Self Care Tips for 2020: Guest blog by Anthony L.

selfcarepex1

(image: Pexels)

Now that we are well into 2020 and the landscape seems to be changing every day. Social distancing, quarantine and pandemic are words that would have been foreign in the beginning of 2020 but have now become the new normal. Even though things are changing and it is easy to feel frustrated and disappointed, try to reflect on ways to care for yourself, no matter what the remainder of the year brings because self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

Set a routine

It is important to maintain a routine even though you might be staying home more than ever. Even though it might be tempting to stay in pajamas all day and wait to eat breakfast until the afternoon, sticking to the smallest parts of your old routine such as getting dressed and putting on makeup in the morning can give you that jolt of motivation you need.

Make sure to be intentional about planning your day and what you want to accomplish by setting a routine to stick to. Include time to get dressed, work, cook meals, do housework and some time for hobbies and leisurely activities that you enjoy (even if the way you do those things has changed a bit). 

Change your spaces

One of the primary areas that can fuel your energy and attitude are your surroundings. When being stuck inside all day, it’s easy to lose motivation in the same space you function in every single day. Enlighten yourself by shaking things up. Add some new decor or declutter and organize your home or apartment. With all of the additional time on your hands, it’s the perfect opportunity for some much-needed change. 

Start with a room you normally spend time in or one that you don’t. Begin by going through every item within and get rid of things that are no longer valuable to you. Then, re-organise what you plan to keep into a designated home. After you have re-organised everything you own, completely change your scenery. Get out of the house for some fresh air by taking a walk around your neighborhood or going for a drive.

Check up on your finances

Now that you may have more free time at home, it is a good time to check up on your finances. Start by setting a new budget to account for the changes in your lifestyle. For example, if you are spending less on gas and parking to commute to work but are spending more on grocery delivery, make sure to be mindful of this on a monthly basis. This is also a good time to tackle some financial goals you may have had but never got around to doing before.

For example, a good way to secure some peace of mind during uncertain times is to shop for a dependable life insurance plan if you do not have one yet. Purchasing a life insurance plan is a responsible money move to make and gives you and your family added protection. Sometimes it can be difficult to navigate the space of life insurance, which is why it can be an easy task to put off. If you find the right tools to simplify the process, however, the task becomes much more manageable and doing so during these uncertain times can be a good way to relieve some overarching stress you may have about finances. 

Try out a new hobby

When being at home and in the middle of balancing work and personal life, it can all easily blend together. One way to prioritize your “me” time is diving into learning a new hobby that you have always wanted to try but never had the time to do. Finding something new to explore is the best way to do something entirely for yourself. Whether it’s learning a different language you always wanted to learn or learning a new recipe, now is your time to begin. Watch YouTube videos with step by step instructions of recipes you want to try, or download a language teaching app, such as Babble.

You could also make a new fitness goal for yourself. Maybe try yoga, pilates, weight-lifting routine, or running. Exercise is the perfect outlet to investigate because it will contribute to a positive mind, body, and soul.  

Get creative

Being creative can look different to everyone. For some, this might strictly mean doing arts and crafts. However, there are several other platforms and actions that rely heavily on your personal imagination—for example, knitting, singing, painting, designing, doing puzzles, photography, scrapbooking, playing an instrument, sewing, gardening, upcycling, and more. 

Whatever leisurely activity you love becomes your outlet to be creative. When you do something you enjoy, your mental wellbeing benefits. Experts suggest that by being creative, you are able to submerge yourself within that task and distract your mind from anything that might have been bothering you. You ultimately manipulate your brain into a meditation-like state. Your heart rate decreases and your mood will be boosted because your brain releases something called dopamine. Also known as, “the feel-good chemical.” Without even knowing it, you’re putting your mind at ease while doing something you love during these uncertain times. 

Manage expectations

During these unpredictable times, it can be easy to think about plans you may have had that you have had to change or cancel. Thinking back to these events can lead to disappointment. This is a completely normal feeling, but remember to try not to dwell on the disappointment. Because the times have changed, it is important to change your expectations as well and try your best not to get hung up on the things you can’t control.

For example, if you are now working from home, don’t try to compare your current productivity to your productivity prior to the pandemic. Or if you are a parent now teaching your children at home, you don’t need to be keeping them engaged at the same pace as their teachers in school do. This is all new, uncharted territory and adapting to this new way of life will take time and patience. If you don’t manage your expectations, you set yourself up for disappointment so try not to be overly critical of yourself.

