Feeling Frail, Being Strong

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Strength is a funny thing really when we think about it. It’s characterised as something physical: cartoon strongmen, huge muscles, Arnold Schwarzenegger. At a base level it’s portrayed as something that is overarchingly associated with exercise, of exerting ourselves in a physical manner or by having the stamina to endure a long period of exercise. Being mentally strong is rarely associated with the definition, though really the two go hand in hand.

 

A year ago I would never have considered myself a strong person. I could barely do a push up and got stitch from a couple of crunches. I had never been into exercise that made you puff or sweat and when I did have spells of wanting to shape up I’d give up on my first session because it hurt too much. I’d come back feeling shit and defeated and thinking that I was just a useless weakling. In reality it wasn’t my body that was out of shape but my mind.

In September last year I decided to kick the habit of quitting on exercise and just go for it. I committed to doing 15 to 20 minutes a day first thing in the morning and I started getting into it. Whenever I got uncomfortably hot or achy I would make myself push though it because I was determined not to quit and to reap the benefits. Soon I was getting through the workout without needing to skip moves or have a break. Not only was my body becoming stronger, but my mind was too. I was achieving fitness goals because my mind was telling me to go for it and was motivating me to exercise. Pulling myself out of bed every morning when it was still dark outside and freezing in my student house required willpower. And I did it.

Overcoming by biggest hurdle in my first task of the day made it a lot easier to apply myself to tasks that required less willpower. Working for eight hours in the library came easier as I am naturally driven to work hard on academic things and I felt energised and raring to go. Eating healthy and avoiding temptation was easier because I was now aware of how good my body could and should feel. Getting over that big mental barrier let everything else fit into place.

There have been times this year where I’ve felt mentally weak though. Where the hurdles are just too high. For example I really hated semester two at university this year. I was uninspired by all of my courses and hated my timetable. To make matters worse I really didn’t like my living situation which meant I never really had a break from unpleasantness. It was like living in purgatory. I felt very ostracised in my house and that there was one rule for me and another for anyone else. It got so bad some days that I couldn’t physically get out of my room. I was scared to just make the small trip to the kitchen or toilet in case I got a gruff “hi” or a confrontation. I hate confrontation and I think this made matters worse as I struggled to defend myself when someone wanted to have a go. I wanted to drop out so many times. I would phone up home crying and screaming I was so miserable. It’s times like that that we feel incredibly weak because we aren’t coping or things aren’t going our way. But it’s how we deal with the situation that shows our strength.

My tactic? I endured. It was painful and pure hell but I wouldn’t let them make me quit. I let snide comments and hypocrisy slide and just rode it out. I spent time round the houses of supportive friends and watched Brooklyn nine nine endlessly. I may not have felt strong because I couldn’t confront but in reality I was being strong. Strength isn’t about how much weight you can throw around but how much we can endure and cope with. If you can dig deep in times of hardship and keep going then you are stronger than you think.

 

I think strength comes from our weakest moments. The moments when we want to throw in the towel or the demons in our head start to speak up. By turning away from them we fight on and that’s where strength is harvested.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

Love

Stella

xxx

 

 

Lessons learned from never being the “pretty, skinny” one

Body hang ups. We all have them. There’s always someone prettier than us and unfortunately in our cliquey society of secondary school and the world of US teen dramas we learn to associate “attractiveness” with popularity and the ability to be in a relationship. So those who aren’t popular or who are single are made to think that they aren’t attractive or desirable, which  is a load of bullshit.Beauty is not scalar. This is definitely what I felt like when I was at secondary school. I was a little tubby tomboy with androgynous fashion sense and a lack of interest in girly things and was more inclined to have an extra twenty minutes in bed than bother with make up or interesting hair styles. I was happy being different, but in an all-girls school that is the devil word. I never fitted in there and was picked on for my appearance and lack of interest for the “in” things.From a young age I associated likeability with looks, after all the prettiest girls in the school were all popular. I had relatively no friends. Did that mean I was a freak?

