How to calm anxiety with spiritual thinking

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World Mental Health Day. A day for awareness, guidance, hope and understanding. A day for sharing thoughts. My topic? The Law of Attraction.

Hmmm, why have I chosen to discuss the Law of Attraction? Simple. My belief in its power has helped to improve my mental health (rather than hinder it as I had once feared). Whether this “law” exists or not isn’t particularly important. The very idea of the Law of Attraction can be enough to have a profoundly positive impact on your thoughts. Mental health conditions often provoke feelings of disconnection. Emptiness. A black hole. Exploring a possible power that connects you to the universe might sound strange to you, but I’m living proof that it helps.

I’m also having therapy at the moment, for reasons I can’t describe as anything but surpassing the point of “too much”. Too much change, too much loss, too much confusion. Consumed, exhausted, feeling the fear of something completely indistinguishable creeping in; the fear of the unknown.

A little while ago, I wrote about my experience of manifestation – using the power of your thoughts to attract what you truly want. A sort of energy boomerang that gives you exactly what you cast out. I wanted to feel more peaceful.

Can peaceful thoughts really pave the way for a peaceful life?

In many ways, they can.

In my post, I identified the downsides to this theory, most crucially that believing your thoughts have the power to affect reality can be a pretty dangerous notion for someone with OCD. My intrusive thoughts were once so bad I couldn’t quite distinguish between real life and what was happening in my mind (cue hiding from imaginary burglars). These thoughts were so uncontrollably realistic (and scary) that they felt like premonitions – a common symptom of OCD. And so, when I first started reading into manifestation, I disregarded its supposed power for fear of igniting the opposite end of the spectrum: scarier intrusive thoughts that might create an uncontrollably negative life.

Thankfully, I learned to overcome these intrusive thoughts three years ago with the help of a CBT therapist. Compelled to fight this fear of my own imagination, I contemplated everything in my life that I had truly, deeply wished for. I realised that I had, in one way or another, been able to make them happen by trusting my instincts and following my heart. My job, my partner, my home, my most treasured experiences and memories. All of them a product of learning what I wanted, imagining it would happen and making it a reality.

Manifestation is not about believing your that weird (often wonderful) thoughts are real, it’s about learning how to use your thoughts to distinguish and drive what you want from your life. And in many ways, it has actually helped to change the way I think and take back control of my mind. To be more present, more aware of my thoughts when they aren’t particularly healthy, more able to steer them back round to focussing on life-enriching goals and not the scary, uncontrollable concerns.

How to use the law of attraction to get what you want? Easy. Know in your heart what you want. Actually, this is sometimes not so easy. The beauty of LOA is more that it helps you to identify what you desire, and therefore helps to initiate the start of the journey towards that thing.

You see, some days I want to move to the countryside and (dare I say it) have A BABY, and some days I want rent out my flat and live in a bell tent in Zanzibar. If, like me, you feel torn between multiple paths most of the time, it can be helpful to start small. Rather than thinking about what the future should hold, try thinking about what you need to thrive right now, and then focus on that thing.

Here’s my most recent experience…

As someone who used to party loads and see her favourite bands and DJs pretty regularly, I was really craving the musical connection and euphoria that comes from shared singing, raving and dancing to music you and everyone around you is so moved by. I was craving shared emotion and human connection on a larger scale. I expressed two heartfelt desires – human connection and live music – desires that I knew would nourish the parts of me that had felt depleted for some time. Shortly after, four of the loveliest girls invited me to Edinburgh with them for the weekend. It was the feeling of “this is exactly what I needed” times 10000.

That same weekend, after years of attempting, I also got tickets to Glastonbury. A genuine dream come true. Coincidence, you say? Sure, of course it can be. That’s sort of the point. Because it’s all about making your life what you want it to be. Want it to be just be a coincidence? Then that’s what it is. Want to feel like you have the power to shape your own destiny by identifying what your soul needs to thrive? That’s cool, too.

And another thing. During this magical weekend in Edinburgh, I became instantly drawn to a ring on a jewellery stand. Rhodochrosite. A precious stone I wasn’t familiar with. I bought it, wore it straight away and felt a strange sensation within minutes, like a heavy emotional blockage sort of dissolving from the centre of me (FYI, my therapist has identified that I have symptoms of post-traumatic stress). Anyhoo, I walked along in the rain, happily chatting with my friend, and felt the most peaceful I had done in weeks. I couldn’t put my finger on it (pun intended), I just felt good. Later than night, I looked up the properties of a Rhodochrosite stone, not knowing whether it was even a real thing, and this is the answer I found:

“Rhodochrosite emanates one of the most tender and loving energies of any stone, soothing the heart, comforting the soul, and vibrating to the frequencies of inner peace. It is a marvellous talisman of joy and healing, of embracing one’s rightful powers and rising to one’s full potential.”

And so, my belief is this… listen to your heart. Trust your desires. Tune into your own frequency of longing. Do this, and the things you truly want and need will find their way to you, too.

 

 

 

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Defining who you are

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It kind of dawned on me that I’ve been writing in this blog (admittedly, on and off) for four years.

