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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You Are Relevant

Do I write about what’s going on in my head? Do I write what I think people need to hear? Do I write down what’s going on? How I feel?

Here’s what you and I need to read. Period.


There’s nothing that goes against my grain, than too many positive quotes coming my way. The circulation of those hashtags, the classic #mondaymotivation and #fridayfeelings when those feelings don’t circulate in myself. So many wellness platforms telling me how I can feel better, too many corporates riding the wellbeing wave, looking to bank on my bad thoughts.

Is it just me?

Sometimes the social platforms we have just become so saturated; we feel the pressure to be relevant, if we are to keep on the digital pedestal we gotta post and share opinions and create the best content and share share share.

Not any more.

Your devices have switch off buttons. To stay relevant we have to rely on the now. Look up, look around and stay in focus. It’s hard to type that and become the hypocrite. I’m typing away while life goes on. But this is important right now.

You are important right now.

Brush off the pressure, take off that comparing coat and remember that you go at your own pace. Yeah, we’re living in times that are hard. Being a human within this world is harder than ever. It’s all plastic, poverty and too much power.

Just take this as a sign that you’re gonna make it. There’s beautiful days you haven’t seen and there is love you haven’t felt yet.

There is love you haven’t felt yet.

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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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Social Platform Creature: Our Mental Health Impact

Being the social creatures we are- having connections is something we feel makes a profound difference in our lives to establish meaning and fulfilment. It’s super sweet, it makes us do the floss (which I’ve recently discovered the name of as that funny dance with the hands and the hips…) and it allows us to go “Heck yeah, this makes me want to LIVE!” in some way or some form. Thank goodness for technology- I can feel connected straight away when I’m having a hard time.

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Then why do so many of us feel that loss of meaning in a digital world? That niggling desire to perhaps gain a love heart on a photo, buy the latest tech or that pair of trousers you know you don’t need but you want to purchase anyway (Oh, wouldn’t they look great on my feed?!)…


We’re hardwired by all sorts of thaaangs to want more. More of everything. Sure, we can connect quicker and establish relationships faster- making our millennial age, the years of the throw away feelings (Hi, Tinder). But it also means we’re quick to focus on such a microscopic lens of our lives and dissect everything within an online platform. I feel we need to fall back in love with the slower processes- the most meaningful of relationships with ourselves, our loved ones and the world.

And maybe switch off our phones more often…maybe like a lot.

From the Mental Health Foundation, 49% of 18-24 year olds who have experienced high levels of stress, felt that comparing themselves to others was a source of stress, which was higher than in any of the older age groups. In 2015, Time Magazine stated “Young adults are now spending more than one full day per week online, according to new survey data from a U.K. communications regulator.”

The online world has given us a great gift and a great…distraction. The idea that we can connect quicker- but we are now constantly entwined with the notion that we need the online connectivity to affirm what we want to affirm. Whether that be fame, attractiveness, money, fame etc. It has given us the instant gratification we actively seek. We are now consumerists of emotion. In a round about term, we’re a bit addicted to quick gratification.

We just need to slow everything dddooowwwwnnn. Sllllloooowwww. Sit back and away from your phone/laptop/electronic device. You got this!! We survived before and we can survive now!

We need to look at using technology in an altruistic way. To give back, to share support- to share love, kindness, gratitude. All the wonderful things that takes you away from the incessant need to just…feel connected. In a wonderful, deep way. Something as simple as seeing your friend share a snapshot of having a day off, enjoying the sunshine- break the mould and start a conversation, ask to meet up face to face next time they’re free. Not just a love heart, nor a facebook ‘reaction’.

Use this digital world to your advantage. Altruism, yes- but surround your digital self with a lot of digital love. Not a platform to subconsciously make your self esteem drop, for your bank account to fall out of your butt and overall lose your sense of self.

You got this. WE GOT THIS. 

Our Wellbeing & Our Product Choices

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Being mindful of our choices as people can truly help us feel that little bit better in ourselves. I hear the term ‘conscious living’ being brought up- and it’s a wonderful thing to see. Hearing of living a slower, more conscious way of life is something I have definitely focused on this last year, more so than ever. So  how does it all tie in?

