Tag Archives: Mental health

Spotlight on the fundamentals of the Infinite Dreams Collection!

Writing this blog allows me to raise a spotlight on the fundamental aspects of my Infinite Dreams Collection. It’s not all about jewellery designs so I wanted to share with you how the poem and designs linked to self care and acts of kindness. As I considered my core beliefs for my loyal customers and supporters it developed into this…

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Spotlight on the fundamentals of the Infinite Dreams Collection!

Having chronic illnesses affects everything, especially my relationship with Joel and the boys; which has only become stronger. The boys, Joel and the rest of my support network inspired the poem and the designs.

As I thought about my own experiences with chronic illness and mental health, I realised I had an insight into how many of my customers were part of other’s support networks. So many are either looking out for someone with chronic illness or someone who deserves a boost.

My love of helping others meant I was able to create a range dedicated to gift giving and valuing self care. An infinity range was the ideal choice for launching my new look shop aimed at care givers/friends of and those with mental health and/or chronic illnesses.

My very first collection had been on my mind for a while so when I needed time out for 3 major surgeries last year, it gave me time to consider the purpose of Paprika Jewellery & Accessories. I wanted to take it to the next level. I used my time out to train in everything handmade business related and I learnt so much!

How Chronic Illness and My Family Enabled Me To Dream

Becoming chronically ill has encouraged me to dream and I’ve worked hard to turn those dreams into reality. Chronic illness has enabled me to build even tighter knit relationships with my boys and a much deeper connection with my husband. They keep me grounded and empower me to to be the best I can and to live the best life I can.

They’ve encouraged me to keep going even when the battles I’ve faced have been beyond tough. They’ve helped me believe in myself again and to use my limited energy to keep pushing towards my dreams; when many would want to give up. Their support has made me feel less guilt about choosing to only give my time to true friends.

The McKee family at our favourite restaurant in Brighton

How my amazing friends inspired this new collection

When I decided to make a jewellery gift for one of my true friends after about 9 months of time out for 3 major surgeries, I had a moment. I was drawn to using an infinity charm in the necklace I was making for her and the phrase ‘Infinite Dreams’ came to me. I knew this was a sign and that simple necklace inspired me to create more using this idea.

I began to explore what the idea of infinity meant to me and why that charm was so perfect for my friend. When I look at her, I see strength, loyalty, honesty and empowerment. This lady is a fierce warrior with a chronic illness, who puts everyone else’s needs before her own. I realised why these characteristics led me to the infinity symbol.

As I researched more about the infinity symbol, I discovered how many of the designs link to the importance of your roots and the interconnected branches of a loving family. As my own family have my heart and fill my soul, these symbols became even more powerful.

The Infinite Dreams collection became cohesive, reflecting all the qualities in beautiful designs. The designs are made to empower and protect; to show unconditional love; the strength of empowerment and support from your tribe despite any battles you face.

A sunset with 2 silhouettes holding out their arms and forming their hands to make a heart when they touch.
Infinity means loving and living with your tribe
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Infinite Dreams

Infinite Dreams was ideal for creating a poem around the meaning of infinity and the symbols that represent it. The verses are based on each of the main symbols and references I wanted to include in my collection. I’d been dreaming about adding poetry into my creations for Paprika Jewellery which made me so excited for this.

The poem is the heart and soul of the Infinite Dreams collection. I’ve built the full extent of the designs around it. As you can imagine that the collection is brimming with infinity symbols, celestial charms and celtic symbols of infinity, such as the celtic knot and the tree of life symbols; which I’ve explained below. Mostly it’s just an inspirational poem for you.

Every purchase from this collection will come with a free postcard that I’ve designed with a verse from this poem. The verse will link to the symbol used in the design. I hope to eventually spread this system to all of my designs so I’d love any feedback. Just email me at paprikajewellery@gmail.com.

Glowing shadows mature in an eternal scene,

Sheltered support where branches intervene.

Through myriad roots emerge infinite dreams.

Sparkling raindrops creating a lustrous sheen,

Showered by the abundance of hope you have seen.

Through myriad shimmers emerge infinite dreams.

Comforting warmth embraces you from dire fears,

Engaged virtue by way of the strength of tears.

Through myriad wishes emerge infinite dreams.

Shooting stars spread in a cosmic grandiose scheme,

Stunned by the extent of your soul’s graceful gleam.

Through myriad flickers emerge infinite dreams.

Sleeping on rainbows, sewn with love at the seams.

Scattered crumbs from everlasting sunbeams.

Through myriad colours emerge infinite dreams.

Continuing loops knitting life, interweaved.

Unconditional love, yet seen to be believed.

Through myriad spirals accomplish infinite dreams.

By Laura Mckee ©️2019

I really appreciate your continued support and am pleased to share this with you today. However, I must remind you that this poem is under copyright. Please do not share, copy or print this image or wording for any purpose.

Collection poem meaning

The Infinite Dreams poem represents the hopes and dreams I see in my future. As this poem was the basis for the collection that would mark the reopening of my shop, it was very important that it meant something to everyone. The designs are from the symbolism used to represent eternal connections.

