Wednesday, 28 December 2016

New Year's Resolutions for Self Care

As we all start to set goals and New Year's resolutions for 2017, it's worth remembering that the most important promises we can make are to look after ourselves.

When you set your New Year's resolutions this year, remember that goals don’t have to be big or external to you.

The little things have a huge impact on our mental health, and underpinning the acts of self care that work for you in your goals for the New Year can make all the difference.

To help you focus on the little things you can implement to improve your mental health and practice self care, I've thought up a few suggestions that you can include in your 2017 resolutions.

Here are FIVE of the things you can do to look after your mental health in 2017.

  1. Take time out. A huge part of self care is having me-time. Social interaction is EXHAUSTING for me. No matter how much I like you, I also need time by myself too. I get overwhelmed by social occasions, even a day at work, and need to unwind afterwards with a cup of herbal tea, chilling in bed, or colouring-in.
  2. Get outside. Fresh air, a walk in the forest, a brief spot of exercise, sitting on a park bench - it doesn't matter what you do when you get outside. Just be there, let the fresh air hit your lungs and you will start to feel calmer and more at peace. This is something I definitely need to do more of in 2017. 
  3. Get offline. Whether it's for one day in a weekend or just one evening a week, try to limit the amount of time you spend in front of a screen, and particularly on social media. Social media can be damaging to your mental health, and often more specifically your self-esteem (I'm talking about all those group photos from a night out that you weren't on), so give yourself a well-deserved break. 
  4. Try something new. Whether it's a CBT class, yoga, or even a gym membership put your money where your mind is and commit to trying something new for your mental health. Sure, you might find it's not for you but that's okay. If you hadn't tried first, you'd never know. 
  5. Make a self care box. Seriously, I cannot plug this enough. Not only is it cute and pretty, but it’s just a relief to know you have a safe place to turn when you’re feeling down. See more on creating a self care box here
And there are so many others that you could add to this list and commit to in 2017.

I wish you all the best in the New Year - to a happier and more positive 2017!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

My Life in the Woods: What I learned in 2016

What I learned from The Romeo Project
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
I really like this Henry David Thoreau quote. He was a man of many, many talents and professions according to his Wikipedia page. And surprisingly, despite being born 200 years ago next year, his writing is still relatable. Like many a modern-day self-help books, Thoreau's book Walden is an experiment in how to live well and simply. He relocates to Walden and lives in the woods, and then writes about it. It's described as a reflection on simple living in natural surroundings, a manual for self-reliance and a voyage for self discovery.

In many ways, this year has felt a lot like Thoreau's Walden experiment. I started my Romeo Project because I wanted to discover myself, discover happiness, and find a way to live better. (Mind you, I did not have the balls to go move away to the wilderness for my experiment.) But I did spend the year taking self-help book advice to heart and trying to change the way I lived my life so I could find happiness.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
When you have a mental illness you often experience FOMO. (That's fear of missing out for those of you not down with the kids.) I have constantly experienced FOMO since I was 12 years old. I felt like I was missing out socially, by not having the right friends, any friends, close friends. I was missing out because of where I lived. I missed out academically because my illness meant I couldn't study. I felt unliked, unwelcome and alone for a long time. I felt like my personality was holding me back  until I found out I had depression and anxiety. Then I felt like my illness was holding me back.

I thought: If only I didn't feel like this I could do it. If only I wasn't depressed I would be liked. 

In reality, the only thing holding me back was me. Sure, my anxiety means I don't want to go to new places or meet new people. My depression means I can be lost in very negative and consuming thoughts. But there are ways to overcome your mental illness (or whatever else is holding you back) and live a full life. That's what self-help books thrive on - we want to know how other people overcame their burden. We consume these books in the hope that by osmosis we will feel happier. And when you have mental health problems, people just love to offer you solutions. From exercise to CBT classes, to health eating - people swear by these methods to improve your mental health.

The problem is, I ignored all advice for years. I never committed to making positive steps. I would try meditation once and without a quick-fix I gave up. I let my mental illness win. Time and time again I stood back and let my mental illness decide what I did or did not do. I never questioned it, I never challenged it.

This year, for the first time in my life, I decided that I wanted to win. Not my depression. Not my anxiety. But me.

My 10 resolutions explored methods of self care, tips for managing your inner critic, CBT, meditation and countless other tactics raved about in self-help books. I tried each method once, then moved on to another and another, constantly sampling what the world was preaching. I took not only the first step, but hundreds of further steps as I delved into potential solutions.

And there were some resolutions that stuck. I make sure I dedicate at least one evening per week to self-care. I know now that exercise does make me feel better about myself, and journaling helps me make sense of how I'm feeling. I invested time and effort in my mental health and I feel all the better for it.

The lesson
I guess if I were to sum this all up in a nice, neat concluding sentence, it would be to borrow this from Thoreau.
"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
I discovered that I can be depressed and anxious and still be happy. But I still have foundations to lay. I need to build upon the methods I am using now with practice, as well as trying new coping strategies too. Finding joy and hope and happiness this year doesn't mean that I now stop making any effort. Stepping off the pedal is exactly what my mental illness would love me to do to allow it to thrive. So I keep going, I keep making an effort and I keep searching for happiness to make sure that it never goes away.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

My Blogmas of Quotes

I love the idea of Blogmas (because I love both blogging and Christmas). 

I also have two other passions when it comes to this time of the year – advent calendars and inspirational quotes. So, inspired by all of these things I have decided to do Blogmas slightly differently this year.

Every day in December, I will be sharing one beautiful quote that has inspired me through the Romeo Project. So much of the project had me stuck in self-help books, and thralling the internet for encouragement that I ended up writing down all of the heartwarming and uplifting quotes I stumbled across. And when better to root out this inspiration than during the cold spells and dark months. 

Day 1. on self-belief

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

We Don't Have to be Happy all the Time

I set out on 01 January with one goal - find happiness.

To say that I have succeeded however, is not so simple. I can't say that I am happy now, because right now, in this very moment, I feel far from happiness. I'm on the brink of a breakdown, but I'm veering on the side of safe.

BUT I can say with all honesty that I am happier than the person I was on 31 December 2015.
"Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable." - Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier
You see, happiness isn't defined in the moment. (And THANK GOD, right? Because I am SO not there). Happiness is defined by the journey, the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows.
It's about all the moments, the bigger picture, the overall state of your life.

