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Cacao & Banana Overnight Oats Recipe

Overnight oats are great for when you are short of time in the morning or if you just want something to eat waiting for you to just grab when you get-up in the morning. It takes a couple of minutes to mix all of the ingredients together in the evening, then you just pop the mixture into an airtight container and store it in the fridge ready for the next morning.

Here is my recipe for cacao and banana overnight oats:

Ingredients:

1. Two small ripe bananas

2. Three tablespoons of cacao powder

3. Three tablespoons of rice protein powder

4. A splash of soya milk

5. One cup of rolled oats

6. One tablespoon of plain soya yoghurt 

Recipe:

1. Mash the two bananas thoroughly

2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the mixture and mix them all together. 

3. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and put in the fridge, ready to enjoy the next morning!

Benefits:

– Vegan

– Oats can lower cholesterol 

– Bananas are a great source of potassium and give you energy throughout the day

– High protein

– Cacao is a brilliant source of magnesium (and it’s delicious!)

 

 

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Life Update

Sometimes my blog feels a bit distanced from my present life which is a strange dynamic to work with and negotiate a lot of the time. I have talked so much about my past experiences on here that I have sort of left my current state fall by the wayside. It feels like there are many, many things going on in my life at the moment, so I am resorting to what I always do when there are too many subjects and thoughts and worries bouncing around off the walls of my mind…I’m going to write it all down. So, without further ado, here is a little life update of mine:

1. I got into my second year of Uni

I sort of glossed over this a bit on here to be honest but, yes, I will be going back to University in September. I averaged around the 70% mark for my end of year exams which really surprised me considering the mess I was when I entered the summer assessment period. However, the grades do not mean as much to me as the mental strength and progress it took for me to get through my first year and resolve to go back for my second. My mind went to some really scary and dark places throughout my time as a fresher at Uni and I pleaded with myself and others to just let me walk away from the stress of the whole situation. In the end, I got myself through a whole lot more than I ever thought I could do when I arrived as a terrified newbie in September 2017.

2. I have been rejected for more jobs than I can count

Being a student is expensive…well, to be honest, life in general is just expensive! So, I’ve been attempting to find a part-time job for ages. I have sent off my CV and completed questionnaires for jobs ranging from retail to copywriting to admin, none of which have been successful. It’s pretty disheartening to think that I do not fulfil the needs and wants of any employer I have applied to so far but I just have to remind myself that the amount of competition for each and every job is huge as thousands of potential employees are all trying to get the same job. Rather than think of myself as not good enough for any job, I’m trying to maintain the perspective that there are just other people better suited to those positions and there is another job out there which will be more appropriate for me.

3. I visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour

I went to the tour for the second time, however this visit was even more special as I got to see the Goblet of Fire feature which will finish in a couple of weeks. Props, costumes and sets which were used in the 4th Potter film were on display and I even saw the Goblet spit out Cedric Diggory’s name on a piece of parchment! The Studios are one of my favourite places in the world; it is breathtaking and surreal to step inside the Wizarding World.

4. I had a neck x-ray

I had a bit of a health scare in August after a went for a check-up at the opticians and they thought that they saw something irregular at the back of my eye. Many people don’t know that opticians can identify a whole host of health issues which seemingly have nothing to do with your eyes, so of course I was worried when I got this news and I was told that had to go for an urgent referral to an ophthalmic specialist. In addition, there was a worry that I might have had fluid pressing on my spine, so I was sent for a neck x-ray. Thankfully, the x-ray was all-clear and the ophthalmic surgeon discharged me as having only a minor issue which posed no health-threat to me.

5. I have started to make more healthy choices again

I started off the summer with a positive outlook on my health, as I was actively choosing to exercise, eat healthily and give myself a good routine. These things all started to decline and, as I got more frustrated and annoyed with my unhealthy habits, I just spiralled into worse ways. However, I have now got into the schedule of pre-preparing many of my meals and snacks which has allowed me to feel both organised and accomplished whilst also ensuring that I make more healthy choices. I have re-started going for long walks in nature which are beneficial to my mental and physical health by giving me a sense of peace and getting me into fresh-air.

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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5 Things I Pack To Combat Travel Anxiety

Airplane journeys can be very stressful experiences. Once you have made it through the rigours of airport security and finding your gate in the maze of identical looking passageways, you will probably already feel frazzled and at your wits’ end. Then, actually having to go through the experience of air travel is just another weight to put on your already stressed-out shoulders. There are certain things I make sure that I pack in order to combat the sort of travel anxiety which being thousands of feet up in the air surrounded by strangers causes! So, without further ado, here are 10 things I make sure to pack to try and keep myself calm:

1. Fidget/stim toys

I use discreet little toys such as Tangles or Fidget Cubes to help exercise some of my nervous energy which flying provokes. Being able to fiddle with these little toys allows me to pour all of my focus and concentration into using them which then distracts me from my anxious thoughts. Also, there is something about their familiarity to me which adds a certain comfort to holding them in my hands, almost like what a comfort blanket is to a young child I guess!

2. Mints

Mints are another great way to distract the mind from anxious thoughts and anchor your focus back onto you rather than what others are doing around you. You can use them for mindfulness practice as well, if that’s your sort of thing, because you can make yourself solely focus on the taste/texture/feeling of the mint in your mouth which can help prevent you from becoming scatter-brained.

3. Earphones

Listening to music is one of my favourite ways to combat anxiety in any situation regardless of my location, so it makes sense to use the same tactic against travel anxiety. Playing music in my ears can help me shut out the presence of people around me, making me less aware of the people surrounding me who I may otherwise be worried about. Also, if I can completely immerse myself in music, especially albums which I have listened to many, many times before, then I can lessen my concern about being sat in an aeroplane.

4. Harry Potter

Some people might find this silly or immature but frankly I do not care. Harry Potter things make me feel happy and the familiarity of the Wizarding World is a comfort to me. Don’t laugh but I have the soundtrack for the Prisoner of Azkaban on my iPad, I find the music from the Harry Potter films both enchanting and nostalgic and when I am anxious. I aim to convince my brain that I am safe and give myself space to feel calm, so Harry Potter is a good outlet for my worried brain.

5. A book

Whether fiction or non-fiction, books are a brilliant distraction as they give us the possibility of immersing ourselves in an author’s creation. Pouring over the pages of a good book offers an avenue into a world different from our own.

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Why Anxiety Sufferers Are Misunderstood As Rude

During my course of CBT a couple of years ago, my therapist warned me that I probably come across as rude to other people whilst I am fighting off my anxiety in a social situation. In fact, she said that it’s likely I put people off and make them wary of me because they will view me as cold and distant. To a certain extent I can understand what she was saying, however I also maintain that people with anxiety should not be blamed for the way they appear during social interactions.

People who do not have experience of social anxiety can often misunderstand the internal workings of anxiety sufferers. For example, I fidget quite often during conversations and constantly try to avoid eye contact, so others can perceive me to be disinterested and aloof when really I am just battling to keep control over my mind as anxiety increasingly eats away at me. At other times, I have difficulty vocalising what I want to say; the words may be begging to be said at the front of my mind but they feel like they get stuck in my throat. As I panic more and more, I am unable to speak, my throat constricts further and the waiting words get squeezed so much that there is no hope of me getting them out in the air. Whilst all this is going on for me internally, the person awaiting my response in conversation may misunderstand me and think that I have nothing to say or believe that I have abandoned the interaction. Again, this situation ends-up in me being viewed as rude when really I am trying desperately hard to stay in the social situation whilst all my impulses scream at me to run away immediately.

I cannot blame other people for wrongly perceiving me as rude or distant because I display all of the normal signs of being exactly those characteristics. People judge each other on first impressions and keep those judgements in their minds for a very long time. The problem is that when I meet someone for the first time, my anxiety symptoms are often at their most extreme and pronounced. As a result, I come across as the most rude I can possibly be and, after that, I am condemned to glares across the lecture hall for the rest of the academic year all because of the disastrous first interaction I had with someone.

