I wanted to keep it upbeat, casual, creative, and informative when I created this blog. I tried to stay away from typical life - there are enough family blogs out there.
However, this last month has been one of the hardest I have ever faced and a hard post to write. But after a lot of contemplation, I decided that maybe I'm not the only one going through a bad start to 2022. Maybe there are others out there who need to hear that they aren't alone. Perhaps someone else is going through similar issues, or worse, and maybe sharing will make me feel better, not worse.
A few days before Christmas, a close family member was admitted to hospital with a life-changing diagnosis - we are still facing tests and waiting for the actual diagnosis. Still, even the best-case scenario will take months, possibly years of recovery. We are staying positive because there isn't another option, but it has obviously taken its toll on everyone.
We got through Christmas, and early into the new year, another very close family member was rushed to the hospital. We didn't know until a few days later, but another life-altering diagnosis was made after she almost died. I will forever be grateful to the nurse who walked past and saved her life - **whoever you are, you were clearly sent by angels!
While this family member was in the hospital, I moved into her house to take care of everything, so I was away from my family but still saw them daily.
Then the worst happened, my youngest came down with COVID. This meant I had to stay away from my family. To protect the vulnerable people around me and keep travelling to and from the hospital - I couldn't visit my children. This was the hardest thing I've ever had to do - every time my eldest asked when I was coming home. I couldn't answer him. Every time my youngest got tears in his big brown eyes because I couldn't give him a cuddle, a tiny piece of me shattered.
Every time I made a trip to the hospital, that ended in tears. Every time someone close to me broke down because they were under too much pressure. Every video chat that ended with 'when are you coming home, mum?' - took a little piece of me away - I broke into pieces and didn't even notice.
And then I got my positive COVID result, and suddenly it felt like I'd imploded. How could I have let everyone down like this? How could I look after anyone while I was sick?
And now I'm here, four days in bed, wondering why I'm feeling so depressed and anxious. Retrospectively, it's easy to see that while I thought I was holding it together for everyone else, I forgot to keep myself together. I stopped writing, I stopped reading, I stopped studying, I stopped talking to people, I neglected everything. If everything hadn't happened so suddenly, if I had time to process everything I probably would have remembered all the coping mechanisms for stress I've learned over the years, but it is what it is.
So, how can we keep ourselves together when everything inside us just wants to shatter into a million pieces? If anyone's start to 2022 has been as bad (or worse - bless you) as mine. Or even if you are feeling overwhelmed for no particular reason - it happens - here are a few tips on how you can hold it together. And this is what you will find me doing for the next few weeks while I try to process everything that's happened and is still happening.
The first thing you need to do is recognise that you are under pressure. That stress is building or that you aren't feeling right. Signs include losing the motivation or energy to do everyday things. For example, not wanting to shower or meet with friends, not eating well and losing interest in hobbies and activities you usually enjoy. Of course, you know your own habits, so only you and those closest to you know if this is happening. This is usually the most challenging step. It's not easy to admit that you aren't coping; often, a friend or a family member notices changes in our behaviour before we do. But, it's also the most crucial step, as you can't change negativity to positivity without first recognising that it's there.
That being said, even if you are coping, you're a super person under tremendous stress and still banging through life like a boss. These tips may still help. We all need to remember to look after ourselves.
So, whether you're in a good place, a neutral place, or some level of hell. We all need some level of self-care.
"You can't pour from an empty cup" Is probably one of the most accurate quotes I have ever heard.
You may think you are coping, but you can run dry at any time, so watch those cups. Here are some tips on how to keep them topped up and overflowing:
1. STAY IN TOUCH - Friends, family, co-workers - human contact - whether face-to-face, over the phone, face time or standard texts. Speaking and having contact with other people is the number one thing that will keep you anchored. Reach out - talk about things while they are happening. Don't wait until it becomes too much, and don't ever feel like you can't talk about your problems. 90% of the time, just talking about a worry or a shit situation will make you feel better, or at the very least, give you another perspective. The more people you talk to, the smaller the problem seems.
2. DO ONE SMALL THING FOR YOURSELF - If you feel low and can feel that motivation slipping, get up and shower, brush your teeth, brush your hair, put on some makeup, or wash up a couple of dishes.... write a blog post. Whatever something small means for you - do one tiny thing that will make you feel a little more normal. And then, if you can manage it, do another small thing, and then another until those little things get a little bigger, and before you know it, you're feeling like yourself again. But even if it's just one thing, drag your arse up and do it - you will immediately feel better - even if it's just changing into a clean pair of pyjamas!
