2 Spuds in a Pod

Looking after your mental and physical wellbeing.

Category: Mental health (page 1 of 6)

How to deal with toxic managers

The vote

The vote this week was how to deal with toxic managers or how to deal with toxic friends. With 71% of the vote this week’s blog is on:
How to deal with toxic managers.
I’ll say now that I have a lot to say on this subject so the blog is a long one. I would advise grabbing a cup of tea, a biscuit (or fruit) and then settle down to read.

Experience

We have all had those managers whose works ambition is to make our lives a living hell. They can make us dread going into work, shout at us for being 5 minutes late (even if it was the trains fault), send our reports back covered in red pen as that is not the way they wanted it and are generally just a pain in the butt! I have had several of these managers during my work career to date and I am pretty sure that I will have some more to come.

Quick side note

I will point out at this point that I am now technically my own boss again. In December I went back to being self-employed/freelance after I was made redundant. I tend to be very nice to myself, but this isn’t my point. I have a wealth of knowledge and experience of the toxic kind as well unfortunately.

Back then

Back when I was dealing with these types of managers, I was a very different person to who I am today. The old me was quiet, didn’t speak up for herself, bottled situations up to boiling point and generally didn’t know how to deal with a toxic situation. Today I pick my battles wisely and have been known to stand up for the wrongs and say to people “no”.

Good managers vs bad managers

A very good manager I had once upon a time told me this.  Watch people in power. Watch how they interact with other members of staff, watch how they interact with suppliers, watch how they interact with clients and so on.  I asked why. They told me you can learn a lot from a manager or a person in power. You can learn how to do things and most importantly how not to do them. This particular manager has it spot on. Every person who I have worked with I have watched. Some techniques I will use but a lot of techniques I probably won’t. Now call me old fashioned but I am all about the people at the end of the day and that little word Respect!

Respect

A tiny 7 letter word but the power behind it can be immense. However, some managers in power tend to forget about it. My theory is simple. You respect me as an employee and I will respect you as a manager. Now if you start shouting at me, throwing reports on my desk and belittling me in front of my colleagues then that respect is lost. With respect you can build a team, a successful international company and have gold in the bank.

The boxing ring

As much as I would love to get a toxic manager into a boxing ring for a “chat” it obviously is not the correct way forward. It may also lead to me to having a chat with the “Police” and that is something I really don’t want to do. However, there are ways to look after yourself without the need of a boxing ring. The three most important ones being, talk to someone about it, have a stress outlet (gym, walk) and as 2 Spuds keeps saying have some “me time” away from the badness.

My experience

I have been in a few work situations where I have been turfed out for one reason or another. Let me be very clear here that this is all about bullying and me being on the receiving end of it. It is not to do with me being fired. The manager in question didn’t like that I stood up for being shouted at in the middle of the office.  Plain and simple.

Manager 1

Now this was after months of them shouting at me, them throwing paperwork down on my desk, them making me stay for hours at the end of the work day while they wined and dined clients in the pub across the road and so on. It was easier for them to let the “trouble maker” go rather than face up to the truth. I was called into the office one morning and was given a mutual resignation and that was that. End of employment. Now since this incident several people have said I could have taken them to tribunal. It was handled horrifically and caused me endless problems with gaining different employment. It is also about 10 years ago now and I have grown up from it.

If I met said manager today

I am sure it would make an interesting afternoon and I would love to know why they bullied me and what terror they are causing today. However, I am also a lot stronger. Both mentally and physically than I was so they do not scare me anymore. I have moved on from it so unless they are offering to apologise some ten years later then I am not interested.

My other managers

As I say I have had many managers being bad. I’ve had to liaise with a lawyer with regards to a bad manager. I have been paid to leave a company due to another bad manager too. Also, I once worked at a company where one of the manager told me that if I didn’t like the way they managed then I knew where the door was. Wow! This is what they thought management was. Let’s just say I sourced a new job and moved on rather quickly after that. 

It still happens today

The above still happens today and unfortunately seems to be happening more and more often. I think managers and people in power sometimes forget that we as employees are human beings and we have feelings, lives, rent to pay and so on. We are more often than not these days treated as a number and have the threat hanging over our head of you can be replaced within seconds.

Managers out of their depths

I have to admit I think a lot of people these days end up in management positions where they are out of their depth. They have no clue on how to manage a group of people while hitting company targets and objectives. That is my personal opinion.

The dinner table high fives!

I mean do these (bad) managers at the end of the day sit around the dinner table with their family and go “woohoo I had a great day today. I made Diane cry, I sacked Tony after 10 years of service and I am a brilliant person”. High five! Hm! May be not. Now I understand sometimes you have to be mean and harsh to get to the top of somewhere but are we not taking it a bit far these days?! The other thing to point out is it is not too late to change from a bad manager to a good one. It will take time and hard work but if you want it then you can do it.

Imagine people like children

This has taken me years to perfect but it works like a charm now. If there is one thing that you take from this blog it’s this:
Imagine people (managers) like children!
That sentence sounds a bit weird doesn’t it? Stay with me though as I try to explain. This all started about halfway through my counselling when I started to see the difference between people. The difference between people who were my friends and who were there to help me be a better person and those people who didn’t.  

