Anxiety: how I lost my confidence, how I’m finding it and the importance of confidence and self-esteem in strong mental health 

Losing confidence to me is like losing a sock – it’s possible with a bit of hard work and soul searching to find the original one, but often the case you find a similar one that doesn’t quite look or feel the same, or you make do with any old one until you’re ready. If for whatever reason you’ve ever experienced a major loss of confidence and had to try and build that confidence up again, you’ll probably know what i mean. It takes time, it fluctuates and is often a work in progress. 

So i’ve just started reading Katie Piper’s critically acclaimed book, ‘Confidence: The Secret’ and even though I’ve only read the first chapter (which is brilliant and really hard-hitting by the way), it got me thinking about my own experiences with confidence. If you don’t know, Katie was left severely burned after a vicious acid attack and talks about her confidence journey in her road to recovery.


To some extent, I’ve always felt like a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to confidence. Growing up, in some situations, I could be the loudest person in the room. Usually with just one or two close friends. In others, I would feel myself fade away into the background of shy oblivion. A true wallflower. For me, this was anything that involved big groups, giving presentations or acting in drama class at school, and scariest of all, socialising with boys. I was a late-bloomer in many areas of my life. 

However, this didn’t stop me from going from strength to strength in other areas. Grammar school drove me towards becoming a grade-A student, and the same drive and determination did me well at University where I graduated with a First Class Honours in English Language. I didnt just stop there. Out if academia, I was involved in societies, taught English abroad for a month when I was just 18 (to this day im still extremely proud that I flew abroad there and back by myself) and after university, I filled my hours beyond work with all shapes of volunteering and learning. 

I think this is why mental illness hit me so hard – going from being so independent and yes, to blow my own trumpet as we are all entitled to do, successful to (a long time ago) barely not being able to leave the house shook my confidence and in turn my self-esteem to the core. Another point when I was at my worst I could easily spend 10 minutes washing my hands until i felt ‘right’ when this should have taken seconds, and then having the repeat the process over and over drained me. I was unknowingly withering away nearly all of the hard work, acheivement and sense of self that had got me to where I wanted to be because of my only priority at the time was relief my short term pain with my anxious behaviour. But as anyone who has experienced a mental health problem will know, it is often the case of short term ‘gain’ and long term pain. 

How could I build myself up when I felt like I had to relearn nearly all the stuff I had done for years with such ease, and really, had taken for granted? At one point I couldnt even have walked to the corner shop 50 yards around the corner without feeling anxious and worried about having a panic attack. But I did it. Bit by bit, moment by moment, I forced myself to push myself out if this terrible comfort zone – believe me, sitting on the fence for such a long time gets awfully uncomfortable that sometimes you just have to move. 

And so where am I now? Well, i’m a homeowner and have a lovely home, I have a full time job, a loving partner, family and friends who support me (albeit one or two inevitably lost friendships along the way – we all have our own path to follow). At times, I have to pinch myself at how far I have come since falling in the mud. I do get moments of self-doubt sometimes, and there are still some things that I am still working on confidence wise, but I know that as much as my confidence was shaken I still did spring back, and that in itself gives me confidence and self-esteem. What some people don’t always necessarily understand is how much a role self-esteem and confidence play in the road to recovery, and really, in everyones journey, and that is something that is very individual and unique to everyone. Katie Piper’s first chaper highlights that pefectly and I sincerely am excited to read the rest of the book and to find out what else I might learn to help me in my own journey. And I write this to share awareness of the significant things that are confidence and self-esteem. Thank you Katie 😊

Hand-feeding squirrels!

