Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

This comes with a trigger warning. Senua’s sacrifice is not for those who have schizophrenia or having relapses of psychosis. As someone with schizophrenia who is in recovery, Senua’s story was hard for me as it played on all the things that I would go through if I was having a relapse.  The story of […]

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Stress – It’s ok to be tired

You find me writing this blog from the couch that I’ve put together a few days before boxes surrounding the decorative boxes I got to put stuff away into. There are wrappers, trash, and plastic littering the living room. While I have most of the stuff built, I’m failing to put together the hanger for the hammock I got and it sits half open, along with all the other stuff.

I dusted and reorganise two different bookcases. My Winnie the Pooh watch collection now sits nearly complete, but now de fussed of the dust that covered its surface. It’s made space for two more openings on my bigger bookshelf, where I’m to decide what would be best placed where. Should I display all of my Kingdom Hearts Ultimanias or should I bring down some Funko Pops to fill in the space a little more? Incapable of deciding on its placement, I move onto to the washing.

Misty sits with me half asleep as I coax myself into putting on the washing machine for the 5th time to dry some clothes. It’s been raining for a few days straight now so it’s pointless to hang out the washing onto the line only for them to become more wet than when they left the washing machine. I tease out some near dry items and hang them on the indoor rack – space is at a premium, so the rest must go back in to try again.

I know that I’m overdue taking a shower, changing the bed and bringing all the new sheets I brought up with me upstairs. All of my fitted sheets seem to have gone missing over the last while, so I’m conscious of the fact I need them to turn up too. The lawn hasn’t been cut in months to let the garden heal from the crappy winter we had with cloud, even so much so that my neighbours commented on it recently.

I’m embarrassed to be honest, it feels like I should be able to do these things and just get on with it.

But I’m tired. Today, I’m exhausted and instead of doing what I had done for most of the day and be productive regardless of my body prompting me to be still.

I feel guilty for being still. I think a lot of us do.

I want to help change the narrative on what it means to be tired. As most of us know, it isn’t coming from a place of laziness but what is taking up our energy. This is a distinction that took me a very long time to reconcile with. I’m the person whom when anything big happens in their life, I throw myself into the opposite spectrum of working myself through my trauma.

It’s something I’m sure I picked up from childhood through my Dad as it solved nearly all the problems in my life as “you just push through it”. But every time I hit this cycle where I can go no further than I wind up resting only for the cycle to start again. At what stage do we see ourselves as enabling the cycles we go through because we know of no other way to be?

Logically, this is a resources issue. This is an issue with what goes in and what goes out. If you stopped taking breaths in, you’d not survive very long. Same way with stress and the resulting burnout. Sometimes too little goes in and too much goes out.

There are some ways that make things easier to manage your stress, some are more obvious than others and some require more introspection:

Eliminate your stressors

We can define stressors as the things that cause strain or tension. Sometimes these stressors can be obvious; like someone causing you grief at work, or worrying about your kids. Sometimes stress can be less obvious it can be who does the washing up or who puts the clothes away. What I’d like to reinforce is that there is no such thing as a stressor that is bigger or smaller – what it really comes down to is how much control you have over that stressor.

You can’t control other people or other things in your life. You can only control how you respond and what you do.

So the first thing to take stock of is with all of your stressors and write them down. How much of those are in your control?

For example;

Can you get away from Angela in work who is constantly throwing you under the bus?

Can I control it?: Not without moving jobs, no.

What can I control?: I can talk to my manager or HR about working with her on the project and be sure that if there are other resources, you can utilise to have a complex conversation.

Example 2: I’m stressed out about always having to cook after work.

Can I control it?: Yes, I could consider food prepping for the week over the weekend so that all I need to do is put things in the microwave. Or I could look into getting food packs delivered with my meals pre prepared for me so I have access to healthy meals regularly.

Something I’d like to bring up is this notion about us having to do everything and the importance of deligation. Some people may think delegating tasks around the home and in your personal life is for the privileged. Yes, this is true to a degree. It takes a certain amount of privilege to get meals ordered in for yourself or to get your clothes sent to the laundrette. But it is something I’d encourage you to look into in your area just to see what they might cost to do.

For example, I’m out in the middle of nowhere in Ireland (I mean comparatively I’ve lived in Irelands capital all my life) and for me to get my meals fully prepared and set to me a week is E48 a week. Which is just under E200 a month. Is that expensive? Yes. But does it give me the ability to not have to worry about standing over my cooker in pain and am ensured a balanced meal? So for me, it’s worth it.

