Monday, 27 June 2016

Study Stress

As I begin university next week, I am starting to think about how I am going to cope with the stress of studying. Throughout high school and college I put enormous amounts of pressure on myself to do well and got very stressed and anxious, especially around exam time. 

Last time I went to uni, I did well however I was not happy as I simply had no life outside of studying and put far too much pressure on myself. My dream is to be a nurse however and I know that in order to become a nurse, I have no choice but to go to university. 

I think that I am in a much better head space this time to be attending university and as long as I keep believing I can do it, I will be ok. Afterall, studying is something I am very good at and as long as I keep a healthy balance in my life, I think I will actually really enjoy it!

I have started to take my anti-anxiety medication again as I think they really do help me to keep calm and believe they have the potential to make my uni experience a little easier. I dont think anyone should ever feel any shame in taking these types of medication, in fact I highly reccommend it if you find they make things a little easier.

I also found this interesting article online and plan to use the various strategies mentioned, to keep me happy and healthy. Perhaps you could apply these same strategies to things in your life that make you anxious abd stressed.

Studying is stressful. Whether you’re attending a high-tension medical program or pursuing an online course, devoting your time and energy to learning is a complex process. What’s more, studying can compete with work, family, and other activities for your limited amount of energy. You will inevitably have times when you worry because something major comes up, such as a research paper or a final exam.
Stress is an entirely natural process. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t studying well or that you’re unable to process your course material. There is a positive kind of stress, “eustress,” which can actually serve as motivation to continue working, but that is not the sort of stress that is concerning. Distress, the negative kind of stress, is what causes problems and can affect your academic performance. Fortunately, distresscan be controlled. Although the following tips cannot solve every tense moment, they will help minimize distress throughout your education.

Know the symptoms of stress

  • Know the difference between normal and harmful stress. Remember, stress is a normal response, particularly to unpleasant surprises, scary incidents, and similar moments. The problem arises when you experience very frequent acute episodes of stress, or when it becomes a chronic, ongoing thing.
  • Learn the toll that stress takes on your body. Frequent acute stress often shows itself with symptoms like recurring headaches, fatigue, insomnia or difficulty resting, and indigestion. Chronic stress often shows itself with grinding teeth, forgetfulness, overeating or excessive drinking, confusion, and other symptoms that may come to seem like the natural state of things. Stress also weakens the immune system, leading to frequent colds and infections. It leads to muscular tension and aches, hyperventilation, and heart arrhythmia.
If these symptoms describe what you have been feeling, admit it to yourself. The first step to handling your stress is recognizing it and admitting you need to deal with it.

First aid: What to do in the moment

You can begin to notice the symptoms of stress at any time. Even if you can handle what is on your plate right now, one small additional trivial thing can send you over the edge. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, use this advice to get an immediate handle on your stress levels.
  • Breathe deeply. This will reoxygenate your blood and help you take a few moments to step back from a stressful situation. Lie down or sit up straight and put a hand on your abdomen, just below the navel. Breathe in slowly through your nose until your lungs are full. Hold the breath for a moment before exhaling. Repeating this several times should get you calm enough to look at things more clearly.
  • Do something comforting. Are you hungry? Thirsty? Do you feel a headache coming on? Briefly changing scenery by walking to the water fountain or stepping out on the balcony will help you refocus. What’s more, by taking a clear step to make your situation better, however small it may be, you tell your body and brain that things are under control. Eat a healthy snack or drink water or tea rather than strong beverages or junk food.
  • Use breaks to optimize productivity. If your specific task is something you can put down for a short while, do so. When you’re stressed out, you often aren’t doing your best work anyway. Even with time-critical tasks such as exams, you will be better served by taking a minute to ease yourself than by working yourself to a grinding halt by trying to push through to the end.

