Tag Archives: being outdoors

So It’s Been A Year…

Please be aware that some of the content may be triggering. Please take care 💚

It’s been roughly a year since the UK went into a restricted state. We’ve been in and out of lockdown. Many things have never been back. Therefore I thought I’d reflect a little on the last year. Some things will be linked to mental health, others more general.

What I’ve Learnt

The whole situation has been a learning curve. I think everyone has learnt something about themselves and others as well as maybe other skills. Here are mine:

1. I need social contact

I’ve always found social contact difficult and overwhelming. I’ve always pushed myself to do things socially and I’m exhausted afterwards. But I’ve found I do need it. I have missed seeing people. Having the hugs. Being with my friends. Just hearing their voices (I struggle still with phone conversations). I can’t wait to meet them.

2. I need alone time

I’ve known this for a while but it has been confirmed with being stuck with the people I live with All! The! Time! I need quiet. I need to get away. It’s tiring being with other people. I think everyone needs alone time really, we all just differ on how much.

3. I can draw

Turns out I can draw. And actually practice does improve it.

4. Phone/video appointments aren’t a substitute for face to face

Obviously a lot of appointments changed to being either online or via phone. I’ve found these so hard. I feel like I can’t get things across as well as I do face to face (and I don’t feel I do that very well anyway). I feel people lose the ability to understand people as well when you take away the physicalness of being in the same room. Also technology has a habit of not working and making it all more stressful. (Although being able to have my cat with me during therapy was a positive).

5. You can’t make eye contact on Zoom

Someone pointed this out to me and its bugged me ever since because its true and no matter what I try I can’t change that. I hate eye contact most of the time but I also try really hard to make some as I know it’s expected. I should be happy therefore that I don’t have to make eye contact but instead it’s annoyed me. Yes, I’m a paradox.

What Scares Me

Along with learning many things, this whole situation has created many fears within me for the present and the future.

1. Fear people will get ill

I’ve always been scared of people in my life getting ill. It’s out of my control although I have gonw through many things that I believe have given me control. Logically it’s not true, mentally I feel to blame when people get sick. This was heightened once we really got into the reduction of social contact and lockdown (before that coronavirus didn’t bother me, odd I know). I was often in tears that something I had or hadn’t done was going to make those close to me ill. I was so strict with cleaning and washing hands, more than usual. I was terrified. I still am.

2. Going outside or into shops

I’ve always found being out and about anxiety inducing, especially on my own. I’m now able to walk the dog just me and him but otherwise I struggle. This has been heightened in these times even though I was forced to shop for my parents on my own. My anxiety was through the roof. Now the thought of going back in to shops without anyone or any restrictions in the future terrifies me.

3. The lack of restrictions

There will come a time when restrictions are gone. Yes it will be a positive in many ways but I don’t feel anywhere near ready for this to happen and I don’t think I will be for some time. Each time a restriction is eased I feel such a state of anxiety that I have panic attacks over it. The thought of things being “normal” is something I can’t comprehend yet.

Where am I at?

So overall I’m struggling mentally with everything. There is a lot of change currently and it’s left me unsettled. Large parts of lockdown have been a struggle but other parts have played into my comfort zones of hiding away from people. I’m very much a home body. People keep talking about holidays and that’s the last thing I want to do. Not going on holiday was a plus for me and now I have no excuse to stay home. I both want things to come back but others I want to stay as they are.

What are your thoughts on your current situation, wherever you are? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Lockdown 3.0

This is not a post I thought I’d write. Actually more hoped I wouldn’t write. The UK is back in lockdown. Our 3rd. I won’t go into the politics of it, that’s been covered a lot.

With each lockdown there has been new challenges to get through. I’ve found my tolerance for other people has deteriorated dramatically. I’ve felt more and more alone each time. And my support system feels more and more depleted each time.

With regards to other people, they make me angry. Anger is an emotion I struggle to cope with so it’s an awful place to be in my head. I want to scream and shout at the selfish people who keep putting us back in this place of lockdown because they can’t do as they’re told. I want to shout at those who get too close not only because they shouldn’t, but also because it scares me. People scare me enough as it is. The pandemic and lockdown just add to this.

