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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Self Love

It’s so much easier to love other people, than to love ourselves. It sucks, but it’s true. Unconditional love is a complete and whole love without limitations. Accepting ourselves is so important, and unconditional love comes from within, before we can completely and  unconditionally love others. Go with your gut, trust yourself and accept all of the things that make up who you are as a person (that’s your bad habits and flaws too!). Remember, your body is a beautiful thing. It heals you without any conscious thought. You’re here breathing, and moving your eyes along the screen. Your body is your temple, and it’s worshipping you every day!Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 12.47.51.png

Feeling comfortable in your own skin is difficult, but important to your wellness. We always pick out our flaws as a person, then cannot understand why others do not see them as strongly as we do, if at all. For example, If I’m worried about my skin, or a bad habit I have- my friends seem baffled. I think a lovely way to the journey of self love is the saying ‘treat yourself how you would treat your best friend’. We all have days where we’re not so confident in ourselves, and feel uncomfortable in our bodies. It’s ok. Who is 100% happy with themselves all of the time? No one. Treat yourself with kindness, and the world will bring it back to you in abundance. Be gentle, you’re doing so well already ❤

We need to feel secure in ourselves, so it’s that little bit easier to not rely on others for happiness. If we constantly look to others for acceptance, how will we truly learn to love ourselves? We need to seek it within, so loving becomes such a wonderful and rad thing.

Be gentle with yourself, you ❤

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 ❤

After The Rush

Hey folks, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!! I’ve personally been laying low on the blogging front, as I’ve been working like mad before the rush of festivities and due to personal reasons, have taken a gap out to spend more time with the family. My heart has been elsewhere, but I’m sure you’ve been busy soaking up all the food, drinks, love and presents!

So after the rush of Christmas, what now?

Perhaps you’re already thinking of 2016, what it will bring, what you want to happen. Or maybe you’re thinking of nursing that food baby, and regretting your decision to eat the whole trifle with the last of that chocolate log your Grandma made you.

Whatever you’re thinking of, I hope you feel all that festive fuzz and enjoy each and every moment. The important thing is, is to focus on the present. Enjoy what’s happening now. Take some deep breaths, and go with the flow.

After the Christmas period, and after the New Year too- we also put pressure on ourselves to make resolutions, and perhaps regret some decisions made the year gone by. We regret we spent too much in the sales, ate too much, drank too much, did that thing in summer you wish you hadn’t or maybe regretted something you wish happened. There’s so much we wish happened differently, and it sucks that by the end of the year, our thoughts are sometimes consumed with the negativity of the year instead of the good.

2015, the 365 days you had, has made you who you are; right here, right now. Do not regret, or feel that you wish things were different. Celebrate what you have done, or haven’t, and grow from your experiences. There is so much more to come, and what possibilities to look forward to! Who knows what 2016 brings. How exciting is that?! That you are awaiting experiences you’ve never had, opportunities that are yet to come, and dreams waiting to be made a reality.

❤ you can do this, reflect on 2015 with a smile and be thankful of your year to come.

Sending all my ❤ to you and your families. Thank you for reading and as always – keep real! xxxx

Interview with Si from Heads Above The Waves

Hey folks! Hope this post finds you well!  To start off a great week and all that Monday Motivation, I had the pleasure of interviewing Si from Heads Above The Waves, a non profit organisation providing hope and help full-logofor people who are struggling with self harm. I loved how I reached out to Si a while back, as he found me through my post over on Rethink Mental Illness, and messaged
me on Instagram. I truly look forward to seeing HATW improving mental wellness and providing a place to talk openly about mental health too. Big things to come!

1) So, for those who don’t know- what is Heads Above The Waves?

Heads Above The Waves is a non-profit organisation that raises awareness of self-harm in young people, promoting creative and positive ways of dealing with the bad days.
We talk openly about self-harm and depression.
We sell merch with a message behind the designs to help get people talking.
We run workshops to give people the chance to find what works for them.
We create content to let people know that hope and help exist.

2) Where did the name of your company come from?

I think Heads Above The Waves is quite simply a summary of what the whole ethos is – life is all about figuring out the best way to keep your head up and stay afloat amidst whatever waves life might be throwing your way. I think the name might’ve also come from me mis-hearing the opening of ‘Mike Kennedy is a Bad Friend’ by The Wonder Years.

3) Who is Heads Above The Waves aimed at?

