Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Coping With Anxiety


Hands down, 2020 has been the worst year of my life. And probably most of 2019. I've gone through a really tough breakup, I've moved out of London and I'm living with my parents again for the first time in 10 years so all forms of independence I previously had has been removed. Oh and the small issue of the global pandemic currently happening. Literally everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong, and it's really affected me.

I don't feel like I've always had anxiety. I think of the past 10/15 years of my life as being so happy and carefree and chilled. Yeah there's been times when I've had sleepless nights, or my brain has gone into serious overthinking mode or I've been really stressed at work, but never anything that's lasted longer than a week of feeling shitty, and then I've sprung back to my usual happy-go-lucky self. I like to think my friends would describe me as always positive, motivated, funny- someone they know they can come to if they need cheering up. But recently I just feel like the life has been zapped out of me. I feel deflated. SO corny but I really do just feel...empty. Yeah I still have a laugh with my friends, but it's not me making the jokes. I'm just there to laugh along. Part of the chorus instead of centre stage where I'm accustomed to being (LOL can you tell I've been watching Wicked the Musical clips on YouTube) Sorry, I'm trying to beat around the seriousness of this post by throwing in some lame attempts of a lol but I will actually get to the point now.

I kind of feel like anxiety has become a bit of a buzz word and people don't really know how to react. Mental health is obviously very serious, but there are peaks and troughs and everyone is affected differently. I'm not saying I'm trained in any kind of therapy or counselling, but I'm sharing my personal coping mechanisms in this post, and if they help just one person sleep better tonight or enjoy a couple of hours tomorrow without feeling like a nervous wreck then I'm happy. I like to think my posts are relatable and real, and as much as I would LOVE Headspace or The Works Pillow Spray to sponsor me, everything mentioned in this post has been purchased with my own money and 100% honest. Full disclosure, I'm absolutely still struggling, but I feel like I'm slowly but surely getting back to feeling like myself again.

Since I became single again earlier this year, I have replayed every single conversation, every single action and every single argument in my head from over the last 6 months and dissected everything that went wrong. Everything I should have done differently. Everything I could have done differently if I could go back in time and change it all. What I should have said on that phone call which little did I know, would be the last communication I would ever have with that person. Everyone who's been through a breakup will know the feeling of just being absolutely powerless. You go from spending every second with that person to nothing at all. I even dreaded night time because I knew I would have to get in bed alone. It's a kind of feeling that you wouldn't even wish on your worst enemy. When I first moved home and updated my friends on my relationship I didn't cry. I wasn't upset. I probably tried to make a few lighthearted jokes. But my anxiety was at an all time high. I was losing handfuls of hair through stress, I wasn't eating and I wasn't sleeping either because I felt like someone was standing on my chest and I couldn't breathe. It was probably about a month in when I just broke down at one of my friends houses, when a few of the girls were round for drinks. And it felt GOOD! They listened, they didn't judge and they encouraged me to cry as much as I needed to. I went from feeling like a burden to them to feeling so loved and cared for. I know this totally depends on your circle of friends, and I've said before about how fortunate I am to have had the same incredible group of girls for the last 10 years, but seriously. Cry it out. Cry as much as you need to so you can start moving past it. (This is 6 weeks later and I still have at least one meltdown a week at a social gathering.)

2. Have a Good Night Time Routine
It can be so easy to get sucked into binge watching 4 episodes of Homeland when you get into bed, but TRY and replace this with something without a screen. Reading a book, writing a diary, meditating, sudoku (lol whatever floats your boat!) I fell into the trap of staying up late watching telly, which totally took my mind off everything going on in my head at the time, but then made it 100000000 times worse when it was 3am and I still wasn't tired and my mind was going into overdrive. Screen time stimulates your brain and makes it more difficult to settle down, so try and avoid it for at least 1 hour before bed. I've never read so much in my LIFE, so if anyone wants any recommendations then drop me a DM cos I literally have books coming out my ears at the moment. Meditation has also become a huge part of my night time routine and helping me wind down. I've moved on from the Calm app, and I've been trialling Headspace for the last month. I'm currently on day 20 of the 'Self Esteem' course, so when I've finished that I put a Sleep Story on, spray my pillow with Deep Sleep pillow spray from The Works, and I'm good to go! 