Loneliness is another aspect of lockdown that gets to me. I can message people but it still doesn’t feel enough. I live with people but sometimes that makes me feel lonelier as they don’t understand what I’m dealing with inside. I don’t like a lot of physical contact but there are some people I just want to hug. I miss them so much. The thing is I’m also finding myself getting anxious about talking to people. Zoom groups are feeling harder than ever and I feel so detached.

The reduction in support is also feeling more of an issue. My contact with mental health services has been depleted and I’m struggling. I feel like I have nowhere to turn at the moment and more things I use to keep me well ish are disappearing.

So yep lockdown 3.0 is set to be a challenge. I’m trying so hard. I’m looking at skills I can use from DBT to help me get through. I just need to get through it. The thing is I’m a paradox and the thought of “normal” scares me too.

To keep in contact please feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Mask Anxiety

This is a tricky post to write as I’m sure I’m going to get very mixed responses. All I ask is that you be kind and respect others.

What I want to talk about comes in light of the new guidance on face masks and the rule in the UK that they are compulsory in shops except for those who are exempt from wearing them. The topic is the anxiety that comes with wearing a mask.

I know I’m not alone in having anxiety when wearing a mask. I’ve shared about this on Twitter and had responses from others who are having similar difficulties. There are many reasons for the anxiety I have with wearing a mask.

My first reason for anxiety is that I feel I’m suffocating in the mask. I know this is not the case but it is the feeling I get. I’ve always had difficulties with things around my face or neck. I can just about manage a loose scarf in winter and at school I cut the top buttons of my shirts so they couldn’t make me do them up. It feels almost like a form of claustrophobia. I feel trapped and like I can’t breathe even though I know it is not the case. This leads to panic which makes it harder still to breathe and a cycle is created.

Another reason for my anxiety with wearing a mask is other people’s behaviour. I have noticed that masks seem to make people feel they are invincible and less likely to social distance even though that is still necessary. As well as this people seem to struggle with using them correctly or fail to carry out other hygiene routines. This makes me feel that the risk is higher and I’m terrified of people I care about getting ill.

I understand the reasoning behind mask wearing and appreciate that it’s for everyone’s benefit but there are people who are exempt from wearing a mask and that includes people with mental illnesses especially anxiety. However I know people who are truly struggling with wearing a mask but are scared not to due to the comments people have been making about those who don’t wear them, calling them selfish. Until it was made compulsory I was not wearing a mask. I took all other precautions but I just couldnt bring myself to do it due to the above feelings. I read all the comments from others about how awful people who didn’t wear masks were and I felt awful about myself. The thing is although it seems selfish it’s actually self care and a benefit to others. If you have someone have panic attacks in shops that is not going to help the situation. As long as people are still taking precautions and using good hygiene practices they are not being selfish.

If you are in aa shop and see someone who is not wearing a mask, it is not your role to have a go at them or ask why they are not wearing one. Be kind. You do not know what they are going through. If you are struggling with wearing a mask please look after yourself. You are not selfish. Here is information about wearing face masks and there is a link on there to exemption card templates if you feel this would help you to have on you. This information is by the UK government.

Remember you are not alone. Take care. 💚

The Anxiety Of Leaving Lockdown

I know a lot of people have written about the easing of lockdown and the effect its having on their mental health. I can relate many times. But I wanted to get my own anxieties and thoughts out so here goes.

I know we need to ease the lockdown. I know there are benefits to it but I feel its happening so fast. Within a few weeks we’ve gone from only being allowed out once a day to people allowed in our homes and shops reopening. It feels like we’re not waiting to see the effect of one change before the next is brought in and that scares me.

I’m not scared of me getting coronavirus. If I get it, I get it. The fear is for other people. My mum, and to a lesser extent my Dad, have had to shield as they are in vulnerable groups. They could get really sick with the virus. It’s meant I’ve had to go into shops. It’s terrified me that I’m going to catch it and give it to them. I’ve been obsessive with hand washing and sanitiser. I’ve panicked if I’ve made one small error. Now it feels more risky than before and my anxiety of going into a shop is higher.

