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Breathe, Dammit!

My body has been playing some nasty tricks on me lately. By lately, I mean all of my life. But, especially lately, it seems to be really amping up the symptoms, making me imagine all sorts of diseases and physical abnormalities. I hurt my back a few weeks ago – a combination of couging, over-extending and just being a bit careless. It really scared me – the pain was horrible and I could barely stand up straight. My doctor told me it was just an acute issue and would resolve itself with rest and all the usual remedies – heat packs, anti-inflammatory gel (I can’t take the tablets) and the use of my beloved TENS machine (seriously – do you have one? They are THE BEST!). The pain did go away and I gingerly went back to my normal day-to-day routine. Until I bent over a bit weirdly and hurt it again. The pain went away much quicker this time and I thought it was all going to be ok. Until, this week, the pins and needles started in my legs and feet. Immediate meltdown from me, imagining everything from Parkinson’s disease to strokes and irreversible nerve damage. I am nothing if not a drama queen.

So, faced with these horrible imaginings, I took my doctor’s advice and went to a physio she had recommended. This morning, anxiety levels high and ability-to-cope-with-bad-news levels low, I spent an hour with said physio. She was awesome. Very thorough and kind, she talked about everything that my body is going through and how much of it is probably related to my overall anxiety and stress, combined with my really ridiculously tight muscles (brought on by stress and anxiety…you get the idea). She didn’t do the whole “it’s all in your head and you just need to relax” speech – she was very sympathetic and explained things. Because I have a history of nerve damage and neurological issues (from my meningitis), this also sets the body up to be hyper-responsive to stress and any physical sensation, especially if that sensation mirrors anything my body went through when I was really ill.

She was happy with my back and spine in general – didn’t find anything there to be concerned about (I was worrying about bulging discs) and my overall movement and range was ok. But I need to fix my breathing. This has always been an issue with me – I am a shallow breather, barely moving at all when I take a breath. The physio said she couldn’t even tell if I was actually breathing or not. So I have to learn how to breathe diaphragmatically. This is really tricky for me – I always hold my tummy in, even when supposedly relaxed – so it will take some time for me to retrain myself. I have had numerous doctors and physios tell me this. Now I HAVE to do something about it and really persevere with it (I am actually trying to do belly breathing right now as I type this). Because I don’t want to keep getting these problems.

Work has been incredibly stressful, with lots of redundancies and overall workplace anxiety.  Some days are really miserable and lonely – this does not help my mental wellbeing.  I miss my friends and the camaraderie that you get when you work together every day.  My workload has tripled and I am not always a happy camper.  Basically, I am a grumpy, stressed-out hag most days.  Having fuzzy feelings in my legs (and not just because I haven’t shaved them) is another stressor I could do without.  But I will take the pins and needles over the horrible back pain.  THAT I can live without, thank you.

I need to work on my fitness levels and stop the stress-eating (ie bingeing) that I have been doing.  My weight has crept up and that’s making me feel crummy.  I’m not exercising at all at the moment and that’s making me feel guilty AND crummy.  So I need to improve lots of things, starting with my coping mechanisms and mindfulness and the whole breathing thing.  So much work to do!

The Universe keeps telling me, in its own not-so-subtle way, that I need to chill out and calm down, stop worrying and de-stress, otherwise I will get sick or develop weird pains and other annoying bodily issues.  Pretty much every illness I’ve ever had has been stress-related, so I need to do something about it.  I don’t even know how to begin.  I don’t know HOW to stress less.  But I am going to have to learn, quick smart.

Do you have a really simple method for de-stressing?  For learning how to not worry?  All suggestions and advice gratefully received!

Thanks for dropping by – take care of yourselves x

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Journaling Fail (or, How to stall your journaling journey)

Journaling Fail (or, How to stall your journaling journey)

I have always kept a diary.  Since I was eight years old, I have been compelled to write down my thoughts and worries, dreams and regrets in little and big books, hard backs and spiral-bound, lined and plain.  I did have a few years of non-writing, around the time I was married – there just never seemed an opportunity to sit and pen anything, which seems a shame now as I would like to look back at that time, for all its sadness and loneliness, just to see how I have grown or changed since then.

I’ve started again recently, if somewhat sporadically and have enjoyed “getting it all down on paper”.  But what I have always wanted to do, is create lovely art journals, like the ones I see all the time on the internet and in craft magazines.  I think I have been reluctant to start one because I want it to be perfect and I don’t want to spoil anything by doing a dodgy page.  Which is dumb.  The whole point of journaling is to be free and creative.  Spontaneous.  Spontaneity is not something I am good at.  I can’t just slap paint or paper down and see what happens.  I wish I could – but I’m just a bit too uptight for that ha ha.  I don’t trust my own creative mistake-making process to come up with something I am happy with.  I’ve been inspired by Dianne Faw’s wonderful 30-day journal challenge.  Even if I get panicky thinking about one day of journaling, never mind 30 days of it…

But I have decided to try.  While I am on leave, recovering from my surgery, I am trying desperately to do all the things I never get time for, including art-for-art’s-sake.  I tend to make things with the intent of selling them or giving as gifts – I rarely, if ever, just make things for myself.  My song lyric collage is probably the one thing I have made for me. Just for me.  I love it.  It’s nowhere near perfect or polished or anything else remotely sale-worthy, but I was so happy with it, and its creation was a very cathartic experience.  There’s a lot of meaning in them thar’ words.  Even if only I understand their significance.

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So, I have started a little journaling book.  So convinced am I that I will mess something up, I have started in the middle of the book.  I don’t even know why I think that will help.  But it seems like less pressure if I don’t begin on page one.  Page one is…scary.

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I started doodling, because that seems to be the start of everything for me.  I really want to add words but have never liked my own handwriting so I am trying to come up with a good font I can replicate that doesn’t look rubbish when I try to, um, replicate it.  See, already the pressure begins!

When in doubt or distracted or bored, my go-to doodling themes are flowers, hearts or stars.  I’m such a girl.  I also do blobs.  Big fan of blobs.  And these weird, feathery swirly designs.  But today I went with a flower because I had seen some similar designs in one of the colouring-in-for-adults books (so awesome!  we have permission to enjoy colouring again! Because it’s mindfulness, not wasting time…) and a flower seemed like something I could do with minimum self-annoyance and judgement.  So I doodled…

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…and went a bit squinty-eyed at the detailed bits…

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And then I kinda stopped and procrastinated and thought about things I could write.  And then procrastinated some more and went and wrote this post instead.  Sigh.  Oh well, it’s a start.  And a start is better than nothing or, God forbid, a blank page…

Hope you are happy today, doing what ever makes you smile 🙂