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How Brain Disease Promised Me Quality Life Opportunities

I’ve been thinking alot about life recently. It’s been 5 years since I was diagnosed with a an atypical presentation of a rare brain disease; Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension or IIH. It’s also been 3 years since I was medically dismissed from my teaching career and I never dreamt back then that I’d still be mostly bedbound and so sick after 6 major surgeries.

But, how could I have known 5 years ago that this disease would have such unforgiving consequences for impact myself, let alone Joel and the boys? We never considered that this disease would mean reconsidering our dreams, hopes and plans for life together.

On the flipside, I’ve found silver linings amongst this shizz! I’ve found new ways to connect with the world, my family and my own wellbeing and built an even better relationship with Joel and the boys – who’d have thought that could happen! I’d never have been able to see myself not teaching but I’ve realised that I do have other talents and other roles to fill.

So in spite of my illness turning our world upside down and inside out, I’ve realised that my brain disease has oddly promised me new opportunities. I know that sounds crazy, even for a self confessed optimist, so let me explain my how I got to this conclusion.

How do you live your life?
  • Are you a dreamer –  living in a fantasy world with unrealistic ideals?
  • Are you a planner – always being organised and making lists?
  • Are you a doer – filling every waking moment and being very efficient?
  • Are you an optimist – being confident that there’s always a silver lining?
  • Are you a realist – able to accept and deal with the situation you’re in?
  • Are you an idealist – sure that happiness is a state of mind; despite the practicalities?
  • Are you impulsive – acting rashly and taking risks without thinking it through?
  • Are you a believer – having faith in what you do or trusting that your thing is truth?

I’ve always been an optimistic planner with an organised life. Everything had a place and everyone knew the systems. I knew was meant to teach aged 5. I taught my brother in the school holidays, when he’d much rather have played cars. I planned my life as a teacher and when I got there, I continued to live, walk and dream in teacher mode for 15 years.

Joel and I met at college and we took our time getting to know each other. I found his spontaneous nature intriguing as it was the total opposite to my pragmatism. But we had a shared sense of humour and moral standing and eventually became more than friends.

I’d describe Joel as a realistic dreamer. He adapts to every situation and gets a job done but then he’ll fantasise over idealistic homes and awesome guitars. He dreams of not having to work ever again, so he can paint and play music all day and maybe study for fun!

One of the games he plays with the boys is ‘lottery dreams’ which is pretty self explanatory. They’ve eyed up many mansions, fast cars and had myriad wild dreams. I love that Joel has always encouraged them to delve into their imaginations as playing this game’s just not my bag. Well, it wasn’t!

But then I got brain disease and my thought process changed and as time went on I knew I had to reevaluate my life plan. I had to learn to be more impulsive and grab the opportunities to live on my rare better days. I had to learn to stop doing and even how to rest; in fact I’m still learning that. But I had to get real and accept this was my life.

Questioning My Purpose
Why Am I Here?

Accepting this life has been a huge deal! When I became ill I thought I’d be back in the classroom after a change of migraine meds. But that didn’t happen, I was left undiagnosed for months. When I was diagnosed, I was told treatment would be a long process but I thought I’d be back teaching after a few brain surgeries. Just like that, yep really!

I was angry about this disease for ages and had a side order of guilt and despair. Quality opportunities for me were as elusive as the hope of being pain free. I wasn’t clear what my role was anymore and all that I knew was fading; I had no idea where the end point was!

It took time to sink in that ‘long’ in this case meant marathon long; life changing long. It made me question my role and my sense of purpose was destroyed. It didn’t look anything like the life I’d planned and I had no backup option. I was a mum, wife and teacher. Brain disease had pulled the rug out from under me and messed up our lives.

Living In The Shadows
The Grieving Process Cactus

I got lost in a desert of all consuming pain and hadn’t noticed the grieving process cactus spike I’d trodden on. I ways keeling over, dehydrated, unaware that I just had to wait for the cactus to bear fruit for the sweet syrupy nectar of a quality life. I coulhdn’t even feel that cactus back then. I could only see what I thought was the fix; surgery. Read my story here.

I was living in the shadows, in danger of letting this rare condition make a total eclipse of my life. The Black Dog was snarling and snapping at my heels every day so I needed to tighten the leash. I realised that I was being sucked into a vast black hole and I couldn’t hold on much longer. I felt like I’d been left to rot but knew I couldn’t let go of the edge.

I realised I had to weigh up the quality of life I had with one of taking risks and grasping all the opportunities I could. I wouldn’t let myself succumb to the darkness so my GP sorted urgent support from a counsellor. I felt like someone had my hands and wouldn’t let go!

The counsellor pointed out the cactus spike that was stuck in my shoe the whole time! I got hold of it and let myself start the grieving process for life pre brain disease. I let my inner mid-tantrum toddler out. I needed to be heard to began to accept the situation I was in.

The grief and anger I felt meant I was starting out on an equally long journey to heal my mental pain. Joel and the boys mattered too much for me to let go so I worked out the etchings of a plan with my first counsellor and slowly I began to rise.

A Determined Woman Will Always Rise

As I began to resurface I knew I needed more to think about than watching TV and eating. I realised I had more resources than I thought and started to use those I knew I already had. Being Mummy, Wife, Teacher and Cook was enough to still feel needed. It was a start.

