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What Is Wrong With You?

What is wrong with you?
You spend your life manipulating the fabric of us,
Teasing our strings until we are stretched,
Strung out so tight we may snap at any minute;
Picking holes in our reluctant defences
And fraying the very seams which connect us.

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My New Therapy

I have never thought of myself as much of a cook. I’ve simply known the bare minimum about nutrition and basic meals to stop me from starving to death and that was the extent of my cookery knowledge! However, recently I have come to consider baking and cooking a form of both self-care and therapy. Becoming vegan has allowed me to research some really interesting recipes and taught me that my dietary differences do not stop me from having food which I have always considered as very far away from being vegan, like loafs and cakes.

Baking especially makes me feel productive because the process leaves me with something I have created with my bare hands, a physical embodiment of all of the effort I have put in. It also makes my environment feel a lot more welcoming and comfortable because the smell of baked goods drifts throughout my kitchen and beyond whilst my food is in the cooker.

All forms of cooking appear to me to be a fundamental (yet often overlooked) example of self-care. When tidal waves of mental health issues are weighing you down or feeling sad threatens to overcome you, one of the first things we begin to cut corners with is our nutrition. Cooking from scratch seems like too much of a mountainous task and instead we would much rather curl-up on the sofa around a bowl of cereal (or at least that’s what I do anyway!). This sparks a vicious cycle of feeling bad about ourselves because we know that we are not eating properly or getting what we need from the food we are consuming. Therefore, cooking and baking always feels like a step in the right direction during these moments.

Working with ingredients and following a recipe gives you a structure, so that you are not drowning in your own thoughts, at least for a period of time. Then, your concentration becomes so enveloped in what you are trying to achieve, you stop having to ruminate on whatever feelings and emotions are burdening you at the time. You are simultaneously doing something good for your body, by making proper sustenance for it, as well as doing something good for your mental health as the process occupies your mind and offers you a sense of achievement when you reach the final product.

My personal favourite items to bake at the moment are vegan fruit cake and banana breakfast bars. Evidently, I have a ridiculously sweet tooth which I am trying to satisfy without processed sugar or the chunks of vegan chocolate which are taunting me from the cupboard. I save these shop-bought sweet treats for rewards for when I achieve something, like tackling the grocery shop in a crowded supermarket or making myself engage in small talk with the person next to me in a queue.

I don’t know if this post made much sense, I just wanted to share this newfound sense of joy I have been getting from baking. Let me know if you have any vegan recipe recommendations and I will leave some of my favourite recipes linked below…

Banana and Raisin Loaf – Deliciously Ella

Fruit Cake – The Vegan Society

Vegan mushroom risotto – Elavegan

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An Explosion From a Lifetime of Being Manipulated

Spoken words are glaring and sticky,
With no canvas base for testing.
Emotions are not linear or following a pattern,
But a framed mess of jaunty angles;
Haywire, impossible, jostling,
All competing for human attention,
The room in my head not enough –
A dissatisfactory stage for their being.

 

 

Today I feel fragile and all my thoughts are tinged with guilt for letting myself feel so on edge and breakable. I am angry at myself for not being better, not being indestructible or able to rise above the white noise. Objectively, I know that I am setting my standards for myself way too high, almost like I want to have a reason to criticise and berate myself. Maybe this is what enduring a manipulative relationship leads to; the more time you spend being made to feel unworthy, the more you want to punish yourself for being so unlovable. In reality, I know these things, these judgements which are made about me are untrue and that I have pacified these waves of self-hatred which a toxic relationship has stirred-up before. I just need to find the courage to do so again. In the mean time, I will continue writing out my feelings to make sense of what I am going through and how I am growing as a person. I am sure that in the not too distant future, I will write more about this situation, to help educate others about the emotional torment of feeling trapped by a manipulative figure in your life. For now though, I will leave resources below for anyone who is being affected by this problem at the moment, as well as a promise to you that you are not alone.

NHS resources for cases of abuse

The Samaritans’ helpline and email address

Resources from Mind, the mental health charity

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Bite The Bullet

Expectation provokes me to look forward,
Tempts me into securing hasty predictions,
Formulating detailed imagined realities,
Of which all scare me from stepping
Forwards, out; beginning or choosing,
Every breath inhabits new weight,
Harmless ideas prick my unstable heart.

Then, the hurt becomes so real,
My imagined future already so vivid,
I may as well have taken the plunge,
Stopped ruminating on cycles of it
And simply leapt off of the cusp of possibility.

 

Recently, I came across an article on Mind, the mental health charity’s, website which spoke about the mental health benefits of mindfulness. It’s message about acknowledging your thought patterns and asking yourself why you feel that way rather than running away from your feelings because you are ashamed, confused or embarrassed was profound and related to so many things which I have been experiencing lately.

Mindfulness is about treating yourself with compassion, accepting your current mental state without berating yourself for how you feel and taking control of how you react to your thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, mindfulness can be portrayed as a very vague idea which appears incompatible with your life but once you look into the principals and roots of mindfulness, you might just realise that it speaks to you much more than you initially expected.

If you are interested, you can read the article by clicking on this link:
About Mindfulness | Mind, the mental health charity

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How did this happen?

When did we stop –
Telling our location from the trees?
The sky, now, is pixellated,
Distorted through the lens of a window,
And now I am scared to go outside.

Leaves are swept away,
Dirty inconvenience out of sight,
Childhood fun out of mind,
We sleep through the birds’ call,
Then ignore the disappearing hours.

I used to love the stars in the sky,
Now they are choked by wires,
And aerials reach-up, further conquering.
If the night sky was no longer,
Who would look through pollution
And wonder, where our kin had gone,
Or if we will be next to disappear under?

 

Food for thought and what has provoked this poem:

Each car in London costs NHS and society £8,000 due to air pollution

Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes by George Monbiot

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Missed Inspiration

With no open tunnel
Towards the mind or the heart,
The mist of inspiration
Drifts, drifts sullenly along,
Passes by unreceptive lives,
Curls hopefully around
A heart hurt with longing;
Broken streams of mysticism
Cast shadows along dreamt stories.

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Are We Missing Something?

Through the eyes of my animals,
I see constellations, not flowers,
Vast fields of jewels in the sky,
Not an opaque glass ceiling,
My animals see beauty and life
Where before I just saw home.

Excitement is a life force in their eyes;
A sparkle betraying the fire of curiosity,
Underneath this lies the loving flutter
Of hearts set on adventure and discovery,
To them no walk is just a walk.

Love shines through them,
From the patter of their paws at a run,
To their heavy panting of anticipation,
Everyday is the beginning of a new story;
Opportunity in the enchantment of their world.

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Scared of Rejection

My anxiety to be likeable –
It seems ironic to me –
I’m an fear-ridden introvert,
Yet I base my worth on praise
And people’s eye contact,
Whether they whisper about me
Or consider me favourably.

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The Mental Benefits of Decluttering

1) It feels like you are rinsing away everything which no longer serves you

Decluttering can feel almost like a ritual cleansing of your life as you purge all of the things which do not actively contribute to your life. During the process, visualise washing away all of the things which do not have positive attributions attached to them and feel your quality of mental wellbeing flourish.

2) You no longer feel weighed down by miscellaneous possessions

When you have fewer possessions than previously in your life, you give yourself the ability to move accommodation more easily. So you do not feel tethered to the same spot or tied down where you live because you are no longer trapped by all of your stuff.

3) You give yourself licence to move-on from what has gone before

Things, possessions, products can all hold certain memories and act like anchors which keep us attached to our past whether we wish them to or not. Therefore, getting rid of things which remind you of memories and times which you would rather move-on from can release those ties which tether you to negative moments in your past. When possessions cause negative connotations to arise, get rid of them.

4) You give yourself more space to move and think freely

Your work and living spaces take on a new lease of life once they have been decluttered. An absence of superfluous possessions allows you to organise your work, think more clearly and have more floor and storage space. All of these effects work together to make where you live and work feel more comfortable and enjoyable places to spend time.

5) You remove the daily guilt of living messily from your life

Often when we see our living space looking messy and cluttered, we experience that sinking feeling of guilt, worry and stress which builds-up the longer we put-off decluttering. However, once the task is done you will probably wish that you had done it sooner because the weight of guilt will be lifted off of your shoulders, leaving you to feel happy when you look about your home.

6) Stress decreases when you can find things easily rather than have to look through clutter

Having less things about means that it is easier to find what you want, when you want. So, you will not have to endure the panic of thinking that you cannot find some important document or other. Organisation is a lot easier to implement when you only have the possessions you actively need or want.

7) Your possessions no longer daunt you as what is left are only the things which uplift you

When looking at piles of your possessions before you declutter, you probably resent the mess and all of the things which you wish would just disappear or dispose of themselves. However, once you have decluttered, you no longer have the task of living with all of those meaningless things weighing on you shoulders.

8) Daily maintenance tasks no longer weigh so heavy on your mind

Jobs around the house will stop feeling like such huge chores to accomplish. Cleaning, organising and tidying are all easier jobs once you declutter and you may even find yourself enjoying these tasks because you can feel proud of yourself for making your living space low-maintenance and clear.

9) You are no longer hung-up on superstitions

When I was younger I used to have items which I regarded as ‘lucky’ and I believed that if I did not have these things with me as I went about certain events or activities, then I would doomed to fail in whatever I was doing. This was an unhealthy way of living because I convinced myself that my actions contributed less to my success and path in life in comparison to material things.

10) You give yourself room to grow

Once you discard baggage and your attachment to material things, you can flourish outside of materialistic culture. Enjoy the feeling of being light and rid of those possessions which do not add to your quality of life. 

 

“Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.” – Nathan W Morris

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5 Tips For When It Is Your Time Of The Month

1) Do light yoga

Emphasis on the word ‘light’! Doing intensive poses and pushing your body too hard could lead to you straining parts of your body which is the last thing you need if you are already suffering from menstrual cramps. Instead, do poses which will slowly stretch-out and ease your abdominal area, such as the Child’s Pose and the Bridge, which both open-up your hips and can help to release tension in the area. Hopefully, practicing yoga will help reduce the intensity of your cramps, distract you from any pain you are feeling and give you a mental boost as you can feel proud of yourself for looking after and staying in tune with your body.

2) Be patient with yourself

When you are on your period or your pre-menstrual phase, it may feel easy to get frustrated and annoyed with yourself. Whilst you will probably have the same amount of work or tasks to do as you have at every other time of the month, during your period your body calls you to slow down and give yourself some rest. During this time of the month, it is natural for you to not feel as physically energised or capable of intense work as you might wish. However, this does not serve as a reason to beat yourself up over your slower pace or emotional outbursts, be kind to yourself instead. Also, listen to your body and do not push yourself to exhaustion just to prove a point, it is not worth it and you will regret tiring yourself out when you wake-up the next morning feeling like a zombie!

