My Music Video Premier [Guest Post By Sarah Jickling]

My Music Video Premier [Guest Post By Sarah Jickling]

I have something different for you today from singer-songwriter, Sarah Jickling. It’s the premier of her music video! To accompany it, Sarah has shared her story in a piece called “When Your Coping Skill Becomes An Obsession”, which you can read below.


If you’ve ever been even a little depressed, you’ve most likely been advised to exercise. Those of us who have chronic mental illnesses hear this so much, we often start to resent the people who bring it up. If you’ve ever laid in bed, staring at the ceiling wishing you could go to sleep and never wake up, you know that getting up to go to your local ZUMBA class feels as likely as getting up to go present an award at the Grammys.

And yet, after years of depression, hypomania, panic attacks and distressing thoughts, I am a complete convert. Now, I exercise one or two hours a day. I’m also on five psychiatric medications. I’ve graduated from the local hospital’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program. Plus, I see a therapist on a regular basis. Exercise is not a miracle cure, but has been an important part of my recovery. And when I say exercise, I don’t mean jogging or soul cycle or bootcamp or even yoga. I mean hanging upside down on a metal pole from your right knee pit.

After 26 years of abhorring sports and exercise in any form, I’ve become addicted to pole dancing, and it’s saved my life.

Before I started aerial arts (aka dancing in the air using a pole/silks/hoop/monkey bars on an elementary school playground), I always hated hearing the “have you tried exercising” line. During the high episodes of my bipolar disorder, I had enough energy to pull myself to the gym and onto a treadmill. Then my low episodes would always come back. They would make something as simple as walking down the street into a physical challenge. Once I started my first mood stabilizer, my hypomania vanished immediately. This left me with nothing but groggy depression and constant anxiety.

While my doctors played trial and error with my meds, my boyfriend dragged me to the community centre once a week. He would play basketball with his brother while I tried out the ZUMBA class across the hall. Fortunately, the ZUMBA instructor at the Trout Lake Community centre was more than an expert in Brazilian jazzercise. She was also a pole instructor at the studio down the street. She was my gateway into the world of lifting your entire body weight up off the ground in a fun, sexy way. With no previous experience in anything physical and a history of lying in bed crying, I was always the worst in the class.

But when I saw my instructors do things that seemed to flip gravity the middle finger, I felt hope for the first time in a long time. The possibilities of pole dancing gave me a reason to wake up in the morning. If I was dead, then I’d never be able to learn how to climb the pole or spin really fast. It might seem trivial, but this excitement was enough to wipe out the lingering suicidal ideation that my medication couldn’t seem to touch. I was going to be strong and wild and upside down, and I couldn’t wait.

Flash forward two years.

The excitement of being strong had turned into something troubling, and my mental health began to crumble. This time, it was pole dancing that was chipping away at my mental wellness, one class at a time. I had forgotten about the girl years prior who could barely walk fast enough to keep up with her friends. I was now comparing myself to girls who had never known chronic mental illness, and had also been training as dancers or gymnasts since they were small and malleable. I’d leave the pole studio in tears after failing to swing my body upside down on the pole with my legs perfectly straight and my toes perfectly pointed. I was disappointed in myself for not getting certain “tricks” that my friends managed to pull off. I started dreading class, knowing that I would probably fall or fail yet again.

The aesthetic of pole dancing had become much more important than how it made me feel. I found myself trying for a perfect Instagram pose instead of for my own satisfaction. One of the side effects of my medication is increased sweating. I began to hate my pills for making me slide off the pole, taking for granted the fact that these were the pills that had stabilized me and allowed me to show up to an exercise class every single day.

A few days ago, frustrated as my sweat sent me sliding down the pole yet again, I nearly screamed as another dancer tried to turn off my fan. I reminded myself of the person I was before all the meds and the therapy. I left the room in shock and took a serious look at who I was becoming. How had I let the thing that had given me hope and inspiration become my main source of stress and negativity?

Pole dancing had given me a creative spark as an artist.

Throughout my mental illness, I worked as a musician and songwriter. However, I had gotten to a place where I no longer felt curious about music. Instead, I felt frozen, comparing my own music career to those of my peers. Dance was another way to express myself that was separate from the music world, where I felt judged and discouraged.

I even felt brave enough to connect the two worlds. My hope was that my excitement for pole would turn into new-found excitement for music as I learned a routine to my own song and turned it into a music video. I worked hard with my instructor to learn new moves, and bring them alive with emotion. The version of me that you see in the video is enjoying the process of turning movement into meaning, and I’m giving the choreography every I’ve got.

When I watched the footage back later, I was a little disappointed. I wanted my fellow pole dancers to see my “Jasmine split,” my “hood ornament” and my “stag handstand.” The filmmaker, who is not a pole dancer and had never seen the routine before, captured instead the flow of my movements, the interesting shapes my body makes, and look on my face as I danced. The part of me that has become obsessed with nailing the moves was louder than the artist inside of me. I cared more about what other pole dancers would see when they watched the video than what anyone else saw.

For two months, I sat with the video, not sure what to do.

