The perception people have of your life

Chatting with an old friend last week, she remarked how busy I always seemed to be and asked me how I managed to do so much fitness when I had two small children to look after full time. I found it such an odd comment as I had recently been moaning to my husband that I don’t feel like I am achieving anything daily and that some days were beginning to feel a little ‘groundhog’.

On further discussion, it became apparent that my social media profile was creating this image of my life – my personal accounts were posts and photos of my (frequent) running, fitness activities, love of fresh homegrown vegetables and healthy food. There is no mention of my children, my job, or the mundane aspects of my life.

social media 4

It got me thinking about how social media creates a picture of a person, which may be incredibly unbalanced. I choose to post about positive things that make me happy, not to moan or give too much detail away that I want to keep private. It therefore means that people have a certain perception of me and my life. It also means that I build a picture of others in my mind based on their own posts and profiles. So it’s all pretty ‘fake’ for want of a better word.

The danger I suppose, is when people take it all too seriously, and believe that the perfect life, body, happy ever after is out there, without any flaws, and therefore beat themselves up for not measuring up to it. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and be happy in our own skin (that’s a whole other topic for a future post!), and realise that everything you see on social media should be taken with a pinch of salt.

I am busy, I do love my life and the people in it, and I love talking about health and fitness. My dream is to inspire people to make healthy choices, embrace fitness and look for the positives in situations. That’s why I post what I post. If I wanted to bore people senseless with talk about my love of organising my kitchen cupboards and painting the study then I’d post about that too (but I don’t!) 🙂

Be careful what you believe on social media……

Take a minute to think…

Stop

I’m getting ready to go out for a run followed by a game of netball. Normally I would have eaten my dinner around this time, but as I am exercising I have avoided eating, and may do so when I get home later (depending on the time). But for the last hour or so, I have been thinking about all the ‘snacks’ I could just have before I go, that wouldn’t affect my run or game – a biscuit, small piece of chocolate, slice of bread, fruit, the kids’ leftovers  – the list goes on. Anyway, this time I have been strong and managed to avoid it and made myself think about how I’d feel if I did eat something and then ran – and I would feel awful!

thinking

This process made me think about how we quite often ‘just do’ things without even thinking about them – on autopilot – even if they make us feel bad. If we stop to think about what we’re doing (or what we’re about to eat and how it will make us feel), it may change the decision we make. I would have really enjoyed a piece of chocolate, or a biscuit, but I would have felt bloated, sluggish and slow later on. The fact that I was able to have that internal discussion with myself, and be strong enough not to eat, means that I have a better chance of success later, and also in the long run (not creating a snacking habit that will lead to weight issues or self-loathing).

In thinking about it a bit more, I realise that I could apply this to other decisions or actions I make in my daily life. When I start to feel down or stressed about something, I should stop and ask myself ‘why’ and if I can change it.

Why do we let ourselves make bad decisions, even when we know they are bad for us?

 

Run for your mental health!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK this week, and there is a lot of coverage of mental health issues on the TV, radio and social media. One thing I have really noticed is the amount of people talking about how exercise can really help mental health issues.

running and mental healthI watched a documentary recently called ‘Mind over Marathon’ on the BBC which focused on a group of people with mental health issues, including OCD, anxiety, PTSD and depression. They signed up to a challenge to train for the London Marathon (which took place a couple of weeks ago), with the advice that something like this would be beneficial to their mental health. Supported by fitness trainers and trained mental health professionals, along with others who had themselves been successful in using exercise to cope with their own mental health issues, they embarked on a 20 week training plan. If you get a chance to watch it on BBC iplayer, it was a fascinating watch, and really cemented for me the whole link between exercise and mental health which I have long believed (see my previous blog on Exercise – the best medicine).

