What I’ve learned from moving house 6 times in 5 years.

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The first time I moved was to a different city. In 2012 I moved out of my parent’s flat to student accommodation for University on the other side of the country. Moves 2-4 were flats I shared with other students, and I moved for various reasons (mostly crappy landlords and mould) but that’s another story. Move 5 was my shortest stay, staying for just over a month and having to look for house number 6 due to extenuating circumstances.

In August I will be leaving house number 6 to move into a flat I will share with a friend. Lucky number 7, eh?

As I contemplated yet another move, I began to think about all I’ve learned after living in so many places in such a short period of time. Surely I must have learned something, right?

  1. Moving is not fun. After the 3rd time it gets a little dull. If it had been in my power I would have much rather have stayed in the same place for at least a few years. Sadly friends move away and some houses are so awful you just have to get out of there.
  2. It’s important to keep on top of your cleaning throughout your lease. You’ll thank yourself when close to moving day. If you’ve kept on top of your hoovering/mopping/surface cleansing etc. it will take you a lot less time when you scrub last minute in hopes of getting all your deposit back.
  3. Don’t settle. In my 3rd year of University, I lived in a flat that can only be described as derelict. The walls were mouldy, the shower was poor at best, the hall was crawling in woodlouse – you get the idea. We’d jumped at the first place we could get because it was cheap and we were excited. In this economy there are more flats out there than potential tenants, so please be picky. Or you might regret it.
  4. OPEN YOUR WINDOWS REGULARLY. It will prevent mould and your flat will have a nice clean smell.
  5. Be careful who you choose to live with. No matter how much you love your friend, you might not be compatible flatmates. Do they like everything clean? Are they more casual? A complete slob? Find out. You don’t want a nasty surprise or to be in a situation where your habits put your friendship in danger. Also be careful about people who advertise for flatmates on sites such as gumtree. General stranger danger warnings aside, you don’t know them and they might leave you high and dry when it comes to bills or violating the lease you only signed a month ago…
  6. It’s good to have regular clear outs. Every few months or so look over your clothes, books, CD’s etc. and decide what you could do without. I regularly cull my bookshelf and wardrobe as from moving so often I’ve learned to dislike clutter. Moving is a lot easier when you only keep the things you love or need.
  7. Keep your sentimental items where you can see them. Every year it’s the same thing – I go through the boxes under my bed to pack them for the move or see what I can throw out and I find them. I am a soppy individual. I keep a box of all the birthday cards I have every received so I can read them again. I keep a battered old shoe box filled with nick naks from the early dates I had with my current partner. My sister made me a photo album for my 21st birthday. I end up spending the whole day looking at them and getting emotional about all the good times I’ve had and the people I am lucky to have in my life. I always kick myself for forgetting I had these items as they would have been so helpful when I was feeling down the rest of the year.

 

If any of you are moving soon or are a fellow accidental traveller I hope some of this resonated with you or was helpful. Move number 7 will be a step in the right direction as this last year I’ve been living alone and it doesn’t really suit me.

Take care of yourself, 

Nikki

 

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How exploring your creativity can boost your mood.

I spend a lot of my free time dreaming about the things I would love to do. I often imagine myself as the owner of a craft shop filled with my own designs. Little things I’ve sewn on tables and my paintings hung on the wall. I imagine there is a small cafe at the back full of my own baking creations, a new special every day.

Sadly I know next to nothing about business, and in this economy it would be a huge risk to even try.

The point of this story is that while I spend a lot of time dreaming about being creative, I rarely take the time to put these dreams into action. It’s fun to imagine, but if you push yourself to create you will be filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride – a great way to slowly build your self confidence.

It doesn’t matter if what you produce is good (although hopefully you like what you’ve made at least a little bit), what matters is how it makes you feel.

Exploring your creativity has many benefits. Activities such as painting or trying a new cookie recipe can be very therapeutic as you are creating something with your own two hands. It can distract you from the stress in your life at least for that moment. As you build your confidence in your chosen activity you will have something new that is a part of you. Many mental health professionals recommend exploring a new hobby in order to understand yourself better and to build on what makes you you. This can be very helpful when you are going through a traumatic change in your life or have difficulty spending time with yourself.

If you are one of those people who feel as if they don’t have a creative bone in their body, here is a list of potential creative hobbies you can try.

  • Baking
  • Painting with acrylics; beginners painting supplies can be bought very cheaply at pound stores and The Works
  • Sketching
  • Small sewing projects
  • Knitting/Crochet
  • Gardening
  • Explore interior designing by decorating houses on The Sims
  • Paper crafts
  • Writing short stories
  • Painting cardboard figurines; these can be found at stores such as The Range and Hobby craft from as little as £1
  • Adult colouring books

Everybody has a creative side, it’s just finding the right hobby for you. The sense of calm I feel after completing a creative project never fails to improve my mood when I’m having a particularly trying time.