It’s difficult to conclude this post. If general society was more aware of the effects anxiety can have on the whole of people’s lives, then maybe these misunderstandings could be avoided and the pressure on sufferers to act okay when they are not could be eased. However, everyone has some measure of insecurities during social interactions, so we cannot pile all of the blame on people who become offended when they see the person they are talking to start to shuffle and look away into the distance.

I would love to know everyone’s thoughts about this topic and what people think can be done to ease the pressure on anxious people when they are in social situations.

Here is a link for information about anxiety and panic attacks if anyone wants to read-up on this further:

Mind – Anxiety and Panic Attacks

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Gratitude List #3

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This week has been a bit all over the place. From coming out to riding a rollercoaster of dips and jumps in self-confidence, I’ve felt a lot of emotions during the last 7 days (when don’t I?). However, to put this week into perspective, I have decided to write-out a gratitude list to emphasise to myself the positive things I can take away from this week and to share the intention of shifting to a perspective of gratitude when life seems to overwhelm you. So, without further ado, here is a list of things I am grateful for which have appeared, surfaced or been re-emphasised in my life this week:

  1. My ability to get myself new glasses which can support my eyesight and make me feel comfortable whilst wearing them.
  2. The abundance of dried fruit and nuts I have to make delicious vegan fruit loaves with.
  3. The supportive and welcoming LGBTQ community online which offers me a place to feel safe and be myself even when I feel rejected in my personal life.
  4. My bullet planner which makes me feel in control of the events in my life by allowing me to become organised.
  5. The person who cut my hair yesterday and made me feel good about myself whilst she got creative with shaving my hair!
  6. Ted, the dog I got to look after earlier in the week who is such a sweetheart, never fails to make me smile and tolerates the playfulness of my other dogs even when he just wants to have a sleep.
  7. The album After Laughter by Paramore which lifts my mood and evokes great memories from the last couple of years.
  8. The people who leave comments on my blog posts, these interactions make my day and I love reading and replying to them.
  9. My morning coffees – they are a short period in my day where I can just focus on doing one thing, relax and prepare for the rest of my day.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @RyanBInNature

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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Am I Safe? The Fear of Prejudice

Some days I catch myself mid-thought,
Contemptuous in my assumptions
About the cruel masks people use to smile.
I think, ‘if they knew who I am really am,
They would cast their eyes the other way
Shake their head to rid themselves of my contagion’.
For, they do not know the cogs my mind is turning,
How my brain does not mirror my shell;
I am outsider to my own body,
A figure of revolted confusion, mingling,
Turning tables in their midst, under cover
Of darkness or the approach of a raging storm.
I am exactly as I seem if you know where to look.

Some poets and songwriters advise against describing exactly what it is that you have written about. They say that readers and listeners should come to their own conclusions about the contents of your art and that they should interpret it subjectively, adapting it to their own unique perspective. However, I always feel impelled to know what writers are thinking as they craft their pieces of work together, so I am going to break the rules and explain to you, as best I can, what this poem I wrote is about:

When people meet me in public, cross me in the street, glance at me across a supermarket aisle, they have no idea what is going on in my life. Some assume that I am female, especially if they hear my soft and quite highly pitched voice. Others assume that I am male because of the way I dress and attempt to present myself. As someone who is trans, I sometimes catch myself thinking about that stranger in the supermarket or in the street and asking myself ‘I wonder if they would hate me/be confused by me/judge me negatively if they knew that I was transgender’. Essentially, I wonder whether they would still glance at me nonchalantly or walk past me casually if they knew about my identity and who I truly am.

This is one aspect of how societal prejudice works. It sows seeds of doubt and fear in people’s mind. We question whether we would face repercussions from strangers in the street if they knew about our identity whether that be regarding our sexuality, faith, gender or many other things. Our worries about facing prejudice, which stems from the abuse we have seen online or experienced ourselves before, causes us to build walls around ourselves, as we divide ourselves away from people we cannot be sure are safe to be around. Being part of an oppressed group can, for this reason, be an isolating and anxious experience. Feeling safe is of the upmost importance but when you do not know who you can trust or you cannot gauge the reactions of people to your identity, it is difficult not to seal yourself off from the outside world simply as a precaution.

 

As ever feel free to reach out to me on my social accounts or drop a comment below if you are going through something similar or have any questions.

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

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The Gender Tag / Coming Out

This is a really big post for me to publish, it feels like I am revealing a massive part of my identity to you guys which, up to this point, I have felt too scared to admit to because I was worried about what other people would think and being rejected. I thought that using a tag to do this would be an easy and simple way to ‘come out’ because it will break down my experiences into little chunks and make it easier for other people to understand me (hopefully). So, without further ado, here is my take on the Gender Tag (please be nice in the comments and if you have something judgemental to say keep it to yourself).

1. How do you self-identify your gender, and what does that definition mean to you?

I am transgender, female to male to be specific. Being a trans man means that I have felt suffocated in the body I was born into, everyday I have got up in the morning knowing that I have to live and function in a body which does not feel like it belongs to me and which I often feel repulsed by. The definition ‘transgender man’ does not however equal to me the criteria of toxic masculinity we see in society these days. Whilst I am a man, I will refuse to conform to the hyper-masculine stereotypes which are so emphasised in the media. Refusing to cry and suppressing vital emotions is not what being a trans man means to me. Personally, identifying as a trans man means that I finally have the freedom to be who I truly am without imposing boundaries and limits on my character.

2. What pronouns honour you?

He/him is music to my ears. Whereas I cannot be referred to as she/her without flinching. However, being referred to as they/them does not offend me, especially if someone does not know me and isn’t prepared to ask me my pronouns outright. Hedging your bets on they/them in my personal case is much better for me than risking misgendering me.

3. Describe the style of clothing you most often wear.

Quite literally every day I wear jogging bottoms, a baggy t-shirt (most likely Harry Potters  themed) and a hoodie unless it’s warm in which I case I drop the hoodie. On a daily basis, I wear clothing which doesn’t show my figure, meaning that I feel loads more comfortable in oversized items.

4. Talk about your choices with body hair. How do you style your hair? Do you have facial hair? What do you choose to shave, or choose not to shave?

In regards to the hair on my head, it is very short and I do the bare minimum with it. I literally just wash it in the morning, run a comb through it and let it dry naturally which does not take long at all. I do not shave, although I used to when I was at school because otherwise the other girls would have stared at me like I was a foreign species and the boys would have undoubtedly have had something/a lot to say about it (the atmosphere of my school was literally that petty).

5. Talk about cosmetics. Do you chose to wear make-up? Do you paint your nails? What types of soaps and perfumes do you use if any?

I never wear make-up. I used to wear it occasionally when I was younger because I thought it would make me feel more confident by allowing me to fit-in more but, in reality, it just made me feel more uncomfortable and like I was only doing it for everyone else around me rather than myself. I do not paint my nails, however this is more down to me being lazy and impatient because I can never be bothered for nail varnish to actually dry properly. I also do not use perfume because I am very sensitive to smells, so overpowering scents tend to just annoy me during the day. The types of soaps I use are usually quite neutral fragrances which do not linger long after using them.

6. Have you experienced being misgendered? If so, how often?

Yes, for the vast majority of my life I have been misgendered because I have not been comfortable enough in my identity to come out as trans, even though I purposely dressed in a androgynous way and attempted to present myself as masculine. On the occasional times that I have been referred to as a guy, it has made me really happy, although once I have spoken in my high to the person they become horrified for ‘mistaking’ me for not being a girl and I have to repeatedly assure them that I am really not offended.

7. Do you experience dysphoria? How does that affect you?

Yes, dysphoria is a daily sledge hammer which attacks my self-confidence. Sometimes it prevents me from leaving the house because I cannot bear being seen by other people and feeling their eyes on me. Dysphoria is very damaging to my mental health and general mood because it makes me feel disgusted by my own body and plunges me into self-loathing.

