A Still January.

This last week I have been so full of cold, as it seems most people are and if not then I am sure it is coming, I haven’t been exploring much but when I have the world has seemed very still. I don’t know how else to describe it other than, still. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s the cold or maybe it is January in general.

Sometimes I think the stillness can be beautiful, like my photographs here, it’s peaceful and mysterious but today I find myself longing for movement. Summer or Spring even, please don’t be far.

Blog post for Mind.

Earlier this week I shared a part of my journey with Mind in the hope that it will help others who may relate to where I was just a couple of years ago. My experiences with mental health are something that I am very open about but at first I remember being embarrassed and ashamed of them. It is organisations such as Mind that have made me feel confident in being open about my experiences. Throughout my journey I have struggled with accepting ill mental health and after what feels like a lifetime I have learnt one of the most important things; it does not define me.

I cannot begin to express how freeing it makes me feel to know this. By choosing to recover I have been able to find out who I am without an illness and how much there is to me, something that just keeps growing. Not only have I been able to learn who I am but I have gained the confidence in sharing my journey.

I am truly touched by the response my blog post for Mind has had although I find something difficult to understand, the comments saying I am brave for sharing. Yes it took bravery to ask for help and to battle the illness but why am I brave for sharing? Yes, it is personal and difficult to look back on but if there is a chance it could help somebody, even just one person experiencing something similar, it is without a doubt worth sharing. I thank everyone who took the time to read my post and message me with such lovely comments.

Mental health is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. An illness, my past nor my experiences define me. I am Nicole and there is so much more to me.

Link to my post.

 

A Few Days of Calm.

I always think of myself as a fast pace person. If things aren’t fast moving, if I am not on the go constantly I become very bored, very quickly. I am not good at doing nothing but this week I have needed those oh so important doing nothing days or as I like to call them, days of calm.

After not sleeping properly for almost a week now, I have been drained. This week has been difficult but I have managed to take a few days at a slower pace, listening to my body and trying my best to relax. Don’t get me wrong I have of course been doing my usual studying, dog walking, running and theory revising just at a much slower pace. For example, I took the time to light a candle whilst I hand wrote some notes instead of typing and also ate lunch away from my phone. I guess it’s the small things like these that make a difference.

Oh and for all my vegan-gluten free friends this lunch was delicious. It was a toasted gluten free wrap filled with moroccan spiced hummus, cashew nuts and a parsley, carrot, celery, spinach salad complete with vegetable power graze box. Gluten free tip- cocktail sticks hold wraps together better than wheat does.

As strange as is sounds during these days I have found myself more aware of my senses. I have been able to appreciate colour, scent and even taste more than usual and I think this is because I have not felt the need to rush things. My sleeping is not much better and this could probably be because I haven’t been pushing myself to tiredness. Yet again I find myself going from one extreme (very fast) to another (very slow) I must try and find some sort of balance. Here is to trying a somewhat medium pace of living.

Nicole 

Six Months Vegan.

Last year I decided to go vegan after six years being vegetarian and wanting to make the change for over two years, I finally did it. I said goodbye to animal cruelty, animal produce and all things that limit the lives of beautiful beings. I had my doubts and I worried over what restricting my diet even more (I am gluten intolerant along with other irritants) would do to both my physical and mental health but six months on and I have never felt healthier.

Sure being vegan seems to be the in trend thing to be and all of the ‘raw till four, fully raw, high carb low fat’ ways of veganism increased my worries and made me doubt my decision to become vegan. I am probably very far from being in trend in anyway but I needed to be sure that I was going vegan for the right reasons. This led me to the painful experience of watching Cowspiracy, Earthlings and Vegucated, all incredibly heart breaking, educational and life changing. That was it, decision made, along with a promise to myself that I would not restrict myself in anyway. Six months on and both veganism and promise to self still in check.

The last six months I feel like I have learnt more about myself than I ever have before. I feel incredibly self aware, passionate and at peace. This could be because I am in a good place or it could be because of my life changing decision. The changes I have experienced are endless from having more energy and strength to having regular trips to the toilet. And it’s best you know now I am not embarrassed to talk about digestion.

There are no restrictions, I am able to eat when and what I want, I can eat out with friends and family. I am able to fuel my body, sustain busy days and either I have read a lot lately or I am able to concentrate more, I swear I am more intelligent.

I don’t want to go into all the details about what veganism means or start preaching about how you to should be vegan. It seems to be everywhere and I believe in people making decisions for themselves although it would be a very worthwhile decision indeed.

