As most people who know me already know, I don’t hide the fact that I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder back in 2014, because that diagnosis suddenly made sense of the 20 years of struggle that preceded it. I’m not ashamed at the journey that got me to that point of diagnosis, as dark as it was at times, and I’m proud that I made it, as many sufferers don’t.
I just wanted to talk a bit about what having a mood disorder means for me in everyday life. I’m mainly sharing this because they are things we could all use to help keep ourselves mentally healthy, whether we have a disorder or not. Anyone who has ever heard me do my talk on mental health will know how I preach that as a society we have a shockingly low threshold for what we deem to be “mentally healthy”. Basically, if we haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness then most of us believe we have good mental health, and that’s just like saying... I’m not a murderer so I must be a good person. There are sliding scales!
So, what does having a mood disorder change about how I live my life.
1. Keeping track of your moods can tell you so much!
I need to take time to check in each day and plot where I am Mood wise on a scale of 0-10. Why? Because mood swings don’t tend to come without warning, a bit like the minor tremors that come before an earthquake, there are usually signs. For me that means increases or decreases in mental energy/ideas/productivity/clarity. So everyday I plot my mood on a scale and keep looking for trends in mood so I can put measures in place to rebalance things when they start to tilt the scale up or down. This means I now very rarely experience the real highs or deep lows associated with this condition. If I were to ask you what your mood patterns were over the last week/month, would you know? I tend to live in the normal range of mood nowadays and yet it’s still vital for me and I can’t help thinking it’s something we should all be more aware of. After all if things start to get to tipping point you may not know you have a problem before it’s become something you don’t know how to handle.
2. Getting a good night sleep is VITAL
It’s one of those things we all know we SHOULD make sure we do, but few of us really know the scale of effect it can have on our stability when we neglect this base human need. I need 8 hours and if I get less then I can expect mood fluctuations and that means a tipping of that delicate balance. I always believed I was a world champ at sleeping because I used sleep to avoid my mood problems but now I know that too much is sometimes as bad for me as too little and the quality is vital. I recently uploaded a sleep app which can tell me my sleep quality and I can then use that data to predict problems before they occur.
3. We need negative as well as positive emotion in our lives.
I think we are all very averse to feeling negative emotions and we are on a constant quest to avoid feeling those less desire-able things but the truth is, you can’t avoid all negative emotion and you shouldn’t. ALL emotions are there for a reason, and negative emotions act as warning signs that things aren’t right and that we need to make changes. We need to listen to those feelings and know that our emotions will always be subject to some fluctuations and sometimes we’ll feel good and sometimes we won’t but as long as we listen to them and know that they are just feelings/energy passing through us and that they, themselves can’t hurt us, we can learn to live a full human experience. The problems come when we let those fluctuations become out of balance and we find ourselves stuck in a negative place, or an overly positive place for that matter, and then it is important to seek some help. There is never any shame is reaching out to talk about sometime as human as your emotions. I talk about them a lot because they are a vital focus in my life because of my diagnosis but it’s something everyone can benefit from learning.
Over the past few years, as I’ve been on my journey back to health and fitness, one of the big changes I had to make was to cut back on alcohol. I had tried to do this many times in the past but the truth was alcohol was such a big part of my life and my relationships with others.
I enjoyed drinking! I also knew it had always been a habit I had paid a heavy price for. I had piled on weight and I had suffered with depression all my adult life and I knew alcohol most likely only made that worse.
When I signed up to my local gyms fitness challenge, no alcohol was allowed for 12 weeks so that was my incentive to try to cut back but I wasn’t overly convinced I could.
I stuck to my word and cut it out but despite not missing it as much as i thought I realised I was most likely going to go straight back to drinking after the challenge unless I could change my thinking because I had already started thinking .... when we can drink again we’ll .... As I saw the weight drop off me over those 12 months, I realised how drinking had been hampering my diet efforts all my life. I’d never tried cutting it out completely before. I needed to make this my new norm. But how?
