The Covid-19 Diaries: Day 6

First Weekend under Lockdown

Truthfully, today’s been like pretty much any other Saturday for me as I love nothing more than pottering about the house and garden on my days off, enjoying the peace and quiet in my own little kingdom where (mostly!) I am the boss.

I imagine it will have been much harder for those who like to maybe hit the shops at the weekend, catch up with friends, maybe watch a football match and have a few cheeky ones down the pub. Or for those that would normally be at work on a Saturday or visiting family.

This could be a real opportunity for us all to find different ways of entertaining ourselves, indoors for a change, if we’re not used to doing it. So far today I’ve cleaned out the garage, watched the live-action Lady and the Tramp Disney film, played a board game, played a bit of PS4, had a few rounds of German and Spanish on Duolingo and knocked out a blog post. Maybe time to just chill in bed for a bit and watch the Netflix documentary series everyone’s talking about, Tiger King.

I’m actually feeling really grateful today that, even in the middle of a global historic event, the like of which I don’t think I’ve seen before in my lifetime, it is still possible to have a normal, relatively uneventful day. Yes, there is still this awful virus sweeping the world, harming and even killing those it comes into contact with and sadly, it’s likely to still do so for some time yet. We cannot change that – other than by following government orders in an effort to minimise its reach.

For now, I’m happy to take the quiet, uneventful days where I can as it’s in doing so that I hope to have the strength to face the harder days that I’m sure are to come, if and when this disease affects me and those I care about on a personal level.

Now, if only I can remember how much I’ve enjoyed this family time today the next time they are all driving me mad!

The Covid-19 Diaries: Day 5

Coronavirus Infiltrates Downing Street

Breaking news today was that Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, have both tested positive for Covid-19 after displaying symptoms of the illness, with England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, also said to be symptomatic. Probably not a great sign for the rest of us then.

On a personal level though, today was a far better day with it being results day for the further education law students I teach across A-Level and Degree Level qualifications, all achieving a 100% pass rate and a good portion of those actually obtaining distinctions. Proud tutor moment!!

Today was the first day of the year when I actually took my yoga practice outdoors into the back garden to make the most of the glorious sunshine. Feeling the warm sun whilst listening to birds singing makes it such a different experience to indoor yoga that I’d quite forgotten how much I’d missed it through the colder months.

Finished knitting the Easter Bunny for my eldest, Chloe all ready to make another one for Mia tomorrow.

My husband, Lee, went and did the weekly shop and had to do the whole queuing outside and being restricted to a certain number of items once inside. Nothing over the top mind – it just seems having chicken nuggets and chicken burgers is frowned upon currently! All in a good cause so I’m sure we’ll make it through the week without the burgers!

The lockdown restrictions are now noticeably being enforced with someone Lee works with having a family member fined for being outside inappropriately. Hopefully, the message starts to get through but I don’t know. Unbelievably people are still having BBQs on Winter Hill in Bolton, leading to a fire up there today, which our already overstretched emergency services had to then deal with. I’m almost praying for a change in the weather just to keep the selfish ones in.

We’ve big plans for tomorrow – clearing out the garage! To be honest, one of the real positives of this situation is that it’s forcing us to crack on with jobs we’d normally procrastinate about just to stave off the boredom. I’m a real homebody anyway with too many hobbies to fit into one day as it is, but I think Lee and the kids are already starting to climb the walls.

Myself, I’m quite ready for the Rise of the Introverts…

The Covid-19 Diaries: Day 4

Clapping for our Carers

Yesterday I said that I hoped today would be quieter and it was. When I went for a walk this evening after finishing work, it was eerily quiet. I don’t know if it was just because I didn’t take the dog with me tonight (who, frankly, is starting to look as though she’s been walked within an inch of her life), so it was just me and my thoughts, or it genuinely was quieter than it has been the last few days.

As I started my walk, I saw a police car doing the rounds which isn’t that common a sight where I live. And even though it was my one and only time out of the house all day, I felt nervous and guilty to be out – especially without the dog. Whenever I did see anyone else out getting their daily dose of exercise, we were crossing the road to keep our distance. I even saw a delivery driver dropping off food at someone’s house, gloved up, mask on. It all made me feel incredibly sad. This lockdown thing suddenly feels real.

