This semester has been the hardest few months I’ve had in a long time, but I cannot deny that something positive has come of it. I have begun experimenting with different mindfulness techniques (something doctors have always advised me to do) and for once, I feel they are working. So I thought I’d share them with you, as we are constantly being told by the media, doctors, counsellors and university to be mindful. But what even is mindfulness?
I’ve tried to write these hundreds of times, but often when I am okay I can’t judge what I would want in the situation as well. I am currently coming out of an anxiety attack, so I’m channelling my feelings into this post. It’s a way to help myself and hopefully others with friends suffering with mental health.
- Tell them you love them. During anxiety attacks, I feel desperate and completely alone. I feel like everyone is against me and that I am worthless. The first step to helping someone in this situation is to make sure they hear that you love them, even if they don’t believe you.
- Don’t tell them they’re being silly or over-thinking. This is the least helpful thing you can do. I know I am over-thinking, I do not need it clarifying. I need calm, kind reassurance that what I believe to be true is not. That I am not worthless and I am not alone.
- Do not leave them until they are calm, and even if they say they are okay, stay by their side (physically or metaphorically) until you are certain.
- Don’t make assumptions about what they need.
- Give them a hug! I can’t describe the comfort of physical touch during an anxiety attack; feeling your body pressed together when it feels like it is falling apart.
- Don’t say ‘I’m sure you’ll be okay later’. I know it will pass, but right now I feel like the world is ending and my heart physically hurts. I need to think about right now, not later on.
- Tell them you’re proud of them.
- Watch out for their tell tale signs that suggest they might be struggling. For me, when I am feeling anxious I grab a lock of hair and hold it on my lips. It’s something I’ve picked up over the last few months, and I find it weirdly comforting.
- Encourage them to breathe slowly. Concentrating on your breathing helps relax you and slow down the racing thoughts of an anxiety attack.
- Ask what you can do for them, but don’t make them feel like they have to make rash decisions. Right now I have no idea what would help me. Be calm and understanding.
- Talk to them about happy memories. Reminiscing over the past makes me forget my anxiety for the future.
- Get them a cup of tea! Tea fixes a lot of my problems, in the short-term, anyway.
For my Travel and Journalistic Writing module at uni, we have been encouraged to write our own version of Jonathan Stern’s ‘Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment’.
WHEN TO GO
3rd January at 11:06pm, surely that’s not toooo late to reflect on 2016? I celebrated this New Years in the oddest way yet; at 12 midnight my boyfriend and I were stranded in the middle of Wimbledon Common with a bunch of people who may or may not have been in full control, hence the stranded part. On the upside, we witnessed fireworks across London, but these were through trees, whilst fearing for my life. A crazy end to an even stranger year.
So here we go.
1. Understanding mental health still has a long way to go.
Recently I told some guy that I blog about mental health and he genuinely asked me, ‘what, so do you pretend to be mental?’ He didn’t seem to understand what I meant when I told him ‘I write from experience’. I’m sure if I’d have told him I write about something like asthma ‘from experience’ he’d have understood. I could have shown him my inhaler to help my physical ailment. I couldn’t show this guy my counsellor or my notebook.
2. Being a good person pays off.
This actually happened on 2nd Jan 2017 BUT I say it still counts. I was in the queue in Cafe Nero with my boyfriend waiting for the small hot chocolate I’d ordered as I couldn’t afford a medium. The lady in front had ordered two drinks but could only carry one to the table. So, selfless human being as I am, I took the other drink over for her. The barista saw what I did and gave me a medium hot chocolate for the price of a small! Who knows what more good deeds could bring?!
3. University is not the be all and end all.
Problems with my mental health this academic year have meant I’ve had to focus much more on myself and my wellbeing than my studies. Counselling, doctors appointments and breakdowns don’t exactly go hand in hand with a degree, so I’ve had to learn to prioritise mindfulness over revision. Ideally I’d like to do more uni work, and it’s something I hope to do this year, but I won’t look back and think I’ve not done the best I could. This year had brought more problems than worrying about a deadline.
4. If you want something, get it.
Cliche I know, but for someone with mental health it’s easier said than done. I’ve wanted lunch but not gone to get it because I couldn’t bring myself to leave my room. But going to New Zealand was a game changer. I wanted to see my best friend, so I went! It’s still my biggest achievement.
