Tag Archives: anxiety

How To Focus To Stop Being Flooded With Worry

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How To Stop Being Flooded With Worry

The Worry Flood!

What on earth am I going on about? Worry is a part of human nature and is a shared experience. However the way everyone experiences worry is another thing…

I know this idea of a Worry Flood might sound strange, but bear with me and I think you’ll see what I mean…well, I hope so! I can only describe it in ‘technical’ terms as a weird VaVoom drop and then the rush of worry that floods you from head to toe!

More simply, this is that feeling in the pit of your stomach before your heart races! The sickening sinking feeling that joins in can last seconds or days. I imagine there aren’t many people that haven’t experienced it at least once in their lives

The extent of worrying for you and me

Unfortunately some of us (*raising hand awkwardly even though no one’s home) worry to such extent that it can cause debilitating anxiety or even panic attacks. This is when worry has gone from flood to tsunami and your techniques stop working.

You might be in a very similar situation to me, but because of all sorts of factors, you may be able to brush off that Va-voom feeling quickly. Then take a deep breath to reboot, gain your composure and can carry on with what you were doing.

However, when I forget to check myself, worry quickly swirls into a whirlwind. Guilt, doubt and fear enclose me and I get caught in the eye of the storm; in panic mode until the dust settles. This happens less and less as I’ve had help from experts.

I’m not an expert, so if you feel like this, please seek medical advice.

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Worry becomes anxiety or panic.

Worry is experienced to varying extents but everyone shares that initial adrenaline rush. That heart quickening and stomach sinking feeling, is a common experience, but there are vast differences in how you and I then react. The extent of one person’s worry is almost impossible to comprehend.

How does worry affect you? Are you a worry wort or chronically concerned? And why the heck does worry exist? First, the science geeky stuff behind what you and I feel and experience.

Why does worry exist?

Life is full of uncertainty and this is what drives solutions and new ways to look at things. You can only prepare so much for things that are going to happen, at some point. When you can prepare, you’re able to take back some control of the situation.

And that’s the key point: Control!

You only have control of what is happening to you now! You can’t control what has happened; good or bad. But you can learn from your mistakes and successes to shape your future decision making so even without full control, you forge your path.

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A lack of control… Photo by ehsan ahmadnejad

Having a lack of control over the future is often that pivotal moment when apprehension turns into worry. You can only solve possible future problems to a certain point, before you literally can’t prepare anymore.

You might start trying to predict every eventuality; asking ‘what if’s’ and going over and over problems. All of that is going to dredge that worry monster up – I’ve been there!

How to react to feeling flooded with worry

If you’re still here then I’m guessing it’s pretty likely that you’re a worrier. Hopefully you’ve learnt how to handle worry so you can avoid destruction. It’s vital that you do build these strategies up so that Worry doesn’t stop you living your best life.

I’ll throw you some life lines a little further down the page, so stick with me a bit longer and learn the skills I’ve built for the least disturbance in my life.

But first the sciencey geeky stuff!

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The Sciencey Geeky Stuff Photo by Toni Cuenca

a) You put up barriers, like sand bags, doing all you can to avoid failure. You avoid any vulnerability, that you are never budging from that comfort zone. You’ll miss out on learning about your potential and becoming a stronger person. You stop living!

b) You’ve built defences so you don’t have to worry about anyone or anything. You see where the day takes you. Not the best long term plan, but I get it, you’re protecting yourself. You could end up living a very lonely life though.

c) You let the water freeze around you, creating a protective bubble. When you start to feel uncomfortable, you give up and take the easy option! You’ll forget what the world has to offer to you.

I’ve just described 3 examples of The Stress response: fight, flight or freeze. All primal examples of how animals respond to fear. I’ve explained The Stress Response in this blog: How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes

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Photo by Darrel Und on Pexels.com

I also wanted to share this article by James Clear about The Evolution of Anxiety. James is an author and photographer who shares the latest scientific research about human habits and potential.

A giraffe makes immediate choices such as: “When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree. When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush. When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.”

“[M]ost of your choices as a giraffe (…) make an immediate impact on your life. You are constantly focused on the present or the very near future.”

Animals live in a state scientists call an immediate-return environment. However, as we’ve evolved we’ve lost that immediate reward of food, shelter or safety.

“Most of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately. (..) [E.g.] If you save money now, you’ll have enough for retirement.  (..) [The things we] worry about are problems of the future.”

Humans live in a Delayed Return Environment. “[This can] lead to chronic stress and anxiety,(…) because your brain wasn’t designed to [work in this environment]”

Why do you need to know this?

You need strategies that help you respond to today’s societal expectations. You need techniques to help you avoid stress response. Ideally these need to be so practised that they’re what you turn to in a split second, when you recognise your triggers.

This takes time and dedication, working on yourself and ideally having an expert to guide you. I’m years into this and still get tripped up sometimes. If they’re available at your fingertips, you can press pause on the Worry Flood and get back to dry land.

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Build a dam to divert the Worry Flood into canals Photo by Quintin Gellar

You build a Dam by de-watering (in this case) the habits you’ve used for years. Then you learn  distractions and ways to create calm. Once you’ve done this you can use floodgates to divert the Worry Flood in to a canal, giving you more control to deal with smaller sections of the bigger problem.

Once you’ve curbed your anxieties you’ll be more equipped to counteract the Worry Flood. The less your thoughts are eroded the less you’ll struggle. You’ll be armed because use you’ve built barricades and have a safe place where to continue to grow

How it feels to be flooded with worry!

I’ve been out of my depth many times and lately I’ve been struggling;  worry that has been overwhelming at times. I’ve failed to recognise the Amber alerts and have become engulfed with anxiety and panic attacks. So I have to start rebuilding again.

I realised I’ve been stuck in this whole delayed return environment phase. Behind the scenes, I’m developing all I need to launch a better Paprika Jewellery & Accessories. But the reward is a way off yet and with the pressure I put on myself I just didn’t spot the triggers!

I’ve spent the last few years building easily accessible skills. I used them regularly so when it comes to times like this; I’d have some control to slow down the flood. When I realised it hadn’t worked, I ensured to get my routine back. Now I’ve got my sights back on my main goal of being well enough to spend time with family and friends.

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How to Focus when that flood warning is given

So I want to share my top tips for controlling the Worry Flood, by diverting the overload into canals where I could catch smaller sections of water. This allows me to use my strategies to rebuild, dealing with smaller sections of the bigger problem.

These skills have become my go to, picked up through research, forums and work with qualified practitioners. They’re personalised for my triggers, but I’m able to share them in a way that you can developthem for your own needs. Remember, it’s not just building walls and they may need you to step outside of your comfort zone! 

 My Top Tips for Worry Flooding

  • The 1st thing you do each day is set yourself just 1 goal that you commit to. This can be about anything. Check in with yourself a few times a day to see if you’re on track.
  • At the end of the day, write a done list! it feels really good to reward yourself by knowing what you have achieved and think less about what you haven’t. I try and make this really positive and celebrate things I’m happy, proud and grateful for.
  • Use a timer to focus on productivity. I do this when writing and on social media. I need to balance time spent online with energy for my family and friends. You can download a free planner here- How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes
  • Plan to keep yourself on track. I love planning, but use my long term goals to keep on track as I write my planner each week. If I don’t achieve something, I rub it out and reorganise. Breaking down a problem into chunks make it easier to control.
  • Block similar work together. For example, I find all photos I need in one go, instead of with each blog. This is just right now that I’ve explored what works for me.
  • Use music to set the tone. I really missed music when I was really poorly. I’m bringing it back in to my life gently, but with purpose. I use an album as a timer; a playlist for productivity or ambient sounds for concentration.
  • Use the notes on your phone to keep track of your ideas whenever and wherever. I use it to plan my writing or to keep track of medical notes. I know I’ll always have what I need for some control in unplanned or stressful situations.
  • Recognise the little voice in your head. Don’t miss the Amber flood warning, practising your best on the spot techniques. I write stream of consciousness rants to stop me going over something that can’t be changed. It’s also helped me stop saying sorry so often and use more positive language than negative.
  • Meditation is the best skills to learn if you worry. It helps you build layers of protection and grounds you. Learn when to be vulnerable and when to let go. You can learn quick centring techniques easily. I meditate every day and I’ll tell you why in this post. 5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress
  • Learn breathing techniques. It’s especially effective when for me, when I feel that first wave of worry. Try putting a hand on your heart or stomach and take a few deep breaths to compose yourself.  There are many techniques, so experiment to see what works for you. I recommend this guide: 1 minute breathing exercises
  • Live in the moment. As I’ve said, now is the only time you have control of your next choice. Step outside your comfort zone and embrace life right now. Be present and live to your fullest potential. If a planning freak like me can do it, I’m sure you can.
  • Develop a sleeping pattern that works for you. So 8 hours in a dark room at the same time each night, might be your thing, but let’s get real; this isn’t going to work for everyone. I sometimes get no sleep due to pain, bleurgh…. But if I sleep well, I cope with the pain better. Find things that help you relax and try setting a bedtime routine. You should be more equipped for handling worries.
  • Face your fears. I’ve embraced things that scare me from my bed, so try not to get hung up on bolstering barricades. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. I think you’d be surprised by how it makes you feel and the response from others!
  • Affirmations are statements you can use to manifest your potential and strengthen your self belief. They help me so much that I’ve designed a free printable available until the 31st March, if you sign up to my newsletter. Check out the link at the end of this post. Here’s a guide to use them to set yourself up for a very productive day. L
  • 5 Morning Affirmations To Guarantee A Successful Day!
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Learn from my tips to develop your own strategies for worry and anxiety Photo credit Natalia Figueredo

In Conclusion

I hope I’ve not been too metaphor happy, so these are the key points to take away:

There’s many ways to protect yourself from too much worry, so explore and find what suits you. Build up layers of protection, whilst also being vulnerable, Step outside your comfort zone and remember the power of diversions.

