How to make a vision board

Once a year our Business Group gets together for a meeting with a slightly different format- where we each create a vision board.

 

This is the process

Before starting- and with a big blank piece of paper (at least A3 size) in front of you- you need to visualise the question you are wanting to explore.  This exercise is usually done at the beginning of the year, and so often the question will be related to the year ahead.  My question I sat with in this session was, “Who am I in the world?”.

There are piles of magazines on the table in the middle and you then have to page through magazines in a slightly automatic, non-judgmental way, just pulling out all the pages with images that pop out at you, or appeal to you for any reason.

At a stage, the collecting of images is brought to a close and the cutting and sticking starts.  You can use a small amount of planning here- grouping things together if that makes sense, but still using more right brain than the logical left brain.

In our group, we then each get a turn to present our vision boards to and explain what has come up during the process.  I have done a board for at least the last 3 years.  Sometimes they don’t seem to “work” or resonate particularly with me. This is what happened to me last year.  The one I had done the prior year, though, really inspired and influenced that year.

What came up for me

This time, what really came up was the complete lack of “work”-type images in my board.  I had been very open to finding some- I must admit I even brought along a few Toastmasters magazines (as well as other, more typical magazines!) with the decidedly calculating thought that there would be those kind of corporate-style images inside (picture a team around a boardroom table with someone doing a slick presentation!).  But I didn’t find any!  The appeal of corporate comes because of a realisation that, for me, getting dressed and looking good are more important than they are to many other people.  I have noticed that my self-confidence and mood are directly affected by what I am wearing.  This feels like a rather superficial aspect of myself, but I have decided to embrace and accept it, rather than to fight it.  It is rather odd, though, that during this time when there is no real reason to dress up (for work), I am still planning my outfit and doing my makeup and hair.  I had thought that perhaps this meant that a job with a corporate kind of image, may suit me.  After the vision board exercise, I am realising that I don’t need to have a job that fits my style.  My style is simply that- a style.  A style that happens to be more put-together and polished than your average stay-at-home mom.

What DID come up on my board was yoga, parenting (teens!), art/creativity, minimalism, nature, running, a strong marriage and celebrating the everyday with an open mind.

The Value of a Business Group

One of my most precious resources as an entrepreneur, or small business owner, was my wonderful Business Group.  This phenomenal group of women meet once a month, at a set time, set day and set venue, with a set, very simple meeting format.

The format is just a quick check-in from each person in the group (who has managed to be there!), giving us a quick summary of what is happening in their life at the moment.  It also gives us an brief update on any developments since our last meeting.  While checking in, it is usually really clear which one (or two) of us are going to need to be the focus of the meeting- with a more in-depth look at the challenges/ issues that they are currently grappling with.

In an incredibly gentle, supportive way (but giving the person a firm shove, where necessary), we then talk through that issue and offer advice, resources, share contacts or similar experiences in order to help that person.

The meeting ends with a check-out, where each person shares what they have learnt, or what their “take-away” from that meeting is.

This support is truly invaluable.  So often simply sharing the issue or worry with the group and realising that it is not unique to me or my business, gave me all the support and strength to carry on that I needed.   The space is so precious to me that even though I am no longer a Business Owner, I have not “resigned” from the group.

“Surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams, encourage your ideas, support your ambitions, and bring out the best in you.” 
— Roy T. Bennett (The Light in the Heart)

If I had to choose just one piece of advice for an entrepreneur, it would be to form, or join, a Business Group. Have a Wattsapp group for all of you to post quick questions or updates, so that the support is there when you need it and not just once-monthly.

A quick update on medication

I realised I had nothing to lose by increasing my dose of my antidepressant (thanks, Pete!).  Except, of course, the little dream of being able to move beyond needing medication one day.  In my head, I have accepted that I need to be medicated for the rest of my life, but in my heart I wish this wasn’t the case.  And increasing the dose is a new acknowledgement of a chronic problem.

 

Serotonin down the plug hole
Serotonin down the plug hole

On the other hand, it is so silly to fight the fact that there is a chemical imbalance in my brain (a lack of serotonin) which medication can fix.  And if, as my doctor explained here, the plug is just not quite big enough to be keeping the serotonin levels optimal in the bath that is my brain, how ridiculous not to use a bigger plug!