When my counselling sessions finished I was in a better place mentally but physically my health worsened. I joined online support groups and found myself helping others in similar situations. I made some genuine friends but I was putting too much energy into helping those who didn’t give anything back.

I guess my nature is to nurture and I enjoyed shining some light into their day. It was a distraction from my pain too but I caught myself checking my phone every 5 minutes as it was my only connection to the outside world. This wasn’t healthy and I lost sight of shining the light on myself. I needed something more than this but I was still lost.

Then one day I was reminded that I’d been going to silversmithing workshops for years before I was diagnosed. I’d loved every minute in that workshop and my toolbox was just sitting there waiting patiently. It was time for me to rise up for myself again.

Reconnecting With The World

They say creativity can transform lives. It’s known that well-being and self worth can be improved through music, craft and art. Creative therapy involves expression beyond words. However, I’d never considered myself to be creative until I picked up those pliers and the sheet of silver. I thought that this might be the perfect soul healer for me.

I taught myself to make beaded jewellery as I couldn’t safely work with the silversmith’s tools. It was a wonderful distraction from the pain and boredom. My friends wanted to support me and I started getting orders. Soon after, I realised this thing might have potential and opened my Etsy Shop ‘The Paprika Jewellery‘.

Paprika Jewellery & Accessories

Joel’s recently told me that although he was inspired by my focus he’d been concerned by inability to dream. He thought I’d struggle when the day came to retire. Ok, so I didn’t retire but I’m so glad he’d bought those silversmith workshops for me that birthday.

My first sale to someone I didn’t know was such a high. Really I had no idea how to run a business, but it was an epic distraction. I took it at my own pace and any sale was a bonus back then. I didn’t realise it at the time but I’d found a sense of purpose again.

As my self esteem improved I decided to start a blog to help me process everything that Brain Disease threw at us. I was embracing the grieving process now. My blog focussed on raising awareness of my story, IIH, and challenge the misconceptions of migraine.

People loved to hear about my journey and my blog engaged others affected by IIH. I was sporadic with my writing as it was such hard work for my brain. It still is but don’t tell anyone! Yet again I was helping others but I’d found my own sense of purpose this time.

I took a total break from everything in 2018, as I had 3 surgeries. I really needed that rest and I focused entirely on being with my family. By now I’d recognised the importance of my role as a wife and mother so I took this seriously. I realised how lucky I was to be at home every day so that when the kids and Joel came home, I could just listen to them.

If I was teaching I wouldn’t have had this opportunity so I embraced it. I’ve become the family facilitator. I’ve been able to support the kids learning and build a stronger family bond than I could have done in my old life. Now I celebrate the little things too.

Taking The Opportunities

Since recovering from my surgeries I’ve been building up my energy whilst learning to pace myself. But there’s so much I want to do right now so I’m practising matching the energy I have with the energy I need. I’m ready to grab every opportunity and achieve all I can.

I still spend most days in my bedroom as going downstairs is enough for a wipe out. I can use the opportunity to write, make jewellery and rest so I can make the most of the better days, doing what matters most; being with my family (maybe even going out) and seeing friends . I still crash afterwards but it’s worth it to be with those who matter most!

I’m focusing on my new jewellery collection and the relaunch of my shop at the moment. I’ve putting into practice the things I’ve learnt about business when I was resting. I’m excited to develop my vision of writing and creating jewellery from positive themes.

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Laughing While You're Crying by Laura Mckee - 2M ago

Introduction

Laura is a former primary school teacher, blogger, poet and jeweller living in Sussex UK. She is a positive thinking, mum of 2 teenage boys and is happily married to Joel. Laura is an IIHer, chronic migraineur, patient advocate and mental health campaigner.

After developing a debilitating brain condition, IIH, in 2014; she sadly had to give up her 14½ year teaching career. Soon after being diagnosed, she turned her life long love of writing into this blog to document her journey with chronic illnesses. This evolved into raising awareness of disabilities, chronic illnesses and mental health.

Laura runs the Mission Migraine Twitter account, which raises awareness that migraine is much more than just a headache. Laura started her own business Paprika Jewellery & Accessories after starting to make jewellery as a distraction from the pain.

She writes poetry to explore her own mental health and well-being. Laura writes about positive thinking and living her best life, despite her conditions. She hopes to inspire others to find their own sense of purpose, whatever challenges they face.

Laura in her garden in Sussex UK

I started this blog to tell my story of living with Chronic Illnesses. I share my own experiences of coping with physical and mental illnesses, positively. You can read my full story her – The Story So Far.

Overview

I’ve been married to my husband Joel since 2003 after we met at university 6 years earlier. We have 2 teenage sons together and have grown stronger together and as a family because we’ve faced physical and mental health battles together. Now we share our family’s story to raise awareness by talking about our journey. This is my story!

In 2009, aged 32, I was diagnosed with migraine after months of daily pain. With the right balance of treatments, including alternative therapies, I returned to normal life as a young mum and teacher. 5 years later, I was diagnosed with chronic migraine and a headache specialist confirmed I’d been living with undiagnosed migraine since puberty.

In 2014 I had what I thought was a migraine attack, but the pain remained constant and nothing eased the pain. I noticed some new symptoms and found a specialist ENT surgeon in Cambridge who diagnosed Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension or IIH, a rare incurable brain condition. When my neurologists found out, they refused to treat me.

