Mental Motivation: 5 ways to get back on track.
As many of my nearest and dearest know, and those observant Facebook friends may have noticed, the last 12 months have been tough for me and my health. Without wanting to sound completely melodramatic-meets-Sex-in-the-City, I've had some of the best and lowest moments of my life in the last year. I got engaged to my best friend of 8 years whilst on a magical trip to New York. We bought a pre-construction house. My work team orchestrated a group resignation and I stuck around to pick up the pieces. We planned a wedding (you don't even need the lengthy detail to sympathise). I started an exciting and challenging new job. We went on an incredible honeymoon - with 8 6-hour flights in 16 days. And I got sick - undiagnosably sick.
CHANGE, IN MODERATION
Last summer my working world got turned on its head and I decided I had to change jobs in the midst of final wedding planning. Certainly not ideal, but it wasn't a decision that I came to lightly. In fact it surfaced during our first pre-marital church counselling - not exactly marriage related to say the least! I plucked up the courage to leave a law firm that I had trained, qualified and enjoyed working at for three years to move to a much larger team with new challenges to face.
This time of change was also happening alongside a semi-moral/semi-health conscious decision to not eat meat. I have always been an animal lover, but since adopting our shelter baby "bush cat", Earl, almost two years ago I have gone animal crazy. Cats, in particular, in case you haven't noticed. I'm your new, and possibly unfriended, Facebook friend liking all the PETA posts and passive aggressively sharing videos and links to try to push you into thinking about how your meat was raised. I'm sorry, kind of.
We were more or less pescatarian for several months and it was generally going pretty well. We felt more energised and had better digestion with no real cravings for meat. Well, except for the time I triumphantly denied a slice of chicken pizza, proudly declaring my vegetarism, and then mindlessly scoffed a warm and flakey mini-sausage roll into my not-so-vegan mouth. Old habits most definitely die hard.
Throw planning a island wedding for 120 local and overseas guests in the mixer and I was fully cooked. Weddings will never be straightforward but it did seem we were given quite the test - our wedding planner left island, the Reverend double-booked himself and I lost a bridesmaid to the zika virus travel restrictions . It was tough but somehow all the challenges we faced and worked through together just cemented what truly mattered about getting married - celebrating the fact that we'd found each other and wanted to make a commitment forever in front of our family and friends. Things really do happen for a reason. We managed to pull off a wonderfully happy wedding surrounded by fantastic family and friends and the rest really didn't matter. Once the wedding magic had settled and I could just about remember to answer the phone as Sophie Prior (still not perfected this!) we set off on a far-flung honeymoon to the West Coast, CA and Hawaii. It was beautiful, but ambitious.
Looking back on it all now, it makes perfect sense that as soon as we stopped to relax on our honeymoon, I'd get sick. I've generally always been the type of person to overambitiously take on too much and not realise it until its the end of term or time for a holiday and that's when it hits you, like a smack in the face. And this time it was a fairly potent jab-jab-jab, RIGHT HOOK (thanks #GaryVee). All the stress and complimentary adrenaline that had kept me going for months and months would fall away and leave behind a truly exhausted new bride. I was struck down with a mild case of Bells Pallsy, luckily without the facial drooping but with facial numbness and a myriad of weird and horrid symptoms. It wasn't glamorous by any stretch and I did have to have a few days of doing absolutely nothing but it went away slowly and we managed to not let it spoil the trip. But I came home and still couldn't get my energy back. Months of good eating (including some meat), blood tests and lots of B12 jabs later and we have only just got to the bottom of it, finally! I have been diagnosed with an underactive thryoid, something that is apparently 3 times more likely in women over the age of thirty (I'm 27 but "advanced" lol!). It's something that is treatable (and hopefully very manageable), and with all of the above drama excluded, something I can slowly "fix" over time.
The symptoms for an underactive thyroid can be relatively broad: tiredness, being sensitive to cold, weight gain, constipation, depression, slow movements and thoughts, muscle aches and weakness, muscle cramps, dry and scaly skin, brittle hair and nails, loss of libido, pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome), irregular periods or heavy periods. And I had many of these. These are symptoms that, on their own, you would overlook as symptoms of your lifestyle choices and symptoms that we all probably regularly ignore. Feeling unwell like this and not being able to diagnose or cure myself had me feeling very low and dare I say it, depressed. I've never felt any sort of depression in my life. Sure I've had the odd hormonal tantrum and post-work tears but nothing that I couldn't shift with "Netflix and chill" (and I genuinely mean Netflix and chill here, not anything more!) and a large glass of vino. But to feel so lethargic, anti-social, miserable and low for several months back to back really took its toll on my positivity, my spirit and my ability to be a good partner to my new husband. As I've shared on Facebook before, I really have such new found sympathy and respect for anyone dealing with hard times of mental angst, illness or depression.