Like most people in their mid-twenties, those four years held some of the biggest changes in my life. They also coincided with our forever-rising dependence on social media. I’ve documented my experiences in various ways across both. Instagram especially. Weirdly – is it just me? – memories have felt more solid since we’ve been able to immortalise them online. Solid and yet somehow skewed? The photos and captions ingrain the images much deeper. Hard to forget. Hard to erase. Like scars. Everything before then is hazier, less tangible, in a nice way.

Looking back over various online platforms and profiles, the older posts and photos have started to look like relics of a past life. A life when my parents were together, when I was travelling, when I was engaged to my ex, when my grandad and younger cousin were still alive. A manifestation of memories, and one that the whole world can see. Documented originally as the happiest times of my life. Lingering on as painful reminders of what was.

Social media can be a dangerous place to dwell. We use it to define ourselves way too often. It reinforces how much we align identity with how other people see us, or by the things that have happened to us. And like any overbearing, oppressive society, it can prevent us from ever feeling free.

I’ve created a new website because it feels powerful to edit the past. I’m also really proud of my journey. Learning, letting go, and being reborn in a sequence of fluid spirals is the only way to stay sane in this life. I used to view mine as a straight, long timeline. One story. One with logical steps and dependable reappearing faces. Now? It’s the sea. The tide comes in and out as always, sure, but nothing is ever the same. Bit by bit, the shape of your life is eroded, sculpted and reformed, until one day it looks completely different. Softer in new ways, sharper or harder in others. If my life is a cliff, then, somehow, I’ve gone from standing at the crumbling edges with fear in my heart to observing its unlikely beauty from sweet patch of grass below.

No matter how much your life changes, the essence of you is the same. Find it, nurture it, trust it.

Words have healing powers, you know. There’s nothing that could make me believe otherwise. Whether reading or writing, they offer expression, release, comfort and understanding. Whether directly or indirectly, we, as humans, generally encounter similar issues in our lives. Betrayal, loss, illness, confusion, pain, death. And yet the online space we share is still disproportionately filled with illusions of perfection. I’m guilty of it myself. My Instagram is a shrine to good times and little else.

Like Her Type is, and always has been, a space for honesty. For admittance that things can and do often go catastrophically wrong. It means that we’re all the same. We all need reassurance. We all have our traumas. It’s also a space for the healing power of words. For me, for you.

Here’s a bit about me…

I like to say that I’m a writer but really, I’m the Lead Copywriter for a massive digital advertising agency in London and that kind of saps the bohemian romance out of the picture. Argh, why do we all define themselves as our job title? I’ll start again.

I really love peanut butter and marmite on toast. Yes, together. As in, I literally have it every morning. In some of my friendships, I’m the extreme worrier, and in some, I’m the most laidback person ever, and I feel lucky to have both dynamics in my life. I conceal a vast amount of anxiety every single day. I’ve been told that I’m very calm so I know how good I am at keeping those bloody annoying butterflies at bay. I’m definitely an observer, not a performer. I’m shit at accents. I have the metabolism of a 12-year-old (really, I did a test). I can run 5K in less than 25 minutes. I have four tattoos – a goldfinch on my back, Japanese Cherry Blossom on my arm, the alchemical sign for air on my other arm, and my cousin’s name on my foot. I have an incredible family. My sister and I aren’t twins but are telepathic. I have learned the value of having a handful of close friends rather than a house full of unreliable near-strangers. My beautiful boyfriend treats me like royalty (and sometimes like stray cat that needs lots of love and food). I really, really, want to write a book, and should probably just get on and do it rather than write this blog. I find it hard to watch TV or go to the cinema because I’m generally pumped full of adrenaline and can’t sit still. I’m ridiculously clumsy. On Sunday, I spilled my tea three times, dropped my dinner down my shirt and bashed my newly painted wall somehow with my dining table bench. I’m a homeowner. I’m still amazed that I’m a homeowner. I’m weirdly quite private which makes writing this blog all the more liberating. I love beer, gin, and red wine way too much. Also, Thai food, Vietnamese food, Japanese food (ok, Asian food), but I hate cooking. I have a secret passion for Drum & Bass and Tech House and used to party A LOT. My best friend and I once went for afternoon tea at 3pm and got home at 10am the next day. I have slowly started to enjoy a slower pace of life. I started writing this post thinking ‘Who am I?’ ‘Where is my life at?’ ‘How far have I really come?’ And I’m ending it with some answers. See, words.

Ask yourself. Who are you? Where are you in your life right night? And where do you want to be? Sometimes these questions aren’t as hard as you might think.

How to feel confident in your skin

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Do you feel comfortable in your skin?

For a really long time, I didn’t. More specifically, the skin on my face.

When I first read this article on The Pool about living with acne it made me feel quite emotional.

And (to my surprise), so did seeing Kendall Jenner looking amazing that time she had a bit of acne on the red carpet.

The relationship you have with your own face is a complex one. In many ways, more complex than the one you have with your body. Your face is synonymous with who you are, because that’s how people determine it’s really you. Only your closest companions recognise you for your distinguished sense of style or your shapely bum. The rest of the world goes by your eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hair and skin.

So, on days where your face feels particularly imperfect, it really comes as no surprise that we harbour those feelings on the inside, too.

Acne has been depicted an ‘ugly’, ‘dirty’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘geeky’, ‘teenage’ misfortune, historically, since forever. And so, thanks to the nature of our society, sufferers risk associating those traits with who they are.  Which, of course, is categorically untrue.

