anxiety · ME/CFS

Lock Down – My Experience 

So here we are, it’s now 3 months since I last went anywhere other than the supermarket or post office. We’re nearing the end of week 14 of working from home, and we’ve officially been in ‘lockdown’ as a country for almost 13 weeks. 

I thought I would blog my experience but in honesty I haven’t had the energy or motivation to even journal let alone create something coherent for a blog. I’m also conscious that everyone is experiencing this differently and I don’t want to be seen to down play anyone else’ experience by talking about the things that I’m personally struggling with, which thankfully are not life threatening. 

So after three months here is a brief account of my experience so far…

The early days were categorised by extreme worry and anxiety as I realised this wasn’t going to be like past epidemics where I watched it unfold on the news but instead something that would impact us directly and that we had a very real chance of catching. That even if we didn’t that we’d have to make some pretty major adjustments over the coming months.

Other than ongoing anxiety, which has come in waves, my experience has felt mainly domestic, with additional cleaning & cooking duties. 

In the beginning there were a number of administrative tasks in rescheduling things, rearranging work and planning food requirements as we adjusted to both of us working from home. Having recently run down our food supplies in preparation for work to our kitchen I had to quickly restock as best I could. Easter plans were cancelled and instead I found myself standing outside the post office in a long line of socially distanced customers feeling shell shocked and trying not to cry, as I sent gifts to my niece & nephew. 

Half our kitchen was already boxed up in preparation for building work that now may or may not happen but I decided to box even more up to make it easier to keep surfaces clean. I dug out hand sanitizer that I’d got from my Nana’s house after she passed last year and set up a cleaning station by the front door for taking in food/deliveries. 

Lockdown in the UK doesn’t feel like the lockdowns I’ve seen online in other European countries. Some non-essential businesses have been open during this time and we’ve been allowed outside for exercise once a day. Shops have introduced social distancing measures in varying degrees of success, play areas in parks are closed and public spaces have been closed until recently. I know many people who aren’t able to leave the house at all and I also know people who continue to work as normal but stay home the rest of the time.

We realised early on that my husband is in the ‘highly vulnerable’ group due to an existing health condition and should ‘shield’ until end of June.  Guidelines have since changed on this and we’re not actually sure if he is ‘highly vulnerable’ or just ‘vulnerable’ but either way we don’t want to take any changes and have therefore both been limiting our own interaction with the outside world even more than the guidelines require. I’m also in the ‘vulnerable category’ because of having ME which could be worsened if I got any virus, particularly something like Covid – 19. As time has gone on we’ve introduced more bike rides (for hubby & SD) and walks (for me) in remote areas,  We’re quite lucking where we live in that we can drive a short distance and be in countryside, but we haven’t yet been meeting up with people outside of the home. 

In order to shield hubby I’m doing the shopping, taking possession of any deliveries to the house and taking responsibility for cleaning the house down each day. 

It’s strange how we’ve slipped into a new normal. Food planning, shopping and cleaning down food on arrival at the house now take up hours of the week. I have a complex system for working out meal plans, keeping the freezer stocked to reduce times going to the shop and trying to cater for my low fodmap diet as best I can with what is available. 

As the lockdown continued  the work on our house was able to recommence with the help of a temporary wall to keep the builders socially distanced from the rest of the house. They also operated with less people so they could socially distance from each other and so far it seems to have been working pretty successfully. The upshot being that each week we lost more and more space and have to date been coping without an oven for a few weeks now, use of the washing machine on weekends only and without a downstairs sink for one week, this has of course made the extra hygiene needed more difficult but still manageable. Without my cleaner I’m doing a lot more cleaning, including trying to keep on top of the endless dust from the building work and cat hair from my two rescue kitties.

My husband is also taking the opportunity to complete some DIY projects and is still working his full-time job from home. He’s also doing the lion share of the dealing with the builders (from a distance) and making phone calls etc re the work on the house.   

The result of which is the house is in disarray, not helped by my using the dinning room as a office. The only solution I’ve come up with so far is to accept the chaos and take small steps to prevent the feel of overwhelm, such as trying to have a structure to the day.

I’ve been working between 3-5 days per week. My work days which used to be either busy traveling and working then crashing out either at home or in a hotel are now easier in the sense that I’m not going anywhere and don’t need to get up so early, however instead of the usual quiet working from home days I’m used to a couple of days a week I’m now fielding what feels like hundreds of whats app messages from colleagues and friends/family and joining at least 2 video calls a day. Before I know it’s it’s 5pm and the briefing by UK gov is coming on. It’s strange how the days have taken on their own rhythm and watching the gov update which seemed scary and ‘war time’ like at first has become a normal part of the day. 

Also because I have ME my day in terms of time I have energy to do anything is quite short and mostly taken up with work or house work. Keeping the house clean and sanitised, the fridge stocked and making three meals a day feels like a full time job some days, especially when my step-daughter is here. 

After work I wipe all door handles etc, made dinner, feed the cats and take turns with hubby tackling the seemingly endless amounts of dishes we now produce. 