Fight, flight or freeze (stress response) are reactions to perceived threat. This is a primal response, but we know experience that from stress and worry. We also have to wait for reward most of the time, which can heighten our anxiety. Develop skills and strategies that give you some control and help reduce the extent of your worry.

When planning ahead, focus on leaving room to reflect. Writing your concerns can help stop you overthinking.. You can only control right now, so practise different strategies that focus on letting go of control.

*This is based on my own experiences and is just my opinion, unless referenced. If you are struggling with stopping worry overload, please seek medical advice.

I’d love to know how you focus to cope with worry in the comments! 

Chronic Illness Bloggers

✋ Hey there! You could really help me out. Just one minute of your time to press that share button helps me so much! You’ll literally make me do a bed-bound happy dance. Now there’s an image for you!

How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes

 

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How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 Minutes

I don’t know about you but the beginning of the year is a busy brain season for me. I’ve been creating goals, working on new ideas and doing lots of training. My brain’s been on overdrive, with so much that I want to do this year! I’m going to share my own busy mind experiences with you and my top tips for clearing mind clutter.

Thinking Ahead 

Our brains can easily go into overdrive when we start acting on our goals and it’s tough keeping all that information in our heads. I wrote about planning the year ahead in this post:  How to Write Awesome 2019 Goals Without Feeling Overwhelmed

  • I’m sharing my social media plan printable with you. It’s great for anyone who wants to limit time on social media, but I did create it with Chronic Bloggers in mind. If you want productivity over busyness, grab it at the end of this post ⬇️

My problem with plans, is that I want to just crack on and forget I’ve got brain disease! I’ve always had a passion for planning, but it doesn’t always go to plan. I go full-on Laura mode, with ideas taking over every tiny bit of headspace left I have left. The bits not backlogged with blood and CSF. Ewww, sorry for that image. Wondering what’s CSF? ➡️ What is Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension/IIH?

I’ve not planned properly, since having left teaching, but this year I got busy creating planning grids for my blog, email and business strategies. I hadn’t planned to make them, which messed up my plans. 🤔 I was trying to do it all, forgetting to review and adapt and I gave that anxiety monster a VIP pass! As I practise grounding strategies often, I was able to calm my busy mind quickly and worked on strategies for organising my thoughts.

Write things down to make sense of your thoughts

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To Do Notes are ok if they have some structure to them

 

If your brain’s overworked, get a pen and some paper and write your thoughts down. I don’t think ‘to do’ lists, are a productive way to form clear ideas from jumbled thoughts. They’re great for quick reminders, but not so great for bigger issues. So what could you use instead? Here are my top tips for creating clarity in a busy mind.

I normally use a diary but this year I decided to try a more structured planner.  Structure is important for focusing  your thoughts, whichever format is for you.

 

 

 

I brought my planner from StarCreationsCo on Etsy   It’s great because:

  • It has a yearly and monthly calendar for planning ahead ✅
  • it has a space for me to write my goals ✅ (I want those everywhere)
  • It has a monthly page of squares for bullet journaling, so I can test the idea ✅
  • It has space to plan, reflect and add your most important jobs ✅
  • Most of all it’s really pretty and I can add stickers and washi tape ✅

You can see where I’ve rubbed out where I’ve planned too much here. No filter…

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My planner has a week to view and is formatted to helps me organise my thoughts on paper

Reflection 

At the end of each day I always write 3 positive things which happened that day. There’s not quite enough space in the planner. So I’m using a gorgeous diary covered in recycled vintage Korean fabric from my friend’s lovely Etsy shop – The Vintage Bookworm. I write:

  • I’m Happy because…
  •  I’m Grateful for…
  • I’m Proud of…

It’s so important to reflect on each day, each week, each month and each year to have a success with positive mindset! Take time to celebrate your successes, big or small. Reward yourself with a pamper, a bubble bath or just a pat on the back. These rewards trigger the pleasure centres of our brain and make us want more positivity.

 

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An overly busy mind leads to overwhelm

An Overloaded Mind

When things get too much and start to become a mess in my head, I create head space by getting my ideas down on paper or notes on my phone. I’ve been creating structure so I can be productive and focused. I’ve made a social media plan a free printable for you ⬇️

 

 

My anxiety is usually from having an overloaded mind and this still gets the better of me sometimes. Structuring my thoughts and writing them down always calms my mind. I’m sharing the strategies I’ve built up over time with you and some I found on these sites;

Anxiety Canada.com  and Anxieties.com

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How To Create Clarity In A Busy Mind In 15 Minutes

 

Top Tips for Creating Clarity in a Busy Mind in just 15 Minutes

 

When One Big Problem is Bothering You

  1. Set a 15 minute timer and free write – This is a cathartic activity and works best with a real pen and paper so that you can let your thoughts spill onto the paper; clearing your mind clutter. If you avoid doing this your problem will get just bigger in your head. If you write it down, it may not seem as big a problem as you thought!
  2. Speak to someone you trust – Find someone you know is a good listener, such as your partner or good friend. Set ground rules before you start and be clear that you’ll only spend 15 minutes talking about this. Going over and over the problem will create more negativity and isn’t good for your headspace. Say it, listen and move on.
  3. Act on your negative feelings, before it becomes a problem – Are you feeling Stressed, Nervous, Frustrated or Anxious? Set a 10 minute timer and use this feeling to turn the problem into a question – e.g. Why am I anxious about going to the doctors? Then quickly list the reasons that come up. Write your answer down using positive language i.e ‘I can stop feeling anxious by writing my questions’.
  4. Be solution focused
  • Using a 3 minute egg timer – write down your problem. You can create a mind map or flow chart if visuals help you.
  • Turn over the timer – write down your negative feelings about this problem. You may have many or just one. Write them as one main sentence about why you feel that way e.g. I feel really nervous about this job interview.
  • Turn over the timer – write down what’s stopping you solve this e.g. I’m nervous because last time I forgot to say…! Be specific and don’t make assumptions.
  • Turn over the timer – think about your ideal solution or a 1st step. Write this down e.g. I’m going to make notes on flash cards so I remember to say…

Some problems will need more than 15 minutes to solve completely, but these strategies can be adapted. If you ignore these big problems they’ll start to affect your health.

How to Cope with an Overactive Mind in 15 Minutes 

  • Exercise daily – Daily you say? Yes, daily! I don’t mean a full on work out, we’re talking about 15 minutes here! You could: Take a 15 minute walk round the park, do 15 minutes of reps/sit ups etc or try a 15 minute morning yoga stretch. Exercise helps clear your mind and releases serotonin, which makes you feel good! Even from bed I do bed yoga (Yep, it’s a thing) most days. *Please make sure to check with you Doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
  • Set a daily worry/thinking time – This one might sound strange, but you can retrain your brain by setting a regular time to sit quietly for 15 minutes and let those thoughts free. This only works if you’re able to distract yourself the rest of the day as we don’t want to lose you down that rabbit hole before you get to that time.
  • Carry a little notebook and Pen – This one might seem obvious, but it’s a must. I tend to use my phone’s notes, it just needs to be portable. Offload your thoughts quickly before they get too heavy. If you’re a night worrier then keep one next to your bed too. Just set a timer for 15 minutes.
  • Meditate regularly – Many of us struggle to fit this into our lives or think it’s too hard. I’ve used meditation daily since becoming ill as it’s known for creating calm. At first work on controlling your breathing and let your thoughts come to mind. Then let them go by focusing back on your breathing. A guided meditation will talk you through this process and there are loads available for free on YouTube or apps, such as Insight Timer. This is one of the top 5 things that help me stay positive. I’ve written more on this here. These are both great guided meditations for beginners.
  • The Honest Guys Body Scan Guided Meditation
  • Jason Stephenson Beginners Guided Meditation
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Use Meditation to focus and create space for your thoughts, before letting them go.
  • Turn negatives into a positives  – Set a 15 minute timer and grab a piece of paper. Draw a vertical line half way and write everything busying your mind. Then look at each one separately and try to turn it into a positive statement. E.g I’m not sleeping well, I’m so tired  | I will go to bed early and sleep will happen. This redirects your thoughts and establishes positive language, which helps you to remain focused and find solutions quickly.
  • Use Affirmations for daily positive thoughts – I use these to focus on the big dreams, I dare to dream. They help keep me positive even on the worst days when pain and/or anxiety are off the charts! Affirmations are positive statements or intentions that tell your brain___ is totally going to happen! Using these daily can help you become who you dream of being! I’ve used them successfully for three brain and skull surgeries 😵. If you still want to be rid of negativity, I can help. I’ve created a set of affirmations for my Etsy shop and you can get your hands on a free sample today. See details below ⬇️
  • Use a strategy to reduce the time you spend on Social Media – Let’s face it, we can’t get away from social media and as a blogger you need it. I take a total break or limit the number of sites I’m on when I need to rest. I recommend using an app to schedule your content ahead. You can be more productive by planning in bulk so that you can focus on engagement for 15 minutes before you post. If this is your style then please download my free social media planner printable below ⬇️. I created it for Chronic Illness bloggers, but it can be adapted for anyone.

