The mind is a funny thing. It is seemingly endless in its ability to control our movements, desires and dreams. When you stop and think about it for a second, everything we do is controlled by this one muscle trapped inside our bony skulls.
I dont like to think about it too much though, as it gives me the heeby jeebies, but its still incredible, right? Love, anger, passion, intelligence, opinion: it all resides in that one miracle structure. I used to think that my mind was open and as a consequence i was beholden to its random wandering s and procrastinations; lately I’ve learnt that sometimes, you gotta take the power back and tell it who’s boss.
As ever, particularly as the seasons change for the darker, wetter, colder ones, my body is being a royal pain in the butt. It’s just not doing what its told and I’ve been bloody mad with it for letting me down yet again. My mind had been focused on being in stress mode for so long, it was bound to take a physical toll i guess and I have found myself floundering around with new symptoms to manage, endless medical appointments and with no end in sight. That’s kinda my normal though right, so what was different?
This time i let my mind lead me. Bad move. I started thinking of a Million what ifs. I focused on the have nots, not the haves. I thought only about the worst case scenario and not the best. I made the crucial error of obsessing over what i have lost rather than what i have, right in front of me right now.
I’m not got to be dismissive- long term physical health problems are so very tough, there’s no getting away from that. Struggling with mental health such as anxiety or depression is also incredibly hard; by no means am i devaluing the battles we face.
How we deal with it and feel about it is in our hands.
It’s totally in our control. I didn’t really believe that at first but its true, it really is.
So here’s what I’ve done in the last few weeks to get myself back on track, in the hope it may help some of you.
A daily dose of gratitude
I know it sounds a bit knobbish, but it really does work. Get yourself a blank book or notepad and at the end of each day write down 3 things you are grateful for that day. They can be big or small- mine have ranged from a hot meal cooked in kindness for me, to having a safe roof over my head, to being grateful for the wind and rain on my face after being bed bound so much.
The point is, to focus your mind at the end of each day on the good stuff. To see just how much there is the be thankful for even on the toughest of days. It’s private. It can say anything. If you do nothing else do this.
You can also include positive affirmations if you want, either written or verbal. I often write ‘I will be well and healthy. I am strong. This too shall pass’. Just telling myself this daily helps me believe it to be true.
A daily dose of kindness
This can be kindness to yourself or others and again can be big or small. A big one for me was giving myself permission to rest for days, make that weeks on end. I hate being housebound but its what my body has needed. Aside from daily tasks i cant avoid, Ive been all about the self care- reading, talking, catching up on some funny shows. I usually feel so guilty for doing this but changing my mindset from ‘this is bad, lazy and a waste of precious time’ to ‘this is what you need to do, its a positive use of time, it will help you recover and make you stronger’ was really significant. I took back control of my mind. I took charge of the perception i had of myself.
Me and the girls have also been working on a little crafty project called happy stones. I saw the idea online and thought it would be a Good way to again focus the mind on something positive and constructive.
Its simple, you collect stones or rocks, paint or draw on them with acrylics or markers, then leave them random places to be found by strangers. The idea being it brightens up someone’s day and makes them smile. It’s also brings us to action number three.
A daily dose of fresh air
Even when I’m in pain, i need fresh air. I never ever come home thinking, i wish I hadn’t done that. I’m not talking bout climbing Everest, I’m talking a drive to a nice spot with space around it and five minutes sat on a bench if thats all you can manage.
I’m talking walking slowly around the block, breathing slow and deep and saying good morning to everyone you see.
It’s leaving ten minutes early for the school run and letting yourself take a few moments to stop and fill your lungs and stretch your aching legs.
There’s been many times I’ve being walking with the weight of the world on my shoulders and something lifts my spirits; a smile from a stranger, a bird, a beautiful view.
Ultimately i think its the power of fresh air that gives us fresh perspective on our days. So do it, get a friend to help you get out for half an hour- there’s still plenty of time to rest.
A daily dose of caring
I find that caring for others helps me to focus on the good stuff- we have a lovely dog – pets are great for this if you don’t have children, even if you do, they are a wonderful addition. Great company, a reason to keep getting out and moving. Something to hug and keep you warm. Patch has provided me endless comfort when I’ve been struggling, even if he is a smelly hairy hound.
Of course volunteering is also a great way to daily care- local schools and carehomes are always looking for help, or do a beach or woodland clean, my daughter even collected some rubbish in Asda this morning! I sing for pleasure with a couple of groups and try to keep this going even In my illest bits- singing is good for the soul and when you sing in the community for no reason other than to make someone smile-it truly spreads joy. It’s hard emotionally in the care homes, but seeing residents perk up and sing along, or smile fondly at a distant happy memory, makes your heart burst and grow just a little bit bigger.
Hold a door open, help someone across the road, let someone cut in front of you, pick up the dog poop in your street (it’s gross but my elderly neighbours really appreciated it)- it doesn’t need to be big or time consuming. Give back a little of yourself to your community, I promise it will lift your spirits.
A daily dose of positive news
Another blogger friend of mine wrote about this subject recently; https://www.facebook.com/hazeljoylifts/ .I’d not considered its impact much myself. I’ve always tried to be well informed and am a bit of a Keyboard warrior; unfortunately this comes with an inbox and newsfeed full of “crisis in the nhs/schools/Syria/for gay rights in Russia/housing/guns/sad and bad news” stories.
Being informed with the way our media works and the various current crisis around the world, is exhausting, scary and frankly, depressing.
Someone once said to me: “its all about getting the balance between being well informed and driving yourself mad”.
How true is that?
I’m not going to suddenly stop caring about all these things, but i can stop them being the first thing i see when i open my email or social media.
There is a reason they tell you in those plane safety briefings to put your oxygen mask on before helping others. To be able to fight for the greater good, you first have to make sure that you are strong and well.
So go through your media and unfollow or ‘see less like this’ until you are back to tip top condition. You can still seek out that information, but on your terms when you are ready.
As a side note, i now understand peoples obsessions with cute cat or funny animal videos. Sometimes you just need to see and read things that will make you smile….
These small steps towards a healthier, happier life can have a positive impact, i absolutely believe that. The power over your mind predominantly lies with you. It takes work, it takes commitment and dedication to yourself but I honestly think most of us have the ability to help ourselves with a little help and support. Talking openly and taking those first steps towards better mental health is terrifying, i know, but it really can help put you back in the driving seat of your own mind.
For those with more significant mental health challenges i urge you to seek professional help and advice. Of course sometimes we need medicine to get us well again and thats ok too; allow yourself to be helped by those with the knowledge to do so. It was a group therapy course that first started me on this journey and made me realise how common stress, anxiety and depression are; I’m very grateful for that perspective- there is never ever any shame in asking for support when everything gets too much. Ever.
So dont be afraid, try and be brave, tomorrow might jut be a bit brighter if you do….