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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Self Help Tips in Recovery

Hello you beautiful beings of the blog-o-sphere!

Today, I wanted to share a post with you all that I wrote a while back. This post was written for anyone struggling with or overcoming a mental illness, as I know we all need a little encouragement and reassurance now and again and this post is my virtual hug to you....

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Recovery understandably, is a rather long process. No one ever said it was going to be easy. However your choice in taking up this challenge shows that deep down you have faith that life can and will get better. So congratulations on choosing health and life, and just remember you aren’t alone! You CAN get better if you really want to: believe in yourself, believe in your inner ninja strength (because it is in there) and believe you CAN have power over your mental illness. If you really do want to change, then you can. The only person standing in the way of change is you. S go for it, you deserve the best! Don't let your illness end your story short, live to tell the tale. That being said, here are 20 bits of advice that I have for you...

1. 'Be prepared’. If you are serious about seeking help, look at where you may need to go to receive this support. What resources do you require? Do you need extra support from family members and friends during this time- yes- so make sure everyone around you is aware that you'll need constant reassurance throughout this time. Make sure you do your research about different counselling options and therapy groups to get the best help you can. 90% of the outcome in any activity depends on the quality of the preparation. Remember, you deserve the best form of treatment you can get!

2.  Do something practical to increase your self-esteem and self-confidence every day. Write down a list of all the things you would like to do, try or, learn or experience again: things that you enjoy and that will challenge you just a little bit. Perhaps you used to love horse-riding or cycling or visiting museums or art galleries or simply seeing a friend for coffee. Try to plan to do one of these things within the next week or month as it gives you time to do something you really enjoy, it allows you to have fun, feel better about yourself and to do something that does not involve your illness.

3. If you are feeling tense, stressed, angry, upset or worried about something, put on your favourite music loudly and dance around like no one's watching. It will help release the negative feelings and tension and will hopefully make you laugh. Try it! I have and it’s fun and you will end up smiling and feeling much better. Alternatively if that really doesn't float your boat, you can curl up on the sofa with a hot cup of tea and a blanket and catch up on your favourite tv show, or read a book, or watch a film you've been wanting to see. 

4. Make a list of people you can call for support – family, friends, a counsellor, colleague, helpline or a support group. Keep it close to you and allow yourself to use it when you need to, because despite what you tell yourself, people are there to listen and provide support. There are people out there who want to help! 

5. Write a letter to the person or problem upsetting you. Don’t send the letter though!!! Once you have written it, scrunch it up, tear it up, stamp on it, scribble over it, throw it away, bury it, or set it on fire- ok that might be a tad dramatic- but it will help you to express lots of thoughts and feelings you have inside that you may really need to get out. It will help you deal with these feelings and destroying the letter in some way after you have written it can help you can deal with them and manage them more effectively in the future. It can be a very cathartic exercise and just rather fun!  

6. Try to think of healthy ways of getting out your feelings and emotions. Write these down on a little card that you can carry around with you in your pocket as a reminder of positive ways of expressing your thoughts and feelings. Some ‘positive’ ways of expressing the thoughts and feelings you may be experiencing could be: writing a diary, a story or letter about what you think and feel: reading or writing poetry or stories; and just being creative, such as drawing, painting or photography; exercising (moderately); going for a walk alone; dancing; learning self defense; recording your thoughts and feelings by talking into a voice recorder (playing it back can be very effective, as things often sound different once we have said them out loud – it can be very helpful for looking at things from a different perspective). 

7. Plan regular activities for your most difficult time of day. Rather than dreading this time of day and perhaps feeling down or unhappy during these periods, change it – interrupt this negative response we often have towards certain times, days, places and situations. For example, if you feel upset, down or alone in the evenings, plan ahead to fill in this time. The list is endless and there is so much you could do – it depends on what you enjoy, what interests you and so on. Read a book; call a friend and go to watch a film; join a class, do some writing, visit someone. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you enjoy doing it and it’s something you are interested in. It could just be going for a walk!  

8.When you are feeling upset or down or perhaps that ‘recovery’ seems to difficult and you want to give up, take you mind of these thoughts and put on your favourite film or watch something that will make you smile and laugh for a little while. 

9. Build a support network around you when you are working toward recovery. This might involve friends, family, a therapist, psychiatrist, or even  making a list of useful telephone help-lines, finding valuable resources on the internet, buying some ‘recovery’ books, or attending a support group or online chat-room for eating disorders.(some links are on my blog!) 