3) Drink lots of water

Multiple studies have demonstrated that you are more likely to become dehydrated during your period due to the loss of blood and bodily fluids which occurs. In addition, the changes which occur in your hormones, especially the reduction in your levels of estrogen, at this part of your cycle can leave your body less able to retain water. So, make it a priority to restore your hydration levels during your period and drink plenty of water. This will help you to feel less fatigued and can also combat any feelings of weakness you may experience.

4) Consume foods rich in iron

Losing blood has the knock-on effect of lowering the levels of iron in your body which in turn can leave you feeling tired and weak. Therefore, eating foods rich in iron will help to restore its levels in your body. For me, as I do not eat meat, spinach is a great go-to iron booster and green juices are great for boosting my energy levels during my time of the month.

5) Be comfortable in your own skin

I don’t know about you but, especially when I was younger, I was made to feel ashamed about being on my period and at school it felt necessary to hide being on your period at all costs in order to avoid incessant jibes and teasing from the boys in your year (if one boy caught a glimpse of a packet of sanitary pads, it would be common knowledge within the hour that you were on your period!). As a result, I used to feel dirty and disgusting during my time of the month and loathe my body for putting me through the ordeal. However, as I have grown-up, I’ve realised that this NATURAL process, is not something to be embarrassed about or feel any kind of guilt over (how many times can I say that it is NATURAL?!). In fact, you should damn well feel proud of yourself for literally working through one of you internal organs shedding its lining and dealing with all the complications which come with it. Seriously, give yourself a moment of appreciation right now for your inner strength and power. So do not let anyone else’s immaturity effect you, rise above it and smile to yourself with the knowledge that they actually think their stupid words could have any impact on you.

For more information about what you can do to make your period more comfortable, check out these resources below:

7 Steps To Take If Your Period Makes You Unusually Tired – Bustle

Why Am I Weak During Menstruation? – Women’s Health Center

Nausea Before Period: Causes, Home Remedies, Treatment – Healthline

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Battling The Need To Be In Control

My anxiety has manifested itself in many ways throughout my life. One of the ways in which my anxious brain has manipulated my actions is through ingraining in me that I need to be in control of every situation. For example:

1) To stay safe I need to know every detail about where I am going, what I am doing and how long I will be there.

2) I need to constantly know where my family are in case of an emergency.

3) To reassure myself I need to ask my loved ones what they are thinking all the time so that I can share their burdens. 

These impulses which I feel on a daily basis are all evidence of my need to be in control in every facet of my life so that I can pacify my anxiety. My brain tells me that if I am not in constant control then surely something bad will happen because of my negligence. I worry often about mine and other’s safety due to my desire to understand every possible variable which could result from any and all circumstances.

Not only is this undoubtedly annoying for the people I am around but it is also exhausting for me. My brain is constantly spinning as I try to battle the spiralling feeling of not having full control. When I get into this state, irrational thoughts rule my brain as I become convinced that something bad is certain to happen. This leads me towards tension headaches and panic attacks. Evidently, this is no way to live.

Over recent weeks, I have been taking active steps to reassure myself that not being in control is okay and that it is not my responsibility to constantly keep abreast of all the possibilities which my circumstances could generate. In fact, sometimes when you relinquish the iron grip of control, this is when unexpected things happen and good opportunities can arise from you being open to a situation rather than feeling threatened by it. I have allowed myself to believe that my anxious brain is tricking me into wasting energy on things which may never happen and worries which are illogical.

Now, I would much rather live in the moment and appreciate my surroundings than analyse them from a critical standpoint so that I can analyse potential threats. Being on high alert all day is much less rewarding than owning your actions and embracing the chance that things might not turn out how you want them to because these are the turn of events that you will learn from. Instead of being tense and apprehensive, remind yourself that you will feel so proud and accomplished if you relinquish control and do not base your actions on your anxieties.

The better way is possible. 

Here are some resources which go into more depth about the need to be in control and paranoid thoughts:

Paranoia – Mind, the mental health charity

Information from the NHS on Generalised Anxiety Disorder

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Inspiration and What You Want

There are so many options in life. So many times where we face a crossroads; decisions which feel like they will define and shape the years which follow. We are presented with choices to be made on a daily basis and it is hard to know which route to take a lot of the time. How do we know whether a certain path will benefit us in the long-run? How can we be sure that we will not regret turning an opportunity down? Which choice would contribute best to our wellbeing and mental health?

Choices come with a lot of baggage and worry. We do not want to close-down our access to certain opportunities but often I have found that I am not fully certain on what I want to do in the future, where I want to be and how I wish to get there. Without clarity about your future as well as your present, decisions can feel like a huge weight to bare because you do not feel ready or prepared to tackle them.

“My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.” – Newt Scamander

Recently, I have set the intention to let what inspires me guide me. Things which re-kindle my passion, things which set-off excitement within me and things which set my mind alight with possibilities are the things which I am going to take my cues from. It appears clear to me now that what inspires us sends us a direct message about what we are supposed to do in life because they show us what we want. The things which peak our curiosity and intellectual engagement do so because we have a natural leaning towards them which tells us that these are paths we are meant to follow and opportunities we are supposed to fulfil. Why else would they cause us to give such an emotive response to them?

When we are unclear about where we want to end-up in the future and what career or lifestyle path we should pursue, we should look to what inspires us. Within inspiration lies our real, true calling. Inspiration strips-back all of the external influences over our decisions, such as other people’s opinions, societal expectations and financial pre-occupation. By discarding all of these unhelpful layers which can cloud our minds when we make decisions, it is easier for us to understand what we truly want and what choices will be of the most benefit to us both in the long and short term.

“Hold fast to dreams,

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird, 

That cannot fly.”

Langston Hughes

 

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Surrender To Being Wrong

Recently, I have realised that I have been taking myself down the wrong path in life. I have been following a route which I thought I should do, it felt safe and like the conventional path forward for me in my present circumstances. I severed myself from my own individuality, enjoyment and desires because it looked the easier thing to do rather than fight for what I truly wanted. I have been to afraid of following my own unique path. I was wrong in doing this. I’ve been weak and not followed my own principles. However, I won’t fight against the fact that this is my mistake and mine alone. I cannot blame this on the people around me who have been shaping me into the person they want to see because I have allowed, almost welcomed, them doing this. I must surrender to being wrong.

Over time, I have come to the conclusion that realising I was wrong is not the catastrophe I have always built it up to be. Making mistakes does not define you or mean that you have failed. There is a strength in being able to realise that you were wrong and then having the respect for yourself to address your error and improve yourself in the process.

In my case, being stubborn is a family trait. It can be horrendously annoying when a family member gets a thought or opinion stuck in their mind because you can see in their eyes that you will not be able to budge them from their perspective, no matter how much passion and energy you put into trying to convince them. The same goes for me, when I get an idea or line of thought into my head, I can get tunnel vision. I refuse to listen to other people’s logical arguments because I feel threatened by anyone trying to contradict my point of view. I stubbornly neglected my own individual path in life so that I would not have to risk failure. I guess that stubbornness comes in part from insecurity then, the fear of being proved wrong and that is why we cleave so strongly to an idea and refuse to back down, so that we do not have to confront ourselves and realise our mistake.

Sometimes being wrong can be the best possible outcome of a situation. Realising our errors can help us enact change and come to better conclusions about ourselves and our lives.

Being wrong can help us practice humility as we have to admit that we are not perfect and be comfortable enough in ourselves to own-up to being wrong without feeling overcome with shame and embarrassment.

Being wrong is an insight into our humanity. The challenge of being human is to constantly grow and realise that we are not the finished article no matter what point we are at in our lives.

Being wrong is also the antidote to arrogance, by recognising the faults in ourselves we deflate our egos and stop ourselves from feeling that we are beyond reproach.

In the end, being wrong is not so horrendous as our brains tell us it is. Mistakes are steep and sometimes scary learning curves but they are necessary in building up all of the good things which make us ourselves. 

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” – Neil Gaiman

 

Nine Powerful Lessons We Can Learn From Our Mistakes – this is a really great article from the Huffington Post which gives a great insight into all of the beautiful and overlooked positive consequences of making mistakes.

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What I Have Learnt From Living Alone

In the September of 2017, I took the step to start living on my own. Beforehand, I thought that this change was going to be a breeze, so I stepped into this new living arrangement  overly confident and was not prepared for the realities of what would come. Within hours of moving all of my stuff into my little flat, I completely crumbled and sat on my bed sobbing. I could hear the sounds of people nearby holding parties and people’s laughter outside my room seemed to torment me. I wondered why I was so different to everyone else. Why didn’t I enjoy parties and like having friends around? I questioned my motivation for deciding to live alone and worried about what I was actually planning to do with my life – everything seemed so intensely intimidating and up in the air all at the same time.

It was my second night living on my own that I started this blog. I needed an outlet, something to pour my thoughts out into as well as a place where I could feel less lonely than I did in real life. Originally I called this site ‘Messed Up Mind’ because that was the statement I felt truly summarised the state I was in at the time. I felt trapped by the haunting presence of depression and anxiety which both limited me from living the life I had imagined for myself.

Eventually, I began to adapt though. I can’t lie, there were still many more tearful evenings to come but through the help of others as well as the self-confidence which writing on this blog gave me, I gained a new appreciation for life and found a new rhythm to live to. Once I re-embraced my creativity, I stopped feeling so terrible about myself for being different to other people; I realised that we are all individuals with our own journeys to navigate. Without further ado, here is a list of things I have learnt from living alone:

1) Living on the bottom floor of a block of flats has its downsides

Whilst you have less stairs to trudge up and down whilst moving in or struggling with heavy shopping, there are some disadvantages to being on the ground floor. Namely, I have found myself creeped-out by people who feel entitled to look into my flat whilst they walk past my window. Rationally I know that they probably mean no harm but it can be quite unsettling to have people staring into the place where you live. Also, I have woken-up multiple times to groups of drunk people singing The White Stripes just outside my bedroom window because there is a green space right next to me through which people stumble home. At times I could see the funny side of this but in other moments I wanted to scream in frustration that I was losing sleep because of people’s poor karaoke versions of ‘Seven Nation Army’.

2) You will deal with the unexpected as it arises and these instances will become lasting memories

From my block of flat’s fire alarm going off multiple times at 3 AM to a hole opening in my bathroom ceiling, a fair few things happened to me which I was not prepared for. If you had asked me a year ago whether I could have coped with some of these things I would have said ‘definitely not’. However, water falling through my ceiling did not leave me as the crumpled mess I would have expected. Instead, I ran out of bed and dealt with the situation whilst also being pretty self-conscious for the next few days because I couldn’t use my shower (oh, the glamour)! Essentially, when you are met with the unexpected, for the most part, you will surprise yourself and surpass your own expectations. The pride which this grows within you will hold you in good stead for whatever comes next.

3) Asking for help always turns out easier than your mind tells you it will be 

Just because you are living alone does not mean that you have to suffer in silence. You are not being a burden or a failure if you reach out for help, actually you are showing a huge amount of inner strength and resilience. Just because you are now in a living situation where you have to take full responsibility for yourself and be self-sustaining does not mean that you cannot look around for other people to help you out. Also, whilst your mind tells you that this will be a horrible experience, more often than not people are receptive when you ask for their help.