As a result the time is going pretty quickly and I can’t say I’ve been bored at all. 

My mood is up and down and of course I am worried about what the future holds and not knowing what will happen is difficult, especially as I suffer with anxiety at the best of times. 

We didn’t see my stepdaughter for a while in the beginning but once her whole household had been home for 2 weeks we started having visits again and she’s been staying for longer periods and doing some homeschooling days with us after the weekend. This has meant that our routine has been out and we’re assessing week by week whether it is safe for her to visit but generally our time between visits is slightly shorter so time is going fast. 

At first I felt a little guilty that I wasn’t doing anything to help during the crisis but the reality is my husband is shielding so unless I want to sleep separate and social distance in the house I need to do the same as much as possible, also I am unwell myself and simply don’t have the energy to keep on top of the safety of my own house and family and my work let alone anything else. I haven’t driven in months because my brain fog and fatigue mean I’m worried I won’t be able to concentrate, not to mention the pains and numbness in my legs which isn’t ideal for driving. 

So I’ve contended myself to doing the minimum – doing work on the days when I have work to do (am freelance so work is a little quite atm) and not pushing myself to work 5 days a week just because I’m home, keeping the house clean and stocked with food ( a bigger task than i’d imagined for a house of 2.5) and resting in hope that after all this my health will be slightly better. I feel guilty as I know people are coping with all this on top of more work than I’m currently doing and with kids full-time but this is my reality at the moment, and my priority has to be on getting my health improved so that I’m not living with so many limitations indefinitely. 

I’m doing things that I can practically do – ordering take out from our favourite local restaurants, doing reviews for places/services I’ve used, ordering vouchers from small businesses I’ll use again when we get to the ‘new normal’, removing things from the diary and where possible rescheduling rather than getting refunds, calling each of my parents regularly, sending gifts and letters to family and friends, putting out food for the food bank collection when I can etc. 

My family are all over 200 miles away so it seems like it will be a while before we can do even a social distanced visit and whilst I’m worried about how long it might be before we can make this happen I’m also anxious about returning to normal. 

At first I was loth to take time off work during this time despite my ill health as it wasn’t clear whether I might loose work due to the situation, but it’s looking more likely that I will have some work for the rest of the year so I’m keen to get into a more structured routine with which days I work.  I’ve been adjusting my work schedule week on week, depending on what work is available and how I’m feeling. I’m grateful I have this flexibility but I’ve learned that this approach takes up a lot of energy. I find that having set days off where I don’t have to think about it, I just know that I don’t work works best for my  ME but in the current climate that doesn’t always work – for example there might be a meeting on a Friday when I won’t usually be working but as I’m at home anyway it makes sense to work a half-day, attend the meeting and get paid, if my step-daughter is here on a Monday it makes sense to do less work when I’d usually be working a full day so I can potter around the house and be available rather than getting stressed trying to work and monitor homeschooling at the same time – I’m lucky in that my workload is such that I can organise this reasonably easy but it doesn’t suit my ME because I’m neither working nor am I relaxing/resting and I’m constantly juggling the diary around and trying to decide when/ how much and what work to do. 

The disruption of both my work schedule and the building works would normally be a big cause of anxiety and it is in a way but because I’m already disrupted and anxious due to corona virus and my households vulnerable status it just feels like more strangeness in an already strange time. Also there has been the bonus of having my hubby at home to help. I’m very conscious that anything could change at anytime – particularly if anyone I know and love gets sick. 

I am getting better at going with the flow though and practicing being okay with no forward plan. I have a vague plan for 2 weeks ahead in terms of work and a vaguer forward look that hopefully by August bank holiday (my birthday) we will be free to travel to Northumberland to see family (my optimism for this changes day to day) but other than that I have no control over what is happening and we expect to be home at least until end of July so I am not making any new plans. 

We mostly now know when SD will be coming but that could always change. She’s back to school two days a week and we expect that to continue to the school holiday but we’re all keeping a close eye on the data and we might change that if we think we need to. Until recently we were getting a week on week plan from the builders of what they can/can’t do so I was trying not to worry and just accept that at some point we would get the other half of our house back but in the last few weeks more things have opened up and I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and getting excited to start organising my new kitchen. 

My aim is for more open space and being able to move (flow) though the house easily. I want the house to work for how we exist within in and for it to be easy to open any cupboard or draw and see what is in. But this is only half the picture – I want to be able to sit down with a cup of tea and relax, I want to work on my jigsaw without having to clear space and take it out, I want the maintenance (cleaning, tidying, fixing) of the house to be easier so we can go for a walk or start a game on a Saturday afternoon rather than working through lists of tasks, I want to find clothes easily on a morning and not have to devote my limited energy to thinking about where things might be or what to wear, I want my morning routine of taking supplements and making a smoothie to be easy with everything accessible, I want things to feel ordered and calm without the need to constantly be battling to keep them that way. I want to have space for Yoga, for reading for making calls with family. I want my hubby to be able to spread his ancestry projects out without the house feeling cluttered, I want my step daughter to be able to find her own healthy snacks and drinks as she grows in independence and know how to contribute to keeping the house tidy. Having some extra storage will also be helpful with being able to keep a sensible stock of the things we use regularly in the house, in case of another lockdown over the winter. This also aligns to my plans for more simple living as I’m trying to streamline my processes, including shopping. Anyway, more on this in another blog. 