Of course not. Yet despite leaving in 2012, I’m still rewriting the rules of beauty in my head. I like myself a lot more now, after finding friends who have taught me that in this make up of cells there is something to love. But it hasn’t been easy. Here’s what I’ve learnt from never feeling like the “skinny”, “pretty” one.

 

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Food is a passion of yours and will  always be a comfort to you. That’s not a bad thing. In fact you’ll find out at university that everyone has a similar relationship with food and you don’t have a scary obsession.Cooking is a hobby and something you happily pour your heart and soul into.  They’ll always be certain foods that will bring you comfort like nothing else, like marmite on toast or bangers and mash. And sometimes you’ll want to over indulge and that’s 100% OK. Have that piece of cake.A few treats here and there won’t dramatically alter your waistline.  Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just don’t waste your indulgences on mindlessly eating crap you’re not that bothered about.

 

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There is not one stock look that is beautiful. You may  convince yourself that there is from looking at celebrities and models in magazines, but that’s only what society deems “beautiful” and that’s be honest it’s such a narrow box that only a small number will fit in it. It doesn’t mean the rest are ugly. When you’re at university you’ll realise how broad the spectrum is and when you’re twenty you’ll finally start to realise that you are pretty in your own way. You don’t have to be stick thin or blonde or have huge boobs to be deemed attractive. That’s just society’s view that is forced down ours throats. You yourself don’t don’t aspire for that look, so don’t measure yourself against it.  You can only ever be your version of beautiful.

 

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Certain clothes are not reserved for the “thin” and “pretty”. If you want to wear that dress with the cut outs, do it. Don’t think it’s not allowed, because you have curves or a belly. It’s not a case of a clothing hierarchy. You’re allowed to feel pretty and feminine too. You don’t need to wear big shirts and boys clothes if you don’t want too. Although you like those clothes and they’re like a security blanket they wont make you comfortable in your own skin.

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Beauty is not affirmation from others. Of course compliments are great, but the absence does not mean you are not worthy of them. You need to believe you’re pretty and that there is something beautiful staring back at you in the mirror. Yes they’ll be days when you’re not feeling it and others where you think you look like the shit. That’s natural. But don’t stand there and tell yourself you’re ugly and horrible. Just please don’t. You wouldn’t take that shit from anyone else. Don’t take it from yourself.

 

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It really isn’t about what’s on the outside. Spend time making the inside look good. Working on your well-being will make you feel way better than any make up product will. When you turn twenty and really start filling up the cracks you will realise what a likeable and nice person you are. And suddenly that mirror wont be offering disappointment

 

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It will take Ashley Graham’s amazing TED talk for you to finally realise that it’s OK to like your body, regardless of whether it fit’s society’s stupid ideals or not. You’ll realise that feeling comfortable in your own skin isn’t about liking it after you lose x pounds or put x products on your face. It’s learning to appreciate how incredible your body actually is and what it does for you everyday.

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You used to think that putting on make up was submitting to societal pressure, but soon you’ll use it as tool to enhance your look, not cover up. You’ll learn to appreciate how great you feel after drawing your eyebrows on and how a vintage hairstyle can finish your look. You’re not doing it for anyone else. You’re doing it because you’re worth looking good for you. Though you look just as good with it off and your hair scraped back in a  top knot.

 

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You used to dress for others, now you dress for you. And you feel hot as shit. Feeling attractive isn’t conditional. It doesn’t become valid if someone takes a interest. An apple isn’t not tasty just because  no one ate it one day. It just wasn’t to their taste. You’re not ugly just because others don’t take an interest. They just may be orange people. The most attractive thing is someone how is comfortable in their own skin and you’ll only achieve that when you dictate the pace.

 

 

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It will take changing your diet and lifestyle for you to appreciate how good your body can feel and the amazing things it can do. This will help you love your body and want to look after it. This prioritisation of self love and an addiction to overnight oats will help with your body image. You’ll free yourself from calorie anxiety and concentrate on making your body feel good, rather than what will cost the lowest calories.

