Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

Sometimes You Have To Fight It

I was bitterly, bitterly disappointed when I stepped on the scales at class this week. I put on half a pound. I wasn’t upset that I’d gained that particular amount, but because I’d let it happen. My week has been a whirl of my own work, lambing, bottle-feeds and checking stock. Some nights James and I weren’t getting in the house until after ten. This resulted in grabbing food if and when I could. Some days I was barely eating, and others so hungry that when I started munching I couldn’t stop. I didn’t track, and that’s what annoyed me. I let my priorities slip – something I promised myself I wouldn’t do over the weeks of my challenge. After all, if I can’t look after myself, what good am I to five hundred ewes and their babies?

bottle feed
Yet another feed

We’re now mid-way through lambing and hitting the busiest part. When this time comes, I’m tired, run-down and it begins to drag me down. It becomes difficult to focus on the successes and every sick or abandoned lamb tends to dwell on the mind. I’m not alone, and it isn’t because of my mental state. We’re all feeling the same and we need to see the light at the end of the tunnel to remind us that another few weeks and we’ll be done. James, who can be a typical hard-hearted farmer, was wiping tears away as I went into the shed, after losing a lamb we fought hard to save. It’s because it’s hard work.

Normally when my mood dips like this, I go into lockdown and focus on the simplest of tasks and ignore the rest of the world, sort of like running on an emergency power generator. Complete the essentials like washing and working to achieve the minimum requirements. I’ve learned to go with the flow and not worry about how little I’m sleeping, or the fact that a million other things aren’t getting done (I’m normally great at ‘getting stuff done’) knowing that I’ll come out the other side and things will go back to normal.

Not this time. This time I’m dealing with it head-on. Aside from the sleeping part which I can do zero about, I’m working hard to stay positive and not slip below the surface into that horrid pool that so often drags me under. The expression ‘pick your battles’ springs to mind, and I’m up for this one. I can’t lose focus, and I’m determined to get through lambing without my mood ruining me and my weight loss.

I’m even busier this coming week, with on-farm visits and early morning milkings piling

walking woo
Walkies with Woo while the collies work

up on top of lambs (not literally, obviously). If I can get through the next fortnight, I’ve won. I have the knowledge and the tools to do it. This week, I’m making time for me. ME. Snatching a few minutes to track on my app and taking an hour out to walk the smallest dog makes all the difference. Walking gives me head space and a snippet of relaxation and tracking on my app shows me if I’m eating too much or too little over the day, so I can regulate my intake. Wow. Too little?? Never thought I’d say that!

I’m hoping this strategy will carry me past the halfway point in my challenge a few pounds less than I weigh now, and I won’t have to revert to my defensive lockdown. The end of lambing will be near and my heart will be a lot lighter again. It’s funny how easy it is to forget that it’s the simple things that work. I am NOT gaining again this week.

Let battle commence!

 

Exercise, Mental Wellbeing, Targets

What does a ‘Good’ Day look like?

I’ve talked a lot about coping with anxiety and stress, and what to do with a ‘bad’ day. Following on from my post last week on staying positive, I’d like to continue that theme.

On a good day I feel awesome. I feel like a superhero. I feel like I could be sociable. Happiness and warmth radiates from me all day and I climb into bed at night content and satisfied with how I have spent my day. I look forward to the next day being more of the same. I wish most days were like this.

So what does a good day actually mean? Here’s what mine looks like right now:

Wake up early, fresh after a decent night’s sleep. Have breakfast and whizz through morning chores. Wash and BRUSH THE TEETH (A huge hurdle for me when I’m depressed). Check work emails, make good coffee and get dressed. Do hair and makeup. Although I work from home, I still get in to ‘work mode’ with my appearance on good days.