But there were positives in my day too. On my walk, so many children (ours included), have painted or drawn rainbows and put them in their windows as a symbol of hope. Then, just now, as part of the Clap for our Carers Campaign for our fantastic NHS workers, looking after so many of us now in our hour of need despite the significant risk to themselves, all my neighbours, me and my girls, everyone up and down the country on our doorsteps or at our windows/balconies, to say a heartfelt thank you and to stand in solidarity with them as they work tirelessly to pull us through this crisis.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/03/26/thank-nhs-tonights-clap-carers/

So whilst the novelty of lockdown wears off and the serious reality of the situation begins to dawn on me, I do feel very emotional this evening. I don’t want to be overwhelmed by this feeling so as I type I’m listening to Disney songs and planning on knitting a bunny – it is almost Easter after all.

If Disney’s finest and bunnies can’t cheer me up, maybe there is no hope!

The Covid-19 Diaries: Day 3

On Lockdown – with a Mouse!

If I thought Day 2 started strangely with a text message from the Government, Day 3 of Lockdown was about to knock my socks off. One minute I was sat chatting away to my 8-year old daughter, the next minute she was screaming “Mouse, mouse!!” as we both screamed and jumped on the couch – talk about a wake-up call.

Luckily, later on when we checked some traps we had put down when we thought we might have a little visitor a few weeks ago, there it was, large as life, ready for the husband to be a hero and release it safely into the wild. I’m still not 100% comfortable being sat in the living room on my own – just in case it had a friend!

The good run of weather has continued so after getting the usual times tables, Education City app, reading and spellings out of the way, the kids were more than happy to sunbathe in the garden. Time for a science lesson – I know they’ve been studying vertebrates and invertebrates so we made a list and they poked about the garden together looking for different bugs. It was on the list of things to do sent home by the school so she can build on this topic tomorrow by drawing and labelling a poster about her findings. Still learning but keeping it fun.

After school, a couple of parents had come up with the idea of a video call between the children in Year 3, using Zoom. It was actually really nice to hear how excited they were just to touch base with each other again. For the first 5 minutes or so all you could hear was them shouting “Hi!” to each other 🙂

Then, finished work to find out that the Prince of Wales has been diagnosed with Coronavirus – this thing really could alter the course of history now the heir to the throne is infected. Crazy times.

So what with mice, plagues and historical moments all happening at once, today had something of a biblical feel to it to say the least.

I’m looking forward to a quieter day tomorrow…!

The Covid-19 Diaries: Day 2

Limited Trips Out Only

The irony is not lost on many of us for a second, I would guess – the warmest day of the year so far here in the UK, with the toughest restrictions yet on our ability to leave our homes.

It is all in the best cause though so we will all just have to man-up, grin and bear it.

Today has been much the same as yesterday but rather than taking the dog for a walk before and after “home-school”, me and the youngest took her out this morning, with my eldest out with her now, following carefully the latest government guidance/instructions.

Similar home-school programme to yesterday too, more times tables, reading, maths and adding to our rocks and minerals topic before revisiting our spellings and rounding the school day off with some PE (aka skipping and running about the back garden whilst mummy conducted a remote assessment with a student over the phone!).

Today was easier on the home-school front as we had a bit more of a routine.

On the other hand, come lunchtime the last few days, I’ve had a blinding headache so I think it’s going to be a case of being careful not to try to do too much each day. We’re not teachers; just parents trying our best to keep our kids safe and occupied whilst minimising the ongoing effect on our children of this whole sorry situation. I always start the day with a bit of Yoga with Adriene on YouTube, even before all this, (which is something I highly recommend for anyone interested https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene) so maybe tomorrow I mix things up a bit by swapping my morning walk for an evening one to better spread my active time throughout the day.

So overall, Day 2 of Covid-19 lockdown was a bit of a non-event for us – the day did start slightly strangely though, with a text message from the government(!), which I’m fairly certain is a first here, setting out the new rules. It would all feel very 1984 if I didn’t agree with it all so strongly. Maybe if the UK creates its very own Room 101, we’ll have folk less inclined to flout these very necessary rules without good cause. I always thought I’d be more like Winston or Julia to be honest, but with the daily death toll steadily rising, I feel no shame in following the government’s advice.

