How do you wear your body?

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So, how do you wear yours?
Upright, or slumped?
With love, or negativity?
With confidence, or with discomfort?

This was a great question that a dear friend and an amazing osteopath, Sophie, used in our wellbeing workshop and I saw everyone’s ears prick up and backs straighten!

So many of us roll out of bed each morning and go about our morning routine without even thinking about what we carry around every day. I had previously spent too much time thinking about how I wear my hair, makeup and what clothes to put on.

We blame our bodies for various things, or we fail to see the beauty in the reflection of the mirror each day. Your brilliant body performs so many tasks each day without us needing to consciously think about it, from our heart pumping blood around our body that keeps the life flowing through every system in the body, the hormones working as our ‘internal sat nav’ to keep us on track and in balance, the trillions of cells that work 24/7 to clear, protect and grow and the more visible parts that allow us to experience life.

So wear yours well, be gracious with all the things it allows you to do and if you need to make changes, then first find what you like about it. Start there!

You are a perfect little potion
A miracle to earth
A river of love and energy
You are the beauty that is birth
You’re a cloud of hope and feelings
In a never ending sky
A branch entwined with those around
Growing side by side
You are a candle in a lantern
On a dark and rainy night
You’re a log a burning ember
A fighting shinning light
You’re a tide that falls and rises
A single grain of sand
The wind that roars so wildly
And the silence in my hand
You are my BODY, you are my FUTURE
My love, my life, my view
And you will carry me forever
So I will nourish a better you…

Anxiety Disorder

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Over the last two years, I’ve come to realise the psychological effects the cancer diagnosis had on me in March 2014. Physiologically changes took place immediately from surgery and the repercussions of surgery. Menopause sucked, it was distressing with no HRT, yet I learned a lot about what nourished me, versus depleted me during that time. (Nearly said period ! Ha!)

​I was caught in a whirlwind of big decisions and scary things happening in a matter of weeks; which I could never prepare myself for. My mind was storing it away for another day, though!

Since then, I’ve always strived to acknowledge my feelings, face into the pain and discomfort with the help of experts, especially after a huge & painful lesson learnt after 10 years, following my mum passing in 2004 – You can’t ignore pain, run away from negative emotions, bereavement; it stores up and eats away at you.

Despite being honest with myself on how I was feeling – good and bad, and I’ve truly experienced more moments of deeper joy since having cancer ( it kinda makes you extremely grateful for ALOT in life). I’ve also had this annoying crushing feeling of panic and anxiety that has continued to build up to points, more recently that are so debilitating and damn right scary. ​

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I’ve had some, what I call, ‘real‘ threats to my health, a colonoscopy to check for lynch syndrome, remission check-ups, a CT scan in 2015 and more recently bloody Dengue Fever BUT, it has also been brought on by less threatening places; like work, a mountaintop in New Zealand, driving to an appointment, walking along the tow path with a buggy, being around people (!), aeroplanes, a thunderstorm & so on… In my mind, I logically know there is nothing ‘life threatening’ about it, butthe ‘feeling‘ takes over and consumes me.

This is one of the most frustrating things about having an anxiety disorder; knowing as you’re freaking out that there’s no reason to be freaked out, but lacking the ability to shut the emotion down.(source:healthyplace.com)

Over the last 6 months, I’ve seen my anxiety disorder completely go off the scale due to a build up of stress, mainly generated by work and the pressure I was putting on myself. I’ve experienced the theory and it’s been true for me :
… over 70 % of your bodily systems are utilised during an anxiety disorderFinally I now understand why I’ve felt tired, drained and experienced pain and lethargy in my body. The cancer wasn’t back. It was anxiety. Anxiety is also known to ride shotgun with depression and those two have been a driving force in my life, whilst I’ve felt very much like the back seat driver, not listened to.

Thank goodness for a brilliantly CBT Therapist and a very supportive husband and family. I’ve slowly been able to piece back together the parts of me that have been vacant for many months now. I’m changing my paradigm when it comes to ‘stress’. I’m seeing it as a helpful positive tool to pay attention to, so it works in my favour more often than just at times of exercise.

Stress, like fat, sugar, gets a lot of attention and bad press. I too have been guilty of ‘dissing’ stress and how bad it can be. I almost became too fearful that stress = getting cancer again! Yep – welcome to the world of an anxiety disorder!

This interesting and stimulating talk on stress by Kelly McGonigal-How to make stress your friend, looks at why our thoughts about stress are so important to how we feel and deal with it.

_I’ve come to realise that I’ve actually suffered from degrees of high anxiety a lot throughout my life – always ‘on guard’ worrying the absolute worst was going to happen to me, or loved ones! It’s exhausting.

My first memory of this was when I was 6, or 7 years old and I was on a boat swing with my younger brother. I vividly remember saying to my brother “please don’t ever die and leave me!” Heavy stuff for a 6/7 yr old to have on her shoulders worrying about that !!

I’m learning that anxiety, through awareness can also transform into excitement…. Just like stress, anxiety can be beneficial, which has been another huge paradigm shift for me, knowing that I can use it to my advantage.

A great book by Dr Dave Alred MBE ‘The Pressure Principle’ summarises this beautifully with his ‘pressure principle model’.

