Self-care for summertime sadness

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Summer. Some people get through the winter months, subsisting on the mere thought of it; some people cringe at the thought of all that daylight and those sweaty nights. I tend towards the latter, personally. Whatever your stance on summer, it happens. It’s important to keep up with good self-care practices, whatever the weather, so here are a few suggestions:

  • Asparagus weather: Indulge in some seasonal vegetables. I recently made this asparagus and radish risotto and it was divine!
  • Don’t shave it: If you’re a person that shaves, it can be a ballache when it’s too hot to wear tights or to have your legs covered up. Shaving too often can be damaging for your skin though, especially if you have a skin condition like ezcema. Give your skin a break and go au naturale.
  • Sunnies and sun creams: Protect your little eyeballs and your skin, especially if you’re fair and can easily burn. Don’t underestimate the blazing solar overlord.
  • Nature or nurture: Summertime can make us feel guilty for being indoors. Whilst it’s true that we need to top up our vitamin D levels, sometimes our self-care has to come first. Don’t feel beholden to the sunshine – do what you need to do, regardless of the temperature outside.
  • Goddamn mermaid: Water your animals, your plants and yourself. One of my favourite mottos is ‘Keep your friends hydrated’.
  • House rule #1: Simple – Don’t beat yourself up.
  • Pal up: Spend nice times with nice people. Picnics, ice-cream and walks are delightful ways to do this, but watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race obsessively with the curtains drawn is equally valid and awesome.
  • Juicy peach: Have some fruity goodness in your life. Vitamin D is not the only vitamin.
  • Follow your fancy: Be whimsical. Even if you get the summertime sadness, it can be nice to treat it like a holiday season. Revisit childhood summer shenanigans. Splash about in a paddling pool, buy pick’n’mix and eat it walking round town or go messing about in boats.

 

Keep cool and don’t sweat it.

 

In the chair: How to prepare for therapy

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Starting counselling can be very stressful. Often it comes after months on a waiting list and it’s entirely feasible that the original motivation for your therapy has long since ceased to dominate your daily life. That doesn’t mean that the work doesn’t still need to be done. For some people, starting that process will be a massive relief, for others it presents multiple challenges, mixed feelings and a lot of anxiety. Having been through the process various times in recent years, here are a few pointers that might help alleviate the anxiety of the hot seat:

 

  • Housekeeping: Make sure that you know all the administrative details in advance of your session i.e. where it will take place, cost, time constraints, cancellation policies etc. Minimising any complications ahead of time will help it to be a therapeutic, rather than anxiety-ridden experience.
  • What a girl wants: To make most effective use of your sessions, you should spend some time thinking about what you see as the ideal outcome. It will help you to have an overarching focus or theme during your sessions.  Some examples might be: ‘I want to feel more confident in social situations’ or ‘I want to learn to recognise toxic people around me’.
  • Talking therapy: It’s called talking therapy for a reason – that’s what you’re there for. Try to think of your therapist as a sounding board. They aren’t there to judge or to advise you, but to help you recognise where you are and what you’re struggling with.
  • It’s not you, it’s them: If you don’t feel comfortable with the therapist that you are allocated (if you go through your GP or a large organisation) then it is totally fine to ask to see someone else. It’s not a personal affront, it’s your preference and it is ALL ABOUT YOU.
  • A room of one’s own: Just like finding the right therapist to work with, the space in which you do it is also important. Taking the time to make the space your own should make you feel safe, as well as powerful. It might be helpful to bring some home comforts with you, such as a pair of slippers, a favourite blanket or scarf to get cosy with. If you fancy it, essential oils can be helpful for calming or energising.

 

Above all, there are no rules. Counselling is an intensely personal process that should be both challenging and supportive. It’s a self-centric, but by no means selfish endeavour. Pull up a chair and get stuck in!

Dating Manifesto

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Sweet peach!

TW: Over-generalisations left, right and centre. Boys are rubbish. Not really.

