There are many stories of how dogs are great for mental health. In fact many…
How to stay strong when things aren’t great
I don’t know about you, but my life has the tendency to go up and down. There are good days and bad days. At times, the bad days seem to linger for a lot longer than they are welcome. The longer the bad days stick around, the harder it becomes to stay on top of things mentally. It’s usually not just one things but a few things that come together to make me feel overwhelmed.
Recently, I had another chest infection and had to have intravenous medication to help me get well. Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual but having a IV line inserted (known as a PICC line) is always a reminder that I am slightly more fragile than most. I tend to need a PICC line roughly once a year and the meds really leave my liver struggling. Blood tests show loads of measurments in red (written in red means they are outside of normal measurements) , this confirms my liver is working overtime to process all the drugs in my system. To add to the issue, about 4 years ago, I developed a blood clot in a PICC line in my right arm. Since then I have no longer been able to use this arm for IV’s. Last week, the IV line (it is inserted into a major vein in my upper arm and threads through up the vein to the opening above my heart) in my other arm blocked. Today, an ultrasound confirmed a very large clot. Yay…So for the last two weeks I have been injecting blood thinners in my tummy and it hurts like hell. This has left me feeling sorry for myself. Is it another nail in the proverbial coffin?
The next time I need IV’s I will have run out of options as PICC lines are no longer possible. The next step is a port which is much more invasive. Anyway, I have been overthinking all of this but it has also got me thinking about ways to feel strong even in times of adversity. Here is advice for myself and for you if you are struggling:
How to stay strong
Pay more attention to what you can control rather than what you can’t control
It’s easy to start feeling helpless and scared when you focus on what you can’t control. I can’t always control what happens to me healthwise, but I can control what I want to think about it. I can also control certain parts like my compliance with all my treatments, eating well, exercising etc. When you focus on what is possible you can feel more empowered and less frightened.
Thoughts of “why me?” are normal when times are tough. It’s okay to allow yourself some time to feel self pity. Acceptance though is vital in being able to move forward and not staying stuck. I can resist the fact that I have Cystic Fibrosis all I want to but it will probably leave me more stressed. Instead, acceptance allows me to embrace the reality in a more mentally healthy way. Denial can be dangerous because when you deny something you don’t alllow yourself the opportunity to problem solve the issue and find positive ways forward. Acceptance doesn’t mean I like the situation but it means I make a promise to myself to deal with the reality rather than resisting it. I can be far more proactive when I accept.
Gratitude helps you to balance out the negative pessimistic thoughts with more positive thoughts about what is good in life. There will always be something that is good, even if it seems small. It could be a friend who is really supportive or it could even be appreciation for a pretty sunny day. We choose what we want to focus on (this does take practise though) so if you fnd you are negatively focused, try gratitude for 5 minutes and it can instantly boost your mood.
Talk to someone
it’s true that a problem shared is a problem halved. Sometimes, just having someone listen and sympathise is all we need to let off steam and feel a little lighter. Try not to isolate yourself and this can lead to a slip into depression. Stay busy, interact with others as much as you can.
Try not to take life too seriously
I think actively trying not to let life get me down helps a lot. I always try to see the lighter side of life and do my best not to catastrophise. This is when you imagine the worst case scenario and freak yourself out with loads of “what if…?” type thoughts. This will just add to your anxiety. I often tell myself that I can handle whatever comes my way, I have done for a very long time (especially related to my health) and I use positive affirmations (also known as coping statements) to help keep me optimistic.
No one likes uncertainty but it is a fact of life. We can’t have 100% certainty so it makes sense to get used to tolerating uncertainty. I also try not to predict the future as that can lead me down a scary path. When I find I am focusing too much on uncertainty, I try bring myself back to the present moment. I am okay right now, and that’s okay for me for now.
This isn’t the same as denial. Once you have accepted where you are and what is happening to you, it can help to keep your mind busy if you find you are ruminating. Rumination is a mental waste of energy – it’s when we worry and the thoughts go round and round without any resolution or problem solving. Rumination is a shortcut to anxiety. If you find you are mulling things over – use a distraction technique. I enjoy watching comedies (Live at the Apollo is one of my favourites) or I play a crossword game on my phone…you can be creative with this. If you have a hobby try this. Adult colouring in books are good too for distraction. As the saying goes, “When you are in your mind you are in enemy territory” and my brain certainly has this tendency to remind me of all my fears and insecurities and make me worry.
Tough times are universal and I guess there is some comfort in knowing we all have our troubles to deal with. Hopefully the above ideas might help you to get through the difficult times with slightly less distress. Don’t let life grind you down. See yourself as an amazing survivor of this challenging reality we all find ourselves in.