Our local laundrette is an easier example. For a black bin bag – which would be a large bin bag you’d put in the trash outside. It’s E10 a bag for it to be washed and folded. That’s something that could easily be done once a month for my situation.

There are solutions to problems if you can look for them. For instance, a meal in McDonalds for two people would easily be E20. If you do that twice a week you’ve made up the cost of feeding yourself for a week. This doesn’t mean that you stop having your chicken nuggets, but it means that you can use your money to work harder for you to make life easier for you in the long run.

It can also be beneficial to your nearest and dearest, too. Constantly fighting with your partner about who never “does things around the house” without being prompted is a drain and a strain on both of you. Maybe a better compromise for you both is to come up with a solution that helps you both out. In reality, I don’t think anyone enjoys nagging anyone else and equally the person on the receiving end doesn’t either.

There is a lot to be said for why these ideas might not be “good” ideas because it might enable laziness or something else entirely. But I would ask you to check in with yourself about that statement and see where it’s coming from. Is it because it was how they raised you that you either did things all the time, even when you couldn’t really deal with it and your feelings were dismissed? Often, how we judge others is how we ourselves were or are judged.

That on its own is worth observing on its own for the sake of all of your relationships you experience throughout your life.

Cultivate Social Support

Something that I would always advise people to do is to have some social network or network of support around you to help with times like these. Even more important than this though, as this bit is the lynchpin to making this work is articulating the type of support you need.

For example there are various different ways to support someone:

I’m a problem solver, a do-er. If you come to me for advice on something my support language is to provide solutions to problems and be there to walk you through what you’re going through with active listening.

However, there are various other styles of support out there:

  • Emotional
  • Tangible
  • Informational
  • Companionship

I nearly always ask people straight up if I’m unsure of what type of support they need to be direct and ask them “What is the best way I can support you right now? Do you need me to listen and engage with you that way? Or would you like me to provide some other support?”

Yes, it might seem like an uncomfortable interjection when someone is opening up about something but ultimately, it means that I can support their needs best and therefore no one becomes frustrated when there are clear expectations set.

It also enables you when your time comes around to be aware of what needs and support you may require while you’re going through a turbulent time. This may mean that you’re upfront and clear about what you know you need.

“I’m going through a rough time a work at the minute and I could do with someone to just listen to me patiently for a bit while I just get it out of my system. Do you think you’d have time for that?”

For me, it’s always good to set boundaries about how much time you can give to someone especially if you’re feeling frazzled yourself.

So for example:

Person One: “I’m going through a rough time a work at the minute and I could do with someone to just listen to me patiently for a bit while I just get it out of my system. Do you think you’d have time for that?”

Person Two: ” For sure! Just so you know, I already have a previous arrangement made tonight, so I am pushed for time. I’m due to be out from 7pm so you have me until then and if we need to catch up again after that I’d be happy to sort out something with you then.”

There may be some pushback with this initially, especially when you’re setting these boundaries for yourself for the first time. If someone comes back to you negatively there are loving ways of responding to it.

Example:

Person One: “Oh forget about it then, you obviously don’t care about me otherwise you’d make time.”

Person Two: “I’m sorry that is how you feel, but I care about you and want to help you. I’m just trying to be honest about where I am with my own time restraints. However, if you feel like tonight would be too short of a time for what you want to talk about, we can always reschedule it to a time that suits us both better. Would you be more comfortable with that?”

It’s important to still enforce your boundaries for your own mental health and stress levels, it’s an important part of managing your overall health.

Stretch

When in doubt, stretch it out. That can be harder for some people more than others depending on your levels of ability and mobility but I do believe that there is something that nearly everyone can do.

As always you can look at my other article on stretches in my 6 ways to start loving yourself the way you deserve to be loved article.

Reframe your thinking

We talk a lot about reframing your thinking in 6 ways to start loving yourself the way you deserve to be loved specifically around counseling and learning new techniques like CBT. You can get a refresher of the options available to you in the article, but it benefits us all to get a new perspective on things sometimes. Engaging with yourself to learn what are your triggers with stressors and how you deal with them will be invaluable to your tool books for helping you cope with stress and is something I highly recommend for everyone.

YEs, it is hard and often requests some financial commitment, but ultimately it is for your greater good to reframe your life.

