A prescription for happiness…

Whilst walking through the colourful, crispy leaves in the park today I had a eureka moment. Perhaps it was the unseasonably mild weather, the sunshine, the cheesy 80’s pop in my headphones or walking for over 20 minutes that forced these stream of thoughts to the forefront of my mind. Whatever the reason I needed it.

I need to treat myself the way I treat others. See my brain is hard wired to help everyone else before myself, in the blazing sun, I’d give away my bottle water and shield a collapsed person, even though the sun and I have issues these days.I’d defend and protect colleagues and peers in work situations leaving myself vulnerable to attack. I’d email the school my son’s homework after he’d left without it to avoid him getting a detention. I’d give the last £1 in my purse to the guy that stands and begs everyday in the rain. I’d answer a message late at night if I was half asleep and the person was sad, lonely or in need of reassurance.I’d be the emphatic ear to others, and give them words of encouragement and kindness. Whilst such acts are kind, noble or maybe ridiculously stupid, I don’t treat myself with the same love and kindness. Why not ?

I’ve heard in the past, if you hear something three times it must be true. Three is the magic number after all. The past few weeks I’ve been given the same message in different guises, a staff member telling me ‘I’m always there to help others, even if they don’t appreciate it’ A peer telling me, ‘I need to stop protecting my staff and let them get on with it.’ The Occupational Health advisor telling me to stop and consider myself for once. It’s loud and clear right ?

It’s been a strange year, at times I’ve totally believed I’m part of the 65% that struggle post treatment. The difficulty with this is asking for help, which is opposed to my giving nature. But this year, I asked for help from my GP and got nowhere, a reasonable adjustment at work that I never used. It was a big step too, and only asked as felt my tried and tested former coping strategies were getting nowhere. I couldn’t just snap out of it. I desperately wanted to. The tangled weeds of low moods, anxiety, stress and unbalanced hormones caught me and I floated for a while, unable to kick myself free. It was pretty damn scary. And pretty normal.

My rising optimist would say, in every situation you learn something about yourself. I’d say it reaffirmed that I’m crap at reaching out for help, and I’m fantastic at concealing just how awful I have felt and don’t want to make a fuss.That other people really have no clue how or what you are feeling unless you tell them. I have a greater understanding to how people struggling with depression can lock themselves away, and not have any motivation or energy. I can relate to how agoraphobics remain safely at home and not face the world. How people avoid situations that increase anxiety. It’s a vicious circle.

I can admit that in the dark winter days my moods can tumble, but this time round it hit me in the best summer we’ve had in years, and that scared me too. if I feel sad in the summer, things must be bad. How can I feel this low in a beautiful summer.I carried on but I felt like I was literally on my knees. A very wise friend has told me that sometimes she allows herself to crash and reach rock bottom, to shut out the outside world until she is able to re emerge in a better place. The control freak in me is terrified of letting go and my home becoming a prison. Of course I realise I always see the extreme outcome, and that actually withdrawing and taking stock for a day, or long weekend isn’t going to make me grow a beard and lose all social skills. Her sentiments were reaffirmed by my daughter,”what’s the worse that’s going to happen? And If it does, so what.” Funny how my daughter has inherited my dad’s wisdom, and yet she never really knew him.

I chose not to fly this summer and took a staycation, I spent time nurturing me, relaxing my over stressed brain and body. I ate well, slept well,exercised, meditated, ditched the internet, picked up books, listened to music, spent times in nature, made things, enjoyed the company of others. It was wonderful, I felt renewed, happy and content. I had two blissful weeks, and the night before I returned to work I couldn’t sleep. Returning to the pressure, my body and mind tightly coiled up within a matter of days (or was it hours ?) and my good intentions dwindled.

So I figured, and this brings me back to my eureka moment, there is no point having just having a two weeks binge of treating yourself kindly, this needs to be a daily occurrence. We all rush to participate in random acts of kindness of others, I need to do this to myself.I need to write a prescription for happiness. Last week I’d completed a staff members stress risk assessment, and approached this holistically with exercise, meditation, complementary therapies etc. It was easy arranging this for someone else and it prompted me to think about what I need, and what will help.

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