Infinity Symbolisation

There are many interpretations of the infinity symbol, based around there being no end and no beginning. The circles represent a never-ending attachment, such as everlasting love or a vivid connection. It’s been used for centuries with these other meanings.

Modern interpretations are that the interconnecting circles represent each side of a relationship; cementing the idea of being ‘together forever’. The symbol used in Celtic knot designs has interlacing, continuous patterns showing the continuity of life and the double infinity design means “double absoluteness.”

The Celtic theme continues with the Tree of Life, the branches and roots joined by an endless circle. This symbolises the connection of heaven, earth and all living things. A tree starts as a seed, grows, reseeds and begins the cycle again. The roots are the bond we have with our family and ancestors – representing the circle of life in all things.

Other meanings behind the symbol represents perfection, duality and empowerment. It also stands for the equality between men and women and has been used by the UN Development Fund For Women to reflect the message of endless possibilities and empowerment for women.

In the Making

As you can imagine, it was busy, exciting and occasionally chaotic in our house as I got getting ready for this launch. I couldn’t have done it without Joel’s help, especially with the photography. It’s been great to get back to making but being able to put into practice all the things I’ve learnt whilst recuperating, has been satisfying.

There are boxes brimming with beautiful Jewellery and we’ve had a semi-permanent photo studio set up in our front room with all of my updated props. We intend to photograph all of my stock once I’ve recovered from the launch – the reason this blog has taken me a while to finish editing.

I’ve been busy tapping away on the keyboard as I update the whole shop and tell my story so it’s important to the whole shop. I’ve written my new listings using everything I’ve learnt about sales and loved every minute of preparing to share my first ever collection with the world.

I’ve been sharing sneak peeks along the way but I wanted to show you my workspace. As I’m mostly stuck in bed, this is where I create. I used to have a craft trolley next to my bedside table but it used to get so messy! Joel suggested this gorgeous unit so I have a neat working space to keep all my goodies in.

Who Is The Infinite Dreams Collection For

The designs are for the fierce warriors; loyal friends; honest wives/partners and women of your family who have your unconditional love, including yourself. I want the designs to remind the wearer of the endless possibilities awaiting them if they don’t let life’s hurdles hold them back. I want the collection to inspire and empower.

All in all this is a celebration of love, family and equality. I want people to see these designs as a way of celebrating life even if there are barriers to achieving your dreams. The most important thing to remember is that although this collection is based on infinity we do only get one chance in this life so look after you and reach for your dreams today. ♾

Pinterest Graphic- close up image on a grey stone effect base of the Simple Infinity Amethyst Bracelet. Wording below says 'Spotlight on the fundamentals of the Infinite Dreams Collection.

My Etsy shop The Paprika Jewellery aims to support positive thinking by creating designs from positive themes and provide inspiration. Visit today for luxury jewellery & accessories from and for the soul. Positivity for you now and hope for a vibrant future. 

Haven’t visited my Etsy Shop yet and have FOMO? You can still check out all the Made To Measure, limited edition and one of a kind goodies from my Infinite Dreams Collection. See the whole range by clicking on this link now. ➡️

If you like what you see in the catalogue or Etsy shop you can get a 15% discount code by signing up to my VIP access area.

You’ll also get free access to my resource library and I’ll send you my Free Journal Prompts with positive lines from my poems. Just sign up to my occasionally regular newsletter today. Click this link now 🔁 Strength of Tears & Paprika VIP Access

Chronic Illness Bloggers

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✋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! Go on, you know you want to! 

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About Laura

Introduction

Laura is a former primary school teacher, blogger, poet and jeweller living in Sussex UK. She is a positive thinking, mum of 2 teenage boys and is happily married to Joel. Laura is an IIHer, chronic migraineur, patient advocate and mental health campaigner.

After developing a debilitating brain condition, IIH, in 2014; she sadly had to give up her 14½ year teaching career. Soon after being diagnosed, she turned her life long love of writing into this blog to document her journey with chronic illnesses. This evolved into raising awareness of disabilities, chronic illnesses and mental health.

Laura runs the Mission Migraine Twitter account, which raises awareness that migraine is much more than just a headache. Laura started her own business Paprika Jewellery & Accessories after starting to make jewellery as a distraction from the pain.

She writes poetry to explore her own mental health and well-being. Laura writes about positive thinking and living her best life, despite her conditions. She hopes to inspire others to find their own sense of purpose, whatever challenges they face. Continue reading About Laura

5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Teenage Carers

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5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Teenage Carers

Young Carers

According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics), there are 149,000 young carers aged between 15 and 19 – about twice as many as in the 10-to-14 age range. [There are about 23,000 children under 9 who are carers].

There are about 50,000 Young Carers looking after someone with a Mental Health Condition in the UK. There are thought to be 3 in 5 Carers who have depression themselves, due to their role.

I aim to share the secrets that have guided our journey. They’re intended for younger families, caring for any family member, but are aimed at those with a teenage/young carer. I’m even sharing some free printables for you at the end of this post.

This advice is based on my experienced teacher viewpoint, but mostly that of a bed bound mum of 2 teenagers, who happen to be my Carers. It’s been tough, but we’re stronger than ever, as a family and individually, because we’ve worked at it!

