Mental health

How to manage your emotions during times of crisis; skills I’ve learned from therapy…

*TRIGGER WARNING* This post may be a trigger for some people. Includes topics such as mental health, PTSD, terrorism and death.

With the recent tragedy taken place in Manchester, I feel that the whole of the UK is in mourning. I don't live in Manchester, nor do I personally know any of the victims, however I am unbelievably devastated for the lives that have been taken, the family's that have been broken and those that are still in critical condition with life-changing injuries all as a result of a delusional monster who thought that his purpose in life was to avenge a terrorist group.

My heart ached for those poor children, young adults and parents who had to go through that act of terrorism and I couldn't help but feel crushed and overwhelmed. That was then followed be a wave of guilt because I didn't feel like I had the right to feel that way. I wasn't there, I didn't know any of the victims, why should I be so upset? Why should I be wiping away tears when parents, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousins and best friends are coming to terms with the loss of their loved one? But if there is one thing that going to therapy has taught me it's that it is absolutely okay to feel and express emotion. I also released that I wasn't alone in feeling the same guilt that I was experiencing. There is absolutely no shame in having feelings for somebody that has lost their life in such a tragic event and no body should tell you otherwise. So I stopped being so caught up in my emotional mind and tried to get the balance. In situations like this, you want to be in what we call the 'wise mind', a perfect mix of your emotional mindset and your logical mindset. We need both mind states to function day-to-day and if we didn't have access to them both, then we'd either be an emotional wreck or a have an emotional barrier up and not feel anything at all. Now reading that, you're probably thinking of how easy that is to do but for those who are emotionally unstable or find things hard to process then it can be quite the challenge.  When given the right guidance, your mind and body know what it needs and what it wants.

I waited over 8 years to be diagnosed with my mental health problems and was then popped on a 6-month waiting list to seek the help that my mind needed, so if you're on that waiting list, or you're contemplating seeing a doctor; if you're feeling like your head is all over the place or even that you need that little bit of guidance, then please read on. I want to share with you some of the skills, advice and guidance I've received during therapy.

First, I've already mentioned this one, but reminding yourself that it is okay to feel emotion! You do not have to apologize for being emotional about a sad situation. You are human not a robot! Think about the last time you cried in front of somebody and I can almost guarantee you blubbered "oh I'm so sorry for crying/being so stupid, it's just…".
I do it all the bloody time. But there is nothing to apologise for. You may feel like you're being stupid or embarrassing but you're not! Tell yourself or others that tell you what you're feeling is irrelevant, that you are entitled to feel this way and you are allowed to have feelings!

The second is allowing yourself time to practice self-care. Whether you class self-care as going to a spa for the day and completely pampering yourself or popping into your local coffee shop and ordering a huge hot chocolate with lashings of whipped cream. Self-care is about being mindful of your personal well-being and understanding that it is not selfish, self-centered or ignorant to have time to look after you. You wouldn't carry on running a marathon if you'd broken your leg, so why are we expected to carry on with our day-to-day when our minds are feeling a bit fragile or broken. It's the little things that really count.

Now, this one used to be something I used to laugh at and think that it was just for spiritual, hippy-type people but it's really not. Mindfulness. You may have heard it, you may not but if you have you'll know it has a huge following when it comes to mental health. Mindfulness is simple but effective and all it really is, is being aware of your current situation. Take 30 seconds right now to sit down in what we call the mindful posture; sit up straight, both feet flat on the floor, hands on your knees with palms facing up and focusing your attention on an object or feeling. You could take your ring off your finger and just hold it; observe how it shines, how it feels, and if any thoughts start to enter your head, be mindful of that. Recognize them and put them aside, drawing your attention back to the ring. Just taking that 30 seconds, or however long you want to practice mindfulness for, really clears your mind in some instances. I'm not sitting here saying it will solve all of your problems but it does put a few things into perspective.

