It’s #TimeToTalk Self Care

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I’ve written already in this blog series about coping through creativity and some of the little things that might help pick us up on the bad days, but it’s so important to make time to take care of yourself on the good days as well. I know I have struggled with a reluctance to prioritise self-care; it feels selfish and self-indulgent, and I can always come up with a long list of things I ‘should’ be doing instead. The reality is, that we need to take care of ourselves or we may find that we succumb more easily to the bad days. I’m not suggesting that self-care is a catch all preventative measure. Self-care won’t stop depression in it’s tracks, or magically eradicate compulsions and obsessive thoughts, or mean you’ll never have a panic attack again. What it will do though is increase your self awareness, and hopefully help you manage yourself and your bad days in a healthier way. We don’t try to eat a healthily balanced diet or maintain a balanced lifestyle because it’s a guarantee that we’ll never get ill, but because it’s healthy. It’s good for us. Self-care is a balanced lifestyle and healthy diet for your mind and soul.

There are lots of tips and tricks and self-care challenges available online. The one above is one I found on Pinterest and set up in my journal, with some of my own tweaks and additions. I know that I am very unlikely to do one of these activities every day, and that I would end up making myself feel guilty about it, so instead of trying to do one a day, I am making a conscious effort to do one every time I find myself with a few minutes, and am recording which ones I have done. This way I can see how often I am prioritising my own self-care without creating a pressurised situation for myself. After all, self care should be something we enjoy and look forward to, something that relaxes us, not something that becoms a stressor.

What are your favourite ways to take care of yourself?

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If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk Recommended Reads – Calm

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It’s time for another recommendation.

I vividly remember stumbling across this book when I was down in London with family. We were browsing around Anthropologie and, as is usual for me, I gravitated towards a small display of books. This one caught my eye immediately. The vivid blue stood out and the simplicity of the cover appealed to me. But it was the title that drew me to pick it up and flick through. Calm. That was what I needed.

As soon as I opened it and began to leaf through the pages, I knew I wanted a copy of my own to enjoy slowly in the peace of my own home. Even standing in a busy shop in the middle of London, I found it to be soothing. Stunning illustrations come to life on the pages of this lovely little volume, and it’s definitely one to be savoured slowly.  Alongside the beautiful images are a selection of reflections, exercises, and question prompts to help you find your own little bit of calm in amongst the chaos of life. It’s a wonderful book to get lost in.

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You can also find more from the creater of clam, Michael Acton Smith, over at the Calm website or by downloading the Calm app. Both great if you want some guided meditations, sleep stories, and mindfulness content, combined with lovely visuals and sounds. You can access a lot of the resources for free or you can choose to take out a paid subscription, depending on your need/interest/financial situation.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk About The Borderlands

This is a piece of writing I did when I was struggling, torn back and forth between being overwhelmed by negative thoughts and striving to remember the good and hold onto hope. It’s about being in the borderlands between dark and light and finding a way out. I have shared it on here before but thought it was worth sharing again.

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You think it will never end.

You cower in shadow, fear and doubt, huddled in the corners of your own mind.

Some days you are screaming inside “LET ME OUT” “MAKE IT STOP” “SOMEONE HELP”…

Some days you are numb. Empty. The void itself.

Alternately wracked with pain and removed from all feeling.

You know it’s there. The good. Some happiness. The light. But it is removed from you. Unreachable. Shuttered behind a transparent wall. Taunting you. The happy sounds muffled to your ears.

The creeping cold down your spine.
The boiling fear in your gut.
The loathing and anger and confusion and pain and…emptiness.

You cry.

You sit, dry eyed, and wish you could cry.

You rage.

You wish you could summon the will to rage.

You wish for the feelings to go away.

You wish for the feelings to return.

It all feels so out of control.

You wonder in the darkness “Will it ever end?”…

You wait.

You give up.

You decide to try again.

And repeat…

And repeat…

And repeat…

Until…

A flicker of something in the abyss.

A waif of light.

So insubstantial, like a child’s bubble blown on the wind; you absently wonder if it’s real and how it got there.

It beckons.

Some warmth returns, just to the very tips of your fingers.

It’s enough.

Hope.

It casts enough light for you to see the good again.

“I remember this place.”

A soft smile.

A tug towards the light, and the shadows recede a little further.

Warmth spreading as feeling returns.

Raw, a little fearful, you step into the light and turn your face to it. Eyes closed, basking in the gentle caress of warmth. There’s still a chill in the background, still shadows behind you, but that’s ok. For now you face the sun.

Walk in it. Remember the flowers, the soft breeze, the ground underfoot, the sky overhead. Life flows back and the numbness, the rage, the pain shrinks further. A mere speck.

You fear it will return.

Don’t.

