Nobody is Alone

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Stephanie and Dee put their wonderful heads together to create this mental health blog project for people to take part in. The goal is to show that no one is alone in suffering from mental illness or learning to live with their struggles. I wanted to take part because mental health is something that is so important to me, and something I work on everyday to make my head a better place to be. The thing I have found most useful in this journey is realising that I’m not alone, and that there are so many amazing people out there for support and friendship.#nobodyisalone

1. Age: 24

2. Location: Auckland

3. Occupation: Public Servant

4. Is or has your mental health ever been of concern to you or others? As a child/teenager my mental health became a worry to my parents and teachers. As I was growing up I was still learning how to cope with life and all of its challenges (okay, so I’m still learning) and at times I suffered from depression and resorted to self-harm. Nowadays I am definitely better at recognising when life is getting too much and putting in place strategies to help me move through each hurdle but anxiety and depression can still arrive at my door when I least expect it.

5. Have you ever sought help for issues relating to your mental health? As a child I saw a variety of counsellors and psychologists, some of which were amazing and taught me some important life skills, others who did nothing but make me feel like a lunatic.

6. Have you ever felt anxious or had a panic attack? Anxiety is something that I experience pretty regularly, especially before a big social event or a day I know is going to be stressful and intense. Its scary to feel your mind and body freak out, your heart race and your hands shake, and that lack of control is the hardest thing to deal with.

7. What triggers you to feel anxious or low, in terms of your mood?  My triggers include lack of sleep, social situations that I don’t feel I have any control over (aka most of them) and stress (whether it be real or just perceived).

8. At what moments is your self-confidence at its lowest? Self-Confidence is one of those elusive concepts that I am definitely still working on. Its at its lowest when I’m sick, when I’m involved in negative relationships or just when my brain decides to bring up old “truths” I learnt as a child that put me in a vulnerable, negative state of mind.

9. What strategies do you use to cope when feeling anxious or low? My strategy for dealing with anxiety is using mindfulness and relaxation. This can be as simple as making myself to take a few deep breaths before walking into a social situation or reminding myself that the negative assumptions I make about certain things are just that, assumptions, and that it is my responsibility to reconsider certain things that change my perception of the world around me. Ultimately I have found that techniques which give me more control and responsibility over my mind help me to override the corrupt thoughts that cause my anxiety and try to produce more productive thought habits.

10. Does anxiety or a low mood have a physical effect on you? I definitely feel my mental state manifest in my physical health. When I am in a negative state of mind my body responds by getting sick and/or tired. This makes perfect sense because the human body is not designed to be a in a constant state of stress or anxiety and the chemical effects of this can be massive on your physical health. All the more reason to make my mental health the number one priority.

11. Do you or anybody you know suffer from a mental illness?  I have a close family member who is currently suffering in a pretty extreme way from a mental illness (and mental health has always been a part of my family history) and its harder for me to see it in someone I love then to deal with it myself.

12. Do you feel there is a stigma around mental illness? There is definitely stigma, even just in the way work environments give people sick days for when you have the flu but people are made to feel guilty or weak for taking days off when you simply can’t face getting out of bed. For people who have never experienced the paralysing ability of a broken mind, this can be hard to understand and this lack of understanding is a common cause of stigma.

13. What do you think could be done to change attitudes to mental health? Awareness. People shouldn’t feel ashamed of their mental health issues, the same as you wouldn’t be ashamed of a broken leg. People need to realise how important their mental health is, to the same degree that our physical health is seen as important if not more so. Awareness is so key, both for those who suffer from mental illness to make sure they know there is help available but also for those who haven’t experienced mental health issues and therefore may not understand its impact on others.

14. What advice do you have for anyone suffering from mental illness? My advice is that everyone is different and there is no one solution to mental illness so be experimental, talk to others and get tips on what has helped them in their journey. Then devote time and energy to trying these solutions until you find things that work for you. Make sure you do use the support of those around you and ask for help when you need it. Realise that there might always be bad days but you can get better at moving through these bad days and facing tomorrow. Focus on the positive’s in life because there are so many once we start looking. If you are suffering from mental illness speak to a professional to make sure you have the best tools available to help.

If you need someone to talk to call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 and seek help, because no one has to go through life and all of its challenges alone.

mental health challenge

Taking that first step, starting out small

Starting out small my foxy corner

So it’s been a little while since I devoted some time to writing and posting and staying connected online. It was a needed break as I have been struggling lately, with my health, with my stress levels at work, with trying to live a somewhat balanced life.

One thing that I keep having to remind myself is that I am in control. When I let my health beat me down, its my own responsibility because of the way I haven’t been taking care of myself. When I let myself become overwhelmed by stress, its because I haven’t made my mental health a priority. When I fail at living a balanced life its because I haven’t put in the effort. It becomes so much easier to blame my issues on things outside of my control, but if I continue like that then it puts me in a position where I feel as though I don’t have the power to change my situation.

