Mental Strength …

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I am a simple creature. I am not on the same intellectual planet as many of you; and yet my little world is my ‘normal’.

My world is a complex combination of beautiful yet rugged landscapes, alternating between The Great Plains of Steely Determination, The Dark Forests of Fluffy Blondness, and The Deep Seas of Optimism and Hope.

My brain is forever randomly spinning off from one region to another, with speed and agility from years of practice. And as a planet attacked with repetitively exploding asteroids, with constant storms, volcanoes and earthquakes of my incessant thoughts and ruminations, life here is rarely calm and sedate. Indeed, it is exhausting.

Occasionally however the power of my mind can override the bedlam and I take a brief trip into your peaceful world. But it takes gargantuan mental strength to gently drape a veil of calmness over me, muffling the noise and slowing the racing chaos.

And what have I tried? Breathing techniques, yoga, music, exercise, meditation and drugs (prescription only I hasten to add), whale music, dolphin music, you name it, I’ve tried it.

And the outcome? Yes, they do work, but only if one ingredient, one teensy factor, is added.

And that is the deep down, passionate, unadulterated and unfiltered WANT to make it work.

I have to fight the storms in my mind, battle the asteroids and have my own personal war in my head to allow peace to take hold and calm the crazy nervous energy. It is a battle of wills, my wills.

Mental strength … is it the most powerful tool that we have?

Katie x

I Will NOT Succumb to Depression …

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After a fairly good and happy run along the straight and narrow path of being free of depression and anxiety, I hit a blip. Well, the blip hit me actually, in a shovel-on-the-head sort of way.

Perhaps I should have anticipated it, perhaps I became too confident that “I WAS CURED!” and I foolishly took my eye off the ball. The truth of the matter is, that for me, and for whatever reason, this is a long term war and not just a short battle, and never, never can I become complacent about my mental health.

Ahhh but how carefree I have been, how I have been feeling like a “normal” human being. But I’ve not gone to a new yoga class which I know I should do. I’ve been becoming a little ‘antsy and paranoid’ lately and didn’t get to the bottom of it. I even had a couple of glasses of the old vino – well that was a blindingly obvious schoolboy error. God, the shame of admitting it … do as I say, not as I do. Please can you forgive me? Because I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have and I’ve paid for it ..

So it’s been back to basics for the last 48 hours.

In my mind it’s been similar to when the boys were very young and all was going really well. So, I relaxed the rules. I gave them a bit of leeway, a bit of rope (to metaphorically hang myself with later on) and they were allowed to eat choco pops cereal for their breakfast, watch television before doing their homework and not tidy their rooms, and before I knew it … BOOM! I had a couple of tantrumming monsters on my hands, addicted to Scooby Doo and Lego, toy soldiers and the dreaded train tracks not just spilling out of every door, but in fact linking one room to another. I must confess to actually rather liking Scooby Doo but that’s besides the point.

So, I then had to go absolutely back to basics with them, causing upset and trauma to my first world life and remove the chocolate cereal, bad behaviour and Scooby for a few days so that normal service was resumed. And of course, it worked. They, like me are simple creatures, needing routine, structure and boundaries.

And so that is what I have been doing. Treating myself like a child who needs direction. Betty is sulking in the shed, albeit quietly now, and my mood has lifted and I no longer want to hide under the bed with a packet of ginger nuts and a secret cigarette. I have been cycling like a demon, had a bit of beauty therapy yesterday afternoon (actually I now look a bit blotchy which is unfortunate, but it was heaven at the time) and spent an hour in a cycle shop chatting to a very nice young man about tyres. I’m seeing my old Glasgow tennis friends tomorrow and will no doubt be teased again mercilessly about my ‘posh’ accent and how thick I am that I still can’t understand anything they say, but I look forward to it enormously. Exercise, fresh air, no booze, sleep and getting out of the house and talking … and also loving my wonderful friends here – you know who you are.

It’s working, but may this be a lesson to me. I must never become complacent about mental health.

And, if all else fails, a bit of Scooby Doo probably won’t hurt.

Katie xx

Any thoughts? Have you ever had a blip and had to work through it? And how did you do that?

P.R.O.M.I.S.E.

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Make this promise every single day.

Make a commitment to yourself, your mind and body. Make a promise to put on those rose-tinted glasses that you once, where the world was a wonderful and happy place.

What have YOU done for your mental health today? Can you make this promise to yourself?

P. Prescriptions

If you need them, take them. If they’re not working, change them. Your doctor is your friend – your job is together to find what works for you. And if the doctor doesn’t work, change them.