More of the same for Day 3 planned but, at this point, I’m not sure there’s much point in planning anything! Let’s see what tomorrow brings…

The Covid-19 Diaries: Day 1

Surviving the Outbreak

As I write this, technically the UK is not yet on lock-down, although an announcement on tougher measures is expected within the next 30 minutes. Personally, I welcome it. Some people simply cannot or will not follow basic, straightforward advice even when it is for their own good.

I count today as Day 1 of Covid-19 as, for me, this was Day 1 of “home-schooling” whilst also working from home.

I’m lucky enough to work from home at least 3 out of 5 days of the week anyway so that side of things have been easy enough for me. What I have seen change in, however, is how my contacts are having to quickly adapt to an ever-changing situation, many of whom were not equipped to begin working from home at all, never mind with the speed that the urgency of the situation requires. That of course is affecting my job as every meeting I’ve got booked in is quickly being cancelled on me even though I’m ready and able to go ahead remotely. For now, I’ve plenty of work to be getting on with that, actually, a few cancelled/postponed meetings are really, in the grand scheme of things, a bit of a blessing in disguise.

Home-schooling though – that’s a whole different breed when combined with me actually trying to work as well. My eldest is 18 so obviously not an issue; the 8-year old is generally pretty easy going too but needs a fair bit of guidance on tasks. We’ve put together a weekly timetable based on a homework grid issued by the school so today we had:

  • Walk the dog (just like we do before school every morning – bit of exercise to start the day!);
  • Times Table Rockstars (app recommended by the school);
  • Reading (Mia actually chose one of my books from when I was a kid, Tales of Mr Pink-Whistle by Enid Blyton);
  • We tried another school recommended app – Education City – but that wasn’t accessible, presumably because we were all trying to access it at once!
  • Instead looked at Rocks & Minerals with Mia before packing her off to the garden to see what different rock types she could find – igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic!
  • Spellings – had a look to see what typical Year 3 spellings we could focus on this week and decided on the -ing suffix words e.g. “come” to “coming” and even threw in “accidentally” to keep it interesting, clapping out the syllables to try to help with this one!
  • My Maths app – money: adding pence and pounds;
  • Be Kind story on YouTube followed by writing a song/poem or rap! Think I impressed her with my rapping skills!

Obviously plenty of breaks and lunch and snacks thrown in for her. For me, I had to fit this in round my working day which then meant a late finish for me. Luckily her dad will be off work from Wednesday for a few days which will be a big help.

There were definitely times today though that I felt like breaking down, so if you’re feeling that way too, you’re not alone.

I’m not easily freaked out by things like this and I know that if we all follow the advice, stay home as much as possible, wash our hands frequently throughout the day, exercise and look after each other, we will all pull through this. But it’s scary. I don’t remember a time in living memory for me that something affected the world on this scale. More frighteningly still, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen governments looking so scared – and that’s what makes me most worried, because we know there’ll be things that they aren’t telling us.

And for good reason – just look at how daft we behave when we are frightened, hoarding and panic-buying! It reminds me of the film, Men in Black, when Will Smith’s character asks Tommy Lee Jones’ character why the government doesn’t just tell people about the aliens, saying that, “People are smart”. Tommy Lee Jones’ character corrects him saying:

“A person is smartpeople are dumb”

Agent K (Men in Black)

Mob mentality and scarcity fear takes over when people are afraid as we have seen across the world since this pandemic really took off.

I don’t know what is worse right now – mob panic or the ignorant few who flout the rules and are out socialising despite clear and basic guidance not to.

I’ll try to add a daily post each day; if nothing else, it will be interesting to look back on one day as we are living a moment in history that will not easily be forgotten for some time. Let’s make our future selves proud guys 🙂

What’s in Your Mental Health Toolkit?

How Stable is Your Mental Health?

On 15 February 2020, as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed, it soon became apparent that the TV and radio presenter, Caroline Flack, had unfortunately taken her own life at the relatively young age of 40. What soon became even more apparent, was just how many of my own family, friends and associates had been affected by this sad news.

