Tag Archives: relationships

Are we doomed to divorce?!

These are strange times! I’m aware I have readers from all over the world and each country is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic differently, restricting movement of people to varying degrees.

Lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, restricted movement, stay at home, social distancing, flatten the curve, work from home, slow down the spread, protect the NHS – these words are all now common parlance!

Since the epicenter was in China, we may be able to gauge where we’re heading by what’s happening there…China are seeing a significant spike in divorce applications from couples coming out of isolation.

Steve, my husband and I, obviously, love each other but like any couple, have our ups and downs! We prefer not to have blazing rows but we’re capable of a few harsh words. We’re struggling with this situation for different reasons but we know we’re going to get through it together because we work at our relationship.

I’m writing this blog because it would be sad to follow China’s lead, relationships don’t need to be doomed. Some of these suggestions may seem common sense but I think it’s fair to say in these uncertain times people are acting out of character and we can all do with a bit of reminding that sometimes the simple things are the best things:

Hold onto the things that are the same

Some people are working from home, try to home school children and/or manage an unusual living situation, these things will feel destabilising but there will be some things that are the same. Can you eat meals together? Is your morning or bedtime routine the same? Is there a TV programme you both like to watch together? Anything that anchors your relationship will help you feel stable.

Date times

You may think “but we’re spending too much time together, that’s the problem”. But date time is special time. If you have other people in the house it might be difficult but it’s important to set time aside, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes for a coffee together (but the longer the better!) to set technology aside and focus on each other. If you’re fortunate to have more time alone, you could play a board game or give each other a massage.

Self care

If you’re giving to other people all the time, you’re strung out and exhausted, you can’t pour from an empty cup! Your relationship’s going to suffer because we always take our frustrations out on those closest to us. Living on top of each other can be difficult. Don’t underestimate how beneficial going outside for fresh air is, whether it’s onto a balcony, the back garden or for a walk if permitted. You take this opportunity to learn a new hobby, crafting or reading may not have previously been your thing but maybe give it a go!

Give and take

With so many routines changing it might be difficult to stay on top of the household chores or you might find yourselves bit more messy than usual. As the situation changes people might need change the responsibilities they have. I don’t envy the parents suddenly home schooling and those who’ve never worked from home suddenly have to adapt. Sometimes, stepping back from the situation and writing a list or a timetable for who does what when might stop the situation from getting out of hand.

Communication – I’ve left the most important ‘til last!

Understanding what each other need is so important and this is only going to come if you talk to each other! This next part is so important – no one can mind read! If you’re feeling grumpy, fed-up, overwhelmed, sad or pissed off just say so. If you’re not sure how you feel and you’re not sure why, just say so! If you want to be left alone, say so. If you want to have a cry, say so.

Talk to each other about what you need! Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’m an introvert, so managing the isolation fairly well. My husband is an extrovert so the aspect that’s hit him hardest is not being able to see his friends. My husband uses technology every day whereas getting to grips with multiple platforms (to stay connected with various people) quickly has been overwhelming for me. As genuinely fantastic as technology is, I’ve found large WhatsApp groups intrusive and long video conference calls exhausting!

I don’t need to remind you the most important part of communication is the listening part! Most people listen to reply – don’t be most people, listen so that you understand your partner.

Is social media causing more stress than it’s worth?

The idea behind social media is brilliant, it connects us. Initially it was that simple, maintaining connections between people who’re friends in real life or building virtual relationships between people who may never, otherwise, meet.
But it seems to have taken on a life of its own, making demands on us to present a specific “public friendly” version of ourselves, we get caught up in how many ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘follows’ we’ve had and it makes 41%* of us feel lonely. That doesn’t sound right!
For Mental Health Awareness Week, PushON, an eCommerce agency, conducted a survey asking all about social media, how it makes us feel and how it impacts our mental health.

