Laugh Your Way To Better Health

This post was inspired by the Donut Apocalypse as suffered by my dear friend, Penny Berry.

Photo by Toa Heftiba u015einca on Pexels.com

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone.

Danish proverb

Growing up, the wording of this sage advice was changed somewhat, but the meaning and intent was still the same. My father, the smart old man that he was, would always change “weep” to “cry”, but the meaning was exactly the same. If you want people to stick around, learn to laugh.

The Many Benefits Of Laughter

Laughter doesn’t only benefit us socially, but mentally and physically as well. In fact, laughter has been proven to:

  • Reduce stress, tension and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve depression
  • Increase attractiveness
  • Lessen aging
  • Boost self-esteem

And much more

It’s no wonder then that so many people who laugh have a better quality of life!

Using Laughter To Cope With Chronic Pain

One of the things that astounds so many people about me is that I live with chronic pain. My family have nicknamed me “Chameleon” (or “Cammy”, for short) and take particularly to dancing around the lounge and singing The Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon when my wrist changes colour. If I develop spasms in my wrist or knee, I joke that my limb is having a party and none of us are invited. For us, laughter is a coping mechanism for living with my condition, and it astounds so many people that I suffer like I do, simply because I’m able to laugh at myself.

When I applied for Personal Independence Payment, many people couldn’t take my condition seriously. I seemed so jovial and so upbeat, there was no way I could be in so much pain! The simple truth is in the advice my father gave me – nobody wants to be around somebody who mopes, whines and moans, and what’s worse, chronic pain or chronic loneliness?

A little laughing at one can go a long way towards preventing the other.

Tips for Using Laughter

Love Thyself, Laugh At Thyself

One of the first and biggest parts of using laughter is being able to laugh at yourself. It’s so fundamentally important to understand that none of us are perfect and we all, as humans, we all make mistakes. If you can laugh at yourself instead of wondering why you aren’t perfect, it will go a long way to boosting your confidence. Remember, nobody is perfect (though I do try 😉 ).

Laugh At Adversary

So many people fall into a fit of rage when they experience a setback, and in some sense it’s perfectly understandable, but then you need to be able to laugh because quite often stressing out won’t fix the problem. Only a few days ago, I managed to get kitchen cleaner (with bleach) on a favourite navy top of mine. I didn’t realise until far too late, and when I did, I had brick red splatter marks on the waist of my beloved t-shirt.

“Oh well, it’s the new in thing for 2020, what do you think?” I joked.

Laugh With People, Not At Them (Unless They Invite You To)

Perhaps the biggest area that so many people still get wrong is that it is simply not okay to laugh at other people who aren’t laughing with you. Members of the public are not put there as free amusement for you, and it says a lot about you if you treat them that way. Never, ever laugh at someone, not unless they invite you to.

Humour’s Dark Side – Clowns & Sad Clown Syndrome

One of the saddest and most damning issues with humour is quite how often comedy can be used to mask severe depression. Many in the entertainment industry will understand the pressure to entertain and perform and many, many people will remember the late beloved entertainer Robin Williams, who went on to take his own life. Most interestingly, it is quite often those who try to appear aloof who are the most depressed of all. Even myself, I have acted exuberant at times as a mask for the pain I was feeling within. Sadly and all too often, some of the biggest entertainers are doing exactly the same.

Humour & Empathy – Why We Love Comedians

A few weeks ago, I watched this video clip of Lee Evans and in it, he made a very interesting point. For comedy to work, the audience needs to relate to the comedian. That is, the audience needs to be able to empathize.

1:20 – 1:46 for the relevant interview 🙂

For a lot of people, some comedians simply aren’t funny and this has a lot to do with laughing at other people, rather than with them. In the UK, one of the most controversial comedians is none other than Jimmy Carr. Although some of the witty retorts he comes out with can behilarious, he has also faced a lot of controversy for laughing at and disrespecting disabled people, and fans.

For humour to work successfully, the intended audience needs to be able to relate. If the audience can’t relate, then the joke falls flat and the humour doesn’t work. What is funny is not a matter of definition, so much as a matter of perspective. Lee is a typically British married man, and Shappi is a single mom. In both audiences, there will be hundreds who can relate (and therefore be able to laugh) because there will be hundreds of married men and moms. When it comes to jokes about disability or sexuality, fewer people laugh because fewer people find such comedy okay, have a disability or are gay themselves, or know or care for someone who is disabled or gay. Once again, the deciding factors for what does and does not qualify as ‘comedy’ has changed and it is important that when making a joke, we remember to read our audience. Nothing harms the ego more than being the joke that tells bad jokes, so make sure they land well the first time! 😉

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this look at the positive impact of laughter and I hope that you will be back soon for another post.

Remember, keep smiling, and keep laughing!

