I’ve always been a picker, a worrier. No scab left to heal, no blemish unprobed. Sitting in a pub I’ll be shredding the beermats, my restless fingers can’t keep still. My thoughts are like that too. I can’t switch off, I go over and over everything, into minute detail about scenarios which aren’t remotely likely because I just can’t stop.

Sometimes it’s unconscious. I’d wondered for years about the unexplainable callouses on my hands. They never go away, they don’t correspond with how I hold a pen or anything else. I mentioned it to my GP a while ago, and she looked at me and said “Really?” And I noticed for the first time that I was gnawing on my fingers, an outward sign of my anxiety that I must have done for years without ever being aware of it. Now sometimes I do notice I’m doing it, but it’s not that easy to stop. 

It’s the same with my thoughts. These days I do often recognise when I’m being irrational, when I’m getting overwhelmed and upset by things that aren’t directed at me at all, when the last strands of control are slipping through my fingers. I notice it, but I can’t stop it. 

I am curled up in bed, with a dog who senses that my need for company outweighs the ‘no dogs on the bed’ rule. I should be at work, but the negative blips that have been happening over the past couple of weeks combined into a flood I couldn’t cope with. So I am at home, where I’m trying to switch off and be kind to myself.

I’m trying to stop the incessant barrage of my thoughts. 

Everywhere I look there are things I should be doing, reasons to beat myself up for the mess I am, to class myself as a failureBut I’m not going to do that. I need to stop. 

Completely stop.

I’ll give myself today to stop, and tomorrow I’ll look at starting again. I’ll try not to pick up where I left off, with stress and anxiety preventing me making the most basic of decision. I’ll try to restart by building on the break, with a rested empty brain ready to deal with the tasks that need doing, rather than too full of worries to even know where to begin.

I recognise the irony that as my physical health improves my mental health is wobbling. I’m trying not to probe that, just to notice it and move on. I hope to keep this as a wobble, not a breakdown. I could speculate for hours on why now, what’s triggered it, what can I change to prevent it happening again, but that would just make me more anxious. 

So I empty my brain, concentrate on just being here without worrying about anything, ignore everything that needs doing. There’s nothing that can’t wait. 

Sleepy dog keeping me company.

Too much chocolate.

I’ve had a bad day. One where everything went wrong and I just felt I shouldn’t exist at all. 

I managed no unhealthy snacks at work, but once I got in I ate chocolate. And more chocolate. 

I put the chocolate away, then got it out again and ate more chocolate. 

I went to make tea, and before I started I ate more chocolate. 

There’s something to be said for not keeping anything that will tempt you in the house when you’re trying to be healthy. But if there hadn’t been chocolate I don’t know what I’d have done. 

I don’t even know why I was eating the chocolate. I wasn’t hungry. Was it a distraction? A craving? Self harm? 

I’ve been trying to break the link between stress and food, but it’s strong. It keeps snapping back into place. 

I’d like to stay I took hold of myself and stopped myself eating the chocolate. But in reality I ate it until I felt sick, until I couldn’t eat any more. 

And then I cooked tea. I made fried rice. I concentrated on finely chopping the vegetables. I tried to forget everything.

The bad day continued. I forgot the garlic and only remembered the prawns at the very last moment. It didn’t matter though, it still tasted good. 

It showed me I can turn a bad day around. I can find a little victory. I stopped eating the chocolate, I didn’t order a takeaway, I made a healthy meal for my family.  

I still feel sad, hopeless, overwhelmed. But it’s when I feel like this that I most need to cling to the little victories. 

Have a banana. #NewcastleCAN

I’ve signed up to NewcastleCan and am counting myself lucky that the city I live in is the one that’s been chosen for this project. Its a city wide campaign to get healthier and lose weight, supporting each other to do all the things I for one have been intending to do for years. Finding sustainable small changes that will make a positive difference and building on them. I know what it will take to get healthier, but I get frustrated and backslide. I hope this campaign will make it easier to keep on track, or to get back on track when I wobble. 

One of my main problems is my relationship with food. When I’m stressed, depressed or anxious – I eat. When I’m happy or celebrating – I eat. That covers most occasions. I’m the member of staff with the multipack of Crunchies in my desk drawer, who knows the two for offers on all the biscuit brands and calls the pizza delivery guy more often than family. 

Stress eating is an easy habit to get into, but really hard to break. I’ve made various attempts over the years, but its never really lasted. Having to give up alcohol a few years ago due to medication just made it worse – the level of unwinding that used to be achieved with one glass of wine began to take a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s. And while I’ve managed to keep 10,000 steps a day or thereabouts going for over two years now my eating was getting worse and worse. 

My latest attempt to deal with it started last November. An over 40s health check at work showed up much that was troubling, and the nurse called me in to my local GPs to give me a warning. I have til March to show improvement, or there’ll be a whole new lot of medicines I have to add to my daily routine.

I realised most of my failed attempts had failed because I tried to change too much at a time. So I thought this time I’d start small. First change – No unhealthy snacks at work.

The first day was agony. My workplace always has several packets of biscuits on the go, chocolates too in the run up to Christmas, and cake at least once a week. My first healthy snack only day there was an open packet of After Eights on the desk next to mine that I was acutley aware of all day. It sounds daft, but it was hard to concentrate on my work knowing they were there.

But I made it through the first day, and the first week. By the second week I was less painfully councious of the sweets around the office. It helps that my workplace also has a healthy eating scheme, so there is usually fruit around. An apple just isn’t the same as a chocolate bar when you’re having a bad day, but it stops me using being hungry as the excuse for indulging.

I made it three weeks without unhealthy snacks at work before I broke up for Christmas. And I’m keeping it up so far this year too, despite a lot of stressful situations that would usually have me reaching for the Dairy Milk. I’m not perfect. I allowed myself a special dispensation for cake on a colleagues birthday, although I did have a smaller piece than I would have last year. I sometimes allow myself something sweet with my lunch, because that’s a meal not a snack. Or so I tell myself! But its not everyday like before. 

Today I felt grotty, with early migraine symptoms, and needed to eat something to take my tablets with. The staffroom had four different sorts of biscuits, no fruit. Did I have a biscuit? No. I went out to the greengrocer and bought some bananas. That sounds matter of fact, an everyday occurance, but it would have been unheard of for me to refuse a biscuit a few months ago. But its now a fixed habit that I don’t snack unhealthily at work. 

The next step of course will be to stop having unhealthy snacks at home too. I’m aware of the hypocrisy of no healthy snacks at work, then coming home and eating half a pack of chocolate hobnobs because I’ve had a bad day. And ringing for another pizza! 

But I think I’m heading in the right direction!