The next skill I want to share is part of the acronym 'TIPP' which stands for Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing and Paired muscle relaxation. Now I'll break that down for you. This is used to reduce extreme emotion quickly, for instance, if you're having an anxiety/panic attack or experiencing intense emotion like anger. First of all fill a sink with cold water, take the deepest breathe your lungs will allow, then just submerge your face into the water or cup your hands and splash the water onto your face. When we're experiencing a surge of adrenaline, our core temperature rises, so by reducing your body temperature you can reduce the adrenaline. You are also focusing your mind elsewhere whilst preparing the water and holding your breath. Usually the reduction in temperature is enough to calm me, that and the fact that when I'm in a state I don't particularly fancy going for a run, but you can see how pounding the pavement or a punchbag could be beneficial. Paced breathing; counting to 7 breathing in and counting down from 11 breathing out. This is a trick used for decades and I HATED this skill purely for the fact that when I was admitted into hospital for my suicide attempt, the "mental health nurse" told me to breath. I felt so patronized, belittled and wanted to punch him in his smug little face. But when pared with the previous 'TIPP' skills, it does have its moments. Finally, we're on to paired muscle relaxation. I love this. Tension builds in your muscles due to stress and causes pain and discomfort so this skill targets those muscles to provide some release. Tense up a particular muscle and hold it for 10 seconds, then slowly release and feel the tension leave; as you do it, if you focus on the feeling and nothing else you're practising mindfulness.

This next skill personally was very effective. As I have BPD, it stems from childhood and adolescence trama and I had a very hard time accepting and letting things go. It wasn't something that I was capable to do. I had never been back to my dads grave since his death but this last month, 8 years after his death, I finally went to visit and lay roses where his service was held. I managed to do this by using a skill called 'Radical Acceptance'. Now this may sound like crap but I assure you it's not. Radical means all the way, complete and total and it is accepting what you cannot change. It's when you stop fighting reality, getting upset or angry about things you cannot change and listen to your mind, body and heart. Reality is just that; its real life. I cannot change the fact that my dad passed away nor can I change the fact that I am still annoyed with my boyfriend for eating the last Toblerone cookie when I said it was mine… as minuscule as it might sound, we hold grudges, we're human. But if we continue to hold on to them, they eat away at us. Just like the way my boyfriend ate the last cookie…. (seriously, let it go Kate)… My mantra in life is 'everything happens for a reason' and I truly believe it does.
When my ex cheated on me, I felt lost and a hopeless mess. I felt like a shell of myself and longed to go back to the person I was before. I hated him for that but now I don't feel anything but gratitude towards him. Yeah, seriously. I thank him for cheating because if that wouldn't have happened we would probably still be in a relationship and I wouldn't have found the strength I know now, I wouldn't have met the love of my life and I wouldn't appreciate all that I do now. I am a completely different person to what I was when I was with him and I'm happy with that. It took a long time for me to accept thatyes he broke me as a person and I missed who I was before. It took me years to not feel anger towards him, towards those girls and towards myself for not being good enough. I've radically accepted that the past cannot be changed but what is amazing about that is the fact that we have the power to shape our futures. Sure we don't know what may be round the corner but do we really want to live our lives in regret and resentment? What is the point? It doesn't get you anywhere but a first class ticket on that path to self-destruction.
Given that many children lost their lives in the recent attack in Manchester, I feel like that should be a huge wake up call for the rest of us still lucky enough to still be here; they didn't get the chance to live the rest of their lives, they were only getting started. Life can really be taken away in the blink of an eye and you don't want to get old or be on your death-bed wishing you had done more. Don't deny yourself the help you need, don't pretend it will go away by itself because it wont. Live everyday like its going to be your last, don't carry on in that unhappy relationship or crappy job. Get out, live, have fun. Accept that the past cannot be changed because it can't, no matter how difficult it was, there is nothing you can do about it and that is the harsh reality.

Nelson-Mandela

We have all been through difficult times and some people cope better than others, but that doesn't make you weak. If you're going through a hard time in your life, you've got this and you can fight those demons, I thoroughly believe that and I believe in you! If you need anything; if you need advice, guidance or just want to offload, just send me a message, leave me a comment, I'm on most social media and I will answer. You have always got someone and no matter what you feel, it can be a struggle but you can get through this!

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