Helen xx

Critical Thinking (And Challenging Cognitive Distortions)

Happy New Year, friends!

Before I get too into this post, I want to send a massive thankyou to my amazing friend, Penny, over at Little Penny Berry, who introduced me to the concept of critical thinking. I’m sure that it’s something that my father would have known about and been willing (or even able) to educate me on, but alas he sadly is no longer with us and so I’ve had to take the time to study this one on my own, somewhat.

When I Googled ‘critical thinking’, I was overwhelmed with all of the detailed articles which go on to explain how you can apply it to your work, your beliefs and your values. You can use it to challenge yourself and go on to make changes in your life. That sounds great, but what if you’re really just looking for insights, rather than changes?

Personally, I have a huge love for all things psychology, so anything that allows us to delve into the mind (even just a little bit!) and find the answers, I believe, can really help us find solace and peace. Too often we take our thoughts, feelings and actions at face value, but what if there really is something lying underneath?

What is critical thinking, and how can it help me?

Critical thinking means simply to challenge the thought, feeling or belief that we have. We believe it to be true, but how can we know it to be true? What evidence do we have?

I did something frighteningly similar to this while I was in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Using a worksheet, I challenged the thoughts that I had, what was the thought? What good was it doing and how could I see things differently?

I’ve re-created that sheet for you to the best of my abilities here, entirely free of charge. Please print it off and use it as many times as you need. This worksheet really enabled me to work through some of my worst fears, and I hope that it will help you, too.

But what if it’s a situation, rather than a thought?

Last night, on New Year’s Eve, I made the decision to go to bed early. I more than hate New Year’s Eve, in fact, I’d go as so far as to say that I’m even allergic to it. At about 11:15pm Matt put on BBC’s Hogmanay and almost immediately, I started crying. I hated this, it was so much pomp, so much drama, so much noise.

“Please don’t make me see the New Year in on my own” he said softly. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, we spent New Year cuddled up in bed, in a completely normal, clothes-on kind of way.

When he left, I started to feel bad. I felt like the worst wife in existence. I should be out there celebrating New Year’s with him, so I fell into some critical thinking.

Why does this matter to you?

Well, because he matters to me.

Is this the only celebration you have coming up?

No, we have our thirteen years together on Friday.

Is that not something better to celebrate?

Yes, it’s more personal.

So why does New Year’s Eve matter so much?

Because it matters to him.

Is that the only time you have with him?

No, we’re going to the aquarium on Friday.

Then is that not better? More personal?

Yes, it is.

I realised at that point, this really wasn’t a me problem, it was a him problem. He made it a me problem because he was trying to force me to spend New Year’s Eve in a way that I didn’t want to spend it, by drinking alcohol, eating bad food and celebrating in that oh-so-extravagant Western way, and all I wanted to do was to sleep it through, get up at a sensible time and do productive things to start off my New Year’s!

Critical thinking does not need to take hours of your time. Even just a few moments of reflection can help us become better people, or make better decisions. I thank Penny so much for helping me look at challenging these thoughts all over again, I really do, because without it, who knows where I would have landed up?

How Your Food Affects Your Mood

Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

Good afternoon lovelies.

It’s a cold, wet horrible day here in the UK, and yet something that has really been on my mind (or rather, affecting it) the past few days is the fact that what we eat can really impact the way we feel. Don’t believe me?

Have you ever noticed how coffee makes you feel more awake or sugar makes you feel hyperactive? It’s not coincidence, darlings, it’s the science of our metabolism. Our body metabolises everything we eat.

Even, unfortunately, the bad things.

Your body is essentially one great big science lab, requiring all kinds of chemical formulae and inputs from us to keep it running smoothly. If it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, things start to go wrong. We can develop physical illnesses like aches and pains, weight loss or gain and brittle bones. But it’s not only our body that can be impacted, our thoughts can be, too.

For our body, the more processed our food is, the longer it takes down. In order for our body (an organic process) to be able to break down food easily, we need to eat organically. The more chemicals and yucky bits that are added at production and now involved in the digestion process, the more our body needs to break down, the more toxins get left lying around and the worse we are going to feel. If the gut-brain connection really exists (and why else would it be called ‘gut instinct’?) then there is every reason that a bad diet would affect the way we think and feel. Eliminate the bad guys from your diet, and you should perk up within a day or two.

Last year, I went on vacation. While I was there, I developed the worst lower-right abdominal pain that I’d had in a while. It felt burning and gnawing and I feared the worst.

“Not now, not on holiday” I thought. I tried to function and enjoy myself, but the pain was unbearable. I could last a family holiday without needing to be admitted for a ruptured appendix, surely?

Some Senokot, a few glasses of water and a bathroom break later, I was perfectly fine again. Shaken and ashamed of what just happened, but nonetheless pain-free.

