#LoveMe Day Three: A Word That Describes Me

Boom! We’re into the difficult topics already and it’s only day three!

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I consider myself to be a writer. I like to use words, plural. I carefully select words to paint a mental picture in my readers head, it’s difficult to narrow it down to the number of words that I do use. Some of my blog posts are long. I know this, but believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time on shortening them to the length that they are.

And now I have to choose just one single word. And to describe me! It’s not easy to describe ourselves at the best of times, I don’t know about you but I feel a bit stuck up describing myself in a positive way, but I also don’t like to describe myself from a negative standpoint, that’s counter productive on my journey to happiness.

Indecisive would probably be a good choice.

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided on the word dedicated.

It’s not necessarily a word I would have used to describe myself in the past. I’ve given up on a lot of ambitions in my time. ‘If at first you don’t succeed: quit’ might as well have been my motto. My life was full of good intentions that would be abandoned at the first hurdle. I considered myself to be very adept at failure. It might as well have been a hobby.

It’s a different story now. My life is still full of obstacles and road blocks. I’ve fallen down more times than I care to remember, sometimes literally, but I no longer give up. Giving up just isn’t an option anymore. Why? There’s just no point. I am dedicated to everything now. My health, my happiness, my job, my relationships and my future. I might never fully succeed, but I will continue to try for the rest of my days.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

#LoveMe Day Two: A Photo Of Me

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There is no shortage of photos of me. I’ve never been camera shy, which is weird, because in my opinion I’m terribly unphotogenic. But I’m always keen to photobomb, get pictures with friends, make Zombie and my best friend take selfies with me (neither of them are photo fans) plus in the last year I’ve taken an absolute bucketload of photos of myself after runs, cycles and doing yoga poses.

So of course I was happy to take another picture. I barely need an excuse these days! I decided to take a photo that was a good representation of me these days. I practically live in my workout gear, I’m always doing yoga and I like to be silly, so here’s a photo of me related to all three of these points.

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Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

#LoveMe Challenge Day One

It’s challenge time again! In the interests of becoming less critical of myself and thanks to a lovely blogger Lady CAS, I have decided to complete another blogging challenge, #LoveMe Challenge.

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Day one is why I am doing this challenge, so here goes:

If you read my post yesterday, My Harshest Critic, you will know that I, like many other people, find it very easy to put myself down, often no matter how well I’ve done at something. I am on much better terms with myself than I used to be, but there is still an almost daily fight to knock down the negative thoughts about myself and I think its time for that to change for good.

There are some very interesting topics on this challenge over the 28 day course and I expect it will be a lot harder than the 30 day challenge I completed in April. Already looking at some of the topics I’m feeling a little nervous, but not in a bad anxiety way, but more a nervous excitement. They will be tough to discuss, but the result of doing so I’m quietly confident will be positive.

I want the negative side of me to be diminish so much to a point where I don’t have to battle it anymore. I am a lot happier than I used to be, but I want the self doubt to play less of an important role in my life.

Nothing happens overnight, I realize that our journeys to happiness and loving ourselves takes a lot of time and effort, but I’m hoping that a daily reminder will be a good way to give this healthy habit the kick it’s been needing.

I invite you all to join me. You don’t have to share your thoughts with the world, but taking some time each day to ponder the topics from your own perspective may also help to appreciate yourself more. The world needs more happy people who love themselves for the wonderful people they are and what they have to offer.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

My Harshest Critic

Spoiler alert, it’s me.

I just can’t help myself. I’ll quite happily praise someone who I feel deserves it, for whatever reason, but when it comes to myself, it’s much easier to criticize.

Don’t get me wrong, this year has been about personal growth, learning to love myself and to be more positive, so I’m not putting myself down left, right and center anymore. The saying ‘old habits’ die hard’ certainly rings true however, in that it’s a constant battle to quash the negativity that comes more naturally to me.

I know I’m not alone in this. So many people will tell me I’ve done a good job, then in the next breath put themselves down in comparison, even though they’ve done just as well. I sometimes feel it’s almost expected of such a conversation.

It’s an expectation thing. I know I can do great things, I’ve proved that to myself this year. I went from barely being able to run a single kilometer to running 14 in less than two hours. And I was really really proud of that. I lost a lot of weight and discovered a way to manage my mental health, sleeping issues and eczema. I’ve done really well.

