5 little coping mechanisms for when life gets you down

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I was supposed to spend the weekend just gone catching up on various stuff, blogging included, after a stressful couple of months but it didn’t happen. Since I’ve been blogging less, I’ve used social media less and I’ve gotten used to being detached from my phone and the internet more and I think that change will stay. It’s no lie that social detoxes do wonders for the mind and for anxiety. I’ve been ill the past week with some sort of virus and cough and stayed inside for 48 hours, so rather than stare at screen all weekend, we drove down to Worthing to visit Dan’s dad and had a lovely, fresh and airy little break. (Thanks @Dannyboyjnr for the photo skills displayed above).

We’ve managed to get on top of  most of our issues including living situation, home buying, car owning and storage issues in the past ten days, but it hasn’t been the prettiest start to the year. I definitely think adult life should come with harsher warnings, or even just a good sit down in a pub for half hour where someone tells you that things will get shit, then probably worse, then be really hard before they get better. Insert mum, dad, Hermione Granger, a wise cat – whoever you like.

These are the things that have got me through this irritating little patch of life and I can confirm they have all eased my woes for at least fifteen minutes, but some for much longer.

1) Walking

You cannot beat literally walking your worries away. The further into my twenties I get, the more I seem to want to go for walks. Obviously countryside and sprawling views of natural beauty would always be preferred, but even walking round the block or a longer way home from the station will do it. We blew away the cobwebs on the Sussex Downs on Saturday then spent Sunday morning strolling around Arundel and I feel a million times better for it.

2) Paying closer attention to sleep

I’m quite bad for letting myself get overly tired then having a casual 12 hour sleep marathon to try and fix it, but it doesn’t work for me. Being extra strict on bedtimes and setting alarms even on weekends (I mean, nothing before 8:45/9 because I’m not an alien) stops me from over-sleeping, which just makes me feel gross and lethargic and is all a bit sad.

3) A ‘three things to accomplish’ list for every working day

I’ve actually found work a relaxing escape from dealing with daunting admin and life decisions lately (no YOU need to sort your life out) and I saw someone on Twitter going on about hand-writing three things you want to achieve every day when you first sit down at work. I did every day I worked last week and a couple the week before and it’s quite nice, if not just because ticking something off a list is satisfying as hell.

4) Separation from the news

I can’t ever be that far from current events partly because I work in a press environment and partly because I just don’t like it, but a little bit of down time is good for the soul. The news is freaking mental 99% of the time at the moment, and when I’m not pulling ‘WHAT THE F’ faces I’m feeling sad about the state of the world, so time away from Twitter and news sites has been cathartic.

5) Eat better, feel better

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, LAME. But as someone who doesn’t really have a bad diet anyway, I really notice the difference in how I feel physically when stress eating kicks in. Roaming the kitchen looking for anything carb-laden and chocolate covered has been a 2017 hobby of mine. I need to stop though, and I have mostly (apart from this weekend because cake and red wine and life) and when I eat well, I do feel a billion times better for it. Now I just need to dose up on willpower and I’ll be dandy.

Stress isn’t reserved for a certain age

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“You’re too young to be stressed!” This has got to be one of the most irritating, fist clenching things to be told when you feel like stress is your life. I read a lot about anxiety and depression from brave people who feel they can share their experiences, but not a great deal about stress. Stress has been a constant factor in my life since I was about 21. It stems mostly from dealing with an unpredictable chronic illness and feeling constantly on edge about my health, but along the way other things have come along and joined the stress party.

I could definitely do more to deal with my stress levels. I know there are things I do that directly contribute to making myself worse, but it’s hard to break the cycle. Sometimes I feel like stress feeds me. It adds fuel to my productivity fire and that’s definitely not healthy. I used to buckle under stress and resort to sitting in a heap ignoring my problems, playing Words With Friends, or laying under a duvet sadly googling symptoms and convincing myself death was coming. Not really a good way to live your life, I can tell you.

I was getting some blood tests done last year and the nurse had to stop just before she attempted it to make me relax my posture a bit. Blood tests are hardly joyous activities, so she assumed that I was scared, but I wasn’t. I have no fear of needles and after having about as many medical examinations and tests as hot meals over the past few years, I’m not remotely bothered by having blood taken. I was just stressed. She chatted to me as she was filling up tubes with my red stuff, and asked me if I was having a busy time at work, then pointed out I was chewing my lip. “You seem really stressed sweetheart, try to take some time to debrief yourself and relax” were her (I think fairly accurate) parting words to me.