Have a productive work-day with my good coffee, squeeze in lunch with James when he comes in. Walk dogs after work, do yoga and then enjoy an hour or two of ‘me time’ (writing in my journal, playing Xbox, meditating, whatever) before preparing dinner. Eat with partner, spend a few hours with him and then write for the last part of the day. Double-check my WWs app to make sure I’ve filled everything in. Climb into bed, read for an hour and fall into a content slumber.

I’m easily pleased. I’ve found the things that make me tick. What you see above may look like the motions of an incredibly tedious day. I get that, and it probably is tedious to some. But productivity and covering all bases whilst doing enjoyable things does it for me.

I heard a quote recently along the lines of  ‘you are trading your life for today – so use it wisely.’ The above feels like a ‘wise’ day to me. I spend time making money. I make time for the person I love. I spend time outdoors in amazing scenery with three little animals that love me unconditionally. I exercise my body and my mind. I get to cook, read and create worlds for others to enjoy. And play computer games.

When I was a trainee manager I was taught the importance of learning what motivated people, and being objective with it. I’ve simply applied it to my own life. When we set goals for ourselves, it’s important to understand why we want it and what enjoyment we are going to get out of it, otherwise we might find it tough going to achieve what we desire. The worst part of my routine is getting ready. There’s no enjoyment in it, but I can’t walk about naked all day. (Well, I suppose I could…)

Even in a mental state of darkness, I try and adhere to these motivations because they might just make me feel a teeny-tiny bit better about my day. That’s why I set myself intentions last week to help me through. Here’s how I got on:

  1. Exercise and fresh air every day regardless of weather –I managed this 6 days out of 7, which included one day of freezing fog.
  2. Track food on my WWs app – Not so good here. I managed five days and bailed on a trip to the cinema on Sunday. Must try harder next week.
  3. Brain space – I haven’t ‘yoga’d’ every day, but I have meditated in between times or even taken a bit of quiet time to stare out the office window.
  4. Mid-Week weigh-in – Check! looking positive…
  5. Continue to Blog – Ta-daa….
  6. Take one day at a time –Still tryin’ 🙂

What goals and intentions have you set for yourself? Do you know the motivations behind them?

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss

Staying Positive

I’m trying. I really am.

During a ‘good’ depression, I can maintain my weight, but it takes every ounce of willpower and self-motivation (usually to the detriment of something else) to do it. Normally if things are ‘bad’ I’ll gain weight as I comfort eat out of emotional instability and boredom.

I’ve had a tough week. I’m still fighting with the weight I put on over Christmas and stopping smoking. I’m still too heavy to run on my duff knee.I’ve had some very frank conversations with my doctor which haven’t pleased me. My mood has started to tip downhill, and it’s not surprising.  Every year around this time I hit a cycle of depression and I can feel it. I usually occupy myself with a selection of my wretched personal attributes and wallow, hidden away from the world feeling guilty until it passes. I can’t do that this time. I won’t. This year is the year for weight loss. I promised myself. So I’m trying to remain super-positive to the best of my ability while I see out my black spell.

I’m not saying it will work and I’ll continue to lose every week, but it may help with damage limitation and I might have a few weeks where I lose a pound or so. I wanted to share the things that I’m consciously making the effort to do, because somewhere out there, someone else might be struggling too.

  1. Exercise and fresh air every day regardless of weather – Walking my dogs (even for 15  minutes) every day gives me a sense of purpose and helps lift my mood.
  2. Track food on my WWs app – This helps me to curb my emotional eating binges and remain mindful of what I’m putting in my mouth.
  3. Brain space – time to relax and reflect and leave the ‘guilty’ brain behind. Yoga every  day to help settle my mind.
  4. Mid-Week weigh-in – A gentle reminder not to lose focus!
  5. Continue to Blog – I clam up when I’m depressed, and I find it difficult to write. I’m going to do my best to produce a post every week for the next few weeks.
  6. Take one day at a time – Positivity and routine come easier when you don’t look at the bigger picture.