So why is it that as soon as I make a mistake, or don’t do quite as well at something as I’d hoped for, that I get annoyed at myself and put myself down?

Take for example the karaoke competition a couple of weeks ago. I got through the first two rounds but not to the final. And that’s okay, because not everyone even made it to the first round. But no, I was annoyed at myself. In my head, not getting through to the third round automatically meant I was a terrible singer, despite my friends who attended, who I can count on to be honest with me, saying otherwise.

I listened to a recording of part of one of my songs the next day and I just about cried. As far as I was concerned, I sounded awful and had no right even being a part of the competition. Of course, it was recorded on my cellphone, so naturally the sound quality wasn’t amazing, but that didn’t matter to me, it meant I was bad.

But a few friends who asked to hear the recording, thought I was pretty good. It took having a cry to Zombie about it and him reminding me that he thought I did well, that it was a cellphone recording and that I was up against some very talented singers (I was, there were some incredible voices in that competition) to snap me out of it. I lost a few hours to self hate though, which was completely unnecessary.

What I should have been focusing on, is the fact that I got through two rounds and that I had fun. I got some good feedback from friends and strangers alike and I got to have a night out, which is something I don’t often do. I said in my post Good Anxiety that I was going into the competition without an expectation of winning, just an aim to have fun. I didn’t realize that I still had expectations on myself to get through to the final five. 

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I am my own worst critic. I subconsciously expect too much of myself and when I can’t exceed those expectations, I get upset at myself, which is a complete waste of time. Even now as I write this, I’m realizing that I’ve done it in that last sentence, where I mention wasting time. I’ve put a negative spin on something that I do, as opposed to learning from it.

One of my Ten Goals for the year, is to Be Grateful and Stay Happy. I think it might be time to make some more effort in this department. I’m not saying that I’ve failed, I’ve certainly had my happiest and most appreciative year in a long time, I’d just like to make it more consistent. I think a good place to start will be by being kinder to myself. It’s hard to be happy when someone is being mean to you all the time.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Apps That Keep Me Happy and Healthy

Apps have taken over the digital world and there’s at least one for everything you can think of. Social networking apps such as Facebook and Twitter, any game you can imagine, music players, photo editors, shopping apps and more. You can do your banking through an app, order dinner, compare prices of different items, preview haircuts on yourself, learn new  languages and there’s even an app that can work out how much you get paid while using the bathroom at work. There is literally an app for everything.

We never used to need them. I’m sure if we had to, we could also live without them. But there are some that have made my journey to health and happiness a lot easier. I’m not saying I couldn’t have done it without them, but they certainly gave me the motivation I needed to get started and to keep going.

My Fitness Pal

Basically a food diary, My Fitness Pal tracks your daily calorie intake and output. Put something in your mouth? Type it in or scan the barcode and it’ll add it to the list. Do some exercise? Type it in. It tracks your weight, measurements and gives you an idea of how much you’re eating and what the food is made up of (sugars, protein, carbs etc). There are daily blogs that you can access directly with recipes, fitness tips, healthy advice and the latest health and wellness research. If your friends are using MFP too you can add them and cheer each other on by commenting on or liking each others activities. It also links up with countless other apps to make your tracking easier and more automated and the list of apps it’s compatible with is ever expanding.

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Map My Walk

This is an excellent app for tracking how far you are walking, for how long and it’s not just restricted to walking. Part of the Map My Fitness family of apps, it uses GPS to map where you’ve walked/ran/cycled etc and gives you the information at the end, including your pace, calories, distance and any inclines. It gives the option of hearing when you’ve reached each kilometer or mile and how long its taken, which I find to be a great motivator. You also get monthly emails showing your stats for the month so you can see how regularly you are exercising, or you can check this online. It links directly with My Fitness Pal, so you don’t need to enter your walks twice, but it also works in reverse so that your weight, food and any non distance workouts you entered into MFP will count as well. Again you can buddy up with your friends and cheer each other on, which I know certainly helps me.

