OK folks, as I am struggling with a lot of stuff at the moment, I decided to set myself some aims and ambitions for this month, and it occurred to me that those of you who also have mental health issues, or any other shit that might be impinging on your life, wellbeing and happiness might like to join me, so I’ve compiled one of those monthly challenge thingys.
I loves a monthly challenge I does, but sometimes some of them are too ambitious for me, don’t apply to me and my lifestyle and/or some fill me with fear and guilt lest I miss a day, so whilst there are 31 aims/objectives, you/I don’t have do be doing all of them by November.
It’s more of a tick list for your day if you will with the aim to try as many as possible, and includes the basics, but also tools and activities that I’ve found useful in keeping my head above the murky waters to date.
So, I’ll go through them one by one, even though most seem self explanatory:
1. GET OUT OF BED (and STAY OUT!)
Easy huh? Well no, not for all of us. And although most of us have to leave our pit to, at the very least, use the loo of a morning, it’s sometimes only too tempting to dive back under the duvet, even when it’s not a dark day. So if you can, it’s best to make a habit of making your bed straight away so that there’s less of a temptation to do so. Then you can….
2. BATHE & CLEAN TEETH
Again some of you might be thinking ‘WTF? Are you some kind of animal?’.
But for some of us, especially on dark days, are so full of self loathing and lethargy, we don’t think we are worth the effort of getting clean. But there’s a reason for the belief that ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’. You just feel better after a freshen up. So even if you’re going to crawl back to bed straight afterwards, have a soothing, fragrant bath and scrub your gnashes first and you’ll feel your spirits lift, if only but a millimetre.
3. GIVE IN (Especially for Dark Days)
As mentioned above, if it’s a dark day and still all too much even after your soak in the tub, don’t sweat it.
That’s what your hibernate tokens are for! I’ve put six on the sheet for you to tick off, but don’t worry if you go over that. Whenever you really need to, just go back to bed, wait for the storm to pass, and don’t beat yourselves up about it, my lovelies.
4. MORNING PAGES
OK so I used to do ‘The Artists Way’ and one of the most useful take aways I got from it was to do what they call Morning Pages. So, if you are able to resist hibernating, grab a notebook or a couple of sheets of A4, sit down in a quiet place and just scrawl down freeform anything that’s in your head. Your worries, fears, too do list, there’s too much sugar in your tea, your urge for a big poo, whatever; whack it all down there and keep going until you’ve got nothing left to say. It’s a great way to get everything out there, especially negative stuff, so your mind is clear for the day ahead. Then if you still have time and the inclination…
5. 10 MINUTE MORNING MEDITATION
I always thought I was crap at meditating; and in a way, I am. I twitch, i itch, I scratch, I fidget, my mind monkey’s go crazy and I count the minutes until someone speaks, the alarm goes off, or I yearn for an excuse to stop what I’m going and go do important shit. Like watch ‘Judge Judy’ or something.
But here’s the thing; I did a class last week and went home afterwards, cussed myself out for wasting yet another hour of my life. But that night, I slept the best I had for a long time. So on some level, sitting in that hall with a load of Buddhists, a stiff back and cold butt and trying, definitely did something. So I’m going to persist. And let’s face it, it’s 10 minutes! What do you have to lose? And if you like it, you can always do more 🙂
6. (LET’S) GO OUTSIDE
I know, a lot of people have to go outside every day in order to go to work, get the kids to school, check up on their mum etc. but some of us don’t, in spite of George Michael’s enthusiastic little ditty.
And when you’re really down, you just can’t see the point of going for a ‘walk’ when you don’t need to.
Middle and upper class Brits have always kind of been down with going for walks, and tend to make you go along with them, just after you’ve had a massive Sunday lunch, which is incredibly uncomfortable and annoying. Us working class proles are used to the more sensible option of hitting the sofa and watching a movie after a big meal.
