Opening Up About Mental Health

I’m not one to complain a lot and it’s not often that my cheery disposition disappears. However, I’d like to consider myself as an honest person and that’s why I must admit to myself out loud that my 2019 has so far been incredibly difficult. To say otherwise would be a lie. I really second guessed posting this piece as it’s perhaps the rawest and most real piece I’ve written to date, leaving me feeling quite vulnerable. Unfortunately life isn’t always so dreamy and light and I truly believe that it’s so important to identify and talk about these difficult periods, as well as the great moments in our lives. Despite the highlight reel we so often present to the world, life can be very tough and overwhelming; words that also describe my 2019 so far. Within these first few months of the new year, I’ve been faced with two people near to me being diagnosed with Cancer as well as a family friend whom was living with depression, sadly taking their own life. With one event happening after the other in only the space of a month, I’ve become painfully aware of how fragile life is. I’m not sure if it’s grief, the process of digesting what’s happening around me or both, but I know that this has been one of the toughest periods I’ve faced in my adult life so far. This has been externally evident too by my many mood swings; flipping between feelings of shock, despair, confusion, sadness, anger, helplessness and loss of control. Over the last few weeks I have been searching the internet hoping to find some words of comfort to ease this anxiety that I’m currently feeling during this period in my life. But somewhere between the frustration of not knowing what to google and overthinking, I now find myself here writing this piece. I find it very difficult to write in my “normal” style when I’m not in a clear headspace, (major props to those who can) so in the past I have opted for not writing at all. However this year I made a pact with myself that no matter what happens in 2019, I would not allow life’s challenges to stop me from writing, as I allowed it to do last year when my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, for fear of “bringing people down”. I know that these pieces really help me on so many levels and so I also vowed to myself that I would not just write these “real” posts, but share them with others. Mental health is just as important as our physical health and I hope that by writing my own thoughts and feelings down it will hopefully spark others to examine and speak out about their own feelings. After all, if I – a talker, am not prepared to share my thoughts and feelings, how can I hope that others experiencing similar scenarios (who may also be of an introverted personality), to do the same? I need to be the change I want to see in the world, right?

The word “Cancer” is in itself so heavily weighted and emotionally charged. When you hear the word you uncontrollably begin to imagine the worst as a wave of sadness overcomes you, let alone when it’s a family member or two you may know are battling this awful disease. To my surprise, after a few hours of hearing the news that my aunt had cervical cancer, I quickly adopted a logical mindset. I suspect that this was a coping mechanism to provide support to those around me; the human mind is clever that way. I thought to myself: What are the options? What are the facts? What do we know is certain? This would help me prepare myself and my family for what is to come as well as to be in a mentally good place to support my aunt. The next day I found out that my brother’s future mother-in-law had pancreatic cancer. I was grasping at straws, trying to find some light at the end of tunnel, the right thing to say. Meanwhile the pit in my stomach grew dull, the lump in my throat was rising as I was fighting to hold back the tears which if I let them escape in that moment, I’m not sure when they would have stopped. This was all too much and plain unfair to happen at once. The overarching sadness in the room was confirmed by my family’s silence, and if you know me and my family, silence doesn’t come naturally. I only allowed myself to really cry when it was just my boyfriend and I as this moment wasn’t only about me, there were other family members who needed my love and support more than I did in that very moment.

