Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Taking Care of Self

In the space of 24 hours, less, I went from this


Happy, feeling satisfied, to this


numb, low, and defeated. Amazing how a mood can change so quickly. I got up this morning ready for an appointment which included space after to take care of myself. But then I got a text to cancel the appointment. I was disappointed but I decided to still go to that place. My mood was low and I knew I needed time out for myself. I knew staying at home mopping around would achieve nothing. At the moment I am up to eyes with an assignment, the deadline is looming. The cancellation of the appointment meant that I could have used this time to work on the assignment. But I did not care. I needed to take time out. And maybe even by taking time out, I would be better able to focus on the assignment. 

So, off I went as soon as I was ready. When I got to my destination I delivered a book and went straight down to the wood. For a change, I decided to take the long route down to my tree. Something was processing in me and I needed to walk with that before I sat. On the tree, by the river, I sat. I felt I could have stayed there all day, it was so peaceful and calm. But after about half an hour I knew I had to move as I knew there was a chance that sitting would turn into wallowing. I got up and headed out of the forest. And I walked out of that forest with a sense of purpose and determination. I was more at ease having taken the time to just be still and present. An hour later I was smiling again, something I had not been able to do all morning. 

Moods can change so quickly. It is so important when we notice our moods dropping that we take time to do the things we know will help us. Whether that is taking time out, away from people, exercising, or connecting with a friend. Whatever we know will help we must do at these times. Trying to function as normal can be more damaging to us and the people around us than if we take that five minutes, that hour, that day, or however long we need to look after ourselves. Due to the responsibilities that we all have in life, it is not always possible to take time out straight away. But we should acknowledge how we are feeling and ensure to make time for ourselves as soon as possible. We are no good to others if we do not look after ourselves. Before we can be there for other people we first need to be there for ourselves.

Did I solve the world's problems today by taking time out for myself? Not even a bit. I did not figure out why my mood had dipped so much either. But I do feel clearer having taken time out, in a better place that the space is clear to process. Weekly I try to take time out in nature to just be. I did not do that last week and that might have contributed to the drop in mood. So, going forward I will be more conscious of taking time every week to be outside, walking and sitting in nature, just being present. 

Tending to a low mood is not always about figuring out why we feel so low. Sometimes simply taking time out is enough. The unconscious has a way of only giving us what we can handle. When we are able to deal with what is wrong the unconscious will make us aware of what that is.

Remember, acknowledge low moods and deal with them by taking time for yourself.


Thursday, 28 October 2021

Bartimaeus

 As I read the Gospel for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time about the blind beggar Bartimaeus my mind instantly thought of Zacchaeus and how I had the pleasure of reading the story of Zacchaeus by the tree that he climbed to see Jesus in what is now known as the Holy Land. Not just did I read the story that day but I was asked to share my thoughts on it. I simply thought of this on Sunday as I started reading the Gospel because of the big name. Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to try to get closer to Jesus. How often in life do we who believe in God try to get away from God? Personally, I must admit that I have often forgotten about God or I have thought of God and in my struggle said 'no'. For me that is why prayer time is so important to me, by regularly spending time in prayer I hope that it helps me to think of God in my everyday life more  and that I will be more inclined to turn to God in times of struggle. People say that things happen for a reason. Sometimes I have to sit and ask God why and what His plan is because I just don't understand the reason a particular thing is happening. I do not usually get an instant answer but I find it easier to accept and go with it. 

At Mass on Sunday Fr Tom asked us what we want from God. But a question that I feel is also important is, 'What does God want from us?' Are we living the lives that God truly wants us to live? At times I am not sure that I am and at times I do not actually care but then someone often steps in and snaps me out of that and I spend time with God and ask him if what i am doing truly is what he wants from me. 

Monday, 2 August 2021

Mental Health

 Last week at the Olympics an American athlete pulled out of some of her events after a poor performed performance. I know nothing about gymnastics so I do not actually know how badly performed. The athlete said that she was putting her mental health first. I did not follow this story, I just thought to myself, 'fair play to her'. However, an article late last week did catch my eye. This article criticised the athlete for not pushing on and competing. The article suggested that she was using her mental health as an excuse. Maybe she was, maybe she wasn't, we cannot make that judgment call. The woman had her reasons and people should respect that.