The problem is, Even though I’m 26, and most certainly a fully-fledged adult whether I like it or not, I still get asked what I have to be stressed about. it’s a big sweeping statement for someone to tell you that you’re fine or worried over nothing when they don’t live in your head. Lately, I’ve had plenty of reasons to stress due to trying to buy a house, and most people are sympathetic to the fact that it’s a pretty heinous task and understandably stressful, but being told I’m too young ‘to be stressed out’ or ‘what do you really have to stress about, you don’t even have kids yet!’ really pushes my anger buttons.

Going out and having a good time, socialising, being busy, having hobbies and maintaining a good job doesn’t mean you can’t be stressed. Being young, having fun and seemingly appearing like a normal twenty-something person doesn’t mean you can’t also be suffering with a huge weight on your shoulders.

Young people deal with a lot of stress. If anything, the technology-heavy world we live in where everything is in your face, on a phone screen and going at a hundred miles an hour, probably mean it’s worse than ever. In a world where buying your home or renting a reasonable, fit-for-purpose space to live in costs more than most people can afford or dream of affording, there’s plenty of reasons for young people to feel the strain. Worrying about a future where you have the life you want in an extremely tough climate is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s plenty of disillusionment going on in the world with young people, which unless you live under a rock you’ll be full aware of.

I want to make 2017 a much better year for getting stress under control, because this has not been a good year for controlling the amount I feel like a walking ball of rage and worry. If you need to try and achieve the same, I feel your pain and you have every right to feel stressed and feel you need to recover as the next person, regardless of if you’re 16 or 46. Long live stress balls.

When did our 20s become the era of paranoia?

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I’ve read enough articles, lists, blogs and spent enough time on social media (believe me) to know that a lot of people in their twenties spend a massive proportion of their time worrying. Girls especially, but that might just be my skewed view as I follow more girls on social media, read women columnists more and generally get a lot of my material from blogs- predominately written by females.

I fall into the worrier category. I fall into it so hard I would like to put myself forward as team leader, get us all uniforms and arrange the Christmas social so we can talk about what we’re scared of over some gins and then get cheesy chips after. (Genuinely, I would be up for this).

I don’t know when it happened, it certainly hasn’t always been this way, but I literally spend my life paranoid and it’s mostly about health, money and other people. Having a chronic illness nestled within my body wreaking havoc doesn’t help, and I have plenty of very good, medically certified reasons to be worried, but I go beyond those. I just worry for worry’s sake. It’s pretty much my hobby now. But thanks to the power of the internet and very few thoughts being sacred, I can (sort of) relax in the fact I’m not alone.

My peers are just as paranoid as me.

God, we need to sort ourselves out. Whenever I read a tweet from a friend who’s worrying about something to do with health or finance or any other young adult topic, I just want to reach over and whisper “don’t worry pal, me too.” That sounds creepier than I intend it to be. But if you are one of these worrisome people, please try and take a breath and lessen the teeth grinding and anxiety in your stomach, you’ve got some company. There are others out there right now doing all the things we know are bad for us- Googling symptoms, scrolling through unrealistic Instagram accounts, comparing careers to people older and much more experienced and staring at our banking apps and thinking ‘where’s the money gone?’

Exhausting though, isn’t it? As much as I want to take a chill pill and feel the way I felt when I was about 20 (which by default was tipsy, warm inside and free) and roam around like I’m indestructible and totally on top of everything, I just can’t. The paranoia and the concern have crept up and taken hold and they’re not just here for a sleepover, they want to stay longterm. Cute. NOT.

It hasn’t been all bad- it’s given me ambition. It’s made do things outside of work that create work that ultimately make me extra money, help me get contacts and help me grow audiences for things like this blog- all because I was worried I wasn’t doing enough career wise. People actually read this blog, which is still amazing even now, and people actually reach out to talk to me off their own back and tell me they like my blog- even more amazing. So yeah, in some ways, I’m kind of thankful for it, but there has to come a time when it stops.

There’s only so much time in one day, and wasting too much of it worried about every ache, pain, thinner looking friend or more retweeted article than your own will only result in a downward spiral of misery. And making other people happy above ourselves, despite the fact we’ll carry on doing it forever anyway, is no good. It’s just no good.