BUT. The world is changing. Namely, the beauty industry. And ‘real beauty’ has become a primary focus. With the anti-airbrush movement, more and more brands are depicting the reality of acne and imperfections in a kind, helpful, empowering way. That tutorial from Fenty was a great start. Yes, she’s still covering it up, but she’s confident, she has real acne, and she’s helping to empower others.

Brands are working harder than ever to show real women. Missguided pretty much nailed it with their Keep Being You and Make Your Mark campaigns. It’s the unapologetic attitude and sheer confidence that make them so empowering.

I genuinely think that if such positive representations of ‘skin’ had been around when I was a teenager, I would have felt very different about myself. More than that, I would feel very different about myself today. Not because I still have acne, but because the relationship I have with my skin was irreparably damaged from a young age. I assimilated beauty with perfect skin, and rarely felt beautiful because of it.

I was 13 when my skin started to change. Teenagers change enough at that age without the added onslaught of painful red spots all over your forehead and a never-ending layer of grease. I started covering my skin with thick foundation and layers of pressed power from then on. I wore make-up to school every single day. Not because I hated my face. I always liked my face. But because I was desperate to gain control of my unruly, painful skin.

This is kind of gross but I’ll tell it anyway. I remember hanging out in Mcdonalds with a group of boys two years above (I know, I’m even cooler than you thought). I went to the toilets, looked in the mirror, and to my horror, a painful, under-the-skin spot, had broken though my chin with a pronounced bubble of yellow pus. Yum. I squeezed it, and it bled. It bled and bled and bled. I must have stayed in the toilets for about 20 minutes, waiting for it to stop. Eventually feigning illness as I quickly ran past the boys and darted home in despair.

I literally LOL thinking about that sort of thing now, but, without the right guidance (and sense of humour) being a teenager with problem skin is just not all that fun. Fortunately, my mum introduced me to tea tree oil and a gentle cleansing routine before taking me to the doctors.

Acne sufferers will know, you’re often met with a feeling of having no control of your destiny. Who knows what the next day of pimples will bring. And for about 10 years, I woke up to a new spot, pretty much every bloody morning.

Not only are there psychological associations around the ‘ugliness’ of acne, there’s also a significant physical aspect. Pain, blood, pus, bruising, headaches, the works. The combination of the two can honestly feel totally debilitating. No wonder lots of acne sufferers cancel plans or call in sick to work on particularly bad days.

I feel so unbelievably grateful that now, aged 29, my spots are few and far between. My skin is still sensitive and quite oily, but rarely red or painful. I grew out of it, and I’m one of the lucky ones.

But I still have a precarious relationship with my skin. It’s hard to shift after years of inspecting my pores with a magnifying mirror each morning. I still have to remind myself that I don’t have to opt for the high-coverage products I reach for out of habit. Foundation is still my comfort blanket, but I’ve learned to live without it, too.

And the viral campaigns that Missguided have been owning this year, which celebrate even more than just imperfect skin, make me happy. Happy for the teenage me that needed to see them. And for the teenagers that will grow up with a different, well-rounded understanding of what real skin and real beauty looks like, as more and more brands begin to evolve.

I wrote this post because actually, right now, my skin is the best it’s been in ages, and I can’t help but notice how different I feel, which is sort of sad. I’m still learning to keep hold of that ‘I love how I look’ feeling, no matter what my skin is doing.

I’m slightly tanned (which helps) but I haven’t worn foundation this month. Just a little CC Cream and powder.

And on that note, here are the products I’m loving right now – recommended for sensitive, oily skin.

 

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Mabel + Meg Lumilixir Serum, £29

 

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La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat, £16

 

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The Body Shop Instaglow CC Cream in Peachy Glow, £15

 

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Estee Lauder Double Wear Powder Make-Up, £35

 

 

The law of attraction and why it works

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Even if you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. A cult-classic self-help book that claims your thoughts can change the world, thanks to the universal ‘law of attraction’.

I have to say, I was incredibly sceptical when I picked up this book last year. After a lifetime of worrying that negative thoughts could impact real life (touch the wall 100 times to keep your family safe kinda thing), I didn’t want to delve into the idea that thoughts aren’t just thoughts. That thoughts can manifest as reality. With the wrong kind of uncontrollable thoughts, that’s really scary shit.

HOWEVER. As with most things, curiosity got the better of me. I devoured the book in two days and I have to say it did actually help to give a better perspective on the way I think. We’ll ignore the fact that most of the theorists look like the same white middle class man, because the premise of the book isn’t exactly original anyway. Paulo Coelho’s classic fable The Alchemist is by far the more beautiful version.

Whichever genre you prefer, both books teach the importance of positive energy. The role of energy in the world is bloody fascinating. Because if it can’t be created or destroyed, where does our energy go?

The reason I’m writing this post is because, however lame it sounds, I have sensed a big shift in my life since I read The Secret last year. The shift being that I didn’t realise how negative my thoughts had become, and how much could change once I actually focussed on changing.

The Secret teaches that negative thoughts give off vibrations of negativity, which the universe echoes back to you in the form of more negativity. You are what you attract. Simple. If you focus your energy on ‘what’s lacking’, ‘glass half empty’, ‘woe is me’ you’re effectively telling the universe that this is what’s shaping your destiny because it’s what you think about the most. You are the author of your life – the universe simply responds.

