Thursday, 28 August 2014

Anxiety August: Helping Others

The Last in the series, today is a little post of some ways in which you could try to help someone who suffers from anxiety. I want to stress that everyone with anxiety is completely different and needs different things, so some suggestions may work, others might not, but at the very least it might trigger you to think of other ways which would be more suited to your friend/relative.

  1. Don't ignore trigger signs. If someones constantly cancelling plans and it's out of character, it may be a sign that their struggling. Of course they may genuinely have to cancel for a valid reason, but it may also be something more. Anxiety suffers often don't notice a change in themselves, are in denial that they need help or scared and don't know what to do about it. You may be the first person who asks if they really do mean it when they say their fine. There's nothing worse than dealing with it on your own.
  2. Accept it. Whilst it may take years for your friend/relative to accept that anxiety is apart of their personality, you will also need to be accepting. Depending on how severe the anxiety, treatment is a long-term thing with the chance of relapses. Whilst it's annoying when a friend will no longer travel to you, until they learn to manage their fear of public transport for example,  asking them to make an hour bus journey may be unrealistic and place a huge amount of pressure on them. Nobody with anxiety wants to feel or act like they do. You wouldn't ask someone with a physical illness to do something that would aggravate their condition, so it's unfair to do the same with mental illness.
  3. Don't be too soft. Whilst you need to be accepting of the debilitating effects of anxiety, it's not a free-for-all pas to behave the way you want. Similarly, my mum was at times strict with me, making me go out of the house more as I was slowly getting better. Left to my own devices, I probably would have avoided leaving the house despite it being part of my treatment plan. I would definitely recommend asking your friend/relative about their treatment plan and any way in which you can assist in making sure their able to do it. That might range from planning small trips out that very slowly extend their comfort zone, reminding them to practice their CBT exercise or even doing some techniques such as positive and negative lists each day with them. Sometimes people need a little support and push in the right direction.
  4. They're still them They are still your friend. They are still your relative. Their just ill. If your unsure on how to support someone, start by just being a friend. Offer a shoulder to cry on or an ear for them to rant if they need it. Be there for the bad times as well as those days when you think that maybe their getting better. Anxiety can be the most isolating thing, making you feel alone even if your in a room full of people you know. Having someone consistently there on your side can make the world of difference.
  5. Bribes and goals Bribes work, and when people lack motivation they may be a good way to kick start treatment. If I managed to go a week without avoiding or cancelling plans due to anxiety, I got a small treat, whatever you can afford. That goal was then extended or upped a level. Ultimately I began to realize I could do something and it would be ok; my anxieties didn't become a reality. Rewards for me were anything from a Christmas edition Starbucks to a new lipstick, but could include watching a film, their favorite meal, a Lush bath bomb or anything that person particularly enjoys and considers a treat. Of course I would advise avoiding things which are particularly addictive such as alcohol, drugs etc. as this can lead to a more serious health problem. Just remember to ween off the rewards, extending the period of time so they don't become dependent. 
  6. Normality For me, it was so important to try and maintain a sense of normality. I was so scared by what was happening and felt like I was different and going crazy. As boring as it sounds, it's important not to radically change someones lifestyle. Like I said, anxiety treatment is often a long-term thing, and although the symptoms can be debilitating, if someone is to successfully manage the condition, life can't stop. Clearly this is completely dependent on the person and the severity, but any type of routine including tasks they would consider the usual may help you show them they can still function.
  7. You can only do so much It's amazing that you want to support someone, but you shouldn't take on something to such an extent which makes you ill too. It's one thing to help someone keep positive and be a shoulder for them to cry on, it's another for you to carry all their worries and your own by yourself. It's impossible for you soley to help make someone cope with anxiety. You can help and support, but in the end it's down to your friend/relative to manage it for themselves. If you start supporting someone with the intention of 'curing' them, you may end up traping yourself in a cycle of worry and disappointment. It's as important you understand your limitations and maintain your own happiness. You can't help anyone if you yourself are starting to suffer.

Have you got any ways that you think would help someone? Share them below!


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Anxiety August: Keep It Bright

I stumbled across Keep It Bright when a good blogger friend of mine, Amy, tweeted about her love. This happened to be the most perfect time ever for me, and it was most certainly love at first click.

Keep It Bright is the brain child of Zara and it's aim is to encourage people to live a more positive lifestyle. Having previously faced her demons, Zara now helps others conquer there's. Apart from running campaigns, a blog, a youtube channel and many other outlets, there's also a Keep It Bright Shop. I'm so proud of myself for finally getting myself in a good place, but I know that it's still very early days and I'm going to have to work hard to maintain this new outlook. I'm part of the tumbler/pinterest/whatevers next generation where positive quotes are re-tweeted around the world every second, and it helps to have little reminders throughout the day to keep me on track. 