So for starters…

Wellbeing is, as a definition:

The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.

There’s a lot that wellbeing is influenced by. From our mental health, what we eat, who we surround ourselves with, to what we purchase throughout our lives. Wellbeing is something we try to cultivate and maintain.

We all know that our clothes and things we buy reflect our personalities, and the essence of who we are as people. Why are we drawn to certain things? Some would say that we are attracted to specific clothes, products and objects based on our needs. Christian Jarrett from The Psychologist stated that ‘How much we see our things as an extension of ourselves, may depend in part in how confident we feel about who we are.’

So, what we’re truly saying is that it all comes from within, right? To truly see our clothes, objects, products as an extension of our inner souls, all depends on how we feel about our complete selves in the first place. We need to take a step back and reflect on our values too. Are you drawn to certain brands that reflect your personality? Or is it because it’s quick and easy to buy?

For me, I like to use products that reflect my passion for sustainability, and giving back to the Earth. Personally, I’m extremely passionate about wellbeing and taking care of our bodies. This goes from my brand choice for skincare (The Bodyshop, 70% Vegan, 100% Vegetarian, All natural ingredients, Cruelty Free, commitment of ‘Enrich Not Exploit’), to cruelty free make-up (Barry M Cosmetics and Sleek here in the UK) and my clothing choices too (going more second hand, vintage or apps like Shpock, DePop and Ebay). I believe that when I purchase something, it makes me more confident in myself by making mindful choices. My clothes are lasting longer, the personal care products I use make me feel amazing knowing they’re giving back, and I know my clothes are made from people with fairer wages, who aren’t exploited in the hard work they do.

When buying products, clothes or anything just be that little bit more mindful. If brands are doing wonderful things for others and the planet- then contributing to that can make us feel super lovely. Just by doing this, you’re making a difference- to other people, the planet and most importantly…yourself.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

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10 Ways Back To The Light

Hey folks, I wanted to share with you an article I found on Psychologies by Jamie Rhodes author of ‘Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication and Music’ (purchase here)4e39e58e38bdf17dbffc00a175afaa34, and Matt Haig, author of ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ (purchase here) about the top ten strategies that helped them through the more difficult times. These are wonderful, and I hope they help you too! (read it down below, or in the original article here) ❤

10 Ways Back To The Light

James Rhodes says:

Breathe – 10 minutes of meditation a day works wonderrs.

Make a cuppa “I’d somehow got enough clarity and self-awareness to know that I was able now to do all I could to get well… It was terrifying and exciting all at once. Time maybe to have a cup of tea and listen to Chopin’s greatest nocturne – the one in C minor Op. 48/1.

Talk to anyone friendly. “I like talking to strangers. I read a book about depression once where the protagonist was so lonely she used to join queues simply for the human interaction. And while things weren’t quite that bad yet, I did at times strike up conversations with people.

Do something creative (piano/writing for me, but there is an almost infinite choice for everyone) “Forgiveness and meditation, reading and writing, talking and sharing all help, creativity is, for me, one of the most profound ways through trauma.”

Find some perspective. Remember you’re a microscopic dot hurtling around the universe on a tiny planet in the middle of an unfathomable amount of space.

Matt Haig says:

Slow down. “Anxiety runs your mind at fastforward rather than normal ‘play’ speed, so addressing that issue of mental ‘pace’ might not be easy. But it works.”

Go for a run and then do yoga (the golden bullet for my anxiety) “I was a yogaphobe, but am now a convert. It’s great, because unlike other therapies, it treats the mind and the body as part of the same whole.”

Get off the internet. “I might – if I am going through a neurotic patch – do a quick ego search, or check out any new Goodreads or Amazon reviews of my books or go on Google and type in a list of real or imaginary ailments to see which terminal disease I am currently suffering from.

Talk to people you love. “Words. Comfort. Support. It took me more than a decade to be able to talk openly, properly, to everyone, about my experience. I soon discovered the act of talking is in itself a therapy. Where talk exists, so does hope.

Stare at the sky. “Look at the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek vastness at every opportunity, in order to see the smallness of yourself.”