If the universe truly is conspiring to give you want you want, then you’ll never get there if you’re focussing all your energy on what you don’t want.

The Secret, is simply, to ask the universe for what you want, and focus your energy on believing it will happen.

Stay with me.

There have been a handful of moments in my life where I’ve actively thought to myself, I want this. Not in a superficial kind of way, more like, I was meant to do this.

When I was fresh out of Uni, living with my parents, and writing for pittance, I came across an ad for well-paid Senior Copywriter job in Central London. The dream. It gave me hope that even though I was struggling at that time, there was an end goal in site. Potential. Hope. A reason for what I was doing. I thought to myself, that’s what I’m going to do. And when I look back now, I believed it, too.

Seven years later, I now earn that exact sum for that exact type of job. I started a few weeks ago and it feels more right than any job ever has. It’s quite literally the result of all my other professional experiences. And the best part? The job was created for me. I actually interviewed for a different job, and from that interview this job, salary and all, was offered to me bespoke. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m saying this because I genuinely feel that I’ve got this far because I never allowed myself to believe that I wouldn’t. I never shrouded my career aspirations in negative thoughts.

So, why is it then, that I struggle to apply the same positivity to other aspects of my life?

When I write, it feels right. It feels natural. And I never question how or why that is. For some reason, I rarely feel like this about anything else. I doubt. I question. I can’t make decisions. I often can’t decide what I want.

And so, identifying with the law of attraction helped me to assimilate that that if I can place so much positive energy on my career, why not actively apply the same principle to other aspects of my life?

It actually worked.

Around this time last year, I had been through a weird time and had to do a lot of soul  searching. I asked myself what I truly, deeply wanted. Stability. With this in mind, I willed myself to focus on what stability might look like, and how I could start putting steps in place to make this happen.

Less than three months later, the universe responded with a one-bedroom flat. I went from never believing I would get a mortgage on my own to telling myself that somehow, I would make it happen. And now my little flat serves as a reminder that with the right energy, the right insight, the right people in your life, anything is possible.

If you’re actively trying to lead a more positive life, there’s loads of good stuff to take away from The Secret. Buy it on Amazon today. It might just push you in the direction you need.

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Do you have high-functioning anxiety?

 

On Thursday 24th May, I started a new job. I also discovered the unwelcome return of my old mate, anxiety.

On Friday 25th May, I started writing a blog post about dealing with anxiety when you’re desperate to make a good impression. An impression as a professional, intelligent person who’s confident in what they do.

I deleted the post. Fearing that said post might hinder said good impression.

And then I read this article on Refinery29 – Are You One Of The Many Women Suffering From ‘High-Functioning Anxiety’? – and I felt a little foolish. After being someone who has always advocated speaking out about mental health, I was afraid of being judged. When, truth be told, to beat the prejudice you have to first overcome it for yourself. You have to keep sharing until it feels normal, for both speaker and listener.

In my original post, I started to detail my horror at experiencing old feelings of anxiety creeping in. Intrusive thoughts I’d learned to control a few years ago started to rear their big ugly heads during the build-up to my first day on the job, and for days afterwards, too. Lack of sleep, poor concentration, pounding heart, restless legs, a crowded mind, surges of adrenaline pumping through my body at the smallest things, like getting the train or choosing what to eat.

All the while, I walked and talked with unwavering confidence, smiling brightly at every new person I met. I guess you could say that I’m one of the many women with ‘high-functioning anxiety’. I actually find that I subconsciously use the adrenaline it creates to fuel my day. But the energy source is a futile one, and come bedtime I am totally done in.

I’m well aware that my anxiety is driven by OCD and the fear of things not being perfect, and so to address the symptoms I sometimes have to re-familiarise myself with the cause. I suppose I’ve been going round in circles like that all my life really, gaining a better understanding with each and every ‘phase’.

The most useful thing I’ve understood about battling OCD is that it’s a bully. And what do they teach you at school? Yep. To stand up to bullies. Call their bluff. Dare them to do their worst. Chances are, they’ll soon back off.

And so when anxiety creeps into my life and tries to sabotage the most important occasions, I take a moment to reflect on all the things I’ve done to look fear in the face, and remind myself that if I can jump out of a plane, get tattoos, go white water rafting, and get a mortgage, then I sure as hell can get through this day.

Over the bank holiday weekend, I caught the tube to Covent Garden to meet my boyfriend and some friends of his I hadn’t met before. Meeting new people is a typical trigger for anxiety sufferers, but not something I’ve experienced for years thanks to the ever-changing nature of my job. I’m used to it. But for some reason I couldn’t shake the nerves. I was furious with myself for feeling so worried, which only made things worse. In the grip of anxiety, it’s hard to think straight. I felt terrified and lost wandering through the usually familiar square, I couldn’t work my phone, and I felt tears welling up and panic flood my chest. I rang my boyfriend, and OCD told me to say “I’m not coming”. I recognised this attack instantly – the way it tries to stop you living your life. OCD wants you to be a recluse, FYI. So I consciously stood up to the bully and went for brunch instead.

And just like that, normality resumes and anxiety fades away.  Those mini inner battles can be immense triumphs – if you confront anxiety, I promise you will always win.

The next day at work I felt calm and in control. Like normal. Maybe the first-day nerves disappeared by themselves. Or maybe it’s about recognising when you’re vulnerable and  taking a moment to nurture yourself.