You Tube

I use You Tube on my phone for at home workouts. There are thousands of workout videos on there, for any type of exercise you can think of. With or without equipment, you are absolutely spoiled for choice, as long as you know what you want to do. I got a little overwhelmed by all the choices at first, but after a bit of trial and error I found two channels that I’ve subscribed to that are perfect for me, each with countless different videos for me to choose from. These are Yoga with Adrienne for all my yoga requirements and Fitness Blender, for cardio and interval training.

HIIT Interval Training Timer

Sometimes I like to go it alone for my workouts. I’ll wrote myself a we’re programme of all the exercises I want to do, jumping jacks, pushups, crunches, squats etc then turn on my timer and go. You choose how long you want to do each set for, how long you want to rest, the number of rounds you want to go for, then listen for the voice as it tells you ‘GO!’ And ‘REST!’ Takes all the guesswork out of timing and there’s

no longer any need to count each rep.

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Instagram

I’ve gone on a lot about Instagram on this blog. I’m hopelessly addicted, but in a good way. I have gotten inspiration for recipes from peoples posts on there, learned more about yoga, fitness and nutrition, all just by making connections with people on a similar journey to mine. I have received so much encouragement and positive feedback from my followers, people I follow and other users who cross my path. I have been inspired by peoples determination, felt better when I’m down by peoples positive posts and I’ve managed to inspire people myself with my posts. It’s a community of strangers and yet I feel like I’ve made some lifelong connections with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, that keep me going. It also keeps me accountable. I’m sure people don’t really notice if I miss my daily yoga picture or forget to post a picture of my breakfast, but it definitely makes me think twice about my food choices since they’re going on public display.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Low Days

Depression. It sucks, a lot. It’s not about being sad all the time, because sometimes I can’t feel anything. It’s not about snapping out of it because so often there is no reason for why I am feeling depressed. It creeps up on me at the most inopportune moments, seemingly out of the blue, only to leave just as quickly. Other times it gradually eases its way into my life making itself comfortable and settling in for the long haul.

It’s a feeling of complete and utter hopelessness. It could be a beautiful sunny day but I’ll feel claustrophobic, like I’m trapped in the dark with no way out. Everything is overwhelming. The thought of getting out of bed is terrifying. There’s no rhyme or reason, I just know, in that depressed moment, however long it lasts, that only bad things will come of getting out of bed.

The self hate doesn’t take long to find it’s way in. Combined with anxiety it becomes almost unbearable. There is no reason to feel this way. Absolutely no valid reason, which sets the anxiety wheels in motion starting with feelings of anger washing over me in waves, eventually giving way to tears.  Angry tears, then sad tears, then I’m numb again.

The numb feeling is the worst.  Thoughts still swirl around in my head, angry thoughts, sad thoughts, wistful thoughts, but they mean nothing.  They make me feel neither worse nor better, I am just merely existing until it passes. It’s hard to describe this numb feeling, because there’s also an extreme feeling of desperation at the same time. I feel nothing and everything at the same time, but it’s all negative.

I try to be alone during these times.  If I’m at work, I’ll retreat to my desk, huddled over, getting on with the work and trying to keep to myself.  Sometimes crying, sometimes sighing.  The energy isn’t there, I’m running on auto pilot, avoiding people as much as possible, watching the minutes tick by slowly until I can go home and hide again.  If I’m at home I’ll hide in bed, it’s the place I feel safest.

If I’m not alone and someone talks to me, I’ll usually snap, which is always followed by a terrible feeling of anxiety.  How dare I be so rude!  I have no right to talk to someone like that.  They did nothing wrong, nothing to deserve that treatment.  I will agonise for days over how I treated people while I was low, even after I’m feeling human again.  If I don’t snap I’ll burst into tears, with no idea why.  How do you explain to someone that you’re crying simply because you are?

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When I’m low, I want someone to rescue me. But I want to be left alone at the same time. It must be very confusing for the people who care about me, because I can’t communicate what I need at the time. I might want someone to cook a meal for me, but if they did I’d probably be annoyed about it. My brain becomes incredibly unstable when people other than my peer support group are involved.