Social Media Planner for Chronic Bloggers

Social Media Planner for Chronic Illness Bloggers using 15 minutes Engagement time before posting

In Conclusion 

Please take away the most important message from this – You need to write your thoughts down to make sense of what you’re stewing over. Set up regular habits to kickstart a cycle of positive thinking, reflection and reward. It’s really worth taking 15 minutes to convert your thoughts into beautiful ideas or solutions and it’s just as important to look after your brain as the rest of your body! Try out some of these ideas to find what works for you!

I’d love to hear from you if you try any of these out or want to share ideas that help you. Sharing is caring and with mental health, we need to keep an ongoing conversation!

Before you go…

My Etsy shop The Paprika Jewellery aims to support positive thinking by creating designs from positive themes. Jewellery & Accessories made from the soul, for the soul.

Want to be the first to know what’s coming and get your hands on exclusive deals? Grab a 15% coupon code for your next purchase in my Etsy shop and a free printable sample of my ‘Positive Affirmations’ by signing up to my occasionally regular newsletter today!

Click here to subscribe and grab your freebies! img_2933

Chronic Illness Bloggers

5 Morning Affirmations To Guarantee A Successful Day!

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5 Morning Affirmations To Guarantee A Successful Day

Hey there, are you someone who needs a bit of a boost in your day?

Maybe you’re feeling like you’re missing the mark at work, that your relationship’s doomed, that you’re useless because you’re chronically ill or that you’re just having disastrous days.

job12-280-chim-00918If you’re a negative thinker or a self-sabotager and the life you want seems a long way off, then this post’s for you! I’ve got tips for making positive changes by just spending a few minutes a day on affirmations. There’s even science to back that up! So now with your morning coffee you can start your day the positive way!

 

What are Affirmations?

Maybe you’ve heard of Affirmations but think they sound sappy or too out there. Maybe you don’t think they’d help as you’re ok, just not as successful as you’d hoped. Stick with me and I’ll show you how affirmations help you build a positive mindset.

Before I start you off on your journey to a successful day, you need to know what the deal is. I first heard of Affirmations about 15 months ago and now spend a few minutes each day on them. I think much more positively now and want everybody to realise they can find positive in every day. Here are a few simple tips to help you!

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Set Positive Intentions

 

Affirmations help you set an intention for that day (or however long you need it for), starting with ‘I am’ for example. They’re a great tool for helping you think more positively and if used regularly, each day will be more positive! OK, so your thoughts won’t change overnight, but I can assure you that they’ll work if you stick with it.

 

 

You use something you want to feel, do or happen and write it as though it’s already happening. So instead of ‘I want to feel loved and happy’. Your affirmation says ‘I choose love and happiness’.

You may have to do a little bit of work to crack the code at first, but you’ll soon be starting your day the positive way. So if you’re feeling low or a bit meh; then this is such a simple way to structure your thoughts and create a positive loop:

positive thought = positive actions = self-worth = positive thought and so on.

How Affirmations Work

For an affirmation to work fully, you need to trick your brain. A bit like changing the TV remote’s batteries, you need to put negative and positive in the right place. Instead of matching them to a symbol, you need to rewire your thinking, especially if you’re a Negative Nelly!

To rewire your brain, you have to make Positive Polly drown out Negative Nelly. To do that, you need to say the affirmation out loud, more than once! Just like exercise to improve our physical health is repetitive, any exercise to improve our mental health needs to be repetitive. Practise makes Positive!

To Create this positive repetition, you could write them in your journal/diary, put them on a memo board/fridge or record them using a voice memo app and listen to them wherever you are. I use all 3 of these for maximum impact!

Each time you create these positive responses from affirmations, your brain kicks in the reward mechanism. I won’t get too sciencey, but if you use affirmations about your most important values, your brain will soon begin to have positive reactions.

These positive reactions create a reward, such as increasing your self-worth. Once your brain gets a reward it will want more. You’ll start thinking and acting more positively. You’ll value yourself and feel a sense of purpose. You’ll want to look after yourself more and start creating more positive than negative in your life.

I want to start you on this journey, so read on and see how much it helped me and get yourself set the 5 affirmations to start your successful day.

**Disclaimer – this won’t happen overnight! You’ll have to put the work in!

My Journey with affirmations

One of my favourite affirmations is ‘I replace anger with compassion and understanding’. When I first picked it from my set of cards, I wasn’t having the best day. I was angry with myself about something (I’ve no idea what) and almost put it back in the pack!

When I say I was angry with myself, I really mean that I felt guilty about something I probably should have done. It’s always been a habit of mine, but when I was still  processing my chronic illness I felt like this a lot!

Anyway, I left it on display for a couple of days and as suggested, I read it often and would say it too myself in my head every so often, as I wasn’t cool with saying it out loud at first. I started to feel calmer soon after making that choice to keep that card.

I started to feel less frustration and guilt and began to feel more positive. As I stuck with it, I found those Negative Nelly feelings were getting drowned out by Positivity Polly.

The more positive I felt the more positive action I took with my self care, which led to more positive thinking. And so the cycle continued and I was hooked!

5 Morning Affirmations to Guarantee a Successful Day

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5 Morning Affirmations to Guarantee a Successful Day

So this is what you’re here for. If you’ve skimmed to get here then do make sure you know what you’re doing, you cheeky thing! I’ve made one for you and a blank one to put personalised affirmations in.

You can download these here: Morning Affirmations

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I am full of gratitude and inspiration affirmation
  1. I am full of gratitude and inspiration
  2. Today is a wonderful new day, full of success
  3. I am open to positive change
  4. Today I will share my knowledge with others
  5. My ideas are worthy of being shared
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Blank Affirmation design for personalised affirmations

These are simple affirmations for success and to use each morning to set you up for a great day. Why not have a go tomorrow morning and come back and tell me about it!

If you’d like access to more free affirmations, then just sign up for my news and exclusives emails, using the pop up form or the link below. 

Sign up today for your free printable Affirmations cards

References

https://www.louisehay.com/affirmations/

If you’re really into Science then this explains why affirmations work and what effects they have on the brain. How Self Affirmation affects the brain

 

Chronic Illness Bloggers

How to Write Awesome 2019 Goals Without Feeling Overwhelmed!

It’s Goal Setting Time. So how can you do this effectively, with a positive mindset? Here are my Top Tips!

 

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Okay, I know there are heaps of blogs out there about planning your goals for 2019, but (and this is a BIG but), there aren’t many out there which give you tips, based on science, to help stop nasty overwhelm and anxiety come knocking.

So, if you’re likely to be run ragged over resolutions; inundated with intentions; in a tiz over targets or engulfed in a goal funk then you NEED to read this post! You can interrupt that cycle of overwhelm and anxiety triggers.

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Why Me? 

Well, I’ve been there year after year. I’d make resolutions that would be forgotten by the end of January and endless to do lists that grew overnight. That was just at home! At work I’d have pages of lists and plans for every second. But, my professional targets would be in a folder until a week before my progress review!

I spent years making lists about lists and overflowing lists of things going round in my head, often keeping me up at night. I’d get distracted and put off doing what would move me forwards and achieve my goals. But now I know how to keep on top of my to do lists and manage my busy brain so I don’t get overwhelmed! You can too!

When Change Was Needed

When I fell ill in January 2014, you can imagine there were no resolutions being made. My focus was all on the one thing that was out of my control – getting better [I’ll come back to that]! I made a conscious choice not to make resolutions the next year, as they’re just too broad for me. I’d put too much pressure on myself, over-thinking and having negative experiences as it felt unachievable!

When I started taking my own business more seriously, even though it was mainly a pain distractor and boredom buster, I still wanted to succeed so I joined a new Facebook group, run by a coach called Josie. I was really excited by what she was saying about living with less worry, especially learning about the science behind my feelings. It was just what I needed to hear! Now I’m going to share some of what Josie’s taught me with you! You can read about what she does here: Worry Free

I soon realised I was still trying to do too much, leaving me drained when my husband and 2 boys needed me. I ended up giving myself just 1 goal: ‘I Will Be Kind To Myself’! I learnt so much about myself, mostly, that my family come 1st – Always! I’ve worked with Josie on my goals for the last 3 years now and each time has been different. From her amazing live videos, small group conference calls and support.

This year I’ve used her brand new Goal Creator download and video, which I’ll tell you how to get for FREE at the end of the post….

How To Write Awesome Goals for 2019 without being overwhelmed! 

