My 5 Favourite Podcasts to Help me Switch Off

I wrote a posta couple of weeks ago all about the podcasts I love to listen to, to help me as a creative entrepreneur, but, as much as I love podcasts to get me fired up for a day at work, I also listen to podcasts a lot to relax. When I was a kid I used to listen to stories on cassette tapes every night to help me fall asleep, and I guess in a lot of ways, I’ve just moved from Fantastic Mr Fox to a slightly more adult kind of content – but it’s the same thing for me, really. Some of these are soothing and fictional, others are brilliantly educational – but they’re all shows I never miss an episode of!

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The one for true crime storytime: Casefile

I do listen to and watch quite a lot of True Crime content, and I actually could easily have made this entire list up of True Crime shows – but don’t worry, I haven’t! Casefile is the first True Crime podcast I started listening to and it’s still my most listened to. Each episode is researched so well, is usually a good length – around the hour mark – and the production quality and mixing is excellent, so it makes for a consistently enjoyable listen, and I appreciate not having to adjust the volume constantly! Some cases covered are well known, some are a lot more obscure but I feel like they’re all handled respectfully and that’s something I always need from a True Crime podcast.

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The one that’s delightfully deadly: This Podcast Will Kill You

When I was a kid I was very into history, but, well, it was never really the the kind of stuff we studied about in school that got my attention. I was obsessed with The Black Death, in particular. I kind of always hid away my love for learning about diseases and the like, assuming that this was probably not something that would be well received in polite conversation – that is, until I found This Podcast Will Kill You and the Erins – the hosts of the show, two women who are epidemiologists and are also slightly obsessed with plague. This Podcast Will Kill You is all about epidemiology – which essentially means it’s a show that discusses diseases, how they work, where they came from, how we handle them, and how much of a threat they are to us going forward. Each episode focuses on a specific illness and Erin and Erin are so amazingly passionate at describing everything they know about it. It sounds like a pretty dark topic for a podcast, but honestly it’s a very funny, educational listen.

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The one that’s fascinatingly morbid: Death in the Afternoon

This is a podcast by Caitlin Doughty, who you might know as Ask a Mortician on Youtube (and if you don’t, seriously, check her out). Caitlin is a mortician who is very passionate about changing the way the western world thinks about death and what we do with dead bodies. Death in the Afternoon is a brilliant listen that deals with topics surrounding death in an approachable, humorous way, that is also respectful and factual. I get that listening to a podcast about death might not sound like a nice way to chill out in the bath after a long week at work, but honestly, if you’ve never read any of Caitlin’s books or watched her on YouTube, definitely check her out before ruling Death in the Afternoon out.

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The one for Halloween-feels, all year round: Lore

I have to start this off by saying that I’m really someone who believes in ghosts, or the paranormal  but – I absoluely love Lore. Lore is like part ghost story, part study into the origins of urban legends and folklore – all set to beautiful, soothing piano music. Lore is what I listen to most nights to send me to sleep and it works wonders! Some of the stories covered are things I’ve heard of before, some are completely new to me, but most interesting of all, I think, are the episodes that feature a bit of both, and draw connections between legends and tales from around the world. While I definitely fall into the category of being a skeptic as far as things like ghosts, yetis and the Loch Ness Monster are concerned, I’m also really fascinated with why these stories come into existence, I mean, they had to come from somewhere.

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The one my 8-year old self wished for: Stuff You Missed in History Class

Like I said above, I’ve always been really into history – less the whole, memorising which battle was when, and much more into the gory, and the personal side of it all. And, luckily for me, this is exactly what Stuff You Missed in History Class is like – it tells the stories we don’t usually get to hear, in a more colloquial and conversational manner than a lot of the other history podcasts out there. I have to admit that sometimes the episode title doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but I always listen, and am almost always entertained and educated throughout – definitely one to check out for any fellow history fans out there!

So there you have it, 5 of my favourite podcasts for listening to while I’m chilling – this actually could easily have been a list of 10, but I wasn’t sure if that was maybe a bit much! If you’d like me to do a second post like this, let me know in the comments below, and please also share your favourite podcasts too – I am always looking for more gems!

 

 

The Weirdest Reason to Not Write a Blog Post?