In short, you deserve to be tired. You’re battling a lot and it is worth it to make the most of your life with what you have

How to break the cycle of fear in habit formation

Recently we covered self care ideation and how there are practical and realistic ways to love yourself beyond the keywords and SEO. Today we will talk about aversion, procrastination and habit forming when it causes some fear response or avoidance behaviour. Being able to form new habits and behaviours is complex and difficult as it requires a lot of internal rewiring. So, we will start from the beginning of the process. We’ll talk about why this happens to begin with, what causes it and strategies to change it.

Why we do what we do?

There is no correct answer to this, as depending on the severity and context of the issue it can be one of many things. However, it all breaks down to one key thing – it is something that ultimately serves you. I’m reluctant to use the word benefits, as no one has depression or anxiety because it benefits them. In saying that, your brain is smart, and it tries to adapt to the environment and the chemicals it produces to function, even in states when it is not optimal.

But this isn’t an article about the chemical compositions of major and minor mental illnesses. It’s about habit formation, but it’s important to understand how these mental states can really affect your ability to form new habits for yourself, even if they are beneficial to you.

For instance, in my personal life I’m having a hard time keeping up with personal hygiene and other fundamental things to keep my body healthy. But my mind is so overwhelmed just existing right now that it’s just not prompting me to do things beneficial for my health. So, not showering – taking medication that involves touching myself or anything that requires an incision into my body. Even though I know – logically and emotionally that I need to take these medicines to be well.

It’s causing for me an adverse reaction. Even thinking about doing these things cause me a certain amount of physical anxiety and emotional strain. Thus, me not doing these things or thinking about them causes me to get that bit of a dopamine hit for not doing them as a reward. As far as my chemical body is concerned, it’s gotten me out of danger and therefore my body should be rewarded for running away from the reaction.

So it is now associating not taking my medicine and that running away from discomfort with a sympathetic chemical reaction.

This can work against us, chemicals in are body are impossible to reason with. They are the things that keep our body together and informs our bodies on what to do. If I continue this pattern of not taking my meds or fighting the urge to take my meds with success, it will only be harder to implement taking my meds because it’s chemically associating itself.

For me, avoidance is how these things manifest in me. For others, this can turn into something much harder to combat, which is fear or phobia. Have you ever wanted to do something so much that you ended up becoming just pure afraid of doing it or having any association with it? It doesn’t have to be anything to do with self care. It could be a fear of heights or spiders, which it is in my instance.

But what happens when you get to a stage where you are so anxious and upset around the thoughts of being in contact with things like water that you become hydrophobic? So, this makes drinking water, taking baths or showers far more complex. Fear increases the stress hormone cortisol in your system. If you have previously seen times like brushing your teeth or taking baths as something that was a relaxing activity but is now not sending those reassuring chemicals associated with calmness and relaxation and have been replaced with a stress response. This can be a challenging thing to overcome.

There are a few things you can do to change your associations around things that had been a source of relaxation and now cause you stress or anxiety.

Key among them is to be exposed to the thing you fear.

Exposure therapy in controlled situations is a well-researched tactic to combat some specific phobias. This does not mean that I’m telling you to jump into a pool to cure your hydrophobia! What you need is slow and controlled exposure in a way that you can incorporate it into your life without its existence being seen to your body and your mind as a threat.

A plan for treating hydrophobia and being able to work up to incorporate water-related activities into your life is by working on it step by step and this is something that needs to be done over months, not weeks or days. The risk of doing exposure therapy too quickly is that you end up building up that fear response instead of disarming it, which is what you want to do.

The goal is to reincorporate these instances into your life again like they have always been there are as little of a threat to you as a cushion you have on your sofa. Trust is a muscle. We build it up. It is understood or implicity given. For example, when you go to sit down on a chair you trust that the chair will support your weight and that you will not fall over because you’ve sat on chairs before and know what to expect. The same is what we’re trying to develop with building in a new habit or breaking free of something that doesn’t serve us.

In our instance with hydrophobia. For the first two weeks, all I’d want someone to do is to have a glass of water beside the fridge or bathroom. (Yes, even if you’re not cripplingly afraid of water) I’d want you to place it in a place where you go by it regularly in your day to day and you don’t have to interact with it. It can just be placed there without you really considering it and go about your days as normal.

That’s it. This is around changing the relationship of how we view something that threatens us. If we can prove to ourselves through non threatening exposure that things will not hurt us, that is the reassurance we’re giving to our mind and our bodies.