Worried about your fertility? About your chances of buying a house? About your liver? About those headaches you get? Your overdraft? Your credit rating? Not being travelled enough? Not going out enough? Not getting enough attention from certain friends?

The list goes on and it could just get bigger and bigger and evolve the older we get, or we can learn to accept, which as someone who hasn’t got to that point can contest to- it ain’t easy.

This era of worrying might pass, and who am I to even speak for people in their twenties, I’m only half way through. I just want to worry less and I think I could round up a small (or maybe world domination size) army of people who would like to join me in that. Throwing away youth on endless amounts of worry and paranoia sounds awful and I do not want to look back and realise that’s what I did. I want to do EVERYTHING and have a lot of fun while I’m doing it.

Let’s go start a revolution shall we? (Or let’s just have an early night and not Google ovary disorders for a while). Baby steps.

Everyone struggles with life balance sometimes, so let’s give everyone a break

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Some days I climb into bed and feel like I have done a really good job at life. I don’t always know why sometimes, because it happens on days when I have been sluggish, or not finished all my work, but the feeling is still there. It might be something to do with embracing ‘be the best you can be’ as a life motto, but yeah. Some days I’m all like “high five, good job, time for well deserved sleep” and all manner of happy, dancing emoji feelings.

Other days though I am literally like, you massive loser. You can’t keep up with your own life and you’re letting people down.

Grim.

The latter is not a good feeling. At the end of last year I felt that way all the time. It became like a normal feeling to just constantly be annoyed and constantly feel like I’d forgotten a million different things or not been a good friend, or a bad daughter. Endless lists of joyless feelings.

It’s really quite hard to hold together a life. Even a life that seems full of luxury and appears to be a piece of cake, can in reality, be a nightmare for the owner. We do own our lives, they are ours and we have to control them. We have to remember, and work, and finish things, and feed our bodies and remember to get sleep and remember those texts we should have sent and that washing that STILL needs to be done. It’s even harder when the bad times roll in. Stress turns your memory and your concentration to mush and you feel like everything is helpless.

I don’t think there is any shame in any one, of any age, feeling this way. I’m 25 and I don’t have kids, I don’t have endless financial responsibilities right now, I don’t have loads of stress at work, I don’t even have a pet. I still have massive trouble balancing life and getting it right though. I sometimes do think I should get a grip and man up, but then I remember how real the feeling is when it first sets in.

You know when you’re climbing up life mountain and you’re like, I can’t do it, I’m not good at climbing, I am definitely going to fall? Sometimes when I remember things I haven’t done and It gets all ‘shit, nothing can save this day from being a total disaster.’ But sometimes I remember and I’m like, F that, I’m so busy. And there it is. Some days the balance works and some days it doesn’t. Everyone deserves to feel like they’re stuck on life mountain and can’t see the top yet even if you think they have an easy ride and need to shut up. Give people a break.

How to take on a working day in London and come out winning

Yesterday was a struggle. A busy, smoggy London struggle. And it was Monday, which never helps any situation. I left the house almost an hour before I usually do to get into work and tackle the immense to do list, but of course the tube line I use was suspended, my back up line had severe delays and I swanned into work later than normal. LOVELY. This was all accompanied by the fact I was wheezing from the high air pollution and walked into the back of a tourist photgraphing the pavement. Deep breaths everyone.

I’ve developed a survival method for working and living in London and it goes mostly like this:

-Wake up and immediately check TFL even before you check Twitter. The transport system is a beast that can’t be tamed. You need as much time as possible to plan your alternative route and swear repeatedly at your phone.

-Practice deep breathing while on your way to work. Someone’s elbow in your spine on the tube? Breathe. Several million suitcases blocking the barriers at Paddington? Breathe. Realising your High Cost living allowance doesn’t actually cover more than two months rent? Breathe. Paying around £5 for a sandwich that looks a bit like roadkill? Breathe.

-Start the day at work with something nice. Have a sit down. Have a chat. Don’t think about how much money you spent on a pizza last night. Get a nice coffee. Enjoy your cuppa pre-email checking. Anything you fancy. You need to recover from the commute after all.

-Take advantage of stuff. Look up if anything’s going on outside at lunchtime, go listen to some cool buskers, see if anyone handing out freebies. It’s London. There’s always SOMETHING you can fill a ten minute break with. It’s not good to stare at your screen all day and listen to that person in the office who talks only about themselves and their cat.