State of your life is an acceptable term, right?

This year I have found this overarching level of happiness. While I may not be happy right now, I am happy. And here's how I know:

  • I actually have the self-confidence to yell Woohoo in zumba class and mean it.
  • I can say hello to someone and not have a freakin' panic attack over what they must think of me.
  • Phone calls are not my worst enemy.
  • I was not even the teeniest bit embarrassed when a coworker wore an almost identical outfit as me.
  • I know that I am loved. And I feel loved.
  • I put a picture of me sans make-up on the internet and didn't give a damn.
  • I took this one photo that I was ridiculously proud of.

So for those of you out there looking at this list and thinking 'What the actual hell? These little things do not equate to happiness', I respectfully disagree. For me, happiness is all of these things. They may seem like small, otherwise insignificant moments to some of you, but to me they are the feeling of victory over my mental illness.
For me, happiness is feeling self-assured, having self-worth, and being your perfectly awesome self.

Life is full of delightful treasures - what Oprah Winfrey calls the 'ahhh moments' in her book What I Know For Sure. The 'ahhh moments' let you know that you've found your little bit of happiness.

You don't have to be happy all of the time. You just need those 'ahhh moments' to remind you that you are here, you are happy, and you are loved.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

It's a wonderful life

On the 1st of January 2016, the very first day of the new year, I watched It's a Wonderful Life for the very first time.

I found myself in tears by the end, who doesn't??,  but I also felt motivated for the year ahead and the challenge I had set myself.
I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.
2016 was the year of the Romeo Project, and as I promised myself and you all, November is when I reflect on how I got on, what I achieved, and what I could have done better. And all I can think about is the very first day of the year and watching a life-changing movie.

It's a Wonderful Life taught me that me that we can plan out our lives, but the truth is that life just happens. Plans don't go our way, things don't go to plan. We can look back and feel regret.

But we also touch so many lives.
No man is a failure if he has friends.
Be good.
Live a life where you do the right thing, not always the planned thing.
You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?
I may feel regret about some parts of the Romeo Project, wishing I'd done better, wishing I'd had a stronger plan, feeling self-critical. However, I also spent the year living, actually in-love with living, for the first time. I read, I created, I appreciated, I learned, I explored.

I found that I had a wonderful life. I have a wonderful life. There was so much in my life to feel wonderful about, but throughout the past 10 months, I also cultivated some more. Because you can do that. You can create and change aspects you don't feel wonderful about. You bring other wonderful things into your life. Life is there to be lived. And this year, I lived.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Hurray! The Romeo Project is over and I need a break

The Romeo Project changed my life.
Here we are, at the end of my ten month challenge and ten resolutions. Since the beginning of 2016 I have thrown myself into challenge after challenge, reading self-help books, taking affirmative action, and applying the tips and tricks everyone else is raging about. It wasn't always easy, but I somehow managed to come out at the other end of the tunnel relatively unscathed.

Unfortunately, I didn't fully embrace every resolution or commit to every challenge I set myself with The Romeo Project. To have dedicated myself as much as I had planned to, and wanted to, would have required the project becoming my day job. I wanted to live and breath each resolution to give it the attention it deserved, and the chance to properly make an impact on my mental health and my life.

But taking those initial first steps brought huge change into my life. If it wasn't for the first month's resolution, Be Authentic, I wouldn't have created a vision board and a life handbook; the two forces that made me take steps towards my own goals. Here I am, ten months later, and my goals I set in the first week January have been achieved. I did it. I took positive steps towards my own future happiness and gained skills, a boyfriend, a job, a future. I succeeded. So yes, I will jump at every opportunity to say The Romeo Project changed my life.

Why it's time for a break
I was reading Holly Bourne's What's a Girl Gotta Do? last week and stumbled across my exact current feelings being embodied by the character of Lottie. After committing herself to a feminist anti-sexism campaign, Lottie developed what her friends diagnosed as activism fatigue. Little did I know, it's a real thing.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Believe in Yourself Conclusion

October has come to a close. Out of all my resolutions and all the months of the year so far, October has taught me the most. The month's aim was to explore self-belief and hopefully, by the end of the month, I would believe in myself.

It was a month where I:

But it was also a month of self-realisations and mini-epiphanies. Outside of the intended scope of my month's studies I started to learn that I was not the person I had always thought I was. 
I discovered I was someone who could bake, who could sew, who could take initiative and lead, who could make what they saw on Pinterest without it failing. Without realising how much I was being spurred on by self-belief, I tried new things without fear or hesitation. I decided I was a baker now and that was that. 
My new attitude this month reminded me of the Paulo Coelho quote:
“You are what you believe yourself to be.” ― Paulo Coelho
Believe in Yourself was always intended to be my last resolution of 2016 and the Romeo Project. It built on aspects of all my previous resolutions and was an accumulation of all the positive impacts of my previous steps towards happiness. Throughout October I believed myself to be someone in control of my own destiny. I could stop pulling my hair and I could start baking or sewing. All it took was that initial decision to believe I could. 

I don't believe that you can eradicate self-doubt, especially not if you are plagued with self-critical thoughts like I am. However, I do believe that there are days where you can rise above those fears and choose to believe in yourself above all else. And this month I had so many of those rising-above days. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Challenging Trichotillomania (hair pulling)

At the very beginning of October I went to tie my hair up and discovered a bald spot. I kid you not.

For years I have been pulling out my hair, never thinking of the consequences. But now, I can visibly see the effects, and it is time to stop. I set myself a challenge for Believe in Yourself month - find out more about the compulsion to pull out hair, and try to stop it. Despite years of trying, I have never quite managed to stop biting my finger nails when I am feeling anxious. I had my doubts about hair pulling too, but for the month that I'm in, I needed to believe in myself and fight the compulsion.

What is Trichotillomania?

Mayo Clinic:
Trichotillomania (trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh) is a disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body, despite trying to stop.
The cause of trichotillomania is unclear. But like many complex disorders, trichotillomania probably results from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Also, abnormalities in the natural brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine may play a role in trichotillomania.

Monday, 17 October 2016

I hate days like today

Today I decided to give up blogging. Because I'm shit anyway. It takes time and effort, and I have no effort to give anymore.

Today I criticised the way I looked 10 times before I'd even left the house.

Today I bit all of my finger nails down low so that they hurt.