So I haven’t posted in a while, so I wanted to write about something I have been enjoying recently at the start of this new year. During the last few weekends I have been visiting a beautiful park for the walk, the fresh air..but ultimately, just for the squirrels 🙂 I never knew how tame squirrels could be until now! Ever since i’ve discovered this, I literally want to keep going back every weekend to feed them! We take a bag of squirrel feed/peanuts (for animals) and head into the park, shaking the bag as we go. It’s not long before you catch a glimpse of a bushy ghost-like tail, and a little furry creature scampering across the grass towards you at surprising speed. With few people or dogs around, the squirrels are confident, and come right up to you 🙂 

One time, before we realised the squirrels were so tame, we only had swan and geese feed with us. Hearing the sound of the bag shake, the squirrels were intially interested, but then did an about-turn when they realised you didnt have what they wanted. This time though, the squirrels were more than happy with what we had to offer (you might want to wear gloves though as sometimes they nip when they are ‘testing’ what is in front of them).

We even fed them from the trees – now that’s room service 😉 

The point of all this is that it truely is such a relaxing and wonderful experience to spend time in and interacting with nature. Every time ive spent that time breathing in the fresh air of the woods, listening to the chattering of  the birds (I wonder what they are saying) and hand-feeding the squirrels and other wildlife we come across, I leave the park feeling refreshed, revived and at ease. Time in nature is time for the mind to rest, renew and be present with all the wonder of the beautiful surroundings. Try it yourself and let me know what you think about spending time with these beautiful animals 🙂

Finding Me: so what does Finding Dory have to say about mental health? (*warning, movie spoiler alert*)

Hey everyone!

First things first, stop right now if you are planning on watching Finding Dory and don’t want any spoilers. It’s a great movie and I don’t want to spoil it’s surprises for anyone, so seriously, stop now!

Okay, so those of you who have seen the movie (what did you think? So good, right?!) will probably be thinking ‘eh?’ from the title of this blog post, but bear with me. When you think about it, Finding Dory, is basically a film about a fish with a mental health problem. In Dory’s case, this is short term memory loss. On one level, the movie can be seen as a very enjoyable, sweet, heart warming and very funny kids movie. And you can watch and enjoy the movie just like that as it is without reading too much into it, and that’s absolutely fine. It’s a movie to entertain and to be enjoyed after all.  However, there are also lots of themes the movie touches on, and deeper levels (excuse the sea pun!) which explore some actually serious and important issues, including mental health, as I will outline below.

At the beginning of the movie, we see glimpses of how Dory became lost and away from her parents, and had to grow up alone. Her memory loss became so bad that eventually, she even forgot her parents, and forgot that she had been originally been looking for them. Dory’s ‘problem’ even causes issues with her newly-found friends, Marlin and Nemo. As Dory gradually begins to recall flash-backs of her childhood, but accidently leads Marlin and Nemo into danger, Marlin lashes out at Dory and tells her in effect to go away and forget, because that’s what she’s ‘good at’. Below the belt, huh! You know the harsh words stick with Dory throughout the rest of the film, as Dory mutters to herself about her lack of ability to remember, especially when she is feeling lost. I think we have all felt like that at some point or another, when we have perhaps become lost or doubted ourselves. However, perhaps this can be seen as a cruel-to-be-kind moment in retrospect, as in leaving her friends to go find her family by herself, it is Dory who leads the adventure essentially for the rest of the movie, improvising through the highs and lows of the journey until she of course, through many trials and tribulations and making friends along the way (notably the super quick and cool camouflage ‘Septupus’ Hank), she finds her parents and significantly, largely through her own judgement and abilities, which is kinda cool for a fish with short-term memory loss right.

