Saturday, 12 October 2019

Remembering to look after yourself

 OK, so it really shouldn't take #WorldMentalHealthDay to prompt me to write a post about mental health but here we are.

This is something which is particularly difficult to write about, for most people I imagine, as it's something that so many of us keep close to our chest. Whilst now, *thankfully*, it is gradually being spoken about more on a general level, it's still rare to hear about the individual experiences of people who have struggled, or who are still struggling. And that is the key; being aware that those struggles are not black and white. There is no set start and end time. Even where there are periods of miraculously impossible happiness, that darkness has a tendency to wait in the wings, ready to eclipse the light. 

Darkness is how I describe these periods, predominantly because it's an easy way of encompassing an impossibly complex feeling, which I would never, ever be able to describe. Like wading through treacle and being stuck in a long forgotten memory, like being underwater and forgetting how to swim, like remembering part of a dream and for some reason, you can't quite open your eyes.  Maybe it's  even more of a shadow, drifting in and out of focus, completely dependent on the time of day, the year and the weather. In short, impossible to predict. 

I don't think sharing all of my own struggles is something that I'm quite ready to do just yet. This is  mainly because I haven't quite faced up to them myself, which is, in of itself, part of the problem. With every passing storm comes an overwhelming sense of guilt. What have I got to feel sad about?

This is why we need to talk about it. Mental health is something that applies to everyone. It's like muscle health or bone health or fingernail health; just because it's not visible, doesn't mean it should take a back seat. If it's not something that's taken care of, the effects can be incredibly damaging, harmful, and very, very visible. 

Whilst I'm prone to self-deprecation and use humour as a handy defence mechanism, it's important to acknowledge the times when you're less than okay. It's easy to worry about those around you, but remember to look after yourself too.

Photos by the wonderful ed2too


Saturday, 31 August 2019

London: What I've learnt so far

I can't quite believe I've been living down South for nearly a year. 

London life has been more of a shift than I ever expected; from the cost  of a cup of coffee to the wonder of 24/7 public transport, day-to-day existence in the capital city has been so much more than red buses and Big-Ben themed keyrings. It's meant getting used to a completely different place, meeting brand new people and doing my best impression of a fully fledged adult. More than anything, it's meant change - and definitely not the financial kind. Whatsoever.

So, in what has so far been a relatively brief stint in the capital, I thought I'd share a few things I've observed, acknowledged and learnt along the way.  Things that the guidebooks may choose not to include. Please read at your own discretion. 

1. If you take anything away from this post, remember this: when in London, you cannot stop. Once you get off the train at Euston or you touch down at Heathrow, whether you're stopping to tie your shoes, to check your phone or to turn the page of the latest bestseller, hesitation is not an option. Extra points if you can do any of these things whilst moving at 60 mph on the left hand side of the escalator. Which brings me nicely into my next tip.

2. Rush hour takes on a whole new meaning. Whilst previously I was lucky if my bus home turned up, now I can choose from about five trains home, all due in the next ten minutes. The one small sticking point is that there's probably a 2cm space for me and my bag to squeeze into, which means room to breathe is somewhat of a pipe dream.  On a serious note, a week or so ago, I actually did dream about getting a seat on my morning commute. Crushed when I woke up. Extra points if you line up your position on the platform with the train doors. 

4. Prepare for serious fashion envy. Whilst I imagine the same goes for most big cities, the commitment to looking incredible is higher in London than I've seen ever before. Whether it's a Monday morning busy train ride or Saturday night soiree in central, the sheer range of streetstyle on offer never fails to blow me away. Extra points if you're guilty of taking an #ootd photo in front of the multi coloured houses in Notting Hill.

5. Go with the flow. Probably most importantly, finding a rhythm and sticking to it has been the best way for me to be able to cope with living in a big city. Getting used to so much change is always hard at first, particularly when anxiety levels are at an all time high. I was scared about where I would be living and not seeing my favourite people nearly as much as I wanted to. Routines are important, but so is taking every day as it comes and just making the most of it. I've loved exploring, have taken advantage of being somewhere new and am constantly learning so much more than I would have done otherwise. It's been a rollercoaster, and I don't think I'm ready to get off just yet.

Do you live in London or have you ever visited? What tips would you give?


photos by the fab @bartekbasista_portraits


Saturday, 20 April 2019

Do you know yourself?

Be yourself.

Those two words seem to be the single piece of advice that can be applied to just about any dilemma:

Relationship troubles? Be yourself.

Trying to get on your manager's good side? Always offer to make tea, but most importantly, be yourself.

Struggling what to go as for Halloween this year? (One would hope the answer here would be with a hint of sarcasm.)

Anyway, you get the gist. So what is it that's so appealing about this little phrase, and why do we so often see it as one-stop-fix-all solution for making problems disappear?

To quote Chandler Bing, "I'm not so great at the advice, can I interest you in a sarcastic comment?"

Ultimately, telling someone to be themselves in the way they respond to a situation puts the decision back into their hands. Whilst it's usually said with the very best of intentions, and whole lot of trust in what that response will be, 'be yourself' is basically another way of saying 'you know what to do.'

With this in mind, it's almost ironic to think that a phrase so closely linked with one's own authenticity is actually even more closely linked with choice. The choice of how we respond to everything and anything, every single day. 

Is this a problem? Before I fall even deeper into an existential crisis, I think one thing is worth pointing out; we're far from two-dimensional. Whilst it's easy to be under the impression that your feelings need to fit into a nice little box with sharp corners and straight edges, so rarely is that the case.

