I have never hidden that I have deep rooted insecurities and anxieties. My relationship with food; my constant seeking of recognition, attention and adoration and the very fact that I commit to writing many of my thoughts, fears and ambitions so openly are all manifestations of my, at times, fragile mind.
While I always try to be and look happy, my mask regularly slips and you might have seen me retreat into a corner, before slipping out of the door or learned that I had withdrawn, often last minute, from a race or event. It is not that I did want to stay or had no wish to participate; I simply felt that I did not belong. That I was the wrong person in the wrong place.
Much if this is down to how I feel about how I look and how I feel others feel about how I look. So many feelings.
But, then, my weight problems are also a product of my early life. While I received (and still receive) so much love from many, one person’s actions have scarred me for life.
Dad, I fucking hate you!
Yes, I have daddy issues. Not so much that he did not pay me enough attention, but how he visited his rage, his own insecurities and his frustration upon me. While he might still contest that it was for my own good, memories of huddling in a corner, whimpering and hyperventilating through fear are ingrained in my mind. Rather than remembering the love lavished on me by my mum, my life and behaviours have been shaped too much by the lack of love and the excess of violence from my father.
Yes, dad, you did succeed in making me the man I am today (yes, he actually said this!!).
Most of us have imperfections and we are all a product of nurture and nature. I do acknowledge my failings and I have been trying to correct, or more accurately, control some of my behaviours.
I have been taking supplements like Pharmaton and 5HTP to try and chemically alter my moods, help me sleep (there’s another sleep blog that any snorers will want/need to read on the way) and and help me, well….to function, but for the last month, I have also been using yet another tool (it is never one thing, as a friend often states).
Bloggers always seem to be raving about the latest and best new products and everything is always “awesome” “exciting’ and “revolutionary” but if you read my blogs, you will often see how I think some products and their claims are “worthless”, “useless” and often “misleading” (I have a few more reviews/exposes in the pipeline).
So, this is a genuine recommendation.
I was recently asked to review a mindfulness app (available on IOS and Android) called Thrive: Feel Stress Free and having done some due diligence (Thrive is used by several NHS Trusts, Mencap and the Priory), I agreed to test it.
Thrive: Feel Stress Free Review
Now, the first thing I will say is that I do not like the name. I do not want to be stress free. Stress, when managed correctly can be a great thing. Stress is pushing me to complete this blog, it drives me to complete tasks, such as building a bloody ikea unit, and when in danger, it can save your life.
However, stress also has led to me being off from work for the last five months; it has led to me hardly leaving the house, stuffing my face and has actually resulted in my sight deteriorating (I really do need to get back to the opticians). I am clearly not managing my stress correctly.
Enter Thrive: Feel Stress Free
Thrive is an app that aims to prevent, detect and also treat symptoms of depression and anxiety that you can download to your phone or access via your desktop. With a soothing Scottish accent (obviously) and an easy to navigate interface and helpful robot, it guides you through questionnaires, meditation and relaxation and breathing exercises on an ocean archipelago..
All of the treatments and techniques in Thrive are evidence-based, clinically proven and used in real life therapy to help manage common mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and mild depression.
And for me, at least, they work.
After a quick questionnaire, on island one, about how you have felt and the circumstances that have contributed to your feelings, you are presented with alternative ways of interpreting and responding to the feelings. While not all are appropriate, there is usually at least one that is relevant and which makes you think about how you might respond more mindfully the next time you feel anxious or depressed. It also encourages you to undertake activities such as playing sports, meeting friends and joining clubs. Should you feel isolated or alone.
It will take time to see whether repeating this technique and following the recommendations will make me more mindful, but there are elements of Thrive that have had an immediate impact.
I have found the breathing, meditation and relaxation exercises on island two to be exactly as promised.
Calm Breathing is an essential and accepted technique to reduce anxious feelings that we can use anywhere, be it on the bus, at work or even in the bath. Whenever or wherever you are feeling anxious, performing a breathing exercises will help.
And I know what you are thinking: “wait, I know how to breathe” Yes, you most certainly do, but are you ever aware that your breathing quickens when your anxiety rises? The Thrive app has a series of breathing exercises that equip you with the techniques to transport yourself to a sea of tranquility..
Soundscape is a guided meditation exercise thats uses sounds to help you switch your attention from the woes of the world; that encourages, empowers and instructs us in a simple but hypnotic way to forget our worries and to listen to the soothing music ocean effects…who knew that seagulls could induce a feeling of calmness?
In the Meditation area, you can also combine meditation with walking and the mindful body scan is a surprisingly effective way for you to connect with your own body. This might sound like some woo woo nonsense, but I do enjoy it and feel better for it.
Deep Muscle Relaxation therapy is a method of using tension and relaxation of muscles to help you relax. Thrive guides you through an exercise alternating between the two states that genuinely makes me feel calmer, more relaxed and more at peace.
By combining these three techniques, I have discovered that I can attain a level of calmness that that was previously missing and while I still have anxieties that I need to address, I am finding myself turning to Thrive, not just to review it, but use it.
I have not found the final island as rewarding. On this island, you can create a zen garden; navigate crabs from bucket to bucket and play a word game. While these are designed to act as distractions, they simply frustrated me with their limitations and gameplay.
That being said, I have found Thrive to be an awesome app and I am delighted to be able to share a code that will allow you to access all the tools for the month of December.
Simply download Thrive: Feel Stress Free and input FSFDEC3107 for free use of the entire app to help you decide if you want to pay the price of a coffee for the monthly subscription. Alternatively, you can download the free version which gives you access to the breathing tools.