13680053_10100328105428622_8596536361294013045_oPictured above: a plushie I found of the ‘Septicus’ octopus known as Hank – he has a big heart really (three , in fact ;))

By the end of the film, I felt left with a sense of wonder, and almost a tear to my eye. Through the help and support of her friends (who essentially become part of her family), Dory gradually recovers a lot of her memory of her childhood, and her memory becomes stronger. She finds herself as well as her past, and you can see a renewed sense of confidence, and identity. When Dory and Marlin are admiring the view from the drop-off point and taking in its beauty, it really is a ‘take-time-to-stop-and-smell-the-roses’ moment, as Dory has become more one and at ease with herself and her situation.  She accomplished something great, and something which she probably never thought she could do,  and so here is a moment to feel proud and celebrate. That sense of achievement one gets from doing something we couldn’t do before or something we’ve been aiming for, that is a brilliant feeling of happiness I think we can all relate to at one point or another. As someone with experience of fighting and overcoming mental health issues (though still a work in progress in some areas), that feeling of achieving something which was perhaps once so difficult, especially when it was something you naturally did with ease prior to a mental health condition, is something like no other. It’s the stepping stones to confidence and independence, and for me, Finding Dory captures that journey perfectly and profoundly, with a lot of touching humour along the way.

So Finding Dory: a kids movie yes, and a very good one indeed. But it also has a lot of life lessons and messages underneath, about family, friendships, mental health…It shows us that if we have a disability or disorder, we should not feel guilty or bad about ourselves for things that are not perhaps our fault, or are not our strengths in comparison to other people, but rather, with the help and support of friends (or ‘pipepals’ :D), family and most importantly, belief in ourselves, we can uncover and realise our true abilities, and often those which we were capable of doing all along, we just needed a nudge and a helping hand to get there. And once we get there, we can look at the unknown of the drop-off point and rather than feel a sense of fear or unease, we only see a sense of wonder, and of what adventures might be possible today :).

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and hope that it inspires you to, once you have seen the movie, to perhaps re-watch and see what you think for yourselves about the potential, deeper messages behind the movie, and perhaps see the film in a new light – at least, this is just my opinion and personal experiences of watching the movie. Go see for yourselves and let me know what you think 🙂

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Pic above: a shop display window for Finding Dory – how cute is the manta ray?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just do it! The Secret Power of Positive Affirmations

 

Have you ever thought about how Nike were certainly on to something with their famous slogan ‘Just do it’ and the accompanying big tick? Motivational for sports purposes yes, but what about motivational for mental health purposes? Bet they never really thought about that! There is a multiplicity of layers in the phrase ‘Just do it’, because it could mean so many things for so many different people, in so many different contexts. And maybe that’s why the brand name has been so successful and so iconic, because it reaches out to so many people. Congratulations to Nike aside, how does this relate to my blog post about mental health, I hear you ask?

Well, to begin with, let’s begin with what might seem at first a bit of a strange example. Have you ever been out and about doing your day-to-day business, when you’ve been thinking about something, and somebody walks past you wearing a t-shirt with a slogan that relates entirely to what you were just thinking about? I’m not 100% sure if I believe in signs or not per se, but when you find yourself walking down the street and this sort of thing happens, it does make you wonder. For example, you might find yourself physically going about the day, but internally doubting in your head whether or not you can do said x, y or z thing that you are about to do (maybe its a speech, or an exam, or whatever). Then, someone in a bright orange Nike t-shirt walks past with the words ‘Just do it’ beaming down at you. In this scenario, this seems like just the words you might need and it might just make you suddenly think HELL YEAH I CAN DO IT! That my friend, could be interpreted as a visual positive affirmation. And what might our life be like if we were setting down positive affirmations all the time and fitting them into our day like we would fit in brushing our teeth, or combing out hair? What if there is a way we could remind ourselves of what we are capable of so we can set out to achieve something we know we can – what if we could be our own guy in the Nike t-shirt, except we’re setting the positivity ourselves from the outset in our minds and not just relying on chance that something happens to give us the boost we need?