 

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Random strangers will feel the need to judge your appearances and shout out insults from the safety of their car. Take no notice hun. I know it hurt you for a long time and you took it as concrete evidence that you were undesirable and ugly. But it’s not true. You placed more importance on these statements than all the other lovely ones from people who genuinely care about you. That’s crazy. Don’t let some random horrible dick head dictate how you view yourself.

I hope you found reading my struggle interesting and helpful. Just remember that it’s OK to love your figure and looks regardless. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

I’d love to hear about your own experiences with body image. Let me know in the comments section below.

 

Until next week,

Love

Stella

xxx

Ten Myths about Depression

I’d say we live in the greatest age of enlightenment. We accept that there are several ways of life, whether they be within or outside a faith; gay marriage is becoming legal in more and more countries. The voice against everyday sexism and sexual abuse is becoming louder and the information age  means that we are exposed to opinions from all over the world, rather than accept the one given to us by society. If we want to inform ourselves on something we can do it at the click of a button. The birth of social media, blogging and indie journalism means that we’re constantly presented with different viewpoints, and alerted about world issues we didn’t even know existed. It’s increasingly harder to be ignorant. Yet one area that is still riddled with simplistic stereotypes and misconceptions is the public opinion on depression.

Because we are taught by society that we don’t discuss mental health issues, we don’t feel empowered to stand up and say “actually mate that isn’t true.” When depression is represented in pop culture it’s normally romanticised like in teen dramas such as “Skins” or associated with the emo fashion movement. If you type “depression” into Google Images you’re presented with several stock photos like one:

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The majority of images are in black and white with negative connotations, which shows how two dimensional our shared perception is. I have suffered from depression on and off for seven years and I don’t think I have ever curled up into  ball in the corner of the room!

So here’s a little post on what is complete nonsense on depression, For those who have never had it it my give you   clearer idea of what depression is and isn’t and for those who have I think we can all relate to these annoying generalisations.

 

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“Cheer up.”

Surely I’m not the only one that gets bombarded with this seemingly harmless, but incredibly insensitive comment constantly? In fact if I had a pound for every time someone said this to me I’d be so rich that half of the things that I’m stressed and down about would be eradicated. The thing is is that it’s such a stupid thing to say, because if I was able to be happy don’t you think I would be? Depression isn’t a lifestyle choice. You don’t wake up in the morning and think “you know what I think I want to be depressed today.” No one decides to put themselves through this nightmare voluntarily. We’re not attention seeking, we don’t just like being miserable and we’re not doing it because we think it’s cool. Depression is like a cold. It slowly worms it’s way into your body and then Bam! one day you wake up and realise that you can’t function like you did yesterday. Depression is an illness. Ask yourself this: do you choose to be ill? (pulling a sicky to get out of school doesn’t count).

 

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” Get over it.” “Don’t you think you should have gotten over it by now.”

Oh bitch. You didn’t just go there.

I’ve made it quite clear in my first few posts that everyone is different, especially in the way they deal with their emotional stuff. And no two people have the same circumstances or experiences. So how on earth can you decide when someone should be better or “over it?” When someone breaks their leg you don’t say ” You really should stop not being able to walk now.” If they’re not ready, they’re not ready. It’s the same with depression. Again I’m using n illness analogy to get the point across here, because so many of these misconceptions exist because depression isn’t seen as a “serious” illness.

 

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Biggest. Myth. Ever. Half the time the happiest seeming people are those with the saddest stories. Many people try to put on a brave face because they’re afraid of showing their vulnerability. It’s not always the shy girl in the corner, the one crying in class or the one wearing  black. It affects the socialite, the class clown, the bubbly shop assistant who lifts your day. Depression does not distinguish between popularity, looks, fashion choices or music preferences. It’s not confined to the “emo kids”

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I think we’ve all been guilty of thinking is once in our lives, even if it was momentarily. I have. I live near Gatwick and when someone jumps onto the track there the whole line up to London just stops. I’ve sat on many a train tutting and thinking “how selfish”, instead of thinking about that poor individual’s struggle. And I’m really fucking ashamed of it.