When I first went vegan in August 2015 I didn’t want to call myself vegan. I felt that this label held so many ethics, morals and rules that it had too much pressure attached to it. Now, I feel pride when I call myself vegan. I personally believe that we can only do our best and doing our best does make a difference.

Each day a vegan can save 1100 gallons of water, 45lbs of grain, 30sq ft. of forest, 10lbs of CO2 and 1 animal’s life.

Each day a vegan can eat a fully loaded sandwich followed by ice cream, wear make-up and have the nutrients to run a marathon (or at least a colour run).

So instead of the question being ‘why are you vegan?’ maybe it should be ‘why aren’t you vegan?’

Useful links: The Vegan Society, Vegan Health.

Trying to control anxiety.

If you to experience waves of anxiety you will probably be aware of just how unpredictable it is. How you can go from being completely calm to sheer panic within the space of ten minutes. How anxiety can both creep up on you unexpectedly or can drag your mind down for weeks and weeks.

I have very young memories of being anxious, as a child I was always called ‘shy’ and ‘quiet’. Looking back now, able to see that this wasn’t shyness at all but anxiety it saddens me that I didn’t know. I used to think I was shy and that everybody who was shy had the serve waves of worry and panic that I did. Now that I am aware of anxiety and through looking back at my childhood with it I am able to see that actually, I am not shy, nor quiet, I have anxiety. In no way do I mean this post to ‘sugar coat’ the illness, it is just my personal experience on dealing with it and doesn’t begin to describe how much it can effect a persons life.

Anxiety is something that I still have and although recovering from another mental health illness, it is something I still continue to live with. It may be a personality trait or something that overtime has dug it’s heals into my brain, either way it needs controlling.

Learning to control it is difficult and is something I am continuing to do but overtime I have developed some coping methods I thought could help others to. Remember everybody will experience anxiety differently and what may work for me may not work for you. I would also suggest seeing your doctor or local mental health team for support if you think you have anxiety.

1. Educate yourself: before I learnt more about anxiety I did not have a clue about the symptoms, this in it’s self was a huge problem. There is a long list of symptoms you may experience when you feel anxious, it isn’t just in your mind. When I have anxiety I have a tight feeling around my neck, almost like having a scarf on way too tight to the point my whole chest feels completely tight. I also have problems with sleeping, nausea and hot flushes. Of course these symptoms can mean a range of things and anxiety can affect each person differently. My point being recognise how it affects you, maybe keep a diary, this way you will be more aware when it is about to happen.

2. Keep a diary: Not only for the symptoms you experience but also whatever it is your doing when you feel anxious or have an anxiety/panic attack. Sometimes I find myself feeling anxious for no apparent reason until I sit down and think about everything I have done, doing or planning to do and I am able to see the reason behind it. This will enable you to become aware of your triggers and again help you tackle them once you feel strong enough to do so.

3. Tackle your triggers: This is one of the most difficult but once you are aware of what it is that makes you anxious you have two options 1: avoid whatever it is and let anxiety stop you from doing it. 2: learn coping methods, tackle it straight on and overtime lessen the anxiety. Personally I struggle with anxiety when I am going somewhere new to attend something for example meeting up with someone, an event or even a new train station. This is something I continue to learn to cope with and overtime I have become less anxious when going somewhere. My coping methods for this are firstly researching the place, this gives me an image of what it looks like and what I will be able to expect when going there. I then imagine going there over and over again until I have a sense of familiarity with the place. On some occasions I will even visit before I need to be there so I can become familiar with the place before I have to do so, even just driving past can help.

4. Plan but don’t overthink: Overthinking can lead to more worry, more panic and more anxiety however planning can help. I like to plan my days or weeks based on the things I like to do, even just the little things here and there. This helps me tackle some of the day-to-day anxieties and gives me something positive to think about.

5. Know your surroundings: When doing something anxiety provoking it is always good to know where you are, who you are with and where if needed you can go and feel safe. I often have a place in my mind where if I feel anxious I can get to quickly. This gives me somewhere I feel where I can breath more freely and is often quiet, around less if any people. For example when traveling by train I always tend to sit by the doorway of the carriage, by the suitcase rack and no it isn’t for the extra leg room. Sitting by here allows me to feel more at ease as I know if needed I can easily get off the train. I am also in a more open space and feel less people will look at me if I start to panic -another symptom, feeling like people are looking at you.