I thought that if I released the video, people would think that I was a failure for practicing pole for almost two years and having no fancy tricks to show for it. But as I write it down now, it’s clear to me that I’ve lost my way in my struggle for perfection.

Last week, I sent the video to the pole teacher who choreographed the dance with me six months ago.  She immediately sent me a message back. “I’m so proud of you. I love it.” I watched it again and realized that the filmmaker had captured the healthy parts of pole dance. The movement, the emotions, the flow. The picture perfect poses were not important. My obsession with them was turning my favourite coping skill into another source of insecurity.

Today, I’m sharing the video with you. I’m trying to look at it the way that I looked at my first pole instructor, as she gracefully did what I would later learn was a simple spin. A couple of years ago I could barely get out of bed. The fact that today I can dance at all is a cause for celebration.

Music Video Premier By Sarah Jickling

You can keep up to date with the latest from Sarah in the following places:

Website: www.sarahsgoodbadluck.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/sarahjickling

Instagram: www.instagram.com/sarah.jickling

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sarahsgoodbadluck

When Your Coping Skill Becomes An Obsession
An Exclusive Music Video Premier
An Exclusive Music Video Premier

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Sarah for choosing my blog for this! I’m incredibly flattered. I’m sure we can all agree that Sarah’s story is amazing! What a wonderfully talented lady!

Did you catch last week’s guest post from Megan about how to accomplish your goals? Make sure you check it out!

How To Be The Leslie Knope Of Blogging

How To Be The Leslie Knope Of Blogging

Today is Galentine’s Day – a day introduced by Parks and Rec through its leading lady, Leslie Knope. It’s a day of “ladies celebrating ladies.” With that in mind, I thought I’d celebrate its creator, and all the women like her. With a blogging twist, of course!

Truth be told, there are very few fictional characters I could scrape together an entire blog post about. But Leslie Knope is definitely an exception. She’s funny, passionate, driven, caring and unstoppable. She’s all that I aspire to be!

How do you become the Leslie Knope of blogging? Well, I’ve come up with six qualities which I think are essential.

Be resilient

No matter how setbacks she faces, she comes back stronger. Whether it’s a knock in her love life or her career, she doesn’t let it keep her down for long.

In blogging, there can be all sorts of hiccups along the way. Instagram not growing AT ALL, for example. A severe case of writer’s block. Or maybe reaching out to brands and getting no response. Don’t let those things keep you down. It sucks, but it shouldn’t hold you back. You’ve got to pick yourself up and keep pushing forward.

Support others

It’s not only her gift giving skills which set her apart in the friendship field. She is fiercely loyal, ridiculously supportive and sickeningly sweet. We should all try to be a friend like her, and we all definitely need one, too.

One of the best things you can do in your blogging life is support other bloggers. Don’t view them as a threat and try not to compare yourself to them. In fact, my friend Anne has a great post on how to avoid blogger jealousy. It’s better to view blogging as a place of community, rather than competition. The rest of the world seems to have plenty of their own negative opinions about bloggers and influencers, so we need to stand strong together.

Show other bloggers some love! You lose nothing by doing this. Share their posts on Twitter. Leave comments. Add their pins to your boards. These are not huge tasks, but will make somebody’s day. If you’re not sure where to squeeze it in, try doing it during your commute, or take a couple of minutes from your lunch break.

Channel your inner Leslie Knope and become the biggest cheerleader around for those in your community.

Accept help

Throughout Parks and Recreation, there are a number of occasions when Leslie only accomplishes things through the help of her friends.

There are similar moments in blogging. Perhaps you find yourself feeling stuck, or you really don’t understand something. Ask someone! Failing that, search Google and Pinterest – someone is likely to have already covered it. Though it’s not as personal as asking someone directly, it’s an equally useful approach. There’s no shame in seeking out answers if you’re not sure. I do it ALL THE TIME.

Blogging is full of learning opportunities. Even when you think you’ve got most of it figured out, something else pops up or an algorithm changes. The beauty of it is that everyone is at different stages, so there are plenty of other people with more experience to lean on a little!

Get organised

Leslie couldn’t possibly do all that she does during the course of seven seasons without her impeccable organisational skills.

While you don’t need to go to the same extreme, you do need to have some structure. I’m lucky in that being organised, making to do lists and sticking to a schedule are some of my favourite things. You may not share my enthusiasm, but if you want a chance at blogging success, it’s going to require some time management and planning. I have a post about getting organised as a blogger which may help.

Love what you do

One of the things I admire and envy in equal measure about Leslie Knope is that she’s settled in a career she LOVES. Her passion for it seems to give her superhuman abilities at times, too.

I think you have to love blogging to persevere with it, especially alongside other commitments. It’s the only way it’s worth the time and effort! Once in a while, be sure to remind yourself of the things you love most about blogging. Be it creativity or making new connections, check in with those plus points from time to time. It’s easier to stay motivated when you remember all the awesome things something brings to your life.

Celebrate your achievements

Leslie seems to grab any opportunity to celebrate, either herself or those around her. She regularly takes pause to appreciate how her life and her dreams are falling in to place. Take a leaf out of her book and be a bit more willing to acknowledge what you do.

