Paving The Way For Support

Recently, I was a guest at Leeds Drawing Club for their last ‘Creative Social’ of 2018 as a speaker discussing all things Keep Real. It was absolutely wonderful to get involved with the folk who attended, and share my story on why Keep Real exists, and what we are currently doing to support more people in the community when it comes to mental health.

It’s always great to open out to a Q&A towards the end, and receive feedback on how we can create more interventions about mental health. One guest asked if I thought Keep Real’s way of business could be the future for mental health support. What a wonderful idea! We have some great events coming up, you can take a look here

In light of it being World Mental Health Day, I wanted to reveal some of my recent favourites when it comes to self care. Here’s my Top 3, which I hope you can take away with you and share.

  • Fiona Thomas: As well as being a mental health writer and author, Fiona utilises her creative talent into developing supportive materials such as the You Got This Zine duo. The ‘You Got This: A Motivational Zine’ is aimed at folk who struggle with depression, and shares her story, as well as others about how to get stuff done through the hard times. She explains what ‘being kind to yourself’ really means and opens up the conversation with Jana Dowling, Rachael Watson and Amy Holland. There’s also the ‘You Got This: A Feel-Good Zine’ where Fiona open up her soul and shares her thoughts on anxiety, feeling ‘meh’ and how creativity can support your wellbeing. The work she has produced hits every note and candidly discusses dealing with mental health issues, and the day to day struggles we all feel.

I feel like more zines and sweet materials like this can just break it down in your own home. It doesn’t feel clinical, it shares the struggles we can all relate to and it embodies the small things we forget. Like how sometimes we don’t want to shower or clean or take care of our selves. We sometimes lose that, and the work by Fiona Thomas ties up all those loose strings we feel we can’t hold onto, and ties it all nicely into these pages. I’m so excited for her book launch ‘Depression in a Digital Age’ (Pre-order here!)

  • Podcasts. Oh man. So I was a podcast hype for a while this time last year, but I lost myself within them and couldn’t find the right fit. When it comes to hearing people talking for a long time, some didn’t appeal to my tiny ears as much as I’d have liked. However, some of my favourites are the pivotal Russell Brand ‘Under The Skin’– there’s a great episode called ‘Mental Health Crisis: Is Community The Answer?’ (Listen here). I go into podcasts with an open mind and I also LOVE ‘Made of Human with Sofie Hagen‘. She covers a range of topics, discussing this with amazing people from comedians, journalists to bloggers. It’s one of my favourites this year because it collates so many wonderful topics all in one, not just mental health but feminism, how to adult, LGBTQ issues, #MeToo and more.
  • Home is Where The Heart Is. Since moving back home in June this year, I found myself twisting into old ways from when I used to visit home during my University years. That means leaving clothes everywhere, leaving mess everywhere, cups EVERYWHERE (gal loves a brew) and all the things in-between not pitching in. But lately after leaving my job, I’ve been learning to respect my surroundings more. I’m not perfect, but I know why I get so distracted and leave things everywhere. It’s an extension of myself. My bedroom is my happy calm place. It’s small, but it brings in a lot of light, is fresh with plants (and copious amounts of books) and I feel like I can relax there. When my space is messy, I feel messy, unproductive and no schedule. So with World Mental Health Day, take a look at your room/house/flat and see if keeping it tidy/clean supports you.
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Question Mark: A Millennial Feeling

Folks, this is a biggie. We’ve heard of the ‘quarter-life crisis’, especially from articles in circulation that states “Research finds that more than half of millennials are going through a quarter life crisis” (See article here)- but actually feeling like this is happening, is a much larger problem in our society. I’m sharing my story.


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I’m definitely having one. One of those ‘quarter life crisis’ things. And y’know what? A lot of my loved ones at my age are too. It isn’t just me, it isn’t just you. This is something I have noticed that’s happening to us as young people. That post-university, the ‘what-am-I-doing-with-my-life’ years are sadly becoming a reoccurring thing. We have financial pressures, we’re bombarded with media that tells us to spend, spend and yes- s p e n d when payday hits, get the dream job, and the pressure to have it all figured out right now. YES! RIGHT NOW!!

