5 tips to feel better NOW during recovery

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Bad day? No problem!

Talk to someone about themselves: Yep, anyone! It can get really tiring just talking about ourselves and our situation all the time, especially if it is in a negative capacity. Go and ask someone a question – not only will it make them feel good, but you’ll get to know lots about that person and may even be able to offer them advice or learn something new. It’s really refreshing to talk about something you never normally would – especially if your daily dialogue usually revolves around health care and food.

Go out and spend some time in the sunshine: I am a self-confessed sun fiend (I actually NEED it to function properly at all!) and even now I always feel better for a little time spent with its warm rays on my face. When I was poorly, a couple of the nurses would wheel me out into the sun because they knew how much it benefited me – physically and mentally. The sun has been shown to help lift mood and also restores vital vitamins in the body such as vitamin D which is very much needed during recovery. Obviously too much sun exposure is bad for us so if you’re sensitive make sure you’re wearing protection and don’t lie in it all day!

Do something which you enjoy: Even if you don’t feel like it. Read a book, paint a picture, sketch, play a computer game, have a go on the drums or the guitar (whatever floats your boat – I’m just guessing!) Take a long shower, or if you’re able to, a bath is also great for relaxing and uplifting. Go all out with candles and your favourite smellies – paint your nails, indulge in a face mask. Just half an hour out of a crappy day giving yourself a break can often be enough to change it around.

Have a go at havening: I’m really interested in how techniques such as NLP and havening can help recovery – not just for eating disorders but also for anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia and more. My lovely friend Geraldine has used touch therapy and NLP extensively in her own life and with her family and it has really made an incredible difference. I’m only just learning more about it, but if you’re interested check out this simple article in which Paul Mckenna introduces havening and shares an easy ten minute technique you can try.

Watch an inspirational video or film: I know it sounds a bit silly but honestly, it’s remarkable how uplifting and inspiring some movies can be. It doesn’t have to be heavy or intellectual or spiritual – just a film that makes you feel good! Perhaps it’s a film from your childhood, or even a TV show. If you want to try something new, take a look at some of the inspirational videos on Youtube. There’s lots of them – many of them have beautiful photographs and offer a new perspective on life which you might be able to take something away from.

 

We all have bad days – and it’s completely understandable that you may be having more than most at the moment. Remember that one bad day isn’t a setback, it’s not a failure, it’s simply a bad day. Give yourself a break, remember how far you’ve come and focus on your future goals – you’ll get there 🙂

If you’re into beauty, why not have a look at these simple uplifting beauty rituals to brighten your day?

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Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!

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Procrastination – the thief of time (and sanity)

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Lack of motivation and high levels of procrastination are frustrating traits we all harbour. Yet for those with anxiety or depression it’s multiplied by 100% or more, meaning it’s harder to get out of that rut you’re stuck in. Couple that with self-esteem issues ‘I can’t do it’ and you’ll never get things done. Having a huge to-do list and having achieved nothing due to your lack of motivation only serves to impact your low self-esteem further.

I am the sort of person who gives myself a million things to do – and I control that with just as many lists. But I realised that I was just re-making lists neater when I’d crossed a couple of things off to pacify my OCD tendencies – and I was not actually getting things done. When I realised that the biggest tasks such as arranging all my photographs from the past year (which had now become two years) had been on the list for 12 months or more, I decided I needed to sort out my procrastination as it would help to increase my productivity, subsequently easing my anxiety.

How do you get that magic motivation?

It takes a lot of stern words with yourself (which may well be deserved) but it’s definitely possible to at least minimise procrastination. I say this so candidly because it is so important to conquer the little urchins in your head that give you insignificant things to do; in fact it is imperative to recovery and improved mental health. I’ve included a few tips below that I have picked up over the past year or so which I am implementing in my daily and weekly routine – little tips which have made a huge difference to my productivity!

