Giving up?


The other day I was thinking about the time when I gave up smoking. I was wondering to myself how I managed to give up. Did it take will power? I know that I have next to no will power so it couldn’t have been, just denying myself something for long enough that I would just give in and not want to smoke. There is no way I could just deny myself from something that I wanted especially something that I had done all my adult life.

So what was it that I did to ensure I would never want a cigarette again. In fact the thought of smoking now makes me physically ill. The smell of cigarette smoke and stale tobacco disgusts me. And yet less than 2 years ago, the mere thought of not having cigarettes would bring me out in a cold sweat. I would go as far as saying that I was terrified of not being able to smoke. I knew I needed to stop smoking for financial as well as physical reasons. Over time the reasons for stopping smoking got greater than the reasons to keep smoking. I started to plan how I would stop. The point was that I wanted to give up on my terms for my reasons. For that reason I didn’t tell anyone until I was ready. 

I had stopped smoking several times in the past, none of them were properly planned, and every time it was down not wanting to give up but thinking I should. I failed unsurprisingly, sometimes within hours. This time was different, I didn’t want a future with smoking in it. I aknowledged that smoking had been an important part of my life, but most of the reasons why I thought smoking was important was bogus and based on a psychological dependency to nicotine. When I examined my life, smoking did not decrease my stress, in fact it increased my stress, due to cost and having to try to hide my habit. So why after something stressful happened did I reach for my fags? Because the nicotine was telling my brain that. Smoking did not set me up for the day, in fact it slowed me down by reducing my oxygen levels, dehydrating me and giving me a headache and chest pain. Why would this be good for me!? When I looked at what it was doing it was a no brainer to stop. That is when it clicked, I was not going to deny myself anything, in fact I was setting myself free, smoking was denying me a life.

Saying that, nicotine still had a hold on me, and stopping completely terrified me. I mean truly terrified me, I still remember that visceral terror I felt when thinking about the day I was stopping. So I bought myself some nicotine gum. The gum was someone to hold my hand whilst I stepped off into the abyss of the non smoking world. That is exactly what it felt like, it felt like stepping into a terrifying unpredictable world. Clearly the reality was nothing like that at all. Nothing happened! For a few weeks I dutifully took the gum 3 times a day. Then one day I just decided that it was just too much trouble chewing the disgusting gum, so  I just stopped.

The key to stopping anything that is destructive or bad for you is to give yourself a reason to choose a life without it. Denying yourself something as a long term plan is likely to end in failure. You must see a compelling future without whatever it is you want to stop. Changing how you look at your life can have a profound effect on your life. 

We are amazing never tell yourself you cannot do something, based on the type of person you think you are. I never thought that I could give up smoking. 

If you are struggling to change something in your life, get in touch.

My Hull

When I am searching for inspiration for teaching or when having my lunch I will look out of my office window and stare at wonder over my city of Hull and the East Yorkshire countryside, no doubt all you can see on the photo is the roof. All I can see is a big sky and green spaces. 


I know you have looked at the picture and think I need my eyes testing. But when looking in reality rather than a picture, the surrounding area does stand out. 

Maybe it is just that I am in love with the city and surrounding area. I fell in love at first sight, 28 years ago, when I came for an interview (twice in fact). 

There was just something about it. Underrated under stated and completely wonderful. Everyone I met was welcoming, without being overly familiar, just a matter of fact intimacy you get when an old friend pops in for a cuppa. 

I knew then that I would live here for the rest of my life.

After I moved here it just got better. Newland Avenue, Pools Corner, Hessle Road, the Marina, Minerva, Spiders. Hull was just so different so amazing, so much fun. Best of all the rest of the world didn’t know it was here.  It felt so exclusive. 

Everyone that spends anytime here falls in love (those that have any taste). The city is full of people that came to visit and have stayed. 

I was 18 when I moved here to start my nurse training. On occasion I would miss my family, so I would wander down to the marina, and sit looking out over the Humber, to this day it is still a place that gives me comfort. 

Hessle Road and Newland Avenue, were a revelation, with shops like Setams, and Pools Corner, I loved browsing around both, you could spend hours in them, sadly both shops are no longer around and the world is lesser place. 