Anyway, what made me blog about this today? Well, I had a really positive experience with a run today which really had me buzzing. I woke up in a pretty rubbish mood to be honest and after a day off the healthy eating wagon yesterday, I felt quite sluggish. the last thing I wanted to do was go for a run. But my husband encouraged me and told me to ‘get out there as it would do me some good’ (he knows me so well!). I was about 400 metres into my run when it hit me – my mood lifted, I woke up to my surroundings (I was in the woods which is my favourite place to run), felt the sun on my face and felt the power of the fresh air in my lungs. I felt amazing – buzzing even, and it’s been a while since a felt a run do that much for me. I was raving about it when I got back home and it reminded me of the programme and a quote someone mentioned:

‘Running and mental health are really good companions’

Any form of exercise is good for you, both physically and mentally – you just need to get out there and do it. Running in particular, does not discriminate and is open to everyone. Anyone can run, just take it at your own pace and enjoy it – your mental health will definitely thank you for it!

 

Mental health – getting rid of the stigma

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Mental health has been in the UK news a lot this
week, with many high profile people highlighting their own experiences or just outlining how important it is for us to talk about it. HRH Price Harry is one of these people and has talked openly about how he struggled for a few years after his mother’s death before taking advice and talking to a counsellor – which he said really helped. His brother, The Duke of Cambridge (HRH Prince William) has also highlighted the importance of talking about it – and issued a video with Lady Gaga.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are spearheading a charity (Heads Together) campaign to end stigma around mental health. Heads Together aims to change the national conversation on mental health and wellbeing, and it looks like they are making great progress.

It’s great to see all this publicity about mental health, and I hope the message is getting out to people who suffer that it is perfectly normal, and that they need to open up and let someone know what they are going through – seek help. It’s something I am really passionate about, and am looking into becoming a counsellor and coach. There are so many different types of mental issues – PTSD, anxiety, extreme stress, depression to name a few – and people need to feel OK about saying they are experiencing it. Sometimes it is long term, other times it is related to a particular point in life e.g a bereavement, physical illness, or an experience.

mental-health-thumbnailWe’ve all seen or experienced mental health issues at some point, so it’s interesting that people still find it difficult to talk about it. I struggled after the sudden death of my Dad, and sought counselling which was extremely helpful for me. I have friends who have suffered or continue to suffer with PTSD, anxiety, bi-polar and schizophrenia. The more you look for examples in your life, the more there are – which means we all need to be aware of it, and more open about it and look for signs in others, so we can help.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and if there is something wrong it impacts all parts of our lives. But it is treatable, and you can learn to live with it with coping mechanisms and medication if required. The first step though is to talk – tell someone how you feel, don’t be afraid of a reaction, or what people will think of you. Believe me, they will  be proud you are speaking up and keen to support you in whatever way they can. If you can get your mental health in a good place, it allows you to deal with everything else life throws at you.

Spring – the opportunity for a fresh approach

Here in the UK, the clocks went forward at the weekend, making it lighter in the evenings for a bit longer. Spring has finally sprung, we are enjoying some sunshine and warmer weather, and best of all, we are seeing flowers and plants bloom again. It’s just beautiful to be outdoors.

Whilst my favourite time of the year is  Autumn, as I love the colours and I am more of a cold air ‘wrap up warm’ kind of girl, I love the sense of opportunity and new beginnings that Spring brings. After a long Winter when many of us have spent a lot of time indoors, with shorter darker days and sometimes miserable weather, it’s a real treat to see the sun shining, trees budding and flowers blooming. It lifts your mood, instils a sense of anticipation and excitement, and generally makes you feel happy.

This time of year always makes me want to sort things out and clean up – I guess it’s a bit of ‘Spring cleaning’. It also makes me want to try new things and focus on what I can do to improve things. So I’ve been busy about the house painting, clearing and cleaning and having a good sort out has really made me feel good – almost cleansed!

springcleanfitness_headerAnd I’m taking a similar approach to myself – focusing on how I can improve my well being, health and general outlook. To do so, I’m cutting back on sugar and looking to up my running distances (and using my Garmin tracking app to give me stats and focus). And one more thing I’ve decided to do is to challenge myself by incorporating one body weight exercise a day to my routine for the whole of April – I’ve decided on press ups. I’m going to start with 10 a day and build it up each day. Small changes, one at a time.

Spring – it’s time to bloom and progress!

