Self care is my super power!

This is a more personal post than my usual offering. The last 6 weeks have tested me beyond measure. So as the essence of this blog is using writing to enhance mental well-being then write about it I shall.

On the 2nd June I underwent major pelvic reconstructive surgery. The result of this surgery was that a large amount of my intestine was removed leaving me with a permanent ileostomy. An ileostomy is where the small intestine is diverted through an opening in the abdomen. Waste (or poo) is then collected into a bag placed over the ileostomy.

This was a planned surgery, however I think I was slightly naive as to just how tough mentally and physically it would be. Unfortunately there were post operative complications due to blood loss, low blood pressure and infection. I was in intensive care for a while and 6 weeks on I feel that my recovery is only just beginning.

Tears and isolation!

Due to covid I was unable to have visitors for the first 7 days and after that only 1 person could visit. This is exceptionally testing when the presence of loved ones is vital for comfort and strength.

Although the restrictions were completely necessary, they made the experience quite a lonely and at times frightening one. It is a vulnerable place to reside, in a hospital bed, weak and in pain. For a person who likes to be in control, relying on the expertise of others to keep me alive was a real emotional challenge. I cried like a lost child, a lot! It isn’t a place I would return to in a hurry.

Time heals all wounds?

As much as I want to put it all behind me and forget it really isn’t that simple. For a start I have a permanent reminder of a bag attached to my tummy. That in itself takes some getting used to. Also there is the exhaustion that follows major surgery, building my stamina back up is going to take a while. It is all quite raw, mentally and physically.

Time isn’t the best healer. You are.

Nandini

I accept that with time I will heal. The physical scars will become part of my story and the trauma will fade enough to manage. However it is important I do all I can to ease myself get through this turbulent season. Which means, self-care, compassion, time and lots more self-care. Oh and did I mention self-care??

Does self care really help?

There are so many positives in offering ourselves care it would be impossible to list them all. Here are a few of the benefits to whet your appetite! Please feel free to download my self-care flash-cards at the end of this post to get you started or enhance your existing journey of nurture and love.

We all need and deserve it!

Physical health improves

Respecting our bodies by supplying a healthy diet, exercise and sleep are fundamental acts of self care. Giving our systems the best of the best helps them to flourish. The human body is truly a marvel and definitely worthy of love and care.

Enhances emotional well-being

Even the smallest acts such as making your bed in the morning and practicing good sleep hygiene can make us feel happier. Self compassion can help to boost our self-esteem too and is a great habit to learn and incorporate into our lives. Every small expression of self care can lift mood so turning these acts into habits is absolutely worthwhile! You can read more about the value showing self compassion in my Dear Jenny blog.

Reminds us of our worth

Our thoughts can be critical and harsh, particularly with low mood. By practicing self care we can introduce a new belief system that tells us we are important and deserve care, respect and love. The more we offer ourselves care the more our self worth will grow. Reaching out to loved ones for support is an act of self care that should never be underestimated. I find asking for help incredibly difficult but I am getting better at it. Accepting genuine care and support from others is uplifting to all involved.

It is empowering

Feelings of powerlessness are a common aspect of depression so making positive choices around our self care gives us back some control. When we feel in charge our resilience and self esteem improve. This is a powerful gift and it is well within our reach.

Dear Diary


How journaling can help us stay mentally healthy.

Our minds are busy places. It can be difficult to manage our daily lives, let alone our emotions and mental well-being. Yet just as we can compose a to-do list for chores and appointments, writing things down can also help us to stay on top of our psychological housekeeping.

Journaling has grown in popularity for many reasons. It may be as simple as organising all the thoughts swimming around in our heads. Getting them out and seeing them written down often brings a clearer perspective. Our brains are particularly good at clinging on to worrying thoughts and playing them on a loop. This can be agonising and pointless because while they are stuck on repeat, problem solving becomes virtually impossible.

Diaries have always been viewed as private and only for the eyes of the author. This alone is incredibly freeing. You can write exactly how you are feeling, no holds barred. It can also be quite useful if you are unsure what it is you are feeling. Writing things down can reveal the emotions hiding behind the masks of anger or irritation. Once we are aware exactly what is happening for us, we can take steps to return to a more balanced emotional ground. It could be that we are burnt out from taking care of everyone except ourselves. We may be unaware of how much we have been neglecting our own needs until we see it in black and white.

Make it a habit.

Journaling is something that works best when done regularly. The real insight comes from writing down the good, the bad and the horrendous! So try to write when you feel OK, when you feel fantastic and when you feel distressed or exhausted. This is all valuable information to look back on. Sometimes when struggling to cope it can really help to know that we have survived these feelings before. It can also help us to identify what has helped us to overcome difficulties in the past. A bit like having a personal manual for fixing (or at least easing) difficult emotions.


Track those moods.

Another useful aspect of journaling is the mood tracker. By logging your mood for the day, be it happy, sad, stressed, angry can help us identify any patterns or triggers. This information is a great way of managing our mental state and eliminating or preparing for things that may have a negative effect. You can make it fun by using certain colours or emojis for different moods. If you find you are tracking a sad mood, it may be worth stepping back and looking at what is going on for you at this time. Are you feeling lonely or missing someone? Do you need human interaction and what steps can you take to achieve that? Naming our emotions gives us the opportunity to take action which is both healthy and empowering.


How else can writing help?

Worry time.

