Tag Archives: Mental Health

Is Tracking Every Single Run Important?

As a runner, I’m always looking to progress with my personal bests, whether that is in time or in distance but what happens when it starts to consume you. How important is your timing when you run and should we always be tracking our runs? That’s what I’ll be discussing in today’s post. 

20180408_095643.jpg

Before I begin, I have to say I am all for looking at your times during and after your run. I wrote a post recently about “Why I’m No Long Counting My Steps” and if you read that post, you’ll know that not hitting my steps made me feel bad about myself despite the fact that I am an active person, but not hitting those steps put a dampener on that. That started to happen when I started tracking my runs too but because I wanted to progress, I knew that I couldn’t simply stop tracking them. 

When I first started running, I was very focused on simply running because I didn’t have a lot of experience with before and it wasn’t as easy as “just running”. It took a lot of mental and physical energy out of me, much more than I was ever expecting so I was happy enough for a while pushing myself. Once I realised that I could run 5K, that’s when I started to look at the numbers more in depth. If I didn’t get to the same time as last time, and if I wasn’t faster, I became disappointed despite feeling like it was a great run. I became obsessed with being better and while I believe it is important to do better yourself, I think you know yourself when you’ve pushed it too far. 

IMG-20180908-WA0013-01.jpeg(Scott and I at our most recent race, the Larne 10K)

When I didn’t get a “good time” by my own standards, I started to doubt whether I was a good runner. I wrote a post a few months ago about “Becoming Comfortable With Calling Myself A Runner” and it’s exactly what it says on the tin. I had a big problem with timing and I started to doubt whether I was a runner, if I was getting these “low standards” times and often, it was really hard to deal with. It even made me not want to run because I was scared that I would get another “bad” time, and if I was doing that, then what was the point in running? I’m very competitive with myself and it was so foreign to me just to run with no expectations. I kept asking myself what would that achieve? 

What does your time matter? 

If you’re preparing for a race or you’re hoping to become faster or run further, then one hundred percent I believe you should track your run. Depending on what equipment and application you use, you’ll be able to see your splits and how your body reacted to going up on incline or speeding up down a hill, to name a few examples. Those will be very good lessons on learning how to deal with pacing in the future; I often find that I go up hills too fast and over time with the help of my boyfriend, I’ve learned that going slower up hills may not be ideal for time but my body can cope with running longer if I have gone slower during the hard part. 

When does your time not matter? 

Your time doesn’t matter if you’re just running to run. Simple as, if you’re using it as another form of exercise or you’re looking for something to get you outside, then I really don’t believe time should be your biggest worry. 

strava1449674105.jpg

(For reference, I use Strava for my running. It’s great with working out my splits and I find it to be accurate most of the time. Ever since I downloaded the app almost a year ago, it’s only not connected up twice which was frustrating at the time, but for a free app, it’s not too bad. You can get a premium version too, it comes with some great features though.) 

Running has become a very lovable hobby and I can see why many runners say it is a love hate relationship; you love it when it’s over but during it when you feel like you mentally can’t go on, you hate it. It’s something that does get easier thankfully but we still have our bad days as well as our good days.  

Looking back at how I used to think shows me how far I have come in terms of my mindset because no matter what time you get, you are still a runner and you shouldn’t be discouraged by your time. It still happens to me and you’ll probably find it happens to every runner, I find that it doesn’t affect me as much as when I first began. 

Thank you so much for reading today’s post. I’d be really interested in hearing from other runners if they have been through this dilemma before and how they have worked through it so if you have any links, send them through to me over on my Twitter or my Instagram. 

Advertisements

How I Felt Being Made Redundant.

DSC01291

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know recently I posted on Instagram about leaving my job due to being made redundant, which considering the terrible state of the arts sector in Northern Ireland is in at the minute, was still a shock to me even though I should have seen it coming.  Today’s blog post is about my initial feelings about the situation.