I saw that what I needed was not to want to stop but to STOP WANTING! There are lots of people who don’t drink who choose to do that because they just don’t want to. And for them it’s easy! You can easily resist any seemingly tempting thing in life if you don’t find it appealing. How could I make myself not want alcohol anymore.
I made a list of all the positive effects NOT drinking was having for me and listed the negative effects I no longer had! I saw that what I loved about “drinking” with friends was the whole social part... I saw how going to a party and NOT drinking meant I could drive home and not waste a whole day of my weekend recovering. I soon saw the benefits and I actually stopped WANTING to drink.
I have felt like this ever since. I do have an occasional glass of wine at a celebration but I never want more than one. I value the things I have gained far more than any temporary benefit alcohol had brought to my life.
What do you want to stop wanting?
I’m a person who likes to solve problems. I’m someone who hates to see others suffer, in physical or emotional pain.
I have struggled in the past to listen to someone with a problem without wanting to jump in with a possible solution or a positive spin to help them reframe their pain but recently the universe has sent me some challenges which have forced me to come to the realisation that we all need to learn to sit with pain.
Learning to sit with someone who is hurting is perhaps the greatest gift you can give sometimes. It’s hard (if you are like me) to hold back but when you are facing one of life’s bigger challenges sometimes just being there and being present is the best and only gift you can give.
#love #acceptance #bepresent #bethere #loss #grief #control #problemsolving #solutions #life #lifecoach #lifecoachUK
Unmade decisions are actually holding you back!
Have you ever had a decision hanging over your head and you just couldn't commit to an answer?
You know how that feels right? It feels like you are stuck. Well, you are. It's a form of suffering and it does us absolutely no good.
The same goes for those smaller questions we ask ourselves everyday... like;
What should I wear?
What shall I eat?
Should I go to the gym?
Our brains don't like too many options because it actually takes brain energy to think through these things and our brains have developed to be as energy efficient as possible. It has been shown that our brains can only deal with a certain number of decisions a day before we start going in to
Have you ever had a tough day at work then gone home and literally couldn't decide what food to cook so you just thought "Fuck it", I'll get a takeaway!"
even though you've been on healthy eating kick?
This is likely because you've hit the wall when it comes to making decisions for that day already and you've defaulted to the easiest option, though NOT the best for you.
So how do you overcome decision paralysis.
1. Prepare as much of your day in advance to free up your decisions the next day for more important things.
Decide what you'll wear the next day before you go to bed.
Decide what you are going to eat and maybe even prep your meals in advance if you're really good.
Commit to an exercise schedule and stick to it so you don't have to keep asking if you should work out or not today?
Think of what other day to day decisions keep cropping up for you and make some definite choices.
2. When you have a bigger decision to make, you have to be consious of how much pressure these things put on you.
Try to analyse the situation best you can and then make your decision.
This sounds over simplified but let's look at an example.
Say you've had a job offer and you don't know if you should take it because you don't know if you'll like it.
There is rarely a clear cut answer in these situations so making a decision either way is neither right nor wrong, what is important is that it's deliberate.
You will only find that out if you will like the job if take it, but if you feel strongly that you don't want to risk it and decide NOT to take it that's fine too.
Either way, make sure you make peace with that decision and consciously decide NOT to go on wondering what if you had done the other thing.
It's this state of indecision which is exhausting for our brains.
The quicker you process decisions the less decision debt you build up and the clearer your mind will be.
I had so much more success getting fit once I decided that I was going to exercise for at least 60 mins every day and that meant going straight to the gym after work, no excuses, end of story.
My brain was freed of that daily decision and it stopped fighting the idea as it soon became a habit.
I know all to well how it feels to live with a backlog of decisions and with bipolar when I am hypomanic I often get totally paralysed by small decisions on those days (I have less decision spoons on those days) so prepping in advance is essential.
I find jounralling is my prefered way of pre-planning my days/meals/decisions as it's something I do daily.
How is indecision causing you problems in your life?
Does your version of Self Care actually work?
My Version of SELF CARE was causing me more HARM than Good
I have a problem with the term self care. The modern use of the term self care.
