Anxiety and Depression Toolkit

Hi guys, so sorry for the lack of posts recently. It’s been super hectic here since I’m coming to the end of my final year but I thought I’d just write a quick post documenting a few things that have helped me through the most difficult phases of my anxiety & depression. I like to call it my ‘toolkit’. Please bear in mind that though these things often work for me, they might not work for everyone. If you’ve been reading you might be aware I’ve recently started on regular medication to keep my anxiety and depression under control, but these things were somewhat helpful prior to starting my medication. I’m hoping it might give anyone out there who’s struggling at least a couple of ideas!

IMG_7559.JPG

Above are a few little herbal remedies. Now, I’m not one to say these seriously work. However, I gave them a go. And though I can’t say whether the herbal remedies themselves did anything, just carrying these things with me and using them from time to time made me feel as if I was at least slightly in control. My favourite is Bach’s Rescue Remedy. Just the act of spraying it on my tongue seemed to calm me down slightly. It’s got quite a bitter taste; it isn’t really pleasant, but it seemed to snap me out of anxiety attacks in particular. I didn’t have much luck with Kalms, though. In the little bag are my worry dolls. For someone who is quite logical and often extremely rational, it might sound a little weird that I’d carry these around. And again, it’s not like I seriously believe they work, but carrying my worry dolls with me made me feel at least slightly in control. When I have them with me, I always feel comforted. Think of them as a lucky charm.

IMG_7588.JPG

IMG_7571.JPG

IMG_7570.JPG

Above I have my little notebook. When I was having counselling, my counsellor suggested to carry around a little notebook to note down when I’d have anxiety attacks. As soon as I could write in my notebook, I did, and I’d list a) what is was that triggered my attack, b) how the attack made me feel, c) what I did to try and calm down and d) reflections on the situation and now I’d try to avoid a similar situation in the future. This tactic was really helpful for me as i learnt when things were more likely to trigger my anxiety in public. It also helped me to come to terms with the fact that some things do trigger an anxiety attack, but that once it’s over, I’ll be okay. I really recommend this technique. I bought this small notebook from TK Maxx and it was small enough to fit into my pocket. Even though my medication has helped me tremendously, I still like to carry my notebook around just in case I ever need to use it again.

IMG_7590.JPG

IMG_7589.JPG

IMG_7591.JPG

Above is my Aston Filofax in Orchid leather. I love my Filofax; I plan my life in it and it really helps to give me a sense of routine and structure. When I was at my lowest points, my filofax became very important for instilling structure and routine into my schedule. It was also helpful to make plans well in advance (spontaneity is not my strong point). I also find making to-do lists really helps to calm my nerves as I can cross off tasks when they’re completed. This Filofax was a Christmas present but I know they’re not cheap. However I’ve had it for years now and I honestly couldn’t live without it. My paper refills this year were from paperchase (and I think they’re rather gorgeous!).

IMG_7579.JPG

IMG_7569.JPG

Reading is a great way to relax. Though I was initially reluctant to get one, (I’m a huge fan of paper books…they’re such a pleasure) my kindle is absolutely fantastic as it means I can carry literally hundreds of books with me at any time. I love my kindle and it has really helped me get through anxious days.

IMG_7593.JPGm

Using candles with comforting scents is such a luxury, but it’s definitely something I appreciate when I’ve had a hard day. Yankee Candles are exceptional, with gorgeous scents and a great throw. The scents really fill the entire room. Fluffy Towels is a very comforting, fresh and clean scent. It smells like freshly washed laundry. It sounds odd, but I promise It is very relaxing.

IMG_7592.JPGn

Finally, I like to remind myself that things will be okay, no matter how bad I’m feeling right now. If you’re struggling with anxiety and depression, just know you can get through it. I’ve achieved so much since starting my medication and I’m really proud of myself. You just need to find what works for you, but I promise you’ll get there. I hope these ideas are even just a tiny bit helpful.

Remember to look after yourself.
Heather x

Advertisements

the Balm goodies*

This is a slight departure from my ‘usual’ posts, but when I went to the Hull Bloggers meet I came away with some really amazing goodies and I’d love to share them with you all. I was truly lucky to win an AMAZING bundle of the Balm cosmetics on our raffle, the proceeds of which went to the fabulous Look Good feel Better charity who you can see here:¬† http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk/ .

the Balm goodiesI’ve been using the Balm products for a little over a week now, and having never owned any of the Balm’s products before I’m completely new to them. I have to admit make up serves a few purposes for me. Of course, I love experimenting with new products and styles, but make up is the one thing that can make or break a day for me, especially if I’m struggling and am in a lot of pain. I often find making myself look good helps me to feel my best, and gives me more confidence to face the day regardless of how my body is feeling. I was absolutely shocked to win this prize, and I have been having a lot of fun trying everything out.