One of the most subtlest ways is by having a phone case with positive lifestyle choices written on it. Whenever I'm getting a little stressed, be it at work or just out and about, I can just slip my phone out and go over the mantras in my head. Sometimes all you need is something to re-affirm what you already know and believe in. Another thing that helps me when I'm stressed is my pink bracelet. My Grandad always used to tell me "where there's a will there's a way" and I actually blame him for why I'm so stubborn. Aside from the personal reasons, I think all of us need to remember that their are many ways to achieve a goal, and just because you've failed one way, doesn't mean you will never reach the finish line. I also had to pick up this print. Living in the past is something I have struggled with and I am definitely someone who worries about could be's. Seeing this first thing in a morning in my room, and before I go to bed helps remind me to live in the moment and enjoy every opportunity that comes my way. Lastly, I added the amazing Keep It Bright manual to my shopping basket. Filled with inspiring quotes, positive messages and activities that make you re-think your outlook, it's ideal when you need a bit of motivation.

I couldn't recommend Keep It Bright more. The prices are great and the shipping is super quick! If you fancy taking a look, click here


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Lush Tea Tree Toner Water

Toner - £7.50 

I think one of the first things people learn about skincare is that tea tree helps calm blemish prone skin. Whilst my blemishes aren't particular terrible, I like to keep them at bay. Although often a step that's missed out of a routine, I've found that using a toner after cleansing really helps to maintain my skin. This one from Lush has been my favorite all summer long.

Available in two sizes, this toner is a light spray promising to keep your skin both clear and refreshed. Containing Tea Tree to keep away any spot-causing bacteria, Juniperberry to act as an antiseptic and Grapefruit to refresh your skin, it's great for anyone who's prone to the odd blemish. After all prevention is usually better than treatment! Ideal for removing traces of stubborn makeup or a cream cleanser. Similarly it's perfect for spritzing on your skin when your feeling a bit hot and bothered or after the gym, and is even better if you keep it in your fridge to keep cool. Although it's made with oily and spot prone skin in mind, I found it really soothed my dry combination skin and really helped combat tightness and dehydration. The spray top is so convenient, allowing you to either spray the water onto a cotton pad and use it in specific areas or spray it directly onto your face as a mist. For me, spraying it as a mist is the most refreshing way to use this product, especially in the morning as it really helps me wake up. As for my skin, well apart from no major breakouts, I've notice a huge difference in my pores and the amount of shine I get. If I do happen to get a spot, it will go relatively fast and is usually pretty minor. I've been using this toner now all Summer and am, thankfully, nowhere near finished using it. £7.50 well spent.

What toner do you recommend?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Anxiety August: Blogging

Firstly, I do apologise that there were no posts last week. I was pretty ill and actually ended up in A&E on a drip. Hopefully I'm now on the mend and there will be no disruptions to the normal blogging schedule. In an effort to play catch up and publish all the Anxiety August posts I'd planned, there's going to be 5 blog posts this week rather than the usual 3. Lucky you!

Today's Anxiety August post is to do with the impact of blogging on someone's anxiety. Recently a lot of bloggers have admitted to suffering from anxiety in one form or another. Despite a large amount of us being prone to anxiety, we still voluntarily take part in blogging, which could potentially be adding fuel to the flame. 

I think the main thing that causes blogger anxiety is comparison. Even before you start blogging you have an idea of where you want to take your blog and when you want to achieve certain milestones. Of course this is all based on other bloggers experiences. It goes without saying that what works for one blogger, doesn't necessarily work for another and so inevitably brings disappointment as you fail to reach your target in the desired space of time. I myself have fallen victim to feeling pressurised to posting regularly despite being ill. But it's not just statistics that we compare. 

From what people do with their spare time, where they go on holiday, what they buy and how they look, you can't help but compare your life with that of the bloggers you follow. Sometimes we forget when reading about someone's latest adventures or splurges, that they choose what they post on their blog and 9 times out of 10, this will the good rather than bad bits. You only get to see small snippets of a bloggers life via their blog, and although social media can give you more insight, its still missing all the heartbreaks and disappointments they face. Even if a blogger decides to post about a negative aspect of their life, it still wont help you build a full picture of their life. 

So how do you avoid falling into the comparison trap? If you find a concrete answer let me know. I think it's natural for their to be an element of comparison, especially when someone is of similar age to you and has the same interests, but one thing you always need to remember is that everyone is different and lives different lives. The choices people make will mean that their lives will vary from yours, but that doesn't mean your life isn't as good. When a certain lifestyle becomes idealised, it makes you feel like anything else isn't good enough. Unless you really know the blogger you will never know the highs and lows they face day in and out. Maybe if you knew the negative aspects, you wouldn't feel so dissatisfied with your own blog or lifestyle. Blog posts are often read with rose-tinted glasses. Remember to read with caution.