My family

As the teen years approached our family, I feared the worst; especially as I was now chronically ill with a debilitating brain disease. How wrong could I be? I absolutely love it. We’ve just adapted our parenting style by listening and responding to each other.

With strong foundations, that Joel and I had worked hard to build together, it wasn’t hard to tweak our interactions. As our boys grow into young men, at 13 and 15 and 6ft+, we’ve found we actually enjoy spending time together – I know, crazy right?

I’m incredibly proud of both of them for all that they achieve. Their teachers recognise their awesomeness and they amaze me with what they achieve, both in and out of school. That they’re able to do so well, with so much else to deal with, is exceptional.

But I’m not delusional! I know not everyone has this and our life isn’t perfect either (erm – teenagers and brain disease involved). However, we’re a happy and loving family with amazing relationships. They are my motivation to keep positive every day!

If you want to find out more, read My story so far

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The McKee’s mucking about Christmas 2018

Parenting Styles

The secrets I want to share with you can be implemented into your family with just a little work. We are have our own parenting styles and there’s no right way. So it’s normal to go through phases of feeling like we’ve sussed it and others like we’ve fluffed it!

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So even if you’re a nailed it with some to spare parent; a doing your best, fair and square parent; a making a mess, laid out bare parent; a higgledy piggledy, up in the air parent; a tearing out your hair parent or a feeling guilty you’re not there parent, these secrets could work for you.

 

What Does Caring Involve For Me

I have a PA (carer) every weekday lunchtime, from an agency providing consistent care. These are some of the things I need help with:

  • Waking up after sleeping all morning,
  • Make me lunch, normally a smoothie as nausea stops me enjoying food
  • Making sure I have accessible water
  • Helping me to get dressed as needed and getting out my clothes each day
  • Picking anything up I drop as I can’t bend down
  • Do chores I can’t such as laundry, emptying bins and making beds
  • Preparing meals or freezing food for another day
  • Organising my medications
  • Enabling me to be more involved with the boys e.g. supporting us bake cakes
  • If I’m well enough taking us out for a cuppa or to the shops

I have a great relationship with my carers and we always have a giggle. I need laughter in my day and they bring it! They’re also always there to listen.

The Impact Caring Can Have

Being a young carer can have a big impact on the things that are important to growing up

  • It can affect a young person’s health, social life and self-confidence.
  • Many young carers struggle to juggle their education and caring which can cause pressure and stress.
  • In a survey, 39% said that nobody in their school was aware of their caring role.
  • 26% have been bullied at school because of their caring role.
  • 1 in 20 miss school because of their caring role.
But young people can learn lots of useful skills by being a young carer.

Carers Trust – Young Carers

When we realised what life was going to be like, Joel and I didn’t want the boys lives overshadowed by caring. We’re lucky enough to have PAs, so the boys don’t miss school, but it can be hard to make school aware of everything they carry with them.

Worry and anxiety have affected their mental well-being and both boys have had to learn how to cope with complex feelings. Life as a young carer is tough as we can see in these quotes.

Carers UK’s annual survey (2015) with over 5,000 carers across the UK revealed that 84% of carers feel more stressed, 78% feel more anxious and 55% reported that they suffered from depression as a result of their caring role, which was higher than findings in 2014.3

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 I’ll discuss how we manage teenage mental health in my 5 secrets below.

Being My Carer Every Day

The boys bring me breakfast and dinner make sure I have water and snacks every day. They know how to support me physically and sort anything Clumsy McClumsypants here drops or spills; like the glass of water in (yes IN) my bedside table this morning.

They need to know what to do if I press my life line and what to say to the Lifeline care team. They’d have to stop playing Xbox and may need to support or help me up if I fell. They may need to help calm me down if I was having a panic attack.

The boys have had to get used to another new cleaner being in their personal space and form bonds with my PAs. They’ve been carers for 4 years now, so are used to it, but there’s still restrictions, such as having to be quiet each morning while I sleep.

They told me the other day that their friends have to do more chores than them. My response was to ask if their friends have to make sure the house is secure and answer a doorbell every time theory mum drops something. I said I was clumsy, didn’t I?

Building a Team

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How many kids would go to their parent and tell them they don’t do as many chores as their mates? This is just one example of how we’ve worked hard to build a family dynamic based on trust, honesty, empathy and care.

We’ve all had to learn coping skills and adapt as time goes on. The stress shows at home mostly, so it’s been important to use the same strategies around their behaviour. This has led to the strong relationship we have now.

As they’ve grown up and I’ve become a little bit more stable and aware, we’ve trusted them with more responsibility. We’ve just managed two nights with Joel went away for work. My Dad (who’s always stayed before) was just down the road if needed.

They wanted to cook tea unsupervised and probably not the tidying up afterward. They have to put the hens to bed, safely away from any foxy loxies and check Jasper Cat is in for the night. I had to be trust they would put the house to bed securely too.

They amazed me with how they coped with all this responsibility. There was no time to think about having house parties or sneaking out the house to meet up with a friend! (not that we’d know anything about ever doing that).