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The Big Review

One of THE most important parts of Goal Setting is looking back at what’s worked well for you in the past and what you could improve. It’s really important that you don’t skip this bit! Here I’ll share 2 exercises that might help you. Try it and see!

  • Look back at 3 of your biggest achievements and 3 experiences that didn’t go well (avoiding triggers). List what stands out on both occasions?
  • List all that went well for you in 2018. Do this quickly, without thinking too much. Is there anything from your goals that you didn’t achieve as you wanted to? Do you notice any patterns that could help with planning goals this year?

Finally, don’t worry if you didn’t achieve all of last years goals. You can be flexible.

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Life Choices

Before doing anything, take a moment to think about your needs. Are you thinking how to create what you want more of or less of in your life? Overwhelm occurs if you don’t create balance. This exercise from Josie’s 6 week goal setting course can really help you zoom in on your needs. She explains it in more detail, but have a go!

  1. Roles – family, worklife, hobbies and community/your tribe.
  2. Relationships – family, friends, loved ones and other positive interactions.
  3. Self Worth –  positive mindset/thoughts and how you value yourselfY

Priorities  

You may have a long list at this point. Now narrow it down to just 3 or 4 goals. Try rating these areas from 1 to 10.  This is based on an exercise from The Goal Creator.

  • Personal Growth
  • Emotional Well-being
  • Romance
  • Family & Friendships
  • Self Care
  • Hobbies and Fun
  • Career/Work
  • Money
  • Your own Environment
  • Health, Nutrition and Fitness

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Which of these score the lowest number? The lowest of these should help you prioritise 3 or 4 goals. What do you need more of? What do you need less of?

 

 

What Might Be Holding You Back

Jot down the 3 or 4 goals you’re thinking of. Now take a step back and think of what might be holding you back from achieving them? Have you got any fears or worries?

There could be a few reasons for this. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this goal out of your control? Remember when I said ‘Getting Better’ is my ideal goal, but I can only control some aspects of this. Yours could be ‘Becoming a Millionaire’. But things you can’t control at all, need to go. If you could control parts of it, then make the bit you can control your goal.
  • Is it jumbled in your mind? Is there too much going round in your head and you can’t work out what to focus on?  Too help, can you see how the goal you’re thinking of fits into your Roles, Relationships and/or Self Worth?
  • Is it too much to do? It’s quite possible that in your excitement, you’ve forgotten  these aren’t your long term goals. Realistically is it something you can do in under a year? If you don’t think so, then making this a goal could make you feel overwhelmed. Break it down into smaller chunks and try again.
  • Is something already bothering you about this goal? Maybe you feel overwhelmed by how much you’ve got to do. Or maybe you feel pressure to succeed. Jot down everything you’re worrying about, then come back to it. Here’s a bit of science about Fear when setting and achieving our goals.

When under too much stress, the body’s natural response to fear may trigger the fight – flight response. When triggered, our bodies release chemicals which cause a burst of energy and strength, raising our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. This primal response to fear or stress is because our bodies can’t tell the difference between real or perceived threats. This may lead responses such as – anxiety attacks (flight), guilt (fight) or procrastination (freeze). The Fight or Flight response occurs when we are overwhelmed by everything we need to do. Want more? Click this link

Setting Goals

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Now you should have some clarity on the goals you need to set. However, this is just a taster of the process that Josie takes you through with her Goal Creator training that you can get FOR FREE! So if you’d like more support then check out what she has to offer you at the end of this post!

  1. Write down the 3 or 4 goals you’ve chosen to focus on. Why have you chosen these? What positive effect will working on these goals have?
  2. Write down the steps you need to achieve each of your goals. Include everything that will accomplish your goals, especially the little things that may seem obvious – they’re important.
  3. Use definite language for each goal – using ‘I will’ instead of ‘I want to’. Using this language helps to set your mindset and believe that you will achieve your goal in 2019!
  4. Go back to each step and set a date that you think is reasonable for completing  that step. This holds you accountable for your actions and keeps you focused.
  5. Write down your goals where you’ll see them daily. Get creative! This ensures you’re thinking of your goals each day and will encourage you to act!
  6. Choose a reward for completing each goal. How will you celebrate? It doesn’t have to be a material reward, you can get your a manicure or have a date night, for example. This might seem silly, but it’s a really important part of the process. Josie has kindly explained the science behind using rewards:

The brain loves rewards. It loves to feel like it’s getting somewhere. So, when we reward ourselves for small actions, we are sending positive brain chemicals around our bodies. The more we do this, the more we create these positive chemicals which encourage us to do more of the things that keep us safe and well. The more we do this we are creating positive reinforcement. So the more positive actions we take, the greater success we will have. This will keep you focused, motivated and feeling good!

In Conclusion 

When you have lots running around your head you can get into a negative cycle of overthinking. Having a busy brain can affect both your physical and mental health! Getting your ideas down on paper will help you to stop worrying about everything.

Then you can work around your strengths and create a positive mindset for goal setting. When you consider your priorities you can create meaningful goals, which can be broken into small, manageable steps. Finally, by rewarding wins, you create a positive cycle which leads to more and more success. Now go and create your awesome goals for 2019, without feeling overwhelmed!

The Goal Creator 

Yay – you’ve found the link to Josie’s FREE Goal Creator training, that’s brand new for 2019! Whether you’ve read all my tips or skimmed your way here; It’s a win!

The Goal Creator workbook and video will help you get clarity of mind by getting things down on paper. You’ll be able to move forwards and take small actionable steps to stop overwhelm and lead you to success.

The Goal Creator Free workbook

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My Not So Secret Poetry Diary – A Date with Anxiety #copingwithanxiety #poeminspiration #mentalhealthblogs #chronicblogger

My Date with Anxiety

It’s been a tough ten days in my chronic illness warrior body, so I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve been feeling – eek, it’s time to get real peeps!

I’m going to reflect briefly on what’s been happening to my body and mind each day. But hey, remember this is me writing so, even though I’ll be totally honest, I’ll make sure there’s a positive to everything! This is the story of my Date with Anxiety.

I keep a diary (not a journal) and use it to pace my daily activities. Randomly through the year I write little notes of my strengths and personalised affirmations. Then in the evening I write 3 positives from that day.

Friday 7th December

I couldn’t sleep last night, it’s been disrupted all week, but this was next level. The pain was intense and relentless and I couldn’t understand why. A friend visited me yesterday, which had made my day. She never stays too long and spotted when I was flagging. I hadn’t napped either so I expected knock on effects, but why was it SO bad?

At 3:30am my heart started racing and I was breathless and dizzy – losing control. This panic attack came out of nowhere!. I got up to use the en-suite and collapsed, but my amazing husband Joel woke immediately and rushed to my side. Then he hugged me tight, that hug that let’s me know I’m not alone!

I ended up taking a strong dose of diazepam, but I still didn’t get much sleep and when my carer arrived at lunchtime I was stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted. She took such good care of me and was extra gentle, seeing me so poorly. I recognised at the end of the day that I’m a very lucky lady to have such wonderful souls looking after me!

Saturday 8th December

Hardly any sleep again last night! The meditation and breathing techniques I normally use didn’t help and the day was littered with panic attacks, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. I was on full anxiety alert. Thankfully Joel was amazing with me through it all again and encouraged me to go downstairs for a change of scene.

Before going down I had a shower which was an accomplishment in itself. I still had panic rush up on me again and I just wanted to run away! But Joel guided me through it all, holding my hand I calmed down. Eventually, drained and emotional, I managed a 10 minute nap watching TV, on Saturday evening and finally got some relief.

I’ve not had a flare like this in years!

Sunday 9th December

I’ve managed to sleep much better at last, but I feel battered and bruised from the state of alert my body’s been in the last few days. I know my brain has had the acute stress response or fight or flight. This is exhausting as despite having a large toolkit for dealing with stress, I’ve struggled to access these strategies whilst in a state!

I’m being kind to myself today and have prioritised getting downstairs to be around my boys, so that they can make me laugh and help me heal. The mental bruises take just as long, if not longer than physical to heal, but I’m slowly building myself back up.

This link explains what might happen during a panic attack.

Monday 10th December

I’m still feeling fragile today, but at last my body has decided to catch up on some of the lost sleep. I’ve cat-napped all day, with a little break at lunchtime when my carer arrived. I have no idea what we were talking about but we were cackling away! Joel was working downstairs (a little cushion for me – knowing he’s around even if he’s busy) and commented on the cackling as soon as he did pop upstairs!

Now that I’m trying to process my feelings, I was brave and decided to write a poem about the feelings I experienced. It’s important to reflect on any kind of anxiety attack however you do it, but sweeping it under the carpet won’t help you in the future!

Tuesday 11th December

I finished the poem this morning when I woke up early. Most of my poems are at least started when I’m either not getting to sleep or waking early. This was an early morning finish! I love creating the poem on a lovely background, using stock photography, which is perfect for sharing on social media. I loved the reaction this poem received!

I also chose to explain a little about what I’d been exploring when I wrote this poem. However, I’m not yet used to being so open about my own mental health whilst I’m still fragile. But I’m committed to raising awareness and always think about the fact that what I write might help just one person!

