mental health

Practising self-care that actually works.

In September I wrote that I was aiming to write one post a month, obviously that did not happen, regardless how much I meant to be committed. There is not really any excuse, only an explanation: I have been busy practising self-care through one of my hardest periods this year. Which up until this working, I had no idea that it was actually working up until last weekend.

My happiness has always been anchored to other people or even things (like my FitBit). Or maybe rather whether or not I can catch on to someone else’s wave and stay afloat on their life raft. Most of the time I would not even be aware that I was doing it until it was  way to late.

That is a receipt for disaster every time, and a vicious circle, spiralling out of control so fast. It is also unfair, because no one should ever be solely responsible for someone else’s happiness, it is straining on any kind of relationship you try to forge. So for the better part of a year I have been practising being my own anchor, because the circle can only go one way.

The hard thing is, that there is no one-size fits all route to wellness and happiness. I used to read through all these self-help books, I did hypnotherapy, CBT. I tried listening to these wellness or happiness gurus whatever you might call them. I have read The Secret a million times, Later I tried making lists of things I am grateful for and I tried crying hysterically by myself trying to make it all come out. But the truth is that for any of these things to work, you actually need to have a fundamental shift within yourself. A shift which for me was entirely on a subconscious level.

Below I will write somethings that worked and seems to be working for me, I do not claim that these will work for everyone but it is was I think is affecting my mood and help me to better anchor myself.

So winding back a couple of months, I was at the height of being miserable, again. It was the sort of bottomless feeling of giving up on everything. A place where the sole act of breathing became a chore. When I was swimming there in the bottomless black sea of nothing but numbness I started to have a look around my current state of being and I made some decisions. First I decided to make lists of things I wanted to have done, I love lists and ticking things off them. So I put the most pedestrian things into my phone’s reminder app:

  • Re-Fill water bowl for the cats
  • Go to bed before 23:00
  • Play with the cats
  • Make dinner 2 times this week
  • Smile
  • Don’t eat bread
  • Do laundry

It was just every day things that I wanted to have done, tagged to dates and times I wanted to have them done by. And I still do this. I do not think I was aware of it at the time, but ticking off my self-given chores gave me a sense of accomplishment, which gradually helped to lift my mood.

I started to try to make things nice for myself. I purchased a lot of tea candles, votives and fragrant candles and I lit them, even if I was alone watching TV in my living-room. Just to create some god ol’ “hygge.” I purchased lots of tea, because I really like the idea of drinking tea in a candlelit room (turns out I do not like tea very much). And I even purchased myself flowers (turns out Lilies does not smell anything like most lily-fragrances will have you belive).

Making food has always been something I cannot be bothered with making if I am just making it for myself. But I started to make my own food, turns out I can make a great chicken curry and that even I can make gravy that does not lump. Not to mention that homemade food does taste much better than most of the bland takeaways you find around (I am not saying there are no good takeaways, but most of them are the same bland food in my opinion).

Over the summer I also finally signed up for that PT-course, which I completed in October/November. Which brings me to my next point: a change of scenery. I am not suggesting that you book a one-way trip to Australia or go on a crazy adventure. What I am suggesting is that you give yourself a break. For me it was the PT course. Even if it was highly intensive and compact course, it was a breath of fresh air. I was out of my normal 8-5 work environment. I did not have a single headache for those two weeks, I talked to new people and got a fresh input. It even kicked me back to the gym which I had been avoiding for the last 3 months prior to the course due to my mental exhaustion and lack of motivation which sprung on at the end of summer.

The course also gave me a new and bigger sense of accomplishment, because I have always been doubting my own abilities in all kinds of matters. I am a great student, I am good at acquiring new knowledge, understand it and put it to use. But, when push comes to show I usually bail out or I panic and fail, or I leave everything to the last-minute and screw everything up for myself, exams has always been the absolute worst for my nerves. This time I managed to pass all my exams with no fuss, no panicking (until after I turned in the exam at least) and on the first try because I did not make a half-assed attempt (like I often do to sabotage myself because I am too scared of not being good enough so I bail on the reading all together). It was a great win for me.

