How To Cope With Anxiety Over Christmas

Festive Anxiety

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for at least a third of Brits the festive season can be tarred with high levels of stress and anxiety. It’s not just the stress of Christmas shopping and higher workloads that stresses people out, it’s also social anxiety over the endless festive get-togethers and parties. Read More…

2018: An Accidental Year Off

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Somehow, we are already at the point in the year where, like clockwork, it feels like December 31st is rushing towards us, yet we have no idea how we got here so quickly (at least I don’t). Most of this year has felt painfully long for me and now all of a sudden it’s almost over and I can’t quite believe it, largely because upon looking back, I see that I accidentally took most of it “off” and I don’t know how to feel about that.

As many of you will know by now from my previous articles (this one in particular), I have been as open as I can be about my struggles this year. One of the feelings that has weighed heavy on me with each passing month is the massive disappointment in myself for all the things I did not and could not do, despite wanting to and even saying I would. Looking back over the past twelve months has been tough because everywhere I look I see all the ways and times I failed myself and other people.

Until recently, I had always relished this time between December into January because I loved looking back at everything that I had accomplished and enjoyed setting new goals and plans for what I would do next. In my article for this year’s January newsletter, I had lots of big plans and ideas that got tossed out the window from the very first day, so this time I want to do things differently. Even though my eternal optimist is somehow still hanging in there (just), I want to go into the last month of this year and the first month of next year just relaxed and open.

I want to try and not judge myself so harshly for the way 2018 turned out and accept whatever may come in 2019. Of course, I have loosely held plans, goals, ideas and dreams, but I am also ready to go with the flow. I am doing this because I realised that the source of my disappointment was the pressure of not being able to live up to the high expectations I had set for myself and I know I’m not the only one that does this.

The social media and comparison obsessed culture we currently live in has made doing our best look and feel completely inadequate. Now it’s like if you don’t blog/vlog every day, constantly churn out “content”, or have multiple ventures and collaborations on the go (a podcast, jewellery/clothes line, book deal, speaking engagement) then you’re not living your best, most fulfilled life. Busyness is still being glorified, yet has anyone else noticed the number of “influencers” and just people who have felt compelled to speak out about much they have struggled this year? It’s all become so exhaustive and I personally cannot continue in this way.

Besides negatively contributing to how I feel about myself, this lifestyle has led me to be the least productive I think I have ever been and it’s mostly because many a time I have been so mentally paralyzed and emotionally overwhelmed with all the things I should and need to be doing that I simply can’t do any of it. My mental health issues this year has meant that instead of throwing myself in to every task until it’s completed like I normally would, I have basically walked away from most obligations and responsibilities in favour of hiding in the comfort of my bed, feeling awful and getting nothing done.

If you find yourself feeling anything like this (exhausted/dejected/overwhelmed etc) as the year comes to an end I can only say, don’t be too hard on yourself. I know so many people who feel like this in some way and we must be kinder to ourselves and each other. Things like taking a social media break, rediscovering my love of reading, taking long walks to clear my head and of course, binge-watching a show on Netflix or Amazon has been helpful this year. It’s all about self-care again (original article here) for me — being mindful, present and listening to my body.

And this is what I mean by accidentally taking the year off. In almost every single area of my life I just “checked out” and I didn’t mean to. Each new week and month I told myself today I would get back to it, but that never happened and now I have to accept that and stop dwelling on all that was not done. It feels massive when I think about it too much. A whole year. Twelve whole months where I didn’t participate in society like I “should” have, but at the same time, if I had, I don’t know what kind of state I would be in right now. Even though this time off was unexpected, it was definitely needed.

Sometimes it can be hard to give ourselves the time we need to be whole and doing things to support our mental and emotional health can seem indulgent and even silly, but I promise you it isn’t. In my time off this year I have done a great deal of thinking (and feeling) and while I have struggled a lot, I know I have gained so much important insight in to my past and who I am. This year has certainly been difficult in more ways than I can talk about at the moment, but I have also learned a great deal and while I’m not at all satisfied with how the year turned out, I managed to make it through and that has to be enough for now.