Where is it coming from?

I think as we’re exposed to lot of more information than our predecessors, we’re simply questioning everything. What career do I want? Do I have to work 9-5 for a company that  has one ambition- to just increase profit? Do I want to be in this relationship? Is there more than this? Why am I checking my phone so much? Is this is what I want right now?

So.

Many.

Question Marks,

???????

It leaves us feeling like a question mark. I sure as heck feel like one, this past week that’s all I have been feeling. From the outside looking in, you would think I have it all figured out. But actually, no one does- I really don’t. I’m questioning everything at this stage- where do I want to live, if my personal choices are the best thing for me right now. To smaller questions like do I continue to write a blog, is my artwork good enough etc etc. I wake up some days, and I have no clue what I am doing or how I am feeling.

Do not feel alone in this.

It’s ok to start reflecting your choices, even though it’s so scary. We’re in a world where we’re searching for more meaning than ever. It’s ok.

 

It’s ok.

 

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What Is “Self Care?”: A Guide For Trying To Keep It Real

So many of you lovely lot know I run Keep Real®  and with that comes a fair few things. Such as responsibility, creativity, management and hmmm I’m gonna say…self care. Yes! I said self care!! Whoa…Did I really just say that?


I did. A lot of folk won’t state that or *gasp* even mention it as something that comes with their life, business or whatever else. For example, entrepreneurs- our little metaphorical ent-baby needs to grow and flourish, but it will get sick or needs to learn how to walk, we don’t actually put ourselves in the equation. We love it, so self-care is just…non existent. It’s non existent for many! We just wanna keep the ball rolling. As long as it’s moving, its…doing something.

So what is this “self care” thing anyway? Let me break some things down for you…

  • SELF CARE IS NOT SELF INDULGENCE – Let’s get that little myth solved, mkay? It isn’t ‘retail therapy’ and sure as heck isn’t finishing off a full bottle of wine. These are temporary fixes. In a world that wants you to consume more…you gotta stick it to the man and just do yo’ thang.
  • SELF CARE IS A GENTLE BUT TOUGH MISTRESS – It ain’t always plain sailing. Self care can actually be real hard to do. When we’re so fast paced and overwhelmed- we feel that we actually can’t slow down. Self care comes in many forms. It may be going to bed an hour or two earlier, or going for a long walk. Not a walk to work, not rushing to be somewhere. Just a w a l k . Nothing more. It can be hard to do things for ourselves, but we need to learn to slow down a lil’.
  • SELF CARE DOES NOT COME FROM OTHERS – Sorry sweetpea, but self care doesn’t come from any other human being, doggo or your favourite cuddly toy. Self care has to come from you and you alone. Sure, other folk will support you- but there’s a reason why it’s called ‘self’ care and not ‘other people care’. Try not to focus on relying on other people for that comfort. Self means self, so soothe that soul. Pick up a musical instrument or pen (even if you’re terrible at music or art), create something, make a pinterest board or ‘life board’ of your goals and things you have achieved, take a bath and moisturise! Anything for you, that you can do by yourself is self care. The most important relationship you have, is with yourself.

So, treat yourself how you would treat someone you hold dear. You deserve to take a break. I still need to remind myself that too (Oh hi blog, you naughty reminder you) – because we can’t burn out and expect a quick restart. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t work harder, just work smarter. And that starts with self care.
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What is ‘Having it Together?’

Hey you.

Sometimes life is a big jumble of, well…not what we expect. I implore you to take a deep breath while you read this, and breathe out. You’re here.

You’re here.

Life is the weirdest thing, and we all look to others who somehow have it together. But as a matter of fact, they’re all looking at everyone else thinking that they have it together. It’s a big mush of ‘having it togetherness’- when as a matter of fact, none of us do. So why are we caught up in something we can’t achieve?

