What ‘should’ we do

You should really go to the gym today. You should go to bed at 9pm. You should most definitely finish off your schooling, go to university and get a degree, and then pursue a career in the work force. 

Expectations and society. They go hand in hand really.

I have recently come to realise that we use the word ‘should’ on ourselves and on others far too often. Sure… we use a lot of words frequently, but the impact of this one can be life changing.

Why do we use it so much? Well that because it works. There is a certain amount of guilt and accountability that comes with what we supposedly should and shouldn’t do. Whatever we should do, is generally good for our wellbeing and lifestyle. The things we shouldn’t do, well those are just out of the question…. don’t you dare try to make your own decision about something.

When we say should, it suggests that someone knows better than our innate instincts, knows better than that gut feeling we get inside us when we know what we want. It also suggests that making a good decision on our own behalf is impossible, and causes guilt and anxiety prohibiting us from achieving decisions or choices that we (as individuals) crave.

What I have recently come to realise however, is that each decision in our lives is generally based upon what we think we should do first. We know what we should  do, and hence, we inadvertently create ideology about the specific choices that we should avoid. We should go to university. We should be skinny. We should have a solid job by the age of 25…. the list goes on and on and on.

What this collective ideology also creates however, is a perceived CORRECT answer to everything. And the sad part is, almost everyone in society knows what that right answer is. Absolutely everyone.

This means that people know when you have selected an option other than the norm. Lets say that you choose skip university entirely and pursue travel overseas. Maybe you pursue a health journey that is outside of the norm and decide to try something that may benefit your body and your soul. Or lets say you decide that quitting your job is for the best, and that you would really be happiest being a ‘stay at home’ mum. Tough luck… but these, along with many other options in life, will inevitably leave someone (who has no relevance to your life or happiness by the way…) disappointed by your actions. You will somehow, in a funny way, be letting someone down.

But the truth is, and what I am slowly coming to terms with in the months of late… is that the answer to life is not universal. There is no universal right answer to how to live. How to be healthy. How to be happy.

By doing what you should and following these universally correct answers, you are letting other (often invisible and unimportant) people, make some of the most crucial decisions about your life.

So how am I changing this you may ask? How do we stop the should expectations from ruling important decisions in life. Well, its a work in progress… but my advice is here:

Firstly, I think it helps if you notice that connotations and reactions to the word should don’t always scream positivity. Listen to others around you, and yourself when using the word, and become in touch with your innate reactions to it. You may sigh, you may feel deflated, you may even feel that sensation in your stomach perk up as if you do not want you to go with these exceptions. The more aware I am becoming of how others around me use the word, the more I notice myself falling into the trap of using it too.

Annie… you should most certainly strive to look this way. You should act this way in order to be liked. You should go to university for at least three years and do this course and take this paper and be friends with this person…. You should eat this for dinner and get a job that pays above this amount. You should exercise and drink a green juice every morning. You should push yourself to stressful limits because everyone likes someone ‘busy’. You should work hard at university to get a degree.

Sound familiar? Yeah… it’s all bullshit.

So we have to question: Why do we consistently say should? Are we looking for someone else to make a difficult decision for us? Are we feeling guilty about going against society, so we are choosing the select the easy option out? Are we seeking permission from our peers to be something they deem to be correct?

Ask yourself: WHAT DO I WANT.

Life is full of choices, and in order to pursue your own health and happiness, these choices need to be based upon what YOU as an individual want. If you feel like you should do something thats fine… but consider the reasons why YOU ought to be doing that. Will you feel good when you do it? Will it benefit your mental, physical and emotional health in doing so? Are you really only doing this action to please those around you?

Unfortunately, we will never be able to escape the should expectations within society. There is always going to be someone out there telling you how to eat, how to exercise, how to love, how to learn, and how to live. However, what we can control, is our awareness and action. I am slowly learning to become more aware of my use of should , and the more aware we can become, the more I can control the choice of decision.

As a 20 year old girl in the midst of multiple societal expectations and rules, this process is by no means easy. I don’t actually think it will get any easier with age. But what I am currently striving to do, is to highlight a way of life that encompasses my individual, rather than socially based happiness. The reason I am sharing this with you is because I have realised that it is by no means selfish to seek happiness for yourself, and to derive from achieving someone else idea of happiness in doing so. Will you be happy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? No. Will you be healthy living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? Hell no. Will you be satisfied living someone else’s ideal lifestyle? I’ll leave that one up to you. 

