Tag Archives: anxiety

Arthur’s imaginary menagerie

The unschooling diaries: week thirty

We seem to have acquired, over the past week or so, two cats, two dogs, and a fish. Oh, and an Orca whale. They’re very small, and not entirely visible, but to Arthur they are very real indeed.

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The first of these creatures appeared one day as we were settling down for a morning snuggle. Arthur was about to climb into my bed when he proclaimed that he had forgotten his cat. When I asked him to tell me a bit more about it, he said the cat had been on the shelf in my study and he had reached up and taken him down. But he had accidentally left him in the bath.

Curious, and not recalling a cat on my bookshelves, I went downstairs and checked the bathroom. I saw nothing, but Arthur follow me, peered around my legs, and reached in to retrieve his pet.

She came everywhere with us, and there were regularly brief moments of panic when he was worried he had lost her. He introduced her to his friend when we went out for the day, and explained that his cat was brown with purple eyes.

The second cat appeared when we were sat in another friend’s garden. We were chatting about this first pet, and how she had miraculously come into our lives, when Arthur suddenly exclaimed “Oh, there’s another one!”. He had come down from the clouds, apparently, and was brown too – but with yellow eyes.

We were heading off from there straight to a festival, so put both of the cats into Arthur’s rucksack and went on our way.

Over the course of the weekend he acquired two dogs, and a fish has appeared at some point in the past couple of days.

(I think he got that one from Daddy, who invented his own invisible fish to keep Arthur company.)

Daddy has tried to explain too that the wonderful thing about these particular pets is that they are always there, inside your heart, even if you think that you can’t see them. And that’s been important, because since Arthur’s imagination created his animals it seems to have had trouble keeping hold of them. Especially at night, when he has woken crying, afraid that they are lost.

In the light of day they are easier to conjure – he will often point to the place in the room where they are, or tell me that they are licking my feet. At night, though, I wonder whether they point to an underlying anxiety.

He called me into his room as I was writing this, panicked that he couldn’t see his cats and dogs and fish and asking to have the light on. I pondered for a moment, and suggested that they had perhaps gone off exploring, as animals often do.

Arthur seemed happy to accept that they were in his garden, and as he snuggled down beneath his covers added that he had a whale now too. An Orca, apparently, who was sat beside him on the pillow.

Such a wonderful menagerie; such a wonderful imagination.

Never lose that, little one.

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Top tips for taming anxiety with a toddler in tow

The last few weeks have been pretty bonkers. So much so that this week, now that everything has started to calm down just a little bit, I’ve found myself struggling to focus and teetering on the edge of panic at the slightest thing.

It’s a tendency I recognise from periods in my life when I have been overcome by anxiety. Not the anxiety that is borne of a genuinely nerve-wracking situation, but rather the insidious and potentially overwhelming feeling that the world is about to spiral out of control.

It’s frustrating to say the least – there was so much I wanted to get done this week, and sitting here now at the tail end of it there is so much I haven’t achieved. But most of what I wanted to do required focus, a clear head – and those are the things that have been most elusive.

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The difference though this time round is that I’ve recognised my symptoms for what they are – my sometimes fragile mental health crying out for a little attention after a relentless period where I was embroiled in the unknown territory of election campaigning (it worked by the way!), and my core support network of husband and mum have themselves been tied up in finals revision and preparing for my brother’s wedding respectively. But my anxiety hasn’t got the better of me, and I have made every effort to make sensible choices to enable myself to keep going.

Being accompanied by a toddler pretty much every minute of every day has definitely added a different dimension to that process. And not necessarily in a bad way.

It seems pretty apt, with this week being Mental Health Awareness Week, that I share a little of what’s been on my mind. So without further ado, these are my top tips for taming anxiety with a toddler in tow.

1) Catch up on sleep

I reckon this is possibly the most vital, though also the trickiest, part of the plan. I have tried to get to bed a bit earlier this week, though I’ve never really been very good at the discipline that involves (especially as we’re deep in the midst of season five of The Walking Dead).

For me snatching sleep has mostly happened during the day – taking my iPad up to bed so in the morning the toddler can snuggle up with a movie whilst I get a few extra zzzs, and for the first time in ages trying to nap when he naps.

I realise I’m lucky he still does, else I’m not entirely sure how I would have coped…

2) Eat healthily

I’m ordinarily pretty good at keeping a healthy diet going for all of us, but it had certainly started to slip over the last couple of weeks. I couldn’t face the battles that potentially ensued if I moved too far from toast and pasta, and didn’t have the energy to prepare something different for myself so ended up having my diet dictated by a two year old.

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It’s silly, because I know how much good food makes the difference. This week I’ve been upping the fruit and veg, cutting down on carbs, (mostly) remembering to take my supplements – and feeling all the better for it.

3) Get some exercise

There’s been an awful lot of walking involved in the election campaign, but that was accompanied by a sense of drudgery in the later stages. This week I’ve, albeit tentatively, started reintegrating yoga and hula-hooping into my routine. With that and the Friday trampolining sessions that I’ve just about managed to keep ticking over I’ve started to feel the spring returning to my step.