Functional Movement Disorder

I have two options with my functional movement disorder. One is to let people get to me, stress me out, give me lip or argue with me. Now if people do that I tend to start trembling then shaking and depending on the severity of the situation I can start shaking from head to toe. I am aware that it could happen anywhere and at any point during a stressful situation. Therefore, I tend to go with option 2 now. That option allows me to be in more control of a situation, so I do not start shaking. This option is what I use today. I take a different road and try to not let people get to me. Now sometimes this is easier said than done but that is life.  

Control

Imagine selfish people like children who have trouble sharing toys. Let me try and make this clearer. Take a manager who has summoned you to their office to have a “chat”. You go in and take a seat while they sit behind a big desk. They may ask how you are today (often not) then the flood gates open. They are shouting at you, using bad language, gesturing, insulting you or getting up to stand beside you so they can make sure you definitely hear their point. Now if this is to happen, they have lost two fundamental points. Control and respect! (as a side note, you deserve both of them in control and respect).  

Let me break it down

Now as soon as they have raised their voice, they have lost control of the situation. If they use bad language, they have lost even more control. And finally (and this is the big one) if they come around to your side of the desk, they have lost control completely and are invading your personal space. It isn’t nice to be insulted by another person but in today’s society, it happens and unfortunately it happens more often than not. If this is to happen in a situation then that reflects more on them as a person than you. Remember that!

Imagine people like children explained

Now that I have painted the picture lets look at this a different way. As I have said it is the way I look at people in these situations today. Imagine them as a child who has just had their favourite toy taken from them for whatever reason it may be. What does the child do? They may start crying, they may tug at the toy to claim it back, they may start shouting, they may start stamping their feet and flailing their arms, it could end in an almighty tantrum. Now what has the child achieved at the tantrum stage? Their toy? Usually not. Now imagine a manager doing that. The shouting, the bad language, the gesturing, the insulting and the moving around the desk is a tantrum. It’s nothing more.  A tantrum! Plain and simply, they are having a tantrum!

Laugh it off!

I have had to deal with situations like this on more than one occasion. I laugh it off now. As soon as you start doing the above to me, I feel you have lost control. I will either tell you to calm down and talk to me like an adult or I will quietly walk away. I fight the fights which I know I have something to say in and for those fights where I don’t, I walk away. 

Walking away from a fight

Walking a way from a fight may be the right or the wrong thing to do, only you can decide that as a person. This also goes for walking away from a bad job to a better one. I go with the principle that if I feel passionate enough to do something, I will think about it for a few days then act on that. If I am not going to gain anything from the fight and you have shown me, your true colours then I will walk away. Why waste my valuable time and resources being sucked up in a situation where I can see the person has no idea on what they are doing. I like to live by the motto that they will get their comeuppance someday. I may not be around to see it, but it helps make me feel better. 

Around in circles

If you are going around and around with a fight and neither of you can see the end, then you can do a few things. One is to seek help either with someone in human resources or a well-chosen friend (someone mutual to both sides). The other is to walk away completely, re-group and then come back again and see if there can be some resolution. We unfortunately live these days where we have the “it wasn’t my fault”, “why do I have to do it”, “blame someone else” and so on culture.

That rare gem

I’m not saying that every manager is bad, occasionally there is that rare gem. That gem who gives you the time of day, the respect that you deserve and service with a smile. It is unfortunately a bit of a rarity these days, but it does exist. If you come across it hold on to it with all the power you have, these are the good guys. 

Talk to someone

I urge anyone who has read this and is now thinking, ” that is me” to talk to someone. Talk to a colleague, friend or family member. Also, check your employee handbook as there should be rules in there about bullying. There may even be a secure/private phone number to talk to someone who can advise you. I would also try your human resources department. At the end of the day they are there to help you. 2 Spuds is also around to talk about it too.

Outlets

It is important to stay safe in these circumstances. Talking to someone is key but so is eating well, exercising to let the bad stresses out, sleeping well so you are prepared for the next round of bother and so on. Look after yourself. If you need to have a day off to re-group then do it. When all this was happening to me I was stressed, worried, anxious and didn’t have the proper outlets to help me. Once the resources were in place I got on a lot better. I also over the couple of years I worked with the counsellor learnt to stand up for myself. This is hard to do but is a valuable resource once you have learnt it. In the meantime try and use deep breathing and the count to 10 approach if you need it. 2 Spuds is more than happy to chat to you one-to-one about how to stand up for yourself.

Take care

I know going through toxic managers is tough and can make your life a misery. Try and take on board some of things I have said above. Most importantly look after yourself and take care.

-Helen

Ps. 2 Spuds is having some “me time” down in Southern Scotland this weekend so there will be no blog. Back to normal next Wednesday though.

Stress levels on the increase

As much as I don’t like to say it, my stress levels are on the increase. There are a lot of reasons for this, much of the every day stuff that we all have. Meal planning, food shopping, house cleaning, exercising and so on. Working long days means that there is little time left in the evening to do all the musts and shoulds. I am also finding that I am way more tired in the evenings now which doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to get all the stuff done.