Today I picked fight after fight with my boyfriend to the point where I didn't even know what I was mad at.

Today I replayed some of the horrible things that happened to me over and over in my head, leaving me feeling degraded and worthless.

Today I decided to bail on my fitness class. It was my first effort at exercising again in months, but I have no more effort in me.

Today I thought about calling in sick to work tomorrow, just so I could recover from today.

On days like today my confidence is at its lowest. I'm self-critical, irritable and frustrated. The longer I stay in this frame of mind the more frustrated at myself I become; frustrated because I can't just snap out of it.

That's what they say isn't it? Snap out of it. Your mental illness isn't real. Pull yourself together. 

I've tried. I've tried the snapping and the pulling and I can't get it to work.

Days like today are bad days. Write-offs. When things are good I forget days like today are even possible anymore. But then they come back and it feels like every day will be a bad day forever more.

Today I have no self-belief. Today is a reminder of why I needed The Romeo Project to begin with, and why I need to keep building up my skills to fight this.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Be a #Girlboss

Last month I read Sophia Amoruso's bestselling book #Girlboss. Sophia founded NastyGal clothing at 22 years old as an eBay store selling second-hand vintage pieces. Ten years later and she has just stepped down from the role of CEO of what has become a multi-million dollar leading fashion company.

To have grown not only a business, but an empire, in just ten years is an impressive feat in itself. But on top of that, Sophia's story is one of rags to riches in the traditional sense too. A high school drop-out, Sophia carved a path for herself through self-belief, determination and sheer grit.

Who else could possible make a better role model during Believe in Yourself month?
"And once you find success, don't stop."
What stood out for me, was how Sophia never gave up. She was told, as we all are, that she would get nowhere without an education and finishing school. But she found a way to succeed beyond the traditional routes. And while doing so, she never strayed from who she truly is.

Authenticity and success.
One of the immediate things that stands out when reading the book, is how self-assured Sophia is. Not only is she determined to succeed, but she is confident in her individuality. Sophia built on her quirky sense of style and her badass attitude, and marketed them as much as the actual clothing NastyGal sold. Never does it seem like she is trying to be cool. She just effortlessly is cool - it's authentic. She was selling a way of life, her own way of life - one that empowered women to feel confident and wear their self-belief on their sleeves.

"An advantage of being naive is being able to believe in oneself when no one else will. I was dumb enough and stubborn enough to pour everything I had into a business called Nasty Gal and to tune out people who tried to tell me I was doing it wrong."
In many ways, perhaps Sophia is right - self-belief is a mix of naivety and stubbornness. It's the doggedness never to give up.  To never consider failure as possible. To sometimes not see giving up as an option. But it's also tossing away your anxiety. I know that if I were to pursue my own business my anxious brain would be lighting up to alert me of all the possible occasions where I would mess up, lose money, fail. I wouldn't be able to tune out my own worries, yet alone other people's advice like Sophia did. She has so much self-belief that it makes her seem almost superhuman to me; as it's a level I doubt I could ever reach.

#Girlboss has left me in awe of Sophia's confidence. Don't get me wrong; she's not cocky nor does she come across as basking in her success.
If anything, she is using her platform to tell young girls and women that anything is possible if you follow your passions and create something you love and believe in.
I want to have that own belief in myself, but it seems to come naturally to Sophia whereas self-belief does not come naturally to me. I keep fearing the worst possible outcomes rather than being lead by own belief.

But maybe I need to adopt Sophia's attitude for a while. Try it on and act like I have self-belief. Wear it like an item of clothing from NastyGal.
Perhaps that's the way to start believing in yourself?

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Belief can be in anything

I bought my Canon camera in June 2015. I thought it would help improve the quality of photos on my blog. Like a lot of bloggers, I thought a fancy camera would make me better.

There have been times over the past year and a half where I regretted the purchase.
I hadn't made as much use of camera as I should of. It wasn't worth the expense I had paid if I wasn't going to use it. I wasn't even very good when I did try to use it! In fact, some of the photos were coming out blurry, out of focus, and not of the quality I had hoped.

But last weekend I went out foraging in the local park. I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for. Some acorns maybe, golden brown leaves, maybe a pine cone.
I spent twice as much time out wandering among the trees than I had expected to. It was calming and one of the best ways I had spent a Saturday in a long time.

When I got back home I decided to put my foraged items to good use; as photo props.
And while playing around with my camera and a very pretty edition of Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood, I ended up with this picture.

Never have I taken a picture that I am more proud of.
And being proud of something I have done is not a feeling I am used to.
Belief can be in anything. It can be in your skills to take a beautiful photograph, writing your first draft or entering a competition. Belief isn't limited to success in the workplace. Your hobbies are only possible because of your own self-belief.
So go make something wonderful happen. Create something you can be proud of. And feel pride. Because that feeling is your self-belief flourishing. 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Tips to Foster Self-Belief

Okay, so we know that self-belief is important. We also know that I don't have a whole lot of it right now. So how do we turn that around?

Well it's all about changing your way of thinking according to Norman Vincent Peale.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

My self-belief

How can I start a whole month of self-belief before evaluating and measuring my own current levels of self-belief?

I know that my self-worth has improved over the past few years. At a snails pace albeit, but since getting treatment for my mental illness I have been able to make progress towards liking myself.

I don't hate who I am anymore. I know that I have good qualities. I am comfortable with my odd assortment of interests and likes.

At the beginning of the year as I faced turning 24, I knew I didn't want to plagued by self-doubt for another 15 years. I didn't want to just like myself. I wanted to start loving myself. And challenging self-doubt was a huge part of that. Every month of the Romeo Project was set up to embrace my true authentic self and find ways to practice acts of self-care. But could it improve my self-belief?

Do you believe in yourself?

Earlier this week I wrote about the four key ways to foster self-belief according to all the self-help literature I explored this year.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Your Guide to Self-Belief

My resolution for the month of October is Believe in Yourself. You can read my introduction to the month's theme here.
Today, I want to show you why self-belief is so important and why you need it. And I sure know I need it.

What does it mean to believe in yourself?