  1. Break down big goals. Staring up at a HUGE goal just gives way to self-defeating thoughts of ‘oh my god I can’t do this’ or more likely ‘I don’t want to do this.’
  2. Get your ‘worst’ job out of the way first. Your least desirable job of the day or week is best tackled first, if possible. It gives you the motivation to go ahead and do the other jobs because they don’t seem so monumental once you’ve got the one you were least looking forward to out of the way.
  3. Prioritise your to do list. Some of the things on your daily or weekly to do list don’t really need to be there. Break the lists down into manageable smaller lists – how many tasks can you physically do today? If it’s ten, cut it down to ten. Less imperative tasks can wait till tomorrow.
  4. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you don’t complete the tasks within the allocated time, don’t beat yourself up. Just take it as an indicator of what you can manage in one day and cut your lists accordingly for the next day.
  5. Putting it off won’t make it go away! When you prioritise, make sure you do so in order of actual importance and not in the order of what you want to do or feel like doing. If a bill needs paying and it stresses you out and you can’t be bothered with it, putting it at the bottom of your list will make it disappear. If you tackle it first (as in point 2) you’ll be laughing!

I would love to hear some of your own tips for minimising procrastination and getting motivation to do mundane every day jobs. Please share them below!

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It’s that time of year again…

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I wrote a post last Christmas about the pressures and stresses of what is supposed to be a happy time of year on those with mental health difficulties. I wanted to write another to reiterate that if you are struggling, you are not alone, and you certainly shouldn’t feel bad about it!

It’s such a beautiful, magical time of year. Many of us probably have fond memories of incredible Christmases as children, when we could appreciate the full effect of it all.

However as adults, contrary to the trials and tribulations of daily life being put on hold for a few days, those problems continue or are often exacerbated as the festive period nears. Whilst most people love Christmas, a fair few will admit that they struggle with it more than they let on. In general for the whole population, there are increased financial pressures with copious amounts of food and gifts to buy and parties to attend, plus the worry of the Christmas diet deterioration. In addition perhaps you have had a difficult year, a bereavement, a break-up, job loss or financial worries and the coming celebrations only serve to remind you of happier times or of what you have lost rather than what you have.

For those with anxiety, depression or an eating disorder however, Christmas poses a number of difficulties and can be an incredibly stressful time. An onslaught of social situations and works dos with an accompanying barrage of small talk, alcohol and food coupled with the pressure of appearing to be happy and to enjoy yourself when that is the last thing you feel like doing is often hard to deal with. Feeling alone when you’re surrounded by people is often one of the worst forms of loneliness.

Here’s a few of my own tips for getting through the Christmas period if you are struggling:

  • Try to make time for yourself. Take time to read a book, browse Pinterest, light some candles, watch some telly or have a long shower or hot bath.
  • Go for a walk. Take some time out in nature. Spend time with animals or pets.
  • Avoid getting blind drunk. It only serves to make you feel worse afterwards.
  • Keep your routine. Routine is important for good mental health and recovery. It can sometimes be disrupted around Christmas with parties and impromptu shopping trips. If you have an eating disorder, explain to your family that it would be helpful if your general and meal routines were kept as similar as possible and make sure that they are aware that eating out unexpectedly may still be difficult and stressful for you.
  • Push yourself. Not too much, of course; but just out of your comfort zone. This is how you grow and recover and develop – chances are if you go to that gathering you’ve been invited to, you’ll have a lovely time and won’t have to feel guilty for turning the invitation down, as well as missing out. You’ll form new or closer relationships with others which helps with social anxiety. Don’t be scared of using this time as an opportunity to do ‘scary’ things and push your boundaries.
  • Give to others. It’s the time of giving! Whilst it shouldn’t be your motivation for doing so, giving to someone else will help you feel better about yourself. If you find yourself with spare time, why don’t you take some food to the homeless shelter or help at the local old folk’s Christmas party? Buy a stranger a coffee, or offer to help a friend. You’re helping others but you are also inadvertently helping yourself.
  • Don’t feel bad for feeling bad. You can’t help how you feel. If you’re making positive changes then you are making an effort and trying your best – don’t be hard on yourself if you are finding it difficult to enjoy yourself and don’t let others make you feel bad either (it’s easier said than done, I know).
  • Try to live in and appreciate the now, the small things. A hot chocolate in Starbucks, a few flurries of snow, seeing a relative you haven’t seen in years. The little things are the best things. You only get so many Christmases; and even if it’s not a time you enjoy, it’s minutes, hours and days of your life. Try and enjoy this time in any way you know how. You might just surprise yourself J