That said, we’ll happily go for a walk TO the pub, have a huge lunch then enjoy a beer or two whilst kicking back in the beer garden (Summer) or on a knackered old sofa by a log fire (Winter), because at least theres some motivation there.
BUT the poshos have a point. Walking increases your fitness, fills your lungs with fresh air and speeds up your metabolism. So even if, like me, you don’t always have a reason to leave the house, do it anyway. You can always come home afterwards.
7. EAT WELL
I have a history of food issues (surprise, surprise), and have done about a million stints of binge eating before the diet that always starts on Monday but in actuality never starts at all, then in come the ghosts of guilt, the demons of disgust and the, erm, satyrs of shame. Sound familiar?
But maybe you don’t have anything like that, but eat too much because you like it, or live off ready meals, take aways and Pot Noodles, and worry not one jot?
But if you treat your body like you do your car and give it top quality food, it (and you) will perform better, so make an effort to get the good stuff like your five a day, oily fish, wholegrain carbs and seeds and pulses down you as a priory before eating any crap.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to tart labelling some food ‘good’ and other food ‘bad’.
That way madness lies.
If you want a burger, have one. Ideally make your own or buy one from a street food market rather than Macca D’s, at least then it will be worth the calories. Have some good chocolate or a really great slice of home made cake every now and again, then the next day stick to the low fat/sugar/salt options to balance it out.
List your intake. Not to beat yourself up about it, but as an exercise and see which days your energy slumps and which days you feel fine and learn what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. I bet some of you discover that your cat/dog eats better than you do!
8. DRINK WATER
Water is amazing stuff, better and much cheaper than any high end moisturiser, the best antidote to cellulite and the best preventative to headaches and migraines, especially if you are on a shitload of meds like moi.
A lot of the time we mistake thirst for hunger. The next time you meander into the kitchen for a little sumptin’ sumptin’, ask yourself if you are really hungry. Is your belly rumbling? If not, it’s highly likely that you are thirsty, so give your body what it’s crying out for and clear the toxins out of your system in the bargain.
I don’t exercise anything like as much as I should, especially as I know how much better it makes me feel (self loathing, self defeating biatch that I am) but if you can, find something you love, like or can just about bear to do, and you’ll reap the dividends in high energy, accelerated metabolism and a calmer disposition.
Weights are great if you are just longing to punch your boss out, walking totally works for the less physical amongst us (maybe get a pedometer and do the 10,000 steps thing) and dancing is totally life affirming for everyone.
Oh and yoga? How could I forget about that? Marvellous stuff and you can do it at home!
This stuff is great, it’s kind of a way to tame the mind monkey’s by pulling your attention out of the dark clouds, coming back down to earth, being in the present moment and acknowledging what is actually going on with a level of acceptance, whilst not actually judging yourself for that reality. Mindfulness is a big subject and Ruby Wax’s book ‘Sane New World: Taming the Mind’ is an excellent introduction to the practise and the way it can help you and steer you away from self defeating habits.
Simple example. If you are at your desk working through lunch, devouring a Pret special, browsing t’internet and checking out your Facebook, whilst answering emails and fretting about your next meeting/argument with your girlfriend/next energy bill, and feel yourself going downhill, STOP.
Log out of your PC and take your lunch to the park. Focus on the trees, sunshine and happy chatter as you walk. Find a spot, sit down and totally focus on your sandwich and coffee and fully immerse yourself into the act of enjoying them. Feel the warm wood of the park bench beneath your bum, listen to the birds, fucking breathe already and be present. Then you have more chance of looking at your situation as it really is, and not your worst case scenario.
11. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Sometimes, doing something sweet for someone else can completely lift your mood.
Note, I say your mood. I am not going soft here, it’s a win/win scenario!
Giving the odd quid to a homeless person, helping someone carry a pram down the steps of the rush hour tube, paying someone’s bus fare when their Oyster card has run out can put the other person in a great mood, which hopefully they’ll pass onto someone else, who’ll do something nice for another person, perhaps even your boss, so when you get into the office that day, he might not be quite as big a dick as he normally is.
