Saturday, 19 December 2015

Have A Holly Jolly Christmas.

I'm now home for Christmas for two weeks and could not be happier. The last few nights between day shifts on the ward have consisted of squeezing my eyes shut tight to force myself to go to sleep because I've been so excited to come home. Any other 20 year old's get this excited for this time of  year? 

Christmas is the one time of year that honestly makes me truly happy. For me, Christmas is about family, food, presents and celebrating with people that mean the most to me. I have always got over excited for Christmas. My Mum and Dad told me today that when I was really young, around 6 or 7, I would get so excited for Christmas that I wouldn't concentrate in school, I would by hyperactive 24/7 and get in trouble, I wouldn't sleep, and I even used to make myself physically sick from working myself up to a stupid level of excitement.

I don't know what it is that is so exciting for me, but the whole idea of being surrounded by family, playing games, eating nice food, exchanging gifts, having the fire on and drinking endless amounts of cups of teas makes me so happy. I miss my family while I'm away at university as it is anyway, but coming home for two weeks, especially this year, feels so amazing. Everyone just seems to be in a better mood at Christmas and this settles me a lot when I see people smiling, happy and sometimes even singing. 

Not all of my Christmas' have been amazing, in fact last Christmas I spent the afternoon in tears because of family bickering, and a few years ago I lost my Grandad who I was very close to, but this does not stop me being excited and on an incredible high for the festive period. Mum often comments on how stressful Christmas can be for her with the cooking and organising of visitors, gifts, money and food etc, but it is all worth it, surely? Spending quality time with family and friends is just what I need and what a perfectly timed Christmas for me this is. So far, my anxiety levels have been low and I am enjoying my time at home already. I have lots planned with family and friends and although some of them are quite anxiety provoking and will require me to break out of my comfort zone, I am doing my best to think positively to keep my anxieties at bay. 

I don't really know why I decided to write this post. Maybe to reinforce my emotions for myself because they are so positive, and I've always wanted this blog to show my good times as well as the tough ones, but for those of you following my blog posts and wondering how I am, here's an update. Maybe my excitement is excitement for happiness rather than Christmas itself? Who knows, but I am happy. Merry Christmas and I hope everybody who reads this has an absolutely amazing time over the next few weeks. Tell your family and friends how much you love them and embrace the festivities. 

Love Luce xo

Saturday, 12 December 2015

How To Keep Yourself Calm

A lot of things in life worry me, frighten me or make me anxious, and they are usually irrational things that 'normal' people would never find worrying, frightening or anxiety provoking. For someone like me who suffers with anxiety and panic disorder, a normal day can be difficult in that my body can be feeling threatened and will be in fight/flight mode all day. Hours of being tensed up, being on edge, tired, worried, emotional and scared can really wear you out and so I thought I would write a blog post on my techniques to keep myself as calm and anxiety free as possible to lessen these effects of my disorders.

TV and Movies
I watch a lot of TV and movies on my laptop from either catch up TV, Sky Go or Netflix. Even if I'm doing uni or placement work, I will still have something on my laptop in the background. (Even right now I have Dexter playing in the background while writing this!). TV allows me to focus on something other than the thoughts in my head. For me, shows I have to use my brain in like criminal, psychological shows and films like Dexter, House, How To Get Away With Murder and Pretty Little Liars are my favorite for this very reason. Documentaries are also a good distraction for me, or insight TV shows such as 24 Hours in A&E or The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds are also great for this reason too. Films that remind me of my childhood such as Disney films or Harry Potter also keep me calm as they remind me of happiness, family and safety. 

I listen to music everywhere I can. I used to download music onto my phone but now I have Spotify Premium, I can listen to any song, at any time, which really helps when I do feel anxious and need a specific song to relax me or cheer me up. Music really does help in particularly anxiety provoking situation such as train journeys, as I can listen to the words of the song and enjoy it. I made my own relaxing playlists for those times when I come home and really just need a kick up the bum to relax and wind down, and also have an uplifting playlist to distract myself from anxiety. 

I started this blog as a way for me to release my thoughts on my disorders and be able to turn it into something positive for other people to come to and learn about or be able to relate to and feel less alone. Before I started blogging, I kept a diary full of writing and memories, drawings and photos to help my release the thoughts in my brain. Knowing that I help people by blogging so open and honestly also helps me more than I thought it would as it allows me open up my nurse side and do what I do best and what makes me happy - help others.
Project Life and Scrapbooking
I collect memories....No, I hoard memories. Receipts, restaurant napkins, tickets, wristbands, anything that reminds me of happy times, I keep. I also take way too many photos. This year, I started Project Life which involves a mixture between scrapbooking and storing photos in photo albums. It allows me to be creative, display my memories or happy times and look back on them. I started Project Life during my period of sickness and it was amazing therapy for me to look at happy memories and realise I can be happy again. Now I love it. Every time I go home, I will add to my scrapbook, as it also relaxes me and is something I really enjoy. 

