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.

5 Ways to: Find Your Creative Spark

I feel it makes the most sense to debut this blog with this ‘5 ways to approach’, because the blog itself wouldn’t exist without it. This approach is by no means the holy grail to achieve this, but the steps below are a true reflection of my journey, getting to this point of putting my thoughts and ideas out there and awakening my creativity.

It is undeniable that this generation admires creativity and art. We long for good aesthetics and meaningful words and to be honest, why wouldn’t we? It is a natural human instinct to be drawn to things that are pleasant to the eye and mind. And so we follow artist, bloggers, influencers, musicians, and that is our gateway to a sense of serenity, to an idealistic reality.

Though it may sound like I’m being a little pessimistic, I’m really not. I actually think this escape is a beautiful thing. It provides hope in dark times, it motivates and sparks the imagination, and I would argue that in many circumstances it keeps us sane. How many of you really needed to cry so you put on a sad song by someone like Lewis Capaldi or Coldplay and poured your heart out into a pillow? How many of you follow pages dedicated to inspirational quotes and poetry to keep you going on a bad day? How many of you follow Instagram blog accounts that nail the concept of aesthetic and portray a perfect version of life? My point is, this stuff is in everyday life and boy do we need it.

One thing that remains prominent to me about this creative world, is that we all aspire to be a part of it. It is made to look so inviting and effortless. Inviting it may be, but effortless not so much. It is not always as attainable as it seems. We might begin to think that we are not all naturally gifted with a creative mind or that we don’t always know how to express it. I am one of these people, and to be honest if you were to ask me which one, I’d say I have no idea. Sometimes I burst with creative ideas, but it overwhelms me and I don’t know where to take them. Its that whole concept of all the gear but no idea. That eventually leads to overthinking the ideas, so much so that I doubt them. I doubt their inventiveness and originality. Eventually, I’m sat there thinking, Is my mind creative at all?  

This is a topic so close to me because it is a personal daily struggle of mine and has been for so many years. It is equally a controversial topic. Should we be so heavily influenced by this false sense of reality? Should we be trying so desperately to be a part of it? I’ll be the first to say I absolutely wish I were able to consistently capture beautiful photos, have a captivating way with words and I look up to the people succeeding at it. Is this always good? Absolutely not. Why? Because to constantly compare your work to that of someone else will unavoidably be detrimental to your confidence in your own work, especially if you’re just starting out. Can it be a good thing? Absolutely. Every writer or musician or artist was inspired by the work of others and sometimes in the most unexpected ways. For example, Banksy’s art is often inspired by the controversial world of politics. Without it, would Devolved Parliament exist? Most definitely not.

Without the influences we have in the world, we would have nothing to take inspiration from and everybody needs a little inspiration, whether that be to persevere with everyday life or build your very own creative outlet. I’m aware that not everyone strives to develop their creativity but for me, it has played an integral part in staying sane during a global pandemic. As someone who enjoys socialising with friends to keep busy, I struggled to know what to do with myself when it was taken away. That is when I realised the importance of having a creative hobby for me and for my mind, even if it was something that didn’t come naturally to me. I started to properly invest my extra time into coming up with blog ideas and photos to go with them. I explored logo designs and colour schemes to create a personalised aesthetic that I feel fits my concept. The truth is, we are all creative or have the capability to be. It is just a matter of changing your perspective.

Here are just a few ways I found my creative spark:

  1. Allow yourself to be inspired

One of the main struggles I had when starting this blog was trying to be original. I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to write about things that everyone else writes about. As a result, I found myself reading other blogs to find out what had been done and what to avoid rather than taking inspiration from it. Eventually I found myself trying to force a niche that I didn’t really care for.

It is natural to want your idea to be innovative and unique, but it is important to realise that someone having the same interest as you doesn’t make your interest worth any less. Choosing how you express it is where the opportunity comes to explore your creative side. You wouldn’t stop loving your favourite band because so many others love that same band. Use the same mindset to start this process.

If you have a genuine interest in health and fitness, write about health and fitness and enjoy it. If you love fashion, start your own fashion magazine, and thrive. Yes, so many have already sparked a conversation in these areas. But think of it less as being competition and more as a collection of works to be inspired by. This way, you’ll feel less pressure and in turn have a lot more fun doing it.