4) The feeling of defeat will pass

When I had to deal with rudeness, people giving me knock-backs and being treated poorly, it was a new experience not being able to immediately vent to another person I was living with and receive empathy in person. However, these feelings of being defeated and wanting to give-up trying to make a life for myself did not last forever and, now I look back on them, they don’t have the same effect on me as they used to, the pain is no longer raw. Experiencing these instances are horrible but they will not come to define you a couple months or a year after they occurred and you can be proud of that.

5) Do not feel embarrassed about feeling lonely or isolated

These feelings do not mean that you are over-sensitive or childish or weak, feeling lonely is not something to be ashamed of. Take these emotions seriously because their long-term effects and consequences can be painful if you do not tackle them head-on. Hiding your reality from others will not help, instead personal growth comes from learning about yourself and what makes you feel happy and content.

6) Eating cereal for every meal is not a good idea

You may not know this about me but cereal is my favourite food, so, of course, once I started living on my own I over-indulged and basically just ate cereal with the occasional piece of toast every once in a while. Whilst it is tempting to give-into that newfound feeling of freedom and give yourself whatever food you want, you probably won’t thank yourself in the long-run. Do not give yourself the licence to neglect your health just because there is no-one looking over your shoulder to tell you not to (says she who just had cereal for dinner!).

 

Information on loneliness by the mental health charity ‘Mind’ – here is a link if you are struggling with the feelings of loneliness which I mentioned above.

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Grounding Yourself to Beat Anxiety

Anxiety and panic attacks can rule their sufferers’ lives. For years I avoided certain situations because I worried about having a panic attack in public and not being able to calm myself down. When you are in the grips of a panic attack it feels like the terror is going to swallow you up and you will never be able to battle yourself out of that suffocating trap which anxiety puts you in. Anxiety thrives on making you feel powerless and stifling you so that you feel that you will not be able to regain control of yourself or your life.

Over the years, I have tried so many techniques in my attempt to fight back against my anxiety and panic attacks with varying success. One tool which I have found useful in loads of situations is grounding myself. I’m aware that ‘grounding yourself’ seems quite vague and appears like a very abstract process, so here I am going to list all of the reasons why you should consider growing your ability to ground yourself if you suffer with anxiety, stress or panic attacks.

1) It can help to stop the spiralling thoughts of catastrophic thinking

Personally, when my anxiety takes hold, I find that my mind accentuates my emotions and begins to imagine worse and worse scenarios which I could find myself in if I don’t escape from my surroundings immediately. This feeling of urgently needing to flee and my fear of the dramatic situations which my mind conjures has led to me turning down many opportunities over the years, as I have opted to avoid whatever triggers my anxiety rather than confront these issues. However, the process of grounding myself has helped me to re-centre when I have felt panic take hold in public because it reminds me of the realities of the situation. Rather than letting myself get carried away thinking that my surroundings are a threat to me and that I need to instantly escape, I look around and force myself to mentally list all of the little details which I can see around me. This brings me back to the present moment and stops my mind taking control of my body and plunging me into a panic attack.

2) It brings focus to your senses rather than what is triggering your anxiety

Your senses are what root you into the moment and they are your primal tools to help you assess a situation. When you feel the strangle hold of anxiety tightening around you, think about the things which you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. For me, focusing on touch really helps me to ground myself back in reality, hence why I always pack fidget toys in my bag no matter where I go. Focusing on the texture of whatever I have in my hand diverts my attention from the thing which is triggering my anxiety and gives me a sense of peace and calm as my world narrows down to my own personal sphere which is contained by my senses.

3) It slows time down

Often when I am anxious everything seems immediate and every one of my emotions feels like it needs my urgent attention. However, reconnecting my mind and my body and mentally prioritising taking one moment at a time stops the rapidity of the moment. By putting time in perspective and slowing your reactions down, you can rationalise the situation because you allow yourself to be still and regain your composure. Grounding yourself roots your emotions back into symmetry with your body, meaning that you take away your anxiety’s power so that it can no longer manipulate you at will. 

If you want to learn more about grounding yourself, here are some sites which I have found personally useful whilst learning about the technique:

Helps for Grounding and Balancing Your Energies – this article lists specific methods of grounding yourself

What is Earthing or Grounding – this gives a medical review of the benefits of grounding yourself

6 Ways To Ground Yourself When You’re Feeling Anxious – this blog gives you a step by step guide in how to use grounding in order to combat your anxiety

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How To Shop As A Minimalist

Being a minimalist does not mean that you have to avoid shops completely. Personally, however, I do not have much interest in going shopping (largely because crowds and large amounts of noise trigger my anxiety) but if my mum or a friend asks me to go shopping with them, I find that being a minimalist and trying to limit the stuff I am accumulating does not mean that I have to avoid shopping altogether.

There are some specific things to consider when you are out shopping and you are trying to balance your minimalist lifestyle alongside being sociable and joining in the experience with the person you have gone shopping with:

1) Do I feel a real attachment to the product?

There is no point in buying something if you merely like it or feel ambivalent towards it. Surround yourself with possessions that you actually love rather than buying products which you think are just alright. The likelihood is that if you buy products that you do not actually love, then you will leave whatever it is languishing at the back of a cupboard or wardrobe after a while only to find it years later and wonder why you purchased it in the first place!

2) Consider the longevity of your attachment to the product

Will you still love the product in a week, two weeks, a month or a year’s time? If not then the product definitely does not offer you good value for money because you will not keep or use the product for long enough to get sufficient wear or usage out of it. This point will help you avoid impulse buys which may excite you in the moment but once you get the product home you could soon find yourself questioning what you were thinking when you bought it!

3) Do I have space for it?

If you do not have anywhere to store the product then it will surely cause you more problems than enjoyment. Unfortunately, you can only work with the space you have and minimalist home interiors prioritise having clean, open spaces rather than clutter around the house. 

4) Is it practical?

Will the product have a function within your daily lifestyle? If it is not something which you actually need and will use frequently, is it really worth your money? A minimalist lifestyle includes only having products which will actively add to your daily routine and enjoyment rather than accumulating things on the off chance that you might get round to using them at some point. Essentially, everything you buy needs to have a clear function which you can envision for it.

5) Do you already have something similar?

Quite often I see something I like in a shop and then realise that I like it so much because I already own something that is similar! However, there is not much point in having a product which is nearly a duplicate of something you have anyway because it will limit the use you can get out of it. 

“It’s better to have extra time on your hands & extra money in your pocket than extra stuff in your closet.” – Joshua Becker

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World Environment Day 2018!

It’s World Environment Day today, June 5th. You wouldn’t know it for looking around you though. Hardly anybody seems to be talking about it and brands have also managed to overlook the occasion. On other days of the year, like Valentines Day, it seems that everywhere you look you cannot escape the celebrations of the day. Yet, when it comes to showing appreciation for the world we live in and whose vital natural processes we take for granted, the vast majority of people don’t appear to care.

Nature is constantly working for us and sustaining itself in the most beautiful ways. Then humans come along and consistently put corporate greed and profit before environmental welfare. We dwindle away natural resources without a care in the world, sometimes not even noticing that we are doing it. I truly believe that there is not enough outrage about this in the world. Who decided that humans have the inherent right to become parasites of the Earth? We keep feeding off of the environment and taking more and more away from it day by day but never giving anywhere near enough back in return.

Human greed and recklessness has brought climate change down upon our heads yet the President of the United States refuses to acknowledge it as a serious threat. Our oceans are plagued with plastic and Governments would rather compromise a community’s water supply than lose out on profits from oil pipelines. The British Government chose today, World Environment Day, to confirm their plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport regardless of the fact that aviation is one of the largest growing contributors to emissions and London has failed to meet its own air pollution targets for years. Where is the outrage? 

We do not have the right to play God with nature.

We are ruining the environment and it is future generations who will face the dear consequences.

When will our selfishness stop?

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5 Changes I Am Making This Summer

Dissatisfaction requires action. There are facets of my life which need improvement for the benefit of both my physical and mental health and I want to hold myself to making these changes by writing them here on my blog. My journey towards a better state of health is a gradual process which can be difficult but hopefully these five changes will take me someway further to a place of better balance and state of mind.

1) Doing weekly meal plans

I am very guilty of waiting until I am really hungry before I begin to cook or prepare any meal which means that I regularly opt for quick, easy and less healthy meals in order to rapidly address my hunger. Also, I don’t currently plan what I am going to eat in a week, therefore I often will not buy sufficient products from the supermarket to make the meals I want to. So I hope that making weekly meal plans, which will detail what I will eat for lunch and dinner each day, will mean that I make better quality meals and that I will be aware of all the ingredients I need to buy from the supermarket on a weekly basis.

2) Complete 10,000 steps a day

My time is quite unstructured at the moment because my academic year at University has finished which means that I can easily fall into the trap of having an unlimited amount of lazy days where I lounge on the sofa reading for hours on end. So, to remedy this and give me added motivation to get up on my feet and be more active I have bought myself a Fitbit so that I can track the number of steps I take a day with my goal being 10,000 steps daily. This should not be an insurmountable task because I have two lively dogs who would certainly relish going out for longer walks everyday!

3) Make fresh smoothies rather than buying them from shops

I used to have a really good routine of making fresh smoothies everyday at home with my NutriBullet but unfortunately I got lazy and fell out of the habit of doing this. However, I want to stop resorting to getting shop-bought smoothies which often contain artificial ingredients or added sugar and instead get back into the routine of making my own which will also give me the opportunity to select the ingredients I want to have. Also, this will reduce the amount of wastage I am responsible for because I won’t be buying smoothies in plastic bottles from the supermarket and I will be able to use-up the surplus fruit in my household which for some reason seems to languish in our fruit bowl without anyone having the intention of actually having any!

4) Start doing morning pages

To me morning pages seem like a really good idea because if I get my day off to a productive start then usually the rest of my day will follow suit. Also, I often wake-up with a lot of things weighing on my mind so the chance to offload all of these thoughts in one stream of consciousness into a notebook will surely benefit my mental wellbeing. It seems to me that morning pages carry less pressure than other forms of journalling as well because the intention is to simply write-out a continuous dialogue of what is in your mind rather than having the express intention of being meaningful or making the pages look beautiful as they do in bullet journals.

5) Re-start meditation

I have taken strides towards this goal as I have signed myself up to attend a meditation evening which will hopefully inspire and motivate me to include regular meditation in my daily routine. In the past, I have found that both meditation and breathing techniques have been helpful in terms of combatting my anxiety to some extent, so I want to make progress with my ability to implement both of these activities to better my wellbeing. 

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Labels Are For Clothes

Labels are strange. It’s almost like they bring a competitive edge with them – you have to prove yourself worthy and cleave fully to every facet of your label. These terms, they leave no room for grey areas, expecting human beings to fall into cemented categories and know exactly who we are. But two people standing under the same label are never the same and they never experience that label the same either. We all have baggage and unique parts that make-up our whole and there’s no room for those things in one clean-cut word.