I want to protect my family but obviously they have their own minds and can do as they want to. I’ve tried so hard to resist panicking in front of them. I’ve tried my hardest not to get angry when I am scared they are putting themselves at risk. This is becoming harder as they are allowed to do more. How can I stop them when the government say its OK? Truth is I can’t. This feels so out of control and this leads to an increase in anxiety.

Another thing adding to the anxiety is that as things are eased people think it’s OK to break the rules more and more but they are doing it in bigger ways. This makes me scared for the people in my life too. My family are vulnerable. I don’t want to take risks but others don’t see the problem and even in shops get closer than they should. It’s scary.

Places are also getting busier which brings my normal anxiety into play. I hate busy places and crowded places. This meant the two metre rule for me was fantastic. I want to keep it forever. I’m now starting to be scared to go out again. I feel I’ve gone backwards in this area.

So those are a few of my worries. I’m sure you all have your own. I think I need to just focus on what I can control rather than what I can’t. If you have any tips or want to share your anxieties then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Keeping Busy At Home

Being trapped at home for whatever reason can take its toll on us mentally. Sometimes we need to think of things we can do in the house or garden that will help us mentally. It may not be specific to our mental health but something that will distract us from what’s keeping us at home. Here are a few ideas of mine. I will try to make a mix of things and include things that are cheap or free. Hope it helps some of you.

Self Care

1. A bath

A bath can help relax us. If we have some nice smelly stuff to put in it, all the better. Make the bathroom a relaxing room. You’re worth it.

2. Sit in the sun ☀

Yep, it may be a fleeting visit by the sun but getting the feel of it on your face will hopefully help. Even if you just sit on the doorstep for a few moments. Some kind of fresh air should be helpful.

3. Mindfulness

I know it’s a huge buzzword at the moment but it can help. And it doesn’t have to be all about the breathing or sitting quietly. It’s about being in the moment and concentrating on what you’re doing. Take those moments for yourself.

4. Some kind of exercise

I know it may be the last thing you want to do but getting our bodies moving, if we can, can help us feel better by releasing endorphins. It doesn’t need to be strenuous. Do what you feel capable of doing and that’s enjoyable.

5. Contact someone

Keep talking, messaging, whatsapping or whatever it is the youngsters are doing these days (yep being 30 I’m no longer cool 😎). It’s isolating enough being stuck at home so help each other by keeping in contact. There are also professional services you can contact too.

Distractions

1. Drawing

This has become my new past time. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just doodle if it helps.

2. Pick up an old past time

If there’s something you used to do that you’ve lost touch with why not restart it. Mine has been drawing. And I have a few others I’m going to try.

3. Lego

I’m a huge advocate of the power of Lego. It’s something I love. It’s not just for the children. Enjoy!

4. Make something

Big or small. Creating can be cool. It doesn’t have to be art. I’ve seen instructions for making a cardboard dome which looks awesome. Click here for the dome! I also put together something I’ve been meaning to do for over a year.

5. Watch a film or favourite TV show

Something less taxing and maybe more relaxing. It can be a real distraction. A Netflix binge is totally appropriate too. Go for it.

Other stuff

1. Music

Listen or make. Just go for it. I’m sure your neighbours will appreciate it 😜.

2. Do a job you’ve been meaning to do

It seems a good time to catch up on those jobs that we mean to do but are always to busy to do. Or don’t. No pressure.

3. Write some letters

Let people know they’re thought of. Or write letters to yourself.

4. Start your own blog, YouTube channel or website

Take a dive into the world of the Internet. Show people what you like. Create content for others to enjoy. Do you!

I am sure you have many more ideas than I do but I hope there is something that you can do. It’s a tough time being stuck inside. But you are tough to. Feel free to share ideas and connect in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Summer Self Care

As I write this it is the hottest day of the year. The temperature is close to 37°C and I’m melting, the dog is melting, the cats are melting, everyone is melting. So I thought I’d put together some ideas for summer self care.

1. Sunscreen

With the sun boiling us, it is important we make sure to use sunscreen. Sounds obvious I know but it is something I often forget. This can be catastrophic for me as the medications I’m on mean I’m sensitive to sunlight and burn easier. It is quite common with medication for mental illness and we’re not always told about it. And if you’re hopping outside then maybe add a hat and some cool shades 😎. (Yes I’m aware I sound like an old person trying to be cool, look what turning 30 does to you).