People often tell me how calm I am. It’s something I work very hard at. Calmness is a commodity I value extremely highly. Being told I am calm is on hell of a compliment – like when someone tells you how nice you look when you’re having a bad hair day.

The truth is, people don’t always see you the way you see yourself. Your internal monologue has a lot to answer for. They say that you should talk to yourself the way you would a close friend… “You’re doing so well”, “You’re look beautiful”, “You’ve totally go this”.

OCD isn’t a close friend. It never talks to you this way. And yet sufferers can’t help but hold it close. The negative, threatening voice indoctrinates your thoughts and tries to erode who you really are.

It’s vital to separate yourself from those thoughts to confront and overcome the anxiety they produce.

But how to take back control?

When I start to feel anxiety creeping in, I make an extra effort to be kind to myself, to nourish the deepest part of me in order to keep it safe. That means eating well, running, meditating and spending time both alone and with people I love. All of those things bring a sense of control and purpose that anxiety finds it difficult to penetrate.

As someone who is naturally introverted, I go to great lengths to mimic outgoing confidence because, well, fortune favours the brave (and the assertive). And when you pretend to be something in a positive way, you can actually manifest it for yourself. Hellooo, Sasha Fierce? Beyoncé was definitely onto something.

So, next time anxious thoughts start taking over, take a moment to assess the opportunities you’re giving them to have a voice. Fill that space with goodness and confidence in the form of positive thoughts and actions. It’s really hard sometimes, but it’s always worth the fight.

Why you should get that tattoo

Don’t get me wrong. Getting a tattoo is a big deal and requires some serious thinking.

God, I debated my first tattoo for about five years. And to be honest, I’m so glad I waited for that one. But getting a tattoo is also hugely liberating, particularly if you’re obsessed with looking ‘perfect’ all the time.

I think as you reach your mid-twenties, your personal style and sense of self kind of settle down and find a fixed shape. If any tattoo resembled my pre-2010 dress sense then fuck knows what I would have ended up with.

I knew I wanted a bird on my back, but I also knew I wouldn’t be able to decide the details until they sort of found their way to me (lame). I didn’t want to force it, so I waited. I also have a huge fear of making the wrong decision.

Then, one day I was in my Grandparent’s shed (why?) and came across a familiar old painting of a goldfinch. Around the same time, a colleague showed me a new tattoo artist she’d discovered on Instagram – Martha Smith – who specialised in nature. It was a match made in heaven and I still adore my goldfinch tattoo today. Not only does it represent patience and ‘waiting for the right thing’, it gives me faith that I know and feel what’s right for me when I see it.

You see, when you have OCD and easily become obsessed with bizarre notions of perfection, trusting your gut instinct can be tricky. Basically, your gut is punctuated with little jabs of OCD-induced thoughts that try and disrupt those all important signals. “This feels right” is often masked with “What if I’m wrong?” and thoughts of worry get in the way. It’s really bloody annoying, actually.

In many ways, getting a tattoo when you have OCD is like giving your inner control freak and perfectionist the finger. I realised half-way through the one-hour ordeal that even if something went wrong I already didn’t care – I was so high on liberation (and pain) that for almost 30 minutes I relinquished control and gave myself up to a total stranger.

So, when I got in touch with Martha again a year later, I didn’t give her an image to copy. I simply wrote to her that I’d like something to represent change.

I didn’t tell her that my Grandad had passed away while I was in Japan, or that I wrote him a letter about cherry blossom’s temporary beauty, one that was read to him on his deathbed, or that he smiled at the letter when he could no longer really talk, or that my Nan still has that letter stuck to her fridge, over two years later.

I didn’t tell Martha that the reason I wanted something to represent change was because over the last two years I’ve experienced more change than I thought I would in a lifetime (long story).

When she sent me her drawing, I knew it was perfect.

“I love it – what flowers are they out of interest?”

“They’re cherry blossoms”.

I cried.

I debated getting it somewhere discreet, like my foot, but I knew deep down I wanted it on my arm. A reminder that change can be beautiful when you’re awarded opportunities to connect with greater, deeper things. And that it is you, and you only, who tells yourself what perfection means.

Getting a tattoo can be a big step in reclaiming your sense of self. A sort of feeling in control by consciously letting go of control. And when Martha began tattooing my arm, she told me to imagine that any pain and hurt I had felt was going into the pain of the tattoo, and that at the end of it all, I would be pain free. And in many ways, she was right.

I actually ended up getting another, tiny tattoo that day and surprised myself with the spontaneity of it. The alchemical symbol for air  – a triangle with a line through it.

I know how this sounds, believe me, but during a yoga retreat in Spain, my yoga teacher told me I was Air. I looked at her, confused. I always thought I was Earth, but sometimes you see yourself through another’s eyes and realise maybe you labelled yourself wrong. Sometimes the things you tell yourself aren’t necessarily true. Sometimes opening up to a new version of yourself will free you from past limitations around who you were and align you with who you’re destined to become. Earth and Air signs are the inverse of each other, so really I have a tattoo of both, depending on how you look at it. Which, to me, is kind of magical.

 

 

Are you addicted to your phone?

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Would you consider yourself a sane, reasonable person aged between 15 and 75? Then there’s a very real chance that you are completely and utterly addicted to your phone.