My symptoms are atypical and similar to the worst migraines I’ve had, but I knew the difference. My condition deteriorated quickly but I missed the Cambridge team’s medical trial and had to wait 18 months for treatment. I felt like I’d been left to rot by all the specialists and I developed depression and anxiety. The situation was tough on my family.

Paprika Jewellery & Accessories

I started making jewellery for myself and friends as a distraction from the relentless pain. My friends loved what I was doing and persuaded me to start selling my creations. So I started Paprika Jewellery & Accessories ( Link below image) and felt I had a sense of purpose again. I’ve made pieces to fundraise for the charities that have helped me.

Visit my Etsy shop The Paprika Jewellery

I’ve been developing ‘Paprika’ so I can help others through positive thinking. Strength of Tears and Paprika Jewellery have now joined forces and will be reopening soon. Through writing poetry and creating jewellery and accessories from positive themes, I hope to inspire women and sprinkle a little joy in the world. Sign up below for a 15% discount.

Next Steps

Despite 6 major surgeries and some improvement, my condition is still debilitating. I’m mostly bed-bound and need mobility aids, a stairlift and wheelchair. Joel and my boys care for me and I have a carer each weekday. My pain remains but my cognitive function has improved. I hope for a better future, with support from my Cambridge team and GP.

I’ve developed many healthy habits over the years such as meditation and writing to help my mental health. My next step will be working on reducing pain medication, using diet, bed yoga and natural therapies. We continue to adjust our expectations and live life one day at a time. We make a great team, ensuring each day is filled with love and laughter.

Follow me on Social Media

Instagram – Strength Of Tears

Twitter – Strength Of Tears

Facebook – Laughing While You’re Crying

Pinterest – Paprika Jewellery & Strength Of Tears

Twitter – Paprika Jewellery

Instagram – Paprika Jewellery

Facebook – Paprika Jewellery & Accessories

Do you want to be the first to know what’s coming and get your hands on exclusive deals? Grab a 15% coupon code for my Etsy shop and a Free Positive Action Printable when you sign up to my occasionally regular newsletter today! Just click here now: Paprika & Strength of Tears News

Hey there! You could really help me out. Just one minute of your time to press that share button helps me so much! You’ll literally make me do a bed-bound happy dance. Now there’s an image for you! 

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5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Teenage Carers

Young Carers

According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics), there are 149,000 young carers aged between 15 and 19 – about twice as many as in the 10-to-14 age range. [There are about 23,000 children under 9 who are carers].

There are about 50,000 Young Carers looking after someone with a Mental Health Condition in the UK. There are thought to be 3 in 5 Carers who have depression themselves, due to their role.

I aim to share the secrets that have guided our journey. They’re intended for younger families, caring for any family member, but are aimed at those with a teenage/young carer. I’m even sharing some free printables for you at the end of this post.

This advice is based on my experienced teacher viewpoint, but mostly that of a bed bound mum of 2 teenagers, who happen to be my Carers. It’s been tough, but we’re stronger than ever, as a family and individually, because we’ve worked at it!

My family

As the teen years approached our family, I feared the worst; especially as I was now chronically ill with a debilitating brain disease. How wrong could I be? I absolutely love it. We’ve just adapted our parenting style by listening and responding to each other.

With strong foundations, that Joel and I had worked hard to build together, it wasn’t hard to tweak our interactions. As our boys grow into young men, at 13 and 15 and 6ft+, we’ve found we actually enjoy spending time together – I know, crazy right?

I’m incredibly proud of both of them for all that they achieve. Their teachers recognise their awesomeness and they amaze me with what they achieve, both in and out of school. That they’re able to do so well, with so much else to deal with, is exceptional.

But I’m not delusional! I know not everyone has this and our life isn’t perfect either (erm – teenagers and brain disease involved). However, we’re a happy and loving family with amazing relationships. They are my motivation to keep positive every day!

If you want to find out more, read My story so far

The McKee’s mucking about Christmas 2018

Parenting Styles

The secrets I want to share with you can be implemented into your family with just a little work. We are have our own parenting styles and there’s no right way. So it’s normal to go through phases of feeling like we’ve sussed it and others like we’ve fluffed it!

So even if you’re a nailed it with some to spare parent; a doing your best, fair and square parent; a making a mess, laid out bare parent; a higgledy piggledy, up in the air parent; a tearing out your hair parent or a feeling guilty you’re not there parent, these secrets could work for you.

What Does Caring Involve For Me

I have a PA (carer) every weekday lunchtime, from an agency providing consistent care. These are some of the things I need help with:

  • Waking up after sleeping all morning,
  • Make me lunch, normally a smoothie as nausea stops me enjoying food
  • Making sure I have accessible water
  • Helping me to get dressed as needed and getting out my clothes each day
  • Picking anything up I drop as I can’t bend down
  • Do chores I can’t such as laundry, emptying bins and making beds
  • Preparing meals or freezing food for another day
  • Organising my medications
  • Enabling me to be more involved with the boys e.g. supporting us bake cakes
  • If I’m well enough taking us out for a cuppa or to the shops

I have a great relationship with my carers and we always have a giggle. I need laughter in my day and they bring it! They’re also always there to listen.