5. You’re going to get rejected. Get used to it.
Here’s where I am a hypocrite; I am not used to it. Each rejection from placement applications stings more than the previous, but it’s something I have to get used to. I have to write each cover letter like it’s my first application and I’m hopeful of success.
My New Years Resolutions:
- Practice mindfulness
- Draw more
- BLOG MORE!!!
- Get a placement (in PR) for next year
- Be my own person.
- Be a nicer, more helpful person… and not just because it might result in free/cheap hot chocolates!
- … Learn how to get rid of the frames around pictures on this blog, anyone know?
The earliest memory I have of thinking about careers is saying I would be a writer. At the age of six I wanted to be just like Jacqueline Wilson. My first book, ‘Daddy Goes to Space’, hand-written and illustrated by me; loose A4 printer paper stapled together; was ‘published’ (again by me) when I was six.
At eight, each time I slept at my nan’s house, I would wake her and my step-granddad up with a daily news report. I would wake up extra early and draw a map of England for a weather forecast. I would make up dramatic news stories, ‘the Prime Minister’s trousers fell down during a speech today’…
Ten. I wrote family newspapers. Informing my own family about what was going on in their house. I’d interview my mum about what she thought of the new dog next door. Ask my little brother how he felt about getting grounded last week.
Twelve. Obsessed with Mizz Magazine, I would write my own. Beauty tips, agony aunts (the parts of the aunt and the person who wrote in both played by me), horoscopes…
Fast forward to sixteen. An anxious, shy girl at a huge new sixth form, I tentatively signed up for the student newspaper. People liked my articles and my linear drawings.
Eighteen. Still writing for the student newspaper, but hit with both anxiety and depression, I desperately tried to escape having to write for the paper. Who would want to read what I had to say anyway?
Nearly two years on I am desperately trying to get back to my twelve year old mindset. I want to feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. I write freelance, I write for my blog. But it’s no career. My whole life has been pointing towards a career in writing and journalism, but now it’s real and I need to make a career for when I leave university, I haven’t the first idea how.
Trying to apply for internships for my year in industry is almost soul-destroying. Who wants to hire a girl whose only talent is writing words on a page? You need more. I never played sport, I wasn’t good at maths, and certainly not science. Not good enough to pursue a career in it, anyway. The skill I have developed from the age of six isn’t enough.
So what do you do when your best is not good enough? I still haven’t found the answer, but if you have it, please let me know!
- 125g mashed banana – basically 2 bananas I’d say!
- 130g peanut butter – try and buy the unsalted version to cut down on the calories!
- 70g dark brown soft sugar – sadly a little pricey, sorry….
- 100g caster sugar – if you can’t afford dark brown soft sugar, you could just use 170g of caster, it won’t make too much difference!
- 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract – not hugely necessary?
- 165g plain flour
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 40g chocolate chips – 40g is a rough guideline, you may want to add more/less depending on what a chocoholic you are!
- 2 eggs
- 1 banana
- Yes, that’s it!
- Mash the banana. You can’t be lazy with this, you’ve got to keep mashing until its very runny! The more you mash the more like normal pancakes they taste.
- Add two eggs and whisk
- You could add cocoa powder and/or honey and whisk at this stage for an extra sweet taste!
- Pour the mixture into a frying pan with hot butter as you would with a normal pancake.
- Add your favourite toppings and enjoy!
|Photo credit: Liv Ingram (she makes them better than me!)|
3. Nice-Cream (credit to Liv Ingram yet again!)
- Bananas (yes, again, didn’t you read the title?)
- Cocoa powder
- Mash the banana (well!!!)
- Add cocoa powder and whisk
- I know it looks unappetising, but bung it in the freezer overnight and trust me!
- Serve with fruit, chocolate sauce, cake, anything! (Maybe not cake, this is supposed to be a healthy recipe!!