I know I have referred to it a lot in the past in my posts / blog posts but up until the last 12 months I’d not been doing self care right at all.
The way I used to think of it was something like this.
“Doing the little things, for yourself when you are faced with life’s stresses and strains, that make you feel a bit better.”
“Taking care of your basic needs so that you can continue functioning“.
What did my self care look like?
It looked a lot like me spending time pampering myself … buying things or eating or drinking things that I felt I deserved as a reward for the stresses I felt in my life.
It looked like me remembering to put on some make up and making an effort to look nice for myself so I didn’t have to see the reality of the tired, overweight, depressed person I felt like underneath.
It looked like, cutting back on commitments and social obligations to spend time alone with my thoughts and away from external stress.
The truth is I was doing all these things and I still wasn’t in a good place.
Because I DIDN’T DESERVE to be over feeding my body, drinking too much alcohol and leaving my body it in a state of wrack and ruin all because I was in a less than ideal mental state. The little TREATS I saw as rewards were actually causing me more harm than good.
Because I DIDN’T DESERVE to have to feel so ashamed of how I looked or felt that I needed to find ways of covering up for it, in the disguise of pampering.
Because I DIDN’T DESERVE to feel like having to isolate myself and back off from commitments or social obligations, I deserved to have a life that was full of things that I actually wanted to engage with.
What I did DESERVE was to engage in all the things that were going to help me SOLVE the real issues I was having and not to paper over the cracks with “self care”.
When I realised what I needed, the answers didnt sound much like the popular version of “self care”.
I needed to learn to get my arse out of bed earlier, stop over sleeping and hiding from the world.
I needed to get to a gym and to put my body through the discomfort of getting myself back in to a place of physical fitness.
I needed to address the tough situations in my life that were causing me to want to over-eat, over-drink, over-spend or hide from.
It felt more like a list of my biggest fears, and that’s because it was.
I have to say it was that re-defining of “Self Care” that brought about the biggest changes for me.
Self Care is actually about doing the RIGHT thing not the EASY thing.
It’s about being aware of your NEEDS and of what is going on for you and about WANTING to make changes, no matter what those changes might entail.
It is about being BRAVE, but with compassion, about where you are in this moment, and about creating a clear vision of where you need to get to health wise.
I call like to call it RADICAL SELF CARE as opposed to SOFT SELF CARE.
I’m not saying that self care can never mean doing the little things you need to keep yourself functioning well, but I want to challenge the notion that wrapping ourselves up in comfort is actually what we always need or deserve.
There is nothing noble about struggling or suffering because we don’t want to go through the necessary steps to change.
What will the cost of your new life be?
Your OLD ONE!
If what you are doing now isn’t getting you where you want to be then you need to DO SOMETHING ELSE! Why not giving Radical Self Care a try and see where it gets you this year!
Being trained in Life Coaching has given me many skills that have helped me learn HOW to overcome some of these common obstacles.
My Meology Course (which I run monthly) focuses on the key lessons that got me unstuck and gave me the confidence to start planning for a better future. I’ve gone from feeling tired, unfit, dissatisfied and depressed to feeling 10 years younger, more alive, full of energy, and excited for the future just by learning some very simple tools.
If you want any help with your journey DM me, my mission is now to help others get out of their own way and teach them to find their mojo again whether that be through 1-1 coaching or on my online courses, I’d love to help if I can.
I heard this quote for the first time today and it blew my mind.
Our brains are active whether we need them to be or not, and remembering our brains primary function is really to help keep us alive and to keep us out of danger. It is naturally programmed to tend towards self-defensive thoughts. Looking for potential dangers. This line of thought, of course, causes anxious feelings whether those dangers are real life or just perceived.
Our brains are naturally very creative... that means when we are not actually using our brains to be creative in a positive way i.e developing new ideas, plans, creating art, learning new things...) our brains will be creative in the, not always so useful, way of finding things to worry about.
I can definitely say that when I'm at my least creative, I tend to fall in to anxious thought patterns. I plan to think about this next time I feel anxious for no apparent reason. How can I create my way out of the situation? How can I guide my brain towards positive creativity?
