Thursday, 26 January 2017

Jealousy is a beast

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, jealousy is always going to crop up from time to time. You may be more than happy with your life but someone will always have more, be looking at your partner "the wrong way" or be "prettier" than you. What matters is, is how we deal with this beast of an emotion. And this is especially important in terms of your mental health and your relationships.

Jealousy can creep into the happiest of relationships, with the potential to destroy them. It can break down the trust that you spent years to build or that came so naturally to you both. But, sometimes it just hits you. Imagine this:

Your partner is telling you a funny story which includes a former flame of theirs. You feel threatened. The anger and anxiety begins to rise inside you. You get a tight pang in your stomach. And you're sitting there, wondering what to do next and why the hell he's telling you a story about HER.

We've all experienced it. Maybe you give him the cold shoulder for a while. Maybe you ask him directly why he's talking about her. Has he been thinking about her? He gets defensive, because he hasn't done anything wrong here. Then the argument erupts. You shout. He shouts.

A few hours later, you realise how stupid you were to get so jealous and envious over something so silly. You apologise. He forgives you and all is well again.

But it happens again... Maybe it's the other way around this time. But it ticks and ticks away at you both, damaging your relationship and trust each time.

You still remember that time you were jealous of him talking about someone else. Sometimes it's randomly pops into your head. "Does he find her more attractive than me?" "Is he getting bored of me?" "Can he do better than me?" It can destroy your confidence and take you to a really low place. Even leading to depression and anxiety. He also has these similar thoughts. "Why did she get so angry and defensive? Is she cheating on me?"

Some people even begin to use jealousy as a coping strategy to avoid surprise. You push your partner away in order to defend yourself, because you know he can do better and he will do better. Maybe he is already doing better and cheating on you. The anxiety eats you away at you every day and eventually you end up destroying the relationship.

All this over a small mention of an ex... Silly huh? So, what can you do?

Stop comparing yourself to others. So, there's this hot girl at his work that he's mentioned a few times. You look her up online. She's pretty. So, (of course), you start comparing yourself to her. Hating her. Getting jealous every time you see her or a picture of her. Every time he mentions her name.

Just remember this: He fell in love with you. He's with you. So, she has better hair than you? He seems to find her funnier than you? So what? He probably finds his best mate Bill down the road funnier than you too, but you're not jealous of him are you?

Life is too short to be wasting away comparing every little detail of someone else in yourself. You're you. And your partner is with you because they love all those little things about yourself that you hate. Stop giving yourself a hard time because you're not "perfect". News flash.... It doesn't exist.

Stop confusing imagination and reality. Imagination is a wonderful thing, but when it's used in a destructive way (which is what jealousy does), it is potentially very destructive.

Imagine this: Your partner is late home from work. You call him and there's no answer. Your imagination then goes into overdrive. You begin making up all these scenarios in your head. He's gone for an intimate drink with that girl from work. Their in the office laughing and joking around, losing track of time. He's forgotten you. He's not coming home tonight because he doesn't love you.

You become upset. Angry. Scared. All without any real evidence.

Then he walks through the door. He apologises for being late, he was stuck in traffic and his phone had died. You think "oh, what a coincidence." You act weird around him. You're distant. He finally questions why you are acting weird and then comes the outburst of anger and cries at what "he's done". In his eyes, he was just stuck in traffic...

What's important to do here is to recognise when you're imagination is going into destructive overdrive. Remember what's real and what's in your imagination. Bring yourself back to reality and rationalise all those scenarios. Even explain to him what you're feeling, why you're feeling jealous. Rationalising this situation is pretty easy - he was stuck in traffic but couldn't contact you because ER, IT'S ILLEGAL?

Don't just accuse him of something you've made up in your head.