Be present in the warmth and light. Relish being able to see and hear and feel again.

The shadows may try to pull you back. Sometimes they may manage to wrap their ebony tendrils around you again. But that light will never be extinguished.

Look how it found you in the depths of the night.

So even though you’re afraid, even though it still hurts, even though there is still a numbness threatening the edges of your existence, look to the light of your own being and emerge from the shadows.

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk Coping

Image found here.

This is a post I shared three years ago that I thought was worth re-sharing, with a few tweaks.

I’ve mentioned some little things that can be helpful in coping with bad days. There’s one thing in particular that I have found helps me cope with anxiety and ward off depression. The arts. Any and all.

I love to dance, and beating the hell out of a dance floor can be a real release for pent up negative energy. I always leave dance classes feeling better than when I arrived.

I love to sing. Belting out tunes from my favourite musical or album of the moment is a very cathartic experience. Especially when driving. I’m not sure why. Somehow being in my car I find I can make a lot more of a racket than I would anywhere else.

I love to listen to soothing music. Enya is and always has been my go-to relaxation artist. Not only is her music beautiful, ethereal and calming, but it also has a strong personal connection to my mum. Hearing that music takes me back to being a child when she would help sooth away my nightmares. It helps.

I also love to write and draw and doodle. I journal. I write poetry and stories. I draw patterns and dream-scapes. Focusing on the pen and the page helps me to let everything flow out of me. I recently developed some rules about my journal. I don’t put negative things in there. I still put them down on paper but I get rid of it. I don’t keep it. I don’t want to hold onto that negativity. I used to find that my journals ended up being very negative and I hated that because I never recorded all the tiny good things in my day to day life. This way my mind is redirected towards the positive in my journal and I know I am collecting happiness rather than negativity. I still allow myself to put the negative down on paper but I then have to let it go. Tear it up, screw it up, bin it, burn it. But let it go. This is a very personal choice but I find it works well for me.

How do you cope with negativity in your life?

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

x

It’s #TimeToTalk Creating Opportunities

In order to encourage more open conversations around mental health, and breakdown the stigma surrounding it, we all need to take responsibility for creating opportunities where those conversations can occur. There are so many ways to do that but right now I’m going to share with you one of my favourites that is currently happening over on Instagram.

The lovely Lexi has found a unique and wonderful way to give people the opportunity to speak openly about their experiences of mental health. Every week, she hosts #AirItShareItWednesday, in which people can send her a private direct message with anything they would like to share, and Lexi will then share their experience on her Instagram story whilst protecting the person’s identity. In this way, people have the opportunity to speak openly with the sense of safety afforded by anonymity, and the community can offer support, advice, or just love and recognition to those individuals who choose to share, through Lexi.

Lexi began this initiative in order to “continue the conversation around mental health” and it’s a great example of taking the initiative to do something new and a bit different.

The response to this movement has been wonderfully positive and I love that Lexi has taken the time and care to open up this opportunity for sharing and conversation.

You can find Lexi on Instagram, Twitter, and on her blog. Pop over and say hi.

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk Recommended Reads – Reasons To Stay Alive

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My second recommendation to you is Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

This is a frankly wonderful book; profound, honest, relatable, heartbreaking and amusing all at once. Haig’s unflinching account of his experiences of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts is raw, moving, and strangely uplifting. He gets right to the heart of what it is to be trapped in your own mind and the horrifying experience of not being able to be fully present in your own life, even when it’s a wonderful one. Reasons To Stay Alive gives you just that; as well as truly nailing the torment of mental illness, Haig’s account also provides a funny, even joyful reminder of what it is to truly love, and why we should strive to stay alive even when it seems the dark is closing in. It is a tale of survival as much as of struggle and reading it felt like being offered a hand to hold and hearing, in the voice of a friend, that we are never truly alone.

Here are some of my favourite quotes, just to give you a taste:

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.”

“Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.”

“And most of all, books. They were, in and of themselves, reasons to stay alive. Every book written is the product of a human mind in a particular state. Add all the books together and you get the end sum of humanity. Every time I read a great book I felt I was reading a kind of map, a treasure map, and the treasure I was being directed to was in actual fact myself.”

“To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.”

“You can be a depressive and be happy, just as you can be a sober alcoholic.”

 

I also highly recommend you follow Haig on Twitter and read anything else of his you can get your hands on. The follow up to Reasons To Stay Alive, Notes On A Nervous Planet, is out later this year and I can’t wait to read it.

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk Staying Anchored

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I am tossed back and forth on stormy seas.

Certainty,

Fear,

Inadequacy,

Elation,

Inspiration,

Buffeted by indecision,

Buoyed up by hope.

Too many winds to follow.

They fight for my attention,

Brewing up a storm in the

Tiny

Infinite spaces

In my head.