HATW is mainly aimed at young people aged 11 – 25 who are struggling to cope, but really, I believe that a positive message that hope and help are out there for you can apply to anyone. Personally, I think there’s enough negative stuff on social media – which pretty much everyone is on these days – so it can be a nice break to see something positive as you’re scrolling through your feed.
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4) What inspired you to start HATW?

Heads Above The Waves essentially came about from me wanting to share my story and experience of how music helped pull me out of depression and self-harm. The goal really was to let other people know that it can, and does, get better. For me, it was specifically finding pop-punk music, and the positive message in a lot of the lyrics, as well as actually playing the drums.
But Heads Above The Waves is all about finding what works for you and accepting that one size doesn’t fit all. Not everyone plays the drums; not everyone makes music. But everyone’s got something that they do that helps keep them positive, regardless of whether they’re struggling with self-harm or some other battle. The more people I spoke to about it, the more I found that different people with different experiences, cope in different ways, so I wanted to build a collection of these experiences as well as positive things that I’ve drawn inspiration from to share with people, so that anyone can be inspired.
Heads Above The Waves is all about finding what works for you and accepting that one size doesn’t fit all.”

5) Tell me a little bit more about why you chose to raise awareness in mental health.

From my personal experience, I found that a lot of stuff out there talking about mental health was either quite cold and clinical or a bit childish and condescending – I wanted to make something that could speak to young people on their level. I’ve got this silly, and grammatically awful saying that I keep coming back to: everyone is people.
We’re all human beings, trying to figure out how to live life and cope when the odds get stacked against us – however big or small that may be. Even if you’ve never experienced a full blown issue with your mental wellbeing, you still know how much it sucks to feel sad. My main aim is to help everyone find what works for them to pick themselves up when they fall down, as well as trying to encourage an atmosphere of people helping other people out.

6) Do you have any tips on keeping mentally healthy? 

It’s obviously going to be different for everyone, but I’ve got a couple of things that I do to try and keep myself on top of things.

I write lists – lists of stuff I need to get done (seriously, it’s so satisfying to cross stuff off a to-do list) – lists of things that are going wrong and what I can do about them – lists of just generally what’s going on with my life (my office is covered in post-it notes). It helps me keep visual track of what’s going on, and stops everything going too wild in my brain.

I also play drums – practising repetitive rhythms is actually really good for distracting me and focussing my brain. Plus if I’m getting worked up and angry, I thrash out on a drum set and it helps.. but probably not so good for relations with the neighbours.
And something that I struggle with but I’m trying to get better at is actually giving myself some ‘me time’. Even if that’s just an hour in the evening to play some PlayStation or have a bath. Sometimes you need to shut off from other things that are going on, and not worry about being around other people or being productive – and most importantly not feeling guilty for taking time to yourself.
That’s just a couple bits that work for me, but what’s most important is to keep on trying out different things until you find what works for you.

 

“My main aim is to help everyone find what works for them to pick themselves up when they fall down, as well as trying to encourage an atmosphere of people helping other people out”

7) What is your favourite aspect of running your own business?

D’you know what’s funny? I’ve got some friends who run their own businesses, and they’ve always been the types who have wanted to run their own businesses – but I haven’t. I think ‘entrepreneurship’ kinda fell on me. I always assumed I’d come out of uni and get a ‘real’ job and just live out a typical suburban life. Yet, here we are. So the best bit for me, is probably the fact that most days are a little bit different and new and unknown. It’s exciting. It’s also utterly terrifying. But I think that the best of you can come out when you’re outside of your comfort zone, so I keep on pushing myself and learning new things pretty much daily.

8) What are your plans for HATW in the future?

Really the plan for HATW is to grow and spread and impact and hopefully make a difference to even more people. We’ve got our new site launching, we’re sharing a range of ways of coping through social media, we’re branching out and running workshops in even more schools. So the main hope for 2016 and beyond is that HATW can become a more practically useful resource to help people find their way of coping with the bad days.
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Please go and check out Heads Above The Waves on their website, twitter & instagram.

Social Media, Self Esteem & Mental Health

Shaun Rhatigan is an aspiring journalist with a keen interest in mental health. He also happens to be one of the most thoughtful people I have the pleasure of calling one of my dear friends! Here, he goes in depth concerning the positives and negatives of social media.

We have all undoubtedly experienced the negative effects that social media can have on our self-esteem and mental health. Researching for this blog I spoke to plenty of people who admitted spending hours perfecting their selfies, gaining self-validation based solely on how many likes they received. I’ve been guilty of this too, deleting photos and posts that got little or no attention from friends, leaving me feeling uninteresting and questioning my own self-worth.

