It’s 7am on a Sunday and really I should be asleep, but I have been wide awake for a while now; my mind whirring and busy as it has been all week. I’ve found myself wondering and questioning things a lot recently, mainly things that just don’t seem to sit well with me. Now, I’m sure I don’t have some sort of heightened awareness of things around me; I just seem to have developed some kind of acceptance fatigue! One of the things you get taught in various types of therapy is the need to accept what you cannot change. This is all well and good but what do you do if accepting everything starts to wear thin?
Peace is accepting today, releasing yesterday, and giving up the need to control tomorrow- Lori Deschene (Tiny Buddha)
A quick look on Pinterest reveals that the key to acceptance is acknowledging and letting go of ‘yesterday’, being content with the current and not trying to control the future. It’s a fairly simple recipe that would arguably lead to some higher plane of life satisfaction. The trouble is, as much as I would love to do what I can to feel all happy and zen inside… the reality is really hard. It’s a bit like the mindfulness exercise where you allow everything to float down the river, letting it go in the process. Whilst it’s fab in the moment, mindfulness doesn’t prevent all of the crap you have to keep dumping in the river!! And if you end up in there yourself, whilst it would be great to think ‘I’d just go with it, accepting that I’m coming up to the waterfall rapidly and could well be about to meet oblivion’; you’re probably more likely to be feeling a little dissatisfied that you’re in the river in the first place!
But, is there an answer? Do you continue along begrudgingly accepting whatever is thrown your way, or do you fight it? To me, both options sound a little exhausting and it feels like there are situations where both, either or neither would be most appropriate. I found a blog by Kirra Sherman that thinks about acceptance in a different way. Rather than acceptance being a route to feeling at odds with your ‘true self’, she describes true acceptance as embracing how you feel about whatever it is that you are trying to accept, instead of just trying to be at peace with it in your head. As Kirra says, some things are too big and horrible to ‘just’ accept, but realising that can be what you need to get to a place where you can begin to let go and move on from them.
Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of the thought or feeling, acknowledge it and let it go. Whilst this can be helpful, it feels like there is a stage missing where you really consider what the feeling or thought is. Mindfulness ‘tells’ us not to engage with whatever we are feeling; but when that’s too hard, embracing that we are feeling that way and for now that’s completely ok is perhaps a better course of action. In a way, you can shelve whatever is going on and come back to it when you’re feeling resilient enough to tackle it more, rather than trying to just let it go if that’s not something that feels possible right now. Being honest with yourself and facing that you’re responding in a way that’s probably grounded in your morals, experiences and the person you are, could be more empowering than trying to accept everything that’s going on around you.
Living with a chronic physical and mental illness had led me to spend a lot of time managing feeling poorly and struggling. Having spent time in hospital, including a year as an inpatient on an eating disorder ward, I learnt a lot about self care and soothing myself when things are hard. Gradually I realised that I could come up with an idea that combined my love (and the boost it gives to my wellbeing) of craft, vintage and reading to come up with something that might help others who are going through a challenging time. #DateWithABook was born and it has continued to grow from there onwards.
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me– C.S. Lewis.
Illness can lead you to feel really isolated. You can face days where you are really limited in the amount of energy you have, or motivation to do the things you would love to be doing. This was one of the starting ideas for my book dates. I wanted to reach out to people who might be finding things tough and offer them something to help them through that moment. I’m a lover of everything old and vintage and the idea of rehoming a beautiful old book felt like the best way to go. Giving these books a new lease of life whilst helping others just seemed perfect! The idea is that a book date is a way to reclaim date night and rest and rejuvenate with a hot drink and a cosy homely coaster with your set.
We read to know we’re not alone– William Nicholson, Shadowlands.
So, what do I hope to achieve with my little book dates? Well… quite a lot! I believe that sharing a #datewithabook can be a huge act of kindness, offering someone who is struggling a piece of calm, distraction and an excuse to have a night off. Or it can be a perfect piece of self care for yourself, to help with the stresses that we face day to day. A date with a book can be a way of reconnecting with someone who needs some extra love or showing you care when you can’t ‘fix’ a situation someone is going through.