Self-belief is about how you feel about yourself; not just your looks, but your skills, abilities and interests. Having self-belief means having confidence in your abilities. It's like the opposite of self-doubt. You know you have good traits. You know it's possible for you to succeed. You know you're not a failure.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Believe in Yourself Introduction

"What I know for sure is that every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and step out and dance - to live free of regret and filled with as much joy, fun and laughter as you can stand. You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you to, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of fear and self-doubt." - Oprah Winfrey, 'What I Know for Sure'
You know what I'm sick off? Self-doubt.

Some days I think I'm ugly, stupid, insincere, inauthentic, a failure.

Some days I don't. I want more days where I'm not filled with self-doubt.

This month I aim to challenge anxiety and self-doubt. I want to start doubting my doubts. I want to have faith in myself, and take steps toward fulfilling my goals. I want to believe that I am enough.

Over the next four weeks I will be exploring self-confidence, positive thinking, and how we define our successes. The final resolution in the Romeo Project is an accumulation of everything I have delved into so far this year. It's the perfect finale to bring all of my happiness studies to a close.
"All you need is right there within you." - Caroline Cameron, The Great life Redesign

Friday, 30 September 2016

You Create Your Own Happiness

"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions." - Dalai Lama


As September draws to a close, so too does my resolution to Create New Things. Time flew, and despite a few half-hearted efforts, I didn't quite get as immersed in my resolution as I had hoped.

The month started out well. I read Stephen King's 'On Writing' which was not only motivational, but highly informative on how to capture your audience's attention. Despite being written for novelists, there is much for bloggers and journalists alike to get out of it.
And I returned to own my favourite writer and inspirational woman in general, Patti Smith. Writing about how much reading her work has inspired me reminded me of the influence she has had on my life over the past year.

But rather than feeling flooded with creativity as I had hoped, it came in bursts; dipping and rising depending on what I read.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Creativity and Nature

I love Autumn. So much so, I even created an autumnal printable last year to celebrate it's arrival.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to find a way to combine my September resolution and my love of the season this week.

'Mindfulness and the Natural World' by Claire Thompson celebrates the positive effects of the outdoors on our mental health. But not only that, she also believes that immersing yourself in nature can also spark creativity.

"The natural world can invigorate our minds."

Spending time in nature is well known to boost mental wellbeing. It  gives us fresh air, exercise (even if it is just a leisurely stroll), and a sense of calm.
It also gets us away from the routine of everyday life and technology; giving our minds the freedom to expand.

Thompson argues that nature is conducive to creativity; cultivating curiosity in the process.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Create a Vision Board

You create your own luck

Back in January I chose to create a vision board. It was a simple, but creative act to help me map out my plan for the year ahead.

Wake Up! Your Life is Calling and Self Care for Life are just two of the self-help books I looked at this year that encourage their readers to create a vision board

A vision board is a poster, or creative space, where you depict what you want to attract into your life. Don't just select 'things' you want though. Think about what you want to feel, achieve or see. 

And as I was also creating 1, 3, and 5 year plans in my Life Handbook, I tried to tie my vision in to that as well.

My vision for 2016 was to bring more happiness into my life. I wanted to travel more, make an effort in my search for love, improve my career, reignite some friendships and work hard at my blog. Using newspaper and magazine cuttings, I mapped out where I wanted 2016 to take me - a place of happiness, romance, and success.

I placed my vision board on my bedroom wall as a daily visual reminder of what I wanted to attract into my life.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Find Your Muse

or, How Patti Smith Changed my Life

A muse is the source of an artist's inspiration.
WB Yeats had Maud Gonne, Pablo Picasso had Marie-Therese Walter, Patti Smith had Robert Magglethorpe.

Patti Smith
I first heard about Patti Smith’s book ‘Just Kids’ a year ago. I can’t remember what I was reading at the time or where I read it (this anecdote would be so much better if I did!) but I do remember what I read. “Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ is the best book you will ever read and it will change your life.”
I ordered it, read it within a few days, and it did change my life.
‘Just Kids’ is lauded as the seminal biography of artist Robert Magglethorpe. In reality, it details the thought processes of a young woman trying to make it as an artist in 1960s New York. Her roommate and lover Robert is also trying to ‘make it’. This isn't a book review, if you do want to read one, check out this epic piece about 'Just Kids' from the Guardian.
“We gathered our colored pencils and sheets of paper and drew like wild, feral children into the night, until, exhausted, we fell into bed.” 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Create a ritual

Creating a daily ritual has come up in many of the self-help books I've being looking at this year.

Earlier this year, I shared my morning routine. But a ritual is different. A ritual is a 'series of actions performed according to a prescribed order' (Oxford English Dictionaries).

Sports stars have rituals they partake in before games or events; often superstitions performed to ensure good luck. Apparently, Benjamin Franklin wrote naked for an hour every morning to 'refresh' his mind in the cold air (source).
In 'On Writing' Stephen King divulges his own writing ritual. He dedicates mornings, every morning, to writing. His advice for fellow writers is to set a daily writing goal. He sets himself a word count - 2,000 words, or 10 pages per day. He closes the door to his dedicated writing room, has a quiet atmosphere, and doesn't leave until he reaches his goal (hopefully he does leave when nature calls...).

Saturday, 10 September 2016

My escape from suicidal thoughts – World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. You can follow the conversations around preventing suicide on Twitter at #WSPD16.
To mark the occasion every year, I share some of my own personal experiences with suicide. This year, my message is a message of hope. It’s a message of survival, coping and recovery.
When considering suicide, it's hard to find any trace of hope. But I assure you, it is there, hiding in plain sight. And when you find it, it sparks you back to life.

My experience of depression was debilitating. I stopped eating, sleeping, showering, attending classes. I walked from point A to point B in a trance. I paid no attention to traffic lights, assignments, deadlines, my health. I just didn't care.

My depression brought with it thoughts of self-harm and suicide. For years I had punished myself for signs of weakness and failure internally. By the time I was 18 I needed to externalise that self-hatred. I turned to hurting myself as a way of coping with the internal pain.

Shortly before my 19th birthday I began treatment for my illness. But while some of my symptoms became regulated, my sense of self remained critical to the point of punishment. I continued to harm myself secretly, not telling my psychiatrist, counsellor or my family.

This is where it starts to turnaround. This is where I find hope. This is where I learn what I needed to survive. 

As my long, slow road to recovery continued through counselling, psychiatry services and medication, I began to realise that I needed to self-motivate if I was to reconstruct my life. I needed to find hope.

Hope came from finding a way to celebrate life.