8. Talk about children. Are you interested in having children? Would you want to carry a child if that was an option for you? Do you want to be the primary caretaker for any children you have?

In all honesty, the idea of having children really does not interest me and it never has, I’m just not a child-orientated person and it has taken me a long time to not feel bad about myself for being this way. The idea of carrying a child is also not for me, especially as I would wish to to have a hysterectomy in the future.

9. Talk about money. Is it important to you to provide for a family financially if you choose to have one? Is it important to you that you earn more than any partner you may have? Do you prefer to pay for things like dates? Are you uncomfortable when others pay for you or offer to pay for you?

This question makes me cringe because it just screams to me of outdated tropes of nuclear families and gender stereotypes. Concern about money and paying for things just seems to me to be ways of enforcing your own power and dominance in a relationship which is an uncomfortable and weird thought. I really think that it can only be an insecure relationship in which someone feels the need to earn more than the other.

10. Anything else you want to share about your experience with gender?

It has taken me a very long time to come to a place in my life in which I feel even remotely comfortable with myself and my gender. I have experienced years of confusion and self-hatred but now there is a positive at the end of the story. I am proud that I have given myself the freedom and licence to be the person I know I am rather than self-imposing constraints upon my character and personality or following the caricature of male and female characteristics portrayed in the media.

 

If you have any questions or are struggling with anything gender related, although I am not an expert, feel free to contact me via the links below or drop me a comment.

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature (I recently changed my Twitter handle by the way)

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

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Lessons High Schools Could Learn From Hogwarts

Yesterday was one of those days when I was reminded how lovely a place social media has the potential to be. It was 1st September and #backtoHogwarts was everywhere on Twitter and Instagram, as people took magical photos to mark the departure of the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. The joyful atmosphere surrounding that hashtag got me thinking about how muggles always dread going back to school and I imagined an alternate world where every student actually faced the oncoming academic year with the same enthusiasm as Hogwarts’ students. I came to the conclusion that there are many lessons which High Schools could learn from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to make the education system a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Whilst, Hogwarts is not without it’s faults (the fate of multiple Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers was at the very least unsavoury), it was considered a second (or first in some cases) home by its students rather than a place of misery and boredom which many High School attendees regard their schools as being.

Without further ado, here are just some of the lessons High Schools would do well to learn from Hogwarts:

1. Never underestimate pupils

For many, High School can be a time of confidence-crushing experiences, in which teachers impart on you the impression that success will always remain out of reach during your life. People who do not excel during classes are often told that they are destined for failure whilst they are at a startlingly tender age and have not had time to let their talents bloom yet. I’ve known someone very close to me who was told in primary school that he would not be able to progress through the school system and would have to be withdrawn to a specialist school to have even a slim chance of reaching his GCSEs. However, he is now completing the third year of his University degree. High Schools could learn a great deal from the stories of Hogwarts’ students such as Neville Longbottom. Neville was constantly undermined and chastised by his teachers for his anxious and forgetful demeanour, so his talents went vastly overlooked for many years as teachers did not invest time in developing his self-confidence. Yet, it was Neville who destroyed the last Horcrux and was able to wield the Sword of Gryffindor which only choses the most noble witches and wizards to be of use to. If there is anything to glean from Neville’s school years, it is that pupils should not be underestimated simply because there talents are not easy to spot from a distance, those who flourish slowly are infinitely valuable too.

 

2. Everyone needs a Hagrid during their school years

Although his cooking was perhaps not up to much and his unwavering trust in all magical creatures sometimes put his pupils in less than comfortable situations, Hagrid was often a crucial shoulder to cry on, especially for Harry, Ron and Hermione. I could think of no-one better to lead the first years from the Hogwarts Express across the Great Lake with his guiding light showing them all the way. Hagrid’s kind and open heart endeared him to his students (except for certain Slytherin cohorts) and by being such a generous soul, he showed his pupils that they should not believe in all the stereotypes they are fed due to his being an unconventional giant. His passion for his subject shone through in every lesson he conducted whilst he strived extremely hard to make every lesson enjoyable for his students, his heart always being in the right place. With the restrictions in school funding in the muggle world, pupils often do not get all the pastoral care they deserve. High School can be a confusing and isolating experience for too many pupils and a Hagrid-like figure could make all the difference in making their experience more bearable. School is not only about academics and peoples’ final grades, an emphasis too should be placed on the learning of core values which will help shape students into adults who are equipped for the world ahead of them and who have had confidence instilled in them by understanding figures like Hagrid.

3. Food is important too!

I believe that Ron would be especially passionate about this point considering his undying passion for Hogwarts’ feasts in the Great Hall as well as any sugary treats he could get his hands on. Whilst I do not expect High Schools to lay on extravagant feasts for students, food is an extremely important fuel to facilitate learning during the school day. Joking aside, too many pupils have to go to school each day on an empty stomach because their families’ could not afford to feed them breakfast and that reality is heartbreaking. When food is scarce at home, pupils often struggle to concentrate and take information in during lessons, rendering them at a distinct disadvantage to other pupils whose families are able to afford sufficient nutrition. Poverty creates a chasm of inequality in every level of schooling, so schools need to have the funding made available to them so that they are able to give pupils at least a good breakfast and hot lunch, in order for them to get anything out of the school day, something which the Hogwarts house elves who worked in the kitchen would agree with wholeheartedly!

4. A feeling of belonging makes all of the difference

If a student feels like they have a real place at school, their academic efforts and contribution to the establishment can increase hugely. Partially due to the house system, the vast majority of Hogwarts students felt a sense of belonging inside that magical, grand castle. Pupils worked hard for their house because they wanted their house to succeed at the end of the year and also because their house became another family to them. For me personally, I never felt comfortable being at school during all those years I was at different establishments. I was on edge constantly during the school day waiting for the next taunt to be flung at me from one of my classmates or worrying about who I would be able to hang-out with at lunch. Feeling like the odd-one-out made me resent school and, as a result, I never contributed during classes because I was always worried about the reaction of  my peers. Essentially, I never found a place for myself at school. However, at Hogwarts, the feeling of belonging students had was something for them to fall back on during hard times. Even if the library was your safe place, as in the case of Hermione, there was always a space for pupils to slot into at Hogwarts which stopped them from feeling completely adrift.

5. Get yourself a Professor McGonagall

You would never want to get on the wrong side of her and she dealt-out her fair share of tough love but Professor McGonagall was a pivotal figure in her students’ lives. Minerva McGonagall had the ability to chastise a pupil for their wrongdoings perfected beyond that of most other teachers, however she also had the ability to sit a student down, offer them a biscuit and give them some crucial words of wisdom. She was an extraordinary teacher who treated her pupils with a very real sense of love and protection. Overworked teachers and underfunded High Schools mean that students are not able to be given the sort of Professor McGonagall-esque treatment that they deserve. Teachers do not have the time and schools do not have the resources to stretch every pupils and make sure that everyone reaches or exceeds their potential whilst also making them feel cared for like Professor McGonagall did. 

I hope you enjoyed these little Hogwarts-inspired pointers and please drop any more that you can think of in the comments if you have ideas on how to make school more enjoyable and preferably more like Hogwarts! Thank you for reading and, as always, feel free to reach out to me on social media if you wish…

TWITTER: @IssieLouH

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

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Unpopular Confessions and Why I’m Crap at Social Media

Whenever I am on social media (which is invariably way too much), I come across posts which make me think that people are speaking a different language to me. In-jokes and witty references often pass over my head because I have not watched or listened to the latest popular show or song. Sometimes this can make me feel out of touch (which is odd as a 19 year old) but other times it can be quite comical watching memes and joke threads unfold in front of me which seem to me completely bizarre and ridiculous because they are out of context. Without further ado, here are some of my unpopular confessions which explain why am I usually so out of the loop on social media (don’t judge me!).

1. I have never watched Friends. I feel like so many people I know have watched every episode of the series multiple times but when someone says they are a ‘Joey person’ I just look back at them blankly and there are so many Friends gifs which completely bewilder me.