Could ASMR Be The Key To Easing Stress?

four pink soap bars

If you haven’t yet heard of ASMR chances are you’ve at least come across it whilst scrolling through cyberspace. Technically it stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ but loosely speaking it’s those oddly satisfying videos of people unwrapping boxes, cutting up soap, or, moving into pure ASMR territory Read More…

The Wellness Formula That Helped Me Heal The Past

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At the end of last month’s article I mentioned some metaphysical “work” I had been doing to help with my current physical and mental health struggles and today I want to dive in to exactly what I have been doing and why because it has helped me so much. Everything I have been doing is completely new to me and will probably be to you too, but I have had such a profound experience with it that I had to share.

I consider myself to be a plausible believer (I’m a Leo) when it comes to my approach to life’s mysteries. I like a balance of science and philosophy, but tend to err towards philosophy as my experiences have taught me that science can only teach us so much about the human condition. A lot of the things we think, feel and believe, which make up who we are as people cannot be explained or fixed by doctors and medicine, at least that’s what I have found.

Saying that, I was skeptical of the new techniques my sister had discovered and very reluctant to give them a try. On the surface they seemed no different to every other new age/spiritual self-help jargon out there, but my sister (who is a Pisces) felt like she had found something special and she wasn’t wrong. The community is called Free & Native and the founder, Lacy Phillips, calls herself a Manifestation Advisor. I know exactly what you’re thinking because I thought them too, but bear with me.

One of the things I really liked about Phillips’ theories and approach is how different it is to popular “law of attraction” philosophies, which I found too contradictory to be reasonable. On the one hand the Universe is this all-knowing, magical entity, but on the other it doesn’t know the difference between what you do or do not want. Or my favourite one, positive thoughts are a thousand times more powerful than negative ones, yet one negative thought can stop anything good that was about to happen to you. Confusing, right?

Even though The Formula is essentially about manifestation, it goes far beyond using visualisation and positivity or gratitude to get what you want. It delves in to the core of our experiences and programming as children (0-14 years old) and how they shape who we are as adults. This is what really made a difference to me. My sister bought three “workshops”, but the one I want to talk about is “Reparenting”, which focuses on dealing with childhood trauma or negative experiences.

“Reparent” is a workshop “centered on filling the biggest gaps of limiting beliefs, lack and dimmed magnetism stemming from childhood” specifically between the ages of 0-14 years old, which Phillips believes is where a lot of low self worth conditioning and imprinting comes from. It includes journal prompts and “Deep Imaginings”, where she guides you into a hypnotic state to really open up your subconscious and re-programme neural pathways. This neuroplasticity is described as “forming new pathways by weakening old ones” and that “repeated and directed attention towards one’s desired change” can rewire one’s brain. The idea of rewiring my brain through the Deep Imaginings was something that seemed impossible, but it happened to me.

My experience with “neuroplasticity” came completely out of the blue. One afternoon a few months ago when I was feeling particularly sick, my sister set up a mediation room for me so I could rest until the pain had passed. I lied down and decided to listen to ‘Being Loved’ from Soul Medicine, which is one of my favourite of the tracks from the brilliant founder of ila and ilapothecary. As the sounds began to play I found my mind wondering to my Grandmother, a deeply damaged woman and someone who had caused me great pain up until her death and even beyond. Then without even meaning to I was seeing an alternative reality of her life where I picked her up at the hospital as a newborn, took her home, cared for her and raised her.

I have no idea where all that came from and I know it sounds pretty unremarkable in the limited way I can described it in this space, but it was truly one of the most profound and transformative experiences of my life. What I saw felt real/true and the emotions it evoked were vivid and authentic. I suddenly understood and knew so much more about her and our lives that years of logic and conventional therapies never touched.

Most importantly, my feelings about her and what she had done had completely changed. I still had the same thoughts and memories, but I couldn’t connect with them in the same way. They were detached from me and even now, when I think of her and what happened between us I know all the same things, but I just can’t feel the same way about them anymore.