Keep an open line of communication

During stressful times, it is helpful to keep an open line of communication between friends and family. Even though you might not be able to be physically present in each other’s lives, you can take advantage of the technology that we do have to keep in contact with them. Group FaceTime, Zoom and virtual fitness classes are just a few ways to stay socially connected to help your mental health while being quarantined. If you find that you are particularly struggling, remember that most doctors are offering telemedicine so you can still keep appointments and talk to a professional who can help if you are overwhelmed.

Even though there is uncertainty regarding what the near future will bring, there are certain things you can do to minimize stress surrounding this uncertainty. Remember to take time each day to care for yourself to benefit your overall mental wellbeing.

This guest blog was written by writer Anthony L, promoting self care and mental wellbeing.

Bamboo sheets- A potential cure giving better quality sleep and less Anxiety at night.

 

cosyhousecollection1

(image: Cosy House Collection)

With around 33% of people getting less than the recommended amount of sleep (less than 7 hours), many have turned to using bamboo sheets as a way to cool them down in the warmer months and reduce sleep stress and anxiety.

We are all getting worse quality sleep year-on-year, no doubt impacted by the intense box sets we watch on Netflix just before bed, blue light coming from our phones, ongoing stress and money woes.

The start-up and tech industry is seeing a wave of new inventions to help with sleep, from cooling pyjamas, weighted blankets, noise defenders and sleep monitoring apps.

However, one of the latest products to win over sleepers is bamboo sheets and pillow cases. This soft and light fabric is quickly being the first choice over traditional cotton or linen.

Bill Fish, the co-founder of sleep resource, Tuck, explains: “Our first choice when looking for breathable sheets is linen. It tends to be cooler than cotton, but more importantly the quality of the fabric can look and feel good for years to come. If you are looking for eco-friendly breathable sheets, bamboo is an excellent choice. It is hypoallergenic, and also feels gentle to the touch.”

Bamboo, made from the bamboo plant, is known for being light, comfortable and its properties are soft and breathable. Being thermo-regulating, bamboo works by keeping cool in the heat, and staying warm in the cold, making it perfect for summer and winter and something that you can use all year around.

The breathability of bamboo should help those with stress and anxiety, which is unsurprisingly the leading cause of insomnia.

In addition to helping people sleep through temperature control, bamboo sheets are hypoallergenic and can help produce better quality sleep by reducing stuffiness of the nose and head.

Bamboo sheets and pillow cases may not be the full answer for a bad night sleep or ongoing sleep issues – however, it is should certainly be seen as way you can optimise your sleep and living surroundings, in addition to the right lighting and avoid using your phone before bed.

Other notable methods to improve sleep quality including avoiding caffeine and alcohol up to 8 hours before you go to sleep, adjusting the light in your room, reviewing your mattress or speaking to a Doctor for professional advice.

Bamboo sheets are available from Cosy House Collection for less than $60 (£50) and includes one fitted sheet, flat sheet and 2 pillow cases.

This blog was written by Cosy House Collection for quality luxury yet affordable home essentials.

Relaxing Places to Visit to Help Coronavirus Anxiety: By Guest blogger

moustierssaintmarie

Needless to say, life is not as we know it in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic.

Hopefully this summer we will be able to travel somewhere and when we can, we should focus our energy on traveling to places that are relaxing and can help us ease our minds. 

Here are a few relaxing places to visit: 


Southern California

Unplug and relax with the sound of the ocean waves along the beaches around Southern California. You can stop off at Long Beach and cross the Gerald Desmond bridge for scenic overlooks, head out for more relaxing nearby at Huntington Beach where you can walk along the pier and then spend time on the sandy beach, and wind your way along the California coast stopping at towns and beaches as you like.  


Seven Sisters, East Sussex, England

The Seven Sisters is where to go if your idea of a relaxing holiday is being surrounded by green hills, the English Channel, and the countryside. The name is given to the seven white calk cliffs along the coast, where you can go for a coastal walk and get a view of all seven across the water from Seaford Head. Located just a couple hours outside of London, this is a convenient destination go to that is close enough but far enough from the city. 


Provence, France 

Provence is a beautiful and beloved region in France. Walk through the lavender fields, see the gorgeous vineyards, and enjoy the views of the Alps from Provence for instant relaxation. It feels like you are in another world while here, where you can connect with your surroundings and enjoy the energy and local culture. 


Sanibel Island, Florida 

Sanibel Island is an island located just south of Fort Myers. It is a gorgeous spot with sandy beaches, fewer crowds, and a National Wildlife Refuge that you can venture to when you want a break from the beaches and get to hiking and being in greenery. Especially if you are in the United States, this is a destination you can travel to for a relaxing and different feel without having to leave the country. 


Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming 

Located amongst the Rocky Mountains and south of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park is known for its natural beauty, offering of solitude, and jagged peaks. You can go rafting along the Snake River, drive the 42 Mile Scenic Loop Drive and stop off at Jenny Lake, Snake River Overlook and Oxbow Bend, go fishing, go hiking along the many trails, and so much more. It is a wonderful destination for pure relaxation, adventure, and to immerse yourself in nature. 

As long as you take precautions (social distancing and wearing masks if near others), visiting these destinations should be relatively low risk and you can find yourself relaxing on a beach, in a park, or a beautiful lavender field. Make sure you have enough space around and if its crowded, move to a quieter spot.  

 

This blog was written by a guest blogger for our blog.  

 

How Managing my Space helps my Mental Health: Guest blog by Poppy Duffree at Organise with Poppy

poppy

(image: Poppy Duffree)

Hi everyone, my name is Poppy and I’m a Professional Organiser and Declutterer based in Bristol. 

It’s been a tricky time for a lot of people forced to stay inside unexpectedly and our home environment is playing such an important role in supporting us during this period. 

Clutter and an unorganised space intensifies feelings of chaos, being out of control and stress. It’s more important than ever that we do everything we can to keep our spaces calm so that we feel safe and can relax inside.   

A little about my story and how I got to where it was today. Seven years ago I found myself with severe anxiety and many of the triggers were work-related. After a round of effective CBT, I handed my notice in. I needed a fresh start, to feel ‘free’ again and to take some time to find what I wanted and needed out of life. At the time, that came in the form of deciding to go travelling around the world, with no set plan and no return date. 

That decision forced me to look at ALL my stuff. In the midst of my anxiety and unhappiness I had bought so many things to try and mask those feelings, to give me moments of excitement and distract myself from the real problems I was facing. Moving out of a shared flat in London with no plans to move elsewhere, I had no choice but to drastically cut back what I owned to place in storage.

I went from being able to pretty much being able to fill a Luton Van with a tail lift, to about six small boxes and four suitcases. I’d never felt so liberated, free and felt physically lighter. That really taught me the value in having fewer possessions – having so much stuff around me had been contributed to my anxiety. When we start to think about it, we realise that possessions take up our time; they need looking after, moving around, re-organising, fixing and then ultimately – disposing of. This can be stressful and often why these things feel so overwhelming. 

I love working as a Professional Organiser and Declutterer because I get to help people gain control of their environments and feel freer and lighter, which is incredibly rewarding. I still have to manage my own mental health carefully and I know that having an organised physical and digital space is something that supports me. As many of us know, sometimes it’s hard to control how we feel and so anything that we can do to support us and makes things easier when we are having days that are harder than others, is invaluable.  

Decluttering and organising physical items is now a very ‘on trend’ thing to do and the mental health benefits are widely recognised. It’s great that there’s so much help and information out there on this topic and the majority of the clients that I work with are primarily seeking assistance with physical items. However, what is often left out of the narrative is decluttering and organising your digital space. 

Let’s say we have our physical surroundings organised and it’s helping to support us in feeling calm and in-control. We’re sitting at home and we open our laptops and phones and are met with a barrage of unorganised files, unnecessary content, emails we’ve left unread for months and notifications everywhere. All of a sudden, our environment is actually our digital space, as that is where our focus is. It can be very overwhelming, draining and cause us anxiety and stress.

Given how much time we spend in our digital spaces, it’s so important we declutter and organise them  like we would our physical environments so that they also support us. 

 

Some top tips for digital organisation:

 

  • Phone Apps: Delete phone apps you no longer use. This reduces notifications and means less app to have to update. 
  • Social Media: Declutter your social media feeds. Be in control of the content you are seeing and unfriend/unfollow those accounts that do not provide you with content that is useful or positive. 
  • Desktop: Clear your desktop of all documents and folders. Opening up your computer to be met with clutter can be an instant stressor, before you’ve even begun working on anything. 
  • Newsletter Emails: Reduce unnecessary newsletters. Search for the word ‘unsubscribe’ in your inbox and it will bring up any newsletters you’ve subscribed to. This allows you to start going through those that you no longer want and unsubscribing to them, meaning less emails coming in in the first place. 

 

I’d recommend doing a deep-dive into all things digital so that all your clutter is cleared and you have organised documents so you can remain focused on your priorities, rather than having to fight off distractions. 

Not everyone can afford the services of a Professional Organiser and so during lockdown, I’ve been creating some resources and workbooks that are more budget friendly, to help people get organised and clear out their spaces (physically and digitally) from the comfort of their own home. 

I’ve created a 25 page step by step workbook to help you with this called The Ultimate Digital Declutter and Organisation Workbook’. It’s broken down into four key areas; desktop, emails, phone and social media. There are a variety of tasks with step by step instructions to help you get organised with ease.