2.What the hell is Stranger Things? I really do not know. I know it’s a Netflix series but apart from that I see people walking around in Stranger Things fan t-shirts and just wonder what the series is whilst also not being bothered to watch it because TV series feel like too much of a commitment to me.

3. I really never got to grips with Snapchat and so I just stopped engaging with it after about a week. I just always felt that it was a worse version of Instagram. 

4. I am useless at selfies. I don’t know what it is about me but I can never hold my phone at a normal angle or rest my eyes on the screen without looking that I am staring at myself like a maniac. If I pose then I just come across as looking scary, so there are literally barely any photos of me to find anywhere.

5. I still do not understand what IG TV is and whenever it pops up on my Instagram I stare at the notification with mistrust until it goes away. No matter how many times people talk about what it is, I still do not get it.

6. Whenever someone talks about ‘spilling the tea’, I instantly switch off. The phrase really irks me, especially because I find ‘spilling the tea’ videos to be the most petty and anti-climactic videos on YouTube.

7. I am terrible at motivation posts, so #MondayMotivation is completely out of my league. I either come across as being cringey or just downright annoying if I try to tweet something energetic or inspiring!

8. I have never had a pumpkin spice latte, so I cannot do the typical ‘autumn’s here’ post with a picture of my seasonal Starbucks drink.

9. I find people that only follow me to get a follow back annoying. I usually do follow my followers back anyway especially on Twitter but when people then unfollow me after a day because they’ve already got my follow, I just find it rude.

10. Whenever I am actually doing something interesting, I forget to take a picture or document it in any way, so my social media is always really boring. I literally feel sorry for my followers.

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Unpopular Opinions Part 2

I’ve decided to write a sequel to my first ‘Unpopular Opinions’ post because I enjoyed the response to my last one so much. It’s really fun to share your thoughts with other people and find that they agree with you when other people have always told you that your opinions are weird and odd. So, without further ado, here is my second post of my Unpopular Opinions and please leave comments about whether or not you agree with me down below!

1. I find yellow to be an annoying colour; it’s so bright and loud that it feels invasive and blares at you from across the room.

2. I hate champagne and proseco, they’re supposed to be celebration drinks but their taste is enough to put a dampener on any good news.

3. I think sliders are the worst footwear creations since Crocs, if nothing else I’m worried that people are going to slip out of them whilst going down the stairs and fall over.

4. The majority of premium range, expensive cars look repulsive to me, I much prefer the look of normal, everyday cars.

5. For me, Urban Outfitters is massively over-rated and overpriced, I just do not see the appeal.

6. I think greetings cards with glitter on them should be banned, I hate the stuff when it explodes out of the envelope and little specks of glitter hang around for years, stubbornly refusing to leave every orifice of your home.

7. I do not particularly like the taste of avocados, I find them bland and wouldn’t go out of my way to cook with them.

8. A6 notepads are little wads of frustration, you may as well try to cram what you want to write onto a post-it for all the space an A6 page gives you.

9. The first Divergent film is great, the others I found quite disappointing especially considering I loved the books so much.

10. I prefer to go to colder climates on holiday when I go abroad, warmer climates just make me grumpy!

11. I hate it when people criticise fan fiction and fan art, people being creative in whatever form should be encouraged rather than demeaned.

 

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Ace and Down On The Ground

My emotions do not work for you

My emotions do not work for you,
My ‘type’ is not seen in films,
Or lauded by proud relatives.

I’m the dog-eared piece of a jigsaw puzzle;
Incapable of slotting-in beside another.
Your risqué quips make me sick,
A brush in the corridor makes me flinch,
The fibre of their collective being collides,
Scratches and irritates mine.
I am not a fairytale –
There will be no family portrait for me –
I smirk and frown to hide my doubt
And hope the spotlight never falls on me.

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Infantilised as an Adult Who Cries to be Heard

People look at me
And see a distorted child’s face –
My 19 years reduced to a pittance –
As judgement gleams from their eyes.
So they cast their words over my head
Towards a more responsible set of shoulders;
One made of more than me,
Seen as a more reliable focus for information.

Will I ever grow to be seen
Above the ledge of suspicion and mirth?
My mangled sentences are viewed as tired ramblings,
Pouring from the mouth of one juvenile
Who cannot yet sit at the table,
Nor meet the eyes of the rest of them.

After enough eyes pierce your heart,
Minimise you down to a pitiless size,
You can see yourself in the mirror of their face,
Become the infantilised ghost they haunt you with.
Shame begins to creep over your hunched frame
As you look-up through hooded lids,
Blowing another candle from a wounded birthday cake.

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @IssieLouH

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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The Harry Potter Tag

No amount of Harry Potter magic in your life is too much. Recently my mental health has been quite up and down and, as silly as it sounds, the wizarding world of Harry Potter always allows me some escapism, even at the age of 19! I love retreating into the fantastical world of Hogwarts and diverting my mind from the negative thoughts spiralling around my head. So, today I thought I would complete the Harry Potter Tag in a bid to spread some magic and light to other people’s lives.

*I believe that this tag was created by Cassie over at ZombieGoddess Beauty, so all credit to her*

1. What house are you in?

I am a very proud Slytherin! Whilst some people find my house controversial, I firmly believe that not all Slytherins are evil or necessarily drawn to dark things. We are resourceful and cunning but we can chose to use these qualities in any way . Also, being ambitious (which is another house quality) does not have to be a shameful attribute. Striving for the things you want in life is very important for self-fulfilment.

2. What is your patronus?

My patronus is a buzzard according to Pottermore (which is a bird if you were wondering). I’m not sure what to say about this really, except for that I think having a flying creature for your patronus is quite cool, especially in a visual sense.

3. What is your wand?

My wand is alder wood with a unicorn hair core, 10 inches long and quite bendy. 

4. What would your boggart be?

Probably me as a deeply miserable old woman. As someone who suffers from mental health issues, there is always a worry in the back of my mind that my problems will stay with me all my life and that I will never be far from depression and anxiety. The idea that I would spend my whole life in that state is very frightening to me.

5. What position would you play in Quidditch? 

I think I would be a Beater. I would not like to be a Seeker because that entails too much pressure and attention from the crowd. Being a Keeper might make me jealous of my teammates because they would be able to fly around a lot more than me. Also, I don’t think I would have the speed to be a Chaser whereas a Beater would quite suit my fiery nature.

6. Would you be a pure blood, half blood or muggle born?

I could imagine myself as a muggle born because I am usually the odd-one-out in a lot of situations! I am quite an awkward person as well which would correspond with the awkwardness of being the only one in the family with magical ability. I’m not sure what my fellow Slytherins would have to say about it though!

7. What job would you want to have after graduating from Hogwarts?

Running my own magical shop in Diagon Alley sounds like a nice prospect! Perhaps I would run a shop in my retirement after serving as an auror during my employment years. Catching Death Eaters and other dark figures would be very satisfying and give me a chance to prove all those Slytherin stereotypes wrong.

8. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you chose?

The Invisibility Cloak has always greatly appealed to me. As a very anxious person, being able to hide from certain social situations sounds great to me. Also, with the Invisibility Cloak I could investigate all sorts of forbidden places which would make for great adventures.

9. Favourite book?

The Prisoner of Azkaban. As this is the book where Harry, Ron and Hermione are in their Third Year, we see them as having matured (to an extent) for the first time and we get an insight into their emotional complexity, especially with Harry in regards to the death of his parents.

10. Least favourite book?

The Chamber of Secrets. I could not bare the character of Gilderoy Lockhart, so reading through scenes with him made me cringe and squirm furiously! However, it goes without saying that I still love the book.

11. Favourite film?

Again, I would say The Prisoner of Azkaban. It has everything in it that I love about Harry Potter films. Also, this film is the first time we see Sirius Black who is my favourite character and the scene where he flies off on Buckbeak’s back is iconic!