 

So, I started with a double dose yesterday, anticipating some side effects, but hoping that the side effects would be minimal because my system is so used to this medication.

I didn’t notice any change yesterday.  No nasty side effects, no impact on mood.  But today has been a little different!

I am feeling rather good.  Admittedly, the day has had a good structure to it so far.  I started it with a pleasant run with my running friend.  I then managed to shower quickly, plan my shopping list and be at the shops as they opened at 9.  This meant the store was well-stocked and nice and quiet.

And you see, I am not sure I would have appreciated this as much as I did, if I hadn’t been feeling better.  Early days, but I am rather excited!

A visit to the doctor

I have been taking standard SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) for many years now.  I would estimate that I have been on various antidepressants almost continuously for at least the past 8 years.

My medication of choice has been predominantly Prozac generics and, more recently, Zoloft generics (better with anxiety, as I understand it).  I have tried a number of others that did not work for me (all those dreaded side-effects!) over the years.

I made an appointment to see my doctor last week, because I was wondering about a few things.

  • Firstly, there has been quite a bit in the news (articles such as this) suggesting that having low levels of Vitamin D have been linked with depression, lack of energy and more.  Living in South Africa, up until these kind of articles have been doing the rounds, one always assumed that our Vitamin D levels would be fine because of all our sunshine.  But the articles, plus the fact that I definitely struggle with my mood during the winter months made me think I would like to have my Vitamin D levels checked.
  • Then, I also thought I should just let him know that I am struggling mentally at present and see what he advised.
  • I have also been getting very light-headed when getting up (even just from sitting down, and not necessarily getting up that fast) and I wondered if this was cause for concern.
  • Finally, it is never a bad thing to have blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels checked, so off I went.

 

My doctor took the bloods (which I absolutely hate- for some reason my veins are very hard to locate!), he looked at my blood pressure (perfectly normal, so low blood pressure is not the explanation for the light-headedness); commented that I was very fit (with a very low resting heart rate) and then proceeded to reassure me that being on antidepressants for long periods of time is completely fine- it  is, in his opinion, silly and unnecessary to aim to come off them, particularly in cases like mine where there is such a strong genetic predisposition to chronic depression.

Using the analogy of the brain being a bath, and the pill being the plug (to stop the serotonin- or water- from leaking out and being wasted), he advised doubling my dose of Talomil from 20mg to 40mg.  He explained that the only way of gauging the size of the plug hole was to increase the size of the plug until my mood was more in the normal range.

OK, I get that.  And in reality, if anything, I need MORE rather than less medical intervention at the moment.  I am feeling blue.

He gave me a new script and said he would let me know the results of the blood tests in a few days.  I decided to wait for the Vitamin D results before increasing my dose of medication.  The thinking being if my vitamin D levels were low, I would prefer to work on supplementing that than increasing my medication.

BUT, the Vitamin D results came back at normal levels.  My cholesterol is also normal. I am now having an internal debate.  Do I try a double dose of Talomil?  Is that the right thing to do?

My first experience of TRE

TRE stands for Trauma/Tension Release Exercises.  Up until last month, I had never heard of it.  But I had it recommended to me, as mentioned in this post here.  Then, when my yoga teacher’s email newsletter announced she would be doing a Yoga/TRE workshop, it just felt like it was meant to be and I signed up straight away!

TRE is simply a series of exercises that activate the body’s ability to shake, or tremor.  These tremors release muscular tension and have a calming effect on the nervous system.  This effect is used a lot in nature, where you will see a buck- that has been chased and nearly eaten by a lion- shaking uncontrollably for a bit- and then calmly joining the herd and eating grass, as if nothing has happened.  I have certainly noticed that my dog, Benji, shakes uncontrollably at the vet.  Up until now, I have just felt terribly sorry for him when this happens, but now I realise he is actually rather fortunate to have this way of “getting his nervousness out”, whereas I – in similar, scary circumstances- would suppress all  the trembling and nervousness I may be feeling and store it all as muscular tension.  So, effectively, TRE aims to make me more like Benji!

The workshop consisted of 2 hours of yoga and then an hour of TRE (but only actually tremoring for about 15 minutes).  There were about 6 participants in the workshop and then the 2 teachers.  The yoga part was lovely and time just flew by.  I am finding yoga beautifully healing and calming, so it is a treat to have more yoga than usual this week!