A month soon passed and everyone’s spirits had been slightly raised as treatment was underway for both of my respective family members. Things weren’t great but there was a glimmer that they may be ok. I was sat at my desk at work desperately trying to complete tasks off my to do list before lunch time, when I was then given the tragic news that a family friend had committed suicide. Before I knew it, my legs were carrying me out of the office. I reached for my phone to message and call my boyfriend and a couple of my best friends. Looking back now I know that I was experiencing a fight or flight response. I felt dizzy, sick and my palms clammed up. I had an insatiable need to cling onto life. I felt like running or punching a boxing bag. I imagined quitting my job on the spot so that I could go ‘live’ my life and not “waste” my time on my to do list. It wasn’t a realistic or rational thought to suddenly quit my job, where I am happy and making good progress, but in that moment I was confronted with clarity of what was important to me. At the same time I was also lost for words despite the flood of emotion I was experiencing. One of my best friends had their own history of depression and reliving that period still remains raw for me. She was one of the first people to come to my mind and I felt compelled to reach out to them on so many levels. I also felt like screaming out in anger as I was furious at the cards 2019 had dealt so far. What was the Universe trying to tell or show me? How is any of this fair? How many more things needed to happen before we could all catch a break, I wanted to yell! The strongest emotion of them all was the immense sadness that overcame me for the family friend themselves who felt that there was no way out of their black and dark hole. Who so tragically chose a permanent solution to a somewhat temporary sadness. For the family who were left behind. The only comfort I could provide for myself was the hope that he was now resting in peace and was pain-free. This news also came a few days after Mike Thalassitis a reality TV star from Love Island had also sadly taken their own life. There was so much media coverage about him and the importance of opening up about mental health. I hoped that this provided the same relief and support to my own family friends. I was saddened to learn that 12 out of 16 people every day in the UK who take their own lives are men. Suddenly my want to write and share this post became even more important, no matter how small my blog may be.

Over the last week I have felt guilty for feeling so sad and frustrated at the world, considering that this isn’t directly happening to me but around me. I’ve felt that I didn’t have a right to be upset to some degree. Or at least that everyone else has a much more of a right than me and I should just ‘get on with it’. Trying to find the balance between “carrying on as normal” – the British thing to do and talking about it as much as possible with family – the European thing to do (I’m of Polish heritage if you didn’t know). Over the last month I’ve become so acutely aware and appreciative of life, that all I want to do is to live in the now, soak up every day and appreciate the small things like when it doesn’t rain, that I had a conversation with someone new today and that I am able to and want to still be here both mentally and physically. I’ve tried to continue with my routine as much as possible, whilst making allowances for some breathing and resting space. I’ve made sure that I allocate time to do things that make me happy. To spend time with those who are dear to me. To not deny myself of seeking happiness. To be vocal and honest with myself about how I’m feeling, no matter how confusing or emotionally overwhelming it has been. I am so grateful to those who have been there to just listen, even when they didn’t know what to say.

I’ve also become aware just how resilient and incredible people really can be and I admire the strength I’ve seen from others around me. Should you find yourself in one of life’s inevitable dark moments, I hope you find the strength you may need to carry you. Although life can be at times unfair, it will keep on going on no matter what you do. It doesn’t give special treatment based upon your bank balance, age or status. I hope this post encourages you check in with yourself and others around you; to open the conversation. Sometimes it really is enough just having someone to listen to you, even if they don’t have the answers and when things do get tough, remember that even in the darkest of times there is light. No matter how much you may feel it, you are never alone.

I’ve listed some charities below you may wish to read or to share with a friend. It’s time to break the stigma.

Macmillan

Mind

Samaritans

 

How Not Getting What You Want Can Be A Blessing

It’s not often I talk about how hard work and determination doesn’t always pay off. Confused? Bear with me. Although I make a daily conscious effort to stay motivated and driven, this attitude alone doesn’t solely guarantee you success. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve been learning so far in my 20’s and I’ve recently began to appreciate just how not getting what you want, can at times, be a huge blessing.

Let me take you for a trip down memory lane, back to when I first graduated from University. After my long summer off relaxing and enjoying what was left of my “student lifestyle”, I decided that I was as ready as I would ever be, to try this thing called adulting. I mapped out a few career paths that potentially interested me and with my Psychology degree in hand, I made sure that I was proactive and applied for at least one job a day, if not more. Over the next couple of months, I was lucky enough to get a ton of interviews, and at one point I had 3 or 4 in the pipeline; I was on a roll! I thought it wouldn’t be long before job offers were thrown at me… and in a way I guess it wasn’t. After a month of job hunting I was offered a role in merchandising for a big fashion retailer that I loved. However, I really wasn’t prepared for not feeling excited at this news. As soon as I left the interview, I received a call and was made the job offer but my gut was telling me that the job wasn’t for me. I was torn because I didn’t want to reject it straight away as I knew it was hard enough to get interviews, let alone be offered a job this soon after graduating. A week soon passed and I had not yet heard back from the other interviews I attended. It came to the point where I had to give them an answer. I decided to listen to my instinct and not accept a job that my heart wasn’t fully set on and I would gamble on the possibility of being offered one of the others. Unfortunately the odds weren’t in my favour and I didn’t get any of the other jobs. I was back at square one.

