I is for I’m fine

This post is originally from The Pandora Box Gift Company blog.  

  I was recently talking to a friend, and she told me that she had given up lying for lent. When asked how difficult it was, she mentioned that most of the time it was fine, the only time that caused an issue was when someone asked her how she was. When she deviated from the usual answer of “I’m fine”, people seemed to get quite uncomfortable. The longer and more descriptive her answers were, the more uncomfortable they seemed to get until eventually she was told that maybe, she should just keep it at home. 

  It got me thinking about the answer we give when someone asks us how we are. People are very content with “I’m fine” but seem to get annoyed when anyone starts to deviate. The thing is, when is anyone really feeling just fine? We all know that most of the time we can feel a mixed bag of emotions, yet we all too easily accept it.

   The problem with this blasé approach to “I’m fine” is that we end up in a situation where nobody shares how they really feel. It leads to everyone thinking that what they’re going through is unique to them and doesn’t seem to be happening to anyone else. It can increase the feeling of loneliness and isolation that poor mental health can bring. We forget how powerful sharing feelings and experiences can be. One of the biggest reasons we think is responsible for the high rates of suicide among men is that they don’t talk openly about how they’re feeling.

   “I’m fine” is the easy option. It’s the answer we give when we try and avoid what’s really going on. It can lead to suppression of thoughts and feelings which uses up an enormous amount of energy that could be used to keep yourself mentally healthy. Going with the old cliché, a problem shared really is a problem halved. Sure, every now and again you’re allowed an “I’m fine” response, but let’s just be more aware of the amount of times someone uses it as an answer. You yourself probably use it all the time without realising. It’s so engrained in us that most of the time we don’t stop and think about how this simple answer can cause issues for us all. Here’s to honest answers and the reduction of the “I’m fine” response.

Advertisements

H is for Hypomania

This post is originally from The Pandora Box Gift Company, the gift giving service with a focus on mental wellbeing.

  Cyclothymia, like bipolar, has both the “ups” and the “downs”. The only difference being that the “ups” are less severe than those of someone with bipolar. So, instead of mania you suffer from hypomania. When a hypomanic state takes hold they can leave the person in a reckless and sometimes dangerous state of mind. Every action is without consequence and a strong belief that everything you’re doing is right for you, and everyone else, takes hold. Since being on quetiapine, I have reduced the rate of hypomanic episodes to pretty much zero.

  Even though I know that it’s good to reduce the number of hypomanic episodes, I’m sat here missing them. Every now and again I wish that I could just reach the edge of hypomania. The stage where I’m just starting to enter it but not too far gone for it to be self destructive. The stage where I feel like I’m 100% there. Everything I do and say is great. Work is done in a split second. The energy only ever runs out when I take nightly medication. I miss the feeling of being the best that I can be.

  It’s particularly tempting when I find my mood moving towards the low side of things. At the times when I’m anxious or socialising is difficult I think back to the times that I felt like I really shined. I miss the creativity when writing blogposts or deciding where to go with my business. If I focus on it for too long, I feel like I’m only a shadow of the person I could be.

  It hurts and it can be confusing as it makes me wonder which of these is my true personality? Am I meant to be the social butterfly that gets everything done or am I meant to be this timid anxious person that just gets on with things quietly. That’s the crux of the illness really. You’ve been given something that knocks you down but can lift you up higher than you thought possible. You get a taste of feeling so good and yet to succumb to it is only detrimental in the end.

See our range of gift boxes here: The Pandora Box Gift Company. 

G is for Gratitude

This is an original post from The Pandora Box Gift Company

Last week, I had the fortunate opportunity to listen to a talk by Stephen Doran, founder of Live Daily. One of the biggest things I took away with me was the habit of waking up and instantly asking myself what I’m grateful for. I decided to try it every so often and see how I felt. I wouldn’t necessarily do it in the morning when I’d just woken up as I take quetiapine at night and waking up in the morning is a whole new struggle without having to remember things as well.

I found that if my mood wasn’t great, or I had intrusive thoughts, I could slightly alter my state of mind, almost drown out the thoughts, by thinking of things that I was grateful for. They didn’t have to be anything big or impressive and ranged from being grateful for a comfy bed, nice weather that day or the fact that I’d just made myself a cup of tea. Sometimes one of the only things I was grateful for was the very fact that I’d remembered to think of something.