Here it is – the good, the bad and the ugly. A new and (vastly) improved dating manifesto. Disclaimer: by, to and for myself.

I solemnly swear that I will studiously avoid pursuing, fantasising about, dating or committing to the following:

  • Shitheads: non-specific, but covers the wider categories of fuckwits, dickheads, arseholes and ignoramuses.
  • Psychopaths: turn around and run. Leave no forwarding address.
  • Work colleagues: don’t shag where you eat, so to speak.
  • Spongers: Always 50/50 in relationships…
  • Narcissists: self-obsession tends to get in the way of a partnership.
  • Alcoholics: substance dependence is a sure-fire romance killer.
  • Emotional robots: Cold-fish need not apply.
  • Religious fanatics: Three’s a crowd.
  • The intellectual: Who must always be right but have nothing to say when they’re not.
  • The Meninist: Apparently some people are more equal than others…
  • Right-wingman/ Brexiteers: Or anyone, basically, who doesn’t live in the real world. May be identified by wild patriotism or Gap Yah rhetoric.

… and anyone that believes in steak and blow-job day…

So there are the no-goers. And yes, its totally fine to be decisive about what you don’t want in a potential friend/ partner/ lover/ spouse. Your emotional and physical space is sacred and shouldn’t be lightly given up. Being open to people is great but you should follow your instincts. Being closed to people who set your alarm bells ringing is no bad thing, as long as it doesn’t turn into straight up prejudice.

If you’re worried that you or a friend might be in an abusive relationship, have a look at these warning signs:

  • Big changes in habits or behaviour i.e. eating less, being late when usually punctual etc.
  • Submissiveness or seeming to lack own volition to do things – seeking approval for everything.
  • Withdrawal from socialising – being quieter, drinking more, not going out at all, being uncontactable.
  • Change in taste/ preferences to mirror new partner/ lover etc. This could indicate certain elements of brainwashing or manipulation i.e. change in clothes/ make-up/ hair
  • Mood swings – being unable to regulate mood may be due to a general sense of anxiety/ uneasiness/ sense of isolation. May also be due to the abuser poisoning the victim against family or friends.
  • Social media posts can be out of character/ extreme/ use unusual language etc. Also may be more sensitive about photos etc. going on social media.

 

But it can’t all be doom and gloom. This is a manifesto – it should be a statement of intent. So, the game plan is to work on my singles game before even attempting a double act. Two is tricky. Check out my posts on self-care if you’re struggling to be good to number one. It’s harder than it seems, especially if you’re going through a bad patch. If you want/ are ready to meet a sweet peach or several juicy nectarines, make sure you know where your limits lie – not just want you want, but what you need and cannot compromise on. Go slower even than you think you should – if they are worth their salt, they’ll be patient and give you the breathing space you need.

Maybe this manifesto should be a celebration of all the beautiful qualities that make a beautiful person. So, here’s to honesty and openness. Here’s to good communication. Here’s to making each other laugh. Here’s to generosity, kindness and considerateness. Here’s to patience. Here’s to creativity and being energised. My manifesto is an elegy to growth and mutual support.Here’s to nourishment. Good people breed good love. Here’s to all kinds of health – mental, physical, emotional. That’s a manifesto worth believing in.

Autumn is a time for eating.

Autumn is  coming, fresh and chilly. It’s time to go into hibernation, but you can’t snooze on an empty stomach. Here’s a weeks’ worth of gluttonous goodness! Get your chops round these vegan, GF beauties! They’re delicious, cheap to make and more moreish than you can possibly imagine ❤

 

The Most Velvety Butternut and Chickpea Curry Ever:

You will need:

1 butternut squash

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

1 tbsp ready grated ginger

1 large can chickpeas (drained)

Handful of cherry tomatoes

2 stock cubes

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinammon

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

Brown rice to serve

 

This is how we do:

  • Dice butternut squash (in 1 inch pieces approx)
  • Toss squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinammon in a baking tin.
  • Roast at gas mark 4 for 25 minutes or until soft
  • Meanwhile, fry off the red onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and remaining spices.
  • Add stock a bit at a time to form a thick sauce.
  • Add chickpeas.
  • When the squash is cooked add to the sauce.
  • Add water as required and simmer for around 20 minutes or until the squash begins to disintegrate a little. Or, do it to whatever consistency you like it.
  • While it’s simmering away, boil the rice.
  • Serve!

