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!

 

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Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Uncategorized

Exploded Diagram

One of the problems I have with anxiety is how tiring it becomes. Wearisome is probably a better word to describe it, and it is very difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t experience it on a daily basis.

That’s exactly what I was trying to do with my partner the other night. I’m a fairly eloquent person, but I just couldn’t articulate my point at all. It’s been plaguing my thoughts for a few days, trying to come up with some sort of analogy that would help me explain why some days (less frequently at the moment, I might add) I’m exhausted and want to hide away from the world.

The main thing for me is not the content of the things that I think about – everyone experiences anxious thoughts on a daily basis. It’s part of life, and there would be something very wrong with us if we didn’t have an emotional reaction to certain situations. We’ve all had that heart-racing, sweaty-palm moment before sitting a test, speaking in front of people or waiting on an important decision. That’s perfectly a-ok. Nope, those sorts of things I am completely fine with. It’s the sheer volume of thoughts that pass through my brain. There’s a meme that circulates on the internet about people who have thousands of browser tabs open:

browser tab meme

It’s simultaneously funny and not at the same time. Because this is the source of my problems. When I have a thought, it’s like an exploded diagram of a car engine. I don’t ‘worry’ about the air filter, but I see how a busted air filter affects the other parts of the engine and also how it works together with the brake system, electrics and suspension to make the car work. This brings up more exploded diagrams of the aforementioned aspects. It snowballs, and I find myself battling to rationalize, organize and contain all the thoughts within my head. This all happens within a few minutes, sometimes seconds, and before I know where I am, I’ve scared the pants out of myself trying to juggle everything. On a bad day, that happens hundreds of times.

Here’s what happened the other morning:

Original thought – Oh, look at the time. I need to feed the cat before I start working in the office. Perfectly rational thought.

Brain – Okay. To feed the cat you need to go upstairs, so you might as well clean the litter tray out too. There’s washing that needs hung up as well, and the clothes-dryers are upstairs and it’s raining so you’ll need to dry them indoors which means you’ll have to put the heating on. How much heating oil is in the tank? You can check the gauge when you go through to the utility room to get the washing out the machine and the cat food out the cupboard. By the way, you’ll need to put the cat food can in the laundry basket so you have enough hands to carry everything and open the doors. But you can’t do that just yet because there is dry, clean washing in the basket already that needs folded and put away – it’s bed clothes, but you only washed the duvet and pillow cases so the bottom sheet should really be in the next load you decide to put in. Perhaps you should go and get that first before you go to the utility room, and it means you can put it in the machine while you are there anyway. The bed’s going to need changed in a few days, so best do it soon, especially as the weather forecast isn’t great, and those are big sheets to dry inside, aren’t they? Plus, you are going to have to do the bedclothes for the guest room because you’ll have people staying shortly and the room needs to be ready, so get a move on with the rest of the dirty washing. You also need to dust that spare room as well before your guests come and you’ll need to hoover the room just before they arrive because you’ll need to move the cat downstairs into the office and there will be cat litter on the carpet…

You get the picture. This extended out further to encompass James going to get a new suit for a funeral and what my 10k time might be on race day. All of this went on in my head in less than ten seconds. Even typing it out has made my heart race. It’s easy to see why sometimes I feel overwhelmed, unsettled and knackered, and that’s what anxiety is for me. It’s not because I’m a ‘worrier’. It’s because I’m exhausted coping with all the things my mind throws at me.

 

Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

Being the New Girl (Again.)

It’s something I’ve sadly got used to. Due to moving about a lot, I’ve constantly been thrust into new situations, often on my own. Wednesday saw my return to Weight Watchers. I picked a class some weeks ago and mentally geared myself up. I’ve missed it, but with moving and associated job/farming stresses I knew I wasn’t ready before that point.

Some of my longer-term readers may remember me describing the experience of walking into class not long after I started this blog three years ago – I was a mess. Nervous, ashamed at the weight that had crept on and lonely. I nearly didn’t go in at all, and I’d driven ten miles to get there.

