To my future self…

To my 36-year-old self,

I need to make changes now in order to get the future you deserve. Only I can put the work in, to achieve goals and our vision of success. Making the changes now will set you up for the future. When you and Dave turn 36 you will be living the life you want. You can show and teach our children how to manage their emotions and make a life they want.

I will concentrate on one thing at a time. Focusing and being mindful of everything I do. Time is precious. Wasting it won’t get you anywhere. I will cherish every moment. Every experience. Speak up for what we believe in to ensure you are where you need to be to continue forward in our life.

Love your present 26-year-old self.

Check up with my Doctor

I went to my doctors yesterday about seeing how I was doing on my anti-depressants. It’s been about 5 weeks now. I’ve blogged about my leg twitches, my headaches and sickness. I’ve been having chest pains too.

All of these I mentioned. He believes they are symptoms of my stress and anxiety. As anxiety, fear and stress are my overpowering issues. He has recommended a self-help book by Christopher Williams: Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Panic.

My doctor showed me the first edition of the Overcoming Depression book by the same author. It looked good. Has questions and activities to complete. My doctor also said if I have any questions from doing the workbook. I should write them down and book an appointment to see him.

I thought that was really good. He wants to help me get better and answering questions about what I’ve done or don’t understand is something he is willing to do. So far, other doctors, I’ve met, I feel like I couldn’t do that.

They want you in and out as quick as possible. He wants me to come back just to chat if I need it.

Another thing he would like me to do is work on slowing down my breathing. That breathing is going back to haunt me. Think I need to listen. I breathe too fast. Which isn’t helped by stress or anxiety. In turn, causes my headaches and chest pains.

I’ve been working on this today. I’m even doing it now. Breathing in for 3 seconds and then out for 3 seconds. One breath cycle should be 6 seconds; 10 breaths a minute. I can do between 20 and 40 breaths a minute normally.

No wonder I feel panicked all the time. I noticed I feel a little calmer after a few minutes of breathing slowly. Unfortunately, I go back to my fast breathing if I’m not being mindful of it.

A new goal. It’s been a while since I made one of those. 

Goal: Slow my breathing down to 10 breaths a minute

It may be hard in the long run but hopefully having the foal will mean I practice the breathing techniques. Having the sense of relaxation would be a bonus.

Mindfulness: Turn Off Autopilot

This morning I’ve looked at the next section within my mindfulness module. As you can see from the title of the post this section was about being on autopilot. I tend to live most of my life on autopilot. I suppose you don’t really notice it until you’ve had your day and wondered what you’ve actually done.

I have a few of them. I even can be on autopilot when driving. End up at my destination and wonder how I got there. Which is not a good thing. Turning off my autopilot is what I need to learn.

What does it actually mean when you’re running on autopilot? 

It is doing things automatically without paying attention to your experiences. You’re not focusing. Meaning the negative thoughts and worries can easily start to build a life of their own.

What does becoming aware mean?

Learning to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Being in tune with what you need and want. Hopefully, to guide your actions.

My module gave me two exercises to try to help me become more mindful; The Raisin Exercise and The Body Scan.

The Raisin Exercise

This exercise you really do need to embrace the silliness of it. As you’ll see from my reflections on the exercise, I felt silly doing it. It’s called the raisin exercise but if you don’t have any or don’t like them (like me) then use another food. I chose grapes.

This exercise is to show you how it feels to be fully present in the here and now. If I felt silly during this exercise does this mean I feel silly when it comes to being in the here and now? 

You have to focus your attention on eating the raisin (or food choice). Involving being aware of the smells, images, sounds, feelings or tastes. Most of all try experience without the judgement. If your mind wanders, just bring it back.

The module gave seven steps to complete this exercise. I’m not going to detail them all. I’m just giving each step the title. It’s self-explanatory really. Just focus on that part of the food at the time of you completing the step.

  1. Find a spot
  2. Hold
  3. Smell
  4. Hear
  5. Taste
  6. Eat
  7. Swallow

I’m not gonna be mindful if I don’t put in the work, am I?

Here’s my reflection from completing this exercise:

  • I could feel the weight of the grape in my hand
  • I could smell the sweet smell of the grape
  • I noticed saliva in my mouth
  • I could hear my stomach grumbling
  • As I swallowed the grape I could feel it move down my throat

Where you able to be open to the experience and not be judgemental?

No

Did you allow yourself to be curious during the exercise?

Yes

How you found the exercise overall?