The same goes for ourselves. We are ultimately collections of all the thoughts, feelings and experiences we've ever known, and with each issue we face, this collection continues to grow. All of the poorly worded texts, the misconstrued sentiments and the mixed messages are there to equip us, so next time, we'll know what to do. 

And that's what being yourself is. It's less about second guessing and doubting every decision you make, and more about having faith in what your past has told you. It's got you this far. 

photos by the wonderful dorcikimages

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Starting again

January? More like Janu-scary. I'm currently sat, bewildered, in front of my laptop, wondering how on earth we have completed yet another 12 months only to circle all the way back around to the season of #healthkicks and #newstarts. 

It's funny just how symbolic the 1st of January has become in acting as a 'reset' button. In the past I have certainly been guilty of feeling skeptical of this 'clean slate' mentality, particularly as it technically just another 24 hour slot, if only with a different digit on its timestamp.

Now, however, I am starting to see the appeal; a source of motivation, a reason to try new things and an excuse to put plans into action.

The only issue is where the 'new year new me' mentality is concerned, it's very easy to get to February, feel disappointed, and write off the remaining ten months.  Despite all the overlooked boxes you've already ticked and exciting excursions you had in mind, you wish the end of the year away to return to ""page 1 of 365"". And you've got a while to wait.

So in the mean time, it might be worth trying to look at things in a slightly different way. (I know this is starting to sound the landing page for a free motivational e-book you accidentally clicked on, but please bear with.) Rather than eagerly waiting for the 1st of Jan for the chance to start afresh, why not just see 00:01 as an opportunity to completely reset ? 

Even if you have had a really bad day, is it worth getting bogged down in the mentality that 'it just isn't your year'? Whether you spilled an overpriced cup of coffee on the train or cc'ed that email that should have been bcc'ed (the worst), six hours with your head on the pillow can be all that's necessary to forget about it and remember that when you've finished scrolling through Instagram, you've got another 24 hours to make up for it.

What I'm trying to say is that you really don't need an excuse to go out and do what you want to do. You don't have to compartmentalise your life or your achievements or wait until your X years old to do Y and Z. You can literally do it at the start of every morning when your alarm clock go off. Give or take a few minute for snooze time, of course. 

Have you got anything planned for 2019?



Saturday, 8 December 2018

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I think I actually prefer the build up to Christmas than the big day itself. 

Whether it's being stuck in a crowded coffee shop waiting for the rain to pass, or last-minute festive jumper buying for the charity day at work, the days leading up to the 25th always seem a little more special; that may be the extra prosecco talking, but it's hard to tell.

For me, these photos capture that festive whirlwind which December seems to wrap everything up in. The lights, the laughter and the mince pies. Horribly cliché, but I certainly think it's worth taking that occasional moment to just step back and take it all in, as after all, sometimes it can be tricky to see beyond the excessive buying, and actually remember what this season is really all about. 

Are you looking forward to Christmas?


photos by the fab Bartek Basista


Monday, 5 November 2018

Why should you go charity shopping?

blazer - Oxfam Bold Street
top - Primark
jeans - H&M
boots & bag - ebay
necklaces - Neck on the Line

 My first charity shopping experience was during a rainy lunch hour in Sixth Form. I'd become firm friends with a girl who was several ranks above me in the style stakes and who always blew me away with her outfit choices. You know that person in your friendship group that just has a knack of putting the best outfits together? That was her.

Naturally I had to know where all of these amazing pieces were coming from; from the vintage silk shirt to the oh-so-gorgeous western boots, I longed to discover how I too could create a wardrobe which would match the likes of hers. 

The simple answer? Charity shopping. Since then I am yet to look back.

As well as enabling me to find completely original pieces for a fraction of the price, opting for vintage items promotes sustainability and, in the long term, is of course much better for the planet.
Did I mention you can find genuine designer items for literally under £10? Harvey Nicks eat your heart out. 

Have you tried charity shopping?



Thursday, 25 October 2018

Season of change

For me, Autumn has always felt slightly strange.

It's something I have never quite been able to put my finger on, but the months between August and December feel almost dreamlike to me, with the cooler days somewhat shrouded in a blanket of mystery and magic. I'm not simply talking about Halloween - though my binge watching of Hocus Pocus has definitely had a part to play in my fondness for the season - it's a quality that's embedded into the season itself.

'Overcast skies still brimming with the promise of sunlight mean that the warmth lingers until the early evening, when that crisp coldness reminds you that Summer is well and truly over.'

Granted, I may be envisioning a highly romanticised version of this time of year, but it's hard to deny that there's something about the fleeting sunlight, leaf carpeted pavements and bonfire night parties that yields a feeling of comfort. It's perhaps no surprise to learn that whilst strange, Autumn continues to be my favourite time of year. 

Whilst the season also tends to remind us that tinsel and fairylights are not too far away, for me it also signposts that a much greater change is on the way; moving to London.*

As someone who is very comfortable 'up-North', the decision to move to the capital was far from easy, mainly because I am literally petrified of change. That being said, the job opportunity presented to me was far too significant to pass up.

This led me to decide that even though it had been offered uniquely in London, it's something that I need to do. Regardless of aforementioned fear of change. 

This is something you may be thinking would probably be worth a post all on it's own - and you'd probably have a point. It's just that, as the move is something I'm really still trying to come to terms with myself, carefully footnoting it to a post makes the whole thing seem much less scary and significant to me than it really is. In a nutshell, it's a coping mechanism - perhaps not one therapist approved, but a makeshift one nonetheless. 

Anyway, if you have any advice/guidance on life down South do let me know. I'd also love to hear if you can relate to my feelings on Autumn - do you have a favourite season?


*I can't tell you how hard it was to avoid leaf metaphors here. The temptation was real.

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