The Impact Caring Can Have

Being a young carer can have a big impact on the things that are important to growing up
  • It can affect a young person’s health, social life and self-confidence.
  • Many young carers struggle to juggle their education and caring which can cause pressure and stress.
  • In a survey, 39% said that nobody in their school was aware of their caring role.
  • 26% have been bullied at school because of their caring role.
  • 1 in 20 miss school because of their caring role.
But young people can learn lots of useful skills by being a young carer.

Carers Trust – Young Carers

When we realised what life was going to be like, Joel and I didn’t want the boys lives overshadowed by caring. We’re lucky enough to have PAs, so the boys don’t miss school, but it can be hard to make school aware of everything they carry with them.

Worry and anxiety have affected their mental well-being and both boys have had to learn how to cope with complex feelings. Life as a young carer is tough as we can see in these quotes.

Carers UK’s annual survey (2015) with over 5,000 carers across the UK revealed that 84% of carers feel more stressed, 78% feel more anxious and 55% reported that they suffered from depression as a result of their caring role, which was higher than findings in 2014.3

 I’ll discuss how we manage teenage mental health in my 5 secrets below.

Being My Carer Every Day

The boys bring me breakfast and dinner make sure I have water and snacks every day. They know how to support me physically and sort anything Clumsy McClumsypants here drops or spills; like the glass of water in (yes IN) my bedside table this morning.

They need to know what to do if I press my life line and what to say to the Lifeline care team. They’d have to stop playing Xbox and may need to support or help me up if I fell. They may need to help calm me down if I was having a panic attack.

The boys have had to get used to another new cleaner being in their personal space and form bonds with my PAs. They’ve been carers for 4 years now, so are used to it, but there’s still restrictions, such as having to be quiet each morning while I sleep.

They told me the other day that their friends have to do more chores than them. My response was to ask if their friends have to make sure the house is secure and answer a doorbell every time theory mum drops something. I said I was clumsy, didn’t I?

Building a Team

How many kids would go to their parent and tell them they don’t do as many chores as their mates? This is just one example of how we’ve worked hard to build a family dynamic based on trust, honesty, empathy and care.

We’ve all had to learn coping skills and adapt as time goes on. The stress shows at home mostly, so it’s been important to use the same strategies around their behaviour. This has led to the strong relationship we have now.

As they’ve grown up and I’ve become a little bit more stable and aware, we’ve trusted them with more responsibility. We’ve just managed two nights with Joel went away for work. My Dad (who’s always stayed before) was just down the road if needed.

They wanted to cook tea unsupervised and probably not the tidying up afterward. They have to put the hens to bed, safely away from any foxy loxies and check Jasper Cat is in for the night. I had to be trust they would put the house to bed securely too.

They amazed me with how they coped with all this responsibility. There was no time to think about having house parties or sneaking out the house to meet up with a friend! (not that we’d know anything about ever doing that).

The way Joel and I choose to do this at the beginning, has shaped how we’ve handled the cards we’ve been dealt. Everyone chooses their own path, so I’m not making any comparisons. this is just my experience. Everyone’s path is unique, so follow yours.

But use my 5 secrets to help steer you. Firstly I just need to make it clear that we sought medical advice and were referred to social services for care and support. I’m not a health Care professional, so please ask for help if you need it.

5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Young Carers
  1. Asking for help is the first step. Talk to your GP.  Talk to school. Ask your kids how they’d like the help. You might need family therapy so do try it, if offered. If support given is not right for you, ask for an alternative. The skills we learnt, recognised and have since reinforced; have shaped our family’s daily lives. We learnt how to talk about our feelings, whilst being respectful. and to speak honestly, without breaking trust. I recommend organising a named teacher or pastoral care and make sure to keep them in the loo. This is individual to your needs, but be prepared to fight for this, as support is in high demand. Mental well-being for you all is key.
  2. Let them be angry with the illness. Structure ways for your children to release this, safely. Help them understand that it’s the illness that’s changed everything. The whole family will grieve for life before chronic illness, so explore ways to cope with that. We used diaries, art therapy, music and a good old shout and swear session (oooh, controversial). We’ve found that music is a lifeline for every carer in the family. Being able to lose yourself in a distraction is a lifeline for carers and you!
  3. Develop open dialogue with the Young Carers in your life and find ways that allow them to discuss what they’re feeling and experiencing without fear of backlash. The silver lining of being a bed bound mum, is having time for my boys to talk to me about their day or about something worrying them as soon as they get home.
  4. Find time for everyone to set one goal at the start of each day. You could introduce Affirmations to reinforce positive thinking. See the end of the post for more details and free printables, available til 31st March 2019. Set a time to discuss at least 1 positive from their day. Create a regular time to air issues and reinforce positives.
  5. Give yourself rewards! A really important part of feeling able to succeed, is by rewarding positive language and behaviour. The rewards can be for anything, big or small. Rewards can be verbal praise, but making time for a family reward is important to reinforce positive thinking. For example, you could go out for lunch, bake a cake together or watch a movie in bed. Let them choose most of the time, but it has to be agreed by everyone. The point is to reward the whole family regularly.