It really doesn’t matter how small it seems. There have been weeks when the fact I’ve published anything at all has been a little victory. If you hit a goal, whether it’s a certain number of followers or publishing 2 posts in a week, celebrate it! Own it! Go full Leslie Knope like I do and eat waffles.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, blogging is H-A-R-D. There is so much to juggle. If you’re accomplishing things along the way, you should be acknowledging them. It’s important to take these moments and embrace them. They are the rewards amongst a whole heap of hard work.

Now, go, focus on your goals and show the world what you’re made of!

How To Be The Leslie Knope Of Blogging

6 Ways To Be The Leslie Knope Of Blogging
Channel Your Inner Leslie Knope
Be More Like Leslie Knope

This post has definitely made me curious – who’s your favourite female fictional character and why?

Hand Lettering Projects For Valentine’s Day!*

Hand Lettering Projects For Valentine’s Day!*

The following hand lettering products were very kindly gifted to me by Manuscript Pen Company. All thoughts and opinions are my own. To learn more, please read the full Disclosure Policy.

As I have recently taken up hand lettering and calligraphy, it was always my intention to make something for Neal this Valentine’s Day. I’m a sucker for a homemade gift at any time of year, but especially on Valentine’s Day. I love making them and I love receiving them. The hopeless romantic in me just can’t help it.

Then when Small Man Media sent me some products from Manuscript Pen Company, it was confirmed. Time to work some hand lettering magic!

Equipment

I received a Manuscript calligraphy set for Christmas, and bought two of their handwriting pens at the beginning of January. So, when a bunch of their hand lettering and calligraphy goodies turned up, I was thrilled. Plus, I’d been eyeing several of them up in a couple of shops shortly after Christmas but Neal – ever the voice of reason – told me I didn’t need more any time soon. Guess I got the last laugh!

Manuscript Hand Lettering Calligraphy Products

The items I received were: 2 Callicreative White MarkersCallicreative Switch Tip Deluxe Hand Lettering SetBeginner’s Calligraphy Fountain Pen Set10 Callicreative Duotips and 6 Callicreative Metallic Markers.

Product Testing

Before I started any projects, I wanted to have a little play around with my treats first. This usually helps to inspire some ideas about how I can use them, and try out the colours.

Beginner’s Calligraphy Fountain Pen Set

Manuscript Beginner's Calligraphy Set

Love written with fountain pen

The first item I decided to test was the Beginner’s Calligraphy Fountain Pen Set. As I already have something similar and I was excited to try the other products, I didn’t use this for very long. Though, I must admit, writing with a fountain pen is so satisfying!

It includes the pen, 3 nibs and 2 ink refills. There are clear instructions provided on how to set up your pen for use, too. As well as that, there is a leaflet about Manuscript’s nib service. Manuscript will exchange the nibs their pens to suit left-handed users (where possible). I think this is a lovely service to offer, especially as I’m left-handed myself! They also allow you to order more nibs if you need them.

Callicreative Switch Tip Deluxe Hand Lettering Set

Next, I was very keen to test the Callicreative Switch Tip Deluxe Hand Lettering Set. This includes another fountain pen with 3 ink refills. Then there was another pen with interchangeable tips – 1 fine-liner tip, 2 brush tips and 2 italic markers.

As I didn’t want to use any ink unnecessarily, I skipped the fountain pen. However, I did notice the grip and found that very comfortable in my hand. Hand lettering projects sometimes take me hours (especially as I’m still very new!) so features like that make a big difference to comfort.

Manuscript Deluxe Switch Tip Set - Fountain Pen

Now, the switch tip pen is something I absolutely love the idea of! I have so many different pens for my hand lettering, so having one instrument where I can switch them around is just a genius idea. Though the colours in this set are limited, it is possible to buy refills. This is a great way to get started, which is obviously the intention.

Manuscript Deluxe Switch Tip Set - Tips

This comes with step-by-step instructions for switching tips, which was a relief. It’s a wonderfully easy and straightforward process! The refills each come with small lids so they won’t dry out when they’re not in use.

Manuscript Deluxe Switch Tip Set - Instructions

Manuscript Switch Tip - Italic Marker Tip

Callicreative Duotips

Next, I couldn’t resist the lure of the gorgeous, bright colours of the Callicreative Duotips any longer! I did some swatch tests in my bullet journal. Both the italic tips and fine-liner tips produced lovely, vibrant colours. Each end has a symbol to show when it’s the italic or fine-liner, which comes in very useful! I have a set of markers from another company which doesn’t have this and I’m forever taking the lid off at the wrong end.

This is definitely a product that doesn’t need to be exclusive to calligraphy and hand lettering. If you’re an avid bullet journal user, they’d be perfect for that as well! Even if you regularly colour in as a way to relax, you’d get plenty of use from them.

Manuscript Callicreative Duotips

Callicreative Metallic Markers

It seemed logical to try the Callicreative Metallic Markers next. Again, I loved the colours, but didn’t feel like doodling in my bullet journal would do them justice. I’ll need to pick up some more coloured card and play with these properly, as I think they’ll produce some beautiful pieces!