Then comes the temptation to model ourselves on the word that speaks to us the most. We become a caricature of ourselves as we contort and morph into a warped perception of what we ‘should’ be. The sickened feeling in the pit of your stomach doesn’t go away though, not until you stop measuring yourself against a typecast character which other people have placed in your mind. You shouldn’t model yourself on the stereotypes of a word so far removed from the complexities of humanity that it seems to define and confine you for the comfort of others. We are all messes, so why put yourself in a labelled prison of your own making unless it feels right and natural to you? Just do what you want, don’t hurt others, then your position as a good person will matter one hundred times more than any category you can squeeze yourself into when you feel forced by society but reluctant in yourself.

It’s interesting that us humans love labels so much. We are infatuated with the ideals of kinship and belonging, so much so that we can lose ourselves in the rush of our identity crises. Having a label you can relate to is nice, stabilising even, as long as you possess it rather than it possessing you.

I think back to my 15 year-old self, desperate to understand who I was, willing myself to have a discernible identity to meet others with. In many ways, my confidence rested on finding a label even though I knew at heart that my search wasn’t stemming from my own desire but instead it came from social pressure to associate myself with a category which others could judge me on. I worried about the implications of every decision, action or thought, self-policing myself until any comfort I had in my own skin was gone. I just wish that life didn’t have to seem like such a rush, a sprint race to every milestone, full of competition and aggravation along the way.

Comparison is scary, we should stop that.

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My Creative Addiction

It is when the pen is flowing,
The soft resistance of paper –
Teasing but yielding at your touch –
Is crazingly addictive.
When your hand tingles,
Fingertips itching to pour out your brain;
The satisfaction burns warm,
Glowing from your chest to flutter the heart.

This is the moment you come back to,
Where it seems insane that you would not turn,
Spin graspingly for your pen,
Regardless of time, day or pain
Because this is what you are:
The addiction you were born to submit to.

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Learning How To Live

There is no colour to survival;
Plain existence only works in greys
As we are sucked down to basic endurance,
Withdrawn from the frivolous
And shrunk by the beauty,
The land killing and feeding us
Both by equal measure.

When our heart only beats-
Pounds like a drilling or drum-
We shrivel to the outline of a drawing,
Two-dimensional, graphite lines,
And our blood circles wearily.

Living is a different matter;
A contrast to survival, existence
More than duty-bound breathing.
Living is a colourful experience,
A sensory expedition to the brink,
The cherishing of the merry and the silly
With a rejoicing in the unknown;
The unfamiliar in ourselves and the Earth-
Our home.

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Ghosts

I made a mistake –

A wormhole of life’s misjudgements –

To succumb to the waylaid thinking;

That life is a waiting game

And I am in a room, remaining to be picked.

 

For the world’s sins

Humans anticipate their whole life

Only taking steps towards their heart – stopping,

We walk the path of slowest decay,

Then see how painful we can make it.

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How I Rediscovered My Love Of Reading

During my childhood I was an avid reader, my mum jokes that as soon as I learnt how to read I would be found most often sat silently in a corner engrossed in a book. I have never been talkative, throughout my life I have shied away from social occasions, so where other people found solace or comfort in talking to others and meeting-up with people, I have always found my peace of mind in books. However, studying English in Higher Education really slashed my enthusiasm for reading. The magic of novels was decimated when we analysed their words to death in English lessons and plots were reduced to the tools used by authors to further their own messages. My teachers passed around hand-outs on the books we were reading as if they were maths equations that could be taken apart and looked at coldly like cogs in a machine.

Then I began to worry about what kind of books I should be reading outside of class. I would pick-up books in shops with a sense of excitement only to reluctantly place them back on their shelves because I resolved that these were not the kinds of books my teachers would approve of. I saw books through the eyes of my teachers and was sad to think that they would probably laugh scornfully at me for reading popular fiction rather than classics. Then, when it came to actually reading books outside of the classroom, I found that I could not enjoy them the same way I did when I was a child. When I was younger I read for the fun of it, because it was my time which could not be dictated by anyone else, I could disappear into stories and in my head there would live copious amounts of make-believe settings and scenarios which were generated by the books I read. However, studying English made me feel like I wasn’t doing my job properly if I wasn’t analysing books as I read them and second-guessing every other thing the author wrote. I simply could not enjoy reading or lose myself in books anymore.

Over the course of 2018 though, I have rediscovered my love of reading. I made reading a priority of mine and ensured that I left myself time to read books that had nothing to do with my University course or whatever I was studying at the time. Once I stopped agonising over what sort of books people expected me to read, I gave myself a new sense of freedom when it came to choosing books. Since then I haven’t limited myself to books which require me to read them slavishly and labour over the same paragraph multiple times to decipher its Old English meanings. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to read classics which were written in traditional English but only in small doses. I haven’t put barriers up between me and the author and their plot since I have abandoned the boring cynicism which A-Level English instilled in me that authors only construct plots so that they can slide in their own messages in the subtext, as if they are conspiratorially tricking us into a false sense of security. Nowadays I give myself over to the books I read with a sense of indulgement, I allow myself to live with the characters rather than view them sceptically from afar.

I have also discovered a new love of mine; non-fiction. When I was younger I resolutely avoided non-fiction and stood with the conviction that it must be terribly boring, like reading my science textbooks from school. I thought that the style of non-fiction would be dry and hard-going and that reading those books would feel like a chore because you could not escape into them like you could with fiction books. Again, I emphasise that I thought all of these things without actually bothering to experiment and read a non-fiction book, so I was basing these judgements on absolutely nothing. However, a family friend recommended ‘The Psychopath Test’ by Jon Ronson to me, which in hindsight could be viewed as a bit of an offensive book title to recommend, I don’t know what they were trying to imply… I eyed it across my room wearily for a few weeks before deciding to take the plunge and I loved it. I laughed my head off like a maniac throughout reading it like an addict, devouring every word hungrily, essentially unable to put the book down. That book opened new doors for me. I now refuse to limit what I read whatsoever. Whenever I feel myself forming an assumption about whether a certain book is ‘for me’ or not, I stop myself because my interests surprise me sometimes and you only grow by testing your boundaries, so reading something which seems out of character may not be such an awful thing after all.

Essentially, I am proud of myself for the progress I made with reading this year. So far I have read 16 books which have all been diverse and many of them I would never have expected myself to enjoy. Along the way I have learnt new things, laughed like a drain into Jon Ronson books and found my solace again in reading.

“A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood

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Summertime Sadness

Here in England the seasons are changing around us. Winter was been longer than usual this year with snow coming in March and cold, rainy weather lingering well into April. Everyone around me was begrudging winter its long stay in the spotlight, wishing for spring to grow into itself and stake its claim to the months it was rightfully owed. However, I love winter. Colder weather makes me feel safe and comfortable, from the layers of clothes I can pull on each morning to the moments when I can sit at my window writing and watch as the rain drums down on the cars outside.

Summer is fast approaching now though. The grass and the trees are a luscious green colour and the sun casts our garden in golden light from early in the morning until late at night. People start conversations with their eyes aglow as they revel in describing the glorious warm weather. They say that seeing the sun in the morning brings a smile to their face and they start the day off happy knowing that it will be warm and light. However, for me I always struggle during the summer months.

Warm weather makes me feel instantly uncomfortable. I am so reluctant to give-up my baggy jogging bottoms and thick jumpers so, in the initial weeks of summer, I sweat day in and day out whilst clinging onto my layered clothing with my hoodie pulled tight against the rest of the world. An irrational fear grips me whenever I reach to pull-on a pair of shorts let alone a skirt. I obsess about how everyone else is going to see me in my ‘summer clothes’; what will people think, will they murmur something under their breath about me to their friends next to them? The next moment though, I struggle with the guilt of having these incredibly self-obsessed thoughts; what right do I have to be worrying about showing my legs when there are so many more serious things to worry about in the world? But the self-doubt lingers all the same and I begin to enter a vicious cycle of negative thoughts concerning my appearance. Before long I will be longing that I could stay in my room all summer, curled-up in a ball and not allowing anyone to see me (not that I’m melodramatic or anything…)

In addition, my temperament is still reminiscent of that you would expect from an ill-tempered toddler! Whenever I try to do anything in the sun, I quickly begin feeling all hot and bothered, making me irritable and a general menace to be around. At the first sign of sweat forming on my body, every part of me screams that I must retreat and run into a cold shower at once. Generally in the summer I lose my appetite as well, no food is appealing to me and if I so much as think about consuming a hot meal I can feel myself starting to gag. This also has a knock-on effect when it comes to how much water I consume because I start to drink significantly less if I am not eating at regular mealtimes. Therefore, I get dehydrated and have frequent headaches, making me more irritable and quick to snap at people than before! Honestly, I become a bit of a monster in the summer time.

Anyway, this long and rambly post was just meant to be a quick update to say that I am still adjusting to the weather and I am still in the phase of being a moody idiot at the moment, so bear with me on the content-front, more posts will be coming soon. Also I am so embarrassed to be publishing this post. Honestly, reading this back I realise that I sound like a petulant child, moaning and complaining about such ridiculous and petty things. I’m trying to get better, I promise…

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” – Jeanette Walls

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My Little Treasures

Sometimes life feels like too big a picture to even contemplate. The landscape of responsibilities, obligations and pressures looks like it could swallow you up in its utter vastness. So, I think it is valuable to your sanity to cut that landscape up into manageable chunks and look at it in a way which makes it less scary. Looking at the minute details can help with that, especially when you find the beauty in the smaller things. Things that look inconsequential and easy to look over at first may just serve as your saving graces.

My gratitude list of little things I am grateful for:

1) Writing in a notebook with a fountain pen
2) Lighting candles when I’m working
3) When my dog lies his head on my lap
4) The feeling of soil on my hands when I plant flowers
5) Drinking a cup of tea while sitting on the sofa
6) The luscious green of the grass and trees outside
7) The sense of serenity which fills me when I practice yoga
8) The way my dream catcher looks in the morning light
9) Breathing in my mother’s perfume

‘Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.’ – John Milton

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The Wisdom of Rubeus Hagrid

Hagrid is an often overlooked character in the Harry Potter series. Readers may chuckle fondly at him and his clumsiness or his many ambitious schemes to conceal or train magical creatures, however Hagrid is not given enough credit for the virtues he displays or the hardships he has to face. So, to give Hagrid the attention he deserves, here are three lessons which the Hogwarts Keeper of Keys and Care of Magical Creatures Professor taught us throughout the Harry Potter books.