As I was sorting through boxes of old mementos - letters, photos, leaflets, tickets, postcards - I decided to make use of it all, and also give myself a hobby. I decided to start a scrapbook.

Scrapbooking would be a way to detail my life, show me what I had achieved, what I had to be thankful for, that I was loved and cared for, even when I couldn't see it.

But more than that, scrapbooking provided an outlet for my self-harming thoughts.
Rather than hurting myself, I had another way to channel those feelings. Instead of scratching or cutting, I could cut up old magazines, stick them into place and make a collage. I could glue and stick my life back together.
The time I spent working away at my little life scrapbook was time where my head was clear and calm. It felt rewarding to finish a page, take a step back and admire that I had made my life - something I considered so banal - look pretty.

By 2013 cutting and sticking wasn’t enough for me. I had spent the year struggling with my mental health. I had lost friendships, relationships, my sense of place in the world. I needed something new to free my mind from consuming negative thoughts. I needed to compose.

Expressive writing means to put into words how you feel and what you’re going through. It can help bring healing in difficult situations, such as mental health difficulties and suicidal thoughts.

And so this blog was born. I had no intention of making any of my writings public before this. I was used to keeping a mental health journal to chart my bad days and my moods, but this was a chance to use what I was creating to help more than myself. I could find a solution to a difficult situation or challenge my negative thoughts through my writing. Reflecting allows for learning. But I could also write about my experiences, learnings and feelings and inspire others in the process.

Expressive writing has become one of my go-to coping mechanisms. I still scrapbook and use other creative tools to help me cope with my illness. I go to my bedroom at 9pm each night and colour for an hour before I go to sleep.

Finding my inner-creative has helped me to develop the confidence, self-worth and supports that were necessary for me to overcome suicidal and self-harm ideation.
It lead me to hope; that little knowledge in the back of my head that I am not a waste of space, that things can and do get better, that my experiences can empower me to help others who feel as lost and alone as I once did.

Once you find hope, no matter where or how, I've learnt that it's not so easily lost again. Where you find hope might not be where I found it; in a box of mementos, an empty sketch book and a tube of Pritt Stick. But I promise you it is there, waiting for you to uncover the spark of joy it brings back to your life. Don't give up.

If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this post, please visit my Getting Help page.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Create Happiness for Others

"Happiness never decreases if it is shared." - Tal Ben-Shahar
If I am to create my own happiness this month, I have to take Tal Ben-Shahar's advice and share a little bit of happiness around. Inspired by a beautiful anecdote from a 14 year old who used to leave anonymous, positive messages in her classmates' lockers every Friday - Hope you have a lovely day - I wanted to give something back to the kids I work with.

So with a freely available flyer template online (just Google 'free flyer template' until you find one you like) and a little bit of editing on my behalf, with compulsory Disney text, I made the below. Hopefully it will bring a smile to a face, and it will all be worthwhile. 

What do you think? 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tap into your Creativity

As my Create New Things resolution gets underway, I want to share my tips for living a more creative life with you all.
"A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life." - Elizabeth Gilbert
I want to tap into my creativity this month to find new and inventive ways towards wellness and the pursuit of happiness. Is it possible to foster a creative mindset that brings happiness with it? Well I'm going to try, and here's how.

Tips for tapping into your creativity
  • Always carry a notebook
You never know when inspiration may hit. A notebook and pen is perfect for recording your thoughts, ideas and experiences throughout the day.
  • It's okay to have bad first drafts
"Your 20s are about having the courage to write a frightful first draft." - Paul Angone, '101 secrets for your twenties'
It's okay to make mistakes, to make a mess and even to fail. Terrible first drafts can become something better in time.
  • Don't be a critic
Everyone has a spark of creativity in them. It's not your place to put out that spark. Look to your own spark in the same way. Don't be too harsh on yourself. 
"The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt." - Sylvia Plath

  • It's okay to start with replicas

"Imitation preceeded creation." - Stephen King
Copying what others who inspire you do is a good first step. If it helped Stephen King become the best-selling author he is now, who's to knock this tip?
  • Good is as good as perfect
Don't get hung up on perfection. Good ideas may not be perfect ideas, but they're a step in the right direction.
"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." - Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Ask questions
The best way to find what you are looking for is to ask. Question everything to find new, creative solutions and answers. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Intro to Create New Things

"If you're alive, you're a creative person."

So argues Elizabeth Gilbert, author of 'Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear'. The only reason you don't feel creative, she says, is that you are afraid you have no talent or you're afraid to embrace a creative life.

The penultimate resolution for my Romeo Project this year is to Create New Things. Inspired by how often the word 'create' appears in self-help and self-improvement books, I want to spend the month not only flexing any artistic genes I may have, but also creating opportunities, memories, rituals, and maybe even my own traditions.
"A creative life is an amplified life. It's a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life." - Elizabeth Gilbert
It's not about art or writing, or even talent. It's about living a full life; living Gilbert's amplified life. Gilbert, by the way, is also the author of Eat, Pray, Love. You know, that movie starring Julia Roberts who travels around the world in search of fulfillment that's based on a book? Yup, that's the one! 

There is so much writing dedicated to how creativity and happiness go hand-in-hand. 'The Scientific Reasons Why Being Creative Can Make You Happier' talks about the strong connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing. 'The Link Between Creativity and Happiness' says creativity allows us to express and process emotions as well as focusing on living in the moment.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Don't Feed the Negativity Conclusion

I spent a wonderful 4 days in London this month. The trip was filled with highs, like getting to see St Paul's Cathedral, The Natural History Museum, the Globe Theatre and so many other places form my bucket list. But I had my moments of negativity as well. When travelling, these thing are to be expected. It’s not plain sailing, you are navigating a foreign country (even if that country is your next-door neighbour), and it is naturally stressful to be away from home comforts.
With my favourite part of London
But I often overreact in stressful environments. I find it difficult to deal with failure and mistakes at home; but when overseas I ended up having panic attacks when things didn't go my way. When I took a wrong turn in my quest to find Victoria Street and ended up in I-don’t-even-now-where in the middle of London I was consumed by fear, anger and disgust (at myself).
Or when I bought the wrong rail tickets to the airport from a self-service machine, I felt like the world’s biggest failure.

I called myself stupid and an idiot. I described the events as inevitable when you’re someone like me. I ticked off three or four of Dr David Burns’ negative thought patterns as I internally and externally attacked myself.

