Hello you lot, how are you all?
Fine? Busy? Tired? It’s a question we don’t often answer honestly, or at least with any substance. But I’m going to be honest. November has been a blue month for me. I’ve felt a bit flat, irritable and, at times, self-conscious and insecure. There’s been no obvious triggers. In fact, when friends have asked me how things are, I’ve been able to reply with “nothing much to report”, a rare and much coveted statement in my world.
Yet, instead of enjoying this period of calm, I began to feel anxious that I didn’t feel anxious. A ridiculous catch-22. Being in crisis feels familiar to me. Being high on adrenaline has become my baseline. I know who I am then and I know how to act. I like myself and am proud of my strength and resilience. Even small feats seem exceptional in difficult times. I feel like SuperWoman.
I’m not quite so keen on the person I am in the quiet. The lack of distraction enables insecurities to surface. And it’s always when things have settled, that we realise we’re exhausted and run-down. When my resources are low, I can very quickly find myself entangled in negative thought patterns once again. I doubt myself and my capabilities; I lose my ability to rationalise; and I take every remark to heart, certain that other people's’ anxieties have been caused by me. I berate myself for being useless / lazy / anxious, the list goes on and the cycle continues...
But in the past 2 years, I’ve learnt so much, enabling me to recover myself much more quickly. Some “Anxiety Truths” for you:
Anxiety always wanes, even if you can’t see a way out when you’re in it
It’s a natural, human condition; every single one of us experiences anxiety
You’ve been at “breaking point” before, and you didn’t break (because what does it look like to “be broken” anyway?)
I know what can help me to feel grounded and in control once again so I have spent the past few weeks implementing my self-care plan. If anything, low mood months are important because they can bring you back to yourself, reminding you to take care and reinstate your routine.
Routine is at the top of my self-care plan. I’m lucky that I work for myself so I can be in charge of how I structure my time (although I made the conscious decision to leave my 9 to 5 job so that I could do just that, so not so much luck, as self-determined). Monday is my favourite day of the week as it’s my day off. My out of office goes on, although I’m still up early to head to my favourite cafe for a coffee and most probably a chocolate muffin. I read. I reply to messages. I do some life admin. I look out of the window. An hour later, I go to counselling - something I’ve done every Monday for 2 years now. This commitment to myself has undoubtedly saved me. If counselling is something you’re keen to explore, there are lots of centres that offer low-cost options, and run sessions outside of work hours.
After counselling, I go bouldering all day. Nothing helps me to my let go of my anxieties more than a climb, as, for me, it’s not only exercise but a form of Mindfulness and problem-solving. Climbing is a full body workout that heightens your bodily awareness, bringing your attention to every muscle, from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes. Your only focus is how to make it to the top without falling, whilst remembering to breathe, which leaves no space for worrying.
I begin every day by reading a chapter of my current book. This gives me time to fully wake up and warm up my brain, rather than launching straight into my to-do list. It’s my way of doing something kind for myself to kick-start the morning, and I try to do this at intervals throughout the week. Sometimes, if I’m in need of a special treat, I might even take myself to an afternoon cinema screening. Being able to do things like this whenever I need to is what success ultimately looks like for me.
I find it really difficult to meditate on my own but I’ve found a guided meditation group for beginners that I love. It’s become an anchor in my week and I feel incredibly proud when I realise that I’ve carved out that time simply to sit quietly with myself, something I absolutely never thought I’d be able to do. If you struggle to meditate too, try listening to a clip by the wise Alan Watts; my favourite is ‘The Mind is a Vicious Circle’.
Finally, I try to live each day according to the values that matter most to me. A couple of years ago, I made a list of my core principles (or “COR principles”?), and I carry this with me at all times. Reviewing this list can help to ease my anxiety, for, as long as I have compassion, courage and connection, I know that I’m OK and that nothing else really matters.
Having worked through my self-care plan for several weeks now, I’m feeling in a much better place; more grounded, productive and self-aware. I’m guessing many of you might also have been feeling out of sorts this month, preferring to stay under the duvet rather than facing the cold, grey, rainy days? If so, why not have a think about what your personal self-care plan might look like and make a conscious commitment to stick to it for the next few weeks in the lead up to Christmas. Give yourself a little love and let’s make December a good one.
Lots of love, as always,