I know this probably sounds very “woo woo”, but there is science behind this, especially when it comes to Soul Medicine. I believe it was the catalyst to my Deep Imagining because it’s based on energy, vibrations and frequencies. Not only that, the Sanskrit sound ‘ma’ is an ancient syllable of healing. You can read more about that here and if you haven’t tried sound therapy I highly recommend it. Soul Medicine has incorporated healing frequencies that deal with many issues like conflict resolution, deep relaxation, hormonal changes and more.

Going back to my change in “neuroplasticity” I can certainly say that something within me regarding this particular issue in my life has changed. It hasn’t been some mystical quick fix or anything like that, but there has been a palpable shift that has allowed me to let go of this past trauma. To use the language of Free & Native, I feel reprogrammed, unblocked and healed.

My experience created a significant change allowing me to work through parts of my childhood (and my adult life) which needed forgiveness, maturity, compassion and a new perspective. As I have done more of the work I have been able to “rewire” everything from a deep betrayal to life after death, to my relationships with the people who mean the most to me. And some of the most healing work has involved my adult self reparenting my younger self — working though traumatic experiences and being the source of understanding and compassion that I did not have at the time.

Sometimes I journal, which has been really healing but often times I imagine myself as I am now — with all the knowledge and life I have, explaining moments to myself as a child and rewiring my experience of each triggering instance, reprogramming it and allowing myself to heal and move on from it. It is definitely “outside the box”, but I don’t think it is that much different to practices like writing down your thoughts and feelings or breathing exercises that might be prescribed by a traditional counsellor.

Of course, this won’t be for everyone and it isn’t perfect (the price may be prohibitive to many people although there is a lot of free content), but the wellness trend is not stopping. Like Victoria just wrote about here, the concept of self-care is evolving into total wellbeing. For me, this is exactly that — another complementary tool to aid my innate desire to feel well, inside and out, in mind and body.

Overall, what I’ve found incredibly helpful and insightful in Phillip’s work is her focus on self worth, reparenting and working through any aspects of yourself that have been rejected and how that relates to the way you live your life. I have only just started my journey and I have already learned and experienced so much, which is why even if you have no interest in “manifesting” or new age self-help, the tools in this program are excellent for dealing with old issues in new ways.

Why Do I Feel So Ashamed To Be Struggling?

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Shame. It’s probably one of my least favourite words, yet it has been on my mind for the last few months. The reason, I think, is because I am currently feeling it more than I ever have in my entire life. It is a scary thing for me to see these words typed out on my screen, but it’s a truth I need to talk about because I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with mental health issues and felt ashamed over it.

This constant feeling of passive shame is something that has been building for the past couple of years. As a woman, I have definitely experienced short-lived bursts of large and small shame throughout my life, but this has been completely different. This feeling is now something that has become so much a part of who I am and I think part of the reason I wanted to share this is so I can finally face it.

For context, this all began in 2016 where things in my life started to very slowly, but surely spiral in a way I had absolutely no control of. I had multiple family members die in quick succession, I was moving around a lot for work and also dealing with a long term relationship break-up. At that time I would have said that I was managing things ok, but I wasn’t. I was depressed without even fully realising it and even though I was able to carry on as “normal” for the most part, I remember feeling increasingly sadder and disillusioned as the months progressed. Then of course the election happened and I cannot pretend that this did not affect me because it did and still does today.

With everything going on personally and globally, I suddenly found that I no longer felt like myself. I looked around at my life and my world and I just could not believe what I was seeing. Every day I tried to tell myself, “tomorrow I will feel better” or “next week will be different”, but I never seemed to be able to get to that sunnier place. I wrote about my struggles a few times last year in The Serious Side of Self-Care, Time – The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself and 28,000 Retweets Later: Letting Go and Looking Forward and it has been interesting to look back at those articles now.

Re-reading the last one in particular, I have to laugh a little bit. Besides not giving up my Twitter addiction (I’m currently at just over 41k retweets), this year has somehow managed to be worse than last! I don’t know why I find that funny, but in this moment I do. I think it’s because I remember having all these grand ideas about how to make this year a good one (I’m an eternal optimist), but it all went wrong from the first second as we rung in the New Year at the hospital because my mum badly broke her wrist three hours before midnight.

