were doing jobs, they didn’t do that knowing this would be the outcome. In condemning those people we also affect their mental health. Everything in life is a circle. Our actions affect us but also other people. That doesn’t mean doing what isn’t right for us because of how it affects others but it doesn’t mean not acknowledging that fact either.

I think it’s entirely right people mourn but we can’t put everything down to right and wrong good and bad. In no situation are we ever in one camp or the other and all sides in every story are affected in some way.

I debated writing this – I worried this post could be taken as negative to some, but isn’t that the point – your words at any time, however you mean them could upset someone else. Your well meant advice could be perceived by someone else as mean. For every person you might be able to help there will be people out there you’ve upset or hurt at some point because by the time we reach adulthood we’ve all at some point behaved in a way that wasn’t the best. If we really think about every single one of us who writes ‘be kind’ at any time about any thing could be described as a hypocrite because every single of us has at some point in our lives, not been kind.

Social media exists and could be both viewed as the cause of much upset but equally a positive force. A few years ago I couldn’t have expressed my thoughts on fitness to as many people as I can now (be clear my blog gets 50-100 reads a time I’m in no means a wide reaching writer but that’s still a lot more than I could have reached before Facebook), hence the realisation this year that I now have the tools to open discussions on topics that are traditionally less discussed. This is why I’m in the process of writing a series of blogs in conjunction with people where I hope to look at topics which affect many but are less discussed than they should be. I strongly believe talking about stuff honestly and openly can be beneficial.

This will never cancel out the bad aspects of what has, and probably will still, happen on social media but we can all move forward, learn from the (our own/other peoples) past and hopefully be more understanding and forgiving of each other and ourselves.

How to reduce period flow

I saw a tweet this week that’s gone a bit viral about Ibuprofen reducing menstrual flow.

The reason this has created such a buzz isn’t the fact itself (which is never heard of) but that something so simple and apparently accepted by many health professionals to be the case, isn’t known by more women.

General consensus is that this is because we just don’t talk that openly about our periods.

We’ll chat diets, relationships, workouts but don’t often bring our periods up in conversation, even with close friends let alone in every day conversations. So simple things that could make life easier for a large number of women just don’t get shared.

If you’ve not heard about the tweet in question here’s a couple of articles to fill you in.

INSIDER ARTICLE

COSMO ARTICLE

I’ve said it numerous times before but I’ll say it again – the more openly everyone talks about their bodies and health, both physical and mental, the easier it is for people to realise they aren’t alone or odd, that it’s ok to ask for help, that maybe something isn’t normal.

Easy ways to work on your own mental health

Following Mental Health Awareness Day Thursday I wanted to offer some ideas of simple things you can do relating to fitness and nutrition to help improve your mental health (whoever you are) and perhaps even help manage depression and anxiety:

1) Drink water

Most of us don’t drink enough water at the best of time and if you feel low the chances are you will drink even less. Fill a water bottle and sip throughout the day. Dehyration causes fatigue and has been linked to feelings of depression so drinking water is a cheap, low effort way of helping you feel a bit better.

2) Vitamin D

This can help make you feel better natutally. You can buy supplements, a light box, possibly use a sunbed or even better get outside and get some fresh air at the same time. Little effort required for a potential improvement in your mood.

3) Fish Oil

Omega 3 has been linked to improving symptons of mild depression. Make the effort to take a supplement each day – you can buy it in liquid form if you can’t swallow tablets (and are brave!). This was one simple habit that has worked well for me.

4) Eat regular meals

When you feel low eating proper meals at regular times can go out the window. Set an alarm for regular intervals and eat a small simple meal when it goes off. This will help stabilise your mood and create a feeling of routine and normality which can help when life feels like it’s crumblig around you.

5) Eat colourful food

Go to the shop and buy lots of different colourerd food. If you don’t feel like cooking buy prepared veg and fruit. Eating a variety of colours will mean your getting a variety of nutrients and will help improve your mood as well as your health.

6) Eat simple healthy meals

Eating healthy foods can have a dramatic affect on how well your mind feels. If I’ve had a bad week a simple healthy meal can help me feel more positive and in control of my own mind and body. It may sound stupid but when I eat well I feel like my body feels better and I’m looking after myself which in turn makes me feel brighter within myself. On days like this I won’t have the energy to cook a fancy meal so I go for a simple piece of salmon I can microwave or grill and a pack of microwave veg. 10 minutes to prepare a good quality meal.

7) Try some alternative meal prep

The holy grail of fitness freaks! Cooking is the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed. So if you find yourself having a good day make the most of it and prepare so batches of food that you can freeze. Then on days you just can’t face cooking you can defrost one of these meals and still eat something homemade.

8) Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to make healthy tasty meals with little effort -and a casserole is brilliant comfort food. They are great for preparing a comforting meal without much effort and will make you feel better than turning to chocolate and other quick food sources that we often crave when we feel low.

9) Drink less coffee

Adrenal Fatigue and depression / anxiety are linked. Too much coffee puts you at risk of developing adrenal fatigue – drinking less will help reduce stress levels. You could try a herbal tea instead which many people find helps then relax.