Warning signs

My attention span is shorter and I am finding it more difficult to focus and concentrate on things. I am beginning to feel a little lost. There are so many things I / Helen / we want to do, but so little time. I come home from work in the evening, often having worked late, then it is time for dinner, shower and sleep. Wake up the next day and repeat. This is not sustainable, with very little quality time spent together. We are also in a month where we do not have any days off together, which never helps.

Goals

We have several short and long term goals which we are working towards, a few of them very important. We are making changes in our lives in order to achieve this. Amongst other things, this brings uncertainty, as we are on a journey but currently unsure how to get to the destination. On the other hand, it is also very exciting.

Work

Another stress is work. I find that I have been here before. A change is needed before it gets too bad. I will never allow myself to get into the situation where I was before, as this was not a good place to be. The need to do something else is quite overwhelming, but I am struggling to do something productive about it. I procrasternate, look at what needs doing, make plans but then nothing much happens. Like Helen likes to say, I am great at coming up with good ideas but the following through of them leaves a lot to be desired.

I feel I am making little changes, which is a great place to start. However it feels that things aren’t happening fast enough. But Rome was not built in a day.
For the next week my focus will be on being grateful for everything I have, stop thinking and start doing, and use the word “want” instead of “must” and “should”. This will ease the pressure too.

-Rosita

Just keep walking, just keep walking!

Simple really!

And it really is. 2 Spuds goes on about walking a lot. We talk about it in many blogs as it is as great stress reliever. Walking however, has many other benefits as well. These include:

  • Lose weight
  • Healthy heart and lungs
  • Good muscle workout for the legs (granted after a good few miles it may take a while before your legs talk to you again but this isn’t my point!)
  • Increased energy
  • Low impact

So you see there are benefits to taking a walk.

Why am I going on about it?

Well, picture the scene! In January of this year Rosie and I decided to get the year off to a good start by going for a walk. We had picked to go from Milngavie (pronounced Mul-guy) to Carbeth and return. We got about halfway through and Rosie mentions she has a challenge for us. Now here I am thinking that it will be a week in the Maldives, a deck chair by the pool, a book and a glass of sparkling water. Now that would be a challenge for me to say the least. Me and sitting still have still not ended up in the same sentence. My remark was met with a no!

The conversation

Rosie – “You know people walk the West Highland Way?”
Helen – “Of course, I think it takes between 7 to 10 days depending on your mileage per day”.
Rosie – “You know some people can do it in 4!”
Helen – “Uh-huh!”
Rosie – “I think we should walk the West Highland Way in 4 days, it will be a challenge both physically and mentally but we can do it”.
Helen – “Uh-huh! You say 4 days? As in 1, 2, 3, 4! 4 days? FOUR DAYS!”
Rosie – “Yes!”
Helen – “Forget it, no, nope, never going to happen, I refuse!”
Rosie – “It’ll be fun!”
Helen – You will need to check the dictionary for this “fun” definition! (pause) Can I complain everytime my feet or legs hurt or we are going up the biiiiiiig vertical hills?”
Rosie – “I wouldn’t expect anything less from you!”
Helen – “Ok, I’ll do it.”

Challenge accepted

And there you go. We, in May of this year, are now walking 96 miles over 4 days! That’s roughly a marathon a day! Gulp!

The details

For those of you who may not be familiar with the West Highland Way it is a stretch from Milngavie (just outside Glasgow) to Fort William (further up North in Scotland). It takes in some spectacular scenery, countryside, lochs and steep mountains.

The miles

We have estimated that we will be breaking the route down as follows:
Milngavie to Rowardennan – 26 miles (accommodation in Rowardennan)
Rowardennan to Tyndrum – 26 miles (accommodation in Tyndrum)
Tyndrum to Kingshouse – 19 miles (accommodation in Glencoe as it was all booked up (the season hasn’t even started yet!))
Kingshouse to Fort William – 25 miles (accommodation in Fort William)
We have also decided to get our bags transferred from accommodation to accommodation so we will only be walking with day packs. This saves us carrying a lot of extra weight and also I am not a massive camping fan so no need to carry a tent. I want a bed and a shower at the end of the day. Obviously we will take the train back to Glasgow and are in the process of sweet talking a parental to come and pick us up.

The Kiltwalk

I then decided that I wanted to do the Kiltwalk towards the end of April. It is a 23 mile Glasgow Green to Balloch day walk for charity. Clearly I had had one too many sugary drinks that day and was full of energy when putting that idea together. I also told a friend of mine about it and suddenly I have a walking buddy for the day as well. Between us we will be taking care of the mental and physical side of things. My chosen charity is Marie Curie and hers will be Glasgow Mental Health Association.

Interesting

It’s great to be able to have a walking buddy on the day and even now it is spurring me on to train. I mean I know I have to train to be able to do both the Kiltwalk and West Highland Way but I am a perfectionist. I don’t want to let anyone down so I will go the extra mile (sorry bad pun!) to make sure I am not lazing around in the back. To have to be accountable to someone on both walks is doing wonders to get me ready for it.