I wanted to speak to a counsellor, to offload to someone else other than poor Stefan, but they were fully booked for weeks and I had to turn to other, more creative means that have really helped. What I explored was free, available to many, and easy to do on your own, and I want to share these 5 quick ideas in the hopes that they help someone struggling with anything from work stress right up to serious, long term illness. Heck, we could all benefit from a bit more TLC. There's nothing new here but hopefully this will act as a gentle reminder to refocus, reset and take care of yourself - however you need it!
Here they are:
1) LEAN ON FRIENDS, OLD AND NEW.
Don't be afraid to put your feelings out into the ether. I nervously did this through Facebook, as I felt I wanted to share the reality of life not always being picture-perfect , and I was overwhelmed with the response. Friends, old and new, reached out to me in many different ways and this really was wonderful. Thank you to all who did, it truly meant so much. When you're not yourself it can be really hard on your loved ones (especially your partner and family) and friends can give you that support and time that others may need a break from. I was particularly touched by wonderful people in our local community who I hardly know - Nadine Dumas, you were a star! With her health knowledge and experience, she reached out to me to provide some natural supplements that had really helped her and she even came to drop them to me at work and check in on me. Not everyone would do that for someone they hardly know in this super busy world. Thank you, Nadine. Friends like this have helped so much with such genuine and self-less acts that I could never have predicted.
2) PRACTICE YOGA AND MEDITATION.
This really is pretty self-explanatory but giving yourself the time to rest, calm and restore your body and mind is so important when you're unwell. You can think you're relaxing watching TV on the couch or in bed but until you actually switch off all devices, lie completely still (and don't fall asleep), your mind has no chance to rest and recuperate. I do yoga at my office over lunch twice a week and the regularity of the practice and mindful pause I give myself has really been invaluable and very doable.
3) DISCOVER NEW MEDIUMS.
I've never been one to listen to podcasts but since purchasing a Japanese car with very limited radio here in Cayman, I've become a podcast enthusiast. Sure, you need to listen to SERIAL, ASK GARY VEE and FOUNDR just because, but I did find some simple but calming posts on anxiety, managing stress and mental health. Check out the Mental Health - Happy Hour podcast and a new one that my bestie, Harriet, just shared with me The Lively Show. Read up on MindBodyGreen and buy yourself a copy of Success Magazine.
4) FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE.
Since dating my love, Stefan Prior for 8 years, I've come to realise how positive he is towards life and notice that I can quite often worry my way into unnecessary stress and negativity. I'm learning to focus on the positive - in every circumstance. Success Magazine's Carla Schesser says it better than I could, and this passage really resonated with me:
"Your thoughts and beliefs are nothing but programs that are installed on your hard drive, and since they determine the course of your life, it would be wise to install the most beneficial programs you can find. All it takes to reprogram your mind is a sincere desire to do so and an indomitable persistence to stick with it day after day.
When you catch yourself thinking the following negative thoughts, replace them with these positive thoughts.
When you think this… Say this instead…
Think about the future! Enjoy the moment you’re in right now.
Don’t do something you’ll regret! In the end, we only regret the things we didn’t get to do.
I wish I hadn’t done that! I can’t change the past—learn and move on.
Will things ever work out? What’s meant to be will happen.
Why did they do that? I can’t control others but I can control how I react to it.
Will I ever find happiness? What can I be happy about right now?
What’s wrong with me? I am perfect exactly the way I am in this moment.
You can flip it and begin training your thoughts to empowering statements of positivity. Changing the way you think is vital to your success. Negative thinking can stop you before you even get started."
Read the full article here.
5) TREAT YOURSELF
It sounds obvious but don't forget to treat yourself when you're feeling low. You might not want to socialise or do your usual routine but having a massage, pedicure or even something as simple as buying a new magazine and taking a long bath can be a game changer for those couple of days. I'm in love with these beautiful HERBIVORE bath salts. If you're on a budget, make your own bathsalts like this. I'd also highly recommend a call to our mobile masseuse, Risa, who will come to your house for an hour long whole body massage for $65 - details here.
I wanted to share this blogpost to a) explain why there has been such a lack of blogging from me of late, b) elaborate on why I've been very active in sharing my "status" on Facebook and beyond, and c) further engage with others who may have gone through tough times or who may still be struggling. I'm so grateful to be feeling back to "normal" and wish the very best for you, your friends and family. It will get better with time, I promise.
"Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change"
~ Wayne Dryer ~
Love, Mrs P x