The power of positive affirmations to me is incredible. And I say this with experience from no or few affirmations, to affirmations becoming a part of my daily routine. Today I have been more mobile than I have been in over the past year, because I set out to do something which I wouldn’t have thought possible, but I still did it anyway. I just ‘did it’. There’s a book out there called ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. I’ve never actually read the book myself, but I think you can actually gain a lot just from the title, which fellow anxiety sufferers will most likely relate to. As the title of this blog suggests, sometimes you just gotta feel the fear and do it anyway. You just gotta do it. No matter what might be going through your head about the possible outcomes and ifs and buts about what might possibly happen. I hear you though when you say, well, it’s alright for some people, but HOW do you actually just DO it, when as one example, for a lot of people, even getting out of bed in the morning can be a daily struggle. Well, the key thing that has and is helping me is positive affirmations. If you truly believe in yourself and in your abilities, no matter what feelings of self-doubt are trying to tell you, you will very likely succeed. Because a lot of the time, in the case of anxiety disorders as one example, fear makes things seem a lot harder than they actually are, and it holds us back and keeps us grounded away from opportunities that would actually help us to become better and broaden our horizons. It takes time to build up a level of confidence to do this, and tackle your fears. I’m still doing this myself, but each time I ‘just do’ something that I might be afraid of or something which I undermine my own self-confidence about, that’s score one for me and score nil for whatever resistance is holding me back. And that in itself is very liberating and confidence building. And if I can do it, you certainly can!

There are other obstacles we might have to get over the sit down and set positive affirmations, that is to say, positive statements about things we like about ourselves and our abilities. They are often an untapped source for a lot of people, as often some people are not very good at blowing their own trumpets. That’s okay, it just takes practice. And the more you big yourself up, the better you will feel, and in turn more confidence you will have in your day to day abilities and activities. Confidence knows no bounds and its nothing to feel shameful or modest about.

So how can you build positive affirmations into your daily life and routines? There are two main things that I do at the moment which help and remind me to draw upon positive affirmations.

  1. Every morning and evening, I write in ‘The Five Minute Journal’ (available as I hard copy and now an app) created, by YouTube icons  Mimi and Alex Ikonn and their business partner UJ Ramdas. You can read more about the journal at the links below, but essentially, the five minute journal is about you building up positive affirmations and habits into routine, to have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing. I’ve been writing in my journal for two years now and I’m 100% confident that it works (at least I can say, that I feel it has worked for me). One of the things you write about in the allotted five minutes in the morning is a section called ‘The Daily Affirmation’, where you write down something positive that you believe about yourself, perhaps something you want to work on. For example, if you someone who is perhaps a bit insecure about your appearance and what to feel more confident about yourself, then finding something positive to affirm about yourself and how you want to be done, done over time, I genuinely believe over time can help to boost your confidence, well being, and your ability to engage in activities you may have not always felt confident enough to engage in. For example, you could write ‘I am a sexy lady’.
  2. You can draw on the above to build up a bank of positive affirmations in your head which you can draw upon when you need them. You could even write them down in places or items that you frequently use, such as a wall calendar or journal. You could even repeat them as mantras, either out loud or in your head, as a part of other fulfilling activities, such as yoga morning stretches, or just simply your getting ready in the shower.

In summary, the phrase ‘Just do it’ is a very powerful positive affirmation which you can use to your advantage to perhaps even turn your life around. Try and see for yourself and see if you feel, or act, any different 🙂

Have you got any positive affirmations that you use, or perhaps situations or routines that you use them in? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts as below.

I am by no means an expert at any of this I would add, this is just to document what works for me and to perhaps , by sharing what works for me, might helps others in return. You have to find what works for you of course as we are all unique individuals. All the same, I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and hope that it has inspired you and given you a bit of insight into the the secret world of positive affirmations. Secret or not, their power is yours to make of and use :).

Links:

The Five Minute Journal: https://www.intelligentchange.com/pages/our-story

 

 

 

 

What I like to do on a Sunday evening…

Hey, I’m back already! I must have the blog bug 😉  Its been a lovely summer’s day today, and I’ve been out and about you’ll be pleased to hear (less of the cooped up battery-hen cabin fever). On a beautiful day like today, being out and enjoying the sunshine is really the best thing. We went to feed the ducks, something I love doing (as well as trying to hand feed pigeons – believe me, it’s possible ;)) and had a good mooch around town. I bought a few things, but not too much, mainly pamper treats, which I’m sure is something i’ll posting about soon..

