Wrestling with Foggy

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I haven’t been for a run for 2 weeks. I had used a variety of excuses including rain, tiredness, and not enough time. I tell you this has definitely had a detrimental effect on my well-being. If you had asked me last week how I was doing, I would have said, I am fine, in fact I am doing great, and on the whole I was, but what I didn’t notice was that my stress bucket was getting dangerously full. I wasn’t emptying my bucket, effectively. I wasn’t paying attention to my daily hour of happiness, part of that is giving myself head space going for a run. Not going for a run is a double-edged sword, I don’t get my headspace and on top of that I feel guilty for not going for a run.

This past week was quite an important week for me, with a couple of things that were happening that required me to be vulnerable, and in the words of Brene Brown, dare greatly. So not being mentally on form was problematic. Firstly I was meeting our Chief Nurse to discuss Clinical Supervision with Janis, then on Wednesday I was booked to give a talk to the local Rotary Club, I was also delivering a Discovery Insights (a system we use to help individuals and team understand how themselves and others prefer to behave, to help them better connect with each other and improve team productivity) session for a team of Specialist Nurses. I was also worried about another work stream that was not going completely to plan (which ones do?).

I woke up on Monday morning at about 4 am with my old friend Foggy having a field day, beating the crap out of my self-esteem. It felt like every muscle in my body was in spasm. All morning, all I could hear was a continuous loop of negative self-talk. I had butterflies in my stomach and had no idea how I was going to survive the week.

Well I got through Monday, I dug deep and when I met the Chief Nurse, and when I went to deliver the Insights session, I showed up I dared, said what I needed to say, the sky didn’t fall in, what I had to say appeared to land how it was intended. Gladly I had Janis alongside me with the Chief Nurse, and she gave me that boost of confidence. The Insights session was just me, and to be honest at the beginning of the session I did feel like running out of the room screaming. I didn’t (obviously), I took a deep breath jumped in and trusted my knowledge and experience, it worked I did it, the nurses laughed when they were supposed asked questions looked interested and had a plan for what they were going to do with this information. In fact I got an email the next day from one of the nurses thanking me. That didn’t stop Foggy telling me they were just being polite and in fact you were just useless.

Fast forward to Wednesday, they day of my talk with the Rotary Club. To be honest the day was a complete blur. I remember having a sore throat and wondered if I was coming down with a cold. Just adding to my anxiety, I now had an image of me sneezing over everybody and having a coughing fit during my talk. On the way to the talk after work I decided to change my plan and not give the talk I was going to, as after talking to the lady who had invited me, it became evident that they were after some solutions for the future of the club. So on the bus on the way there (I always use public transport, I tell myself it is because I am eco-friendly, in fact I am just scared of driving) I formulated a new plan of a mini-coaching session. By the time I got there Foggy was stomping on self-confidence, I was barely holding it together. So after I had met all the members present we sat down and had a meal. What a delightful group of people they are. The meal and normal routines took about 40 minutes. That was possibly one of the longest 40 minutes in my life. No no matter how lovely they were, I was barely present in the room, I was desperately trying to push Foggy back into his cupboard, whilst trying not to listen to his negativity. Then it was my turn to speak, I did what I did on Monday I just jumped right in and hoped for the best. It was either going to be a car crash with no one wanting to respond to me or they would embrace it and start talking about what they needed to do. I declared at the beginning of the talk that I had no intention of doing all the talking. I think in total I spoke for about 10 minutes of the 35 minutes I was up there. They were fantastic they fully embraced it. I asked a few questions, and then they were off, by the end they had a plan of what they were going to do next and a commitment to action. I was amazed by how much they got done in such a short space of time.

Despite spending so much time in the arena and not having stuff thrown at me, and people shouting obscenities at me, I have still managed to feel completely useless all week. The only reason I am able to write this today is (I believe) because I have been for a run. Yesterday I had resolved that I would not write anything today, as I had nothing worth saying in my head. Yesterday I got written feedback from an old coachee, telling me how much she had benefited from my coaching, both personally and professionally. I so wish I hadn’t opened it until next week. All that positivity was wasted on me yesterday. I just didn’t register it as anything worth celebrating. Now today I feel so happy that I helped someone realise how vital they are.

Lets end on a happy note. I stole myself to go for a run this morning. Even though Foggy told me that I was slow and fat and that I would be laughed at by everyone down our street. I jumped in accepting that there might be some people who may be amused by fat arse bouncing down the street and by the sound of my wheezing as I struggle to control my breathing. I also know that most people will not even notice me, as they are too busy worrying about their own lives. Most people have got too much shit going on in their lives to notice some fat middle-aged bloke pounding the streets.