If I thought last year was a challenging one, 2018 has superseded that in spectacular fashion. Besides all the global/political events, I now feel worse than I ever have, but not just mentally, I’m also physically ill (it relates to the reproductive health issues I dealt with a few years ago) and have been since March. This year has been a blur of weekly hospital visits and doctor’s appointments, first for my mum and then for me.

As a result of my health and everything going on, this year I have worked less (shame), missed birthdays and weddings (shame), avoided social gatherings (shame), struggled with my skin (shame), haven’t made time to dye my newly sprouted grey hairs (shame), watched too much Netflix (shame) and not really done much of anything “normal” (shame) as well as more things I’m not comfortable mentioning (shame, shame, shame), which has lead to a lot of awkward conversations with friends and colleagues about what I’m “up to” (more shame).

This has also been my most unproductive year ever and of course I can’t help but feel ashamed about that. I have let a lot of people down and said yes to things in the hopes that having an activity or getting back out there would help me feel better, only to find myself unable to go through with them. Home has been a source of safety and comfort for me, but that has meant that I have increasingly withdrawn from socialising both online and in real life.

On the beauty related side of things, I have the longest list of unfinished blog posts and unreviewed products. I know that I am not a professional blogger, but I do feel a sense of responsibility once I accept a product. I hate the idea that I am letting the brands/PR agencies down as well as my readers by abandoning my blog and Instagram account. I also haven’t been able to produce an article for every newsletter this year and when I have done, they’ve usually been late, which I always feel ashamed about when it happens.

I am disappointed in myself (more shame) on top of all the other things I already feel and overall I think I feel ashamed that I can’t just snap out of it. In this fast paced world, having a problem for more than a week feels like a lifetime. I hate how much time I have “wasted” feeling like this and a recent conversation with a colleague just reinforced how impatient we can be when others are struggling. When asked how I was I mentioned that I was still not feeling great and the response was, “oh, you’re still sick?”. This was accompanied by a confused look that instantly made me feel ashamed, which then made me angry for reacting in that way over something that is happening to me.

Society does not give women enough credit for the things we have to deal with on a daily basis and one of them is managing our reproductive cycle and how it relates to our mental health. Depression affects more women than men, but not only that, our monthly cycle affects our hormones and thus our moods, thoughts and emotions. Linked to that, we have the pain associated with our reproductive system like cramps, endometriosis (please read the brilliant article Endometriosis And Me by the lovely Bianca Presto), cysts (what I’m dealing with) or heavy bleeding. Often times we are not facing the world as whole, healthy, happy people, yet we are too ashamed to admit it. I know I was.

I have never been comfortable speaking about private subjects publicly, but that reluctance to open up has also led to more shame and stress as I evasively try to explain my social absence or lack of communication with people without getting too personal. Saying that, those I have spoken to have been immeasurably helpful with their words, support and understanding. If you find yourself in this position in any way for whatever reason, please talk to someone. I truly believe I got as sick as I am now because I tried to hold in everything I was thinking and feeling.

In the end, what these past couple of years have taught me is that I need to communicate more and also be kinder to myself. These things happen and putting so much pressure on myself to carry on like normal just made things worse. I’ll likely (and hopefully) never have a period of time like this again where everything goes wrong all at once, one after the other for so long (coincidentally at the same time as a two year series of eclipses in my sign and opposite sign for all you astrology buffs out there), but if it does, I will not feel ashamed about whatever I am dealing with or for needing help.

Shame is a word I hate because it is almost always unfairly assigned to women and for unjustified reasons. We will all struggle at some point in our lives and that has to be ok because it’s happening to so many people out there right now. Collectively we all need to do better, for ourselves and each other. More kindness, compassion and understanding and less commitment to the wildly outdated and impossible to live up to societal measurements for happiness and success.

I don’t know if I have fully made it out of my “shame spiral” yet or if I can say I feel like myself again, but I am doing some really interesting metaphysical work that has been extremely enlightening and I will talk more about in my next article. I am slowly getting better and I will say that talking does help so if you can, please confide in someone. From the people I have chatted to it is clear that I am far from alone in feeling this way and if you’re feeling the same right now, then you’re not alone either.