The cause? Pizza, garlic bread, spicy chicken wings, topped off with a Cornish pasty. Crucially, a whole tonne of carbs and nothing of what is supposed to be good for me.

Over the past few days, my diet has been awful. I got through a Coconut Toblerone and it’s given me all kinds of hell with acid. After I had a pizza on Tuesday, I spent all of yesterday with anxiety and brain fog which begs to the question: Is it really worth it?

Damn you Pizza GoGo for making your wings taste so good.

Living with anxety and depression doesn’t mean we need to cut out what we like to eat and drink, it just means we need to be aware of the affects that these treats have on us. Pay attention to what gives you an upset or noisy stomach, and your body and mind may thank you.

Some of the most common culprits include:

  • Refined sugar
  • Processed foods (canned, frozen, fast food)
  • White flour (bread, pasta)
  • Dairy
  • Sweeteners
  • Caffeine

I’m not saying don’t have treats, but please, please be aware of what treats are so much of a treat for you, really. If something you eat causes you to feel anxious, confused or miserable, is it so much of a ‘treat’ at all?

Remember the saying “you are what you eat”, if you want to feel great, you need to eat great:

  • Eat plenty of lean, unprocessed white meat (skin removed is ideal)
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Try giving up dairy and see if that helps, too
  • Have sweet treats in moderation
  • Opt for water or no added sugar fruit juices instead of tea or coffee
  • Cook fresh, rather than buying frozen or ordering in

Above all else, remember that exercise is also important for metabolism so be sure to keep moving for at least 30 minutes everyday!

As for me, I’m now heeding my own advice and snacking on satsumas and cranberries. It’s a far cry from nutty chocolate but hey, at least it’s festive!

What foods do you find make your mental health particularly bad? Let me know in the comments!

Helen xx

14 Tips For Coping With Season Affective Disorder

Good afternoon lovelies,

I’ve decided to write this post because it’s that time of year when many of us struggle with the winter blues. The primary focus of Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression and yet I experience a ten-fold increase in my anxiety symptoms around November-February. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Seasonal Affective Disorder can manifest itself in many ways and although the depression component is always the primary focus, anxiety, irritability and mood swings can all happen too, according to my former therapist.

I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder last year after three years of suffering and three years of presenting with symptoms. Unfortunately, in order to be diagnosed, you need to present with symptoms at least twice at the same time of year for two years. I knew what it was because both my mother and father struggled with it, I just wanted a medical diagnosis so that I could pursue the appropriate treatment. Unfortunately, if you’re a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) like I am, then you’re also more likely to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder than the rest of the population, due to our highly sensitive nature making us more sensitive to changes in the weather.

Before I tell you some of the things that have really helped me, I want to tell you the one thing that didn’t help me – antidepressants. Your mileage may vary of course, but for me, they made the brain fogginess 10x worse, further exaberating my anxiety.

So with that in mind, here are 14 things that I’ve found to be particularly helpful.

  1. Talk it out

I cannot emphasise this enough. Don’t mope, but also don’t be afraid to talk to someone, particularly someone who might understand what you’re going through. Just getting it off of your chest can really go a long way to making you feel more understood, less alone and hopefully a little bit more normal.

2. Keep warm

When we’re cold, cortisol increases and our survival mode kicks in. Adrenaline and cortisol deplete serotonin, which naturally destroys our good mood. Although cold showers are proven to have scientific benefits for our health, extended periods of cold put undue stress on our body, and are bad for our health. To avoid that, be sure to wrap up warm when you need to. Invest in a good coat, a hat, a scarf and some cosy knitted gloves. Buy some ear muffs too, if you need to. Warmth relaxes our muscles, which will relax you in return.

3. Practice hygge

Hygge comes from Norway and Denmark and is really a practice of warmth, comfort and joy during the winter hardships. I embraced hygge this year and I have definitely found winter much more cosy. Knitted jumpers, fluffy blankets, hot chocolate and candles are all part of hygge, along with laughter, family and friends and warm, hearty food. It’s surprisingly easy to adopt hygge with a little knowhow, just be aware of the marketing cons that label products as ‘hygge’ in order to sell them for considerable profit.

4. Make time for touch

It’s scientifically proven that a ten second hug releases endophins and leaves us feeling good about ourselves. Whether it be a relative, a friend or a cuddle therapist, touch (particularly hugging) can go a long way to making you feel wanted, safe and loved, and feeling wanted, safe and loved in turn will help you feel less anxious and depressed. Even a hug with a stranger can work for some people, just make sure you’re both agreed first!

5. Try light therapy

I have a bizarre relationship with light therapy because while it helps me, I find that having a lamp within my personal space and glaring into my eyes is.. umm.. not particularly helpful. Instead, I find it works best to have the light on in the general vicinity. It makes the whole room feel lighter (without feeling too bright light a white light lightbulb would) and that in turn can improve my mood.