Writers block, a creative rut, or outright procrastination, there’s certainly a lot of reasons why I’ve failed to write as regularly as I’d have hoped to over the years, but right now, I have a problem much more bizarre than any of those…

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Okay, so, currently I’m coming up with a lot of ideas to write about – so, check – I have the time to write – check – and I’m very excited about what I want to right about – again, check. But, and it’s a big but, I’m hardly writing anything at all because every idea I’m coming up with, I feel like I should save it for “later”. Later, when I’m a better writer, later when I’m more knowledgeable on the subject and later when hopefully, I’ll be able to reach more people with my writing.

It’s like a crazy mutation of imposter syndrome – it’s not that I feel I’m not good enough to write; I firmly believe that everyone has a unique voice and viewpoint to share, including me. No, this is like some sort of self-imposed, nonsensical, qualification system, whereby I’m restricting myself to only write about the things I’m currently “good enough for”.

And, “good enough for”, what does that even mean? The way to become more comfortable with writing is to write more, and the way to become more knowledgeable about a subject is to study it. By locking myself into this cycle where I won’t let myself write because I’m not good enough, but I can’t get better because I won’t let myself write, is just locking in a course for failure.

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s probably quite normal to keep a project or two up our sleeves for the future – for me, that would be writing fiction – but I think the goal then is still to be moving towards that, right? It’s one thing to be not quite ready for a project and to circle it slowly, but it’s another thing altogether to lock it away in a box and put it on the high shelf out of reach for “when we’re good enough”.

And for me, the craziest thing about all this is that this idea of not wanting to “waste” a good post idea really goes against the essence of what I want my blog to be. I’ve never intended to try and write a blog from the standpoint of being an “expert” on any given subject; I’m a human, on a journey, learning and making mistakes, and I’ve always wanted my writing to reflect that – ESPECIALLY when it comes to writing a blog, which is, by it’s nature, a sort of continuous writing piece with ebbing and flowing subjects and opinions, rather than some sort of static encyclopaedia type work. So, yeah, maybe tomorrow I’ll write a post about something; I’ll give it my all, I’ll believe what I write but then 18 months later I’ve learned a lot more or I’ve changed my mind entirely – that’s completely okay!

Growth and change are normal, they are great in fact – if I was ever to stop opening my mind and my heart in order to be able to say “here is my definitive opinion on whatever”, I think that would be sad, and it’s certainly not a state of being that I’m aiming for, or one that I would like to portray in my writing. So, I’ll conclude this long blog post about erm… how I can’t write blog posts by saying; I’m here, I’m bursting with ideas and it’s time to let them come flooding out. And, if you’re here, reading this and you too have felt like you’re “not good enough” or knowledgeable enough to write about something you’re passionate about, then let this post be a little nudge for you – YOU ARE AND YOU CAN.

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

My first time taking valium for a flight

Have I mentioned yet that I’m just back from a Florida vacation? Oh, only a couple of hundred times, huh? Well, it was our first vacation in five years and so it was quite the shake up of my routine – both in terms of my eBay business, and also for my mental health.

*I just want to quickly say that this blog post is simply my experience with taking valium for the first time, of course, people can react differently to medication so please discuss any questions you have with your doctor prior to obtaining or using a prescription.*

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Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

Why was I considering taking Valium?

On the previous two occasions that I have attempted to board a plane – in 2016 and 2017 – I’ve had panic attacks so severe that I’ve had to do a runner – letting people down that I love and holding up a frigging jumbo jet while my bags were removed. Not my favourite memories ever to be honest.

So that’s probably a decent enough explanation as to why I needed some help to fly this time, and I don’t want to turn this intro into a novel, but I should probably also just point out that I am actually not afraid of flying, like, at all. Yeah, I know, but hear me out. My issue is actually that I suffer from cleithrophobia – which is the fear of being trapped. It’s like a sister to claustrophobia – which is the fear of enclosed spaces. So, I have no fear of take-off or landing, of turbulence, or a worry about terror threats, no, for me, a flight is a nightmare simply because I’m stuck in one space for an extended period of time – it would be just as intense if I was locked in a huge gym hall on the ground, or a bus, or aything like that!

Because the fear for me is of being trapped rather than being on a plane, the panic attacks start much earlier than actually being near a plane, for example, once you go through security in an airport you are “trapped” in the departure lounge, so that’s also a big trigger for me. In fact, just having a holiday booked and knowing I “have” to go is enough to make me feel trapped and triggered (I’ll write a lot more about cleithrophobia at another time, I promise).

Why did I decide to take Valium?

