Slaying the Beasts and Receiving but a Scratch

Oh look, here comes another mindfulness/anxiety/CBT metaphor post. Observe!

Today I did some proper adulting. However, it almost didn’t happen because I experienced an anxiety attack just as my child care arrived to enable me to partake in said adulting.  My tasks were simply to go and vote, and get a blood test at the local community hospital just the other side of the city centre.  You may not know this, but I don’t have a phobia as such of blood tests but I dislike them immensely due to the fact that my veins are rubbish and tend to disappear when phlebotomists are present.

Today this decided to manifest as a panicky/anxiety-driven flap in which my poor mother was subject to me deciding whether I was going to go or not, me actually phoning my GP to determine whether the test could wait until I go in for my op (it couldnt), phoning my dad to see if he could give me a lift to at least get me there (he couldn’t) and the whole time she remained calm and patient as a said, occupying the smalls whilst I flapped.  Eventually, I decided I was going to put my big girl pants on and go.

Having rubbish veins and unfortunately several previous blood tests, I am aware of all the hints and tricks such as being warm and hydrated, making a fist etc.  tHEREFORE I took all measures, and, get this, decided to become mindfully aware of my walking and then my breathing as I waited for my number to come up.  You know what?  It worked.  The more I breathed, the more I felt my anxiety dissipating and the more relaxed I became,  I was still slightly apprehensive but it was totally manageable.  The phlebotomist I was was lovely, and listened when I explained about my poor history with blood tests.  Usually the aforementioned tricks of the trade helped a little, but today despite my  power walk to the hospital in my coat (after voting – see adult points earned already) followed by drinking a whole bottle of strawberry flavour water, my veins did not want to play ball so she ended up taking blood from my hand using a very pretty but complicated needle – butterfly tube – plastic thing combo.

It wasn’t pleasant, it sucked when she moved the needle around in my veins to try and strike gold but I felt a lot less stressed than I have previously, focusing on my breath and reminding myself this was as bad as it was going to get.  But it certainly wasn’t the worst experience.

 

After that, I power walked to M&S and had a delicious lunch and discovered chocolate covered cookie dough bites and chorizo crisps.  I need to go there for random junk food more often.  I feel like the anxiety was akin to a small yet persistent aggressive terrier that once it got hold would not let go until I took it for a walk, and then it got so bored of terrorising me it just left of its own accord.

 

 

As a bonus, tonight the biggest small asked to play with balloons.  So I sucked it up, and retrieved a couple of small ballons for him and one for his brother from the “therapy balloon bag” and let them play with them for th elongest time ever.  None of them burst and nobody died.  Today was a good therapy day 🙂

Being Here Now

I am going to try my very best to articulate these thoughts into words, so bear with me. Firstly,  I cannot fail to mention my sadness about the horrific events that occurred in Manchester last night.  My heart breaks a little with every story, plea for contact with unaccounted for loved ones and devastating news at those who sadly won’t be going home.

Also, the thing that has made me well up the most is the pride i feel for the fellow humans who have gone above and beyond to provide comfort, food, transport, shelter and love to those affected.

I also cannot imagine how Ariana Grande is feeling having her performance targeted like that. Poor lady.

With that said, the inspiration for tonight’s blog came to me whilst I was meditating following a reluctant dumbell workout (wow how pretentious does that sound?!).  A little while ago I wrote about the difference between being and doing, and how to differentiate between the two in real life. Easier said than done, right? But it led me to think about exercise. It’s no secret I have an ongoing battle with my weight and by proxy physical appearance. I am trying hard to sever the mental link between that and my self worth. One sure fire way to lose weight and generally get healthier is to exercise. Before I have put pressure on myself to do it, because that’s how you lose weight (as well as eating right). However since I have made a habit of it, I am enjoying working out for the sake of working out. 
Forget whatever goals I have of one day feeling like it might be acceptable to wear a bikini in front of other people (not that I intend to, just feeling like I can); that would be acceptable bonus acceptable nd not the be all and end all. I LIKE  the workouts I am doing. I LIKE  the lady that does them. And as a bonus, I like the positive difference it makes to my frame of mind. And with no defined goal, it makes it feel a lot more relaxed!
Summary: Do it because you like it and do what has to be done.
Second point from that: meditation. I recall reading several times not to meditate to achieve enlightenment,  sleep, relaxation or any other profound experience other than to perform the act itself and spend some time purely in the moment.  It made me think that I am not lost in meditation, which seems to be quite a popular hippy outsider concept ( for want of a better definition) but through mindfulness practice I am HERE in meditation. 