So bringing me back to things I like to do on a Sunday, something that I have been doing every week in nearly the past year ever since I finish my CBT, is reviewing how I think the week has gone and planning ahead goals and things I want to focus on for the week ahead. I do this every Sunday evening without fail and doing this really helps me to focus on how I’ve been feeling during the week, and spotting any signs of anything that I might perhaps need to try and amend, adjust or (re-)focus on. For example, if I had been finding it hard to sleep, I would make sure that in the next week I would really focus on winding down before bed, spending some more time just slowing down and pampering myself, and then getting an early night (usually that isn’t a problem for me anyway, I’m no way near a night owl). So doing this can help with goal setting, which i’ll come onto momentarily..

So I write about things I have done that have gone really well and things that perhaps haven’t gone so well, and more importantly in both cases, WHY. It’s all well and good saying what things we have accomplished, or what things we might have failed to do for whatever reason, but without including the WHY as well, we have real no conscious recollection of what things we actually did specifically to succeed, or what things might have prevented us from not doing as well as we potentially could have done. Thinking about this as near as you can to the time really helps to keep things in perspective, and to not let yourself dwell on things, or make ‘mountains out of mole hills’, as tends to be my nature. For example, that happened because of specifically x, y , or z, not because of your mind wondering about other issues that weren’t really there. For example, you could say that I achieved going out some place by myself but I didn’t overthink it beforehand and just DID it. This is just one example.

I’m pleased to say that as time is going on, I have dramatically more things in the ‘went well’ column, than the ‘not so well’ column  (or smiler face and not so smiley face columns, as I tend to categorise them) . These days, I often struggle to find things which didn’t go well, so that’s a big achievement me in a year (and that may sound like blowing my own trumpet, but believe me, its a good habit to have). It’s also a visual confidence booster and a weekly reminder of the things you have done and accomplished, so really, I’d say its a useful exercise for anyone to do, whether they have mental health issues or not.

The second main thing I do is set goals for the week ahead, just maybe three or four things that I want to focus on and achieve by the end of the week. For example, you  could call that friend you’ve been meaning to call. Or, you could fit in that yoga session you’ve been meaning to do but keep putting off (I’m guilty of that for re!). If you break things down into smaller, manageable goals, they are much more achievable. You may have heard of making SMART goals before? Basically this involves making goals realistic and specific, to a given time, meaning you are more likely to do them, know when you are doing them and then you are more likely to achieve them.

So, what are my goals for this week? Well, sometimes it helps you to tell other people, as in that sense it gives a sense of accountability – someone can ask if you did what you said your were going to. But often goals are very personal and you don’t necessarily need to share them, and that’s okay too. For now, I’m going to keep mine private, but I might share some in time 🙂

I hope this post has inspired you to think about what things you have achieved this week and what you could potentially achieve in the next. After all, we can do anything if we believe we can and put our minds to it, and these ideas might just help give you a bit of a focus and a plan towards setting some goals you might not have thought about making. And you may not have even thought about setting goals before. But who know’s just what you might achieve in the making?! 🙂

 

 

My First Blog and Remedies for Boredom

Welcome to my first blog – I hope you enjoy reading it and my future blog posts! Please check out the ‘About’ section of my site to see what this blog is all about and why I am doing this in case you are wondering….