If you find yourself ruminating about certain things or have worries constantly popping into your head, then worry time might offer relief. Firstly, allocate yourself a specific time, every day to sit and focus solely on your worries. It doesn’t need to be longer than 30 minutes. Then when a worry sneaks up on you, simply jot it down and tell yourself you will look at it during worry time.
This allows you to call the worries up in a controlled and calm way. Much better than a sudden intrusion of anxiety. There is less panic, and the worries often feel less overwhelming and easier to problem solve. You may even wonder why you were worried at all!

Random writing

This is exactly as it sounds. Just sit and write. It doesn’t even have to make sense, just dump all of your thoughts and feelings down on paper. Get them out of your head and lighten the load.

Write a letter you would never send.

This sounds odd but it works! If you are struggling with bad feelings towards someone who has treated you badly – tell them in a letter. Write down everything you wouldlike to say to them and don’t hold back. You can rant and rave all you like because they will never see it. Once you are done, rip it up into tiny pieces. This exercise is incredibly cathartic and a fantastic way of letting go of pain and anger.

Creative Writing

Self-expression is a great way if dealing with past traumas and difficult emotions. You could make up a story or write a poem. Or perhaps you could write about your own life experiences. Everyone has a tale to tell, and you may discover a hidden flair for writing!

Flashcards


Write some positive mantras on brightly coloured card. Words like “I am enough” or “I can cope with this” are examples but choose whatever speaks to you personally. You can carry them with you and look at them when you need reassurance or a boost. A fantastic tool for calming nerves before a big event such as a job interview.

No matter the form, writing is an excellent therapy tool. Whether you treat yourself to a top of the range journal, use a smartphone or simply scribble your thoughts on a notepad, the results will be the same. It doesn’t have to be perfect or clever (unless you want it to be). Our worries tend to look and feel quite different when written down. So take a few minutes, pick up a pen and let the ink work its magic.

Hi, I’m Jennifer

Welcome to my blog.

The write way to good emotional health!

I will admit I am a novice at the whole blog writing thing. In typical “Jen style” I’m a little late to the party. Still, those who are first to arrive often leave early too; so despite my tardiness I promise to be the life and soul of this shindig! You may be wondering why I have decided to jump on the blogging bandwagon now. So, lets dive in!

I was diagnosed with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease at the age of 12, after which life quickly unravelled. The years of treatment and surgery that followed were, to say the least, devastating. Unfortunately, other than being handed a leaflet of relaxation exercises, I was not offered any mental health support. It is difficult to ascertain why and entirely possible I simply slipped through the net. So it was a case of “just getting on with things,” a task I had neither the emotional capacity or maturity to manage. The lack of emotional support inevitably had consequences. My adult life has been tainted by severe mental health problems. While I am grateful to be alive, there have been many times (and may be many more) when this was not the case.

So………mental health.

It gives me “the feeling.” You know the one? When something is so fascinating it draws you in and takes over. Learning about it, talking about it never gets old, even on the days my brain is fit to burst. My work as a Well-Being Practitioner, coupled with my own personal therapy has changed me in ways I didn’t know possible. Ironically, the very focus of my pain and grief now feeds my soul. It’s pure fascination, an insatiable urge to know more. That’s “the feeling,” and I want to share it.

Working in mental health is grounding. The human condition means that no one is immune. If you haven’t been personally affected, then I have no doubt that you know someone who has. Mental health services in the UK are stretched beyond breaking point. The net I slipped through as a child is now riddled with holes; so getting appropriate support when in crisis is exceedingly difficult, if not virtually impossible.

I have created this public blog simply because mental health cannot be overdone. Everyone’s experiences are unique and should always be taken seriously. Great strides have been made in getting people talking and removing the stigma. We need to keep up the momentum, now more than ever.

So what can you expect from this blog?

  • A safe, non-judgemental and informative space.
  • Although (hopefully) uplifting, inspiring and motivational, it will also be realistic. Sometimes, life is bloody hard. It is expected and OK to have bad days and difficult emotions. This is where self-compassion comes in!
  • To emphasize how much value we all have as individuals. Everyone deserves to feel heard, valued and included. To this end, I welcome comments and suggestions. Please feel free to use the provided comment box or reach out via email. I just ask you are respectful of differing views/ideas.
  • Humour – we all know the adage ‘if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry! A good bout of either is a fabulous release of oxytocin and endorphins.
  • Signposting to resources – this is a biggie! There is a wealth of untapped resources and online support out there. This blog aims to highlight as many of these as possible. Anything from simple breathing exercises to peer reviewed research is potential blog fodder!
  • Finally I will share my own experiences/helpful tips. This blog certainly isn’t an altruistic endeavour. Writing is my armour, my relief. It distracts my brain and is my go-to when things are rough. I will share my published writing here and there, but my focus is primarily to share information and avenues of support.

I will end my introduction with a poem I wrote for the charity Mind on World Kindness Day 2020. Please remember, the greatest kindness is that which you show yourself.

Someone

Someone noticed me today
They smiled and said hello
Just a small thing really
Yet it gave me such a glow

Someone held my hand today
When I was feeling sad
Suddenly I was less alone
Things were not so bad

Someone made me laugh today
We shared a joke together
The world seemed brighter for a while
A moment I will treasure

Someone gave me time today
There is no greater gift
I’d like to do the same for them
Should they ever feel adrift

Someone gave me hope today
A simple act of kindness
A smile, a hand, a laugh, just time
These little things are priceless