 

Ultimate Comfort Food Honey-roast Veg and Sweet Potato Mash:

(Good with some grilled halloumi, too, if you’re veggie)

You will need:

1 large red onion

1 carrot

4 cloves garlic

1/2 butternut squash/ gourd

Handful cherry tomatoes

2 courgettes

1 red, orange or yellow pepper

1 beetroot

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Salt & Pepper

Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Honey

Sweet potatoes

Vegan butter/ spread

 

This is how we do:

  • Chop all veg and place in a large baking tin or pyrex dish.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and toss with the spices.
  • Add a dash of balsamic vinegar.
  • If you’re in a hurry, roast on a medium high heat for 25 minutes, then add the honey for another 5-10 minutes.
  • OR if you’ve got all day/ are in dire need of a cup of tea then roast on a low heat for a couple of hours then turn it up for 10 minutes and add the honey for a delightful glaze.
  • Boil the sweet potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender.
  • Mash up with a little knob of vegan spread.

 

Vegetables Galore Stirfry:

You will need:

Sesame oil

Spring onions

Baby corn

Peppers

Pak choi

Sugar snap peas

Broccoli

Any other veg you fancy – try grating raw carrot on top

Rice noodles

Grated ginger

1 clove garlic

Salt & Pepper

GF soy sauce

Honey

 

This is how we do:

  • Chop the veg to bit size chunks.
  • Heat the oil.
  • Add the spring onions, garlic and ginger and fry up for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the rest of the veggies.
  • Season and add soy sauce and honey.
  • Prepare the noodles whilst the veggies cook.
  • Eat!

 

Scrumdidilumptious Lentil Dahl:

You will need:

Olive oil

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1 stock cube

Red lentils

Yellow split peas/ green lentils (optional)

Brown rice, naan bread and mango chutney to serve.

 

This is how we do:

  • Heat the oil and fry the onion with the garlic.
  • Add the spices and soften the onions on a low heat for a few minutes.
  • Add the lentils (I tend to do it by eye and make loads as it freezes well)
  • Add boiling water and simmer.
  • Keep adding water and stirring as the lentils soften.
  • Cook the rice and simmer the dahl until cooked.
  • Devour!

 

Cous-cous Stuffed Peppers:

You will need:

1 pepper per person

Maize cous-cous

Pomegrante seeds

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp harissa paste

Vegan spread

 

This is how we do:

  • Prepare the cous-cous according to the instructions.
  • Add the spices and spread and stir in while the cous cous is absorbing the water.
  • Cut the top off the peppers and de-seed.
  • Fill with the cous-cous.
  • Replace the tops of the peppers and roast for 20 minutes until soft and slightly browned on top.
  • Serve with the pomegrante seeds and any additional veg you fancy.

 

*Not technically food* Comforting Mulled Cider:

You will need:

  • 2 litres of apple cider
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 orange (quartered)
  • Honey (to taste)
  • Brown sugar (2 tbsp)
  • 2 star anise
  • 4/5 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick

 

This is how we do:

  • Put the cider in a large pan over a low heat.
  • Add the spices, orange pieces and orange juice.
  • Add the sugar and a large squidge of honey.
  • Stir and heat until the flavours have all come together and steam is rising (no need to boil)
  • Adjust the sweetness to taste.
  • Serve on cold nights!

