Anxiety At Christmas

The festive season comes with all sorts of pressures and expectations which is a shame because these details detract from what should be a relaxing time in the company of loved ones. The ideal Christmas image leads us to think that we have to achieve perfection in everything we do; in how we decorate our homes, buying expensive ornaments and gifts, maintaining completely harmonious family ties, being a social butterfly and flitting from one Christmas party to another and immersing ourselves in an environment centred around food, alcohol and indulgence. Whilst all of these things are part of the Christmas image we are sold and look good in the Instagram pictures we are inundated with, they can also produce a lot of anxiety in the many people who worry that they cannot achieve or keep-up with this level of so-called perfection.

Christmas isn’t supposed to be about competition; who’s got the best Christmas tree or how many designer gifts someone has received but the airbrushed images we are presented with lead us to believe that there is a certain standard we have to live-up to, no matter how unattainable it really is. For many, anxiety can be produced as a result of fearing failure or worrying about external expectations. When it is expected for people to attend their big work Christmas parties, for example, fear of being overwhelmed by the hectic environment and the unnecessary pressure to do everything in excess are not a part of the conversation. So, each person who struggles with anxiety at this time of year feels isolated and alone, like no-one else is going through the same things as them.

The following can be sources of anxiety during the festive period:

  • Christmas shopping in busy areas
  • Seeing relatives you do not meet with often
  • Christmas parties
  • The expectation to be festive and merry in all of your interactions
  • Buying gifts and worrying if they are adequate
  • Receiving gifts and stressing about opening them in front of the giver
  • The expectation to indulge in food and alcohol when, for many, our relationships with these things are complex

And so many, many more situations, which others may view as tiny details in the bigger picture of their Christmas, can be anxiety-provoking.

Christmas is meant to be a time we feel the opposite of isolated and fearful of judgement. So, let’s make mental health and inclusion a part of the discussion within the bigger picture of Christmas this year and make sure that no-one feels iced-out of the celebrations.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

Here are some more of my Christmas-related posts:

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

Don’t feel alone this Christmas (resources about the festive period and mental health):

Support at Christmas – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas – The Priory Group

Real Christmas – Samaritans

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Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

There is a certain stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Full disclosure; I do take medication to help me cope with my mental health and I’m tired of it being treated as shameful or weak.

Taking mental health medication is seen as proof of a person having given-up and not working to resolve their own issues. Medication is viewed by many as the ‘easy way’ and reliance on it is thought to be weak and showing a lack of self-motivation to engage with therapy and other methods of working through mental health condition.

I call BS on all of these assumptions! I reached for medication as a last resort after I had tried therapy and counselling and found myself in a desperate situation where I felt like there was no hope of me ever getting better. For many people, medication offers them a lifeline, a way to level-out their condition/s so that they can go about their lives in the way that they want to. Medication can offer someone a platform from which to build their lives but it does not magically solve all of your problems. Work is required on top of taking medication to achieve the feeling of being mentally ‘well’. So, the next time you want to call antidepressants ‘happy pills’ think again because it just shows uneducated and ignorant you are about the whole topic.

Patients and doctors never take the step toward medication lightly. The journey to finding the right medication for your needs is a hard one in its own right. Often you have to trial a medication for a few months, see if it makes you better or even worse, then face the possibility of trying it all over again. The added stress of the medication having negative side-effects makes the process even more disheartening, scary and confusing. So, no, medication is not the easy option or a sign that someone cannot be bothered to work on their own self-improvement. In reality, a person’s trials and tribulations with medication can be really bloody hard in itself.

Other people pile shame on those who, like me, take medication. They say that medication is harmful, ask why we would subject ourselves to it and tell us to try a myriad of different natural alternatives. Now, I’m as big a fan of yoga and colouring-in as the next person but assuming that we haven’t already tried all of those things or that our conditions (which you know barely anything about) could be suddenly cured by these activities is insulting. The individual taking the medication knows their mental health the best, so do not try to shame them by pretending that you know better what they should and shouldn’t do. Some people find that medication works for them, others find that mindfulness and other techniques are great for them, none of these options should be shamed or stigmatised. Let people deal with their own health in the way they see best.