The way Joel and I choose to do this at the beginning, has shaped how we’ve handled the cards we’ve been dealt. Everyone chooses their own path, so I’m not making any comparisons. this is just my experience. Everyone’s path is unique, so follow yours.

But use my 5 secrets to help steer you. Firstly I just need to make it clear that we sought medical advice and were referred to social services for care and support. I’m not a health Care professional, so please ask for help if you need it.

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5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Young Carers

  1. Asking for help is the first step. Talk to your GP.  Talk to school. Ask your kids how they’d like the help. You might need family therapy so do try it, if offered. If support given is not right for you, ask for an alternative. The skills we learnt, recognised and have since reinforced; have shaped our family’s daily lives. We learnt how to talk about our feelings, whilst being respectful. and to speak honestly, without breaking trust. I recommend organising a named teacher or pastoral care and make sure to keep them in the loop. This is individual to your needs, but be prepared to fight for this, as support is in high demand. Mental well-being for you all is key.
  2. Let them be angry with the illness. Structure ways for your children to release this, safely. Help them understand that it’s the illness that’s changed everything. The whole family will grieve for life before chronic illness, so explore ways to cope with that. We used diaries, art therapy, music and a good old shout and swear session (oooh, controversial). We’ve found that music is a lifeline for every carer in the family. Being able to lose yourself in a distraction is a lifeline for carers and you!
  3. Develop open dialogue with the Young Carers in your life and find ways that allow them to discuss what they’re feeling and experiencing without fear of backlash. The silver lining of being a bed bound mum, is having time for my boys to talk to me about their day or about something worrying them as soon as they get home.
  4. Find time for everyone to set one goal at the start of each day. You could introduce Affirmations to reinforce positive thinking. See the end of the post for more details and free printables, available til 31st March 2019. Set a time to discuss at least 1 positive from their day. Create a regular time to air issues and reinforce positives.
  5. Give yourself rewards! A really important part of feeling able to succeed, is by rewarding positive language and behaviour. The rewards can be for anything, big or small. Rewards can be verbal praise, but making time for a family reward is important to reinforce positive thinking. For example, you could go out for lunch, bake a cake together or watch a movie in bed. Let them choose most of the time, but it has to be agreed by everyone. The point is to reward the whole family regularly.

To adapt these for younger children

  1. Involve school as soon as possible, both the class teacher and headteacher should know. School may offer extra support, which can be invaluable. Play and Art therapy is in short supply, so if you’re concerned speak to your GP!
  2. Talk to them about what’s happening in a way they’ll understand. Help them express their feelings using puppets, library books and roleplay (Drs/patient).
  3. Tell them why you’re going to hospital/in pain etc. They may know more than you expect, so let them lead. My rule is that if they’re asking about it, then they’re ready for answers. Just be prepared for a ‘why, but why’ session!
  4. Ask them what they want to do that day on the way to school, you may even find out more than asking at the end of the day! Start a positives jar by everyone writing (for them if needed) ONE positive from their day. Set a regular time, to open the jar and read some. My favourite pulling out ‘cuddling with my Mummy’ on a bad day.
  5. Make time for rewards, they don’t have to cost anything, just do things as a family.

A last word and some links!

I want to help others have positive experiences, even on tough days. So I’m sharing these secrets for you. Families are unique, though, so there’s no one size fits all. Take what you want from my 5 secrets, but remember these things are key:

Ask for help! Young Carers may have to do more at home than their friends, so schools should provide support and make allowances.

Make sure everyone truly understands and enable your kids to express how they feel. Create a safe environment and look out for signs that you may need to step in.

A great team relies on good communication which is honest, loyal and respectful, so be a good role model. Recognise small wins! Celebrate at least one good thing from your day.

If the life you want for your family seems a long way off or you’d like some reassurance you’re doing okay, then I hope this post has helped. Please ask me questions in the comments and tell me how you make life positive for young carers and your family.

Resources 

Carers Trust -Support for Young Carers

Young Minds – Looking After Yourself aa a Young Carer

NHS – Young Carers Rights

Carer Gateway – Advice for Parents & Teachers of Young Carers

Carers UK – Hidden Depression

Chronic Illness Bloggers

Sign up for New & Exclusives – Help for Young Carers

Do you want to be the first to know what’s coming and get your hands on exclusive deals? I’ve created a set of Printable Affirmations that would be perfect for setting the tone for a good day for Young Carers, as mentioned in Secret number 4 above. Grab a copy of this when you sign up to my occasionally regular newsletter today!

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Click Here To Sign Up Today

✋ 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

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

Why I’m done with online support groups for chronic illness! #chronicillness #chronicblogs

If you follow my blog you’ll know that I’ve been very active in a variety of support groups since becoming chronically ill in 2014.

So why the change of heart?

In nearly every group I’ve joined, there’s been a culture of drama and/or negativity. I love to support others, but my health was suffering by getting too involved and I realised that I was done with being an active group member. I have left most groups, so I want to explore online support groups and share my experiences.

What is a support group? 

