Life in the slow lane: How to take a break

Winter holidays are at hand; don’t struggle with yourself – you deserve to take this break! Try not to fall prey to those niggling nasties – guilt, hindsight and anticipation… Here are a few activities and strategies to play with this festive season.

 

  • Presence – Be present in conversations and truly converse, allocate a window of time to dedicate to eating and savouring your food! Try looking out of the window and do just that – see where your mind can take you.
  • Oh, calendar, on the wall, who is the most productive of all? – Well, it will be you! Don’t let yourself get carried away by lie-ins and sleep away all that precious time. Make plans (including scheduled sleep!) and you will fulfill your relaxation potential. Potentially…
  • The old ways are the best – Go back to traditions that make you feel bright and shiny. Listen to festive songs, burn down advent candles, eat that dessert that just screams HOLIDAYS.
  • New wave – Or, make your own new tradition, like burning herbs to refresh the energy in your house. Or, adopt one – I love the idea of this Icelandic tradition where everyone exchanges books on Christmas Eve and reads…
  • Reflection – Look back on the year that’s gone. Re-read love letters, choose your favourite 5 photos, find some inspiring news stories to bring cheer to your home.

 

Also try blocking social media/ work emails to really get away from the rest of the world. Don’t let other people’s expectations of Christmas/ Hanukkah or whatever get in the way of your peace and celebration!

As always – you’re in charge – own it!

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Get it off your chest (Snog, marry, avoid)

Depression is a lonely experience; it makes you feel unworthy of people’s time, increases feelings of guilt and isolates you from human connection. It’s like not being able to report a robbery to the police because some mafia goon threatens to put your mother in the cement mixer. You get stuck and have no yardstick to analyse your actions against. It’s difficult. The thing to do is talk. If you have to ask a trusted friend if you are being a dick then do it (they may also be able to reassure you that it’s the other person making the dick moves). If you are wracked with guilt for forgetting to do something while your head was in the sand, then say it, openly and then it can be addressed. (PS – it probably wasn’t that important anyway).

Finding people with whom you are comfortable expressing yourself in this way is crucial, but not easy. It may be that a family member could step up to guide you through the self-doubt, dog days. On the other hand, choosing someone less directly involved in your life could be more helpful – counselling sessions are an excellent option that gives you concentrated personal time, but are also neutral and not connected with the emotions you are dealing with. Maybe your confidante is not a person, but an animal who you can talk at whilst unpicking your stuck brain.

Something which I have found particularly helpful previously is to write an email to Samaritans detailing the things that are difficult for me at that time. It helps to get to the crux of the matter, without feeling too overwhelming. It is often a cathartic process and encourages better self-awareness. The response will not give you advice but offers support and acceptance. It makes you more able to cope with the difficulties and to feel more in control.

Be honest at the first sign of danger and avoid a build-up of stress. Acknowledge your stress-triggers – keep a list, if it helps – that way you can add in different tactics to address each one. Snog, marry and avoid! Schmooze your triggers that could lead you somewhere outside your comfort zone, resign  yourself to the fact that you can sometimes be a high-anxiety person (and don’t judge yourself on that basis) and avoid triggers which are consistently having a negative and lasting effect on your mental well-being.

It might look something like this:

Snog: A new gym session that pushes your limits or going to a night-class that makes you nervous. Go for that drink after work.

 

Marry: Put in provisions for tasks that you find difficult or upcoming days which might be stressful. Plan ahead, acknowledging where you might need support. Who could make that phone-call on your behalf? Which location suits you best for meeting someone?

 

Avoid: Don’t put yourself in situations which might compromise your emotional stability. Block people who drain you on social media, avoid places that you know will be crowded or overwhelming, say no to social events where you will feel pressured to act in ways that don’t suit you.

 

It is difficult to act in these assertive ways when you are in the vice grip of a depressive period. Keep the faith that taking small actions, having open conversations will keep you safe and healthy. Get it off your chest!

50 MORE Things To Do on Dog Days

Round 2 of my post: 50 Things To Do on Dog Days.

