Monthly Archives: June 2015

Love – Daily affirmations

June 30, 2015

 

Affirmations june 2015

Do you find yourself playing a negative self talk record to yourself on a daily basis? Do you relate to thoughts such as ‘I’m so useless’ ‘I’m so fat’ ‘I’m so stupid’ ‘I wish I could achieve more’. If you do, then you’re not alone. I think most of the population can relate.

In today’s society where media and social media show us images of what perfection is supposed to look like, most if us feel we don’t meet the bar, that we can’t compare and we don’t come up to standard. That our bodies, our lives, our families are just not what they ‘should’ be.

The habit of negative self-talk is predominantly worse in females than it is males. There is no evidence as to why this is. It just is. Us women are pretty hard on ourselves and rarely give ourselves a break or a pat on the back for all that we DO achieve and all that we ARE.

Most of us have a constant record playing. Usually of negative and cruel jibes about ourselves.

If you really look at this habit we have got into, you would say – why do we talk to ourselves in this way? I often think to myself. Would I say these things, that I say to myself, to a good friend? Never! I would never be so cruel. But somehow it’s OK to say it to ourselves.

So again, on my quest for enlightenment, another tool I have learnt is daily affirmations.

Affirmations are about affirming strong statements and beliefs about yourself to yourself. And repeating them so often that you start to believe them. The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, originally meaning “to make steady, strengthen.” They say that you are what you think. So if you start to think good thoughts about yourself, good things will happen. You can literally rewire your brain. Exercising it to think only good thoughts and changing your opinion of yourself in a radical way.

If we are what we think, then it’s so important to be watchful of your self-talk. Negative thoughts create negative feelings and negative outcomes. So switching the thoughts to strong, powerful and loving thoughts, can have a huge impact on you and your life. The art of speaking what we want, is key in seeing it happen.

There are a million affirmations to choose from. A few examples are:

  • My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil.
  • I am smart, I am kind, I am beautiful, and I am important.
  • I am loving and I am loved.
  • I am strong, I am brave, I am blessed.

Others can be more specific. If there is an area of your life that you feel is lacking then you can concentrate the affirmation towards that. This literally projects what you want, instead of constantly vocalising what you don’t want. For example, if you are single, you can affirm something like: ‘ I am happy and loved where I am, the right relationship is coming to me at the right time’.

You can find any words that really resonate with you. If there are certain areas of your life where you lack confidence or you feel you don’t meet your own high standards then create an affirmation that is simple, that you will remember and repeat it to yourself all day every day and whenever you remember.

This life changing skill, will bring such peace and love to your life. You will start to see who you really are, that you are amazing, and skilled and beautiful. Instead of always having such a downer on yourself,

Along the same lines is mirror image work. You look at yourself in the mirror. Really look into your own eyes and say ‘I love you’. You have to feel it and you have to mean it. This is a tough one. When I first started it I found it really difficult and embarrassing! I certainly didn’t believe it at first. But I’ve kept at it. And although I doubt i’ll ever be a complete self lover. I do love myself more than ever before.

We only have one life. Wasting your time saying awful things to yourself is basically ridiculous. But we are all guilty of it.

So from now on try and say your affirmation to yourself as often as you can. Write the affirmation on a sticky note and stick them everywhere! In the bathroom, in the kitchen, in the car and at your desk. Create an affirmation board that you can keep in a place that you spend the most time. Really affirm to yourself how amazing you are!

Remember, always, how truly wonderful and special you are. Honor this uniqueness by saying loving things to yourself.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you have dealt with a lot of mental and physical pain. So to me you are a warrior. Remember it and say it out loud! Over, and over again.

Onwards and upwards my loves, Kiki xo

Students – Mental health illness

June 22, 2015

students priory image jun 2015

Dealing with mental health problems is a living nightmare. Period. Dealing with mental health problems whilst going through your adolescence and late teens is basically horrendous.

You may have read in my first piece ‘Where have I gone?’ that I struggled to continue studying when my mental health took a turn for the worst. It changed the whole course of my life. So I am hugely passionate about how dealing with mental health at a young age is so important.

At this most crucial time in your life, when you are developing all your confidence and esteem to take you forward in life, it seems so unfair to have to deal with the hell of mental health illness. If you are thrown a curve ball and find that you are anxious or depressed or dealing with any other mental health condition, then life takes on a whole new direction.

I was fortunate that my mental health problems started after high school. Relief? You could say that. But then they came full force when I went away to university at 19.

Becoming a university student had been my dream. All my young life. I looked forward to attaining my degree and going on to a full and notable career in business. But it seems the God’s had other ideas for me.

I lost my grandmother suddenly in the summer of 1993. I was not prepared for how this would affect me. University was looming. I had made a years worth of plans to relocate to Southampton, to study a BA Hons in Business and live with my fellow peers from sixth form. It was literally a dream come true.

