The New Year starts on the 10th doesn’t it?

I’ve long ago stopped pretending that I could make any new changes to my life on January 1st. Even in a Lockdown, new years day happens in a strange time of disorientation, alcohol and chocolate.

Then the first Monday could count as a new start but the first week back at work is a bit messy and muddled and you’re still putting away Christmas.

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Meeting anxiety

10am. So that huge project I was working on last week is on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

I woke up with the usual Monday meeting knot in my stomach. This is a different type of fear. Although maybe its all related. This one is the familiar meeting anxiety which, before I try to push away with work and distractions, I will dissect to see what it’s actually made of. There is the general social anxiety of a meeting full of people, but tangled up in it is the following:

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Day Nine: Exercise

Oh my God I should have started with this one. It’s so flipping essential. I know this, why have I let it slip?

About twenty years ago I was in such a religious bubble that I didn’t know how to speak to real people and was painfully shy in all secular social settings. I happened to go for a run with a non-church friend one day, and I found that afterwards, I could chat and laugh with my friend with zero inhibitions. I decided running would be my way to overcome social uncertainty, and tried to fit in a run before any stressful social event.

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Day Eight: Emotional Freedom Technique

This is a bizarre method of tapping on acupressure points and telling yourself you love and accept yourself regardless of the bad feelings. I was taught the technique by a lovely religious lady a few years ago, and even then I was skeptical. It did seem to work though, even if it was by virtue of placebo based self delusion. There was one occasion when I was hurt so badly by someone right before a meeting, and I had one minute to snap out of the sobbing, which, with a few taps on my eyebrows and chin, I managed in an instant. It really might just be the practice of doing something completely different that tricks your brain into thinking you must be fine now, but it did work.

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Day Seven: Connection

Yes, I’m even further behind now in my daily plan. After Friday’s adrenaline drenched adventures, I was wiped out all weekend. I forget that after my body has experienced an 8 or 9 level panic attack, there is a moment of incredible bliss where I slide right down to a 5, and I am massively grateful for steady breathing and not trembling, but it’s still not perfect. What follows is usually a couple of days of exhaustion and lethargy in level 5, in which I still can’t eat properly – which adds to the weakness – and I am mostly curled up on the sofa under two blankets. No motivation, no focus, and no fun to be around at all. The fortunate timing meant that I had a whole weekend to soak up my somnolence, and didn’t need to snap out of it until Monday morning. Clever timing there, little panic-maker, it’s almost as if you know my schedule! So, while I thought I’d have the energy and enthusiasm for a deep dive into the mysterious motivations of my inner child, I realised that’s a subject which requires a strength I haven’t quite got yet, and will be addressed in a few days when I reach day 13.

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Bonus chapter: surprise panic attack!

And on a day when I have done so many of my mental health practices – exercise, meditation, cold flipping shower, walk in nature, and an hour of breathing techniques. It still flipping got me.

It was creeping up on me all day, minor trembles, a couple of visits to the loo, and then it hit in earnest just after my love went to work for his night shift. So much wretching I thought this time there would be actual vomit, but no, just the empty hollow lurch of my entire self over the loo, accompanied by the usual rush of hot and then cold, and the lightheaded dizziness of not being able to breathe properly.

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Day Six: Cold Showers

Today’s shivery suggestion is brought to you by my very happy, healthy and confident little brother. In a family zoom call recently he talked about how great he was feeling since he completed his three day fast a couple of weeks ago. We were fascinated by his experience, as he described the physical and mental benefits of a complete cleanse and reset. While not at all tempted to follow that example, the conversation went on to the similar benefits of cold showers, which everyone sort of nodded in agreement to. I didn’t realise the extent to which immersion in freezing water was of recognised benefit to health, and looked it up.

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Day Five: Breathing techniques

5.30pm. The more astute of you will notice I’m a day late with this one. But instead of beating myself up about it, I accepted that on a day when my part-time job (that is supposed to require three hours per weekday) ends up taking eight hours, then I am allowed to roll my wellness hours over and catch up at the weekend.

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Day Four: Bedtime routine

Last night I still wasn’t 100%. I fended off the anxiety by making myself a cosy nest on the sofa with the heavy blanket and playing a previous Helm De Vegas’ show on the laptop. We join his Facebook live music performances every week which are not only full of amazing music, but real connection to a community of love and beauty, which works even when it’s not live.

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