  • A face to face or online community open to anyone, but often focused on specific topics i.e. mental health or pain conditions
  • Led by a professional facilitator, such as a nurse or counsellor, or by group members/founders
  • A comfortable space where individuals come together to share their stories, experiences, feelings, coping strategies and information.
  • A way to help reduce isolation and loneliness by realising that there are others dealing with similar situations.
  • A bridge between medical support and self-help

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Why I joined online support groups

Rewind to when I first fell ill. I was isolated and lonely as friends began disappearing from my life. I was struggling to understand my illness and my mental health was suffering. When I joined an online support group, I realised I wasn’t the only one with my diagnosis, which helped my mental state. However, the negativity in the group exacerbated worries about my future. I decided this wasn’t the group for me.

So, I joined an open group called Mission Migraine. It was full of amazing women and had a positive vibe, yet we all supported each other. What I loved most, was the we shared our own stories to raise awareness and challenge misconceptions.  I was proud of what we were doing, so I started the Twitter account @migrainemission to continue raising awareness. Sadly, the Facebook group is no longer running.

Finding the right fit

I knew that Migraine wasn’t the full picture, so I explored a variety of groups to help me understand what was happening. I connected with other people with similar symptoms to my own, in well led groups. I was able to access information to help me research possible causes of my symptoms. In one group, I read about a consultant in Cambridge, specialising in Pulsatille Tinnitus. This was a pivotal moment in my journey! If you don’t know my story, then you can read it here.

DesignWhen I was initially diagnosed with a rare brain disease, Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH), I joined IIH support groups, which helped me find information and reassurance. Soon I became overwhelmed by the number of Facebook groups I was in, so had to decide which of these were right for me. I left those that weren’t. I’d found more friends who totally understood my pain!

When it no longer does what it says on the tin

In most groups I joined, I’d encourage positivity and try to raise confidence levels. I’d post inspirational quotes, share knowledge and helped other’s learn to celebrate the smallest achievements. Helping others gave me a sense of purpose and achievement.

But I couldn’t get away from the drama.

Design

Members of support groups are vulnerable, with many suffering with unrelenting pain, crippling anxiety, financial or family worries. This creates a breeding ground for negativity and arguments. If this disruptive behaviour isn’t dealt with effectively, then the group is no longer able to support it’s members and is not fit for purpose.

As an empath, I’m susceptible to getting  too involved. I gave so much, but my physical and mental health were suffering. What I was getting out of these groups now? I’d had enough of group politics and feeling responsible for near strangers. I worried I’d lose friendships, but when I did leave I was flooded with relief. And of course, my true friends have stuck by me.

Would you benefit from an online support group? 

I may find a group that’s right for me again one day, but next time I’ll do my research first. Here’s a list created from personal experience and research. (See below)

Pros

  1. Gaining self-worth or a sense of purpose
  2. Feeling less lonely or isolated, especially for those who may not have access to face-to-face support groups
  3. Getting support in times of stress, depression or anxiety
  4. Being anonymous allows you to vent or discuss feelings openly and honestly
  5. Staying motivated to manage your physical illness or mental health
  6. Gaining control of or feeling hopeful for the future
  7. Raising awareness of invisible illnesses, disabilities or a specific disease
  8. Getting practical feedback about treatment options, benefits or worker’s rights
  9. Feeling empowered by supporting others or working successfully in a team
  10. Accessible when it suits you, even in your PJs, leading to more participation

Cons

  1. Peer to peer groups are probably be run by unqualified members, who are also unwell – vulnerable people supporting other vulnerable people
  2. Increased negativity due to constantly discussing aspects of your illness or disability
  3. Interference on posts with unhelpful comments or incorrect information
  4. Written communication means that inference or tone can be easily misjudged
  5. Participation online may compound isolation from other friends or family
  6. A lack of control over medical advice, quality of information or criticism of health care services/professionals
  7. Reinforcement of negative emotions and negative remarks to other participants
  8. Disruptive group members may dominate the conversation, cause tension or create interpersonal conflicts
  9. Comparisons of whose condition or experience is worse
  10. Possible use the environment to prey on vulnerable members

Design

What is needed to create a good social support network? 

  • Those running the group must be very clear about what support is available and when.
  • Clear rules covering: disruptive behaviour, sharing medical advice and discussing medical professionals.
  • Conflict needs to be handled professionally.
  • A positive environment, that’s nurtured and monitored so that people feel listened to and that other members will show empathy and be supportive.

Do online support groups work? 

The disadvantages of online support groups are discussed by authors and healthcare professionals. Concerns about the quality of information, criticism of health care services/professionals and reinforcement of negative behaviours are certainly valid. However, this study. of online groups for those with physical illnesses, found that concerns about the risks of online support groups are not always justified.

In my opinion, there is increased risk in online peer-to-peer support groups, as those facilitating the group may be vulnerable due to their own physical or mental illness. This may make it more challenging to nurture a positive and safe space.

When looking for online support, it’s recommended that you ask questions before joining a group to find the right fit for you. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe in a group, put your own health first and take action. Online support groups aren’t for everyone, but remember that they aren’t the only option.