Leave the expectations of what we have-to-do, what we have to look like, and how we have to live our lives, in the past. Attempt to make each individual choice because YOU want to, because its the best option for YOU at the moment, and because that overwhelming and exciting sensation in your stomach just feels right.

Do you. Do it well. And forget what society says we should do.

26 Ways To Look After Yourself

For most of us, there is often a point in life when everything feels a little too much. Times when even the smallest of tasks, like making a bowl of cereal, or getting off the couch to get a pen, can seem monstrous. There may be some days, or weeks, even months… and for whatever reason, just getting through the day can feel really really hard.

It may be because you are enduring a long term battle with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or some other mental illness. It may be because you have recently been through an emotional or physical trauma. You might have recently lost someone close to you. Maybe you have just had your heart broken. It might be the stress of university weighing you down. Or maybe, for some unknown reason… you just feel a little off.

Believe me, I have these moments and so does almost everyone I know. Would we be human beings if we didn’t? I don’t think so. So whatever the case, I need reading this to help you know that everything will eventually be OK. Whatever is looming ahead is something that you can overcome and achieve, and remember that going through a rough patch never makes you a failure. It does not make you any less loveable or capable. It simply means that you are a human being… and how can we possibly validate making ourselves feel bad for being human right?

At this point in the year, for university students in particular, stress management and practices of self love often fly out the window. Exams are on and you are prioritising your study, you have what seems like five thousand end of trimester assignments due, you may have money, flat, or family troubles… the list goes on. If I am honest, I recently fell victim to being overcome with multiple stresses, and found myself in a tired, overworked and fragile state. I stopped my regular practice of self care and love, I prioritised the wrong things, and I focused my energy in areas by no means more important than prioritising my health.

But I do get it… time management and organisation can be much harder than a regular routine in stressful times. I often feel less inclined to spend time doing the things (I know) will make me happy, because I ‘need’ to put other things in advance. For some reading this, that might be slacking off your regular exercise routine because you just don’t have the time. It might be putting off catching up with a friend or going for a walk… or depriving yourself from your favourite foods or listening to your favourite music. For others, it might even be the seemingly simple task of getting out of bed.

All of these actions are things that we love… yet for some unknown reason, they no longer seem priority right? Our health and wellbeing, our mental state and happiness, our friends and our family, me time… none of which seem to matter anymore.

But I’m going to stop you right there. Because quite frankly, I learnt the hard way that having this approach to stressful times in life does not work. Practices of self love and managing your stress, is crucial to our health and wellbeing.

Because I am personally a huge victim when it comes to letting myself get overtaken by stress, this is most definitely something I am working hard to improve looking ahead. Although I am by no means perfect, I have certainly learnt some helpful things along the way about how to get through these times.

So… if this is you right now, feeling alone, overwhelmed or stressed all ends… please keep reading. Whether it be you, or someone that you love who is going through a bit of a rough patch, here are some simple suggestions for self-care and management to help you through.

 

Self Care 101

 

1. Call a friend or family member and talk everything out. This can be super helpful, especially for people living away from home or travelling for university/work. Sometimes you can feel isolated and alone during stressful times – even when there are so many others around you. Its always nice to know someone cares, even from afar, so give them a call and enable an ability to vent everything out to someone that you trust.

2. Get good quality rest and tuck yourself into bed early. Sleep is vital, and essential. Yes there are times where you need to be pulling an all nighter, but in all honesty – you are generally always better off getting a good nights sleep, and being brighter in the morning to perform at your best.

3. While you are at it on the resting front… change your sheets and pillow cases, get a new duvet too. There is no better feeling than hoping into bed with crisp clean sheets, and a little revamp on your bed always helps you climb into bed after a long day.

4. Take some time to focus on your breath. It sounds silly I know, to just sit there and breathe. But seriously… focus on going in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly and deeply (from your stomach not your throat). When breathing in, you need to be pushing your stomach out (this seems opposite to normal at first). Do this consistently for 2 minutes and I guarantee feel a difference in your state of mind and peace.

