Positivity

A list of things that are okay…

I spotted this collection of lost gloves on my walk yesterday, and they seemed like they were okay in their little lost-glove community, even though they weren’t hanging out in pairs as you might expect. But I’ll spare you a blog post based on terrible lost-glove-related metaphors for life, and will instead stick with writing a list of other things that are also okay

Eating chocolate every day. See also: cake, crisps, cheese.

Hating Zoom calls. Just say no (unless it’s for work, in which case probably say yes – but feel free to be grumpy about having your camera on).

Secretly still liking Zoom calls even though we’ve all decided we hate them now. It doesn’t even have to be a secret.

Really missing your friends. It’s great to be fine with time alone, but it’s not a weakness to need time with other humans too. Miss your friends, tell them you miss them, and look forward to seeing them again soon.

Saying no to plans (or walks / calls for now) just to take time for yourself. It’s not selfish and you’re not a bad friend.

Finding the second lockdown more difficult than the first. It might help you to try to understand why, or it might not. But either way, you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone else.

Sailing through this second lockdown without a care in the world. Yay – go you!

Finding work exceptionally hard some weeks. You don’t have to be your best self all year round. Tell someone. Close the laptop for a while. Take a break.

Spending your at-home time in a blur of online fitness classes, board games, arts and crafts, bread-making (or are we bored with that now?). Do what makes you happy, and do it for you.

Spending all your free time on the sofa drinking tea. Don’t let the world tell you that productivity is everything.

Claiming to be a runner (or whatever else is your “thing”) then not running for weeks. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy, not motivated enough, or not good at it. It just means you’re human and you live a life. It will still be there when you’re ready.

Having 8 books on the go at once and struggling to finish one. There’s so much good stuff out there to read, how are we meant to choose?!

Going to a different fitness class every week. Or going to the same one every week and never branching out. We all have different goals, just do what you enjoy.

Not being okay. Although telling someone you’re not is encouraged.

Enjoying doing things that you’re bad at. What does being “bad” at something even mean? Is being “good” at stuff always important? Find happiness in being a terrible singer or a slow runner. For all I know, this blog could be a load of rubbish. But I enjoy writing it, so I’ll keep doing it anyway.

Have a lovely weekend everyone xx

Mental Health

Thank You, “Time to Change”

Yesterday, I read the sad news that the Time To Change campaign will be coming to an end in England in March next year, as the Government has confirmed it will no longer be in a position to provide funding. Time To Change has been working for 15 years to improve attitudes around mental health, with activity such as Time to Talk Day, and their most recent impact report suggested an improvement in the attitudes of more than 5 million people since the campaign began.

Time to Talk Day a few years ago was the first time I ever wrote openly about the mental health difficulties I’d been experiencing, in a long since deleted blog post on a blog that never really got going. It was Time to Change that inspired me to run my first ever 10k (medal proudly displayed in the photo above!) for Rethink Mental Illness, who set up the campaign along with Mind. Time to Change had a huge part to play in helping me start to feel comfortable talking about mental health and, most importantly at the time, they helped me to realise that the way I was feeling wasn’t “weird”. In fact, I became so comfortable talking that I let Cosmopolitan interview me about my mental health in 2017 (link here), and I’ve continued to talk about it pretty regularly ever since.

I suppose it could be tempting to think that the work of campaigns like this in England is done. Personally, I hear discussions or read articles around mental health on an almost daily basis. Support is promoted at work (particularly this year), I talk about it with friends, I read others sharing their stories and mental health “ups and downs” online. But I’m also aware that I’m right in the middle of a bit of a bubble – that classic online echo-chamber – when it comes to these issues. I share (some may say over-share) my experiences, and I appreciate others who do the same – so those are the people I pay attention to. I surround myself with people who care about mental health and about normalising the conversation, and so for me, the conversation has become just that – entirely normal.

But my very small circle of mental health advocates is far from being representative of every section of society. So while my “world” has moved on over the last 15 years of this campaign, I can’t assume that the world has moved on for everyone. I still remember clearly the way life felt before I realised that other people understood, and before I even really understood that the stuff going on in my head was anxiety (initially mixed in with depression, just for good measure). I remember calling in sick to work and hiding in bed, convinced that I was a complete weirdo, that I was just incapable of dealing with life and just desperately wanting to be “like everyone else”. The most important thing I remember, is that once I realised I could talk about it, and that other people felt the same, it all just seemed so much more manageable. That’s why it’s so important for these conversations to carry on – so that all the people still stuck where I was then, can get to where I am now.