There are some upsides to my experience of the lockdown too- my hubby and I are often eating lunch together and eating earlier and spending more time together on a night time, I’m able to get up later and take breaks when I need to and am not feeling pressured to do ‘stuff’ outside of work when I’m really not well enough. I’m communicating more with friends and family – none of my F&F live locally so in normal times it can be long periods before I see them which is still the case but because we’re all in the same boat we’re utilising video call more and staying in touch. What’s interesting is how few friends I’m in regular contact with. It makes me feel a bit sad in a way that there aren’t more people but also makes me more focused on the people that matter. 

I’m conscious of how much my life has shrunk over the past few years – with moving out of London, getting married and then in the last year getting sick with ME and just not being able to do things outside of work/family and even struggling with those things. 

Another bonus is I’m finding that I’m listening to more podcasts as I usually work in silence while I’m at home but now that I’m home more often I’m finding some engagement/sound helps stay focused and I’m supporting my favourite podcast productions on patreon as a way of thanking them for all the free content I’ve enjoyed and also getting more content to see me through these times. My favourite for the last year is The Minimalists – I’d highly recommend  their free weekly podcast which is also on You Tube and their documentary on Netflix. They talk about minamilisim in the widest sense and could be described more as talking about purposeful living. 

This is something I’m giving a lot of thought to during the lockdown  – there isn’t a lot that I miss so what would my new simple life look like? How can I retain the things I’ve enjoyed about the lockdown and bring back things that truly bring me joy and meaning? What new things would I like to bring in to fill the space?

ME/CFS · Uncategorized

Catching Up on 2020

I’m conscious that there is quite a jump in the timeline of my blog so I felt I needed to do a couple of quick catch ups before recommencing blogging. So I did a whirlwind summary of 2019 and now I’m catching up on the first quarter of 2020. Mainly for my own benefit 🙂

So 2020 started off reasonably well. We had some good social activities including a Gin tasking with other step families in London and a Burns night cheligh with the Scouts. This felt like an important shift as somewhere along the lines our weekends had fell into either a visitation weekend with SD or a weekend doing all the jobs around the house we don’t get time for during the week or when SD is here. We’ve finally started a number of DIY and renovation projects that have been needed since we bought the house almost 6 years ago. I can no longer do anything much on an evening after work due to my ME so I started introducing brunches on the weekend as a way of catching up with friends. 

We both enjoy being productive and we enjoy each others company so it’s nice to stay home but we were starting to lack any kind of fun and very little socialisation so it felt good to make an effort. One of my close friends moved to Canada which felt a bit like the final nail in the coffin of my ‘old life’ – the life where I had a great group of friends, an active social calendar, danced and swam regularly and was surrounded by a close community. But then she visited for work and stayed with us for the weekend which meant we actually spend more quality time together which has been missing since I moved out of london to buy a house with my hubby. 

I also started working only 4 days a week for clients and keeping one day a week for rest and business admin. This required a massive shift in my mindset and it took a lot of time to feel comfortable to do so. 

During February a lot of these ‘free’ days got taken up with family trips and then half term but knowing that in future I would have a day to my self made it easier to cope.

I ended up having a long weekend with my sister and the kids that lasted an extra day due to a storm – it was lovely but by the time I finally got back on the Monday afternoon (after a delayed train trip that involved a few hours wait in York and 2 hours standing next to the toilets on the train) I was in the middle of a massive crash that lasted days. I started feeling better just in time to travel to France for half term. The holiday came and went – it wasn’t the best as my illness meant that I spent the afternoons in bed which wasn’t exactly fun but still I coped okay.

Corona virus was on the very far edges of our conciousness at this time. No one in the UK was really worried yet. There was one case in france but nowhere close to where we were. 

So on returning life continued as usual. 

I was still struggling physically and I talked with my ME therapist about potentially taking an additional day off per week between Easter and the end of my current project to purely rest and try to get better. I felt un-comforabtle with not working while there is the opportunity to do so (being self employed it’s never a given). But long-term it seems that if I work less now I will be well enough to work in the future where as if I get more ill I might not be able to work at all! 

So, we booked flights to Canada for June to stay with my friend and I made a plan with my clients that would mean I could work on projects 3 days per week between Easter and the holiday, leaving one day for business and life admin and one day for rest and treatments such as myofascial release massages, which I had recently started, and my regular calls with my ME therapist and my regular therapist.

I had a recovery plan for both nutrition and mental/ physical rest and healing. And as a massive treat for myself and something to aim towards I booked a Yoga and Wild Swimming retreat for the summer. 

But as they say, best laid plans. 