3. Keep a Gratitude Journal
I think I might have spoken about this before? But when I moved back home at the start of April, I bought a little diary, and each night before bed I write 3 things that I'm grateful for that day. This means even if the day has been mostly pretty shit, I still go to sleep with positive thoughts, and this helps my mind to rest a little easier. They don't need to be huge things either, some of my previous entries include things like one of my clients emailing me saying 'well done' about something I worked on, or that I remembered to drink 2L of water, or that my friend sent me a meme that made me laugh out loud. Literally the smallest thing can make such a difference to your frame of mind when you're about to go to sleep, and I've found that recently my dreams have been a lot less vivid and nightmare-y. (Although this COULD be down to the fact I watch about 8 horror films a week.) I haven't missed a single day so far, and I'm excited to read them back when I'm in a better space (touch wood) towards the end of the year and see what's changed.

4. Don't Put Pressure on Yourself
 Set small goals that are attainable to avoid any form of pressure reigniting your anxiety. I'm in a fortunate position where I can stay at home as long as I like before moving back to London, which takes a lot of pressure off any urgency of finding a new flat, as well of the fear of panic-finding a flat on Spare Room and moving in with randoms that I have absolutely nothing in common with. And as for boys. Well. I downloaded Hinge and Tinder earlier this month, not because I was planning on meeting anyone, but just as something to fill that space before bed where I wanted to ring/call/FaceTime/email/send smoke signals out to my ex to try and get him to talk to me, but I have absolutely no intention in getting involved with anyone anytime soon. Again, it's pressure. Something will happen when the time is right, for now I just need to focus on myself and making myself happy before trying to make someone else happy.

5. Be Kind
Earlier this year I felt so low, like I didn't deserve anything nice. I didn't drink for 6 weeks because I didn't feel like I deserved to have a good time. I forced myself to run every day (even though I haven't run in about 5000 years) because I wanted to feel like I was struggling physically as much as I was mentally. Headspace REALLY helped with this. The Self Esteem course that I'm currently working my way through is slowly but surely turning me towards a much less judgemental mindset, and writing my gratitude journal every night helps me feel so much more peaceful before I drift off. In the last week I've been getting around 10 hours sleep a night, so I feel like I'm definitely making up for all that shut eye I lost in April!

6. Find Something You Genuinely Enjoy
And I don't mean the pub! Seriously drinking is probably the worst thing you could do when anxiety is peaking. The evening is amazing, but the next day when you're all up in your feels...not so good. I've spent so many Sundays crying in bed, only moving to pick up my McDonalds Uber Eats from the front door and then straight back into my gloomy bedroom to pick up where I left off. For me, it's my bike! My friends will laugh reading this, because I have been surgically attached to it recently. I go out most lunchtimes on it, I ride to every girls night on it (arriving makeup free, sweaty, windswept with my hair glued to my head under my helmet but with a massive smile on my face) and I constantly pester Suey to go for long rides on the weekend with me because she's just bought one too. Not to go all Sound of Music on you, but it brings me so much joy! Freedom, fresh air, no headphones or people to talk to, and a really good chance to clear my head. 

7. Etc
I know I mentioned hair loss earlier in this post, so I wanted to share some remedies I've been given in case anyone else is suffering with the same:
Nioxin Shampoo and Conditioner
Tricotherapy drops
B-Complex vitamins
Brahmi oil

Thursday, 21 May 2020

How Credit Cards Ruined My Life

I really wanted to title this blog 'How I Paid Off My £5k Credit Cards in 4 Months!' and literally just write 'moved back in with my parents' because that is literally what EVERY single one of those clickbait articles you see on your Facebook newsfeed consist of. You click on it because you see 'I'm 20 and I've Just Bought a 5 Bed Semi!' so you're like omg can't wait for some tips on saving that actually work!? And then the post basically reads 'lived rent-free with parents whilst working full time' which is basically impossible if you go to uni which eliminates like 80% of the population ALSO not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do that either?

