The Puzzle of Movement: Find Your Mind

Work On Your Mind

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It is your biggest barrier and your biggest tool to self realisation and achieving fitness goals is your mind. I’ve said it a few times and I’ll say it again, physical activity and incorporating it into your life can be just as much an emotional and mental challenge as it is physical. Sometimes, you may find yourself stopping mid activity because you think you can’t push any further.

Practice pushing your own self limitations and step a little out of your comfort zone. I challenge you, and see what happens. You may shock yourself. I have certainly shocked myself a number of times.

Find Something You Enjoy

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Don’t vow to run 4 times a week if the magic of running hasn’t struck you. I would encourage persevering for a month or two with any activity to see if it grows on  you, but if you’re really not feeling it, try something else. Try getting on your bike, or swimming a few lengths, or an exercise class – of which the variety just keeps on expanding.

Who knows what classes we’ll be attending in 5 years time like we’ve been needing it all our life. I don’t particularly like group exercise classes, so don’t really go or seek to go to them – but for others, they’re a staple to their weekly schedule. Dip your toes in many ponds before diving in completely, getting all the kit and making a plan that you won’t stick with because you’re not enjoying it.

Enjoy Yourself

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I’ll tell you a secret – you’re allowed to have a bloody good time whilst working out. You’re allowed to laugh, smile and make friends. All of which help in keeping activity as part of your routine and daily life. Have fun – some of the best times I’ve had, and the best people I have met has been via exercising, and not getting wasted in a club or pub a few times a week: conversely to popular belief.

Do It For a Reason You Believe In

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Sometimes we need a bit of external motivation. Getting up in the morning to run can be a challenge. Dragging your arse to your 6am gym class before a full work day can seem like the last thing you want to do when the alarm goes off at 5.30am, but people do it. Hundreds and thousands of people do it, and they do it regularly.

Maybe they have something that we snooze button pushers don’t have – and I think it is a purpose and belief in what they’re doing. It becomes a passion and something you couldn’t imagine not doing. Passing up a few more drinks past tipsy to get up in the morning and feel alive whilst doing sun salutations may seem a bit alien to you right now, but after a few months of reaping the benefit you may not be able to imagine starting your Monday mornings any other way.

Know Your Goals

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Know what you want from you activity, and reflect on whether you’re getting it – and how to adapt your schedule and habits until you’re getting exactly what you want out of it. When you do this, you’re more likely to stick with it because it becomes important to you, as important as eating every day and sleeping every night.

In my journey I found focusing my why and purpose of exercising beyond achieving a certain body aesthetic, or fitting into a certain clothes size. With these goals, if you achieve them it can feel a bit like “what next?” or you stop once your goal has been achieved and it’s not really become a part of your lifestyle and if you don’t achieve these set goals within a time frame, it can be very disheartening.

Instead, or as well, have a goal that is immeasurable. Are you seeing your friends through your activity? Are you de-stressing from the day and your worries? Are you trying to replace less healthy coping mechanisms? Are you training for an event to raise money for a cause you care for? Take time to notice the benefit you’re gaining. This seems to cement the “I will feel much better after a run” as a solid memory to recall during times of stress or moments of lacking motivation when running feels like that last thing you want to do – or tennis, or gymnastics, or swimming: whatever your activity of choice is.

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The University Lessons in Getting Better

People go to university for a number of different reasons. Some go to get a qualification that will help them get the job they want. Some go because they don’t know what else to do for the time being, and university seems like a convenient way to decide what to do over the course of three years. Some forget about the qualification all together and just go to party and get ‘life experiences’.

For me, there was a number of motivations that brought me onto the path of studying at university. The topic I chose rose from my life experiences outside of education – my real life struggles and what I learned about the world changed my values, which ultimately changed my life goals too. I also see going to university as a recovery and rehabilitation project for me. As someone recovering from a complete disruption in my life due to mental health, going to university is teaching me more than the lecture content.

I am learning to be busy again. I have had to adjust to actually doing things, and there being consequences if I don’t do them. This is a valuable life lesson because when you are off work due to mental health, and there is no expectation of yourself – it is easy to not commit to anything. Sometimes, we need to step back and sometimes this was necessary, however, after a while however, it became increasingly difficult to commit or get going again.

I am learning to regain structure in my life, and to use this structure to help myself regain and re-build my life. Whereas a year ago, the thought of this was overwhelming for me.

I am learning to go outside of my comfort zone quite literally. I regularly leave my home borough now, compared to years ago when I wouldn’t go much further than an hour walking radius. I regularly get the train to Central London, out to Surrey and out and across to my university campus. I have learned and gained confidence in myself to travel to new places. Sometimes, I would even go as far as to day that I can quit enjoy going to new places.

I am learning how to problem solve around my mental health difficulties and anxieties. With the help of support, I am learning how to overcome the hurdles that I would have previously been barriers. Attending lectures in the big lecture hall at the start of the year was a really awful experience for me – now though, with exposure and support, and being told about a nifty side door that means I can avoid the crowds has really helped.

As a part-time student I have the luxury of time to utilize my university experience to help me continue growing as a person and rehabilitating myself ready for a life beyond being unwell with my mental health.

I spent my first year learning to go to uni, gain a routine, use a routine, and re-learn how to focus my mind. It hasn’t been plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination – and a medication adjustment alongside my mental health treatment has really helped as well. It is important that I don’t downplay the role these factors have played in my progression throughout the year because it is not a matter of will-power. It is not a matter of ‘just overcoming’ barrier and hurdles. It is not a matter of going to uni part-time is the solution.