With that being said, I don’t want to use this post to focus on only the doom and gloom of social media. Instead I want to show how it can be used to empower those dealing with mental health difficulties and highlight the positive impact it can have on your life. After all, staying positive is key!

One way social media helps me is following inspirational or funny quotes. Starting your day reading a hilarious tweet or Instagram post won’t just put a grin on your face, it will put you in a positive mood to get the most out of your day. Similarly, when faced with daunting tasks reading an inspirational quote can give you the motivation or boost to keep going. A tip for this is to screen-shot posts that have the greatest impact on you, so they are at your disposal whenever you need them. One of my personal favourites- “Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get back up.”

For those of us who struggle with face to face social interactions, social media gives you a great opportunity to connect with others without the worry of revealing your identity. It’s so important to express yourself but not everyone feels as comfortable doing so as others.  Social media opens the doors to groups and forums where you can discuss what’s on your mind or just find out if others are feeling the same way as you without the attached stigma (Check out the MentalHealthForum.com). Away from discussing mental health, joining groups where people share your interests (be it Star Wars, Art or Fashion) is a great way to mingle with others and bond over common ground whilst building your confidence and eliminating thoughts of isolation and loneliness.

Something else we might all be guilty of is preoccupy ourselves by aimlessly scrolling through our news feed. Although looking at how sloshed you and your friends got last week is fun, it’s important not to forget how much valuable information and support is at your fingertips. Organisations such as ‘YoungMinds’ and ‘PAPYRUS’ are doing great work on their social media pages by sharing campaigns, stories and advice. ‘SANE’ is another fantastic organisation that offers support through anonymous forums, their YouTube channel and text care. I can also highly recommend checking out ‘HeadMeds’ which offers easily accessible information on medication and mental health issues. These posts can not only help you get whatever support you need, they are also helping smash the stigma that surrounds mental health as people become increasingly knowledgeable on the subject.

These are just a few ways you can use social media to share with others and experiment with different forms of self-express. I’m not saying the problems aren’t there, but I do believe social media is not the big bad that we are led to believe. As with anything in life, approach social media with a positive attitude and you will reap the positive outcomes!!

 

You can follow Shaun here on Twitter and Instagram

 

Winter Blues – How To Beat It!

Hey folks! I hope this post finds you well! It’s been a week or so since my last post- but I have much planned to fill this blog up with some lil’ tips and posts full of mental wellness and motivation!

It’s mid November already! Can you believe it?! Most folk struggle more with their mental health (as well as physical too!) in the winter months. However, despite this ongoing problem that quite a lot of us experience, with a mild form of ‘winter blues’, some of us also experience SAD this time of year. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, or otherwise known as summertime sadness or seasonal depression) is a form of depression that here in the UK, is said to affect about 1 in 15 people. There are many forms of depression, which can find here on Rethink. Symptoms for SAD generally appear between September and November, and continue until March or April, when there may be a sudden burst of energy and activity wpid-img_20151022_220531.jpgaccompanying the longer, brighter spring and summer days. Symptoms can include lethargy, loss of concentration, sleep problems, anxiety and social problems (please find more information over at the Mental Health Foundation)

We all feel down now and then, but winter for some can be quite a difficult time, with or without a diagnosed mental health problem. We all have to take care of ourselves the best we can ❤ Here are 3 key tips to keep you going, and to cope with the longer days and colder nights
. Be safe folks, and stay well.

  1. Try get outside in the daylight if you can. Even if its that small lunch break at work, soak up as much natural daylight as possible. If not outside, sit near the windows if possible and chose colours in your room that are pale to reflect light from outside. ❤
  2. Keep warm. Wrap yourself up with all your jumpers, scarves and hats- like the warmest little burrito possible! Hot drinks and food will also fill that wonderful tummy up of yours. Whether that be hot chocolate, green tea, broths, soups- you name it! Eat up and stay snug.
  3. Stay active. I know it’s cold and very chilly on the bones- but you gotta move about! Whether that be running up and down the stairs a few times, doing yoga, going for a walk round your house, or doing some stretches. One hour’s walk in the middle of the day can be just as helpful as light treatment or therapy.

Hey, November!

