Trying Something New

It is no secret that 2020 was an abysmal year all together. Covid-19 happened, and all our worlds stopped turning. Though, we are making progress with new vaccines being rolled out to our most vulnerable and front-line workers, life is still vastly different. Normal doesn’t really exist anymore, and it hasn’t done for a while. Were having to take every precaution and limit our social lives.

However, despite how awful it has been, I am grateful for the year we’ve just had, because it has opened my eyes like no other. For the last few years, I have struggled more and more with my mental health, mainly with anxiety, self-love, and motivation, which noticeably worsened during the pandemic. For the most part of those years, I wasted my time not doing anything about it and now I realise the impact of that. Before 2020, I had always been in a position where I could distract myself by seeing friends, going for drinks, just being a sociable young adult, I suppose. As a result, my mental health was spiralling, and I was completely oblivious to how bad it was.

So yes, 2020 has been the most difficult year of some of our lives, mine included, but it has also made me aware of where I am going wrong. It has pushed me to realise that you can’t just push your insecurities, darkest fears and so on to the back of your mind, because it will ultimately manifest itself and cause you more detriment in the long run. You never know what can happen. For instance, the whole world could be put on hold and all your distractions could be stripped away in a blink of an eye.That is what happened to me and I’m sure so many others too.

With that in mind, I have set myself some goals for 2021 to improve my overall perception of myself and my outlook on life. I guess you could call them resolutions, I just prefer the term goals (mainly because I have never stuck to a new year’s resolution in my life.) These are just small changes/additions to my day-to-day life but hopefully they’ll have a huge impact on my happiness.

The first one of these being…

Journaling:

Now, journaling may seem like the easiest thing to just start doing, but let me tell you… I have tried time and time again to start journaling consistently and it never goes to plan. It sounds crazy but I wound up putting so much pressure on myself to write an entry everyday that it becomes a chore. Though I know I never needed to write an entry every day because it was only ever going to be for me, my head said otherwise. So, to solve that problem, I have decided that my journal for 2021 is an ‘as and when journal’ which means I don’t have to write in it every day. I can pick and choose when I feel the need to make a note whether that be to vent, to remember a great day or just to spill my emotions out on a page frantically.

In all honesty, I thought I would end up sacking it off but were currently ten days into 2021 and so far, so good! Now I’ve got it out of my head that it needs to be consistent, I am thriving. I think one of the main reasons I enjoy it so much is because I look forward to reading it back (and hopefully be able to see my progress within it.) I like that I can look back in ten, even five years’ time and reminisce on my life and all the ups and downs that come with it. I guess you could say I see it as my own little auto biography and who doesn’t want that.

If you feel like you need a safe space that remains private and personal, a journal can be that place. I would highly recommend this as release of any internal stress’ or worries.

Meditation:

Again, meditating is something I have struggled to get on board with. Despite being told by friends and even doctors that it is so beneficial for the mind, I am just a very impatient person and I find it to be too slow paced for me. It sounds shallow but I just get bored and switch off.

However, when you think about it logically, meditation is literally there to take a time out and slow down. It is something that I struggle to do but I realise that it is necessary. Due to my anxiety, I am in constant need of a distraction to feel good, but I know that is no healthy way to live. So, I’m giving it another go. I’ve set myself a goal of meditating at least two times a week. I know this isn’t much, but if you’re a beginner I think it is more than enough to start with.

I do still have my days where my mind won’t allow me to shut off, but when it does, I do feel so much calmer both physically and mentally. The tension leaves my body (even if it is for a few minutes) and my thoughts seem clearer.

If this is something you haven’t tried, I do think it is worth having a go. Maybe you have tried it, but it doesn’t seem to work. To that I would say be persistent. I am still trying to be better with it myself. All I know, is that it’s a great way to train your mind to rest when it is very much needed.

Year in pixels:

This is such a small thing that I’m planning to do daily throughout this year. It requires no effort at all, but I feel it would be rewarding/interesting to look back on at the end of 2021. Before I go on to explain what my year in pixels is, I do just want to say… I have completely nabbed this idea from one of my best friends who did it last year. I know that she really enjoyed doing it and i wanted to give it a go myself.

Essentially, this is graph of everyday of the year with boxes I can colour in with a key for each colour. For example, my green boxes represent my stressed days, and my purple boxes represent my normal days. This is proving more difficult to explain than I thought, but that is okay because I have added a picture below of mine so far.  

The reason I wanted to do this is because it is not only interesting to look back on, but it will also hopefully put things into perspective by the end of the year. If my completed graph shows me that I have way more good/normal days than bad (which I already know is likely), I think that will do wonders for my mindset, just to know that the positives outweigh the negatives…you know. I think it’ll be a great way to work on my gratitude.