1. Our differences gives us a unique insight rather than being a burden to hamper us

Hagrid lives his life on the fringes of the magical community as a half-giant. He was lumbered with the weight of the many stereotypes which wizards and witches attributed to giants; that they must all be stupid, without compassion and undeserving of the same privileges which the wizarding community could enjoy. However, Hagrid proceeded to show all of these stereotypes to be wrong; he had the highest understanding of anyone about the workings of magical creatures, as well as showing the most love and empathy to both them and his pupils. His experience of being consistently undermined, persecuted and insulted by wizards and witches alike gave him the insight to understand how other marginalised communities felt. For example, when Hermione was first called a ‘mudblood’ by Draco Malfoy, it was Hagrid who could comfort her the most because he knew what it was like to be ridiculed for being different. Also, he had unique sympathy for the cruelty Harry experienced when living with the Dursleys because he knew what it was like to be treated as an inferior and frequently criticised.

2. Love and loyalty breeds the strongest relationships

Hagrid was the first person to show the 11 year old Harry proper love and almost paternal affection. Hagrid never doubted Harry for one moment throughout all of the years when he was being ridiculed by the Ministry and The Daily Prophet and, in return, Harry counted him as one of his closest friends and allies, as shown when they stopped to hug each other even when the Battle of Hogwarts was raging around them. The loyalty Hagrid showed Dumbledore when he obliged any request which the Headmaster gave him was also met with loyalty in return as Dumbledore would not hear a bad word about the Keeper of Keys and protected him in his job when most members of the wizarding community would not have given the position to the half-giant in the first place because of their own prejudice.

3. Hard work and dedication can overcome the obstacles others place in your path

Hagrid was denied the education that was rightfully his as a young Tom Riddle took advantage of the many stereotypes which people attributed to giants and used them to frame Hagrid as the pupil who had opened the Chamber of Secrets. Therefore, Hagrid’s learning was cut short and he was burdened with the label of being a particularly dangerous member of the magical community. Through this he was stripped of his right to ever use magic again and had his wand snapped (although he did find ways around this with his pink umbrella!). However, Hagrid did not let any of these things stop him as his love of magical creatures continued to flourish and he found himself back at one of the most prestigious magical schools in the world within an official staff role. Later on, when Hagrid was again convicted of opening the Chamber of Secrets in Harry’s second year, he eventually returned to the school with his name cleared and without a hint that he would ever take a step back from his role in the magical community even though he was aware of how easy it was for his peers to suspect him of terrible and violent crimes. Whatever hardships and barriers were placed in Hagrid’s way, he found methods to navigate them whilst never showing any shame for who he was and continued to show love and compassion to his beloved magical creatures.

“I am what I am, an’ I’m not ashamed. ‘Never be ashamed,’ my ol’ dad used ter say, ‘there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with.” – Rubeus Hagrid

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My Thoughts on Skin-Care

Everyday, we are inundated with adverts promoting skin-care products promising to ‘transform’ us or ‘correct’ our skin, as if our natural state is a mistake to run away from as quickly as possible. Treatments for acne-prone skin are advertised alongside models without a single blemish or mark upon their skin, creating the illusion that a certain cream or face wash will completely change the natural basis of your skin. It is ingrained in us that any deviation from ‘perfect’ skin must be relentlessly pursued and hidden from public sight, pouring shame on those of us who dare to feel comfortable in our own skin.

The expressed aim of skin-care brands is to cultivate a culture of perfection in which everyone strives to become an ‘ideal’, regardless of the fact that they have to airbrush models until they look like wax work figures to convey this ‘ideal’ image in their ad campaigns. The vast majority of such products are crammed full of chemicals such as sulfates and parabens, in addition to other chemicals that I cannot spell let alone pronounce. Then we are commonly expected to pay irrationally high prices for the pleasure of possessing these products so that we can smear these chemicals across our face as we chase skin-perfection with ever increasing desperation.

For me, years of longing for my acne to clear and my numerous trials of consistently failing skin-care products has left me very skeptical and resentful of the beauty industry (maybe you can tell!). In my opinion, the narrative around skin-care should focus on nourishment rather than perfection. We should focus on taking care of and protecting our skin which will be ours to the day we die rather than damaging it in the pursuit of perfection at any cost. Our bodies and skin are things to be cherished and appreciated rather than scorned and hated. Yes, skin problems can be painful and annoying to deal with but they are not the sum of who we are and do not warrant us feeling worthless and ashamed. Caring for ourselves rather than constantly criticising is innumerably more rewarding.

‘It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.’ – Leo Tolstoy

‘Beauty is a radiance that originates from within and comes from inner security and strong character.’ – Jane Seymour

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Self-Care

In my eyes, ideas of self-care have become convoluted paths to luxurious experiences or funnels through which substantial amounts of money are spent which only leads to increased stress in the long-term. For this reason it seems that we have drifted so far away from the fundamental basis of self-care; to create time and space for ourselves in which we can prioritise our health and happiness during which we answer to no-one but our own needs and desires.

Mainstream ideas about self-care have morphed away from prioritising the search for peace and love within ourselves to the prioritisation of material things, such as extortionately priced bath bombs and candles, so that our sessions of self-care will be ‘instagram worthy’. I frustrate myself when I realise that, in my pursuit of self-care experiences, I overlook and disregard the simplest of things which are usually the most enjoyable and rejuvenating:

  • Sitting or reading a book under a tree with the sun shining upon you
  • Dedicating time to reflective journalling so that you can listen to your mind once more
  • Having a solid hour-long yoga session in which you set your practice intention to be calm and ease
  • Cherishing a new bunch of flowers you cultivated in your garden or picked yourself
  • Re-connecting with your all-time favourite book by re-reading it again and embracing the nostalgia which comes with it
  • Changing your bed clothes and sheets so that you can indulge in the experience of clean, crisp material when you go to bed that night

All of these small and simple things are gentle and easy ways to re-energise yourself after you feel ground down by the daily toll of life. When you come to reflect on your efforts at self-care you can appreciate the simplicity you have introduced into your life through that process rather than burdening yourself with superficial extravagance.

‘There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth’ – Leo Tolstoy

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Intuition…

I am an over-thinker. I worry obsessively about upcoming events weeks in advance and I agonise over my inability to control every situation I am in. My social anxiety tells me that any number of wild possibilities could happen if I leave the house or that seemingly innocuous activities could bring me into danger. Everyday my brain whirs with a string of imagined scenarios, all created with the hope that I will keep myself nestled in bed where I will be safe rather than risk pushing my boundaries and challenging myself.

However, recently I have come to realisation; that we all have intuition for a reason. That gut feeling which appears when you are presented with a crossroads in life is not something to be disregarded. Rather than always let your brain take over and over-analyse situations until you end-up missing out on endless opportunities, listen to your natural instincts. Our intuition is an innate feature of being human and can tell us when we are actually in danger or whether we should take an opportunity or not. Best of all, it does not wait around or dither about decisions, it is a natural physical reaction which happens in the moment and can help guide us if we are in two-minds over a decision or situation.

In many ways, humans have come so far away from listening to our guts and trusting in our natural instincts that the norm is now to live on the ultra-cautious side to save ourselves from any potential difficulties in the future. But what if, by doing this, we are actually just stopping ourselves from actually experiencing anything fulfilling or different? After all, if we always live in our bubble, surely we will become claustrophobic and regret all of our missed opportunities and chances? Often we disregard our intuition to save ourselves from any potential embarrassment or failure but this blocks us off from the experiences which will enhance our personal growth and allow us to feel more confident in trusting ourselves.

Our intuition is not something to be viewed with wary scepticism or suspicion. It is a natural part of us that should be embraced rather than curbed by fear or over-caution.

“Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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RECOVERY

QUESTION: is the idea of ‘recovery’ helpful?

I have mixed feelings about recovery. Whether it is a help or a hindrance when so many people present it as an ideal which feels distant and unattainable to people who are in the midst of any type of illness. Sometimes when people reference recovery or being recovered, it just makes me feel more lost and hopeless than I was before. However, other times it can inspire me and give me the courage to keep moving forward with the comfort that others have weathered similar storms.

What is probably most frustrating to me about the idea of recovery is that it is so vague by virtue that it is subjective and hard to pin down in what it means to each of us individually. There is no specific route or journey that will lead you straight to recovery, the same steps and challenges do not work for anyone. Recovery does not look the same for everyone either, leaving me in the strange position of never being entirely certain of what I am aiming or working towards, meaning that my motivation begins to dwindle behind my uncertain mind.

Whenever counsellors or therapists have mentioned recovery to me I have felt myself recoil into my seat. Even the word seems so intimidating and far off in the distance. Also, I find the use of the term frustrating because who has the right or the knowledge to determine exactly what recovery is, what it looks like and what the time period for recovery should be? However much I want there to be a finish line I also do not know who I am without mental illness because I have let my mental health define me for so long. How do I separate myself from the characteristics of my illnesses and how will I know when this process is complete and I have recovered?

This post is a mess of rhetorical questions and abstract thoughts but what I have learnt from it is that I need to narrow down the specifics of what I am striving towards and what progress I will be satisfied with so that I could call myself recovered. Abstract and vague goals only lead to more frustration and motivation leaving me like a deflated balloon.

“I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.” – ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ by John Green

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AM I A SNOWFLAKE?

Disclaimer: I hate the term ‘snowflake’. The media and, on reflection, a whole lot of the general public use the word ‘snowflake’ as a by-word for millennials or really any young person who does not agree with the socially accepted agenda or public discourse which another generation have grown-up with and cleave to. Essentially, people use the word ‘snowflake’ to undermine people who challenge the order which they so dearly love to protect for the safety and comfort it affords them. So, if you want to ask me if I am a ‘snowflake’, then yes, I am.

It’s ironic that the people who wish to embarrass or discredit others by using the label of ‘snowflake’ do not see how this term can be used to their opponent’s advantage. What is supposedly so wrong with someone that they are considered to be a snowflake? Well, they are deemed sensitive, overly so in the eyes of the accuser. However, being sensitive can be a very positive personal attribute. It gives you the ability to empathise, to understand and befriend others as well as be in tune with rather than ashamed of your own emotions. Also, snowflakes are deemed to be too ‘politically correct’. I don’t know whether this appears ridiculous to you but it certainly does to me because I view political correctness as being synonymous with human decency, the desire to not hurt other people’s feelings and the ability to agree to disagree with someone but never to disrespect them. In other words, sensitivity and being politically correct are emotions and abilities which allow people to treat others as they would like to be treated.

So-called ‘snowflakes’ have also been saddled with the blame of being overly pedantic when classifying which terms have the potential to offend, as well as suppressing freedom of speech. Think of how many individuals from minorities have been and continue to be silenced and have no part in public debate because of the readiness of other people shame them and degrade them for being who they are whether this be because of ethnicity, sexuality, gender…the list goes on. So excuse me if I think it is laughable when people complain about their freedom of speech being impinged on when they are attempting to undermine the safety and identity of those people who are repeatedly denied a seat at the table in every sphere of society. Nobody is saying that these people cannot have an opinion, I am saying that they do not have a right to plague society with hate speech which is markedly different from having an opinion which you can put forward with respect.