-Excercise. I could go on about how I go swanning round trendy bars after work in Oxford Circus getting merry on cocktails, which DOES happen sometimes, but it’s not the regular end to a day. After commuting home and being exhausted from work, resisting an invitiation to go out drinking or to cash in a Pizza Express deal which isn’t really good value at all, you need to burn off steam. Take your tube delay, money and over-crowding anger out on the rowing machine. THINK ABOUT YOUR THIGHS.

-Appreciate the views. There’s often entire weeks that pass in a blur of stress, deadlines, delayed transport and double G&Ts, so when you see a view like in the photo above (massive credit to my boyfriend @dannyboyjnr insane Instagram skills) you need to take a minute to appreciate it. It’s London after all.

-Reserve an evening treat. You pay over the odds for rent, you work hard, you play hard, you travel to work touching body parts of strangers you would rather not, you deserve it, yo. You SO massively deserve it.

If you happen to be in the market for a new little treat, this drink I discovered yesterday is the absolute dream. You’re welcome. Excuse the chipped nails.

6 stress-busting pictures to make life a bit prettier and calmer

Basically life in one word right now is STRESS. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a clenched jaw. I’ve also developed an extreme resting bitch face, just so everyone on the tube knows I mean business and absolutely do not want a chat about the meaning of ‘good service.’

I will actually do something soon to alleviate said stress, but until then, here are 6 pictures that relate to my life that make everything feel calmer, nicer and a bit more acceptable. I suggest anyone else feeling a bit ‘OMG WTF WHY’ makes a similar collage to look at while drinking a gallon tea.

Mirissa Beach in Sri Lanka, where I am going in four weeks to do nothing but eat roti and look at lush scenery:

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Bedroom things. Since deciding on moving I am more obsessed with Pinterest than ever:

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Printing Photos. Because it’s nice to wake up and look at happy times on beaches with people you love:

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Watching sunsets. One of my favourite things to do, thanks to the pretty urban view from my flat:

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Coffee. One of my true loves in life. Pret coffee in particular even though the queues are always SO long:

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Baking. Because stress makes me hungry. These are beetroot and orange juice brownies btw, ❤ ❤ :

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For everyone having ‘one of those days’

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So today is most definitely one of those days. What I mean by that is, I will be bloody glad when it comes to a close. I have a cold, I commuted on a packed tube then had to leave work four hours later as I was so sneezy and snotty, I have LOADS of work to do, I queued for 15 minutes in a shop to buy soup, I lost my tissues, ripped my tights BLAH BLAH BLAH. I mean I could go on to my woes of finding a white bra this morning but I won’t.

This blog post is not particularly about anything apart from how it feels on these days that just don’t go right and I essentially fancy a rant. I’ve been aiming to post everyday Monday-Friday because i’ve had really good traffic lately, but I couldn’t for the life of me write a thing yesterday. Instead I watched Parks and Recreation and ate crumpets.

Anyway, bad days: I’ve had tons of them in the last 6 months, for various reasons. Stress has basically become my full time partner in life, brining with it ecezema, exhaustion, bad moods, weird sleep pattern and a constant need to eat things that consist mainly of butter and sugar. It’s not been fun (but I have enjoyed eating EVERYTHING). It’s not been ideal. I’m trying really hard to de-stress myself and stop worrying about EVERYTHING, because omg, think of the most trivial thing possible and I can guarantee I worry about it. Yesterday I got concerned about kitchen tap looking a slightly different colour. Someone post me a life.

I’m quite evidently not alone here, I happen to have a few friends and colleagues with a lot going on at the moment, and we’ve just been ranting and raving and stressing and then laughing about it and then ranting again. It’s become the circle of life. You know how it is when nothing will go right and you have motivation of a flea? Well that is basically life right now. I’m not on a massive Debbie downer and about to paint my nails black and take a vow of silence or anything, but can SOMETHING nice and fun and easy just happen?

I’m trying to tackle this awkward life phase with plans. I love plans. I’m basically a planning machine much to many people’s despair, but I love it so I don’t give a shit. Tonight for example, my oldest friend is coming over and we will drink tea, Watch Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, google nice bikinis and I will exfoliate my gross nose. Sexy. The rest of the weekend I will spend at home with my mum, instagramming my dog, eating and doing a lot of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I also have really fun plans for next weekend to look forward to and I might even go wild and get a haircut. Life.