5. Hydrate yourself. Ask yourself… have you had enough water today? Stress and worry can often leave us prone to more frequent breakouts or hormonal outbursts, and drinking water most definitely helps prevent this process. In order to combat this, have a big bottle of water alongside you consistently, or if you aren’t into drinking plain water… try infusing it with fruits or teas.

6. Eat something. Another question you need to ask yourself is… have you eaten something healthy and nourishing today? Have you fuelled your body with what it needs to get through? Most likely… the answer will be no. I know for me, if I don’t take the time to sit, take time aside from my work, and eat my meals… my whole days schedule is thrown off. Inevitably, my final work results are always much poorer than anticipated. Fuel your body at consistent times, have a break when eating, and be mindful of the way your body is feeling and reacting to what you are putting in. If it needs more nourishment, then don’t be afraid to give it that. 

7. Have a nice hot shower. Clean your body and get a good scrub on. Take time to wash your face gently and condition your hair, shave the areas that need it too, if you want too. Once done, dry your hair properly, moisturise areas of your skin that are dry, get into comfortable clothing (these need to be warm if in Wellington), and relax.

8. Get some vitamin D and get outside in the sun. During the winter months in particular, getting sunshine can seem a bit of a mission. Even worse, is when you are sitting inside smashing out an assignment while the sun streams in on you. If this is the case, take a 30 minute break from whatever it is you are doing and go outside. Feel the warmth on your skin, feel it warm your body and your soul.

9. While on the topic of getting outside, go ahead and make sure you move that gorgeous body of yours. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise, just move it gently in ways that feel good. Aim for 30 minutes everyday. It could be a walk, some yoga, a kick ass bootcamp style workout… whatever it is that makes you feel good. I also guarantee you, that even if you are feeling a bit sluggish at the time, gentle exercise and movement will almost always make you feel more energised.

10. Grab a journal and write it out. Get everything on your mind out and vent to yourself, feelings, emotions, worries or future plans.

11. Write a list and create a plan. This always helps me when I am feeling overwhelmed. List everything that you need to do to address whatever you’re facing, and make this a daily ritual that you can tick off each time. Remember to make it realistic, don’t go setting yourself one million things to do in one day. Seperate your things to do into manageable tasks, and tick them off as you go. Start small, even if your first thing listed is to get up and out of bed.

12. Light a candle or incense and sniff familiar scents and smells that bring you joy. My favourites are my vanilla and caramel candle, or lighting the lime and coconut candle that mum gave me.

13. Clean up your environment, and stay organised. As human beings, we naturally like things to remain in order. Sometimes tidying things up can help calm our minds, so start with your desk, or organising your notes into sections that are going to help you stay on top of things.

14. Change your environment if one isn’t working for you. If you are not happy or being productive where you are, take a break and move somewhere else. I love working in cafes or the public library, and sometimes find staying in one space extremely isolating and unproductive. Move and change, and over time you will find what works for you.

15. Create a playlist of top notch songs that make you feel great and remind you of happier times. If its study that you are needing to prioritise, chuck on a playlist of some chill beats that make the atmosphere a little less boring.

16. Create a list of things you are grateful for in life. I find this helps me a lot when I am stressed, and draws attention to the things I have almost always forgotten when overwhelmed. While you are at it, make a list of things to look forward too, such as plans after exams or the things upcoming that make you excited to be alive!! If you don’t have any… make some!

17. Remember to stay in touch with the present, and remember that your only job right now is to put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward. Don’t think about facing entire weeks ahead if that seems too scary, take each moment one step at a time.

18. Put in your earphones or crank the speakers nice and loud, and DANCE. Dance for five or ten minutes like an absolute idiot, get a friend, and sing out the lyrics at the top of your lungs.

19. Seek expert help with whatever you need; if you are struggling mentally – remember you do not have to do it alone. This could be through seeking therapy, psychiatry, seeing a doctor… but remember to let those trained to support you through this. If its health related, work with your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist in order to develop a regime that will support whatever you’re facing right now.

20. Aim to establish a manageable routine and stick to it. Routines bring me a lot of comfort, and in times when I am stressed out, often help me to feel grounded.

