Category Archives: Health and wellness

Stressed out and strung out. Now what?

Stress does funny things to a person.  A person’s health and emotional well-being. To relationships. Sure, a little stress is good – motivating even. It can be a needed kick in the pants to help us re-focus and rise to the occasion.  But too much stress … it throws that delicate balance out of sync – and the results can be disastrous.

Run a Google search on “stress” and the first site that jumps up on the screen makes the bold statement of “Don’t let stress hijack your life”.  A profound statement in itself, because stress really and truly can “hijack” a person’s life.

StressWhile it remains to be said that stress comes in all shapes and forms, stressors affect each and every person in a different way.  What’s stressful to me may not be that stressful to you.  Yet, whatever those stressors may be, stress overload can result in a variety of health conditions.  For instance, high blood pressure, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and asthma, amongst other conditions.  Emotionally, things get more complex.  Now we’re talking about insomnia, loss of libido, difficulty relaxing, low self-esteem and depression, agitation, moodiness and frustration.  Such symptoms can also lead to a cache 22 scenario, for example, suffering from insomnia because due to stress will mean a person is less likely to be able to handle stressful situations because of being sleep deprived.  And round and round we go.

And then there’s the ultimate cog in the wheel, the negative impact stress can have on relationships.   Some people will emerge as moody, easily agitated and short-tempered ogres, snapping at loved ones and being so impatient and intolerant that unintentionally loved ones are pushed away – or perhaps sent running for the hills in search of cover.  In short, the home may invariably become a war zone of disharmony and discontent which only worsens the situation.

StressI know that we can’t always control what will cause us stress.  Yet surely we can find ways to maximise what we actually can control?  Seizing power over the foothold stress has in our lives means learning to recognise its symptoms and finding out how to handle it.  I found the World of Psychology’s “10 Practical Ways to Handle Stress” very helpful.

The great thing about the Internet is that, thanks to the myriad of websites and blogs dedicated to the topic, the information to help us cope is at our figure tips.  Applying it in our own lives is, of course, the real challenge – but not necessarily a battle that cannot be won.

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What did we do without the mobile phone?

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...In the short span of just over 40 years – the first mobile phone call was made on 3 April 1973 – the cell phone has become an indispensable device in our day-to-day lives. To give you an idea of just how popular the mobile phone has become, consider the latest statistics issued by Gartner, Inc.:  in the second quarter of 2013, 435 million mobile phones were sold and of that, 51.8% were smartphones!

Almost every person has a cell phone today. In fact, we don’t leave our homes without the damn things.  The mobile phone has literally become an invaluable addition to how we communicate!

A quick Google search on the best mobile phones on the market will spew out pages and pages of search results highlighting the merits of owning such a technological piece of mastery. Which brings me back to my headline: “What did we do without the mobile phone?”.

Shocker:  the mobile phone double chin

True, while owning and using a mobile phone has many advantages, there are some distinct disadvantages too!  The handy little device that acts as both a communication and an entertainment tool can also be the beauty grim reaper. I’m talking here about the slack skin on the neck, the double chin, the crow’s feet around the eyes and the deep vertical furrows between the brows that can be caused by using your cell phone.

DuvetThis is according to an interesting, but rather scary article in my favourite magazine of all time, Cosmopolitan.  The article titled “how your phone messes with your skin”  touches on some sobering drawbacks.  Did you know that the common habit of squinting to read the small text on your device is actually causing premature facial lines on twenty-year-olds; facial lines that should only appear in the thirties or forties? Then there’s the habit of always looking down at your device to check your mail, play a game, instagram that great photo etc., that is resulting in unsightly neck lines and double chins. Checking your mail, your Facebook newsfeed or Twitter updates before bed can also negatively affect your natural sleep cycle thanks to the artificial light from your phone’s screen.

Everything in moderation

One of the most famous quotes on the topic of moderation comes from Aristotle, ”Everything in moderation, nothing in excess”.

I’m not planning to toss my mobile phone or iPad simply because I fear the use thereof may be contributing to my frown lines.  I am however going to strive to always be as well-informed as I can be and to practise some common sense.

In this particular instance, I’m taking the experts’ advice:  no more browsing on my phone while lying in bed before going to sleep; I’m going to try to hold my phone at eye-level to read my messages instead of looking down all the time, and I’ve already increased the font size on my phone.

It’s easy to lose your marbles in the loony ball pit of depression

There  is something so therapeutic about the ocean. A powerful ebb and flow that serves to remind me just how unimportant I am really am in the greater scheme of things. I am humbled and captivated by the sea – it’s actually the right scene for the space I’m in. Nature has a way of pulling me closer to God, and the sea and surf in particular seems to nurture my inner peace when I find myself in personal chaos.  With what has transpired in the past two weeks, I needed to reflect on events and I needed time to appreciate life in general.

