Have a word with yourself

Sort it out

Self-care is all the rage right now.

✨ Be kind to yourself

Brands have even appropriated this rhetoric, with the likes of The Body Shop using self-care to promote their products. Despite what these companies want you to think, you don’t need expensive face masks, bath bombs and journals to practice self-care. Self-care by its very nature it unique to you - the self. Dedicating time to caring for yourself.

But this week’s newsletter isn’t about self-care (I’ve written about that before), instead, I’m going to talk about another practice that helps me cope with the stresses of daily life… those moments where you have to have a word with yourself. Which, I guess, to me is a form of self-care. Just a little less gentle than having a bath or lighting a candle.

You know what I mean. Your rational brain realises that your lizard brain is being an idiot, and no amount of positive affirmations will help to break the cycle.

Sometimes, you just have to have a word.

The idea for this newsletter came to me in the middle of this week’s Parkrun. I wrote in detail about my running journey last week, so I won’t bore you with the details again. But I do want to talk about how running is one of those activities that really tests your mental limits.

Every time I go on a run, I end up in an argument with myself:

"We should just stop”

“Slow down, we can’t breathe”

“Just go home, we’ve done enough”

And then the other side of my brain claps back:

“Shut up. we’re not going to stop halfway through the Parkrun. We ran a bloody half marathon last week”

“We’re breathing fine, here look” *takes a deep breath*

Okay, so maybe this makes me sound a little crazy. And to some extent, I probably am. As a semi-recovered anxiety sufferer, I am used to arguing with my lizard brain. I’ve hidden in toilet cubicles before meetings, desperately trying to talk myself into doing something that should be relatively easy. Self-care is great, but without a comprehensive understanding of the mental gymnastics I go through every day, I firmly believe I’d never have come close to overcoming anxiety.

I’m not talking about being brutal, you can have words with yourself without bullying yourself into submission. Cold facts and logic will only take you so far, however. I could tell myself a hundred times over that I wasn’t in any danger, but I’d still find myself going through fight or flight before every work meeting.

Having a word with yourself is just another string to your bow. Thankfully, these days I only argue with myself while on a run or before a particularly nerve-wracking event (did I mention I’m speaking at the North East Expo in November?) But there was a time when my rational brain wasn’t properly equipped to deal with the never-ending barrage of toxic thoughts that came my way.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully ignore the voice in my head, but I can recognise it for what it is - a voice. I don’t need to stop running because I’m tired. And a work meeting isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. A vital lesson I learned in CBT is that if you act on the thoughts, they will come back stronger. It takes a long time to re-wire your brain into realising that these thoughts aren’t facts. But, over time, you learn that by giving less attention to the lizard brain and accepting it for what it is, it no longer has any power over you. And you can start getting better as a result.

Am I the only one who has to have a word with myself from time to time? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a confidential chat.

📚 Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney

She’s only gone and done it again. Author of Normal People Sally Rooney returns with another powerful novel about the millennial experience. I, personally, loved every page.

📺 Stath Lets Flats (All 4)

Last week’s announcement about “more Britishness on TV” led to an angry Twitter rant from yours truly about shows that represent British life, but never get recognition for a variety of reasons. I received loads of great recommendations, including Stath Lets Flats, a sitcom from Jamie Demetriou about an incompetent Greek-Cypriot lettings agent. This is hilarious and offers great light relief from the neverending misery of life.

That’s all from me this week! Have a good one,

Ellen x

Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:

15 September: Running changed my life

8 September: Okay, boomer

25 August: Bridezilla returns

18 August: Find your zen

10 August: The fear factor

3 August: You shall not pass

28 July: Recharging your mental battery

21 July: How much is too much to share

14 July: We’ve got to talk about Twitter

7 July: Meet my poison parrot