Manuscript Callicreative Italic Markers

Obviously, I didn’t test the white markers at this point, as it wouldn’t have shown up. Instead, I paused for a cup of tea and started thinking of some things I wanted to create.

Valentine's Day Planning

Project One – Valentine’s Day Card

I decided I wanted to make a Valentine’s Day card and a couple of “love tokens” (which I’ve now hidden around the flat for Neal to discover.) I believe these are straightforward and would be easy to replicate.

Hand Lettering Valentine's Day Card

To make the card, I folded a piece of plain white A4 card in half. I then remembered I had some red card in a drawer so I rummaged around, dug it out and stuck it on the front. This meant I could then use the white markers to write my message.

I decided to go for a simple “Happy Valentine’s Day”, combining a script font and a block font for contrast. The white markers were smooth and enjoyable to use, but I did have to go over it a few times to get it to stand out on the red card. From experience, I know this is a common issue when it comes to white pens, so it didn’t put me off at all.

I contemplated using a fine-liner to add some extra detailing, but I was scared I’d ruin it. If I was making another one, though, I’d try adding little hearts on “Valentine’s”.

Project Two – Valentine’s Day Tokens

I used a guillotine to cut some card into smaller rectangles. There was four but one of them went very wrong, so I ended up with 3.

Valentine's Day - Favourite written with brush tip pen

To create the first one, I used the switch tip pen. I wrote “you are my” with the fine-liner and “favourite” with the brush tip. I’m not very experienced with brush pens. They are something I need A LOT more practice with. That said, I did find the brush tip to be a nice, controllable size. Some brush tips are large which makes brush lettering quite difficult.

Valentine's Day - Thank You Token

The second one turned out to be my favourite. I used the fountain pen from the beginner’s set to write the black text. Then the gold metallic marker for the rest. I finished it with a heart, using the red duo tip.

I think the gold marker looks absolutely gorgeous! It stands out and shimmers much more than I expected.

Valentine's Day - I love you

The third one was created using the duo tips, and was just a simple “I love you.” I used the fine-liner end of the black pen to write “I” and “you” then the italic marker end of the red pen to write “love”. Sadly, I messed up the spacing so it’s a little squished, but never mind!

Valentine's Day Tokens

If you’re single, you could make affirmation cards instead. Write little pick-me-ups on the cards to give you a boost!

Project Three – Couple Sign

Though I’d only doodled out designs for two projects, I was having so much fun that I decided to make a third.

I quickly sketched a design of our names on paper.

Couple names sketch

Once I was happy with that, I went over it with fine-liner. Again, I used the duo tip, because it was already handy!

Manuscript Callicreative Duotip black fine-liner

I added colour using the italic ends of the duotips. Of course, I decided I was going my name in yellow and let’s just have a second to appreciate this BEAUTIFUL colour:

Manuscript Callicreative Duotip yellow

The italic tip meant I could do thick strokes for the bulk of the colouring. Then the thinner edges of the tip were handy for colouring near the edges. I still managed to go over the lines, though.

Manuscript Callicreative Duotip - Both ends

I coloured Neal’s name in blue, added some red hearts and finished it with some swirls with the silver metallic marker. The end result was really pretty!

Hand Lettered couples sign

From previous experiences and this one, I can say Manuscript have some fantastic products available. If you’re looking to try hand lettering/calligraphy – either for a simple homemade gift or a long term hobby – they’re a great place to start. Many thanks to them for sending me these items to try. I can’t wait to use them more in the future!

Hand Lettering Projects For Valentine's Day

Hand Lettering Gifts For Valentine's Day
Hand Lettering Gifts For Valentine's Day
Get Creative This Valentine's Day

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? If yes, what are your plans this year? Will you be making any gifts? I’d love to know in the comments!

How To Accomplish Your Goals [Guest Post By Megan]

How To Accomplish Your Goals [Guest Post By Megan]

Making goals is the easy part. Making them happen? Not so easy! It’s not impossible, though. Today, Megan from overthinkersnotebook.com shares her best tips to help you accomplish your goals.

I’m a big fan of Megan’s blog and I can’t recommend it enough. It is packed with information to help you get more done, as well as mental health advice. Make sure you check out if you enjoy today’s post.


With each new year comes new opportunities. New opportunities for success, new opportunities for change, and new opportunities for a more positive mindset. For this reason, a lot of us take the new year as an opportunity to set goals for ourselves. However, these new year’s resolutions rarely stick.

By this point in the year, many of us may have fallen off the wagon on our proposed lifestyle changes. Whether we’ve already let ourselves slip too many times or we had an idea after January 1st and were “too late,” we feel like we’ve somehow failed ourselves this time and will have to try again next year.

However, you’ve only failed when you decide to give up. If you’re serious about making a positive change in your life, don’t let a minor setback or two stop you from getting up, dusting yourself off and trying again. Need a little help or inspiration to regain your motivation and finally reach your goals? In this post, I outline a framework for how to stick with whatever you’re trying to accomplish, whether it’s launching a new product on your blog, losing 20 pounds or improving your day-to-day mindset. This system will help you achieve any goal you’re after — new year’s resolution or not!