PS…

It’s important not to forget that whilst we should never trivialise or compare problems of our own to others as it is always relative, some people are completely alone at Christmas. Many elderly people, as well as those who are depressed or live alone can feel very down and very isolated over the festive period. If you are able to, please try to reach out to someone you know who may be struggling at this time, and please don’t berate them for not being full of festive cheer.

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Marilyn Monroe – An Inspiration in more ways than one

 

I love Marilyn Monroe. She’s famous for many uplifting quotes about love and life, despite her own troubled existence and many difficulties. She once wrote: ‘Wishing you were someone else is a waste of who you are’. Yet she had numerous plastic surgery procedures throughout her life, rendering her an almost entirely different person from her former self, unrecognisable from the young Norma Jean. Despite this however her natural beauty and infectious personality always shone through.

There is that hypocritical voice inside all of us, I believe. We all know that what she says is right, yet still we insist on relentlessly berating and ‘improving’ ourselves. How can we beat this cycle?

Amongst other things, perhaps we can take heart from some of her other famous musings on life. Here’s my favourites below along with what they mean to me – please share your favourites too!

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‘She was a girl who knew how to be happy when she was sad, and that’s important.’ – Marilyn herself struggled with numerous demons throughout her whole life. A tumultuous childhood coupled with a rise to fame at a young age, added to by a string of high-profile failed relationships must have put a lot of strain on her, and she admitted she frequently felt isolated and depressed. Yet as she rightly identifies here, it’s not feeling sad that’s the issue – it’s how you feel better. If you can at least ‘fake it till you make it’ you’re already winning half the battle.

‘Imperfection is beauty’ – Damn right. There’s no such thing as perfect (if I had a pound for every time I said that I’d be loaded!) – it really is true. Little quirks which some might see as imperfections, such as moles, cowlicks, freckles, the way your nose is turned up slightly at the end…they make us who we are. You might see them as imperfections because they have been pointed out to you as such, but remember that people often throw stones at pretty things. Perspective is everything – look at yourself as a whole and try and see ‘imperfections’ as beautiful additions to your whole self.

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‘We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.’ – A stark reminder that life is too short – something which unfortunately Marilyn herself fell victim to. When she died at the young age of 36, she was about to embark on an exciting new phase of her career after taking time out due to illness, and talked of her ambition to start a family. We often get so caught up in the trivia of modern life and how we look yet it’s essential not to forget what’s really important in life and live it the way you want to.

‘Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can come together.’ – Excepting bereavement, I believe that everything bad that happens to us in our lives happens for a reason. When one door closes, it is so that another can open. I’ve had a lot of bad things happen in my life, yet every time I have been through something difficult, something better than I could ever have imagined has come from it. Each time you’re going through a hard time, you simply have to believe that something better is waiting for you on the other side.

‘Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there is so much to smile about’ – This one is so, so important. We all have bad days, we all have days, weeks, months and even years where we feel like the world is against us and there’s no way out. But life itself is wonderful. It’s overcomplicated in the first world into a competition that essentially we all lose at. But if you look at it simply, think about all the positive things that happen every day. The sun rises and sets, birds sing. If you’re lucky enough to have family and/or friends, pets, someone who loves you, think about that. Think about the food on your plate, the roof over your head. It’s easy to forget the ‘mundane’ in search of the spectacular, yet if you really look at it, it’s these small things that are the most beautiful, and the most important.