 

Aubergine Dream Pasta:

You will need:

  • 1 aubergine
  • Olive oil
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 carton passata
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 carrot (diced up small)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 cup white wine (optional)
  • GF pasta
  • Vegan cheese (optional but opulent)

 

This is how we do:

  • Dice the aubergine and courgette.
  • Roast for 20-30 minutes.
  • While the veggies are roasting, make the sauce.
  • Fry the onion, carrot and garlic and season.
  • Add the wine gradually and allow the alcohol to evaporate off.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and passata.
  • If you want a smoother sauce you can blitz using a handblender.
  • Cook the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  • Combine the roasted veg with the sauce and serve!

 

Now, HIBERNATE!

Take care 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-care for dummies

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Taking care of your emotional well-being is the most important thing you can do. But, it’s not easy and might take a bit of getting used to if you’ve been in the habit of neglecting yourself. It’s good to build habits that will let you move forward through difficult times. The best way to go about it, in my experience, is make it an everyday habit, rather than a big blow-out. While planning a spa experience does sound lovely, it’s not necessarily practical or affordable. Little things will give you a boost and keep you buoyant.

Here are a few things you might find helpful:

  • Wash that stress out of your hair: Have a long hot bath and lather up. Add bubbles and heat your towels. Light a candle – it’s nice to feel nice.
  • That’s a mouthful: Have a little snack of whatever you fancy – a row of chocolate or a handful of nuts.
  • Brideshead Revisited: Revisit a favourite book that helps you to feel safe.
  • Savour the flavour: Make an event out of tea time – infuse a special brew in a teapot, drink out of your granny’s china, have a nice little biscuit on the side… Make it a ritual.
  • Change as good as a rest: Try walking a different way to work or order something new from the takeaway.
  • Light up: Light a candle or some incense and focus on the flame or light.
  • Clean your act up: Take care of your garments or gadgets. Take a few moments to polish and freshen up your shoes or delete some apps to make things go smoother.
  • Tiger, tiger: Try Tiger Balm for your aches and pains. Lush have a great range of massage bars that’ll do the trick, too.
  • Get it off: Switch off all your devices, it’s incredibly liberating – find a new part of town, get some undisturbed shut-eye, read the dictionary, stand on your head, or maybe get it oooon with some sweet guy or gal…
  • Present you: Future You is going to love Past You – make sure you have a nice lunch and an enchanting ensemble ready for tomorrow, set your alarm a little earlier so you can ease into the day.

 

For more ideas, have a look at my lists, 50 Things To Do On Dog Days and 50 MORE Things To Do On Dog Days

Take care!

Here’s why Freshers’ won’t be the best week of your life

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So, you did good in your exams and got into university – nice one. Now you have to continue that success by carving out a new little life for yourself, maybe away from home for the first time, maybe in another country. That’s awesome. ‘Have the time of your life!’, people will tell you, and maybe you will! But, if you’re not having the best week ever in the whole of your existence on planet earth, you’re  not alone, you’re not weird and you’re not going to feel this way forever.

Here are a few things you might experience during Freshers’ that don’t make the headlines:

  • Burnout: Your body will hate you and every human in sight. Everyone gets sick (sometimes self-inflicted, sometimes Freshers’ flu) and it spreads like wildfire in halls. Take your vitamins and Drink Aware, but read up on other illnesses such as meningitis, which can be particularly nasty.
  • Brain-ache: You won’t understand a word of your lectures/ you will immediately regret everything in your life that led you to the decision to study this crappy course. There will be a lot of reading which after week 1 you will never finish.
  • Social caterpillar: All your life’s fears of being inadequate will probably come to the fore during a conversation with someone who speaks 5 languages, plays 5 instruments and is a semi-pro golfer in their spare time. Also, they will be good looking, well-spoken and bubbly. Whatever, you managed to get out of bed today, so who’s the butterfly?
  • Ground-hog day: There’s a 98% chance that you will have the exact same conversation at least 564 times during Freshers’ Week. It will go like this: ‘Hi, I’m [insert name here]’, ‘Hi, my name’s [insert name here]. Where are you from?’, ‘[insert hometown here], you?’, ‘Oh, cool. I’m from near [insert major city here]. What are you studying?’ etc. etc. etc. and so on and so forth. Eventually the boring will filter out.
  • Under pressure: You will feel like you should be doing certain things and in a certain way. Destroy this notion. If you want to sleep, sleep. If you want to go to a museum rather than a poster sale, do it. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO DRINK ALCOHOL, DON’T. If you do things that you are comfortable with, you will meet like-minded people and make nice friends. Winner.
  • Culture shock: You will miss your family/ partners/ pets. You’ll be around unfamiliar people with unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) opinions and habits. The water will be different, the noises at night-time, the smells and sights will all be big, bright neon signs that you’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy. Don’t forget you can always click your heels and book a ticket home…