Then there was Spiders, the best student nightclub in the world. Incredibly cheap to get in, an unfathomable admission policy,  new and interesting cocktails such as a Brown Bomber, Pink Pudsey, and a Pangalactic Gargleblaster. It is still there so if you have never been, put on your ripped jeans, an old t-shirt and get yourself to New Cleveland street on a Friday or Saturday night and have yourself a Pangalactic Gargleblaster. You won’t regret it (well you might).

So 2017 is Hull City of Culture year. So far it has been brilliant. However there is one problem. There are now thousands of people that have found out have incredible Hull is. 

It is lovely that everyone likes Hull, but it was a hidden gem that has been unearthed and I am a little worried that Hull loses its vitality and becomes a curiosity for tourists. The one thing that heartens me is that not everything is finished, and the Hullensian spirit of doing it there own way when they want shines through. Hull doesn’t fit in a box.

I would not want to be anywhere else.

Sea of Hull

It is official I am a work of art. Last night I was unveiled in the Ferens gallery in Hull along with over 3000 other hardy souls, who braved the ravages of an English summer morning last year.

Last night whilst queuing to get in to the Ferens to witness my unveiling to the world I thought back to the original unveiling in Queens Gardens at around 5am on the 9th July 2016.

I hadn’t really thought about how I would feel getting naked with so many strangers until the moment I was stood there in my undies. At that moment I was terrified, I suddenly felt very vulnerable. Then I did it I pulled them down and stood laid bare to the world. I looked up at this point and felt suddenly relaxed. I wasn’t vulnerable, I wasn’t exposed I was with thousands of naked people in the middle of a city centre painting ourselves 4 different shades of blue. We would become in the hours to come a sea of blue naked people flooding the city.

The initial awkward silence was now replaced by laughter and chatter as we asked each other if we missed a bit.

We were then instructed to walk up to the fountain and get into position for the now famous picture taken from the BBC building 

Looking at thousands of people walk towards the fountain in the early morning light painted blue, was surreal.

As the morning drew on the atmosphere got better and better, there was plenty of laughter and shouts of Steve! Steve was one of Spencer’s assistants who was in charge of getting us in position. Spencer was constantly shouting his name to get us inexperienced models in the right place. To 3000 plus knackered hysterical blue naked people this was hilarious so we all started shouting it.

As we marched around the old town, we started to attract an audience of residents hanging out of their windows. This was most evident for those of us who went to the swing bridge over the river Hull. On the other side of the river is a hotel, where Spencer took the photo from. Every window was filled with faces as were the riverside apartments behind us. We were now being watched but it felt ok we all felt safe, we were a group, we were safe.

That morning will go down as the single most liberating moment in my life. It was incredible, we were all taking part in something that will go down in the folk history of our city. We are all now a part of the cultural heritage of one of the most incredible cities in the world.

I am incredibly proud of taking my underpants off in Queens Gardens. I am part of something amazing, I took part in an adventure that I will never forget. That adventure will be viewed for years to come in Ferens.

If you get chance to do something outside of the usual, do it. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Seize the moment, be amazing.

If you are not from Hull, make an effort to visit us during 2017. The SKIN exhibition is on at Ferens Gallery until August, and 4 of the photographs will be kept at the gallery after that.

Hull is not my hometown but I can say it is a hidden gem, and my favourite place.

Taking Foggy for a run

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As you will know Foggy has been quite active over the past couple of days. This morning was not much different. The feeling was more visceral than before, with a tight jaw, pains in my chest and a feeling of impending doom (yes it did cross my mind that I was having a heart attack) This stayed with me all day. Working today was like running through treacle. Worst of all I was like a bear with a sore head.

After being a miserable git with Lisa, I said to myself, ‘enough is enough, you need to do something about this’. As mentioned yesterday I went for a run on Monday which had some effect. Up stairs I went and got my running gear on. Well it took me about 10 minutes after talking myself out of doing it twice, but eventually I got myself ready and did my warm up.