“You are exactly where you need to be”

Feeling frustrated, stressed and anxious that I had made the wrong decision, I was angry and doubted myself. However I powered on through and (surprisingly) rejected more jobs. I battled an internal struggle with myself, as I knew my worth and didn’t want to accept internships or jobs in London, on a wage that would barely cover my travel purely for the sake of experience. Instead I worked temp jobs to keep me going and to build up as much “experience” as I could. Finally some 7 months later it all paid off. I was offered a job that suited my skill-set, interested me so much more and also paid a decent wage! Fast forward to the present day, I am now working for a leading fashion retailer where I funnily enough actually recruit for merchandisers. I am so relieved that the stars didn’t align for me back then the way I hoped, as the thought of doing such a number-centric role day in and day out, really isn’t my dream job. Truthfully in hindsight I was just desperate to be hired anywhere and I now know that I definitely wouldn’t have been happy in that role, despite how much I wanted it at the time.

I am now currently in my early-mid 20’s and the idea that, “You are exactly where you need to be” has helped to keep my quarter life crisis at bay. Living in an age where comparison to others is so prevalent as it seems like everyone has their life together on social media, it is so important to remember that the majority of us are in the same boat. To be quite honest with you, seven weeks into 2019, the majority of my plans for the year have mostly gone to pot. I’ve found myself in a mix of uncertain, anxious, frustrated and at times even scared feelings. This somewhat mirrors how I felt back when I turned down those early job offers, as my plans hadn’t fallen into place the way I hoped they would in my head. Yet, it’s times like these I try to remind myself how not getting what you want, really can be a blessing. I’m learning that we are not tested to show our weaknesses or what we haven’t achieved, but to show our strengths and what is possible instead – a lesson I will try to remember throughout the remainder of 2019.

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Finding Happiness in Being Alone

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2019’s Latest Health Trend

Goodbye 2018 & Hello 2019

Finding Happiness in Being Alone

Winter time is often the season for nights in. The long dark evenings lead us to hibernate indoors with the excuses of saving money (or trying to do so) and the dreary weather at the forefront of our reasoning for this. Friends may even cancel plans on us, leading us to feeling secretly happy as we can now stay in guilt free and save even more money! As great as this can be on occasion, Winter time can also cause many of us to feel rather lonely. As human beings we are innately social creatures, regardless of whether we are introverts or extroverts. We instinctively crave the company of other human beings. In fact, being comfortable in our own company is possibly one of the most difficult things that I myself have had to work on. In the past, I really struggled with enjoying my own company and would do everything I could in my power to keep my social plans from been rescheduled or cancelled. I would feel quite distressed in even anticipating an evening in on my own, for when these hours approached, I knew I would feel both lonely and simply bored of my own company. As dramatic as it sounds reading this back to myself, I think this is such an important lesson we each should learn and with the first month of the New Year over, there is no time like the present.

Since my late teens and throughout my early 20’s I have learned (at times the hard way) how important it is to be happy with our own company. Often in relationships or friendships we find ourselves baffled when we realise that at times our partners or friends know us so much better than we know ourselves…something that I have definitely experienced in the past! It seems a very strange thing to comprehend, how someone who isn’t us, can actually predict or understand what’s going on in our own minds before we can.

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In between studying or working, I always viewed time that I spent not doing something as time wasted. If you read my blog post The Magic Statement you’ll know that I went into some detail about how I re-discovered what my passions and interests were. Since doing so, I can truly say that I have had such a better relationship with myself. I have also done a complete 180 degrees in my thinking and behaviour, in comparison to me at 18 years old. Now six years on, I actively seek time alone and what’s more, I really enjoy it. So from the fun to focused, I thought I’d share some of the things I really do when I’m home alone!