See how it works? Like I say win/win. 🙂
12. DO SOMETHING SCARY
God I feel like such a hypocrite writing this! 😦
Essentially I procraste for England, especially when I have to do something scary. So instead of mithering, fretting and having mad dreams about it every night I’m going to try and bite the bullet and just do the scary stuff ASAP, then let the cards fall as they may. If you’re like me, grasp the nettle and have a go too.
13. DO SOMETHING NURTURING
You feel awful/worthless/ugly/unappreciated/uncared for and you’re struggling to convince yourself that you are worthy of love from anyone.
So love yourself by doing something nice for yourself.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it’s better to think about what your treat should be instead of just mindlessly buying yet another pair of black boots.
Have a manicure or a massage. Get yourself a bar of expensive (not that pricy compared to those boots) artisan chocolate and eat it slowly and mindfully with a mug of good coffee. Grill some peaches and have them with greek yoghurt and maple syrup for breakfast. Treat yourself to the latest book by your favourite author. Bake yourself a loaf of good granary bread to have with home made soup. Go to a football match with your mates. Treat yourself to cut price tickets for a concert or exhibition. Little things can lift the spirits as much as big ones.
14. TALK TO SOMEONE
I can go days without talking to anyone if I let myself.
By ‘someone’ I mean someone you actually want to talk to, as opposed to spam callers, your bank manager or that bitch of a bus driver who won’t even give you eye contact of a morning. A friend, a relative, a loved one, y’know?
For me, this can be one of the hardest challenges, as I’m so afraid of people picking up on my mood of thinking I’m going to be a burden to them.
But I’ll try if you do 🙂
15. MEET WITH SOMEONE
As above but face to face.
16. PROTECT YOURSELF
Conversely, we all know that there are people out there who will tap into our shit and give it a bit of a stab with the sharp end of their letter opener, purely for their own entertainment, because they are wankers and not worthy of the trust it takes for us to share our vulnerabilities and they will not respect your honesty or bravery.
Be sure to guard against such tosspots when you encounter them. Hide your fears/hurt/doubts/weaknesses behind an impervious confident smile, show them nothing, and remind yourself that such individuals are probably more damaged than you if they can treat another human being with such poor regard.
And whenever possible, avoid them completely. Who needs that shit in their life?
17. ARM YOURSELF
I do however, know that there are some people like this that you have to see every day, like a boss, family member or cruel spouse, and their shit does not let up.
If you are in this position, do what I was unable to do, and, on the surface, keep your cool.
Stay focussed and do not give them the opportunity of harming you.
If it’s a work colleague, do not trust them, do your share and then some, cover your ass every time so they have nothing to pull you up on.
If it’s a family member, treat them like a child. Be kind and polite when they’re on form, and when they’re being dickhead, give them your most sympathetic/patronising ‘Oh dear…’ look and excuse yourself, even if it’s just to the next room, and compose yourself.
If it’s your partner, think about getting the fuck outta there, because no one should take that kind of shit from their husband or wife. Easier said than done I know, but a bad marriage/relationship is the worst place to be for our kind.
18. TALK TO YOURSELF
I’m serious. If you find yourself in a stressful or distressing situation, make an excuse, go somewhere quiet and ‘talk yourself down’ like you are on the ledge of a very tall building, preparing to jump.
You don’t have to say it out loud. But try and tap into your higher self and let them take over.
Say things like:
‘It’s OK, no one noticed you fluffed that slide on your presentation, they were too busy focussing on the good stuff!’
‘You’re safe, there’s no need to panic, we’ll wait here until the crowd disperses, then try and board a quieter train’, or
‘Take no notice, she’s being a bitch because she’s threatened by you. She doesn’t know that you’re in the loo freaking out. Chill. Then we’ll put some fresh lipstick on, repair that eye make up and walk back to the table like a badass, OK?’
