Sometimes you have to ride the storm

The other night I was tired and stressed.

And that was all the excuse my anxiety needed. The first ‘signal’ that anxiety had come knocking. I felt bad about myself. My vanity kicked up a gear, or insecurity anyway.

I become super vain at times like these, and stare at myself in the mirror, wishing I could change one thing or another about how I look.

But although I felt this stuff that night, this time, I told myself not look at the mirror. Instead, I told myself that if I went to sleep and got a good rest, the next day would be a new day … and mentally, I would most probably feel better about myself.

I knew that what I perceived on the outside of myself, was because of the anxiety I had on the inside.

I had to ride the storm.

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Many people who suffer mental illness experience highs and lows. Depending on the illness, some more than others. But generally there is a common feeling during the lows – that you’ll never come out of it.

Desperation, despondency and depression … they’re all part of the storm.

A storm no one else, not even loved ones, can seem to breach. A storm that blocks out their words of reason. A storm that hampers your ability to hear normal conversations in the same way. A storm that wants to drag you down into it, to behave the same way you always behave in the storm.

So if you experience that, I know it’s not easy, but you have to trust that you’ll come out of it. For me, it meant going to sleep and hoping that I would wake up in a different frame of mind. But I know, it’s not always that simple. And if you suffer from say depression, well that storm can continue for days weeks or months.

But the only way you can handle it is to face it, and not let yourself get drawn in. To distract yourself. To listen to a song. To ask a friend to drive you around for a bit. Or maybe just bake something.

I’ll admit that I fail sometimes. Often. I look at the mirror and hate what I see. But I know, that I have done this before. That I came through it and felt better.

So fuck the storm. You WILL get through. Just trust.

Alexa, Open Warp Core

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Okay so I’m a bit of a sci fi nerd, so this impressed me on more than one level.

And also I realise that not everyone approves of, or wants to listen to, anything about Alexa.

But regardless, there’s a new feature where you simply say “Alex, Open Warp Core” and it will play ambient warp core sounds.

For me, this is fantastic as I’m constantly looking for ambient sounds to either meditate to or work to. It’s truly just white sound. The kind that would put babies to sleep. Which makes me a giant man baby who can’t chill unless I hear white noise. But I don’t care. It’s so chill!

There’s also a YouTube version if you don’t want to get an Amazon-sponsored listening device in your room.

Go here or here for the 24 hour version.

Dreams can be arseholes.

Getting sleep is very important for your mental wellbeing for several reasons.

Obviously it’s a time for your body to mend, recuperate and that feeds into your wellbeing.

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Zzzzzz

But there are other aspects. Not least, dreaming is the time where your brain processes stuff that has happened to you during the day. It’s a time for sorting through all the conscious and unconscious thoughts you’ve had, and making sense of them all. Sometimes it connects those thoughts in weird ways, which is why you end up not wearing pants on the bus in your dream, or trying to fly away from a monster.

But here’s the thing, as your mind sifts through all that day’s shit, it means that any anxieties you also experienced, come to the fore.

Like last night – I dreamt that several people who I used to compete with at work were loads more successful than me. Which is in part true, lol. But the dream took it to the next level with a grand award ceremony that saw me winning fuck all, and them winning everything.
It didn’t help that my dream had invited all my loved ones to see how shit I had done, either.

Then I woke up during the night and had a semi panic attack. Which was fun.

What is my point? That sometimes your mind works stuff out, but sometimes it’s also an arsehole, dredging up insecurities or old negative core thoughts.

The important thing is to have coping mechanisms so if you do wake up, you can distract yourself enough to think of something else. My coping mechanism is to go on Reddit and watch gifs of people getting knocked over by dogs (reddit.com/r/Dogberg) but that’s just me.

Sweet #dreams!

If I Have to Hear Another

If I have to hear another “This year hasn’t been easy for any of us” in a radio ad.

LIKE, DURH?!?

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We’ve been here, in our houses as our jobs disappeared. We’ve seen relatives get sick. We’ve cared for neighbours. We’ve watched politicians politicise everything. We’ve watched them give money we need to their mates. We’ve seen NHS heroes exhausted, shell shocked and STILL under supported.

We know it’s been a bloody hard year!

But it’s also been a year that has taught us about being close to our families. And to be grateful for what we have.

Because life gets dark sometimes, but there is always light if you look for it.

But for christmas-bloody-sake, stop harping on about “This year hasn’t been easy” you carbon copywriting twats!

I’m going to London on Monday

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oh what tier are we in here

Maybe after months and months and bloody months of being indoors and only going out to go to the local shop or to my kids school and pretty much nowhere else, I’ve been institutionalised, so much so that the thought of going to London is weird as fuck.

I’m actually going tomorrow, to a private venue where I will meet my new workmates and also have Christmas drinks with them, and as there are only a few it’s not a big deal.

But it still causes me a lot of anxiety. Because London is almost in Tier 3 lockdown, and I’m not sure why we are doing this while Covid is on the increase again.

But I agreed to it a week or so ago and I’m going to follow through.

And the only way to deal with it is to get all my clothes ready, work out the trains and tell my brain to calm down and shut the fuck up.

Because it’ll be fine, it’ll all be fine (unless someone has Covid), and it’s just my monkey brain again getting bored because of staying in a lot and making things up.

Wish me luck.

Sorry for the neglect <3

I can’t believe it has been two weeks?!

How are you dear reader? I hope you are doing good.