Since my last blog post, “What’s in the belly of the monster?”, I was drawn further into a depressive darkness that swallowed my hope and joy.  I almost left my husband, I contemplated how much better people’s lives would be without me, and a friendship of over 20 years terminated in a spiral of unfortunate events. Additionally, a perception of being unappreciated in my career and the fact that I could actually lose said job, was the icing on the cake. 

I found myself in a down-slide that gained momentum with every day.  Between seesawing episodes of tearfulness and anger, I visited my doctor, changed my anti-depressant medication from Zoloft to Wellbutrin XL and was booked off work with a depressive episode. Unfortunately for me, my depression actually worsened and I experienced several bad side-effects, amongst others, insomnia, increased agitation, and aggression.  All this culminated in a mini breakdown of sorts.

Toes in the sandAfter a second visit to the good doctor and a diagnosis of burnout and anxiety, I was changed back to my former medication and given another medication on top of that to help me cope. Now, after strict instructions to get some rest and relaxation, I am at the coast doing just that!

I’ve found that my toes in the sand, a salty sea breeze in my nostrils and the soothing sound of breaking waves in my ears are the best prescription. I feel happier and more at peace than I have felt in a while! It’s a first step to getting back on the wagon; and since I’m taking this whole ‘getting better’ thing day by day, that indeed makes it a very significant step.

What’s in the belly of the monster?

There is a time for everything:  a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to grieve and a time to dance, a time to love and a time to hate, a time to embrace and a time to turn away.  Where are you in your life? 

We live our short existence in seasons, and that’s ok, because there is a time and place for almost everything under the sun. But for some of us, we find ourselves ensnared in one never-ending season:  winter.  

I think back to my days as a younger woman in her early twenties. I had lost my father to depression and alcoholism and was left alone to my own devices.  I had no siblings and a dysfunctional relationship with my mother. I found myself in a place filled with turmoil and unhappiness. I even tried to end my life.  But eventually I found God and was pulled out of the muck and mire.  I was happier again – for a short while – before slipping back into the arms of a former lover, that is, the comfortable misery I had once known.

I can truly imagine how Jonah must have felt when he was swallowed by the whale!  In my opinion, the belly of the monster [depression] is a dark, cold and desolate place to be trapped in.  Yet, I’ve been in this place before; I’ve actually come full circle! While crying helplessly in the shower yesterday, apparently for no reason whatsoever, it dawned on me that I’m familiar with this feeling of despair.  I am also concerned about how much of the so-called depression gene I have inherited from my father. Perhaps I really do suffer from dysthymia?

Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer

Melencolia I. Print of Albrecht Dürer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to research, the Greek word dysthymia refers to a ‘bad state of mind’ or ‘ill humour’.  It is characterised as one of the two forms of clinical depression, although it apparently has less serious symptoms than major depression, but lasts longer.  The American Psychiatric Association defines dysthymia as a depressed mood most of the time for at least two years, along with at least two of the following symptoms: poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or excessive sleep; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or indecisiveness; and hopelessness.  Some experts surmise that dysthymia ‘runs in families and probably has a hereditary component’. Other proposed symptoms of dysthymia include ‘a strong tendency to be critical of oneself and others, pessimism, guilt, brooding and gloominess’.

Where I am, I don’t want to be. I feel as if I’m mourning the life I wanted to have. I know I have so much to be thankful for, so much to celebrate – right now I’m just in the belly of the monster, and I can’t find the exit sign!

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Down the depression rabbit hole

I’m not in a good space right now. The positive spin on this is that I know rough times foster the need for change, the need to do and act differently, to challenge the status quo and cross over into a better situation. That’s apparently where I am – on the pathway to something better.

Despite knowing this, I of course, still need to get through this bad patch. I fully realise that I can’t keep blaming my past on how I feel today. I know that my reactions and feelings stem from my insecurities and my innate inability to believe that I can be loved. Yet, acknowledgement and awareness is not actually helping me to change how I behave.

I am trying so hard not to be sucked further into this black hole of depression and this pit of self-despair.  I try harder to keep a smile on my face and to appear happy.  I’ve even started to keep clear of confrontation.  Me? Steer away from confrontation? That, in itself, should be a warning sign!

On the Threshold of Eternity

On the Threshold of Eternity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Based on past experience, I recognise all the warning signs:  the hyper-sensitivity, the tearfulness, the feelings of being unloved and being unworthy, the increased shopping expenditure and consequent credit card debt, the need to look and feel more in control by focusing on my physical appearance – and yes, shying away from confrontation because I know I’m not emotionally strong enough to handle it at this juncture.