So. My story! I got my first overdraft when I was in my first year at uni when I was 18. I opened a Student Account which came with one, so I was like yasss free money! (LOL) It started off with £250, then went to £1000 in my second year, then I did have the option to increase it again, but I declined as I was working 3 jobs at the time, as well as receiving my student loan 3x a year so you could say I was balling. I really was living the student dream, I went out 5x a week, the postman was always at the door with PLT, ASOS and Zara parcels, I took my ex-boyfriend to Amsterdam twice and paid for everything, I bought a Louis Vuitton handbag and Prada sunglasses because I could, I went on holidays to Barcelona and Ibiza and Marbella and I was always getting trains up and down the country to spend the weekend  with friends in different uni halls. Money really was no object and I didn't have a care in the world.

It was only when I moved to London in November 2017 that things started spiralling out of control. I was on an unpaid internship for a month (my mum and dad helped me out with money during this time) and then I got my first job in PR. I was on an absolutely AWFUL salary, but I accepted it because I wanted to live in London so badly! It didn't help that I was initially freelancing at first too, so when I went to Australia (booked waaaaay before I even considered moving to the City), I wasn't paid for 3 whole weeks. My eyes nearly fell out my head when I saw my wage slip, seriously. It wasn't even 4 figures, so it barely covered rent and my travel card. I extended my overdraft to £2000. 

Throughout the next year and a half, every couple of months I added a little bit more onto my overdraft limit, going from £2,000 to £2,500 to £3,000. This wasn't because I was in the LV store on Bond Street having another splurge, this was literally covering rent, travel, food and a couple of nights and dinners out. This was when I realised that having anxiety was A THING. I would panic every time I was invited to a birthday where I was going to be spending at least £45 on a brunch, and then drinks after. I stressed about having worn the same outfit for every night out for the last 6 months. I had to decline a good friends hen party. I remember when my boyfriend at the time asked me to pick up some honey from the shop on the way home and I felt really angry with him because it was so expensive and I wish I could have used the joint account (it was FOUR POUNDS for Christs sake.) And then when I got to his I was moody all night for no reason. So it wasn't just that I was stressing about my own financial doom, I was, unknowingly at the time, taking it out on others. So I got out ANOTHER credit card with a limit of £1,000.

Before I moved to London I had booked to go to Ibiza last summer, and although I had an amazing time, in the back of my mind I was always panicking whether my card would decline when I tapped it on the contactless machine. I didn't care that I was getting overdraft charges for going over my overdraft, because at least no-one else knew. I went to the Caribbean which I definitely couldn't afford either. And I got braces. Again, chucked them on the credit card. 

I wanted to socialise with my friends more, I didn't want to fall out with my boyfriend over anything, never mind £4 honey!  I wanted to be able to buy myself skincare that I actually liked instead of just getting freebies from work that half of the time made me wake up with skin feeling like Ghandi's flip flop, but I was just scraping through, tapping to pay with different cards until one worked with the horrible, tight feeling of someone standing on my chest at the same time.

It was only this year when I though fuck, I need to do something about this. I had just got a new job with a pretty hefty pay rise, so at the big age of 27, I was finally at the stage where I could start living comfortably again. Pay my rent, travel, food and still have quite a bit left over to play with. I had a plan to go travelling later on this year, WITHOUT having to carry a suitcase full of debt and guilt with me. I wrote down every bill I had and calculated that I could pay them all off (including bank fees UGH) and be able to save at least £400 a month.

Fast forward to now, 5 months later and a LOT has changed! Due to COVID-19, I've rented out my place in London to someone else and temporarily moved back in with my parents up north for the summer, and I am fortunate to be living rent-free for now. I've paid off every single credit card (totalling an absolutely minging £4,750), I've saved just over £3,000 and I'm probably going to be in the position to buy a house later on this year. Which is absolute madness for me considering my whole adult life I have never saved a penny. Not even 1p! Cos I have literally always been in my overdraft. I am literally my own rags to riches story. (MTV series coming soon to a TV near you.) In fact, I treated myself to hair extensions last month. They were £400 and I had wanted them for so long, so I got them. It wasn't even like I was just throwing money at stuff because I could finally afford it either, it was kind of symbolic of the fact that the last 2 years have consisted of me only being able to book whatever hair salon was heavily-discounted on Treatwell (I don't need to mention the Turkish Barbers again) and leaving the salon feeling shit and ugly every time, to the fact I was finally at the stage where I could treat myself (as a one-off mind you) and feel totally guilt-free. I can finally spoil my friends with little treats in the post or take them out for drinks when they get a promotion, or celebrate a birthday or get engaged. And although I still struggle with anxiety, it feels like I have a huge weight lifted off.