The training

I had already started walking back in December as a way to rehab me back to health post surgery but now it has taken on a different spin. I need to increase my miles per week to be able to do this. The rule of thumb is that by the end of the week the miles will add up to the total on the day. Let me explain. Last week I walked the following:
Friday – 4.6 miles
Saturday – 9.1 miles (thankfully before the storm set in)
Sunday – 13.1 miles (courtesy of a treadmill and a Zumba class as the storm was well and truly in Scotland)
The total – 26.8 miles
So this is the Kiltwalk well and truly covered as it is 23 miles however, that is only day 1 of the West Highland Way.

My plan

Other than to walk as much as possible I am just making sure I am looking after any niggles. I have already bought myself another acupuncture pillow which helps loads after a long walk day. I started by doing Tuesday and Friday with short walks then a long one on the Sunday. But now I am walking shorter ones most days and aiming for longer ones on Friday and Saturday and then a massive one on the Sunday. I am trying to have at least one day off too. With a lot in the diary it is tricky at times to keep the days the same but I will get there.

Isolation

The downside with these walks at present it Rosie’s work schedule. Most of the days I am off to train she is at work. A lot of my walking training has been on my own which I am not thrilled about but I can’t dwell on that too much. I pick places which interest me or I have never been to before so it keeps the mind busy. So far I have been to Queen Elizabeth Forest Park (near Aberfoyle), Chatelherault Country Park (near Hamilton), Strathclyde Park (near Motherwell), Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel, Auchinstarry Canal Path and the Roman Fort and Callendar Park (in Falkirk). I am aiming for more Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Chatelherault Country Park as well as Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, New Lanark, Linlithgow and anywhere else that takes my fancy. In a few weeks time I am also going down to do some of the Northumberland Coastal Path too. Of course the treadmill and Zumba classes are in there too as you never know about the Scottish weather.

There you have it

So there you have it. The next few months will see me walking, walking and then walking some more (luckily I have a good pair of boots!). I am hoping for some more weight loss as at present it has stalled which it making me very frustrated. But here is the thing. Walking is a stress reliever. So what better way can I let off some pent up frustrations than by walking.

-Helen

Frustration

It has been one of those weeks where a lot has been less than smooth. I feel stronger in myself so that I try not to let it get to me, but at the same time it does play on my mind. A lot.

Being shouted at

I had one of them days at work, which ended up in me being late for one of my jobs. This meant I was met by a very irate and upset customer (perfectly understandable given the circumstances) but ultimately not my fault. I listened, apologised on behalf of the company then got on with it. By the end of it they had calmed down and were really appreciative of the great job I had done.
This is a difficult position to be in and something I struggle with. At what point do you draw the line when you are being shouted at? I possibly let it go that little too far for two reasons: I find it hard to put my foot down and say stop. This ties in with an ongoing counselling topic of not being able to stand up for myself out of fear of upsetting the other person, or bringing on something worse.

The other reason is because I am used to it from the work I used to do. I have been in a lot of positions others would find intimidating a lot sooner than I do. But that comment in itself “I am used to it” does not make it right. At the same time I have such a strong sense of duty towards my job that I can’t possibly upset anyone by saying no or turning around and walking out. That is why this is an ongoing counselling session topic!

Doing a good days work is not enough

Having had a rubbish day, the day after went really well. I got a lot of work done and I managed to sell a product too. This is part of what I have to do every day and a bit of struggle as I am not a sales person and not what I signed up to do. I am working on changing this view as I know it is something I need to do. Stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary to grow and progress, so I am working on this every day.

In the standard set by management what I had done that day is what was expected of me. Then being told when informing them I was done for the day that it still was not good enough, well that is really frustrated. I felt really good in myself, I know I met the targets but still not enough. Again, I do not feel I can speak up about it so I just agree.

Weight loss

How difficult can it be?! We are both frustrated and angry, and had a heated discussion the other night about it. That in itself shows how stressful this is, as we very rarely argue. Everything we do in the week, and a lot of the conversations we have is about food. It has taken over and it is extra, unnecessary stress.
The outcome though is that we are going to see a nutritionist next week for advice. I feel as if nothing is working, so it is now over to the professionals to help us moving forward. It has to be sustainable with the amount of exercise and activities we do on a daily basis. I do feel as if I know nothing about food at present. Having this appointment means we can now relax a little.

What frustrates you? How do you deal with it? I mainly let it play on my mind until it goes away. Possibly not the greatest way to deal with it, I know. I also find having a rant about it with anyone who is willing to listen helps me a lot. Bottling it up is not a great way to deal with it. So let it out! Get rid of the frustration in a way that works for you, be it a walk or punching the boxing bag in the gym.

-Rosita

Relapse

It was bound to happen. Luckily it was only a small one in comparison to how it used to be. And it is ok too, it serves as a useful reminder that this is a journey and something to constantly work on.

The counselling session did it!

I find the counselling session extremely useful. I can’t put my finger on exactly how it helps, but overall there is a shift in perspective as I have mentioned before. I (we) talk about all sorts of stuff. I feel very comfortable talking, I certainly feel that I am not judged in any way, and often it is pointed out that the mountains I make in my head are more like the tiniest hill.