Suicide is a tricky one. Because English has many phatic expressions like ” I literally died”, “this will kill me,” and If …… such and such happens, then I’m just gonna want to top myself” to express emotions in a cosmical manner we’ve normalised this feelings. So if someone said ” I don’t feel like living any more,” we probably wouldn’t take it seriously. Which is one of the reasons that people actually end going through with it because no one takes them seriously and convinces them to stay.

Our associations with suicide and selfishness stem from the whole stiff upper lip culture. When someone is emotional we think they’re attention seeking rather than in desperate need for help. It’s sad to say that we live in a society sick enough to see suicide and suicidal feelings as  acts of attention seeking.

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Some people take meds. Some people don’t. Meds work for some people. For some it makes it worse. We’re not all like the celebrities you see who are addicted to painkillers or anti-depressants. We don’t all have addictions. Sure some do, which is a reason why they’re depressed, but many aren’t. Meds are just one way with treating depression, like lemsip is one way of treating a cold.

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Our lives are not an episode of skins. We don’t all walk around like Effy in some vibesy grey outfit with a world weary expression, puffing on a cigarette with a flat white in the other looking so over every single thing. Depression is not how they paint it in teen dramas. It’s not this “beautifully fucked up” façade fuelled by teenage angst. We aren’t always looking flawless in our indie garms because some mornings it’s physically impossible to get dressed. It’s not all going out to parties and drinking the pain away, because sometimes the thought of even having to talk to someone else exhausts us. It doesn’t make you cool, or wise or edgy. It makes you weepy, self loathing and  paranoid. It’s not some romantic adventure that suddenly stops when you hit adulthood. It’s an unwelcome guest that pops up whenever wherever to show you that actually no you don’t have control over your life.It’s like the Ned Flanders of well being. Depression isn’t sitting around listening to “The Smiths”, smoking weed and contemplating life. Depression is crying over dropping a teaspoon on the floor, because you’re so “useless” that you can’t even make a cup of tea without making a mistake. Depression is waking up with a nasty feeling in your stomach that won’t shift.

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. This is probably the biggest misconception, as many people think the words are synonymous. The online dictionary even says they are. (really?)

Here’s the difference. Sadness is a normal human emotion we all experience at times. It’s fleeting, it will come and it will go, but it won’t take up home in our body. Depression is an illness. Not an emotion. Not everyone gets it. It’s harder to shift and it’s more severe in its affect on your mood and outlook. It causes a warped mindset and constant negative thoughts which can lead to suicidal idealization. Sadness is usually a reaction to an event, whereas depression is irrational and is hard to trace back to its origin.

 

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Yes we may have a good day, where we’re upbeat and we really enjoy ourselves. Yes we may seem better because we’ve had a good night’s sleep/eaten/ talked to someone etc. But that doesn’t mean that we’re cured. The voices are still there when we go to bed. That automatic sadness is still lying in our stomach when we make up, like silt on a river bed. Some days are better than others, but everything is essentially shaped by depression. It’s like cancer. Sure, you’ll have days where you’re able to do more than usual, where you feel pretty good, but at the end of the day you’re still ill. Depression is no different in that sense.

 

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It really isn’t. I’ve been oblivious to my closet friend’s battles with mental health before because it  seemed that everything was dandy. Often our inner thoughts are personal and we like to keep it all to ourselves. It is not in our culture to ask about such things, delving is seen as rude.

 

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Depression can be caused by all sorts – age, genetics, boredom, stress, loneliness. The small, seemingly invisible things can have as much of an impact as the huge, heart wrenching events in life. When I first started suffering from depression it was because of boredom and loneliness, the second bout was stress and a lack of free time. It was only my most recent bout that was triggered b grief, but it had already started to arrive as a result of monotony and exhaustion. It depends on an individuals ability to deal with certain events. Each trigger is just as hard to deal with as another.