First, I’m going to talk about the two eyeshadow palettes I received. I received Balmsai and the Meet Matt(e) Nude. One thing that really stands out about the Balm’s products is their quirky and unique packaging. It’s something I’ve never seen in any other product range and it really brings a smile to your face whilst getting ready in the morning.

Meet Matt(e) and Balmsai

Balmsai is a multi-functional palette, with a mixture of matte and shimmery nude and coloured shades. Each of the shadows are grouped together for ease of use. The mixture of matte and shimmery shades makes for a really versatile palette, and I’ve been finding I’m loving the shimmery shades for the festive season. I haven’t found fault in any of the colours as they’re all highly pigmented and somewhat creamy in consistency, so I don’t have to worry about fall-out all over my cheeks! The addition of the eyeliner and brow stencils means it’s easier to achieve lined eyes and neat eyebrows. This is something that’s quite difficult for me as my hemi hand doesn’t work as well as my other one, so having a stencil enables me to create looks I usually struggle with.

BalmsaiParticular favourites so far are Surfari and Stoked. Theyre perfect for adding a pop of colour into an otherwise natural make up look. As my eyes are greeny/brown, the purple shades seem to complement my eyes really well and I love the sparkle and iridescence in the coloured shades.

BalmsaiMeet Matt(e) Nude is, as you’ve guessed, packed full with gorgeous nude shades that are perfect for an every day look. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a really good nude palette for ages and I’m so glad I have this as it’s everything I’d hoped it would be (and more!)

Meet Matt(e) NudeI also think some of these shades would be suitable for brushing through eyebrows with an angled brush for a bit of definition. Of course all these shades are matte, and like the Balmsai palette, the shadows are somewhat creamy in consistency so don’t tend to fall out after application. I’ve been using my EcoTools brushes to apply these shades and blend them out with my Nanshy blending brush, also a great product from the Hull Bloggers meet.

Nanshy Brush

Next is the selection of blushers and bronzers. The bronzer is Bahama Mama, and it a matte, deep brown shade. It has no shimmer and is great for contouring.

Bahama Mama

Bahama Mama

Next is the blusher Instain, in Houndstooth. This blusher has far more staying power than my usual blushers (Bourjois, Sleek) and is a matte, dark pink. This is great for adding a natural glow to the cheeks and is highly pigmented. I’ve had to be careful whilst applying this as the staying power means you need to make sure you’ve placed it in exactly the right place before blending in.

Instain in Houndstooth

Instain in Houndstooth

Hot Mama is a shimmery, peachy/pink  blusher with gold undertones. It can be used as both a shadow and a blush and adds a lovely glowy, dewy look to the cheeks.

Hot Mama

Hot MamaBelow you can see all three side by side. I am particularly enjoying Bahama Mama as a contouring bronzer, and though it looks really dark in the pan, it’s really good even on my fair skin and doesn’t look at all harsh when blended in well.

Instain, Bahama Mama, Hot MamaInstain, Bahama Mama, Hot Mama

Swatches

Next is the Mary-Lou Manizer, which is a gorgeous, super shimmery highlighter. Again, the Balm’s packaging is so cute, and is really well designed.

Mary-Lou Manizer

Mary Lou Manizer

To compare I’m using my Philosophy Divine Illumination highlighter in light.

Mary-Lou Manizer and Philosophy Divine IlluminationMary Lou Manizer and Philosophy Divine IlluminationThe Mary Lou Manizer is far more shimmery than the Philosophy highlighter, and is great for lightly highlighting the top of your cheek bones and the inner corner of your eyes.

Mary Lou Manzier and PhilosophyNext is the Body Builder What’s Your Type? mascara. The volumizing brush grips every lash. The formula is somewhere in the middle of runny and dry, and so coats every lash in just one coat. It’s great to build volume so you can acheieve either a more natural or more dramatic look depending on your mood.

What's Your TypeWhat's Your TypeSchwing is a liquid eyeliner and is great for creating a retro look. The formula is quick drying and very dark, enabling you to create great definition. The liner itself is very thin, and is fairly easy to use.

SchwingSchwingFinally I’m going to talk to you about the lip products in the bundle. I absolutely love lipstick and lip gloss, so these products were right up my street! The Balm Girls is a cute play on The Bond Girls, and is in the colour Mai Billsbepaid. It is a dark nude colour and very wearable. The bullet of the lipstick is really sleek and pearlescent, and makes the product itself an absolute joy to apply. The lipstick itself is matte in appearance and has great staying power. It stayed on my lips for about 7 hours during the day and only needed the odd touch up.

