We started our psychology session with some mindfulness, focusing on our 5 senses allowing us to ground ourselves in the moment. We then discussed the topic of judgement and how we can often be harsh on ourselves as much as we are on others. We were asked to think about the way we would answer the following statements:
- I am a person who…
- The best thing about me is…
- The worst thing about me is…
- I am a person who can’t…
- I am a person who does not…
- I am..
This topic was quite hard-hitting amongst the group as a lot of us tend to put ourselves down due to the fact that we are unable to do things that we once found easy. I struggled to think about what the best thing about me was but, could think of a long list of things that I can’t do and the worst things about myself. These statements showed me how much my confidence and outlook on myself has changed over the last couple of years and I often struggle to look at the positives. If I can walk for 10 minutes I beat my self up for not being able to walk 15. I know that my weight gain was due to medication but I beat myself up for not having more control over it and not actively putting in the effort to reduce it. I am gradually learning to be nicer to myself and not to put myself down all of the time. I can only do my best and a 1% day is better than 0%. Don’t define yourself by the labels that you give to yourself and strive to reward yourself even if the steps you take are small.
During physio, we played two rounds of Jenga but with a twist. In the first round, we each had to take out a brick and pick a number. We would then be given a physical task to do which often brought on thoughts of embarrassment or fear eg: Make 5 farm animal noises. I find tasks as small as this quite anxiety-inducing but, I managed to make one and acknowledged the thoughts that were bouncing around my head. During the second round, all of us were given 2 cards that represented 2 “Passengers” (positive and negative thoughts) that often affect us eg: failure, anxiety, judgement. Whilst we were having our turn the rest of the group would act as these passengers and shout at you in order to try to put you off or encourage you. We then had to pick a number and we were asked a question about our values eg: What do you stand for? This activity was all about facing our passengers but, instead of pushing them to the back of our minds, acknowledging that they are there and still getting on with what we want to do.
Our Occupational therapy session was all about planning for when we finish the program. It is a lot easier to start some new type of life-enhancing behaviour than it is to keep it going. One of the tools we can use is something known as ‘The Seven Rs’.
Reminders: We can create all sorts of simple tools to help remind us of the new behaviour we wish to persist with. For example, we might create a pop-up or a screen saver on our computer or mobile phone with an important word or phrase that reminds us to do a certain thing.
Records: We can keep a record of our behaviour throughout the day, noting down when and where we do the new behaviour, and what the benefits are; and also when and where we do the old behaviours, and what the costs are.
Rewards: When we do some form of new behaviour that involves successfully changing our behaviours or routine, hopefully, that will be rewarding in its own right. However, we can help to reinforce the new behaviour with additional rewards. These rewards can come in the form of sharing your success and progress with loved ones, being encouraging and kind to yourself for succeeding or through material rewards.
Routines: If you get up early every morning at the same time to exercise or do some yoga, over time regular routine will become second nature. In others words, you wont have to think so hard about doing it; it will start to come naturally and will become part of your regular routine.
Relationships: Finding a kind, caring and encouraging a person who can help and support you can help keep you motivated when starting a new routine.
Reflecting: Regularly take time to reflect on how you are behaving, and what effect it is having on your life. You can do this by writing it down or as a mental exercise. You can simply take a few moments to reflect on questions such as: ‘How am I doing?’, ‘What am I doing that’s working?’, What am I doing that not working?’.
Restructuring: We can often restructure our environment to make our new behaviour easier, and therefore more likely to sustain. For example, if we want to go swimming in the morning, we could pack up our swimming bag and place it by the side of the bed or by the front door, so it’s all ready to go as soon as we get up and acts as a reminder.
From 3 o’clock onward we had some free time so I went to do a bit of shopping with one of the ladies on the program. The walk was pretty tiring but, it felt like quite an accomplishment that after a long day we still managed to get out and explore for a few hours. It was nice to be right in the heart of London, where many of the main sights were in walking distance and the weather was on our side.
That evening a few of my friends and my boyfriend came to visit me. They brought me some homemade baked treats and we all chatted for hours before heading out for dinner. It was nice to know that I will always have their love and support.