So, I prepared for this holiday in a lot of ways beyond just buying a swimsuit – I began a medititation practice, I started doing yoga again, and I even tried EFT with the help of my mum. I became confident that I could handle most of the journey on my own, like getting through check-in, security and such, but I still just had this gut-wrenching fear that when push came to shove, I would still be unable to board the plane.

I wrestled with the feeling for months, but eventually decided to go and speak to my doctor. In all honesty, I felt like a bit of a failure for having to go and get valium prescribed to go on holiday – I felt like it was “supposed” to be this happy treat and not something that should require pharmacutical intervention, as in, it’s not a “necessary” thing to go on holiday, is it?

My experience with my doctor

My doctor was amazing though, he helped me to see things in a different light by explaining that anxiety is a battle I face every single day, and I deserve to have a holiday, to relax, that it will overall do good for my mental health. He was also very much of the opinion that because of my previous failure to board experiences I was building the experience up in my head and it was weighing on my mind a lot – and that I’d feel a lot better once I’d conquered this fear, even if I needed a little help to do it. He also let me know that people needing sedation to fly is actually fairly common – either in the form of prescribed medication, or a few strong drinks before they board, which I’d never really thought of before!

He gave me some tablets, that were a pretty low dose, explaining that because I’d never been sedated before, I probably wouldn’t need much – but, he enouraged me to test them out before we traveled so that I’d know how they make me feel, and also be able to go back to him if I needed a higher dosage.

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Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

 

The actual travel experience

Testing out the valium actually didn’t work super well for me – it allowed me to realise that I didn’t experience any mad side-effects, but I couldn’t tell if they “worked” when it came to sedating me – I think this is because I didn’t try taking them when I was in a super-anxious state, so it was hard to measure the effect because I was already calm when I took them.

However, when it came time to travel, I put a lot of faith in the tablets, not least because my doctor had explained I could take two of the tablets, if one didn’t cut it, so I felt like I had some control over the situation. On the day, I made it through check-in and security with some deep-breathing and focus exercises, I was proud of myself, but, as boarding time approached I could feel the adrenaline flooding through my system and I was losing the ability to think rationally about things – time to take a pill.

I took one pill at this point and I would say it hit me very quickly – within 10-15 minutes – although this was on a completely empty stomach as I’d been unable to eat or drink anything that day because of the anxiety. How did it make me feel? It’s strange because it doesn’t really make me feel anything, it’s more like the abscence of a feeling. Basically, when I take valium I don’t feel drowsy, or drunk or happy, for me, all it does is turn off the adrenaline.

For anyone who has had a panic attack, you know the feeling, where adrenaline is rushing into your system, your heart is racing, your stomach churning, brain running 100 miles an hour – it’s a battle to keep your mind rational. You feel like you’re going to vomit or die and all your internal alarms are going off, yes, you can fight it, and I have, many, many times, but it is exhausting and upsetting and just a constant struggle. So for me, valium just turned off the adrenaline and with it, the physical symptoms.

I wasn’t suddenly happy about boarding a flight – mentally, I was still really scared, but my body didn’t respond with all the physical stuff, so it meant that I was much more able to control my thoughts to focus on something else, and to speak rationally to myself. In other words, the valium stopped me from having a panic response, and just downgraded the whole experience to “nervousness”, which is a vast improvement.

What happened when it wore off?

My doctor had told me that valium typically lasts 4-6 hours in the system, although it’s a little difficult to say precisely, as different people react to it differently. I decided that since it kicked in super fast for me, I wasn’t going to set a timer or anything to take another one, I was just going to see how it felt.

I think really, my hope was that once it wore off part-way through the flight, I would feel fine and not need to take another one – I think I still felt like I had something to prove, or that I could handle this on my own. As it turned out, I did become aware of the valium wearing off. The restlessness in my legs, the anxious wringing of hands, the increased heart rate and breathing speed, the nausea – could I have talked myself down and done the rest of the flight valium free? Maybe, but I was so exhausted from the days of worry leading up to the flight and so keen to just not have a negative experience with flying that I decided to take another pill. Again, it kicked in quickly (although by this point I did have food in my stomach!) and felt exactly the same as the first time. I think I definitely made the right decision to take another one – not least because we faced big delays when we landed and I needed my mental strength to stay calm and manage those.

So, what about next time I fly?

The news that I had managed to board a plane reached my family and those close to me, who were very proud of me and relieved about the whole thing, however, in conversation with them since coming home, there seems to be a lot of feeling that, “well you’ve overcome that fear now, all sorted”, but, erm, I have to say unfortunately I don’t agree.