I felt silly about doing the exercise. I sat in my room where it is quieter. It got me to eat the grapes only (I don’t like raisins). I tend to eat while doing something else. When I smelt the grapes I always thought of wine. When I listened I heard what was going on around me. The washing machine going, my mum getting herself a snack and drink and a plane going over. Tasting I felt strange holding it in my mouth before I chewed it. When I swallowed, I realised I don’t think about that part before. As I continued to eat my grapes I tended to miss out steps 2 and 3. I did listen to what was going on around me. I slowed my eating down instead of rushing to eat the grapes. I think when eating I need to be more present. I may find I can enjoy food that way. Hoping it can encourage me to eat better again.

The Body Scan

This helps you experience thoughts, feelings and physical sensations as they are. Being aware what happens in your body, without trying to change anything. By focusing on each part of your body, you become in tune with your whole body.

Your body can give you loads of information. Whether you’re mindful of it or not. When I was asked which information do you remember your body giving you, I was like what you on about. Thankfully there was an example. Here is mine:

  • When I have a headache, it’s often because I’m stressed
  • When my chest hurts, it’s often because I’m anxious
  • When my shoulders hurt it’s because I’m feeling tense
  • When my stomach is noisy, it’s because I’m hungry
  • When my eyes start to feel heavy, it’s because I’m tired

To complete the body scan I listened to the audio that was about 15 minutes. To sum it up you find a spot you won’t be disturbed, even if it’s for 5 minutes. Lie down, be comfortable. Just try not to fall asleep. Be open to the experience and not be judgemental. Focus on one part of your body at a time, going from your toes to the top of your head, slowly.

My reflection:

What did you notice?

That parts of my body were tense and others ached. I found it nice to be laying there not doing something taxing with my mind.

What went well?

I really liked having the audio there. It made me go back to doing what I needed if I did get distracted. But I did find that I was being distracted less.

What was difficult?

Unsure if there was actually something I found difficult. Yes, I got distracted but because of the audio, I was able to go straight back. I have saved it to listen to it again at a later date when I’m completing a body scan.

Coming to the end of the module. It gave me homework. I felt I was back at school. My homework is this:

  • Pick one daily activity that you will complete with total awareness. (Try a simple activity) > I’ll choose brushing my teeth
  • Pay special attention to the 1st bite of your dinner
  • Practice the body scan at least 4x a week
  • Fill in your mindfulness diary each time you practice

I was gonna see how many sections I could get done today. But now that I know I have homework and I should be taking everything slowly. I will do a section a week on my mindfulness day.

Then in between, I can carry out my homework. Putting the work in to be mindful.

 

Learning About: Mindfulness

This evening I started my mindfulness module I received after my first week of councilling. It is a very big module so I’ve only done the first section. Learning about mindfulness. I don’t wanna do too much too fast and it not work out.

What is Mindfulness?

It’s a technique that teaches you to live with awareness. Learn to truely experience the present. Be more excepting of what has happened and to focus on being in the here and now. Helps you to see things differently. Because you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. No longer stuck in them and gain control. Become accepting of what you think or feel.

That would be a great feeling. Recognising what I think, feel and accepting them and having control. Once I read the advantages I starting having more of an opened mind about mindfulness.

  • Let go of certain problems
  • Are able to enjoy the present more
  • Health improves
  • Handle stress better
  • Ability to concentrate improves
  • More energy then before
  • Feel better about yourself
  • Handle emotions better

Even my module said it wasn’t easy. You need to practice a lot to make this change. That you should practice daily. It’s a big time investment. Keep practising until it becomes second nature.

Wow, mindfulness as a habit that’s a thought. There are different techniques. I haven’t got to that part yet but here are a few tips.

  1. Adopt an open mind
  2. Know your benefits
  3. Find support
  4. Go for it!
  5. Reward yourself

Make a list of the benefits mindfulness could provide you. Here’s mine:

  • Relieve stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Increase creativity
  • Bring peacefulness to your life
  • Increase connection to my body
  • Alleviate digestive problems
  • Help me concentrate

Practice even if you want to do something else. I wanted to watch One Born Every Minute but decided it was best to do something. Be kind to yourself. If you manage to practice as often as you intended. Do something that makes you happy.

Time to make a commitment to put it into practice!

On which day will you make the sessions?

Friday

Where will you practice?

My room or the garden

At what time does practising suit you?

Early afternoon on days I’m working. Mid-afternoon on my days off. I have every other Friday off. 

What are you expectations?

Accept my thoughts for what they are without passing judgement. Letting go of problems in order to improve my health.

That is my commitment to mindfulness. I’ve put it in my diary and making it an official goal.

Goal: Practice Mindfulness

I hope you learnt something about mindfulness like I did and that you could make a commitment. A commitment to accept and gain control of your thoughts and feelings. Hoping to learn more at each stage of my module.

Much Love xx