New Zealand was undoubtedly the most implausible, ridiculously far-fetched experience of my life. How was I on the other side of the world? How was Shasta standing right in front of me, after I hadn’t seen her for three years? How was I getting a ski-lift up a 2797 metre mountain? I still have no idea.
|Yes, those are snow capped mountains, and yes, this was a regular sight.|
The walks we took were utterly bewildering. We walked along hill-side cliffs, the billowing ocean to our left, rolling hills as far as the eye could see to our right. It made me feel insignificant in a beautiful way. We walked for hours without seeing a soul. It felt like we were the only people on the planet. Explorers discovering an untouched continent. There was something special about knowing that our footsteps would be washed away by the sea breeze and it would be like we were never there.
I planned to throw myself into exercise and adventure on my return, but the irony is that the extreme hiking and running has led to me injuring my knee, so I’m having to take things easier. The trip has shown me that I sometimes prefer long hikes to shopping days, new sports gear to new dresses. But as I sit here on the bus to London, my boyfriend asleep next to me, I am secretly looking forward to hitting Oxford Street!
- I’m back at uni
- I’m extremely overwhelmed with the amount of work second year has thrown at me, and am also trying to write for Student World Online and The Gryphon
- My mood swings have been even more intense and rapid than ever before
|We’re a bit cute|
During my boyfriends fresher’s week, I was ‘thrilled’ (note intense sarcasm) to hear that he would be going on a themed night out where he would be handcuffed to two girls. The whole thing was so new to me and I had no idea how to cope with it. I was anxious because as a couple we had been thrown into a whole new situation where he was living in London and experiencing new things, and I was sat at home. The uncertainty of how the night would work, as well as not knowing the people he was with, caused a lot of worrying. Everyone deals with uncertainty differently, but it made me incredibly anxious.
I told him of my worries and what upset me even more was that he himself was beginning to worry that I didn’t trust him. This upset me because never, in the three years we have been together, has he given me a reason not to trust him. So why was I so worried? I think it was picturing him in such close contact with other girls, the possibility of them flirting with him, regardless of him reciprocating. My anxiety makes me think things that aren’t true, and I feel awful that I put my boyfriend through my topsy-turvy mood swings. Being with him is one of the only things that calms me down, so distance is a bitch.
So my first tip on dealing with long distance is this: COMMUNICATE! If you’re worried, bloody tell him/her! If not, you’ll spend countless evenings lying in bed wondering what he/she is doing and driving yourself crazy, when the reality is they’re probably thinking of you and wishing you were dancing along with them. Tip 2: texting is not an effective form of communication.We all know we say things via text that we wouldn’t out loud. You can come across in a moody way even if you’re not meaning to, and things can sound more harsh if you ‘accidentally’ full-stop him/her in the middle of an argument (despite you actually using proper grammar!). So make sure you both take some time to call or FaceTime, perhaps every other day. You’ll find you talk about things you wouldn’t bother to text about, like that coughing fit you had in a silent library earlier. Speaking over the phone is especially important during an argument because hearing each others voice allows you to access how each other are feeling.
Tip 3: Keep them in the loop
|Jamie came to see me in Leeds at least once a month in first year|
During your first few weeks at uni, you’ll be meeting all kinds of new people, and it is a time for you to put yourself out there as an individual for perhaps the first time. Do things for yourself and don’t be afraid to make new friendships, but don’t forget about your boyfriend/girlfriend at home. In phone calls you could tell them about the people you’ve met, the good and the bad. A good rule is to say goodnight before you go on a night out, that way your partner won’t be waiting for you to reply to a text you haven’t read because you’re having too much fun.
Similarly, if you’re the one staying at home, remember that your partner is experiencing a whole new life, and trust them to do so without leaving you behind.
Tip 4: Keep the romance!
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but postmen still exist! So why not write a cute note and post it to your boyfriend/girlfriend? Or, if that isn’t techy enough for you, send them a Moonpig card! Getting stuff in the mail is always a lovely surprise as it’s something that is becoming rarer nowadays.
Tip 5: TRUST
Has he/she ever given you a reason not to trust them? If not, why worry? Just roll with it and be happy they’re having a good time. A good way to build trust is to be open about new friendships, ask them if you can meet their new friends and try to get along with them. If you can trust the people your partner is living with, you’ll find coping with the distance much easier.
As I say, I am still learning. The person you really need to ask about dealing with long distance relationships is my boyfriend *queue soppy-needy-girlfriend mode* who has this whole thing down (but still misses me, I hope!).