In 27 – 64%* of us, social media evokes feelings such as resentment, sadness, anxiety and jealousy and it makes 48% of us feel self-conscious.#
We’ve had to invent a word for that special photo that’s usually filtered – the infamous selfie!
We’re feeling awfully confused about social media, many feel concerned about being over monitored or ‘spied’ upon in the evolving technological world, yet we worry that no-one will pay attention to or ‘like’ what we post.
I’ve had a mixed relationship with social media. When I’ve been less inclined to leave the house (as a depressed introvert, it’s an easy place to end up!) it’s been a way of keeping in touch with the world and interacting with people at a comfortable distance.
Social media is great at connecting people with similar experiences, I wouldn’t have met these people without social media but I developed relationships that boosted my recovery as we were ‘in it together’!
28% of people say they feel motivated by social media and 43% feel happy while using it.*#
As I recovered from anorexia I had amazing support from the Berkshire Eating Disorders Service and their Support, Hope and Recovery Online Network (SHaRON!). I didn’t have to sit awkwardly in a room and do ‘group therapy’ – I just logged on whenever, wherever – not only getting the support (from therapists and fellow sufferers) when battling my way through a bowl of soup but also giving support – this 2 way process was important.
But at the same time, there are some negatives! How many of us can say our facebook statuses give an accurate picture of our life? At any given time, a Facebook wall could be covered in wedding, sonogram and baby pics – giving the impression everyone is either planning babies, having babies or caring for babies and all of this is shiny and happy. We all know this is no-where near the truth! Most people aren’t thinking about babies or children at all and those that are, are stressed out about it, rather than it all being smiles and laughter!
Mental illness is great at making us feel isolated, alone and completely incapable of doing life, the biased Facebook wall can compound these feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people shouldn’t share photos of their exciting moments. When unwell, it’s important to hold onto the fact that people do not write “struggled to out of bed today” or “washed my hair then watched TV”. Like good news rarely makes the newspapers, bad or neutral news doesn’t hit the Facebook status!
What’s more, while most of us are posting the edited highlights, 36%* of people admit they’re somewhere between ‘jazzing up’ their online profile and it being a complete lie.
Although social media can have a negative impact at times, 63% believed taking social media away would have a negative impact on them (with 1% believing they would feel heartbroken!)
There’s no debate, it’s here to stay, perhaps we all need to be careful, be clear about how we use it and don’t let it become a source of unrest or unhappiness – this is our choice to make!
*All stats from a survey of 1000 adults in the UK carried out by PushON, an eCommerce agency. (# Participants could choose multiple feelings). Survey carried in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Week.

Low self esteem: The hidden condition

Low self esteem can be a painful condition and many of us suffer in silence, unaware of the damage being done, unaware that there is a way out.
Throughout my mental health journey, I was asked numerous times if I had low self esteem, I would struggle with this question. The definition of self esteem is:

“Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect”

Since I did not believe I had any worth or abilities, how could I possibly have confidence in them? I did not believe there was anything about me to respect. Therefore, the question baffled me because if there is nothing to feel good about how could I rate it as low or high? It’s only since my self esteem has improved have I realised how rock bottom it was and I had previously been viewing myself through a distorted lens. Once the cycle of low self esteem started, add in mental illness and you soon reach no self esteem!
We build a picture of ourselves and  our self esteem grows from a combination of the following:

  • Experiences at home, school, work and in the community
  • How other people react to you and treat you
  • Illness, disability or injury and how those around you cope
  • Your own thoughts and perceptions
  • Culture, religion and societal status and role
  • Media messagesself esteem boxes

Problems associated with low self esteem include:

  • Feelings of fear and anxiety – an all consuming fear of doing something wrong, looking stupid.
  • Isolation and avoiding new situations – these things can feel too overwhelming when you assume you won’t be able to cope.
  • Staying quiet and not sharing thoughts or ideas, not initiating conversation – anything to avoid looking bad, stupid of inept and avoiding rejection.
  • Underachieving and lacking ambition for fear of not coping or being rejected,
  • Or overachieving – constantly working inordinately hard to prove worth and competence to self and others, striving for perfection and perceiving failure if it’s not achieved.
  • Seeking or remaining in destructive relationships through fear of not managing alone.
  • Depression – persistent low self esteem with negative self-talk can lead to other symptoms of depression such as low mood, not sleeping, poor appetite etc
  • Hypersensitivity – assuming negative thoughts from others leads to being on the look out for these signs that confirm these fears. These could lead to acting on a sign that wasn’t perceived accurately (for example a compliment will sound sarcastic). Sometimes people will throw out “tests” to see what people think of them.
  • Lack of assertiveness – anxiety and fear can lead to difficulties sharing feelings and asking assertively for needs to be met. This can lead to people being passive and being “walked on”, which can lead to a build up of pressure and aggression being expressed as being defensive, sarcastic, brusque or even rude. Putting other people down (not necessarily deliberately maliciously) may be a way of covering up a low self esteem. Being passive-aggressive is common, examples include being manipulative, planned tardiness, throwing out cues for others to pick up on and gossiping.
  • Obsessions or addictions can be a way of coping or covering up. From workaholic behaviour through to developing serious mental illness such as anorexia or obsessive compulsive disorder with intrusive thoughts etc
  • Behaving in a needy way, relying on others for direction and trying to please others.