Some days I wake up happy, motivated, excited or content.  Some days I wake up low.  I call it low, because it’s neither sad, angry, or numb, it’s a constant mixture of negative emotions.  If I’m lucky, something will make me smile in the first couple of hours, which usually gives me a glimmer of hope, enough to drag myself out of the low just a little bit, so that I can be a functioning member of society for the day.  Nowadays sometimes I will snap right out of it with that smile and move on because I’ve learned that once the depression has released me, there is no point dwelling on it or berating myself for those feelings.  If I’m not lucky, the feelings will continue for an undetermined amount of time, sometimes so strong it’s all I can focus on, sometimes in the background, enough to let me get on with my day, but while still reminding me that they are there.

Low days used to dominate my life.  Bawling my eyes out over the smallest things was a regular occurrence. You know the disappointment of arriving at the shop to find they’ve sold out of the item you wanted? That was enough to send me on a downward spiral for days. Calling in sick, staying in bed all day, hiding under the covers, staring at the wall and stressing about losing my job because of being off happened all too often.  Running on auto pilot at work and keeping to myself was practically the norm.

I still have these days.  I talk in my posts about gratitude and positivity, but on a low day these things don’t always help.  In fact, they can make them worse by exacerbating the self hate aspect.  My brain works differently on these days, it will turn positives to negatives in a flash to keep me under.  If I tell myself that I should be grateful, I get angry at myself that I’m not.  I find that it’s best to let these low days happen.  It is ok to feel low at times.  I berate myself for having ten good days, then a low day, because in my mind I was doing so well, but the reality is we all have low days, some of us just get lower than others.

Gratitude and positivity are a huge part of my life now, because while they haven’t yet stopped the low days, they have helped to lessen the frequency of them. Eating well, exercising and talking about my feelings with like minded people has also helped. If I lapse in any of these things, the outcome is often a low day. There are still the occasional out of the blue low days, but I’m hoping with time they will pass completely.

Dealing with depression is hard work. It’s something we want to hide from people and live with alone. When I get depressed I feel like a burden on people. To some people I am. Not everyone can handle being around someone on a low day. That’s why it’s so important to associate with friends and family who can cope. And if you can’t find that support in your circles, there are drop in centers, phone lines and internet forums where you can reach out for help. Depression doesn’t mean you’re sad, it just means you’re struggling a little.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie

Let’s Get Sweaty – For Free

I never thought I’d be the person who tried to exercise as often as possible, let alone enjoy it, but this year I have achieved that. I did have a bit of a slump in winter, but I’m back into it now and going harder than ever.

I don’t have a solution for the winter slump, but spring is finally here and my exercise is completely back on track, which is good. The only thing I can think of is that a gym membership might have helped when I was struggling with the cold, but I couldn’t afford that at the time.

What I can afford, is to exercise for free. In the past I always thought this was impossible. There was no motivation, nothing pushing me and the biggest stumbling block, what on earth to do? But as I’ve gotten more motivated I’ve discovered that there are many free and fun ways to get a workout in.

Walking

Let’s start with the obvious. It’s easy to do and as simple as putting on a pair of shoes and leaving the house. Provided it’s not bucketing down with rain you can do it in most temperatures. Most cities have some nice walks around all different areas, including hills if you’re after that extra challenge. Not up for a big one? A walk around the block is better than no walk at all.

Cycling

You don’t need a big flashy mountain bike with gears upon gears, an expensive price tag and a skimpy lycra suit to enjoy the benefits of a bike ride. There are usually cycle tracks around the cities or you can kill two birds with one stone like I do and save money on gas by sometimes biking to work, to run errands or to visit a friend.

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Dancing

Can’t dance? Who cares! Wait until everyone’s out, queue up your favourite songs and have a boogie on down while no ones watching. I bet it’ll put a smile on your face too.

Google

There are countless pages of exercise routines and instructions out there, from abs to arms, with or without weights, some even with posters to go with them. Find your preference, download or print it and get your heart racing.

YouTube

Need a little more instruction? YouTube is absolutely packed with at home cadio, Pilates, yoga, callanetics and any other exercise routines you can think of, with music and instruction to guide you along. My personal favourite channels are Yoga With Adrienne and Fitness Blender.

As with any type of exercise, the biggest stumbling block is mental. Work up the motivation, find a source that you think will work for you and aim to start off three times a week. If that way doesn’t work, try something else. It’s hard at first but once you get into a routine exercise becomes natural and even fun and the benefits you get from it are truly rewarding.

Smiles and Sunshine
Katie