Then came the TRE part.

There are a series of very simple exercises that one needs to follow which seemingly prepare the muscles for going into the tremoring.  They felt almost too simple, especially compared with the yoga, but we all did them dutifully.  The last one before lying on the mat involved sitting with your back against the wall.  We had done this during my very first yoga class, and I had noticed then that this caused my legs to shake (specifically my quads).

We then had to lie on our mats, and, starting with the soles of our feet touching and our knees as wide as they can go, you slowly bring your knees up and at some point – very weirdly- your legs start shaking.  For some of the time, I was not sure if I was MAKING my legs shake, or if it was involuntary (as I think it is meant to be), and from time to time they stopped shaking.  To reactivate the tremor, you just need to open your knees and start raising them slowly again.  If the tremoring feels too much, you lie your legs out straight and it will stop.

It felt a little arbitrary- I was not sure what I should be feeling/that I was doing it “right”/what exactly was going on, but the feeling was not unpleasant, just a bit strange.  Our teacher had warned us beforehand not to have “tremor envy” and I did notice that the people who were not new to TRE seemed to be tremoring a lot more vigorously than I was!  So perhaps one develops this new skill with time.

We were told to drink lots of water and try to have as gentle a day as we could afterwards.  I left feeling not at all sure of the benefits of the practice.

But then, 2 things happened that made me think, perhaps the effect has been a lot bigger than I realised!

The first thing that happened, is that Sophie dropped a glass- that smashed to the floor right next to me- and I didn’t even jump.  Now, normally, I am a very jumpy person.   My standard reaction to that happening  would be to  physically jump (or at least tense my shoulders), and then scream/shout at the person who had given me the fright, as no doubt, adrenalin pumps through my system.  I didn’t flinch.  I just said calmly- “that is OK”, and Sophie and I picked up the pieces of glass and cleaned the floor.

That is pretty amazing on its own.  But there’s more!

My sleep last night was beautifully deep and restorative.  Truly blissful.  I am not feeling terribly stressed or anxious at the moment- without a job my life is as calm as it can possibly be- but to be able to feel that relaxed, was revelationary.

So, despite some initial misgivings during and directly after my first experience of TRE, I URGE you to try it for yourself.  It could be mind-altering and life-changing and I, for one, am booking a private session and I can’t wait for more!  For those of you also in Cape Town, please click on this link to find a practitioner near you.

The happiness project

A book review

I had this book, written by Gretchen Rubin, recommended to me as good holiday reading, and I didn’t manage to get it before the holidays, so I am reading it now.

It is a breath of fresh air on that esoteric concept of happiness.  What Gretchen did- and then wrote about- was to focus on very specific techniques in a pragmatic look at how to increase her levels of happiness.

What I love about it is she didn’t do anything too dramatic- like set forth on a long journey of self-discovery.  Or, at least, not on a physical journey.  She approached the project, as a project, and tried various things- such as starting a blog (this, obviously interested me!), starting to collect things, nagging her husband less- and then quite scientifically noted what helped and what didn’t.  Obviously, as she points out, what worked for her may not necessarily work for another person.  And she is encouraging everyone to start their own, personal happiness project.  Some things worked and some didn’t.

 

Things I have resonated with:

  • She speaks a lot about her personal 10 commandments- the first of which is to BE GRETCHEN. I am certainly aiming for the acceptance of being who I am that being Cam fully brings.  I am CAM.  This blog name reflects that.  She takes that a bit further- and I certainly relate to this.  There is a sadness that comes from realising and accepting that I am beautifully myself, but limited to just being me.  I am not, in this lifetime, going to be unlimited things.
  • Supportive groups and friends help
  • Her blog has brought great happiness to her
  • What is fun for one is not fun for all. In a family, this means that you may do some things that are not fun for you, but if the others are having fun, it can ripple over to you (but may not, and that is OK).  It also means that you don’t need to berate yourself for not having fun in a circumstance where others are clearly having a whale of a time.  Accept that.
  • One can be completely intentional about creating fun memories for your children.

She has a very active blog (as a result of her happiness project!), with some fun personality quizzes, etc.  So you can get useful insights and resources here.  In South Africa, the book is available at Takealot.com

She does emphasise that it is not written for people who are depressed, but rather for everyone who is wanting to explore practical ways of being happier.