Despite my amateur ramblings, I feel this demonstrates to myself that I am really getting the concept of living mindfully and the attitudes  I’m beginning to adapt naturally reflect that. 
There, that feels better! Now to enjoy the rest of my bath and hopefully the baby will sleep through the night 🙂

I think it’s working :-)

Wow, what a difference in how I am feeling and behaving!

Argh I’m going to sound a little bit preachy now; believe me that is not the intention I just want to share how helpful I’m finding keeping a bullet journal.  It’s like a paper PA that has seen a massive increase in my own personal productivity in the week that I’ve been keeping it.  Like paying outstanding invoices promptly, signing up for things, working out, meditating and being more aware of what I’m eating.

 

I love being able to set daily goals for myself and the satisfaction of crossing off each task as I complete it.  In addition, because I have been able to keep better track of it I have been meditating almost every day (only times I didn’t were after an evening of drinking – not really the best frame of mind for me to sit still!) and working out at least every other day.

 

I really like doing kettle bell workout videos on YouTube.  As husband does kung fu, he finds it helpful as well to do between classes and I love that it’s something we can enjoy together.  As the videos range from 15 mins to 30 mins I find myself sometimes doing a couple a night, it’s getting addictive!  I am pleased with past me for picking up a couple of kettle bells from Aldi when they were on offer a while ago, will definitely be looking to purchase another soon with a heavier weight.  I haven’t noticed any difference in my weight/body shape yet but it’s only been a week and I am enjoying the fact that I have made a commitment to myself and am sticking to it more than anything else at the moment.

 

I also found out that my surgey will be on 2nd July.  I’m scared – not going to lie – and to be honest the worst bit will probably be when they cannulate me!  But I plan to use the techniques I have learned through CBT and mindfulness to try and make it as least stressful experience as possible.  Plus husband has 2 weeks off work so I know the boys and my mum (who I work with) are going to be OK.

The mindfulness meditations I have been doing have made me feel overall calmer; in particular when dealing with children who refuse to sleep/settle/not sleep through the night and also feel more positive despite the resulting lack of sleep.

I have been trying to do the loving kindness meditation over the last 7 days but to be honest, I’m having trouble getting into it as much as those that focus more on the breath/body so will be trying that kind this evening.  So yeah, it’s nice to have something positive to talk about!

I also managed another period of the boys playing with balloons… husband even blew another one up (sneaky man!) and was releasing it much to the boys’ delight.  I feel like I cheated a bit as it was mainly whilst I was in the kitchen preparing dinner but this for me is progress, and I kept popping my head into the living room to see what they were up to.

 

Definitely feeling a lot better than I did a year ago.  Give meditation and mindfulness a try, I’m still very much a beginner but already feeling the benefits!

Behaviour Experiment: Giving the Children (old) Balloons to play with before bed.

A while ago, I brought home a binbag of about 5 balloons from my mum’s church hall, with the intention of using them as therapy balloons. A few months later,  they are still all pretty well inflated but with enough “give” that they won’t burst easily. 

Last night I read some pretty inspiring words in a Mindfulness for Overcoming Anxiety book which I will share here; 

Know your purpose

Know your feelings

Do what needs to be done 

To wait for your feelings about something to change before you do it doesn’t work because they won’t change until you do it. We have control over our behaviour. We do what needs to be done to fulfill our purpose even though our feelings want to push us in another direction,  hence undertaking behaviour experiments willingly.
So tonight I decided it would be a good idea to let the children play with the balloons. Which was fine until 3 year old decided he wanted them all for himself, and his little brother wasn’t allowed any.

This ended up in daddy confiscating all of the balloons and the children being sent up to bed (it was bedtime anyway) where I then spent 15 minutes calming and undressing a devastated 3 year old who needs to learn to share!
But I did it 🙂 I was brave and unleashed the balloons anyway, and feel like I could do it again tomorrow. Success!
And none of them burst. 