I moved in September 1993. With hope and excitement? No. I could not understand why but I just didn’t feel right. I had been so excited. But now, I was afraid. We moved into our rented student house. I enrolled on my course and attended a few lectures. But all the while, I was crying myself to sleep every night. I had no idea why. I could not concentrate, I could not sleep, I didn’t want to eat. My head was full of thoughts. I was in mental pain. I said nothing to anyone. Most evenings were spent being miserable around the house or walking to the phone box to call home.

When I look back now, my depression was starting. But I had no idea that that was what was wrong. I tried to socialise as much as possible, and I went to the Student Union bar maybe twice. I remember all my peers literally lapping up the experience. Loving every minute. So why didn’t I? Why did I want to go home so badly? I just wanted to be safe. To be with my family.

Now you have to be clear that this was a complete personality shift for me. I had always been bright, energetic, outgoing, sociable and fun. I had been so excited for the next chapter of my life. But something had changed.

We are talking 20 years ago now and mental health then was even more stigmatised than it is now. People didn’t talk about mental health. I had not had one conversation about mental health. With anyone. Ever! So how was I to know I was on the beginning of a very slippery slope.

I started to avoid lectures. I avoided my friends and spent a lot of time in my room. To be honest with you I put it down to homesickness. I went home every other weekend until finally near Christmas that year I told my parents that I was unhappy and I wanted to move back home. So I did.

Looking back, it was all a bit of a blur really. There was no support out there. We didn’t have counsellors or tutors that we could talk to. My mental health had taken a severe turn for the worse, but I had no idea. This turn had left me leaving behind my dream of a university degree and of leaving home. Never mind my dreams of a career and a successful future.

To know that today, twenty years on, students still feel the same is unbelievable to me. Surely everyone is more aware of mental health in the year 2015? It seems not. The Priory Group has recently undertaken a study of university students with mental health illness. Their work is revealing that there is still so much stigma attached to mental health problems with students. It appears that this stigma comes primarily from their peers, but also from university staff. An overwhelming 85% of students surveyed felt that mental health still had stigma attached to it. A further six out of 10 students admitted to not believing their peers if they said they had a mental health problem. The Priory Group found that nine out of 10 students felt that further training and education was needed for both students AND staff.

So you could ask yourself. If I had gone to my university tutor twenty years ago, and said I was struggling mentally, what reaction would I have had? A negative one in all likelihood. Particularly if twenty years on there is still so little understanding and support.

It’s too easy to put the blame on being homesick or moody. What is really happening is that this is a most critical period in a young person’s life. They maybe under real pressure for the first time in their young lives. Everything is changing; where they live, meeting new people, academic pressures. Yes there will be moments when they are homesick, but there is a whole other level, when a student is depressed or anxious or suffering any way mentally, and this needs to be addressed. Support is needed then more than ever.

I cannot imagine what it is like to be in the midst of a breakdown, whilst you are trying to study. I was lucky that my breakdown came a year later. I do not want to think how hard that would have been to explain to my peers and tutors.

There is a happy ending to my story. Five years later, having recovered from my breakdown, I went back to university as a mature student and studied for a law degree. And I succeeded. Finally the dreams came true. But even then, under intense pressure of exams and assignments, there were moments where I wobbled. I was blessed and most fortunate to have made the best friends early on. One in particular suffered similar mental health problems as me and we became life long friends.

Sitting here fifteen years on, I’m not sure how I would have managed to get a degree if I had been in the blows of an episode. In all honesty, I doubt whether I would have succeeded as I did.

I can tell you, that there was no information, no support,  no network that dealt with mental health back in those days. Students were all there to have a good time and study (sometimes?)

It is so, so important that educators and students are made aware of mental health. It is as equally importantly as physical disability. They should be trained in recognising early signs. It is the most important time in a young person’s life and they should have every possible chance of succeeding at life. They should be able to reach their potential and attain their dreams. I am evidence that with the right support, medication and lifestyle changes, you can attain your dreams. But not everyone is as lucky as me.

Working to remove the stigma attached to mental health has been a twenty-year long work in progress for me. It is vitally important that so-called ‘normal’ individuals understand that mental health problems can happen to anyone. At any time in their life. It could be you. Or it could be your child. Talk about mental health and educate people wherever you can that it does not make you a scary person. In fact it is normally quite the opposite.

For those students experiencing mental health illness I take my hat off to you. Genuinely. I hope you get the support you need and you ‘make it!’ For those parents out there, please educate yourself in the basics of mental health illness and be aware of the signs. Then support your child in every possible way throughout their years of education.

For educators, please acknowledge that mental health illness is more prevalent then ever and your students need your understanding. Take a stand. Be the person who makes a difference to your students. Make changes in the processes and support networks and above all, please do not treat these students differently. They are the same as you. Mental health illness is no different to physical health problems.