21. Recognise your hard work and treat yourself on your achievements. Don’t save special things for special occasions, make the occasion special! Brighten your mood by attempting to make a moment more positive. Go for lunch with a friend, when you finish an assignment go ahead and treat yourself to your favourite chocolate bar, whatever it is that will make you happy.

22. Reach out to family and friends and talk. I said it earlier, but I can almost guarantee you that your friends might be going through a similar phase in life. Even if it isn’t the same reasons you are stressed out or worried, sometimes talking to others helps. Listening to others problems also helps to remind you that you are not alone, so enable yourself the opportunity to interact with others and have human connection. Isolation never helps.

23. Stay centred, and try not to not compare your daily experiences to another’s. Nothing will steal your joy as fast as comparing your journey to someone else’s. Social media can be a terrible influence for this, and can be a terrible way to judge how you are doing (especially when it comes to mental illnesses). Be you, and trust your instincts.

24. Get up early and watch the sunset. Take a friend or go alone, and watch the beautiful earth change in front of you. If mornings are not your thing, try this in the afternoon and watch the sunset. 

25. My favourite… get in the kitchen and experiment with something new. Make yourself a nourishing breakfast/lunch/dinner, or bake up a sweet treat that you have never tried before. There is nothing more satisfying than creating good food, and don’t worry if you fail, at least you will have something to laugh about!!

26. Remember to trust the process, and that what you’re going through right now is only going to be temporary. It may not feel like that right now, but this period shall pass and you will be feeling much better about things if you choose to take things at your own pace, one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your own abilities.

Much Love, A x

Rough Patch Reminders

As the title states, lately I’ve realised the incredible power that mental illnesses can have. Yes, I guess you call it a rough patch…

I call these periods ‘patches’, because yes it is temporary and yes it can be fixed. It’s all a matter of changing your mentality. However, just because it’s seems only small, doesn’t mean it’s easy to overcome. That doesn’t mean it will just go away.

Recovery is by all means a challenge, but it is most definitely not as challenging as living life with the wrath of an eating disorder. Particularly in times of stress and anxiety – I occasionally choose to let my intuitive eating habits fall through in order to ‘cope’. Lately, this came to my realisation, and the power of mental illness really became obvious.

To ‘deal’ or ‘cope’ with my stress and worries, I have of late, been making subtle little excuses that are not beneficial to my health. I know I know…this seems contradicting right? Surely in times of stress and worry, I should be focusing on whats good for me – getting enough sleep, fuelling and nourishing myself well, and trying to maintain some sort of balance?

But no, sadly thats not always the case. Even though they may only be small actionS, such as pushing my lunch out by an hour or missing breakfast in the morning… I have found myself here. If there is one thing I’ve learnt about mental illnesses over the past 4 years, its that they are relentless. Just when you think you are doing well, and in times where you seem to have beaten it for good, it often manages to creep in. 

Don’t get me wrong… This is NOT a post asking for sympathy.

I am writing this post to start holding myself more accountable for my life. It’s about time I got mad about the last few problems of my eating disorder, and remember the reasons why I can’t let it slip back into my life when times get stressful. It’s time to actually count my blessings in life, the moments of happiness that fill me with joy.

Some of these may seem blunt; others will seem crazy, especially to those reading with little experience in disordered eating thoughts or patterns. But the reality is – being honest with yourself is the only way to realise and achieve changes in life. In writing this – I hope that some of these reminders can help anyone else out there struggling, or help you in moments where you feel slightly weighed down and vulnerable.

Sometimes I forget how far I have come, and when I do… these are the ideas and reminders that I fall back on. These are reminders of choosing recovery is important. These are realisations that I have. And these are the ideas that we must ALL never forget.

Regardless of whether you are embarking on ED recovery, have recovered from a bad relationship with food, or just happen to know someone going through something similar… I hope that these recovery reminders may help you in some way.