To adapt these for younger children

  1. Involve school as soon as possible, both the class teacher and headteacher should know. School may offer extra support, which can be invaluable. Play and Art therapy is in short supply, so if you’re concerned speak to your GP!
  2. Talk to them about what’s happening in a way they’ll understand. Help them express their feelings using puppets, library books and roleplay (Drs/patient).
  3. Tell them why you’re going to hospital/in pain etc. They may know more than you expect, so let them lead. My rule is that if they’re asking about it, then they’re ready for answers. Just be prepared for a ‘why, but why’ session!
  4. Ask them what they want to do that day on the way to school, you may even find out more than asking at the end of the day! Start a positives jar by everyone writing (for them if needed) ONE positive from their day. Set a regular time, to open the jar and read some. My favourite pulling out ‘cuddling with my Mummy’ on a bad day.
  5. Make time for rewards, they don’t have to cost anything, just do things as a family.

A last word and some links!

I want to help others have positive experiences, even on tough days. So I’m sharing these secrets for you. Families are unique, though, so there’s no one size fits all. Take what you want from my 5 secrets, but remember these things are key:

Ask for help! Young Carers may have to do more at home than their friends, so schools should provide support and make allowances.

Make sure everyone truly understands and enable your kids to express how they feel. Create a safe environment and look out for signs that you may need to step in.

A great team relies on good communication which is honest, loyal and respectful, so be a good role model. Recognise small wins! Celebrate at least one good thing from your day.

If the life you want for your family seems a long way off or you’d like some reassurance you’re doing okay, then I hope this post has helped. Please ask me questions in the comments and tell me how you make life positive for young..

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How To Stop Being Flooded With Worry

The Worry Flood!

What on earth am I going on about? Worry is a part of human nature and is a shared experience. However the way everyone experiences worry is another thing…

I know this idea of a Worry Flood might sound strange, but bear with me and I think you’ll see what I mean…well, I hope so! I can only describe it in ‘technical’ terms as a weird VaVoom drop and then the rush of worry that floods you from head to toe!

More simply, this is that feeling in the pit of your stomach before your heart races! The sickening sinking feeling that joins in can last seconds or days. I imagine there aren’t many people that haven’t experienced it at least once in their lives

The extent of worrying for you and me

Unfortunately some of us (*raising hand awkwardly even though no one’s home) worry to such extent that it can cause debilitating anxiety or even panic attacks. This is when worry has gone from flood to tsunami and your techniques stop working.

You might be in a very similar situation to me, but because of all sorts of factors, you may be able to brush off that Va-voom feeling quickly. Then take a deep breath to reboot, gain your composure and can carry on with what you were doing.

However, when I forget to check myself, worry quickly swirls into a whirlwind. Guilt, doubt and fear enclose me and I get caught in the eye of the storm; in panic mode until the dust settles. This happens less and less as I’ve had help from experts.

I’m not an expert, so if you feel like this, please seek medical advice.

Worry becomes anxiety or panic.

Worry is experienced to varying extents but everyone shares that initial adrenaline rush. That heart quickening and stomach sinking feeling, is a common experience, but there are vast differences in how you and I then react. The extent of one person’s worry is almost impossible to comprehend.

How does worry affect you? Are you a worry wort or chronically concerned? And why the heck does worry exist? First, the science geeky stuff behind what you and I feel and experience.

Why does worry exist?

Life is full of uncertainty and this is what drives solutions and new ways to look at things. You can only prepare so much for things that are going to happen, at some point. When you can prepare, you’re able to take back some control of the situation.

And that’s the key point: Control!

You only have control of what is happening to you now! You can’t control what has happened; good or bad. But you can learn from your mistakes and successes to shape your future decision making so even without full control, you forge your path.

A lack of control… Photo by ehsan ahmadnejad

Having a lack of control over the future is often that pivotal moment when apprehension turns into worry. You can only solve possible future problems to a certain point, before you literally can’t prepare anymore.

You might start trying to predict every eventuality; asking ‘what if’s’ and going over and over problems. All of that is going to dredge that worry monster up – I’ve been there!

How to react to feeling flooded with worry

If you’re still here then I’m guessing it’s pretty likely that you’re a worrier. Hopefully you’ve learnt how to handle worry so you can avoid destruction. It’s vital that you do build these strategies up so that Worry doesn’t stop you living your best life.

I’ll throw you some life lines a little further down the page, so stick with me a bit longer and learn the skills I’ve built for the least disturbance in my life.

But first the sciencey geeky stuff!

The Sciencey Geeky Stuff Photo by Toni Cuenca

a) You put up barriers, like sand bags, doing all you can to avoid failure. You avoid any vulnerability, that you are never budging from that comfort zone. You’ll miss out on learning about your potential and becoming a stronger person. You stop living!

b) You’ve built defences so you don’t have to worry about anyone or anything. You see where the day takes you. Not the best long term plan, but I get it, you’re protecting yourself. You could end up living a very lonely life though.

c) You let the water freeze around you, creating a protective bubble. When you start to feel uncomfortable, you give up and take the easy option! You’ll forget what the world has to offer to you.

I’ve just described 3 examples of The Stress response: fight, flight or freeze. All primal examples of how animals respond to fear. I’ve explained The Stress Response in this blog: How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes

Photo by Darrel Und on Pexels.com

I also wanted to share this article by James Clear about The Evolution of Anxiety. James is an author and photographer who shares the latest scientific research about human habits and potential.

A giraffe makes immediate choices such as: “When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree. When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush. When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.”