Similarly, when I moved to England I felt the same. I wasn’t in a good place mentally and physically my health was poor – I had the weight of surgery hanging over me and could barely walk the length of myself. My experience of my first class there was less than comforting. I’d just like to point out that the leader and her helper were both lovely, but I really was an ‘outsider’ – no-one spoke to me, or even smiled at The New Girl. Even after weeks of going I still felt uncomfortable.

You can imagine the thoughts that ran through my brain as I walked in to yet another new class this week, with another new leader. ‘Here we go again’. I wasn’t the psychological mess that I have been in the past, but I was still  ‘jangly’. I had absolutely nothing to worry about. The minute I stepped through the door of the little scout hall, everyone turned and looked and smiled. Lots of people said hello, asked if I was new, and the leader approached me straight away. I felt at ease instantly, chatting with some of the people in the weigh-in queue and after the ‘talk’ (Which, btw, involved a cooking demonstration and some dubiously acquired disposable gloves). I even left the meeting with a recommendation for a dentist!

I make no secret of the fact that I long for stability, routine, and a chance to get a good run  at my weight-loss again. Knowing that a further move is unlikely (hurray!) definitely contributed to my mindset before going to the meeting and I can see myself losing week after week on those particular scales, in that room full of people. It’s such a nice feeling.

That applies to the other areas of my life, too – I’ve coped considerably better with all the ‘new’ things I’ve had to deal with since the move. In England, I was practically a recluse. I worked from home and only ventured out to the local shop and my WWs meeting. The thought of having to go through another ‘new’ experience reduced me  to a sweating, nauseated bundle of nerves. I did the weekly food shop online. Just over a month since I’ve moved here, I’ve been out and about exploring, and actually enjoying the new experiences. The anxiety has still been there, but at a much more manageable level. It’s amazing the difference it makes being somewhere that you like and knowing it might be long term. I’m excited now to lose the half stone I’ve put on from the move to get out there, get running (again) and get some more silver sevens under my belt.

And hopefully it’s the last time I’m going to be the ‘New Girl’.

 

 

Exercise, Mental Wellbeing, Sleep, Weight Loss

Get That Sleep Back

Following on from last weeks post about identifying the needs and reasons for quality sleep, I was contacted by several people who told me- “This is me! I’ve been through all this and it’s so nice to know I’m not alone!” Insomnia can be a very lonely affliction, hours spent in the dead of night lamenting the lack of splendid slumber. The same readers followed on with “I do all of these things, but I’m still not sleeping.”

So what can you do if you aren’t a great sleeper? Maybe you are the type of person like me, who suffers regular bouts of insomnia. Maybe you are at a stage in your life where things are all happening at once and it’s playing on your mind. Regardless, I’ve compiled some things that I’ve done myself along with suggestions from others, including my doctor. Feel free to add to the list anything at all that’s worked for you!

Routine: Keep that bedtime routine, and try and go to bed around the same time every night. No matter how tired you are, don’t be tempted to sleep during the day. You’re setting yourself up for a fall at night. If you are really tired, stick it out as long as you can, and you will be more likely to fall asleep come bedtime.

Bath: Taking a bath as hot as you can bear just before bed can help. When we go from initial light sleep into REM sleep (That high-quality sleep we need to recuperate) the body temperature drops. Being in a very hot bath and stepping out simulates this temperature drop, thus making us sleepy. This is a great trick if you are the type of person who just doesn’t feel tired at bedtime.

Fresh air and Exercise: A lot of the time not sleeping is down to mental factors, but some people find that taking a brisk walk or taking up an active hobby and physically tiring the body out (especially those who work indoors) works well. This isn’t a quick fix, but can help to improve sleep quality over time. It also lets our brain do a bit of ‘sorting’ which lessens activity when we should be sleeping. I always sleep better when I’m training for a race.