The link between our environment and our mental health is very real and so I’d love to offer you 25% off with the code ‘BEUROWNLIGHT25’ to help you tackle this area. 

If you do decide to put any of these into action, I would LOVE to see your before and after pictures, screenshots or figures. Please feel free to tag me in them @organisewithpoppy if you’d like me to share them with my followers too! 

Happy Organising! ☺

 

Poppy | Organise with Poppy

Instagram – regular tips: https://www.instagram.com/organisewithpoppy/ 

Workbooks – downloadable PDFs: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/OrganiseWithPoppy 

Website – in-person services: http://organisewithpoppy.co.uk 

 

Poppy Duffree is a professional organiser and declutterer, based in Bristol UK, with her business Organise with Poppy. She is a guest blogger for us and is offering all readers 25% off her services. 

clutter2

 

How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Pandemic: Guest blog by Mary Davis

hydrangea

These days of the coronavirus pandemic are filled with anxiety and fear unlike anything else we and the world has experienced since World War II. It’s important to stay in tune with yourself and remember it is okay to not feel totally well and to be feeling more anxious. 

Here are some ideas to help your mental health during the pandemic: 

 

Get moving

You’d be surprised what physical activity does for you, both in terms of physical health and mental health! In terms of mental health in particular, it can help decrease anxiety and improve moods. While gyms and studio classes are closed and it is easier than ever to get an effective exercise in with guided tech at home, now is a great time to become familiar with fitness apps. There are many different ones to choose from: you could try the 30 day fitness challenge app for example to get into a new routine and find the perfect guided workouts work for you! Whether its workouts, barre, or even taking the stairs more, try to move as much as you can. 


Try meditating, mindfulness or prayer

Finding stress management techniques that resonate with you is crucial as stress is an inevitable part of life. The ideal time to start up a mindfulness practice is when times are good so that you have established a practice in times of stress, but it can still be incredibly powerful if you are starting out now!

Just remember to be patient with yourself. There are a lot of practices out there, such as meditation, mindfulness, and prayer, so you have options. If you are unsure of where to start, start with daily deep breathing exercises. 


Avoid alcohol 

Avoid or at least monitor alcohol intake in times of high stress in order to protect your mental health. Alcohol is often used to ‘self-medicate’, but while it can release endorphins in your body, it is classified as a depressant. It significantly impacts your central nervous system, and in times of stress you want to be in tune with your body and paying extra care to your nervous system rather than confusing it. 


Seek a therapist and do appointments via Skype or Zoom

Seeking help is a sign of strength! If you need help or need professional support as you work through stress and/or anxiety, seek a therapist. Many therapists do appointments via Skype or Zoom and if you find one in your area, you can transition to in-person appointments when possible. 


Practise self care

Self care looks different for everyone, and finding what makes you feel good and content is so important. Try cooking, at-home facials, taking extra time on your skincare and giving yourself a face massage, baths with Epsom salts, and quality sleep. 

 

selfcareself1

(image: Samantha Carbon)

 

All of these things can contribute to healthy living and can help us get through the pandemic. They are also great habits to incorporate into your lifestyle to continue caring for your body and mind. 

This guest blog was written by freelance writer, Mary Davis.

The Road to Recovery: On PTSD, Trauma and the Future… by Eleanor for Mental Health Awareness Week

eleanorlinkedin

(image: Eleanor Mandelstam (Segall))

 

Trigger Warning: sexual assault, details of assault and severe mental illness

 

Hi everyone,

Its been a while but I thought I would put type to keyboard and write a blog for more mental health awareness.

Since my book was published, I haven’t written many follow up personal blogs, purely because the launch of my life story into the public domain felt overwhelming and scary. 6 months on, I am used to it being out there but I have been working hard in EMDR trauma therapy to help myself.

See, the truth is that right now the Bipolar Disorder for me is stable and under control on my medicines. I still get side effects- weight gain, dry mouth and thirst, but my mind is generally healthy in terms of the Bipolar- no mania or depression. Anxiety and panic yes but Bipolar, not really at the moment.

Yet, almost lurking unseen after I left hospital in 2014 and began my recovery was the fact I was traumatised by my experiences of going into psychosis (losing touch with reality via delusions, false beliefs) and my experiences when being sectioned. I will just give an overview as the rest is in my book- but this included- being restrained, being attacked by other patients and seeing them self harm, being injected with Haloperidol (an anti psychotic) in front of both male and female nurses in a part of the body I didn’t want, being chased round A and E by security men in genuine fear of my life, dealing with lawyers and going to tribunals while ill, thinking I had been abused by family and was locked up by a criminal gang and fearing my family were against me. My bipolar mind could not cope.