All of the above I’ll document as a tick-box list in my journal – this shows me a visual representation of how I’m doing and it’s something that I find helpful (Especially when I make it pretty with my coloured pencils 🙂 ). Here’s hoping I can get through the coming weeks with some level of success. I just keep telling myself that if I keep trying, keep bringing my mind back to my weight and keep positive, then I’m doing all I can.

 

 

Mental Wellbeing

Spurious Social Media

We’ve all seen it. That one friend on Instagram who posts pictures of a lean, toned, tanned body in an exotic location and constant status updates on Facebook about how wonderful their life is.

So how does this make us feel?

What is your answer to that question? Jealousy? Happiness at seeing other ‘friends’ material gains or achievements? Guilty?

Social media has become part of our lives whether we like it or not. It is an excellent tool to keep in touch, share joy or grief and network  (and ranty blog posts),  but it also has a dark side. Researchers have found negative links between social media, self-image and depression. Surprise surprise.

There have been several studies recently looking at the frequency and the impact thereof in using sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A lot of this research has been centred around children, as they are the first developing generation in the social media epidemic. But what about us old ‘uns? (Oh, bring back the days of hunting the streets for your pal’s bike to figure out whose house they were at.)

Of course it affects adults too. We are often bombarded with images of fantastic holidays, expensive new purchases and “Oh, look at me!” posts when we log on. Let’s face it, it’s bound to affect us. Mainly we put pressure on ourselves, particularly in terms of self-image. Constant reminders of people you actually know looking fabulous and generally doing exceptionally well in life can become detrimental as we try and make ourselves better. Some often feel like their lives are sub-standard and boring compared to their social media  counterparts, or that we are failures because we aren’t a size 8 and going to the gym twelve times a week. Other pressures include the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ syndrome in providing luxurious items and outlandish treats for our children.

If, like me, you get a twinge of any negative feeling when browsing your news feeds, stop. I beg you. It’s not real. A friend of mine recently said, “Being friends on Facebook is not the same as real life.” – He’s right. Social media platforms are just that – a stage for people to display their personal highlight reels. Many of the images we see are engineered or filtered (who wants to see a picture of themselves with a double chin and greasy hair?) or posed to look good. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to look your best for all the world to see, it creates a very false environment. People aren’t constantly going to talk about all the shit things going on, are they?

But how fake are we talking? At the more extreme end of the spectrum, I urge you to read up on Essena O’Neill – the Australian model who quit her Instagram career because she was miserable.

There will always be certain attention-seekers or materialistic people that you will have in your friends list, but ask yourself what void they are trying to fill if their first thought is “I can’t wait to post this on Facebook!” When I got my first short story published last year, the thought never entered my head to share the news with my ‘friends’ on social media until much later, and I still didn’t actually announce it on Facebook. I didn’t need the validation.

The most interesting thing about the research conducted is the frequency of use. the general but very elementary trend is that the more people use social media, the more likely they are to feel depressed. You can read a little about that from the guys at the University of Pittsburgh via Forbes.

This takes me back to things I know I always bang on about. Moderation. Without Facebook I’d be lost, but I don’t log in two or three times a day. I’ve found more productive uses for my time but still use it for support through an excellent secret WeightWatchers page and the occasional browse with a cuppa. Anything in large volumes isn’t good for you, especially if it is prone to invoke negative feelings within you. Then there’s negative influences – you wouldn’t stay friends with someone who uses you as a doormat – so why endure social media if it is having a negative effect? My favourite site is Pinterest. It’s the most positive form of social media I’ve got. It inspires me, motivates me, and gives me genuine joy without all the showboating.

In the writing group I’m in, I use a phrase when critiquing: “Take what resonates (from my comments) and dump the rest.” That’s what I now do with social media. So the next time you feel bad because you haven’t lost weight this week and everyone else on Twitter did, switch it off. It might just make you feel better.