Everything I had been writing about for the previous few weeks, tips for identifying, managing and eradicating negative thoughts had been erased from my mind.
Reading the books, learning the actions, putting them into practice – they don’t fix you. They don’t stop the negative thoughts. All that we rehearse is often forgotten in that moment of fear and anxiety.
I saw this month’s resolution as a way of solving my problem with negativity. But there is no quick-fix.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Remove Yourself from Toxic Environments

Certain experiences aren’t good for our mental or physical health. When we find ourselves in a situation, a workplace or even a friendship that is having a negative effect on our mental health we owe it to ourselves to remove ourselves from that environment.

Trust me, I know that leaving toxic environments is tough. And it often requires a level of self-worth and self-respect that doesn’t come easily to a lot of people, including people with a mental illness.  
But there have been many times where I have had to make the decision to cut negativity out of my life. Here are some examples of why I had to and how I did it.

A couple of years ago I started work in a small office with other people around my age. I loved my co-workers, we all got on so well, bonded by the one thing we had in common – dislike of our manager. Feeling undervalued, unappreciated and often subject to tirades, rants and inappropriate and sexist comments I began to resent my job. The only thing that got me through each day was the close friendships we quickly formed. But friends weren’t enough to make me want to stay. I’d come home at the end of each day exhausted, feeling worthless and belittled. I started to believe what my manager was saying to me – I was inexperienced. I would never get a job anywhere else.
But with some encouragement, I started trying to prove my manager wrong. I started applying to other places, to recruitment agencies. I had an interview that didn't go so well. I thought, 'my manager is right, I can't do this job.' Two days later I got a reply about another position. The next week I had an interview, and the next day, a job offer. 
Making the decision to leave that negative work environment allowed me to find other, better-fitted-to-me, opportunities. It also made me a much happier person. While my new job had challenges and learning curves too, I was in a supportive environment that allowed me to develop confidence in my own ability.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Negativity Busters

I’ve been writing a lot about reading about negativity this month. There have been reviews of self-help books and posts about what I've learned from other books and sources. But today I’m going to share something a little different with you.

Introducing my own negativity busters.

These are the things I turn to help me when I'm consumed by a negative feeling, thought or belief.  
There was much to feel negative about this month.
A bird pooped on my head (the first time since I was a young thing in primary school) in public. I made a huge error and failed to own up to it. I had awkward stand-offs with friends where none of us would admit our own faults. I felt self-conscious and unworthy. And in all of these instances I turned to the below to help me feel better. 

When I feel overwhelmed and stressed I often turn to my blog for release. There's something therapeutic about being able to write about a recent event or incident that's been getting me down. I've been dipping in and out of 'Opening up by Writing it Down' by James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth over the past few months. Pennebaker and Smyth argue that divulging your story is good for your mental health. The act of confessing reduces stress and anxiety. They argue that expressive writing can also influence your perception of your own health. I have to say, that has definitely been my blogging experience.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Welcoming Negative Thoughts

Dr Claire Hayes' welcoming approach to life's challenges promises to transform your way of thinking.

Tackling my negative thoughts is my main aim for Don't Feed the Negativity month; but Irish psychologist Dr Claire Hayes says our reactions are just as important.
"Because you are defined not by life's imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them. And because there is joy in embracing - rather than running from - the utter absurdity of life." - Jenny Lawson
'How to Cope: The Welcoming Approach to Life’s Challenges' by Dr Claire Hayes, the clinical director of mental health organisation AWARE, introduces coping techniques to readers who experience depression, anxiety stress, or just overthinking. Published in 2015, Dr Hayes builds on the work of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to discuss how our thoughts affect what we believe and how we feel. Instead of defeating these thoughts, Dr Hayes suggests we welcome them instead. Framed around examples from her clinical practice, 'How to Cope' is an accessible approach to implementing CBT practices.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Defeating Negative Thoughts

"If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of you like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." - Roald Dahl
Having introduced you to the types of negative thought patterns last week, today I'm exploring how we can turn these negative thoughts into positives.

Our thoughts offer constant commentary and judgments about ourselves and our actions. But it is important to remember that you are not your thoughts and your thoughts are not true. Changing our thinking is hard, but if it means unhealthy thoughts can be defeated then I'll give it a go.
"We are the ones who create the messes in our heads. It does not come from outside." - Paulo Coelho
David Burns' The Feeling Good Handbook does suggest a number of ways to challenge your thoughts once you have identified them. He  tells us to examine the evidence for our distorted thoughts, talk to ourselves how we would to a friend, and to survey others about your thoughts.

There are numerous books built around challenging negative thoughts. Many authors refer to these thoughts as self-talk; the way in which we talk to ourselves.

'Self-Talk for a Calmer You' by Beverly D Flaxington urges readers to make a personal plan to keep track of your negative self-talk.

Steven Andreas' 'Transforming Negative Self-Talk: Practical, Effective Exercises' states that refocusing your attention and focusing on the present can defeat negative thinking.

Taking all these books and tips, here's how I defeat my negative thoughts.

Defeating my Negative Thoughts

Friday, 5 August 2016

Women Who Think Too Much

'Women Who Think Too Much' by Dr Susan Nolen-Hoeksema

I am a constant worrier. My last thought as I go to bed at night is my to-do list for the next day. Don't forget to do this. I hope this doesn't go badly tomorrow.

I spend most of my time worrying, thinking, over-analyzing. Sometimes I spend so long in a tangent of thoughts I forget where I am and what I am supposed to be doing.

Dr Susan Nolen-Hoeksema calls this overthinking. Her research shows that women (as the majority of overthinkers in Dr Nolen-Hoeksema's study were women) think too much too often and this leadis to higher incidences of stress, anxiety, sadness and depression.

Worrying is predominantly a female problem, and it seems to correlate to the higher rates of depression and anxiety in women.
"When you overthink, you go over and over your negative thoughts and feelings, examining them, questioning them, kneading them like dough."
Overthinkers repeat the bad things - a throwaway comment from a coworker about mental health, or a family member's comment about your weight - over and over in their heads. The more you repeat something, the more true it can feel. In this way, overthinking causes inherent damage to your mental health.
As an overthinker, my thought process often goes something like this:
"I can't think of anything to say or talk about...people will think you're stupid and boring..Now you're scratching your arm...people will know you;re crazy...Can you see my cellulite?"
Jumping from one negative comment about myself to another, the majority of my overthinking relates to how I think others perceive me. I can feel so paranoid about my shyness, my appearance, and my mental illness that the everyday act of meeting someone new can become blown out of proportion and into a life or death, make or break scenario. I am forever jumping to conclusions about what people may really think of me. 