10. REMEMBER that it is okay to ‘feel’ feelings. This is absolutely allowed and part of recovery. A large part of recovery is acknowledging your feelings and allowing them to be let out and be felt by you. Often we keep our feelings hidden inside for so long that releasing them can seem like a scary idea. However, it’s part of recovery and while these ‘new’ feelings may seem intense and overwhelming at first, that’s okay and normal.  Because they have been kept inside for so long it is hard to have them come at you all at once, but you will start to get used to these feelings over time and they won’t seem so overwhelming. Feeling these emotions will help you work towards a healthier, fulfilled way of life, without an eating disorder and bring you new ways of thinking, seeing and experiencing things. If you find them difficult to deal with, try writing them down, writing a diary or journal, singing the feelings, talking into a voice recorder, crying, using relaxation tools or creative visualization – anything that will let the emotions out but help you to cope with them and no feel so overwhelmed. REMEMBER IT IS OKAY TO CRY, it does not make you weak.  

(STOP! Take a breather as this is a lot of information coming to you all at once. Get a drink, and come back. You are half way now so congratulations!) 

11. The human body needs food to function properly and it needs nutrients from food to keep it healthy. By starving yourself and restricting your eating and the type of food you eat will leave you feeling more tired, with less energy, having more headaches, feeling more depressed, and vulnerable to illness because your immunity is so low. In the long term you could be causing damage to your organs, and under-eating could lead to infertility problems and osteoporosis. Food and eating can seem frightening at first, especially when, during our eating disorder, we have attached all sorts of labels to different types of foods: good, bad, healthy, safe, dirty, pure etc. There is no such thing as bad food. It can be helpful to look at food purely from a scientific viewpoint. Take each type of food, and don’t think of it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but investigate it, get information on it, like a scientist would. What nutrients, vitamins and minerals does it contain and how much? What is the benefit of these to my body? What foods will make my hair grow and shine; what types of foods will give me energy; what foods will strengthen my teeth and bones; what foods will help me to have clear skin; what food will strengthen my muscles and so on. Look at what food REALLY is and not the distorted labels we attach to them. 

12. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect and nobody in this world is perfect. Who wants to be perfect anyway – I mean how boring is that?! If we were all perfect, we would all be the same, and we would get bored with each other and probably have less fun generally in life. The real beauty of life comes from the uniqueness and differences that exist around us. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has off days, and everyone at some time in their life wishes they had done things differently or better. Trying your best is the best thing you can do. We are all different. Be YOURSELF!!! 

13. Be kind to yourself. I want you to talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend. If you are having a tough time or perhaps something you did didn’t go to plan, don’t beat yourself up about it – it’s part of the learning and learning is constructive, not destructive. During hard times, think about what you would say to a friend who came to you with the same problem. Take yourself out of the situation and look at it from another perspective – what would your friend or a stranger say? 

14. It is okay to say ‘no’ to food or invitations that you know you are not ready to handle yet. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure all at once as this could backfire. There will be invitations in the future that you CAN accept when you are in a better place within yourself – and when the time is right you can be brave and say YES!  

15. If it is all getting too much for you, remove yourself from the situation. Go for a walk, take a relaxing bath, listen to some relaxing music, go to the park, call a friend and go shopping, visit the library and be like Matilda. Look after yourself. YOU are gaining control and taking responsibility. 

16. Learn when you need some space and take it. Space can mean anything: personal space, emotional space, physical space – leaving a location, person, situation or event. Space might mean being alone or with other people. It’s different for everyone – but take it when you need it and don’t feel guilty or silly for doing so.  

17. Make some lists of good things you have done. I can almost hear you all saying ‘I haven’t done anything good’. BUT you have. I mean everyone has done something good in their life. I bet there are lots of things. Write them down. Write down what you have achieved in life. It might be difficult to start with, but you CAN do, because you have achieved so much and done many good things. You have! I promise!  

18. Avoid any negative encouragement. Avoid buying magazines and watching things such as ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and staring at Victoria’s Secret underwear models. Don’t visit any triggering websites. Avoid reading books or watching television programs that you feel might trigger or encourage your eating disorder or make you feel guilty or bad in any way,  just please don’t watch them. I encourage you to watch a funny comedy or an interesting documentary instead. Extreme as it may sound, ban all of these from your life, starting now! You don’t need them….EVER!

19. Set aside a decent 5 to 10 minutes to go over your body from head to toe, and try to describe yourself out loud without being negative. You don’t have to say you ‘love’ anything. Just make normal observations such as: “my eyes are green, my hair is light brown, my face is oval, I have 2 thumbs and 8 fingers, my hair is straight, my lips are pink" and so on. Looking at yourself in a simple way can supposedly help overcome many of the negative connotations you have associated with your appearance, making it easier to face your reflection.

20. During recovery you may have days where you slip back into ‘old habits’. It is important that you don’t see these lapses as failures and give up. They are a natural part of recovery and you can learn from them. You can become stronger and learn from these slip ups.  

"The hardest part about recovery is that you have to keep on choosing it, even on the bad days."

BUT YOU CAN DO THIS & YOU WILL GET YOUR LIFE BACK!

I hope this helped you in some way. Please share any tips or bits of advice you have in the comment section.

Thanks for reading!

- Olivia Charlotte Alice 
Xx

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