The long term: Understand yourself and take control

Stress usually follows patterns and cycles. By observing yourself and learning those cycles, you gain valuable information you need to train yourself to handle stress better. After you’ve dealt with your immediate situation, use these tips to build your own stress management plan.
  • Look for your stress signs and stressors. You will find you have certain physical cues that tell you when you’re getting stressed, even if you don’t feel like you’re stressed. If a tense headache or a tightness in your shoulders are your cues, take those signs as a warning. Whatever you’re doing is stressing you, and you should calm yourself however you can. Watch for patterns to determine what academic subjects or tasks tend to bring on these symptoms.
  • Chunk tasks. Huge tasks can be broken down into many smaller parts, which are much easier to tackle individually. A 15-page paper becomes less terrifying when you see it as three pages per day, then five pages of editing per day. You will also feel more accomplished when you complete numerous small tasks, rather than making a tiny bit of progress on a large one.
  • Avoid procrastinating. Breaking up tasks won’t do you much good if you keep everything for the last minute. Resolve to spend a certain amount of time on your studies, and stick to that time. During that period, study and work on your class projects, and don’t be afraid to put them down afterwards. Studies show that regular, relaxed study helps you learn and recall more than last-minute cramming.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. You can and should keep up with your nonacademic responsibilities, but you aren’t under an obligation to help everyone who asks. You need time and mental space to study successfully; if this means skipping an event or turning down a request to work extra, you should feel free to do so.
  • Take care of your health. Stress is a physical reaction, and by building up your health, you’ll be able to handle it better. Be sure to eat regular nutritious meals with a minimum of junk food, especially when studying. If you don’t get regular exercise, start now. Although it seems counterintuitive, exercise will actually give you more energy. Also, reduce or quit your bad habits, such as smoking or staying up late, as these habits drain your energy and make studying an uphill battle.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Less structured eating routine

Since starting a new job at mcdonalds, I have found it quite difficult to continue eating 6 meals everyday. Especially since I am usually gone from home for 6 hours or so, without a chance to eat.

To ensure I keep up my calorie intake, I am increasing the size of my meals as I decrease the number of meals I have. For instance today I only had time for 5 meals, but I increased the size of my first two meals and dessert to make up for it.

Although it seems as though I am forcing in much more food then I actually need at each meal, I know that this is what I need to do to make sure I get enough energy and dont lose weight. I know it is important for me to take this precaution as I still manage to lose weight much easier then other people, even when I dont want to.

What is your experience of this? Do you find that losing weight happens particularly easily after weight restoration happens? Do you have a possible explanation for this?

Finally, I will share with you my food diary for the day, as I know many of my readers enjoy them :)

Todays food diary

Pre breakfast snack (6:00am):
1 twist bar and 1 vanilla up and go supplement drink

Breakfast (9:00am)
2 portions of strawberry flavoured oats prepared with 50% water, 50% milk and topped with 1 large sliced banana

Late lunch (3:00pm)
1 packet of two minute noodles, 1 apple and 1 small kinder chocolate bar

Tea (6:00pm)
1 large serve of tomato pasta served on a bed of baby spinach with cherry tomatoes

Dessert (8:00pm)
1 tub of two fruits, 1 hot chocolate and 1 small packet of choc chip cookies (25g)

Me with my boyfriends cat Bella

Me with curly hair (since getting healthier, my curly hair has come back)

Monday, 6 June 2016

Living without regrets

Sometimes I find myself thinking about what my life would have been like if I had never developed my eating disorder or if I was never sick. To say my eating disorder has taken a lot away from me would be an understatement. Not only did it steal so much away from me as soon as I got sick, it literally took years away from my life. 

Even though I often think of all the things I missed out on because of my illness, I know that I wouldn't change a single part of my journey so far, even if I could. Because if everything that has happened in my life so far hadn't happened, then I know I would not be where I am today.

 Of course it would have been great to never have gone through the torture and pain of having an eating dosorder and also recovery. But then I know I wouldn't be as brave and strong as I am today and I would never have learnt to believe in myself and accept myself as I now do. I also wouldn't be able to use my own experiences to help others who are going through similar things to what I have been through.

The main reason I wouldn't change a single thing from my past is because I know I probably would never have met my boyfriend. Nathan is, without a doubt, the love of my life and I know that if anything in my past had been different, then chances are we would never have met and ended up together. So although my journey has been painful, lonely and plain terrible at times, for me being with Nathan now is worth every bit of that. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Making eating a priority

Something I have learnt through my own recovery is that in order to get better, you really do need to make food a top priority. 
For example while it may not be normal to set an alarm so you can get up early to eat breakfast, it may be essential to ensure you get enough energy in throughout the day. 