Make a Detailed Plan

The first step to reaching your goal is to determine how you’re going to get there. After all, without some sort of plan, how will you know where to start? Once you’ve decided what you’re going to focus on, make a detailed plan for yourself for how you’re going to get there. If you want to launch a product, maybe you’ll map out how to research your market, what components you need to create and how you’ll promote your launch. If you want to gain 100 Twitter followers, maybe you’ll plan out how often you’ll post and which accounts you want to engage with. Believe me, having a plan in place off the bat will make your goal seem ten times easier!

Block Off Time Every Day

If you’re set on reaching your goal, you’ll need to make it a priority. I recommend blocking off an hour or two each day dedicated solely to working toward your goal. Pick a time when you know you’ll be motivated, whether it’s in the morning, the afternoon or at night. Avoid scheduling anything else during that time, and tie up any loose ends beforehand so you won’t be distracted. Then, get to it and work until time’s up! (As a bonus, reward yourself afterward for putting in that day’s work!)

Related: Why Prioritizing is the Key to Time Management

Hold Yourself Accountable

Anyone who’s set out to make a lifestyle change knows how easy it is to skip a day. Or two. Or a whole week. In order to prevent this from happening (or at least make it happen less), you’ll need a system for tracking your progress. I’m a huge fan of bullet journals, so I create habit trackers in those. However, stick with what you know will work for you. Maybe it’s a whiteboard on your wall where you keep tallies of the days you follow through. Maybe it’s a workout buddy who will knock on your door when it’s time to go to the gym. Pick something you think will be helpful in keeping track of your progress. And if it’s not working? It’s never too late to try something else!

Related: 8 Bullet Journal Tracker Ideas

Always Remember Why You Started

Even if you follow all of these steps, there will still be days where you’re just not feeling it. I get it; it sucks. However, you have to keep pushing through. When days like these come up, think back on why you decided to make this change in the first place. Was it to finally start earning money with your blog? Was it to feel better on a day-to-day basis? Whatever it is, give yourself some time to visualize it and try to get back in the groove. And if you end up skipping a day here and there, that’s okay too, as long as you get back up and keep going!

Know You Have It In You

Achieving your goals is tough, especially if you’re trying to make a major change in your blog, your habits or your lifestyle. However, you’ve accomplished so many great things in your life already. I’m willing to bet at least a few of them were harder than this. You pulled through those times just fine — give yourself a pat on the back! Now use that self-confidence to get out there and start killin’ it!

With this system, some hard work and a little positivity, you can achieve almost any goal you set your mind to. It won’t always be easy, but with the proper steps in place, you can totally do it! If you found this post helpful, don’t forget to give it a share. And if you want to talk about how you can reach your goals, my inbox is always open at overthinkersnotebook@gmail.com 🙂

How To Accomplish Your Goals

How To Accomplish Anything You Set Your Mind To
5 Tips To Help You Accomplish Your Goals
Struggling To Reach Your Goals?

For lots more productivity tips, you absolutely have to check out Megan’s blog


Want your own turn at guest posting? Head over to the join my squad page for all of the information you need.

Time To Talk: How To Talk About Mental Health

Time To Talk: How To Talk About Mental Health

Tomorrow (7th of February) is Time To Talk Day. Time To Change created this to encourage people to open up a conversation about mental health. But a lot of people don’t know how to talk about mental health.

Just how, exactly, do you go about this? Whether you’re concerned for someone else, or struggling yourself, it can be difficult to take the first steps.

Based on my own experiences, I’m sharing some suggestions with you today. Please keep in mind that, while I anticipate these would be appropriate measures to take, everyone is different.

Notebooks and pen on top of scarf with white teacup at the side

How to talk about mental health when you’re worried about someone

Ask twice

There was recently a campaign – also ran by Time To Change – called Ask Twice. The thinking behind it was that we all tend to say we’re fine, even if we’re not. So if you suspect someone is having a hard time, ask again.

Example

You: Hey, how are you?
Loved one: I’m fine, thanks, how are you?
You: I’m okay thanks, but are you sure you’re okay? You haven’t seemed yourself lately.

Sometimes, highlighting the fact you’ve picked up on them being a bit “off” can give them a gentle nudge to talk. The fact you’ve asked again suggests you care how they actually are, rather than merely out of politeness.

Let them know you’re there if they need you

Asking twice is not guaranteed to get someone to open up. The next step is to say something along the lines of “well, if there is something going on and you’d like to talk about it, I’m here for you.” This open offer is a low pressure way of letting someone know they can come to you in their own time.

It could be that the person isn’t ready to talk there and then, but may come around to the idea further down the line. Knowing they have someone they can reach out to makes a big difference!

Use “we”

One of the most important things Neal did, without even realising, was treating it like it was our problem. He said things like “we’re going to get you through this” and “we’ll do whatever it takes to make you feel better.”

I went from a place of feeling completely alone to feeling like I was part of a team. I had someone on my side, and no longer had to carry this burden alone.