Your mind is your strongest ‘muscle’

The inner drive to want something is what initially motivates us to do something, and physical fitness or power plays a key part in getting us there. But it is your mind – your mental power – that will determine whether you make it there or not.

56553818297a453ffe25acfd36895a91Take a fitness challenge – like a race or an obstacle course, or climbing a mountain. You need to be physically fit to complete it, and most people will normally follow some kind of specific plan. But if you aren’t in the right place mentally, or can’t pull on your mental strength to get you through the tough parts, it can all fail at that point.
It’s so important to make sure you focus your training on the mental side as well as the physical. But how do you do that? A few things that work for me:

  • Recognise progress
    You need to see progress in your training, and remind yourself how far you have come each time. Give yourself that pat on the back for getting through a stage, and focus on the positive elements of your progress.
  • Identify the negatives
    Yes, look at the negatives, but focus on how you can learn from them and work out how to deal with it when it happens again.
  • Look out for the signs of your mental weakness
    Learn to notice the signs of when you are feeling mentally weak during your training, and think about how you overcame them – or how you can do in the future. This will help you in the hard moments of your challenge.
  • Talk to yourself
    Listen to that inner voice, and use it to its full effect. Tell yourself you are good, you can do this, and you will feel proud at the end. This really works! You can do it our loud if you really want to 🙂
  • Visualise the end
    This really works for me. During a tough moment in a run, or when I have climbed some tough mountains, I’ve visualised myself at the finish and thought about how I will feel. And I ask myself how disappointed I will feel if I don’t push on.

And finally – Dig Deep! When you start to feel the ‘pain’, dig deep and believe in yourself. you know you can do it. As my husband frequently tells me ‘It’s all in the mind’. And it can make or break your determination.

Don’t let life get in the way of living

We all do it, and I have been more guilty that others recently – letting the daily grind get in the way of doing things I love, and generally ‘living’. It’s been a busy few weeks, and I’ve just focused on ‘getting what needs to be done, done’ which has meant I haven’t done as much of the good things I like to do – once again seeing them as luxuries rather than requirements for my happiness. So I haven’t run as much, I haven’t seen friends and been out socialising as much as I wanted to, I haven’t baked as much as usual, nor been creative round the house (favouring the need to just keep it clean and tidy in the time I had), and I also haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks – which makes me sad.

So I’ve given myself and good talking to, and realised that I need to MAKE TIME for these things, and give myself a break – do the things I enjoy more. After all, life is too short. It’s also good for your mental health to do things you enjoy doing, and look after your well being. Don’t look on it as ‘spoiling yourself’, look on it as ‘looking after yourself both physically and mentally. A saying I heard the other day really hit home with me, and as I continue to go through quite a reflective period in my life, I’m going to try and use this as a reminder (I may even get it printed out and framed on a wall!). The saying is:

‘Don’t let your search for a happy life get in the way of living’

7018-Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Quote-Life-is-a-journey-not-a-destination.jpgSometimes we all get caught up in our day to day being and just existing, so that we can have a good future, that we often forget to enjoy ourselves along the way. As I am sure you have heard before ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’ and this is something I truly believe.

So take time to appreciate the good things in life every day, spend time with people you love, do things you enjoy more frequently, and look around you – there’s lots to smile about along the way, if we just give ourselves the time to acknowledge it. The other stuff will still be there tomorrow…….

Just ‘let it go’…

let-it-goSometimes things don’t work out quite as you planned, and how you deal with it can have a huge impact on the rest of your day and most definitely your mood! I had a day a bit like this yesterday, with lots of things planned out and a to-do list of things I wanted to get done. I was really motivated and woke up with a spring in my step.

The first major task of the day was where it all went wrong, and I actually surprised myself with how I felt about it and dealt with it. I decided to take my two children to a playgroup session which I regularly attend with a friend – this would be the first time I went on my own and I tried not to think about running about watching two of them at the same time without back-up! Anyway, it took me longer to get the two of them out of the car, in the buggy and into the play area in the building, than it did for my son to decide he would have a meltdown resulting in me deciding to leave -after just 15 mins!! I then had two hours of meltdown to deal with whilst trying to keep calm for the other one, so my plans went out of the window.