But how do you stop it?

If you identify yourself as an overthinker, this book has some great strategies for helping you work your way through it. 

Nolen-Hoeksema suggests the following tips:
  • Give it a Rest
  • Get up and Get Moving
  • Hand it Over
  • Lean on Others (Meditation and Exercise)
  • Bolster a sense of self
I really enjoyed the book and left that I could relate to many of Nolen-Hoeksema's examples and case studies. The tips seems somewhat simplistic when listed above, but trust me, with individual chapters dedicated to each one, Women Who Think Too Much not only effectively notes the excessive negative thoughts women in this day and age face, but also has time to show you ways to defeat these thoughts too.

Women Who Think Too Much by Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema can be bought in all good bookstores or online. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Identifying Negative Thoughts

Up first on my Don't Feed the Negativity task-list are my thoughts.
I'm not saying all my thoughts are 'bad' thoughts. There are some good ones in there. Like, sometimes I'm happy with an outfit choice I've made. Or I really liked a blog post I've just finished.

But as I said on Tuesday, these good moments can get lost in a sea of negative thoughts.

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts." - Marcus Aurelius
David Burns' The Feeling Good Handbook is like the bible of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (more on this topic shortly). I bought this book based on a psychiatrist's advice years ago and clung to it as my lifeboat when my psychiatry sessions ended. Seriously, if you want to work through negative thought patterns, this is your go-to book.

For today's post, I'm going to concentrate on the ten types of cognitive distortions Burns identifies in his book.

How to identify negative thinking

Cognitive thoughts are irrational or distorted thought patterns. They are often repetitive and hurtful. They can remind you of your failures, mistakes, shortcomings, inferiority and incompetency. 
Ever listen to a song on an endless loop for hours? Thoughts can play out like that too. And hearing the same negative thought over and over again exacerbates symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

To defeat negative thinking like this, David Burns recommends correctly identifying the types of thoughts you are thinking so that you can challenge them. I've been using the list below to identify my hurtful and negative thoughts for years. Recognizing the patterns helps me to remember that my thoughts aren't necessarily real or true. 

David Burns' Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking

All-or-nothing thinking
You see things in black-or-white categories; there is only good or bad - things are either perfect or a disaster. There is no middle ground.

You see a single event, like making a mistake in your job, as another example of your never-ending pattern of failure. You justify this by saying 'always' (I always mess up) or 'never' (Things never go right for me).  

Mental filter
You pick out a negative detail and focus solely on out, filtering out all the other positive details or experiences. Burns states this darkens your vision of reality as you obsess on the one negative that has happened.

Discounting the positive
You reject positive experiences by saying they don't count (boy, am I guilty of this one). It leaves you feeling unrewarded and inadequate.

Jumping to conclusions
Without any facts to back you up, you interpret things negatively. This type of thought can take two forms. By mind reading, you assume that someone is acting negatively towards you. It's like presuming you know that everyone is thinking something negative about you. By fortune-telling, you predict that things will turn out badly.

Like holding a magnifier up to problems, you exaggerate your unwanted traits or problems while minimizing your positives.

Emotional reasoning
You assume that your negative feelings reflect the way things are. "I feel guilty about the mistake I made in work. I'm going to get in big trouble." Often, how we feel isn't actually related to the reality of a situation.

'Should' statements
 This type of distorted thinking is so common. You criticize yourself or others with 'shoulds' or 'shouldn'ts'. You tell yourself that things should be a certain way or you should have done better. Similarly, Burns says musts, ought tos, and haves are just as bad.

I am forever labeling myself. Stupid. Idiot. Failure. An extreme type of all-or-nothing thinking, you identify with your shortcomings. Instead of saying "I made a mistake", you say "I'm an idiot". 

Personalization and blame
You blame yourself when something bad occurs, even if that something isn't entirely your responsibility. You see things, even things outside of your control, as your fault and you personalize the blame and responsibility for something going wrong

Burns isn't the only CBT writer to come up with distorted thought patterns. There are others out there that you may find more relatable to your own thinking.

It's also important to remember that identifying and categorising negative thoughts isn't the last step to happiness. Next, you have to challenge your thoughts and learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking.

More on that in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Don't Feed the Negativity Introduction

"To tell the truth I never had it so good. But I lacked the strength of character to bear such joy." - Saul Bellow, Herzog

Sometimes all we see is the negative. Like yesterday. Yesterday I spent the majority of the day pondering the imminent implosion of all that's good in my life. It seemed inevitable that after months of high points, I was due a fall. I would lose my home, my job, my friends. I fear my mental illness means the good things won't last. These recurring fears are based on my lack of self-worth - I've been lucky so far. I'll be found out. I don't deserve any of this. I'm not 'good' so I don't deserve 'good' things.

The thing is, my life has never been better. This year has brought me endless good fortune in work, relationships, friendships and so on. But sometimes I can't see past the good for long enough to appreciate the good.

The negative can cloud our vision; especially when a mental illness is involved. My inner voice is very critical (I am my harshest critic) and it often turns good moments into something catastrophic. My self-esteem takes a battering every day; not from others, but from my own commentary and   judgments.

This month is about combating the negative. The negative thinking. The negative self-talk. The negative mindset. The negative situations and friendships.

To better appreciate the positives, I need to eliminate the negatives that are holding me back. To understand how to defeat negativity, I will first look at where it stems from. It will be a month dedicated to CBT and re-training my ever-so-critical mind.

Is it possible to reduce negative thinking and foster a more positive outlook? I certainly hope so. 

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Accept Responsibility Conclusion

"People don't realize how easy life is to change. You just get on the bus." - Marisha Pessi
I don't like responsibility. I hate grown up things, many of which centre around responsibility. Bills, taxes, work.  I hate going to the bank or to the solicitors
I am 24 and yet I don't feel ready for facing these grown-up things by myself. I wish my mum could still look after my banking for me. Or that someone else could sort out the complicated things like insurance without me having to be involved. They cause me anxiety - sweats, tightened chest, thumping heartbeat, nausea.