I talk about my anxiety levels rising as the lack of sleep and increased pain added up. But although I’m drained, I do have a strong mental health toolkit – full of strategies that I practice regularly. I know how to use these help build myself back up. Knowing that I’m my only priority in this instance is key to bouncing back!

Well, I thought that I’d got my groove back as the week went on but I’ve struggled again the last few nights, especially last night when I managed about 90 minutes all night. Thankfully I dozed all morning, catching up a bit on all that lost sleep from pain. However, I’ve managed to keep the anxiety in a box by using my toolkit. See below…

No mental health blog is complete without a few top tips.

If you or someone you know suffers a panic attack, try these tips!

  • Exercise

Exercise is one of the quickest way to deal with the raised stress levels that come with a panic attack. My physical illness stops me from going for a run (think flight…), but I can do some bed yoga, even though I take it even more carefully than normal! Some good stretches and shoulder rolls are a great way to shake it off!

  • Talking through the experience

A panic attack is our body’s way of telling us we’re in danger. It’s unlikely you’re in any danger, but tight chests and trouble breathing are all primal reactions to danger. This can trick the mind, almost like a tripwire. So rationalise and talk your physical feelings through with someone. The more you practice, the sooner you’ll interrupt the signals between the brain and the body and if you do this when you’re not in the acute stage, the quicker your training will kick in when you do feel anxious or panicky.

  • Laugh, Smile and spend time with your loved ones!

What can make the stress disappear more than having fun with your friends and family. Make time for each other, put down your phones and other technology and talk. You’ll notice how often I talk about being with Joel and my boys. They make me laugh out loud every day and the feeling is mutual. It’s one of the strongest things we have as a team and we are definitely the reason for all of us usually coping so well!

  • Relaxation and Mindfulness

I talk about meditation and mindfulness in most of my blogs because they are the easiest ways to relax. You can train your brain to take it slowly and/or meditate daily so it calms and controls your breathing. Then you automatically have these skills to help you relax during an anxiety attack. Body Scan Guided Meditations are ideal (search YouTube) and I are some of the easiest meditations to start with. You may find that something else relaxes you, such as taking time to be present or sitting in nature.

I hope that this sneak peek into my world has helped give you an insight into panic attacks and how they can come about. I have let you in to these thoughts because I believe that mental health is as debilitating as physical health can be. They are also often intertwined and life can be tough and lonely if you keep it all inside. I feel very strongly that sharing my experiences is vital to ending the stigma that surrounds mental health. I only discuss this to raise awareness, I’m not seeking sympathy!

If there’s one thing you have learnt from my Date with Anxiety or one thing that you can take away to help yourself or your loved ones, then please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

**AND if you’re not affected directly, then please remember that you never know what someone is going through, so please take the time to listen and talk to each other!

I’ve referenced these websites and blogs whilst writing this post:

Anxiety and Panic Attacks- Mind.org

6 ways to switch off the fight or flight response

Understanding the stress response

How the flight or fight response works

Chronic Illness Bloggers

How to stay sane when stuck in bed with chronic illness or recovering from surgery. An insider’s guide

Staying level headed with debilitating pain. 

Those of you that already follow my story know I’m no stranger to surgery. I’ve  had my 3rd brain stent surgery for IIH (Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension ) on 15th November. I was aiming to get downstairs on Saturday and I made it. It’s so important to have goals to keep you motivated. I had a family day yesterday too!

But I’m going to be spending this week in bed again recovering, as expected. My pain levels are high today and I had a bad night’s sleep, but I don’t regret it. Days with family are what keep you going . My condition is extremely debilitating but I’m not seeking sympathy; I share my experiences to raise awareness!

Please note: if you have questions about IIH, any chronic illness or mental health concerns; please speak to a trained health professional. These tips are about self care and any advice I share is based on my own experiences.

I shared this selfie on social media, 10 days after surgery. It was youngest’s 13th birthday and I was in bed, fed up that I couldn’t celebrate. The response to this post has been amazing. I received lots of supportive messages and my husband, Joel, was asked at work how I stay sane and positive when I’m stuck in bed for weeks – struggling to get to my en-suite bathroom at times.

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So here’s my guide to staying sane as a chronic and invisible illness warrior! 

  • Don’t fight the pain! I used to be determined not to give in to the pain and I’d push myself to do too much too soon, making my recovery take longer. Now, I try to listen to my body and have retrained my brain to know that it’s okay to rest, This has taken years of making mistakes, until being taught to recognise and change patterns in my behaviour by my coach, Josie (details below).
  • Ask friends and family to tell you when you’re looking tired. It’s easy to miss signs that you’re flagging, but don’t shy away from asking those close to you to say if you look like you need to rest. If someone tells me I look rough I’m not offended, I just realise that I do hurt a lot and may need that pain relief!

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  • Remember your condition doesn’t only affect you. A delicate ecosystem occurs for most familes when someone has a chronic illlness. This means any change has an effect on family life. If you’re the one in constant pain, then your contribution to family life is probably limited. For example, I usually do online grocery shopping and am usually the mediator. Plan for those times when you can’t make your usual contribution. Try asking a friend to pop to the shops or do some jobs around the house, so your partner doesn’t have to do everything!
  • Give yourself time to recover. I always seem to forget how tough living with daily high level pain is or how hard recovery from surgery is. So I tend to think I’ll cope better than I actually can. Now I set myself goals and break these down into smaller steps. E.g restarting your physio or getting dressed before venturing downstairs. Whatever goals/steps you take need to be all about you! This is the time to practice self care! Maybe keep a pain diary or notes after surgery, so you can look back at what has worked for you in the past,

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  • Be honest about having visitors. Let’s be honest, the novelty of surgery soon wears off and friends might get bored with your chronic illness. You’ll probably stop getting as many flowers and cards, but hopefully your friends will still support you as much as ever. For me, receiving a text cheers me up, but having visitors (when you can) is vital! You’ll get a mental boost and it breaks up the bedroom boredom. But, if you’re in too much pain; be brave and postpone. True friends will understand and if they don’t, then you don’t need them!
  • Keep a gratitude journal. I spend time every day reflecting on what I’m thankful for. I write 3 positive things in my diary every night or the following morning, This can be anything and it’s the little things that count when you’re recovering from surgery or a bad flare. Washing my hair, managing to eat a proper meal, having a snuggle with Joel or a giggle with my boys mean so much to me in that acute pain phase. I’d suggest starting getting into this routine before surgery. It’s also really nice to share these with friends or family!
  • Meditate. I can’t explain how much meditation helps keeps me calm in hospital and in the following weeks. I download my favourite meditations (in case there’s no WiFi) on my phone and take my headphones to block out the horrible noises on a ward. They also help me sleep between hourly obs through the night! I also use techniques I’ve learnt to visualise my happy place to lie still during a procedure or anaesthetic. You can read my tips for meditation here.
  • Use affirmations to visualise positivity. Ok, so I know the word meditation may have scared you off, but stay with me! Using affirmations has been the key to staying sane through 3 brain and spine surgeries this year! I also use affirmations cards from TheYesMum  (@theyesmummum on Instagram) daily.

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My coach Josie, from Worry Freedom created personalised affirmations to help manage my worries, which are mainly about how surgery impacts my family. She turned each concern into a positive affirmation, such as ‘I am proud that my boys have built resilience’. I record these as voice memos on my phone and listen to them before, during and after my stay in hospital. They’ve helped me to stop worrying about everyone else and concentrate on my one job – healing.

  • Ask family to spend time with you in your bedroom. When you’re always in bed, it can get very lonely. So, whether it’s snuggling with Joel watching TV, having a chat about the day or watching a film with everyone on the bed; having my family come to me is so important. For example, we ate youngest’s birthday meal in my bedroom, so that I could still be a part of his special day.
  • Entertainment. I’ve always been against TVs in bedrooms (personal choice), but after my first surgery Joel set one up in my bedroom so I could watch my favourite comfort movies. It’s stayed! I rely on my iPad so when we realised this was going to be our new normal, Joel set up Apple TV so I have lots of choice. I’ve also have audible and Spotify so I can listen to gentle music or spoken word on the days when I can’t open my eyes.
  • Bonus Tip – When you’re doing better, but still stuck in bed or the house I think you need a hobby. Many chronic illness warriors craft and this helped me not to feel so lost when I’d been diagnosed. I’d taken silversmithing classes before falling ill, so I began making beaded and up-cycled creations. Now I run my own online business with an Etsy shop. I’m closed whilst I recover, but I’ll be posting more about this as I prepare for reopening. You can see what I make on my social media pages too. ⬇️

Paprika Jewellery & Accessories

Paprika on Facebook

Paprika on Instagram

Paprika on Pinterestl

Paprika on Twitter

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So these are my top 10 tips for managing to stay positive, or at least rational when can’t do anything. But hey, we’re all different and these are just what works for me, If you’ve got the money to invest in working with a coach, do it! It’s all about finding solutions and a good coach can change your outlook! I had counselling after diagnosis, when I was still grieving for the life I’d had. If you’re struggling please talk to your GP/Doctor straight away!