Together we can address the ongoing stigma attached to mental health illness. The Priory Group do amazing work every day treating all aspects of mental health and working to influence mental health policy.

Students, whether high school or university, need to be supported. Education is everything as far as I am concerned. So to be struggling mentally at this time in your life really is the biggest test that most people won’t understand. I have so much admiration for anyone struggling in this way.

Here’s to change in the future and any advances in improving mental health services and support, particularly for students. These students will go on to learn, work and contribute to society in ways that they and us, cannot even imagine right now. Let’s support them in any way we can.

About Priory Group

Priory Group is the leading integrated provider of specialist mental health, education and care in the UK, running the largest network of mental healthcare hospitals and clinics in the country. It provides treatments for addictions and conditions including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, self-harming, and eating disorders. It also supports people with learning disabilities, autism and Asperger’s. Priory Group consists of Priory Healthcare, Priory Education Services, Amore Care and Craegmoor. Priory Healthcare runs 35 Priory hospitals across the UK, treating more than 30,000 patients a year, with 85% of its services publicly funded. Priory Education Services manage 26 schools and colleges, providing education for more than 1,000 pupils with challenging emotional and behavioural difficulties including autism and Asperger’s, working alongside Craegmoor.

 

Fibro/M.E./C.F.S – Relief

June 9, 2015

relief from pain

Living with constant pain and fatigue is literally exhausting. There is little or no let up. I have learnt over time that my stamina is almost zero if I am pushed to a full day of activity. My ability to do the most simple tasks is almost impossible on bad days.

It wasn’t always this way. I have always been a high energy person and my mind has always been busy. And until three years ago my body kept up. To a point. I had a busy social calendar and worked full time. But things changed and I have had to reassess my life and adjust according to my bodies needs.

As I have got older the fatigue is definitely getting worse. It’s a feeling of constant flu, my heart rate drops and there is weakness in my limbs. I sweat profusely and breathing becomes a problem. Walking is hard. Carrying shopping bags is enough to leave me having to lie down.

ME or chronic fatigue syndrome is an auto immune disease. The adrenal system is exhausted and even the smallest stress on the body or mind leaves you with no energy and a need to rest. My ME was brought on by glandular fever or the Epstein Barr virus. My system has never recovered even 20 years on.

When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well as the chronic fatigue, life took another turn again. Pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons leaves you with a constant feeling of toothache all over the body. It’s hard to get comfortable, it’s hard to relax and sleep does not rejuvenate you.

But in my ongoing quest to get better and live a life that is moderately full, there are a number of things I have changed that I believe have made a notable difference. There are still restrictions on me. I have given up work and my social life is nothing compared to five years ago. Traveling is virtually impossible right now and even just a full day of house work and shopping can leave me needing rest for a few days. But on the whole I am much improved compared to even six months ago. Here are my tips for relief:

Pacing

Pacing was the key advice that I took away from the pain management course that I attended through the NHS. It basically means that you have to be aware of your limits. It means that whether you’re having a good day or a bad day you should maintain a steady level of activity. Still being active on bad days but not pushing too hard. And on good days not doing too much because you are so excited to feel well. You also should allow yourself time to prepare for events and rest after.

Learning to understand your body as it is right now is key. You must know your limitations. It’s so very hard to say no to things and often you feel you should be saying yes. But pacing what you do is essential to getting enjoyment in the smallest of things. If you blow out occasionally that’s OK too. But accept you will pay for it for a few days.

Rest

This may seem obvious, but sometimes its the obvious that is avoided. Particularly if you have a hectic and busy life with many responsibilities. But scheduling rest into your day is essential. If you do not rest when your body craves it, then you will burn out for sure. You are no good to anyone if you burn out. So try to prioritise yourself too. Even if its 20 minutes at lunch time or in the afternoon. If you can just switch off your brain and relax your body for a short time, you are giving your system a chance.

Anti-inflammatory juice daily

When the pain was really bad I took to some research. I have dabbled with different diets over the years. I found that certain changes to my diet definitely made me feel more energised and reduced the pain.

Every morning I make a fresh juice/smoothie. There are several key ingredients that help with inflammation reduction and also boost immunity. Ginger is the most important for inflammation, together with blueberries, leafy greens and flax seeds for immunity. The recipe is:

  • 1 cup of mixed frozen berries including blueberries
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger chopped
  • 1 green apple leave skin on
  • Handful of kale or spinach
  • 3 tbsp of natural live yogurt
  • Tsp cinnamon
  • Tsp flax seeds
  • Honey to sweeten if necessary
  • Cup of water

Blitz together and drink as soon as possible. The nutritional value drops the longer you leave to drink it. I use a Nutribullet but a standard blender will do a similar job.