Don't be jealous of what "could" happen. He's out with "the lads" this Friday night. He's going up town and has booked a hotel. You say, yeah that's cool, I'll invite the girls round. THEN suddenly, all these questions start circling round in your head. "Why hasn't he invited me? Why has he booked a hotel? Is it really the lads or are there girls going to be there? What if he gets drunk and brings a girl back to his hotel room? What if he's really going out with a girl for the night and he has booked them a hotel? What if he's having an affair? What if he's going to propose to her tonight?"

This sounds crazy right? But this is what jealousy can do. And if you feel yourself thinking like this, TALK TO HIM and RATIONALISE. It can be easy to get like this and become jealous that he's out having fun without you. The best thing you can do is explain how you're feeling to him, calmly and maturely. He's probably felt like this before and will understand how you can both overcome this. For example, maybe he'll take you out one evening this week for a nice meal. Or he'll promise to call when he's back at his hotel to say goodnight to put your mind at rest from worrying.

You and your partner are a team after all, don't forget that.

Forget all your old relationship baggage. Someone cheated on you in the past? It's understandable that you're going to be worried that this may happen again, but you will never be happy if this weight is constantly hanging over you. Of course, at the beginning it's hard to learn to trust and put that disloyalty to rest, but that's in the past. If you want a future with your current partner, you need to open up.

This is obviously easier said than done. But communicating your feelings with your current partner is the best way to overcome this. Be open with him about your past and the hurt you feel, how you're scared this could happen again. You can work through this together, rather than alone.

Believe you deserve to be loved. Some (not all) jealousy is driven by low-self esteem. "How could they love me?" "I don't deserve them!" "How could they be attracted to me?!" We're not supposed to understand why somebody loves us, but they do, so accept it. We all deserve to be loved and to find love. Every single one of us. You're in love, he's in love - hang on to it! It can take some of us our whole lives to find the one, if you think you've found it now, just bloody enjoy it.

It's all about communication really. Tell him how you're feeling and you can work through it. Me and Chris have had problems with this in the past and I can assure you, communicating was the first step forward for us.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A mixture of emotions

Hello third trimester, I can't believe we've made it! It feels so good to be this far along, in the LAST trimester. Getting ever close to meeting our baby boy. Having made it through the last two trimesters. It feels so weird saying hello to the third trimester, because honestly, it's flown by.

My bump is getting bigger by the day and at certain points in the day (usually when he's kicking out or I've eaten a big meal), I can barely see my feet! Noah is reminding daily (or every minute!) that he's very busy growing in there. Friends and family can feel him kicking up a storm and his movements are getting ever stronger (and uncomfortable) by the day.

We've bought almost everything we need for him and are starting work on putting his Nursery together. The realisation that I will become a mum in just two months is really starting to sink in...

The mixture of emotions 

As with every stage of pregnancy, the third trimester is full of mixed emotions. I want it to hurry up so I finally meet our little boy and get my body back into shape!... But I also want it to slow down because the anxiety around "becoming a mother" is really getting to me.

Am I ready to be a mother? This is a question I've asked myself a lot (obviously) over the past year and now he's almost here, I'm really worried the answer is in fact, no. But of course it isn't. The answer is yes. Deep down I know that when he arrives, everything will just fall into place. And I know that I will fall madly and deeply in love with him, because I already am! With every kick, every hiccup, every flip, I'm filled with love for this little human who I haven't even met yet.

That's how I know I'll be okay.

I was really worried for a while that I wouldn't feel his kicks. I'm not sure why, but I guess I'm just a worrier and because my app was telling me I should be feeling him by now and I wasn't, I got anxious that I never would. Stupid huh? But now, I never take a kick for granted. I may moan that he kicks me all the time (because he seriously does), but with every movement, I stop and I talk to him, I feel my belly with my hands. I treasure each of these moments with him. And I honestly can't wait to do that when he is here. Even as I write this, I had to stop. He started kicking me (for the millionth time today), but I just had to stop to feel him. It felt like some kind of limb - a hand, a foot? I don't know. But it's just so incredible.

I'd say physically, I was done with being pregnant. I'm constantly exhausted now, feeling all the aches and pains and my body is seriously gaining some fat that I wish it wasn't. But at the same time, being a mum is going to be an even bigger physical and emotional challenge.