So whilst I continue to hack through the ‘ugly zone’, the place where change and learning takes place and start to change learned habits and behaviours I’ve had all my life and foster the environment I’m in, which at times is unstable, I will now look at how both stress and anxiety can help me and just like my 7 year old self – call out my fears to others and as Dr Alred writes, conquer my fear of failure and obsession with outcomes.

​What I’ve learnt (so far):
1. Don’t suffer alone, reach out for help and get help. Others can help with their awareness
2. Awareness of your feelings and behaviours are the first steps to change
3. Change your perception by answering this question ‘how is this helping me now?’
4. Now – Be in the present! Mindfulness, meditation, affirmations are hugely powerful
5. Regain your power and know that so many people suffer from anxiety disorder too – athletes call it ‘performance anxiety’

OUR DEEPEST FEAR

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is
that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that
most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened
about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are
all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory
of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And
as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our
presence automatically liberates others.”
~ From A RETURN TO LOVE by Marianne Williamson

The Vicious Little Flower

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For months I have been sat looking at this flower, plucking each petal with full attention. I knew this flower would never bloom again and I knew deep within me there was a little bud just waiting to be cultivated and nourished.

If Wellbeing was a choice, something we could pick each day, then everything and everyone encountered would fill our hearts with joy and in moments of darkness, we would know a light still shone. I wish this was a choice that was easy for each and every one of us, every day, but with 1 in 4 people that now suffer with a mental health problem this is a choice that can seem untouchable.

After months of psycho-therapy for anxiety and depression, I sit here reflecting on how far I have come with the help and support of an amazing team of professionals from Efficacy and Nuffield Health and some of the best friends and family a girl can have.

I have blogged about anxiety disorder, something that has been lurking in the shadows and tapping me on the shoulder for many years in a very subtle way. I have learnt that the more you bury emotions and thoughts, the more they begin to manifest themselves in challenging ways and it took two wonderful women in March, who I had connected with through work to spot the signs and get me help.

I almost don’t recognise the person I was back in May this year that sat in her CBT session and wrote, ‘There is no point being here’. Even writing that now brings a tear to my eye and yet it still took weeks after that sunny day in May to finally press the ‘pause’ button and heal my mind.

My weekly CBT sessions had focused on my anxiety over cancer and the fear of it coming back. After dengue fever in the March and tough times at work, it felt like I was no longer welcome in this world. My emotions and thoughts were spilling out of me and I withdrew from everything and most people I knew.

After months of panic attacks, constant anxiety and worry about life, relationships, health, work, I called a dear therapist, who helped me to take the brave step and finally put my hands in the air and surrender to the depression and anxiety. Suicidal thoughts and even writing the note in my head was the final straw…. I felt so frightened of life itself. I didn’t recognise the hands on the steering wheel shaking with panic as I drove away from work that July morning.

Physically, I suffered with stomach pains, constant sensations of nausea, lack of energy, binge eating, sugar craving and throat tightening. Emotionally, I was angry, upset, tearful and scared and thoughts to match.

I had choices, yet, the choice of complete wellbeing, still felt out of touch. I so passionately believed in wellbeing and it is the best professional role I have ever done in my life. I was truly practising wellness for mind, body and soul – I just hadn’t fully grasped it …. Have I ever really had wellbeing?

I continued to stare at my vicious little flower and a 10-day silent meditation retreat gives plenty of time and space to do that. It has been my biggest challenge and most brutal experience I have ever encountered sitting with my emotions and thoughts – I literally was scared of my own shadow.

Through my weekly CBT sessions we’ve explored childhood, belief patterns, traumas, relationships, emotions and behaviours. I have learnt that wellbeing is truly an inside job.

“Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world”

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Fast forward to now and after a transformational 10-day meditation experience, weekly CBT for 7 months and some EMDR (Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing)  therapy I have finished picking the petals off my flower and I have awoken from my slumber. A new perspective on life, just like the eye of this Daisy.I have come to learn that my anxiety screams louder when I am off track, people pleasing, shrinking and compromising the very values and beliefs that make me who I am. Like physical exercise, I also appreciate I need to exercise my mind with the great CBT tools, mindfulness and meditation techniques I have learnt and surround myself with cheerleaders and spirited people I identify with.

I am deeply grateful for all the love, kindness and support I have had from a circle of people I had the courage to tell at the time. Thank you x


For further reading and support on mental health, please hook in with the following useful resources:

Professional Help and Support:
Efficacy – CBT Therapy 
Nuffield Health – Links to emotional wellness and resilience
Mind – Charity supporting mental health
Time to Change – Campaign to end mental health discrimination

Books:
The Well of Being – Jean Pierre Weil
The Chimp Paradox – Dr Steve Peters
Peace of Mind – Thich Nhat Hanh
Calm – Michael Acton Smith
Frazzled – Ruby Wax
The Pressure Principle – Dr Dave Alred
The Wisdom of Healing – David Simon, M.D
Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Retreats and nourishing acts of kindness
Life by Danielle – Weekly tools, life coaching and retreats
​Traditional Yoga – Registered Charity that offer meditation weekends, retreats, resources and great tea!
Soulstice Wellbeing – A place to unwind, relax, enjoy a yogi tea and treat yourself to a class, or treatment