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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

 

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.

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