6. Get outside

I know, I know.. “but Helen, it’s cold and wet out there and warm in here”. I get it, you want to stay in and never leave until it reaches at least 30 degrees again, but being stuck in really isn’t good for you. Not only are you missing that oh so important vitamin D from sunlight, but your trapping yourself from thought and possibility beyond your four walls. Getting outside will also help to get out of your head. Even if you only wrap up warm and sit out in the garden for 5-10 minutes to start with. Promise me?

7. Get a massage

Massage works wonders to relieve stress, depression and anxiety, but it also does wonders for the tense muscles you may be experiencing from seasonal stress as well. In fact, this time of year, most of us are stressed and so I’d definitely say go and get yourself a massage. Massages! Massages for all!

8. Explore essential oils and plant extracts

This is one of my personal favourites for oh so many reasons. Firstly, if you don’t have any, I strongly suggest you look for Bach’s Rescue Remedy. It’s a flower exract remedy which goes a long, long way in calming angsty feelings, naturally and legally. Second, failing that, consider burning essential oils in an oil burner to help your mood. Peppermint is a favourite of mine to help clear your mind, bergamot orange increases happiness and lavender and jasmine promote relaxation and sleep.

9. Get plenty of rest

Sometimes, when my SAD kicks in bad, I don’t sleep well. Not sleeping well means I’m tired and cranky the next day, so it’s really important that I do what I can to get some good quality sleep. For me, I find it useful to listen to relaxing sounds on my bluetooth headphones and wear a sleep mask. The soothing sounds distract me from my thoughts, and the sleep mask helps me fall into a deeper sleep, which I kind of don’t get otherwise with a street light right outside of my bedroom window. Sensory deprivation, under the right circumstances, can really help you to let go of anxiety and a need for control (because what is there to control when you’re floating in water in the dark?), but even on a simpler, smaller scale, some soothing music and an eye mask will work.

10. Keep busy

Whether it’s weaving wreaths, writing Christmas cards or singing carols, the nice thing about the month of December is that there is so much to do. Get involved with local events and turn up for Christmas parties. The more involved you are with everyone and everything else, the less time you will have for focusing on how you’re feeling.

11. Keep perspective

Something my mother always taught is to remember that after 21st December, the days start getting longer again. That means we’re actually closer to summer before Christmas has even happened. That’s right, on 22nd December, the sun is on the way back and the days are getting just a tiny little bit better again. How are you feeling now? Better?

12. Eat and drink well

This should be obvious, but if your diet is full of junk, you can’t expect to feel good. I love hearty stews and soups in the winter, packed full of veggies. Having a little treat is fine, but make sure you balance it out with the good stuff, too. Limit caffeine, sugar and alcohol, which an all go a long way to making you feel worse.

13. Consider vitamins

Ask your doctor about starting a vitamin regime. I take vitamin B complex with inositol, vitamin D and magnesium citrate, but you may need a different supplement or combination so it is always worth seeking a medical opinion. Don’t try and take a pot luck guess, your health is far too important to take a gamble on.

14. Consider therapy

If you’re still really struggling, please, please consider seeing a therapist for help. They won’t judge you, they are more than familiar with winter time anxiety and they are more than equipped and trained to help. Don’t suffer in silence, find a therapist you trust and who can work with you to help you get back on the road to feeling better.

Don’t forget, none of these suggestions will work immediately and some may even require days or weeks to help you feel better. They do all require some effort, but your health and happiness will always be worth it in the end.

Sending big wintery wishes for you and your health this Christmas!

Helen xx

Not Such A Good Day

As a mental health blogger, I think it’s important that I share with you when I, too, am having a bad day. It’s easy to share my tips and tricks, but there are days when I need to use them, too. After all, I’m only human.

Today is not such a nice day in the UK. There are gloomy grey skies up above and it’s pretty close to freezing outside. I woke up this morning in a state of anxiety, convinced I was having a heart attack. Isn’t that one of the wonderful things with anxiety?

As my husband left for work, I felt that horrendous pull in my stomach,

Don’t leave me!!

The last thing I wanted was to be alone, with my own thoughts.

This winter is hard, people, it’s f***ing hard. There is a sense of morbidity about the family, an unbearable pain and yet a will ade determination to try and enjoy Christmas, just as Dad would have wanted. It’s not the same without him and it never will be the same without him.

Last night, I was taken back to one of the earliest days with Matt. The night was Christmas Eve 2005, my first Christmas without my grandfather. I’d been overcome with emotion and Matt walked me at least part of the way home. My father collected me from the high street and took me home. It was a small thing, and yet the way he guaranteed my safety was so… him.

He was protective of me, and the way he looked at Matt told me as much.

Him! A man! With his daughter!

Sure not.