Technology: So very current at the moment. Limit screen-time on backlit devices like TVs, tablets and smartphones. There has recently been research to suggest that this type of screen stimulates brain activity, making getting to sleep more difficult. Plus, filling your head with whatever interesting article you’ve found or playing bright colourful games is not conducive to chilling out. The same applies to waking during the night. I know of people who reach for their iPads as a first priority. I cut my screen-time off at least one hour before bed, and we have a ‘no gadget’ rule in the bedroom. My partner uses his phone for an alarm, but that’s all. Besides, I’m sure there’s plenty of better things to be doing in bed! Conversely, one of the things I have found very helpful is using a sleep podcast if I wake at an inappropriate hour. There are lots to choose from, so finding something that suits should be easy. My favourite is ‘Sleep With Me’ – a man with a very mellow, droning voice telling ridiculous bedtime stories that are basically full of nonsense. Odd, but it works. (Have a look here for ways to download.) Some people prefer music.

Eating: Everyone is different here, but I find having a big meal then heading to bed shortly after is a recipe for disaster. Eat at least four hours before bed, and enforce a cutoff time for caffeine and sugary foods – both stimulants. You can move this cutoff back to suit your needs. I like a cup of hot something at bedtime, but opt for fruit tea instead. Contrary to popular belief, drinking alcohol is not a good idea. It might knock you out, but you won’t get that deep, restful sleep you need on a regular basis. I find personally that drinking alcohol interrupts my sleep. If you do like a tipple, try and limit booze to once or twice a week.

Reading: There are debates on this. I think again, this depends on the individual. If I read a book, it makes me sleepy. Others say it has the opposite effect. My doctor once told me if you do want to read before bed, choose a trashy magazine or an ‘easy reading’ book  – something that your mind doesn’t have to work hard to process. Others have said that adult colouring books have had the same effect. If you share a bed, your partner might not appreciate the ‘scratch-scratch-scratch’ soundtrack that accompanies this!

Empty Your Head: This is by far the most effective method I’ve used. My brain ticks over at a rate of knots more or less constantly. I keep a notepad and pen on my bedside table. Before bed, I have a ‘brain fart’. I scribble down the things I’m thinking about – sometimes it’s things that have happened during the day, or the things I have to do the following day. Whatever. Just get it out and get it down. This also works when I wake during the night – I jot down a few words about what I was dreaming about, or the first thought that came into my head when I woke up. It also doubles as entertaining reading at a later stage!

I hope that some of these suggestions help you if you aren’t sleeping, or you can tuck this away for future reference. What works for you when you can’t sleep?

Mental Wellbeing, Sleep, Weight Loss

Practising Sleep

One thing I am not very good at is sleeping. I’m not very good at sewing either, but that’s for another time.

Since losing my marbles in 2006, (holy crap, that was ten years ago!) sleep has escaped me on a regular basis. It was, in fact, the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me admit defeat and that I wasn’t well. I nearly had an accident on the way home from work in heavy traffic because I was nodding off at the wheel.

As any insomniac or parent is sure to agree, sleep deprivation is not funny. I’m not talking about a few sleepless nights, I’m talking about prolonged periods of less than four hours a night. As you drag you leaden carcass out of bed morning after morning, your surroundings gradually become muted; you don’t hear or see with clarity anymore and concentration spans drop to zero. That’s when it gets dangerous. There are obvious side-effects of sleep deprivation (yawning, bags under your eyes you could carry shopping in) but it’s the more subtle signs that you need to watch out for that might indicate a lack of sleep is becoming a real problem.

When my insomnia was at its worst, I was sleeping less than three hours a night and that was happening four and five nights a week, for months on end. Besides nearly totalling myself in the car, I noticed odd little things. Cuts and bruises seemed to take forever to heal. I began to lose the ability to do simple mental arithmetic. I started questioning whether I’d completed everyday tasks, or just thought about doing them. Or did I dream them?