On 12th March the reality of the Corona Virus hit me and things pretty much changed overnight. 

health · holidays · ME/CFS · travel

Catching Up on 2019

I feel like a quick update is in order before I can jump into blogging about the current very strange and worrying situation we all find ourselves in. 

So looking back 2019 set the tone for what has been a strange 2020 so far. 

It started off positively enough – I spend most of January and February in a Marie Kondo frenzy which resulted in us finally redecorating our spare bedroom and creating an office space with loads of built in storage. This sparked a change in my working situation also when I decided to leave the interim position I was freelancing at based in London and started some associate work for a small consultancy firm on a project primarily based in York. I quickly swapped my daily commute for overnight trips to York, with the occasional day in London, Leeds or Manchester. I set myself up working from home on the other days in my new office 🙂

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Life was busy, I was delivering regular BC Workshops, traveling to York and other cities regularly for work as well as visiting family in the North East when possible. I was starting to feel like I needed some ‘me time’ and I planned a break for a few nights in a shepherd’s hut while hubby was away but I ended up combining it with a visit to family for my nephew’s birthday and then convinced myself that fitting in a BC workshop would make sense since I was already there. This had the result in my only having an afternoon and evening in the hut which was lovely but in hindsight it shows that how I was taking on too much at that time and also the way that my brain was woking in terms of doing what felt logical and made best use of the time rather than doing what I wanted or what my body needed.

Around this time we also took a two week trip to Canada, in the seven years we have been together this was the first time we have taken a two week holiday without my stepdaughter. (Even our honeymoon was in the 10 days between visitation weekends, with us landing home on the Friday morning and picking her up in the afternoon.) Unfortunately the timing of this didn’t end up being great as it coincided with some personal issues going on for her but this withstanding we had a wonderful time and enjoyed the complete change of scene and culture, and it gave some much needed balm to our relationship.

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On return from Canada the three of us had a lovely Easter with family then hubby and I went hiking in Wales. This seems do far away from how this Easter will be spent that it’s hard to comprehend – not only because we are now confined to the house but also because my health has deteriorated to a point where hiking or exercise of any kind is currently off the table. 

But back in April 2019 this would never have crossed my mind – I conducted training with the Sue Stone Foundation, we celebrated SD’s 10th Birthday with my Dad and Stepmom and had a wonderful time at the Harry Potter studios. By May bank holiday we had also celebrated my Stepmum’s 70th birthday as a family and I’d had a wonderful weekend in Cornwall with girlfriends. Hubby and Stepdaughter were enjoying the camping season with the Scouts and Cubs and things generally seemed to be picking up for us. 

Then in May, my Dad’s Mum (my Nana) passed away. We’d been expecting it towards the end of 2018 but she’d seemed to have improved so this was a shock and a lot of stress for everyone. I was on route to York when I got the call so I changed trains and went straight to my Dad in Durham. When I made it back to York that night it seemed liked days had passed. The next day in the office I had my first real experience of brain fog. I struggled to get through the day and was glad to eventually get back home after 3 hours on the train. 

My Dad is a only child so my sister and I were heavily involved in the practicalities that followed. This was a busy and quite stressful time. The 300 miles between where I live and my family are highlighted in these times as even helping out with small things involve an overnight stop. I wish I could be dropping in more often and just being a presence. Luckily I’d bought a new car following a dreadful 6 hour drive in my old banger earlier in the year so I had a safe and reliable car to make various trips and I was quite proud that I was confident enough to drive around the area where my sister and dad live independently. I’d say I coped pretty well all things considered and kept my anxiety in check. 

It’s hard to say when something changed by by the time August rolled around I was struggling with normal day to day things, I felt mentally and physically tired nearly all of the time and was struggling to keep up with my everyday duties. We had a family holiday in August which didn’t quite go to plan (to summarise – Mum’s 60th, holiday house went on fire {yes really!}, replacement found at short notice was basic with not everyone in same house, lots of emotion) then on return amidst various stresses going on I was feeling more and more ill. As I awaited more tests and tried to keep going as best I could,  then suddenly over August bank-holiday my hubby’s stepdad died. 

The weekend this happened took it’s toll on both of us. We traveled back and forth to the hospital (a few hours each way), didn’t eat or sleep well. After one of the days in the hospital we decided to go home and get some rest in case we had to go back over the night. Lacking motivation to cook we went to our local restaurant for some food. When my husband suggested getting dessert I burst into tears – it’s then that I realised how tired I was. I simply didn’t have the reserves of energy to deal with this unexpected emergency. I tried to explain that if we might have to go out again later I desperately needed to be in bed ASAP and we headed home for some sleep before being woken up at 3am with another call from the hospital. I pressed through for by husbands benefit but it was clear I wasn’t well. 

In September I got a diagnosis of ME (sometimes known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) which by this point wasn’t a suprise. I now had numbness in my arms, legs, hands and feet which got worse when I walked or was tired. I took a week off work to try and rest but we were having our conservatory replaced and some work done on the back of the house ready for an extension in the New Year so I got no rest at all with people in and out and constant questions. 

