Keepin’ Up or Keeping It Real?

Am I keeping up or keeping it real?

Brandishing the mental health blogger brush within the social media realm, has allowed me to explore my outlook on wellbeing to the many. I even have the opportunities to discuss my journey in workshops, panels, events and every time I do a pop up with my business Keep Real.

I submerge myself in mental health news, keeping up with the latest articles and wonderful folk who are fighting stigma and openly discussing the topic more. Lately however, I forget to look at my own mental health when I am focused on finding everything out about everyone else. The constant need to feel updated.

This past week, I got-to thinkin’. Am I ‘keeping up’ or am I ‘keeping it real’? Priding myself on the brand I have created, has given me permission to explore its true meaning, and why two years ago I needed to create an extension of my ethos to stay true for mental health. 

According to Online Lang Dictionary, to ‘keep it real’ means “to stay true to one’s self; to resist the temptation to be fake.”. My brand/ ethos literally hits the nail on the head right there. So why do I feel lost in my own manifesto?

Recently, I dropped my phone into a toilet (pre-wee thank goodness), to which it never repaired (bet you didn’t think this would be my revelation story!). The journey of not having sustained access to all the news, the latest, the messages and scrolling habits- literally sunk to the bottom of the bowl in a mighty *th-lunk*. 

My reaction to not having a phone, was yes, inconvenient. My first thoughts (to my surprise) was not ‘Holy moly! I have to update my instagram/ twitter! How can I possibly scroll through the internet now?!’. It was a concern for safety…and my online train tickets I couldn’t retrieve. For the 5 days without it, I didn’t feel as upset as I thought I would be. 

The journey of not having sustained access to all the news, the latest, the messages and scrolling habits- literally sunk to the bottom of the bowl in a mighty *th-lunk*. 

The largest inconvenience of not having any digital communication, was while I was sat on a delayed train for 4 hours trying to get into Leeds. I even asked the train guard to borrow their phone, who looked at me in utter disbelief when I asked, ‘Excuse me, I don’t have a phone, may I borrow yours so I can ring my work?’. No technology to hand? Sacrilegious. 

I tend to back away from my phone a lot during a commute, with a priority to reading (currently it’s Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) and going through my filofax diary. You know…trying to keep it real.

I had surprised myself in my innate response to the lack of a personal device. We are so accustomed to accessing all the information, all of the time. No one forgot about me. No one cared that I didn’t update my social platforms. The only important things I couldn’t do, concerned my work and peace of mind if I needed immediate help. Not social media, not ‘keeping up’ like I thought.

Remembering why ‘Keep Real’ exists, eliminates that fear within that I have to keep up. I do what I do now, because I’m proud to navigate reality and the digital world within my small strides. 

We are so accustomed to accessing all the information, all of the time.

Having your own pace, is so important. Being a self-employed ‘go-getter’ if you will, does not mean I have to keep pushing to know more, do more, be more. Neither should you.

Keepin’ it real suits me fine. 

I’m hosting a Mental Health MOT & Mindset Workshop with Scrivener, Wednesday 5th June at Leeds Postal Service! FREE tickets here

Retail & Mental Health

Working in retail this time last year, really affected my mental health. Having now experienced this year not working in a retail environment after 5-6 years of doing so, has made me realise how deeply it affected me. But you can get through this. Here’s how.

If you’re working in retail right now, you’ll be doing the Black Friday slog and the run up to Christmas. It’s peak time, you’ll be working more hours to keep the store running and obeying the inpatient demands of the general public. You’ll get the lovely regulars with a mix of extremely inpatient customers- but all in all, the magic of Christmas can be beautiful…yet for some, very hard to enjoy. 

Image by Suzanne Wright Photographer

Customer service is rewarding, and building those relationships can be some of the best parts to the retail world. Every job comes with its trials and tribulations, but when you work in retail- you don’t really have the option to take time off during the busiest part of the year, or the option to not smile and have a bad day. So when your mental health is suffering, what options do you have?

I loved where I used to work and I still love them. I have learned that my mental health deteriorated in the slope to Christmas, and even though the end of the year is always the most magical, it is also one of the most stressful and in my experience, the hardest to get through. I remember one specific night two years ago, leaving from a late night, and literally running and crying all the way home because I just wanted to curl up and have a day off.  It was raining, I was tired after getting a 2 hour commute home and I ran the last part home. RAN. Then I woke up at 5am the next day to do it all over again.


So What Can You Do?

Share your concerns with your Manager. Let one of your superiors know how you feel, whether that’s your supervisor, floor manager or whoever. Tell a colleague, but remember you need the right support from your employer. They’ll be able to see what they can do for you. Also remember, they are human! They are working in retail at the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Stick together and ask questions like, “Hey, I wondered if you had time at all this morning or later in the day for a quick chat?”, “I’d love to run something by you in private, if you have time today?”. Even if they can give you a quick 10 minutes in the back when it’s becoming too much- as long as they are aware…you’re in safer hands. Don’t struggle in silence.