During the last session we talked about a recurring theme, which I will not discuss here. I do not feel comfortable bringing it up here, and the subject itself really does not matter in this context. As I was driving home afterwards my thoughts were racing, and I felt as if my whole identity and idea of self had been questioned. I felt very lost. Soon enough tears were starting to roll down my face, and this is never good when you are driving on the motor way. I came home and was able to relax a little, and felt a bit better.

Unsettled

When Helen came home later in the evening I told her about how I felt and what I was thinking, and again the tears started flowing. She gave me lots of hugs and just let me cry, which is what I need when this happens. For the rest of the evening I felt very unsettled, and not able to put this away. In fact, this feeling lasted a couple of days, and I’m happy to say that it now no longer bothers me.

It is ok not to feel ok

What I want to say with this is that it really is ok not to feel ok all the time. Things happen unexpectedly and we just need to deal with it. If what you need is a good cry then that is what you have to do. There is no shame in crying, in fact it helps to relieve the pressure. I had a couple of unsettled days and did not sleep great for a couple of nights, but that is ok too. Like I said before, it is a reminder that we are on a journey, with highs and lows. Life is not a constant, flat line. How boring would that be!

Support

I am very glad to have all the support that I do, and the counselling is unexpectedly useful. If you are offered any therapies, then go for it. Try different approaches and work out what is best for you. My CBT sessions are now finished and they were also really useful. This is after I quit half way through my first sessions a couple of years ago as it was awful. I put that down to a very poor and disinterested therapist which did not inspire me to complete the sessions. I am so glad I tried again. Never say never again.

-Rosita

How exercise helps you recover both mentally and physically

The votes are in

Last week’s vote had two different options and they were:

How exercise helps you recover both mentally and physically
Or
Why do we need an exercise routine?

With 76% of the vote the winner is “How exercise helps you recover both mentally and physically”. In this blog 2 Spuds will try and answer this question as best we can.

The science

Always a good place to start. I mean you can put into that multi coloured search engine questions like:

“How can exercise help me physically?”
“Does exercise help me through a mental crisis?”
“What are the top ten benefits of exercise on the body?”

And that multi coloured search engine will oblige and give you many different answers. This is true: there are many different benefits to exercise helping you both mentally and physically. So lets look at the evidence.

It can help you feel happier

Exercise can be an outlet for people suffering from all sorts of mental and physical conditions. Add a personal trainer into the equation then you can have a talking therapy as well. Although we are not technically trained in talking therapies it is amazing what we get told when you are working out.

The treadmill

It will not be the first time I have put someone on a treadmill and asked them to do a fast walk on an incline while we discuss whatever is bothering them. They sweat, talk, laugh, work harder and the outcome after 15 minutes is that they feel better.

Boxing

Similarly with boxing it has not been the first time I have handed someone a pair of boxing gloves and taken them to the boxing bags. Said person will then hit the bags, and at some point tell me what is happening (sometimes they don’t, but this isn’t my point). The long and short of this is I have provided an outlet for the stress, the anxiety or the depression. Instead of bottling up the emotions they have let them out.

Endorphins

Endorphins are released when we exercise, and these are responsible for producing positive feelings. They can also help reduce the perception of pain. So, in short, exercise! Get those endorphins flowing and feel happy. The other side of this is exercise it can give you more energy.

Bones and muscles

Now here is the crunch point. After a broken bone you are usually encouraged to have some sort of physiotherapy. In a broken bone the bone is obviously affected but also the muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding the area. Now you may never have full strength back in the bone, but you can rehab the muscles, tendons and ligaments to help stabilise the bone and help it recover. With any kind of osteoporosis, arthritis, join replacement and so on you can work on the area surrounding the joint to make it stronger and therefore stabilise it. With the stabilisation a person can feel a lot better and could have less pain.

Exercise can reduce your risk of injury or illness

The body likes to be moving, it likes to eat a healthy diet and it also likes drinking its fair share of water too. Today a lot of people lead a sedentary lifestyle with a questionable diet. A sedentary lifestyle can lead us to lower back issues, diabetes type 2, higher blood pressure readings or cholesterol, obesity, heart disease or ultimately death. If we can exercise and eat a healthy diet, we significantly reduce our chances of getting any of the above conditions.
For some fun facts and figures of what I have just said please visit the NHS website.

Cancer prehab

Carrying on from above it was reported in the BBC only recently that the NHS England are to start offering cancer patients “prehab” exercise to help boost their recovery. It is hoped that by doing exercise before starting a chemotherapy treatment or before major surgery they will recover a lot faster and reduce their hospital stays.

Sleep

To aid in our recovery from either a mental or physical condition we need sleep. Sleep helps our bodies heal, it gives us more energy, it can help us keep our lives in a routine, it can stop you reaching for that chocolate bar as well. It is important we listen to our bodies when they need sleep. There is no point fighting it. I find when your body needs sleep it is busy making you feel better.

A side note

It is extremely important that we have the right sleep aids as well. What I mean is no bright lights in the bedroom. In short, no laptops, tablets, tv or phones. We need to have the correct temperature as well as the correct noise levels. It can even go as far as your nutrition. If you have coffee straight before bed your body will be feeding off the caffeine so it will be over ready for action rather than ready for sleep.

