REAL LIFE STORIES

  • A's Tips on Weight Loss for Mental Ill Health

If you ever find your garden plagued by monkeys, then the following advice will come in useful. What you need is an upright tree stump, and then you need to dig out a hole similar to a woodpecker’s nest, but without you banging your head. Use a drill bit, and carve out an entry hole and a reservoir. Instead of building a nest, fill the hole with food… fruit or nuts, and then wait. If you have any monkeys they will put their hand in the hole and grab the food.  It is now that you can humanely trap them, as the monkey has a choice, either it lets go of the food and have freedom, or it hangs onto the food with its clenched fist. In so doing, it is unable to escape as the clenched fist acts as a plug and the monkey cannot escape its hand from the hole.

In life, we sometimes are like the monkey, choosing to hold onto something rather than letting go and having freedom.

Tips on weight loss, on this occasion is not about ridding the excess girth around your waistline, but in fact the weight of a millstone around our necks or the heavy hearts that comes with mental health. That feeling of weighing ourselves down.

Think of it another way. Imagine a feather is in your hand, you can feel the weight of it, and then you clasp it tightly with your fingers. Your knuckles go white, and within a few minutes your hand starts to hurt. This is the type of weight I am referring to. It is the strain that we put ourselves through as we hold onto something. Rather than letting go and having freedom, we choose, like the monkey, to hold onto things, and in doing so, hurt ourselves by holding on. Over time, we can actually adapt how we carry ourselves or see ourselves detrimentally to ourselves as we hold onto things that we should let go of.

I am not a trained therapist or counsellor, but I write it as one whose life has been messy at times. Where people have said things and done things to me that have hurt me. Some of which have hurt to my core and its been very hard to let go. The way I have carried these memories and trauma has often caused me to become withdrawn physically and emotionally, as though I look from the inside out through jail bars, not seeing the life that other people see.

And its from this standpoint that I share some tips on relieving the weight that is carried for those of us who live with anxiety or depression.

1) Identify with the friends of Winnie-the-Pooh and be happy being an Eeyorehing.

There are times when everything is dark, numb and cold within. It is enough to get out of bed and face the world. That in itself is a massive achievement. The next thing you have to do is put on a mask of cheerfulness, and then everything that you do becomes an effort, constantly sapping your strength before you do anything.

Take notice which of your friends accept you as an Eeyore. Winnie-the-Pooh and his band of friends all knew Eeyore, the way he was and talked. The great thing was they accepted him for who he was, never trying to change him, always encouraging, and most importantly wanting to be around him. Eeyore didn’t have to do things to be accepted, just had to be himself.

Having a group of friends like that allows you to be you. It means you don’t have to put on a mask and it allows you to live the life that works for you. It means a heck of a lot, not having to put on airs and graces, and helps you to start working through things in a normal environment.

And friends of “Eeyore” – keep doing what you are doing. The constant offers of wanting to be around “Eeyores” is immense – the texts, the coffees, the offers of walks, the facebook messages, the smiles – they all add up and makes a safe place for us to be ourselves – thank you. 

2) Isolation avoidance tactics - Get outside of yourself

The weight of mental health in someone’s life shrinks them. They are physically weighed down, and can be tired a lot of the time, preferring to isolate themselves and not being a problem to other people. You can be mentally withdrawn, becoming more and more isolated.

Weight loss tip – get outside of yourself. Find an activity that takes you outside. Go to a coffee shop – you don’t have to talk with anyone, but the fact you are outside and there are people milling around you, all helps. If you do talk – talking about the humdrum of life, and not about how you are feeling, helps to earth you. It can take you away from the cloud you are under, even if its for only a second.

Do an activity that is outside, go for a walk (with a dog), go for a jog, or something physical, I enjoy my allotment, where I weed my mind at the same time as weeding the ground. There is no urgency in what you do, only that you are outside with people around you and you are active.

3) Instant relief

Its nice to feel normal – and this is a quick tip to have a rush of feeling good. Tense your muscles from your toes, up through your legs, your shoulders, arms, fingers, screw up your face and then relax. This is an instant relief.

4) EMDR (Eye movement de-sensitisation and reprocessing)

I’ve had quite a few counsellors and the one that has helped me the most with the PTSD I have, is EMDR. I have to stress only have a thoroughly trained therapist take you through this therapy, as it can be very emotional, and only when you are ready. It consists of you talking through an area of pain, and as you do, the therapists taps the side of your legs. It seems so simple, but has a dramatic effect. By adding a physical interaction to the sharing of the memory, means that the memory won’t go back into your memory banks the same way it came out. Which means that you don’t remember it the same way and the painful memories and fear attached to it begins to wane.

5) What energises you

There are so many things that can de-energise you. You do something and it seems to drain you of all your mental strength. I recommend that over time you build up a list of things that actually makes you feel good and which are positive. Recognise them when you are feeling strong and having a good day. Make a list of them. And so when you are down, then do one of these actions. You may not feel that they will do any good, but trust yourself. You wouldn’t have written them down if they didn’t make you feel good. Some of my energising activities…

- Walking barefoot in grass

- Smelling the air after rainfall

- Having a shower

- Smelling a rose

They can be big or small – it’s all about doing things which adds strength to you, rather than taking it away from you.

As to the monkey – you don’t hear of many monkeys in gardens in the UK, so it must be working.

These are some tips for losing the weight that comes with mental health.

It is your choice, to hold onto something, potentially hurting yourself more that what was done or said to you in the first place, or letting it go and having freedom.

 

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