Finding my own way

I have my own network of friends online. We give mutual support through physical and mental illness. I also work 1:1 with a trained professional, via online video conferencing, to support my mental health. I wouldn’t have all of this support, without having been in the groups. I also have an amazing network of friends and family, who have shown that they’ll stick by me through thick and thin. I know how lucky I am to have that and I’m the happiest I’ve been in 4 years of chronic illness. I don’t know about the future, but for now; I’m done with online support groups.

Chronic Illness BloggersReferences

Pain Doctor-Finding help online

Mayo Clinic guide to support groups 

Mental Health America-Finding online support groups

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. 

No body’s perfect, My body’s imperfect and my brain is in fog; where’s the hope gone? 

  

10/7/2015

 I wrote in a closed Facebook group yesterday that POSITIVE LAURA had left the building! 

I started this blog with every intention of sharing how I manage to stay positive on my journey through this chronic pain/illness and have certainly been uplifted by the fantastic response this blog gets and the words of praise I am given for managing to stay so positive. And if I look objectively at how many days I’ve been positive during these past 18 months or so, compared to those where I’ve not; then the smile to frown ratio is definitely heavily biased to the upper smile side! However, I’m sure you know and understand that I can’t and don’t feel like that every single day. In fact, I’d say that you’d probably expect it to be more that way than I do. You see, I’m not very good at feeling negative and bad days can become really bad, really quickly or I gloss over them with sticky sweet syrup so that no one really knows what’s going on behind that mask I use; except maybe my husband! 

13/7/2015 

Well, I started this blog entry to three days ago now but everything just became too overwhelming. I feel out of control. I feel lost. I feel isolated and incomplete. I feel incongruous, superfluous and burdensome.  I feel like I’m grieving for the Laura that was me before January 19th 2014. So, what has been happening in these past few days and why should I share it with you? I’ll be honest, I’m not going to share everything because a) I don’t want to recall and write it all down and b) some of it is just too personal to share other than with a very, very select few. But, I am going to write it down because the purpose of this blog is, and has always been, to try and help just one person; to share for awareness and not for sympathy. So although, this will not be one of my most positive posts; it will, I hope, help at least one person that reads it somewhere during it’s journey across the internet world.  

 

Today I spoke to my counsellor; we’ve nearly finished our set sessions of meetings, but this is such a complexity of issues covering issues, hiding other issues; that it feels like we’ve only just begun. Today I got upset. Today I was grieving for Laura; the Laura that was there before this coil of pressure building in my brain started to try and unravel and get out anyway it can, because it’s way is blocked; before my face and ears started pulsing; before my eye felt like it was about to explode; before my head felt like 2 tonnes of lead weights hanging from my poor shoulders that had no chance in keeping it up right, off the sofa or bed. 
Did you know the Laura before this every morning- migracap wearing, Zimmerframe rolling, squinty eyed, slow as a tortoise weeble wobble; with legs of dead weights mumbling zombie? 

  
Did you know Laura that used to go to gigs and festivals with her husband and friends? Or the Laura that loved teaching dinkies (4-5 year olds) because of their wonder at the simplest of things such as bubbles from a big bubble wand? Did you know Laura that would get a bit lost trying to work out which train she had to catch, especially in London? Or Laura that organised massive themed parties for her children (when they were young enough to want them), because it meant, more than usual, planning and organising? Did you know the Laura that raved about the vegetable cakes she made and then tried to make you guess the hidden vegetable? Did you know Laura the bookworm; cake decorator; silversmith; charity shop rummager; food lover; data collator; school leader; supportive wife; swimmer, Pilates fanatic; hard working teacher; actively engaged school mum?  I think I knew her……

I was reminded of her at the weekend: I was brave and agreed to go to a BBQ that was being hosted by someone that Joel knew, but agreed mainly because Joel’s band were playing. I agreed because I want to support my husband so much and I have hardly listened to his music because the tinniness of it being played through an iPhone, really hurts my head. I also wanted to go out and do a ‘normal’ family activity and I wanted to meet Joel’s new friends and band members properly. (Last time I was in bed…) I managed to stay outside for about half an hour whilst the band set up but it was a small garden and I decided I needed a different plan. I went inside to use the toilet and on the way, met the host. We had a chat and I wished her a happy birthday and then we discussed her use of her stair lift (she has MS) and my stick; I was asked what was wrong, of course. But then she was so kind and understanding and told me to just relax in her recliner chairs and she kept coming to check on me all through the afternoon, as I lay there with my head supported and my head away from the main hustle and bustle and more importantly: behind the speakers. I wore my gig ear plugs of course and  I kept myself topped up with oramorph, diazepam and naproxen and by the end I was as a high as a kite. It felt like I was a true groupie (out of it and in a world of brain fog) and even though I couldn’t stand up on my own (a mix of the drugs and the illness) at the end; it felt like I’d really pushed myself for the right reasons, and we left early but happy and united! 