Balm GirlsThe lip gloss is the Pretty Smart lipgloss in ZAAP! It has a white shimmer in a hot pink base.

Pretty Smart in ZAAP!Though initially it seems really bright, it’s actually very wearable and gives a gorgeous sheen to the lips. It isn’t at all sticky, and has a fruity scent that disappears quickly on application. The doe foot applicator ensures even coverage on the lips. It doesn’t last for ages but I don’t expect lipglosses to have much staying power usually. My lips do feel hydrated after use, which is great in this cold weather!

Pretty Smart in ZAAP!All in all I’m extremely impressed with all the products you’ve seen. As I’ve said above, wearing make up can really enhance my day and I’m so grateful to have some truly wonderful products to use. The Balm has really made my make up bag so much more exciting, and I can’t wait to show you all some looks I’ve created.

I hope you’re having a great Monday!

Heather

The Past Week

I just thought I would give you an update from the past week or so as things have been really hectic and it always feels great to write about everything. It’s definitely cathartic discussing things that have been an issue, and so this is probably going to take on a more personal tone.

It’s been a busy yet wonderful 7 days. Exactly a week ago, I found myself in a room packed full of wonderful blogging folk. We ate cakes, sipped tea, got to try out some brilliant new products and had a generally all round fantastic day. It was really fantastic to meet some new people, and though I’d class myself as a born-again newbie blogger, it was nice to feel somewhat integrated into a community of bloggers. I struck it lucky on the raffles and came home laden with goodies and treats; all of which are jotted down into my blogging schedule to appear over the course of the next seven days. I admit I’ve been somewhat hampered; I cannot seem to access my photos from my SD card, yet on my camera itself it is displaying all the pictures I’ve taken. This is really frustrating, as I had some great things to show you on there. Hopefully I’ll be able to work it out soon, or alternatively I’ll just take some more pictures on a different device and hope for the best! Either way, it’ll buy me a bit more time to really get great use out of the products and hopefully I can provide you with a really useful review of the day itself and the products.

Since it’s the run up to Christmas, there’s been some great events on. I’ve had lovely little nights in with friends, cosied up with a bottle of wine and some festive treats, chatting the night away. I’ve also consumed the obligatory festive mince pie and mulled wine, watched a fair few Christmas films snuggled up in bed with only the light of a candle, and everyday I’ve been eagerly opening each little window of my advent calendar with a small piece of chocolate as a reward for my efforts. This is such a wonderful time of the year and I’m really grateful to all the generous people who are sharing it with me.

University work is beginning to pile up, and this is starting to take it’s toll on me both physically and mentally. I thought I was getting over the last ‘bad pain’ phase, but I fear it’s only just beginning. The most frustrating thing about living with chronic pain isn’t necessarily the pain itself, but the things that come along with it. I am so, so tired recently. All I want to do is sleep and this is becoming a real issue for me. When there’s so much to do (volunteering, studying, essay writing) sleeping for 10-12 hours every night takes a massive chunk out of the day. Yes, I could take painkillers, but these make me sleep anyway, and without them there’s a chance I might feel well enough to power through. I am so excited to get home and to try and have as much of a break as possible. Admittedly this won’t be easy considering I have 11000 words worth of essays due in for January, but at least my family can look after me a little bit and take some of the stress away. Cooking is becoming a real chore, and this is really sad. Cooking is a great stress reliever for me, but feeling this exhausted means I don’t always enjoy it as it completely drains me of any energy. However, I’m hoping that over Christmas I’ll be able to get back into the swing of things. In doing so, I’m aiming to start posts including my favourite recipes and food products. I absolutely LOVE food, and I’d love to share any inspiration with you all as I know how tricky it can sometimes be to come up with something exciting and different whilst working/having a busy day. I love quick, easy to prepare meals, as they’re much easier for me to create when I’m having a bad day, so expect some of these in the near future!

This semester has made me realise I need to stop expecting so much from myself. I definitely need a good break and to look after myself a lot more. Sometimes you need things to go a bit haywire to put things into perspective, and I’m definitely looking at things through different eyes.

I hope you’re enjoying the run up to Christmas whatever you may be doing.

Heather

 

Life can be a pain, sometimes

I say this with all seriousness. Life can be a pain for anyone, of course. There’s the usual stressors of everyday life, sometimes there’s issues with friends and family, and sometimes there’s problems at work.

However, for some people, life isn’t just a pain: life can be painful, too.