As someone who doesn’t watch much TV, especially reality TV, the name Caroline Flack didn’t really mean much to me. When I saw her picture, I did recognise her as a TV personality, but even so I was somewhat surprised by just how many people were shaken by her untimely death. Not just my family, friends and associates, or even Caroline’s, but many celebrities who knew her or had worked with her too. I guess Caroline doesn’t fit the bill for what many of us imagine mental health issues to “look” like.

Whilst I wasn’t really familiar with Caroline’s work, I do recall feeling a similar level of grief and shock when Chester Bennington of Linkin Park took his own life back in July 2017. Whilst I obviously didn’t know him personally either, his music had been in the background of my life for 20 years or so such that it hit me a lot harder than I expected at the time. I think it’s the thought of what these people must have been going through mentally to think that suicide was their only way out that hits most of us so much harder than, say, a tragic but unexpected accidental death.

At the moment there does seem to be a bit of a witch-hunt against the media in the stories printed about Caroline following a domestic incident between her and her boyfriend back in December, which no doubt added to the mental torment and stress she was already clearly under that night, and which only got worse with her arrest and looming court date. Whilst I fully agree that if the media played a part in her death by publishing untrue and unfounded stories about Caroline and what really happened that night, without at least first checking the accuracy of the stories they published this needs to be addressed, by blaming the media I think we’re all missing an important opportunity to look at our own mental health stability here.

Caroline Flack’s family have recently released Caroline’s own final unpublished Instagram post as a way of helping her to have her voice heard in the aftermath of her death, and a lot of what Caroline says here warrants a good hard look at just how well any of us would cope with a major life change. It’s a stark reminder as to just how quickly things can turn on a dime: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-51557180

Speaking as someone who had a mild, but long-lasting, depression for several years and who is only now getting to the stage where I feel able to taper off the anti-depressants completely, I know well how quickly one’s mental health can have a “wobble”, and just how very much longer it can take to feel fully recovered. There is a lot of great advice out there on the internet from reputable sources like the NHS, Mind and even other bloggers who’ve been there themselves too. The difficulty is that for many people already mired in a depressive episode, following that advice can feel like climbing a mountain.

For those already feeling depressed, the starting point has to be to reach out to your healthcare provider and if even that feels too hard, speak to a close friend/family member and ask for their help. That too can feel an impossible task, so reaching out to a service like The Samaritans or even talking to others in a (healthy and supportive) internet chat environment where recovery is promoted, can be other excellent alternatives when those first important steps feel just too hard to take.

It’s also important to remember that depression takes many forms – it isn’t always crying and sadness. For me it was a constant, lingering apathy, weariness and fatigue with life, work, family, friends, hobbies – everything! It was only after suffering in silence for months that I eventually went to the doctor to find out just why I was so tired all the darn time that I even began to entertain the thought that I could be depressed, at the doctor’s suggestion, and it all started slotting into place – slowly!

A key part of my recovery has been accepting just how fragile our mental health is, as well as my absolute responsibility in preserving it. There was no huge life event that led to my depression – just quite simply a lot of little stressors that became so unmanageable that I eventually snapped. Looking back, it’s quite amazing that it held out as long as it did!

The real key for me going forward will be to plan to protect my mental health as much as possible so that I never find myself in that situation again, or, if I do, I already have the tools to manoeuvre myself back to mental health wellness via the most straightforward route. It’s the same “prevention is better than cure” message that we’ve heard about our physical health for years that we now urgently need to incorporate into our mental health wellness and well-being toolkit too, if we’re to reduce the sheer volume of these sad instances of suicide, regardless of celebrity status. Incorporating these tools only once somebody is already depressed is, sadly, sometimes too much of an ask.