What is the biggest misconception about depression in your opinion? Do you feel that there are certain stereotypes surrounding depression/ mental health in general? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to here what you have to say.

In the meantime check out my Pinterest account, where I’ve created a new board filled with posts about helping depression.

Until next time lovelies,

Stella

xxx

 

 

 

 

What to do if you’re having a bad day

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Bad days. We’ve all had them. Sometimes it’s a combination of little things going wrong, sometimes it’s something major that really upsets us or pisses us off. Sometimes we wake up in a shitty mood and have absolutely no idea why. Most of the time I’m in a great mood, yet there are those days where I just can’t get on board with the whole happiness thing. Small things set me off, anything from stepping in a puddle and getting soaked to being extremely decaffeinated can really affect my mood on any given day.

Lets face it. Bad days are shit. They makes us feel crappy and our self esteem momentarily plummets. They’re hard to deal with if you suddenly have one and mind-numbingly painful if you have a constant string of them. We could really do without them, but unfortunately they’re inevitable. But we can try and make them a bit less crappy. Here’s some advice on what to do the next time your day isn’t going great.

 

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Acknowledging and accepting your mood helps make you more mindful of what triggers you feeling low. Whenever I’m not feeling great I simply say to myself, either out loud or in my head if in public, “This happened and it made me feel sad/hurt/stressed/anxious etc. and that’s OK.” Accepting that you feel a bit rubbish instead of repressing it and trying to carry on as if everything is coming up roses will actually make you feel ten times better.

Another great way is to write your thoughts down in a journal. Putting your thoughts and feelings into words and getting them out of your head is a huge release and will feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Next time you’re not feeling great spend ten minutes writing down what happened and how it made you feel. You can bullet point it, write it like a diary entry or a full on rant. Whatever works for you. Try it and see how it makes you feel.

 

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Treating yourself to a little something, be it chocolate, takeaway coffee,  a night watching Netflix and eating ice cream in bed or even an impulse purchase , can help turn a crappy day around. Now I’m not saying you should buy a new dress or make your way through a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s ( they’re going to start doing dairy free flavours how exciting! Sorry lactose intolerant here, anyway I digress) whenever you’re not feeling your best, but doing something you’d like to do rather than should do can really have a positive impact on your overall mood and well being. It tells your mind that you’re worth the indulgence. Hey if calorie consumption is a form of self love I’m all for it. Next time you’re feeling low ask yourself “What little thing would make my day a bit better?” and do it.

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Exercise is one of the best mood boosters around. I find that in weeks when I get round to exercising everyday my mood fluctuates a lot less. It’s when I don’t always have time to let off steam that I’m more likely to get irritated and impatient which can trigger a crappy mood. Don’t feel you have to bust your gut for an hour at the gym though. Just 10-15 minutes of moderate exercise is enough to release endorphins and boost your mood. Choose something you enjoy, like a jog or brisk walk around the block or a dance or Zumba video on YouTube. I find that 20 minutes of yoga at the end of the day can take me from the foulest of moods to feeling like an angel. There are plenty of great exercise videos on YouTube that you can do at home with little or no equipment, most of which are only 10-20 minutes long. Choose something you like the look of and master it or mix it up everyday.

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Music can have an enormous affect on our mood. It can clear away the cobwebs, inspire us or take us back to a fond memory. Make yourself a playlist of your favourite songs and listen to it whenever you feel low. When I was having a bad day my sister made me a Spotify playlist called “songs to cheer Stella up”, filled with songs from our childhood, private joke songs and ones full of inspiring lyrics and upbeat tempos. It’s one of the nicest things someone has ever done for me and I was so touched. I live away from home for uni and miss her terribly, so having something like that full of songs we share together keeps me going through the hard times. I’ve found that different genres are great for when you need different things:

Cheering up: Soul/ motown, pop

Calming down from anger or tears: angry rock/ pop punk/ screamo (yes really! I find the volume and aggression takes it out of me and calms me down)