We actually already have travel plans booked for next year, and while I do feel more optimistic about it all, including the plane-boarding part, I think I have to remember that I do suffer from cleithrophobia and in a lot of ways the whole airport, long-haul flight situation is the biggest trigger that I can face. Anyone who flies long-haul knows it’s a long day, but to experience intermittent panic attacks on that day just makes it absolutely brutal, and soul-breaking.

Honestly, I feel like next time I fly I would still like to have valium with me – maybe I’ll take it, maybe I won’t, but I want to give myself the option and to give myself back the feeling of control over the day. I really, really don’t want to spend 11 months looking forward to this trip and thinking I’ll be fine with the flight only to have it all come crashing down in the 30 minutes of boarding time – been there, done that, have the nightmares about it.

Yes, ideally in the long run, I won’t have to be sedated everytime I fly, but one flight does not a phobia cure, as they say… probably. I think this is a baby-steps scenario and I feel comfortable with that. I don’t feel ashamed for having to take a sedative, and I don’t feel like I need to prove myself to other people – I’m just going to take this at a pace that feels right for me.

 

 

 

5 things I wish I knew before I became self-employed

I’ve talked a bit before about how I came to be self-employed, but the long and the short of it is that it wasn’t so much a choice as that I was sort of herded towards it by my poor mental health and my subsequent inability to hold down a job. So, I started my self-employment journey from place of basically, sheer panic, at having bills to pay and no means to pay them. I didn’t write a business plan, I didn’t have savings, I didn’t even really have a concept of what the pros and cons of self-employment would look like for me, I just knew I had to try it, that I had to try SOMETHING.

Over the last 9 months or so that I’ve more or less been officially working for myself, there’s some things I’ve come to learn that I wish I had had some awareness or understanding of before I jumped down this rabbit hole, so I thought I’d share them here with you today.

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Photo by Lost Co on Unsplash


1. It really is all on me!

I’m very fortunate in that I know quite a lot of people who freelance or run side hustles or have been altogether self-employed at some point or another. I’m lucky that these people will often listen to me prattle on at length about eBay pricing strategies, how much to invest in business cards or some other such decision that’s currently consuming me. But one thing I hadn’t realised until I was essentially running my own business, is that no matter how many people I talk to, blog posts I read or advice I receive – at the end of the day the responsibility of it all is all on me. I think I somehow thought that I could ask my dad – who was self-employed for 20 years – a business question and he would be able to give me an answer that clearly showed me what to do, but, erm…. no. Every industry is different, heck, every individual business is different and so at the end of the day, it’s up to me that make the decisions – and of course, the mistakes – that will shape my business into how I dream of it being *gulp*.

2. Turns out sitting on my butt at a PC is very different than working on my feet all day

Yes, “duh”, I hear you all saying, but this actually hadn’t really registered for me until one day I tried to get dressed (to actually leave the house, shock horror), and literally none of my jeans fit me – or at least, they didn’t fit in a way that I could trust y’know?

I had always worked retail or hospitality before and been on my feet throughout every shift, I also used to often walk the 2 miles or so to and from work, so, to go from this to walking the 20 steps to my laptop in the morning and then staying there for 10 hours… well, it’s taken its toll. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about positivity and loving your body, but the reality is, the weight gain I’m experiencing is purely because I’ve been neglecting myself. I’ve been eating so much junk and not going for walks because I DON’T HAVE TIME, which, is kind of a ridiculous sentiment when you think about it. What it really means is I DON’T HAVE TIME… MANAGEMENT SKILLS. I need to accept that being self-employed, there is always work to be done, but, you know, not at the expense of my health.

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Photo by Dose Media on Unsplash

3. People will not always understand or respect when I say “I have to work”

This is one that caught me so off guard! I don’t have a huge circle of friends and family, but I would say that I am pretty close with the people in my life and so when I started to encounter a lack of understanding about my work life, it was kind of hard to take. When I would say “I can’t Tuesday through the day, I have to work”, I would get “why? Can’t you do it at night? What are you doing?” or something similar in response and it would really hurt me. I took it as disrespectful and I took it personally, I interpreted it as meaning that MY work didn’t have value – but increasingly, I think it’s just down to a lack of understanding about what it takes to be self-employed. Sure, if I don’t show up to work tomorrow, in the short term, I won’t face the consequences that those working a 9-5 will, but this doesn’t mean there AREN’T consequences, and it doesn’t mean that I have to justify my work pattern to, well, anyone.