It is a combination of factors and learning opportunities. It is the start of a journey – and judging by how much I have learned in this last year, and how much I have changed I have a feeling that this path is going to lead to good places in the long run. I feel as if I am on a path moving forward with my life, and learning to live in partnership with my mental health rather than being ruled by it. Here’s to starting to see the beginnings of rehabilitation within myself.

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Food Rule #5: Meal Plans Aren’t Concrete

When I really have my life together I plan my meals for the next 2-3 days so that I know what to buy. I try to include a variety of foods whilst also maximising what I buy to minimise my food waste. I also tend to save £ when I manage to do this. It’s great, like I said though, it happens only when I really have my life together – like I’m wearing matching socks most days kind of together.

However, just because I have written my meal plans out on my beautiful Kikki.K meal planner doesn’t mean it is set in stone. Sometimes life happens. Sometimes plans change, or we feel too run down to bother cooking. That’s OK.

Flexibility is good, and despite my lack of flexibility in many areas of my life, flexibility around food really reduces any stress resulting from food. Food isn’t supposed to be stressful.

Admittedly, I am not a flexible person by any stretch of the imagination – so learning that it is OK to change my meal plans can sometimes be a challenge, and initially? I wouldn’t even go there. I have since however, had a reality shake up that shit happens, and sometimes plans change – in fact, this will happen at some point and we have to deal with hiccups along the road. We all do.

So just because you planned to have tuna pasta cooked for your packed lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday by Monday night, but you’re too tired to make it – so what?

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Running My Fate into My Hands

We all have our comfort zones. I for one am a massive culprit of staying firmly rooted within my comfort zone. At times in my life I have even reduced and reduced what constitutes my comfort zone until I am living my life trapped by my own invisible boundaries. The saying, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” is a common quote I see floating around the internet on living a life to the full and of personal growth.

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According to this idea, all of our life’s adventures are achieved from pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone frequently, and although I agree that we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones sometimes in order to grow, I don’t quite follow the mantra “do something every day that scares you” because to be honest, if I do something that scares me on one day, I may need 2-3 days to recover and adjust.

This week for example, I have started running in the mornings in order to make sure I fit it in, don’t procrastinate it away for days, which turn into weeks, which turn into months at a time. Instead of always wishing, I’ve started just doing. However, that isn’t to say I have started ‘just doing’ for every aspect of my life that I have ever spent hours dreaming and wishing about because the drawback on the ‘just do it’ slogan is that I also need to be realistic. If I ‘just do’ everything I want to do, I will most certainly become overwhelmed and wind up achieving…nothing…nada…zilch…to accompany my already long list of regrets.

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In order to start running in the mornings I had to think about each barrier that was stopping me from running for so many months: the why, the what and how to change it. One barrier I came across was that I didn’t know my way around my neighbourhood since I moved in December 2015. This prevented me from going out and running outside for quite some time. Once I did I restricted myself to the same route, road and park. Needless to say, my running routes became stagnant and boring.

Now I know the surrounding roads and areas more than a year ago. I know of more local parks, woodlands and all the roads to the next few high streets from riding the bus everywhere. I don’t fully know about all of the little roads in-between and this is OK. To solve the final blow of a conundrum of not knowing a perfect loop that starts and ends at my front door, I have started packing my oyster card with me so I can  get a bus home if I need to. I have done this a few times now, and have actually never needed to use it – but the comfort of knowing I can get home via public transport is a safety net to my greater explorations of the SE postcodes of London.

 

Today though, I took an even more bold move than I have done in a good while. I had my tools with me: my oyster, my bank card and my phone – fully charged. I was prepared for any eventuality that might strike whilst running up a london suburbia street that I don’t know. I hadn’t studied the map, I hadn’t planned my route. All I had in my head when I left my driveway was the first road I was going to take. After that, the world was my oyster. The roads of SE london were at my feet and I had prepared to just go. With a push in my confidence and a wobbly step outside of my comfort zone that turn up a road that totally lost my bearings in relation to where I was vs home brought a few racing thoughts of panic.

“Should I turn back?”

“That road back there was a bus route I know”

“Where am I going to come out at?”

I didn’t turn back. I didn’t stop running. I didn’t panic – I Just kept going. I was running out of my comfort zone, quite literally. After I had finished my run I used my phone to find my way back to where I knew and walked home. I wasn’t that far away at all in the end. In fact, I was very much closer to home than I realised. It was fine. It was great. It was quite freeing knowing I just went. Although the anxiety was still there slightly, and even when I think about it now a pang of anxiety snaps in my chest but I did it.

 

I won’t be pushing myself out of my comfort zone for the rest of today though, or even at all tomorrow either. I am still quite fond of my comfort zone. I am still quite a homebody and find comfort in staying with what I know. I will however, keep pushing myself out there slightly over time in order to grow. It’s not that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, it’s that growth starts at the edge of your comfort zone. From growth, we achieve and become more of what we want and less of ‘just is’. From growth, we see our limits and know our core. From growth, our fate is in our hands rather than our fate being at the hands of anything and everything except yourself.

From growth, I am going to become the best person I can be – and for me, there is no carrot on a stick more desirable than that.

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Songs of My Journey: 2011, Struggling On

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I finished my second year in 2011. I remember spending evening after evening in the library trying to finish and move on with my studies. It was difficult for me, and I had mastered not eating for days on end resulting in a steep decline in my weight. I would listen to songs on repeat that resonated with my struggles at the time. I was no longer in denial with myself: I knew I was ill and had realised that I was starting to lose control. I had accepted a referral to the Maudsley for relapse prevention, but my relapse had become suffocating – and I no longer wanted ripping from my comfortable starvation, despite being scared at how low my weight had dropped in the Dr’s office.