First and foremost, I understand that being made redundant is nothing to be embarrassed about and while many people around me told me this; until you’re in the situation yourself, nothing anyone can say will make you feel better right away. Redundancy happens to many people through no fault of their own and that’s part of the reason I was able to hold it together the latter part of my last few weeks in the job. Ironically, the afternoon I was told was the same afternoon I was heading to see my counsellor, so it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Within the first week I can only remember not crying two of those days, I felt like I was a mess. I struggled to get out of bed that first week to go to work after I found out. I couldn’t be angry at anyone and I think that was the most frustrating part. I couldn’t take it out on anyone because it was no-one’s fault so normally when that happens, I take it out on myself which ends up being worse. I cried in front of work colleagues and if you know me in real life, you’ll know I’m very sensitive so one little remark can set me off at the best of times. Crying in work wasn’t something I wanted to do but when you’re put in a situation that you can’t control and your emotions can’t control, then at that point, you have to let your body do what it needs.

20180421_205408-1.jpg

What was I worried about? When you put the situation into perspective; I don’t have children to look after, I don’t care for anyone and I have people around me who can support me. No-one had told me “how lucky I was that I didn’t have all these other problems” but that was all I could concentrate on leading to me feeling even worse for feeling like I was slowly crumbling. However, I live on my own and have done for the last year and a half and it’s something I’m very proud of. That’s what I was afraid of; I was afraid of losing the one thing that had given me such a wealth of independence and no matter how much everyone kept telling me “you’ll be fine”, I wasn’t able to believe them.

Thankfully for me, I had six weeks’ notice which I know that not many people get that lucky. I’m not sure if it was a help or a hindrance because I knew that I had no job in less than two months but I still had to try my best. For me it was important not to step completely back from the job during this time because as upset as I was, it wasn’t in my control. During my time in that job, I had taken on more than I needed to most of the time and it had taken its toll in more ways than one. However, I knew that my depression and anxiety symptoms were at their high points so stepping away from tasks that weren’t absolutely essential, was the best decision for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still tried my damn best and I’m proud of the work that I done up until the end but seeing it from the other side now, the stress was not worth it.

20180516_202138.jpg

As I write this, I’m in my first week of unemployment and it’s been hard. I thought I was prepared and I hadn’t expected to feel the way I do. I wanted to do so many things during this time while I look for a job and my plans haven’t went as well as I had hoped. It’s still hard getting out of bed in the morning, it’s hard holding a conversation with anyone and unfortunately for me, my tiredness hasn’t changed. When you wake up in the morning and feel exhausted, it doesn’t give you much hope for the rest of the day.

I’m not writing this for sympathy and I’m not writing this to tell you how hard I have it because I know that so many other people have it much harder than me but this has been a very challenging part of my life that I thought would be important to document for the simple reason that I know this will be okay in the end. This won’t last forever and I have come to terms with the fact that I have to ask for help when I need it. I’m not good at asking for help, it’s one of my worst traits in fact but sometimes help is all you need. 

Why I Stepped Away From Yoga.

20180421_205408-1.jpg

Yoga is such a special journey for some people and it’s become a constant release in my life that has been there for me during the good times and the bad times. Today I’m talking about how I feel about the practice at the minute, why I stepped away and how I’m slowly incorporating it back into my life again.

Monday nights were yoga nights for me. I went almost religiously for a few years, I then took a few months break and then I suddenly went back for a few months every Monday evening. I practiced in a studio that was a twenty second walk away from work so it was easy for me to get changed in work and head straight there. I have a blog post about Monday Syndrome and while I didn’t dread Monday’s too much, it was nice knowing I had something to look forward to that evening.

My mental health had slowly started to slip again at the beginning of the year but I continued to practice but the more my mental process slipped, the less I enjoyed the class. Yoga is about so many more elements than the body, and physically, I was connected. I could move with the teacher and the rest of the class without too many slip ups and considering where I started a few years ago, I had made amazing progress. However, I was too stuck in my own head and it was hard letting go for an hour when I couldn’t hear anything apart from my own thoughts. I often described it as being stuck in a box and having every negative thought and anything bad someone has ever said to you, being with you inside this box. You can’t escape it and the noise gets louder.

20180429_092615-01.jpeg

I was no longer getting the true benefits of yoga and I had to make a decision. Did I continue paying for a class that through the fault of no-one, I was struggling to enjoy or did I take a break from the practice until I got my headspace back in check? For a while, I made the decision to slow down my practice from once a week to once a month with a special class that my teacher had set up focusing on learning more about the teachings of yoga. I fell in love with the concept but my mind still wouldn’t shut off.

