Health

‘How to pull yourself out of a rock bottom’ by a self confessed sceptic | by Samantha | Dec, 2023

‘How to pull yourself out of a rock bottom’ by a self confessed sceptic

We have all found ourselves at varying levels of a rock bottom at some point in our lives. Unfortunately the last few years have been particularly tough, having faced bereavements, legal battles, sickness, and to top it off a global pandemic. Somehow I still managed to work full time and even obtain a Masters degree in Psychology in the process. On the surface I seemed fine, but on a deeper level I had given up, I was living in auto pilot, I was at rock bottom.

As a self confessed sceptic, I have always raised an eyebrow to what I perceived as ‘new age’ approaches to healing; affirmations, manifesting, mercury etc … I thought it was merely sugar coating reality. Studying psychology meant I was loyal to data and hard facts rather than abstract explanations. However, I could see that those with a more open and positive mindset were having much more fun than I was. I began to gently entertain the idea that my way of thinking had some potential faults, which is a bitter pill to swallow, as the ego doesn’t like being, dare I say … wrong. But how do I convince my stubborn brain to at least try to be open to other perspectives and trust the process? How do I loosen the reigns of control? I figured I could treat it as psychological experiment, only this time the participant would be myself.

In my excitement and naivety I tend to overwhelm myself by wanting to change everything at once, which often ends in abandoned projects. I had to try something different this time, even it felt (very) uncomfortable. I wanted to change this time, but that’s what I thought last time? Pop psychology often promotes statements, such as, it takes 21 days to form a new habit. The truth is, 21 days may form a superficial habit, but unlikely result in long term change. So where do I start when there are so many important changes to make? This is why I have chosen to fully focus on one behavioural change for a month before introducing another, known as ‘stacking’.

During the next 6 months, I will be documenting a brutally honest account of my experiences, both the positive and negative. I will be reflecting on specific elements that work (for me personally) and what doesn’t work. I hope you join me on this exciting journey and if you are finding life tough at the moment I encourage you to consider trialling your own healing practises to find out what works for you.

My experiment will consist of the following projects spanning over the next 6 months:

  1. Project: Time (1st December 2023)
    1.1. Daily schedule
    1.2. Sleep hygiene
    1.3. Pomodoro effect
    1.4. Being present
  2. Project: Body (1st January 2024)
    2.1. Exercise
    2.2. Grounding
    2.3. Yoga/Meditation
    2.4. Physical maintenance
  3. Project: Detox (1st February 2024)
    3.1. Alcohol
    3.2. Processed food
    3.3. Social media
  4. Project: Connection (1st March 2024)
    4.1. Plan time out to meet in person with friends
    4.2. More phone calls with friends vs texting
    4.3. Join a new hobby to meet people
    4.4. Opening up to socialising
  5. Project: Script (1st April 2024)
    5.1. Realistic affirmations
    5.2. Journaling
    5.3. Watching out for negative narratives
    5.4. Gratitude list
  6. Project: Passion (1st May 2024)
    6.1. Identify passion projects
    6.2. Smallest steps to take action
    6.3. Collaborations
    6.4. Show, upload and publish

Disclaimer: I can’t help but feel a huge sense of guilt writing about my wellness journey considering the current climate. But I feel that you can advocate for peace and justice, whilst simultaneously looking after your own mental and physical health.

  1. Project: Time
Project: Time

1.1. Daily schedule

Creating a daily schedule will ensure I am investing my energy in the things that I want to rather than feeling like life in passing by. As adults we often have to practise discipline with ourselves, otherwise who’s going to stop us eating ALL the chocolate and staying up until 2am? Having a solid structure can help you feel productive and give your day purpose, needless to say it is important to have rest days, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. However, the fact this article was supposed to be published on the 1st December shows you my time management skills may need some work. A daily schedule works in conjunction with sleep hygiene.

1.2. Sleep hygiene

The more researchers learn about sleep the more it is agreed that it is the quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep, which is why, if you have ever over slept you feel groggy rather than refreshed. Having a structured sleep routine will help create a healthy circadian rhythm and reduce the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ which is one of the hormones responsible for excess fat around the abdominal area. When we think of a healthy lifestyle we often think of healthy eating and exercise, but we often forget sleep, which is just as important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you want to learn more about the benefits of sleep I would suggest reading ‘Why we sleep’ by neuroscientist Matthew Walker.

1.3. Pomodoro effect

One of my goals is to be more present and more intentional about how I live my life. Whilst I was studying my degree I found the Pomodoro Technique extremely helpful. It is a timer that is set for 25 minutes, in this time you have to fully focus on the task in hand, that means no checking your phone or emails. You have 25 minutes to give 100% followed by a well deserved break, you can then set the timer again so you focus in chunks of time, rather than long continuous periods.