Working the Body and the Mind

This week it appears I have got my mojo back!  Or obtained some mojo from somewhere; either way it’s brilliant and I’m not complaining!  I’ve felt more energised and involved in my work, and have also had the motivation to try out new workout experiences AND meditation the last couple of nights!

I realised that 30 day challenges, although a guaranteed way of getting fit if followed properly, are not for me.  I can’t commit to doing it daily (which isn’t too bad) but I just put too much pressure on myself and so have decided to go my own way rather than follow someone else’s plan.

 

Last night, 6 months after purchasing them, I tried out a 10 minute kettlebell workout on YouTube.  I was amazed how hard I worked in that short time, and was feeling the after effects for most of the day today.  So this evening I decided to try Yoga, thinking it might be a bit more on the relaxing side and maybe do something to relieve my hard-worked muscles.  Again, I searched for a beginner 10 minute video and boy was I wrong… my heart rate was going and some of the moves were quite difficult.  Needless to say it was not the relaxing, gentle experience I was hoping for!  But did I enjoy it?  Yes!  Will definitely be doing more!

 

Since finishing Sons of Anarchy, I definitely feel at a bit of a loss of what to do in the evening.  I am still playing the Witcher 3 after almost a year but I don’t want to spend every night in front of the TV, I want to do things that are going to make me feel good and be good for me in the long run.    And in addition, tonight I decided to undertake a Mindfulness meditation and ask husband very nicely to be on small person alert so I could be uninterrupted, and hopefully not fall asleep.

 

I can totally see why people do this.  It was only short – again 10 mins as I don’t want to overwhelm myself and it’s been a while – but to perform a proper, mindful meditation felt like my mind was having a lovely hot bubble bath with a Lush bath bomb.  I didn’t want it to end, so must be a good sign!  The night is still young, so I might be totally rock n roll and get into my jamas and read my book in bed.

Oh, Hello Hurdle! (Also, a Look at the Authentic Self)

I am currently trying to clamber over a hurdle.  It isn’t pretty, it isn’t graceful, and more often than not I am landing in mud. I am learning so much about Mindfulness yet am struggling to put it into practice, letting everyday occurrences and my own ego get in the way. I feel like I have no power over myself, and this is affecting my mood. Sometimes it feels like there’s a barrier between how I am behaving and how I want to behave and ultimately be.

My attitude to past, present and future events mostly relate to my diet.  i have good intentions to eat better and exercise more but I focus too much on enjoying unhealthy food NOW, telling myself I will eat better in the future to make up for it.  Unfortunately for me, this future does not and never will exist as long as I am not present in my current healthy eating goals.  So right now, I am being present in it by ignoring the salted caramel fudge in the fridge and bag of popcorn by the toaster.  If I can get through this evening without eating any of them I will be proud, as pitiful as that may sound.

Referring to my last post, it’s the being I’m struggling with! This leads me to share my latest insight through study; the authentic self.  So, apparently there are 5 simple ways to move to a more authentic self.  This is according to one author so I shall give my views for each one.

  1. Appreciate Kindness. (This is something I try to do anyway, whether it’s directed at me or an opportunity to show it to others.  I think we should all be kind in general, so I like this and can live with it.
  2. Listen to people’s stories with full attention, not just politely, because they matter. (Absolutely agree, and I am guilty of not doing this, usually when I am wrapped up in reading something, watching something, playing a game or otherwise occupied.  I mean on a day-to-day level, sometimes it might not be appropriate.)
  3. Ask a colleague for their opinion on something not work-related (currently, I am self-employed although I do work with my mum.  it is something I have practiced anyway in previous roles and would also give opportunity to exercise point 2.)
  4.  (ITalk to anyone who approaches you in the street whether begging, trying to sell something or doing a survey. (I don’t feel comfortable doing this; usually I have my boys with me and at aged 1 and 2 I would rather get to where I am going with no delay, distraction, meltdown or fire.)
  5. Don’t take mobile phone calls when with someone. Concentrate fully on being with them. (Guilty of not doing this one this afternoon with having a drink with my best friend; husband was messaging me updates with what he and the boys were doing at home! I totally get not texting or using social media, however I wouldn’t want to not be accessible by phone due to a small with possible ASD and a small with allergies.)