2. Keep hydrated

Again sounds obvious but is another one I fail massively on. I’ve never been good at drinking plenty and I’ve paid for it with kidney problems. It’s something my mum nags me about regularly. Drinking will help our head too. It means we can concentrate better and feel better in ourselves. Obviously water is the best thing to drink but really as long as you’re putting fluid on your body it doesn’t matter. An ice lolly is also a great way to hydrate.

3. Staying inside

OK, bear with me on this. I know I advocate getting out as much as possible but when it’s super hot it can be safer to stay inside. So don’t feel you have to go out in the sunshine. If it’s safer stay inside with the fan on.

4. Get outside

Yep I know I just said stay inside but I want to cover the whole summer not just the hottest day of the year. When the weather allows try and get some time outside. Being among nature especially can be beneficial. Or going for a walk is great self care too. Obviously it’s all about being sensible. Also if it’s summer rain soak up the smell after, it’s one of my favourite smells.

5. Read

If you’ve got the concentration, reading can be great self care. In the summer it is nice if you can find somewhere to chill with a book, be it the garden, park or beach. And if going outside isn’t your thing then it’s the perfect activity to do indoors.

6. Get out the pool

Having a puppy has revolutionised summer. We now have a paddling pool “for the dog” but it’s also lovely to dip your toes in. So why wait for the excuse of having a dog or child to put a pool out and have a paddle. Also if you’re feeling particularly energetic (so not me) then why not go swimming (obviously in a swimming pool rather than a paddling pool).

7. Gardening

I’m not the greatest fan of plants. Having hayfever seems to of turned me against them. But this year at the group I attend we planted flowers and tomato plants and I’ve really enjoyed watching them grow. It’s also given me a sense of achievement. There are many studies exploring the impact of gardening on mental health, all positive. My favourite are sunflowers🌻.

8. Take a shower

In the heat there is nothing better than getting under the shower. It is a really good bit of self care too. Even a wash is good. And you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.

9. Do the little things

Finally, while it’s hot it can be hard to get the motivation to do things but if we can keep doing the little things like taking our medication then that is what’s important. Break down tasks into smaller bits to make them more manageable. Little steps lead to bigger things.

Those are just a few ideas for summer self care. If you have your own feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

1000 Days Of Self Care

As many of you know, especially if you follow me on Twitter, I have been doing the #365daysofselfcare challenge created by The Blurt Foundation. This involves trying to do some form of self care each day. Recently I managed to reach 1000 days. Therefore I thought I’d reflect a little and discuss self care again.

First of all let’s totally go over the point that self care isn’t selfish. It is the act of looking after and treating yourself with respect. People may interpret it as looking out for number one but really it’s bigger than that. By treating yourself with kindness you are helping those that you care about too. In order to be the most effective friend, parent, son, daughter, carer or partner you need to be in a fit state yourself. Self care is important.

Why did I take up the challenge?

The reason I started #365daysofselfcare was because I knew things needed to change. Mentally and physically I was a mess and I had no respect for myself. I felt worthless. Then I saw that The Blurt Foundation had started this challenge. I’d never really considered self care before; why would I when I felt so rubbish about myself? I decided to read about it and discovered it didn’t have to be big gestures but instead could be simple things that meant I was looking after myself. I thought I’d give it a go, after all what harm could it do?

What do I do for self care?

As I’ve already said self care isn’t all about spa days or trips to the cinema (although they obviously do count as self care and are great if you can do them). Sometimes self care is a nap, getting dressed, having a shower, clean pyjamas or just eating and drinking. It might sound boring but self care doesn’t have to be exciting. It’s just important that you are looking after you.

What’s been tough?

Doing some form of self care every day is not always easy. To begin with it was really strange deliberately doing something each day to look after myself. It was a totally alien concept and I felt like I didn’t deserve to look after myself (and quite often I still feel this way). There were many days where I didn’t feel I had done anything that constituted self care. I learnt though through talking to others that I was actually engaging in self care without realising it. Doing it as part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge actually made it easier, especially at the beginning, as I felt I was doing it for other people rather than me which spurred me on when I felt worthless. Also having the support of The Blurt Foundation team, as well as other people taking part, made things easier too.