So I ran for 30 minutes (I walked a bit too), and it felt amazing even the pain and breathlessness was great. Foggy has gone back in his cupboard and I feel strong enough to share my feelings in this blog.

Actually writing this blog helps me put it all into perspective. I love writing this blog, so it does form part of my hour of happiness.

Even you find things getting on top of you, have a look at your day and starting adding in activities that make you happy, if they add up to an hour everyday you will start to feel better. (If you struggle to find anything positive, then please don’t keep it to yourself, share those feelings with someone who is close, also make an appointment to see your Doctor, there is help out there, don’t suffer in silence)

PERMA and That Hour of Happiness

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The past week has been a little turbulent. It has been a week of feeling vulnerable, after sharing my feelings on here and sharing a little of myself in the support of others. In fact sharing in support of others Is suppose has triggered this blog.

I had no plans to write a blog today. I thought I was spent after sharing my parenting pains yesterday. However when I was out on a run this morning I started thinking about what I had said to a group of new registrants and the end of their first year as Registered Nurses. I was talking to them about the daily stress they encounter in their everyday job as part of a talk I do to Nurses about compassionate reflective practice. The premise of the talk is that to be truly compassionate to others, you have to show compassion to yourself. Part of that compassion is looking after and maintaining your capacity for stress.  Our lives are stressful, that is normal, life has always been stressful and always will be. If didn’t have stress and discomfort we would not have great innovation and creativity. Learning and development come from a place of discomfort. However if not checked and managed that discomfort can turn into distress. Innovation and creativity die in a place of distress. So at this point in the talk (if you ever attend this talk or the day I do on human factors and error management, look interested and intrigued as if you have never heard it before) I drew a bucket and invited them to imagine that the bucket was their capacity for stress. Now every time you experience stress it sits in your bucket. If you don’t pay attention to your bucket it can overflow and that is when you become distressed. I suggested to them that the way to manage their bucket is to attach a tap to the bottom of it, and they can do this by setting aside an hour everyday that is dedicated to their happiness, something that is just for them, or something that just makes them smile or feel good inside. I suggested to them that they may already be taking part in some of these activities but do not label them as part of their hour of happiness. This is quite a powerful proposition and is a way of appreciated, yourself, people around you and your environment.

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This got me thinking about Martin Seligman’s PERMA. In his book Flourish (if you are a Psychologist or a student of Psychology please forgive my clumsiness) and no doubt in earlier publications he suggests that people who mentally healthy have the following characteristics.

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships (supportive/positive)

Meaning

Accomplishment

I suppose that hour of happiness in many ways is doing an inventory and just checking in with your PERMA on a daily basis.

So I invite you to pay attention to your stress bucket, by allocating an hour of happiness in your life. It can be anything that pays attention to your PERMA.

So far today I have gone for a run for 30 minutes, that has given me sense of accomplishment, which in turn has given me a positive emotion at the end of it. I have been writing this blog for about 40 minutes now which has been engaging and will give me a sense of accomplishment, it will also create connections with some of you readers, some of whom I know, so therefore builds our relationship further. Already I am over my hour, however I am not finished with my happiness today (it is Sunday I suppose). I have had 2 short 5 minute conversations with my sons one on the state of modern drama and it’s over reliance on the crime drama, with him stating that nothing useful or original has been said in that genre for the past decade. That made me smile and made me love him that little bit more. I then had a conversation with my youngest and his girlfriend about the programme they were watching, which was a comedy by all accounts, although there appeared to be no laughter in the room. The usual banter occurred as always does ending me gently making fun of his stubble and him telling me I need to grow up. This again made me smile and even laugh out loud and I loved him that little bit more. Thinking about those conversations also makes me feel proud of the young men they have become, so I suppose to 3 minute conversations have shown to me that my PERMA is safely intact and it is not even lunch time.

Even just taking stock of what makes you happy during the day can turn that tap on at the bottom of your bucket. We cannot escape from the stress of our lives, and nor should we. Stress and discomfort are vital for a successful life if managed, and only become a problem if we neglect ourselves and don’t pay attention to how we feel.

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My invitation to you is find and embrace your hour of happiness everyday, you well-being and resilience depends on it.

This forms the first part of my connected living program, if you would like to know more about managing your stress how you can better connect with yourself and others get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

The Confidence Factor

I am back on track with my goal, of running the Hull 10k in June.

Being on the cuddly side of large, having confidence is a considerable factor when it comes to running.

The confidence is 2 fold. There is the confidence of being out in public in sports wear, looking like you are about to collapse in a pool of sweat gasping for air. Then there is the confidence in my fitness and ability to run any kind of distance.