R. Re-setting The Thought Patterns

Go to therapy, talk to a psychiatrist, talk to a psychologist, learn about CBT and practise, practise, practise every day until your brain starts to ‘unlearn’ the bad habits and learn the good. It works.

O. Outside

Get outside, get some fresh air in your lungs and find the light. Just to let you know, bright moonlight gives you 1 lux, normal living room lighting gives you 100 lux, but being outside on a sunny day gives you 20,000 to 100,000 lux … monumental difference and we need it more than most.

M. Mindfulness

Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, whatever you need to practise daily to start to control the anxiety .. Nb Don’t do the audio cds in the car. I nearly crashed I was so relaxed, and they keep telling you to close your eyes … enough said.

I. Instil proper eating habits

Invest in your body. Think you can live on processed food and feel good? Cooking is for everyone, for you and your family. If your own parents have brought you up on Macdonalds, crisps and ice cream, shoot them (Nb Yes that is a joke) or better still, educate them. If your mind and your body is out of sorts, it’s going to be even harder to get back on an even keel. (Ginger nuts don’t count as long as the whole packet isn’t eaten in one sitting.)

S. Social Interaction

Have a proper chatter and a natter with at least one other human being every single day. The dog does not count, neither does talking to yourself.

E. Exercise

Whatever floats your boat as long as it raises your heart rate and gets the endorphins and dopamine kicking in. Find something, anything that you’re going to stick at.

Make the promise that you’re going to do this every single day and see through those rose-tinted glasses …

Katie x

9. Have You Tried Yoga?

Today I enrolled in my first yoga session. Dear God. I’ve just become one of the yummy mummies, but by walking into the mirror-clad room, not so yummy I notice. (I’ve read that Yoga is very good at increasing your GABA levels, but more on that later …)

Quite what happens after two children and hitting forty I really don’t know but frankly everything seems to have dropped further south than Antarctica since I last put on my gym kit (actually that was school so perhaps hardly surprising). Soon I’m going to be needing some sort of a bra-like contraption to lift my buttocks off my calves …. particularly in comparison to our yoga teacher.

To age her is nigh on impossible as the lights in the room are low and therefore apparently soothing. She’s all hoopy earrings, long bouncy hair and wears what appears to be a leatherette thong over her leotard. I feel a little over-dressed and overwhelmed. I’m also rather glad that I’ve not brought the husband (aka The Colonel) with me for moral support. He’d be both giggling and drooling simultaneously. I also hope we don’t have to listen to whale music …. ah, yes clearly we do.

Her body bends in ways that bodies frankly shouldn’t and yet somehow watching her grace and elegance as she moves from one position to another in fluid motions is quite mesmerising.

Everyone is concentrating and calm with only the sound of (supposedly) soothing water and whale music. The water is making me need the loo and the more I think about it the more I need it.

“Focus your mind” she says in a soothing way … I’m trying not to think about what I’m going to cook for supper rather than the loo. Concentrate! “Breathe” she says. You try bloody breathing when your legs are behind your ears. “Find your inner wisdom” she purrs. Inner bloody wisdom – it’s all I can do to clench my buttocks to prevent an involuntary escape of air from my bottom.

She’s moving around the room, adjusting everyones legs and arms. She’s coming to me …. oh right … not so gentle and calm now is she, as she pulls my arm higher towards the ceiling and moves my leg further out – my balance is going … I start to wobble, and in the process grab something – it just happens to be her.

Her hoopy earrings have now attached themselves to my hair and it takes a few seconds to restore order. My muttering apologies are snappishly hushed amid the whale music and, red-faced for the remainder of the class, I leave, sharpish. There’s a class later in the week with someone called George. I think I might give his class a go instead.

* * * * * * * * *

Just in case you’re interested, I’ve been doing some research on GABA from The Boston University School of Medicine and University Health News and masses of other articles and they all come up with pretty much the same conclusions ….

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter to prevent overstimulation and therefore promote calm.

Researchers have found that three sessions of the exercise a week can help fight off depression as it boosts levels of a chemical in the brain which is essential for a sound and relaxed mind.

Scientists found that the levels of the amino acid GABA are much higher in those that carry out yoga than those who do the equivalent of a similarly strenuous exercise such as walking.

The chemical, GABA, is essential to the function of brain and central nervous system and which helps promote a state of calm within the body. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The Top 4 GABA Deficiency Symptoms

1. Depression

2. Anxiety, panic and PTSD

3. Insomnia

4. Drug and Alcohol Dependence