Fortunately, I’m grateful that the bond between them only grew, and towards the end, my father loved Matt like his own. Even I do miss him and wish we could have bad another Christmas together, I’m at least grateful that he loved the same man that I love.

I’m Confident & Friendly, But Yes, I Still Have Crippling Anxiety



At my PIP appeal today, I was actually downgraded by a few points because the panel didn’t believe I have anxiety like I say I do. I’m articulate, witty, I smile and make eye contact, so how can I be struggling with anxiety so severely?

It’s important to understand that anxiety affects people differently. I may be smiley and friendly when I meet you, but that doesn’t mean to say that I’m not worried about meeting you. I might even smile and shake your hand, but it doesn’t mean to say that I’m not worrying about what you think of me.

The truth is, to manage my anxiety, I need support. I don’t go out on my own unless I absolutely have to because I get extremely anxious. Even when I do go out, I feel like my stomach is imploding, I feel breathless and worry about dropping dead. I get to the end of my road and I start to panic, was this a good idea? Do I really need to go on this trip, after all? Maybe not. Let’s just go home.

Talking with shop assistants or Post Office clerks? Yeah, right.

I struggle with social anxiety, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I struggle with people once I have spoken to them with someone to support me. A smile, a “hi”, a “hello”. Do you know what that tells me? That tells me “I don’t bite”, and that makes me feel reassured.

Because you know what? When you have other disabilities, there are plenty of other people who do bite, and sometimes, they bite hard.

Everyone gets bullied, but when you’re disabled, you’re sort of easy pickings because you might not be able to run so fast. For me, that’s absolutely the case. Turn and run sounds great, but turn and fall over myself, because of my ataxia, is realistically far more likely.

Sadly, in this world, the more different you are, the more you get bullied.

The more places you get bullied in, the more you avoid them. The more you avoid, the worse your anxiety gets.

You see? I’m not anxious around friendly people, usually. I’m anxious when I’m out and about, because I can’t know everyone’s intentions. For example:-

  • The time I went to buy my Gran a gift, I didn’t expect a man to steal it and insist I kiss him to get my gift back.
  • The time I went to buy some sweets with my brother, I didn’t expect a car to wheel-spin dirt and gravel in our faces.
  • The time I took a shortcut with my Mum, I didn’t expect some youths to beat us both around the head with stolen lottery tickets.
  • The time I was working in the front garden, I didn’t expect a cyclist to heckle me.

But these things all happen, they make me more anxious, and they hurt.

I also get anxiety over absolutely anything. Because of my domestic fire in 2016, a smell will throw me and I’ll start panicking that something is on fire or I’m being gassed and poisoned. I’ll sit or lie funny, worry that I can’t breathe, and start having a panic attack. I may have a panic attack over absolutely nothing, but the fact that I seem confident and smiling doesn’t mean I don’t get them at all.

I could get an anxiety attack from something on the TV, it might not even be the news, but a theme or topic in a show that leaves me worrying, It could be a thought, or worse, a chain of thoughts, that leaves me all worked up.

And you know what happens when I’m there? I struggle to function, I get emotional and start forgetting things. I get upset easily and I make mountains out of molehills. Leaving the oven lit, forgetting to eat and struggling to get dressed seem to be all too common for me, and there is plenty to say that anxiety can come with forgetfulness and memory loss. I also start picking my skin which can lead to sore and bloodied injuries. I experience dissociation, or the feeling that I’m in a dream, in a bubble. I don’t live and function, I merely move to exist. Near busy roads, sharp edges and hot flames, derealisation can be an incredibly dangerous symptom to have.

I’ve been through therapy, and therapy was great. The problem is, when you’re bullied because of you other disabilities, therapy when you’re being bullied is a bit like putting tape on a leaky pipe. It works great for a while, but you need to replace the pipe eventually. Therapy can help you overcome bullying, but you need to learn to be able to react confidently, rather than just battling through.

The other issue is that anxiety can occur in all kinds of situations, and for me, by far the absolute worst is when I’m travelling. Stuck in a tiny box on a very busy road for several hours at a time? No thankyou, I’d much rather be out, breathing the free air, and my body likes to tell me it.

Imagine this, you take a road trip with your friend, all seems great and well and all of a sudden they start straining in their seat, gritted teeth and groaning. Maybe they scream, too, but they’re very clearly distressed. They shout things like “god just fucking..I need.. stop please!”. Wouldn’t you worry, too?

Welcome to travelling with yours truly. It’s called amaoxophobia, ladies and gents, or the phobia of being a passenger.

We need to change what we think anxiety looks like, and we need to change what we think depression looks like. We get our ideas of mental health dangerously wrong sometimes, and that can be hugely problematic for everyone involved.

Nobody associates David Walliams with depression, even though he opened up recently about his battle.

Nobody would have believed Robin Williams was depressed, yet he proceeded to take his own life.