That last paragraph was all a bit bleak so let me continue on a brighter note. Without campaigns like Time to Change I am convinced I wouldn’t have reached the stage I did with this “talking” stuff, as quickly as I did. Reading their regular posts online, where they’ve shared endless stories from all kinds of people with all kinds of experiences, really did help. So that’s the main reason for this quick lunchtime blog – to say thank you to a campaign that really has made a difference to my own little world.

And now…I continue to talk. My regular rambles about “thoughts” and “feelings” may be a bit over-sharey for some people, and that’s okay – at age 36, I have finally accepted that I will never be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve found my own little community of talkers and over-sharers, and friends who appreciate my ramblings (well…plus a few who just switch off from it but love me anyway). So to all my fellow “talkers” out there, let’s just make sure we don’t get complacent, and that we keep pushing this conversation. Let’s really try our best to continue the amazing progress that Time to Change has spent the last 15 years achieving.

Mental Health

“Mental Health for All”

It’s #worldmentalhealthday, and the above is the theme set for this year by the World Federation for Mental Health. So I’m sitting with my morning coffee contemplating what action I can take to help achieve this.

I am now reliably in the habit of taking action for my own mental health – a quiet, slow morning coffee before work every day to kick my brain into “calm and capable” mode. Regular exercise to help manage my anxiety levels. But what can I do to help with everyone’s mental health? I can’t claim to be passionate about mental health awareness and support while sitting back thinking of no-one but myself, so I’ve decided to set a few goals for the next few months.

Prompted by the approach of #wmhd2020, I’ve started trying to access Mental Health First Aider training again through work, as I was sadly away the last time this was offered. If this route fails, I’ll explore other options. Yes, I have some experience of mental health difficulties myself, but that doesn’t mean I can be complacent and think that I know the best way to support others. As a friend, a family member, a colleague and a manager, I want to make sure I’m in the best position to handle a conversation about mental health in the right way.

I suppose signing up to a (now cancelled) half marathon to raise money for Mind was also a step in the right direction. Although the motivation was slightly selfish, since running helps my own mental health. My training to run a “virtual” half has not really gone to plan, but at some stage during October I will plod my way through that 13.1 miles anyway, and raise a few pounds to help Mind continue providing advice and campaigning for better mental health support. You can donate here, if you like!

But I’m still lacking a good answer on how to help make mental health support more accessible for everyone. This year, I finally decided to invest some money in therapy to tackle a handful of long-unresolved issues. But it really is exactly that – a sizeable financial investment. One that was absolutely out of the question for a long time, and that even now I’m stretching myself to afford. What if I needed help urgently, and couldn’t pay? Would there be the right support available, in the right area, at the right time? I suspect the answer isn’t always a positive one.

I don’t make policies or allocate budgets, so I suppose the one thing I can do is to make time to learn more. I’ve heard many times that there isn’t enough accessible support out there, but I probably don’t understand exactly where the gaps are and what needs to change. What campaigns can I get involved with? How can I volunteer some time? Can I help share the resources that are out there, so that more people come across them?

So I guess that last point is more a set of questions than a goal. Maybe the goal for now is to use today to explore some of the huge amount of information being shared online, and plan some next steps from there. And my challenge to anyone who has made it to the end of this brain-dump is to take just 10 minutes out of your day, to consider what action you can take for your own mental health, or that of others.

Mental Health

Quiet

Quiet…is a thing I’m trying to get better at lately. I’m really trying to find some time each day to be completely “still” (mentally, at least) – maybe relaxing by reading or cross-stitching, maybe going for a slow walk outside with no music or podcast in my ears, or maybe just lying on my yoga mat and breathing.

For a relative introvert, quiet is not actually thing I’m particularly good at. I’ve joined a new Yin Yoga class lately – specifically, “Yin Yoga for Happiness”. It’s a lovely, sleepy, peaceful early morning half hour where the instructor guides us through some positive ways of thinking to set us up for the day ahead, and yet about every 2 minutes I have to remind myself to stop pondering my to do list for the day and just focus on the class. My current goal for 2020 is to make it to a full 10 minutes on the mat without wondering what I should make for breakfast or whether I’ve got any meetings to prepare for.