If someone is opening up about their struggles, they are likely feeling very vulnerable. Using “we” can help them to realise, whatever journey is ahead, they’re not going to have to face it alone.

Be sensitive and avoid making it about you

Though you may have good intentions, saying things like “it’ll pass” is not necessarily helpful during a time when someone is opening up. It’s along the same sorts of lines as “you’ll get over it” and mental illness isn’t something you just get over. It takes work to move towards recovery.

I think a lot of us like to use our own experiences to help, but it’s important this person knows they’re being heard. If you really think it will add value (e.g. you have had your own dealings with mental illness) then share it. However, as much as possible, concentrate on listening rather than trying to fix things.

Be prepared

Some of what you will hear will be difficult. It may hurt your feelings because you care about this person. You may feel like you’ve failed them by letting it go so far and not helping them sooner. You might fall into the trap of questioning why they didn’t tell you.

Approach the subject with the knowledge that this isn’t personal to you. It’s likely this person has wanted to tell someone, but hasn’t known how. Or has had that dreadful little voice of mental illness telling them that no one cares, and not to burden others with their troubles.

The fact you are trying to support this person RIGHT NOW is hugely important, and you should be proud of it. Whatever they may say, however much it might sting, don’t let it become a situation where they feel guilty for opening up to you.

It could also be good to have a list of mental health organisations to offer – just in case you need them.  You don’t need to provide these immediately, but it’s good to have them to hand if the opportunity comes up.

Ask questions

Certain individuals may need a little help to steer the conversation. Some of the questions Neal asked me which I found helpful in our conversation were:

1) How long have you felt this way?

This encouraged me to really think about how long the feelings had been troubling me. Though I couldn’t pinpoint an exact date, I knew it had been building over the course of a few months.

The NHS uses two weeks as a guideline. Consistent or recurring symptoms during this time are generally a good indicator that someone is experiencing a mental health problem.

2) Is there anything that could be done to help?

You may very well get the same sort of response I gave. I whimpered “I don’t know” and continued crying. This is actually a good indication that there may be something deeper going on. If someone is unable to identify WHY they feel the way they do, it could be cause for concern.

Equally, life events can trigger mental illness. So it gives the person an opportunity to say “I’m unhappy in my relationship”, “my job is making me miserable”, “I feel lonely” etc. It may be this person needs support and encouragement to make some changes, or simply that they need to get it off their chest.

3) Do you think it would be worth speaking to a professional about the way you’ve been feeling?

I recommend keeping this question until the tail-end of the conversation, after you’ve given the person plenty of time to share how they feel.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that it can be hard to hear, especially if this is the first time someone is talking about their mental health. Through the course of my conversation with Neal and hearing my own thoughts out loud, I realised myself I desperately needed help. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to recognise it on my own terms, rather than having the idea planted from the start.

The second reason to delay it is to avoid the individual feeling like you’re passing them along to someone else. The following is an exaggerated example, to demonstrate my point.

You: Hey, how are you?
Loved one: I’m fine, thanks, how are you?
You: I’m okay thanks, but are you sure you’re okay? You haven’t seemed yourself lately.
Loved one: Well, actually, I’ve been feeling really low.
You: Maybe you should speak to your doctor?

Your advice may be justified, but the timing is poor. What they need in that moment is someone familiar, who they know and trust, to be there.

It’s important to bring the subject up at some point, so don’t dodge it altogether. Just be considerate of your timing and your wording.

Notebook on top of a scarf

How to talk about mental health when you’re struggling

Choose someone you trust and somewhere you will be comfortable

I was actually on the train reading Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig when it occurred to me it was time to talk about what I was going through. However, a train isn’t the best place to nudge your boyfriend and announce that you think you’re depressed.

So, I blinked back the tears, and waited until we were home. We were lying in bed. My mind was going a million miles a minute. Then the conversation began, and it all unravelled from there.

Choose the time, place and the person carefully. Ensure all of these factors are appropriate for you, and don’t give you any reason to feel uncomfortable or change your mind.

Use a way that feels right for you

Admitting that you’re struggling is very, very hard. Saying it out loud may feel like diving into the deep end. I think I needed to say it out loud, but that’s not going to be the same for everyone.

If you would prefer to write it down, either as a letter, a text message or an email, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. If you want to combine both, and perhaps write something then read it aloud to someone, then that’s another option.

The main thing is that you get it out there. The means you choose to do so are far less important.

Don’t worry about what you say

Whatever route you choose, don’t get caught up in trying to express yourself eloquently. Just be honest and let the words flow. Cry if you need to.

I bumbled and babbled my way through my conversation with Neal. At that point, I just needed to let it out. I didn’t have time to think about what I was saying as sentence after sentence tripped over each other coming out of my mouth. Luckily, Neal was able to connect the dots.

If you start getting hung up on that, you may never say anything at all. Again, the point is to say what you need to say. If it’s a bit messy and jumbled, it’s no big deal!

Be honest

Don’t sugarcoat it. If you’ve been going through hell, then say so. I know it’s hard because you don’t want people to worry about you, but it’s the best way for them to grasp where you are at mentally. It might not be pleasant, but it’s essential in deciding the help you might need.