I don't know the athlete concerned but I was so happy to see that she was putting her mental health before competing in the Olympics. She identified a problem and took the steps that she needed to help her to manage it. Nothing is more important in this world than our mental health. In society today there is great emphasis on reaching the highest standards, whether it is winning that race, that game, earning loads of money or getting employee of the month! What do people sacrifice by setting these high standards for themselves? How is it impacting on there mental health, relationships? If we do not prioritise our own mental health we will be no good to anybody, we will struggle to achieve things in our daily lives.

My advice is to take some time for yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed in life it is okay to say no to friends and family who are asking you to do something for them. When you know that there is an event coming up that you have committed to try to ensure in the days leading up that you are making that space for yourself and your self-care. And if you really have to pull out that is okay too. Nobody or nothing is more important in this world than you. Let me repeat that:

NOBODY OR NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT IN THIS WORLD THAN YOU!


So do not be ashamed or embarrassed to put yourself first, to ask for help.

Monday, 5 July 2021

Recovery

 As I was out on a small hike today I got the urge to pen a blog entry. I was going to write something on paper when I got back to where I was staying but decided to leave it till I got home and write directly online. 

So a couple of weeks ago I ended up with the doctor rather suddenly on a Thursday evening. This resulted in her signing me off work for just over a week. I had to return to her the next morning for bloods etc. She wasn't entirely sure what we were dealing with but treatment wise she went in very hard, there was a couple of possibilities that she needed to get in quick with treatment, waiting for results could have cost me. So she sent me off the Friday morning on three different tablets. Thankfully two of the tablets were once of meds and the third one didn't have any side effects. She kept an eye on me over the next few days and on the Monday evening she told me she wanted to see me by the end of the week to examine the area again. I went to her the Thursday morning, left on two antibiotics for two weeks, again she was going for the hard and fast approach as a precaution. From the results that were back an infection had been identified. Due to the symptoms I was presenting she suspected another problem also that needed to be treated in order to prevent lasting effects. She also extended the course of the other medication she had put me on. When I picked up my prescription I got a fright when I saw the amount I was on, something that got scarier when I thought of what I was already on for my asthma. So I made a call and she reassured me of the whys. 

I have had a hard couple of weeks, physically and emotionally. When I went to the doctor on the Thursday evening I certainly was not expecting this. Signing me off work was originally just for the Friday but then she extended it to all of the next week. She was treating the problem but I needed time to recuperate, physically and mentally, this certainly was a shock to the system. Physically I needed to be put on very strong painkillers the pain was that bad. And they worked. The pain started to settle on the Tuesday but lingered a couple more days. 

I was in the process of changing jobs. It saddened me that I was signed off for what was meant to be my last week in my former job, I didn't get to say goodbye to people, but I knew that I needed to look after my health. I did very little during that week, I wasn't able to. I did do some training for the new job, with it taking place via zoom I didn't have the stress of traveling. Boy George was I tired after though. The next week I still stayed fairly quiet as the energy wasn't great. I decided to head down to Glendalough towards the end of the week for a few days to try to aid my recovery, fresh air, and all that. 

When I am in Glendalough I usually do a good bit of walking. This visit was different. While I did get out every day I wasn't doing the distances or the heights that I have come used to doing. I had a bit of a climb today and I thought it was going to kill me. The thing is I wouldn't class that as a big height! It was pointed out to me after that I am on antibiotics, I cannot expect to be able to go at 100%. No wonder I was wrecked when I got back from my flat walk Friday. 

It was great to have the opportunity to get out into nature, to look at a different four walls than I had been stuck looking at for the previous two weeks. As I walked today I thought to myself, this is certainly helping my recovery, the space, the nature, the clean air, prayer, writting, no pressure. For me, this is the best way to recover, to be in a place surrounded by trees, water to sit by. Okay, maybe I didn't get to reach any mountain peaks but the body just needed to rest, digest and recover. I am so grateful to have such beauty around me, especially at times like this.