You’re essentially being your own in house counsellor. Have a go. it’s worked for me in the past.
19. GET SOME PHYSICAL CONTACT
Some of us have more physical contact then we ever really wanted, and then some, in the form of touchy feely men on the tube, snot nosed, screaming toddlers and overly sexually demanding partners, but some of us can go weeks without a cuddle.
And that’s hard. Because as much as we may mentally dread someone being in our space, the human body needs touch, so try and get your quota somehow.
See family more often, lunch with ‘huggy’ friends and/or get yourself a pet. I swear you’ll reap the benefits.
20. LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA/TV
At the moment, much of my life takes place on the computer screen I’m currently staring at, but ‘It’s life Jim, but not as we should know it.’
Actually it’s no life at all. It’s merely escapism, otherwise why would you feel so lonely? Limit your internet time to 20 minute stints then turn it off, stop watching ‘Real Housewives’ and go out for lunch with a friend instead, Goddammit!
21. SAY “YES”
Oh Gawd, again, I am not good at this at all.
I bail all the time on social events, and as a result, I’m as lonely and isolated most of the time. Trouble is I’m crap at small talk, and unless I click with someone, I tend to long to go home 30 minutes into a party/dinner/Meet Up event because I get bored.
Naughty Sista! Take it from me, it’s probably one of the most self defeating thing you can do, so say ‘Yes’ to stuff, even if you think you might regret it, and work through your boredom/anxiety/insecurity if you can. The only regrets I have are for not taking that chance and going out in the first place.
22. SAY “NO”
Are you one of those people who gets pressured into doing stuff because you’re afraid to say ‘No?’. Usually by people who know they’re imposing but still do it because they know they can get away with it?
Next time they saunter up wearing a shit eating grin with their:
‘Hey can I borrow your brand new car to take my druggy buddies to Glastonbury as we can’t afford trains, don’t have a tend so need it to sleep in?’
‘Hi! Can you just keep an eye on little Igor for say, 8 hours, he’ll be no trouble, he’s nearly over that stomach bug, and is just coming out of his ‘screaming as if he’s being stabbed’ phase?’
Or ‘Sweetie, I’m just off to the rugby, you don’t mind entertaining my sour, humourless, whingy face-like-a-smacked-arse parents till I get back do you?‘
Do a Zammo and just say NO!
Don’t get defensive, apologise or justify your decision. Like Queeny says, ‘Never complain, never explain’ because you’ll just be giving them the opportunity to negotiate. Just smile sweetly, utter that one syllable word and walk away to the sound of their jaw dropping to the ground.
23. DO NO HARM
Guess what? I used to be a revenge freak. If someone hurt, betrayed or shafted me, they’d be punished. Either by my frosty silence, my cutting excoriating condemnation or even, once, I booked 10 early morning alarm calls in one night (I was young, OK?!) for an ex boyfriend.
Sorry. That was not a good thing to do! Well it was at the time, but us punishers perpetrate our own karma because as bad as we can be to others, it only pales into comparison of how vile we can be to ourselves.
Anger is destructive. I am the living embodiment of that statement. I was born angry and whilst it’s lessening all the time, I’ll probably be about 90 by the time all of it is out of my system. But nowadays I choose to try my very best not to lash out either to others or myself.
Be kind and leave the others to their fate and find a way to vent without hurting others. You’ll definitely keep more friends that way!
24. TAKE YOUR SHIT
Because like it or not, shit is coming to you.
And it’s not because you’re a bad person, have done something wrong or deserve it. It’s just that shit comes to us all. We emotionally vulnerable types are just not that great in dealing with or accepting it.
i rather naively believed that the more I was in touch with myself, and the more I prayed and meditated that the shit would, OK, not stop plopping down, but maybe come down the size of rabbit droppings as opposed to huge slabs of elephant dung.
What. A. Fool.