1.4. Being present

The term ‘pandemic skip’ perfectly sums up what I (and most people) have been feeling last few years. What happened during that time period? What was I doing? It feels like 2020 was just a blur and time seemed to continue and standstill simultaneously. It made me realise how much we take time for granted. It’s easy to forget our time on this earth is limited, it appears to only have any real significance when we see the wrinkles around our eyes, or faced with death, we assume we will live a long life, but sadly, this is not always the case.

If you have read any of Eckhart Tolle’s work you will see how being present strengthens consciousness, improves patience, allows you to respond rather than react, and improves focus.

2. Project: Body

Project Body

2.1. Exercise

I whole heartedly believe future researchers will look back on how we treated the mind and the body as separate entities in shock. From a physiological perspective, the brain is connected to the brain stem, which is connected to the nervous system, which connects to every aspect of our body. Ever wondered why someone who suffers with depression feels physically pinned to the bed by a heavy weight? It’s because the mind and body are interlinked. It is near impossible to change one without changing the other.

My relationship with my body and exercise has been up and down, to put it mildly, I hate exercise, I hate pushing myself, I hate the pain; but I love the way it makes me look and feel. So how do I get around this dilemma? I don’t know but in January Football Mom Diaries is going to help me find out.

FYI. I am currently reading a book called ‘Spark’ which investigates new research on the link between exercise and the brain which I highly recommend if you are interested in further reading.

2.2. Grounding

A really useful technique for those who suffer with anxiety is using grounding techniques. This means you are using your body as an anchor in times of stress. You can do this yourself by pressing your body into a chair of against a wall, or even pressing your feet into the floor. Having something firm to press against provides physical support when you feel emotional instability. Practising this on a daily basis will ensure you are well prepared in times of stress. You can also buy a weighted blanket which was designed for this purpose.

2.3. Yoga/Meditation

I once managed to commit to a whole month of guided meditation at the start of each day. Admittedly, I was quite proud of myself because I’m not the most patient person and I stuck it out to notice a difference. I felt calmer, more positive and less anxious which encouraged me to partake in this experiment.

Admittedly I am more of a Pilates girl than a Yogi but I am prepared switch teams for the sake of this experiment because I know there has been extensive research on how Yoga can be beneficial for both the body and mind. It is a common tendency to over think and be a hostage of your own thoughts, we often forget that we have also have a body attached to us. Having a strong awareness of our body can bring us back into the present and find out the feelings that are fuelling these thoughts.

2.4. Physical Maintenance

When I haven’t got anything planned you can often find me in a tracksuit with no makeup and a messy bun, I know this is especially true when working from home. However, after a while you can start feeling like groggy. I always admired my Grandmother, who at 92 years old, would always put her makeup on even if she wasn’t going anywhere. I don’t think I’ll ever be that disciplined but I could do with taking a leaf out of her book and put a bit of lipstick on when I want to brighten myself up.

This extends to hair and skincare too, I suffer with eczema and have been told by numerous dermatologists to moisturise everyday, and do I? No. Why? Because it’s boring. I don’t think I will be someone who indulges in a full body moisturising session, but if I can do it most days, that will be an improvement and my skin will thank me for it.

Project: Detox

Project Detox

3.1. Alcohol

During the pandemic I stopped drinking alcohol for 2 years because I was unhappy with the way red wine was becoming a regular staple in my diet. Cutting out alcohol was relatively easy to do because all the bars were closed which meant no temptation. Unfortunately, on a trip to Italy I found myself seduced by a glass of full bodied chianti and I haven’t looked back since. However, my real addiction is food and doom scrolling which is easy to disguise as it seems this vice is accepted into everyday life.

3.2. Processed Food

The thought of cutting out junk food and screens fills me with dread more than cutting out alcohol ever did, which highlights how dependant I am on these two forms of distraction. I am not looking forward to the physical withdrawal from junk food, but when I compare this to potential diabetes diagnosis, withdrawal sounds more bearable.

3.3. Social Media

If you are someone who is, like myself, somewhat of an introvert, then social media can serve as an easy way to interact with people without having to push yourself out of your comfort zone. It is a superficial feeling of connection that is short lived and denies us the genuine connection that we crave. I realised this when I went to Cuba recently and did not have Wi-Fi for just over a week, although, interestingly I did not miss it as I was busy talking to people in real life and immersing myself in fun activities. As soon as I came back to London the old habits remerged and I realised living in a big city with all it’s advantages can be extremely lonely and the concrete jungle is not for everyone. I also recently watched ‘The Social Dilemma’ on Netflix which I found fascinating, which shows how social media is changing our behaviours and society as a whole.