Nobody believes I struggle with anxiety, yet underneath that confident mask lies one of the biggest worriers you’ll know.



2 Powerful Phrases For Helping You Handle Intrusive Thoughts



Hello everyone!

I’m sure if you read my last post, you will be familiar with the guided meditation I mentioned, about a octopus and the bubble. Today I wanted to teach you two very simple but very powerful phrases which can also help you disempower those painful thoughts.

One of the hardest things with intrusive thoughts is being able to disengage from them. Once they enter our minds and begin to stress us out, there is no way to detach from them, no way to disengage from them. No way out until our brains decide to let go.

But what if I told you that there are some simple phrases that you can use to stop your brain before it starts? What if I told you that a few simple words can make it so that you don’t even have to try and disengage?

Phrase 1: So what?

When you challenge a thought with “so what?”, you are asking it what it means, what importance does it have? For example, if, like me, you’ve been on a busy train platform and you’ve suddenly thought “what if I jump in front of the train right now?”, the natural reaction would be to worry. But what if, instead of worrying, we ask ourselves “so what?” , what does it mean? What logic can we gain from this thought?

The answer is simple: If we jump onto the track in front of a train, we are going to die.

Our thoughts do not reflect our true desires, they are our brains warning us of the potential dangers around us.

Being near the railway line does not necessarily indicate that you want to jump onto the track (unless you are suicidal, in which case please talk to someone), it just indicates that you know the tracks are not a safe place to be.

We can apply it to almost any situation:

What if she/he doesn’t love me?

Do you need another person to live, anyway? That’s codependency, my friend. Discover yourself, be yourself and love you first. Never, ever give anyone else power over you.

That interview was stressful, what if I don’t get the job?

So what? Maybe it wasn’t the best job for you anyway, maybe there is something much better out there waiting for you.

Phase 2: I don’t know

One of the hardest things to accept in life is uncertainty. In an uncertain world, the one thing we all want is certainty and guarantee. We cling to the past, afraid of the future. We cling to what we know because we are frightened of what awaits us, but the truth is, we really don’t know, and we never will know until we try.

How did I know I could make clotted cream fudge? I didn’t. How did I know that I would find my strength after losing my Dad? I had to wait and see for myself.

When we accept that we don’t know, we give up the need for certainty and we embrace change. We welcome each day with open arms and a thirst for what’s new. You become curious about life and excited for each day. Instead of putting things into orderly boxes, you accept that sometimes things fit somewhere in between.

The  only way you’ll know, the only way you’ll ever have answers, is if you try.

How do you cope with inrtrusive thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

12 Ideas For Coping With Anxiety & Depression

All of the ideas in this post are entirely from my own experiences and are 100% commission-free!



And not an antidepressant in sight.

1. Bach’s Rescue Remedy

I cannot advocate these enough. Legal and safe, Rescue Remedy gives me a sense of calm and clarity, rather than the groggy, half-awake state like something like benzodiazepines. If all you want and need is a touch of calm and reassurance, I strongly recommend Rescue Remedy. Also, the pastilles just look like little jelly candies, so nobody will know you’re calming your nerves.

2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

I realise this here is going to be controversial, but I found Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT Therapy) to be a great help for me once I researched and practiced it away from a none-too-useful therapist. Analysing my thoughts rather than just talking about them helped me to understand my triggers and to treat myself with the same compassion and support that I would give a friend.

3. Being close to water

Be it the fountain in my garden, the ocean, the stream.. if I can hear water, bizarrely my anxiety eases. Close your eyes and just listen to the flowing water. Try to imagine your stresses washing away in the flow. With a little practice, its surprising how well this works.

4. ASMR

ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, can be a great tool with anxiety. An estimated one in 10 people experience ASMR, or “the tingles”, a pleasurable tingling sensation which is triggered by certain sounds including crinkling, tapping and hair brushing. Whilst not everyone experiences it, for those of us who do, it can be a great temporary relief from our negative, anxious thoughts.

5. The “HALT” technique

Used for mental health and addiction, HALT is an abbreviation of the 4 biggest causes of relapse – Hunger, Anger, Loneliness & Tiredness. When you can identify the trigger, you can do something about the problem. Hungry? Have a snack. Tired? Take a nap. Do not underestimate how well HALT works..

6. Exercise

I’m not even talking about a huge, pain-staking blow-out at the gym. A ten-minute walk, 20 minutes on a bike, whatever, it’s up to you. Exercise burns off that jittery feeling which is crucially what anxiety is. Your body is in “fight or flight” mode and you’re sat there doing nothing. Get up, move and burn it off. You don’t even need to do much. Jog on the spot or do 20 star jumps. Trust me, you’ll feel better for it and your body (and mind) will thank you, too.