PLEASE don't groan at your laptop and think that I'm one of those kids that I slagged off at the start of this blog post, because the point of writing it isn't to gloat at my current situation. It has taken a lot of panic attacks, meltdowns and STRESS to get where I am now, and even this is the tip of the iceberg to where I want to be. So I wanna make 4 points to help you NOT end up like me.

1. DO NOT INCREASE YOUR OVERDRAFT. EVER! Some banks sneakily do it for you on the sly, so many sure you request for them not to. If you need more money, look at why you do. Are you spending unnecessarily? Look at your bank statement and see what you need to cut back on, even if it's just for a month or so.

2. Ask for a pay rise. Seriously. Know your worth when it comes to your experience and don't settle for any less. I really wish I had done this years ago, and I kick myself for not pushing for more, but everything happens for a reason and I'm in a good place now.

3. Don't book holidays you know you can't afford! I turned down a couple of trips away last year because I finally came to terms with the fact I couldn't afford them. Even if you can scrape money together, you won't enjoy yourself while you're there, I promise you. Not to mention you need spending money, new clothes (let's be serious everyone gets a new holiday wardrobe), taxis, that fancy dinner you go for on the last night when you've got an early flight the next morning. And you'll be panicking about having to live off beans and deep breaths for dinner when you're home.

4. Don't even think about moving to London unless you're on at LEAST £35k. Seriously.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Little Things I Miss the Most About London...

1. Picking up a copy of Time Out at Clapham South tube stop on a Tuesday morning and reading it on my way to work, taking photos of all the activities I wanna do that week (but most likely probably forget to get tickets for).

2. Yum Bun at Dinerama. Or the roti wrap at Camden Market. OR the duck burger at Broadway Market. I currently live in Preston where people class Nando's and Turtle Bay as 'street food' so the chances of ACTUAL street food aka authentic Chinese slow-roasted pork belly bao's, juicy Indian chicken roti's or French confit duck oozing with blue cheese on a brioche bun are absolutely non existent.

3. F45!!!! I know that the people that know how much I bang on about this will be eye rolling into 2021 but home workouts just aren't the same. I miss the trainers! I miss the studio! I even miss the changing rooms at 7.25am where the ratio of women to showers is 700:4! But I especially miss my one ab that since lockdown begun is looooooong gone.

4. Cycling to Brick Lane for a beigel on a Saturday and riding past loads of people trying to balance the 3 enormous house plants/cactus they've just bought from Columbia Road Flower Market in the one small shopper tote bag they brought with them. 

5. Walking past any massive bus parked anywhere near Brixton Academy and hyperventilating at the thought of being so close to A CELEB. (Bearing in mind I've lived in London over 2 years now and I haven't even bumped into an extra from Hollyoaks on the tube never mind someone actually worth hyperventilating for. (Plus it's probably a school bus or a coach trip.)

6. Meeting friends for a hideously expensive brunch in Balham on a Sunday morning and at least half of us turning up hanging/still pissed and talking unnecessarily loudly about the grimey deets from the night before.

7. Walking across ANY bridge and stopping to take 78263 photos of it.

8. Walking down Oxford Street and getting stressed about the number of tourists just stopping in the middle of the pavement to take a photo of a red bus going past (and then stopping to do the exact same.)

9. Walking to the tube stop after work on a Thursday and every pub being absolutely jam packed from 5 onwards making it absolutely impossible not to stop by 'for one' (or 5) and ending up bumping into some old friends.

10. Going to an outdoor cinema, necking a bottle of warm white wine, snuggling up under my blanket, talking through the whole film and have my XL bottomless popcorn blow over the 3 rows in front of me every time I get it filled up.

11. Bacon naan's from Dishoom. and the Ricotta Hot Cakes from Granger & Co. AKA the best breakfasts in London (don't @ me.)

12. Complaining about how much a single glass of prosecco is in any pub but buying 4 anyway and wincing every time I tap my card on the contactless machine in case it declines.