From practicing once a week to once a month was a difficult change because while I’m not religious, it was something I done that felt very similar to a religious teaching, but I thought it might help me emotionally connect again and I really tried hard for a few months. I loved changing my routine because it meant jumping on the bus on a Sunday afternoon, picking up a tea at one of my favourite coffee shops and then having a short walk to the community centre where the class took place. I loved that it was on a Sunday afternoon because I liked starting fresh for the new work week. My headspace was very much the same for these classes and I struggled to focus on anything in the class, to the point where I couldn’t hear the silence during relaxation. I felt like I could hear my own thoughts and again, they were too loud.

20180519_220903.jpg

Comparision is a funny thing, isn’t it? I follow some wonderful yoga teachers online and I love watching their videos talking about their classes, their own journey or how they have combated their mental health journey with a yoga practice and I feel jealous. I’m jealous that I had to step back from yoga because my head wasn’t right but yoga works for them to correct their headspace. I almost question what is wrong with me but I know that everyone goes through their own journey with mental health but sometimes you can’t help but wonder, what is it about me? Am I doing something wrong? I try and not look at other people in that light because I know you shouldn’t compare your chapter one to someone’s chapter twenty. We all go through different points in our own lives and to compare yourself to others, it won’t even give you that little piece of relief you’re looking for. We’re all guilty of it but it’s learning more about self-awareness that will help you not go down that route so often.

Right now, my mental health isn’t on the right track but that’s something that I know the reasons behind and it’s going to take some time for me to become stronger again. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone when it comes to yoga; I went to a yoga workshop last month with the co-founder of my yoga organisation I have been practicing with since the beginning of my journey and while I didn’t feel like I was “completely there” in the workshop, I feel connected to a certain extent and I was more than happy with that. More recently, I went to a kundalini yoga workshop at a studio closer to home and while I had never experienced that type of class, it was an interesting concept and I would be open to trying it out again. Like the other class, sometimes I wasn’t completely connected but I was for the majority of the time, so mentally, I am getting there, even if it is at a slower rate than I would like.

Thank you so much for reading today’s post, it was another personal one for me and I quite like sharing these ones. I don’t share every single detail on why I feel the way I do but that’s a decision that I am more comfortable with. I hope it was an enjoyable read and if you were able to relate to it, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Entrepreneurs and Mental Health: Michaela Pontiki

I’m back this week with another interview facilitated by FPComms with the wonderful Michaela Pontiki as part of my Entrepreneurs and Mental Health series. If you missed my interview last week with Latoya Lovell, I’ll link it right here. 

Michaela-Pontiki-Founder-of-Healthy-Lifestyle-Bakery-Arapina
(Photo Credit: Mi Business Mag)

First of all, for those who don’t know, can you tell me who you are and a little about your background in your career so far? 

I am Michaela Pontiki, the founder of Arapina bakery. I am an architect with a Masters in sustainable design and having worked in both industries, I decided to start my own business in the food & beverage sector.

Can you tell me the philosophy behind “Arapina“? 

We are an award winning Healthy Lifestyle Bakery, based on Mediterranean cooking, offering free from and low in options to a sophisticated clientele. We are here to offer food to those who suffer from various intolerances and or have physical or mental diseases. We believe that food can be your medicine.

There is so much information out there, especially online, about food. Do you think that there is too much information that people are overwhelmed when it comes to making the right food choices, especially if they are being told conflicting information? 

Definitely, companies are fighting for their own reputation and companies get it wrong a lot of the times, especially in today’s world when masses can be easily influenced by TV commercials and social medias platforms. And they get it wrong because they either don’t have the right information themselves or purposefully manipulating concepts for the sake of their personal profit. Either way is unacceptable and one should cross referenced sources of information that is readily available out there.

We talk a lot about super foods but unfortunately, we know that if people are overwhelmed, the benefits of certain foods may not be important because they may not know what information to trust. So, I want to know two of your favourite meals that not only have the nutritional benefits that your mind and body love but are a joy for you to make too? 