After a while, you’re not even going to notice it’s there. It will blend into the background, much like a piece of art on your wall. It’s just going to be there, and it’s all gravy.

When that happens, I want you to put another glass in another common place like your bathroom. You don’t have to interact with it; you don’t have to do anything with it. Just have it there and repeat the exercise till you feel you don’t even really notice its presence anymore.

How does this help me take a bath? You may be wondering. But much like all of this is manifesting for you didn’t just happen overnight similarly neither will the cure. You will build up your trust with a system is in place to help support you, and this should be a plan that you should curate as appropriate to your needs with the support of your personal support network.

This process has no timeline – it will take as long as it takes. But these are the foundations for changing your associations emotionally, physically and chemically to a phobia or habit that you are trying to change. Remember something key, emotion = motion.

If we can catch each other when we’re in a loop of emotions or frustration, we can change it by changing our state.

Tony Robbins goes into this a lot and this is because it physiologically changes what is happening in your body when you are feeling a set of emotions or doing something in a pattern.

An example I can give you is today. When I was writing up this article, I was just out of surgery and got diagnosed with another set of nasty stuff. It’s something I’m hoping to cover in another article, but I was ruminating a lot about Mark. There was a part of me that in some fairy tale imagined him being there when I woke up and that things would be ok. Then I started falling down the emotional rabbit hole of “what if he doesn’t come home” “I’m in so much pain and discomfort and I have no one here.” and I just was spiralling but at one stage I could catch myself and I stood up and at the top of my lungs I screamed NEXXXXXXT!!!!

And I felt better.

I could control and choose my state.

You can too. It doesn’t matter how able-bodied you are, whether or not you can stand. This is about changing your state, to change the chemicals in your brain from you keeping from patterning it out the way you normally do.

Mel Robbins (unrelated to Tony) deems this as pulling the emergency brake.

None of these responses are your fault, your body and brain do so much on autopilot that it has this in place for you because it’s trying to protect you from something. Or is making things as easy as possible for your daily brain to cope with it. But what is important to know is that through the right strategies and mechanisms you can control your life and make the changes you wish to see.

6 ways to start loving yourself the way you deserve to be loved

2020 has been a lot. 

It’s been a lot between the pandemic and how to cope with social isolation. And despite the huge upheaval of how we live our lives, it is important to take the time to acknowledge that this is a tremendous time of stress for everyone. 

With that in mind, there have been a lot of articles and blogs about how to make use of this time by either forming some habit. Or even worse, pressuring people to push themselves. That if you’re not using this time to learn 15 languages and become a gourmet baker, you’ve failed to use this time to the fullest. 

I’ve got another take on this entire situation. Which is: It is good enough that you are just alive. 

That’s it. No hot take, no additional statement. It is enough that you are alive and continue to exist during this time. 

I will give you 10 things to consider enriching yourself that should be an additive or something to consider loving yourself during this period. 

Accept where you are

This can be a hard thing to do depending on your personality and outlook on life. For people who are used to making business deals face to face, or whether you’re an extrovert and now working from home or a parent caring full time for your children – it is tremendously difficult and you can’t expect yourself to cope the same way that you used to. 

Things aren’t the same, and it’s ok to acknowledge that. 

I had gotten a job and then lost it because I wasn’t able to keep up the pace that was accepted of me during this time. I and my spouse have had a sudden breaking in our communication, and he’s no longer living in our home. It started just after the pandemic struck. 

People are responding to this in unusual, unpredictable and unprecedented ways to unprecedented levels of stress. 

It’s important to see things for as they are and not what you want them to be. I do not understand why Mark left – they left me with a note on my bedside table and that’s all I’ve heard from him in months. And I have to be ok with the fact that it happened and that what’s going on means he’s in pain. That I’m not meant to walk with him down the road that he is on. 

All I can do is believe that things will get better, that I will find gainful employment and that he will come home to me. In the meantime, all I can do is stop fighting the tide. 

These are important skills to learn to love yourself after this period is over and this will end. Nothing lasts forever and the only things you can be sure of in life is Death and Taxes. This too will pass, but it is possible to love yourself amid it. I promise. 

Accept your feelings

It is a complex time, with a lot of complex feelings and emotions surrounding everything. 

Here is a list of emotions ok to feel: 

  • All of them

I mean it. All of them. All the pain, loneliness, anger, fear.

Maybe you’re going through periods where this has been great for you. You feel motivated and driven so you wouldn’t have experienced if you hadn’t had this time to yourself. But you feel guilty in sharing that because of everything else that is happening. 