13. Watching anything on TV that has been filmed in London and then cycling to all the different locations just to see them.

14. Being too poor to afford a haircut/colour from anywhere other than booking a random place with a special offer on Treatwell and it ending up being a Turkish Barbers and I leave the salon with 3 strands of hair in a blunt bob.

15. Stocking up on loads of cans of G&T from Tesco and sitting on the Common or London Fields in the sun with a big group of friends, which turns into hitting up Netil 360 or another rooftop bar, which turns to sunset and another pub and then someone house for more drinks. Absolutely nothing beats a summer in London!

16. The 30 min photoshoot at my fire escape looking front door before we go on any night out.

Monday, 4 May 2020

8 Things I Learnt From Deactivating Instagram For a Month

1. Honestly, no one cares what I had for breakfast. The amount of cold scrambled eggs I have eaten because I've been faffing about taking an Instagram story literally pains me to think of now. Live in the moment! Pop the yolk without a slow-mo vid! Enjoy a hot coffee instead of a lukewarm one!

2. Contrary to the army of people who moan about anything and everything, I really do like seeing people sharing their workouts! Ok, maybe not the full 1hr circuit on a time-lapse (snore), but seeing people share their Strava map of their last bike ride, a new 5km PB or even just a morning yoga stretch really makes me want to get up off my ass and do the same. I find it to be such good motivation, so I did have a couple more 'cba' days that usual.

3. I've been enjoying my own company so much more. I haven't felt the guilt of 'omg everyone must think my life is so boring because I haven't posted on Stories for 3 days!' (in which case I'll force myself to either dig out an old story and pretend that's what I'm doing now, or throw on one of my Nip+Fab bubble sheet masks and upload a photo alongside the Halloween theme song to try and scrape together a few lols from my followers.) Wow, I didn't realise that actually writing this down sounds even more tragic that it was to actually do, but it does! It felt nice to actually do nothing and just enjoy doing nothing.

4. Anyone I have spoken to in the last month is going to absolutely sick to the back teeth of me banging on about the Calm app, but it really has changed my life! If you live under a stone and don't know about it, it's a mindfulness app that has meditation guides to help with anger, anxiety, stress, self-esteem and happiness. I listen to 'daily calm' as soon as I wake up to focus my intention, then 'daily happiness' before bed to practice gratitude. I've had a really, really tough time in my personal life recently, and they have made such a difference to my general mood. I'm starting to believe everything happens for a reason, and what is meant to be will always find a way, so I'm trusting the process. It definitely beats aimlessly scrolling my timeline before bed!

5. I wrote a whole post about how much I hate the phrase 'a private life is a happy life' because of how much I love being an over-sharer online, but my recent absence from Instagram has made me totally rethink this. As much as I loved sharing my boyfriend on my Instagram because he was such a big part of my life and I spent almost every second with him, I am going to be keeping my next relationship totally under wraps. I don't need to look for validation from strangers on the internet with regards to who I'm spending my time with. I've spent the last month reflecting on so much about myself, especially with regards to my love life. My partner, my family, my friends ALL deserve to have my full attention 100% of the time, not 75% on them and 25% on my phone, because life is about being present! Why would you go out to dinner with someone if you're both gonna sit in silence scrolling on your phones? It sounds ridiculous to type but just look around next time you go out for dinner at how many people are doing it (albeit in September), it's actually quite sad.

6. I feel like I've become so much closer to my friends! I'm not ashamed to say that I spent a LOT of time scrolling Instagram. It was the first thing I did when I woke up, I would browse my feed the whole way into work, while I was waiting for my dinner to cook, the kettle to boil, you get the gist. Because I saw so much of my friends on IG stories or on my feed, I felt like I knew what was going on in their lives and that was enough, but it wasn't- it was through social media. Now I've taken that away, I'm picking up the phone more and actually asking about their weekend instead of just feeling like I knew they had fun cos I saw the Story uploads of their family BBQ, and I've really missed proper belly laughing together about funny things instead of just tagging each other in memes and replying by just 'liking' their comment. 