Anyway, sometimes quiet is hard. Quiet means sitting with all of your own thoughts and feelings instead of distracting yourself from them. Daily life may still be on the slow side, but the outside is changing constantly, even more now than ever, and that part of my brain that just wants to cling onto something and stay still for a while is spending a lot of time shouting at me! Sitting and listening to those thoughts means dealing with worry about the future, and sadness that some things from my past have changed. It means acknowledging that I can’t control everything, and accepting that life can’t necessarily be exactly where I want it to be right this second, even if I try really hard to make it happen!

With that said (I promise this is going somewhere more positive than that last paragraph!), if I don’t sit and work through these kinds of thoughts, they won’t go away. That tiny, panicked version of myself that’s sitting in my head yelling might quieten down for a while if I go running, or bake a cake, or clean my flat, or phone someone for a chat; but she’ll soon pop back up again the moment there’s nothing to keep me busy. This is why quiet is necessary.

Quiet is necessary to let all of the thoughts I mentioned above – all the slightly miserable-sounding worrying and sadness and acceptance – just stay there for a while, and to give them some attention. It’s not always very comfortable or enjoyable, but allowing them some time is the only way I can work my way through them, re-frame them and find the positive stuff hidden amongst them.

“Can’t find a new place to live? Well I guess I’ll just enjoy some unexpected bonus time living alone!”

“Lost touch with some people? We all just have other wonderful things going on in our lives, keeping us busy.”

“Outside world scary? Well, let’s face it, I’ve always quite liked staying home anyway so let’s embrace some lazy nights in!”

So this is why I’ll keep practising being quiet, even though I’m bad at it. Because for me, being constantly busy is basically the mental equivalent of putting my hands over my ears and running away. Which probably isn’t the best way to do life…at least, it isn’t for me!

Xxx

Positivity

Monday Motivation: “To-Do Lists”

It’s Monday! And I’ve recently re-discovered a bit of motivation after it temporarily escaped me for most of May and June, so I thought today was a good time to start a little Monday Motivation series. Partly because it’s absolutely pouring with rain today and the bad sort of “Monday feeling” is threatening to take over, but also I feel like I have a lot to say on the subject at the moment, so I might as well get it down onto paper (or laptop screen) before my ever-busy brain moves on to the next thing.

Last week I rediscovered my love of a good to-do list. My relationship with to-do lists over the years is best described as complicated. I’ve mentioned before that I like to feel in control of life and have a tendency to over-plan, and when you’re that way inclined a to-do list can quickly become another thing to ruin your day or to beat yourself up with. (‘This Is Us’ fans: if you’ve seen the trick-or-treating episode with Randall and his schedule – that’s basically me). You can take my word for it when I say that planning out every hour of your day via a list of 30-or-so items is not the way to go! That there are not 30 hours in one day should probably give that one away.

Anyway, for the above reasons I have steered away from the to-do list in recent months, worried that it would lead to me having a meltdown because I hadn’t achieved all my life goals in one day while sitting in my kitchen. But lately, while I hope that travelling to an office 5 days of the week is never a thing I do again, I’ve realised I’m really missing some of the structure and routine of my “old life”. Sometimes I think we view these things as being restrictive – preventing us from having the freedom to get a bit creative, or stressing us out as we constantly rush around to get from A to B on time. But now it feels like the only set routine in my life is walking from my bed to my kitchen each day to hold a 9am meeting, and for me that’s not enough.

It’s not even that I didn’t achieve anything in May or June – I definitely got plenty done, both work-wise and outside of work. It’s just that I didn’t feel any sense of focus or achievement because, as many of us have said recently, every day feels the same and they all just blur into one. So after a bit too much time spent staring at the wall / my phone over recent weeks, I have brought back the to-do list.