Letting your emotions flow is an important and healthy part of emotional and personal growth. 

There is a lot to go through, especially if you suffer from any form of disability. There would be a lot of unresolved feelings about walking away from work because of a disability than when the pandemic happening, work moving towards working at home. There is a lot of pain and anger – particularly in the disability world, and it’s understandable. For people like us who have always been taught that there is so much that we couldn’t do from home or things that required office time that is now standard – really hurts. 

So be kind to the people around you, we all deserve extra consideration and care with how we feel at the minute. 

Connect with People

Connecting with people, regardless of who they are or where they’re at, is exceptionally important like this. This can be tremendously isolating and confusion. Reaching out and being supported by the people who care about you is essential to keeping yourself afloat. 

I know how hard this can be, especially when you feel like the world has abandoned you. I’m minus family, a lot of my friends, and my husband during this period. It is the most socially unsupported I’ve felt during one of the hardest periods of my life. 

If it hadn’t been for the community I found on Twitter and TikTok and a stellar medical team, I know that this journey would be impossible for me to undertake on my own. 

If you feel like no one understands or that no one loves you, let me take the time to tell you I love you. I love you. We may never meet and I may never be an active part of your life, but I am here to tell you you have a purpose. You still have a lot to give to the world and this universe and you will find your way. 

Self Care – and not the cheesy kind!

While self-care can come as face masks and manicures, I want to talk about the more practical side of self-care. Self-care is defined as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.” if you are on the preserving side of that self-care side – that is ok. 

Here are some practical self-care methods and practices you can take: 

  • Getting out of bed. I’m serious, it is a colossal achievement.
  • Bonus points if you can move downstairs or to an alternative place. 
  • Bathing
  • Bonus points if you can put on some deodorant or other nice smelling products!
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Bonus points if you can floss or use mouthwash.
  • Eating a piece of fruit
  • Bonus points if you can do that more than once
  • Stepping outside. I mean literally sticking your head out of a window or stepping outside your front door. 
  • Bonus points if you can walk down your road and back. 
  • Cuddle a pet
  • If you don’t have a pet – self soothe, that’s comforting to you hugging a teddy, wrapping yourself in a blanket. 

These are all things you can do to soothe your senses or preserve your health where you are at the moment, doing this – even one of them. These are all forms of self-care and you should be proud of the steps you can take to take care of yourself. 

Creative Activities

No one wants to see my house at the moment, and I mean nobody. I’ve painted my walls many colours, it’s not well blended, I’ve written profanities on the walls. All in the name of creative expression. 

I’m serious. The first thing you see on my wall are the words: 

“ Do not ask me if I’m gay, straight or whatever. I identify as a fucking threat.” – @lightboxgnome (https://www.tiktok.com/@lightboxgnome/video/6802270158644579590

While it might not be possible for you to paint your walls or write profanities on your walls, it is still very important to have an outlet. It’s also important that for this process you create a space devoid of judgement. 

Now, isn’t that a thing that is easier said than done right?! 

I spent a lot of my time trying to create my art and things, but being too crippled by fear allowing myself the space to make mistakes. But I’ve incorporated art into my life in a way where I’m not creating art, but I’m experiencing it. 

I have switched my focus from perfectionism and outcome to one of mindfulness. How will feel about how this paintbrush feels in my hands, how does the paint feel when I touch it, what does the wall feel like? Is it hot or cold? What colour do I want? What will it feel like when I put it on the wall, will it feel different? 

Journaling

Journaling is such a loaded term in the self-care community, isn’t it? It’s sometimes described as a cure-all to what ails you. Well, while I can’t promise that it will be a cure to what you’re going through, what I can say to you is that it can provide perspective. 

There is no wrong way to journal. 

You can use a guided journal that has prompts in it; such as our Pain Journal for pain management or The Happiness Planner that have more guided walkthroughs of what to expect. Paperchase also has a variety of reflecting journals available to go through depending on what you wish to focus on. 

But it could be as easy as grabbing an unused notebook or journal to write in. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be an old school notebook or a spiral-bound jotter pad. The most important thing to do is to get down your thoughts about your day in the best and easiest way to do so. That feels right for you.

That is ultimately the most fundamental thing in all of this, is to get to a stage where things fit into place and you can love yourself the way you need to be loved. There is no time limit on it, just keep doing what you can in the most authentic way you know how to.