Now back in November I was running 5km 3 times a week. So I can do it, I can have the confidence to run a good distance in public in shorts. After all not 18 months ago myself and Lisa stumbled round the Great North Run in front of thousands of people. The problem with confidence is though that it can leave you. When you stop doing something, or when something happens, that changes your mood.

Because I had a break from running for December and now most of January my fitness level dropped, and my mood dropped. Then I felt guilty that I wasn’t keeping fit and running like I said I would. Then I tried to start back up, without much planning and thought. So when I did go for a run a few weeks ago it was hard work and that took me by surprise as it was harder than I thought it would be. That knocked my confidence and dropped my mood further.

So what is different this time? Well I have planned for the run to hurt and for me to feel like s fat blob running in treacle. You know both the run on Sunday and today were hard but not as bad as I expected. I did feel self conscious but not as bad as I thought, I also made sure I ran when there was less people. I have also set myself a slow conservative regime slowly building the distance I run, but with the permission to run further sooner if I feel confident enough. So yes it hurt yes I feel a twit in my running gear, but in my mind I have the image of me in June running 10k and feeling so proud of my achievement. In fact I am feeling all emotional writing it.

I know I will falter again, each time I will re-examine my goal and my plan and keep doing that until I achieve my goal.

How are you doing with your goals?

Restorative powers of exercise

Since completing the 50km challenge in Movember I have done very little exercise.

I have noticed that this has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. My resilience had been much reduced. Foggy has become a regular companion on my commute to work and he has hung about filling my heads with negative thoughts.

Now couple that with the self imposed need to appear positive and happy to everyone. This had been exacerbated during December with starting a new role and it being Christmas. To me that meant that I must be positive at all costs and not show any frailty. Trying to be unerringly optimistic when you actually think you are a useless piece of shit is quite exhausting. I had a couple brief runs but never really sustained it.

Trying to break the viscous cycle is not always easy, and it is all too easy to find reasons why you can’t break that cycle of self pity and feeling so low. The thing is when you find the right excuse, you start to feel guilty which confirms your self-loathing.

This weekend I decided to give it a go again. I went for a short 1 mile run on Saturday. The feeling it produced was quite profound. As I started to plan how I was going to return to running up to 5km again. I could now see that the feelings I was experiencing are transient. I went for another 1 mile run today with a plan to run a further 5 miles over the next week, then slowly increase the distance I run in one go. I started giving myself the opportunity to succeed rather than fail. I feel so much more positive.

Now during the runs I felt like my lungs were going to explode, and Christmas really had taken its toll. But very soon after the runs I felt incredible. The feelings exercise evoke are quite amazing. I feel so much more positive, the anxiety in the pit of my stomach is going and so is the tension in my jaw. I feel happy again.

If you are feeling blue, or useless, or cannot see anything positive in your life, then consider exercise, it is remarkable. I know that all I have to do to pick up my mood is go for a run. It makes me feel safe again.

My Motivational Playlist

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, music plays an important part in my life and how I motivate myself.
This is all the more important when I am running. I am not exactly a natural runner, my default position is most definitely seated therefore it is always a challenge, and as someone once said running is always a series of arguments between my joints that want to stop and my mind that wants to carry on. So I need music to be playing to give me a soundtrack and help me get into a positive mindset to ensure my mind wins the argument.
I have recently started listening to new music. That is songs that have just been released and not necessarily what I would choose if I made a conscious choice of picking it out. I let apple music choose a playlist of the latest alternative releases. So every time I go for a run there is always at least 1 or 2 new exciting surprises. Putting on my music before my run has become integral to the whole routine of running and actually I now look forward to my run to hear something new and exciting as well as some songs that have become familiar. Below is a list of some of my favourite songs currently on the playlist. These are the songs that instantly take away the pain and add another spring to my step. If you get chance give them a listen. We can all to often get stuck in a rut and not try anything new. Just think listening to something new might just inspire you to do something amazing.
My Positive Playlist:
Dear Life – Beck
Nothing to Find – LCD Soundsystem
Domesticated Animals – Queens Of The Stone Age
Plimsoll Punks – Alvvays
War is Coming – Car Seat Headrest
New York – St Vincent
Burn it Down – Daughter
Desire – Everything Everything
Countdown – King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard
Can’t Play It Cool – Sheer Mag
It Came to Me – The Barr Brothers
Vampire Again – Marlon Williams
Violet – Districts
Thomas County Law – Iron and Wine
Just Like That – Girl Ray
People and Their Dogs – Willie J Healey
Guilty Party – The National
Evil Has Landed – Queens of The Stone Age

Enjoy, and feel free to share your own.

Feeling a bit meh?

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Well that title sort of sums up my week really. Not exactly miserable, but not motivated enough really to do anything.