Post-surgery

You will notice if you have ever been in hospital that physiotherapists (physios) will be at your bedside almost as soon as you have been brought back from theatre.

December

When I was in hospital in December one of the ladies across from me had a physio at her bedside within a few hours of surgery. The aim was to get her moving as soon as possible. Funnily enough she was in the discharge queue after me and that was after a three day stay. From what I could gather she had had a hysterectomy. With me I was back on the ward within an hour of surgery. When the nurse came a couple of hours later to do the post-op checks I asked if I could get up. The nurse said I had just had major surgery so was to stay put. I said no. I wanted my pj’s on, catheter out and wanted to move around. She said I was going to be trouble but obliged by helping me out. Now I was nowhere near walking around but shuffling I could muster. I slept for a couple more hours after that and then was up and that was that. I knew that the quicker I could move around the quicker I would get home and the quicker I would recover. Let’s just say I was allowed home just over the 12 hour mark post-surgery.

An important side note

If for any reason you are reading this blog in a hospital bed then please check with you nurse, doctor or physio before jumping up.

Mental health

Exercise is good for your mental health. It can be an outlet for you as well as someone to talk to as I have already mentioned. However, what it can also do is get you back into a routine, make you accountable for turning up to the gym for a session, get you socially active and much, much more. It can also stop negative thoughts too and give you some breathing space to think.

My mental health

I know with my mental health that I am a very active person. I also know that telling me to sit still and look at the walls is not going to go down too well. I need to be active even if it is shuffling around a hospital ward.

Exercise

Here’s the thing, this blog is not telling you that you must go to your nearest gym and sign up for a membership now if not sooner. Exercise can come in many different forms. The one thing I would stress is that it must be right for you (and your condition) and fun. If it isn’t fun then you will struggle to do it, simple! Exercise can mean a walk around the block, a class at the local gym, swimming, dancing, Yoga or some gentle exercise at home. If you are in any doubt about what kind of exercise to start with then ask. There are physiotherapists, personal trainers who specialise in rehab and mental health or your GP that can advise you in what is good and not so good to do.

Conclusion

With everything I have just said hopefully it has answered any questions you may have about how exercise helps you recover both mentally and physically. However, if you have any specific questions related to your condition(s) then please just contact 2 Spuds and we will see how we can help you.

-Helen

Make plans and put dates in your diaries for fun days!

It is so easy to become wrapped up in everyday ongoings and we often forget to make plans. I find that having a date in the diary for a trip, a walk, a day on the beach or coffee with a friend is a really good thing to have.

No plans

I went through a period when the only things I made plans for was….. well seeing the GP. Nothing else. When this is all you have to look forward to then this itself can make you depressed. This also shows the disinterest I felt at the time, with regards to pretty much everything. I got stuck in a negative spiral of not doing anything fun, not making any plans and not having anything fun to look forward too. This really did not help my mental health, and if anything it also added to the depression. I felt as if I was floating through my days in a vacuum. To be fair, this was at my lowest time, when I did not function.

Lots of plans (but not too much at this point)

The diary now looks a lot different, with fun things to do. This includes a short trip and also a challenge in a few months. What I like about having this in the diary is that I feel a lot more productive, procrastinate less, and also feel energised. My days are now filled up with a lot of things to do, several projects on the go and a lot to get sorted and organised for the upcoming trips. This helps on a mental level, as I get to work on being organised under some pressure. Just the thought of stressing has freaked me out for a long time now, but this is slowly starting to change. I feel that I can stress a little, and that I do function well doing so. By stress I mean the kind which is low-level and short term, not the constant high level stress which in the end broke me.

Energised and happy

There are quite a few preparations we need to undertake to get these trips on the way. We need to be both mentally and physically fit and prepared. Mentally I am getting there. I feel stronger now than ever, and I will continue to work on my mental health for the rest of my life. As it is partly a physical challenge, we need to plan our exercise regime for the week, and fit this in with all other plans. I do find though that having all these plans and fun things to look forward to makes me happy and energised. There is a goal to achieve! Exciting times.

What I want to say is this: make plans for your days, weeks or a weekend later on in the year. They can be small things, but anything that puts a little smile on your face when you look at it is fantastic.

-Rosita

A quiet kind of calm

IVF Update

Rosie and I went to the yet another specialist with regards to our IVF journey. This time it was in the private sector. We had decided we would try all avenues so it made sense for us to try this too. I admit that you pay for what you get. We got a doctor who knew what he was talking about which is always a good start. Rosie and I could ask any questions to him even if they did seem silly. He was patient and spent time with us. A big thing for us was he acknowledged Rosie as much as a potential parent as I would be. We felt when we visited the NHS doctor they didn’t really see us as a “proper couple and potential parents”.

The bad and the good news

However, with all the facts our doctor also gave us some good news and then bad news. The good news if that I have a lot of eggs in the ovaries. The bad is that the quality of them with Endometriosis is not good. The figures he had were even less appealing. With an IUI procedure there is an 8% chance of it resulting in a pregnancy. Apparently even less if it was to be done naturally with a man (luckily this option is a definite no go but always good to know all the facts and it made Rosie and I laugh!!!). With IVF there is a 50% chance. If you haven’t guessed already it looks like we are heading straight to the IVF route.