Overall I would highly recommend trying to incorporate some form of self care into each day. It helps me be a little more respectful of myself. It makes it easier for me to be there for others and feel less of a hypocrite when telling others to look after themselves. Even if you just start small it is just as important as the big things, maybe more so.

If you want more info on self care you can check out my blogs on the subject here or check out this information from The Blurt Foundation. A very big thank you to Jayne Hardy and the whole The Blurt Foundation team. If you want to follow me on the #365daysofselfcare challenge then head over to my Twitter. You can also keep connected on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks to Jayne Hardy and The Blurt team for the pin.

Come Outside

If you’re an adult of a certain age in the UK you will remember a programme called Come Outside, which had a lady going on adventures in an aeroplane with her dog Pippin (not an animation, a real woman, plane and dog!). It was prime viewing if you were off school sick. You may be wondering why I bring this up but I’ve realised something lately: being outside is good for my mental health and so I should of taken Auntie Mabel’s advice a long time ago and gone outside.

There are a number of reasons I found going outside difficult. Sometimes even my own back garden felt off limits. My anxiety around being in public places was the worst part. I found going out alone difficult and things got gradually worse until I couldn’t use public transport (my only means of transport at the time) or be alone outside the house apart from attending my medical appointments and even then I needed music to cope. The idea of going for a walk was horrifying. At one point agoraphobia was added to my diagnosis.

The thing is, with some changes that have enabled me to get outside more often, I have realised that being outside actually aids my mental health. I’m very lucky to live in a house with a back garden. Although at times it has been hard to get into it, I’m glad I managed to work through it to get out there. I now hate it when it rains as it doesn’t feel pleasant going into the garden and I can’t sit out there. I’m no gardener but I do find mowing the grass therapeutic. I put my music on and enjoy seeing the finished lawn with its lines (is it even a lawn if it doesn’t have lines?).

So what got me into the garden? The answer: Guinea Pigs. I got myself two Guinea Pigs. And due to my mum’s stance that she wasn’t having them in the house they lived in the garden (in the shed or garage in the winter). This meant I had to go outside every day to them. At first it was really tough. I’m not the greatest with dirt and it was an adjustment to dealing with it every day. But I loved my boys so much that the challenges were fighting through.

The problem was though that they didn’t get me away from home on my own. This was something that got harder and harder. Things went even further back when my Guinea Pigs passed away. Going outside got harder again. Then I started slowly in the summer trying to sit and read out in the garden. This slowly got easier, especially without the dirt aspect and having my cats sit with me helped. But again I wasn’t really leaving home alone apart from attending medical appointments and I had started to go to a group at my local Mind which had been recommended by my psychiatrist. Public transport was a definite no and walking alone was also something I didn’t feel I could do.

The biggest change for me came with another new addition to the family: a puppy. Suddenly I had a little thing that needed me to go out. To begin with it was a case of going out with someone else to walk him, but this was still progress, I was out walking. As he got older I felt more confident taking him out on my own. I didn’t feel alone as he was with me and he’d shown he was protective of me. He made my confidence grow. We also took him to puppy school. Again, to begin with, I couldn’t go on my own. It was hard coping with new people but he was my focus in the classes so that helped.

Now I walk him regularly on my own and enjoy it instead of constantly being anxious. Don’t get me wrong I still get anxious at times going out with him. Also in puppy school I now take him inside alone (my dad waits outside). I’ve also started doing some voluntary work which involves going into new situations on my own regularly. Without my puppy I couldn’t of done it. Without going outside I couldn’t of done it. Not everything is perfect. I still can’t use public transport or go to busy places alone but I’m making progress.

So what are the benefits of going outside? There are many benefits to mental health as well as physical health. These include:

  • Stress relief
  • Increased concenteation
  • Better short term memory
  • Restored mental energy
  • Sharper thinking and creativity

Getting outside makes me feel more able to deal with things and to even escape my thoughts for a while.

So even if it’s just sitting outside for 5 minutes or standing in your doorway, getting outside can help. Take slow steps to get there. Don’t over do it. And don’t punish yourself if you can’t do it straight away. For more information on going outside check out these links on the Mind website which detail different aspects on getting outside.

If you have any advice please feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.