 

So, the moral of the tale is: don’t try to be anybody but yourself. You probably won’t meet your friends for life in Freshers’ Week and, if you do, they’ll understand that Freshers’ Week ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t rush – this is your grace period – use it.

Worthy days

I’m all for lazy days. There’s nothing like that cat stretch under the covers when you wake up without your alarm. It’s a beautiful feeling. But, what feels even better is having a day planned around boosting your self-worth – worth getting up for. It’s a worthwhile thing to build into your calendar, maybe as a monthly thing. You can be as flexible or religious about it as you want to be; even thinking about saving the date will give you a little boost of yes!

It doesn’t have to be an entirely solitary venture, either. Maybe get a little crew together, write letters to praise each other to high heaven. There’s nothing more powerful than a bad-ass girl gang! (And nothing as destructive as girl-on-girl ‘this bitch bites’ bullshit) Or, meet up with a friend and give a mutual pep talk – big up artistry, knowledge, cookery skills etc… You’re a talented lot, so shout about it and remind each other when it slips your mind. No need to be bashful.

Get yourself in gear with a day doing what you do best. Don’t sit on your laurels. Keep yourself on the straight and narrow in terms of creative projects; sit down with your knitting and challenge yourself to do 5 rows, 10 rows, 40 rows… Sitting down and following through with one of your plans makes for a big boost in confidence. It also takes a bit of pressure off if you are working to a deadline. But, of course, taking these days can be anything you need it to be. It could be that you decide to revisit a childhood passion and do a few lengths at the pool or read back through a scrapbook that has nice comments in. If you like to lend a hand, check in with friends that might need a boost, or do your mother’s ironing while she’s out. If you regularly give too much to people, indulge in something that you love to do alone – read a book, shop without lending anyone money, start training for a race you’ve had your eye on.

Another route you could take for those oasis days is to focus exclusively and purposefully on your mental health. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • Trigger warning: Start a trigger/ worry diary and set aside some time each day to review the points you write down.
  • Bad hair day?: Draw a self-portrait of how you are feeling. Now draw one of how you want to feel and think about the ways you could achieve that happiness.
  • Target practice: Write a list of things you want to do that scare you. Share with someone who will help facilitate/ alleviate any fears surrounding your goals.
  • Careful: Think about any self-care practices you have and how to improve them. Try asking friends about their self-care practices and maybe try out any new ones.

 

The point is, relying on anyone else for your self-worth is never going to be that effective. Also, it takes time and concentrated effort to identify and deal with low self-esteem. Reap what you sow and all that.

 

Empaths Anonymous

Every now and then, I like to read my horoscope. Whether its 4am and me and my girls are putting the world to rights, or I need some vague reassurance that I’m going in the right direction, a horoscope can be just the ticket. I don’t swear by it, I don’t obsess over it, but it gives me a buzz (or a reality check). I am, according to most definitions, a ‘typical Pisces‘, acting from intuition and sensitivity, as well as having my head in the clouds and being naturally disposed to melancholy. Empathy is another trait strongly associated with water signs, like Pisces. Astrology aside, empathy is a powerful but painful thing.