Praise for #datewithabook
I absolutely loved recieving my date with a book parcel in the post. Kate made one up based on my likes for me to enjoy on maternity leave. Good value for money and such a wonderful idea for a treat to yourself or for gifts to others. Will be ordering from her again in the future.- Jenny
I received my date with a book yesterday and it’s wonderful. I almost didn’t want to open it as it looked so pretty. I’m currently about to sit down and start reading. I will definitely be using you again. It is such a lovely idea.– Lindsey
Fantastic idea. Love this. Date with a Book. Something really different, original & unique. Brought for a friend, who Loved it to & has been showing friends. Whole thing arrives Beautifully packaged in soft tissue paper. Makes a Wonderful gift for Any occasion. Or No occasion at all.. Just to say, Thinking of you. Hello. Etc.– Annette
Such a unique idea! It was very exciting to receive the package as you don’t know which book you will get and I was not disappointed! I received a book from an author who I’ve never heard of, and I cannot wait to read it! Prompt delivery too!!– Bisma
There are lots of different #datewithabook sets available in my Conscious Crafties and Etsy stores. I’m just in the process of a big restock to make way for a beautiful array of Christmas gifts, ideal for the person who has everything. Use the discount code BLOG10 to get 10% off any orders over £10. I also have a #datewithabook advent calendar full of literary themed items.
When you’ve been in some sort of treatment for a mental health condition for a number of years; it can be rare to be presented with a new idea that you’ve not seen before. This isn’t to sound arrogant as if I’ve had all of the treatment there ever was… not at all. But rather, there are some similar ideas and techniques that come up more often than not. Whilst a lot of these traditional, go-to ideas are great, it can feel a bit hopeless if you’re just being given the same old. I’ve always had a belief that if what you’re doing isn’t working or really helping, then you need to keep trying until you find something that works! Sometimes it feels this is a real weakness of community mental health support. There’s a limited scope for overstretched teams to provide care that’s tailored to the individual and it can feel like professionals try and shoe-horn you into their own method of working… and discharge people who don’t progress within the parameters of what’s available.
Recently, I worked with a locum practitioner who gave me some new ideas, things I’d never tried before. I was a bit dubious about some of them, as they were out of the normal CBT based ideas I’d been given in outpatient treatment. The number of times I’ve had to write a food diary, compare it to my meal plan, write down my thoughts and then counter them with alternative thoughts; is probably too many to recall now! For so long, that has been the treatment. There’s been very little creativity. I’m not criticising the professionals I’ve worked with… totally… but I am saying there could be a little more variety in the kind of work offered to outpatients regardless of the understandably challenging lack of resources. So, back to my locum practitioner. One day we were talking about the importance of having my weight monitored. It’s something I’ve always hated and battled against. Partly due to OCD rituals surrounding getting a perfectly accurate comparative weight (yes… something I know isn’t really a real thing but that’s not the focus here haha). So being a regular argument had with the team, we began for a moment to have the standard backward and forward about being weighed. I was told why I needed it done and promptly replied with all of the counter arguments I could. It wasn’t really going anywhere and it was reminiscent of conversations already had.
So she stopped us and pulled out a piece of paper, telling me we were going to think of a different way of tackling this. I was anxious and stressed and not very receptive to a new idea. She told me that we were going to write a list of thirty reasons why it was good to be weighed by someone from the team. We titled it in a positive way, not limiting ourselves to it being ‘ok’ to be weighed but going fully for it and using ‘good’ and specifying it would be done by the team. Already my brain was feeling a little frustrated that loopholes were being firmly avoided! It was a challenge, I definitely protested that there was no way I could think of one reason let alone thirty. But gradually with a little persuasion, the list began to take shape… the options could be sensible, off the wall or completely ridiculous. Here are a few we came up with:
- People will stop nagging me to get weighed
- Meg and Bert (my labradors) get weighed at the vets and enjoy it, so I can too
- I can smash my scales into a million pieces because I don’t need them now
- It’s just measuring my relationship with gravity
- Good to give my scales a break/holiday/weekend break
- Maybe I’ll enjoy it
And so on…
The list turned out to be a powerful tool. By the end of thirty reasons, I had been through fits of laughter, completely relaxed and actually if I had been weighed straight away… I probably would have been fairly relaxed about the whole situation. By finding thirty reasons that it was good for it to happen, I had a whole list of evidence to counter the negative thought processes that were going on in my head. I had a list of reasons that were quite motivating and I had something that could make me laugh and remind me that perhaps the whole process wasn’t too scary after all. I’ve realised that writing a list to counter my fears can be used in any situation that I’m worrying about or anything I’m struggling to be able to do. And the best thing… if at thirty you still feel anxious, you can always write thirty more.