12. Least favourite film?

I would have to say The Chamber of Secrets again. Every time Lockhart’s face appears on screen, I groan!

13. Favourite character?

Sirius Black, I love that he is so complex. His family background is really interesting considering that they rejected him whilst he was still young because he diverted from their Pure Blood fascination. His courage and willingness to fight for what is right, his passion for being a good godfather to Harry and the injustice of him being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit all make a really intriguing character for me.

14. Least favourite/most hated character?

Lucius Malfoy, he is portrayed as spineless and incredibly passive, especially in the films. Whenever he has a task he is unable to do his own work, he never stands-up to people, his snobbery is infuriating and his son is endlessly miserable which is partly due to his dire upbringing.

15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

This changes quite often for me but at the moment it is Remus Lupin who comes to mind. His lessons were imaginative and engaging for his students. His own story about becoming a werewolf at such a young age and facing social stigma because of it is another intriguing strand to his backstory. Also, the fact that he was one of the infamous Marauders helps my liking of him!

16. Least favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Delores Umbridge, although Gilderoy Lockhart comes a very close second! Umbridge was endlessly evil and her torture of those who opposed her was shocking. She had an answer for everything and constantly found a way to legitimate her actions. Also her bright pink outfits along with her cat saucers, which lined her walls, were horrible.

17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?

I thought that a lot more attention could have been given to Harry and Ginny’s relationship to be honest. Their connection wasn’t developed enough for me and did not sit naturally in my mind. 

18. If you could save one character from the final battle who would you save?

I think it would have to be Fred Weasley; he was so young and the other half of George who could never conjure a patronus again after his twin’s death. Whilst I think that Lupin and Tonks deserved so much better, I couldn’t save one without the other and at least they had been given the chance to live a life before they died.

 

I tag anyone else to do this who needs a little more magic in their life at the moment!

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @IssieLouH

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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Forgive me but I have to go now

A dismal knowledge has settled on my chest

A dismal knowledge has settled on my chest;
My heart will have to break,
In order for me to be able to breathe,
I will have to force myself through pain –
A period of ripping myself from the cocoon –
And shrugging off the shell I have been living in.

To grow into my dream of authenticity,
People will have to fall by the wayside,
Things I hold dear will be prised from my fingers,
Safety and security will be thrown to the wolves
Whilst I make my break for the goal on the horizon;
The promise I have waited for all my life.

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I Grew-Up, Opened My Eyes and Did Not Recognise Myself

To be honest or to be vague?
For the record;
I have always felt this way.

Life’s blows did mould me into a statue –
A grey imitation of the veins within,
Yet standing and posing clotted my blood,
And cracks started to begin.

Time does not hand-out sticky plasters,
It only offers an opportunity;
To remould the plinth you stand in
And write yourself a new beginning.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @IssieLouH

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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5 Things You Need To Know Before Moving Into Uni Halls

There are some universal features of University halls which, for some reason, nobody ever tells you or prepares you for before you move-in. Taking the leap into University managed accommodation is a culture shock for everyone and the surprising initiation ritual of finding out all of the weird quirks about halls only adds to the weird novelty of the situation. So, without further ado, here are five things you need to know before moving into uni halls in order to prepare you for the sublimely ridiculous experience of actually inhabiting these weird micro-cultures of society:

1. Dorm-room showers are the tiniest spaces you could ever possibly squeeze into

Fair enough, space is at a premium in University rooms but whoever designs the dorms has mastered the art of creating the smallest space possible for the showers. They are the most geometrically efficient they can possibly be whilst also giving the minimum manoeuvring room so you can just about shuffle around and slip your way out again. The amount of times I have hit my elbow on the handle of the shower door because of the minuscule room in my shower cubicle is ridiculous.

2. University bedroom carpets will never ever be made to look clean

They must use some strange type of material for the flooring of uni bedrooms because no matter how ferociously you attempt to hoover your floor, there will always be dirt and debris ingrained in the very fibre of the carpet. It’s almost like the flooring has the unique ability to just hold onto any amount of dirt it comes across for the sole purpose of frustrating the Henry the Hoover (which is standard issue in every University flat) and making you look bad in front of your parents when they accuse you of never vacuuming because they do not believe the effort you went to in vein for their arrival.

3. University kitchen floors are forever destined to feel a little bit sticky

Again, this is a mystery to me. The first day when I moved into my Uni flat and the cleaners had just finished wiping and mopping the whole place, the kitchen floor already felt slightly sticky. To be fair, I didn’t go into my kitchen very frequently because the sight of the state my flatmates left it in sent my anxiety through the roof. However, when I did use the kitchen, it was noticeable that none of us would go in there without shoes on to try and keep the sticky floor at the largest distance from our feet as possible.

4. The block fire alarm will go off at a crazy hour

It is inevitable that someone in your block of flats will return home drunk from a night out and try to cook themselves sausages or some other random meal with all the ineptitude of a toddler maxed-out on smarties. They will, no doubt, rev their oven up to some ridiculous temperature in their bleary-eyed state and forego the simple act of opening a kitchen window. Therefore, the fire alarm will pierce through your sleeping state at 3am in the morning at least a few times during the year (usually when you have a 9am lecture in the morning) and you will have the pleasure of standing outside in the cold feeling extremely awkward in your pyjamas and seeing other strangers from your block of flats in all their bunny-slippers and bed-headed glory!

5. Internet at Universities is notoriously bad for some inexplicable reason

Considering that Universities are supposed to be hubs of education and learning, their wifi networks are atrocious and will continually frustrate you throughout your time there. I have visited multiple University campuses (for reasons less to do with my own interest and more to do with trailing after my brothers on endless open days and picking them up at the end of semesters) and every campus has the same tedious wifi problem where the buffering circle of death attempts to load and re-load whilst you waste your life staring at the screen, hoping against hope that you might connect to the internet within the next hour.

 

If you have any questions about uni life (which are probably a bit more serious than what I have outlined above!) feel free to talk to me on twitter and I will try to offer whatever wisdom I can as a current Uni student myself. My twitter: IssieLouH

 

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Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

TRIGGER WARNING: IN THIS POST I DO DISCUSS TOPICS SUCH AS SUICIDAL IDEATION AND DEPRESSIVE THOUGHTS

Recently, I have seen a lot of dangerous ideas regarding mental health being circulated on social media. I have seen posts which have blamed sufferers for having mental health issues and statuses which have suggested that people with depression are ‘choosing’ not to be happy. People have been insulting anxiety sufferers for being ‘self-centred’ amongst other things. Essentially disrespectful people who lack any understanding of mental health have chosen to spread their harmful narratives of what they believe mental illness to be. I am here to call BS on their idiocy and share why I believe these narratives to be completely false and hopefully spread some education about mental health.

1. ‘Choose happiness’

I appreciate the significance of shifting your perspective and adopting a mental outlook which emphasises gratitude and acknowledgement of positive things in life. However, the phrase ‘choose happiness’ seems to me to be a kick in the teeth for anyone suffering with a mental illness. This phrases is slung around without a care by people who preach that they want to help people achieve better mental health when really all they are doing is invalidating the experience of people who are struggling. If it was so easy as ‘choosing’ happiness then nobody would be depressed! If there was a switch which could be flicked which would allow people to not feel sadness or experience dark thoughts, then people who are suffering with depression or any other mental illness would flick that switch immediately. It as if the people who tell others to ‘choose happiness’ think that people who are suffering are simply wallowing and that recovery from mental illness is as easy making the decision to not be ill anymore. Either way, I have always found the ‘choose happiness’ slogan to be both condescending and insulting whether the people who use the phrase intend it to be or not.