If you need a mental health day…take one. To do a good job, be productive and also be a wonderful part of the team- you need to take care of yourself. Being at work and knowing you’re not feeling your best, isn’t helping yourself or any of your colleagues…that’s both physically or mentally. Try not to feel guilty (I’m with you on trying/failing at that!). Your best self is a cared for self. Take the time you need.

Christmas is a mush. Give your mental health some structure. You may be working long as heck hours, different shift patterns and days can pass in a stressful blur. Making a note of how you feel can be really important in trying to track what you’re going through mentally. Assign colours to different moods (blue- ok day, yellow-happy/smooth day, black- terrible day etc) and see if you can spot some patterns. The Mental Health Foundation have some great tools on how to support mental health at work. 

Know your rights. This is so important. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly by your employer, know that you have a right to challenge discrimination. Time To Change set this out clearly and can signpost you to the correct services, especially when it comes to legal stuff and action to take. Unsure of what the Equality Act covers? You can check out the types of discrimination here on Mind’s website.


It’s hard to keep happy during the Christmas period, just know you are not alone in feeling that way. Please check out Keep Real’s list of careline that are available.

Imposter Syndrome

Doubting yourself is part of growth. It depends on what situation I am in, but recently when it has been intimate/ small meetings I tend to seriously doubt why I should even be there. Why lil ol’ me? My body language shifts, I try cover up the adrenalin/ nerves/excitement as my body blushes and I’m constantly thinking “Don’t go red, don’t go red! Get your words right!”…

Well, I have to remember ‘lil ol me runs a business and it’s time to grab life by the lady balls and realise that my opinion is valued. We’re all human.

I had a meeting last week for something that it being put together in Leeds, which I happen to have the pleasure of being on the steering board for. I sat down with a wonderful mixture of health professionals, each taking it in turn to introduce ourselves and what we’re all about. Each person there was absolutely incredible. Doing amazing things for folk, highlighting elements of health and wellbeing they would like to be improved. Then it was my turn and I felt that prickly red heat spreading over my body before I opened my mouth. 20180821102643_img_3753-01

I’ve spoke about Keep Real many times, in various settings. I’ve done it in small meetings, groups of over 50, even on stage to over 100 people. Small meetings are a struggle for me.  Sometimes I’m in a great headspace and can talk about it easily and freely. Others I can be a big walking rashy queen. It’s a case of mind over matter, I can get so caught up in my body’s reaction that I completely lose track of my thoughts, which are obsessively saying “You’re going red!! Not again!”, “Your neck is getting really hot now, they’ll all notice!“.

But do you know what?

The other wonderful folk in the meeting who spoke after me had the same thing. I noticed they were just like me. The man next to me even said “How do I follow that?!” after I spoke about Keep Real.  The folk after me blushes as they spoke- and I was relieved. Absolutely relieved. 

So it isn’t just me! It wasn’t necessarily the notion of comparing myself to these inspiring people, it was more a case of feeling undeserving.

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Sometimes we have to open our eyes to the fact that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel that way, we can recognise it and move forward. I recently read an article on Forbes around overcoming that ‘imposter syndrome’ feeling (read it here).

I messaged my friend and advisor Catherine about feeling this way, and she even said that she still feels like an imposter at work and every time she’s put in the position to lead a meeting. So, no. No it isn’t just me, and it isn’t my age either in this entrepreneurial world. It in fact, happens to everyone. And that’s ok.

Have you ever felt like a bit of an imposter? Let me know if it’s happened to you!

What’s Going On, Kim?

Before I begin, I want to say how my personal mental health has changed over the years. It has fluctuated in response to a multitude of events, grown through a variety of focuses and also stayed dormant through different phases. Note that every part of that sentence, is an accumulative of change. This is what mental health is. Very much like physical health, you take more notice probably of achey bones and tension in your shoulders. However if you take note of your mood changes or events in your life timelines, you’ll know how your body and mind go through transitions. Just know that it’s ok, you’re human. I’m human. I wanted to share a small glimmer of mental hope in my life timeline at the age of 23/24 from the past 10 months.

So here goes.

Currently, I have been on anti-depressants for 5 months. I had such a difficult time during the Christmas period, knowing I wasn’t coping. I knew it was an amalgamation of things; moving out, moving away, commuting, balancing a small business and work commitments, paying my way etc etc. My days off were spent crying and feeling real down. I was even crying at work, I just knew I wasn’t doing well.

I remember going to my doctor (who, by the way- was lovely to me) – and I blubbed out that “I’m finding being an adult so hard.” She also asked me what was making me feel the way I was feeling. I knew- and still know- that I tend to have a lot on my plate. I also know, that I don’t put myself first as much as I should.

When you’ve had counselling, you have tried mindfulness, multiple apps and feel like medication is still a route you haven’t gone down yet- try it. If it helps, try it.

I actually haven’t taken my medication for 4 days. I know I should have collected my prescription, but I’ve been too focused on the fact I’m moving out. It’s also bank holiday weekend. This week has been hard.