10) Walk

Getting outside helps you move more -that will help your mental health. Fresh air will help lift your mood. Being outside will help increase vitamin D intake. Walking can help clear your head. Walking is free. In short one of the best and most simple things you can do to help yourself fell more positive.

11) Exercise

As I said moving has been shown to help manage many mental health issues. You may not feel much like it but it can be in any form and doesn’t need to be for long periods of time to help. Start small and build up as you start to feel like you can.

12) Dance

Stick music on and just move to the music. Music can improve mood as can moving which makes thos fun activity a win win mood boosting activity.

13) Try group exercise

Nerve wracking and requires motivation. Sounds awful if you aren’t having the best day. But if you can push yourself to walk into the room you can find exercise, motivation, good music and social interaction in one place. It’s hard to leave a class not feeling at least a little bit more positive than when you walked in.

14) Join a team or club

Another nervewracking idea. Another idea which will allow you to exercise which will help your mental health and get to meet new people, another great mood booster. It can also help boose confidence which will help your mental health dramatically.

15) Try yoga

A chance to challenge your body and stretch along with a focus on breathing and mental wellbeing. You could try a class or find a free video on You tube. You could do an hour or even 5 minutes. Whatever you feel like at the start there is an option you could try out and you may feel more relaxed by the end of it.

Do you have any other tips for improving your mental health?

World Mental Health Day 2019

 

World Mental Health Day this year is focusing on suicide prevention, there’s some useful downloads on their website about this topic for a variety of situations and it’s worth a read (website link below).

https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2019/10/10/default-calendar/world-mental-health-day-2019-focus-on-suicide-prevention

There are two school’s of thought with ‘days’- mental health, women’s day and so on.  Yes – in an ideal world we wouldn’t need specific days to remind people are inequalities and reduce stigma.  We don’t live in an ideal world though and what these days do is start conversations – some of those conversations may well be forgotten tomorrow sadly, but for some the onslaught of coverage on one day could set in motion the impetus to make a change- either for someone specifically affected or in making someone more mindful.

There’s so much that I could write about today- from personal experience but I’ll limit this blog to three brief things I think worthy of being mindful of if you know someone who is currently struggling with any mental health condition.

One

It can be frustrating for those around someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.  Often you try and help and feel like you’re being met with resistance at every turn.  These illnesses are not logical though and as well meaning as your advice may be you might not get the reaction you hope for.  You can offer the most practical and solid advice in how someone might feel better but self care is hard when you are really ill and even though it’s the thing that will help it can feel practically impossible to do.  As frustrating as that may be for you believe me the person affected will be equally, probably more frustrated and knowing those around them are frustrated can just add to the difficulty of climbing out of a hole.

If you know someone who is struggling, be there for them, offer an ear, even offer advice, but accept you can’t fix it and you may feel like you repeat yourself a million times before anything lands.  Don’t take that personally – you being there is probably helping even if it feels like it isn’t.  If someone is suicidal, as much of an impact and stress that will place on you and others around them- remember the stress they feel to get to that point is far greater- frustration and anger are normal and understandable responses but when people get ill they aren’t doing it to piss people off or make life hard for others, get time off work or get attention.

Two

From my own experience when I went back to work after being off for a long time due to mental health issues I found it really hard and one reason for this was there was no understanding of mental illness in the way there would be for a physical illness.  The procedures in place just didn’t work for managing what was wrong with me.  I’m lucky I have a good manager who took time to listen to me and understand and that helped me settle back in, but at first it was really hard because I felt like I was having to fight against a system at a time when I really didn’t have the capacity to do so.  It took me to bite the bullet ask for a conversation and try and explain.

You can understand in situations like this how so many people fall between the gaps and end up unemployed, isolated and feeling like there’s no way out.  It’s easy to drop out the system (if you stop going to the doctors because you really just can’t face anything they don’t chase you up for instance), you can have to jump through hoops to get help but often have no motivation to do so.  You actually have to fight to get help (or have someone fight for you) and often you just can’t when your ill.  You may lose your job because your company doesn’t recognise mental illness as a genuine illness and not have the capacity to fight that.

These situations could be improved with education.  I don’t just mean companies educating their staff to understand mental illness, I mean in some cases companies themselves need to understand better how mental illness can affect staff and how best to handle it at a variety of stages- both preventative measures, catching signs of problems early on and dealing with the aftermath of serious issues.

Three

Today is about making people aware of the importance of mental health, of being open about discussing it- because more people than you would ever anticipate will be affected to varying degrees over their lifetime.  Being aware everyday is important though.  If you notice that a friend or a colleague doesn’t seem quite right you haven’t got to have a conversation with them if you don’t feel comfortable.  It might be mentioning your concern to someone closer to them who could check in on them.  But equally it could be dropping them a message or calling them for a chat, inviting them for a coffee or lunch, anything to connect with them.  You know that thing we call being nice, letting people know they have people around them.  On a day to day individual basis that can be the thing that makes the difference, and because you never really know how much people are struggling making not being a dick a general life rule is probably the best way to help others maintain good mental health, not least because you never know what sort of things could affect someones so something you say in passing which means nothing to you could affect that person for hours even days after.