Tag Archives: exercise

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

Coming up for air

I’ve been increasingly single-minded over the past few weeks. At the beginning of January, I started work on the third draft of my second novel. This was a pretty intimidating prospect – with every new draft the stakes get higher – and I struggled at first to pick up momentum. But as I got deeper and deeper back into it, helped by some great feedback and a couple of lightbulb moments, I became increasingly confident in my ability to make the changes I needed to. And as I got closer and closer to the end, working on the edit was pretty much all I wanted to do.

And then, this Tuesday, I submitted it to my agent. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders – now all I have to do is wait and see what she thinks!

Well, I say all I have to do. My single-mindedness has definitely impacted on everything else: my blogging activity has slowed to a trickle, the laundry has piled up, and all my good intentions to do more exercise have come to not very much at all. I have also not been giving Arthur quite as much attention as perhaps I should have been. I mean, I’ve been here. Physically. But my mind has not been entirely present…

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So that was my main aim this week – to begin to re-enter the real world and enjoy hanging out with my awesome son. We’ve spent lots of time at the beach, hanging out with friends and just throwing stones.

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I finally put together the rebounder that’s been cluttering up Leigh’s study and is a key part of my ‘get fit for summer’ exercise plan. That was foiled slightly by Arthur’s insatiable appetite for bouncing… But I’ve had lots of fun getting reacquainted with my hula hoop whilst watching him bounce up and down.

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He’s been asking after yoga lots too, so getting back into that is my next goal – we were doing so well with our morning yoga sessions but those too have suffered in the quest to get this novel finished (again).

My brain is still feeling a bit fuzzy after all its hard work, but fresh air and exercise are definitely helping. I have a growing list of ideas for blog posts, and hopefully soon I’ll find the time to actually write them!

There’s nothing quite like the buzz of adrenalin and sense of achievement that comes from bringing a major project to a close. But there’s something pretty special about the peace and space to breathe that comes in its wake as well – and that’s what I have been enjoying most of all about this week.

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My word of the week this week is breathe.

The Reading Residence

Reclaiming my body

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When we set off on holiday this Easter I had two main objectives: to relax and unwind after a hectic few months, and to spend some quality time with my little family. I think we achieved these rather well, but there was something else that happened that I hadn’t really been expecting or even realised I needed: over the week we were away, I gradually began to feel like my body was mine again – something I haven’t really been able to say since before I fell pregnant.

Since puberty, and in common with many other women I know, I’ve had a bit of a tricky relationship with my body. I struggled with anorexia as a teenager, and put myself through the mill with rather too much partying in the years that followed. Through my twenties I was plagued by an underlying paranoia about being frumpy and overweight, though looking at pictures of my younger self now I realise this was completely misplaced. My body was simply the physical manifestation of my self-esteem: the less happy I was, the more I hated what I saw in the mirror.

Through all of this I never stopped exercising – sometimes healthily, sometimes to excess. Having loved gymnastics as a kid I became obsessed with trampolining when I discovered my local club aged fourteen. It was that, actually, that stopped my anorexia being more damaging than it was: my coach declared one day that I was not allowed to come to training if I lost any more weight, and slowly but surely I began to find a balance. I kept the trampolining up through my late teens and twenties, funding my way through university by coaching at local sports centres. I also rediscovered gymnastics with tumbling classes at a circus school in East London, and loved going to yoga whenever I could slow down enough to fit it in. I also started going to the gym from time to time, though I’ve never had much patience with exercise just for the sake of it.

In the lead up to my wedding though I worked out a lot, made suddenly nervous by the idea of all those photographs. When we got married in the summer of 2011 I was probably in the best shape of my life. I was happy, and felt comfortable in my skin for the first time in many years.

Then when we decided to start trying for a baby the following spring my focus changed. I was terrified that the abuse I’d subjected my body to when I was younger would mean that I wouldn’t be able to have children, and focused everything on creating a nutrient rich environment to nurture a new life. It worked, and I fell pregnant more quickly than either of us had imagined, but that was just the beginning. I was scared all the way through that something would go wrong, stayed away from vigorous exercise and let myself gain probably a bit too much weight. I really wasn’t thinking about that though – I was following my instincts and doing what I felt would be best for our baby. The one thing I am really glad I stuck to was a pregnancy pilates class. That was never really about keeping in shape, but it did help keep me grounded as my body changed beyond recognition.

After Arthur was born, I was amazed at what my body had created and couldn’t begrudge it a single ounce of the extra weight it had acquired along the way. None of that mattered any more: my body had gone from being an awkward shell housing pent-up insecurities to a powerhouse that had grown a brand new person and delivered it into the world. And all that was important to me in the early days was to help that little person thrive: to work through the challenges we faced in establishing breastfeeding and keep myself strong and focused enough to be his mum.

Those days turned into months, and though I’ve shed a little weight along the way through breastfeeding and kept my core strong through babywearing my body is a long way from where it used to be. It’s not that I want my old body back – and I certainly wouldn’t want the angst and neuroses that went with it. But something has been niggling at me about wanting to reclaim a little of my body for myself, and that’s what happened on this holiday.

Between us, Leigh and I gave each other some time over the week to focus on ourselves. Just an hour or so a day, but even that felt pretty incredible after being on duty pretty much permanently for the past sixteen months. I did yoga and pilates classes, swam some lengths in the pool, went for a run. I even got to lie in the sun for a while, the warmth of its rays caressing my skin. And possibly best of all I enjoyed some proper swimming in the sea, back and forth along the bay as Leigh and Arthur played in the sand, feeling my breath quicken and my muscles tighten as my body slowly became my own again.

I’m not expecting to have it back entirely: I am still very much committed to breastfeeding Arthur – for how much longer I’m not sure any more. I still enjoy co-sleeping with him, even though it means I can never entirely relax and often wake up feeling achy and stiff. And I still intend to wear him in the sling for a while yet, which lovely as it is does restrict my movements rather more than I would like. But alongside all this I’m going to make an effort to get to know my body again, to give it the attention it deserves after everything it’s been through.

There’s a trampolining class I’ve been going to at the place Arthur does his baby gym, but I’m often too exhausted to give it my all. I’m going to try to rectify that, to make the most of the opportunity to do something physical that I love. I have a hula-hoop that was one of the main tools in my arsenal for getting fit for my wedding, and I’m going to try to pick that up again whenever I can – even just for ten minutes at a time. And I’m also going to try my best to fit in some of the other things I enjoy – swimming, yoga, running – and let Arthur and his Dad spend some time together, which I know they’ll love.

This holiday didn’t immediately transform my body, but it reminded me that it is mine, that it is strong and flexible and that I shouldn’t take those things for granted. I am looking forward to building on that over the weeks and months to come: to continuing to be a mother, but also remembering to be me as well.

Thank you to Sara at ‘Mum Turned Mom’ for inspiring this post with her prompt ‘In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius!’ (Mehmet Murat ildan).

mumturnedmom

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