I don’t have much time in my hands so I need to be creative and seek easiness with my meals. So quick breakfast is natural greek yogurt, with organic blueberries, raw almonds, honey and cinnamon. Second best is almost any type of grilled fish with a vegetable ratatouille next to it.

Why should entrepreneurs be thinking more about the food they eat? I know that I’m guilty of saying “Oh I don’t have time to eat, I’m too busy” and I’m not even an entrepreneur. Talk to us about the remarkable impact food can have on our minds as well as our bodies. 

Imagine you own a fast car, but every time you try to speed up, the car does not accelerate to the level you want it to simply because the fuel you are putting to it is of poor quality. It is exactly the same with ones body. You want to “run”, physically and mentally but you probably can’t simply because you have not taken care your body and mind. One cannot fulfil their full potential with an underperforming fuel which in this case is food.

What do you think of the “busy” excuse? Is there such a thing? By saying this, are we not making ourselves a priority? 

It is a fact that we live in a society that keeps us busy and activated, so in a way yes, we are busy, but I would say that it is more of a matter of priorities, and that applies on many aspects of our lives. When we fail to call our friends, spend time with our family or not properly plan our meals, it simply means that this task is not high up on our priority list, because I am sure the same person would find the time to watch the new series on Netflix if this is what he/she would value more. So it is a matter of changing your mentality to change your priorities to help your body.

I can only imagine the pressure that you are under having your own business, do you think that that is something quite a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with? 

There are different types of businesses, businesses with different demands as well as businesses with different starting points. If we had to generalize business is not easy and yes, the pressures are high when running one.

For you, what is the difference between being stressed while starting your own business and your mental health slipping? 

Stress can be activating or stress can be destabilizing. It really depends on the space you allow stress to occupy in your life, the grade of stress you are suffering from and the way you approach stress itself. Sometimes it is a fine line between stress and mental health slipping.

If someone is finding it hard balancing their mental health while running their own business, what tips would you give them? What do you do when you are in their situation? 

Quit business, life is more important.

Finally, if anyone would like to find out any more information about you and the work you do, where can they go to do so? 

Follow us on our social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and keep an eye for podcasts and more interviews. If you are lacking this physical contact as most of us are in today’s world, come down to the bakery and ask for Michaela (by appointment only).

Again, a massive thank you to Nicola from FPComms for facilitating this interview and to the wonderful Michaela for taking time out of her day to answer my questions. I also got sent the most gorgeous chocolate covered almonds and bergamot preserve from the Arapina Bakery, so thank you so much for the treats!

 

Entrepreneurs and Mental Health: Latoya Lovell

As a society, it’s very clear we are talking more about mental health which for me, I couldn’t be happier about. With May being known as Mental Health Awareness Month, FPComms got in touch with me to see if I wanted to interview two entrepreneurs who champion the topic of mental health. Over the next two Sunday’s, I’ll be posting two interviews I conducted with two entrepreneurs. First up is Latoya Lovell! 

20065722_191652468037086_5289711472992059392_n(1)(Photo Credit: @LatoyaLovl)

If you’re not familiar with Latoya, she is an influencer, a soon-to-be novelist and a freelance writer from London. She has a new book coming out towards the end of 2019 which uses her experiences of her depression to bring her villain characters to life. She tells us where you can find her on social media at the end of the interview so I hope you enjoy!

(Disclaimer: As a warning before reading on, depression is one of the topics discussed and there could be a number of triggering words for some, so please take caution before reading.)

First of all, for those who don’t know, can you tell me who you are and a little about your background in your career so far? 

I started doing interviews for a magazine called We Are Collision and after realising how much I liked media working for them, I decided to master the Media Industry.

I believe you went through a stage of depression, in as much detail or as little as you would like, can you tell us about this? What’s your story with depression?

After a few years of working in the media industry I started to feel like I was letting people down when things went wrong. I was in a bad situationship with a male friend and when we stopped talking to me, he said it was because I disappointed him. At the time I never realised it was a trigger word for myself but it made me feel like I was disappointing everyone. I convinced myself I was going to disappoint my son and so I decided he would be better off without me. I wanted to complete suicide and I went and got my hair done and wrote a letter to him and sent messages to everyone saying goodbye. I left the salon and when I arrived home, my friend was sitting on my stairs waiting on me. She collected my son from school and looked after me for several days. We identified what I wanted to do over those several days and it also made me realise my triggers.

