How to Start the Journey to Thrive in 5 Steps
At the end of 2015, I was mentally and physically unwell. I was a tearful mess. You could say that I had lost control of my emotions. I just didn’t stop crying. After years of being a line manager in some sort of guise, I knew that I was not doing my job as well as I could have been doing it. I was beginning to miss the simple things. On a personal level, I was on edge. I was feeling rushed all the time. I was short with the kids – “Get in the bath! Get out of the bath!” I took no time to enjoy being with them or my husband. I felt that I just had to keep going, that I had NO CHOICE. It was my job, my life. I had a good job, I had good people all around me, and I had a nice life. We did not want for anything!
This ended abruptly in November 2015 and by December 2015 (December 3rd to be precise), I was signed off by the doctor on long term sick leave. This was 1 year to the day that I was diagnosed with cancer. Why I can remember this exactly is because it is my youngest’s birthday.
I then moved onto the next stage – self-loathing! I felt guilty – that I should be doing something.
I felt weak – that I had let myself down, let everyone down, work, family, etc. I felt disappointed in myself “Come on! Just get on with it! Everyone else can cope. Why can’t you?” I felt exhausted – all I wanted to do was sleep or watch TV.
On speaking to the doctor, I chose not to take anti-depressants. This was my choice, but I think there is nothing wrong with them and would encourage anyone that was feeling like I was to seek medical advice and agree the best way for you with your doctor. I personally agreed with my doctor that if I wasn’t up and moving in a month that I would go back and get some as they would help me to get up again.
So that became my goal – to get up and to start to look after myself!
December came and went. We celebrated Christmas at our home with family all around us. We made sure that we planned what needed to be done and although some of these things didn’t happen, it was OK. We gave ourselves a break! We had a relaxing time with family and friends. I didn’t push myself to do anything until after Christmas!
Then January came, and this was it! It was time to focus on me and my self-care! It was time to achieve my goal! So, this is what I did.
I Started Small:
I started to run! Well – walking and jogging more at the beginning. It hurt at times, but I persevered. I ran on my own, I listened to music and I practiced being mindful, noticing the wind in the trees for example.
I Learnt the Art of Doing Nothing:
In between this, I did NOTHING! My childminder even still picked up the kids for me after school!
I felt so guilty that my husband was working in the study, and here I was sitting on my sofa watching my guilty little secret – Hawaii 5-0 (Do not Judge me!)
But I needed to stop and I needed to rest. I was physically as well as mentally exhausted. I needed to sleep, to recover. It felt strange and I heard myself justifying it a lot to many people over the first couple of weeks. I gradually began to feel OK about it though. My husband was supportive and encouraged me, although did take the mickey out of my guilty secret (Hawaii 5-0).
I was in a lucky position that my company had agreed for me to take a 6-month sabbatical. It enabled me to focus on me and not feel bad about the fact that I should be at work. It gave my mind space to be able to focus on what I wanted and what would make me happy.
I Joined a Club:
After a month of running by myself, I took a deep breath and joined the Stanbridge Fliers, a free running club that was organized by people from my boys’ school. The first time that I went, I felt nervous and scared. My inner voice told me that I did not belong, I was not as good and that people would look at me and go….”What is she doing here???” They did none of this of course, but I still felt uncomfortable. I ran and walked most of the way around the park. I wasn’t as chatty as I am now (you should feel for the poor people that I run with now!), but I didn’t listen to the voices. I kept going. On Monday morning, I focused on the fact that I didn’t have to do my hair or make up. On other days of the week, I went out on my own still, but eventually I started to arrange “Run with Friends” sessions within the running group that anyone could attend.
The Stanbridge Fliers really helped me. I will never be able to thank all the wonderful people enough who encouraged me and kept me going. Running is not for everyone though however science shows us the benefits of exercise to produce serotonin, so find a club, exercise group or class as it is a brilliant and easy way to self-care! It should be something you can enjoy. Keep it simple, cheap and easy to get to – whatever is right for you – and go! Stay determined. Focus on why you like it and how good it makes you feel. Be curious about discovering new things that you may enjoy. We know the primitive brain will give you all the reasons not to do something new however, practice acceptance that those fears will be there and do it anyway rather than listening to those negative voices in your head. I personally tried a variety of things from going to the Gym to attending different classes. I eventually got back into my swimming and began Pilates as well.
I Asked for Help:
I went back to my hypnotherapist. I should have gone sooner but sometimes when you are in the thick of it, you can’t think objectively. Hypnotherapy helped me to focus on my goals. It helped me to empty my stress bucket and gave me the motivation to keep working on my own self-care. You need to do what is right for you. If you do choose to see a therapist of any sort, then the most important thing is your rapport with them. It is so important to make sure that you trust and like who you are speaking to.
I was talking to my doctor on a monthly basis initially, checking and assessing to see how I was doing or if I needed anymore support. I also had some amazing friends around me, my sounding boards, reassuring me and telling me that I would be OK. Use your friends and don’t be afraid to speak up. They just need to know what you want or need.
Even during my sabbatical, I had contact with my manager at work. Do not be afraid to speak to your manager or someone you trust in order get the support you need. We spend a lot of time in work and they do have a duty of care, but even without that, my experience is that they want their people to be happy and healthy.
I Learnt to Say No:
As a family, we used to rush from place to place, visiting family and friends or having people to stay. I am a social person and I love to have people that I care about over and enjoy spending time with them around me. This has not changed, and I wouldn’t want it to, however I was constantly booking things in. People always used to say to me” You are so busy!” but that was just me. So, I learnt how to say no. We slowed the pace of the weekends right down although we did still see people. The most important thing for me was to spend time with my husband and children. Being with them made me happy.
Two years on and people still say to me” You are so busy!” but now, we cope with it so much better. We also make sure that we have some weekends at home on our own. The balance is much better!
This was my version of self-care. Remember that you are the expert on you! This means that you know what is right for you. Be brave and trust yourself. If you need any help or guidance on what to do to get back to yourself, I am only a call away offering a free Initial consultation either in person or on Skype.