I do a couch to 10k app which involves slowing building up the amount of running you do. So I put my headphones on. The app gives me instructions throughout the run, and in between I put my music on. Quickly I am in a world of my own listening to my playlist and concentrating on not falling over. For the first 5 minutes I did my 5 minute warm up walk, then I started 10 minute run. 2 minutes into the run those visceral feelings had gone. As I was running I let my mind wander to where ever it wanted to go. The only thing I focused on was not stopping and remembering to breathe.  After 10 minutes there is another 5 minute walk, this is normally a struggle, but this time I kept the same focus as I did during the run, and before I knew it I was back running for another 10 minutes.

No doubt me feeling more positive, is down to an accumulative effect of taking action firstly by exercising more regularly and writing my feelings down, and all the wonderful messages I received last night.

When you are beginning to struggle with your feelings do two simple things, talk to someone about how you feel and get outside and do something active. If you don’t yet struggle with your feelings, treat your mental health like your physical health and look after it, if you don’t it might just sneak up on you and cause you problems in the future.

I certainly wish I paid attention to my mental health years ago.

Many of you know me, so know that I am built more for comfort than speed, so if I can get active then so can you. Go for a run and look after your head.runners

Return of the Fog

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this today. I thought it might come across as a bit self-indulgent. Then I thought that I have been trying to encourage people to talk about their mental health so I should feel comfortable doing it when I need to. It will help me and it might just encourage someone else to be more open about their struggles.

The past few days have been particularly difficult. Foggy has been particularly active. Doing the usual, like making me feel generally shit about myself. He has also managed to put a cloud over my thoughts, literally making my feelings foggy. Everything has required effort.

So it started Monday morning with a feeling of despondency, I felt completely useless, and everything I did was rubbish. Luckily for most of the morning no one was around, as not only was I intolerant of myself but everyone else as well. When everyone else got I up I decided to go for a run. It worked as it always does, I felt lighter and more positive when I got in. It didn’t last, by early afternoon I was back to being a bear with a sore head.

Tuesday morning was the same on the way to work I hated myself, nothing I was going to do was going to be any good. I did what I always do I let Foggy do his worst on the bus , by the time I got to work he had gone to sleep. While he was quiet I wrote my plan out for the day and the rest of the week and got busy before he could sabotage my day. My mood remained positive for the rest of the day and I was able to be quite productive. In fact when I got home at first I felt really positive and had forgotten how low I had been in the morning. I managed to catch up with Line of Duty after tea and then when it had finished it hit me like a brick wall. I was exhausted, for no obvious reason, as well as feeling so tired I just wanted to cry, I was so desperately sad, and I had no idea why, as well as sad I was intolerant and angry. I went to bed and slept soundly until 3am, then he woke me up telling me how shit I was.

Today has been difficult, all day I have had no confidence in myself. I attended a meeting this morning, and it was torture I just wanted to curl up in a ball for the whole hour and half. I managed to speak and I certain no one noticed, over the years I have got quite good at hiding it. When I got back from the meeting I bumped into a Staff Nurse I needed to speak to about a development plan, that was excruciating, I struggled to think of what I needed to say, it was like pulling teeth (on my part) just to say anything that made sense. Once I got back to my office, the waves of despair and hopelessness started. Thankfully my boss emailed me with a question, and that set my off on a new task that occupied my mind for the rest of the day.

Once I am engaged I can get myself into a mindful state that keeps Foggy at bay without trying to do battle with him.

Now I am home, and he has been back with a vengeance. That is why I thought I would try to write how I feel down.

I am not sure if any of it makes sense. I hope it does.

I think I understand a little more how this Foggy affects me. Normally I can only objectively look at him after he has gone to sleep, but this evening I have been examining him whilst he is awake.  As an exercise of getting him to go to sleep it definitely worked.

The hardest thing is accepting the feelings that are generated without any good reason, the only thing I can do when he is around is to grab those moments of mindfulness and know that he will go away again.

That is the difference between now and a year ago, I have a level of optimism that I have more time without him than without him. I just wish he wasn’t here at all.

If you have managed to read this far, I thank you, and anytime you want a sympathetic ear I will be there to listen. Don’t suffer alone.