With the exception of psychopaths, we all have empathy to some degree. It’s the ability to sense and experience other people’s emotions. Some people claim to physically feel others’ pain. Being an empath means that it is a struggle to switch off from other people’s problems or hurt. Being with large groups of people can often be emotionally draining and exhausting. It’s common for highly empathetic people to also suffer with depression or anxiety. We’re not called Sensitive Souls for nothing.

Empaths especially need to have good self-care practices to help maintain healthy boundaries between themselves and others. Empathy helps to build deep bonds with other people, but it can also complicate relationships. Empaths also have the unfortunate tendency to be attracted to, or to fall into relationships with, narcissists. This can be particularly damaging as empaths are natural nurturers; narcissists will absorb this attention but rarely return the favour. Do yourself a favour and ditch Narcissus.

 

Here’s a quick 12-step plan for Empaths Anonymous:

  • Home bird: Lots of empaths are quite introverted – if this applies to you, make sure you get time on your own to recuperate and focus on your own emotions.
  • Not my stuff: Learn to separate your baggage with that of those around you. If your friend is very socially anxious, support them but do not take responsibility for them. Process your own stuff first.
  • Big, bad world: Don’t let the big bad world get you down. We’re living in a scary, depressing world. Don’t forget that the personal is political. Small actions make real impacts on others’ lives and your own.
  • Hang about: Surround yourself with a community of socially engaged, positive people. It will help you to understand your pain as well as lessen it.
  • You may confer: Ask a (more or less) impartial friend/ relative to help you assess problems – they will be able to advise you on where to draw the boundaries.
  • Hard lines: Be strict with people who tend to overstep the line or who don’t give anything back to you. It might be that they need to be unceremoniously deleted from your life or it could be that a gentle word will help the situation.
  • And… release: Maybe you need a good cry to get it all out of your system. Maybe you need an endorphin hit. Maybe you need an orgasm.
  • Suck it up: Absorb some positive energy instead. One positive of being an empath is that you can glory in other people’s joys, as well as struggle with their pain.
  • New and used: Try something different to get a new perspective on things. Get recommendations or get back to something you miss doing.
  • Hibernate: Take a sabbatical and hunker down for a while. Take some annual leave…
  • Somewhere only we know: Pit-stop somewhere familiar or that feels safe and take regular breaks during the day. Safe could be a group chat that you check into, or a cafe that you spend your special moments in.
  • Film fiend: Watch a movie marathon, remove yourself from the current/ real world.

 

Maybe the best advice is the most general: Be kind to yourself, whatever that looks like!

 

Living with eczema and anxiety

Baby, I was born this way. And, unlike a lot of people, I stayed this way, too. Eczema in babies and children is quite common, but it is thought that most people will grow out of acute or chronic eczema by the time they reach adulthood.

Apparently, my mother knew that I would be a scratcher because she was constantly itchy during her pregnancy. I’ve tried lots of lotions, potions and products since I was born with varying amounts of success. Prescription creams and bath oils made me feel greasy and dirty, but moisturising is the most important thing in managing the condition. Atopic dermatitis, as it is also known in the trade, is partially due to faster shedding skin, but also involves the skin reacting to allergens and other factors. Common allergens are dust and dairy. Eczema can often be exacerbated by over-washing or using perfumed products, or even hard water. But, one of my biggest triggers is stress – my skin is basically a big old drama queen. It likes to throw a hissy fit every time things are not going my way.

Living with eczema and anxiety side-by-side sometimes feels more like existing than living because it’s a non-stop cycle of stress causing flare-ups causing bad skin causing stress causing flare-ups and so on. It’s also an exhausting combination because both take their toll on self-confidence. Whilst anxiety is busy nibbling away at your brain telling you that you are ugly and worthless, eczema gives a helping hand by destroying your skin in a very visible way which gets reactions ranging from, ‘poor you’ to ‘is it contagious?’.