Reminders of Why to Choose Recovery

 

I am not that bad yet/ I am not sick enough…
Let go of this stupid idea. Stop just blaming it on having an eating disorder, YOU are sick and YOU are also enough. Thats where the relationship ends. Find and remember your self worth. What satisfaction would you genuinely feel if you were to get as small as the girl next to you? None. Absolutely no satisfaction at all. Remember this.
Remember that making your outsides match your insides does not mean that someone will see the physical and mental pain that you are in. Physical pain will never compare with your emotional and mental suffering, and you have to stop hurting your body to validate this suffering. There is no scale of being sick, and being sick does not changes your worth. You are still worthy of life.

I am the only one hurting.
You know this is never true, so stop using it as an excuse to continue your horrible eating disorder behaviour. Eating disorders are isolating, so yes, sometimes its very easy to fall into the trap seeing only individual damages. But turn around and take a look at mum and dad, your entire family for that matter. Take a look at the friends around you who are concerned for not only your day to day health, but also your life. The girl who reached out to you the other day… she wants you to be happy and it DOES hurt them to see you this way.

Get offline ASAP
Take a break from the online world… and stop comparing yourself to others and their eating patterns. Remember that that is their life not yours, and that way of living must not determine how you choose live yours. Would you jump off a cliff without a cord just because someone else decided to kill themselves? NO. So stop the comparison and get offline. Choose your health every time.

You cannot just eat ‘healthy’ foods right now (for those in recovery)
Accept and allow your body to change. You need to be able to let your body gain weight, eat foods you never thought you could, and gain. Yes you may need to gain. Do the ‘lazy’ thing your mind tells you not too; let yourself lie in bed for the morning if that is what you desire. Remember what YOU want. Ultimately, you want to be able to eat everything without anxiety. You want to have a good relationship with exercise.  You need and want flexibility.

You cannot compare your recovery journey with someone else’s.
You are you, and each recovery journey is individual and unique. Each journey will NEVER be the same as anyone else, despite having similar personality characteristics or body compositions to others who have may have suffered too. This idea also goes for your relapses, and you cannot get caught up in comparing your failures and triumphs to someone else’s. One person may relapse eight times before they finally let go of their disorder. Another, may never go down that path again.
The only commonality between eating disorders that is valid… is that your life is hell. Remember that.

Get your A into G and seek help now (recovery)
Yes.. for those looking to recover, this may mean scheduling yet another therapy session with the person you have convinced yourself to hate. Truth is, therapy is the crucial medicine for helping mental illnesses, and you wouldn’t tell someone with cancer to avoid chemotherapy in order to aid their recovery – so don’t go fooling yourself that you don’t need it. You don’t actually hate them, you only hate the fact that they might cause you to alter your bad behaviours in hope of doing good. Therapy can help to change your thoughts and patterns, and gives you an opportunity to speak your mind and worries. Go. Even if it means stepping outside of your comfort zone.

You pick your friends, so stop picking your disorder.
Its vital to remember that your eating disorder is not your friend. Your eating disorder does not give you anything, all it is does it take. You are in misery and pain because of this stupid thing in your head, convincing you that you are worthless and a waste of space. Would your best friend do that? NO. Well not a good one anyway! So learn to let go of this friendship. It is never going to make you happy, beautiful or content. You will never feel enough. Let go, and focus on what you want in life.

Find and love the friends and family who are trying to support you.
Hold on tight to the people who are choosing to give you love and care. They are super important, just as you are. Also, remember that not everyone is suited to helping you recover. Be prepared to accept that some people do leave throughout the duration of your eating disorder, and new and amazing people will enter. Figure out who are the most important and caring people, and be open with them.
Remember….you are most definitely not a burden. You only become a burden when you choose to avoid recovery, when you choose to lie and cheat. Truth is, they don’t believe one word and they do know what you are doing. When they ask to help and support you, accept it and say yes. Be open and honest, because you need them.

Find Joy
Find joy in things that you truly love, and seek areas of your life that provide distraction from your eating disorder behaviour and thought patterns. This space will fill what might have previously been your exercise addiction, your obsession with weight and scales, or the time you spent endlessly counting calories. Stop fooling yourself into ‘liking’ these things, you most definitely do NOT. Be prepared to try something new and say yes to exciting opportunities, regardless of whether they involve food or not. Take that chance.

Please remember that you are so worthy of life, and that whatever struggle you are currently going through – you NEVER have to get there alone. Seek help, choose recovery. It will be worth it in the end… I promise.