6. Do not be embarrassed: Having anxiety is nothing to feel ashamed of and it is surprising how understanding people can be. Know that it is okay not to do something if you are not ready and allow yourself to say no. You are not letting anybody down. Be open and honest with others about it, at first I didn’t want anybody to know but now I feel confident in speaking to people about it and raising awareness because it can effect anybody.

7. Ask for help: No matter how old you are, what you do for a living or how many people have told you ‘stop worrying’. Anxiety can affect everybody and anybody. There is help out there you just need to make the first step in finding it, whether it be speaking to a family member, a friend, teacher, doctor or mental health organization. Help and support is out there.

8. Be open-minded: Colouring books, yoga, square breathing, cognitive behavioural therapy, keeping a diary or group therapy. Not all of them will work but all of them are worth trying. Don’t dismiss something without trying it and don’t give up if it doesn’t work. Keep exploring options and keep trying until you find what it is that helps you control anxiety.

I hope this can help someone experiencing anxiety, someone supporting a friend or family member with anxiety or just someone who wanted to know a little more about it. Thank you for reading, Nicole.

Useful Links: Mind on Anxiety.  NHS on Anxiety.  Time to change on Anxiety. Anxiety UK. 

What I learnt from working at Lush.

Before starting my Christmas job I read blog posts, watched Youtube videos and did all sorts of research on what it was like to work for the company Lush. Mainly anxiety driven and trying to find some sort of confidence that all would be fine, I discovered all kinds of different feedback from past and current employers. Some gave me the confidence I needed, others made me worry. After a couple of months working for the company and now reflectively looking at my time with Lush, I thought I would write my own experience in case there is someone who is also looking for whatever it was I was looking for.

Firstly I would like to say that I am not the most confident of people and with not having a job for over four years walking into one wasn’t the simplest of tasks. ‘Fake it till you make it’, I went into the interview process with this on repeat throughout my mind, why did I bother? I didn’t need to fake a single thing. The employers at Lush could not have been more welcoming, I know most companies say they are like one big family but Lush really is. From reading a little about me you will probably agree with me when I say I am a little odd. Or shall we say particular? I find it difficult to fit in and have certain quirks some don’t understand. However, working at Lush I felt like everyone was welcoming about these little quirks, embracing everyone with a positive attitude.

I have always felt a little behind with make-up, hair, beauty and the usual pampering products, somewhat related to my past with Anorexia and not really allowing myself any self-care. How will I ever be able to sell beauty products when I have no idea about them? Lush is created on values and strong beliefs all of which I share. With the training and information Lush give you about the products all you really need is to share the same beliefs and believe me it is hard not to. I am so grateful for the opportunity Lush gave me to increase my knowledge, understanding and beliefs on natural products, cruelty-free living, veganism, ethical buying, recycling and so on. The list of incredible things the company do for to make a difference is endless, it isn’t just a soap shop that’s for sure.

Other than the changes I can make to make a difference to our planet I have also learnt more about self-care. This is something people take for granted and unless you have experienced what it is like to feel utterly worthless to the point you don’t even deserve a bath it isn’t something you will understand. That may sound drastic but that’s exactly what Anorexia is (that’s a whole different story and back to Lush). Before learning more about the products I believed that self-care was something that cost an arm and a leg, I thought you needed to have false eye lashes, acrylic nails and tan from a bottle, there is nothing wrong with these ways of self-care but they have never been something for me.

I have now learnt that self-care can be as simple as buying your favourite bath bomb, bubble bar or bath melt, running yourself a hot steamy bath and filling it with a scent that makes you feel like a goddess. It can be taking fifteen minutes to put on a facemask, rub a massage bar over your body or putting a hair treatment in. It can be something that’s all natural, ethical, cruelty-free and can make you feel relaxed, fully pampered and can give you a moment to really show yourself some love. As over dramatic as it sounds I am truly grateful for this lesson, to say that I can now show myself (body and mind) love and not feel guilt in anyway means an awful lot.

My time at Lush was short as the anxiety of Christmas, university work and insomnia got the better of me. The dread of leaving early with just a week before Christmas and all because of anxiety something that is hard enough to explain, the employers couldn’t have been more friendly nor understanding. I thank Lush for everything it gave me and would recommend anybody who is thinking of applying for a role at Lush to go for it. Do not let negative feedback from past employers put you off and please do not let yourself stop you. Everybody will have an individual experience and mine is certainly not one I regret.

Apologising for the amount of times I say Lush throughout this post.

Here is a photograph from my first day at work, every time I look back at this I feel happiness and pride.

Nicole