If this is something you want to try, all you need is a notebook/bit of paper, some coloured pens, or pencils and that is literally all.

As I said at the beginning of this post, these are just small additions to my routine that will hopefully improve my mindset. Whether it will work or not is a different story, but i am feeling positive about it. Trial and error is still progress and progress is better than nothing at all.

If you have any tips to kick start the year right do comment below. I hope you have an amazing 2021!

Let’s Talk Anxiety

I guess you could say this is me introducing the deeper aspect of this blog. It is where I take a bit of time to focus a little less on my exterior and more on what goes on inside. I must admit, I debated back and forth in my mind on whether I would ever lay it all bare on this blog , let alone in one of my first few posts – but, I think it is important that we strip it all back sometimes and focus a bit more on what goes on inside of the mind. After all, it plays a pivotal part in who we are, even more so than what we wear or what interests us.

There were a couple of things that pushed me to talk about this in more depth. The most prominent being the year 2020 as a whole. Let’s be honest, it’s not been great and that’s an understatement to say the least. For me, personally, it’s been a year of internal conflicts and challenges and that is predominantly because of anxiety. I won’t for a second sit here and say that I’ve experienced the worst of it or that I know all there is to know about it. That is because I am aware that I don’t know the half of it, and I never will. The reality is, no two minds are the same and we can’t read what one another are thinking or feeling. That isn’t to say that I haven’t had my own struggles with it though, and that has most definitely been heightened by the chaos we’re all experiencing in this world.

This year has enforced a lot of abrupt changes to all our lives in one way or another. I would like to take a minute to say that the effect it has had on me does not compare to the effect it has had on those who have lost loved ones or experienced life changing medical complications due to Covid-19, and my heart goes out to those in that position.

I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been a struggle for me, by far mentally more than any other way. I’m certain that I am not the only one in this boat and so I thought it would be worth talking about, even if it only comforts one person reading this.

Another thing that really pushed me to post this was something that a friend of mine told me. She had mentioned that someone said to her, “Your generation is too needy.” And this has really stuck with me. I wish I could say it took me by surprise, but it didn’t. That is where the problem starts. I’m no stranger to seeing people mock this generation for being ‘too anxious’ or ‘too weak’ or ‘too needy.’ Until we lose this attitude altogether, we will never get rid of the stigma around mental health. It is one thing to be so wrapped up in your own mind that it can sometimes seem like it is taking over, so to have that paired with the judgment of others takes it to a whole new level of difficulty.

I think it is so necessary to discuss topics like this and I want it to play a pivotal part in my blog just as much as the things I enjoy, maybe even more so. I’ve learnt to accept that being an anxious person is a part of my character and the purpose of this blog is to be a reflection of that – it is no bad thing and nothing to be ashamed of. And so, I think it is only right that I include all the raw parts amongst the fun and light-heartedness.

The purpose of this post is not to advise on how to deal with anxiety because in all honesty, I wouldn’t know how to, and I am not a professional by any means. I know how difficult it is to take any advice on this subject when you’re in the thick of it. I’ll be the first to say that when I’m experiencing an overwhelming feeling of anxiety, all the methods that I’ve tried to instill in myself go out of the window. In spite of this, I do want to share a few of the ways that have worked for me. I do want to preface this by saying that these do not always work in the moment, but when they do it really makes a difference for me and can hopefully make a difference for others too.

Here are some of the ways I calm my anxiety…

Headphones:

For me, listening to or watching something through headphones can be extremely useful if I’m trying to divert my mind away from negative thoughts. It is taking the classic ‘find a distraction’ method that little step further in my opinion.

When I first started to experience bad anxiety, I tried to find a distraction by sticking something enjoyable and easy to follow on the tv, but this didn’t really work for me. I could still feel the presence of impending silence daunting me when that particular show or video was coming to an end, so much so that I would put all of my thought into how long was left of the thing I was watching and not enjoy it at all. If anything, I would say this heightened the negative feelings in my experience.

So, I started to listen to podcasts instead of watching videos and I started to do this with my earphones/headphones in instead of out loud. I know it sounds like such an insignificant transition, but it was a game changer for me. Instead of checking how long was left of what I was watching every ten seconds I just listened, lying in bed scrolling through my phone and sometimes just with my eyes closed. I think trying to focus on watching and listening and diverting my negative thoughts all at the same time was quite an overwhelming task. Even though all I did was cut out one of those focuses, it took away the pressure to calm down, and in turn it started to happen with a lot more ease.

It sounds a little ridiculous when I type it out, but I also view my earphones as a bubble. A bubble that both literally and metaphorically blocks out silence. Picturing it this way is essential for me because silence is my worst enemy. I associate silence with having too much alone time with my brain and that is when I start to think up all the worst-case scenarios that could possibly take place.