#creativityquotes #imagination #lifecoach #deepakchopra #thoughtwork #anxietyrecovery #anxiety #mentalhealthsupport
Wait? What!! You don’t HAVE to do any of it!
That’s right. You can stop doing any of those things any time you want!
You don’t HAVE to pay your bills.
You don’t HAVE to go to work.
You don’t HAVE to take care of yourself or your family.
You don’t HAVE to do housework.
Sure there are consequences to NOT doing these things but so often we burden ourselves with this word “HAVE” when what we mean is we “CHOOSE” to do them.
If there are things on your to do list that you do not “choose” to do then should they be there at all.
How often have you done something out of obligation that you actually hate doing and wish you could just stop?
What would happen if you did just stop doing it?
I stopped sending Christmas cards some years back. I would feel guilty because some people really love this tradition and I used to feel like I had to do it but that was a lie. I just stopped doing it. Sure, I replaced that tradition by telling people I wasn’t doing it and wanted to meet up with friends and family at Christmas instead, but I just chose not to do it any more. It was a small thing but very freeing.
You don’t have to do the cleaning. Your house will get really messy (I know ours was a few years ago because I hated cleaning so much I always put it off) and at that point you can decide if you choose to live like that, you choose to start doing it again or you get someone in to do it for you (which is what I did). I recommend delegation whenever possible.
Look at your to do list today and honestly look at what you are CHOOSING to spend your time doing.
What things could you drop entirely... What things have you been complaining about that actually you are doing because you are choosing to do them because they are important... like looking after yourself. Next time you say... I’d love to do XYZ but I HAVE to... think 🤔 No, I’m choosing to!!
The opposite of Love is not Hate, it's indifference!
Love is a feeling of deep affection/attraction or great interest in someone or something.
Indifference is a total lack of interest or concern for something or someone.
I used to hear people talking about self love and i'd think, "I don't hate myself" so I must be ok with who I am?
Well that might well have been true because, after all, HATE is a word infused with energy and intensity but I have
now realised that I was putting zero concern on my real needs. I wasn't taking care of myself mentally and allowed negative thoughts to perpetuate.
I wasn't taking an interest in my body (I'd not set foot in a gym for years). My weight was slowly going up and up and I
could justify it so I had just let go of the will to try to change it.
If I'd hated myself I might have at least had some energy to channel but this indifference was just complete inertia.
What areas of your life are lacking love? How is your indifference causing issues for you in these areas of your life?
Your Brain 101
I wanted to share with you all some important things that helped me in my recovery from 15 years of suffering with chronic depression and undiagnosed bipolar.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 35, and it was such a relief.
I had spent 15 years suffering and not knowing why. I'd been put on antidepressants at 20 and then my GP just kept upping my dosage everytime I went to explain
how it wasn't working. To finally be told that there was something real going on and that I wasn't crazy was a revelation.
They gave me a mood stabiliser which really helped right away, in that it stopped my emotions being so raw, but what medication could not do was tell me how to be a person without depression. Depression had touched, and become an integral part of every part of my life.
It was part of my identity. I had accepted it. I had made peace with the fact that I had a dark cloud which was always going to follow me.
I had let it become my excuse for so many things.
It was why I drank too much alcohol.
It was why I had become so overweight.
It was the reason why I hadn't pushed myself in a career.
It was the reason why I had relationship issues.
It was me.
I had to do my own reading to find a way forward because I was denied the chance to have therapy and I couldn't afford a private therapist.
I want to pass on the information that literally blew my mind and helped me find a way forward, and that information is all about the HUMAN MIND.
Our brains are the most amazing tools we will ever have. They are so powerful. Yet we aren't taught HOW to use them. There is no Manual.
Yet, there are somethings we NEED to know about our brains in order to be able to use them properly.
Firstly, our brains consist of 2 main parts.
Our Primitive Brain
Which controls all our automatic responses. Our breating, our movement, our speech, our hormones & brain chemicals and so much more.
This part of our brain is loaded with 1 basic programme. Survival!