Getting over rejection/heartache/ a nasty comment/situation: ballads/ musical soundtracks ( you need lyrics that sum up how you feel – ABBA’s heartbreak ballads and Les Miserables are great for this)

Getting pumped up and re-motivated after a setback: 00’s pop punk and RnB (you need that sass)

Soothing/ comfort: songs from your childhood ( I’m a nineties girl so any S Club 7, Steps etc. always does the trick)
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Probably one of the most important things we should do for our well-being, yet a lot of us wouldn’t know where to start. We expect so much of ourselves on a daily basis; we should be productive, we should eat healthily, we should exercise, should, should, should. But when you’re not feeling great pushing yourself to do all this “should” stuff can be dangerous. It will make you feel ten times worse and then you’ll be less productive and be even harsher on yourself. It’s a vicious circle.

When a mood low strikes, take a step back and soothe yourself. Get into some jimmys, get into bed with a hot drink and read or watch a sitcom. If you’re out of the house go for a walk around the park/ block for ten minutes and make a note to yourself that you will go easy on yourself that evening. Make yourself get through the work day and then do you the minute you get through that door. Cook your favourite food, put on some lounge wear and just relax.

 

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Whenever I’ve had a rough day I watch “Red Dwarf”, a hit 90s sci-fi comedy, as it I find it immensely comforting. It was the first comedy I really got into and whenever I watch it it takes me back to my former thirteen year old self, who was relatively happy in her own nerdy bubble.  Do something you adore and that makes your heart glow; watch your favourite film, read a book or poem that inspires you, draw, write, whatever, even if you can only spare yourself thirty minutes.  Taking comfort in something you love will make you feel better, after all these are the things that make our life more fulfilling. Cram them in whenever you can.

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Water is extremely soothing, so having a bath or shower at the end of a long day can seriously help. I always feel a lot calmer and lighter after showering when I’m in a bad mood, it’s almost as if I’ve managed to wash off all the rubbish thoughts of the day and let them go down the drain. Add a little bit of mindfulness into the mix and you’ve got yourself some serious water therapy. Notice the warmth of the water on your skin, the smell of your shampoo, the feeling of steam on your face. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the tub or shower to make it more relaxing. A good sing song is also extremely therapeutic. The shower doesn’t care if you’re tone deaf.

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When we’re feeling down we can feel very disconnected and alone. Simple contact such as a hug can do wonders for our mood. Especially if the other person smells good.

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This is something me and my mum came up with. Pollyanna is the main character of Eleanor H. Porter’s best-selling novel of the same name, who always aims to find at least one positive thing in a situation or day (then she gets run over and can’t walk and can’t think of anything positive which is so heartbreaking, but again I digress). This is a great thing to do daily and helps you readjust your outlook and challenge negative thoughts. So maybe you were stuck inside all day doing uni work/ working and it bored your head off. But maybe you had a really nice conversation with someone or you had a really nice lunch or cup of coffee ( I mean when has coffee been anything but positive seriously). Make a habit to practise this daily and you’ll soon find yourself looking for the positive in situations that you’re not a huge fan of.

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Don’t bottle it up and feel rubbish on your lonesome. If some thing particular has bothered you then talk it through with someone. Not only does it help you let go, but it will help you get a different perspective. Whenever I feel low I ring a close friend or my parents; people I can be truly honest with. I know I don’t have to hold back and just say what I feel, which is extremely refreshing. You’re always welcome to hit me up on social media or on here if you want someone to talk about it with.

 

What makes you feel better after a bad day? Comment below with your feel good tips, I’d love to hear what you have to say. In the meantime check me out on pinterest, where I’ve made a “mood booster”board for you, full of everything you need to help you feel a bit better, from feel good playlists to pictures of cute otters. What more could you want?!