Hope is a strange thing. It can be the motivation to keep going when things are hard or the idea that things may one day be different or better. Hope is a hard thing to hang on to, it’s not exactly tangible and it can be easily shattered. But even the tiniest amount of hope can be a really powerful thing. I’ve frequently been told to hold on, with the hope that it will get easier. But I guess I want to be told exactly when that will be… easier said than done I guess.
Perhaps, certainly in recovery, it is much easier to identify and manage if someone has lost hope, rather than working out how much hope they have! Martin Seligman found that if animals were subjected to difficult situations that were out of their control, then became helpless and passive; not wanting to try and escape the situation they were in. Perhaps demonstrating what happens when you lose hope in a situation. For people lack of hope can manifest in many different ways such as; depression, anxiety, lack of motivation or self destructive behaviours. It can be a bit of a downward spiral where hopelessness leads to individuals not wanting to try and change, and therefore the negativity is perpetuated.
Hope is not pretending that troubles don’t exist. It is the hope that they
won’t last forever. That hurts will be healed and difficulties overcome. That we will be led out of darkness and into the sunshine.
Sometimes taking the first step, especially when you feel hopelessness, can be the hardest. If you don’t believe things can change, then it’s totally understandable that it feels impossible to get started and find some hope.
So how can you find hope and break unhelpful spirals?
- Break it down a little- sometimes hoping to be ‘recovered’ can be a very tall order. It can feel like you’re trying to get from A-Z without any real idea of how to get there. It’s important to try and allow yourself you work through the process, taking measurable baby steps to find your way. It’s also completely ok if your goal changes, it can be a fluid process which in itself may give you hope.
- Show yourself compassion- once you begin your steps, you make have to reevaluate and take a different approach if it doesn’t feel like it’s working or going smoothly. Of course, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but if it’s too hard you won’t reach the other side anyway. You may just need to change your goal posts and aim for slightly simpler steps. A headteacher once told me that when you write a to-do list, you should start with 2-3 things you’ve already done or know you can complete straight away. Giving yourself the immediate satisfaction of completing something can then spur you on to manage the rest.
- Start a gratitude list- I am fairly certain you’ve already achieved a lot in your life. If might not feel it, but think about the little things you have achieved. Reminding yourself that you are in fact pretty amazing can help you to feel hopeful about the future.
- Find Inspiration- this could be from people you know, famous people or celebrities, quotes, stories or anything really. Surround yourself with your inspiration and re-visit it daily to help move your mindset on to one of hope.
- Find hope by letting go of negativity- starting to let go of negativity, anxiety or depression can set you up to find space for a little more hope in your life.
- Think your way to hope- think about the way your life is now and the type of person you would like to be and what kind of life you would have if you were that person.
- Gain support from others- if you’re feeling hopeless, sometimes you need someone to help you find hope again. This can be from friends, family or even professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Look after yourself- once again, self care is really important here. Looking after yourself can build your resilience and help you manage when you’re feeling hopeless.
- Help others to help yourself- sometimes getting a little perspective can help you find hope again.
- Be brave- ultimately, don’t give up. You’ve got this, you can do it. Maybe not right now, but you will be able to.
At the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength. Hope that it will get better and strength to hold on until it does.
I’ve definitely been avoiding blogging for a while. I’ve had ideas and at times even made a start on a blog; but then the avoidance breaks have jammed back on again! I don’t think it’s even been intentional, life is just very very busy at the moment.