 

Take care of yourself,

Nikki

Why clothing sizes don’t matter.

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It’s happened to a lot of us. We go shopping and find something we really love. We pick up our size and rush to the changing room excited to try it on…but it won’t go over the bust. It won’t go past our thighs. If you’re anything like me, this is a real knock to your self esteem.

I found myself in this situation earlier this afternoon whilst I was shopping for new trousers for my job interview next week. I was mortified. Instead of going out to pick up a larger size I avoided looking in the mirrors that surrounded me, trying to push away the thoughts that I looked bulgier than this morning. I returned the clothes to the shop assistant and all but stormed out the shop.

After reacting like this, I remembered the last time this had happened. It would have been a few years ago. Years before I heard about the concept of self love and treating yourself right. I realised how silly I had been. The size of my clothes don’t define me and are meaningless anyway.

Luckily I managed to find a nice black skirt for my interview (in a charity shop for £1, I am very proud of myself) and now I just need a blouse. If that blouse doesn’t fit me well even though it’s my ‘size’, I’m going to at myself in the mirror and say ‘let’s get the size up.’

Look after yourself,

Nikki

Impostor Syndrome: Self Doubt and You

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Most people at some point in their lives experience Impostor Syndrome. What is this you ask?

Impostor syndrome is described as the belief that you are not responsible for your achievements, that they are somehow a result of luck or an accident. That you somehow don’t deserve praise for your accomplishments and don’t believe you are capable of achieving what you want in life.

You think the people you admire have it all worked out.

The truth is – nobody does. In order to over come feeling like an impostor, you need to understand this. When we compare ourselves to others on our path (colleagues, other students etc.) we forget that what we see in other people is their best selves. The Instagram breakfasts they spent 20 minutes re-positioning and has now gone soggy. The class presentation that they were up to 3am crying over. When we compare ourselves to everybody else’s finished product, we fail to see the background of what they’ve produced.

When we produce something ourselves, we are well aware of the pain and self doubt that went into the finished product. We know we changed that paragraph wording 10 times before settling. We know we’ve tried to lose weight for years and never quite stuck to it.

We don’t see them doing the same things we do. Just like when we were children and we thought our parents had it all worked out. Now we’re adults and we realise nobody is as perfect as we thought. We’re all just bumbling along wondering what to do next or if we’re really good enough.

I experienced Impostor syndrome recently when I began to apply to do my Masters at University. After a difficult time in my life and taking a year after graduating to work and think about what I would like to do next (no pressure), I realised I wasn’t done with education quite yet. In fact, I’d quite like to be a lecturer and teach others myself.

My former adviser was incredibly helpful through this process. She went above and beyond to help me with my application, even reformatting my research proposal and providing suggestions to improve it.

I began to research lecturers at the University I was applying for to get an idea of what I was getting myself into. Their achievements were astounding. They had published so much, spoken at so many conferences, received so many awards for their work…surely I could never do those things?

Self doubt was creeping in. In a minute I had forgotten all I had achieved so far. Anxiety had me procrastinating and everything I typed seemed wrong. When I explained how I was feeling to my adviser she gave me a knowing look.

“We all experience this,” She explained. “I have. It’s called Impostor Syndrome. It’s part of being a high achiever.”

Having a name for what I felt put it all into perspective. I came up with an action plan to kick these feelings in the face.

Tackling Impostor Syndrome

  • Remember we all start somewhere. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
  • It’s important to remember we’re all human. Everyone goes through self doubt and all those ugly emotions. To quote famous philosopher Michel de Montaigne “Kings and philosophers shit – and so do ladies.” 
  • Make a list of all that you’ve achieved so far. Take pride in your accomplishments. Own them. Know that you worked hard to achieve them and that you will achieve more in the future.
  • Accept praise. Resist the temptation to dismiss compliments offhand. Say thank you and know your hard work has paid off.
  • If you have a goal that seems overwhelming, break it down into baby steps. It will make it seem more manageable. For example – if your goal is to make your own clothes, first learn how to do a simple stitch. Learn how to sew. Make small things. If you keep up these baby steps you’ll become closer to your goal.
  • Humanise those you admire. If you’re intimidated by a particular person in your field, read about them. Find out their struggles. You’ll soon realise that they’ve gone through a lot to be where they are now.

Self doubt can be useful, but when it gets to the level where you feel like an impostor it can prevent you from even trying. Hopefully some of you can now recognise these feelings for what they are – lies.

Look after yourself,

Nikki

The end of a friendship: Healing and Forgiving

 

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While there are a lot of articles on how to get over a break-up, there are very few out there that focus on the end of a friendship.