Keeping Organised
Anyone who knows me knows that my obsession in life is organisation. I colour-code, make endless lists, write down EVERYTHING and set myself deadlines. I have a diary that never leaves my bag with everything in it. If I lost that, I'd be lost myself, but staying on top of my life keeps me calm and relaxed. If I know what I'm doing and it's written down, it is something I don't have to worry about. Wish exams and assignments, I set myself mini deadlines within the main deadline so I don't bombard myself the dread of 'I have 3000 words to do in 4 months'. Instead I will tell myself to do say 200 words a week. That way I reach my targets and can feel proud of myself throughout it, rather than worried. 

Obviously the main thing I do is surround myself with happy people and things that make me happy. I talk to my boyfriend, mum and dad every day and they keep me happy. I have posters up in my room with quotes reminding me to keep happy. I give myself 'me' time and let myself do nothing sometimes. I hope this post has given you an insight into how I keep myself calm and happy and have reinforced the importance of doing things your way as often as you can to be calm, relaxed and happy. 

Love Luce xo

Monday, 7 December 2015

How To Help Someone Suffering From a Panic Attack.

I think a very important thing to understand and know about when someone you love or someone you care about suffers with a panic disorder or panic attacks is how to help calm them down and support them when anxiety gets the better of them. Here are some tips from my point of view as the sufferer on how you can help someone who is having a panic attack.

1. Recognise the moments leading up to a panic attack
If you know the person well enough and spend a lot of time with them, you are likely to recognise when they are feeling anxious and be able to tell that they are about to have a panic attack. If not, talk to them about their specific pattern of visual behaviors and emotions leading up to a panic attack and recognise them as soon as they start. Personally, I zone out and grab onto something, or usually someone, to make myself feel safe, so this is what someone who is with me would be looking out for. The sooner it is recognised, the easier it is to calm down from it. For the sufferer, it makes them feel better knowing that someone has recognised they need help too, and that they are not alone.

2. Take them away from it all
Panic attacks can happen anywhere, sometimes with triggers, sometimes not, and one of the most important things for anyone who has panic attacks is the need to feel safe. If the person you're with has a panic attack in a club, or in a shopping centre, or a confined area, take them out. Even if you just lead them from the bathroom to the living room of their house, it gives them a new surrounding that is not connected to where they first began to feel anxious, giving them a chance to use this environment to calm down in. Fresh air and space helps me enormously. Even just being able to see the sky makes me feel better. Wherever that person is when they start to panic, guide them out of there as quickly as possible, and reassure them that they're safe. Sometimes, quick breaks away from crowd in the club on a night out or breaks in a shopping day out is all I need to remind myself I can get out if I need to, so this is a good preventative measure too. 

3. Breathing
I personally am the worst breather ever when I panic. I forget what breathing is and how to do it, and i'm sure many other people who have had a panic attack knows what I mean. Like I spoke about in this post, I spend more time saying 'I can't breathe' than actually trying to breathe. Because of this, having someone with me telling me to breathe and even breathing with me to so I can focus on how I should be breathing is amazing. Anything tight on or around the chest can give the illusion that breathing is more difficult than it actually is and so, while maintaining dignity, remove any tight clothing that may help the person breathe better. I don't mean remove their top, or unbutton their shift fully, what I mean is like, for example, I had a panic attack on Halloween this year and my boyfriend removed my fancy dress wings from off my shoulders to help me breathe better. You can undo the top buttons of someones shirt, or remove a necklace if you think the person would be able to breathe better without.  Once my breathing is stable, I already feel a lot better so the more you can help with this aspect, the better. 

4. Make them feel safe
Safety is massive. During a panic attack, you are more out of control than you have ever been and so feeling safe is very very important. Reminding the person 'you're safe' or 'I won't let anyone hurt you' really helps along with physical contact like holding their hand or rubbing their back. For me, being brought close into someone in a hug and being wrapped up tight helps me, but others may find this even more distressing so make sure the person is comfortable with that first. Stay with them at all times. If someone is left alone, it will probably make them worse as their safety net is gone.

Imagine you were out of control of your own body and being made to feel like you're dying. Now imagine how you would like to be treated throughout a 20 minute episode of it. That's all you have to do. The main thing I must strongly advise is please do not panic yourself. I understand how having someone grabbing onto you saying 'I can't breathe' can be petrifying, but remember it is their body responding to fear or threat and you can help take that fear or threat away. Honestly, they will never forget what you did for them, and they will trust you a whole lot more. Talk to the individual about how they would like you to help them if the situation did arise because everyone is different. Be confident and show you care, and whatever you do do NOT use the words 'Calm down!' - if they could calm down, a panic attack never would have happened. 

Love Luce xo

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