Project: Connection

Project Connection

4.1. Plan time out to meet in person with friends

It can be difficult to meet up with friends the business of everyday life can make it impossible to meet up even when they live down the road. And then you realise it’s been months or even years since you last saw each other. I will be making firm plans to meet a friends or have some sort of social interaction in my diary every week, no one is going to knock on our door, we have to put the effort in.

4.2. More phone calls with friends vs texting

Sometimes knowing they are there can make us complacent, you think about calling them but it usually ends up in a text message or ‘I’ll do it later’. It is important to not too dependant on texting as it really isn’t the same as a phone call or meeting up for coffee. Keeping connections is a habit worth retaining, otherwise we can become insular and feel disconnected from ourselves and others.

4.3. Join a new hobby to meet people

This has been suggested many times, and although I have met some great people at these events, the majority of groups I attended was disappointing. Although, a friend of mine recently started dating a man she met at an archery club. I’ve always been interested in combat activities so this may be a good option.

4.4. Opening up to socialising

Putting myself out there to meet people means I am opening myself up to potential rejection and I’ve found that the less I socialise the less I want to socialise. It demands stepping out of your comfort zone and facing the possibility of rejection. Also I’ve been told I am in my own world which can be unapproachable, maybe just a smile or a ‘hi’ will be a good start.

Also, I am moving from London to Liverpool in January 2024, sometimes a change in environment is all you need.

Project: Script (1st April 2024)

Project Script

5.1. Realistic affirmations

I use the word ‘realistic’ because it is important that they are believable. There is little point in repeating sentences that you do not connect to otherwise they are just empty words. I found it helpful when I would recall something I was proud of in the day or I received a compliment as it gave me the opportunity to identify the positive attribute and use it in my affirmations, that way I knew they were coming from real experiences.

5.2. Journaling

Since the book the ‘Artists Way’ reintroduced the concept of journaling it has been used in various forms of therapy and recovery. The premise behind journaling is that you write down any fears or worries that you may have and continue writing until you feel you have got everything out on paper. This allows you to override the noise in your mind that prevents you from processing and accessing your subconscious. Journaling is usually done first thing in the morning or just before bed to provide mental clarity and reduce stress.

5.3. Watching out for negative narratives

‘NATS’ also known as ‘Negative Automatic Thoughts’ often stem from negative belief systems. They are bidirectional, which means NATS also strengthen negative beliefs, they work in unison. If the cycle is interrupted then one will counteract the other. If you have ever had session of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy then you will know this pattern. Challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones and is something I have struggled with, this is what I refer to as sugar coating. However, I think it is important to be realistic when challenging negatives thoughts, because what often makes them so powerful is that they often contain a grain of truth, only it is twisted by distorted thinking. It is also important to put new beliefs into action, because these new belief systems will be in their infancy versus the older familiar patterns that have provided a blueprint for your life.

5.4. Gratitude list

We live in a world full of comparisons and competition, who has the most money? Who is the most beautiful? Who travels the most? Who has the most followers? It is easy to loose touch on the wonderful things we do have. When I returned from Cuba I had a newfound appreciation for the little things that I had taken for granted, for example, Wi-Fi, chewing gum, medicine and cool air! Learning to be grateful conditions your mind to seek out the positive rather than the negative. This is especially powerful if you tend to compare yourself to other people.

Project: Passion

Project Passion

6.1. Identify passion projects

Like hobbies, I believe passion projects are the adult version of play, not everything has to be a career path, we all usually have a variety of different talents. Personal projects don’t require need anyone’s permission to start, it does not matter if you fail, you can try on as many different hats as you like and see what fits.

I think there so much pressure to pick a profession and to make money which results in the majority of people falling into a career that isn’t their true passion. And when you start to incorporate mortgages, bills and kids into the equation, there isn’t much space for wiggle room and starting over.

6.2. Smallest steps to take action

As mentioned I tend to be all or nothing which is the exact opposite of what you need to be to remain consistent. High expectations and procrastination point towards perfectionist tendencies which also means self sabotaging behaviours are usually present. It is extremely difficult for perfectionists to break tasks down into smaller chunks, be patient and trust the process. However, sometimes we need to do the opposite behaviour of what we have have always done to obtain different results.

6.3. Collaborations

Having a supportive and collaborative network can really help to boost creativity and moral. Working in a group can encourage you to share ideas, receive helpful feedback and explore different avenues you may not have considered. It can also be a great way to meet new people and create exciting projects together.

6.4. Show, upload and publish

This may be the scariest step because it involves stepping out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to other people’s feedback. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to like your work, it may not be to everyone’s taste, and some people like to criticise due to their own insecurities. However, to improve your work it is necessary to push through the fear of failure to perfect your skills and become a professional. Having said this, it is often surprising to see how many people have a positive reaction to my work that I have published in the past. So there is one way to the other side and that is through.

Wish me luck!


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