4. It’s OK to work non-conventional work hours and not feel ashamed about it

This sort of follows on from the point above, and again, this was a big stumbling point for me. As I talked about in the first paragraph, I fell into self-employment because I struggle with my mental health – and so what that means for me, is that some days I’m a #girlboss, and other days, I just need to look after myself. I’ve had to learn to accept that I actually do HAVE to look after my mental health – it’s not like a quirky life choice for me to sometimes sleep 14 hours a day, or watch Ru Pauls Drag Race for 5 hours, sometimes I actually need to, to stay above water.

So, some mornings I’m at my desk, working away by 8am – and other days? Cannot get out of bed until 11am. Some days, I’m confident and productive and motivated – other days? Depression is taking over, and I only manage a few hours work before needing to sleep again. When I’ve told people, “oh, I didn’t start until 10 today”, or, “I do a lighter work day on the first day of my period because it’s always really rough for me mentally”, I’ve definitely had a lot of eye rolls and snide sounding, “must be nice” type of remarks, and you know what? Yes, it is bloody nice to be able to look after my mental health while earning a living for the first time in my life. But you know what else would be nice? A steady income and career progression. There are pros and cons to both lifestyles and I’m finally learning to embrace the benefits of the life I’m living, and to not feel ashamed about it.

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Photo by Lost Co on Unsplash

5. It’s difficult, and it’s stressful, but it is so incredibly addictive and rewarding

Yeah, I mean, just yeah. Self-employment has me looking an off-button in my ever-working-away-brain, it has me keeping spreadsheets and checking stats, actually having to respond to emails and yes, sometimes it has me in tears.

But honestly, I LOVE this life I’m building with each eBay sale and Redbubble sticker purchase (for the love of god, will someone by something that isn’t a sticker?!). Sometimes it’s easy to see failure around every corner when you’re self-employed – because, especially in the early days, I guess it could be. But the thing is, and I know its absurdly cliché, but all I can do is rock up and do my best and see how it goes. Sure, I could fail spectacularly, or I could learn, grow and succeed, and honestly, I’m becoming addicted to chipping away at the opportunities within my grasp and crafting a life that works for me – so I think, for me, this is the path I want to stay on – whether I succeed or fail in the long run.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post, I really appreciate it – I hope it gave you a bit of encouragement, or a laugh! I’d really love to connect with other freelancers or self-employed people – so please, share any of your experiences or thoughts on this topic down below in the comments!

Goodbye, 2018

Wow, 2018, just wow. You’ve been and gone and raged like a tornado through my life. As with every year there’s been heady highs and scary lows, but I really feel like 2018 as a year, has changed me so much more than any other year I can remember.

I found Kinning Park Complex

Well “found” is probably the wrong word, since I had actually been walking past it almost daily for 3 years, no I suppose it’s more accurate to say I “ventured in” to Kinning Park Complex. It’s actually impossible to overstate how much impact KPC and the people there have had on Kenny and I – it’s changed everything from our career paths to how we spend our free time, not to mention we’ve met some truly amazing people and eaten (a lot) of really good food.

I began my transition to veganism

If I’m being honest, my omnivore lifestyle hadn’t sat well with me for quite some time, but I buried my head in the sand, because, hey – cheese is tasty. Like, really tasty. 2018 saw me finally face up to things and begin the move towards veganism. Some parts have been easy, some bits I have failed at, miserably, but I’m excited to finally be on the path that feels right for me – and I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot more about it as we head into 2019.

I made the leap to being self employed

After years of my mental health issues making me miserable when trying to hold down a typical job, 2018 was the year that, with encouragement from Kenny and my family, I finally said, “enough”, and decided I’d figure out another way to do this. Unlike a lot of people I didn’t have savings to fall back on or, you know, a plan, just sheer determination to stand on my own two feet and to prove that my anxiety and depression wouldn’t hold me back from being successful in life, even if they did in a “normal” job.

I could go on, and on, and on – rapidly realising that starting this post may have been a mistake. I could talk about how my family rallied around each other – as we always do. I could talk about how proud I am of Kenny for surviving University and landing an amazing job. I could share stories of barbecues and cutting a fringe in my hair (bad move btw),  of finally finding our local pub, learning Sorani and completely failing at a capsule wardrobe system – yeah, 2018 was a lot. Big mood.