It would be interesting to see how these suggestions lead to the authentic self but at the very least would lead to being more present, focusing attention and making others and yourself feel more valued and respected which can never be a bad thing.

I find, as I mentioned above, that my barriers to my own authentic self are anxiety, phobia and my tendency to catastrophise things.  I am also guilty of pretending to have knowledge of things I don’t in order to gain favour from another person; it’s best just to be honest and learn from and listen to them than pretend and potentially look foolish further down the line.  It’s also to be honest with your opinions and, well, don’t be a dick.

As part of my own study, I also answered questionnaires on whether I tended to fixate on the past, future or present; authenticity regarding whether i have issues and what effect those have on my life and concentration, how much attention I give to certain aspects of my life including listening and reading.  I have chosen to keep my answers to these private so it’s something I can reflect on again in the future.

 

Thank you for reading this post.  Although I have primarily written it for me, I welcome any outside guidance or comments.  A lovely gentleman called Luke in my previous post linked me to his podcasts – well, one in particular but I enjoyed it so much I found his website, downloaded all the material I could sign up for and plan to enjoy further podcasts (even installed iTunes on laptop so I could!) – so already writing in this medium is paying off!  Here is the website http://herohealthroom.com/

There, I got to the end of the post and still haven’t eaten the fudge or popcorn.  I am going to take part in some more study, reflection and have a peaceful, mindful sunday evening!

Te

 

 

Mindfulness and Emotion: Acceptance or Avoidance?

I had a realisation today.  Being a long-term anxiety sufferer, I have an automatic tendency to over-analyse practically everything.  I am aware I do it, and am actively working on trying not to do it so much, using mindfulness to breathe, let go of the thoughts and be more present in what’s happening now.  It’s quite funny then, (and it’s OK to find it funny, I find humour a wonderful way of managing and understanding my interactions with the world) that the practice of mindfulness itself should spark a raging internal debate as far as emotions are concerned.  Now, bear with me whilst I try and make these thoughts into readable words that you will understand.

 

My last post addressed the nature of being; being present and accepting and not dwelling on events, thoughts or feelings in the past or future. My inner monologue, upon addressing emotions and their positive and negative effect on one’s feelings, went pretty much as such;

 

“So, the idea isn’t to let any emotions have any affect on your state of being?”

“Yes, I think so,”

“Good ones as well as bad ones?

“From what I gather… being  is living in the now and so that would mean not dwelling on the past, including happy feelings.”

“That doesn’t sound right.  Are you quite sure?”

No. I think I need to think about this a bit more,”

So I thought, and thought, and thought a bit more.  I had over-analysed to the point I had (wrongly) drawn the conclusion that in order to practice mindfulness, I would have to become distant and cold and avoid all emotions, both positive and negative.  After some further careful pondering, I realised the error of my ways, the first being that I had over-thought it!

It’s not about avoiding emotions, whether they are positive or negative.  A popular analogy, one I try and implicate myself, is to observe my emotions as an outsider, or like a train passing through a station.  It’s bloody difficult and I am still working on it, but being aware of the emotions I am feeling and the effect they are having on my body.  Being aware that the emotion will pass; just as the train is passing through the station and that I just have to ride it out for now.  It’s about accepting.

It seems  bit wrong, having to accept anything that leads to unpleasant feelings both mentally and physically. To me though, acceptance doesn’t mean the same as putting up with.  To me, acceptance of negative emotions means accepting that they are happening, being aware of how they are affecting me and trying to use mindfulness to centre myself and relax so that the effects aren’t as harrowing.  With positive emotions and feelings, I endeavour to use mindfulness to really make myself aware of what I am feeling, and the physical and mental effects it’s having on me.  Gosh I hope this makes sense and doesn’t seem to wishy-washy!

Would it be too cheesy to add “It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it?” in this case, the experience of emotion?

 

In summary: mindfulness isn’t detachment from or avoidance of emotions.  Otherwise we would be just like zombies and never have any kind of fun and that isn’t cool.  Mindfulness is about accepting emotions for what they are without letting them have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

 

Being vs Doing

I have had a much better day today, probably because I have had better sleep thanks to the baby sleeping in his own bed all night last night!  I have eaten better, and managed to ration myself to one episode of Sons of Anarchy so I could spend some time with my “Practical Mindfulness” book.