Practising putting the pram together is proving to be difficult enough with my very weak wrists and there's no baby here yet. Then there's the sleepless nights, the crying, the not knowing what he wants, the tantrums when he's older, the fights, the "i hate you mum"s. But boy, is there going to be the best rewards too.

Regardless of any feelings and anxieties I may have, in 2 months I will be a mum, facing all these challenges, emotionally and physically, for the rest of my life. And I couldn't be more excited for the adventure.


Thursday, 12 January 2017

Stop panic attacks in their tracks

New year, new chance to finally rid yourself from the pain that is panic attacks.

Whilst I'm not one for creating resolutions, see my post here about getting back to me in 2017, panic attacks are something I think we'd all like to have more control over and more knowledge about. New year or not, my goal is to get more a hold over on my panic attacks and anxiety.

So here's a few techniques which help me stop panic attacks in their tracks.... And as I keep reminding myself of these technique and using them on a daily basis (even when I am not anxious), slowly and surely I feel like I'm gaining some control back.

Recognise your triggers

OK, so this one doesn't really stop a panic attack in it's tracks BUT, it is technique which I can't emphasise enough, that you must do and is at the start of this whole process.

If you recognise a list of possible triggers for your anxiety and panic attacks, you can rationalise them a lot more easily. You can take yourself out of that situation if a panic attacks arises (i.e. if you're in a confined space and you know that causes a panic attack - you can move out of the space). You can prepare for a situation (i.e. a trigger may be going on a train). Recognising your triggers just makes things a lot easier.

A great example is when I had to catch a train up to London for work. This was always a major trigger for me - being in London, being on a train, being at a train station, all sent gushes of anxiety and panic over my entire body.

I knew a week in advance I'd have to be going, but also that I'd be travelling back ON MY OWN. So I worked hard for that week, practising some techniques (which I will talk about below) and rationalising the trigger. I wrote down in a journal "What's the worst thing that can happen?" "How likely is this to happen?" and so on.

And guess what. I didn't have a panic attack. Of course I was anxious. And kept ringing my dad and Chris all the way home. And my brother met me where my work colleagues would be leaving me and walked me back to train station. But, none of that matters. I faced a big trigger and I count it as being pretty damn successful (This was around the time of Bonfire night and when I stepped outside the car when I arrived home, a firework went off - if that's not a celebration of my success I don't know what is!) And even though it took me years to get to this point, it was totally worth it.

BUT WAIT, I hear what you're saying, sometimes panic attacks come on for absolutely no reason at all, so how do you recognise those ones? Now, I will say, there usually always IS a trigger, but sometimes I understand it is hard to find it. So, my next theory is...

Usually you will feel some symptoms BEFORE the panic attack arises - i.e. chest pains, trembling, nervousness, feeling fidgety etc. (all symptoms of anxiety) - this is enough to be a trigger. As soon as you feel those symptoms, start with the following techniques.

Practice breathing techniques

This is where I preach mindfulness and meditation AGAIN. But honestly, they are literal life savers so don't click off just yet.

I first started practising mindfulness and meditation when I was in hospital. I since have taken up Yoga and Pilates (where I use similar breathing techniques) and picked up some new mindfulness techniques.

An overview of the breathing techniques I use when meditating, practising Yoga or Pilates or when I feel a panic attack coming on (or during one) are:
  • Breath in through your nose, to the count of eight
  • Breath out through your mouth, to the count of eight
  • Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing
  • Sometimes, cupping your hands over your nose and mouth helps when you are having a panic attack 

If you're into pilates, yoga, running, swimming, football - anything - you may be familiar with similar breathing techniques. For example, in Pilates you have to hold a pose and inhale, release and exhale. Try and tune into those techniques you use. And if you're really looking to perfect your breathing, adding meditation into your daily routine is the best thing you can do.