So you would think that this experience would make me happy. It did, and so did the next day spent with just my husband (the boys had a day out with Grandad) watching TV and going out for cake and milkshakes. It felt like we had a date, and we haven’t had time on our own for ages. BUT, I’d had to spend the Friday in bed beforehand resting and I have spent today ( Monday) in bed resting and, unfortunately, crying: Grieving for the fact that there was a glimmer of Laura. Fed up that the price paid for a bit of fun, is so high and feeling so so tired all day but not being able to nap because every time I tried the phone rang or the doorbell went or the window cleaner turned up! Crying for days lost to the past and feeling out of control of ever getting them back. With no news from the review (my surgeon is as frustrated as I am), I feel like I’m on a loop of never-ending unrelenting pain that’s getting worse again. My body, having got used to that amount of drugs, I’ve had to increase them again; going against the neurologist’s plan. I feel like every time I make what I think is a step of progress in one area, I get worse in another. Basically: my body is failing me, my brain so confused by the build up of pressure (because the blood vessels are stopping the blood flow draining from around my brain) I can’t walk in a straight line, I sleep either too much or not enough, I live in a world of fog and I’m so dizzy I feel like I have constant sea-sickness, I hurt so much I feel like I’m being crushed in a vice and if I step outside of the house the bombardment of my senses sends me in to meltdown. But-I get out there because if I stay in my safe place (bed) all the time I’d sink into a depression I would struggle to pull myself out of. I’ve nearly been at that point today but I’ve been made to think everything through during counselling. Now, I’m still awake at 2:30 am writing this because my brain is on fire after all that crying. The migracap, Oramorph and diazepam are starting to work so I’m going to stop writing now and hope for sleep soon. I will finish this post tomorrow after even more reflection time and maybe just a bit more of a glimmer of hope and positivity. (I did write my 3 positives today still btw). 

  

14/72015

Well, today has been so busy that I haven’t had time to worry, grieve or be upset about what’s going on. That hope that whispered in the early hours of this morning did certainly make me try again on a new day! After such a late night though I was so tired, that I fell asleep on the sofa this afternoon after getting my hair thinned out and straightened (positive no 1) and woke up when the boys got in from school. Then I got very emotional reading the boy’s school reports; I am one very proud mum (positive no 2). And that is what I am reflecting on this evening. Despite everything that has been going on for us this past 18 months, neither of my children have let it affect their school life, and we have also worked hard to ensure it hasn’t! They are both well ahead of where they should be, have both made great effort and progress all year and even more importantly; they are popular, sociable and have an over-riding sense of wanting to help others. What more could I ask for? They are the gold that fill in the cracks in the massive scars of living a life with chronic illness! Although thinking it through, they have always been that gold, even before January 19th 2014! 

  
It is hard work going through all of this and trying to ensure that relationships within the family aren’t cracked and left broken. We’re lucky that we all help each other ‘find the gold to heal the cracks’. I am even luckier to be married to my best friend, who is patient with me (mostly) and have 2 fantastic children; who are all dealing with this tough situation with such resilience (mostly). They keep me afloat and stop me tumbling into the box of smashed plates that never get fixed! I think that we all look out for each other’s emotional well-being too. I think that the unity, love and strong bond of our family unit has been the key to us managing to cope with this. I hope that whatever situation you’re in you have at least some of that same hope for moving forward into the future . You may not have a chronic illness, but there is always something that somebody is battling. I hope that this blog helps you to at least recognise that battle. 
     

15/7/2015

Re-reading this blog post this morning, I have seen how much my feelings have changed over the space of a few days, despite the brain fog. But I know that this isn’t over yet. I will have many more days of grieving; feeling angry or useless; frustrated or lost. But by writing this blog I will hopefully be able to remind myself that the feeling of hopelessness, for me; will only last a few days at a time before I come out of the other side. I’ve got to accept that my body is flawed, but that I am still loved and that nobody is perfect. I must learn to give myself a break in life from trying so hard to be a perfectionist and control freak in everything I do!  I’ve proven to myself time and again that I am a pain warrior and that I have enough strength to pull myself and my family through this onus of pain and hard times, and even give some of my strength away to others in pain; through Mission Migraine. What’s my motto of the year again: ‘I GOT THIS

  

        

                        

 

             

           

                 

   
            

                                  

                 
   

 

       
   

    

 
      

 

       

   

        

 

    

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

     

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

  

       Nn

that nobody is perfect; everyone is fighting their own battle: so be kind, always! 

*4 days later and I’m in a much better place, writing those positives again is key and I will be doing it every day. I have been slack. I won’t always post on here though. Keep those happy thoughts as we move toward half term!* 

Day 28 #MHAMBC #MHAM  Hope begins in the dark…

  
I haven’t written a blog entry for a couple of days because I’ve been in quite a bad place both physically and mentally. Physically, my body has been wracked with shooting pains from my shoulder and neck, a tight band of pressure through the back of my head and round my forehead-like my brain is trying to burst out of my head any moment and temples and all around and behind my right eye where I get sharp ice pick pains, like someone is stabbing me with an enormous piercing needle every few seconds. My whole body becomes weak when this happens and not only can I not walk without crashing into walls (hence my new handy Zimmer) but I also get parasthesia (pins and needles) in my face and hands/wrists, increased dizziness and some vertigo spells and constant nausea and some dry heaving/vomiting from the effort it takes to try and move amongst other things. I’m telling you about all of this so that you can begin to empathise with me about the darkness that I live with almost daily; despite being on regular and occasional heavy duty painkillers and medication to prevent all of these symptoms! 
  