Don’t worry, it’s not your fault. You see, phones are specifically designed to ensure that you become addicted to them. Which is probably the most important thing I’ve discovered this week, thanks to Catherine Price’s new book ‘How To Break Up With Your Phone’.

The book, which was thoughtfully given to me by my team at work, is completely terrifying. Particularly when Price shares insights that link the functionality of smart phones to slot machines. You heard it, slot machines. The most purposely addictive machine ever created.

“When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes up next. When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we’ll get a match.” 

– Tristan Harris, ex-Google employee

We get hooked on little doses of dopamine, a chemical that activates addictive pleasure receptors in our brains that cause us to feel happy and excited. Just like Ecstasy or Cocaine. When it comes to phone addiction, we’re not addicted to the content itself, we’re addicted to the action, to the thrill of something new to make us feel happy and calm. And just like class As, the more we use, the more we need.

Price also shares the interesting fact that the most powerful tech executives in the world choose to limit how much exposure their children have to technology.

Like I said. Terrifying.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself to ascertain whether you’re a fully fledged phone addict.

When you eat meals, is your smartphone always part of the table place setting?

 Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your mobile many times a day, even when you know it’s unlikely there is anything new?

 Do you sleep with your mobile (turned on) under your pillow or next to your bed regularly?

Somehow, without realising it, we’ve become a nation who take their phones everywhere with them like a living, breathing thing. They join us in the bathroom when we’re showering. We soothingly scroll through them when we feel anxious. They help us to avoid awkward situations, like making eye contact on the train or waiting alone at a bar. They make it easy to cancel on our friends. We even sleep next to them. They have our backs, our birthdays, our weather predictions. But what are they really doing to our minds?

Quite frankly, I couldn’t even begin to add up how many times I’ve sat down to do something productive and unintentionally spent an hour doing absolute fuck all on my phone. “Oh I’ll just begin with a quick browse through Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration” and WHOOSH, I’ve lost yet another hour of my life.

I would say, that as someone with OCD and multitudes of hidden layers of anxiety because of it, I’m probably ripe for the picking for technology designers. Even without my phone, my brain is wired to constantly seek ways of coping and reassuring in day-to-day life. I may not turn the light switch on and off 100 times before bed anymore, or check the front door is locked 10 times before I actually make it to work, but I do feel ridiculously anxious when I’m not checking my phone. In fact, ‘checking’ is a common and often crippling symptom of OCD. The fact that tech companies may even be tapping into this phycology is pretty disturbing.

The more I think about it, the more I often feel that my phone has more of a negative impact of my mind than a positive. Yes, it’s practical. I can set my alarm, check the weather and choose which train I’m getting all at the same time. But why do I then spend a further 30 minutes scrolling through pointless shit before bed? Only to feel a little less sure of myself and the need to buy 17 new things the following morning?

Sometimes I sit down to write and my brain feels all mushy, like I can’t quite locate the right words or remember the correct phrases. I find myself googling the meaning of words I’ve been using in text and conversation my whole bloody life, or having the look up the name of that ‘thing’ three times before I actually internalise it.

In her brilliant book, Price confirms my worst fears. Smartphones are reconfiguring our brains, making it harder for us to remember things and retain information. If you’re scrolling through utter shit on a regular basis, shit that’s mostly predictable and boring, it’s no wonder your brain is full of the stuff, too.

I guess it’s a bit like drinking alcohol, which I do on a regular basis. You know very well that too much booze will leave you feeling bloody awful the next day, and yet you do it anyway. WHHYYYYY? Why do we do it to ourselves? It’s time to give ourselves a shake and take back control, just like we did when we finally stopped drinking so much on a school night.

Phone, it’s been emotional. It really, truly has. But I think that’s part of the problem. I’m too emotionally attached to you. You hold my photos, my dearest messages from the people I love, my personal notes and memories. When did I stop using my camera, having heart-to-hearts in person, or writing stuff down in notebooks? I’m sorry, but I’ve realised that you hold a monopoly over my life, and there a laws against that sort of thing. I’m going to wean myself off of you as best I can (I’m not expecting miracles here). Thank you, Catherine Price, for helping me see the light.

Your turn. Save yourself. Spread the word.

Get your copy of ‘How To Break Up With Your Phone’ 

Catherine Price also wrote a brilliant article for The Pool – Read ‘Smartphone addiction made me restless, anxious and muddled’

A lesson on buying your first home

This time last year was pretty much the worst time ever. After a flurry of emotionally traumatic events, I suddenly found myself living back at my mum’s, away from London, with most of my former world dumped in the garden shed. It all happened so quickly that it feels like the memory of a film rather than an episode from my actual life.

The little boat that constitutes my existence was well and truly rocked. Inside, I was about to sink and drown at any moment. It was a common, incredibly shit thing to go through, but the way everything unfolded was far from normal. It was fucked up. I fucked up. And then I compromised my mental and physical stability. Being scared of losing love will do that to you.

I guess one of the main things I’ve learned is that real love and friendship will survive the biggest shit storm.  That and the fact that one of the best things you can do for yourself is to guarantee your own stable foundations.

So I decided to put everything into just that. Stability. I needed to buy a flat.

Being from a very small town just outside of Brighton, London has always felt like the epitome of opportunity, excitement and success. It’s not for everyone, but I bloody LOVE living in London. I worked so hard to get there, to be able to afford city life (and, of course, city rent).