We celebrated my birthday with a visit from family, then had a long planned visit to Newcastle to see friends which was amazing but left me wiped out, we also celebrated Hubby’s 50th birthday then the following day we had the funeral for my Father in Law, so another pretty full on week. The month ended with a joint 60th party for my Mam and Aunty, who are twins. I was still trying to work full-time, and despite working from home more there were weeks when I would need to be in 2 or 3 locations and the travel was starting to take its toll. 

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In October I attended a ME/CFS clinic which helped me to understand what was happening to my body. I saw a nutritionist as part of the clinic and am now taking over 15 supplements per day. I’m also trying to get away from my reliance on Diet Coke and chocolate to get through the day. I stopped exercising and have been advised not to restart until I’m symptom free. This is difficult because I’m gaining weight and I’m not getting the relaxation from swimming and yoga that I rely on. I also stopped doing any work on my coaching/training business, blog and Facebook page – focusing instead on using my energy for my main business as a business change consultant and making sure I didn’t loose my income. This was difficult and I struggled to come to terms with the changes and ask for help.

Christmas went well enough, if you ignore the fact that we broke down on the A1 and had to be recovered home at 3am. It ended with a New Years Eve spent in a cabin in the woods, I intended to have a game of risk with my hubby and enjoy relaxing together but I didn’t even have the energy to do that so we watched a movie. We had a lie in then went to Bluewater for brunch and watched the new Star Wars movie. And you know what it was one of the nicest New Year’s ever. 

Unfortunately the stimulation from the 3D movie triggered a massive crash (onslaught of symptoms) for my ME but I ended the year feeling that I’d had some good times, some difficult times and had learned some lessons. I felt that 2020 would be a year for focusing on getting better and not worrying too much about doing anything else. 

Well, I think you can guess already how well that’s going…

anxiety · Broadband Conciousness · self development · selfcare

The power of choice

One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned on my journey to overcoming anxiety came from Dr Terrance Watts, author of “Seven ways and seven days to banish your anxiety”.

He encourages us to change our language from “can’t” to “choose”. So instead of saying, “I Can’t, because of my anxiety….”, change it to “I’m choosing not to,because it makes me feel anxious”.

This might look like, “ I’m choosing not to drive to that event because I’d like to arrive feeling calm & not anxious”, rather than, “I can’t drive there because of my anxiety”. Or “I’m choosing to email rather than call because I want to manage my anxiety levels”, rather than “ I can’t talk on the phone”, or perhaps it’s “I’m choosing not to apply for a new job just yet” rather than “ I can’t cope with attending interviews “.

It may seem like a small shift but it’s incredibly powerful because it requires you to be mindful of your anxiety triggers and concisely choose your actions. It takes the power away from anxiety and makes it YOUR choice!

And of course the difference between something you CHOOSE not to do and something you can’t do is, that if you’re capable of doing it but choosing not to you can always choose to do it in the future, it is not unavailable to you.

You can become a confident driver.

You can become comfortable making calls.

You can attend an interview and present yourself well.

As we continue to use this new terminology it allows for a seed of doubt to be sown in our subconscious. We start to question whether the limits we’ve been putting on ourselves are true. We start to glimpse the possibility of a life free from anxiety. A life in which we can choose differently.

I’ve seen first hand how this change in mindset can be the start of moving towards a life free from anxiety.

I recall completing one of the sessions on the “seven ways & seven days programme” in which you visualise how you will feel in a situation, which currently triggers anxiety, once you are anxiety free. Some of those things I was imagining, some of the things I was choosing not to do – I am now able to do.

What’s amazing is that not only am I able to do certain things without an anxiety, but the things which are anxiety triggering for me and I would previously have avoided I can now choose to do DESPITE the anxiety.

I’ve learned not to be scared of feeling anxiety or that negative voice in the back of my head. I’ve learned to choose to do things that will benefit me regardless of whether I feel anxious or not. And I’ve learned when not to overload myself and choose not to do things too, and I’m good with that.

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If you’d like to hear more about my story and learn some of the techniques that brought me to this place for yourself, why not join me for a one day workshop? I work with groups of 4-6 people in a safe calm environment to help you change your mindset and overcome limiting beliefs. Feel free to message me for more info or visit http://www.kathrynreay.com

manifestation · self development · selfcare

Is this sparking joy…?

Throughout January I found myself joining the nation in Maria Kondo-ing my house. I was amazed how much freer I felt and how the energy in my home felt less stuck. Despite having a reasonably tidy house there were certain pockets that felt cluttered and didn’t flow and I had a number of things which were not being used or looked at which have now either been set free or are in the process of being repurposed.

This process also resulted in a number of new projects kicking off, one being to finally get our spare room organised and decorated including creating an office space and another being to start scrapbooking some of my memories, which I hope will be be a relaxing creative project for me.

But this got me thinking what about other areas of my life. Do they spark joy? I wrote down all the activities,people and places that spark joy for me – guess how much of my time is spent in those things? Yeah, not enough!

It occurred to me that life is just a million small moments and experiences put together. If large chunks of those moments aren’t making you happy then aren’t we missing the point?