My Wellbeing and Wellness Toolkit currently includes:

  • Staying active – walking the dog once a day and yoga at least 4-5 times per week might not sound a lot but it adds up to a big difference!
  • Getting a pet – game-changer! We’ve had fish and rabbits and guinea pigs but, firstly, you don’t really get to walk them so that doesn’t help in staying active, but having a reason to get up out of bed some mornings and someone to look after and yes, even talk to, can help a body stay positive and feel connected.
  • Care for others – a good alternative if you don’t want to commit to a pet is to do something for others. Volunteering might be a great place to start.
  • Talking about it – I used to hate reading that being more social was all that I needed to fix my depression. I knew that it wasn’t. But it doesn’t have to mean going to see a friend or even going out. There are of course professionals, many of whom you can self-refer to and have telephone appointments with, or see getting a pet above – they’re great listeners! Another option I see a lot of, being a blogger, is to start a blog or comment on someone else’s blog. Talking about it with someone who has been there, done that, can be great reassurance that you’re not alone. Just be sure that you come away from the interaction feeling more, not less, positive about yourself.
  • Keep in touch – I’m seeing a lot at the moment on social media that we should all check up on our friends more and whilst that may be great advice for some people, I think it shows a lack of understanding at just how well those suffering with mental health issues are at hiding their problems from their loved ones. I also think it puts an unfair burden on loved ones, most of whom are not qualified mental health professionals, to be able to recognise a mental health condition in their nearest and dearest. Talk about a guilt trip! Having said that, if you are feeling down but up to keeping in touch with your loved ones, do try to find a way to do so. I love a good meme myself – has a nice personal touch and tend to be funny as well and we all know that laughter really is the best medicine.
  • Drink in moderation – many of us like drowning our sorrows when we’re on a downer but, as I’m sure we all know, that’s just adding fuel to the fire and we’ll likely end up feeling worse. When I massively reduced my alcohol intake to no more than once or twice a month at the most from several times a week, my life improved. Not overnight but it stabilised. There’s even such a thing as alcohol-induced depression. Now I’m no doctor, so I can’t say with any certainty, but interesting that once I sorted out my drinking levels, my depression lifted…
  • Eat well – follows on from the point above really. If you’re just chowing down on processed foods and/or on a blood sugar roller-coaster on a daily basis, you’re not going to feel great. Food is medicine. Learn how to heal yourself from within – there’s an abundance of information out there whether on the web, book store or even library. Educate then heal yourself with food.
  • Take a break/ask for help – I used to think that I was Wonder Woman and that I could, or should, be able to do it all. What awful pressure to put myself under?! I now recognise my limits and believe me it’s a wonderful thing. A great way to risk your mental health and sanity is to expect far too much from yourself. Tip: if you’re feeling like you’re doing too much, you probably are. How could you reduce the stress you’re under now before it breaks you? And then how will it all get done? Trust me, time well spent!
  • Re-connect with hobbies/interests – what do you like doing that genuinely makes you feel good about yourself? Do more of that!

What’s in your Mental Health Wellness and Wellbeing Toolkit that you couldn’t be without? Let me know in the comments.

And if there’s anyone at all you think would benefit from anything written here, please do share this post with them 🙂

Trouble Sleeping?

Try a “Head Orgasm”!

Or to give it its technical term, ASMR, short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Fans of the relaxation method have also referred to it feeling like a brain massage, similar to how background or white noise is used by some people to lull them to sleep.

What is it?

Basically, it’s a tingly sensation in your head and/or body caused by hearing certain sounds, usually tactile, soft and repetitive, such as whispering, tapping, scratching, using scissors, striking a match or ripping of paper, for example. In fact, on You Tube there are literally hundreds of videos of folk doing just that which until I tried it, frankly, I was certain would be more annoying than relaxing to listen to. I was wrong.

Is it for You?

There’s probably an ASMR video for pretty much every scenario you can think of. Some take more of a healing “reiki” based approach. Others are role plays where questions are asked of you in various settings whether at a doctors, a make up artist or a hairdressers, all whilst various other noises are made in the background. Then there are the more imaginative role plays: a vampire’s snack, alien abductee, zombie apocalypse!

Does it Work?

I can only speak from personal experience and I find it intensely relaxing, but of course some videos are more relaxing than others. If you’re trying it for sleep-inducing purposes, I’d suggest a reiki/healing-based ASMR video, at least initially. I rarely make it to the end of one of these videos without drifting off into a deep, relaxing sleep.

Is it Safe?

The general consensus on the internet at least seems to be that where ASMR is used for relaxation purposes in adults, then it is thought to be relatively risk-free. As with any new practice, I’d always recommend doing your own research, speaking to your own health care provider and factoring in your own specific health needs before giving it a try yourself.