Our brains want us to survive so they developed all sorts of complex systems to help us survive.
Take Fight or Flight for instance. Most of us with experience of anxiety know that our bodies will react to perceived danger with adrenalin, and the desire to run, fight or freeze.
Our brains are also programmed to seek pleasure, this is also for survival because our brains know we need to eat to survive, we need to reproduce to survive and we need other people to survive, so our brains
give us chemical rewards for doing these things.
Our Prefrontal Cortex
We then have the prefrontal cortex. This is capable of something truely amazing. The ability to observe our own thoughts, the ability to contemplate/plan/envisage the future.
These things make us stand out from all other species on the planet. No other animal that I know of, can think about what it is thinking! No other species can make mental plans for the future beyond the next basic need or desire.
It is so easy for us to not use this part of our brains to its full potential and it's very easy to let our reactive more primitive brain run the show.
Next, you need to know that our Brains are Inherently Lazy.
Our brains are lazy!
Because they want to be efficient and to preserve energy, for survival purposes.
They are execellent at automating processes that we teach them. When you learn to drive, at first it is really difficult to do all the things required without great thought, but after a while those actions become SO automatic you don't have to think about them.
Our brains love to do this. This is why habits become habits. If you do anything over and over it will soon get automated. This has it's downside though, as well as it's upside.
If your brain gets stuck in a negative thought/action pattern, then it doesn't know that what it's doing is negative, it just automates it and carries on.
So... if you have been through severe depression or anxiety, then the thoughts you have been thinking in that time will have become automated. In the abscence of any new input, your brain will resort to those automated thought patterns to save itself energy, but those loops are harming you.
The good news is, the brain is highly programmable and highly suggestable. All we need to do is give it a new programme and repeat it over and over until it wipes the old one.
I heard a story recently where a guy who played major league Basket Ball was speaking to a group of prisoners as part of an outreach project. At the end he was asked what it was like training and trying to become such a high level player, and he replied "well it just seemed
to happen naturally. Everytime I played as a kid my dad would say .. "if you keep playing like that you'll be an NBA player one day", "You're a great team player, keep playing like that you'll be
an NBA player one day!". So when he made it it was no surprise. Someone who over heard him said.. the same thing happened to me. My dad used to say to me as a kid "if you keep that attitude up you'll end up in prison one day",
"if you keep behaving like that you'll end up in prison one day", "you're no good, you're going to end up in prison"... and I did.
The truth is you don't even have to BELIEVE something yourself for your brain to absorb it. With enough repetition our brains will pick up the new information we are programming in to them and things start to happen.
When I decided I no longer wanted to suffer with depression any more I simply started imagining a future without it. I looked carefully at what programming I was giving my brain.
It turned out that my thoughts of feeling hopeless and worthless were popping up out of habit because of 15 years worth of input. So whenever they came up I replaced them with new thoughts. Instead of seeing things as hopeless, i'd think... I hope one day soon I won't feel like this. I can get better. I can get out of bed today.
Our brains are amazing but they are also easily hacked / fooled even. We have the ability to look at what we are thinking. We need to use it and we need to use it to start giving ourselves the messages we NEED to get us to where we want to be.
Because of these findings I've started working as a life coach. These tips changed my life from one of suffering to one where I co-exist with bipolar. I have control over it because I know how to observe and police my thought patterns.
If anyone would like any further help with this, or wants to discuss this topic just reach out!
I posted last week about a bracelet I had made recently with the words “Be Present” on it. This has sparked a number of conversations with others about what those words mean for me.
Wearing these words on my wrist allows me to be reminded of this message whenever I see it because this is something I struggle with. I want to feel more present in the moment in my life. I’m terrible for constantly planning and thinking about the next thing, the next project, the next idea so it really reminds me to just enjoy the now.
What would your Word or Words be?
I’ve made a PDF with some Questions to help you identify what your WORDs are!
I’d love it if you would share those words with me on here! Tell me why they are important to you!
Get the PDF here:
This is such a great way to start some more meaningful conversations in your life with those you love!