For an over-planner, the way to make to-do lists work, in my opinion, is to use them with a few little mental notes in mind:

  • Write your list for the day, then cross two items off – because you’ve probably written down more than you can realistically get done.
  • Know that you do not need to tick every item off the list. This one was a bit life-changing for me. It turns out the to-do list is there to focus your mind, so you don’t need to “think” about what to do next. It’s not there to punish you if a couple of those little tick-box squares are still empty at the end of the day.
  • Celebrate every single tick you add to that list. Maybe take a coffee break. Do a little dance around your kitchen. Do a victory lap of the garden, if you have one. Take every little task you complete as a sign that you’re totally winning at life, and then you’ll care less about the ones you don’t.
  • Always add a cake break to your to do list. Because a day without cake is a sad day indeed (ok, maybe this one is fairly specific to me).

Since the return of the to-do list to my life, some days just feel easier. I can wake up in the morning knowing there’s a nice little list to turn to when decisions feel hard or I just can’t seem to get my brain in gear. I’ve completed 4000 of the remaining 8000 words of coursework that I’d been procrastinating over for months. I’ve re-started regular running and ticked off all-but-one item on my half marathon training plan every week for 3 weeks. I’ve also written this blog post after slacking off a bit lately, so I can kick off my Monday feeling pretty damn pleased with myself!

Have a lovely Monday all, and don’t let the torrential rain get you down!

xx

Fitness

Why I Run

Happy Saturday all! It really is a happy one in my house, because the sun is (finally) shining and I’m writing this while eating porridge in preparation for a little solo run in an hour or two.

I’m feeling particularly good today, because I’m actually excited about running. When daily exercise was the only time we were allowed outside, I chose a walk over a run at least 5 days out of 7. I have no garden and I think with so much time spent stuck indoors, I wanted that one bit of outdoor time to be spent slowly taking in my surroundings instead of running past them.

Obviously we’ve been allowed more outside time lately, but for a fair while that motivation to run just didn’t seem to be coming back, in fact it vanished even more. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect it was a combination of self-doubt (can I still do it?) and allowing myself to be more affected by all of that “get fit in lockdown” talk than I’d care to admit. I’m nothing if not stubborn, and external pressure to exercise just makes me want to sit on my sofa 24/7.

Anyway, with a half marathon for charity on the horizon it was time to get moving again, and after a few meet-ups with a friend to drag ourselves around some painful almost-5k’s, I’m starting to feel like a runner again! I’m also starting to remember why I love it. Not every time (no-one loves every single run), but enough to make the crap times worth persevering with. I’m aware many new people have taken up running in recent months, so now seemed as good a time as any to share my thoughts on why running is actually the best.

A solo run is like a big spring clean for my brain. It’s my time alone to just process whatever’s going on in my head during a given week – whether that means having a bit of a silent rant to myself, taking time to appreciate good things that have happened or working through any unresolved thoughts so I can file them away and move on. It can be easy to end the working week feeling a bit drained, but a good run on a Saturday morning gets rid of that last remaining bit of stress and really sets me up for a relaxing weekend.

It’s like being part of a community without really having to talk to anyone. Don’t get me wrong – I love people. I really like talking. But, as you will have gathered from my previous blog posts, I’m also a bit of an introvert and really need time alone. Sometimes going for a morning run feels like the best of both worlds. I head off to the Downs or the harbour and run a nice 10k loop alone, and I pass a whole load of other runners doing the same. I don’t have to speak to any of them, I can plod along by myself doing all that thought-processing I was talking about, but it makes me happy just seeing other people doing the same thing I’m doing. I particularly like the ones who smile or say hi as they go past – we always need more of those runners in the world!

You don’t have to be good at it. It’s no secret that I hated school PE and it put me off exercise until I hit my 30’s. I don’t have a natural gift for sport and was not confident as a teenager, so the competitive atmosphere wasn’t for me and I’m fairly sure I felt sick with dread before every lesson. But with running, you really don’t have to be good at it. Running a 2:30 half marathon is just as valid as a 1:30 half marathon – all that counts is that you turned up and gave it your best shot. You can set goals and work towards PBs if you want to, or you can just pootle along at the same pace every single week of the year. Either way, you can still proudly call yourself a “runner”.