“[M]ost of your choices as a giraffe (…) make an immediate impact on your life. You are constantly focused on the present or the very near future.”

Animals live in a state scientists call an immediate-return environment. However, as we’ve evolved we’ve lost that immediate reward of food, shelter or safety.

“Most of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately. (..) [E.g.] If you save money now, you’ll have enough for retirement.  (..) [The things we] worry about are problems of the future.”

Humans live in a Delayed Return Environment. “[This can] lead to chronic stress and anxiety,(…) because your brain wasn’t designed to [work in this environment]”

Why do you need to know this?

You need strategies that help you respond to today’s societal expectations. You need techniques to help you avoid stress response. Ideally these need to be so practised that they’re what you turn to in a split second, when you recognise your triggers.

This takes time and dedication, working on yourself and ideally having an expert to guide you. I’m years into this and still get tripped up sometimes. If they’re available at your fingertips, you can press pause on the Worry Flood and get back to dry land.

Build a dam to divert the Worry Flood into canals Photo by Quintin Gellar

You build a Dam by de-watering (in this case) the habits you’ve used for years. Then you learn  distractions and ways to create calm. Once you’ve done this you can use floodgates to divert the Worry Flood in to a canal, giving you more control to deal with smaller sections of the bigger problem.

Once you’ve curbed your anxieties you’ll be more equipped to counteract the Worry Flood. The less your thoughts are eroded the less you’ll struggle. You’ll be armed because use you’ve built barricades and have a safe place where to continue to grow. 

How it feels to be flooded with worry!

I’ve been out of my depth many times and lately I’ve been struggling;  worry that has been overwhelming at times. I’ve failed to recognise the Amber alerts and have become engulfed with anxiety and panic attacks. So I have to start rebuilding again.

I realised I’ve been stuck in this whole delayed return environment phase. Behind the scenes, I’m developing all I need to launch a better Paprika Jewellery & Accessories. But the reward is a way off yet and with the pressure I put on myself I just didn’t spot the triggers!

I’ve spent the last few years building easily accessible skills. I used them regularly so when it comes to times like this; I’d have some control to slow down the flood. When I realised it hadn’t worked, I ensured to get my routine back. Now I’ve got my sights back on my main goal of being well enough to spend time with family and friends.

How to Focus when that flood warning is given

So I want to share my top tips for controlling the Worry Flood, by diverting the overload into canals where I could catch smaller sections of water. This allows me to use my strategies to rebuild, dealing with smaller sections of the bigger problem.

These skills have become my go to, picked up through research, forums and work with qualified practitioners. They’re personalised for my triggers, but I’m able to share them in a way that you can developthem for your own needs. Remember, it’s not just building walls and they may need you to step outside of your comfort zone! 

 My Top Tips for Worry Flooding

  • The 1st thing you do each day is set yourself just 1 goal that you commit to. This can be about anything. Check in with yourself a few times a day to see if you’re on track.
  • At the end of the day, write a done list! it feels really good to reward yourself by knowing what you have achieved and think less about what you haven’t. I try and make this really positive and celebrate things I’m happy, proud and grateful for.
  • Use a timer to focus on productivity. I do this when writing and on social media. I need to balance time spent online with energy for my family and friends. You can download a free planner here- How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes
  • Plan to keep yourself on track. I love planning, but use my long term goals to keep on track as I write my planner each week. If I don’t achieve something, I rub it out and reorganise. Breaking down a problem into chunks make it easier to control.
  • Block similar work together. For example, I find all photos I need in one go, instead of with each blog. This is just right now that I’ve explored what works for me.
  • Use music to set the tone. I really missed music when I was really poorly. I’m bringing it back in to my life gently, but with purpose. I use an album as a timer; a playlist for productivity or ambient sounds for concentration.
  • Use the notes on your phone to keep track of your ideas whenever and wherever. I use it to plan my writing or to keep track of medical notes. I know I’ll always have what I need for some control in unplanned or stressful situations.
  • Recognise the little voice in your head. Don’t miss the Amber flood warning, practising your best on the spot techniques. I write stream of consciousness rants to stop me going over something that can’t be changed. It’s also helped me stop saying sorry so often and use more positive language than negative.
  • Meditation is the best skills to learn if you worry. It helps you build layers of protection and grounds you. Learn when to be vulnerable and when to let go. You can learn quick centring techniques easily. I meditate every day and I’ll tell you why in this post. 5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress
  • Learn breathing techniques. It’s especially effective when for me, when I feel that first wave of worry. Try putting a hand on your heart or stomach and take a few deep breaths to compose..
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How To Stop Being Flooded With Worry

The Worry Flood!

What on earth am I going on about? Worry is a part of human nature and is a shared experience. However the way everyone experiences worry will be more for some than it is for others.

I know that this idea of a Worry Flood might sound strange, but bear with me and I think you’ll see what I mean…well, I hope so! I can only describe it in ‘technical’ terms as a weird VaVoom drop and then the rush of worry that floods you from head to toe! Or just as that feeling in the pit of your stomachs and then your heart starts racing, type thing!

The sickening sinking feeling that accompanies worry and anxiety can last from seconds to days. I imagine that there aren’t many people that haven’t experienced that feeling at least once in their lives. I wonder if animals feel the same when they sense danger?