The more I did it, the more I found myself getting into the habit of automatically thinking of something to be grateful for when an intrusive thought randomly popped up in my head, regardless of the time of day. I’m still amazed that this is happening as this is something I’ve only been practising and working on for just over a week now. Like all self-help techniques and therapy’s, some will have a more profound effect on you than others. For me, being grateful has definitely had a big impact.

Why do I think it’s so effective? Dr Martin Luther King, Jr said it best: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

To be grateful is to love and to find the light even when things feel dark. It’s definitely something I recommend trying. I find it helps to drive away the horrible venomous feelings our mental state can leave us in, one day at a time.

F is for Forgiveness

This post is originally from the A-Z mental health series by The Pandora Box Gift Company 

Everyone makes mistakes, does something they regret or simply gets in a mood from time to time. If we have a healthy approach to life and ourselves, we can accept that these things happen, forgive ourselves and move on. When our mental health is poor, we stop forgiving. We turn into our own worst critics and thoughts and feelings can make us turn against ourselves. We don’t give ourselves the level of care or compassion that we need, lose patience and don’t give the time we need to allow ourselves to heal. When this happens, all of our energy is used up trying to process unwanted and unhelpful thoughts, leaving us tired and unmotivated. We turn into our own worst enemy all because we can’t forgive!

Learning to forgive yourself is a slow and hard process and only really works when it becomes habit. A good way to get into the habit is by writing down something that you will forgive yourself for everyday. This way you will get used to addressing what you need to forgive and why you need to forgive yourself for it.

  1. Start by writing down one thing every day that you need to forgive yourself for.

    This can be anything from “I didn’t do the washing up today” to “I cancelled plans to see my friend today”.

  2. Write down the reason behind the action. Work out the route cause of the action you want to forgive yourself for. Sometimes this can help you find patterns to certain actions or find the base reasons to why you can’t forgive yourself. Be truthful with this step.

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside.

  1. Write down why this action happened. This shouldn’t be anything negative or emotive. This should look at the rationale behind the action and help you realise that some things are going to happen because of your mental health and that they are unavoidable. What’s the point of punishing yourself for something that’s going to happen every now and again.

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication. Exhaustion is a common side effect of my medication that sometimes effects me.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside. This is a common result of having anxiety.

  1. Write I forgive myself.

    Each day you write this it will further instil itself and eventually you’ll believe it!

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication. Exhaustion is a common side effect of my medication that sometimes effects me. I forgive myself.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside. This is a common result of having anxiety. I forgive myself.

The list helps you realise the different ways poor mental health effects your life and how it isn’t your fault. After a while you will see that the small things you’ve been punishing yourself for a a direct result of an illness that clouds your judgement. In the end you will get into a habit of forgiving yourself and will find yourself stronger and more able to take on whatever your mental health throws at you. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

Further steps:

If you feel strong enough, a great thing to do is to add a step that addresses what you will do next time this situation comes up to help you achieve your intentions. I find that if I have a an idea written down, I am more likely to do it than if I just think about it.

  • I didn’t do the washing up because I was exhausted due to my medication. Exhaustion is a common side effect of my medication that sometimes effects me. I forgive myself. Next time I will look out for indications that I am getting tired and try and do as much of the washing up as possible.

  • I cancelled plans to see my friend today because my anxiety made me feel like I couldn’t go outside. This is a common result of having anxiety. I forgive myself.

    Next time I will realise that I am meeting a friend and everything will be fine. The only reason I won’t go out is due to physical health problems or a really bad day mentally.

E is for Exercise

This blog is originally from The Pandora Box Gift Company, A-Z on mental health series

There are a few things we can try to do to keep our mind and body in shape and exercise is definitely one of them. Not only does it give you something to do, it gives your mind a rest, gives you targets that you set and achieve and after a workout you get a release of some lovely endorphins that can help boost your mood, even if it’s just for a little while. Do it regularly and exercise is a great way to keep you healthy and give your life a simple routine.

There’s so many different aspects and ways to exercise, it’s hard to not find something that you might enjoy. I’ve gone through different types of sports and activities that I’ve tried in the past or am currently attempting. There’s also links to websites that have great information about the different types of exercise and challenges that give you something to train and aim for. Having that challenge as an end goal gives you something to focus on and an excuse to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it.

Walking

Going for a walk is great if you need some space or time out to think things through. It doesn’t require much preparation to do it, just some comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather. You’d be surprised what you can find when you walk around your neighbourhood.