Am I bipolar? Apparently, after chatting to a friend that is bipolar (and doing a bit of ‘google-ing’), I’m not. Is my life, my job, my lifestyle, my relationships, so bad? No. There is no logical answer for my destructive behaviour – except that I do still feel this way. Previously I turned to antidepressants as a miracle cure for my depressive state of mind. I can’t do the same now – after all, surely 50 mg of Zoloft a day should be doing the trick?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers. I am caught in a spiral and I am trying to claw my way out.  Hopefully, dear reader, I will succeed, because there is one huge difference between now and the depression I suffered in the past:   I can now write about it and openly share my feelings without fear of admonishment or undue remorse. I can draw on the strengths and experiences of other writers and bloggers who are, or have, gone through the same trials and tribulations. 

I am not alone.

Are New Year’s resolutions dead or dying?

New Year’s resolutions are apparently so “yesteryear”, yet somehow I can’t help treating the start of a new year as an opportunity to clean the slate and start afresh.

new-years-resolutionsHonestly, despite getting re-married last year, 2012 was a tough year for me.  My emotional and mental disposition was taxed to its capacity and I fear I suffered much more than just a sense of humour failure.

Thankfully the year passed quickly and now I foster great hopes for the next twelve months. This year is going to be a good one – I can feel it in my bones.  Furthermore, given my daring frame of mind, I decided that setting some ambitious personal goals would kick my year off on the right footing.

Maybe I speak for myself, but the problem with setting goals and resolutions is that the temptation to backtrack or conveniently forget what I am striving for is all too easy. I want to make 100% positive that by the end of the year I am able to measure my progress; to do this I plan to document exactly what I want to achieve by sharing my goals with you.  Here goes:

Goal 1
Focus on my dream to have my poetry published one day
Measurement: Start my own dedicated poetry blog

Goal 2
I want to try to start a family this year.
Measurement:  Er … this would go without saying LOL

Goal 3
I want to focus more time on my writing:  this blog, poetry and short stories. 
Measurement:  I need to have entered at least one writing competition by the end of the year.

Goal 4
Get fit and eat healthier.
Measurement:  Join a gym, gym at least four times a month and map out an eating plan. I have set the target weight of 69 kg by mid-year as my first major measurement point.

Goal 5
Spend more quality time with my husband.
Measurement:  At least once a month, participate in one activity/pastime/hobby that my husband wants to do.

new-years-resolutionI’m so pleased that already I’ve made great progress on my goals.  On my first goal, my new poetry blog (http://poetizing.com) is now up and running. Please check it out and let me know what you think.  On my second goal, we’ve actively started trying (big smile).  Lastly, by joining our local Virgin Active gym, I’m making steady progress on my fourth goal and at the same time I am doing something my husband loves to do with me.  So my fifth goal gets a tick in the progress check box there too!

I would love to know if I’m the only old-fashioned person who has set New Year’s goals?  Hopefully not! :)

Physical attractiveness is just skin deep

I recently read a very interesting article by relationship expert Tracey Cox on why men prefer average women. It got me thinking.

It’s no secret that women often misunderstand what men look for in a women. Tracey Cox points that, in terms of long-term relationships, women think men are looking for beauty, youth, a perfect body, confidence and intelligence, when in actual fact men are looking for women with more important characteristics such as kindness, the ability to listen and being trustworthy, amongst others.

Physical attractiveness

“Study after study shows while men pay lip service to being hung up on physical attractiveness, once they interact with a woman in real life, they’re far more swayed by personality than they profess to be”, she writes.

Not that this is to say that physical attraction is not very important, because it is!  The point is really that when choosing a life partner, thankfully men don’t just judge a book by its cover; they are looking for a packaged deal.

Mr Teatart Hubbie is testimony to all of this.  He once explained to me that I am his “packaged deal”. In the past he apparently sought out women who were very athletic and not always the brightest, but he re-looked his selection criteria after several failed relationships and prioritised what was important to him.

English: Studio portrait photo of Betty Grable...

Voila! [Enter little ol’ me.] Whilst I am definitely curvier than his average ex-girlfriend and consider exercise a dirty word that immediately qualifies for a good mouth washing with soap, I have many other qualities that apparently constitute a “good catch”.  Note these are not my words (and hopefully not his attempt to simply score brownie points either).

My husband saw the whole picture, not just the outside appearance. As a person with a low self esteem and poor body image, this is truly an epiphany! With his help, I am slowly learning to love myself!  That means loving every blasted curve, those two skew teeth, the scars, the straight hair and the combination skin too!

I raise my wine glass in toast to all the men out there who look past the physical and see more.  There’s hope for all us “non-super model” women after all!

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