These things happened because during deep, quality sleep, the body repairs itself. This is the most efficient time to do it since everything else is in a resting phase. All the little cells and antibodies have more energy to zoom about while we snooze. As the body does this, our brains are busy sorting out or mental ‘filing cabinet’ – it processes the days events, thoughts, and feelings and puts them in an appropriate place. This is sometimes why, if a stressful event is worrying us, it keeps us awake – we are preventing our brains from ‘filing’ it because we keep thinking about it. It’s also why we often dream (in the lighter phase of sleep) about things that have happened recently, although not necessarily in a sensible way. My body wasn’t getting a chance to do any of that.

Nowadays, although I don’t suffer as badly, I still have episodes of poor sleep. I am by nature a six-hour sleeper anyway (probably just as well, isn’t it?) so don’t require a massive amount of time in bed, but when that drops below four hours for more than a week, things get ugly. I do my best not to worry about it, because generally that makes it worse. It’s been going on long enough now that I know it will pass.

So why am I banging on about all this?

Without the basic functions I’ve mentioned, keeping yourself mentally and physically healthy is very, very difficult. A lack of sleep nurtures poor diet (the old ‘can’t be arsed’ syndrome) zaps motivation and makes us look like crap. It is so easy to slip into a horrible, destructive pattern when sleep is escaping you. So take extra-special time to look after yourself if you aren’t getting all the z’s you need.

When you are sleeping well, it makes such a difference. Firing on all cylinders and being well-rested are the most beneficial things you can do for your wellbeing. Motivation levels are higher, skin is brighter, we have more energy to work, play, exercise. Brain function is tip-top and life in general feels less stressful because you are in a mindset to handle things.

So what can you do to keep yourself well rested? Here are some of the things that have helped me over the years:

  • Listen to your body. Do you know how much sleep you actually need on a regular basis? Everybody is different, so be mindful of how long you actually enjoy peaceful, restful sleep. I’m good on six, my partner needs a solid nine to feel refreshed in the mornings.
  • Bed-head. Are you comfortable in bed? If you share a bed, do you have enough room to move comfortably? Replace mattresses and bedclothes regularly and find a pillow with a firmness that suits (Apparently, you should only sleep with one pillow.) Most large bed outlets can help you with this.
  • Sort your surroundings: Is the bedroom a nice place to be? Do you feel relaxed in your room? The correct temperature and lighting will be a big help here. Keep the room ventilated and dust-free for maximum sleep success.
  • Get a routine. We are creatures of habit. By having a bedtime routine, we are nudging our brains into ‘sleepy time’. Try and go to bed at roughly the same time every night, after following a pattern of ‘get a drink, brush teeth, comb hair, whatever’ – you get the picture.

The benefits of good quality sleep are endless. In an increasingly busy world, I feel it is very important to look after the basics . If I want to keep improving myself as a person, inside and out, I need to have all the oomph I can get.

 

Exercise, Healthy Eating, Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing, Weight Loss

Ready To Go

Most of the chaos has passed. All six of us are now firmly installed in the new place, complete with almost all of our furniture and creature comforts. We’re minus a full set of dinner plates which were kindly broken by the removals men and our new bed is being worked on. Aside from that, we’re good.

I mentioned in my last post about the longing to feel secure and settled – the key aspect of me being healthy, happy and taking good care of myself. On another of my meanderings with the dogs, that’s exactly what my mind turned to. I feel now I can focus on myself again and actually give it 100%. Unfortunately I’m the type of person in a crisis whose brain locks on and I can’t move past it until the situation is dealt with. It’s such a lovely feeling to know that the ‘moving phase’ stressor is starting to ebb away.

Fighting through a sea of bubblewrap, I managed to locate my bathroom scales. I figured things must be heading in the right direction inside my head for me to even contemplate weighing myself. half of me is glad I did, half of me really isn’t. I fully expected to have gained weight on account of my food and alcohol consumption rising in accordance with my stress levels. What I didn’t expect was to have put on 14lbs. I did think I might be sick in my mouth a little.