 

Another post I wrote about this topic can be found here: BEING ON AN SSRI

 

For daily doses of my ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

It was not until very recently that I heard the term ‘protecting factors’ but immediately it made sense to me. I was having a mental health assessment and I admitted to having suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The nurse then asked me what stopped me acting on those thoughts and attempting suicide. I asked myself this question and was slightly embarrassed to give my honest answer. However, I knew the truth and this was that my dogs are what stops me from acting on my suicidal impulses and thoughts. I felt embarrassed about saying this out loud to a mental health professional because human relationships with pets are so often trivialised and I thought that they wouldn’t take my bond with my dogs seriously. I thought that giving this answer would leave them to believe that my suicidal ideation could not be that strong in the first place – none of which is true.

Instead, the nurse told me that my dogs are what is called my ‘protecting factors’. They act as a release valve for my stress because playing with them is uplifting. They comfort me when I am low by nuzzling and cuddling me, letting me know that I am not alone. When I get anxious about having social contact with humans, they remind me I am capable of having a functional relationship because of the ways I have bonded with them. When I think about leaving this world, they tether me to it because I could not bear to leave them; my desire to protect them and watch them grow-up are what, at this moment at least, is still keeping me fighting for life.

The World Health Organisation works on the definition of ‘protecting factors’ as being those which “enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk.” They use this definition in relation to physical as well as mental health risks but ‘protective factors’ are always seen as what stops an individual’s situation from escalating to a dangerous or drastic level.

So, I would encourage you to think about what your protecting factors are, especially in the lead-up to the festive period which, for me, always adds extra stress onto my shoulders and makes my mood dip because I am hyper-aware of the fact that I am supposed to be happy. Hold your protecting factors dear and be grateful for their existence and what they mean to you. Feel free to share what your protecting factors are in the comments below!

 

Information And Resources About Managing Mental Health At Christmas:

Christmas and mental health – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas (5 ways to look after your mental health) – Priory Group

Depression At Christmas Guide – Mental Health in the UK

 

Some Related Blog Posts Of Mine:

How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

Expecting The Worst

I surprise myself
When my ink does not make me gag;
To enjoy an impression of my existence
Is a call to confidence,
Harking from deep inside my soul.

It’s strange how very menacing
A morsels is to consume
If it hails from the fibres
Of your own energised hands,
Bearing the weight of your fingerprints.

Scared To Write?!

Is it ironic to write about writers’ block? Probably, but it feels like the only way to exercise this frustration I am feeling with myself. I have a lot of blog post ideas rattling around in my head but I cannot muster-up the confidence to actually make them come to life on my computer screen. Sometimes I get as far as writing the title but then the image of unimpressed readers’ faces float before my eyes and I convince myself that no-one will be interested in what I have to say.

It’s frustrating, largely because I know that I should be writing for myself rather than trying to complete the impossible task of writing to please anyone and everyone who could possibly stumble across my post.

Without the release of writing on this blog, a build-up of emotions start to compile inside me which is difficult to navigate without an outlet.

A list of draft posts, all asking for my attention, are left unfinished to differing degrees. I cannot conjure the energy to conquer all of the voices telling me to give-up trying with my writing ideas, so I just leave the drafts to gather metaphorical dust.

All of the poems I have been posting recently, I wrote in one hour on a couple of days (largely when a measure of desperation had set-in and I knew that I had no other choice to write-out my distress otherwise it was going to eat me up inside). It’s hard to have confidence in what your mind is telling you to write when you are struggling to trust your own mind in the first place. So, I start and then all of my insecurities and worries come crashing back down into the forefront of mind – a weight of thoughts I do not always want to wade through.

Bear with me, if you will.