So, the first thing to know about me is that I’m a Gemini. I’m not one generally for astrology and if anything I have a laugh at the horoscope section in magazines (don’t we all like to have a read of them and think, hmm how much does this relate to my life now?! That’s totally true! Or what a load of tripe!). However, one of the things I’ve heard about Geminis if you believe it to be true is that we get bored VERY easily, and that is completely true of me! I would generally describe myself as a social butterfly – I often like the company of people and fluttering away from one activity to another, but I also need my own space and alone time; my cocoon and comforts, if you like. But i’m also a creature of habit. If I’m occupied and following a usual weekly schedule, then I don’t have time to get bored. My mind is occupied, and there is always plenty to be getting on with in my job. At weekends and evenings, free time is precious and I try and make the most of all my spare time as much as possible, to find time to do things that I actually want to do and enjoy, to chillax and have that all important ‘me’ time. I also value my holidays and very much look forward to them, planning what i’ll likely be doing each day, and thinking of all the fun stuff I can do if I can somehow fit it all in…

The irony is, sometimes, when the time comes round, and the sea of free time stretches before me, taken out of my normal routine, I am faced with choice and sometimes wonder what the heck to do or where to start. Its been a long time since I’ve had a full week off work, and I did make my usual plan, and I was fine until about 3pm this afternoon. But as the day moved forward and I didn’t feel like I had much to occupy myself with, I consistently found myself wondering how to spend my time, and equally a little frustrated that I felt like I was wasting it. Repeatedly checking social media for something interesting to look at, but all the same, feeling saturated by all the fun other people seemed to be out having..(social media in my opinion, is both a blessing and curse, which I’m sure i’ll cover that in a future post. It seems to have changed a lot in recent years, and there doesn’t seem to be much value on just being over doing…but I digress). By the time by partner came home, I was near resembling Grumpy from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs and had regressed into a five year old;

‘I’m boooooooooored’
‘I don’t know what to do….’
‘I don’t have any motivation to do anything..’

And so forth.

So as I sat there, feeling sorry for myself that it felt like another lonely Saturday not really doing that much at all, partly my fault because I hadn’t bothered to go out and actually seek other life forms, except for checking the mail box and withdrawing some cash from a machine that didn’t even talk back, I sat there and realized that I need to make the effort to do something. Anything. Just get up and get out your funk. So that’s what I did. I relunctantly turned on the Xbox, moping and flopping back to the sofa like a worn out puppet, and tried to get my head in the game and focused on something. Ten minutes later I was laughing away, chasing a ‘ball’ around a ‘pitch’ in a little aggressive verhicle and thinking what a silly billy I was for not getting up and doing something else sooner. But it served as a reminder to me that I can change my mood by changing my activity, and the sooner I do this the better I am for it, but boredom sometimes sneaks up on us without us realizing at first. Rather than being sat stagnant, my brain became occupied in something else, and it served as a distraction from how I was feeling. You can use this technique in lots of scenarios, which I know I tend to do, but for some reason had forgotten. For example, maybe when your feeling tense or maybe when you have a problem that needs solving that you just can’t get your head round. A change of scene or activity is sometimes all that you need. And people say, ‘let’s change the subject’, when they want to move away from a situation. Or people talking about a problem with ‘a fresh head’ I’m sure we could pinpoint numerous examples that often we may not even realise we are doing. The important thing to remember is we are mostly in charge of how our day goes. We can either choose to feel bored and mopey, or we can change the course of the day and do something about it.

And so its now 9:31pm at night, and as a result of today’s feelings I’ve churned out today’s blog, and now feel rather pleased that at least that is something that I have accomplished today. But there are always lots of things to notice throughout out day that we may not always realise or appreciate as noteworthy or special at the time. Sometimes it is just the little things that we need to pay attention to, and perhaps focus more on ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, but doing something else in the face of feeling frustrated with how we are ‘doing the being’ can often help us to move forward quicker, and turn a frown upside down, and smile and enjoy the day, and appreciate the here and now. It is something that seems so simple, but may not come to attention immediately, and it usually always the simple things that work the best.

What about you? What things do you like to do when you are bored or are there any techniques that you use to keep yourself in a positive mood? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Till my next blog 🙂