What’s been on my mind?

I’ve been feeling a bit low and unmotivated lately. I’m slowly completing the Journalism course (that I’ve lost all interest in), as I paid for it and would like to still complete it and gain my certificate. It hasn’t helped that my tutor has been harsh with his feedback – not very encouraging! Only two more assignments left, and then I’m done.

I’ve completely neglected my Instagram page, as I’m questioning my use of social media and if it’s a good way to spend my time. It’s so relentless that I can’t keep up. Even so my screen time is, frankly, horrific! I averaged about 6 hours a day in the last week. Some of that is from listening to podcasts, which I don’t mind too much, but I need to do less mindless scrolling. In a weird way, podcasts make me feel less lonely, and they’re good for learning new things.

It’s thanks to podcasts that I hear from lots of interesting, inspirational people. One person that comes to mind is Gelong Thubten, a buddhist monk who gave up his regular life at the age of 21 after having a breakdown and joined a Tibetan monastery in Scotland. Hearing him speak about mindfulness meditation and what it has done for him is very inspiring. After all the therapy I’ve had, acceptance and mindfulness make the most sense to me. It’s one of the few things that helps me come to terms with my anxiety.

I’m trying to focus on what’s truly important to me for now. I will get back into my blogging routine, but I might be a little quiet for a while.

I’ve you’ve read my other posts you might know that I enjoy an inspirational quote, so here’s one from Gelong Thubten:

“Meditation has given me a different view about happiness. You start to notice that you can make yourself happy and that it’s a moment-to-moment skill, rather than some huge achievement that happens when you get everything in your life right. It’s actually an inside work that is about making your mind strong.”

Small moments of happiness

I’m still plodding on with life but thought I’d share a nice experience I had. I went for a walk yesterday (everyone’s top lockdown activity) and had a moment when I stopped to appreciate my surroundings. It was a cold crisp day, and the sun was shining. As I walked along a tree-lined street, a dark cloud passed over and it started to snow gently. The sunlight ahead made the snowflakes sparkle, it was quite beautiful.

Even though it was a route I’d walked many times before, I still managed to see something new. I love it when quiet little moments like that pop up on my walks, whether that’s the beauty of nature or the times I see a cute little dog trotting along in its winter jacket. It makes up for the times I felt fed up with walking.

It reminded me of the self-help book Resilient, by Dr. Rick Hanson. In it, he suggests that when you’re feeling good or are enjoying yourself, that you should try and amplify it to embed it in your brain (or words to that effect!) – “Mental states become neural traits.” So that’s what I did on my walk, I tuned in and tried to ‘turn up the dial’ on my feelings of happiness and contentment.

It’s a lovely thing to do, as it’s all too easy to focus on feelings of boredom or frustration at the moment. We need all the happy moments we can get!

“Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them—open up to them and let them affect you. It’s like sitting down to a banquet: don’t just look at it—dig in!” Dr. Rick Hanson

I’d love to hear from you, have you had any small moments of happiness that you’d like to share?

Anxiety warriors

I’m all for being a strong woman, but battling anxiety is a concept that I need to let go of. There’s a lot of talk in the mental health community about being a ‘warrior’, which is kind of cool, (I’m picturing myself wearing Vikings-style makeup and waving an axe around,) but sometimes fighting can be counterproductive.

Because let’s face it, these warrior battles take up a lot of energy, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have much of that right now. Instead of charging into battle, try to put down your weapons and let anxiety do its thing. Observe how it feels and notice the thoughts going through your mind. There is a lot of power in accepting things as they are.

You can still be a badass warrior, but pick your battles. Consider when it’s a good idea to push yourself and when to retreat. It can be frustrating, because I forget this all the time and fall back into bad habits.

I started overthinking. I was wrapped up in worries about the third lockdown currently underway here in England. How would I manage the next few months without going anywhere or seeing anyone?

But I realised that I’m thinking too far ahead, my inner warrior is pacing for battle, when what I need to do is focus on the here and now. So that’s what I’d suggest to anyone reading this – take life one day at a time. Sharpening your axe in preparation for a fight may feel productive, but it takes away from the many good things in the present moment.

Keeping with the theme of Vikings, I was looking at some Norse proverbs and quite liked these:

The unwise man is awake all night, and ponders everything over; when morning comes he is weary in mind, and all is a burden as ever.  

Poetic Edda

Not every cloud which darkens the day brings rain.

Heitharvega Saga, c.7

How to stop being your own worst critic

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-image and how I give my more ‘negative’ traits more attention than the positive ones.

What is seen as negative will vary from one person to the next, some of us struggle with body image, and others might be critical about aspects of their personality. I know I get very preoccupied about how I’m coming across to others, I worry that I’m too quiet, or too anxious, which then makes me feel more anxious! It’s easy for these thoughts to spiral and before you know it, you’re making absolute judgements about yourself.

Stop assigning meaning to the judgements

This leads you to believe things that are exaggerated or distorted. Dr Ronald Alexander wrote in Psychology Today: “The object is to stop assigning meaning to these self-judgments, because once you start to give them weight, they begin to weigh you down… Often, the rational mind will string together a series of distortions. Instead of simply noticing “I am shy,” the mind will generate the thought, “I’m shy, which is why I’ll never find a romantic partner; my shyness makes me unattractive.” https://bit.ly/39vWNlp

This is a pattern that I’m noticing a lot; I attach meaning to all kinds of things. I feel anxious so that means I’m going to lose the plot and end up making a fool of myself. My neighbour didn’t say hi to me today, it’s because he dislikes me and doesn’t want to talk to me. It makes me feel so much worse!

It’s not about lying to yourself either, but simply seeing things for what they are. For example, I’m a socially awkward person, and I could try and tell myself that isn’t true, but I wouldn’t believe it. Because it is true, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Using mindfulness techniques is a good way of gaining some distance from your thoughts, and hopefully making it less likely that you’ll jump to the judgements.

Spoiler alert, I have loads of things to offer the world – and so do you

Instead of judging myself, I wrote a list of everything positive I have to offer other people. It’s a good exercise for anyone that struggles with self-judgement and I highly recommend it. It can be anything, examples of situations that you felt you handled well, what you like about how you look, things you appreciate about your personality. You might be surprised at what comes up.