After this experience, you started to write your own series of books. Now, I know that they aren’t released yet but can you give us a sneak peek on what the first one is about and an insight into some of the characters? 

The book is based upon myself and my 2 best friends. We are a diverse bunch and I wanted to highlight how 3 different women from different cultural backgrounds still loved and embraced each other. How women empower each other but I decided to make us 16 with superpowers. I realized by showing the lead characters as how me and my friends look I could show younger girls that being natural is fine.

Did you find it healing writing about these experiences or did you find that initially it was hard having to look back to the battle you were fighting at that time?  

I actually used the book to write about how I wish my life had progressed with certain situations. Like I never spoke to my Biological Father before he passed but in the first chapter, there is a letter to myself from him. I guess it’s what I would’ve liked him to say to me but now I realise that even that isn’t needed because I am ok.

Social media plays a large part in many of our lives now, how much do you choose to share online? Do you share the positive and the negative, or do you still struggle (like many of us) to find that correct balance? 

Before I was someone who only wanted to highlight the positive because I believe in focusing on solutions. However, recently I have decided to show the negative but how I follow through to my solutions in hopes that people may use tools I am suggesting and it will help them live a better life mentally.

What do you do as a form of self-care when you start to notice that your mental health isn’t as balanced as you would like? 

First, I look at my environment and whether I am allowing the wrong people or putting myself into the wrong situations and I withdraw. As someone who likes to please sometimes, it is hard to say no but my mental health has to come first.

I have also learned how to do things alone like go to restaurants or the cinema things I would never have done before because I cared too much that people would judge me.

Lastly, I do activities that I know will release endorphins like exercise or eating chocolate because sometimes the little things really help.

How important has it been for you to be open and honest about your mental health with your children?  

My son now understands that I am human too and I make mistakes. However, in my household I say it’s like a job so he still understands that there are certain behaviours that are still not acceptable to a boss. I also try and show him that it is not an excuse, it is something to survive from and grow from. Mental Health will only stop us if we allow it.

For a parent or guardian who is currently experiencing their own mental health problem at the minute or have come out the other side, what advice would you have for them in order to be able to be open with their own children? 

To be honest, we give children a false perception of an adult and then when they go into the real world, sometimes they are not prepared. I try to make sure my son knows what the world is really like because otherwise he could fall into the trap I fell into and feel not good enough.

Finally, if anyone would like to find out any more information about you and the work you do, where can they go to do so? 

@LatoyaLovl on all the socials and www.latoyalovell.co.uk

Thank you so much to Nicola from FPComms for facilitating this interview with the lovely Latoya and thank you again to Latoya Lovell for taking the time out of her day to answer my questions.

Meditation May: A Month of Meditation

20170522_183258-1

With the start of a brand-new month (Yes, I’m very much into that cliché) I wanted to set myself a challenge outside my three-month goals (which I will link here) and I thought a daily practice with meditation would be perfect so that’s what today’s post is focused on. 

Meditation was a daily practice for me for quite a few months but as my mental health deteriorated, I no longer reached for my guided meditations and this also included my yoga practice. I went to a yoga class religiously on Monday evenings after work and it was fantastic then gradually I started to only practice once a month. The fact of the matter is when my head gets in a bad place, I’m so stuck in my own head that I can no longer feel the benefits of yoga. When I describe this feeling to people, I often describe I like this:  

Imagine you are on a hamster wheel going round and round but at the same time, you’re stuck in a box that you can’t get out of. Every negative thought and every negative thing that has ever been said to you is in the box and you can’t get out, you have to stand there. (If you’ve ever watched the Crystal Maze, imagine all the paper money in the dome that the contestants have to catch, are the thoughts and the words.)

Unsurprisingly it’s a very hard trap to get out of so I had to step back from yoga especially until I get my head and mindset back on track. I’m getting there but it’s still off track sometimes. Gradually over the last few days I have been getting into evening meditations again but I want to take it one step further and give myself that boost to do it daily so that’s where Meditation May comes from. 