More recently I have started something I have always thought of as rather stupid. I have started to keep a journal, which I write in everyday. It is not like I list everything I did every day or write down a thousand things I am grateful for. What I try to do, is to write down anything I experienced as positive during the day. Sometimes it might just be one sentence, other days I can fill in paragraphs, depending on the day. The key is that I only write down anything I perceive as a positive event or train of thought. It was an Idea I got from listening to Introducing Happiness from Audible as one of the “exercises” they give are similar. The thought behind it is to try to remember the positive events and let the negative fade into the background. I started it as a silly experiment following listening to the Audible Podcast, but it is actually very giving or soothing now that I have adapted the suggested exercise to something that suits me. And I keep on doing it.

That leads me to the big finale where I for the first time could answer a pedestrian question “How are you?” with “I am fine.” For once I actually recognised that I was actually happy, and hardly recognise or trust. Which leads me to why it has taken me 7 days to compose this text, because I needed to be sure it was not the start of mania. So far, I feel safe about it.

So I think the message from me here is, that you need to find something that works for you. In order to find your inner calm or happiness, you need to do things that bring you joy.

Recommended reading, if you are interested: 

  • Introduction to happiness (Podcast on Audible.co.uk)
  • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  • No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy
  • The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel
  • The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
  • The Power by Rhonda Byrne
  • Wallace D. Wattles Premium Collection (You can get the 9 books in One Volumes)
mental health · Uncategorized

Recommitting

I opened this blog as spur of the moment thing, believing I would take the world by storm (or something like it). Things did not go as planned, my mania did not last (like it never does) and the blog died. I tried to write several blog posts, but none of them felt right and life got in the way.

The thing is, I have not being having a great time lately. Last summer my normal summer high did not come until august, when it was almost time for my regular “low” period to set in. It sort of carried over to this year, and I try my best to keep my schedule but I fail terribly and my gym-life suffered for it (Though I did mange to get a Gym Instructor certification over the summer).

However, I have sat myself down and had a talk with myself, and I have decided to give this site one more go, and commit to it. My commitment might be minimal, but it is a start. The commitment I made to myself is that I will try to the best of my ability to write one blog post a month. So let us see how September goes.

Keep taking it one lift at a time.

fitness · mental health

Sacrificing my social life for the gym.

 

 

I had an interesting conversation related to working out, wellness and the absurd amount of alcohol that seems normal for people to consume. It might have much to do with where I live, but the favorite pastime of my colleagues might be getting hammered at the bar, or the party or the other party, or the thing that doesn’t really have anything to do with alcohol but we still drink.

Of course I am in no way implying that my life is filled with alcoholics,  because I am sure that these are 100% working, functional adults.

I completely get that going out, having fun with friends, drinking, partying and dancing is great. It is fun. It is social. It is friendly. And it is nothing wrong with it. Speaking from my own experience through, I have an awful time managing my mood swings if I go out drinking. First thing: I am not supposed to touch alcohol with the prescription pills I am taking, second; alcohol is a depressant and me being prone to depression it is not a good combination. Therefore, I have found a different outlet for me to be social, out of the house and alcohol free; the gym.

The gym brings me back to topic. During the discussion it was mentioned that one might not want to sacrifice their social life to go to the gym. This had me thinking, and I can understand that a lot of people would feel like that. Being me, I slightly overdo it, maybe, heading to the gym sometimes 7 days a week. It doesn’t have to be like that, you don’t have to do what I do. To be honest I am trying my best to write to encourage you to go to the gym, but I tend to get off track.

Getting to the gym is actually the easy part. Signing up and paying for a membership is easy. The hard part is to keep going. To come back. The hard part is to go to the gym, even though you have to walk half a mile in the rain. When you are at the gym, it is actually rather easy, you do not have to do much, and if you are just starting out anything is better than nothing.

Here are some generic tips for how to keep going to the gym: 

  • When you are starting out, have a goal to go to the gym fewer times than you think you can handle. If you think you can go four times a week, let it be a success if you go two times a week. Don’t burn the candle in both ends by deciding to go everyday right away.
  • Chose a gym with classes, look through their classes and sign up for something that sounds fun. If you are signed up for a class you are more likely to go, plus classes lasts for a specific time you will know you do not have to stay longer than planned.
  • Get yourself a program. You do not have to get a personal trainer, but have a look on the internet, find a program you like, tweak it if you need to. Having a program or a plan will help you to get to the gym.
  • Do things you think are fun at the gym, when you are starting out. If you do not like running, don’t force yourself to run, lift some weights instead. If you do not like lifting weights, run or row or do what makes a gym session tolerable to you.
  • If you have the money for it, get yourself a personal trainer. A few years back when I was first starting out, I got myself a personal trainer and it is one of the best investments I have done for my health. When you choose a personal trainer, make sure to get one who enjoy what they do, sound enthusiastic about training and listen to what you want out of your gym sessions. Get a trainer who can help you reach your goals but also one that keep your goals realistic.
  • Get a measuring band and start taking body measurements, it is more accurate than checking your weight all the time.
  • Keep it short. A full body-workout does not need to take more than 45 minutes

Hopefully these tips will help someone somewhere.