Wednesday, 9 June 2021

On the Spectrum

 I have worked with people with Autism for the last 2 years. During the course of those 2 years I have wondered on occassion if more people in the world are on the spectrum than have actually been diagnosed. Being on the Spectrum does not necessarily mean that you are highly disadvantaged. Actually, you might be quite the opposite, you might be highly intelligent, highly functional. Autism affects people differently. So while there might be two people with autism in the same room they may be displaying different behaviours. 

In children it can be easy enough to identify autistic traits. These traits might not always lead to an autism diagnosis but may result in something else been diagnosed. If you have a child sitting in the corner not interacting with other children in the room or not sharing toys you  may get concerned. Maybe they are an only child and they are not used to having others around. But then maybe they don't have the social capacity to interact with others. As I said, in children it can be easy enough to identify when something is not right.

However, identifying it in adults can be more dijfficult. Yes, maybe a person is withdrawn, not very social but that does not necessarily indicate that they are on the spectrum. By the time a person reaches adulthood they could have a significant amount of past trauma to deal with. And maybe as they are dealing with that trauma they withdraw from the world around them and have no interest in being social. Personally I know that when I am dealing with emotional stuff I withdraw from others, I'll ignore texts, I won't answer calls and I just don't want to be around people. Obviously as an adult I have responsibilities and I have yo work etc. These responsibilities help me from totally withdrawing when life gets difficult. But does it mean that I am on the Spectrum? To be honest, it could, but then maybe withdrawing is a learned coping mechanism. Growing up I was never encouraged to feel sad emotions so I withdraw. I have major trust issues, is that because I have been hurt so much in the past, let down? Or do I have Autism? Who knows? Who cares? It doesn't strongly impact on my life, it just means that I am more cautious of who I let in.

I started this piece wondering if there are more people on the Spectrum than diagnosed. There very well might be but what does it matter. If people are able to function well it shouldn't matter if they are on the Spectrum or not. Nobody is perfect. We do not need to put a label on a person just because they are different, do not function like us. The only benefit of being diagnosed in adulthood as been on the Spectrum is getting supports to help you, especially mental health supports. Maybe you are struggling to process something from your past even with the greatest of supports. With a diagnosis the proper psychological supports can be put in place to help you to overcome these issues. I am certainly not walking around looking at everybody wondering if they are on the Spectrum. Nor will I. I take people where they are at, I do not need to attach a label to them. As they present is as I take them. I understand that we all have our fair share of stuff to deal with so I like to treat the people I meet with compassion, understanding that they have there own crosses to bear. They do not need me to make them feel worse about how they are, who they are.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Stress

Stress has been the topic of conversation a lot this week. It was pointed out to me early in the week that work stress is not important. When this was said the person did not mean that we should not worry about our clients or be passionate about our work. What I think he meant was that there are more important things in life than work and that we shouldn't let the stresses of the job impact our lives. In talking about stress another person said that you cannot put a price on stress. No amount of money that you get paid in a job makes it work being highly stressed because of work. 

I wanted to take time to reflect on stress and draw on the above conversations. In life, we will all feel stress to some degree. We have simple everyday stresses such as only having a certain amount of time to get to an appointment or engagement and we are running late already. Choosing what clothes you are going to wear may also cause you stress, especially if you are like me and hate decisions....... What top will I wear with the green trousers....... Different people are stressed because of different things. So while picking a top to wear with the green trousers might stress me it might not necessarily stress you. But that doesn't mean either of us are wrong.

How we handle stress will impact strongly on how stressed that we get. Anyone who knows me knows that when I have loads to do and I am in the middle of one task while under pressure asking me to do anything is pointless and may lead to an outburst. That's why I keep a diary in work so that I know exactly what I need to do. That way I can see on paper I have five things to do and they need to be done by the end of the day or within the hour. It helps to focus me. I find that getting stressed actually stops me from getting something done. If I am feeling stressed I have to step away, breathe and clear the head in order to complete the task. By doing this I find I can complete the task in good time too. 

If you do not have strategies that you use when things are causing you to feel stressed you could burn out in work or get angry at people at home. When overcome by stress we do not act rationally and we might unintentionally hurt does around us by what we do or say. We need to develop strategies for dealing with stress rather than letting it overcome us. It might be something as simple as regularly chatting with colleagues about what is stressing you at work. Or at home having a trusted friend who you can turn to and talk to honestly about what is causing you stress. Talking is a two-way thing, you must also listen to the advice given.