Good morning everyone! Here we are…it’s November! Can you believe how fast this year is going?! To kick off the month, here are some mental health tips and pointers for November. Stay warm, feel good and take care ❤

  1. It’s getting cold – so wrap up! Although it’s fairly obvious to wrap up warm when the bitter cold comes, feeling cold, shivering and losing the comfortability of heat can leave folk feeling stressed, anxious and distracted. So wrap that lovely scarf around you, keep that noggin warm and get some gloves on. There isn’t anything more uncomfortable than not feeling your fingers and shivering outdoors. Keep warm folks, the cold can actually affect your mood.
  2. Comfy shoes, comfy thoughts. It does sound silly, but feeling comfortable in yourself does include the comfortability of your clothes, right down to what you wear on your feet. For example, would you feel ok walking in heels on an icy road? No, you wouldn’t! Footwear that grips to combat the frost, ice and squelchy ground will leave you feeling confident to go about your day. Do take care when the weather is turning! wpid-img_20151101_121932.jpg
  3. Get involved in the festivities! It doesn’t matter if you’re not into the whole Christmas thing and you would class yourself as a bit of a humbug, there’s nothing wrong with having some festive fuzz. It could be just walking around the high street and seeing the Christmas lights, or taking part in secret santa at the office. The festivities provide us with so much wonderful opportunities to talk to new people, support local causes and simply give. Being good to those around you, will come back to you in abundance ❤
  4. Reeellaaaxxxxx Christmas, specific to the run up of it, can be quite a stressful and manic time of year. Try some mindfulness (check out my mindful blog post hereto take every moment as it comes ❤ try not to overthink about presents and spending your well earned pennies on extravagant gifts. The most thoughtful gifts are the best ones.

As always, sending all my positive vibes to you- and keep real! x

I’m on BBC Radio 4 Tonight for Mental Health!

Hi folks! Here’s a quick reminder that I’ll be on the radio this evening at 9pm (GMT)! It’s for a new series of ‘All in the Mind’ for BBC Radio 4 with Claudia Hammond, which will be discussing teenage mental health here in the UK. There is increased awareness of mental health, as we have programmes talking about it a little bit more, however- there is a rise in teen mental health problems. Here’s the infographic for the programme this evening! cover170x170

As evidence accumulates that mental health problems are on the rise amongst adolescents, are services keeping up? Claudia Hammond is joined by a panel of experts to discuss teenage mental health.

Professor Shirley Reynolds, Dr Dickon Bevington, Kimberley Robinson and Sarah Hulyer discuss the pressures teenagers face and how the mental health of our adolescents is changing. They also offer thoughts on how services could be reshaped to cope with this changing demand and what parents can do to help their teenagers.

I talk about my experiences of mental health problems concerning anxiety and thoughts on what can be changed. I don’t want to give too much away! I’m so humbled to be part of the discussion, and on the flippin’ BBC!! It is so so important.

Here’s the link to the programme: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06kch0z

If you do miss it, you can download it as a podcast at 10pm or any time/day/week after. It will be available after the first broadcast, so please give it a listen! The repeat broadcast will be Wednesday at 3.30pm (GMT)

Sending all my good lil vibes to you, and as always – keep real! Let me know if you catch the programme and tell me what you think! ❤ x

Be Mindful Right Now!

Good afternoon folks! Hope you are well and enjoying this wonderful autumnal time of year. Today I thought I’d discuss and give you tips for mindfulness, as I’ve noticed it’s becoming quite an intriguing part of our lives on social media, as well as in the magazines. I hear people talking about trying to balance the stresses of work a lot lately! Mindfulness has been, and continues to be, quite a big part of my life. So it’s wonderful to see people picking up on it. It’s just so flippin great!

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, you can get weekly updates by signing up your email address to Mindful.org

Here’s some practical tips from Here To Help that are extreeemmelly useful when giving mindfulness a go.

  • Take a couple of minutes to notice your breathing. Sense the flow of the breath, the rise and fall of your belly
  • Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. When you are eating, notice the colour, texture and taste of the food.
  • When you are walking, tune into how your weight shifts and the sensations in the bottom of your feet. Focus less on where you are headed.
  • Don’t feel that you need to fill up all your time with doing. Take some time to simply be.
  • When your mind wanders to thinking, gently bring it back to your breath.
  • Recognize that thoughts are simply thoughts; you don’t need to believe them or react to them.
  • Practise listening without making judgments.
  • Notice where you tend to zone out (e.g., driving, emailing or texting, web surfing, feeding the dog, doing dishes, brushing teeth, etc.). Practise bringing more awareness to that activity.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Notice how the mind likes to constantly judge. Don’t take it seriously. It’s not who you are.

As always- sending all good vibes to you, and keep real!