Category: Depression

Always Room To Grow

The Upside to Failing your New Year’s Resolutions

Failing at things sucks. It can be bad enough failing at something that we didn’t even want to do (like secondary school sports days *shudder*) but failing at something we’ve chosen for ourselves can send us into a downward spiral of self-criticism.

The destructive cycle of shame

“I’ve failed, I always fail, I’m a failure.”
“I’m no good at anything.”
“Why can’t I just stick to it… what’s wrong with me?”

You haven’t stuck to your plan. Again. What’s the point, you never stick to anything, you might as well give up.

I’m going to guess that these sort of thoughts don’t help to fill you with inspiration or motivation. In fact if you were watching someone else speak to themselves like that on a regular basis, I’m going to bet you wouldn’t be at all surprised if they fell into a depressive funk.

The way we speak to ourselves when we fail really matters. It can be the difference between staying stuck in your belief that you’re a failure or being able to make real, lasting change.

How can there be an upside?

So how can failing at our resolutions possibly have an upside?

You learned what didn’t work for you.

It sounds simple but in our society that is constantly selling us solutions to problems, feeding on the idea that if we just had a bit more willpower, we’d succeed, it’s easy to forget this simple but important step to making successful, lasting changes.

You learned what doesn’t work for you. Sure, other people might be well into their marathon training or might have lost a stone already eating nothing but egg whites and oatcakes (bleurgh) but that doesn’t work for you. Now you have this awareness, you can either keep forcing yourself into the mould you think you’re supposed to fit in, or you can take a moment to think about what would work.

Growing a life you love

I used to set and fail New Year’s Resolutions every year. I’m not sure why I kept doing it as I used to think of myself as a quitter, as someone who never stuck to anything and was basically just useless (ouch).

My approach to goal setting changed after the birth of my second child. I had gained a lot of weight and was so upset about it that I joined Weight Watchers when he was just nine days old which (unsurprisingly) ended up affecting my milk supply, which I also couldn’t bear.

I knew I had to find a different approach to weight loss. I had to find a way that worked for me.

Listen to yourself

Finding a way that works means pressing the pause button on those critical voices that keep us from achieving our goals. Silence that voice that says “You’re lazy, you’ll never succeed” and pay attention to the reasons you didn’t stick to the goal that you set for yourself.

If you’re not a morning person, of course you don’t want to drag yourself into the freezing January air for a run. If the only thing you look forward to all week is a takeaway at the weekend, you’re going to need something else to look forward to before committing to cutting out junk food.

It doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

It means you’re human.

You’re a human with needs and while it’s nice to believe we can bypass what we need in order to achieve The Perfect Body or The Perfect Life, it’s not real and it certainly isn’t going to last.

So what do you need to succeed?

It’s about kindness

Even though I’ve been practicing this approach to failure for over a decade, I can still find myself forgetting the importance of kindness. It felt outrageous to be kind to myself when I had “failed. AGAIN!” And it also made sense. My struggles with weight loss were intrinsically linked to kindness or rather the lack of kindness I showed myself.

I felt sad but couldn’t handle my sadness so I ate to push the feelings away, then I’d realise I’d broken my diet and call myself stupid, fat, disgusting, hopeless, which made me feel even more sad, but I still couldn’t handle my sadness, so I’d eat… It was an endless cycle.

It was only when I realised what was happening that I could change it. It was only when I stopped getting caught up the brutal name-calling and shaming myself that I could see what was happening.

I wasn’t a failure, I was struggling with emotional pain. If I could find a way to support myself emotionally, if I could find a way to be kind to myself when I was hurting, I could step out of this cycle. So I did, and I did.

It’s been a long time since I thought of myself as a quitter and the key to changing the way I saw myself was to find people to supported me – for me this was a group of women exploring intuitive eating – and to start something that I enjoyed so I didn’t need willpower anymore – and I trained to run intuitive eating workshops. I was learning about a subject I loved, with people I enjoyed spending time with in an environment that was nurturing.

The day I finished that course, the course I’d chosen because it was so “me”, my “quitter script” fell away and I’ve since gone on to complete several other courses, including my degree in psychotherapy (which was also very “me”!)

Do something different

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight”

So yes, failing at things sucks but you can make the process of failing easier by seeing it as an opportunity to learn more about

  • who you are
  • what you like
  • what you don’t like and
  • what might actually help you work towards your goals.

You can make the process of failing less painful by choosing to see the times you don’t succeed as an opportunity to learn more about what you need to achieve your goals.