If people want to use the term ‘snowflake’ to eradicate young people from the public sphere and put a stop to societal change then they are delusional. We may be so-called ‘keyboard warriors’ but a public discourse which prioritises compassion and empathy over outdated norms and the use of division is a hell of a lot more sustainable. Also, with all the judgement and constant undermining and belittling which people have barraged us with whenever we have voiced our concerns over issues of social justice, most of us have developed a pretty thick skin and will not be as easily deterred as you may wish.

I obviously recognise that it is not the whole of the older generation who takes this stance and uses the term ‘snowflake’ as a silencing machine. In addition, I understand the need for people to be encouraging when others are attempting to understand social issues but may take longer in the process than we wish they would. I am directing this at people who use the word ‘snowflake’ to push and legitimise their own hateful agenda with the express purpose of demeaning others, as I see a lot throughout the media.

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10 Quotes for Creativity

    1. “The two terrors that discourage creativity and creative living are fear of public opinion and undue reverence for one’s own consistency.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    2. “Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.” – Henry David Thoreau
    3. “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath
    4. “For something to be great, there has to be some kind of  trial or some type of struggle that actually makes it special or valuable to you. Otherwise, anything could be easily taken for granted.” – Hayley Williams (of Paramore)
    5. “I like the idea of not being afraid of letting your imagination rule you, to feel the freedom of expression, to let creativity be your overwhelming drive rather than other things.” – Florence Welch
    6. “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continuously and stubbornly bringing for the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
    7. “Art is what you can get away with.” – Andy Warhol
    8. “The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears.” – Dan Stevens
    9. “The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” – Pablo Picasso
    10. “Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” – Oscar Wilde
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5 Steps to Minimalism

Minimalism. The word can conjure intimidating thoughts of incredibly stylish people living in ultra-airy, sleek apartments or an all-or-nothing lifestyle in which you reject absolutely everything that is socially mainstream. For me, I see minimalism as an art. Also, I see minimalism as an art which can be adopted to varying degrees depending on different people’s lifestyles, interests and needs. For example, I strive to be a minimalist but I still have a book collection which spans two bookcases and a good portion of a wardrobe, even though I sincerely doubt that I will ever read many of those books again. However, I don’t believe that this fact should stop me from aligning myself with the minimalist lifestyle because it is my choice which sections of my life I adopt this art form in most.

Here are five important beginners steps towards adopting minimalism which hopefully will seem neither intimidating nor wildly unrealistic:

1. Stop viewing clothes sentimentally

This has been a great stumbling block for me in the past. I have kept clothes and shoes which I had long since grown-out of or were essentially falling apart at the seams simply because I attach particular memories to them. However, this is not a sustainable approach. If I had kept keeping every item of clothing which I linked back to wearing at a particular time in a certain memory I would have had an ever expanding collection of clothing which I would have to haul around with me for the rest of my life and devote a considerable amount of space to, even though I would never have the intention of wearing them again. Also, donating the clothes which you have grown-out of is so much more satisfying then seeing them gather dust in the long abandoned corner of your wardrobe, by giving them away to someone else you are given those items a new lease of life as well as letting someone else enjoy them much more than you were.

2. Identify all of the objects which weigh you down

This is where honesty is crucial. If you want to live a lifestyle which is spontaneous and easy to adapt to new living situations then it is easier in the long-run to pick out which items you own which just are not you anymore. This is not just limited to clothing, it corresponds to all possessions which you do not relate to or identify with anymore and which simply tie you down. It may seem difficult to discard items which you may have been gifted at Christmas a long time ago for instance but it is very likely that such objects were bought for the person you were back then and since you have developed after receiving the gift, it no longer feels personal or relevant to you anymore. Do not let objects or possessions weigh you down!

3. Which objects actually add to your quality of life?

It is a brutal fact that some possessions we have are simply overkill. The majority of us do not need or utilise all of the possessions we have yet we surround ourselves with things which are only marginally useful to us. After a while all of these unnecessary objects can get cumbersome and you will have no space to store things which actually add to your quality of life. In that case, get rid of those things which do not have a positive impact on you or actively help you live and enjoy your life.

4. Which products, if you disposed of them, would make your life simpler?

Taking the example of clothing, if I compare how long it used to take me to get dressed in the morning when I had drawers and a wardrobe overflowing with piles of garments to how long it takes me now when I have condensed my wardrobe, the time I save in the morning is invaluable. I used to agonise endlessly over what to wear, analyse what impression my clothes would give and try to work-out what others might approve of me wearing. However, I am not passionate in any way about fashion. This does not make me better or worse than other people, it’s just a fact, so I chose to simplify my life in this area. I now have a core amount of clothes which I am happy with and comfortable in and rotate them accordingly which saves me time and space, as well as lifting the burden of owning so many clothes which I did not particularly like in the first place but that other people encouraged me to buy so that I would follow trends.

5. What is clutter?

I did not realise how much clutter I owned until I really committed myself to downsizing the amount of possessions I had. I must have owned over a hundred different hairbands and hair accessories in a variety of different colours and shapes from when I had long hair but considering my hair is so short that I couldn’t even tie it up now if I wanted to, that is completely ridiculous! I had kept little toys and figurines which I bought for 50p at car boot sales when I was a kid as well as CDs and DVDs which I had no intention of ever listening to or watching again. Removing all of these superfluous possessions meant that I had room to actually breathe rather than look at my space and sigh in exasperation because it looked like it had been ransacked by a considerably erratic thief!

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I’M MOVING ON…

Recently, I had become weighed down by the routine and responsibilities of life. This sounds like the most stereotypical millennial thing to say but why should that stop me? It’s true. The transition into University life has been difficult; the constant pressing down of academia on any and all of my spare time and the looming dread of deadlines and exams have been a burden. At Uni there is a constant pressure to be many people all at the same time; the ambitious person with a five-year plan, the social butterfly, the student who juggles five extra-curriculars, the party animal and the person who can survive on four hours sleep a night and powers themselves on a constant stream of the bitterest black coffee. Why do we do this to ourselves? Honestly, I have no idea. We are so caught-up in trying to copy everyone else that we forget how to be ourselves and do what we came here to do; to develop as a person.

Cynicism seems to be the most popular currency at Uni. I know that the world can be a very dark place but constantly working to seek out and analyse those dark spaces can be exhausting. I feel like in my first term I forgot to give myself a relief from all the critical arguments and debates which I felt that I had to constantly keep pace with in my classes. My course demanded that I immerse myself completely in other people’s pain or become just generally distrustful of everyone and everything in the world. That was not sustainable or healthy.

Now I have made it my mission to remind myself to actually breathe. To not weigh myself down so heavily with the cynicism of academic theory and the pressure to be a hundred people all at once. For me, I do this by looking around me and seeing what is actually happening, taking in the moment rather than constantly burying myself in articles which are telling me that the world as we know it is coming to an end or that we are falling into our inevitable doom as a species. Instead, I am focusing on issues that I am passionate about and that I can have an actual effect on, especially the environment. Living a more sustainable and eco-friendly life makes me feel productive and like I am giving energy back into the world rather than parasitically sucking it out. I am organising things that I can look forward to and enjoy, rather than scheduling work experience placements to bulk-out my CV.

I am so privileged that I can take a breath and think about what is best for me and my health. I am not having to constantly struggle to provide a living for myself or work a 9-5 job and I should take advantage of that because who knows what my life will be like in the future and what it will demand of me? For now at least, positive choices are ones which work towards bettering my mental health rather than my grades. If that means taking a path which I was not initially planning on, then so be it…

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PROGRESS ISN’T STRAIGHT FORWARD

Progress isn’t always linear. There’s not always a finish line in sight. Things that we labour at in life don’t necessarily work-out mathematically, we can’t time ourselves and set concrete targets for when to hit our next milestones. Some things just have to take as long as they take which is probably why the intangible frustrates the human brain so much.

Neither my anxiety nor my depression can be measured. I can’t draw a pencil line on the wall to set my bench mark and then keep drawing lines until I flourish to the point of blooming five feet above my initial line. Wouldn’t that be quaint? Instead the journey with mental illness often seems a lonely and meandering one in which fog fills-up my mind so frequently that I become disorientated and wonder whether I actually have a final destination to keep moving forwards to. My illnesses aren’t visible, so cannot be judged on their reduction of prominence over time. Instead, they are confusing swathes of thoughts and feelings which ebb and flow in how much they cover and suffocate my mind and body. Sometimes it feels like I take two steps forward then three steps back.

Today the pessimistic route presented itself as the easy one to take. Time has felt like sand slipping through my fingers recently and the hum of everyone moving past me, their progress whistling in my ears, only felt louder the more I pushed towards the positive route. Today and writing this blog post reminded me of the importance of having goals and a picture of where you want to be, not just in one or two year’s time, but tomorrow and the day after that. When the possibility of progress seems to be so distantly set in the faraway future, it is difficult to find the motivation to continue onwards on the right path. So, I set myself short-term goals, literally for the next day, like waking-up and telling myself that it will be a good day, getting to my seminar a couple of minutes early, smiling at whoever I sit next to in class, holding the door open for someone or managing to get myself to say even just a couple of words to whoever will be near me in my lecture hall (this is the most ambitious as my words dry-up in my mouth when I am around people). These things may seem silly and inconsequential but I need the reassurance that work can always be done on some aspect of my mental health and the route which will take me looping backwards to my darkest place isn’t the only one available to me.

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BIG MAGIC

Yesterday evening I finished reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and I feel lucky to have read a book that connected so profoundly with my own state of mind, my own needs and my own perspective. It reminded of a fact which I have forgotten since studying at University; that creating art can be fun. University puts so much emphasis on masterpieces and the genius of those who make it into the literary canon that I have forgotten the nuances of creative experience. This book reminded me not to put so much pressure on myself, I do not have to write pieces for the express purpose of them being profound or important, instead I can create and write for the joy of it.

Here are five of the most important lessons that I took from ‘Big Magic’:

1. Do not be fearful of your art, be playful and curious with it

I think that most people who create anything go through periods where they are too scared to pick up a pen, a paint brush or whatever their implement of choice because they are worried about the outcome. Either they are scared of people laughing at what they have created, they fear that they will feel let down by their own efforts or that they will not find any inspiration to engage with. Firstly, Gilbert reminds us that the act of just focusing on creating art in whatever form is a human victory in itself and if someone laughs at you for it then you can feel sorry for them for completely missing the point of a creative existence. Secondly, being self-critical is okay in small doses but once in a while we should give ourselves a pat on the back for just exercising our creative energies whether we created something we loved or not because at least we are teaching ourselves and bettering our creativity during the process. Thirdly, inspiration comes in many forms, sometimes it is clear and easy to decipher, at other times it seems to hide from us and we have to tease out it’s content bit by bit through being open and determined to find that next creative spark.