How do you avoid falling into the comparison trap?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Old Wives Tail SOS Organic Anti-Hair Loss Oil Treatment

Hair Oil, Organic Oil, Hair Treatment,
Hair Oil (*) - £13.99

Oil is a buzz word in beauty. From hair, bath, skin and oil pulling, everyone seems to be going crazy for it. I must admit, although I love skin oils, I haven't had much experience with hair oils, so when I was offered a chance to try a 100% organic hair oil treatment from Old Wives Tails I jumped at the chance to find out . 

The SOS Organic Anti-Hair Loss Oil Treatment contains natural anti-bacterial agents that help promote a healthy scalp and sooth, moisturise and soften it to prevent hair loss. On top of that it also contains stimulating properties that increase circulation and encourage hair growth! Although I'm not suffering from hair loss, I do have an irritated scalp. Maybe an extension of dry skin, whenever I'm run down, I seem to get a really irritated, sore and sensitive scalp.

To use, simply massage the oil into your scalp focusing on the areas that are in need of the most attention. You should then smooth over the rest of your hair and leave the treatment on your hair for one hour. Once times up, rinse your hair with fresh water and shampoo until your hair feels clean and product free. If you use conditioner, you can go ahead but only on the ends of your hair. If you want an extra pamper session, you can even leave the treatment on overnight and wrap your hair in a warm towel.

Having used this oil a couple of times, I can honestly say my scalp has felt renewed. Not only is my scalp healthier, my hair looks more radiant. Someone at work even asked if I had dyed my hair as it looked so glossy! I particularly love that the oil is 100% organic. It's nice just to give my hair a break from harsh chemicals that I use when styling it daily, and focus on restoring it. I recommend popping on a face mask while you wait an hour to get a spa-like experience. The perfect addition to my relaxing Sunday nights!


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Anxiety August: My Story

I've had this post planned since the beginning of August, but only now have I managed to sit down at type it. It seems every time I tried to sit down and blog, I'd find something else "more urgent" to do, and put this post to the end of the list. See, I hate talking about how anxiety has affected my life and is something, if I'm honest, I'm still a bit embarrassed about. Some of you may now start thinking why I'm writing a post, actually a series of posts, on anxiety then. Put simply, if you never talk about it, it will always be something to be embarrassed about; and it's not. So many of my friends suffer from various degrees of anxiety, and it seems every week there's a new blogger who is brave enough to admit they too have been affected by it. Whilst there have been lots of posts about how anxiety affects people, I don't think I've found somewhere that really covers everything; their story, how they manage it, how to help people with it etc. This month marks two whole months since I've had a full-scale panic attack, so I think it's the right time that I now share the highs and lows of having anxiety and maybe even help someone else.

This is a really long post. The longest I've ever written; and possibly one of the most painful. If you reach the end, congratulations. It's not meant to be a "Ohh look at poor little me post". It's an attempt to de-glamorize anxiety, show what it's really like, and also show that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Before I go any further I just want to get it out there in black and white, having anxiety does not mean someone is attention seeking. Only this year I've heard people, who have good law degrees, training to be solicitors and supposedly smart people, say people who visibly show the signs of anxiety are just looking for attention. If you suffer from anxiety and have an anxiety attack, especially in a public place, most people will agree you want to get out of there and become invisible, not become more noticeable. It's embarrassing and scary and ruins your life. No one would truly want to have anxiety. Of course they didn't know I in fact suffered from anxiety and there misconceptions were some of the reasons why I got help too late.

My Experience
I've only realised recently that I've been suffering from anxiety since I was about 8, which sounds shocking. When I was 8 my mum was very ill and because I was so young I didn't understand why or what was happening despite having bits explained to me. As an only child in a small family, when your confused about whats happening you don't really have very many people to turn to, so I kept all my confusion inside. This confusion then turned into anxiety, and spread like wild fire to other areas of my life throughout my teenage years.


It was only when I was 17 that I finally sought help. I was absolutely terrified but when to the GP, only to be made to feel stupid for even coming and told that he had teenage daughters and it was normal. It might have been, but I still needed help. I felt more anxious than ever at that point so my parents decided to pay for a private referral. I was put on some medication, but all that did was attempt to solve the symptoms and not help me deal with my anxiety. Whilst I wasn't having full on panic attacks, I felt worse. It's hard to explain but I felt like I needed just to have a good cry, to release all that emotion, but my body just couldn't because of the medication. Needless to say my anxiety didn't stop. 

Through University I still had anxiety, but not to the same extent. Looking back I can see that my anxiety has been in peaks and troughs, with some years being particuarly worse than others. Throughout my 1st and 2nd year's I was constantly busy and felt I was slowly getting on top of my anxiety. However, in my 3rd year I began to isolate myself. I couldn't play hockey due to injury and being ill myself stopped me going out with friends and doing other things I loved. It was after graduation in the summer of 2013 when my anxiety really stepped up a gear to the worst it has ever been.