The impact of elevated body temperature on depression

There is something that happens to me from time to time.  OK, admittedly, this happens to everyone.

I get sick.

As an adult, my illnesses have never been serious- mostly just viral infections that run their course- with all the snot, sore throat, sore head, coughs, sneezes, shivering and aching that are associated with your average cold or flu.

Quite often- usually towards the end of an illness- I get an incredible boost in my mood.  I feel creative, full of laughter, silly, and just plain HAPPY.  Which is just the most fantastic feeling for a person living with depression to feel!  I have thought previously that this must be the something that I feel as I turn the corner and am on the road to recovery.  A celebration of being alive, if you will. An anticipatory rejoicing in the realisation that normal life will resume soon.

BUT, the last time I was ill and felt this- I had a “lightbulb” moment and realised that there may be a link between my having had a fever (raised temperature) owing to my body’s fighting of the virus and my elated feelings.  I thought back to other times this had happened.  It seemed like it could well be the case that in each instance I had experienced this feeling of elation I had had a fever.

So I googled it, as one does.

Google led me to a relatively recent (admittedly small) study by a Dr Raison of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has actually tested my theory out.  In the study, he recruited people that were moderately to severely depressed and then elevated their body temperature and found that this reduced the depression score in 60% of cases, with 40% of the cases no longer even registering as depressed.  In addition, the effect of the treatment lasted for up to 6 weeks afterwards.

I was so excited that I emailed Dr Raison AND HE REPLIED!

See our communications below:

From: Charles Raison <raison@wisc.edu>

Date: Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 3:06 PM
Subject: Re: Found your study on raising body temp to help with depression so interesting!
To: Cam Shackleton

Thanks for this email Cam. You’d be interested to know that I had a similar experience many years ago–I was pretty depressed and then got the flu with big fever and had a profound and rapid lifting of my mood that persisted once I got well. That experience played no small role in leading me into my current work.

We will be publishing another study in next 6-9 months showing that the immune system is linked to the antidepressant effect of hyperthermia, which also fits your experience.

All the best

Chuck Raison

 

From: Cam Shackleton

Sent: Friday, August 5, 2016 1:07 AM
To: Charles Raison
Subject: Found your study on raising body temp to help with depression so interesting!

 

Dear Dr Raison

I suffer with depression and I currently have a viral infection, with a mild fever.  I have noticed this before- and it is definitely the case right now- that my feelings of depression are absent! It feels fantastic! Of course, the headache, snotty nose, cough, etc are not ideal, but the joy/excitement/sense of being alive that I am feeling compensate for that quite considerably!

I just googled the effect I am experiencing this morning- and found your study. I really think this may be a potentially huge breakthrough and just want to encourage you with this!

Kind regards
Cam Shackleton
Cape Town, South Africa

 

Here are the links to some articles emanating from his research.

http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2016/05/16/Could-inducing-brief-mild-fever-help-ease-depression/5051463431160/

http://www.med.wisc.edu/news-events/raising-body-temperature-relieves-depression-symptoms-small-study-finds/48472

It makes me think that perhaps heated yoga, saunas, hot springs and the like may be very good for me (and others like me).  It may even explain some of why running helps me so much.  It gives me hope that there are alternative treatments I may not yet have discovered.

Please tell me I am not the only one to have experienced this?!

On our 16th Wedding Anniversary

When I think of you, I ache with love.  It is truly painful.

This morning, while you were respectfully checking in with Matthew about logistics on getting him to school (because I was rushing off for my early morning meeting), I was filled with admiration for how you are parenting our children.  They are so lucky to have you as their dad.  It makes my heart sing.

The way you manage the stress of your job, and almost never let that flow over into how you interact at home is something I WISH would rub off a little on me.  Maybe it will in time!  How loved and respected you are at your work makes me glow with pride.  Your attention to detail, ability to keep track of myriad projects, all while managing so many staff, is truly incredible and completely inspirational.

That you are still so happy to see me, EVERY SINGLE DAY, even when I am in the most grumpy and unpleasant of mental states is completely infuriatingly amazing!  But thank you.   Thank you for loving me no matter what, for supporting me and for allowing me to be me.

I am so grateful  to have you in my life and I choose YOU as my life partner today, and forever.

xxx