I realised that as with decluttering my home I first need to remove things that do not spark joy (or indeed are causes of frustration or dissatisfaction) in order to create space for things which will bring me joy, satisfaction and ultimately the life I want.

This isn’t so easy of course. There are some things that must be done. And there are some things which are not that easy to change.

But even by simply identifying the things that do not really spark joy for me I am starting to see opportunities for reducing them, rather than continuing to do things that I feel I should or that I feel I should enjoy.

For example cooking, I don’t mind cooking but it doesn’t fill me with joy so rather than feel bad about not spending more time cooking, or making time in an already busy schedule to cook I’m choosing to focus on what it is that actually brings me joy – having quick, efficient, healthy low fodmap food that I enjoy and can eat without getting sick and time to do other things. There are various ways to achieve this involving minimal cooking, being smarter about what and when I do cook and doing so in an efficient way rather than feeling like I should be spending joy filled hours in the kitchen every weekend.

There are also some ‘time wasters’, such as excessive social media or TV use which I can be mindful of. I also include not having enough energy to do things or being limited by injury in this. So prioritising staying healthy whilst it might not spark joy right away that pilates class sparks joy in that I have less problems with my back as a result. Similarly, the effort I continue to make to drink mindfully falls into this category and results in an increase in energy and more time to do things that bring me joy.

I’ve  noticed  however that there is a natural resistance to freeing up time and space in life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds themselves so busy, rushing from one thing to the other – busy with work, business, hobbies, social commitments or family activities, busy with organising, planning, house work and life admin. The worry is that without all this ‘stuff’ our lives lack meaning.

If we stop, remove some of those things from our routine we could find we are left with nothing in it’s place, at least in the short term.

But this is where the magic happens, in filling those empty spaces with things that truly spark joy. In seeing what we would choose instead.

So this is my challenge for the year, to consciously remove things in my life which don’t spark joy and actively say yes to things which do.

Will you join me?

Uncategorized

Overcoming Fear

I’ve been reflecting on the coaching workshop I delivered on Saturday and realised that whilst I still suffer from anxiety I actually need to give myself credit for how far I’ve come.

One of my major triggers is speaking in front of a group. Specifically standing up in front of people. Now coming from someone who has regularly been told to ‘quieten down’ and who as a young teenager used to sing her (out of tune) heart out in amateur dramatics this has often been seen as surprising.

Although now that I think about it it’s possibly not that surprising, perhaps after being shamed for being myself in the past my subconscious thinks I’m doing something ‘wrong’ by saying my opinion in front of people.

But regardless, it’s always surprised people that I have this problem and the result was that I made excuses to avoid speaking in front of groups. And I’ve certainly took this to the extreme in the past.

I still cringe when I remember that as a seventeen year old I once simply didn’t turn up to a presentation my A Level acting course (I know right why was I there if I hate talking in front of people?!) was doing as my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t even get up the courage to let anyone know so I just left campus that day and then afterwards dropped out of the class!

As an adult I also avoided talking in public situations which of course limited my career especially in relation to my dreams of being a trainer or coach.

When working for The Princes Trust on their team programme even though I loved planning the training I couldn’t bring myself to put myself forward to lead the courses which meant my progression opportunities were limited to say the least and eventually I reverted back into my comfort zone behind a desk.

But the pull to teach and to use my voice never left me. I kept returning to it at various points, delivering workshops here and there and creating training materials for clients. Throughout my career I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderful colleagues who supported me and gave me opportunities to practice. Two colleagues in particular while I was at City & Guilds are responsible for the fact that I no longer sway from side to side constantly while standing in front of a group and I was lucky enough to work with a wonderful trainer in my first freelance role who put me through train the trainer coaching and supported me in delivering my first training sessions for the client. I loved delivering these half day workshops as I knew the content inside out and could see the benefits to the work I was doing once the key stakeholders completed the training. The feedback was excellent.

Yet I often continued to revert back to avoiding speaking up, limited myself by creating situations I could legitimately get away with sitting down, getting a professional comms person to deliver message or doing a presentation over the phone (never Skype!).

Since then the clients I’ve worked with haven’t needed much within the area of training so again my confidence has reduced. After completing BC in June 2017 I had a desire to share what I’ve learned with others and the opportunity came when Richard shared that he had places available to train in delivering a one day version- I was immediately interested. This seemed like a perfect chance to share what I’d learned in a way that was endorsed by Richard and Liz.

But even during the training surrounded by like minded people who had been through similar experiences to me I didn’t feel comfortable to stand up in front of them. I left feeling that they must think I’d never be able to deliver the training, and doubted my ability to translate the enthusiasm I had in the content and it’s impact in my own life into a confidently delivered speech.

As I said to my friend as I nervously stood in front of her camera practicing my delivery and trying to create content for my future website, “Do I really sound like someone who’s life has been changed?!”

I’ve since realised that this is exactly the point. I’m not super confident speaking in front of people. I have anxiety triggers that might seem like no big deal to others.