I sure as heck don’t have it together, but I’m just trying to get by with things that make me happy- all the while trying to accept that wherever life takes me, I’ll never really get to the having it together part of my life.

But we can have it together. Here’s how.

It’s about the journey, and I know how up and down it may be. We all struggle, but the only way we can feel like everything falls into place- is when we accept and focus on the present.

Wherever you are right now is wherever you are meant to be.

You’re sitting/standing, whatever it is right here, is what is important. If you’re having a bad day, be gentle with yourself. If your day isn’t going to plan, breathe and again be gentle with yourself.

Having it together isn’t fancy cars, stable jobs, perfect home and happy relationships. It’s about being wherever you are right now and believing that it’s where you’re meant to be.

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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?

 

Body Image, Teens and the Internet #wellnesswednesday

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 18.44.01I took the Trusted Clothes quiz on body image concerning young girls and I couldn’t believe how much I didn’t know. Girls are more concerned about being called ‘fat’ than losing their parents, nuclear war or failing at school. How!? What??! There is also an increasing rate of boys with self esteem issues with the rise of social media. Every time I clicked on an answer, I couldn’t stop shaking my head. I can’t believe this is the world we live in. Then it got me thinking…and researching.

I wrote a very similar post before about Body Image. How the internet is a pivotal connection for those who are in need of guidance, but can be a place detrimental to a young person’s health. We as adults use the internet a little more wisely (or can be argued not as much!), however- for young people this isn’t necessarily a tool of communication. It’s comparison at the touch of a button or scroll.

Only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.

In researching, I started off by simply googling the term ‘body image’. There are plenty of useful websites out there, first with Planned Parenthood. The only downfall of these vital searches, the layout and content of these sites are, in all honesty, not user friendly. It’s extremely clinical, and not active for young people. The content is so sooooo useful, but the website’s appearance lets it down. We need to see an improvement of web content for young people in order for them to feel like they have access to the information they need.

According to do something.org, 95% of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25. Then why, as social media usage has risen, are we not creating supportive and informative content that is marketed towards that age group? Pew Research Centre said a staggering 71% of teens use more than one social network site, with teenage girls using social media sites — particularly visually-oriented ones — for sharing more than their male counterparts do. Why are we not looking at the research and creating accessible and visually appealing content for young people regarding mental health issues and body image? The top websites in the search bar I have been on in relation to body image and self esteem feels clinical, awkward to use and without a connection to the audience.

The research is super mind blowing regarding adults too, the British Social Attitudes conducted a survey in 2014, three-quarters (77%) of adults think that society puts too much pressure on females to have a sexualised appearance, half of all adults (47%) think that ‘how you look affects what you can achieve in life’, and one-third (32%) agree with the statement ‘your value as a person depends on how you look’.

But things are looking up. 
There are such INCREDIBLE organisations out there doing amazing things for young people. We need to address these existing issues, and with wonderful non-profit organisations (some I’ve had the super sweet pleasure of working with) like Heads Together, Welsh based Heads Above The Waves, The Golddigger Trust from Sheffield and the almighty Young Minds rallying for change- we can see these figures drop significantly. Support the non-profits that are in your local area. Mental health awareness is on the rise, and we need to stand together. Let’s make social media an accessible place for young people to help them grow positively.

The best way out is always through – Robert Frost

Interview with the Award-Winning Golddigger Trust

Ok folks, I am loving the fact I’ve been receiving messages and some of y’all got on my twitter poll to do more mental health tips. It’s all in the pipeline, so keep your sweet eyes peeled! But first…big news.