7. My God I have saved a LOT of money! I've not been bombarded with targeted ads, brand collabs, paid sponsorships or my favourite fashion bloggers doing their 3rd ASOS haul of the week and forcing me to click through and buy my 7th pair of chunky white Nike's because this pair have a little bit of suede of the side and will look better with that denim Weekday dress. My bank account is thriving!

8. I've realised how shit I am at letting things go. I can't even bring myself to delete random screenshots from 2018, never mind photos that actually have a memory attached to them. When I reactivated my account last week, I was scrolling through the content I've posted over the last year, thinking I should probably have a little clearout but I just couldn't bring myself to. Every single photo brings back such a vivid memory of how happy I was at the exact moment in time, so I thought why should I get rid? I guess that's one of the good things about Instagram, it's like my little online scrap book which lets me hold onto them for as long as I want to, and I love that.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

5 Things I Have Learnt During #Lockdown

  1. I’m really enjoying being back home! I’ve moved back to my parents’ house up north due to COVID-19, and it feels so nice to relax and actually spend time with them. I usually come back home for a weekend every couple of months, but it’s always so hectic trying to fit in time with my friends and my family, and everything just feels rushed. I moved to Sheffield for Uni when I was 18, then came back home for a year when I was 23, moved to Yorkshire for a year when I was 24 then went straight from Yorkshire to London so I haven’t spent this long at home for about 5 years. Not to mention I am really appreciating my garden! I spent the weekend sunbathing with an audiobook and I could never have done that on Clapham Common without a) being rudely awoken by a rogue football knocking me out or b) being persuaded into necking 74 cans of G&T and ending up in Infernos. The peace! The quiet! The tranquility!

  2. As much as I’m also enjoying being out of London because it feels good to blow my nose and see that my bogies aren’t black from all the air pollution and I can step outside my house and not have already spent £10 just by breathing. But my GOD I can not wait to go back to spending £17 on a single G&T in the Mayfair Hotel! I am salivating at the thoughts of throwing £45 away on bottomless brunch at Jones & Sons! The thing I love most about living in the capital is that there is always something to go see or do. A new restaurant, a gig, an event, a brunch, a pub quiz, a food market. There is never a reason to be bored and I swear to God when this is over I am never saying no to social plans EVER again. 

  3. People really do love to complain about everything, huh? Like everyone else, my screen time has sky rocketed since lockdown was announced, and it’s become very clear the amount of miserable sods who have something negative to say about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! My God! Have a day off! So what if someone wants to bake banana bread for the 8th day running? Who cares if someone has been smashing out a new 5km PB every other day and wants to upload their Strava report? How is someone making another TikTok using a Gemma Collins voiceover affecting YOUR life in any way? Especially to the point where you’re writing tweets or status updates to try and belittle them? If it makes them happy, then let them be happy. Blowing out someone else’s candle isn’t going to make yours shine brighter. Stop being so bloody negative! Also it makes YOU look boring as fuck.

  4. That brings me on to my next lockdown discovery, I love running! Well, 'love' is probably a bit strong, but it has become such an effective coping mechanism for me throughout the last month. I've never really been a runner, mostly down to the fact I am a slave to f45 which is a strictly treadmill-free zone, plus I ride my bike everywhere instead of walking, so the fact I am out here running 5km's most days (as well as a 10km every Sunday) is a shock to the system! It works for me because it feels good to be out in the fresh air, it fits nicely into my lunch break and I'm concentrating so hard on not going into cardiac arrest that I stop thinking about all my personal problems and it gives my brain a little break from all the overthinking I've been doing. PLUS, contrary to the point above, I love seeing people upload their Strava maps! Such a good motivation boost when I wake up feeling a bit 'cba'. Which is most days. LOL.

  5. And the last realisation. I really don't care about materialistic things atm. It might be due to the fact I've worn the same 7 items of clothing on rotation for the last 5 weeks, but my birthday is coming up next month, and since FOREVER I have wanted a pair of white Balenciaga Triple S trainers. But now I'm just like ??? Do I? They cost the same as a month's rent, they're gonna be wasted being worn in my house and by the time I'm allowed to wear them out of the house it's probably gonna be winter. I think I would rather save the money and put it towards somewhere long haul when it's safe to travel again. (Oh my god... Am I growing up?!)

What have you learnt during lockdown?