None of these are meant to be criticisms but it’s helpful to know that people behave in all sorts of ways, unintentionally, in order to manage such a negative feeling. It may be helpful to realise that you have low self esteem and that how you’re managing it is having a negative impact on you and the people around you. If you notice other people’s behaviour is annoying, unhelpful or irrational, this may be the tip of the iceberg and it might be worth thinking about whether their self esteem is playing a part, the real root may be hidden.
My lack of self esteem was mostly internalised and exaggerated as I turned to self punishment.
self esteem not good enough
I became depressed, used self harm to manage my emotions and hid inside anorexia to manage strong negative feelings about myself. Once I was on my road to recovery and I was able to reflect on some of my unhelpful thinking I became very aware of my fear of arrogance – my overwhelming fear of my head being too big had pushed me so far in the other direction I was suffering for it! A balance is important. (Arrogance is unattractive, and while some people may think it’s got them places, I never want to venture down that path.) I can be assertive while using humility to keep arrogance at bay!
It is really important to boost your own self esteem and the self esteem of those around you and to avoid unhelpful coping patterns. Here are some tips:self esteem don't compare

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others – a trap a lot of us fall into, thinking it helps us know where we stand but it’s unrealistic as we’re all unique with different abilities and strengths. Get to know yourself rather than thinking you need to be the same as someone else.
  2. Don’t strive for perfection – some people believe only God is perfect, others believe it does not exist. Being OK with “good enough” was one of the best things I ever did for my recovery. Don’t get me wrong, I love my perfectionistic streak (it’s part of who I am) and I can turn it on if I want to but I keep it in cheque!
  3. Make mistakes – it’s natural, it’s the way we learn and it’s fun! They will happen, there’s nothing we can to avoid them so we may as well enjoy them! Apologise if necessary, learn what we need to, treat yourself with compassion and move on – that’s the most important bit!
  4. Focus on the things you can control – focusing on our worries and the things we can’t control leads to a downwards spiral of negativity. Instead, if we look at what we CAN change not only will we feel better but we’re more likely to actually achieve what we want.
  5. Talk to yourself in a positive way – imagine recording a repeater tape with “I’m no good, I can’t do this, I’ll never achieve anything” – if you didn’t believe it in the first place, you will after a very short time! This is what goes on inside the head of someone with low self esteem. Instead, we need to replace it with “I can do this, I’m an OK person” etc. Work out what you want and tell yourself you can do it! If someone you know has low self esteem, make sure you are their positive repeater tape – without prompting tell them they are lovable, tell them what they’re good at, tell them they’re unique.self esteem be careful
  6. Do things you enjoy and help others do the things they enjoy – having low self esteem makes you focus on the things you’re no good at. For once, just relax and do something you know you’re good at – go to the park and read a book, spend some times stroking your cat, make a smoothie, do some weeding. Anything! Helping other to find something they enjoy has its rewards – it will improve their self esteem and you might find something new and fun too!

self esteem you are good enough
Breaking out of low self esteem can be hard. It’s especially hard if its become habitual to behave in these ways over years and years. But improving self esteem will improve every aspect of your life! Feeling better about yourself will mean you will be able to:

  • Communicate better, which in turn improves relationships, from intimate relationships to work colleagues to acquaintances.
  • Manage challenges better – challenges come along, they can defeat us or make us stronger depending on how we approach them.
  • Managing illness better – one of the biggest improvements I’ve seen is that when I’m unwell I’ve started asking for what I need instead of assuming I don’t have a clue and hoping other people will know better than me!
  • Get what you want out of work – being honest about whether you want to achieve highly, be a CEO or whether you want something else – don’t let your self esteem dictate whether you over or under achieve!
  • Have a healthy work-home-life balance – everyone’s different and needs/wants different things out of life. We should not allow our self esteem to allow us to be dictated to by others. Working out what works for us as a unique individual is vital for a healthy life!

If low self esteem is caught up in mental ill health, external support will be vital, recovery is tough but I wouldn’t give up my journey for anything. I’ve learnt so much about me and those around me, my life has been enriched by the experience. Wherever you are on your journey or whether you’re journeying with someone else, I hope my blog has helped in some way.
self esteem just be yourself