I’m at a point where I’m unsure where I am. It’s a little unsettling and I know I need some down time to process some changes. I think I’m just exhausted. But I know there’s hope- that’s what keeps me going. There’s so much I haven’t experienced yet- what a wonderful feeling that is.

Keep going.
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Noticing When You’re Struggling

Sometimes, when we’re battling through and going about our every day activities, our struggles can slip under and go undetected. So how do we know when we are struggling?
If you are struggling, please do reach out. Take a peep at the care lines available here.

We all manage stress and situational factors differently, this is just part of our human make up. Some folk can breeze through stressful parts of their life; others may be unable to cope so well. However we all battle stress, so be gentle and keep an eye on how you’re feeling.

For me personally, I can plod along just fine; even feeling a sense of calm. But there is a point where my sense of level headedness will shift and I ask myself when I’ll feel that break in my brain. I’ve noticed more so than ever before, that I can bottle up my stress and have 2 or 3 days where I feel completely overwhelmed. I cry, I cannot control or manage my thoughts and have to let myself feel everything all at once. Other days it can be waking up with a mind cloaked in sadness. But I know it’s ok, and you have to sit with sadness and let it go on it’s way.

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So how do you notice?

  • Feeling more tired than usual. Be aware during the winter months you will feel more lethargic than usual. I know I feel that at the moment with the days becoming shorter with longer nights. But if it’s been happening for more than a couple of weeks- take note. Be kind to yourself, get your 8 hours in and reach out.
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things. I being someone who has felt like that/ does feel like this time to time. Some days are so much harder than others. But if it’s affecting your work, tasks that are usually part of your routine that you don’t feel you can do (for example, taking a shower, making food for yourself)- this is when you need to gently step back on how you are doing.
  • Not wanting to do things you would normally enjoy. Are you taking time out to enjoy what you normally put your spare hours into? That could be just seeing your parents, going out to see friends or reading a book, playing music etc. It could be anything that you would normally never second guess as something you enjoy. However, if you’re finding that you are not enjoying what you used to- can be a sign that you are struggling.
  • Feeling like you don’t want to talk to anyone. I have had days like this, when on an average day I’ll be extremely outgoing and talking to people – then others where I don’t even want to talk to a loved one, or come into contact with any one at all. There are even days where I can’t even articulate how I feel. There are just no words, no language that can explain what’s going on in my head. This is when you need to see your behaviours as a sign that you’re having a bad day and not coping. Of course there are days you don’t have to talk to anyone, but if it’s persistent- this can be a sign you are struggling.

Please know you are not alone. Reaching out to people you feel safe to discuss how you feel is something so important. Loved ones want to help you, no matter the situation ❤

How do you notice you are struggling? Are there any tips you have to know?

 

Mental Health Is A Part Of Us All- Yes, Us All!

We have physical health, and we have mental health. It should be quite simple, right? Well, it feels like common sense- that our health is us as a whole, that we need to take care of our bodies and minds as one. Then how come mental health isn’t spoken about as much? Sometimes our mental health even comes with physical symptoms. Chest pains, loss of appetite, migraines, fatigue etc. It’s all linked, and our mind controls everything too! Ever get a tummy pain or a headache, and the more you think about how much it hurts- the more you feel it hurting somehow? When we focus on our pains or aches with our thoughts, the more our pains and aches control our thinking, our ability to concentrate and even our mobility as a person. Well, it all loops back to our thoughts and our mental state. This is our mental health. Whether you know it or not, you have mental health. Just like we all breathe in oxygen, have bones, skin, as well as blood flowing through our veins. It’s a part of us, and we have to take care of it.

Having a healthy mind is just as important as a health body

The next time you see someone in the street, or on their way to work, even in your workplace- just remember they have mental health. We aaallll have mental health! You are not alone, we all go through something- and you deserve to be ok. Every single person on this big huge rock we call our home has a mental state, even if we don’t talk about it. Our health is part of us all, whether we can see it or not.

Take care of yourself you, and keep real!

A list of helplines are on my blog, and if you feel you’d like to read more on mental health, type ‘mental health’ into the search bar ❤

Free Mental Health Apps

I previously posted a review on my Best Mental Wellness Apps, but I’ve been researching and collecting all sorts of information for my important presentation on Monday. Sooooo, I found two more wonderful bits of technology that can really help some folk out. I thought I’d quickly share them with you. And free too! Even better!wpid-img_20151004_105008.jpg

Not many people realise, that there are apps for mental wellness. Let’s use technology that we have to really help our wellbeing ❤ Apps aren’t just for games and social networking, but for us to use to our advantage.

Stay Alive App – If you’re needing immediate support concerning thoughts about harming yourself or suicide; this is an excellent app for just that. It includes tools and advice on a safety plan, reasons for living and gives some wonderful tips to calm you down. You can download from either Google Play or the App Store.

Healthy Habits – Ok, this is really cool- it aids your habits while you are
online. Healthy Habits prompts you throughout your day using your phone, or computer to take breaks in between your uses. I think it’s a wonderful idea for this app to notify you when you need a break! It’s a little idea that can really help you take time to be kind to yourself ❤