  • Doodle – From adult colouring books, doodling designs to drawing a rose in my notebook for the 1000th time, when I’m on my own I “try” to draw. I by no means, am good or talented in drawing … and I’m really not just saying that! At school, my art teacher and I both mutually agreed that unless abstract art was an official A-Level, I wouldn’t put my energy into it. However, the child within me still really enjoys colouring and finds it therapeutic. P.S. I still have to try really hard to stay within the lines.
  • Pamper – I feel like that us girls have 3 types of showers. The quick body shower, the slightly longer hair and body shower and finally the pampering shower. This is in effect, a collection of at home spa treatments. Exfoliation, face masks, hair masks, hair removal, moisurising, painting nails, you name it, it’s the full nine yards of pampering. When I’m alone, I love to spend a couple of hours just doing this. Not only do I smell good but I get the most rested sleeps afterwards too.
  • Try on clothes in my wardrobe – I love fashion. I love clothes. If I’m perfectly honest, I have found ways of cleverly storing them in my bedroom, to make space for all the completely essential items in my closet. Occasionally I like to dress up and give some TLC to these items that I simply just don’t wear enough. Say what you will, but I find clothes as a great way of expressing the different parts of my personality and style. Even if I’m just putting outfits together in my bedroom!
  • Watch interviews – I thoroughly enjoy listening and learning about other people’s stories. As a teen, I was a drama enthusiast. As I got older my love for the arts and entertainment shifted a bit, but I still can’t get enough of watching interviews.
  • Read the news – Every night before bed I read various news articles. At University I found that although I was studying at a higher level, I became cut off from the real world, the more engrossed I became in my little bubble. I try to work daily on being more consciously aware of the world around me.
  • Be active – I love a good walk and the fresh air.
  • Write – Blog posts, love letters, notes on my phone, schedules and to-do lists for the week, future business ideas no matter how adventurous as they may seem, I write as much as I can in many different forms. It helps focus my thinking and is very cathartic.
  • Podcasts – On my commute into and on my way home from I work, I listen to various podcasts. Please share with me any recommendations!
  • Sleep – When I am alone and have no weekend plans, I take advantage of an early night. During the week, I tend to average about seven hours sleep a night, however I love to get somewhere between eight to ten hours sleep if I can on the weekends. I am an early bird and I know I feel my best after an early night’s sleep.

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As cheesy as it sounds, being happy in your own company gives you the opportunity to build strength, confidence and to really get to know yourself. Whether it’s doing something silly and embarrassing like your own fashion show in your room, or actively participating in a hobby, you only have one life and the relationship you have with yourself, is the most important one of all. You speak and listen to that person all day, every day; it’s worth giving yourself the time and energy in figuring out how to be happy by yourself.

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A Not So Blue Monday

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The California Travel Diaries: Monterey to Big Sur

A Not So Blue Monday

Monday 21st January is apparently the most depressing day in the British year of 2019. I suppose this makes perfect sense if you consider that we are coming down from the highs of Christmas, the joy of that weird in between week on the lead up to New Year where time seems, well – timeless. That is until now. Where we find ourselves (impatiently) waiting for our next paycheck, as we reluctantly admit that the resolutions we set some 20 days ago are now proving a tiny bit tricky to hold. To top it all off, the weather is cold; we wrap up in our wooliest hats as we face those zero degree temperatures on our way to work. Before you know it, your curiosity to “just have a look what’s new in knitwear online” crosses your mind, and you’re dipping into your already low dispensable income to buy even more but totally cute and (un)necessary knitwear on the train, just to soothe your pain of starting and ending your working day out in the dark. I definitely sensed this Blue Monday slump among the other commuters on my way into London this morning.

Although this does all sound rather bleak, and frankly makes me want to just throw on my dressing gown (because a dressing gown solves everything from a hangover to the meaning of life itself) and admit defeat as I turn on yet another episode of Friends, longing that I too could join the gang in Central Perk and drink coffee all day and wait for it… not have to work! It’s then pretty surprising when you find out that Blue Monday was actually intended to inspire individuals to spark change and make bold decisions in their lives. So, as I sat there on the train this morning, picking up on the low and tired energy of my fellow commuters, I got thinking about all the ways I can make bold decisions in my own life. I was also lucky enough to attend a motivational talk at work by Muireann Carey-Campbell, otherwise known as Bangs, from her blog – Bangs and a Bun. Bangs gave me even more food for thought on how we can do this – (the inspiring changes part that is, not the hanging out with Rachel and Monica in New York part!) So, in order to spark some change in your life and reinforce this as a habit in mine, here are a few of the tips that I am pleased to say I either learned from Bangs’ talk or are my own tips that she too reinforced in her own witty, insightful and realistic way.