Until next time lovelies

Stella

xxx

 

How to help a loved one in a bad time

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It is in our innate nature to look out for and care for one another. We hold doors open for others, pick up something they’ve dropped, give directions when someone is lost, give up our seat on public transport for someone less able than us. These gestures are part of everyday life and are some of the ways that we extend kindness to strangers. If we have manners that is. And when those who are closest to us are feeling under the weather we let them know we’re there for them. We send flowers and cards, we visit them in hospital, we do any odd jobs that can help them out. We naturally want to help each other out. Unless you’re a miserable bastard. But how do you help someone out when it’s not visible that they are in need?

The thing is with all the gestures above is that they’re natural reactions to a situation when it plays out in front of us.  You wouldn’t begrudge a pregnant woman a seat on the tube or stand there as an elderly man struggles to get up after having a nasty fall.  Society tells us how we should react to such events. But what we haven’t been taught to do is help people out when the matter in hand isn’t visual, but mental. There’s no social protocol for helping someone out with mental illness.

Helping someone through a tough time isn’t easy, because we can’t see what’s wrong. Half the time it’s like walking through a mine field; tiptoeing around, not wanting to set off any explosions. The societal stigma surrounding conditions like depression doesn’t help either. The whole “keep calm and carry on” mentality Britain is plagued with means that when someone suddenly can’t function  our initial reaction is that they’re being awkward, melodramatic or just attention-seeking, rather than think about what the real reason might be as to why they aren’t being themselves.

Also as the problem is linked to emotions,  we all react differently. There isn’t a set way of helping someone out, we can’t fashion up a “one size fits all” social protocol like we can with what to do when someone is off work sick or has dropped their wallet. What may seem like the perfect way to deal with something for you, may offend or upset your best friend.

So here’s a little guide to make reaching out to those in need a little easier. It’s not extensive and these aren’t definite solutions, but for those of you that don’t suffer from such conditions it may give you a better understanding of what your loved ones are going through. When you understand something you’re more likely to find the right solution.  Here’s some tips on what to do when a friend of family member isn’t feeling their self.

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They’ll be days when your friend or family member is their normal self, seemingly carefree and the life and soul of the party, then the next they could be physically unable to get out of bed and be extremely introverted and emotional. There is no set behaviour for dealing with mental health issues, so don’t try to look out for the stereotype of someone who is constantly quiet and moody.  Some people like to act like everything is fine, whereas this is impossible for others. My own personal experiences are a prime example of this. In my earlier bouts of depression I’d prefer to carry on like normal. It would seem like nothing was wrong. I’d make jokes, join in with everyone and appear seemingly upbeat. It was only when I was alone at night that the true misery would seep out in the form of tears on the pillow. This is still a tactic I use today, especially when I’m home for the holidays, as I don’t want to burden anyone so commonly cry myself to sleep if I’m not feeling great. It was only recently,after dealing with crippling grief, that I accepted defeat some days and stayed in bed.

What I’m trying to say is let them ride it out, however bumpy that ride may be. Try not to take it personally when they suddenly snap or don’t turn up to an event they promised they’d come through. I assure you it isn’t personal. Depression and anxiety are like the shittiest form of metamorphosis ever. No pretty butterflies here. You can feel your mind changing, your mood is out of sync, your reactions don’t make sense and you feel totally out of control of your own body; like you’ve been given the keys to a car you’ve never driven before and are expected to drive it. They will eventually come to terms with it, but you’ll just have to accept that there’ll be times when being “normal” is just impossible.

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When you’re feeling low, it’s easy to convince yourself you’re not worth bothering about. A simple gesture, such as a text or a phone call, or an invite for coffee can be enough to make that person feel loved and temporarily boost their mood. Feeling connected and cared for boosts self worth and will lesson suicidal feelings. Make an effort to check in with them regularly, even if your invites are rejected, persist. Sometimes people push the people they love away because they feel they don’t deserve them. Persisting will show them you truly are there and care.