To say that my life from the summer of 2013 to May 2014 was ruled by anxiety is a complete an utter understatement. It was ruined. A common misconception of anxiety is that if your happy for a day, you clearly don't have anxiety. That's wrong. Of course you have good days. Of course you have bad days. I have some lovely memories from that period, but I also remember feeling very sick, very scared and very embarrassed about something that was out of my control. I used to dread leaving the house and I'd even set a countdown on my phone for how long I'd be out, to reassure me time was passing and I could be home soon. I don't know why, but being in public made me feel uneasy. I spent days on the brink of tears and would use the smallest thing to justify my worries. I said no to countless opportunities and avoided anything out of my comfort zone. If the tram was busy on the way home, that was it, I'd have a complete panic attack in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, possibly the most public place possible. My worst nightmare. The worst thing was that I started to feel overwhelmed even in my own home. My mum asking what I'd like for my tea would turn me into a wreck, getting ready to go out would just send me into a panic. I couldn't even watch television downstairs and would find myself drifting back upstairs unconsciously. Like many people with anxiety, I can tell when an attack is coming. For me, it feels like everything is coming at me, almost like bullets. Normal conversations not even to me will seem like people are shouting in my face, people walking will feel like they are walking into me, everything becomes overwhelming and claustrophobic. I felt there was nothing I could do to stop this and could see no way out. I couldn't, and still can't explain why I felt like I did, and I think that's the worst thing; the feeling like your going crazy. I hit rock bottom, and felt like I was watching myself in a car crash, in slow motion. 


Feeling like things couldn't get any worse, I went back to my GP. Luckily there was a lovely GP who was training, I think maybe on her 2nd year post qualification. To put into words how grateful I am to her is impossible, because she started my road to recovery. Breaking down in the doctors, I explained how my life had become like living in a prison. At first she suggested counselling, but then quickly realised that no amount of talking would help me find the answer to why. See, not all treatments are suited to all people and just because something has worked for one person, doesn't mean it will work for the next. She then said if I wan't to change my behavior, why didn't I try CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Initially I was reluctant but my GP reassured me that it would teach me coping techniques, and wouldn't be some kind of psychoanalysis. 

Hesitantly, I agreed to be referred to the NHS team. I waited. And Waited. 9 weeks later I finally got sent an appointment. I understand that the NHS is so stretched and underfunded and we are lucky to get access to such healthcare, but at a time when I couldn't go a day without having at least three panic attacks, being forced to wait a further 9 weeks for something I wasn't sure would even help was unbearable. Only this week anxiety has been used in the Liberal Democrat campaign with Nick Clegg vowing to increase funding for research into mental health and bring it in to line with more physical and visible illnesses. I hope this isn't just a political ploy, because something more needs to be done for illnesses that most of us will suffer at one point in our lives.

I actually cancelled that NHS appointment when it came as my incredibly supportive parents decided I couldn't wait and paid yet again for private sessions. I felt guilty for them paying for yet more treatment for me, but now, it seems it was the best money they have ever spent. By the time that NHS appointment came, I'd been panic attack free for 2 weeks. 

I was cynical about CBT, and thought it was a load of hippie talking malarky. For those of you who don't know, CBT is a way to change how you behave in certain situations. It's almost like conditioning yourself to deal with triggering circumstances in a more manageable way. When I was told my first session would be on "breathing" I rolled my eyes. I then gave myself a good talking to. I had reached lower than I had ever been, trying a bit of hippy breathing will not make it any worse. I did the session and then applied it to my next panic attack. I stopped before I'd got to a full-meltdown. I'd never been able to do that before. The more I practiced the techniques the quicker the panic attacks stopped, until they stopped altogether that is.


I have never wanted to hug someone so much as my therapist. She has given me a life back. I then moved on to how to relax in stressful situation that may give rise to panic attacks, and then how to deal with anxious thoughts. I've now finished the course of CBT and have realized some important things. I am always going to be anxious. It's as much apart of me as my freckles and blue eyes. What I can do though is take control of it and not let my life be dictated to by it. This acceptance of anixety being a part of me made me feel more in control. You cannot control your thoughts. No matter how control and disciplined you are, thoughts are subconscious. You can however control how you react and deal with those thoughts and CBT has helped me learn the right ways to do that.

As in said right at the start of this post. I've now not had a panic attack for 2 months. That's the longest I've ever gone since I was 16. I'm not going to say that I'll never have one again, because if I could predict that I should have my own late night show. But, if I do have a panic attack, at least I know that I can get control back of my anxiety and carry on living the life I want to live.

If you somehow got to the end of this, please let me know. On Friday I'll be talking about Anxiety and Blogging.
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