Whether you spend 5 minutes or 30 minutes meditating, it relaxes your mind, reduces your anxieties and really hones in on those breathing techniques, which are oh so crucial when you're in full-blown panic mode OR when you feel one coming on.

So how do you use this during a panic attack?

Basically, when I feel a panic attack coming - the fear, the racing heart, pain in your chest, just before you lose your breath - try and hone into these breathing techniques. And incorporate mindfulness into this too.

Focus on what is going on in your body and your breathing - inhaling to the count of 8 and exhaling to the count of 8, cupping your hands over your nose and mouth. If possible, you can also focus on what's around you - the sounds of the birds in the distance, the trees moving in the wind... Once you get that technique down to a T, it'll make coping with panic attacks far more manageable.

Keep your mind ticking

Another great technique for when you are having a panic attack, which is similar to mindfulness, is keeping your mind ticking. If someone is with you, get them to talk to you. It could be about the weather, a television programme (like my mum does, talking about the bloody soaps with me!), the news. It'll help take your mind off of the fact that you are panicking and you'll soon forget what you're panicking about and your breathing will return back to normal.

If you are alone, don't panic, mindfulness is here to help. It's a little harder, but if you practice techniques like the A-Z game, then you'll be able to more easily pick up this technique and start thinking about something else other than your panic attack.

The "panic" will get bored and before you know, you're back to NOT panicking.


I spoke about this a bit earlier in my example, but it's a great technique to do BEFORE and DURING a panic attack. Things you can do to rationalise the "panic" are:
  • Ask yourself questions like: "What's the worst thing that is going to happen?" "How likely is that to happen?"
  • Use positive affirmations ("You are enough, you are so enough. It's unbelievable how enough you are" is a favourite of mine) 
  • Write your fears/triggers down in a journal and look at each one logically and rationally (before a panic attack obviously) 

Accept that you're having a panic attack

No you're not dying (although you probably feel like you are), you're having a panic attack. Accepting this can really lessen it's affect. This is going to sound a bit silly, but don't 'panic' because you're having a "panic attack". Remember who's in control here. It's your body, your mind - you're in control of it, even though it may feel like you aren't. So when you're having a panic attack - accept it. You're just having a panic attack, it'll be over soon and everything will be okay.

One way to feel like you are in control and to accept you are having a panic attack is to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of a panic attack. That way, when you feel one coming on or are experiencing one, you can accept it and take the appropriate action to overcome it (i.e practising mindfulness, removing yourself from the situation etc.) See my recent post discussing what panic attacks are and common symptoms here.

Practice, practice, practice!

When I first saw a counsellor about my panic attacks and she told me all these useful techniques, I simply responded with, "That's great but how am I going to do all this when I'm having a panic attack. I'll just forget everything!" And her answer? Practice.

Practice your breathing exercises every day. Meditate daily or a few times a week. Exercise regularly. Practice mindfulness (it can be a fun thing to do when you're stuck in traffic with your friends!). Keep a journal of your triggers. Rationalise your fears.

Basically practice of all these techniques I have noted here when you are in your BEST frame of mind, otherwise, panic attack will hit and you will likely have no idea what to do. Make these techniques part of your daily habits, then when you feel a panic attack arising or you in mid-panic, it'll be easier to pick up these techniques and STOP THAT PANIC ATTACK (or lessen it's affect or duration) .

Do you have any techniques you'd like to share?

Comment below or send me a tweet!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Getting back to me...

The Christmas and New Year period is always one we look forward to. The countdown to Christmas. The countdown to a little break from work. And it's a truly happy time spent with your loved ones, all with the added excuse to consume a lot of calories in both food and alcohol. 

However, once this is all over, it's common to feel a bit down in the dumps and struggle to get back into your routine of getting up early, working, eating healthily and exercising (ugh). It's also known as.... the January Blues.  