The gym, despite what a lot of people believe, is a social space. After going for a while, the other regulars will recognize and acknowledge you. Not long after it will be normal for you to strike up conversations with people you see there regularly, especially if you are weightlifting because you have to rest between sets no matter how strong you get.

And strictly speaking, if you do not want to, you don’t have to go more than 2 – 3 times a week. I know that 2-3 hours a week might seem like a huge sacrifice to some. I get that you might have to pass that bear or skip that dinner outing, but we are talking about as little as 2% of your weekly waking hours (given that you are a perfect person who sleeps perfectly 8 hours every night. Can you really say that 2% of your time, is sacrificing your social live rather than investing in your health and well-being?

Speaking for myself, the hours I spend at the gym, give me so much that I am willing to give much more of my time. Going to the gym helps me keep my mood under control, it helps me keep my eating in check, it helps my social life and it benefits my health. My gym sessions is my investment in me.

mental health · Workouts

Recovering from recovery days

Weightlifting is a crutch I cling to, for better and for worse. However recovery days are a necessary evil, and my serotonin level drops without daily exercise.

I had a hard work out regime last week which ended with me needing a recovery day. Normally I work on a three split program which means a recovery day is not necessary because each muscle group gets two days recovery while I work other parts of my body. However, in a length of time, even if I change-up the exercises, this regime gets repugnant and I hit a plateau. This is why I chose to do the 4000 reps in 4 days program even though I knew I would need at least one recovery day afterwards.

Thursday was my last day on this hellfire program and Friday was my recovery day. I planned to have one recovery day it turned into three, because I simply lost the motivation to go back to the gym.

My serotonin levels were not stimulated on Friday which meant an immediate drop i my mood and Saturday was even worse but I just could not bring myself to go back to the gym.

When you have bipolar disorder, routine is everything. I have learned this over the last couple of years, but I still mess up because I feel like I am better. Routine puts an order to everything, I go to work at the same time, I go to the gym after work and I go to sleep at the same time. I skip one of them and all three gets messed up.

This means that on Saturday since I had not been to the gym in two days, I struggled to get to sleep at a reasonable time, which meant that on the time I am usually at the gym on Sunday I was still sleeping. When I woke up on Sunday I just did not see any reason to go to the gym, because it was in mu obsessive mind “Too late.” Weekends are troublesome to me anyhow, because I only work some weekends, and I have a weekend schedule: I go to the gym by 12 pm at the very latest. This makes sure I get up in the morning, the earlier the better.

Luckily today was Monday and everything resets: I go to work in the morning, I bring my bag with me and I hit the gym. I am back on track. I wish it was as easy as it sounds, but I almost did not go to the gym today because I was still feeling a constantly low mood which comes with my persisting depressive episode.

Now after working out, I already feel better, and I will go to the gym again tomorrow taking it one lift at a time.

Workouts

4000 Lifts in 4 days – day 3 & 4

I am officially done, and tomorrow will be a well deserved rest day. 4000 lifts in 4 days is completely doable, and my body is 100% fatigued from this. Not a single joint is pain-free (soreness) and today was the hardest day of all with single joint movements at 50% of 10 rep max.

I have enjoyed these days at the gym, they have been hard and I have the weak point in all my lifts so I know how to work from here. My lower back and shoulders were the losers in this challenge. The important part is that I got through it and it felt like it gave my heart quite a pump as well (the beginning of each set felt more like cardio than anything).

Will I be doing this routine again?

At this point my answer is no, this was hell, but ask me again in four months or next time I hit a plateau and I am sure this routine would be helpful to kick my muscles into action again.

Tomorrow I will have a good rest and then I will keep going, one lift at a time.

Workouts

4000 Lifts in 4 days – day 2

It is my second day in following a hundreds program for four days and I must say I was surprisingly sore from yesterday. Today I focused mostly on single joint movements doing one giant set of 100 reps of each exercise.