It’s a mini personal achievement each time. When you manage a successful run, it’s entirely down to you. Your motivation, your training, your commitment to persevering until it was possible. Maybe you bought a fancy new pair of running shoes, and sought advice from others, and experimented with different gels / snacks / pre-run meals until you found the best fit. But ultimately the reason you managed to run a 10k or a half marathon is that you got outside, laced up your shoes and ran regularly in all kinds of weather until your legs could just do it. It makes me feel good about myself, and amazed at the things my body can do, and just feel all of those positive feelings that we sometimes struggle to find.

Anyway, having written all of that I’m really keen to get outside now, so I’ll leave it here for this morning. As I mentioned before, myself and my favourite running buddy are set to do our own half marathon in October to raise money for Mind (with both the Bristol and Cardiff events now cancelled), so if you’d like to find out more or consider donating, you can do so here.

And to any new runners who are still at the stage of hating every second – I promise it gets good eventually!

Thanks for reading xx

Mental Health

Where have I been?

Hello! I nearly didn’t write a blog post this morning, and I’m writing this sentence still unsure of whether I’m actually going to hit the “Publish” button when I get to the end. I wanted the next thing I wrote to be really happy and positive and, honestly, I haven’t felt very happy or positive for most of the last couple of weeks. But this is supposed to be a personal blog, and a way to regularly practice my writing, and I suppose that means just ploughing on and writing about the bad stuff as well as the good.

The last couple of weeks I have been quite low, by which I don’t really mean sad or grumpy or miserable, I just mean nothing-y. Sometimes, that’s harder to deal with – if I feel angry or sad, I can just stomp around my flat a bit or have a really good cry. But what do you do when you just don’t really feel anything much at all? The answer is usually a lot of sitting around staring into space, half-watching TV while the hours tick by.

Anyway, I’m not writing this to have a grumble. I’ve been here before, I’ll be here again and soon I’ll feel better, because eventually I always do! I’m writing it because I think just the general monotony of the last few months has got on top of me a bit. Somewhere along the way of focusing on acceptance and adapting to life as it is for now, I’ve just lost sight of myself a bit, and of the things that make me feel like “me”. And if I feel this way, I can’t be the only one.

Here are some of the many things that make me feel like “me”: running, baking, cooking, attempting craft projects, reading, writing, listening to music, yoga, walking while listening to a podcast, spending time with close friends. Yours might be similar to mine, or might be entirely different, but I imagine if you sat down and thought about it you’d come up with a fairly long list. I’ve done less of these things over the last few weeks, and then reached a point where I didn’t really know how to re-start, and that’s where that “nothing-y” feeling begins to set in.

It doesn’t help that I’ve annoyingly fallen foul of some of those external pressures that I’ve been telling everyone else to ignore. Like wondering why exactly it is that I’ve got all this “spare time” on my hands and yet haven’t become super fit, read a book a week or finished 50 different craft projects since March. The problem is, feeling that way doesn’t spark motivation, it just sparks fear of failure:

“What if I try to run 10k and only manage 4k – won’t that make me feel even worse? Maybe I’ll just stay home and sit on the sofa instead – can’t fail at that!”

Anyway, having talked through this nothing-y-ness (how many made-up words can I include in this post?) with a couple of people, the conclusion I have drawn is that I need to start feeling like “me” again, and that means starting small, with no huge expectations. Getting my trainers on and running/walking alternate kilometres. Cooking one dinner from scratch in a week. Setting aside half an hour on a Sunday to work on my cross-stitch, even if that’s all I do. Yesterday I baked cookies that took 10 minutes to throw together and 15 minutes to bake – it wasn’t one of my usual 2-hour baking missions, but it was something, and it gave me that sense of achievement that makes baking a thing that I love.

So I guess that’s really what I wanted to share this morning – if you’ve lost some of your motivation and sense of self lately, maybe find 15 minutes do something really simple that you’d normally enjoy, and see where you can get to from there. Be as kind and patient with yourself as you would be with a friend, and just try starting somewhere.

xx

Food

Cake Cake Cake

Happy Sunday all! My last few blog posts have been a bit on the heavier side, so I thought today I’d switch things up a bit and talk about cake.

Anyone who knows me well will know how much I love to bake. Aside from the obvious benefit of maintaining a good supply of snacks at all times, I find baking really relaxing. I think it’s the combination of having really clear instructions to follow, and the fact that you can’t really rush. By the time I’ve finished weighing ingredients, mixing and washing up, I’ve probably spent at the very least an hour in the kitchen just pottering about on my own listening to a podcast.