 

10 quotes for when you need motivation to write

We’ve all experiencing writers’ block. From the world famous authors of literary classics to all of us struggling to keep producing consistent blog content; no one is immune from staring hopelessly at a blank page. The quotes below all inspire me in different ways to keep writing no matter what. They help me to cast doubt from my mind and stop thinking about how other people would judge my writing abilities.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Oscar Wilde

“The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” – Ray Bradbury

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway 

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write.” – Margaret Atwood

‘There comes a point in life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.” – Albert Einstein 

“You must write for yourself and not what you think people want to read.” – Jodi Ellen Malpas 

“If you’re creating anything at all, it’s really dangerous to care about what people think.” – Kristen Wiig

“At this stage accept, deep imperfection.” – Jessie Burton

“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one can tell the stories that you have to tell.” – Charles de Lint

 

If any of you have tips to help navigate writers’ block, please let’s help each other out and leave our advice down in the comments below!

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

The Autumn Tag

I first saw this tag over on Hart of Blogging and thought it looked fun. Even though I haven’t actually been tagged in this, I will not let that stop me! So, without further ado, here is my Autumn Tag:

1) What signifies the start of autumn for you?

This probably very predictable but autumn feels like it officially starts for me when the leaves start to change colour. As soon as the luscious greens of summer begin to fade and the warm, earthy hues begin to take their place, I can really relish the changing of the seasons.

2) What is your favourite autumn scent?

I’m not one for sweet scents like the ones often found in Yanky Candles. So, I much prefer richer heady scents, such as ginger, cranberry or fig at this time of year. These probably sound like quite strange choices but pumpkin and vanilla scents do not appeal to me for the most part, even at this time of year.

3) Are you a fan of pumpkin spice latte?

I feel like the only person in the world who has never tried a pumpkin spice latte! For the most part, I avoid Starbucks anyway because I view them as an unethical company. So, overall it seems that I am failing on the autumn checklist so far!

4) Apple or pumpkin pie?

Another unpopular admission here; I really do not enjoy the taste of pumpkins. Genuinely, when I have tried it before I have almost gagged! It’s unfortunate because pumpkins look so beautiful that I really wish I could enjoy them as a food as well. 

5) What TV show, new or old, are you looking forward to in the next few months?

As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly a TV fan (I really am cracking out all of the unpopular opinions during this tag aren’t I?!). Although, I do have a soft spot for Riverdale, even though I am literally a series behind because I am so slow at getting through episodes. There are definitely some creepy elements to Riverdale which give it a somewhat spooky feel, so I’m really looking forward to (finally) catching-up with it.

6) What is your favourite autumn fashion trend?

The comeback of hoodies, bobble hats and cosy coats after the heat of summer.

7) What is your favourite comfort food to enjoy during the cooler months?

Veggie casseroles, hearty lentils and curries definitely! I love warming and hearty meals at this time of year, so I decided to get myself a slow cooker the other day so I can make big batches of these meals.

8) What is your favourite autumn activity?

Walking my dogs around the streets where crunchy yellow, orange and red leaves have fallen along my path. Walking in the cold, crisp autumn air is a treat, especially with my dogs trotting along beside me.

9) Are you a fan of horror movies?

Put it this way, when I watched the Woman In Black at the cinema I had nightmares for a ridiculously long time afterwards. So I tend to avoid horror films as best I can.

10) Do you ever do anything fun for Halloween?

I always stay in and I never dress-up but that’s a choice I make because I prefer to do things which I consider fun, such as making my home look and feel atmospheric and reading creepy books!

11) What was your favourite part of Halloween as a child?

I used to craft fake witches’ potion books, as well as draw magic-themed pictures which I especially enjoyed when it distracted me from the prospect of having to dress-up in a Halloween costume!

12) Are you a bigger fan of Bonfire Night or Halloween night?

Probably Halloween night because my dogs get scared of the fireworks which go off on Bonfire Night.

13) Where is your dream destination to visit during autumn?