The darkness in my mind, however, doesn’t visit me so often. Sometimes known as ‘the black dog’ or depression, I am actually well known for the opposite; my positive attitude towards life and the fact that I don’t let the depression affect me! Well, that’s not quite true and this weekend has been especially hard. In fact; I’d say it’s been one of the meltdown kind! Yesterday, I had a really long sleep in the afternoon and so still felt quite awake at 6:30/7 when Joel wanted to sort out tea but the evening didn’t quite go to plan: I lost my temper with the kids, I was grumpy with Joel, I was even fed up with the cats. Joel suggested we got take-away; I said I didn’t care as I had no appetite. When he came back with the curry, I had the shakes really bad and we all knew this was a bad sign. Luca even looked at me and said I looked poorly. I asked for the windows and back door to be shut because the birds were ‘too loud’ and Zeke dropping his fork onto his plate made my eyes practically jump out of their sockets! Our normal reaction at this point would be for one of us to suggest I go upstairs but I think that last night every single one of us, subconsciously or not,  just wanted one night of bloody normality! One night when we all eat our meal together, one night when mum isn’t in bed before the kids, one night of ‘getting away with it’. 
Well, my resolve was truly being put to the test; the next thing happened a few minutes later. it started with tears on the sofa (me crying, sitting on the sofa, that is). Both boys jumped up to intervene; Luca to give me a cuddle and encouragement and Zeke to get some positive notes out of our jar to read to me. That and Joel’s constant support and love (and eventually, a tissue) got me through my wobble and I pulled myself together, had some ice-cream and then knew it really was time to get up those stairs before 8pm. It was the latest that I’ve been downstairs in months! However, the journey upstairs was one of the worst and longest to date; I’m sure I cried more than when I was in labour. I had to commando crawl from the top of the stairs to the bed, all the time moving a bowl along with me as I dry-heaved from the pain and effort! I was crying because the boys were seeing me like this; I was upset because Joel was having to tell me to keep moving so that I didn’t just curl up around the sick bowl at the top of the stairs and wait til morning; I was devastated because I just want to do normal stuff that normal families do; I was feeling beaten up from the inside and all I wanted to do was go to sleep right there! 

  
So being the stubborn little miss that I am; after a good 25 minutes or so I did manage to make it to my bed, still heaving. But now I had no strength in my legs at all and Joel had real difficulty getting me on to the bed; let alone helping me get ready for bed. To be honest; I was exhausted, still shaking and heaving for a good while, whilst Joel had got me on to the bed with my trusty migracap and painkillers! He helped me to the toilet when I needed it and generally had to help me do everything for the rest of the evening!  

Anyway, this got me thinking about something Joel had told me that one of the boys were cross with me because I was ill and that he’s always grumpy in the morning because I’m never awake to help out! We’ve already talked to them both about how it’s ok to be angry with the illness but not with each other but I think that this is harder than it seems. I think that there must be a part of all 3 of them that are angry with me for being ill. I cause then all more worry, more work around the house, less fun as a family altogether and less time to relax; whilst all I do all day is stay in bed or on the sofa! And it’s been that way for 18 months now!  I’d completely understand if they wanted out! I want out! Can I get a refund for the last 18 months?  I’ve had enough of being stuck in this ticking time bomb; waiting for my head to explode from too much pressure building up. My symptoms get more and more like someone with a brain tumour but that’s IIH for you. It makes your brain act in the same way, and then, lucky me,  I have migraines come and join the party too; but I can’t tell them apart anymore. All I know is that I’ve had enough of it all. I just want to be Laura again. I know I won’t be the same Laura that I was before this journey started and I promise that I will get back to seeing the positive side again soon but I need to get rid of the grief and anger that I have at the moment whilst I mourn the Laura that will probably never hold down a full time teaching job again, that won’t get back the 18 months+ when her children were aged 7/9-9/-11; all those missed assemblies and concerts. Here’s a picture of me pre-chronic illness! 

   

Those were the days; time to do my hair and make up (although this was done at a vintage fair), I’ve got jewellery on and I’m standing up! It must have been a similar time to when this photo was taken that  Joel recorded a short iPad clip of him and the boys; which they watched this morning. Towards the end of the clip I walk in to shot and join in a bit. When watching it with the boys, they said “look Mummy can walk normally”! You forget how long 9 months of me having a stick and chair must feel like to them! Anyway, Joel showed me the clip this evening and this was the tiny glimmer of hope that I needed today and I watched it a couple of times! 

  

Although I’m finding things tough at the moment, I know that there is always a positive to be found in everyday. I know that there is still a little crack in the door that let’s through a little bit of light *hope* and I know that my stubbornness or as I prefer to call it; my determination is what gives me my strength! So although, I hate my illness and what I’ve lost; I’ve also found lots of new things to be so grateful for. I think that there’s still some elements of grieving for life before I was unwell that I haven’t managed to work through yet. I’ll be keeping a keen eye open for that little glimmer of hope in the shadows of despair. 


The Migraine and Headache Month Awareness challenge is organised by The American Headache and Migraine Association