7. Swimming

I’m adding this one to my list separately because it’s exercise, and then it us not. For me, swimming is as much a meditation as it exercise. When I swim, I like to imagine that I’m sweeping all of my worries behind me as I swim forward. Try this powerful visualisation and see.

8. Touch

Never, ever underestimate the power of touch. Cuddle therapy exists, massage therapy exists and for good reason. Touch releases oxytocin and serotonin that allow us to feel safe and allow our minds to relax. It is said that a 3-minute hug can reduce or even cure depression, so cuddle, cuddle, and cuddle some more!

9. Grounding

Not like your mother used to do! Grounding is one of my favourite techniques which works similarly to mindfulness to bring your focus back to the present moment. Instead of focusing on your thoughts, focus on 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can hear, 3 things that you can feel, 2 things that you can smell and one thing that you can taste. Still anxious? Repeat the exercises with different answers for each of your five senses.

10. Distraction

Some therapists hate this because it’s more about running away than it is about tackling the problem, but sometimes it’s just not possible to start doing your therapy homework. Draw, write, listen to music, play with a pet, do whatever it takes to feel a bit calmer again.

11. Peppermint tea

A concoction suggested by my mother uses 2 drops of alcohol-based peppermint extract with a little sugar (or sweeteners) and warm water. Peppermint oil has a wonderful way of clearing the mind, calming the nerves and bringing about a sense of ease. Plus, it’s the perfect reason to have a mint humbug a day – sounds good to me!

12. Essential oils

Yep.. I know.. more hippy stuff, but they work! Like all others, lavender is my favourite to calm a racing mind, but peppermint helps to clear the head and lemon or orange do great to boost the mood.

Which ones are your favourite? Let me know in the comments!



10 Tips For Coping With Depersonalisation & Derealisation



If you’re anything like me, then that surreal feeling is all too common with depression and anxiety. You’re not exactly  not there, but you’re not all there, either. You’re just sort of. mostly there, but not completely. About 80% loaded, maybe?

The horrible part about this feeling is that, the more you worry about it, the worse it gets. The more you worry about it, the worse you feel. All that is left to do, really, is try to cope, and hope that it doesn’t last too long.

So, at a time when I’ve been going through this quirky and bothersome symptom myself, here are 10 tools I find particularly beneficial:

  1. Try Mint

Mint is wonderfully refreshing and grounding. Whether it’s peppermint tea, peppermint candy or peppermint oil, peppermint can really help to bring you back to the present moment. My favourite method is to drink some alcohol-based peppermint extract in some warm (not boiling) sweetened water, but explore and find a method that works for you.

Sometimes brain fog and depersonalisation can be related to our diet or indigestion. If that’s the case, than peppermint can help resolve those perky fuzzy symptoms.

2. Have A Snack

Sometimes this symptom sneaks up on us when we’re feeling hungry. While it’s tempting to reach for cookies or chocolate, something with protein will stave off those hunger pangs for longer. Nuts or a small flapjack are my favourite.

3. Get Outside And MOVE!

One of the biggest culprits for that horrendous feeling is being stuck inside. NO EXCUSES! I don’t care if it’s raining or blowing a gale, get out there! Even if you only stand in your doorway for a minute or two, that fresh air (and cold rain) will remind you that you most definitely are alive, and may serve to be the change of scenery you crave. Briskly walk up and down the garden path a few times, are you still feeling disconnected now?

4. Go To Bed/Have A Nap

Sometimes, that disconnected feeling comes from our old friend, tiredness. If you’ve had a long day or a disturbed night, the changes are good that you are quite possibly simply fatigued. If that’s the case, sometimes there is nothing wrong with a 20-minute afternoon nap or going to bed a little earlier than usual. Sometimes sleep is all you need.

Added tip: I find a weighted blanket particularly soothing, hugging a pillow with the long side to my chest is helpful for deeper, more restful sleep if I’m alone as it simulates the posture of hugging.

5. Have A Drink With Ice & A Slice (And Maybe A Drop Or Two)

Another favourite method of mine, fresh drinking water with some ice and a slice of lemon. The coldness of the ice and the bitterness of the lemon can really serve to bring you to your senses. Plus, you can also add a drop or two of peppermint extract for an extra refreshing drink, if you want to.

6. Pay Attention

Do a puzzle, watch a programme and really focus on what is going on, read a book.. anything that really requires you to pay attention to what is going on and not the way you are feeling. Ask a friend to quizyou on the book if need be, or write yourself some questions to answer before you start.

7. Talk To Someone

Not necessarily a therapist, although if this feeling has been going on for a while then I highly recommend them, too. Let’s say that this is just a passing feeling that has maybe gone on for an hour or two and you’re feeling all stuck up in your head. Talk to your favourite person for a chat. You don’t necessarily need to talk about how you’re feeling (although there is no shame in letting someone know that you’re having a tough ol’ time), maybe talk about vacation plans, holiday arrangements, birthday celebrations.. and really listen and answer! Not just nodding and agreeing, really lose yourself in the conversation. Stop thinking about how you feel and talk!