Ultimately though, I’m all about looking forward, not back. So thank you 2018, for the lessons and the snow, for the scares and the seitan, the hugs and the hellos and here’s to 2019! Wishing you all a Happy New Year for when the time comes – I hope 2019 is good to you.

What was 2018 about for you? Let me know your highlights down below in the comments!

 

Dark Winter Nights | Mindfulness for the Seasons

Rainy Weather Winter Scotland

Depending on where you live in the world, winter may or may not be a big deal. Here in Scotland, while we don’t typically experience heavy snowfall and absurdly cold temperatures, what we do get instead are months (and months) of very little daylight, it almost always raining even when it actually is daylight, and a colour scheme that features 17 shades of grey and bleh. It can be kind of tough. And then, once you get to the point of it being tough, you realise it’s only November, and it’s only just getting started.

So, why is it so tough?

We have electric lights, we have central heating and waterproofs; we’re not exactly camped out on the hills at the mercy of the elements here. For some people, clinical depression and S.A.D come into play of course – and just to clarify, while I have a long history with clinical depression that is typically worse in the winter months, I have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) – so know that this post, as ever, isn’t intended as medical advice, just well-intentioned stories of experience and some suggestions.

I think there are a few reasons why it’s tough, especially here in the UK:

  • Looking out the window, words you might use to describe the view in winter might be “bleak”, “grey”, “lifeless” or something like “grim” – none of these words really hold positive connotations. We don’t get a lot of the blue skies, and crisp frosty mornings – it really is months of dullness, or as we would say in Scotland, it’s dreichit.
  • It’s all everyone talks about (Or at least it feels like it). I go into the Post Office and the lady at the counter greets me by grumbling about the bloody rain being on again. I call my Dad, who regales me with a story of how he had to put the lights on before 4pm (that’s BEFORE 4pm, Kitty). Even if you yourself are trying not to focus on the rain and the wind, it is constantly discussed and put to you – and it is almost never in a positive light.
  • It feels like it makes your world shrink. Some of this is real – like for me, as a petite woman, I can’t go jogging in my local area in the dark… so that’s anytime before 8:30 and after 15:30 then. Wow. And some of it is more of a perception, I think. A lot of the things we might enjoy or fill our time with in the lighter months, suddenly aren’t so enjoyable or viable. It’s all too easy to fall into a rut of just sitting in front of the TV every night.

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So, how can mindfulness help?

I think there’s actually a few ways that practicing mindfulness can help us not just  endure, but in fact, thrive in the winter months. If we apply some of the core principles of mindfulness, like slowing down and practicing awareness, and focus them on the winter season specifically, I think we can make a big change in the way we perceive and therefore experience things.

  • I think it can be easy for winter to seem to represent death, or the end. The trees are leafless, so many animals are hibernating – or keeping a low profile – and we ourselves may feel sluggish in the cold weather. I like to take the time to re-enforce the idea of winter, not as a time of dying, but as a time of resetting. It can be a time for looking into ourselves and doing some resetting of our own – of using meditation, and the wonderful stillness that winter brings, to work on closing some now un-needed chapters within ourselves, and preparing for a time of growth, of blossoming and of change.
  • Winter is easily seen as a time “without”. Without sunshine. Without warmth. Without the buzzing of bees or the fluttering of bats. It can be easy to feel that winter has a lot “wrong” with it; as if Summer is our norm and somehow winter is the antithesis of that. I find that it helps me to focus on the idea of impermanence – that everything is fluid and without a fixed state. Like the seasons, like my thoughts, my feelings and my very existence. The cycle of the seasons creates balance, and we can relax and know that this cycle will continue – whether we moan and resist and fight it, or not. Winter may feel difficult sometimes, but as with all struggles, it will pass – and I think being mindful of this fact can be a big help in keeping things in perspective.
  • Create light and joy for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve mentioned above, I am usually all for trying to embrace winter for what it is and to love it, but sometimes, as the rain lashes against the window and the wind howls, it can be nice to draw yourself inwards instead. Close the blinds, light some candles or fairy lights (or, “winter lights” as my dad insists on calling his), make a hot beverage and take time to be still. At these times, I like to meditate on feelings of gratitude – which can be abundant in winter, if we give it a little thought. That I have a warm, safe house to retreat into, that I don’t have to worry about a bad winter leaving me without enough food, that I can have the time to simply sit and breathe when outside the weather is in such chaos – all of these things are huge blessings, and I do my best to stay mindful of them throughout the season.
  • Keep busy. As we spend more time with ourselves, perhaps reflecting more than we do in the busy Summer months, pay attention to ideas that may spring up. Winter can be an excellent time to pursue a hobby. I’m not suggesting that November 1st you go out and buy a shop’s worth of yarn or anything, but, if we slow down mindfully – rather than zoning out in front of the TV each night – we may find we have time, and the desire to learn something new, or return to neglected creative practice – whether that’s baking, playing the drums or crochet.