Thinking of going for longer walks? Walking for 6-7 hours is a great way to pass the day, especially when the weather is great. To do this you will need some walking boots and walking sticks to help you get further. I did some long walks in preparation for a 100km walking challenge and found that it was a great thing to do on a day off. It got me out of the house and made me feel like I was achieving something.

Challenges to train for:

100km London2Brighton challenge: http://www.london2brightonchallenge.com/

Thames Path Challenge (Anywhere from 25 to 100km): http://www.thamespathchallenge.com/

Running

I’m not much of a runner myself, but I have to admit after doing it for a couple of months it does get quite therapeutic. There’s always the point you reach a couple of minutes after starting where your mind and body just want to quit. Once you learn to get past that point you start to relate the same things to your mood. You learn that with the right thoughts and determination eventually you can get over something or push through it. Running takes a bit more preparation. You need trainers and clothes that you don’t mind sweating in and a good idea of the route you want to take (or a gym with a treadmill!). I find it’s a lot easier to run when you know where you want to go. It’s very easy to constantly stop and take unnecessary breaks when you don’t know where you’re going.

Websites to help:

Couch to 5k is a great way to get into running if you’ve not tried it before or have tried but failed (like me!): http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx

Challenges to train for:

5 or 10km run: http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/index.html

Fancy running 26 miles? The London Marathon: https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/

Weight training

I am loving doing a bit of weight training! I’ll be honest, the idea of doing it used to scare me and I was put off by going into “that” section of the gym because I found it quite intimidating. Lucky for me I have a gym buddy that makes me feel confident enough to go in there. Over the past three months I have been slowly increasing the amount I can lift, and with that I’m getting stronger and can do things that I couldn’t previously, (Press ups! Woop). Not only do you increase your strength but it’s also a great cardio workout as well. To get into it, I started doing bicep curls with quite a small weight that I found easy to handle and then branched out onto the different weight training machines at the gym and other exercises that use dumbbells.

Websites to help:

Bodybuilding.com has great tutorials on which exercises you need for what you want to achieve as well as introductions to weight training and how to do it. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/training.html

This website provides great pictures on how to do different exercises: http://www.weight-training-exercises.com/

Challenges to train for:

5k Pretty Muddy: http://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/types-of-event/pretty-muddy/index.html

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest: http://www.mhsurvival.co.uk/

Tough Mudder: https://toughmudder.co.uk/

Kickboxing

Something that I definitely need to get back into and would recommend to everyone. Kickboxing is great if you need to release some stress or anger. It’s great fun and a great workout that helps with your co-ordination, strength and confidence. You may be surprised just how good you feel after hitting those pads!

Cycling

Good for those whose knees are a bit weak or want strong leg muscles! I’ve had to do a lot of cycling to make my legs stronger to help my knees out. You can choose to go on a nice long cycle on a low gear with minimal effort, or you can go on a quick cycle on a much higher gear for an intense workout. If you cycle outside, it’s a great way to find some excellent places that you may not have known about before. Inside the gym, I find it’s a great as a warm up for the session ahead or a nice place to read a book whilst you go on a slow long cycle.

Challenges to train for:

Coast to Coast: http://www.globaladventurechallenges.com/uk/uk-coast-to-coast-cycle/

London to Paris: http://london2paris.co.uk/

Obviously the list of exercises don’t end there and there are plenty of other challenges available. If you’re thinking of starting something new, look up information about the local area. You’d be surprised how many sports groups and activities take places. One great website that connects people with other like minded people is http://www.meetup.com/. Once you sign up you have access to a wide variety of activities and sporting agendas!

If you’re looking for a gym to go to, I recommend The Gym , http://www.thegymgroup.com/. You can either buy a day pass for around £6 or join for a monthly fee. For me they were the cheapest I could find, open 24 hour and you can freeze your monthly payments if you’re running low on cash.

If you’re feeling anxious about going to a new place, try taking someone you know along with you. If you can’t find someone, don’t worry. Lots of people go by themselves and feel anxious about it but after a while you will wonder why you ever had a problem as you start to fit into the routine of going. So, what are you waiting for 🙂

D is for Depression

This blogpost was originally posted on The Pandora Box Gift Company website.

Something a little bit different today. I tried writing a post about depression, whilst not feeling great. Instead of my usual full blogpost, all I could manage was this. I feel that it shows how depression can effect you.

Depression drowns and drains you.

Rids you of yourself.

Self confidence becomes a thing of the past.

Colours and light darken and grey.

This world is not meant for me.

It’s a place where everyone else is happy.