If you’ve factored all that in however and are ASMR-curious, why not give it a try and see how much better you sleep? Or feel free to share this article with someone who you know needs a good night’s sleep.

Feeling Graceful?

Finding the Ease

Some days I find it easier to feel more graceful than others! When I think of “grace”, the obvious image that pops into my mind is that of a ballet dancer – smooth, relaxed movements, with a look of calm serenity ever present on their face, no matter the complexity of the shape performed.

Now, I’m not much of a dancer but it would seem that I’ve not been much better at being graceful in my life either! Sure, when life is going reasonably well I can be graceful but when those rain clouds appear, as they surely do from time to time for us all, I have all the grace and elegance of Bambi, his first time on ice.

A great way to start building more grace into your life if, like me, you could do with a little more during life’s tougher times, is through some kind of physical activity, like dancing. For me, I’ve found yoga a perfect way to begin trying to integrate grace into the poses (asanas) first of all and, after some time, that’s really helped me begin applying this to my life off the mat too.

In yoga, the formation of the asanas include both “sthira” and “sukha”, once you have the basics down. Sthira is a Sanskrit word meaning solid, hard, firm, strong, lasting and permanent. Sukha, in Sanskrit, means gentle, ease, pleasantness and mildness. In the poses, we work to achieve both on the mat, grounding down through the spine and the back of the body whilst simultaneously easing our heart and chest space upwards and trying to avoid holding tension in the face and body – so no gritting our teeth and forcing our bodies into positions that it may not be ready for yet.

It’s a bit like the dualism concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy – the idea that two opposing concepts can complement and support each other rather than fight one another. To be whole, whether in dancing, sports, yoga or life, you need both to feel whole and well.

In Western yoga, this is often described as “finding the grace”, as grace is a concept more recognisable to us in the West. Holding a pose that you find difficult on the mat, whilst also relaxing your body and face and even smiling despite the strength being used to maintain the pose, is for me, what yoga is all about.

But it’s when you start to make the connection that you can “find the grace”, the strength to face whatever life throws at you with a relaxed, smooth and even calm manner, without adding in unnecessary stress and tension, to your life off the mat too that the tools and practices of yoga (or your physical activity of choice!) really advance to the next level.

Recently, I’ve been able to see this happening in my own life with a few tough weeks over the last month or so. Whether family issues, work, the odd health issue or finances, I’ve pretty much had all of them thrown at me at once and whilst I’m not going to say I found them easy to deal with, I definitely found them easier to deal with when I began trying to “find the grace” in the situation by treating them each like a yoga pose.

With finances, for example, where could I ground into the situation – well by taking a long, hard look at where my money was going. Spending £70.00 the month before on takeaways for 3 of us was completely unnecessary for one! Where could I release tension in the situation? By stopping spending so much on takeaways but not completely restricting myself by maybe cutting out the more expensive takeaways to maybe just a chippy tea twice a month instead of curries/pizzas at a third of the cost.

Another example was to consider if my youngest really needed to go to Breakfast Club anymore which she wasn’t really enjoying and, due to a change in the time she started school this year and the time I started work, grounding into the looking at the cost of this versus the benefit. An extra £60.00 a month for little to no benefit was a complete no-brainer and helped me ease the financial burden I found myself in, again helping to find the grace in the situation.

It wasn’t easy to do these things when I felt completely battered by other things life was throwing at me but I found it far easier to do when I repeated the mantra quietly to myself of “find the ease” and approached each problem like a yoga pose.

Of course, you’ll have to find your equivalent but yoga is a practice I highly recommend. It really can be any hobby. Is there something that you really enjoy doing that requires a certain amount of knowledge and application to perform but that goes more smoothly when you relax into it? Again, examples for me include knitting, cooking and playing guitar or even blogging. How could you apply that to your everyday life?

What’s Stealing Your Energy?

Discovering the Secret to Feeling More Energised

Over the last decade or so, this has become something of a personal quest for me – just why am I so darn tired all the time? To answer this question, I’ve seen doctors, had blood tests come back “all clear”, been prescribed anti-depressants and been referred to NHS talking therapy services. Whilst these all served their purpose and helped to some extent, I still found myself feeling more tired than I felt I should be and still wondering just how I could get more energy.

