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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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. 

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.

An Enchanted World

I want to live within magic;
A world poured out of a bewildered brain,
A bottomless pool of novelty,
Where everything is enchanted
But nothing is the same.

My dream; to step onto a path, not a street,
Nobody to reveal gritty reality,
An unspoken absence of terrified grins
Or over-probing eyes,
To fuel the rediscovery of personal space.

A magical world where a life is one’s own;
An earth not abuzz with static electricity
But built upon the fabric of adventure. 

“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic” – Albus Dumbledore