3. HOBBIES - Don't forget about your hobbies, your interests, your 'wind downs' - reading, writing, yoga, meditation, bird watching, train spotting - whatever that means for you. So often, when we have too much going on in our lives and run out of time, the first things we sacrifice are the very things we need to keep us from falling apart. Those tiny pieces of 'me time' help de-stress and process everything going on around us. If you find your concentration levels have dropped, as I have - that's completely normal when feeling overwhelmed - then start small. Wake up 5 minutes earlier for a quick stretch or write some goals for the day down. Rome wasn't built in a day. Brick by brick - until it fits back into your day as effortlessly as eating breakfast. I cannot stress enough how important this time for yourself is - and, ironically, it's most important when you feel like you have no time at all.
4. BREATHE - Yes, it sounds simple, and you've heard it all before. But simply concentrating on your breath for a few minutes when you're feeling overwhelmed can have enormous benefits for your nervous system - and your entire body. There are literally thousands of different methods and breathing exercises to try. For example, when I feel overwhelmed, my go-to is to breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out for six seconds. Just a couple of minutes of this, I immediately feel calmer and more in control. Of course, one shoe doesn't fit all, so what works for me may not work for you. However, hundreds of guided breathing exercises and meditations can be found on YouTube, ranging from minutes to hours. If you have access to an Alexa, even she can give you a short breathing exercise or daily guided meditation. Again, I highly recommend taking just a few minutes to try a few and see the benefits.
5. EXERCISE - Obviously, daily cardio isn't an option for everyone. Suppose you're recovering from COVID, like me, or have another illness or ailment that prevents you from rocking up at the gym every day. In that case, you won't be lifting weights any time soon. However, when, and if you are able - a short walk, a quick run, even just 10 minutes walking on the spot will get the blood pumping and those endorphins running. Nothing can compare to the feeling after a really strenuous workout. There is lots of evidence that exercise reduces the risk of stress and stress-related illnesses. It may even prevent ageing in the brain - so get those treadmills down from the loft!
6. SLEEP - It's another obvious one, and there are two sides to this one. If you find yourself sleeping too much or feeling tired all the time, you may want to speak to a doctor to rule out any underlying causes. However, stress levels will quickly rise if you have a lot going on and aren't getting enough sleep. The average adult needs between 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Too many nights of not enough sleep will have a knock-on effect on cognitive ability, stress levels, and the ability to cope with everyday situations. If you have trouble falling asleep, then a good and regular night-time routine is a great place to start. There are also some great sleep apps you can download on your phone, tablet and again - Alexa - is there anything she can't do?
The only other thing that's really important if life starts to get overwhelming, or you begin to feel like you can't cope - you need to give yourself TIME. Time to process, recover, allow your brain to manage and your mind to heal. No matter how many people you think are relying on you or how long your to-do list is. Time is the greatest healer. These past two years have been hard without any extra complicated circumstances you may be facing. So don't be afraid to say 'No, I can't, not today, I need some time.' Nobody is going to judge you for it.
'' Every cloud has a silver lining.'' - Perhaps the silver lining of my catching COVID was that I was able to recognise how overwhelmed I was. It has given me time (sweaty, snotty, achy, restless time - but still time) to think about all the ways I haven't coped and how I can avoid it happening again in the future.
Anyway - things are starting to look up for me - everyone is out of the hospital and getting the help they need. I'm back with my family and most of my household have got over their brush with COVID. Nobody has been seriously poorly with it, which I am grateful for.
AND I caught nine shiny Bulbasaurs the other day! - if you know, you know ;)
So cheers to January, but no, thank you. I'm restarting my year on the first of February - and I'm expecting good things, Doctor Universe - please and thank you!
Some useful links:
https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene - Amazing yoga routines for beginners and experts, I love this channel if I need a little me time and space - from 5 minute wake up stretches to hour long full flow yoga - this woman is amazing.
https://www.headspace.com/ - Mini-meditations available for free on their app - headspace is also available on Netflix (accurate at the time of writing.)
If you are feeling really overwhelmed and not coping, please reach out to someone. This website may be useful: https://mentalhealth-uk.org/
If you need to talk to someone, the following services offer confidential support from trained volunteers. You can talk about anything that's troubling you, no matter how difficult:
Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for a reply within 24 hours.
Text "SHOUT" to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text "YM" if you're under 19.
If you're under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.
and I think it goes without saying, but this inbox is also always open.
Peace and Love to all x