Even now that I am no longer trying to gain weight, I feel as though I dtill need to make a very special effort just to get enough food in each day so I dont lose any weight. For example because I cant make my breakfast early due to not wanting to disturb other people in the house who are sleeping, I make myself a pre breakfast snack (or atleast have a supplement drink) instead of morning tea and then I have breakfast at my old morning tea time.

Also, even though others may not eat if they dont feel hungry, we cant do that. I eat atleast a bare minimum number of calories over 6 meals no matter how hungry I may be. This is what I had to do while I was gaining weight and that is what I dtill do today to ensure I don't lose any weight.

The point I am trying to make is that in order to have a successful recovery, you will have to make eating a top priority. You cant just not eat because your busy or because your not hungry. Food is our medicine and in order to recover we need to have our medicine in the correct amount and also often enough. 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Eating more both in and after recovery

You may find, that in order to gain weight early on in your recovery, you dont have to eat that much food. As time passes however and as your metabolism gets faster, you will most likely have to keep increasing your intake in order to keep gaining weight.

As explained ithe science of eating disorders website;

'Weight restoration is a crucial component of anorexia nervosa treatment. It is a challenging process for a multitude of reasons. Adding to the complexity and the challenge is the fact that during weight restoration, individuals with anorexia nervosa tend to require increasingly more calories to maintain the same rate of weight gain.'

Even though continuously having to increase your intake can be really hard, I think that you shoud consider this as a good thing as it means your metabolism is repairing and functioning properly again. Even after you reach a healthy weight, you will most likely have to eat more then others around you in order to just maintain your weight.

This was also explained in the same article;

'After achieving a healthy weight, individuals recovering from anorexia nervosa still typically need to eat more calories to maintain their new healthy weight — more than healthy individuals of the same weight who do not have eating disorder histories'

This is why I have to take particular care to ensure I am always eating plenty now, even though I am only trying to maintain my weight. It also explains why I accidentely lost some weight a couple of months ago, even though I was eating the same amount as those around me. To be honest, I enjoy having a fast metabolism now and am glad that I am now able to eat so much, without gaining weight.

If you find you are able to keep gaining weight on a low intake of food in your recovery, I would reccommend increasing your calorie intake anyway. Otherwise there is a chance that your metabolism wont repair which will mean you will be stuck eating small amounts of food forever. And eating normal portions once you are weight restored may lead to weight gain.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Loving life

Finally, it feels as though everything has fallen into place in my life. I am getting along better with all of my family then I have for as long as I can remember and I have heaps of great friends too, for the first time in years. When I got sick, I pushed so many important people away and it really only has been through my recovery that I have managed to mend those relationships. I have also formed many brand new friendships, that have helped to make my life seem more complete too.

Of course, I cant deny the fact that most of my current happiness is due to my incredible boyfriend. Words really can't explain just how important my boyfriend is to me. Even though we have only been seeing each other for 6 months, I really do feel as though he is my everything and I can't imagine ever not having him by my side. He is so supportive, loving and kind and I still cant believe just how lucky I am to have him in my life. Every moment we aren't together I miss him and every moment we are together I truly treasure.

I start uni in a months time which I am really looking forward to. I will be studying a bachelor of Health Science and cant wait to start studying the biology based subjects that I am so passionate about again. I have finally found a part time job too, which is a huge relief. I am getting along really well with the people I live with and I am adjusting to living in the city again well. Last time I lived in the city to attend uni I was completely miserable, but now that I am so much better I really like it and have no desire to head back home.

After being in such a bad place for so many years, I feel so thankful for how good things are now and try to remember not to ever take my happiness for granted. In saying this, I know that I have worked incredibely hard for my current hapiness, I didn't just get this happy by chance or luck. I Had to fight my illness and make myself miserable, in order to eventually find true happiness. I am proud of myself for fighting so hard for recovery and see my happiness now as a reward for all the hard work I have put into my recovery over the last 12 months.

I believe that if you want to be happy and enjoy life, then you can do it, but you will have to work for it too. Also, remember that in order to make yourself happy in the long run, you will have to make your self unhappy in the short term by confronting your eating disorder and fighting your fears. Recovery is very painful, but always try to remember just how great life will be if you keep pushing through the pain and keep fighting. So please, as long as you dont give up hope and keep fighting,  you too could be loving your life sometime soon!