The extent of worrying for you and me

Unfortunately some of us (*raising hand awkwardly even though no one’s even home) worry to such extent that it can cause debilitating anxiety or even panic attacks. This is when the worry has gone from flood to tsunami and all the techniques you’ve learnt stop working.

You might be in a very similar situation to me, but because of all sorts of factors, you may be able to brush off that Va-voom feeling quickly. Then take a deep breath to reboot, gain your composure and can carry on with what you were doing.

However, when I forget to use these techniques, worry quickly swirls into a whirlwind. Guilt, doubt and fear enclose me and I get caught in the eye of the storm, in severe panic mode until the dust settles. This happens less and less as I’ve had help from experts.

I’m not an expert, so if you feel like this, please seek medical advice.

Worry is experienced in varying extents, over different things but everyone shares that initial adrenaline rush. That heart quickening and stomach sinking feeling, is a common experience, but there are vast differences in how you and I react. The extent of one person’s worry is almost impossible to comprehend.

So how does worry affect you? Are you an occasional worry wort or chronically concerned? So why the heck does worry exist and some more of the science geeky stuff (you know it..) behind what you and I are possibly feeling and experiencing. 

Why does worry exist?

Life is full of uncertainty and this is what drives solutions and new ways to look at things. You can only prepare so much for things that are going to happen, at some point. When you can prepare, you’re able to take back some control of the situation.

And that’s the key point: Control!

You only have control of what is happening to you now! You can’t control what has happened; good or bad. But you can learn from your mistakes and successes to shape your future decision making, so that even without full control you can forge your path.

Photo by ehsan ahmadnejad on Pexels.com

Having a lack of control over the future is often that pivotal moment when apprehension turns into worry. You can only solve possible future problems to a certain point before you literally can’t prepare anymore

You might start trying to predict every eventuality; asking ‘what if’s’ and going over and over how you could handle possible problems. All of that is going to dredge that worry monster up!

How to react to feeling flooded with worry

If you’re still here then I’m guessing it’s pretty likely that you’re a worrier, like me. Hopefully you’ve learnt how to handle worry so you can avoid this destruction. It’s vital that you do build these up so that it doesn’t stop you living your best life.

I’ll throw you some life lines a little further down the page, so stick with me a bit longer and learn the skills I’ve built up that cause the least disturbance in my life. But first here’s the science geeky stuff I promised.

Maybe you put up barriers, like sand bags, doing all you can to avoid failure. You avoid any vulnerability, but this could make you so closed off, that you are never budging from that comfort zone. You’ll miss out on learning and becoming stronger. You stop living!

Perhaps you’ve built defences so you don’t have to worry about anyone or anything. You choose to see where the day takes you. Is this a good long term plan? Hmm..I get it, you’re protecting yourself but if you could end up living a very lonely life.

Or you let the water freeze around you, creating a protective bubble. When you start to feel uncomfortable, you give up and take the easy option! Your body carries on but your mind is stuck. You end up living a loop and forget what the world has to offer to you.

I’ve just described 3 examples of The Stress response: fight, flight or freeze; all primal examples of how animals respond to fear. I’ve explained The Stress Response in this blog: How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes

Photo by Darrel Und on Pexels.com

I also wanted to share with you article by James Clear about The Evolution of Anxiety. James is an author and photographer who shares the latest scientific research about human habits and potential.

A giraffe would make immediate choices such as: “When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree. When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush. When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.”

[M]ost of your choices as a giraffe (…) make an immediate impact on your life. You are constantly focused on the present or the very near future.

Animals live in a state that scientists call an immediate-return environment. It get’s slightly trickier if you’re a human:

“Most of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately. (..) [E.g.] If you save money now, you’ll have enough for retirement.  (..)

[The things we] worry about are problems of the future. (..) [so] [h]umans live in (…) a Delayed Return Environment.

[This can] lead to chronic stress and anxiety,(…) because your brain wasn’t designed to [work in this environment]”

Why do you need to know this?

What is needed is a collection of tried and tested techniques that help you respond to today’s societal needs. You want techniques to help you avoid the stress response phase. Ideally these need to be so practised that they’re what you immediately turn to when you recognise your triggers.

This takes time and dedication, working on yourself and ideally having an expert to guide you. I’m years into this and I still get tripped up sometimes. If they’re available at your fingertips, you can press pause on the worry flood and get back to dry land.

Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

You need to build a Dam full of knowledge by de-watering the habits you’ve been using for years and then build a whole heap of distractions and methods for creating calm. Once you’ve done this you can use floodgates to divert the worry flood into a canal to can deal with smaller pieces of the bigger problem; giving you back more control.

Once you’ve curbed your anxieties you’ll be more equipped to counteract the worry flood. The less your thoughts are eroded the less you’ll struggle. You’ll be armed because use you’ve built your barricades and a safe place where you’ll continue to grow. 

How it feels to be flooded with worry!

I know this feeling all too well. I’ve been out of my depth many times and lately I’ve been struggling with a heap of worry that has been overwhelming at times. I’ve been engulfed with anxiety and even had panic attacks. I have many exut I’ve been working very hard over the last few years to build myself a wall of easily accessible skills so I can control some of the moving parts and slow down that fear of the flood.