Work stress. Jobs come and go. If you are feeling high levels of stress in your job and despite going to your manager for support you still feel highly stressed regularly get out of the job. All the stress we feel builds up in our body and this can impact on our physical and mental health. Now some people may feel highly stressed in their job but when they are finished their shift they are able to leave that stress at the gate before going home. If you can do that don't leave your job but work on strategies to not let stuff cause you to feel so much stress or deal with the stress. Don't give up at the first sign of stress. Work with your managers in order to find ways to combat the things that are causing you stress. There are so many things that you can do to deal with stress and there is nothing wrong with asking for help. 

Not all stress is bad. I believe that we need a certain level of stress in order to keep us sharp and engaged. So the meeting which is an hour of a drive away, leave a little earlier than you need to in order to ensure that you will be there in time despite anything that may happen that is out of your control. And then if something happens to delay you you will feel stress but not as much stress as you know that you have given yourself plenty of time to arrive at that meeting. You can control the amount of stress you feel. When I am running late I like to think, 'I am exactly where I am supposed to be'. 

Look at stress as a positive, that there is learning for you in the situation, a chance for you to grow. Don't get stuck in a job that is causing you high levels of stress. If you can't deal with the stress and be fully happy where you are leave. Even if that means being unemployed for a while. But if leaving a job means unemployment make sure that you don't get stuck in a rot. Plan your days and keep busy. Do all those things that you have been putting off. At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than feeling good in yourself and having good mental and physical health. No amount of money is worth sacrificing your health. This also goes for professional help. If you need professional help to deal with stuff do not let cost put you off. Put yourself first, find a therapist that is right for you. If you can't afford their fee most good therapists will be willing to chat and reach an agreement on the fee that suits you.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Band-aid..... on or off

During the week as I was 'stuck' I was instructed to write, to journal, and journal I did. Once I put pen to paper the words just flowed. I used the analogy of a band-aid to describe the way in which we deal with stuff. I felt my analogy was so powerful that I wanted to write a blog about it.


The band-aid has many options. The main purpose of any band-aid is to cover a wound and keep it clean in order for the wound to heal. Taking off a band-aid if it is really stuck can be very sore but we just have to rip it off, it may sting for a few seconds but then all will be well. Maybe the band-aid is one that is tight when applied and as the wound begins to heal the band-aid will loosen. As it loosens it is easier for us to take it off without feeling a sting. But then what if the wound is too deep that a band-aid cannot heal it? Maybe it is not a band-aid that the wound needs but stitches. A person, the same one who directed me to write, added to this by mentioning the puss of the wound needing to be cleaned in order to avoid infection before stitches are applied. A very good point I thought.


When we are dealing with hurts and pains we can apply a band-aid. At times the band-aid is needed to help us heal but then at other times, we apply the band-aid to cover the pain rather than deal with it. In those cases, the wound won't heal and will slowly eat away at us under the band-aid. Sometimes when pain is strong we need to rip off the band-aid in order to look at the pain and bring healing. But I do feel with certain things in life the band-aid needs to do a certain amount of healing before it is loose enough for us to take it off. Our bodies can get tired and weak as we deal with life's troubles and pains that when we discover another wound it needs to be held by the band-aid until we are able to look at it, work through it. And then at other times we apply the band-aid and find that the wound needs something stronger, the wound needs stitches in order to heal. So we have to remove the bandaid, clean the wound, work through our pains, and apply stitches in order to bring full healing. The stitches are the techniques that we use to help us heal, meditation, music, exercise or whatever works for you, being present. The band-aid often masks and holds so it is the avoidance techniques that we use. The burying ourselves in work or projects, drinking etc. Exercise can be a stitch and a band-aid. We can exercise to run from facing our hurts and pains (bandaid) or we can use exercise to release energy and help us to think more clearly so that we are free to feel (stitches). Counseling too can be a stitch, helping us to look at and deal with the pains of life, giving us the space to talk it out.

Taking Care of Self

In the space of 24 hours, less, I went from this Happy, feeling satisfied, to this numb, low, and defeated. Amazing how a mood can change so...