Focusing on a Hobby or Project:

Purchased from https://www.amazon.co.uk/

Since entering my teen years I’ve not been that into immersing myself in new projects or hobbies. As I briefly mentioned in my first post, reigniting my interest in writing and creating this blog has been the pivotal part in the improvement of my motivation levels and my anxiety. This is because it allows me to focus and write about the things I enjoy, but it also allows me to vent if needs be.

Although this blog seems to be the most enjoyable and distracting project for me, there are plenty of other things I’ve given a go that do not require so much commitment. Sometimes you just want to try something different that doesn’t need too much effort and that is ok!

One of the things I found to be super easy and fun to try was candle making. My partner, being the thoughtful soul he is, knew that I needed a new hobby and so he got me a candle making kit with everything you could ever need to give it a good go. The kit comes with the wax, scents, containers, wicks and more. It also comes with a manual to guide you through the process but it’s so easy to grasp that once you’ve done it once you probably won’t need to refer to the manual again.

I must admit, when my partner first gifted me the set, I was a little underwhelmed and saw it to be too much effort, but I eventually gave it a go, picked it up very quickly and happened to enjoy it a lot. I have since made so many cute candles for my family and friends.

I know it’s a niche thing and some people may find it more enjoyable than others, but this is a great easy to follow activity that can be done alone or in the company of others. On top of that, there is a usable finished product at the end of it! I would highly recommend!

Walking:

Walking has always been something that I have enjoyed. If it is not a steep uphill journey I’m down for the adventure. I think the reason it works so well for me is because I love creating scenarios in my head and acting them out. I guess you could say it is thinking out loud because I will genuinely have a conversation with myself whilst walking up the street. Yes, it may make me look a bit mad, but it is the best way for me to see my thoughts for what they are and understand them a little bit better. You know that feeling you get, like you’re about to explode because your mind is so cramped up with blurred thoughts and concerns? Well when I say them out loud, I can almost visualise them leaving my mind and giving me more space to process them in a calm manner. I would argue that this is the only method out of the ones listed here that works for me every time. It is just a case of taking the time for myself to go on that walk.

I’m also a firm believer in having specific places that bring you comfort or peace when you’re feeling overwhelmed and for me, these are all outside of the home, the primary one being the beach. There is something about walking beside the sea or just being near the sea that puts me at ease almost instantly. It brings me joy and serenity and I think that is because it makes me feel like I can let go of all my worries. I guess that’s because the sea is something that I’ve always been able to associate with good memories in my life.  

I’m lucky enough that I live somewhere which has beautiful scenic places to visit or walk to, and so I find myself doing this a lot. Not only am I taking time to really listen to and control my thoughts, I’m also getting outside and doing something productive at the same time. It is just really refreshing and definitely worth giving a go if you’re in a limbo of feeling trapped in your head.

CBD:

Maybe it is just me, but I feel like CBD goes under the radar a bit. I personally knew absolutely nothing about CBD up until 6 months ago, but since my discovery of it, it has changed my life for the better.

I won’t babble on and pretend that I know the science behind it or why it works, but I will take a minute to give credit where it is due and talk about how much it has helped me. CBD has helped me in so many different aspects of my life and I’m still in awe at how multipurpose it can be.

For instance, I think it is fair to say that the main reason I use it is because it takes the edge off and makes me feel a whole lot more relaxed. I needed this because I went through a stage of my body being in constant hypertension mode, to the point where my muscles ached all the time and my body felt drained constantly. Not only does CBD ease the tension in my body but it also acts as a great pain relief. I experienced a lot of back, shoulder and neck pain as a result of muscle tension and stress and CBD worked really well for that aspect of things in my experience.

I have found that above all these things, the most significantly improved part of my life due to CBD has to be my sleep. I went through a long phase of sleep deprivation and fatigue because my mind would not rest, and my heart always felt like it was racing so fast before bed. As we all know lack of sleep only heightens feelings of anxiety, so I found myself going in circles until I tried CBD. It by no means takes away my negative thoughts but it does calm the overwhelming sensations in my body that comes with them, and in turn allows me to fall asleep a lot easier. I now have a rice grains worth of CBD almost every night before bed and it has improved my quality of sleep and life tremendously.

These are just some of the things that have helped me get to a better place when it comes to managing my anxiety. It has been a full-on process that I would not have been able to begin if I weren’t surrounded by people who are willing to have open conversations about mental health. I really want this post and this blog to spark that conversation amongst others who may need it. With that being said, it is important to reiterate that no two people will experience anxiety in the same way, and so the methods that I use may not work for someone else. Even if the methods mentioned are not necessarily beneficial to you, my hope is that the transparency of this post will be.