Don’t be blue, it’s only January

Dark days, we had plenty last year, but the new year can be just as daunting. The lure of over-sleeping and over-eating can feel irresistible. Our bodies tend toward hibernation from a survival instinct, but not necessarily because this is the best thing for us or what we actually need. It’s worth taking some time to remind yourself of what makes you feel most energised and fulfilled and continuing those practices into the new year. Trying to tackle each and every of your *perceived* flaws in one of the darkest, coldest, most miserable months is unrealistic at best. Whilst it seems like a natural time to build new practices into your life, putting an unhealthy amount of emphasis on being ‘successful’ or ‘achieving’ is unlikely to bring balance. It’s more likely to bring anxiety and feelings of unworthiness.

Here are a few suggestions for an energising new year:

  • Birthday bonanza: Celebrate someone’s birthday. Make a cake for your dog, organise a lovely meal for a friend or perform an act of homage to a hero with a January birthday.

 

  • Spice of life: January can be quite a stagnant month but you can try some new flavour combinations to keep things spicy. Maybe find a dish that uses something different like star anise or cardamom pods. (Try these cardamom biscuits)

 

  •  That’s life: Look after something living, whether its borrowing a pup or cultivating a windowsill herb-box – nourish and flourish is the way forward.

 

  • Reflect not ruminate: Remember the good things of the past year, reflect on where you have been strong but don’t give an unnecessary amount of time to thinking over the bad stuff. Focus forward.

 

  • Evolution/ revolution:  Making over the make-over – stick your head in your wardrobe and recycle anything that doesn’t make you tingle! Try something new like a bow-tie, or refresh an old favourite with tie-dye or a fresh ribbon. There’s not much that ribbons can’t solve…
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Fun and fancy for free

foundpoem

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

freshersflu1

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.

How to ward off a panic attack (at work)

Sometimes, a panic attack will overwhelm you before you can do much about it, but sometimes, when you recognise the signs, it’s easier to get a handle on it.

Here are some simple tricks that you can do discreetly if you are at work or school:

  • Plug the hole: Try ear-plugs to distance yourself from any overwhelming distractions.

 

  • Block it out: Try thinking about or focusing on block colours. It could be looking out at a field, or zooming in on your nail varnish, or socks. Anything that is easy to look at for a prolonged period. Meditate on that colour. Design a garment using block colours.

 

  • Hot flush: Change your environment to regulate or alter your temperature. Sometimes panic causes you to become overly warm and fresh air might help you to stay on an even keel. Otherwise, keeping nice and toasty can help to relax the body so keep a wheat bag or hot water bottle handy.

 

  • Tell me about it: Share how you are feeling with a trusted friend or colleague. That way, you relieve the pressure of having to explain if the attack does come on. Consider having a red card or a symbol which signifies that you are on the edge of an attack. Words are hard. Take away the necessity of using them.

 

  • Stop!: Take a few moments to stop/refresh/restart/collect. Don’t force yourself to just keep going if you know you are not going to do something as you would like. Remove yourself from the equation for a moment. Go to the toilet and take the time to re-tie your shoelaces, stretch, pray, doodle a daisy… Deliberately take that time as a break from working and be present in your rest period.

 

If issues at work are seriously affecting your health, speak to your line manager, or, if you feel unable, approach your union to discuss these matters. Mental health matters – don’t ignore it!

 

I could stop here, but I’ll go on…

Last week I got my second tattoo and I love it. The whole idea behind this one is to get people talking and I want to talk about it. I am now part of a growing movement called Project Semi-colon, the aim of which is to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and to prevent suicide. It’s a movement to inspire, encourage and start a conversation about those unspoken things that are killing people.

My tattoo is a smile during my day, it’s a reminder of the strength which I’ve shown time and time again. My tattoo is a symbol of solidarity to all those who struggle every day, whether because of depression, self-harm, addiction etc. My tattoo says I choose life. My tattoo says that I am not worthless, or inadequate. The pause represented by a semi-colon is permission to take some time for myself when I need it. It shows me I am human and that, more than anything, I have a choice to be alive and to live rather than just exist.

The semi-colon is a break and a continuation; it is a triumph. The tattoo just reminds me that I am also a triumph every single day that I wake up. Depression is a killer and it is cruel, but I chose to go on, and that’s something worth shouting about.