Natural

This is the question. Rosie and I had wanted to try the IUI procedure as it is a lot less invasive than IVF. With IUI (intrauterine insemination) the washed and concentrated sperm is put straight into the womb around the time of the egg release from the ovary. As I like to say it sends the swimmers in and hopes for the best.

Or not so natural

With IVF (in vitro fertilisation) it is an entirely different procedure and unfortunately one that is invasive with many different steps. With IVF you need to stimulate the ovaries, retrieve the eggs, add the sperm, wait for fertilisation and an embryo to develop before putting everything back into the womb and finally having a blood test to see if it a positive transaction. Again in my words, more hurdles, hoops, obstacles, lots of prodding and poking and then hoping for the best.

Endometriosis

One interesting point the private doctor mentioned was about Endometriosis Grading. Grading? We didn’t know it had a grade! From what we had told the doctor he suspects my grade to be at least a 2 if not a 3 out of 4. In other words, not good news while trying to get pregnant. It is still worth trying IVF which is positive. Also on the plus side, when the egg retrieval specialists go in to look for eggs they will be able to determine the good and bad. With the good eggs there is a chance these can be kept and frozen for the next round. Again some good news but we will not know anything further until we get there.

Where does that leave us?

So, where does that leave us? It is a good question. Yes, we could go down the private route. Rosie and I feel we would both be looked after from the start too. However, if you rack up the costs for one round of IVF privately you are looking at re-mortgaging the house or robbing a bank. And that is for one round only. One! Not quite the options we were looking for.

The short answer

The short answer is I have to keep working to get my BMI number down so we can go on to the wait list with the NHS. That is it. Keep working, jumping over hurdles, trying to avoid the obstacles, going through the hoops which I am sure make sense somewhere and most of all keep hoping. In that recent film about being “frozen” with a “singing snowman” the song lyrics states “this will all make sense when I am older”. You can’t argue with a singing snowman either!

Personally

As a partnership we are incredibly strong but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t taking its toll on Rosie and me. We try not to let it put us down but when you are trying to achieve a dream you take it a lot more personally. I get frustrated that it is not a straight forward system and hard work is not being noticed. Rosie is constantly asking what she can do to make it easier (there’s not much unfortunately). As I have said before it feels like we are being punished for living our lives in a different way. We get angry, upset, tired, confused, anxious and the list could go on.

We will not give in!

Finally we try to find answers and ask questions which will one day lead us to the front of the IVF queue. We have come this far and have even further to go. We will not give in. One day it is going to make sense but right now we are in that quiet kind of calm while we process and prepare for the next part.

-Helen

Organise, prioritise, then action.

A lot of us will at some point suffer from mental health issues, some so much that they cannot function and others who just get on with it. I used to be one of the “get on with it” until I simply could not carry out the simplest of tasks. Life continues and we all move with it. How we feel is not constant. I am now coming out the other end, and I want to talk about a few things that are helping me at the moment.

Organise

I can see that as my mental health went down hill, so did my organisational skills. Maybe skills is not the right word, they are still there, but certainly the desire to being organised and keeping on top of things became too much. By this I mean simple things like having a good filing system, both physical and on the computer; having somewhere to put my stuff down when I come in from work which is my own space and it won’t get touched or moved; having books and music easily accessible on tablet or phone, and also passwords for everything. I feel when things are not organised that there is chaos in my head and it is difficult to function. This only adds to the feelings of depression and anxiety, it makes it worse and becomes a vicious circle.

Getting organised

Over the last few weeks I have been able to, and wanted to, get organised again. This includes sorting the above, as well as starting writing a journal and having a non-digital calendar, the one you write in using a pen. I have been in a better place recently and I feel a lot of this is down to the shift I am going through, which I believe is thanks to CBT and counselling. Writing in a journal and/or calendar means all my thoughts and things to do are written down for me to see, and once I’ve written it I can put the thoughts away as I know they are there for me to read as and when I want to. Writing this way works for me, but you might find that making notes online or similar works better for you. I find it is very beneficial actually using a pen to write on paper and it can be very therapeutic. I use pretty colours too which possible helps 🙂

Prioritise

If you’re anything like me, you have a hundred and one things to do. It is simply not possible to complete all tasks, and this is when you need to prioritise. I have started prioritising me more than before, and what I want to do in order to get better.

Prioritise goals and tasks

There are things I want to do for various goals, be it short-term and long-term, as well as various tasks. An example of a goal is to be well enough to come off my medication. This is a long-term goal that currently does not have a time frame on it. I have loosely said about a year but I don’t feel it is appropriate to put an exact date in for this. Examples of the tasks are going food shopping, cleaning the house and going to the dentist. I try to ensure that I work towards my goals every day whilst also completing tasks. It is so easy to simply do the tasks but this won’t bring you closer to your goals. You might need to become a bit selfish in order to do this. I am very lucky that I have Helen who always does a lot, because that is how she is. I am trying to make sure that I find a happy medium there so I don’t annoy her by not contributing, but she would also tell me to pull my weight if she felt that I did not.