“Small steps make big changes” – Bangs and a Bun

Feed the Hanger
First and foremost, I find I’m the most productive when I make the time to have breakfast. Not only does it feed the hangry lady who lives inside me at 7am, but it helps me get focused and kick-starts my metabolism for the day. Set aside an extra 10 – 15 minutes of your morning to have a good breakfast, it’ll do you wonders.

Sleep is Not for the Weak!
I have no idea why sleep is meant to be considered a bad thing! I’m more alert and find myself much better company and more productive when I’ve gone to sleep by 10:30/11pm. Bangs also emphasizes how sleep is so crucial for us to be able to function and how we as a society need to break the idea of, as NaS puts it that, “Sleep is the cousin of the death”.
Bangs’ Tip 1: Bangs also expressed my enthusiasm for sleep, despite being a raging insomniac herself. I’m happy to see I’m not the only one!

Plan Ahead
I always plan what I need to achieve and complete the next day, in advance. I.E. before I leave the office, I write a list of what I want to achieve tomorrow. Similarly before I go to sleep at night, I set reminders on my phone or add to my “Notes” on my phone, to give me the helping hand I need to remember to complete my own life errands, such as to ring the dentist/ book a gym class/ take a break (yes, I plan that to!) or whether it is to prepare my lunch for work the night before. My only issue at the moment is that I need to be more strict with the allotted time and try to be more consistent in following through on them.
Bangs’ Tip 2: This tip was the overarching theme of the talk, that small steps make big changes. For example, one goal of mine this year is that I want to eat healthier and save money, so I know that if I prepare lunch at home I’m one step closer to doing both. Although I’m not at my super organized stage at the moment, planning small and realistic steps to the overarching goal is definitely a smarter approach in achieving them. Plus it means I won’t completely give up on my healthy eating when I decide to treat myself at lunch time!

Journal
Bangs’ Tip 3: She recommended to write down three things that made you smile or happy today. Some days there will be so much and others it may feel like there are none. Nonetheless this is a really nice challenge for us to reflect on to find the good in our daily lives.

A Start Date
Don’t be afraid of saying your goals out loud, scientifically you’re so much more bound to achieve them if you do.
Bangs’ Tip 4: Sharing your goals makes you accountable for them. She emphasized to put it out there in the Universe by sharing it with a good friend, or someone you can trust. This will make you accountable for it and your friend can give you the push or encouragement and faith in yourself that you need when you begin to slip.

Move
Back in October, I made the conscious decision that I wanted to start taking better care of my body. I love how much stronger, refreshed and clear headed I feel after a workout. I’m lucky enough to now have a gym at my work with various classes on offer, so there is no excuse. However, typically in the past I wasn’t a “gym person”, so I used to either go for a walk every lunch time in my local park by my old work for 30 minutes, or go for a run after work or mix it up by doing an at home Pilates class by following a YouTube video. I can confidently say that this really helps me beat my blues and is a great stress reliever!

Bangs’ Tip 5: With pure passion, Bangs lit up the room as she explained how achieving our goals is directly linked to movement. Bangs discussed the joy that toddlers experience when they first learn to walk; they love discovering what their body can do and every time they fall, they just get back up again, arms waving in tow. Finding some kind of activity or sport that speaks to you and brings you joy is so important! It also teaches you self motivation and resilience. We’ve all had that moment where we think that we’ve given that run all we can, or we have reached our max on how many press ups as we can do. That is until we find the strength within ourselves to go that bit further, to give it 5 more. Similarly, within our own goals, movement can teach us how small and often changes can lead us to our goals as well as give us the emotional strength to overcome the challenges that we may face in our personal lives.