2. Exercise is the ‘cure’

Again, I understand the sentiment and the intention behind this claim when people say it but I maintain that people who think that if someone does exercise then they will never suffer from mental health issues have a fundamental misunderstanding about what mental illnesses are. Exercise can be used as one part of a larger recovery programme or adopted as one element of a healthier lifestyle which can help people with mental health issues but that does not mean that going for a jog everyday will suddenly cure someone. I cannot deny the existence of endorphins but mental illnesses are deeply ingrained in sufferers’ psyches. So, harmful thought patterns, intrusive thoughts and other symptoms of mental illness will not disappear after a zumba class. Also, just because exercise worked wonders for one person, that does not necessarily mean that it will have the same positive effect for someone else; there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. 

3. Choosing medication is a weakness

Every time I see someone pushing this narrative, it makes me so disheartened. I take medication for my mental health issues and let me tell you that the medication people are given are not magical ‘happy pills’. I do not take my medication then suddenly feel on top of the world or cured. Medication is not simply for people who do not try enough on their own to get better. Trust me, I tried every option available to me before I chose to go on medication and the stigma surrounding antidepressants (amongst other drugs) is part of the reason I suffered for so long before accepting medication. Accepting that you need medication in order to help put yourself on a more even keel before then working hard to improve your mental health is actually a strong thing to do. For me, medication serves to give me a basis from which I can work from, it allows me to function at a certain level which then facilitates any other therapy I chose to pursue as well. Medication is not the ‘easy way out’ or a sign of failure.

4. Mental health is an excuse for being lazy

Increasingly, I am seeing people accuse mental health sufferers of simply being lazy and using a medical label to disguise the fact that they cannot be bothered to do certain things. For example, when someone struggling from depression confides that they struggle to get out of bed in the morning or gather the energy to do domestic tasks, people respond saying that this behaviour stems from laziness and that no-one wants to get out of bed in the morning. However, these accusing people miss the point that if they do not get out of bed when they are supposed to, they are doing so because they want to, whereas someone who is depressed is not getting out of bed because they cannot force themselves to however much they wish they could. An inability to do certain things is not a choice for people with mental health issues; their illness dictates to them what they are able to do whilst they desperately fight against it. Some days the illness wins and they have to cancel plans but this does not make them lazy. Try to show some understanding and compassion rather than anger and disrespect.

5. Your case is not serious enough unless you are suicidal

This narrative has stopped so many people from seeking help until their mental health has deteriorated to a drastic point. People fear that doctors will turn them away for wasting their time because the case they present them with is not ‘serious’ enough. Saying that only suicidal people are worth treating makes people doubt the validity of their own feelings and wonder whether they are over-dramaticizing their condition. This self-doubt and shame can in turn have a negative effect on a person’s mental health, leading to a toxic situation where people keep their problems to themselves which can only be detrimental.

6. Mental illness sufferers are selfish

The misconception that people suffering with mental health issues are self-centred has been circulating a lot at the moment. People have been arguing that they are entitled to ditch friends who are suffering because they find them ‘boring’ due to their illness or a ‘drag’ to be around because they are not bubbly and happy all of the time. Again, to me this screams of people who do not exercise enough compassion and who do not make an effort to understand what their friends are going through (which is what a real friend would do). People with mental health issues are not ‘bringing the mood down’ on purpose. To be honest they are showing how strong they are by making the effort to socialise anyway which can be an incredibly draining exercise for people who are struggling.

 

I would love it if we could show some solidarity as a blogging community down in the comments or continue the conversation on twitter. You can find my twitter here and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have been effected by any of these harmful narratives and want some support.

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Unexpected Ways Poetry Made My Life Better

TRIGGER WARNING: I DO BRIEFLY TOUCH ON EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

The word ‘prom’ conjures images of a glamorous night of celebration shared between a peer group who have shared the stress of schoolwork, teen drama and exams together. Long dresses which glide along the floor, folds of expensive material and dates’ arms slung around each other come to mind. Perhaps this is simply the rose-tinted image I have gathered from endless cliched American high school movies where the bullied girl turns-up to prom looking every inch the movie star whilst the ‘mean girls’ suffer the worst night of their lives. I wouldn’t know what a real-life prom looks like because I have never been to one. Not even my own one. Anxiety made sure that I stayed away. I could not bare the thought of going and having to endure an evening with my bullies.

Secondary school and especially the last year of GCSEs was really difficult for me. By year 11, I was depressed and plagued by suicidal thoughts. School felt like a prison where every negative thought I had was heightened to unbearable levels and my fear of failure was magnified, even encouraged, by teachers who wanted good grades on their record. I was swamped with self-doubt and tortured myself with imagined scenarios with my disappointed parents which I was convinced would occur if I did not get the results which were expected of me.

Alongside the pain of academic expectation was my growing sense of anxiety. My mum had to drop me off directly outside the door to my school and pick me up from the same location at the same time everyday because I was so anxious about being outside rather than within the safe confines of my own home. The voices of my bullies ricocheted around my head all day everyday whilst I was at school and snide looks in the locker-room was all it took for my self-confidence to take another battering.

Regular meetings with the school therapist were my only saving grace. Whilst talking out loud to her was a struggle (as I explained in my previous post ‘What Is Wrong With My Voice?’) she encouraged me to express my feelings in the form of poetry. The words began to pour out of me and became a significant source of communication between me, my counsellor and my head of house. Whilst my peers teased me for how quiet I was and how little I spoke, this very fact became my strength in regards to my creativity. Though I have never been loud or outspoken, this has never meant that I have had nothing to say. In fact, it almost felt like I saved-up all of my thoughts and insight for my poetry which allowed me to explore the depths of my mind like nothing else could.

Poetry slowly allowed me to gain some confidence. Writing poetry gave me a sense of achievement and the encouragement of my counsellor and head of house made me believe in the words I was writing. Poetry restored within me a sense of identity which had been dwindling away from me for years. I found my own unique voice which I was not frightened to use, unlike my verbal, spoken voice.

In many ways, I see poetry as both my therapy and my passion. This may seem unusual because therapy is frequently portrayed as something which is impossible to enjoy, a chore or a source of heartache. However, whilst poetry can bring many hurtful feelings to the fore of my mind, the creativity which is intertwined with the act of writing makes it not only bearable but beautiful.

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What Is Wrong With My Voice?

People who spend any time with me will most likely notice that my voice is, in many ways, unusual. My voice is very soft. When I talk outside my words can get blown away by the wind and no mater how much I believe that I am elevating my volume people will continue to have to go through the futile effort of straining to hear what I am saying. Also, my voice tires after a short amount of time. Speaking a few sentences out-loud leads to my throat becoming sore and tightening-up, then my voice disintegrates and it is an effort to produce words.

Over the years this has become a problem when I have met with counsellors or therapists. The whole point of attending such therapies is to talk through your problems, which is a struggle when your voice gives out and your words become dry husks which only distantly relate to the sounds you are trying to make! More recently, I have started driving lessons which are two hours long. My instructor remarked that I am very quiet, little did she know that I would have no voice left if I attempted speaking regularly throughout a two hour period.

The question of what is wrong with my voice is actually quite a simple one to answer. Essentially, my voice is very weak. This stems from the fact that, throughout my life, I have not used my voice enough to make it strong or able to withstand substantial conversations. Even as far back as nursery, I was so painfully shy that talking to the other children was a very rare occurrence for me. Therefore, I rendered myself almost wholly silent for the hours of the day whilst I was there. When I was young, I was most relaxed when nobody was requiring me to speak. If people left me alone for an afternoon, I was very happy to remain quiet and retreat into my own imaginary worlds. Again, this meant that I would not use my voice for stretches of time.

Whilst I could form words as a child if I wanted to, for the most part I decided that I would rather not. My primary school was very small and I was rigidly polite but would often not branch-out into the same socialisation that the other kids did with ease. I had a very small circle of friends and I saved my words up for conversations with them. Beyond that, speaking out-loud seemed to just be a way of drawing attention to myself and this was something I wished to avoid at all costs.

At my second primary school, I became even quieter, speaking less and less until it became a standing joke amongst my year group. I withdrew into myself and so my words were very few and far between. I did not know anyone at my new school and found it impossible to make friends. Therefore, there was no need to converse with others and I certainly did not volunteer any contributions in class. Again, my voice shrivelled inside of me, growing weaker with disuse.