But despite this I’m standing in front of people, telling them my story, sharing with them what I have learned, not just from BC but from my collective experience of life and learning, and guiding them through an experience that is helping them in many areas of life.

I tell them that I feel sick and that my anxiety doesn’t like me doing this. And they get it. It’s encouraging for them that thanks to what I’ve learned I’m able to do it DESPITE the anxiety.

It’s part of what makes my workshop special and unique.

And through that vulnerability my confidence is beginning to grow.

On Saturday mid delivery I suddenly realised I wasn’t shaking. This was a first!

Also, when I got to the point where I needed to stand up I suddenly realised I’d already stood up a number of times to draw something I was talking about on the board and remained standing to talk about it further!

Before BC I would not have repetitively put myself in a situation which was massively anxiety triggering for me in that way.

I would have continued to avoid situations where I had to speak in front of the people and I certainly wouldn’t have created situations where I had to do it!

So is there something you’re avoiding? Is there something you feel you ‘can’t’ do because of your anxiety? Are you willing to  open yourself up to the possibility that you could be wrong? That it might be possible?

If so, I’d love to work with you. I offer one day Broadband Consciousness Workshops for groups of 3-6 in London, Durham, Hertfordshire & York as well as one to one empowerment coaching over the phone. Comment or click the contact me button for more info 🙂

anxiety · identity · self development · selfcare

My Year as a Moderate Drinker

I’m feeling very proud that another of my blogs (you can read the first one on negative self beliefs here) has been published on website which I value and have benefited from reading myself.

I’ve been trying to get more comfortable telling the various parts of my story and sharing the experiences that make me who I am today, particularly around my experiences as a child-free stepmum and in overcoming anxiety and finding my way in business and life. I’ve also been trying to write more, it’s a big part of me but I’ve never identified or labelled myself as ‘a writer’ so it’s wonderful if a little scary to start seeing my name out there with words that I have written attached! And even better to see comments that people have enjoyed what I had to say.

I’ve found that talking about positive physical and mental health, childlessness and even the complexities of step family life is becoming more accepted and I’m comfortable sharing about them and the things that have helped me deal with them in my own life.

But when it comes to talking about alcohol use, it still seems like a bit of a taboo. We live in a society where drinking, even drinking a lot, is seen as a social norm. To talk about wanting to limit your intake or aren’t comfortable with your relationship with drink implies that you have ‘a problem’.

Drinking non alcoholic drinks or wanting to do activities that don’t involve drinking can elicit comments like, ‘don’t be boring’ or ‘have some fun’ and heaven forbid if you ‘can’t handle your drink’!

But the reality is that alcohol is an addictive substance and just like having one chocolate out of the box is never enough, one drink is never going to be enough for most people. A lot of people would like to drink less for a range of reasons; hangovers, health concerns, not liking how they behave after too many, needing more energy to play with their kids etc. So it feels like choosing to have a few nights off or drinking less overall should be a totally okay choice which is why Club Soda was set up to help anyone wanting to quit, take a break or just cut down on drinking to not feel left out and to have the support to see it though when it might feel hard.

And it’s for this reason that I’ve chosen to share a blog I wrote for them on my experiences over the last year as I’ve made the conscious choice to reduce how much and how often I drink.

The one or two wines that I could sleep off during the holidays or weekends were causing me more and more discomfort as I dragged myself up at 6:30 each day. I felt slightly hungover at least 2 days out of 5 days which triggered my chronic IBS problems and left me tired and fed up for days afterwards. Yet I felt annoyed at feeling that way after only a small amount of alcohol and I just couldn’t seem to accept the limitations. I’d cut out so much from my diet already to accommodate my condition, giving up my few glasses of red with a meal seemed a step too far!

I was in a kind of denial – I knew I’d have to cut down or else give up drinking but it never really came to the top of my ‘personal development to do list’.

Continue reading on Club Soda’s Website 

manifestation · self development · selfcare

January – The month of planning & cleaning!

So, all of a sudden it’s past the midway point of January and it’s starting to feel like we’re getting ‘back to normal’ after the Christmas break. Whatever normal might be?! It’s also finally feeling like winter which feels strange after such a mild autumn and midwinter here in the UK.

January is generally a busy working month for me, I freelance so after taking time off over Christmas and before taking more time off for half term and ski season (which quickly turns into spring break and Easter!), during January it seems sensible to work as much as possible and it can certainly feel a little monotonous after the excitement and build up to Christmas.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that my ‘script’ (that inner critic or monkey brain) often tries to come up with problems, crisis and stuff requiring my attention during this time so I have to be conscious not to waste energy on this.

There are a few things that keep me going during this time, one is that I do my planning for the year. I book in my leave for the first half of the year so I have things to look forward to, I update my calendar with various commitments, book some trips to see my family (my sister usually visits in Jan/Feb too with her gorgeous babies. Squuuee!) and plan in which weekends I can deliver workshops.

I also complete my Leonie Dawson Workbooks and set my goals for the year. This will be my seventh year of doing so and it has become an essential part of my Christmas routine to begin filling them in, colouring the pages, collecting things for my dream board and just playing and dreaming. I rarely complete during December however so January is about taking my time, flicking through and adding in new thoughts and ideas.