The rest of the day kind of followed suit – I couldn’t do some of the jobs I had planned as my son decided not to sleep at lunchtime, and continued to test me throughout the day;  the dog carried a whole load of mud into the house and decided to roll it on the cream rug (that DID test me!); I spilt a whole carton of milk on the floor (I know ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’!); my son decided he didn’t like any food put in front of him; and then my daughter had teething issues and didn’t want anyone else but me at bedtime, which meant I couldn’t go out to play netball.

let-it-go-disneyI could have had a meltdown myself, and got annoyed, but I actually stayed calm and just decided to ‘write the day off’ or in the words of that famous Disney movie (Frozen) ‘Let it go….’. I decided that I would just have to let it go and deal with my to-do list and every other plan tomorrow. But, one thing I did decide I needed to to to help me with that, was ensure I did one thing for myself that day – because that would help me feel better and I wouldn’t feel I had totally lost it. So, I enlisted the help of my mum for babysitting duties and I went for a run, and I felt so good for doing it.

So if you can do one thing for yourself, something that makes you feel good – read a book, go for a walk or run, take time out to watch your favourite film or TV programme, have a bath etc. it will help you re-focus, put things into perspective and ‘let it go’. everything else will still be there tomorrow and you will have done something for you 🙂

Stop over-thinking, it’s wasted energy

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I am an over-thinker. There, I’ve said it. I spend too much time thinking things through to make a decision that I could have made in a much quicker time period, and without all the worry and anxiety that I put myself through (just ask my husband who is usually on the receiving end of this over-thinking!).

I’ve had lots of time to think lately, having the luxury of being away from the usual stressful workplace. But, for someone who usually over-thinks things, I’m surprised at how logical I am managing to be, and how my levels of procrastination are dipping (only slightly, it’s not a miracle).

93700-over-thinking-kills-happinessI’ve worked out that if you over-think, you just create negative energy which is wasted on worrying about things that may never happen. And it kills your happiness. It doesn’t mean I don’t worry about things anymore, I just tend to focus a bit more on the situation, analyse and make a quicker decision.

What I have found myself doing more of, is having conversations with myself about why I feel negative or worried about something, and trying to turn it around. It’s a bit like my blog about Blue Monday – don’t let yourself be dragged down by the negatives and turn your thought process on its head. And I’ve got into the habit of asking myself the following questions when I feel worried or anxious about a situation:

  1. Why do I feel worried about it?
  2. Who has control of the situation?
  3. What can I do about it at this present moment?
  4. What would make me feel better about it?

Usually by answering these questions I can put it into perspective and talk myself into not letting it take over my day. The key thing is about control, and taking that back. Realise that you are the only one who can control your life and the decisions you make, and stop worrying about what other people think.

It really is an attitude that I feel good about adopting, and it’s making a difference. Stop worrying and enjoy life.

Be someone’s sunshine

I know my last post was about looking after number one, but once you have that under control and a priority, you know you can look out for others. Isn’t it a great feeling when you make someone else smile?

sunshineBeing there for someone, no matter how small the task, will always make you feel good. Humans are wired to love others and naturally look to support. It can be something as small as grabbing an extra coffee for a colleague on your way into the office, or looking after your friends children for an hour so she can have a break. Or it can be buying a loved one that really special gift they have been coveting for a while. All of those things will most definitely make you feel good about them and about yourself. Just thinking about it makes me smile.

I love the saying ‘Be someone else’s sunshine when their skies are grey’. It reminds me to think about others and look out for people who may be struggling. And it makes me smile to think that I could actually help someone. Don’t you love it when someone comes to you for advice? It demonstrates to you that they value your opinion, and think you could help them, which in turn should make you feel good.

It happened to me last week and I recall feeling really honoured that my friend was asking for advice, and that I felt I could actually make a difference, even if I was just re-affirming their own thoughts. If it turns out you can help them, then that’s a bonus and you both come away feeling good – creating sunshine all round!

So go on, have a look around and see who could do with your sunshine in their grey day!