4) Get outside

I have a real tendency when I’m feeling overwhelmed to go into hibernation mode – even opening the doors to the garden can feel like too much at times. But having a little person around who would ideally spent every waking moment outside definitely comes in handy.

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We’ve had lunch outside a couple of times this week, and spent time just lounging around and looking up at the sky. The sunshine has helped – but actually the fresh air simply works wonders whatever the weather.

5) Tidy up!

Now this is something I’m rubbish at, and I still have a long way to go, but it is amazing how getting rid of the mess and the clutter makes the world seem so much more manageable!

I had a bit of a manic afternoon on Wednesday getting the kitchen ship shape as yesterday morning we were visited by a reporter from our local BBC News to interview me in relation to the local elections. It felt a little bit like torture at the time, but the kitchen is now definitely my happy place, a little oasis of calm amongst the widespread detritus which has come from just not having a second to get things under control (at least not without the toddler wreaking his own brand of havoc).

6) Tick some things off your to-do list

Now I have to admit first of all that the ever-increasing list of things I have to do is still residing mainly in my head. I know this isn’t helpful. My poor diary, that gave me such satisfaction when I first filled it in back in January, hasn’t had a look in for weeks.

I’ll work on that…

But in the meantime I have been having stern words with myself about just getting things done rather than ruminating over how much I need to do them. Writing blog posts, for example. Or emails. Or paying bills. All sorts of little bits and pieces that have literally felt like a weight off my mind once I’ve actually achieved them.

(It still took me until this evening to get round to writing this post. I never said I was perfect.)

7) Be kind to yourself

This is another biggie, and is one that is challenging to put into practise when your head is full of noise. But in order not to be consumed by it, it is vital to work on your internal dialogue.

I say dialogue, because at times like this there are two voices in my head rather than just the one. There’s one that seems determined to pull me down – with comparisons, with regrets, with paranoia. And there’s another, the one that needs to fight to get heard, that is trying its utmost to focus on the positive – to remember that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, it’s ok to slow down, it’s ok not to achieve everything I wanted to, because actually, on balance, I’m doing a pretty awesome job of this whole life business.

8) Make the most of all the cuddles

This is where the toddler truly comes into his own, where having an extra little shadow really does become a blessing rather than just another cause of messiness and having too much to juggle.

I don’t know about yours, but my little person absolutely loves to snuggle up. Not all the time, but certainly more than I normally slow down to give him credit for. And this week I have been making the most of all of that physical contact filled with warmth and love – whether it’s lingering in bed a little longer in the mornings, cosying down together to watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the umpteenth time, or seeing off an approaching tantrum by whipping him up into the sling.

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There have been many times when I have been the centre of calm for my child, but it is a wonderful realisation that he can return that favour too.

 

My word of the week this week is anxiety.

The Reading Residence

Also linking up with this week’s prompt of calm. I’m getting there!

mumturnedmom
Mums' Days

An occupational hazard?

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So the edit’s progressing pretty well, which is good. I’m falling into a fairly productive rhythm, and whilst it’s not so easy to hold on to my clarity of thought now that I’m swimming in the words again I think things are heading in the right direction.

I’m definitely feeling like I’m getting deeper into my protagonist’s head, understanding more clearly why she’s acting the way she is (and actually sharing that with the reader rather than hoping they’ll work it out for themselves). I’m feeling the presence of my antagonist more keenly too, though he hasn’t explicitly made an appearance yet. And this is where the slight downside of all this comes in.

Having spent a week immersing myself in some incredibly tense and creepy thrillers, and now trying to layer that growing sense of dread into my own writing, I’m finding my relationship with the real world has gone a little bit off-kilter… I’m seeing things out of the corner of my eye, hearing noises that I’m pretty sure aren’t actually there, and at times feeling almost as on edge as poor Grace herself.

There was a particularly ridiculous night last week when Leigh was away in Exeter. I’d managed to get Arthur down to sleep reasonably early, and had stayed up a bit too late watching unnecessary TV. By the time I finally headed to bed, with revision ideas for the novel still whirring around my mind, I was overtired and a little too open to suggestion. It had just gone midnight, and Leigh’s bedside light was on when I got to our room. I’m still not entirely sure why (it hadn’t been when I’d gone upstairs earlier I swear), and at that moment in time I convinced myself it was because there was someone in the house. Heart racing, I cautiously checked the top floor was clear. I then crept downstairs and got Arthur from his room, waking him up in the process, and took him up with me to hide under the duvet. There was nothing rational about all this – and I knew that at the time, though it didn’t stop the creeping terror. I’m just glad I stopped short of calling Leigh and insisting he came home before I finally fell asleep!

It hasn’t got quite that bad since, but I’ve still been pretty jumpy. I’ve been prone to anxiety in the past, and it seems that letting my imagination wander into the recesses of a psychopath’s mind might just have awakened that… And I’m still only a few chapters in, so who knows what’s going to happen when things really start hotting up.

Ho hum… An occupational hazard I guess. Anyone else find their imaginary worlds seeping into reality, or is that just me?

 

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