I really didn’t get it. These things don’t stop it blasting out, they just train us to be more accepting and complacent about it, so that no matter how vile and stinky it is, we have a choice and the opportunity to choose how much it disturbs our equilibrium.
So when you get hit by a massive metaphorical doody (or a real one, some neighbourhoods are like that) shake off the worst and find a way of getting the pain/disappointment/fear out of your system (see Exercise, Mindfulness, Do No Harm, Something Nurturing).
And maybe invest in a robust umbrella. 😉
25. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
You feel that people don’t like you, so you try and morph into what they want you to be so that you’ll be accepted?
Enough already. God/Buddha/Allah/that Rabbit from Watership Down made you the marvellous, unique, individual creation that you are, so embrace your quirks and oddities and stay true to yourself and you’ll attract your true kinsmen instead of cringing in a field of boring, bleating sheep, terrified that you’ll be found out.
26. LIMIT/CUT OUT STIMULANTS
My darlings, people like us need drug taking, binge drinking, overeating, or a constant drip feed of black coffee like a frigging hole in the head, especially, as I said earlier, if you are on masses of medication
Plus such mood enhancers come with a price, and the comedown is hard enough for ordinary folk to bear, let alone us loonies.
Anything beyond a few wine gums or a coffee flavoured Walnut Whip should be avoided or used in moderation. OK?
27. (ACCENTUATE) THE POSITIVES
Sometimes, even if you’ve had a crap day (or especially if you’ve had a crap day) and like me, you are prone to letting bad stuff take over and sully everything, it’s good to make a list of the nice things that happened and stuff that you are grateful for before hitting the sack. They can be anything from getting a pay rise, to some hot girl smiling at you on the train, or bumping into an old mate, to having a good nights sleep, it not raining that morning or your flatmate leaving you half a pizza in the fridge when you get home. There’s always something to be grateful for if you look hard enough.
It’s also a good way to start the day, but I’d wait until you’ve had your first cup of tea/coffee first.
Try and plan out a schedule for your week, as it will enable you to ensure that you’re not bogged down with just work and drudgery, or it will ensure that you have something to do if you don’t work and tend to hide from the world. You might not always stick to your plan for that day, but if you’ve got your week mapped out with fun, nurturing, positive arrangements, you’ll be less likely to let it whizz past in a SSRI stupor of nothingness.
Had an encounter with some total tosspot/bitch and you’re still seething about it? Try not to let it disturb your rest. Figure out their side, why they might be behaving like a complete twat, and you might actually start to feel sorry for them. If that doesn’t work, you might want to put pen to paper and rant about them in your….
30. EVENING PAGES
Remember Morning Pages? Well I also do them before going to bed, especially if I have loads on my mind. Somehow spilling out my troubles on paper before turning out the light somehow makes me feel as if I have shared them with someone and sometimes I even have a solution when I wake up. Certainly worth a go I reckon. Then have another crack at Forgiving! 😉
You don’t have to be religious to pray you know. If you don’t believe in a Higher Self, just use your prayer as a form of affirmation or to talk to your subconscious. Share your troubles, your fears, your wishes for the future and see what happens. Or, of course, you can meditate instead.
Easy, right? 😉
OK, I know it’s not easy to do anything when you’re at your worst.
But if you print out the attachment, look at it every day and try and do as many as possible, then you’ve achieved something, by the very act of considering your options!
It goes without saying that I’d love for as many of you as possible to join me on this as I’d love your company and to share your stories, so please tag me in if you decide to have a go!
What the hell, in order to get the ball rolling I’m going to tag the first ten fellow sufferers I can find, starting now!
Please have a go and share with others if you’ve a mind to.
I’ll be creating a nice certificate for you to have on your wall (don’t get too excited, OK?) when we’ve finished, and who knows, maybe this list will help you in the way that it’s helped me at times.
That said, no worries if you’d rather pass on this.
Good luck Mistas and Sistas! xx