Asking the Right Questions

But maybe that’s not the best question to ask, as pointed out by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love in this linked article which I wished I’d come across years ago: https://www.glamour.com/story/elizabeth-gilbert-advice. Maybe a better question to ask is:

“Where is your energy going?”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Maybe, as Elizabeth Gilbert suggests happened to her, it wasn’t that I needed more energy; I just needed to learn how to spend it more wisely. It sounded so simple, I had to ask myself why I hadn’t thought about it this way before!

Energy Saving vs Energy Spending

When it comes to finances, I consider that I have a fairly good balance between saving and spending. Thinking about it, I’m not so sure I’ve applied those skills to my personal energy bank account quite so well. Over the years, especially through my twenties, I know I invested my energies in things that didn’t serve me well but, at the time, it didn’t really matter because it seemed so much easier to bounce back then.

Fast-forward a few years and those continual poor energy investments have led to some majorly depleted energy deposits that, like with any debt, take time to replenish – a time of “energy austerity”, if you will.

Now, despite a far healthier lifestyle and choices throughout 2019, it’s taken the best part of 12 months to start feeling like my old self and climb out of the red into the black.

Is it Not Just an Age Thing?

To a degree I’m sure it is – but it clearly isn’t just about age as some older people seem to have more energy than those younger than them. Of course we’re all different and will have different demands made of us, but just like with finances, it seems that how we spend what we do have, can make a world of difference to our daily energy levels.

So, Where is Your Energy Going?

Spending some of your hard-earned energy answering this question properly is likely to be an investment that pays dividends in the long-term.

Unhealthy Diets

We know we get our energy from food so the obvious place to start is to clean up our diets. That doesn’t mean we starve ourselves or dive head first into the latest diet craze, but it does mean we stop fuelling our bodies with unhealthy processed foods that take our body a considerable amount of energy to break down. Having said that, be sensible about it. If your body is used to a daily chocolate bar or packet of crisps, start reducing this slowly and gradually so you don’t hit your body with going from a certain daily amount of sugar to none at all. You’ll feel more tired than before that way. Maybe start with a couple of times a week, swap an unhealthy snack for a healthier version and build it up. You want to be aiming for treats to be a couple of times a week in the end but remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint if you want your new healthier food choices to last.

Unhealthy Habits

This one was the hardest for me – smoking, too much alcohol, lack of exercise, too much screen-time. These will be different for everyone and unlikely to be something you conquer overnight. What amazed me when I refrained from my unhealthy habits was realising just how much energy my bad habits were robbing from me. For me, it’s been taking one energy stealer at a time and taking them on one at a time, replacing them with healthier habits, swapping cigarettes for Champix, only drinking around once a month, daily yoga and dog-walks, putting my phone down and knitting, cooking or playing guitar. I found that until I quit smoking and massively reduced the alcohol intake, I just didn’t have the energy to engage in these healthier habits so if you have more than one bad habit like me, it might be worth asking yourself, which you think is robbing your energy most and start with that one.

Unhealthy Environments

It can be easy to underestimate this one – toxic workplace, toxic family, toxic friends – not the easiest thing to change. I spent years of my life trying to convince some people why they should like me and change themselves/their opinions before realising it was a complete waste of my time and energy. Now if I find myself around someone who is toxic, i.e. draining my energy repeatedly, I ask myself are they worth being around.

Of course, we can’t avoid and cut out everybody who is toxic to our energy – we may need that job or they may be a close family member/friend. But we can limit our contact with those people and set clear boundaries. This has been an absolute game-changer for me this year. I find that I have more time to spend with those friends, family and colleagues that I enjoy spending time with which means that when I do have to interact with someone I find draining, I have more energy, compassion and patience to do so. This isn’t about labelling people toxic/non-toxic or only being around those who always agree with you. It’s simply removing or reducing contact with people who you find draining to be around.

Obviously I’m no doctor nor medically trained in any way so obviously speak to your own healthcare provider before applying any of this to your own life or circumstances. If you’ve any tips you’d like to share to inspire others who may be feeling exhausted and run down feel free to add them to the comments below.