Today, my business Keep Real headed to Sheffield to film an interview with a wonderful award-winning organisation called The Golddigger Trust who are just…I have no words. Just incredible! I’ve admired this bunch of lovely folk for a while, and to be asked to collab with them via my brand was just great…and to interview them was just, well, greater. A big whole experience of inspiration. They do AMAZING work for young people (their tagline Unearthing Value, Transforming Lives is just so flippin wonderful) doing courses, projects, mentoring with girls and guys concerning self esteem. Golddigger Kimberley snap

We headed over to their offices and asked them a load of questions about the work they do, what inspires them and what’s coming up for them this year. It turns out they’ve got some incredible things that they’re working on (which you can find out for yourselves in the video we’ll be putting up soon!)

What I can tell you, is that th
ey’re aiming to raise funds for their Golddigger Trust Centre For Young People. They have said that ‘As the Trust has grown, we have long held a vision for creating our own ‘centre for young people’, somewhere that they can feel at home, and from where our award winning work can expand across the city and the UK.’

How amazing!? They need as much help as they can get, and would love for so many folk to get involved with what they’re trying to do.Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 20.24.55

These people are so inspiring, and continue to inspire so many young people every single day. Please check out their campaign here and fundraise or donate to their cause here. These guys deserve so much recognition and I am humbled to have interviewed them. Having had a really sweet talk about my business, what they’re getting up to and what we could potentially do together is just beautiful. I cannot wait to share with you what we’ve done and tell you more about the trust!

Sending all my love ❤

 

My Top 5: Ways of Coping with the Bad Days

Now, a lot of people have a wonderful variety of coping strategies with the days that are just that little bit harder to get through. When I did some research for my degree- there’s a lot of different healthy ways we find that suits us due to our personality traits and personal preferences. For example, folk who are naturally creative love to use art in different mediums to feel better and in others they use music, physical exercise or experiencing the outdoors. Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 14.31.50

As long as your coping strategy is not harmful to you or others, and you can feel better by exploring your coping strategies in a safe and healthy way- then there is no wrong way of doing it. You’re doing what is best for you my lovely!  Mind have a wonderful section on their site about self-care which I extremely recommend on checking out.

Here are my personal Top 5 that I feel help me the most, and perhaps they can help you too! Be gentle with yourself ❤

  1. Ecotherapy – otherwise known as the great green outdoors. Spending time away from distractions, the city life or just by getting out of the house into a natural environment can be so helpful. It is quite a mindful experience, and for me it clears my head. I’m very thankful to live in Yorkshire, and living right next to the woods. Find your place and go there as often as you can. Be one with nature and enjoy it.
  2. Reading – now this doesn’t have to be books on self-help or mindfulness, but a genre or type of book you really enjoy. Love a bit of adventure? Get your Tolkien game on! Like a bit of a classic? Flick through a good Jane Austen! Whatever floats your boat, give it a read. But I will say, be gentle with yourself. You’re doing this for you, remember! Some books with graphic content may be triggering to your wellbeing. My favourite book for the past year has been ‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith. As a naturally creative person, and I feel I’m having a block/ bad day- I read her book and her prose.
  3. Playing an instrument – I know some folk don’t have musical instruments, but this is one of my personal favourites. I was fortunate enough to be given a classical guitar by my Mum’s friends years and yeaaarrss ago that I still have. You somehow get lost in it, and its just the combination of making sound and feeling the movements. If you don’t have access to anything like that, my next coping strategy is…
  4. Listening to music – Boy can music change your soul. Whatever clicks with you and makes you feel good give it a listen. Pop your headphones on, lay back and shut off the world. You can listen to your favourites/most played or go for super funny songs like ‘I’ve Got A Pocket Full of Sunshine’ by Natasha Bedingfield or the Flashdance Soundtrack (soooooo groovy)
  5. Art- This encompasses everything to scribbles, writing, doodles and full blown commissions for me. It gets me in a nice groove that I can focus on. Controlling the way the pencil moves, or shading in something can be a very mindful experience. Allowing yourself to get lost in it, and only think of what you are creating really helps me get in a good headspace. Also, I write a hell of a lot  when I feel down. I’ve kept a diary for years that I always tend to look back on. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel, so I write whatever is going on in my lil brain down. It’s very cathartic, even if its just in bullet points of things that are bothering me. It also allows me to check in with myself and see what’s affecting me, or what I could highlight as something that needs to change.