I’ve completed my second week back at Uni and so far it’s been good… hard and weird but good. It’s funny, I was so stressed with all the what if’s of going back to studying that I lost site of all of the positives. It’s been an anxiety filled whirlwind but I *think* I’m on top of everything… I’m working part time alongside Uni, so I’ve had to juggle my workload and try and keep some time free to destress and really focus on my self-care. I was cycling home yesterday thinking that maybe… just maybe… it’s going ok! I think the negative stressy part of my head is waiting for me to start to really struggle, waiting for the inevitable time when it gets too much. But the reality is that it’s going well and I’m really enjoying it!
Perhaps I’m working towards being in a place where I can let go of that negativity or just notice it as my anxious inner self, acknowledge it’s there and let it float off in a mindful way.
Today I’m aiming to finish my first draft of my ethics form… watch this space for exciting mental health research hopefully coming soon!
I’m not sure what I was aiming to get out of blogging today… I guess I’m hoping to break the back of the writers and perfectionist block so I can get back into the swing of things.
I’m loving #SelfCareSeptember already! It’s been really nice researching new ideas and having to think a little outside of thebox… I mean… I’ve got a whole month to fill with ideas! I’m going to add my research sources, ideas and all things self care to a Pinterest board, so click and follow. I’ll be adding all of the #SelfCareSeptember posts and other ideas and inspiration so have a look and follow me!
For my fourth day of blogging this month, I wanted to share some fabulous tips about finding some time for some Self Love from Gala Darling, an inspirational teacher of radical self love from New Zealand. Her website is awesome and you should really check it out for some fab ideas and information. I’m probably going to be talking about some of her ideas on my blog again as they’re great!
Radical self acceptance is a tricky one especially if your relationship with yourself is a little on the rocky side. I’ve found developing any kind of self acceptance quite a challenge, but it was something that I’ve put a lot of work and a lot of therapy into! I think the key is to keep working at it, you’re not going to learn to accept yourself and love yourself over night and perhaps thinking about the amount of time you’ve not shown yourself acceptance… then maybe you will see that it might take a little time to relearn and reprogram your head
. That’s no reason to admit defeat or give up before you even give it a go, it’s definitely possible and worth it!
So what kind of things can you do to try and show yourself a little more self love? One lovely idea of Gala Darling’s is to think about 5 attributes you inherited or learnt from your parents, it can even be 5 things your relationship with them taught you. Noticing some positives can lead you to realising that your have positive and worthwhile qualities. I learnt a lot in therapy about positive logs and the benefits of noticing positive qualities or attributes you have in the war against unhelpful negative core beliefs you have about yourself or rules that you lead your life by.
Why don’t you have a go at thinking about a positive qualities you have. Maybe starting in a matter of fact way and thinking about skills you have could work, that’s how I managed to have a go!
Thank you to everyone who has been following, sharing, commenting and generally been getting involved with my monthly feature! It’s so encouraging and makes it feel really worthwhile… so don’t stop yet! Also, if you’ve got any top tips or #SelfCare ideas, then please drop me a line via my contact page or send me a Tweet/Direct message and I can include your ideas too 🙂
When was the last time you took a moment to think about doing something just for you? I’m on a bit of a self care crusade over the next month and I’m really excited about it!
Over the last week I’ve been spoilt with lovely outings and time spent with friends. My friends are such an amazing support network and just being with them always lifts my mood and reminds me of the good things about life and everything I am grateful for. I had such a lovely time but it made me realise that I’ve probably been missing out a little on some of my self care routines that make me feel good.
This is where my idea for #SelfCareSeptember came about! I’m going to have a think over the next month about lots of different self care ideas and I wanted to share them with you! According to the NHS self care is looking after yourself in a healthy way- so it can be simple things such as caring for your body through daily routines like teeth brushing or getting in come exercise but it can also be things that are important to you as a person like spending time with friends or having hobbies.
So, if you fancy it, join me in #SelfCareSeptember by sharing something you like to do over the course of the month, trying an idea I share or by joining in with the conversation on Twitter or Instagram using my #SelfCareSeptember tag or comment on my blogs!