Once I got over this initial shock, I started to look at it objectively. After all, that was the point of weighing myself, wasn’t it? So I had something measurable and tangible to base my new routines on. I reasoned with myself. It wasn’t like I’d put back on ALL of the weight I lost post-surgery. I knew there was no way I’d get through another move without gaining, so why be shocked, horrified, whatever?

So I decided to stop myself right there. I wasn’t about to beat myself up and get into that horrible negative head-space that I’m so good at occupying. Nope. This week is about getting back into a more positive routine. Cutting back on the junk food that’s crept in, scaling down the alcohol consumption to a normal level, and getting out in the fresh air on a daily basis for some exercise. That sounds like a good place to start.

In my head I know I’m really thinking “Lose x-amount of lbs to get back running” – the new place is screaming to be belted round in trail shoes, and I’ve been mapping out various routes and circuits in my head nearly every time I go out. But right now it’s not about that. It’s about getting back into those normal habits and building some momentum. Making healthy choices second nature.

I’m amazed at my attitude towards my weight, and I think a lot of it is to do with my surroundings. I’m genuinely at ease and happy to be in such a great place – even the view from my office as I write is spectacular.IMG_1658 What’s the point in beating yourself up over something that’s already done? Most of us have had that time in their lives when the healthy lifestyle has gone out the window for one reason or another and then berated ourselves repeatedly. I say, don’t do it. I say, be kind to yourself. Draw a line and move on.

So onwards and downwards, and maybe if I’m feeling brave in a few weeks, I’ll try and find myself a new WWs meeting.

Life Journey, Mental Wellbeing

Packing Ninja

In February my life flipped in a different direction again. James got offered more or less the perfect job. So here I am boxing up my little world again for another adventure. I tell ya, I’m getting mighty good at this packing malarkey. I’ve done this routine 5 times in three and a half years, and haven’t had two consecutive Christmases in the same property since 2006. I could give some military wives a run for their money. It doesn’t make it any less of a stressful process, though. The logistics of moving jobs, animals, belongings etc still has to be done in a timely fashion.

This time feels different though. Firstly, I actually want to move this time. Secondly, the new place is amazing. It’s in a beautiful part of the country, and I feel much more at home already than I ever did in the previous two places. I’m kinda frightened to say it, but I think this might be it.

IMG_1603

I came to this cautious conclusion as I sauntered down the trails on the new farm, exploring the leafy tunnels. My brain is heaving a collective sigh of relief as is the psychological warrior in me.  It occurred to me that at my healthiest, both physically and mentally, was when I was happy in my surroundings and felt secure in my home. It was when I’d stayed in the same place for 2 years. Maybe that might happen again. Hopefully. It’s very difficult to achieve that secure feeling in the position we are in. When you work in agriculture, it’s a lifestyle, not a job. James manages farms. If you want to do that you really need to be on the farm 24/7 – so somewhere to live is often provided. As a ‘farmer’s wife’ you tend to get roped in to helping, regardless of whether you want to or not, or whether you have your own job. We’ve done a proper job on it this time, landing right in the middle of the calving and lambing period. Talk about in at the deep end! Luckily, I like that side of it. It’s a massive ask to be able to get absolutely everything right though – not only does the job have to be right for James, but I still have to be geographically well-placed for my own job, as well as being happy with the house being provided. The size, quality and condition of tied houses can swing wildly from one extreme to the other.  A new job basically  means a new life. If any aspect is wide of the mark, it can have disastrous consequences, and if you make the decision to call it a day, you are automatically moving house.  And this is why I’m cautious.

The first night I stayed at the new house I was the most chilled-out I’ve been in 18 months, so I’m taking that as a good indication. All I want is to settle now, give myself a chance to get to know my surroundings and give myself the chance to really get well again. I don’t think that’s much to ask- but hey, if it doesn’t work out, at least I’m a ninja when it comes time to pack up again.