Rainy weather winter Scotland rain

But, we’re all still human…

Let’s be honest, while the points I’ve listed seem (I think) sensible and fairly logical, we’re all human and we will all still have days where we show up at work soaked to the skin, or when our heating breaks during the coldest week of the year. And what then?

Yup, winter does suck sometimes. It just does, and honestly, I think it’s perfectly okay to feel that way –  the one suggestion I would make though? Don’t be the person that greets strangers on the street with a “morning, horrible day, isn’t it?”. Try and remember that most people struggle with the long winters here, and honestly, contributing to the constant moaning about it isn’t helping anyone – although I’ll hold my hands up and admit I totally do this myself sometimes. I’m not suggesting you stand there in torrential rain and gale force winds with a slightly manic smile on your face as you declare, “BEAUTIFUL DAY ISN’T IT!?!?”, but rather that, when possible, we adopt a Thumper approach. You know, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all – about the weather or lack of daylight, anyway.

I hope you found this post helpful, or that it gave you some food for thought. I’d love to hear from you on what your winter experience is like – are winters hard where you live? Have you typically struggled a bit in the winter months? Do you have any suggestions for me, or other readers, as to what we might try?

 

 

Waking Up is Hard to Do

 

dark silhouette of a cup of coffee - waking up morning mental health issues anxiety depression

I think most people can relate to that feeling of the alarm going off long before you’d like it to or to the discovery that somehow the air in your bedroom is below 0c and the reach for your dressing gown is just so, so far. Waking up can be difficult for a huge number of reasons, but today I want to talk specifically about why waking up can be hard if, like me, you suffer from anxiety and depression – and share some thoughts on how I make things easier for myself.

I’d like to preface this by saying, like I always do, that anxiety and depression are complex and unique, and just because these are my experiences does not mean I’m qualified – or have any intention of – weighing in on anyone else’s. I write these posts to share my thoughts and feelings on a subject I’ve been silent on for too long, and I really, sincerely hope they help someone else – but please remember, your emotions and experiences are valid, and are your own.

Waking Up Scenario One: Got a Big Day Ahead Tomorrow

You know the sort of day I mean: maybe you’re getting up earlier than usual, have a long train journey to go on, or are jammed in meetings all day – or heck, maybe it’s even your birthday and you have super awesome fun birthday plans.

But from the night before, anxiety kicks in and your mind starts wondering if that’s a headache coming on? Is your tummy feeling a little off? You get into bed and falling asleep seems about as easy as running an ultra-marathon; come to think of it, given the amount of adrenaline in your system right now, the marathon might be easier.

I think a lot of folks experience the whole “if I fall asleep now I’ll get 5 hours sleep” countdown phenomenon – and I think we all know how delightfully zombie-esque that leaves you feeling the morning after but, when anxiety and adrenaline are heaped on top of that, it’s pretty much a recipe for utter exhaustion and burnout the next day – which sucks if you’re destined to spend the day stifling yawns at work, and sucks even more if it’s your birthday but instead of having a good time you just want to hide under the duvet.

When I’m in this situation, I go into all out self care mode – and for the record, I’ll generally be the first to point out that mental health issues can’t be fixed with a cup of tea, but in this particular scenario, the little things really can make the difference. So, I’m laying out my outfit the night before, I’m charging my phone, packing snacks and asking Kenny to give me some support in the morning. I’ll have a bath, do some breathing exercises and crack out the Pukka Night-Time tea. In this situation I am all about trying to reduce the feeling of overwhelment – I chip away at the mountain of little tasks and thoughts flying around in my head to give myself the best chance possible of getting to sleep… and staying asleep.

Waking Up Scenario Two: Tomorrow is Going to be a Great Day

Bonus fun fact: I’m currently experiencing this one as I write this post. Oh, yay.