From a health and fitness point of view nothing seems to be working fast enough for me this week. I am not really losing any weight and I don’t feel any fitter really. As a consequence this has knocked my confidence and motivation. I have really had to drag myself out for a run this week, and when out I have given up quicker than I should. I would like to say my diet has suffered too, but in all honesty I my diet remains as shit as it was before I started trying to get fit again.

Essentially I have felt sorry for myself all week, not really achieving much. The thing is self pity can spiral if left unchecked. By the middle of the week I was starting to feel bad about not really doing much, and I started to be over critical of myself, so I didn’t go for a run on Thursday and again yesterday, with ‘what’s the point, it’s not working….’ ringing in my ears.

Yesterday was the critical point, this was potentially a point where I could just give up. If I continued to punish myself for being unmotivated I would definitely given up. Last night it would have been so easy to give up telling myself that I can never finish anything and quietly go back to being a couch potato. Instead I let myself off feeling this way. I said to myself that it is ok to be in a cannot be arsed mood every now and then. I then asked myself, ‘what are you going to do about it then?’ So this morning I have a plan to continue what I was doing keep running regularly, and gradually increase the distance I am running. Something that I have been doing. Instantly I felt more positive and relaxed. I have to remember I am 46 and overweight, so I cannot expect to run 5km in under 30 minutes. But I know I can run 3km comfortably at the moment. The one thing I am going to address is my diet. This is something that I have not tackled and if I am honest I have probably neglected slightly thinking that just exercise would solve the problem (this was based purely on hopeful thinking not scientific evidence). This is my blind spot, so I am currently developing a list of possibilities of how I am going to achieve this. On the face of  it, it is simple (reduce input and increase output). The issue is that my reason to do it so far does not outweigh the enjoyment of chocolate, crisps, chips, anything fatty and stodgy (bloody hell I feel hungry now). Watch this space I feel a working plan will be in place very soon.

Motivation will fluctuate when you are attempting to reach your goal. It is important that you relax and accept it as a natural part of the change process. Just ask yourself how you are going to overcome this. It is always good to re-examine your reason for making a change to your lifestyle as it may need revising.

If you wish to explore making a change to your lifestyle get in touch for a free consultation.

Running for my mindfulness

Over the past 2 months I have been running a lot more frequently. I know try to run at least 5 times a week. I generally run 1 to 2 miles each time. Not far I know and to be honest I am painfully slow. I run mostly in the evenings during the week and in the morning at weekends. Sometimes I will mix it up and go to the gym where I will go on the treadmill and have a go at some weights.

As I said I have been doing this for a few months, in fact you may remember my previous blog posts on the subject. Naively I thought my body shape would change I would be all slim and lithe like by now. No chance I’m still a porker! I have discovered that you have to adjust you diet if you want to get slimmer, which is a shame, I am quite partial to a bag of crisps and the odd chocolate bar. Oh I will just have to be that fat bloke in sports gear.

Anyway I digress, the main reason for this blog is to describe how I now feel after running regularly for the past few months. I have mentioned before the mindfulness I experience when I run. Well now that has spilled over into everyday life. When I feel myself getting stressed out by events or thoughts I can now in most cases switch on this mindful state when I run. Even though I don’t run for long, so therefore I am only mindful for short periods everyday, that regular practice of mindfulness everyday allows me to employ the technique when I need to.

I will try to explain how it works for me. When I am running in generally hurts, mainly because I am in my mid forties and overweight, so my joints object quite strongly to moving this lump around at a greater speed. I also find that for the first couple of minutes my breathing is all over the place. So that is where I start I listen to my breathing. I don’t try to regulate it or slow it down, I just listen to it. I allow myself to be breathless for the first 2 minutes. I am then able to relax and work with my body rather than fighting it. After about 2 minutes my breathing settles down and gets into a regular rhythm. I can then use that breathing as a reference point along with the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. These are places I can bring myself back to say when my knees and ankles start hurting or when my thoughts wonder to unhelpful areas. I will also take in my surroundings, I notice the trees, the colour of the sky, cars passing by, the feel of the wind, rain or sunshine on my face. My mind quickly relaxes and allows me to experience what is happening to me now, rather than what has already happened or what might happen in the future. However if positive memories or positive plans of the future enter my head I do allow them to linger for a while, but I will always come back to the hear and now to help me through the run. (Remember I am only running for a few minutes so it does not take up big chunks of my day. Can you give up at most an hour 5 times a week).

Now I use that technique 5 times a week I find it so easy to bring myself into the moment when it all gets to much. As a result Foggy now has a much reduced impact on my life.

So if you are struggling with your mood, think about taking part in some exercise and employing mindfulness.

Don’t forget I am still offering free coaching sessions providing you contact be before 5pm on 1st August 2017

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