This year I accidentally launched into a massive de-clutter session, that has so far lasted the whole month! It all came about because whilst I was putting away the Christmas decorations on the first weekend of January my friend text me the suggestion to check out the Maria Kundo show on Netflix. Like most of the country it would seem I got hooked and suddenly I understood why ‘complete de-cluttering’ and ‘sort out box in spare room’ had been on my To Do list in my goals workbook for the past 2 years and were in there again for 2019!

When I get an idea in my head I tend to just go for it right away (You can thank my Type 3 Energy for this) so I’ve been de-cluttering like a demon every spare second since. My aim is that I will spend less time and energy on moving things around the house and having to re-organise things. I’ve also let a lot of things I’ve simply been moving from house to house and haven’t looked at in the nearly 5 years since we bought our home. My plan is to take up scrap booking to display some of the more sentimental things I’ve kept rather than chucking them in a box!

So that’s pretty much been my year so far. I’ve also reinstated some things which were helping me last year, including weekly Pilates classes and therapy sessions. And I’ve been trying to be more proactive in documenting my story through my Facebook page and blog without it taking on the feeling of being a chore or oversharing. A difficult balance to strike for many I suspect.

The last few weeks of the month look to follow the same themes however I’ve a few more social events creeping in – a birthday dinner for a friend, a trip to the snow centre with my hubby to celebrate our dating anniversary and a painting class.

Then we’re into February which for me is always when I feel the year starts properly and things start to speed up. Spring seems closer.  Things start to happen and change. Plans made during January are suddenly upon you. And the whole cycle of the year begins again…

anxiety · Broadband Conciousness · self development · selfcare

How to take back control from the negative script in your head

“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” ~Dan Millman

I’d love to say I had an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment where sitting sobbing in the bathroom I received divine guidance to leave my husband and go traveling the world eating amazing food. But sadly, it wasn’t quite that profound.

It was more a long series of nights sobbing in the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, and concluding “You’re broken.”

I wasn’t depressed and hadn’t been for a long time. My anxiety, a lifelong companion, was under control. So what was wrong?

You can read the rest of this blog on Tiny Budha

 

 

anxiety · Broadband Conciousness · health · selfcare

Why the trigger isn’t the reason

Not a typical New Year’s Eve post (I might write one over the next few days before returning to work) but as I was was sorting through my notes and tying up loose ends I came across this almost complete blog post so thought I’d just complete it and share it. 

It’s about how using my IBS condition as a metaphor I’ve been able to better understand my anxiety and how to deal with that negative voice we call the script and to put the blame for these feelings onto myself or others. 

*****

I have chronic IBS and an inflamed bowl. I have IBS every day. You can’t see it but it’s there. I have to take care with how much sleep I get, my stress levels and what I eat to keep it under control. 

Some days I don’t notice it, some days it’s a slight discomfort or bloating, most days it’s a lack of energy. But sometimes it’s full on pain, cramps, diarrhoea, back pain and exhaustion to the point I’m vibrating with discomfort. I call this a ‘flair up’. 

It really helps me to distinguish between ‘having IBS’ which is all the time and ‘having a flair up’ which is thankfully no longer that often but limits my ability to do things and requires action to get myself back on an even keel. 

It’s also worth noting that whilst I try not to talk constantly about having IBS (and the accompanying limiting diet) I have realised that it’s helpful to let people (or at least my husband) know when I’m having a ‘flair up’ otherwise they presume I’m fine and expect me to do all the things I usually do. 

And it’s the same with the script (that negative voice in our heads). 

I have a script. I have A script every day. We all do. You can’t see it but it’s there. I have to take care with how much sleep I get, my stress levels and what I think and say to keep it under control. 

Some days I don’t notice it, some days it’s a niglling disatisfaction or doubt, most days it’s an irritation. But sometimes it’s full on anxiety attack, tears, a flood of feelings and an onslaught of negative and hurtful thoughts and memories to the point I’m left devastated and convinced my life is hopeless and won’t get any better. 

I’ve learned to also think of this as a ‘flair up’. It really helps me to distinguish between ‘having a negative part of my brain’ which is all the time and ‘having a flair up’ which is thankfully no longer that often but limits my ability to think clearly and requires action to get myself back on an even keel. 

It’s also worth noting that whilst I try not to talk constantly about the script (and the accompanying anxiety which is how it often manifests for me) I have realised that I need to find a way to let people (or at least my husband) know when I’m having a flair up otherwise they presume I’m fine and expect me to do all the things I usually do. 

When I have an IBS flair up it could be triggered by a combination of food, lack of sleep or by stress. But it’s important to recognise that these triggers are not responsible for the pain. The reason for the pain is IBS.

Similarly, a script/anxiety flair up might be triggered by something someone’s said, a stressful situation or overstimulation. These triggers are not responsible for the pain. The situation or person that has triggered this response is not at fault. You are not at fault. It is, and always has and always will be, the script!