I’ve been so busy getting as much freelance as I can on the run up to Christmas. I’ve hardly had time to think about anxiety which I suppose has been a blessing.

Once I was told “There’s a thin line between anxiety and excitement, so why not choose excitement?” which sometimes is a nice way to break yourself out of things. And I’m one of those annoying people that LOVE Christmas so I can’t help but get excited at this time of the year.

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I think another reason I am feeling okay at the moment is actually being too busy to get caught up in the news. What a massive neg-party it has been this year. If they aren’t reporting on Covid, they’re reporting on another business going bust, or the impending doom of Brexit. So I find it helps to turn off the news for a few days and detox from all that doom casting.

Anyway, I promise not to leave it so long until my next post. Speak soon!

Anxiety is like an episode of Eastenders.

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This is one of those posts where I comment on anxiety, not from the perspective of a learned student of psychology, but more from personal experience.

If you’ve ever watched Eastenders, or any stormy soap opera for that matter, you’ll be aware that the writers of the show like playing with you, like someone with a ball of yarn plays with their cat (yes I realise this is an analogy within an analogy, deal with it!).

You are constantly made to jump from good things that happen to bad things that happen. It’s like a rollercoaster sometimes, where they are all celebrating in the Queen Vic pub in one scene and you just know (oh shit…) that there’s something terrible about to happen around the corner.

When you are experiencing anxiety, this is all too familiar a feeling.

You are in a group of friends, and are having the time of your life. And yet something is at the back of your mind, almost an inner killjoy that says “Well, things are going real well. But we know life, don’t we. And you better be ready because something is going to spoil the party.”

I hate that voice. It’s the stupid chattering monkey voice I mentioned in another post. It’s our job to tell it to shut the f*ck up sometimes.

Because we’re not Grant Michell, living in an episode of Eastenders. We’re a normal human being.

There are no writers behind your life. (Well, unless you live in the Truman Show) You don’t have to be so afraid. Things CAN GO WELL sometimes. And like a wise woman once told me, there’s a fine line between anxiety, and actually being excited about life.

So go on, be excited. It’s all good. And if it’s not, it will be. Because writers have to write good scenes too.

Turn off Anxiety’s Background Refresh

If your mind was the operating system of a phone, your anxiety would be like the worst app ever. Constantly draining its battery with annoying notifications, using up valuable processing power, and distracting your mind from more important tasks. 

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To continue this probably painful analogy, if you’re an anxiety sufferer you have to remember to go back to your settings and turn off your anxiety background app refresh setting.

“Oh, but that’s easier said than done Matt”, I hear you say.

Well, let’s look at the alternative. You ignore this particularly shit background refresh, and it doesn’t go away. In fact, it just gets more insistent, until it really ruins all your other app functions.

The app for concentrating on work.
The app for being present with your family.
The app for remembering to call your dry cleaner.
The app for getting all those little extra things done like walking the hound.

All the while, the app for bloody anxiety is nudging in, taking up much needed battery.

So check in with yourself. Acknowledge your anxiety. Then move on. You may not solve it while you are busy, but just being aware that it is running in the background, is enough to give it less power.

Aaaaarrrrghhhh do something!!!!!

Recently I’ve been thinking about how great anxiety is at ruining a potentially peaceful state of mind and making you feel like shit, and why that is.

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I think in part, it’s down to anxiety being linked with a ‘fight or flight’ response.

Think about it. If you’re in a fight or flight situation, your brain is dealing in absolutes. It is latching onto anything that might be a threat, that it then has to get away from. It’s ACTIVELY looking for threats… or in daily life, potential negative events.

While that is happening, the other part of your brain …. your true, more logical self … has to deal with all its focus being shoved towards the ‘what ifs’ … the stuff that your fight or flight part of the brain is shouting about.

You need to break the loop.

If you force yourself, even for a few minutes, to step away and realise what your brain is doing, you can stop the fight or flight automatic response in its tracks.

The way I do it is to think about something nice that I can reward myself with later on in the day. Like a Netflix special, or maybe a super indulgent snack.

Suddenly it’s like my brain says “oh yeah, that stuff I was worrying about is silly” because I’ve ignored it.

Meditation is also good. Visualise a stream with all those worries and problems floating down it. Then just let them go.

However you do it, you need to zig when your anxiety is telling you to zag.

The Endlessly Chattering Monkey Voice

One of the topics covered by a book I’m reading at the moment (see my last post) is something related to mindfulness.

Essentially it talks about the premise that every person has a ‘continuous chattering voice’ that has always been there, and is constantly commenting on their current situation or life, often negatively.

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It won’t shut up, and is invariably wild in its musings. It might comment that someone doesn’t like you, or you’ll never get to the end of your run because you are tired, or that you are going to screw up your school play.

However there is another layer to your being. The quiet observer. And it’s this real you that so often goes unobserved.

If you think about it, you’ll realise that this quiet observer is actually your ‘true’ self. And the endlessly chattering monkey voice isn’t.

Let me give you an example.

Today I was sat at home, trying to handle all my life admin. And I was getting stressed.

At some point I thought “hang on, I need to listen to what’s going on here” and all at once, I realise my chattering monkey voice had been telling me that I wasn’t going to handle my admin stuff and that it was all too much. But as soon as I noticed it (and the fact that I had been reacting to it), it was like I had shone a torch on my naughty anxiety voice. And all at once, it died down. I literally felt my body relax.

So just be aware, and mindful, of the fact that there is this chattering monkey voice inside you, and sometimes it really isn’t in your best interests to listen!