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Jar of Positivity

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I found this Jar of Positivity on Pinterest, and just had to share this great idea! It’s something you can prep now in time for January, or start straight away.

I love putting all my special photographs into albums and looking through them when I feel down to remind me of all the good memories and fantastic things in my life that I have to be grateful for. This is very much the same principle; yet uses words and is easier and less time consuming to do.

On January the 1st (or anytime!) get a nice big glass Kilner jar and decorate it however you wish. You might not want to decorate it – but I would because I’m a girly girl! Then as good things happen, make a note of them on some paper, fold it up and place it in in the jar. At the end of the year (or whenever you’re feeling down) take a look through your notes. They will remind you to focus on the good and remember all the positive things that happen in your life and surround you – even though it’s difficult to see them sometimes. Regain control and power over how you feel – in a very simplistic way!

Let me know if anyone is doing this – I think I am going to start mine on January 1st and do this next year.

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This Time Last Year…

Bad day?

Nothing’s gone right? Feeling down, inadequate, stupid, ugly? Frustrated that you still haven’t achieved your ‘holy grail’ – to ‘be pretty’, to pass that exam, to get that job or make more money.

Try and think back to what you were doing at exactly this time last year. Then, look at what you’re doing now, what you’ve achieved, how far you’ve come. Living one year is an accomplishment. Are you measuring your success fairly, as you would with a friend?

Or, alternatively, are you measuring it against somebody else’s? (see my quote about unhealthy comparisons…). More fatally, are you striving to measure up to your own unrealistic expectations?

Aim high. Of course you should. But don’t do so at the expense of your happiness. Don’t be so busy concentrating on the next step that you miss out on everything wonderful around you right now.

Let me share something with you. This time last year I worked in a department store. I felt like I had so much more to offer but it was so difficult to prove that to any potential employer that I was of worth and had capability beyond what I had already done in life.  I was young. We were in a recession, and it showed. Unemployment was at an all time high and everybody seemed very negative about everything. Some of my colleagues had been made redundant from the most amazing jobs, and now worked alongside me, some of them on less money than me. How could I take inspiration from anyone or anything?

I did what I have always done. I put myself in the right places, took every opportunity, and believed in myself. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I had faith in that, and in myself, even at the worst times.

Now, I am in a job I never, ever thought I’d be doing. It’s an exciting job full of everything I love and with amazing opportunities on the horizon. The value of my CV has increased massively. I now have the luxury of a choice of careers, all of which I have always wanted to do. I’m setting up my own business, writing more and travelling abroad more than I ever have.

It’s easy to moan and feel defeated when the rain is pouring and someone has said something or done something shitty to you, nothing has worked out, I’m stressed and frustrated with work or life in general. But it really is just one bad day.

Now, if I’m ever having a bad day, I remind myself of this. I think of the hours spent on the dirty, smelly buses to go and stand alone in the middle of a shop devoid of customers, to be berated by management for things that were out of my control. If I need to, I’ll go back another year, working shifts at 5am for an agency spraying perfume on people for 12 hours a day.

Think about where you were last year. Now congratulate yourself on all your achievements in that time. A year flies but it’s a long time – you can do a lot in a year. Looking back and counting your blessings helps you to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.

 

Try it, and see!!

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Try approving of yourself…

“You’ve been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I know, as much as the next person, that this is easier said than done. But just try it, for one day. Take it in small steps. Every time you have a negative thought about yourself, recognize it and turn it around. Ask yourself – is the evidence I’m using to berate myself factual? Would it stand up in a court of law? This is excellent advice from my friend Sylvia. You’ll find that chances are, your ‘evidence’ is in actual fact your opinion. If it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law, that evidence is not good enough to justify punishing yourself. Try it!!

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