 

Tonight, I have been reading about the difference between being and doing.  To be mindful is to have a mind that is experiencing “being” rather than busy “doing”.  I shall try and articulate this a little more clearly; a busy mind with distraction and anxiety is not in the moment but elsewhere, so is therefore not able to experience mindfulness.

 

When the mind is busy doing, it is occupied by

  • Judgement
  • Self-Criticism
  • Problem-Solving
  • Engaging with feelings, past and present
  • Remembering
  • Speculating
  • Reacting

 

When we are simply being, (simply,ha!) our minds are aiming to experience the now with

  • non-judgement
  • Acceptance
  • Passivity
  • Non-Engagement
  • Living in the Moment
  • Attention
  • Responsiveness

 

It looks a lot when listed like this, however the latter list to me encompasses what mindfulness is all about, and how i can use it as a tool to deal with everyday anxieties and to help cope with addressing my phobia.  I found today that a few times I felt a bit short with the children; their behaviours were making me very quickly feel annoyed or angry (tell me a parent who doesn’t ever feel like this at one time or another) so I was really working on accepting my feelings, and responding to them without reacting.

 

I found that when I was putting toddler to bed, writing down my feelings helped me to deal with them so that I wasn’t dwelling on how angry and frustrated I felt when he decided it was time to squawk and climb out of bed several times.  And of course my patience and calm mindset paid off as eventually he stayed in bed and is sleeping soundly!  But my focus was on being mindful. accepting what was happening and letting any emotion I felt drift away onto the paper.

Ironically as I am typing this i can hear the baby stirring so it’s time to pack up the laptop and go settle him, but I am glad to be back on it with my studies and getting pleasantly lost in the world of Mindfulness!

Thursday Update: Medical Stuff

15:40 I am tired and to be honest, a bit scared.  I knew having had an ultrasound on my gallbladder recently that I have gall stones, quite a of as it happens. I knew from my own research, and confirmed by a phone call from my doctor, that surgery was pretty much inevitable.

Now a month later, I am sat in the waiting room to see the consultant in surgical outpatients and I feel nervous. Aside from a c-section, I have never had surgery before and never been under general anaesthetic. 

Will they want to remove the stones or the actual organ itself?

How will the do this?

Will I have to stay in? (That I wouldn’t actually mind, a night off sounds wonderful)

How long will it take to recover?

16:12 Confirmed my gall bladder is to be removed under general anaesthetic as a day surgery case, looking at an approximate wait of 6 weeks followed by a 2-6 week recovery. Slightly worrying as I am self employed.

Also advised to avoid all fatty food, including cheese and butter. So naturally I bought a pack of sweets to deal with it so managed to fail lent on day 2. Ugh. Don’t think daily challenge will happen either because i am not there mentally, going to watch Sons of Anarchy and sob on the sofa.

Awakening

Firstly, happy pancake day!

I hate eaten so many at lunch time – both as part of my main and dessert – i think i have definitely had my fill for another year.

It feels quite ironic in a way experiencing such a thing as an awakening when I am very tired physically following a restless night courtesy of both toddler and baby, but I need to write this down.

 

Last night, whilst an upset and tired but unwilling to sleep toddler cuddled up to me in my bed I had a thought – would Reiki help him with his behaviour and overall help him feel a bit more calm and relaxed?  I was attuned to Reiki level 1 in 2006 but have rarely used it since, and i felt like i was channelling it last night as I lay awake and holding him.  this evening i  put out a call on Facebook for any friends who were knowledgeable in such matters to make themselves known and have had some fantastic responses which have really helped me and led to a bit of an epiphany.

 

Mindfulness is something i came across whilst undertaking CBT (which is still happening slowly but surely) and this has in a way reawakened my spiritual side but for me.  Not in a “I want to read for everyone and heal the world” way but a more “how can i be the best me and create a positive self and environment” way.  Ten years later, older and I like to think somewhat wiser, I am ready to use these skills primarily to help myself and my family.  If it leads elsewhere, so be it.

 

I don’t know if it’s the endorphins from my exercise (another day, another part of the 30 day challenge complete!) but I feel so positive about it right now.  And it doesn’t matter what other people think, this is for me.