I’m very much a planner in life; I use Google Calendar for everything, I love the feeling of being productive and getting shit done in a day – in other words, I am not someone who is great at having un-scheduled down time. So, possibly the most frustrating of all the mental health waking up scenarios for me is this one: when I go to bed excited for what the next morning will bring, totally buzzing to get started on my work and on being creative… and then in the morning I wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by an emotional truck.

Where does it come from? Why does it happen? I have no idea, but wow, I wish I did. I wish I knew how to prevent my mood doing a 180 as I sleep, I wish I could understand what’s going on inside my mind so that I could help myself… and yes, get more work done. Waking up with the ghost of self-belief and motivation dissolving faster than cheap bath bomb is a truly devastating feeling. I want to be my best self, I want to be a bad ass boss bitch, I want to live my life to the fullest – but I also can’t keep my eyes open or remember why I thought silly old me would be capable of carrying out the plans I put together the night before.

This is the scenario I still struggle to deal with most because I think the best solution is to accept the feeling, and slow down – and that does not go well with my Type-A personality.  Sure, you can tell yourself off and force yourself to stick to all the plans – but in my experience, the result is usually frustration, increased anxiety and a mood rapidly spiralling downwards. When I feel like this, everything I draw is shit, every task takes me three times as long as it should, getting a text message triggers my anxiety, and yes, of course, we can’t just all take the day off work every time we feel like this, but compromise is usually an option.

For me, it means I get the most basic “needs done” admin tasks under my belt (which usually takes me about an hour in the morning) so that I don’t freak out completely about “what am I even doing with my life?!”, and then, I curl up with a book and I read for a while. Or, if really I have to do what I have to do in a day – at the very least, I speak to myself with kindness. I am gentle with myself. No, maybe I’m not feeling the spark I had the night before, and maybe I’m not working at the pace I should be, but I showed up, I’m fighting the anxiety, and I am doing my best. As cliche as it is, that really is all you can do. Here’s another post for if you need some more support on feeling like your best isn’t enough when it comes to anxiety and depression.

person holding coffee cup - anxiety depression mornings are hard

 

Waking Up Scenario Three: What’s the Point?

Ah, hello depression, my old friend.
This is probably the scenario we see most often depicted in TV shows, or how I imagine a lot of people picture depression – and while it is sort of cliched, it certainly does happen.You know how some mornings your alarm goes off and you know you should get up… but you don’t? Well, that is not this type of morning. On a morning like this, your alarm goes off and there is not a single part of you that thinks there’s any point in getting up.

Energy levels are so low they seem to have fallen into a deficit, self-worth is not something you can relate to and frankly, the world would probably be better off if you just stayed in bed today. This is a dark day.  This is the kind of day where eating, bathing and dressing are very real achievements (although, I’ll admit, I’ve still to earn my “I got dressed” badge on a day like this).

Giving advice on this scenario feels a little pointless, as I know when I have days like this I couldn’t care less what some woman on the Internet says, so I’ll just tell you what I do, or at least, what I try and do. First things first, I mentally re-adjust the bar and set it much lower for myself. If you are genuinely in such a bad place that you are struggling to feed yourself, then thinking about making a difficult phone call to a family member or trying to get your inbox to zero is probably not helping. I make a list for myself with actual, achieveable tasks that I can realistically accomplish – I mean, sometimes a task might be “charge phone”, but they’re still little tasks that will allow me to build momentum and possibly get back to a more rational state of mind, and if not? Well, hey, at least my phone is charged so I can lie and play Dots in bed for 7 hours.

These days are definitely the most difficult for me to “salvage”, but they’re also the days where I can come to appreciate the little things. Okay, yes, being to depressed to leave the house isn’t great – but at least I have a warm, safe home to stay in. Reading for 4 hours might not have been the most “productive” use of time, but I did learn a lot, or laugh a lot, or cry a lot – all of which can be valuable. If you’re having a dark day, please just hang in there; that’s the most sincere advice I can give.

So there we have it, just three of the many wonderful wake up scenarios that can occur when you’re battling with anxiety or depression. Maybe you’ve experienced these, maybe you’ve experienced others, but either way, I hope that reading this post gave you some reassurance that it’s not you, or a lack of willpower – when anxiety and depression are involved, waking up is hard to do.

Please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or on Instagram (@timorousminimalist), if you have any thoughts or questions about this post. Any obvious scenarios I missed? How do you cope when you wake up on a bad mental health day?