  1. Ommm…: Meditate. Even if you can’t take it seriously, it might make you smile at least.
  2. Tied up: Tie knots in a piece of ribbon, or twist it round your fingers. It works as a stress toy and helps de-escalate when panic attacks loom.
  3. Pin Up: Learn how to do a suicide roll.
  4. Clean up your act: Dust, hoover, polish. Put on fresh bed-sheets. Feel clean and ready to face the mean world.
  5. Smooth operator: Get an intensive moisturiser and give yourself an all-over massage. This is the winter of our skin’s discontent, so give it a treat!
  6. Mariah, Myself and Me: Watch this guy. Then try to do better.
  7. Marathon, not a sprint: Watch a whole series of films like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean. Or go for your favourite films by a certain director or of a certain genre. Or watch every film version made of your favourite book… Pride and Prejudice. Every. Single. Time.
  8. Document this: Watch documentaries. Louis Theroux and Stacey Dooley do good ones.
  9. Give and thou shalt receive: Plan a perfect present for someone and feel awesome.
  10. Play pedicure princess: Preen your little piggies and feel sparkly.
  11. Princess Consuela Banana-hammock: Give yourself a new name which reflects the weirdo within.
  12. New-wave rock: Try something you’ve never done before, like rock-climbing, smoking shisha, trampolining…
  13. Beauty bible: Choose a style-icon and print images out to create a style book. See Lauren Bacall… ❤
  14. Hair hero: Learn to do something new with your hair, like fishtail braid.
  15. Honey, I’m clean: Make a face mask using banana, oats and honey or an avocado. Or use coconut oil, olive oil and a dash of apple cider vinegar to make a hair mask.
  16. Shed a few pounds: Go on a spending spree for strictly luxury items, like candles, chocolates, cushions…
  17. Hot, hot, hot: Make the ultimate hot chocolate. Use full fat milk, or even cream. Heat slowly on the hob. Infuse with cinnamon, nutmeg and a kick of ground ginger.
  18. Time warp: Mooch in an antiques shop and pick up a trinket.
  19. Highly recommended: Act on a recommendation that someone’s given you – read that book, listen to that album, try that flavour of herbal tea…
  20. 100 strokes: Brush out your hair 100 times.
  21. Here I am: Draw a self-portrait to reflect on when the Dog Day is over. How accurate is your dog day brain?
  22. Don’t be a twit: Read a book from your childhood. Anything by Roald Dahl will do the trick…
  23. Life is rosy: Buy yourself flowers and put them everywhere.
  24. Food for the soul: Get soulful with Otis and Aretha.
  25. Quest: Download an organisation app to get your to-do list in order. Try Quest if you have an iPhone.
  26. Crick in the neck: Do some deep, soothing stretches like the cobra.
  27. Steady hands: Practise something which takes intense concentration, like making a card house, or taking photos.
  28. Day-by-day: Get ahead with your planning. Take a look in your diary and set aside some mental health days where you will have protected time for yourself.
  29. New life: Get inspired by new lives coming into the world. Watch One Born Every Minute, or Secret Life of Four Years Olds… watch, and wonder!
  30. Thou yeasty ill-nurtured strumpet!: Shakespeare’s insults are better than yours. Try them out.
  31. Blanket fort: Make one.
  32. Snap!: Play a card game with friends or family.
  33. You’re a purl: Try your hand at knitting.
  34. Speak up: Tell someone how they can help you and your headspace. If you want them out of the house for an hour, don’t be afraid to say so.
  35. Fluffy: Make a neopet, feed it, play games… Be a kid!
  36. Let’s talk about sex: When you’re at war with your mind, make love instead.
  37. ABC: Alphabetise your DVDs or books. Question your taste. Then decide you were totally right.
  38. Feel peachy: Eat some fruit and up your vitamins – low mood can make you more susceptible to getting ill.
  39. Serious stuff: Make a list of any annoying little practical things you need to do, like getting bills paid, prioritise, then start getting them done.
  40. Hot stuff: Get a hot water bottle or wheat bag. Get cosy and focus on any aches that need some extra attention.
  41. Meeting of minds: Read this interview between J.K.Rowling and Lauren Laverne.
  42. Advent: Count down to Christmas with Gala Darling’s December Activity Guide.
  43. Deary me: Write yourself a passionate, honest love letter. You could even set up a separate email account for regular love letters to yourself for future Dog Days.
  44. Season’s greetings: Buy yourself a present, wrap it and put it under the tree. You will have at least 1 thing that you absolutely 100% love.
  45. Psych: Go to a psychic evening/ reading. Even if you think its a load of baloney, it might just make you smile.
  46. Get curious: Find the thesaurus entry for your favourite verb.
  47. Open road: Go for a drive, catch a bus and stay on until the last stop, go on a bike ride. A bit of forward momentum might make you feel free!
  48. Toilet trained: Write down your worries on pieces of toilet roll, or even just the names of people who have pissed you off and send them to the sea. Flush them down the crapper like they deserve.
  49. Horizons: Look for a new job, search for a new vocation – find a new passion and grab some books on the topic… You are never too old to learn!
  50. Gently does it: Be kind to yourself. Know your limits and don’t push them. Treat yourself as you would your best friend. Try forgiveness.

 

How to forgive yourself

You are the most important person in your life, no matter the situation, so here’s a look at how to get past imperfect moments.

 

  • No superwoman – Acknowledge that you cannot do everything! You have a finite amount of time and energy. Get used to it.

 

  • Call it as you see it – When people blame you for something unfairly, speak up! And remember, if you wouldn’t accept it from someone else, don’t accept it from yourself!

 

  • Letter of forgiveness – This can be as simple as a lipstick message on your mirror, saying ‘I forgive you’ or as complicated as 20 page list of previous misdemeanors you are trying to move on from.

 

  • Examine the impact – Think, does what I did when I was 10 affect me or others now? What about that slip of the tongue last week? Probably not…

 

  • Forward motion – Remember that you cannot change the past, ever. You can let go of that guilt, now…

 

So, there you have it – a quick top 5 tips for forgiving yourself. Be kind!