Moderate exercise

Exercising is the last thing you feel like when you are in pain or fatigued. But there are proven benefits to exercising moderately when you have chronic illness. It produces happy hormones and reduces stress in the body. So even if its going for a short walk, an easy swim or stretching, anything is better than nothing.

I am now doing gentle yoga every other day. I find that foremost it relaxes me. But I feel a sense well-being afterwards too. I ached a bit for the first few days, but now I look forward to it. Finding something you enjoy is key. Anything that exhausts you or you find a chore, will do nothing for your spirit. So try something that is calming. Tai Chi is also supposed to be very good and very gentle.

Cutting out sugar

Sugar is poison to anyone with an inflammatory or auto immune disease. It gives no nutritional value at all. In large amounts it is found to cause diabetes and other chronic health conditions.

If you can then start to cut it out of your diet. If you have to do it bit by but that’s fine. But make it your aim.

Cutting out gluten

This is relatively new to me. But I am already seeing benefits. My digestive system is much calmer. I’m not bloated and I don’t retain so much water.

Gluten irritates the system and causes inflammation. So switching to gluten free products will help reduce pain and fatigue.

Dietary supplements

Please read my post on nutritional supplements.

Epsom salt baths

This is an age old remedy but bit works. Epsom salts are magnesium so help to ease the pain in joints and muscles. Add a cup of salts to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes. You can usually pick these up in your local chemist.

Ibuprofen gel

If you have specific pain in any area of the body then using a gel instead of a oral tablet can help to direct the pain relief. If you have problems in the lower back, neck or shoulders, then massaging ibuprofen gel into the affected area gives a direct hit of relief.

Arnica oil

Arnica oil is a plant oil that you can use for massage into tired and painful muscles. The oil warms, soothes and tones and brings a welcome relief. Ask your partner or friend to massage into the body, focusing on the worst areas. I use Weleda Natural Arnica Massage Oil.

Dealing with stress in your life

You may not realise it but if you have ongoing stress in your life, this will not help your pain and fatigue. Stress is directly linked to your body and the immune system. Without addressing stress, the pain may continue. Look to reduce any stress factors wherever you can. Some levels of stress in life are standard and we cannot do anything about them. But there are other stresses that we can control. Aim to reduce these stressors wherever you can and pain will improve.

Addressing any mental health issues that drain on your energy.

Living with constant pain and fatigue certainly gets you down. Depression and anxiety are often linked to both fibromyalgia and ME. For me the mental health illness came first. But as the ME and fibromyalgia got worse I definitely started to feel that my mental health was having a direct impact on my body. I know that when I am low or anxious, my pain and fatigue are so much worse. So if you do think you may be depressed or anxious then addressing these issues as a separate health problem may bring you relief in your physical body. All the pain and fatigue may improve slightly as your mental spirit brightens.

Sports deep tissue massage

I was introduced to this following a counselling session of all things. My therapist noticed how far up my shoulders were. They were around my ears! And this is because there was so much tension in my body. My body and spirit were drained. He recommended a deep tissue massage to relieve toxins.

I did some research and a sports massage therapist was recommended to me. He came to the house and I explained my situation and the conditions I suffer with. He had done some research. We worked on the most important areas at first, which for me were my back, neck and shoulders. Later we moved to legs.

I have to tell you right now, it hurt! A lot! But in a strange way there was relief in the pummeling of the tight muscles and afterwards there was such warmth and comfort. I ached a bit the following day but I drank lots of water, as he had recommended and all in all I felt better. I continued with the massages for some time until things improved.

Now, if the tension builds I go for a massage and work out the tension. It may not be for everyone, but if you feel you can face the initial pain, then you may get relief in the long run.

Sleep Aids

Good quality sleep is so very, very important. For everyone. But even more so when you have a chronic illness. And ironically its one of the first things to go and become a problem. Pain makes getting relaxed and comfortable enough to sleep, very difficult.

There are a number of things I do. I take magnesium supplements to aid sleep. I swear by lavender oil. My favourite thing to use is the ‘This Works Deep Sleep Dream Team‘ which is a pillow spray and stress less roller ball for your wrists. I use this every night. The fragrance is relaxing and calming with lavender, patchouli and chamomile. The roller ball has lavender and frankincense.

Lighting a calming candle and reading also help me. I try not to use tech equipment an hour before sleep.

Standard Pain killers

It might be an oldie, but its a goodie. Whilst I try wherever I can not to use too many pain killers, I do take them. They are prescribed for me. I use lesser strength on good days and stronger on bad. Talk to your doctor about the best for you. I take an ibuprofen tablet for inflammation too.

There are unfortunately no real answers for those living with chronic pain and fatigue. It appears to be an ongoing medical research dilemma. But if you can gain some relief from any of these approaches, then its worth trying.

Please let me know in the comments if there are any remedies that you swear by. Stay strong my loves.

Onwards and upwards. Kiki xxx