Acceptance
Bangs’ Tip 6: Something that didn’t spring to my own mind, that Bangs articulated so eloquently was accepting what we didn’t achieve, but still seeing the good. For example, I didn’t pack my lunch for work today instead I bought my lunch from the canteen at work, but instead of shaming myself for spending that money, I appreciated that I caught up with one of my colleagues by chance when I was there. It was really nice to just take a moment out of our day to have a chat and share a laugh together. I accepted that although I didn’t save some of my money today, I did build a relationship more, and I’m okay with that.

Rest & Rewards
Bangs’ Tip 7: Take time out of your “goals” to do something completely different. Watch a film and switch off for 2 hours. You deserve it! Take the pressure off yourself and remember you don’t have to consistently be “on”. As much as consistency pays off, Bangs reminded the group that it’s all about balance and you have to give yourself some time off to have fun, so that you really can be your best self!

I hope this blog post gave you some realistic but inspiring ideas on how to make some bold and attainable changes in your life! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

You can find Bangs and a Bun here and you can sign up to attend her spin classes here. If you enjoyed this post you should subscribe and read:

The California Travel Diaries: Yosemite

Goodbye 2018 & Hello 2019

2019’s Latest Health Trend

The Magic Statement

2019’s Latest Health Trend

With the New Year now in full swing, healthy living is on everyone’s minds. Whilst Californian beaches are now purely a memory for myself or a daydream for some, there is one way that we can capture the essence of California in our day-to-day lives. Simply by incorporating their healthy attitude and mindset into our diets and lifestyle, without taking the 11 hour and a half flight! One superfood that really encapsulates this and has been sweeping our Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds is acai. Acai pronounced as ah-sigh-hee (not ah-kye like I initially thought), is one of the latest health trends that has blasted all over London’s chic cafés, with health and fitness bloggers like one of my favourites Sarah’s Day swearing by them too, along with many influencers on social media. But what actually is acai and is it worth it’s hefty price tag?

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Acai is an antioxidant known for its health boosting qualities. It can be bought in a powder or berry form and tends to be added to a concoction of fruit and vegan friendly ingredients to create an aesthetically pleasing acai bowl or acai smoothie! (It’s that gorgeous looking deep plum coloured food in the bowls pictured). I never knew that this food existed or paid too much attention to discovering it until numerous Bali instaposts crept up on my own Instagram feed like Kirsty Elizabeth’s here!

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You know that thing when you buy a jacket that you absolutely love and think “Wow, how don’t more people know about this incredible jacket?” Then you walk down the street and all of a sudden see about 5 different people wearing it… Well, a similar thing happened here, as I started noticing just how popular acai smoothies are in London too. I realised that every day on my route to work I passed Health Hit – a smoothie bar with so many flavours on the menu, with acai at the centre. This left me quite intrigued enough to finally try a famous acai smoothie.

The reality of what I got however is unfortunately not quite an Instagram superstar or a friend to my finances. A medium sized smoothie cost me a pricey £7.50 (so that’s why there were no prices on the menu!) I think my face said it all when I got to the till point as I was offered a complimentary cheese bread roll (which luckily was delicious and softened the blow that my purse took.) Fortunately the smoothie tasted amazing and restored my interest in acai. Plus I knew that my lunchtime smoothie had so many health benefits to it purely by it’s ingredients:  mango, banana, protein, magneisum, acai, beetroot and tumeric. Hello to my healthy heart!

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So what’s the verdict? I really like the health aspect but not so much the price of buying this kind of healthy smoothie, unless you’re also going to get the pic for the ‘gram that is. Unfortunately in my case I’m not so sure whether it’s worth it! However, I do want to try to make my own acai smoothie bowl or smoothie to take a more proactive approach to achieving a healthier lifestyle. Plus making it at home is definitely a more cost effective way to achieve this. What’s more, I did feel surprisingly full and energetic in the afternoon at work where I would usually be reaching for another cup of tea instead for a caffeine boost. Perhaps those health and fitness gurus are onto something after all!

If anyone has any recommended acai smoothie recipes, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Mentioned in this blog post:

Check out Sarah’s Day website along with her blog and Instagram

Check our Kirsty’s blog and Instagram

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Goodbye 2018 & Hello 2019

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My Skincare Routine