Like many people, I’ve done an awful lot more baking these past few months than I usually do. I’ve loved taking time out every weekend to make something, and it’s a habit I want to keep up as best as I can as life starts to become busier. I’m currently flat hunting with my boyfriend and I know that once we move in, spending an hour or two baking on a weekend morning will be one of the ways I make sure I take time for myself.

Baking also gives me a nice little sense of achievement, and seeing other people enjoy a cake I’ve made makes me very happy indeed. Obviously in more recent times it hasn’t been quite so easy to share my cakes with other people, so I thought instead I’d share some of my favourite go-to recipes, along with a few handy tips for some of them, so you can try them too!

Side note: I was asked countless times during lockdown whether I was eating all the cakes I baked myself, and the answer was mostly “yes”. It’s another topic for another blog post, but I find it strange how often we question each others eating habits?! For me, restricting how often I eat certain things does not lead to a good relationship with food, so unlike most areas of my life, it’s not something I overthink. If I want cake, I have cake.

Anyway…on to the recipes:

This choc chip cookie recipe from Pixie Nutrition works every time, and can easily be adapted to use whatever ingredients you have in. For example, replace 50g of the flour with porridge oats and cinnamon, and replace the choc chips with nuts & raisins. I’d recommend putting the cookie dough in the fridge for an hour before baking, and trying not to overmix as this can make them go a bit “cakey”. But honestly, they’ll still taste great if they do, so it’s no big disaster.

This double chocolate loaf cake from the best of all recipe websites – BBC Good Food – is the easiest and tastiest chocolate cake I’ve ever made, and happens to be my boyfriend’s favourite. It takes a while to bake (be patient and don’t be tempted to turn up the oven), but preparation wise you basically just chuck it all in a food mixer and can’t go wrong!

My favourite lemon drizzle cake is from an old Great British Bake Off book that’s now out of print, but I also found it here. I’d recommend reducing the amount of sugar in the cake mix – 175g is plenty. I actually reduce the sugar in pretty much all cake recipes by at least 50g as I prefer them less sickly-sweet, but I guess maybe that’s personal preference!

Lastly, this Pip & Nut recipe for blueberry trail mix muffins is another adaptable favourite, and is vegan-friendly – although admittedly I usually use butter in mine! Don’t be put off by the ingredients list – normal plain flour & caster sugar is fine. Their trail mix is tasty, but just throwing 60g-or-so of nuts/seeds/raisins/choc chips into the cake mix and not bothering with the bit on top works well too. I make mine using frozen berries and whatever nut butter I have open (I often do have their blueberry almond butter in my cupboard though, because it’s insanely good). This recipe also freezes well, so is perfect if you can’t eat a whole batch quickly enough and don’t want to waste precious cake!

I hope sharing some of my favourite recipes will inspire a few people to get baking this week, as I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend an hour or two. If you try any of these recipes, or have any good ones to share with me, please leave a comment xx

Life

Hello, Outside World!

It’s been a while – well, 3 weeks. Which I guess is a while for a blog that was supposed to be updated weekly.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve become a bit too comfortable in my little #stayhome bubble these past few weeks. To be honest, I really quite like my own company. I have that classic introvert trait of needing quiet time to recharge, and finding too much social interaction exhausting. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends, but if I fill my entire week with social plans, my brain can’t cope AT ALL.

I’ve also lived on my own for 3 years now and it’s been great. In fact, as someone who hasn’t always been amazingly self-sufficient, it’s been a really positive thing. All of which means I was at a significant advantage once we were all told to stop going out and seeing people. First of all, I’ve had work to fill my time each day, and walks / runs / workouts to keep me busy too. But aside from that, pottering around my flat in activewear or pyjamas 24/7, and spending hours reading, crafting, baking, cooking, doing jigsaw puzzles…it’s honestly just not that much of a stretch!

The downside to being like me is that, eventually, being okay with lots of time alone turns into becoming accustomed to lots of time alone, which then leads to actively not wanting to go out. Pair that with a busy time at work, and a brain full to the brim just trying to mentally process 2020 (like, really – what is this year?!), and I can easily find myself spending days on end just not bothering to connect with anyone.