I hate the January blues with a great passion. Every year without fail I get the blues. I experience a few weeks (sometimes longer) of just pure crappy feelings. My anxiety increases and I begin to feel a big black cloud creep in. I don't want to do anything but sit in my PJs, watching movies and eat. I struggle to get up for work (or school). And I really struggle to get back into a healthy eating/exercise routine. 

Now, there is some great advice out there for battling this: 

Instead of completely throwing your routine in the fire for that week or so you are off over Christmas, don't. Have a few days where you have a lay in and skip the exercise and eat what you like (i.e. Christmas Day!) But on other days, get up at a reasonable time, get your workout clothes on and head outside or to the gym. Eat some healthy meals in between the naughty ones. And that way, when the New Year hits, it won't seem so scary or dull.

Or, you can do what my dad does and go on holiday in January. (Probably not the best advice, as you'd come back to holiday and January blues.....)

But, I was tired. I wanted a rest. I wanted to make the most of these lay ins, as I probably won't see 10 am in bed for much longer (having a baby on the way and all). So, I decided to just enjoy my 11 days off, eat what I wanted, exercise little and really just enjoy time with my family, whether that be snuggled up in bed with Chris or out hitting the shops. 

Then New Year's day hit and the blues hit me out of no where - just like that. So, I got myself up and I took myself out of that frame of mind (obviously after a day of crying and staring at a white wall). I got back into my blogging (I've been absent for most of December as part of my little break), I put my trainers on and went for a walk, me and Chris cooked a lovely meal together, I got a few early nights and already I was starting to feel better. 

The next hurdle was: going back to work. 

I was so anxious and down the evening before work because I think it's just part of those "blues". I always remember getting the same feeling going back to school. But my god, was I so thankful to go back. I loved that my mind was busy for 9 hours, there were different people to talk to, things to catch up on and overall, it made me feel so much better to get back into my normal routine.  Instead of drastically cutting out all the chocolate I'd been consuming over Christmas, I took a few celebrations (which were left over at home) and the odd shortbread biscuit or mince pie to work with me, to slow myself into "healthy eating" again. And I was already feeling so much better for it. 

Another part of my "making my January happier" was about making changes. First and foremost, it was about making changes in my relationships - namely with Chris and my mental health. 

I'd got into a bit of a rut over the past few months of when feeling down, instead of communicating how I'm feeling, I'd just keep it bottled up. Eventually, this would usually come out in an mental explosion (usually directed at Chris, which really wasn't fair at all). So I decided to be more open and communicate (this is something I will talk about in more detail soon) everything with him. Instead of being scared of what he'd think or say or that he'd be sad that I'm feeling down, I decided to just communicate it all with him. "Chris, I feel like shit today and I don't know why" or "Chris, I'm feeling a bit left that out that you're spending so much time with your friends and not me". I don't hide my feelings being scared of creating an argument - which usually would erupt in an even bigger argument down the line anyway - and usually I'm just being silly and he simply reassures me. And let me tell you, it's amazing. Our relationship already feels stronger than ever. We're communicating more. We understand each other's feelings more. We love more. It's honestly the best thing we done. 

Another change I made may seem like such a tiny change and not at all a big deal, but for me it was. 

Everywhere I go often, I have a parking space (or little area) where I feel comfortable to park my car and park every time. Usually it's near an exit or at the end of a line (I'm not sure why). Whether it be at my local shopping centre, supermarket, my road or at work, I have my "area" or "space". So when I got to work on Tuesday morning (my first day back), I decided I'd park somewhere different. It was still at the end of a little section and it was still on the same "line" as my usual space, but it was further from the exit. I felt a little on edge as I turned off my engine and got out the car, but I just put it to the back of my mind and threw myself into my work.  

As I was walking out of work I remembered that I'd changed my parking space and instantly felt a wave of anxiety rush through me. As I started walking the different pathway to my car (which was an actual path instead of the usual trampling over the grass and dodging tree branches), I felt revitalised. That may sound like an odd word to use here, but I did. I felt awesome. A huge smile filled my face and I felt so ready for the rest of January. 

My January blues fix is all about getting back to me. 
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