For a month or so before I revealed the extent of my feelings, I would say things like “I’m just not having a good day, but I’ll be okay.” I constantly downplayed the way I felt. I could have saved myself a month of anguish if I’d come right out and said “I feel completely miserable and it’s not getting any better.”

Share as much or as little as you want to

I do recommend being as open as possible, but you need to take that at your own pace. It doesn’t have to all come out during one conversation. There’s no need to reel off every single detail if it’s going to make you feel worse. Talking about mental health struggles can be exhausting, so it’s perfectly okay to not feel up to letting it ALL out. There’s only really one thing you need to get across and that’s the fact you’re not okay.

Equally, if you want to get as much out in one go as you can, that’s fine, too! It’s sometimes easier when you’ve reached this point for it to all spill out. For me, it was definitely a case of once I started, it was hard for me to stop as I’d bottled it up for so long.

Don’t expect too much

It goes without saying that the person you’re talking to isn’t going to have all of the answers. They may not know what to say, and you need to be aware of that. Be grateful of the fact they want to listen to you and try to help. It is a sign that this person cares about you.

Ultimately, this conversation is an opportunity for you to talk about how you feel, so keep that in mind. The best outcome is that you’re given the space to express yourself. Ideally, you will gain more from it, but if all that happens is you get your feelings off your chest, let that be enough for the time being. It’s a big step in the right direction!

This is the starting point of a journey, not a quick fix. I promise you, you will feel better for talking about it.

Remember you’re not alone

There’s still a lot of stigma around mental health, which is one of the main reasons Time To Talk Day exists. So, I understand if you feel apprehensive about admitting how you feel. Just know it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make you weird. It doesn’t make you weak.

Mental illness affects 1 in 4 of us during our lifetimes. Just because it’s easier to hide than a physical illness doesn’t mean you should. It’s okay to talk about it. There are people who have been through the same thing, and they will understand. There are people who want to help you come through the other side.

It can feel like it will never go away, but recovery is possible. Often, it starts with a conversation.

How To Talk About Mental Health

How To Start A Conversation About Mental Health
Time To Talk
Tips For Starting A Conversation About Mental Health

Children’s Mental Health Week 2019

Children’s Mental Health Week 2019

Today marks the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week. This initiative is ran by Place2Be, who are a children’s mental health charity. Though Children’s Mental Health Week began in 2015, this is the first year I’ve known about it (thanks to Rachael and her fantastic list of notable dates in 2019).

I learnt about Place2Be at Christmas, when I purchased some charity cards in Paperchase. They offer support services for pupils, parents and teachers, as well as conducting research into children’s mental health. In one of their recent studies of over 1000 young people, 56% of participants said they worry all the time about something.

Several of us look back at childhood fondly. It was an easier time, with far less responsibilities. Personally, I loved my childhood. There were some hard situations in the mix, though – the most prevalent being my Grandma’s death when I was eight years old.

To refer back to the aforementioned study, I certainly don’t recall worrying all the time. That’s not what I associate my childhood with, and it makes me sad to think that such a vast number of children do. It feels wrong to me. We spend so much of our adult lives worrying – about work, about bills, about all sorts. Childhood should be more or less free of such a strain.

The challenges of childhood

Thinking about it, though, children have a great deal to contend with. For me, one of the biggest issues was the pressures I faced because I was smart, but there are so many hurdles a child can face.

Some are victims are of bullying. Others are full time carers for their parents. Some may experience bereavement, just as I did. There is pressure from tests and exams. Several may be experiencing abuse at home. And most, I imagine, have access to the internet which brings along its own problems.

Social media and the internet are not solely to blame. However, I am always grateful of the fact it wasn’t such a huge deal during my childhood. As an adult, I find social media hard to navigate at times. I know to step away when it starts to feel like a burden, but I dread to think of the effect it has on children and teenagers.

They are at a stage in their life when they could be easily influenced. They are inundated with images and videos – many of which will be harmful to their self-esteem. The sheer amount of information available at their fingertips has the potential to be dangerous.

In the context of bullying, it makes it so much easier for that problem to follow a child home. They have no escape; no relief. It’s relentless. The impact that must have is heartbreaking to consider. When I was bullied in secondary school, there was always comfort in knowing I’d go home and have a safe place. The same can’t be said of many young individuals today.

This tends to open up a new debate about parents letting their children on the internet. Let’s face it: it’s everywhere. A parent could try their hardest, but, in this day and age, it’s near impossible to avoid it altogether.

Children’s Mental Health Week 2019

The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 is “Healthy: Inside and Out”. Previous themes include “Being Ourselves” in 2018, and “Spread A Little Kindness” in 2017.

This year, it will highlight the close relationship between physical and mental wellbeing. The aim is to encourage children (and the rest of us) to take care of both. It provides support for the fact that mental health is just as important as physical health. This is a great thing to teach children, whether they are currently struggling or not.

I love the fact Children’s Mental Health week seems to be tackling two issues simultaneously: childhood obesity, and children’s mental health. I think this is a brilliant way to encourage children to be more active, and bring attention to the external and internal benefits. Though physical activity isn’t the only way to look after your brain, it does have plenty of plus points.

