Fitness, Epping, Essex, Pilates, Exercise, Online Fitness, triggers, mental health, melt down
During a particularly challenging time in my teenage life, my father gave me some brilliant advice:
“It’s okay to juggle balls Karen, so long as all the balls stay up.”
Actually my hand-eye co-ordination has always been something of a challenge and whilst he was being metaphorical, it’s no great surprise that with a creative brain, ambition and an inability to say no, there have been moments I’ve ended up in a giant heap of dropped balls.
Haven’t we all?
I’m not talking about or underplaying mental health break downs. I’m talking about those mini melt downs we can have where we can’t cope for a day or two.
What interests me is what flips the switch from the adrenaline fuelled, happy and productive high of the successful life juggle to the heap?
More importantly, can you spot when you’re heading for a fall and can you do something about it?
I’m not talking about external factors. Grief, a sick child or a personal relationship or work crisis are all established and valid reasons to be emotionally wobbly and ‘volatile’.
But what of those times when there’s no big thing. We just find ourselves not coping, emotionally wrecked, often exhausted, usually ill and not very fun to be around?
Can we spot the triggers before the fall?
Can identifying our triggers help us to keep the balls in the air?
Inspired by business coach Rebecca Morley, who was helping a friend identify her triggers off the back of a recent ‘crisis’ I’ve been thinking about signs and indicators that all is not well.
What are they?
If they aren’t external then what are the personal triggers to us that lead to the fall out zone?
For my friend it was her early morning run on busy work days. They stopped happening. She was so busy that her happy habit slipped and she found herself in a bit of a mess.
When I thought about mine I realised that when I skip my happy habits or mindful activities, it acts as both a trigger towards a dark place and an indicator that I’ve let busy-ness override self-care. Or – at risk of overusing those metaphors – that I’ve not put my oxygen mask on.
Take my 30-minute solo exercise happy habit. At least a couple of times each week I take a run or a bike ride. I might listen to a podcast but it has to be just me. I have to be selfish. For me it’s a sort of re-calibration. No-one is asking me questions, I don’t have to stick to anyone else’s pace and there’s no pressure. We know how vital exercise in green space is for the mind. For me it’s like medicine.
Another sign for me is in the kitchen. I love to plan meals and to feel I’m on top of the food schedule. Having a casserole in the slow cooker when we’re all out at tennis or making a cake for Fridays after school all have a very calming effect on me. If I skip this, or can’t be bothered, it’s because I’m entering the frantic zone. If I can’t make time to feed myself and my family well then I’ve clearly taken on too much and results aren’t good for anyone.
Then there’s getting sucked into social media. Browsing mindlessly through feeds at the end of the day rather than just getting ready for bed, watching my kids sleep and settling down with my book. Social media inevitably leads me to question my life and choices based on the filtered version of others.
These indicators are very different from those often physical symptoms that we’re stressed. IBS flare ups, spots, headaches or not sleeping well. Or getting snappy, not finding things very funny, or flitting between unfinished tasks. These are signs for me that I’ve skipped my happy habits.
I remember a brilliant therapist saying to me of my happy rituals, “Karen, these aren’t just things you do to survive, these are the things you do to be happy and to enjoy life.” It was at a time when I felt very much like I was surviving after the birth of my second child – I didn’t feel I had permission to be happy.
Perhaps these aren’t triggers at all. Are triggers the absence of happy, grounding rituals? The little things we’ve adopted in life we enjoy or that we’ve found keep us on track. Lose sight of them or fail to acknowledge them as a vital part of our mental and physical health and head space and they lose their value and therefore their space in our lives.
So what are yours? What happy habits do you need to keep the balls in the air?
And if you can’t spot them. Who do you have in your life who can encourage you when the focus is slipping? Do you have a support group or a community you are a part of? Do you need reminders from coaches or people who see you regularly?
For me it’s my husband and my dear friend (a certified eye roller when it comes to exercise advice who recently advised me to get up early and go for a run), sometimes it’s a concerned look from my dad, often it’s my kids who stop me in my tracks and say ‘let’s play a game.’
But perhaps not juggling.