Finding myself living back home after so many years felt like a huge backwards step. Thank God for my amazing mum for going on that horrendous journey with me. Looking for a flat of my own started off as a sort of half-dream to keep my mind focussed on the future. I populated my ‘Interiors’ Pinterest board and thought it wouldn’t extend much beyond that.

And then I thought fuck it. I’ll speak to a free financial advisor – at Torc24 – to see whether there’s a hope in hell of me ever qualifying for a mortgage by myself. Turns out, I did.

Motivated by this, I dared myself to dream a little more and scroll through Rightmove and Zoopla to see if any property actually existed at the price range I’d been told I could afford. Again, to my amazement, there was. And not just in outer Scotland, with the Help to Buy London scheme, I could afford to buy a flat within the M25. In a London borough (just).

In case you’re interested (and feel free to skip ahead if you’re not), qualifying for the Help to Buy London scheme means that you only have to pay a 5% deposit of a new build property of up to £500,000 (depending on what price bracket your salary qualifies for). The government gives you a whopping 40% loan to that you don’t have to start paying for 5 years. Mortgage rates are also pretty low at the moment. My mortgage is with Halifax and it’s fixed at 1.64% for 2 years.

Which, in a nutshell, means that my current monthly mortgage repayments are just £515. Which is cheaper than any rent I’ve ever paid, even when I was on half the salary I’m on now. Say whaaat.

I started my search for affordable new-build flats in Croydon. Not the prettiest of places, but set to evolve fairly quickly thanks to the new Boxpark and coming Westfield. As it turns out, there are loads of new builds available on Help to Buy, but the ones I could afford were really, really small. Like, really small.

I widened my search ever so slightly and came across Wallington (which I’d never heard of before) and which turned out to be a quiet, green part of Sutton with a handful of pretty parks, a lake and some decent pubs. I’m already a regular at The Wallington Arms.

I came across a one-bed flat in a renovated Victorian building, and, in a rather nice turn of events, my offer was accepted on my 28th birthday – a birthday I was dreading, I might add. And from that moment I started to realise that all the bad things that happened in the months before might well have been paving the way for unimaginably better things. For me, this flat was a physical representation of everything there is to gain from everything you’ve ever lost. I still have to pinch myself that it’s mine.

I had a sort of epiphany in the shower the other day.

I’ve moved house 10 times in the last 10 years, and I’ve have had some pretty horrendous bathrooms. There’s the one at uni that had brown carpet, mould in every crevice of the shower tiles, and a toilet that flooded during a particularly messy house party; and the one I shared with boys with constant remnants of muddy rugby training rimmed around the bath; and the one that was supposed to be a ‘wet room’ but which caused the ceiling to leak and eventually explode in the room below; and the one in a Brixton basement with prison bars on the window; and the one that was pretty much inside a cupboard in the kitchen with silverfish and no room to move.

And there I was, showering under a giant, ridiculously powerful, vintage-style showerhead, in a pristine grey-tiled wet room with a beautifully clean, heated ecru floor and plush new towels hanging on the warm towel rail. I suddenly realised how far I’d come. Not to mention the fact I’d got a mortgage by myself. A wave of peaceful relief passed over me. This is my very own bathroom. I own this. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so safe (and clean).

So here’s a message from me to you if you’re sick of renting, are going through a horrible breakup, or have a god-awful bathroom – keep looking forward and find the thing that centres you. It might feel bleak at the moment, but it’s all temporary. Keeping focusing your energy in the right direction and you’ll get there. Have faith.

A lesson on January goals

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‘New Year New Me’ has seen a bit of backlash. And I have to say I kind of agree. Not only does it imply there’s something wrong with last year’s you (you don’t need to be that harsh on yourself) it also overlooks the very important fact that you can start over any time. You really can.

And as far as the typical (pressured by society) idea of this New You goes, January is a cold depressing month that’s surely only made worse by foregoing comfort food, wine, cosy pubs and new clothes.

Why deprive yourself in January? I don’t get it. The New Year should be a time for nourishing and enriching yourself. Challenging yourself, yes. But caring for yourself mostly. Taking what you have, understanding it, and finding new ways to make it better. For some, that might mean running on spirulina powder and lemon juice, but surely January proposes an opportunity to delve into something much deeper?

I’ll admit that sometimes it takes a universal shift to help guide you in the right direction. It’s much easier to tap into a new sense of direction when the world around you in putting energy into the same thing, on whatever level its happening. It’s about using that shared January vibe of starting over to motivate shaping your own guidelines for the year ahead. I think self-love is key in January. Show yourself that you care in all the little ways and you’ll see the difference it can make to your self-confidence and achievements long term.

I know what my resolutions and goals are for 2018. I don’t need to start or complete them in January to make sure they happen. Cooking good food and doing yoga at home, for example. I know I can start to fulfil these as soon as I move into my new flat. It’s all on my terms you see. Which is liberating in itself. Setting yourself challenges that have realistic targets is crucial for nurturing your self-esteem. Plus I was really hungover on New Year’s Day so I’m hardly going to start then…

I don’t want to be a totally new me in 2018. I like who I am. I want to learn, grow and evolve in the most sustainable way, and that means healthy challenges and goals that make me feel good, inside and out. Not sudden starvation, detox punishments or saying no to things I love.