Further Reading:

http://course.duruofei.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Choudhury_Predicting-Depression-via-Social-Media_ICWSM13.pdf

http://www.mainlinetoday.com/Blogs/Thinking-Forward/February-2014/Can-Too-Much-Social-Media-Cause-Depression/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Wellbeing

Anxiety vs. Depression

They are not the same thing.

I’m aware of the stigma STILL  attached to mental health issues (particularly in the workplace) and I refuse to be ashamed. Why should I? I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I was going to make myself a crazy person.

I used to struggle terribly from the second week in January through to my birthday at the beginning of March so I’m very self-aware at the moment, and the start of the week  I could feel the deathgrip coming. The overwhelming urge to dive beneath the duvet and let the world steam-roller over the top of me. This is the feeling that puts me into lockdown – that place where I revert to self-preservation and scrape by doing the bare minimum to function as a human being, because it is all I am capable of.

What I am experiencing is anxiety, not depression. I’m not a doctor, but having suffered both, I can tell the difference. When your brain is swimming and your logic is drunk, sometimes it’s hard to separate the two. They often go hand in hand, and one can lead to the other. They tag-team your ass. And they’re sneaky.

Depression is a mire. You feel worthless, demotivated and cannot see any good or beauty in anything. There is no point in anything. I often suffer terrible lethargy, prolonged bouts of tears/feeling hopeless and the want to do absolutely nothing because everything is so terrible. I can’t feel positive or happy and have no interest in myself or others – which in turn makes me feel worse because it means I’m a selfish, self-absorbed cow. I take no interest in hobbies or pastimes, which is why I find it very difficult to write when I’m truly depressed. I don’t sleep well for weeks on end. And the weirdest thing of all? Brushing my teeth. I kid you not. Chronic sufferers of depression will tell you that taking care of themselves no longer rates, and with me it’s my teeth. I have no idea why.

The main thing about depression for me is cause. If I can get to the root of why, I can take steps to start fixing it. Until I find the root cause (or admit the cause to myself) I might as well stay under that duvet and wave on the steam roller.

Anxiety is worse. Depression I can feel coming on over a period of days, weeks, sometimes months. Anxiety sneaks up and bitch-slaps me whenever the hell it feels like it. Which is frequently. It’s a fast, snappy feeling which contrasts with the sluggishness of depression. Anyone will tell you – I talk a lot. A LOT. No, I mean A LOT. I’m not sorry. It’s the way I’m wired and I can’t help it. I really can’t. I’m one of those people that has a million tabs open in the browser in my head all the time, and things compute on all these tabs at squillions of miles an hour, all simultaneously. It has to get out somehow, or my brain would explode. I think this lends itself to bouts of anxiety.

The things I juggle in my head suddenly start to pile up, and more and more thoughts come crashing in. I become overwhelmed. My heart races, my stomach knots. Intense feelings of guilt engulf me and I panic. My concentration drops to nil. This can last for hours, sometimes days. If I’m in that delicate state, or on the cusp, the slightest little thing can tip me over the edge  and I start to over-think, blow things out of proportion (my doctor used to jokingly call this ‘analysis paralysis’) and I make myself physically ill. I get pins and needles in my face, fingers and arms and my bowel turns to water. I vomited violently before my final Degree exams because of this. (Romantically, this is one of James’ earliest memories of me. Lovely.)

For me, learning to tell them apart has been key in managing my mental state, controlling my weight and generally getting more out of life. Mental illness can be crippling. I’m good at it now, having had years to discover what works. It’s a bit like diabetes. I’ll never be able to make it go away, but I can manage it and take steps to keep on top of it.

I’m not scared to talk about it. I don’t think people realize how common mental illness is, and some don’t even recognize what is wrong with them. Having a mental illness doesn’t make you weak or a lesser person. It doesn’t make you a weirdo. It makes you strong. I cannot begin to describe to someone who has never been depressed or suffered chronic anxiety how frightening it is to fight with your own mind every day and know that the battles are coming.