Just before this all happened, I was very vulnerable and was sexually assaulted by a man I knew through friends and all of this trauma stayed with me.

I did what most of us with severe mental illness and assault survivors do- I tried to rebuild my life. I tried to work in schools helping children with special educational needs. I tried to work for a mental health charity as a peer support worker for people like me. I began to blog and write and share as therapy- from charities to national newspapers. Bit by bit, as I wrote out what I has been through, I started to slowly heal. But, the symptoms of the extreme panic remained. I lost jobs because of it. I became depressed. I started dating but I often had to cancel dates- (before I met Rob, my husband who listened to me talk about it all and didn’t bat too much of an eyelid.)

I was in a state of flux, a state of transition. I knew I had trauma still living in my brain and body. I had been physically and sexually assaulted, I had been mentally violated- I had been sectioned twice in a few months and now I was sent home to try and rebuild my life as a 25 year old single woman.

I share this important blog, not to share that I am a victim- because I am not. I want to share that I believe for about 5 years, I have been suffering with some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My therapist believes the same.

The panic attacks that grip me with fear before work or the day ahead when I have to leave the house. The fear of going out or travelling at night alone. The fear of being taken advantage of and having to trust men again (thank you to my husband for helping ease this pain). The fear of exploitation, of losing my mind, of not trusting mental health professionals any more.

My panic attacks get triggered by certain events- it could be having to speak about my life or book, or seeing people I don’t feel comfortable with, of feeling exposed, of worrying about others judgement. I am still healing from all I have been through and experienced. The PTSD means that I have to take medication (Propranolol) to function sometimes. It means that I experience flashbacks in my body- I feel gripped with fear, I get chest pain and shallow breathing and I start to cry. I had one the other day at 4am….. thank the lord for meds so I could calm down and sleep.

My therapist is incredible and we have been working since October to process the roots of my trauma and panic disorder. We use a combination of rapid eye processing with talking therapy which helps to tackle each and every trauma- and we are still at the tip of the iceberg. It takes time to process the deep rooted experiences in my brain- we are getting there slowly.

For me, in many ways my future is uncertain. My medicines have long term physical side effects. Motherhood will be more of a challenge due to medication and my mental health- I am still processing the choices I will have to make, which I will write in another blog.

I want to end this blog by saying- if you know someone with anxiety, PTSD, another anxiety disorder or something like bipolar or schizophrenia- Be Kind. You never know what someone has gone through.

The NHS waiting lists for help are too long, services are too underfunded- all my treatment has been private provided by my family due to being stuck on a list for years. I am lucky, not everyone is. 

I hope this blog gives some information about my experiences of PTSD since leaving hospital 6 years ago. It is by far the most personal thing I have posted since publishing my book but I hope it helps you feel less alone.

Positivity and Hope are key.  Meeting my husband and my therapist changed my life for the better as I slowly rebuild and find an equilibrium again.

Love,

Eleanor x

How to Avoid Burnout during a Pandemic: Guest blog by Jade Mansfield at the Worsley Centre

teepublic1

(image: Tee Public)

One of the major causes of burnout happens when we’re in situations with minimal amounts of control over what we can do. Nowadays, it can seem like stress and burnout are a normal part of modern day working life. The World Health Organisation listed burnout as an occupational phenomenon and they define burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a lot of pressure to spend our time focused on productivity. These have been seen in the form of achieving full productivity at work or working from home and also being productive by working on self-improvement. The focus on productivity came from the idea that if you focus on driving forwards during the pandemic, this will help get you get through it. While this is true some people, others will need this time to focus on their mental health and simply do less. Getting through a pandemic is not a one size fits all. 

Put simply, you should listen to your body and do what you want to do, instead of what the world says you should be doing. Acknowledging that we are all living in an impossible era is the important first step. There is an adaptation period that needs to happen and this period will be longer for some people than others.

While you should try your best to fulfill your work duties, you are allowed to voice if you are struggling. You do not need to work full time, learn a new language, start baking, take up a new hobby and exercise more if you don’t want to. Take it one step at a time, if you finish work or finish your working from home hours and want to spend your free time on something productive, then do and if you don’t, relax. 

How to avoid burnout

While we have covered a little on current pressures to be productive, this section will dive into the absolute fundamentals.

 

Get enough Sleep

Key workers, those working from home and those who have been furloughed all need sufficient sleep. This can be particularly difficult for key workers who are working long, hard shifts and also for those who are simply stressed out by living through a pandemic. 

Typically, during your normal routine, you need six to eight hours of sleep each night.but if you’re doing more than your usual routine, you will need around eight hours a night, plus one period of relaxation during the day. Relaxation can be just sitting somewhere quiet for 10 minutes.  If you’re approaching burnout you need eight to nine hours of sleep each night, plus two breaks. 