Are you recovering from major surgery? Do you have a chronic illnesses? I’d love to hear about what you’ve tried if you’re housebound or bed-bound. What tips do you have to keep rational and level-headed? 

Chronic Illness Bloggers

Being kind to myself; meditation and selfcare

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while, will know that I love to meditate. It’s one of the only things I can do to help relieve my constant pain; just a little bit. Meditation is taking time out to focus on yourself and introduce mindfulness into your daily routine. You can do visualisations or keep it simple with a guided meditation from YouTube. OI recommend The Honest Guys and Jason Stevenson. They just hit the tone perfectly and even have guided meditations that are specifically designed for those who are in physical pain. They are aimed at anyone who needs guided meditations and visualisations and are great for those with mental health problems; such as anxiety, depression. This two are especially good, as they are generic and great for beginners and anyone else!

Whilst I’ve been suffering from so many infections and heightened pain levels; I’ve forgotten how helpful I find meditation. Now this is one of the main issues that I have picked up on that are not helping me reach my goal for 2017. I made a promise to be kinder to myself. I am much better than I was and losing your way when you have set goals for yourself is normal; our brain fights to go back to what it knows, when we are trying to change our mindset.

So, I’ve revisited some of the steps towards my goal:

  • I have worked hard to limit my to do list. I bought a diary so that I could plan out my social media engagement and tasks and creative themes for my business. I’ve used an erasable pen or pencil, so that I can move tasks if I’m having a bad day.
  • I’ve been able to say no to friends visiting when I need rest days and tried really hard to celebrate my achievements.

However, I haven’t been so good at self care. I have got out of the habit of revisiting my pinterest vision board for achievements and positive quotes. Creating time for myself has been neglected a little; mainly by my meditation practice  disappearing from my daily routine. I’ve also neglected my writing. Both of these are so important for my mental health. I think I will try planning it into my day’s tasks in my diary. We’ve also made changes to my Carer’s tasks for the day and that has been an amazing help for them and myself.

Last week, my writing mojo returned and I have been honoured to join the team at The Fine Print of Pain. This is a brand new site, intended for people with chronic illness to have access to a plethora of advice, information and even has a space for chronic illness creators to show off their talents. This excites me so much. I wrote my first article to explaining IIH you can find this here. The editor, was stunned by my writing and said I had “produced an article that was articulate, focused, and properly done, especially for your first time! I feel so proud of this (and will add her words to my vision board). However writing like this today, about what is playing on my mind is so cathartic.

So, I have started this blog instead of meditating which  was my plan. However, I just felt so sick that I couldn’t settle. Being able to just write about what is happening for me now, has distracted me and my nausea is settling now (with a little anti-emetic help and a dose of oramorph). It’s reminded me how much writing helps me work on my positive mindset. I’m now going to pause, meditate and hopefully have a snooze and then I will finish what I have to say about meditation and self care; the first steps back to my daily routine for a positive mindset. It’s 10:52am. I’m going to listen to a sleep meditation to cleanse your chakras; appropriate for those with an affinity toholistic practice and spiritually.                  Before Sleep: Chakra Realignment

Ahhh….it’s now 12:20 and I’m having my Pukka ‘revitalise’ tea, tucked up in bed and feeling so much calmer. That is all it takes to remind me of the importance of this. My pain is lower, I feel a tiny bit more energised (still having a bed day though) and my shoulders are still lower than my ears! Ok, I still look poorly but I am, so I just have to deal with that!

Self-Care

The actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness. SourceThe self-care forum.

I have been working towards all of these things with the support of an amazing group of women. It is run by an  inspirational Coach calls Josie Brocksom who runs Worry Free hypnotherapy and coaching. It makes me focus on recognising my needs so that I can be the best that I can possibly be. I highly recommend this lady and her fab blog too!

Next Steps

It’s now time for me to put into action some of those good habits that I have let slip.

  • I will plan time to meditate at least once a day
  • I will make use of #wednesdaywisdom by posting in here, on Twitter and my Facebook pages (personal and my Paprika Jewellery & Accessories page, which you’re very ŵelcome to visit) to help me revisit my vision board.
  • Write regular blog posts, I’m going to aim for one a week, maybe a fortnight.
  • Take praise on board and capture some of it to add to my vision board.
  • Plan my social media time, so that I don’t let it take up too much of my time; which could be used creatively or as rest time

 

Mental Health Awareness Week-Thriving against the odds #mhaw17

Did you know that those with the most common chronic health conditions, are 2-3 times more likely to have mental health problems? The prevalence of mental ill health is most prominent in those on low income, young adults 18-34, females or those living alone. Mental Health awareness week 2017 is here and I want to write about how I do more than just exist, despite the adversity I face because of my chronic illnesses. I hope that by sharing my experiences; I can help you recognise the steps you could take to improve your mental health, whilst dealing with chronic illness. I want to help all of you take steps: TO THRIVE AND NOT JUST SURVIVE. Learn more about the message from the Mental Health Foundation.

What daily steps could you take to make life more positive? What strategies can you use during flare ups or difficult times? How can you feel confident that you have the toolkit to thrive? I will share some of my experiences and strategies that I use  to thrive, despite constant high level pain, which leaves me in bed about 90% of the time. If you’d like to know more about my illnesses (Migraine and IIH-a rare brain disease that mimics the symptoms of a brain tumour) then please read this.

Before you read any further, I want you to make a choice. Which path do you want to choose-a) ignore your feelings, taking no responsibility for your emotional wellbeing; b) wallow in self pity, moaning about life; or c) take steps to make the best out of a bad situation? If you choose a or b, then I suggest you won’t gain from reading any further. If you chose c, then I will do my best to help. There are many ways to deal with mental health problems; this blog is purely my own opinion. Please seek medical attention if you are self harming or having suicidal thoughts. There are no quick fixes here, but in order to move forward then you will probably need to seek some form of professional help; if you haven’t already. 

SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP

I have had counselling prior to becoming ill, after we nearly lost our second baby at birth. Because of this, when the magnitude of my current situation hit me; I was quicker to react and smart enough to know that I needed help. Living with chronic illness means that you usually grieve for the old you. Therefore, it is likely that you will need some form of professional support; such as counselling or CBT. Chronic illness also impacts on everybody whose lives are affected; particularly close family. If is now 4 years since I was diagnosed with IIH, but I continue to actively seek help. Most recently, we felt that our family would benefit from group therapy. This time my husband was the brave one and sought help. At the time, I didn’t realise how hard he found it to reach out, but a few sessions in and we are all feeling the benefits.

Steps to improve your mental health

My first question for you is what do you love to do? What do you spend most of your time doing or thinking about? (Keeping it clean and legal of course). I love to make others happy, particularly my husband and children; but, I’ve always felt the  need to go beyond that. Before I had to give up work I was an Early Years teacher. My passion was making those children smile as they learnt. To see the children run out to their parents at the end of the day, bubbling with chatter about what we had been doing; was my life’s purpose! When I had to stop teaching, I felt utterly lost. So, one day I I realised I needed a new purpose. I decided to use the skills I had learnt during a silversmithing course and my love for writing. I decided that, despite my constant pain, I had to make the decision to make the best of an awful situation. I now write this blog and poetry for myself and others and I run my own jewellery and accessories business Paprika Jewellery & Accessories. So, if you’ve read to here, you’ve probably made that decision too. Take your time to think carefully about what makes you happy. It may take time, but hopefully you’ll find a renewed sense of purpose. You can do what you love, despite being ill. 

This was my first step along the long and winding path, towards thriving with chronic illness. At first, I felt guilty about  crafting, when I was off sick from work. However, it actually distracts me from the pain and I soon learnt that my social workers and GP understood how important it was for my mental wellbeing. So, don’t be put off by feelings of guilt or by feeling overwhelmed. It doesn’t have to be a big thing and you don’t have to make it more than a hobby. You could take up photography or journaling. Ask yourself this: wouldn’t it be nice to do so much more than just coping with your illness? 

HOW TO COPE DURING DIFFICULT TIMES 

I want to be clear that I am not saying that everything will be a bed of roses. There are going to be dark times; that is expected and it’s ok to take time out, to do whatever you need to do, to get through those days. When I’m low, I talk. I talk to my amazing friends, both local and online. Online support groups are a great resource, but they do need to be chosen carefully; some have a negative atmosphere, which could do more harm than good. It may take time to find the right one(s). I have made amazing friends in my carefully selected support groups, others who get it. I also benefit from a group for women who want to live a worry free life, which has helped develop my toolkit immensely. All the groups I’m active in, have a positive and empathetic ethos. It’s taken time to find the right groups and the right people. I have left groups which don’t fit what I’m looking for (that in itself changes),  so it is a case of trial and error. In very dark periods, I reach out to my GP. Acknowledging that you’re finding things tough, can, on its own, help you out from under that dark cloud. 

THE TOOLKIT TO THRIVE  

I set myself a goal at the beginning of the year and break it into manageable steps. I keep a Pinterest board to help me to  revisit it. I also use a diary and in erasable pe, I write 1 or 2 goals a day. If I can’t do them, then they can be rubbed out, so there is no feeling of failure. I also ensure that I think about or write at least 2 positives from my day; usually on the positive post in my Conscious Crafties community; which I set up and is now posted daily by a rota of lovely members. I also try to meditate or use relaxation methods each day  These are the main tools I use, but you will find your own. 