Maybe it’s not running alone at 6am when you’d rather be in bed, maybe it’s joining a bellydancing class in a nicely heated village hall on an evening after the children are in bed.

Maybe it’s not giving up your weekend takeaway until you’ve promised yourself a luxurious and nurturing treat to look forward to instead.

Let me know in the comments below – what didn’t work and why, and what else can you try instead?

Alice offers counselling and psychotherapy sessions from her private practice in Bingham, Nottinghamshire. She believes that learning to feel differently about failure is often something that needs to be done with the help of someone  supportive. To book in, click here.

5 Resources To Get Your Mental Health Back On Track

The constant strain of daily modern life can take a huge toll on our mental health.

We’re under pressure to have not just a job but a good job and to perform well at it.

Parenting seems to be increasingly like a competition – keeping up with activities, parenting philosophies and looking beautifully turned out while we do it.

And that’s before we even think about the day to day juggling of housework, admin, organising and so on and so on…

It can be hard to know where to begin to either make life a bit easier or to develop more resilience to cope with everything we feel we need to get done.

Here are five resources to get you started…

1. Headspace


Headspace is a guided meditation app. Mindfulness and meditation has pretty much become mainstream over the last few years. It’s a simple but effective way to clear your mind of the constant whirring of your mind. Mindfulness is a useful technique to stop you dwelling on the past or worrying about the future as it brings our attention back to the current moment.

The benefits of meditation are wide-ranging, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and chronic pain.

That said, simple doesn’t always mean easy. If you haven’t tried meditation before, or even if you have, it takes some practice to “clear the mind”. It can be like being told not to think about elephants – it’s impossible not to! So just how do you empty your head of your endless to-do list – that letter you need to post, the things you need to remember to pick up from the shops or which child has which activity on which day…? Headspace walks you through it all with ease. The app includes their free 10 day beginner’s course.
https://www.headspace.com/

 

2. Moodscope


We track all aspects of our health and wellness with pedometers, scales, food diaries and so on but rarely do we keep track of our mood. Sometimes we don’t realise how low our mood has become until it’s a big problem and often we try and manage alone.

Moodscope believes that knowing that you have people around you looking out for you can help to elevate your mood. It only takes a couple of minutes once you’ve got the hang of it.

Moodscope works in two ways. Firstly, it works by actually tracking your mood using 20 cards that you flip and rotate on the screen to select how you feel on each day. Secondly it works by connecting you with trusted friends and family who act as “buddies”. They receive an email each day with your score and can offer you support and encouragement along the way.
https://www.moodscope.com/

3. SAM (Self-help for Anxiety Management)

SAM helps you to be more aware of how your anxiety is affecting you over a period of time. With this awareness, you can learn how your thinking and lifestyle contributes to feeling anxious, identify situations where you want to feel less anxious and you can practice self-help options to manage feelings of anxiety.

SAM is a handy app for times when you are struggling with anxiety.

The app is split into 8 different sections including an anxiety tracker, a place to list the things that increase your feelings of anxiety and a section for when you need help straight away. There is also a “social cloud” which lets you share your experiences anonymously.
http://sam-app.org.uk/

4. Reasons2

Reasons2 is an app developed in collaboration with young people but can be used by anyone aged 13+. The focus of this app is to help you manage your mental health by creating a profile of reasons to feel better. The app allows you to upload images and photos of things that boost your mood.

When life feels bleak, Reasons2 helps you remember reasons to smile.

Reasons2 has a crisis section if you need support or help in an emergency. There is also a community element of Reasons2 so you can share your reasons and see what others have shared too.
http://wellbeinginfo.org/reasons2/

5. YouTube


Okay, so YouTube isn’t exactly a mental health resource but you can find some really helpful videos on there that can help with all kinds of aspects of mental health. TED has a playlist full of talks on mental health including shame, hearing voices and building mental strength.

But the reason I included YouTube on this list was because of my accidental discovery of ASMR videos a few years ago. I was struggling to sleep and trying to find a guided meditation video and stumbled across a video similar to this one by a lady known as Gentle Whispering.

ASMR is best described as that tingling feeling you get sometimes often on the back of your neck or across your scalp.

There is a huge community of ASMR creators and followers who find these videos really helpful to relax and switch off at the end of a long day. Some are role plays like the one I linked above, others are just a collection of sounds or “trigger words”.
https://www.youtube.com/


So there you have it – five resources to help you get your mental health back on track.

Alice offers counselling and psychotherapy to both individuals and couples in Nottinghamshire, UK. 

 

 

 

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