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One of the main problems when you’re suffering from mental health issues is that you don’t feel normal. You become increasingly introspective and are convinced that everyone around you is having a grand old time, while your life becomes a living nightmare. Like I said above our natural reaction is to help people out and find the solution to their problem, so it’s totally normal to want to suggest a solution when our loved ones are having a rough time. The problem is that here the pragmatic approach doesn’t really help. Trying to find a “quick fix” solution or sugar coat the situation makes those suffering from mental health feel a bit fobbed out, as if you want to skip over their problems. They don’t necessarily want help but an understanding and support. Think of it this way. If someone was depressed after losing a loved one you wouldn’t suggest creating an action plan to get over grief or say “it will be all right in the end.” You’d apologise for their loss, and let them know that you’re there for them. You have to act the same way with mental health. I find if I can’t find anything to say I just say “Oh sweetie. That’s shit. I’m so sorry.” They will appreciate your honesty. I then give them a huge hug and make them a brew if a kettle is in close vicinity.

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Brits bloody love apologising. We suffer from apology tourettes. It’s an involuntary impulse like sneezing or clapping at that bit in the “friends” theme tune. The problem is that whenever we show emotion, rant or open up about what’s bothering us we feel the need to apologize. “Sorry, I don’t mean to bother you with this.” “Sorry, I hate crying around people.” “I don’t mean to bring the mood down.” Sound familiar?  When we say things like this it’s because of the whole stigma surrounding mental health. We feel it’s bad social behaviour to show our vulnerable side. But it’s not. We have a rule in our student house to never apologise for feeling low or showing emotion. When my flatmates apologise for “bothering me” with their emotional stuff, I never acccept it. Instead I say “there is no need to apologise sweetie. It’s perfectly fine to act this way.” And then make them a brew. You’ll see that tea making features heavily.

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Everyone is different. Some people, like me, love a good rant and venting is as essential as something like breathing. Ok maybe not that vital, but it’s important to help them cope. Others can’t put their feelings into words and would rather act like nothing is going on. This is merely another way of coming to terms with things. Both are natural, so make it clear, that you’re there if they want to talk about it, but also if they don’t.

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There may be times when you have to adapt your plans with them, as their mood has suddenly turned or simple things like getting out of the house have become too much. My friends are fabulous at this when I’m not myself and let me dictate where we meet, whether it’s in public or at my or a friend’s house. When I became increasingly agoraphobic before Christmas they came over to me so I didn’t have to stress about leaving the house. Showing that you want to hang out whatever their conditions will have an enormous impact on their self esteem.

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There will be times when you hear nothing for days or weeks. It’s normal. We all need space. Sometimes a non-commitive text saying you’re thinking of them and are there should they need you is enough to make them feel better. You may not get a reply, but they will get your gesture and appreciate it.

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Told you. Small, simple gestures can have a huge impact. When I heard the news that my granddad had passed my house mate’s reaction was to make me sweet hot tea for the shock. I appreciated it so much and I don’t normally drink normal tea! Sometimes the smallest acts of self care when you can’t look after yourself mean so much.

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Some people want to seek help from counselling or other services, some want to battle it on their own. If your loved one wants help, make it clear that you’ll help them get it if they want it, but don’t bombard them and keep asking if they’ve got it yet. It will make them feel like there is something seriously wrong with them, and may feel overwhelmed. A lot of people prefer to just go do it on their own. When I first got counselling in college I didn’t dare tell a soul, as I was so scared what people would think of me (again society’s  view on  mental health). Everyone’s different.

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Mental health issues are tough for the sufferer and everyone close. They’re a battle that is a marathon rather than a sprint. They’ll be setbacks, inconsistency and a lot of days when you don’t know what to do any more. They’ll be times when you feel it’s a personal attack on you ( it’s not I promise), but if you make it clear that whatever they throw at you you’ll be there, they’ll eventually pull through.

 

 

What advice would you give someone helping someone with mental health? If you know someone suffering what would you like to tell them? Comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic or feel free to drop me a message on twitter or Facebook.

Until next time lovelies

Stella

xxx