Stress can make it difficult to sleep, so be mindful that to get a good night’s sleep, you’ll need to combat your stress levels. 

 

Exercise More or Exercise Less

Exercise helps alleviate stress which is great for creating a good sense of well being. Those who exercise regularly can experience increased energy and productivity. Regular exercise will help you get a good night’s sleep, which will go a really long way for your mental health. 

The most important thing when exercising during a stressful time is that you only exercise when you’ve had enough rest. Otherwise, you may plummet yourself further into burnout, especially if you don’t usually exercise. You need to listen to your body, nobody seems to tell you to exercise less, but if you’re burned out, you should. 

 

Don’t Ignore Stress

Short-term stress that is manageable could easily turn into burnout over time. You should voice your stress to employers if you’re still working and reach out for any available help. You can also practise deep breathing, meditation, and other relaxation techniques that can help calm you.

Keeping your mind on track and continuing practicing positive thinking. Small techniques like these can work surprisingly well. It can be extremely difficult to remove ourselves from high stress and demanding roles, but just by taking five minutes out where you can really make a difference in terms of mental health. This will positively impact on your ability to do your role as well as everyday tasks. 

Outside of work, try and not put yourself in situations that may cause you unnecessary amounts of stress. Your brain can only take so much psychological stress at one time.  

If productivity is really what you want to improve on during the pandemic, remember that productivity is not the start, it is the end product of other positive actions you’ve taken to get there. Productivity without burnout will happen when you look after your mental health.
This blog was written by  writer and psychologist Jade Mansfield – The Worsley Centre, a centre for Psychotherapy and Counselling.

The UK went into Lockdown and I went into Meltdown: Guest blog by Nicole

quotesblog

(image: Nicole_no_filter)

The UK went into lockdown and I went into meltdown.

When I heard the announcement on the news, I was on my Mum’s sofa and I immediately felt the usual sick way that I do when I get anxious. I needed to get out of the house, so I quickly escaped on a walk with my dog. My thoughts were far from pleasant and I silently cried while I slowly paced around my local area. This marked the start of a tough couple of weeks.

I fell into the behaviours that you would probably expect from a person with anxieties, I was obsessed with updates on the lockdown, it became my most frequently searched term on Google! My skin condition, urticaria, flared up which happens when I experience stress. My sleeping got worse than usual and I was easily irritated by silly things. Most of all, I fixated on the negatives of my situation, such as the impact living alone would have on me.

I’m not going to pretend that I had an epiphany on day fifteen and I’m now thriving in my new life of one daily walk and it being a glam day if I put on jeans!

However, I’ve now established a flexible routine and I’ve settled into working from home.

I check the news once a day and I appreciate that I am lucky to be healthy and still have my job. However, I don’t give myself a hard time when I have a bad day and I don’t pay attention to unhelpful comments online, criticising people for struggling as there are others with more serious struggles. Of course, this is true, but I heard recently that, ‘you wouldn’t tell someone not to be happy, because there is someone happier’ and that has stuck with me ever since.

The most positive outcome of this situation for me, is that I am in touch with my thoughts, emotions and my behaviour, more than ever.

Some things that have helped me are:

  • Reawakening my passion for writing: As a Careers Coach, I regularly create resources and assist others with writing about themselves. However, it had been so long since I wrote for pleasure. I now record my thoughts in a journal, you are currently reading my second blog post and I rediscovered my love for writing poems. Writing has felt a bit like offloading to my best friend; I get out my thoughts and I then feel better. 

 

  • Walking: I think it’s amazing that so many people are focusing on their fitness, but I was previously anxious about my weight, so I don’t put pressure on myself to follow a rigid exercise routine. Pre-lockdown, when I had a crap day, I benefitted from getting out of the house and being around others; walking isn’t a substitute for this, but it helps me to get rid of negative energy by doing something active. 

 

  • Keeping my space tidy: This won’t work for everyone but a clear space, means a clearer mind for me. I also find cleaning quite therapeutic as it helps me to focus on the task in hand and not overthink. 

 

  • Paying it forward: I have been trying to spread some positivity remotely, for example, I suggested to my colleagues that we each send a card to another person in the team with a positive message. I also started an Instagram account to raise awareness of mental health and share experiences and strategies with others. As a people person, helping and connecting with others always lifts my mood. 
  • Revisiting coping mechanisms for anxiety: I have done a lot of research into cognitive behaviour therapy techniques over the last few years, as some of the principles are useful for my job in supporting young people. I have also personally been through this type of therapy; this helps me to reframe negative thoughts and therefore gain better control of my feelings and actions. 