At secondary school, I made a very small group of friends and I would largely hang-out with only two people at a time. We would find very quiet rooms away from the hustle and bustle of the over-crowded school hallways and chat to each other there. There was rarely ever a need for me to raise my voice within such situations. I did not have to elevate my voice to be heard because there was no other noise to compete with and again I resolutely refused to offer contributions in class.

Then, when I moved to college, I would spend my days being almost completely silent. Friends were very few and far between and I mostly spent my lunch breaks lost in my own thoughts rather than mixing with others. Back into the present day and I am still sensitive to noise and do not talk at length. At Uni, I can go days without uttering a word and whilst to others this may appear to be a sad admission, for me this is just me being my authentic self.

I prefer articulating my thoughts through writing rather than expressing myself verbally and personally I do not see why this should be viewed as sad or shameful. The world is made-up of a extremely vast range of people, it has to be because social progress requires variety. Some people are very extroverted and use their voice with great authority and they are valid in themselves. Other people, like me, chose other avenues which do not require so much verbal communication and we too are valid. There is whole host of different characters and personalities which fill the void in between these two extremes and guess what? All of those people are valid as well.

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Things Anxiety Has Made Me Do

Anxiety is an often misunderstood mental illness. People think that those who suffer from anxiety are really just shy or timid. As a result, the majority of people do not appreciate the potentially debilitating effects of anxiety and how it can impact so many areas of someone’s life. To try and give an insight into the ways in which anxiety has distorted and manipulated my life experiences, I have compiled a short list of things which my anxiety has made me do:

  1. Violently vomit during an exam.
  2. Forget my own address whilst having to fill-in a form in front of a receptionist.
  3. Run out of shops before retail staff could approach me.
  4. Pretend I haven’t heard someone when really I just could not find the words to respond to their statement or question.
  5. Feign illness to get out of doing class presentations.
  6. Persuade my mum to order for me at cafes so that I do not have to speak out loud myself.
  7. Scream involuntarily when someone has spoken to me unexpectedly due to being so on-edge.
  8. Arrive 30 minutes early for everything in order to avoid the worry and stress of being late.
  9. Avoid going to events due to never having been to that specific location before and not being able to handle the ‘unknown’.
  10. Jump out of a dental x-ray because I felt trapped in the room (much to the anger of the orthodontist).
  11. Forget people’s names no matter how well I know them because of my mind being so scrambled.
  12. Wash my hands repetitively until they are red raw.
  13. Decline invitations to hang-out with my friends until I let them down so regularly that they give-up on me in the end.
  14. Lock myself inside my University room and not speak to anyone for days on end.
  15. Refuse to go to restaurants due to paranoia about the food and whether it will make me feel unwell.

 

Resources which give information about anxiety:

Anxiety and Panic Attacks – Mind, the mental health charity

Generalised anxiety disorder – NHS UK

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Unpopular Opinions

I thought I should share a bit more about my personality here on my blog, so I’ve decided to share some opinions of mine which people often find to be weird or unusual. People have called me quite contrary in the past but I would be interested to hear what you think about the items on this list and whether you agree or disagree with me!

So, without further ado, here is a list of some unpopular opinions I hold:

1. I find Kindles annoying, so I will only read from a physical book.

2. I hate the word ‘banter’ and I cringe when people say it.

3. I think the Twilight films are great and I still watch them now.

4. Long nails scare me so I would never have fake ones put on.

5. I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on creativity or individuality at school.

6. I dislike watching TV and I never usually finish a TV series as a result.

7. For the most part, I find short stories boring.

8. I prefer Vans to Converse.

9. I think silver jewellery is much nicer than gold jewellery.

10. I’m not a fan of rose gold or copper ornaments and decorations because they remind me of the colour of dirty pennies.

11. Winter is my favourite season whilst summer is my least favourite.

12. I really do not understand the appeal of fizzy drinks, to me they taste horrible.

13. I think breakfast is the best meal of the day and I would happily eat it for lunch and dinner as well.

14. My favourite Harry Potter characters are Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.

15. The feeling of velvet makes me want to gag because it feels so repulsive to me.

16. If someone hugs me or even just touches my shoulder without my express consent, my head feels like it’s going to explode and I really do not understand why some people feel the need to constantly touch the person they are talking to whilst they are in a conversation.

17. Going to Primark is my idea of a terrible time and even the thought of it gives me anxiety.

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Learning To Drive

It’s about time. I have been avoiding this process for the over two years since I turned 17 when I became legally able to start driving lessons. My anxiety kept telling me that it would inevitably be a big disaster, I would be the worst learner ever, my instructor would shout at me, that I would fail at every hurdle and that I wouldn’t have the perseverance to keep going when things got difficult.

So, for these past two years, I have let anxiety dictate my life. I have limited myself in regards to the places I can and can’t go since I have not had the ability to drive anywhere and the public transport I have access to is unreliable at best. I have felt frustrated whilst I yearned for the freedom of being able to take off and go where I want to at a moment’s notice when in reality I have to pester my mum for days if I ever wanted to get driven somewhere.

So, my anxiety has facilitated my staying safely inside my comfort zone rather than challenging myself or testing my limits.

Today though, I have just had my second ever driving lesson. I stalled a few times, slammed on the brakes like a maniac often and had the steering control of an erratic toddler but I did it. I survived. I am making progress.

Nothing and nobody can take what I did today away from me. I am expanding my horizons and I will not be ashamed that I am doing so at a slower rate than most others. It will take me a good while to gain any sort of confidence or self-belief in my driving ability but I don’t care. I will no longer be trapped by the anxious voice inside my head telling me that I am incapable or too stupid to achieve this dream of mine. I want to give myself the freedom which driving allows and I know the confidence boost I will receive when I finally gain my licence will do me the world of good and will be a big middle finger towards the vicious voices which tell tales to me all day, everyday inside my head.

Some articles which can help tackle driving anxiety:

How to Overcome a Driving Phobia: 13 Steps

‘How My Daughter with ADHD and Anxiety Learned to Drive’

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Living In A Make-Believe World

Though my heart may long for the ocean
And my soul may pull towards cleansing,
The lush green grass outside my car window
Will always dance around my mind, echoing.

An imagined reality, surpassing that of romance;
I am heartily enthralled by the impossibility,
The fantastical chance for a happy ending.

My mind’s eye sees in a variation of coloured pens,
Fat, vast, greedy lines pass my sight,
Eventually fulfilling the outline of a child’s fantasy.

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Insomnia – The Peace Which Never Arrives

I do not dream,
Sleep is a heavy, suffocating, blanket
Which smothers my anxious head as I wake.

Whilst fraying edges unravel my days,
I eventually settle for tantalising sleep,
However, the comfort of darkness never arrives;
The night air adopts a new weight over me,
So I am betrayed by the smug winking stars
Which fade in and out in apparitions,
Depending on flight, fancy and teasing glances.

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Am I Too Impulsive?

I dislike putting one foot in front of the other,
Or progressing at the rhythm of a steady pace,
I cannot maintain a slow trudge
Especially along a well-trodden path;
I would much rather race you to the finish line.

I cannot, will not, bare to stand still,
I have a crystallised, framed vision,
So chiselled into my muddled mind
That it could almost be a beautiful reality.
Almost.

Slow progress is not a friend to my brain,
It feels like slowly descending a fairytale hill,
Warped, twisting my subconscious into guilt.
No, I prefer to immerse myself completely,
Even if I plunge across the hill’s other side
In my haste to reach the summit.

 

 

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Pressing the Self-Destruct Button

With the sun baring down,
Clouds pressing in,
Creating a humid prison
Where thoughts are suffocated;
What are we able to make happen?

Tempers fray and run to the wire,
Breathes are pushed backwards –
The relentlessly airless outdoors –
Our lungs wheeze as we attempt to live,
So we are left with one question;
Did we do this to ourselves?