I want to properly introduce you to the biggest influence on my emotional wellbeing-my husband and best friend; Joel.  

Joel is my main carer and I am so proud of him, as he is now the face of Carers for Lloyds Banking Group and a co-chair for the Family Matters strategy across the whole bank. This week he told our story and how my illness impacts on our family’s mental health. In the article, Joel talks how he has retrained his brain to help himself, me and our boys; look after our emotional wellbeing. He writes about the simple act of ncouraging me to recognise my daily achievements; even if it’s just managing a shower. He also talks of how he helps himself and our boys (11 and 13) assert a positive outlook, by asking them on the way to school: “what are you looking forward to and what are you hoping to get done today?” He also wrote about our use of a positive jar, which you can find more about here.

Our story is helping people and inspiring others, clearly seen in the comments about the article. Here are just a few quotes from his co-worker, after reading the posts.

“I like the idea of a positive jar and will try this at home. I have a 14 year old daughter struggling with anxiety issues at the moment….I hope this idea will help her.”

“Your positivity is really inspiring and some very practical advice.”

“What an amazing family you all are. I really like how you acknowledge the realistic things.”

As well as ideas mentioned above, we use the wide-ranging toolkit that I gathered in my teaching career; Joel brings extensive managment and leadership skills and our boys bring their astoundingly mature points of view and striking honesty about what they see. We ensure that there is no blame put on me about our situation, (inevitably I still feel guilty-but hey, I didn’t say we’d cracked it). We also make time for a monthly family meeting and a monthly afternoon tea. 


In conclusion, I know that I am lucky to have a wonderful family to keep me positive, however, there is always support for you somewhere. So, start your positive mindset today by thinking about what makes you happy. If you use visualisation techniques then this would be a great way to spend a good amount of time to think this through. Emotional wellbeing is often overlooked by all of us. For those of us with chronic illnesses it is even more important to try and work on building resilience, flexibility and resourcefulness. Please write in the comments if you find any of this particularly helpful or you would like more information on something specific. I am always happy to help, but please bear in mind that I may take longer to respond if I am having a flare or taking some time out. 

My life with a #raredisease. All the emotions of the rainbow.

Firstly, I can’t believe I’ve not updated since June! It’s such a busy time of year, even not being a teacher anymore doesn’t seem to slow things down. So what have I been up to?: 

MEDICALLY- I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with the pace of the baby steps. The first stage of my care plan; the Styloidectomy (the bone removed from my skull in January) has worked. It’s opened the jugulat vein that was compressed and we have noticed some improvement in my ability to engage in conversations. More recently, we have noticed that I can cope with noise a little better, even managing to enjoy the whole of  Luca’s end of year play! Previously I’d sit outside the hall and just peep in for his part! 

However, as well as the right sided issues, I also have constriction on the left hand side; the pulsatile tinnitus moving to that side to ensure I don’t forget it. So, The Wizard (my ear and skull based surgeon) passed me over to The Boss (my neuroradiologist) and it was proposed that we proceed with the plan to insert a stent to open the blockage in left transverse sinus. This won’t solve everything as I have many other growths on my skull and more compressed veins that we cannot treat yet. This is due to the delicate nature of the surgery meaning it is not currently available; politics!! So the stent is not a solution but should hopefully (please)? give me some relief.

We were not told in January that this proposal had to be signed off by a neurosurgeon and the neuro in the team refused to sign off on the stent; advising us that he wanted to go through all the tests again, plus an ICP bolt (literally a bolt surgically implanted in your skull to measure the intracranial pressure more accurately). This meant that my surgeons couldn’t agree and reached an impasse. As you can imagine, I was devastated. The temptation of even a little relief is all consuming and I have been really struggling with my journey hitting yet another stumbling block! More on this to come….
EMOTIONALLY- I’ve not been in a good place, largely due to the medical frustrations. Life with chronic illness is tough and living with constant pain; mostly unbearable. My GP (and myself) are reluctant to use anti-depressants and I’ve already  had counselling sessions that were useful to a point, however, there is not much more that counselling can offer me at the moment. We decided, therefore, that I will have to find my way through this quagmire of pain, disappointment and loss of control, myself. I have mostly felt stuck in a sink hole: floundering and becoming more and more depressed.


 It’s been a dilemma for me whether to even write this post but instinctively I know that I need to portray the whole picture and that just showing the funny side or even just the factual day to day world of chronic pain is not coherent and may be slightly misleading to you the reader. So, the truth is that there have been awful days and nights; tears, panic and complete anger at the hand I and my boys, have been dealt. I’ve mostly felt that I have been left to rot. Guilt comes with dependence on others, especially leaving my husband to have to constantly fight all my battles. 

Ultimately it comes to this: I have had to cram my thoughts with how I have been shown more love than I ever deemed possible from friends old and new. This is hard as I go through the agitated emotions that come, each time someone I’ve relied on; lets me down. But, in my heart, the truth that I have a responsibility as a mother and a wife, ensures that I delve deeper than I ever believe is possible, to find the strength to continue this journey. 


PHYSICALLY: My mobility continues to deteriorate and any slight exertion: standing up,  brushing my teeth, wrapping a gift; leaves me out of breath and completely overthrown by my extreme and debilitating hyper-sensitivity. I’ve described before the pulsatile tinnitus and it has returned with a vengeance in the past months. It takes over with any exertion, making life disorientating and sometimes impossible to cope with being around others. I fall more often than everbefore and despite havuing THREE walkers, I have still managed to break a toe, sprain my ankle and hurt my back many times. 

So we decided that I could no longer continue to live the life of a princess (or more realistically, mad woman) trapped in the tower. You may have noticed on my page Tears of strength that we have had our driveway levelled, ramps put in two exits and the most amazing invention known to mankind: a stairlift, fitted so that I can twist amd turn my way down and round the corners and get to the lounge, my new day bed and craft room. It’s been great to be able to begin to reintegrate myself into family life. The independence of being able to choose where I go has been a real boost, just when I needed one. I still hate the stairlift and try and stare it out on days spent in bed; however the relief of knowing I never have to crawl the stairs again and despite it giving me motion sickness (of course) it is a real lifeline.


 (In my day room) 

So this whole journey, especially the last few months, have been a rainbow of emotions:


Resilient throughout incessant tests of strength; waiting for answers and hoping, always hoping.

Awestruck by the enduring love, positivity and energy, portrayed by those that feed my soul.

Irritated by the subservience I have to endure; my future always balancing in another’s hands.

Nervous about the the course of time; the unknown path and destination of this unplanned expedition.

Blundering through life, unable to get my bearings; everywhere I look, a stark reminder of what was.

Overwhelmed; humbled by the kindness, love, support and encouragement, that I feel I don’t deserve. 

Weakened; as delicate as a spider’s web, if one fragile strand fails; life tumbles into fragments.

Solidarity between my allies; my circle of support and the creators of my hope. Always hope.

So to the latest news: I imagine my The Boss having this kind of impact on others….t


I think he thoroughly but professionally destroyed my neurosurgeon (nameless as not worth the effort) and has managed to delicately persuade a more senior neurosurgeon to take on my case. Now we just wait to see what happens when we see him in the next few weeks. I hope  we will be able to prove how much I need this operation and have the tiniest amount of influence over my future. Thank you for your continued support in my journey. I will update you as soon as I can and will have a nickname for my new neurosurgeon very soon! 

How to Cultivate A Grateful Life – A Beginners Guide

A smiling Indian lady with long black hair and brown eyes holds her hands together in front (and to the side) in a Namaste Greeting. She is wearing a green, red and orange top with stud earrings, a silver watch and an orange and white bangle. There are white, green and maroon half circles in the corners and the wording at the top says ‘How to cultivate a Grateful Life: A Beginners Guide’
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How to Cultivate A Grateful Life – A Beginners Guide – ‘I think of 3 positives at the end of each day and I’m thankful for my friends and family. This simple act has helped me grow as a parent during many tough times.’

How to Cultivate A Grateful Life – A Beginners Guide

In this step by step guide I’m going to show you how to grow from feeling mostly meh to predominantly pleased by lightening the load using these pointers. I’ll explain how my life as a parent with anxiety and chronic illnesses took me to the lowest lows of my life to being as well balanced and harmonious as a landscaped garden.

When I recognised that I was dragging my family down with me when I’d get grouchy with my boys or snap at my husband because I couldn’t cope, I knew I had to change. I had to find a way to climb out from the undergrowth for them and it was as simple as making 1 or 2 small changes first! This guide covers the 10 steps it took for me to live gratefully.

When the Light Dimmed and I Couldn’t Breathe

I struggled with my mental health on and off for years after Youngest was born. I had post-natal depression and suffered from panic attacks for months after nearly losing him many times in his first 48 hours. The first time we left the hospital for some fresh air, once he’d stabilised, I couldn’t breathe properly as soon as we stepped out of the hospital door.

After being checked out by doctors, I was told it was a panic attack. It happened again, each time I left him in the NICU and continued once we were home, especially as he was rushed back into hospital for a 5 day stay a few weeks later. I’d panic if he didn’t snuffle when sleeping and even had a GP tell me that he didn’t know what I wanted him to say.