So here’s what my (albeit non-dry, non-vegan) January goals look like. Because I know these are the little things that well energise me to take on the year ahead. I’ve already ticked a few of my list, which is kind of cheating but that’s just how I roll.

1. Nap when it’s raining and don’t feel guilty about it. 2. Actually get your fringe trimmed at the hairdressers. 3. Read The Course of Love. 4. Use Headspace more. 5. Write even more. 6. Take a trip to IKEA. 7. Create a vision board for the year ahead. 8. Forgive yourself and others for the things you’ve been carrying from 2017. 9. Try not to overthink and just feel. 10. Buy a yoga mat. Shop for cool furniture. 11. Give clothes to charity. 12. Plan holidays, festivals and city breaks. 13. Drink red wine and Guinness. 14. Eat lots of veg. 15. Don’t skip the cheese. 16. Use The Body Shop’s Himalayan Charcoal Face Mask once a week (it’s bloody great). 17. Get that tattoo you booked. 18. Print photos. 19. Dance. 20. Work hard.

My goals for the year as a whole are pretty much always the same. That doesn’t mean I’m yet to achieve them. Somehow, the more I do achieve them, the more there seems to be achieve. Which makes them mantras more than resolutions:

Exhale the bullshit.

Worry less. Even less than last year. Until you reach a place of complete faith.

Make more time for the people you love. But also save time for yourself.

Learn what and who are really worth your energy.

Step outside of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself daily. That usually means ignoring introvert/OCD tendencies that tend to hold you back.

Create memories worth sharing.

Be grateful. For everything. Always.

A lesson on comfort zones

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After numerous fancy gins at Hove’s The Gin Tub on a Saturday night (which is great by the way), my best friend and I got onto the subject of comfort zones. Your comfort zone is your expectation of what’s normal and familiar. And we decided that sometimes it’s important to shake things up, most crucially when you feel like you need your daily or weekly routine to feel safe and in control.

Most of us are all-or-nothing people. Drinking 57 G&Ts, rolling in at 3am and eating pizza in bed at the weekends? That’s cool. But the chance of being in that frame of mind during the week? Not a chance.  During the week we freak out at the prospect of less than 8 hours sleep. We eat loads of kale and we act like nice, sensible human beings. We’re ok with this dichotomy, which means it’s just embedded within our comfort zone. In reality it’s a fairly chaotic way to live, cramming in all that craziness into one or two days. Perhaps then, there’s scope to find comfort in chaos? And perhaps is just a case of embracing chaos in a way that makes sense to us.

I’ve kind of found that the more you challenge your comfort zone, the more equipped you become at dealing with change. And yet, once you go through a lot of change, it’s very easy to become dependent on the small things that form our daily routine to feel normal. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Routine helps us gain some sort of control in an ever-changing world. But when the thought of going without your routine makes you feel scared, anxious or uncomfortable, that’s probably the precise moment you need to challenge yourself to try something new.

When I went travelling last year, I gave up make-up. This was a huge deal for me. I was incredibly dependent on make-up and the daily routine of applying it, and when challenged to go without, it was liberating. There’s no doubt about, if you step outside of your comfort zone and realise nothing bad has happened, it’s empowering.

It could be the smallest things that you challenge. It’s literally just a case of going ‘fuck it’ sometimes and living that little bit more. I’ve wanted a fringe for ages but started to find the idea of cutting my hair quite daunting.  Why? Why not just do it? What’s actually the worst that could happen. Life is too bloody short to worry over things that small. After figuring out a new identity when becoming single for the first time in five years, I was clinging onto my hair to feel like me. I decided cutting my it might help me relinquish other aspects of my life and let go. I was right. Cliches normally are.

I’m sort of starting to reap the benefits of experiencing so much change over the last couple of years. Before, I would have been reluctant to do things that made me feel anxious, now I actually crave them because I know how good it can make you feel afterwards. It’s a strange feeling when you start to notice how certain life experiences are slowly molding you into something more resilient and carefree.

It kind of comes down to your interpretation of what you’re ‘meant’ to do. How things are meant to be/ feel/ look are too often determined by the limitation of society’s ‘normal’.  Once you let go of how things are supposed to happen, you open yourself up to a whole new world of opportunity. The best advice I can give around stepping outside of your comfort zone is to stay fluid. Go with whatever feels right at the time, not whatever you think is meant to feel right at the time. Your happiness and your freedom to act are both on your terms, just remember that.

Maybe you’re thinking about booking that haircut, reaching out to that person, packing something in, starting something new, getting that cool tattoo you pinned, travelling that part of the world, buying those shoes, sacking off that social event, or maybe you’re just thinking about having a fry up for dinner when you always have a salad. Consider what you have to lose and what potential there is to gain. Sometimes you just have to be brave and say yes or no, depending on which outcome is more likely to liberate you. Take control and mix things up every now and again, you’ll be surprised how much more relaxed you’ll feel next time the universe shakes things up for you.

I like to drop this in a lot, but I have OCD. And OCD LOVES comfort zones, routine and control. Which is why I deliberately try to challenge them when I can feel them taking over. Sometimes it’s the things you think are keeping you safe that are actually holding you back. Remember how unstoppable you are. Remember there’s so much more to you and your life than what you ‘normally’ do.