2. Find your passions and run with it

Before starting this blog, I of course googled tips and advice for starting one. One of the main tips that stuck out to me was ‘find your passion’ or ‘write about something your passionate about.’ My issue with this was that writing is my passion, hence the blog. I thought to myself, ‘now what to write about? I can’t just write about writing and to be honest I don’t want to.’  That’s where I hit the creative wall and had a mini meltdown.

It hit home for me that I don’t have many passions so to speak. Not when you look at the word passion for what it actually means. I can’t lie and say I have a strong enough and incontrollable emotion towards fashion or food or health to make one of them the singular topic of my blog  but I certainly have an interest in all of those things and so I want to write about them all.

And so, initially the word passion made me feel limited in what I could write about. Now I’m starting to realise that the blog itself showcases my passion, but my interests are what shapes it and there is no limit to that. That is the beauty of having a creative outlet. It allows you to follow your passion, whether that be photography, or art and so on. But, equally as important, it allows you to portray your interests.

So just take note that your passion doesn’t always have to be the be all and end all your creations. For me, its my interest that will shape my content. My passion is the way I choose to express them. For others it may be different. No two creative outlets are the same.

3. Trial and Error

In the process of my slight mental breakdown during the UK lockdown period, I realised a hobby was what I needed to keep me motivated. A creative hobby to keep my mind occupied.

I’m the type of girl who enjoys seeing my friends, going to events and nights out. That was my hobby. That was my outlet. Under the circumstances, all those privileges were suddenly taken away and in turn I completely lost my sense of self and routine.

I lived in a house full of creative minds invested in arts and music and fabrics and quickly realised that they all still had what I didn’t. This absolutely terrified me. In a frenzy, I found myself panic looking for a hobby, looking for my creative spark.

This process was genuinely traumatising for me. I tried drawing, and although it calmed me down it bored the hell out of me, I tried candle making which was great fun but became repetitive rather quickly. I tried reigniting my interest in music and failed terribly due to lack of confidence. Long story short, it took me seven months to find my creative hobby. To find this blog.

My point is trial and error is your best bet at finding what works for you and what you enjoy doing the most. Don’t see it as a failure when you absolutely hate something you’ve tried. See it as trying something new and learning more about yourself and what stimulates your mind.

4. Enjoy what you are doing

I cannot stress enough the importance of enjoying what you are doing. I took so long to pluck up the courage and launch this whole thing because I was so scared of not giving any potential readers what they want.

I was and still am worried that the things I write about wont spark joy or interest in everyone. Although it still scares me, I’m conscious that it is impossible to impress or tailor to absolutely everyone.  For example, I know I won’t write on the topic of knitting or cars because I don’t care for those subjects, and so people who have an interest in those things probably won’t be intrigued by my words. And that is okay.

There are plenty of other things that I enjoy writing about that will interest someone else somewhere. And that is a key reason why I am keen not to limit what I talk about on this platform to one thing. Why limit the subjects I write about if they all spark joy for me?

If it doesn’t bring you joy or excite you, your spark will inevitably go out.

5. Be confident

Yes, it is the most cliché tip of them all and one that is always easier said than done but it is so important. If you lack confidence in your creativity you will subconsciously limit it. The beauty of creativity is it should have no limits, it is a way to reflect your interests and explore them in the ways you enjoy most.

If you’re feeling a little sad and you want to draw an something that reflects that, you should do it with confidence. If you want to vent about something in a post that happened that day, you should go ahead and do that with confidence. If you want to post a really extra posey Instagram of yourself then do it with confidence. Don’t let the fear of exposing yourself too much get in the way of that.

So long as doing it is going to lift a weight off you and/or contribute to making you happy then do it with confidence. It is helpful to remember that our best work is often a reflection of our emotions.

I’m posting this because 2020 has been a difficult time for all of us in so many ways. But, if there is anything I have learnt from it, it is that we should all learn to enjoy our own company, make time for a creative outlet and develop ourselves in the process.