Usually I’d say I don’t deserve this,

But lately I don’t feel like I deserve anything.

No-one can get to me

I’m lost in this dark silent void

But don’t worry my friend,

there is still hope.

A little light that shines dimly in the distance

it shows me the way out of this.

Eventually I will make it.

C is for Christmas

– This post was taken from the blog from The Pandora Box Gift Company’s A-Z on Mental Health series –

Christmas, other holidays or special events can be great. They bring people together, they’re full of fun and activities and they give us something to look forward to. However there is another side to it all. Special events and holidays can prove to be tough on your mental health in multiple ways. We’ve listed how holidays and special events can effect your mood and how to help yourself.

Added pressure

There can be a lot of extra pressure placed on someone around a special event which can lead to extra stress and anxiety or increase different aspects of poor mental health. This can come from organising and bringing people together or trying to make sure that nothing goes wrong on the day.

Tips to help:

  1. Organise everything into lists: Make sure that you put only attainable goals on daily lists and place them in order of importance. Sometimes the best thing to do is to put lots of little tasks that you know you will definitely get done amongst other larger tasks. This way you’re guaranteed to complete some tasks and make you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

  2. Take some time for yourself: Make sure that you set time aside for yourself within your schedule. Take a bath and relax, read a book somewhere quiet or just take some time to chill out in front of the TV.

  3. Get enough sleep! Make sure that you get as much sleep as you need. Not getting enough sleep will leave you more susceptible to poor mental health.

Guilt

When your mental health is poor in the holidays it can lead to feelings of guilt and frustration. You may start to ask yourself why you can’t just be as happy as everyone else around you and why you can’t enjoy an event that is meant to be fun. You may also find that you get constant questions from those around you if everything is OK or your self confidence drops because you don’t feel like you’re ready to socialise.

Tips to help: Just remember that it is not your fault that you’re feeling this way. Unfortunately poor mental health doesn’t go away just because it’s Christmas or someone’s birthday. Relax, and tell yourself that you don’t have to force yourself to be as happy and cheery as everyone around you. As long as you try and make yourself feel the best you can feel at the time, it is fine. If that means taking some breaks away from the celebrations, writing feelings down or excusing yourself early, so be it.

Loneliness

Sometimes your situation means that you won’t have people to meet with when it seems like everyone else does. Or you have people to meet with but you feel disconnected and lonely even though you’re in a crowd of people.

Tips to help: If you find yourself alone during the holidays read this great guide by Stand Alone, a charity that help those estranged from their families and communities.

http://standalone.org.uk/guides/festive-guide/

If you’re feeling lonely when you find yourself amongst a crowd try writing these thoughts and feelings down. It’s a great way to try and establish why you’re feeling lonely, whether it’s the company around you or whether it’s your mental health. If you feel comfortable and confident, reach out to someone around you. Let them know how you’re feeling.

Alcohol

When it comes to celebrating, alcohol sometimes plays a major role and we can get caught up in the celebrations and overindulge. Alcohol is a depressant and can effect your mood, causing swings or susceptibility to a decline in mental health.

Tips to help: If you find yourself in a position where the alcohol is constantly flowing, make sure that you limit yourself and consider how much you can handle. Consider drinking only one or two drinks a day with meals and make sure that you have plenty of water and other soft drinks throughout the day as well.

***This advice is not for anyone whose medication states that they shouldn’t drink alcohol. If this is the case we suggest indulging in some of the many tasty non-alcoholic versions or drinks or making some lovely juices, smoothies or virgin cocktails. ***

Lack of exercise

When you’re busy getting together with people or resting for the holidays, exercise can be the last thing on your mind. Whether you have a usual exercise routine or never consider it, the holidays can be a great time to do some casual exercise.

Tips to help: Make sure you get a little walk in every couple of days. If you have people round or are meeting in a group, it may be a great time to suggest group sports or exercise. You’ll be surprised how many people may miss being active over the holidays or would love to do a bit of group sports!

We believe that if we all look out for how the holidays can effect our mental health, we can help each other and ourselves and reduce the effect that they have on us. Look out for our Christmas campaign that launches November 25th! It’s all about making sure we take extra special care of ourselves and others over Christmas.

Want to read more blog posts like this one? Go to http://www.thepandoraboxgiftcompany.com/#!blog/czwt. Don’t forget to also check out the range of Gift Boxes, Postcards and Greeting Cards that have all been designed for people with poor mental health. http://www.thepandoraboxgiftcompany.com/#!gift-boxes/c3yu