2. Do not take yourself too seriously, your art will suffer if your ego takes control

“How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation”

Something about this quote from the book really resonated with me. When I am going through patches where I feel that my creativity has dried-up and I am just producing inane drivel I feel so frustrated and angry at creativity, I blame it for leaving me adrift. However, there is no point on sitting around aimlessly waiting for a lightning bolt of genius to hit you and gift you the bulk of a novel on a silver platter. Equally there is no point in refusing to create in these dry patches because you believe that you have too much self-respect to create something anything less than greatness – that is your ego talking. Keep creating just for the sheer hell of it, this is your life and if you feel a calling to live your life creatively then you have to ride the rough with the smooth and keep exercising those creative energies whilst keeping the faith that the incomparable feeling of inspiration will visit you again when both you and it are ready.

3. You do not have to go through pain or misery to produce good and profound art

Creating should be fun, however this is never a point which is emphasised within the arts. Instead, I have been lectured numerous times on the individual pains which the great writers went through to write their famous works. It is almost like we are taught that creating has to be a form of purgatory, we cannot enjoy it, instead it must be torture and it has to be agony to produce whatever it is that we want to. There is a myth that any profound art must come from a place of darkness where a person has struggled against hatred of the creative process to bring their idea into reality. I know that creativity can sometimes be frustrating but why can’t it also be fun? Why can’t I be playful with my inspiration and ideas rather than have to permanently suffer because of them? 

4. The Earth will not stop spinning if your creation is not perfect

“while it’s definitely true that failure and criticism will bruise my precious ego, the fate of nations does not depend on my precious ego.”

Sometimes we can be paralysed by the fear that what we have created is not good enough and so we will do nothing with it. I have fallen into this trap many times, the notion that if I am not writing with the intention of producing a master piece or something profound and original then I shouldn’t write at all. However, if I take a step back I can see how ridiculous this is! Who the hell has the authority to decide what a masterpiece is anyway? I can create because I love to and to hell with anyone who says that the imperfections in my writing make it stupid and pointless, the imperfections they see in my writing are probably what makes it distinct and mine anyway. Plus, nothing dramatic is going to happen if I produce something which is nearer the crappy end of the scale rather than the genius end. Sure, it will be disappointing and I will be sad about it but then the world goes on and I will take what I need to from that experience and move on because no big seismic shift will occur in the world because I produced a story with blatant plot holes and grammatical errors.

5. Creativity should be cherished

“I am referring to the supernatural, the mystical, the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment – not entirely human in its origins.”

As you can see from the quote, Gilbert talks and thinks about creativity in a reverential way. She speaks about it like it is a force which is outside of our understanding, unpredictable and totally, divinely, beautiful. I believe this too. I cannot explain creativity or inspiration, its ebbs and its flows. Sometimes it shines its full grace on me and I feel completely immersed in the magical feeling of imagination, purpose and art. Other times its a little trickier to place and I have to pursue inspiration with a renewed sense of determination. Either way, creativity is a hard idea to pinpoint precisely because of its unknown nature. People who live a creative life place their trust and faith in a force which can seem like it is playing them at times; teasing them with an idea just outside of their grasp. However, the way creativity can light-up our lives and bring us out of the usual routine of things surely means that it should be cherished, respected and revered.

 

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GRATITUDE…

This post is largely just going to be about me – probably quite a boring topic for others to read about! Although, I’m just writing this because I feel that it is really relevant to my mental health journey and I want to chronicle the change in my perspective over time. So, feel free to instantly click-off if you are reading this, genuinely I won’t blame you!

This week has been a pretty tough one for me; from going back to Uni, to my doctors’ appointment taking an unexpected turn to suffering the effects of my own disorganisation. In the past I would have taken this week as a complete write-off and lamented the different things which did not go as well as they could have. Doing this in the past has constantly made me feel like a failure, like there’s no hope and like there is no point in trying at life because tough things appear at every turn. However, this time I am making the conscious decision to appreciate the difficulty in life, not love it but learn to like it for everything it teaches me, the new paths it takes me on and the way it challenges me to approach things better next time. Also, the difficult parts of life do not inherently have to overshadow the positive bits, they are not superior or deserving of more attention and positivity certainly should not be cast aside so that negativity can hog the limelight. So, this week I am writing a gratitude list about the positive things that have happened this week that I am grateful for:

  • My mum packed lots of chocolate bars in my bag for my return to uni
  • My brother landed safely back from his time in Switzerland
  • I was looked after so well by my GP and nurse on Thursday who went above and beyond to help me
  • I got an unexpected invitation
  • I started an inspirational book called ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • I saw a tiny wild bunny on my way to a seminar
  • I tasted the most delicious flapjack that I have ever had (and I have had a lot of flapjacks over the years!)

These things may seem really small and random but when each of these events appeared in my life they made my heart smile a little broader and me more resolute to radiate positivity into other people’s lives so that they could feel that special feeling too, if only for a moment.

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5 TIPS FOR THE SLEEP DEPRIVED…

I am one of those people who really struggle with getting enough sleep. Every night, I lay in bed for hours waiting to fall asleep, I wake-up multiple times, toss and turn and then I wake-up in the morning feeling the opposite of refreshed. As with lots of people, this problem becomes a lot worse when high levels of stress are thrown into the mix as I cannot stop my mind from buzzing during the night and jumping from problem to problem which I feel like I have to fix right there and then, even if the situation is out of my control. My University exams are quickly approaching and I approach this period with a sense of dread that I will be a walking zombie throughout it because I will only manage to grab a few hours of sleep here and there. So here are five tips which I have been given along the way during my trials and tribulations with poor sleep which I have found really help if I actively discipline myself to act upon them rather than reverting to my own bad habits…

1) Do not go to bed earlier than you usually would

This may seem counter-intuitive because your mind tells you that if you are going through a period in which you are not sleeping well then you should go to bed an hour or two early to counteract your lost sleep. However, often your body-clock will not agree. Your body gets used to the time that you usually go to bed and settle down for the night and so even if you feel that you are tired enough to go to sleep your body may well resist you. Then you might start a snowballing feeling of frustration as you toss and turn in bed for longer than necessary and get yourself annoyed rather than relaxed which is obviously what you need to drop-off during the night.

2) Read for a bit

When you get into bed, don’t instantly try to fall asleep, give your body and mind time to relax and switch-off instead. Personally, I find reading very therapeutic especially if I am reading from a physical book rather than a device like a kindle. You do not have to work your way through masses of pages or delve into a heavy-going classical literary masterpiece, this shouldn’t feel like school homework or a burden in your evening. Instead, pick a book you find genuinely interesting and hopefully you will find yourself getting so lost in the words of the book that anything weighing your mind down will disappear.

3) Jot down a list of your worries

If stress is what is restricting your sleep then roughly jot down a list of bullet points about whatever is occupying your mind. Any thoughts that occur to you, just scribble them down and do not worry about writing in flowing prose or making grammatical sense, this is purely an exercise to relieve your mind of the issues which are bouncing around inside it, demanding your immediate attention and distracting you from falling asleep. Once you have written them down make a conscious decision to leave the issues until the morning and give your brain the chance to refuel and recharge during the night so that you can tackle them the next day.

4) Do yoga or stretch of an evening

Especially if you spend your days huddled over a desk or scrunched up around your laptop screen, your body develops a lot of tension during the day which can be another thing which weighs your mind down as well as making you feel uncomfortable. So, of an evening try to do a few stretches or, if you’re into yoga, roll out your mat and get to doing a quick twenty minutes of yoga to relieve your muscles of their tightness. Whilst you are doing this, focus on your breathing so that you give your mind a break from being occupied by stressful thoughts. This is also beneficial because it will boost your sense of accomplishment of what you have managed to do during your day if you can incorporate an exercise such as stretching or yoga which are both good for your wellbeing.

5) Do not clock check

I am awful at taking my own advice on this one! When I am lying bed waiting to fall asleep, my head pops up every ten minutes or so to check the time and I mentally calculate how much sleep I am losing and how long it is until I have to get-up in the morning. It is blatantly obvious that this is unhelpful. Constantly looking around at your clock is only going to build a sense of frustration and annoyance in you, as well as anxiety about the sleep you’re missing out on. In the end, checking the clock only makes you ruminate harder on your sleep problems which has the adverse effect of making them worse.

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MY HEROES!

I don’t know where I would be without my two dogs, in fact I don’t even want to think about the possibilities. Some people don’t understand the bond or the relationship which flows between pets and their owners but personally I call my dogs my babies and my best friends.

Their trust and loyalty have opened up so many new doors for me. Before they came into my life, leaving the house could be an insurmountable task for me and so I would live day by day feeling trapped in my house. However, their eagerness to go outside and their boundless enthusiasm for the tiniest details on every walk has given me a new perspective on the outside world. Whilst I still think twice about leaving the house and panic about the process, when I have my dogs with me I can see our walks through their eyes as they appreciate every flower, smell and other animal that they go past. The way their eyes light up as we pass the front door gives me that extra push to confront my worries and anxieties for them.

I’ve always struggled to make friends and communicate the way I would want to with people but even when I feel at my most low about my lack of friends, my dogs can lift my spirit. When I first see them in the morning they bound up to me, tails wagging and rub-up against my legs, telling me that their love is unconditional. Whilst I find it difficult to trust people, I know that I can completely trust my dogs. They can sense when I am anxious or feeling vulnerable or sad and they never shy away from these emotions like humans can do, instead they do their best to protect me from any harm or bring me one of their favourite toys!

They have taught me to appreciate the little things, to put others before myself, to see the  world as full of possibilities rather than threats, to not languish in a bad mood when I could be playing with them instead and to have confidence in myself.

 

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I AM NOT BROKEN!

As I approach my 19th birthday, I’m beginning to realise the absurdity of the amount of labels people have and continue to pile on me. Whether people know me well on a personal level or not, once they get a glimpse of my history and the classifications of mental health problems which come along with it, they make-up their minds about me; I’m ‘damaged goods’. Either I am someone to be wary of in case they get swallowed into the dark, depressive rabbit hole I have been known to disappear down during portions of my life or I am someone they feel that they have to fix. However, what is glaringly obvious to me is that I am not broken!

I am going to be 19 soon, I have suffered and I have isolated myself from the world for vast patches of my existence but what is more important is that I have recognised my mistakes, I have had various rounds of therapy to learn about my brain (note: not to fix my brain) and I have come out the other side more determined to move on from my past and grow. Labels do not have a place in my life at this age. I am young and I am exploring the offerings of the world rather than cementing my place as one thing or another within it.

blog personal growth 2

When people view me as ‘damaged goods’, they assume that I must be ashamed of my past or that it must have had a permanent negative impact on me and my character. What I would like to tell people is that I am a better person for what I have been through, if I didn’t have to struggle with the weight of mental health issues, I would not have learnt half of the valuable life lessons that I have gathered and continue to gather along my journey. The world has various ways of teaching us things, of pushing each of us to our limits and stretching our personal growth which comes to all of us in different forms. Whatever the world throws at us, we have the power to accept it rather than let it drag us down forever more.

Millions of people across the world have been through things vastly worse than what I have and for them I can only try to give my most powerfully positive affirmations. However, my being a more positive presence in the world can only be facilitated by laughing at the idea that I am ‘damaged goods’ and appreciating all of the negativity I continue to go through for all of the gifts I know it has given me.