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I still regularly think that I can’t wait for this to be over! I miss the little things in my life, but the lockdown has caused me to have a deeper appreciation for all the good aspects of it.

I have also realised that the little things ARE the BIG things. Being forced into this situation that I have no control over, has helped me to put less focus on other things that I can’t control.

I was previously anxious about being single as I am about to approach my 30th birthday, but I have gained a more positive perspective on this. I may not be able to control what happens TO me, but I can control what is IN me, which are my thoughts and how they make me feel and react.

Nicole is a careers coach and freelance writer in the UK and is on Instagram @nicole_no_filter

My crippling Anxiety once floored me. Now I wouldn’t be without it : Guest blog by Emma Johnson at Worry Knot Jewellery

emmajohnson2

(image: Emma Johnson at Worry Knot)

Trigger warning: talks about self harm, anxiety, depression and mental illness 

 

For 10 or so years, throughout adulthood, I have battled on and off with something invisible and something I still don’t fully understand myself.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder. 

I’m now 29 but my illness started at about the age of 21. In my third year of University, I started to dread things, I started to worry about everything I said, did and I started to question if anyone liked me. I have always been apologetic but this was different. I felt like apologising for walking into a room. 

I was unable to switch off, unable to focus on my University work and I withdrew a lot socially. Life moved quite slow back then. 

For me I knew this was out of character. I’ve always been fun loving and outgoing, with a smile on my face. I became confused about who I was. I developed an uneasy feeling that would take almost 8 years to learn to sit with.

During the first few years of my disorder, I definitely still achieved a lot. I often feel my disorder makes me thrive more, sort of like overcompensation, a little bit like proving people and myself wrong. I graduated with a BSc in Psychology and at the age of 24, I went on to gain my MSc in International Development.

I don’t think I truly recognised these achievements until about the age of 27. 

Whilst studying my MSc life changed quite a lot for me. I had gone through a bad break up in my younger years but then I finally met someone who lifted me back up, who challenged my thoughts, someone who was completely different to me in every way. This was oddly comforting for me, a bit like escapism from my own ruminating thoughts. 

Then I entered the world of professional work. I started out as a fundraiser, and in my most recent role I tried my hand at facilitating group therapy. In 5 years I have moved through 4 jobs within the charity sector. Sometimes part time.

During this time my anxiety disorder would often become too much. I often sunk low and developed bouts of depression. I would cry and sob. I was back and forth to the GP, often teary, often red in the face and always a bit embarrassed, even though I didn’t need to feel embarrassed.

At one point I was signed off sick from work, bed bound for 3 months, with no motivation at all, just me, myself and my catastrophic thoughts. I was pretty exhausted, shaky, drained and more confused than ever. My physical symptoms manifested as sweating, chest pains, palpitations, shortness of breath and the odd panic attack. 

One thing I started to do was open up, I began to share things with my partner and colleagues. They let me cry if I needed and at the same time my GP was stabilising and finding the right medication to suit me. But I was clearly still unwell.

I quit another job I enjoyed through my inability to cope and my lack of self esteem. My Imposter Syndrome led me down another uneven path.  Always overworking. Always overthinking. Always overcompensating. I didn’t slow down until I was forced to.

Another behavioural symptom of my anxiety is skin picking and nail biting. In early adulthood I would sit for 3 hours picking at my face and over the years I have made the skin around my thumbnail so sore it would bleed. It is now scarred.

My need to fiddle with something to ease anxiety is always apparent. Earlier this year, I was talking to my friend about making jewellery and how cool it would be to make my own. I have always been into accessories, fashion and jewellery so I said I’d love to make something I can wear and carry with me discreetly but also fiddle with, to stop me from picking so much. 

She mentioned worry beads and I was intrigued. I wanted to make my own twist on them. A prettier version, merging them with jewellery design that I would more likely wear, so I did and my life has changed. I have started a small business called Worry Knot.

necklace1

(image: Emma Johnson at Worry Knot)

Alongside selling calming jewellery, I’m blog writing. I’m advocating more widely about the importance of opening up when confusing and sometimes debilitating symptoms develop. Not only is it therapeutic for me to make my jewellery but it’s extra therapeutic playing with this jewellery a few times a day. 

Having something to focus on, things to make and to write about has been crucial in managing my own anxiety, especially at such an anxious time for the world. I hope my jewellery can go on to help those feeling anxious not only now but going forward into the future too.

emmajohnson1

beads

(Images: Emma Johnson)

For more information please visit:  www.worryknot.co.uk and instagram.com/worryknotuk

You can also find me @worryknotuk on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Emma Johnson is a writer with lived experience of mental health issues. She is the founder of Worry Knot, a jewellery brand to help others who have anxiety.    worryknot

 

Stuck in Self-Isolation? Here Are Some Simple But Useful Home DIY Projects: Guest blog by Brandon Smith

firefly2

(image : Paper Mart Blog)

With the world in turmoil right now and lots of cities across the world closed, many of us are stuck in self-isolation at home. Why not start a DIY project?