Today’s workout consisted of:

  • Machine Flys
  • Seated leg curl
  • Diverging pulldown (I know I said single joint movements, but I wanted to)
  • Leg extension
  • Straight arm pulldown
  • Dumbbell shrug
  • Machine row
  • Rear Delt fly
  • Triceps press
  • Cable bicepcurl

Usually I am not a big fan of machines, but they were necessary to make today’s workout. Even though today was a “light day” with lighter weights than yesterday, I am already sore, every joint is sore and no matter how much foam-rolling I have done post-workout today the soreness stays put.

Hopefully the soreness will fade some by a good nights sleep. I am halfway in this program and I really want to complete it. But I will continue to take this one lift at a time.

Workouts

4000 lifts in 4 days

It is a new week and new blog and I have looked to mix up my traditional straight sets weightlifting program for a while.

The yesterday I was over at bodybuilding.com and came across two very interesting articles by Jim Stoppani in the workout section. He had made two posts about giant sets and “the Hundreds” routine.

I have previously done some crossfit and “the hundreds routine” is similar to crossfit. So I decided that for the next four days I will go along with this crazy 1000 reps(repetitions) a day concept.

The benefit of hundreds training is that by doing a (ridiculously) long set you recruit  the two major types of muscle fibers.  At the beginning of the set you will be working the slow-twitching fibers thoroughly before the fast-twitching fibers are taking over somewhere halfway through the set. In many ways this work out should help my muscles develop and grow.

I will be following Stoppani’s set up in terms of four days work out, going heavy, light, light, heavy, but I will prioritize working my back, which makes it sort of like a giant set.

So today’s set up looked like this:

100 reps of:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Deadlift
  3. Latpulldown
  4. Squats
  5. Dumbbell shoulder press
  6. Barbell shrugs
  7. Cable overhead triceps press
  8. Biceps Curl
  9. Seated Row (I know I know, it should have been placed earlier en the program)
  10. Lateral sidelifts.

The work out started out fine with the bench press, as a woman I normally hit the bench press a bit more than I should so lifting at 50% of my 10rep max did tire me out but judging the other exercises I should have felt the burn much earlier on.

What the hundres are good for, is to point out your weak points, and I experienced this during the deadlifts. My lower back was burning (not hurting) after 45 reps. To put it this way: I really needed the lateral pulldown after finishing a hundred deadlifts.

Putting a 100 squats and a 100 deadlifts in the same program at the same day was probably a bad idea,. I managed to do a 100 squats, but towards the end I was afraid my form was slipping as I got pain in my knee. The pain did go away once I put the bar away and got a brief rest though.

The rest of the exercises went by alright, the deadlifts and the squats were definitely the hardest. And I am also glad I put seated cable row that late in my program because it gave my lower back time to rest.

As of now I am fairly positive that I can make it through three more days of a 1000 reps a day. and I look forward to tomorrows work out, I will complete it one lift at a time.

If you want to check out Stoppani’s “the hundreds routine” you can -click here- and if you want to review his giant sets program -click- here-.

 

Uncategorized

An Introduction

So I figured I would start this blog off by having a short introduction.

I am starting this blog to follow my own journey through mental health issues, archiving fitness and hopefully help others along the way.

For the last few years I depression has helped me dig a hole so deep I could almost bury myself in it. I got a diagnosis of bipolar disorder II about a year ago, which gave me a name to call my struggle but no new means to fight it.

This January and February I found myself again far below rock bottom, trying to remember last time getting out of bed did not feel like an unreachable accomplishment. When was the last time turning off the light at bedtime didn’t make it impossible for me to get up before noon.

It took a couple of tries, and it took changing my medication, but I could vaguely remember a time a few years back when it did not seem like I was looking at the world through a foggy glass.  And I will not say that I have stumbled up on a magical cure for my condition, but I have found a way to cope with my illness.

In May I started to go back to the gym, doing something I know I am good at: lifting heavy things. Of course I had to start small, nowhere near I where I was back when. I started out feeling like a body weight squat would kill me, but slowly I got better and through perseverance I can now go through my day without a constant feeling of wanting to drop off the face of the earth.

Going to the gym is my crutch and for now I am clinging to it for my dear life. If I am having a bad day, I know that I can make it more tolerable, one lift at a time.