Vancouver Island is definitely on my travel bucket list, not least because its landscape is stunning at any time of year. Also, I would love to visit Denver in the USA for its largely unspoiled natural features. 

14) Do you always forget about the clocks going back?

Not really, although I do often forget to change a few of the clocks around my home which creates a few moments of confusion on the same day it changes.

15) When do you usually start for preparing for Christmas?

I don’t do much to prepare for Christmas overall except for purchase presents for others which, in general, starts in the first week of December. 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

Easy Ways To Campaign For Good Causes

We are not powerless to make a difference. If you are reading this you probably have an internet connection and a laptop or tablet, therefore you have the vital tools to campaign for good causes. So, don’t just feel angry about the injustices you see, do something about them however big or small.

Below are some ways which are quick, easy and simple to contribute to campaigns for good causes.

NB. [some of the language I use is UK-specific, simply because I’m more aware of how politics works here due to being a Brit.]

1. Online petitions

Platforms which give people everywhere the power to start their own petitions are growing in power these days. Signing an online petition takes under 30 seconds and helps to put public pressure on social authority figures, such as council members, Members of Parliament or CEOs of companies. It is hard to ignore people power, especially when individuals from across society collaborate in creating hundreds of thousands of signatures, signalling their determination to make a change. Change.org is a particularly prominent online petition platform which makes it quick and simple to get involved in worthwhile campaigns, as well as also keeping you informed about new and upcoming campaigns you may be interested in. 

 

2. Email your local authorities

Starting at a local level is a really handy campaigning tactic. In general, local councils deal with a lower scale of incoming correspondence than Members of Parliament, so you will get a quicker response from them if you send them an email. Also, if you can get your local authorities onside, then that can add weight behind your campaign once you move it onto a larger scale. In addition, the response of council members will give you an indication about points of opposition people may have to your campaign which can indicate to you what issues you need to build upon when you contact other individuals later.

 

3. Tweet public figures or companies

How quick is it to send a tweet? We all know how easy and convenient it is to use Twitter, so it makes perfect sense to use the platform to your advantage when you are passionate about a campaign. The more people who pile public pressure on a public figure or corporation the better, as it means that at some time or another they are going to have to respond. Also, individuals and companies are easily searchable on Twitter, so getting in touch with them is made extremely simple. Although, please remember to never use aggressive language however much you disagree with the person you are contacting. It devalues your argument, strips the moral high ground away from you and means that you are not campaigning on a compassionate basis, which I believe is key.

 

4. Boycott certain businesses

Corporations run on profit and the only way they can make a profit is through the consumer. If you refuse to consume their products or services, then business is fundamentally compromised and, unfortunately, many companies only take notice when money is involved. In the past, campaigns such as the one against the Dakota Access Pipeline urged supporters to boycott banks which were investing in the damaging project. Divesting your funds away from unethical corporations will make them have to chose between their customer base and their dirty investments.

 

5. Drop a quick text to a friend or relative

Many online petitions give you the option of sharing a link to their page after you have signed. This enables you to send a link to the petition via text, email or other social networks, so you can ask friends or relatives to consider signing too. Text and emails are an undervalued way of spreading awareness about an issue, so if you think someone you know may also be interested in contributing their signature and using their power as a member of society, then it couldn’t be easier to facilitate them doing this. 

 

Resources:

Change. org – The world’s platform for change (online petition site)

Greenpeace – online campaign platformWWF – campaign with us

WWF – campaign with us

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

A Walk With Nature Facebook Page

Do not live and die by the judgement of others

Day by day I am noticing how much I constrain myself and tailor my behaviour through fear of how other people will judge me. I toe a line, telling myself that I am free and do not care about people’s irrelevant opinions when really everything I do, even down to what clothes I wear, is decided through the lens of what I know other people will find acceptable.