With the sun coming out quite a lot over the last few weeks across many parts of the UK, and government guidelines only allowing limited travel, now is the time to make use of being at home.

Not all B&Q, Homebase and other hardware outlets are open across the country, but most companies offer online delivery of any product you would need to buy for a project. 

Why not also involve some of the people who live with you? If you have small children and you’ve decided to spruce up the garden, then why not place a table outside so they can paint their garden while you work on yours?

Here are some simple home DIY projects you can do while at home under lockdown:

 

Make a Sharpie Mug

This is a quick and easy one for the children. Buy a handful of plain mugs from your local supermarket, along with a few Sharpie permanent markers (choose different colours if you like). Then, draw or write your design on the mug and pop in the oven at 175oC for 30 minutes. Once cooled, your self-made mug is yours to use and keep!

 

fence1

(image: Pinterest)

Paint the Garden Fences

It’s usually a job left until the Summer, but getting outside in the Sun is good for vitamin D levels and being in the sunlight helps to boost our mood and immune system. Painting the garden fences is a simple DIY project, but once you’ve completed it the satisfaction looking at a job well done and ticking off another box on your list of Summer jobs is sure to make you feel better about being indoors.

 Simple Custom Shelves

You don’t need a fancy kit when it comes to building some shelves indoors. All you need is some wood, brackets, a saw and a cordless drill/driver. This is a one or two-person job, and it won’t take you all day, but putting up some shelves will help with storage (whether in the kitchen, living room or bathroom). Be sure to use the right tools for your project! If you’re unsure about saws and drilling, there are many resources such as hints, tips and full guides available online.

Mosaic CD Mirror

Want to add a bit of a wow factor to a mirror in your hallway? Take an old mirror or order a cheap one online (eBay or Facebook marketplace usually have some) and put a frame around it that has a good 3 to 4 inches space. Then, cut up a bunch of old CDs (preferably ones that don’t have lots of scratches on them) with some plastic scissors or toughened kitchen ones, cover the pieces with glue (like Copydex you used in school) and stick them to the frame. Once it’s done, you’ll see an abundance of colour and reflections when it’s on the wall.

Firefly Night Lanterns

The is super simple, and the kids will love them. You should order the following from your favourite online retailer:

  • Glow sticks (one for each jar)
  • Glitter
  • Large jam or marmalade jars (or use some of the empty ones in the cupboard)

Take a glow stick, cut the top off and empty the contents into the jar, then sprinkle in some glitter. Attach the lid and seal. Shake the jar so that all of the materials are distributed. Then, either close all of the curtains in your front room or wait until it goes dark outside, and you’ve got a night lantern with fireflies in. The children will love them.

Window Shutter Mail Holder

We don’t tend to use window shutters all that much in the UK, but they are common in the rest of Europe. You’d think that means they are hard to get a hold of, but used ones can be found on marketplaces like eBay. Once you have one, take the shutter and sand it down. Then, paint with whatever colour you want and allow to dry. Depending on the shutter, paint colour and type of paint used, you might need more than one or two coats.

Then, drill some holes in the wall and fix the shutter to the wall with raw plugs and screws. All of your mail that the postman brings can be put into the slots, and everyone can see who each letter is addressed to – a great way to show the children where mail can go when it comes in the post.

 

Body Pillow

If you have children, then you’ll be spending a lot of time doing fun things while at home. And, for many families, this involves some relaxing in the front room.

When shopping in one of the larger supermarkets, pick up some cheap pillowcases and stuffing, Or you can buy some pillows. If buying pillows, you’ll need four pillowcases and the filling from two pillowcases for one body pillow.

When you get home, lay out the pillowcases as you would if you were using them to sleep on: placing them next to each other on the floor to create a caterpillar. Fill the pillowcases with the stuffing or pillow material and stitch up the sides. Then, sew the pillowcases together to create your body pillow.

 

Being stuck at home all day doesn’t mean you need to sit there doing nothing or watching multiple episodes on Netflix while also feeling bored and drained. It’s important to take control of your mental health and well-being and keep yourself busy with activities that bring comfort and joy. Try some of the DIY projects above and let me know how you get on.

 

Brandon Smith is an Editor at TheSawGuy.com – a woodworking & DIY resource for everything from comparing the best table saws and miter saws, down to home and garden project