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5 WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR SPRING

Here in the UK we are experiencing the initial couple of weeks of Spring after the snow which covered us in March. So, here are five ways to make the most of this lovely season…

1) Keep a look-out for beautiful spring flowers
Spring flowers are my favourite of any season. The vibrant colours of daffodils, tulips and crocuses light up my day and give me a renewed sense of appreciation for my surroundings. I feel that Spring is when nature looks at its most hopeful, as new growth starts to flourish and what looked barren a few weeks ago suddenly looks bountiful and promising. So, as you are going about your days, try to keep an eye open for the variety of colours and shapes which Spring flowers offer and hopefully the sight of them will offer a bit more colour and light to your day!

2) Eat your breakfast outside
This one may sound odd but if you have a patio, garden or balcony eating in the glow of the sunshine can be a heartening start to your day and give you a brief time for reflection and appreciation before the bustle of daily life kicks-off. This may be especially appealing if you work in an office where you feel restricted from fresh air and the sun 

blog for spring 2during the bulk of the day.

3) Take advantage of the day being lighter for longer and go for a walk after work or school
During the winter it may seem like there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you want to and make the most of your time. However, the Spring offers a great opportunity to maximise your daily activity, adding to your sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Also, if you’re not great in the heat (like me), Springtime is perfect because the temperature remains at a happy medium.

4) Visit a farmer’s market
The inspiration of Spring and the returning blue skies and sunshine makes me more motivated to cook which feels especially good when you work with fresh produce from a farmer’s market. Getting your food this way can make you want to try making new meals when you see all of the offerings in front of you rather than buying your usual from the grocery store. Buying direct from farmers also has the added bonus of supporting farmers rather than when you buy food from supermarkets which does not offer farms as much profit.

5) Make plans for your summer
Spring gives us a renewed sense of anticipation for the summer as we remember the feeling of the sun on our skin and the gratification of more sunlight hours, so this is the perfect time to get started on your preparations for summer. This way you can look forward to all the activities you have planned in the near future and remind yourself of these whenever you are feeling low or demotivated.

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MY RELATIONSHIP WITH FITNESS AND EXERCISE

Recently, I have made a conscious effort to change my perspective on what role fitness and exercise should play in my life and what mental approach I should take to maintaining my health.

In the past, I have completely avoided doing any exercise. At school, I found it endlessly embarrassing to run around and play sports in front of the other kids, many of whom would take advantage of any opportunity they had to poke fun at me and chip away at my fragile confidence. Also, I had little to no self-discipline at the time and if a sport did not come naturally to me, I would quickly give-up and actively try not to participate by hanging around the back of the court or hiding behind the more proficient kids.

However, recently an epiphany and it hit me that I am 18 and yet I get out of breath going up a flight of stairs. It’s a sad situation which makes me ashamed of my current state and eats away even further at my self-confidence. So, a couple of weeks ago, I made the decision to make myself proud for once and take control of my health-related situation. For years people have told me that exercising could have a positive impact on my mental health, from reducing my anxiety to instilling me with more energy. So, I have taken-up yoga.

For me, yoga is the perfect form of exercise. I can set realistic goals for myself, attend small classes locally and, if I feel too anxious to leave the house on a certain day, then I can practice by myself at home. I’m not pressurising myself to stick to a cardio-heavy exercise routine which I would find intimidating and disheartening because of my present bodily state. Instead, through yoga I am reconditioning my body, strengthening myself and using it as an outlet through which I can feel calm and peaceful.

I am building towards feeling more confident in my body by taking control over what form it takes and strengthening my body rather than focusing on my weight or comparing myself to others who thrive in the gym and can run easily around the streets. In the past, I have shrunk from people who spoke a lot about fitness or exercise because of my personal shame but I would honestly plead with anyone who is struggling with either their fitness or confidence to take-up a manageable routine which takes them on a gradual conditioning journey rather than pushing themselves to their natural limits.

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10 QUOTES FOR SELF BELIEF

1.“The essence of independence has been to think and act according to standards from within, not without.” – Aleister Crowley

2. “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

3. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

5. “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh

6.“There is darkness in light, there is pain in joy, and there are thorns on the rose.” – Cate Tiernan

7. “The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, story tellers and lovers of all kind.” – the Dalai Lama

8. “Freedom lies in being bold.” – Robert Frost

9. “Forever is composed of nows.” – Emily Dickinson

10. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” – Sylvia Plath

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SCARS ON MY BRAIN…

Who am I?
The mirage I see in the mirror
Or the crayon drawing of an oversized child?
A twisted, morbid, relic
The mask of chaotic innocence.

Should I be ashamed, afraid,
Confused, depressed or scared?
Love is not written on my arms,
Assurance is not absorbed in my veins
And my heart doesn’t pump,
Not like I remember it used to.

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STRIKE!

The breakthrough moment in my first year of Uni has been my lecturers striking.

Every one of my tutors are on strike at the moment and they will be for quite a long time to come. Whilst everyone else has been raging about it, whatever their opinion on the industrial action itself, I have had something close to an epiphany! For the first time in this whole academic year I have been proactive in my own studying, I have taken the initiative and decided to do all of the suggested reading because finally I feel like this degree is my responsibility, it is up to me whether I am going to be bothered or not to make a go of this.

Previously when I have been at Uni, I have done the bare minimum of work, just enough to scrape past and have a vague understanding of the syllabus. And it has been miserable. I have hated being the half-arsed student in the corner of the seminar room who is pretending to be aloof and above the whole situation when really the depression inside me was eating me up from the inside out. Finally I have instigated an actual interest in the work I am doing. I purposely start each day with the intention of finding something positive in the work I am doing, making the best of things even when a certain week’s topic may not be to my liking.

This is all down to the strike. Being left on my own to teach myself everything has been a revelation. Without the stress of having to go to seminars and the anxiety about sitting in a lecture hall, I have been able to breathe freely again and engage with my education because I choose to, not because otherwise I might be asked a question in my seminar and be completely stumped for the answer.

There has been a lot of anger and frustration surrounding this strike. Many students, whilst supporting the industrial action, have been annoyed that they are missing out on an educational experience that they have paid dearly for. However, for me, this strike has been my saving grace and I only hope that I can keep-up the momentum…

 

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DIARY #2 – SELF DOUBT

Today, I find myself staring at my blank computer screen, the brilliant white of a draft blog post staring blatantly back at me. And I feel intimidated. What I am looking at doesn’t seem to be a computer screen anymore, it’s taken on it’s own lease of life, masquerading as the many faces of people I dearly wish will never find this indescribably small corner of the internet that I inhabit. All of these faces leer at me, telling me that my writing isn’t good enough, that everything I say is cliched and that I should be embarrassed to spend my time pouring out these immature words. So, I feel afraid to write and my hands keep hovering hesitantly over my keyboard, frozen in a panic about whether or not they can trust my mind to give them good enough words to type out.

I’ll be honest, most of these faces take the appearance of people who have taught me over the years. People who have seemed to me to be impossibly clever, even scarily so as I remember their Oxbridge certificates taking pride of place on their walls, almost as if to prove my own inadequacy to me. Their faces contort into amused sneers in my mind’s eye as they look at me with the knowledge that what I write is absolute drivel that could never impress anyone. The way they look at me feels paralysing.

I don’t whether the force of their intimidation in my head is so strong because I got my first semester University results on Friday. The crude grading of my supposed intelligence and understanding has always felt frightening to me, as if the sum of my parts is presented on that results page in a disappointingly low percentage which classifies me as simply average. Whatever the mark, results are always a distinct bash to my confidence because it reminds me of how my future is in the hands of other people who are undoubtedly intellectually superior to me and probably marked my papers thinking how basic my work was. The most I can do is stick a figurative middle finger up at these pretend critiques which my mind has twisted out of the faint shadows of people I either used to know or barely know at all and continue to write in spite of the faces which drift across my consciousness.

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DIARY ENTRY #1 – APATHY…

A feeling of emptiness rules my life.

After going back to Uni, I’ve let the long train journeys that pass me back and forth as I switch between the careful gaze of my parents and the complete anonymity of University life, pass me slowly by. As these two hour long journeys drag painfully across my vision, they serve as a reminder that I am never heading towards where I want to be. Regardless of my destination, I never feel at home, I never feel satisfied. I trawl through life with a dissatisfied scowl on my face, bitter and resentful at how I have ended-up in this trap, resembling a pendulum swinging from one end of the country to the other. Yet, I have no idea how to resolve the situation…what is the cure, the solution that I am waiting for?

When I sit staring at the four walls of my room, I simply feel a gaping hollowness inside. This sounds dramatic and cliched but I have never felt anything so desperate and crushing before. It feels like my chest is constantly in danger of ripping open and the guttural scream that I suppress inside of me will finally unleash it’s wild frustration. The problem is, I don’t know how I will ever put myself back together if I let these emotions tear out of me.

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BACK TO FEAR…

I’m back at Uni and it feels like a completely alien space to me. After a six week break for Christmas and the exam period, it started to feel like that first semester had just been a bad dream, something that I had now woken-up from. I let myself fantasise about a different life, one where I didn’t feel trapped in a course which I mistakenly chose on a whim when I was mentally unwell. I thought about the possibilities of feeling ‘normal’, not like the outcast I have made myself at Uni. My creativity began to flow through my veins again and the unexpected pleasure of poetry popped back into my life again after years of absence.

Yet, I then found myself in my dad’s freezing cold car making the journey back to that dreaded place. Back to my room in halls where I had holed myself up a couple of months previously and torn my body apart. The walls of my room hold the memories of depression naps in the middle of the day in which I fell into impossibly deep sleeps because I felt so exhausted with the effort of getting up, washing myself and eating. Now, I have to face these memories again, shrink myself back down to the size I was when I was drained and hopeless wishing for a way out of education finally and desperate for a way to feel adequate again – not the sum of my grades and tutors’ comments.

Onwards I go into this new semester, scared of what is lurking around the corner for me and hoping that one day the sunlight will filter into my room and rather than feel ashamed of it’s touch, I will feel hopeful instead.

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NO HOME…

‘I want to go home’
Is the constant refrain
I repeat in unfamiliar terrain.
When I’m about to hyperventilate
Because there’s no space in my chest
For my stress to digest,
I look to the floor
And think of being trapped
In that same green room
Where at least I have control.

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STRANGLED…

Vocalising is the stumbling block
Which I am persistently made to re-visit.
My vocal chords are like knotted wires,
Entangling themselves in sheer panic
And choking my words.
I am dumbstruck, dumbfounded,
Suspended in time
By the immobility of my lips
And the vacuum they leave
While pairs of eyes-bewildered-
Ogle at me from perfectly formed faces.

To the world, it appears,
I must have no thoughts or opinions
As behind my face lies an airy space
From which no substance can be emitted.
But give me a pen
And a room of my own,
Then, again, my eyes will see
And I will awake from a dormant sleep.
The footfall of ink on paper
Will give me the energy to connect
With the heart I too often forget.