Easter Holiday

I hope you are all having a relaxing Easter doing all the things that make you happy. 

I am cooking for the family daydreaming about my future plans, imagining a time when I can coach full-time. I imagine working with all different people helping them realise their dreams, or taking stock of the wonders they already have, and it makes me smile. I get excited and what to achieve my goal more than ever. 

Daydreaming is so important when planning the direction of your life, it reminds you why you want something, it keeps that desire alive. 

You must however combine it with a robust and clear goal, alongside a strong plan. 

Keep dreaming, keep planning, and enjoy the journey.

Move towards a positive future

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Move toward a positive future, not away from a negative past. When you are deciding to make a change in your life do are you moving away from something negative in you life, such as an unhappy relationship or a job that you dislike? How easy was it to make that change?

Thinking and feeling negatively has been proven to reduce to the amount of options you can think of. When we want to get away from something bad we employ the emotional centre of the brain, this gives us less choice, as this part of the brain is there to keep us safe, at its most extreme you are offered 3 choices: stay and fight, runaway, or play dead. On it’s day this is very useful to stop us from being harmed or at worst killed. However the solutions offered are quite short-term and perpetuate negative thought. This is our default setting, so we will always revert to this approach if we do not make the effort to think differently.

Thinking positively however has been shown to increase our options and creativity. This approach employs more of the brain, and therefore is much more considered, has short-term and long-term elements, and is therefore more likely to succeed.

It is important to recognise that the driver for the change will sometimes be a negative, as  this will give you the desire to move. Allow your emotional thinking to give you the reason. This however will not be enough to make the need to change compelling enough to do something about it.

Where would you rather be? What would you rather be doing? Once you have answered this question, you then need to put some detail on this place or job. Start to imagine what it looks like, what it would be like to live there or do this job. Visit your future regularly adding more and more detail every time. Don’t think that day dreaming is childish or a waste of time. Day dreaming is essential when creating a compelling future. You need to really want to be in this future, this gives you, your reason when you a struggling to achieve your goals later. As mentioned earlier, it also increases your creativity, therefore increasing your planning ability.

Once you have a compelling vision of your future, that can be recalled easily, you then have to make this a goal, to turn it from a dream into a reality. Make sure you take care with setting your goal and do not rush it. You goal must be clear and not ambiguous.  I use to spend about 5 minutes writing a goal that would be ambiguous and open-ended and wonder why I never achieved it. When I was a smoker I would say to myself tomorrow I am going to stop smoking.  By lunchtime the next day I was smoking. I had put no thought into how I would achieve this. How I was going to deal with my physical and psychological dependency on smoking. Until one day I decided to plan how I was going to deal with the dependency and gave myself a clear date when I would start and when I would review my progress. My initial goal was on the 12th January I am going to buy 5mg nicotine gum from the chemist, and on the 13th January I will replace smoking cigarettes with chewing the gum. I will chew a piece of gum at specific points in the day when I crave for cigarettes, these will be on the way to work in the morning, at 10am during a morning break, after lunch and on my way home from work. After 2 weeks I will remove one of these gums. It worked I have not smoked since Jan 2016. My compelling vision in my head was playing football with my grandchildren in the back garden. When ever I fancied a cigarette I would summon up that image.

So make sure your goal is really what you want to achieve, that it is specific (it is clear to you exactly what you want to achieve), that you know when you have achieved it (it has a measure, like I will stop smoking), that it is achievable, realistic (no matter how dedicated and clever you are training to be a nuclear physicist in 6 weeks is never going to happen), and that you have a timescale. As I said earlier it is also important that you can day-dream your future, seeing it in your mind’s eye gives you that compelling reason. Make sure your goal fits who you are and where you want your life to go, otherwise it is just going to make you unhappy again. For instance if you like routine and order and do not cope well with the unexpected then becoming a paramedic or a firefighter would probably be inadvisable. Lastly make sure it is going to challenge you, if your goal is to easy, it is unlikely to make much a difference to your life.

The next time you want to change something in your life, before you act on your emotions, ask yourself what you want your changed life to look like, then create yourself a goal and take action.