Having Scheuermann’s disease and cerebral palsy means that I live with chronic pain. Though it is a common misconception, having chronic pain doesn’t necessarily mean the pain is severe; it simply means that the pain lasts for an extended period of time (the word chronic is derived from the Greek ‘chronos’, meaning ‘time’). So, to put this into perspective from my point of view, if I’m talking about my back pain, I haven’t been free from that for over seven years now. That’s right. Seven years of pain occurring pretty much every day. So what does this constant pain mean? How do people living with chronic pain cope? And finally, how does it affect the way I live my life?

I’ve always found it difficult to articulate what living with chronic pain feels like. I’d like to say that the expectation of having pain is a constant thought in the back of my mind. Pain is the last thing I feel at night, and the first thing I wake up to in the morning. Yes, it hurts, of course it does, but there’s ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days. There’s days where the pain is barely noticeable, but there’s days where the pain is all consuming and it stops me doing normal things. I like to think of my pain as a Bunsen burner flame. Like my pain, the Bunsen is always on; but the flame burns more strongly when you add oxygen to it. Like the flame, when I do too much (just adding more oxygen to the Bunsen) I can exacerbate my pain levels, and the pain becomes ‘stronger’ or worsens.

Sometimes this happens without prior warning. I don’t necessarily have to have done anything in particular to exacerbate my pain, (this can be really frustrating) but there is usually a reason why. Silly, I know, but sitting for an extended period can exacerbate my pain levels, as can standing for too long. I’m constantly needing to strike the perfect balance. If I go for a long walk, I have to be prepared that I may be in more pain as a result, from both my Scheuermann’s (abnormal curvature in my thoracic spine; I’ll explain all in a later post!) and cerebral palsy. It’s a really odd thing to talk about, and it sounds so silly, but I’m constantly aware that each day will bring different levels of pain. Being in constant pain means there are things I cannot always do, though when I was younger I tried to ignore the fact I wasn’t necessarily able to do everything that I’d like to. Going to the cinema is pretty painful, and as much as I like going out to eat in a restaurant, the extended period of time sat down means that can become quite a painful experience. I’ve recently had to accept that going out clubbing isn’t really the best thing for me. Being on your feet all night coupled with the fact you’re constantly being pushed into by drunk dancers doesn’t make for comfortable entertainment! Studying for university can become difficult, but I’ve learnt to deal with it by constantly working and reading, so that if I need to take a day off then I can.

There are various ways I cope with my chronic pain, so I’ll try to list them;

1) take painkillers as and when I need them.
I’m prescribed quite a hefty amount of analgesia, but only take tablets when I feel I can’t cope. I’m often described as having my very own pharmacy in my room, and I can’t necessarily dispute that!

2) use heat pads/various other heated products
I have a heat pad that brings great relief when I’m struggling. It’s basically like a miniature electric blanket and you can adjust the heat setting. My dad bought mine from Boots and it was such a great buy!

3) learn to take it easy
This has been really difficult for me. I’m quite an anxious person naturally so I tend to want to rush so that I get everything done as quickly as I can. In light of this I’ve learnt to give myself a break when I need it. Living with constant pain can be extremely draining both physically and mentally, and I need some quality time to recuperate.

4) have the occasional glass of wine
I’m not saying this and justifying it, however I have found that if I’m not prepared to deal with the side effects of my medication when I’m really bad, (drowsiness, euphoria, itchiness) I’ll have a small glass of red wine maybe about once a week. I don’t drink a lot of it, but I do notice it definitely helps to relax my sore muscles.

5) be happy!
Though things can be difficult at times, I’m truly happy and extremely privileged to live the life that I live. I’ve had a lovely upbringing, been to school, achieved great grades and I’m now studying at university and I’m expecting to finish my final year in 2015. Trying to keep happy means I take time out to do things purely for the pleasure of doing things. I like to watch rubbish telly in bed, I like to have the odd takeaway and not feel bad about it, and I like to spend time with really supportive friends and family. I’m very lucky that the university I attend is really supportive and adjusts things as and when I need. They’re truly great and I know if I’m having a particularly painful day I can inform my department and know that there’s support there if I so need it.

Living with chronic pain does mean I’m constantly accounting for ‘bad’ days or ‘bad’ parts of days. I found a theory someone came up with to describe this, and they have described it so wonderfully I don’t think I could possibly add anything more to it. It’s called the ‘Spoon Theory’ and was created by Christine Miserandino. Click on the link below to find out more:

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

I’m aware that this has been a pretty long post, and if I’m honest I could add so much more to this and be writing for days. However, I don’t expect any of you would have the patience to read it (I know I wouldn’t!) So I’ll stop there for now.

Best wishes and I hope your week is going well!
Heather