Action

It is very safe to make lists, plan, organise everything and certainly very much within the comfort zone. I find I am not quite as good as taking action. This again is something that I used to be better at, whereas now there is this nagging thought that stops me from doing just that. I need to have a conversation or argument with myself before being able to take action. This is something you can work on, like I do. I am trying to just throw myself out there and do whatever it is that needs doing, preferably just diving in before the brain and thoughts even have time to stop me.

Examples of taking action

One example of this is the counselling. I first became aware of this counselling place almost 2 years ago now, but I did not do anything about it. Then I had a pretty bad day and just went for it, I made a self referral and got an appointment for the week after. I had gotten to a point again where I needed more help, and this is absolutely fine. I am so much better for it.

Another example is throwing myself into a physical challenge, which I will tell you about in a later post. Suffice to say it will be both physically and mentally challenging. We were out walking a couple of weeks ago and this thought popped in to my head. It is something we talked about several times before, but not done anything about. I blurted it out without thinking and luckily Helen thought it was a marvellous idea. I certainly got a buzz from just going for it without thinking about it before. Thinking about something is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it stops you from doing what you want and you end up worrying and getting anxious then clearly this is not good.

It is important also to recognise when you have done something you were putting off, and give yourself a pat on the back for doing so. Without action, failure or success we cannot move on.

Don’t let your thoughts stop you. Act on the good before your thoughts have time to put in an appearance.

-Rosita

Rehab training

Rehab training is a very important part of recovery from both a physical and mental crisis. I will be discussing my own rehab training which has taken place over the last few weeks. I have been mentioning it in some of my other blogs but want to dedicate a full blog to it too.

Five weeks ago

About five weeks ago yesterday the hospital was wheeling me down for emergency surgery after finding two cysts one on each ovary. This is the second surgery I have had in three years and the third issue with Endometriosis. The funny thing is all the outside has healed and I have little scars now to add to my collection. However, the inside is taking slightly longer which is normal. I have to keep reminding myself that I am only five weeks post op.

My personality

My personality is very go, go, go and I am not very good at sitting still. I mean I was back in a Zumba class around ten days post op and haven’t slowed down since. In fact, I have been increasing what I do (within reason). Yes I say I have been in a Zumba class but it has been very controlled and there has been no jumps or bouncing. Jumping around at that stage would not have helped my recovery.

Training

So what have I been doing except for Zumba? I have been walking, walking and walking some more. Starting on a treadmill going to number five on the incline with a slow walking speed. I then progressed it up to incline level fifteen with a much faster pace. Today I did forty minutes. I use one minute for each incline, plateau at the top for five minutes then come down the other side. It has taken a few weeks to get there but with determination I feel it has gone well.

Other gym kit

I have also been using the rolling escalator stair machine thingy. Once I had found the correct spaces for my water bottle and book I was a very happy lady. I can walk on that machine for a good forty minutes before getting tired. I have also been using the cross trainer and bike.

Weight vest

A weight vest was a present from me to me. It is a great piece of kit which gives you a little extra weight to challenge yourself on treadmills, rolling escalators and the like. The funny part about the weight vest is it is exactly ten kilograms at full weight. This is the weight I have lost to date so to put it back on again it quite an experience. It feels heavy and awkward but then again for most of last year that is what I carried day in and day out. I am working with four kilos at the minute but hoping next week to progress to five. Once my core has healed and got back to its normality I will progress to ten and see how that feels to work out in.

Resistance training

Now, I am still banned from lifting any heavy weights but that didn’t mean I have to stop completely. I found using the lateral pulldown machine and low row were perfect for keeping my back from getting too tired and niggly. With low weights, low reps/sets and a longer break in between each round it worked perfectly. You see I didn’t have to lift anything heavy to have a workout.

Bands

And no I don’t mean the ones in the top forty music chart. I mean resistance bands. These are a fantastic way of training when you need to slow things down and concentrate on the deeper muscles. Now I prefer my training to be fast, moving in all directions and breaking a sweat. Something that I am not going to get with resistance bands in a rehab setting. I had to slow it right down and concentrate on activating the muscles which needed attention. This was mainly my back and will shortly involve me core muscles too.

My core

My core work can start now as well. However, my five minute plank will have to wait. I need to start with the basics and the regressions of most core moves. It means I will have to separate out my upper core muscles, lower and obliques (they live on the sides) and concentrate on activating each to get them strong again.

My mental health

Why am I keeping so active? That is a good question. First of all I point out my blog called “sitting still is tricky!”. That sentence says it all really. I find it really hard to sit still and do nothing. The idea of a beach holiday, reading a book, drinking an ice cold drink and so on scares me. I am wanting to know what water sports are available, is there a bicycle track or even a walking track and when the next activity is. So you see my point. My mental health sitting still would get bored, frustrated, irritable and many other words to describe that. My mental health doing this kind of exercise is happy, less stressed, active and smiling. And that is my point. Active body equals happy mind.

Conclusion

I hope that has given you a little insight into my training as I rehab from my surgery. I feel the main point is you can work out to an extent post operation/illness/injury you just need to be careful (always double check if you are unsure). Feel free to ask me any questions, talk to your own GP or local gym and see what you can do.

-Helen

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