8. Touch Yourself (Or Have Someone Touch You)

No, no.. not like that (although if you insist then I can’t stop you). A hug can sometimes help, but I particularly refer to light, rough sensations. While I’m not advocating razor blades or all-out S&M dungeons necessarily, try exploring a very light, but quite rough, sensation on your arms, neck and shoulders. A dry, wide paintbrush or your fingernails are my personal choices, but again, find what feels good for you. Provided that you aren’t actually harming yourself, of course.

9. Meditate

Meditation takes time to really grasp and understand so I didn’t put this at the top of my list. If you know how to meditate and you have benefited from it before, great, try meditation. If not, try a free guided meditation on Youtube as a first step, just don’t be harsh on yourself if it doesn’t work out.

10. Practice Deep Breathing

If all else fails, do what my mother always told me and “just breathe”, in through the nose, out through the mouth, nice and slowly. The human body is surprising resilient and, provided you’re still breathing, it will probably resolve itself somehow anyway. Life is full of odd feelings and unexpected sensations, but most of them won’t end up killing you 🙂

Which ones worked for you? Let me know in the comments!



Introducing Aragog: A Guide To Handling Your Inner Critic


Do you like my artwork?

Well, do you?

My husband loves it. I mean, it’s purposeful, it gets my point across, by it probably won’t be featuring in any London art galleries anytime soon!

Something that I’ve become increasingly aware of is how many people that I speak to suffer with an inner bully, a critical self, something or someone that tells them they aren’t good enough or aren’t worthy. That pains me, that, really, really fucking pains me, because each and every one of you is enough. You are, we all are.

When I first started out on my ventures with mental health, I had a really big, bad critical voice. A critical voice that would say things like:-

  • You’re fat
  • You’re ugly
  • You’re weird
  • Nobody will ever like you
  • Nobody will ever love you

When we have these thoughts, it can be oh so simple to fall into a trap of believing them. We can start looking for things that aren’t really there. For example, when I believed that I was weird, I started to look at all the things that made me weird, and instead of focusing on being me, I focused on stopping me being me. I drove myself insane, trying to capture my little idiosyncrasies and make me more not me, purely for the sake of fitting in.

Well, not anymore.

I want to introduce you to the exercise that somehow made Aragog become part of my life. Yeah, I know, the big, hairy tarantula from Harry Potter. He was the first thing I thought of when doing this exercise, okay? Hear me out.

I want you to read the following 5 sentences two or three times:

  • You are fat and ugly
  • You are stupid
  • Nobody likes you
  • Nobody loves you
  • You’re a freak

Done that? Now I want you to close your eyes and imagine someone or something saying these things to you. it doesn’t matter if they are:

  • Male, female (or anything in between)
  • Old or young
  • Black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Martian (or any other race, for that matter)
  • Real or imaginary (though, I’d like to think that aliens are friendly!)

Done that? Great! You’re halfway there.

Now I want you to give them a name. Done that? Fantastic!

This is your inner bully. This is the person (or thing) that bullies you. This is what your inner bully looks like and what it is called, and now that you know this, you can start imagining having an argument with them when they say some of these hurtful things and you can begin to start fighting back.

Maybe you want to go one step further. Maybe you don’t feel strong or capable enough win the fight and you need an extra superpower or an outfit to help you. Maybe you need to stand in the power pose for 5 minutes and imagine your cape flowing behind you (see above) – that’s fine! For these few moments, we’ll allow it.

Going back to my Aragog example, I imagine Aragog, with his black, beady eyes, his big fangs and his huge, hairy body. I imagine him in his cave, haunting me, taunting me and harassing me, but I don’t have to listen to him, and you don’t need to listen to your bully, either.

So when Aragog starts telling me things, things like “you’re weird” or “you’re worthless”, I can argue back to him and, with a sharp, silent “shut up, Aragog”, I can usually start to feel a little more in control.

It takes time, it takes practice and it takes determination. Don’t be afraid to silently say whatever you want to say to your inner bully, after all, it’s your inner bully, and only you have that incredibly toxic relationship with them.

Even if this exercise feels silly (because in some ways it is), that could just be your inner critic resisting change. Push past it anyway. Name your inner bully, fight your inner bully and remind yourself why you are doing this all important exercise

Good luck out there, and great, big hugs to you, my brave soldier 🙂

Now, go get ’em!

Bonus Tip: Are you a bit more artistically gifted than me? Why not draw your bully and write around them some of the things that they might say, then stick it somewhere that it will remind you each day and help you cope? If it works, it works!

Stay well, friends!

Hugs,

Helen xx