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Phew, so what I am trying to say is that I want to try and take more control over my everyday experience of life. Be more mindful of each moment, be more wary of commitments and making sure I have time for myself. Surrounding myself with those that bring happiness to my life and to some degree, trying to remove the negative influences in my life (be them internal or external). I feel like we could all do with a reminder like this sometimes, which is why I decided to ramble on about it here (sorrynotsorry).

My first area that I want to start focusing on and taking small steps to improve is my physical health. This has such a big impact on all the other realms of my life and I know from that one time many years ago where I somewhat successfully actually took care of my body, that this can make big changes in things like my mental health and overall wellbeing.

Making physical health a priority is one of those things that should never have slipped off my radar, if my body isn’t functioning properly how can I expect everything else to run smoothly. Getting sick frequently, being overweight, feeling unfit and sore are all things that are a constant battle for me and yet I haven’t put the effort in to improve the situation.

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The key for me is to start small and make sustainable choices so below are 5 (hopefully manageable) goals that I will be focusing on for improving health and fitness. Next time I check in i’ll give you guys an update on how I am going and what I have struggled with.

  1. Use that gym membership to get to the gym 3 times a week, even if its only for half an hour
  2. Start having a proper breakfast with a protein fuelled smoothie (and occasionally try and make it green)
  3. Develop a better sleep cycle and aim for at least 7 hours a night (put your damn phone out of reach!)
  4. Start utilising the stairs at work instead of making the elevator awkward by trying not to make eye or skin contact with anyone
  5. Be more mindful of what I am using to fuel my body (chocolate is one source of fuel but perhaps consider some other options as well)

My last leaving thought is something that has helped me in putting the effort to be healthier into perspective; instead of seeing things like eating healthy or exercising as a chore or an impossible task that inevitably ends with a wine of glass and far too much pizza, I am trying to see it as a reward to myself, keeping in the front of my mind the feeling of being healthier and fitter and ultimately happier. By trying to create positive associations, like how happy I feel after a good workout or how satisfied I am after putting effort into a delicious vegetarian meal, I find it easier to motivate myself to make the changes. Hopefully this helps me in being more successful in looking after myself, but i’ll let you know!

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Let me know if you have any small goals that help you focus on improving your health and wellbeing, I’d love any tips or advice on how to make health more of a priority.

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Looking forward: Goals for 2013

Hi All!

So I find it hard to believe it is already 2013. Where did 2012 go? Every year that flies past and leaves me breathless makes me a little uneasy because, as I am sure a lot of people feel, I want to feel like I am getting the most out of each year I am lucky enough to be alive! And yet I know this year, it felt like I scraped by day by day, a bit of an emotional wreck just trying to finish University and deal with Life’s lovely challenges. So 2013 I want to try harder. Now I have this lovely wee corner of the internet I think trying out some goal-setting may be useful. Having my goals up here to see whenever I want makes me feel a little more accountable and I plan to do either 4 monthly goal review posts to see how things are going. Anyway, after that rambly introduction here are my rather random goals for 2013.

1. Look after my body better. Ok so I resisted my usual “lose 15kg” type of goals (although that would be great) because as much as I would love to be a skinny wee thing, I’m not and I don’t think its a particularly healthy goal, for me anyway. Instead 2013 will be a year to focus on health. This includes more balanced meals (not just skipping meals to make up for naughty takeaways the night before), more vegetables and fruit (which have been seriously lacking in my student budget diet of 2012), more exercise (3 times a week for half an hour, any kind of exercise I feel I can motivate myself for) and other generally healthy activities. All at once this probably won’t happen but over time I hope to make some small and manageable changes that will move me in this general direction.

2. Put myself first. In terms of my relationships I want to learn how to put the needs and wants of others aside every once in a while in order to focus on my own mental health and priorities as well as my relationship with Edd. I love my family and friends but life is complicated and putting my needs second in order to please everyone is the habit of a lifetime that I want to keep working on reducing. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about all these wonderful people but just want to put a bit of care into myself as well.

3. Make blogging more regular and less stressful. I love this little blog but I would like to improve the regularity of my posts. I want to become one of those people who has multiple post planned and drafted so that I am not constantly doing things last minute. Having a journal where I can keep a plan of when I want to post certain things is something I am going to start doing to keep things less stressful and more organised.

4. Become more organised in other areas of my life. This ranges from cleaning schedules, keeping my makeup and nailpolish under control, keeping more written records, sticking to my list making which helps me more productive on a day to day basis and so on.

5. Read more books. I love books and I don’t read enough thanks to 4 years of university which made me feel guilty every time I wasn’t reading lecture notes or text books. After seeing people do the 50 book project in 2012 I think 50 books is a good number but we’ll see how manageable it is once I get into a better routine. I would also like to share more about what I read on the blog, although I’m not sure people would be particularly interested haha.

