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.

 

Fun and fancy for free

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They say the best things in life are free and I wholeheartedly agree (with the exception of buying dresses, of course). A person can’t live on dresses alone and nor should they try! Since wages aren’t what they should be and, anyway, Money Makes You Mean, here’s a list of shenanigans that won’t cost the earth (or even an island). Some of them cost nothing at all. Imagine that.

 

  • If you’ve got it, flaunt it: Use that gym membership that is totally neglected, delve deep into the recesses of Netflix, wiggle to your premium Spotify and enjoy your ad-free fantasy world (damn you). Read an entire book of poems that you haven’t picked up yet. Just an idea.
  • Stroke an ego: Maybe your own, but not necessarily. You could beat down a friend’s door with flowers and serenade them in a creepy Ginny Weasley’s cupid kind of way.
  • Deal with it: Crack out a pack of cards or a chessboard and make a move.
  • Booked up: Raid a library, whether a public one or a friend’s. Get stuck in. Reading can sometimes feel daunting if you’re out of the habit so start light – maybe don’t go straight for War & Peace… try one of the Very Short Introduction series by Oxford University Press, maybe. Or Mills and Boon.
  • Dirty Dancing: Learn an iconic dance routine. Become Kevin Bacon. Or leap into Jennifer Beals‘ dancing shoes.
  • Creative cooking: Dig out everything in your cupboards and create something from what’s in there. Things might get interesting…
  • Snuggle ‘n’ snacks: Is there anything better than a cosy cutch and some first-rate munchies. The correct response is no.
  • Water baby: Go for a muddy walk and splash in a puddle. Put a watering can out in the rain. Steam your face. Try watersports…
  • Found you: Grab some free magazines, chop them up and make found poems with the headlines (see main picture for ‘Here’s one I made earlier…).
  • Beauty queen: Go through your beauty supplies and spend some time experimenting. Try some basic nail art or play around with a shade of lipstick you never use. Try repurposing it as a blush stick. Try something a little different, or get ready for halloween… Youtube is your friend.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

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.

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!

Bored games?

Hi, I’m Katherine and I’m a board game addict… This is my story:

I love board games in all shapes and sizes. I especially love them when I’m good at them, but most members of my family are irritating mines of information (the usefulness of said information depends on the question…). I love the connections we can build with board games and, through them, with our friends and family. We all have that one person who gets your obscure reference that wins the open round on Articulate. And that pair who has to get separated because their level of miming telepathy is just plain cheating. Maybe, like me, you have a parent that played chess with a 3-piece handicap and still won (we don’t play chess anymore…). When something gets broken, accusations usually take the form of, ‘it was you, in the kitchen, with your mother’s best jug’ or something along those lines. I love Cluedo, but not in real-life. Yeah, you just try and prove I did it… where’s the evidence?! Sign the ‘fession!

It was a sad day in our household when we had to get rid of the interactive Star Trek Klingon game because we didn’t have a VHS player anymore. And the dinosaur bones game that’s pieces got broken. Nostalgia overload… I remember games that I didn’t actually know the name of so I just renamed. (‘Mummy, can we play the Goose game?’) I still don’t know the actual name for some of them or, now that I think of it, where on earth Mouse-trap got to…

Then there’s the classic, home-wrecker, rage-inducing Monopoly which brings out the worst in most people. Myself most definitely included. I tend to buy anything and everything then refuse to do any deals just to piss the other players off. It usually just leads to a stalemate and a tantrum. And that’s just my brother. Personally, I can sulk for days.

But, there’s very little point in crying over spilt Scrabble tiles. Pick up an X, Y or Z and triple it! I’ve heard Trivial Pursuit is quite civilised, too, but I find it quite trivial for my tastes. If you’re feeling particularly loquacious, Boggle is a mind-boggler for sure, and Bananagrams teaches you a thing or two about how to invent words when you have 5 E’s and no consonants.

At the other end of the spectrum, Cards Against Humanity is pure filth and goes excellently with an accompaniment of alcohol, if you’re into that. Not necessarily for family occasions, but you never know what grandma might find disturbing yet oddly charming…

It doesn’t have to be a rainy winter day to play board games galore! Crack out a pack of cards after dinner, use food as bets in Pontoon, play Strip Poker with your lover, get your Ticket To Ride and bring Backgammon back. Alternatively, use counters, tiles, cards and dice to make greetings cards or jewellery or maracas. Whatever.

 

Remember, kids, a board game is for life, not just for Christmas.

Power of one: Snakes and Ladders

Imagine you’re playing Snakes and Ladders. Think of that big, fat snake that trips you up and sends you tumbling back down to square one. It’s a good way to think of those big mishaps that sometimes happen. You don’t get knocked right off the board, you don’t lose outright – you start again and build from the bottom up. Maybe you need to think of that snake doing you a favour by showing you how unsteady your stance was, or how your foundations weren’t as solid as you thought.

 

So, roll snake eyes and get your fangs into this advice:

 

  • Ladders: Gather your materials – it could be books, blogs, burritos, badminton rackets, bananagrams or bunting – whatever will get you going again.

 

  • Circle of love: Next, gather your people, your puppies, your pals. Reach out – when you’re in the quick-sand, you’re going to need a hand.

 

  • Timing is everything: When you get a cut, it might scab over quickly, but the real healing takes time. If you try to pick the scab off too early, you’re only going to make it scar so be patient, with your soul and mind as well as your body.

 

  • Professional approach: Everyone needs a sounding board now and again. Make sure it is someone neutral like a counsellor or doctor who will allow you to make your own choices without a vested interest.

 

  • Retrace your steps: Pick up where you left off before whatever happened, happened. You were you then and you are allowed to be you again. No fear, dear.

 

  • Experience is ammunition: Life happens to everyone. Don’t feel bad about it, but if it made you feel bad, don’t do it again.

 

  • Batten down the hatches: There’s a storm out there, don’t let it in your teacup. Let the outside world look after itself for a change. Cover your portholes and have an internal dialogue. Check in with yourself! How you doin’?

 

  • It’s your party: Let me reiterate – this is about you. You wouldn’t tell someone else that they were a worthless, disgusting, ugly waste of space, would you? Big up your sweet self and stop being a nasty pasty about little old you.

 

  • What am I missing?: Whatever your snake is/ was, remember it was doing you a favour. So, if you were putting yourself in a bad situation, think about why you were doing it? What did you think you needed out of it? You can fulfil any bits and pieces you were longing for…

 

May your ladders always lead you higher, and may your eyes be opened to the snakes in the undergrowth! The only way is up!

 

Need a leg-up?