I often don't feel like I am ready for adulthood.

But this year I have grasped responsibility by both hands. My goals and plans and action plans have allowed me to steer my own ship. Creating a Life Handbook showed me how to chart my own course, how to aim higher, how to achieve what I want from life.

It's quite easy to shirk away responsibility. We see our life as subject to outside influences. Other people meddling in our affairs and scuppering our plans. But I have learned that we have influence, control, and responsibility for our own future. We have more influence than others, more control. And absolutely more responsibility for getting what we want from life.

We are responsible for making changes and creating progress in our own lives

It can be a scary thought to know that our own future is in our hands. But it's also quite liberating.

There are still the adult chores I hate having responsibility for. But I can also see the bigger picture - I am responsibility for bringing about the change I want to see in my own life.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Choose Happiness

"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions." - Dalai Lama

This year I have been trying to cultivate happiness. My resolutions, which form the Romeo Project, have aimed to increase my happiness, despite my mental illness. So this month I am accepting responsibility for my own happiness.

As the Dalai Lama points out, we are responsible for our own hapiness. Nothing struck me more than this quote while I was feeling severely depressed last week. I found that leve of responsibility for my own experiences terribly burdening. I couldn't cope under the heavy weight of knowing only I could pull myself out of my downward spiral and back into (at least some level of) happiness.

But the Dalai Lama is right.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

You are Responsible for your own Wellbeing

"The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs." - Joan Didian
Regular readers of my blog and my Twitter rants will know that I've spent the past two weeks struggling with my mental health. It's difficult to write about recovery and hope and then find yourself submerged in the depths of a severe depression. In my head those two things conflict. Who am I to talk about finding happiness when I'm feeling sad? Am I failure for finding myself depressed AGAIN? 

For my depression to come back in full force during a month where I aimed to accept responsibility for my own wellbeing is all the more conflicting. I feel helpless for not being able to prevent it, control it, or move myself out of it. I feel responsible for making those around me worried and upset.

I feel like I have an onus to be well and recovered. Not just for myself, but for others in my life too.

The World Health Organization define health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.” WHO see these faucets of health as inter-related and co-dependent of each other.
I know I have to accept responsibility for these three pillars of health, and take action to improve my wellbeing. Especially now that my mental health has been suffering. Taking preventative and relieving measures can reduce the impact of a depressive episode. And after the past two weeks, that's all I want.

So here's my plan to take back responsibility for my wellbeing

Monday, 25 July 2016

My Morning Routine

Today I want to talk you through one of the biggest life changes I have made this year - my morning routine. Back in April I decided to take back control of my busy life and reclaim my mornings. I decided to finally accept responsibility for making positive life changes and bring more happiness into my life with my own calm morning.

This involved rising half an hour earlier than I used to, and starting my day off with some additional me-time. Rather than rushing to get ready in half an hour - I gave myself an hour. It was a small addition of 30 minutes into my day, but it's made a world of difference.

“Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Why do we need a morning routine?

Morning routines give us the chance to not only have more quality time, but also to make better use of our time. Morning routines create discipline. Even if you are not traditionally a morning person, creating a structured morning can help you to become that early riser you always wanted to be!
For me, a morning routine also sets me up for the whole day. I feel more prepared, motivated and ready to face the day ahead.

My Morning Routine:

My morning routine took time to develop. Try out different activities, schedules and routines until you find one that works for you!

Early to bed; early to rise
At first, I tried rising 15 minutes earlier, and gradually increased this back to half an hour, and now sometimes 45mins to an hour depending on what I want to get down before I head to work. It's important to finding a sleeping schedule that works for you. I'm rather reliant on my 8 hours of sleep per night; so getting up earlier also meant sacrificing some time at the other end of the day too. To get up at 6:30 am, I try to be asleep by 11pm at night. By 10:30pm I am tucked up in bed and ready for a long rest.

I for one am really bad at drinking my eight glasses at water when I'm not at my work desk. But the mornings is the perfect time to take on some water for the day. Your first drink also wakes you up, and according to science, it helps flush out the toxins too.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Life Handbook - How I Accepted Responsibility for my Own Life

Revisiting my Life Handbook

Back in January I found authenticity by mapping my goals, dreams and life plans in a dedicated Life Handbook. I loved having a notebook of my favourite motivational quotes, my one-, three-, and five-year plans, and ambitions for my life time. I spent the rest of month feeling motivated. I took action in some key areas (most notably under my Relationships goal).

But as the month ended, I forgot about my goals. With the Handbook put aside, they were out of sight and out of mind.

June approached and I found myself almost half way through not only the year, but also my Romeo Project. While reflecting on my progress so far, I looked back on my first resolution and remembered that I had plans and aspirations for the year that I was not fulfilling.

How could I achieve my dreams, goals and ambitions if I didn't accept responsibility for implementing them? I needed to take action.
"If you want your prayers answered, get up off your knees and do something about them." - Wally Lamb

Friday, 22 July 2016

The fog is lifting

The fog is lifting. Slowly but surely.

I looked up the word 'fog'; read about it on Wikipedia. I learned about how it forms, that there are nine different types of fog, how it affects visibility, create shadows and that you can make your own artificial fog (if you were scientifically inclined, of course).

Sometimes the word fog is the best description for my lows. It neatly captures the heaviness I feel - sluggish and weary. It's hard to move through the dense thickness of a fog. It slows you down. Everything moves at a more lethargic pace. My reactions were diminished. My ability to feel gone.

I haven't felt like me. I felt like I was outside myself; watching and observing as if in a dream.

It's been 7 days now of feeling exhausted, apathetic, listless. 7 days of feeling that I was not and could not be me.

But day 8 sees the fog begin to lift. I am now visibly brighter. I feel calmer. The dark mass is passing overhead.

If the Romeo Project has taught me anything, it has taught me this - sometimes, no matter what efforts or actions we put in place, no matter how much we try to be happy, mental illness is still there. Reading self -help books doesn't stop your depression, anxiety, BPD. Applying the tools from self-help books doesn't make mental illness go away forever. Positive affirmations won't cure you.
Mental illness isn't that simple.

But they help. The self-help books, the self-care, the positive affirmations DO make you stronger. They help you bounce back. To fight it.

Finding yourself in the fog of a depressive episode doesn't eradicate the progress you've made.

I need to find acceptance with that.