Back in January, one of my favourite bloggers Madison started up a meditation challenge on her YouTube channel and Facebook group and it was so comforting to have a support group there who you could open up to about your meditation difficulties. I really enjoyed that challenge and while I didn’t manage to meditate every single day, I got very close. This is another part of my inspiration behind Meditation May because I noticed a massive difference in January with Madison’s challenge. 

DSC01291

My plan for the month is very simple; I want to practice meditation for ten minutes a day every day and for the first two weeks I’m not going to push myself to practice twice a day, I’ll build that up over time. I’m planning on keeping a journal on the experience to note down what meditation I use, how long for, how I feel before and after and if there is a particular emotion I’m trying to work alongside. At the end of the month, I’ll be posting those journal entries to see how much of a difference it really made and how the month went overall. 

Over the month, I’ll be posting on my Instagram and my Twitter too and I’ll be using #MeditationMay as the hashtag. I’m sure I’m not the only one to be practicing this idea so I’m not claiming it as mine but if you fancy seeing some “live” progress, you know where I’ll be. With the Spring Clean season around too, I’m hoping that this will help me along the “fresh mindset” element of the new Spring time. 

Thank you so much for reading today’s post. Quite a light one today but it’s always good to start the month off nice and light. 

Fear and Emotional Attachment On Social Media.

As human beings, sometimes we’re programmed to over think in certain situations, and I would say I have been dealing with this lately, more so on social media platforms. I think intently about what I want to post on platforms and not only how it could affect me in the future, but what it was like at that present moment. Over the last few days, this thought has been stirring up quite a lot and I’ve found it very hard to put it into words, so forgive me, my head is a little scattered. 

20180314_220520.jpg

Recently I went down for a lovely weekend trip to Dublin with my boyfriend who had organised the entire trip and it was a complete surprise. We had a lovely trip but not once did I feel the need to post about it on Twitter or Instagram at the time. I didn’t feel the need to lift my phone for a photograph like I normally would and this behaviour for me, it wasn’t something I was used to. I’m not attached to my phone but as someone who loves to share photographs of what she does, where she eats or where she visits, I was conflicted. I took a small number of photographs but it wasn’t anything significant.

I love having memories, even the upsetting ones. The feature on Facebook where you can look at your posts from a year ago or however long you’ve been on Facebook, I almost have to put up an emotional barrier to stop myself getting attached to certain memories. As much as they can hurt sometimes, it’s nice to have a memory of a place I visited or an activity I took part in that day, in photographic form. That’s where my issue lies, it could be seen as fear. Do I put something out in the social media atmosphere that while I love it now, could be upsetting in the future or do I continue to post what I would normally but try and let go of an emotional attachment? 

victoria-wilson-5(Photography by Jess Lowe Photography)

I could consider myself an emotional person. Having been in therapy for a few years, I know that this isn’t a bad thing, it’s very much the opposite. It shows you aware of your emotions and you are passionate but it’s also a curse. I’m very sensitive so when it comes to criticism, I have gradually learned not to take criticism personally but that is still very hard and it takes time. Looking back on a memory can be very rewarding but if I have an emotional attachment to something I have posted about, then those emotions can go into overdrive. Having dealt with symptoms of depression and anxiety over the last two years, my emotions if they aren’t controlled quickly, can spiral out of control and it can take time to come back from that (depending on the situation). 

Both scenarios that I spoke about earlier, aren’t what I want. Posting on social media while having that fear, is living in the past of what has happened before but worrying about the future. Continuing to post and trying to cut off my emotions is telling myself that my feelings are not important and I should avoid feeling sad or disappointed. Surely that’s not the way to live my life? When you realise that negative feelings and being upset are part of life, why should you try and shut them off because they’re uncomfortable to deal with? 

wp-1482281107268.jpg

Living in the moment will never be one hundred percent sustainable for me and I’m completely fine with that. I will never not worry, I can work on my personal development skills alongside my emotions to combat my stress and worry in particular ways but I am under no illusion that I will be able to cure my worry of predicting the future or thinking too far back into the past. What’s more important right now is that I am aware of this behaviour because while I can’t control every single emotion, it also lets me think more intentionally about what I post online and why I post it. That is more important that fighting the internal battle of trying to let go of emotional attachment or pushing against the past and the future at the same time.