These last couple of weeks I’ve felt tired, grumpy and less resilient than usual, and while my natural tendency in these situations is to want the world to just go away and leave me alone, I have to admit the only thing that’s made it better has been connecting with people. Whether that means a long chat (or cry / rant!) on the phone, or a walk with a friend, or a Zoom workout with lots of other sweaty faces on the screen – all of these things have meant I’ve ended the week feeling much happier and brighter than I did on Monday morning.

I strongly believe that having the ability to cope with quiet time, and to just be alone with your thoughts, is a really important thing. But I have to admit that spending all of my time just living inside my own head probably isn’t. People always talk about how it’s important to “push yourself out of your comfort zone”, and this week I’ve realised that doesn’t have to mean doing really big, ambitious things. Sometimes it means dragging yourself out of the house to see someone, even when you think you don’t want to.

This post is dedicated to all my fellow introverts, and to Dave and Jess who have listened to me grumble / rant / talk rubbish several times this week 😉

Mental Health

Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Week

“Finding time to be kind”

This week was Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s chosen theme being “kindness”, and it’s taken me all the way until Sunday to write anything on here about it. Which is odd, considering I usually have a fair bit to say about mental health.

I suppose with the news still being very much covid-dominated, on top of a very big week at work, I haven’t felt I’ve had the time to reflect and get any thoughts together. I posted on Instagram earlier this week about being kinder to ourselves by slowing down a bit, but have struggled to write anything about kindness to others. And now I’m starting to think that this apparent lack of time to consider kindness is something we need to look at in both cases.

There are so many different ways to be kind to others – doing something thoughtful for a friend, stopping for a proper chat when you bump into someone you know, getting in touch with someone you haven’t seen in a while to say hi. As someone who likes to see the good in people, I think a certain amount of kindness comes naturally to most of us – but, being honest, how many of us slip up sometimes because we’re “too busy”?

I don’t mind being open about my many flaws and admitting that I have, during busy times, done all of the following things:

  • Promised to make plans with a friend “soon”, then realised 6 weeks later that I still haven’t text them
  • Complained about getting stuck chatting to a neighbour because it’s made me late getting somewhere
  • Pretended not to see someone I know, because I don’t have time to stop
  • Forgotten to send a birthday card because “time has flown and I didn’t notice what date it was”
  • Allowed a friend to do all the planning for our next meet up because I feel too busy to give it any thought (admittedly, on this one, I also get anxious that my own ideas will be rubbish – but that’s a whole other story for another day!)

I wrote in last week’s blog about how life has been slower lately – certainly not for the best reasons, but we are where we are. During this time of no commute and nowhere to go except the supermarket, I’ve had far more text and phone conversations with friends and family, stopped to chat to my next door neighbour when we’ve run into each other (from opposite sides of our shared landing, obviously), and just generally noticed the people around me a lot more. I haven’t been lucky enough to bump into many friends while out for walks (possibly for the best as resisting the urge to hug is painful!), but I’ve exchanged smiles and hellos with a whole bunch of people I don’t know instead of my usual “head down, earphones in” approach.

All of which makes me reflect on my “normal”, busier life and wonder…why was I always in such a rush that I couldn’t spare 5 minutes for a chat? Why was my head so busy with thoughts that I couldn’t remember to send someone a text or take half an hour to plan an evening out? Is it really necessary to be in that much of a rush all of the time – or do we just allow ourselves to get sucked into this way of living where we wear being really busy as a badge of honour. Why don’t we take the time to just slow down a bit more often, and focus on the things that matter – like remembering to send a birthday card to that friend who’s stuck around for 25 years, even though you only remember to text them about every 6 months.

Obviously, kindness to ourselves remains important too and I’m not saying that we should beat ourselves up those times that we are just genuinely having a hectic week, and disappear into our own heads for a bit. We’re only human and there is only so much time in a day. I just think that sometimes life can be so full of plans and events and shiny new things that catch our attention, that we lose track of the important stuff – like connecting with others, and giving proper time and attention to the people that we care about.

So, I suppose my aim going forward is to turn my focus outwards a bit more, and spend a bit less time convincing myself that I’m “just so busy all the time”.

Have a lovely bank holiday all, and try to spare 2 minutes to send a text (or even just a cat video) to one of your favourite people.

xx