6. Go on more dates. I love spending my evenings curled up on the couch with Edd and Callie, watching movies and eating pizza and popcorn, but I want to try more things with Edd and go out more often. As lovely as it is to stay home variety is the spice of life so 2013 will bring some new restaurants, new activities together, new holidays overseas and who knows what else!

7. Develop a more positive outlook on life. This something I started working on this year with my Made me smile posts which I found so helpful in encouraging me to look back on the past week in terms of the highlights and the positive moments. I hope that I can continue to improve in this area as my default position in life has always been more on the stressed and pessimistic side.

So there are 7 pretty general areas of my life that I want to work on in 2013. As I mentioned in my What I learned from 2012 post, change in these areas won’t come without some hard work and perseverance from me so I’ll do my best to use this year to its potential and enjoy each moment!

Does anyone else still set goals? I know they go in and out of fashion but I think setting goals is useful as long as there isn’t a lot of guilt and self-punishment involved when things don’t go to plan. For me I just need a little direction in life that keeps me on track and stops me losing sense of myself and what I want from the year to come. Let me know what you think and if you have set any goals or resolutions for 2013!

Xx

p.s. Last night I read this great post by a fellow tweeter and blogger which talked about the importance of Values as opposed to goals. Sarah discussed rather brilliantly the danger on having incongruent goals and values in life which makes achieving one’s goals harder than it should be. After reading her post I went and thought about the kind of values I want to focus on for 2013 and things that I wrote down were happiness, health, love and relationships amongst a couple others. I then used these to edit and refine some of my goals, removing a couple that I felt weren’t in line with the values I wanted to focus on. I highly recommend checking out her post (Here!) and her blog in general 🙂

Tips for surviving sickness

1. Lemon and honey, lemon and honey and more lemon and honey… I love this stuff and regardless of the scientific justifications I just feel better when I have this when I am sick.

2. Sleep-ins – hard to do when Uni calls my name everyday but finding the time to relax and give your body a rest is so helpful.

3.TV shows to keep you busy while you rest – for me my guilty pleasures are basically any reality TV show series: America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, Top Chef etc.

4. Comfort Food – my favorite coping mechanism of all, I recommend quantities of chocolate/chocolate biscuits/chocolate mousse/hot chocolate etc.

5. Spicy Food – as I have had some evil cold/flu thing recently spicy dishes have been much appreciated for a temporary nose clearer. My favorites include a spicy Thai green chicken curry and a big bowl of spicy Mexican chili. mmmm

6. A fluffy companion – I of course use Callie the cat when she is in a co-operative mood but if you don’t have a cat or your cat refuses to recognize your fluffy requirements any soft toy or very fluffy pillow will do, helps if it purrs though.

7. Last but most importantly for me was someone to make all my lemon and honeys, watch lots of crappy TV with, bring me copious amounts of food and provide cuddles when I felt like crap! I am lucky to have Edd to provide the “comforter when sick” role 🙂

So those are my coping strategies for surviving a period of stuffed noses, sore throats and all-over rubishyness (not a word…)

Hope you are all feeling better than I am this week!

Xx

So sick….

uh oh. Feel myself getting ill, post nasal dri...

Hi All!

So I am three days into my last 6 weeks of my undergraduate degree! Exciting but also terrifying at the same time. What makes the whole thing worse is I am behind on several assignments that are due in a terrifyingly short amount of time and on top of that Monday I woke up with what feels like the flu!

After miserably suffering my way through the Monday and Tuesday I was able to have a break at home today with very little lectures on. Definitely much needed! I don’t know why it happens but all through holidays I am fine and in healthy form then Bam! First day back and I am hit with this. I tend to catch everything that goes around unfortunately but usually they are manageable colds that last for a couple of days than leave me in peace. I am having more difficulty coping with this one.  Anyway, enough of this feeling sorry for myself.

The good things about being sick are the lemon and honey drinks which taste extra nommy when Edd makes them for me (Thankyou!), the excuse to get takeaways especially of the hot and very spicy Thai variety and … okay that’s all the positives I can think of at the moment. ..

So I apologize in advance for what I predict will be a week of little blogging, I can barely find the time to do my uni work and on top of that get the flat ready for an imminent flat inspection (one day I won’t have to rent a house!)

Things I have coming up include a nail care routine, the start of some wedding posts in preparation for the big day, my favorite brownie recipe and who knows what else!

So if anyone has any great sickness prevention tips of secrets on surviving a flu than please pass them on and I hope everyone is having a better week than me so far!

Xx

Surviving Stress

Hey Guys,

A really quick post today as I have two assignments that are due tomorrow that are finished but so terribly done that a lot of reworking needs to occur and in a miracle amount of time! I thought this may be an appropriate time to throw up some of the tips I have for how I survive the stress of study.

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