I need to be able to move these whenever I need them to help overcome my feelings of panic. However, this doesn’t always work as the flood can creep up on you and you’re swallowed by a tsunami of feelings. If this happens then I’m in trouble as I’m likely to hit the panic markers on the side of the river and it’s too late to avoid any damage;

I’ve been struggling to keep myself in that calm state where I know when things are getting to me and I fail to recognise all the Amber alerts. As I came across the article by James Clear which I’ve quoted above, I realised that I’m sitting in that delayed return environment, whilst I’m busy behind the scenes developing my skills for the relaunches of Paprika. The big reward is yet to come and because I’ve also not worked with my coach for a while, I haven’t been practising the skills I’ve learnt enough because Ive got overexcited and probably overambitious.

I recently wrote a blog all about how to plan carefully when you’re a chronic illness blogger and on checking myself, I realised that I wasn’t really using my best strategies. I got so excited about having enough brain space (just) to take on board a little bit of training and I just ended up piling he pressure on myself.

Now that I know what has gone wrong Ive been able to go back to all the skills I’ve learnt for my own wellbeing. I’ve reread all my notes and enhaged my brain to rework my pplans so that I can make sure that I don’t lose sight of my ultimate goal: to be well enough to spend time with my family and friends and have a bit of energy left to make beautiful things and write about positivity so that I can achieve my aim of helping others to help themselves. I’m back on track and now I want to share my top tips for making sure that the normal worry we have as animals, doesn’t become engulfed by the delayed return environment we live in. With the added bonus of being able to control our worry enough that we don’t fall into the lake of the stress response.

How to Focus when that flood warning is given 

There are so many ways to protect yourself from being flooded with feelings of worry. I was so surprised when I realised just how many ways there are. But, I’ve spent the time learning what my trigger points are, so that I can develop my strategies for protection.

Whilst you need some protection, you still need to let enough vulnerability out into the world, so that you don’t build up too many walls and step outside your comfort zone.

 My Top Tips based on my own flood protection

  • Use a timer so that you can focus on productivity. I use this when I’m writing blogs and especially when I’m on social media. I need to do both of these for my aims and aspirations for my business, but I need to balance the time I spend on this with the energy I want for my family and friends.
  • I use a series of planning strategies to keep myself on track. The trick is simply to screen shot the plans for each week so I haber them easily to hand. I then use these to guide what I write in my planner for the next week.
  • I’ve also developed a strategy of spreading out when I plan each part of my week so that everything is done in small, manageable chunks. This is a new strategy that’s still being developed but it’s working really well at the moment.
  • I use music to set the tone. I love music and have really missed it from my life whilst I’ve been really poorly. It’s been a really nice way to bring something I love back in to my life, but with a purpose. I might use an album as a timer or a playlist for productivity and some ambient and classical music when I need to concentrate on my writing.
  • I use the notes on my phone to keep track of my ideas when they come to me, so I can then add them in to my plans for whatever I’m writing. I also use it to keep track of the code to credit photographers so I can work in bulk and then share out my workload throughout the week or month.
  • Recognise that you might have a little voice in your head that gets in the way of the Amber flood warning. This is something I’ve tried a few times and it works, but it needs a lot of practise. You can even name him or her and spend time learning to recognise the voice. I spent time at first writing secret rants, developing lists of behaviour that might trigger a reaction and catching myself when I let the voice in. Honestly, this is still something I have to practise regularly but it’s helped me to stop saying sorry too much and use more positive language than negative.
  • Meditation is something I talk about a lot. This is something I do every day and I can tell you more about why in this post. 5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress
  • Something that comes with learning to meditate. There are so many different breathing techniques. I find that I can use them in different situations, especially when I feel that first wave of worry. It’s really good to just put your hand on your heart or stomach and take a few deep breaths. My preferred way is to just take a deep breath in through my nose and out through my mouth a few times. If you new to this, then why not try this simple meditation: 1 minute breathing exercises
  • Another tip that has strong ties to mediation is living in the present moment. I’ve already talked about how the ‘now’ is the only time we have full control of the next choice we make. even if you’ve practised what you want to say to someone OTS unlikely everything will go exactly as planned. Learn to embrace the here and now. Of course you can plan ahead, just don’t overdo it. Refelection is also a really important part of how we grow, but learn how to do this so it doesn’t become something you churn over at night.
  • Talking of nughttime.. develop a sleeping pattern that works for you. We all live very different lives an do there’s so much research out there that I wouldn’t know where to start. However, once you find the things that help you to relax and get into a bedtime rhythm, you will be much more bolstered to whether the storm and will even be less likely to be affected by negativity that circles around you.
  • Face your fears.. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Even from my bed, Ive embraced the things I’m scared off and I’ve embraced being vulnerable. Don’t think that you always need to show that your baricadez are bolstered… let in a little bit of light and send out something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Soon you’ll realise that this can help you be seen as someone who can help, give advice and develop stronger bonds. I bet you’d be surprised by the response to something as simple as a no make up selfie or
  • Affirmations are something that has helped me so much and I have a fantastic printable for you if you sign up to my newsletter at the end of this post. Here is a guide to how affirmations can help set you up for a productive day. 5 Morning Affirmations To Guarantee A Successful Day!


What if, by failing that test or by not getting that job,
Whether you run away, never step outside your comfort zone or put walls up and not let anyone in – you need to know something…
How do you focus to cope with worry?

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