 

I hope my Top 5 may help, or perhaps gently give you the smallest ideas of ways to cope. From knitting to running or reading and playing monopoly, there’s so many healthy ways of coping with the bad days.

You are not alone. You are here, and you are enough.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week!

Hi there folks. Hope you are all doing well! Here in the UK, it’s mental health awareness week. Already on the news bright and early this morning there were speakers and wonderful content on mental health- and a highlight of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge starting the ‘Heads Together‘ campaign aiming to end the stigma surrounding mental health. mhaw-tile-relationships

It’s just as important as physical health, and it affects each and every one of us. In my opinion, I feel we’re making progress. Maybe that’s because I’m actively doing things surrounding wellbeing and mental health, but a lot of organisations, non profits, charities, as well as some amazing individuals are starting to speak up and fight for better MH education in schools, as well as fund their mission to break the stigma and provide support. It’s truly amazing to see, and that means we are reaching more people of all ages about taking care of ourselves and each other.

Know that you are not alone, my sweet. We as people are always going to have good and bad days. We’re not happy all of the time and for some of us, that can be a challenging thought. We always think people have it better off, but in fact its just not the case. We’ve all got something that gets us down, and sometimes we don’t know why we feel so upset.

Check out the helplines on my site and take a peep at what they’re up to this week for Mental Health Awareness. I’ll be doing more posts for MHA week about what I find good for ways of coping with the bad days, plus more about how our wellbeing affects us in such diverse ways.

Be gentle with yourself, and as always – keep real! ❤ ❤

p.s if you’d like to have a chat in a confidential manner, do not hesitate to email me at kimmykeepreal@gmail.com

Women in Power / Why Keep Real is for Everyone

71Fr2S+6pAL._SL1131_If there’s a documentary I couldn’t recommend enough, it would be ‘Miss Representation‘ on Netflix. Exposing how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America.

Although I’m in the UK, sexism and under-representation of females in positions of influence or power exists. It has always existed, and continues to in every country in various degrees.

In the UK, women account for under a third of those in self-employment, and if women set up businesses at the same rate as men, there would be an extra 150,000 start-ups in the UK each year. Plus, for ever £1 a man earns, a woman earns 81p.

Nothing has really stopped me from starting up my own business, but I do wish there was a higher representation of successful women in the media. I’d like to think that we are becoming more aware of how the media influences us- and that what we see on our screens, isn’t necessarily something we have to take as the right way to see the world, or the right way to portray women.

However, those of a younger age, I believe do not have this awareness. When young girls are at school, they are constantly evolving, changing and growing as an individual. Girls are still trying to find themselves, and with the media being so accessible- is this making it harder for girls to find their identities?

 

This is why I’m starting my business. Keep Real stands for something good, not just in sustainability, it reflects equality as well as diversity as a brand. I’ve chosen the bands, artists or creatives to be involved with Keep Real; because they reflect a true representation of people. We’re not all size 8 for one. We don’t all have the same goals and aspirations, but that’s what makes us who we are. The media portray women (as well as men) as something that isn’t actually accurate at all. We are all on different paths, and it’s time to start portraying that more. Because people need something real. I know its corny, but Keep Real is something I truly believe in as a brand for everyone. It will continuously grow to reflect real people, and support folk’s wellbeing too.

The media portray women (as well as men) as something that isn’t actually accurate at all. We are all on different paths, and it’s time to start portraying that more.

There’s an extremely good article on how social media is harming the mental health of teenagers here, which I found so insightful. We’re changing the way we socialise and it’s putting so much pressure on teens, as well as everyone else.

It’s time we started making a difference to how the media affects us, and creating something for the people- not against.