I wish Children’s Mental Health Week existed when I was younger. I’m glad it’s in place for children now. Many people assume that mental health and mental illness are only important as you get older. The truth is, they matter throughout our lives. The sooner we begin to learn that, the better.

Children's Mental Health Week

Why Children's Mental Health Week Is Necessary
Healthy Inside And Out
Mental Health Matters At All Ages

Stop And Smell The Roses [Guest Post by Cordelia]

Stop And Smell The Roses [Guest Post by Cordelia]

How often do you stop and smell the roses? I’ll let you think about that for a second.

In today’s guest post, Cordelia explains why it’s important to make time for things like that. The little things.

To say I’m excited about this post would be a huge understatement, so I’m not going to keep you any longer. Dive in!


Don’t look at me like that, I know using the phrase ‘stop and smell the roses’ is such an overused cliche.

But like all overused cliches, there’s a reason behind it. My name is Cordelia, and this is my story about stopping, and roses, and all the bits in between like baking bread and freshly cut grass. This is the point in which you might be utterly confused as to what is going on.

Don’t you worry your pretty little head, we’ll meander round to the point eventually.

But first. Stopping. Roses. Bread. Grass.

All have one thing in common: they are tiny things. Unimportant things. Things that are just there, in your life, whether or not you notice them. 52p for a bag of slightly squashed white bread from the supermarket. Roses in your neighbours garden, blooming long after they should be, defying the cold mornings to bob their heads at you. The scent of freshly mown grass wafting on the breeze as you walk to work, barely having registered the change of seasons.

Small things. Inconsequential things.

I love these things. They are the brightener-uppers of the day when you stop and acknowledge them. They are the things that can slow you down and make you take a breath and remember that life isn’t always busy and stressy and filled with meetings or social events or just trying to keep your own brain in one piece.

There was a time when I didn’t pay any attention to these things. When I was so wrapped up in the big things like ‘Trying To Eat’, ‘Trying To Stay Alive’, ‘Trying Not To Cry For The Fifth Time Today’.

I didn’t think I had time or energy for the little things.

To be completely honest, I forgot entirely they were there. My world had slowly faded in colour, like an old sepia photograph that had lain forgotten for years at the bottom of a box in the attic. My world had shrunk to the four walls of my bedroom, and occasionally the four walls of the doctors office.

My world was unrecognisable to the one I had grown up in. One in which I delighted in going blackberry picking in the autumn, and delighted over the first snowdrops in the spring. One in which I found pleasure in an ice cream dripping over my fingers on a hot summer’s day, my toes buried in the sand. I was lucky to have a blessed childhood filled with so many tiny things that each day added up to a big thing.

My world was little. But it wasn’t filled with little things.

I remember the first time the little things began to come back to me. It was when I spent a summer in a psychiatric ward, a long summer of endless sterile corridors and whispered conversations with people I barely remember the name of now.

One day I was spending some time alone in my room, with the duvet bunched up on the deep windowsill to make a comfy cushion. The world had stopped being so loud. The sun rays filtered through the window and warmed my skin. I could see trees and flowers blooming in the garden.

Little things.

I was still alive. Big thing. Those leaves outside would wither and regrow with barely anyone stopping to mark the passage of time. Little thing.

It was that day that I began to feel like myself again.

Began to feel like maybe I did have a future after all, that maybe I would get out and be a functioning member of society. Big things. But I vowed to myself that day that I would stop and appreciate the little things too, that I wouldn’t let them leave my life again.

I’ve kept that promise, more or less. Whenever life gets big and overwhelming I force myself to stop.

Stop. Roses. Grass. Bread. Breathe

Centering my world on the little things for just a moment reminds me of all the things that this world has to offer. All the amazing things I haven’t appreciated enough yet. All the things I want to be alive to see. And it took me a long time to get to that point. Hours and hours of big work, of taking myself apart and putting the pieces back together again like an old engine in a car that has come spluttering to an abrupt halt.

Roses.

Grass.

Bread.

Breathe.

The little things come back to me when I walk through London and catch a glimpse of St Paul’s Cathedral peeking through the tall buildings, or when I go home to Devon and take in the heart achingly beautiful view from the moors. Little things in the grand scheme of my life, but big things in the grand scheme of me staying alive.

All this is a giant plea for you to just stop. Take a moment to look around you. Within a hundred metres there will be a hundred little things for you to appreciate, for just a second. Things that maybe no one else that day has appreciated.

For me, right now, sat on my bed: I can appreciate the new warm coat I finally treated myself too, the posters on my wall that remind me of my chosen family, the Winnie the Pooh themed bedding that transports me back to my childhood.

Little things. They help the world keep spinning.

Stop And Smell The Roses

The Important Of Stopping To Smell The Roses
Stopping, Roses And All The Bits In Between
Do You Make Enough Time For Little Pleasures

Follow Cordelia:

Blog: www.cordeliamoor.com

Twitter: @cordeliamoor_

Instagram: @cordeliamoor


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