It is easy to pre-empt what other people will think and say. As long as you fall into line; dress, think and act like them, they will have no complaints. Do not challenge their view of the world and do not scare them by stepping out of place and becoming an unknown quantity. Do all these things and you will be safe. However, you will never be fully happy.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

– Sigmund Freud

Only as I am growing older, learning about new things, experiencing things outside of my small bubble am I realising the compromises I make in my daily life. The little decisions I make so as not to cause to ripples whilst telling myself that I am doing those things because I truly want to. Lie after lie legitimates my never reaching my full potential.

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being purposefully inauthentic is so boring though. When you look at the person next to you and realise that you have morphed into a similarly brainwashed creature who has followed the pattern of other people’s beliefs without question or issue. You have fallen into line so quickly and easily you never saw it happening. The most exciting thing you can do now is be fully and unashamedly yourself. Follow your intuition and impulses which are intrinsically unique to you. Express yourself in the brightest ways you can think of no matter what. Indulge in whatever interests you, no matter if no-one else you know cares about the same things. More than anything, become someone you can be proud of, not only now but years down the line when you are reminiscing about your life. Did you do your unique nature justice? Did you follow your passions? Did you take a stand for the things you believe in?

“Expression is survival”

– Hayley Williams

 

Another Gratitude List!

Things have been rocky lately (how many times do I start off a blog post with those words?!). In short, I have experienced some very unsettling mental health symptoms which are new to me and got me seriously concerned and fearful, I then changed medication and am waiting for my body (and mind) to adjust to these tablets. However, through the whirlwind of mental health confusion which has left me trying to catch my breath at times, I have seen glimpses of things I am so sincerely grateful for. Surrounding myself online with positive (yet realistic) accounts, whether that be on Instagram, WordPress or Twitter, has yet again realigned my perspective and made me give time, no matter how small, to the things I am grateful for. So, here’s a gratitude list from me to the world!

1) The seasonal change to autumn.
From the leaves changing colour to the crisp edge on the air, autumn is definitely upon us. I am thankful for this change of season because it has brought my attention back to nature. Consciously looking out for the changes in my surroundings, whether big or small, has made me undergo a whole new process of appreciation for the environment. When you can see the world around you as beautiful, it is one more weight taken off of your burdened heart and a way to look around you and feel some sense of hope.

2) Having access to mental health services
I retain the right to say that I firmly believe mental health services in the UK are critically underfunded by the government and so what they can offer people is curtailed by the lack of support they are given by the state. However, I am grateful that I do have access to support when so many people around the world are suffering completely alone in a whole variety of different, heartbreaking, situations. I am immensely grateful that I was able to get an appointment with a GP, talk honestly about how I felt regarding my medication and have him give me a way to reach out to the services I need. I want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the people who work in our National Health Service, as time and again they tirelessly try against the odds to help us in anyway they can.

3) My dogs aka the lights of my life!
Being reunited with my dogs has undoubtedly given me a huge boost (as it always does). Their boundless enthusiasm for life, their endless love and devotion as well as the all-round silly and ridiculous things they do which make me laugh out loud, are the things which really keep me going sometimes. I could write for hours and hours about all the ways they have improved me as a person and given me a little chink of sunlight in my life when I have felt completely hopeless. However, for now, suffice to say that I love them both so dearly and genuinely see them as my best friends.

4) The ability to cook
For me, self-care always starts with looking after my nutrition. Eating properly gives me a foundation from which I can start to feel better about my day and show myself some compassion. Preparing my meals is therapeutic in itself, then actually appreciating the fact that I have made the effort to give my body a nutritious and healthy meal allows me to shift my perspective which usually focuses on my habit of self-loathing.

5) Music
Whilst my ears have probably suffered from my reliance on music, at least putting my earphones in and drowning out the world has given me some peace of mind at times throughout these past few weeks. As always, I am immensely grateful to Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Dodie Clark for making such raw, honest and insightful music. The fact that they don’t dress-up life as an easy ride in their lyrics gives me so much comfort whilst the beautiful music which laces together their words affords me hours of escapism.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00