Our arrogance and foolishness
Injected our ignorance back into the world.
We greedily took the air we wanted,
No thought to whether pain would return
And hit us harder than thought possible.

We abused the glittering, green globe;
Threw rocks and dented it,
Rode furious paths through it
And changed our fresh peace forever.
So, are we makers of our demise,
Perpetrators of our own pain,
Makers of the ending to our own story?

 

A Changing Climate Gives Us a Chance to Change the World – VICE

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My Vegan Lunchbox

Having started a part-time job recently, which I will be continuing throughout the summer break, I have had to think of portable and easy to eat vegan lunchbox ideas that I can eat whilst I am at work. I pre-prepare my lunch the night before so I can just grab my bag in the morning and go. Also, I have been making things which I do not have to heat-up at work because there are renovations going on at the office, so the kitchen is out of bounds!

Without further ado, here is what I pack in my vegan lunchbox:

1. Spicy roasted chickpeas

Cheap, easy and nutritious, roasted chickpeas are a great snack to nibble on when the working day just seems to keep dragging on. I buy tins of chickpeas in water, then de-shell them and give them at least 30 minutes to sit in a sieve and dry out. Then, I lay them out in an oiled baking tray, sprinkle some cayenne pepper, paprika and ground black pepper over the top of them and let them cook in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 C. After the 40 minutes are over, I take them out of the oven, let them cool down, then put the chickpeas in a tupperware ready for me to pack into my workbag for the next day.

lunchbox 2

2. Ginger and almond energy balls

I cannot get enough of these, they are delicious and ridiculously addictive! I use pitted dates, chopped almonds, raw grated ginger and desiccated coconut in these energy balls which make them a healthy, sweet snack. To make 6-7 balls, I use 9 pitted dates, a handful of almonds (which I chop myself), a tablespoon of desiccated coconut and a lot of raw ginger but, seeing as many people are not keen on a strong ginger taste, you can add however much ginger you are happy with. I simply just pop all of these ingredients in a food processor, whizz them around for a minute, then roll the contents in my hands to make little balls.

lunchbox 3

3. Roasted red pepper hummus

I prefer making my own hummus because many shop-bought ones add unnecessary sweeteners and oils that I’m personally not keen on. I cut three red peppers into halves and roast them in the oven at 220C for 25-30 minutes (however long it takes for the peppers’ skins to blacken and wrinkle). Then, I peel the skins off of the peppers, pop the now skin-less peppers into the food processor along with a clove of garlic, a tin of chickpeas (with their shells taken off) and a tablespoon of tahini. Pulse the mixture in the food processor until the hummus reaches your preferred consistency and then decant it into a airtight tupperware to be stored overnight in the fridge. This hummus recipe is perfect to go with crisp breads or ryvitas which you can eat during your lunch break.

lunchbox image 1

 

So there’s a small selection of easily transportable vegan snacks which you can pop in your bag to keep you content throughout your workday. If you’re interested, I will leave a few links below to other vegan recipes which are good for lunch boxes that you can check-out as well.

Other vegan lunchbox ideas:

Toasted cinnamon and maple almonds – Deliciously Ella

5 ingredient spelt flatbread – Oh She Glows

Sweet potato & herb savoury muffins – Feasting On Fruit

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Vegan Mushroom Risotto Recipe

After my post ‘My New Therapy’ in which I wrote about how cooking and looking after my nutrition has benefited my mental health, I thought that I would share one of the recipes which I have been using quite frequently over the past few weeks.

I firmly believe in making cooking a personal experience and allowing yourself a lot of freedom in the process, so feel free to go off script so to speak and make things fit your preferences and taste. Hence why my measurements are quite rough and unpriced, often I change little parts of the recipe day to day depending on whether I want my risotto more creamy or more veggie-heavy. Cooking is a very individual activity, everyone likes things slightly different, so try things out and don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out the way you want them to – it’s all a learning process.

INGREDIENTS:

1)One shallot
2) Four open mushrooms
3) One clove of garlic
4) Vegetable oil
5) Three basil leaves
6) Vegetable stock (I use Knorr veggie stock pods to make the process quicker)
7) Boiling water
8) Brown rice
9) Salt
10) Pepper
11) Dash of soy sauce
12) 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
13) 1/4 a cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
14) 1 and 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
15) A handful of black olives (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Pour a coin sized amount of vegetable oil into your deep frying pan or skillet and wait for the oil to heat-up.
  2. Whilst the oil is heating, dice the shallot, crush the garlic and chop the mushrooms.
  3. Add the vegetables to the pan, stir occasionally and wait until the veggies brown slightly.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and continue stirring for a few minutes.
  5. Add the amount of rice you desire according to your preferences and, at the same time, add double the amount of boiling water in relation to the amount of rice you used.
  6. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  7. After the 10 minutes the basil leaves, a dash of soy sauce and a quarter of a cup of coconut milk to the mixture. Also, according to your taste add a dash of salt and pepper, then re-cover and let simmer again for 10 minutes.
  8. Add one and a half tablespoons of all-purpose flour, then stir thoroughly for a couple of minutes.
  9. Add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and a handful of black olives, then stir for one minutes.
  10. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Stir and ensure that the risotto is no longer runny or watery, ensuring that the consistency is to your preference.

 

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Panicking About Money?

It is the summer holidays and I have weeks of time to spare before I go back to University at the end of September. However, that is not always how it feels. The rush to save money before the next academic year kicks-in is stressful and has led me to worry about what I am going to do after Uni.

I have applied to an endless list of jobs, the majority of whom have not replied to me even to do the courtesy of rejecting my application. I now have a part-time job which offers me 12 hours of work a week which I feel really lucky to have because I know how desperate other people in my position are to get any job, no matter how little hours are offered to them. I remain frustrated though.

It feels like I did everything I could to stay afloat during school and college; I maintained good grades even when my mental health was failing and I struggled to leave the house. Now I am at University, studying for a degree which is challenging me academically, yet I am still an unappealing prospect to employers. It feels like so many people have A-Levels and have been to University that now having a good academic record is not impressive anymore, it is simply just expected.

My CV looks bare because throughout my years of school and college, I was struggling with my mental health. It was achievement enough for me to even attend classes let alone take on extracurriculars. However, to employers I look like someone who has not tried to engage enough and does not have any interests because they can’t see the fact that I went through copious sessions of counselling to try and enable me to get through school and inch towards being able to join clubs and societies. To them I am a statistic rather than a person.

In the end, I have had to look at what I really want from life. Do I want to prioritise money over my mental health and happiness? No. Do I want to allow an employers’ view of me to dictate my self-worth and confidence? No. Do I want to let myself dwell in my own self-pity? No, I have seen before where this can lead me and it is somewhere I do not want to return to. 

Essentially, I am learning that things often do not work out how we envision them. You may visualise your ideal situation and put all of your energies into achieving that state of mind and being only to find yourself unable to get there. I am learning to accept that this is ok. When these things happen and you don’t get to where you want to be, often this is for a reason and you can learn so much more from the unexpected results you alight upon in comparison to the place you imagined you would be in. I would not have learnt the power of acceptance if things had worked out the way I originally wanted them to. I have built-up my emotional strength as the tides of disappointment and rejection have arrived at my feet. I have learnt that I should not give other people, especially people I have never met, the power to define your own self-worth.

If you are struggling with something similar or feel like you have ‘failed’ at something recently, here are some helpful resources on how to deal with your experiences:

Five Ways To Make Peace With Failure – Forbes

How To Deal With Stress – Mind

How To Increase Your Self-Esteem – Mind

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The English Heatwave

Am I the only one, for whom,
The summer has turned sour?
Memories have spoilt like curdled milk,
As dead heat stifles the grass
And fatigue sweats from every pore.

Summer is hovering lazily over us,
So oppressive heat gives tense opportunity
For frayed tempers and shrill voices.
No breeze nor breath looks likely
To threaten the simmering atmosphere
Which looks set in stone for months to come.

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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.