The thought of all of these things take the edge off. I mean, I do have a tissue stuffed in my nose right now and I am about to drink raw ginger, but ultimately, the bad day will end. For everyone else having an absolute shocker, plan something nice and make a cup of tea. I know that’s the most obvious, basic advice ever, but tea and good thoughts will look after you.

Don’t let the online world upset your offline world

A little while ago I got sucked up into a huge panic about having not sorted my life out to the point where I can put my slippers on and kick back for the next 50 years. I’m 24 and I haven’t bought a house, got married, made a fortune or had any kids yet. DISASTER. Of course this is ridiculous. I definitely shouldn’t be having a mental breakdown over things that friends much older than me are just sorting out or deciding to invest in. I know others the same age or younger who have done one or more of the above stress hit list, but everyone is different. I don’t need to hassle my boyfriend into fixing life immediately just to keep up with people I don’t speak to or who I knew because I worked with them for six months about four years ago. My life is going fine and I have a sort of plan, which is pretty much achievable, which for now is good enough. I enjoyed my weekend of sleeping, eating, resentfully doing washing and dancing a hole in the floor at a Groove Armada DJ far too much to start crying over mortgages I don’t have and puppies I don’t own.

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Of course the whole reason for thinking life is failing and the world as I know it will surely end soon is from looking at social media. Staring at Facebook and watching people planning weddings and posting updates about how their second child has just used a potty for the first time in the house they’ve just moved into started messing with my head. Not just my head in fact, as I know plenty of other stressed twenty-something people who fear being left out or are in a hurry to DO EVERYTHING NOW. I know a lot of people of all ages who feel the same actually. There are times when I look through Twitter feeds and Facebook posts and think, God, please stop distressing my friends and everyone my age and even people older or much younger. Just stop it. Of course that won’t happen. We love to share, post, Instagram, tweet, snapchat and whatsapp. We’re addicted. I mean, I will definitely be sharing this on all forms of social media because it’s 2014 and that’s life.

It’s not healthy to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to compare your life to everyone else’s and I think we are mostly aware of that, but still do it anyway. I will probably always do it. Some people do use social media to try and put across an image of an amazing life where everything is perfect and they’re living the absolute dream. I imagine they do post things because they want to impress their friends and followers and strangers they’ve never met, or maybe they’ve just become so used to sharing their life, they just do it on auto-pilot. It’s all good and well, and I do enjoy looking through other people’s business and what they did at the weekend and who with, but I sometimes worry about it too. I’m definitely not as stressed and worry less than others I know and am close to. I sometimes hope they aren’t getting too distressed by what they see and it doesn’t make things worse. It’s a culture of sharing and a culture of indulging in knowing everything about everyone that is just as much fear-inducing as it is fascinating.

Everyone is working towards a different goal. What you see filtered on Instagram or plastered all over Facebook is probably a much exaggerated version of what’s really happening. You have to take it with a pinch of salt. What’s the point of competing with your friends who you love and will happily curl up with or drink yourself into a dancing, shouting, night bus resenting stupor with?

Some people do use social media for work, or to advertise work or just as a general way to keep their friends and family up to speed with what’s going on. I do the same, I post stupid pictures that I think are funny, Instagram nice looking beaches or dogs, and tweet about hangovers or how much I hate the District Line. I travel quite a bit so I’m always spamming the internet with photos of views from planes or boats or nice looking buildings, so I’m just as bad as everyone else I expect. What would be really nice though, is if all this posting and sharing stopped causing people  to feel inadequate, behind, lost, fat, too skinny, anxious or left out. It’s probably a much bigger battle than just voicing it and urging people to put the claws away. We all love a good nose, and when everyone is in the room in a virtual sense, it’s just so easy to show everyone what you’re up to.

It is however, absolutely vital not to let it get on top of you. Life happens to everyone at a different speed and you get smacked in the face by different problems to your best friend or siblings, but let’s just remember that social media is an online, visual, over-sharing system made of wires and like, scientific technological stuff and lives in iPhones and on laptops, and real life is offline, where the people are real, emotions are real feelings are felt. It doesn’t matter if your friends are uploading photos of their amazing, life changing holiday or a new house, just enjoy being nosey and don’t worry that you’ll never have as much as them, because, at the end of the day, (or Facebook status) you aren’t them.

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