Here are a few ways I manage my eczema:

  • Nailed it: Keep your nails cut short and filed down to help keep damage to a minimum.
  • Move on: Don’t try and stick it out with a product that doesn’t do you any favours. It can be a total pain, especially if you’ve spent money on a new magic lotion and then it gives you hives.
  • Keep it clean: Wash sheets on a high temperature to kill any dusty-mitey-itchy stuff. Also, use unscented, non-bio, sensitive washing liquid or powder.
  • But not too clean: Over-washing and washing in water that is too hot can make the problem worse. Wash in warm, not scalding water and don’t sit in the bath for too long because that won’t do you any favours either.
  • Food diary: Keep a track on what you’re letting into your body – there might be some allergy issues making your skin act up. I’m a recent convert to soya milk.
  • Whatever you’re doing, stop it!: Stop scratching. Now. No, stop it. Seriously. Try patting, rubbing, gently slapping to stimulate your skin without drawing blood.
  • Take it easy: Keeping your stress levels down is key because it’s one hell of a climb back up from the bottom of that cycle.

 

Body and mind as one! Be gentle to both 🙂

 

Be a pal: How to spot depression and anxiety

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Mental illnesses are often isolating and lonely. They can make social situations difficult to navigate. Self-confidence takes a hit. Expectations of normality jump out of the window. When everything seems totally futile, why bother showering? We’re all going to die so it doesn’t matter if your bills don’t get paid, does it? These are things we are taught to notice in those around us. If one of your work colleagues starts turning up in the same, unwashed clothes, with a distinct odour of whiskey and cheese, you can probably assume something is not quite right. If your friend stops speaking for days at a time and just cries, they are probably working through some stuff. But not all signs of people struggling to cope are so clear-cut.

 

Here are a few to look out for:

  • Small time: Sometimes, when people are feeling high levels of anxiety, they lose perspective and can become fixated on small details which seem insignificant to other people. They may go over and over the same thing or talk about a topic which the conversation has moved on from.
  • Grumpy: Anger or irritability often signal someone under a lot of stress or unable to cope with the intensity of their emotions. Of course, some people are just grumpy in general, but keep an eye out if this explosiveness or intolerance is a new development. They might seem like they’ve lost their sense of humour, too.
  • Shopaholic: Feeling depressed can spark a desire to fill your life with, well, anything. A sudden urge to buy expensive knickknacks might be a sign.  Keep an eye out for anyone with a crystal pineapple – they probably need help.
  • Drink me: Alcohol and substance abuse is often part and parcel of mental illness, used to escape painful feelings. This can be difficult to spot if the person is drinking or taking drugs alone, but don’t ignore your instincts.
  • Hideout: Becoming socially withdrawn, whether refusing invitations or talking less (or less openly) than usual is common for people struggling with depression or anxiety. They can often get trapped inside their own head, which is, more often than not, their own worst enemy.
  • Sleepless nights: Depression may be a mental illness but it shows itself in many physical ways. Changes in sleeping patterns (i.e. sleeping a lot more or a lot less) and eating habits/ fluctuations in weight can suggest stress.

 

Remember panic/ anxiety attacks can manifest in lots of different ways:

  • Sieve brain: The person might be unable to retain any information; they can seem confused and inattentive.
  • Space cadet: Being totally zoned out or in their own world. Not seeming to be engaged with their surroundings.
  • Fisticuffs: Physical tension may seem like a fairly obvious example, but this can be very subtle, including jaw-clenching, teeth grinding or small repeated movements like rubbing hands together or cracking knuckles.
  • Too much: Sensory overload can be very distressing. Exposure to too many stimuli can be overwhelming – too much noise, heat or light can increase levels of anxiety.
  • Sweat, sick and tears: Sweating palms, nausea and crying are all common during panic attacks.

 

Keep an eye out. Letting someone know that you care is sometimes the only, and best, thing you can do to help!