I just needed to be told he was okay, which he was that day but not every day. All this went on in the same 12 months that I lost my Grandpa and Father In Law as well as four other family members and friends that died too young. Joel and I had to find our way through all of this heartbreak, which was a massive strain, and I needed my voice to be heard!

Finding the Air and The Space I Needed to Grow

I was in very a bad way when my GP listened and I was counselling sessions which had a positive impact. My counsellor guided me towards the air holes when everything was suffocating me. Joel held on tight to my hand and I had a 2 year old to think about as well as a baby so I fought hard and together we found the light we needed in our lives again.

Making these big changes led the way but it was little changes that were key to me being purposefully grateful for my family, my remarkable husband who gave me space when I needed it even whilst he was dealing with his own grief. I had 2 beautiful and healthy children (Youngest was given the all clear aged 1) )to be thankful for.

A photo showing my 2 children when I was spending time nurturing them and learning to be grateful for wha5 we had. They’re running across the grass, in front of the camera in profile, in Brighton Pavilion garden with the trees in the background. Eldest is closest to the camera and is wring jeans and a green, hooded winter coat. He has short brown hair and a big smile. Youngest is slightly ahead of him and much smaller. He’s also wearing jeans and an orange and cream, hood winter coat. He has ginger hair and has his head turned away from the camera.
As a family we grew stronger roots and the trail that the our tears left behind faded.

I needed time to nurture our boys and bed in strategies to keep me on a positive path. Just look at these faces to see all I had to be thankful for.

We got plenty of fresh air on family walks and I exercised outdoors when possible. I had breathing space to appreciate the world around me and to recognise all the positives I had in my life to celebrate!

Cherishing Life Every Day and Seeking Adventures

When I was diagnosed with migraines a couple of years later, it threatened to uproot all of the hard work we’d put in to creating space in which to appreciate our family and the life we’d built. But we’d done the tough bit and with Joel by my side I managed to stand tall, despite the wobble. In many ways it was the catalyst to my valuing every day with them.

So when my physical health stabilised we grasped every opportunity. We embraced travel with unbelievable family holidays and wonderful long weekends just the two of us. We embraced live music and made the most of living close to London and Brighton; immersing ourselves in the culture and experiences available to us.

When I took a promotion with full time hours when Youngest started school the challenges came and the cracks in the ground around me started to appear again with the stress. I had panic attacks driving to work or would arrive in tears. It wasn’t the right place for me.

A coral background with the text ‘Begin each day with a grateful heart in blue and white writing.

So I went back to part time hours and rediscovered my love for teaching and as part of a small school nurture every child.

I was happy to wake up and drive along the country lanes and have time to exercise and be with my family at weekends. But I needed the buzz of a challenge and landed a Senior Leadership role in a lovely school. Unfortunately I fell ill after one term and this project was abandoned mid sentence!

The Abandoned Vine and The Weeping Willow

It had been an on off relationship with cultivating a grateful life as my mental health wasn’t being nurtured continually. I was on uneven terrain so I became a weeping willow, a common symbol of grief. Isolated and feeling like the only one with a constant migraine, I hardly saw any friends because I found it hard to have a simple conversation.

I was stuck at home, unable to carry out plans we’d made to see gigs and I felt suffocated. When we were together as a family, I’d be shushing the kids over nothing because of my hyperacusis and getting grouchy, I couldn’t sit with Joel on my right because his deep voice triggered tinnitus. So family life became strained, left as though an abandoned vine.

I found other chronic migraineurs online but this compounded my feeling of hopelessness. However the light shone through my protective foliage when I found a group of amazing people who gave me support, inspiration and laughter. They helped me gather strength and find the positives again! Maybe I wouldn’t be left to go to rack and ruin after all!

It turned out that I was actually suffering from IIH or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. You can read more about this condition in this blog I wrote a while back: https://laughingwhileyourecrying.wordpress.com/what-is-idiopathic-intracranial-hypertensioniih-iih-brainandspine/p

The Beginners Guide to Results From Being Grateful

A wooden surface has most of a white porcelain heart on the left hand side of the image. It has the phrase ‘I am grateful’ in black text and hessian string tied through a whole at the top. Below is green background with the words ‘The Beginners Guide To Results From A Grateful Life’.
  1. Find someone to give practical advice to help you solve the root problem.
  2. Connect with someone to confide in when times are tough.
  3. Get help with complex applications for monetary support.
  4. Seek counselling through very tough times.
  5. Find your tribe, the people who get what your going through.
  6. Pass on acts of kindness to others going through similar situations.
  7. Share your story with those you could help those beyond your group.
  8. Change at least one habit to help you live a healthier lifestyle.
  9. Find at least one positive or small win from your day.
  10. Record your positives from each day In a way that you can refer back to.
  1. I was given a crash course in how to deal with chronic illness life, which at the time was still diagnosed as migraine. My migraine friends would chat to me on the phone when I had particularly bad days or worsening news. There were there to offer me practical advice, including introducing me to my trusty Migracap and meditation.
  2. I made many online friends but have been lucky to meet some of these truly amazing people who I could confide in, as well as having Joel of course. One truly amazing lady told me that she would be there in spirit to squeeze my right hand and she would squeeze back. This simple invitation became my safety harness!
  3. I learnt about options for having to leave my teaching career and how to plan for the future. I was supported when I had to fill out forms for ESA and PIP support and how to deal with the face to face meetings with them, social workers and more besides.
  4. Little did I know then where chronic illness life would take me. Having friends that get it to confide in meant that there was always someone there if I had bad news. If Joel was at work I might have to wait all day but his support is what got me through, I recognised early that I needed counselling again to help me cope with extremes.
  5. These people became my tribe and having them there got me through the really scary times when I couldn’t communicate at all. By this point I’d narrowed down my friendships where people disappeared when it got too much. But once I was diagnosed with IIH and had a treatment plan of how to help me, I had hope again.
  6. As my confidence improved I developed a more positive outlook because I could pass on these acts of kindness to friends I’d met online with similar symptoms to me. Meeting members of my community has allowed me to understand chronic illness better and I can offer advice based on other’s challenges from different perspectives.
  7. I started my blog to be able to support my readers during their own tough times. I share information for awareness of my Conditions and mental wellbeing. I share what’s helped me as a parent with chronic illness, finding a purpose and having a healthy lifestyle and have created a community where people can ask my advice.
  8. By being so open I’ve really found out who my true friends are so I’ve worked hard on developing my self esteem. I try not to let those who can’t cope with my no filter speak and inability to communicate well all the time, impact on my own wellbeing. Luckily I’m overwhelmed by the support and understanding my friends give me.
  9. I was inspired early on, when I first wrote this post in 2014, to think of one positive at the end of every day, however small. It could be that I managed to wash my hair or that I saw my nephews and nieces. It might be that Youngest and I baked a cake or that Eldest tidied his room – it’s rare. It might be that Joel and I watched a great film!
  10. Now I write 3 positives every morning in my journal about the day before as I’m too tired to write at night. I write 1 thing that made me happy, 1 thing that made me proud and 1 thing that I’m thankful for. If I’m going to always be in pain, I’d rather be happy in pain than miserable and in pain anyway.

Hey, you might like to check out my top tips for setting up your day to be positive using affirmations. These easy tips can help you to build on to these tips above. https://laughingwhileyourecrying.wordpress.com/2019/02/03/5-morning-affirmations-to-guarantee-a-successful-day

Conclusion

A quote saying ‘Just one positive thought in the morning can change your whole day. Anonymous

I give myself limited jobs to do each day, the amount depends on whether I have a friend visit, so that I can still take time to take that one positive thought and remind myself throughout the day.

My life is no longer about a teaching career but it is about the little things in life. Having a positive thought to focus on helps me to stay thankful for having supportive friends and most importantly every moment with my family.

Almost every day a friend will mention that they just don’t know how I’m able to stay positive despite being in constant, debilitating pain. I’ve been told by many friends that I am the strongest person they know or even that I am an inspiration to them. No, I’m not singing my own praises here; I just wanted to share how this makes me feel.

After years of living with mental and chronic illnesses, I’m honoured to be able to inspire my friends with my positivity. I feel that I’ve been passed along insider knowledge for helping others that are suffering with pain or illness; sharing closely guarded tips, tricks and wonderful acts of kindness. My strength has been sent my way and I share it freely.

If I can raise a smile for someone or give them extra strength to get through their day, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do when I started this blog. However, these days I can see what led to me thinking of one positive thought a day and now extend to recording 3 positive thoughts for every day.

If you can only do one of the 10 tips in this guide to a more grateful life, then please find your person to confide in. We all know someone who has needed someone to check on them at some point so if you can be a confidante then make sure your friends know they can talk to you about anything, at anytime. A grateful life starts with a small win and a grin!

Have you got any tips for creating a positively grateful lifestyle that I’ve not mentioned? Please pop them in the comments below. I’d love to read them and I do reply.

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*If you feel you need professional help then please speak to your doctor. This information should not to replace medical guidance and is based on experience alone.

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