In my heart.

The mundane and the magical

Are one.

Both will bring sunshine and clouds

To this beautiful chaos of mine.

My compass spins,

I am directionless,

And full steam ahead.

I am the raging squall.

I am the lull.

I am searching

For a moment of

Pause

Inside this invisible chaos.

Sometimes there is beauty here,

But

I am tired

And searching for an anchor.

  • JH

It can feel terrible when emotions overwhelm you. When you seem to live in extremes. When bad days feel like the end of everything. When moments of panic feel like they will last forever. When sadness is smothering and you are convinced you won’t feel anything else because how could there possibly be anything else? But feeling everything so keenly also means you love more fiercely, you experience joy more deeply, and when you find peace (and you will) it will resonate truly within you. And even if that peace is just a moment, the memory of it will burn within you, giving you hope that you’ll find it again. So feel what you feel. The good will always follow.

If you find yourself searching for an anchor in times when emotion (or even an absence of emotion) overwhelm you, try grounding yourself in what is real and tangible outside yourself. Make a conscious effort to notice 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can see, 2 things you can physically feel, and 1 thing you can smell. List them out loud or write them down. Anchor yourself in the world.

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk – How Are You…Really?

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Here’s a musing for your consideration: How often do we ask or answer the question “how are you”? How often do we give an honest answer? How often do we ask, genuinely hoping to hear an honest answer?

Next time you are asked, “How are you?”, try offering just a little more honesty than you might normally.

Next time you ask someone how they are, listen properly to the answer, look for any signs that they are saying they are fine when that might not be the truth.

Let’s ask and answer honestly. And open up some real conversations. It’s #TimeToTalk. Really.

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk Recommended Resources – Flow

As part of this series I wanted to share some recommendations for books, apps, and other resources that I have found helpful or interesting, and this is my first.

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If you’ve read my blog or followed my Instagram account for any length of time, you’ll know of my love for Flow Magazine. In recent years, Flow has also published a selection of companion books/magazines focused on development by mindfulness and relationships.

Like the magazine, they are beautifully produced, with well thought out content, wonderful illustrations, and a great balance of things to read and things to do.

I find these editions provide a lovely space for quiet time and reflection. The insightful articles and thought provoking questions and activities are the perfect accompaniment to some me time. If you’re looking for a tool to help you explore mindfulness, I highly recommend these.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

It’s #TimeToTalk Meditation

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When I was little and couldn’t sleep because of bad dreams, or the fear of bad dreams, my parents would sit by my bed, brushing the hair gently from my face, and in slow soft voices talk me through a meditation that would help me relax and dream good dreams. I still use it to this day. And it helps, almost always without fail.

There were two variations and I’m going to share on with you now. It is intended to be carried out slowly, whilst you are lying down, somewhere quiet and either dimly lit or dark. If you can get someone to read the meditation to you, or record yourself saying it and then playing back, this is best as then you can close your eyes and focus on carrying out each stage and feeling the sensations. I hope it helps you, or a loved one, sleep.

Imagine you are lying on the soft sand of a sun warmed beach.

You can feel the sand shifting gently beneath you, shaping itself to perfectly support you.

You feel it’s warmth radiating against your skin, drawing the tension from your limbs.

Your toes are just touching the edge of a rock pool, and the heated water laps ever so gently at your feet.

You scrunch up your toes, contracting all the little muscles as tightly as you can, and then release them, allowing all the tension to flow out and relaxing entirely.

You squeeze the muscles in your legs, tensing them as though supporting a great weight, then allow the muscles to relax and feel them become heavy, sinking a little further into the sand.

Next, you clench all the muscles that make up your core, drawing in your bottom and stomach, as if compressed between two panels of glass, before releasing and feeling the pressure lift away from you.

Your attention shifts to your upper body and arms, which you draw in tightly, pulling all the muscles and sinews close together, clenching your fists, raising your shoulders, pinching your shoulder blades together and contracting your arms. Slowly, you allow the tension to drain away, releasing from your shoulders, down through your arms, and eventually to the tips of your fingers. Your upper body now rests with sleepy, relaxed heaviness into the sand.

Finally, you scrunch up your face, pursing your lips, wrinkling your nose, pulling your eyebrows into a frown, before releasing every muscle in your face, allowing your jaw to fully relax and your brow to smooth, all the cares of the day smoothed away with it.

You rest in the moment and pay attention to the pleasing sensation of lying in the warmth and softness of the day, and the relaxation of surrendering all the tension that had built up in you.

You notice the heat of the sand below and the sun above you. A gentle breeze caresses your skin. Any thoughts passing through your mind do just that: they pass on. You acknowledge their existence but don’t dwell on them. They float through and by you and you slowly drift into sleep.

 

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.