Posts tagged anxiety
HOW TO MAKE A SELF-CARE PLAN

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:

  1. Anxiety always wanes, even if you can’t see a way out when you’re in it

  2. It’s a natural, human condition; every single one of us experiences anxiety

  3. 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,

N x


NAOMI'S SELF-CARE READING LIST TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES

Help Me! One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life

by Marianne Power

This has been my comfort read of the month, and I’ve forced all of my friends to read it, too. Journalist, Marianne Power, decided to test out one self-help book a month for a year, including Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Secret, by actually acting on the authors’ advice.

But what begins as a fun experiment soon becomes an often testing investigation into self-awareness and what it ultimately means to be happy in oneself. The result is an hilariously self-deprecating and poignant memoir, in which you can’t help but identify with, and feel reassured by the wonderful Marianne.

The Kindness Method: Changing Habits for Good

by Shahroo Izadi

With a background in Behavioural Change and Addiction, Shahroo’s book is a game-changer for anyone wanting to put an end to unwanted habits, be it drinking, binge-eating, or anxious thinking. She refutes the idea that things have to hit rock-bottom before they can get better, and instead argues that change will be effective and long-lasting if we spend time developing our self-esteem in the first instance.

The basis of the book is practical, encouraging you to create an assortment of mind maps relating to different themes, (such as ‘things I’m proud of’). I incorporated this into my daily routine for the two weeks it took me to read the book, making the mind maps the first thing I would do each morning.

The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living

by Dr Russ Harris

ACT, an acronym for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, is the newest form of popular therapy and coaching which aims to cultivate well-being through mindful, values-based living. The idea is that you need to accept what you cannot personally control, and commit to action that enriches your life by clarifying what is truly important to you.

Dr Russ Harris is an internationally-acclaimed ACT trainer, having trained over 30,000 health practitioners. He believes that our current ideas about happiness are misleading and directly contribute to our stress and anxiety epidemic. His approach to happiness is instead based on mindfulness as a means of reducing stress, enhancing performance, and managing emotions. You can read the first chapter here.

A short story for you...

If you don't yet subscribe to our newsletter, you will have missed Naomi's personal story of an eventful Tuesday that she had a few weeks ago. Her experience that day led her to reflect on compassion - for others and for ourselves - something that is incredibly important to all of our work with COR. We didn't want you to miss out, so thought we'd share the story here as well.

We hope you enjoy reading and find some time today to show yourself, or someone else, a moment of compassion. 

A, H and N xxx

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As I’m sure many of us did, I woke up on Tuesday consumed with anxiety at the prospect of the workload I needed to tackle after the long weekend. I tend to hotdesk at the same café every day, but, for no particular reason, I decided to go to a different café. I managed ten minutes of emails before a woman in her late fifties came in and sat at the table next to me. Let's call her L. She was crying uncontrollably and wringing her hands, hunched over and shaking, and clearly very distressed.

I looked around the café but every person was making a conscious effort to ignore her. I bought her a coffee, gave her a pack of tissues, and then plugged my earphones in again and went back to my emails. But I couldn’t shift the feeling that I should talk to her.

Eventually, I told myself that work could wait and I went and sat beside her. I asked, ‘Is there anything I can do?’, to which she replied, ‘I don’t think I’m very well’. I asked if she suffered with depression. She nodded.

We talked for an hour, about her childhood in the care of her grandparents in Trinidad; her confusion at coming to London, having not seen her parents for years; her complex familial relationships; her frustration at being made redundant from the charity she’d worked at for a decade; and her sorrow at never having met a soulmate to have children with. It was easy to trace the trajectory of her descent into the dark world of depression and isolation.

She couldn’t remember the name of her doctor’s surgery so I called all of the practices in the area to see if they had her on their system. When I finally found the right one, I took a taxi there with her, and I agreed to accompany her to see the doctor. Finally, leaving her in their hands, I said goodbye and gave her a hug, told her it had been a pleasure to spend time with her, and that she’d been so brave asking me for help.

Back at my laptop that afternoon, all my anxiety had dissipated. The surreal experience of that morning, being privy to a stranger’s pain and hearing her deeply personal story, gave me huge perspective and made my own insecurities and worries seem so small and totally manageable. I did, however, feel a surge of other emotions: I felt angry at the people around me for feigning ignorance, I felt sad that the mental health services are so screwed, allowing people like L to slip through the system. And I felt absolutely honoured to have heard L’s story.

L is articulate, erudite and elegant; she reads three papers a day, loves books of all genres, and once owned a white cat called Winston. In the three hours I spent with her, she made me laugh and cry. She is also extremely lonely and very unwell. Storytelling is a way of giving language to vulnerability, and that is exactly what L did by sharing her story with me.

I have encountered many people like L and I have learnt something from all of them. There was T, the 60-year old ex-boxer who’d lost most of his teeth, didn’t drink or use as one might assume, but, after a stint in prison, had struggled to re-integrate into society and lived on the street or in hostels. He told me that life is all about connection and that he still tries to smile at people and say hello every day, even though most of the time they pretend he’s invisible.

And M, the tiny old lady from the park, who sat on the same bench every day last summer, and who always remembered my dogs’ names but never mine. M, who I sat with for two hours whilst she told me about her life - racked with abuse and battles with mental health – and how she had gained a degree in psychology, aged 50. She gifted me a book on Transactional Analysis, having underlined key paragraphs for me.

At 17, my best friend had a psychotic episode and she has suffered ever since, yet she still has a sunny disposition and a zest for life. And finally, there’s my Mum. She is kind and gentle, highly intelligent, quiet, caring and creative. She is also bi-polar. And the look in L’s eyes, I have seen in the eyes of my dear Mum many a time. And that is perhaps why I offered L a helping hand, because I desperately hope someone would do the same for my Mum.

So perhaps next time you see someone in distress, don’t submit to bystander bias. Do something, however small. Next time you pass a homeless person, please don’t ignore them. Look them in the eye and acknowledge them. And if you encounter someone seemingly unstable, ask yourself whether they have a story. And ultimately, through imparting compassion to others, you might just learn to give a little compassion to yourself.

Lots of love,
N x