Processing the end of a close friendship is an ongoing process. It has taken me a year and a half to finally be at peace with the events which caused our friendship to decay. When I finally realised the friendship was over it was too late to try to repair it.

Every situation is different. For me, I felt I was living with a stranger. We had lived together for three years. We had visited each other’s family. Supported each other through dark times in our lives. Gradually she began to grow more distant. When I came home she was nowhere to be found. Invitations to spend time together were declined. Conversations became strained and short lived. She rarely laughed at my jokes. After 6 months of living like this it dawned on me – this wasn’t going to change.

The grief I felt at that moment was overwhelming. The realisation that she wanted nothing to do with me struck me like a chainsaw to the gut. We parted ways in silence. Graduations came. We shared a final moment on that day. We sat together for a few minutes and talked about our future plans. The air felt sad and heavy. Before she left I gave her a gift – a silly dinosaur figurine I’d painted the previous day. While we may never speak again, I hope she has kept it somewhere in her home and remembers me fondly.

If any of you have lost a friend I hope the following advice is some comfort through the grieving process.

Healing

  • Accept that it has happened. Don’t hurt yourself by over analysing what broke the friendship’s back. If you have reached the point of no recovery don’t torture yourself any longer. Things may feel clearer as a result.
  • It’s okay to be angry. I don’t mean scream at them, cause a scene, and throw a chair at them (although you may want to). Cry. Punch your pillow. Blow off some steam by going for an angry run or ranting to a friend or family member who isn’t too attached to this friend.
  • Know that you will still have complicated feelings for this person for a long time to come. More than a year later I’ll still see a brand of chocolate she loved and feel a twinge in my chest. That’s okay. They were a big part of your life. You’re not weak for remembering them in a positive light now and then.
  • Remember the friends that are still around. Strengthen these friendships. If you’re anything like me, the loss of your friend made you anxious the same would happen to the others. It won’t. Everyone is different and that was a unique situation. Don’t let it hold you back.
  • If some of your friends are still friends with this person – accept it. Unless it was something extreme that broke this friendship accept the fact that they might be around from time to time. If you want to remove yourself from these interactions that is fine, but don’t force your situation on others. It will only increase awkwardness and feeling that they have to choose.

Forgiveness

I am still in the process of forgiveness. I have always had difficulty forgiving people. I still hold grudges on the people who bullied me in school and that was a long time ago.

Depending on your situation, you don’t have to forgive.

For me…I felt it was necessary. To hold onto a grudge of this magnitude felt like carrying all of those negative feelings on my back. It was unbearable.

  • If you never got a clear answer to why the friendship ended, or even if you did – forgive yourself. You are still worthy of friendship. You won’t ruin all your relationships like you feel you ruined this one. It happened. Forgive yourself for any wrong doing you may have done.
  • Forgive them. This is the hardest part. What happened is in the past, even if you are still hurting. Personal problems sometimes get the best of people and they shut themselves away from people they were once close to. Depression. Family problems. Financial difficulties. Trauma. They make us all do silly things. They may still be going through tough times and hopefully they’ll recover. Think of the friend you once had and hope to yourself they’ll get through it. Even if it is without you.

 

I hope some of this was helpful to you.

Look after yourself,

Nikki

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do when you’re fired – a reflection and a look to the future.

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20 years from now I will still remember this day. Today was the day I’d been waiting for for weeks. It was officially confirmed I’d been sacked from my first full time job after less than a year.

Now – I knew this was coming. After weeks of meetings with my employers, paid suspension and suffering through rumour after rumour about my situation I’d gone through the familiar stages of grief before that letter fell on my doorstep.

Denial

Surely they couldn’t be serious. Are they really suspending me? They’re probably trying to scare me to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. I should get a letter to come in and state my case in a few days.

Anger

It’s been over a week and still no letter. How could they do this to me? I’m good at my job. I just made a mistake. A split second decision that has ruined my life. They’ve offered me no support after this event. How can they live with themselves putting me through this stress?

Bargaining 

Okay. I’ve got a meeting for next week. I’ll just explain to them how bad my mental health has been lately and I’ll swear to do better. They won’t be heartless. If they let me come back I only have to stay for a short time until I find another job.

Depression

They’re going to sack me. How am I going to support myself? I have bills. So many bills. I’m such a failure. I’m so ashamed. If they fire me I don’t know how I’ll recover from this. I feel weak and tired. So tired. The meeting is over. I said what I had to say. Whatever happens happens.

Acceptance

They’ve sacked me. It’s there in writing. I feel oddly calm. Perhaps because the wait to find out is  finally over. I’ll be okay.

 

After going through these stages of grief, in some ways I feel stronger. As someone who has never had to endure massive hardship perhaps this traumatic event will be test of my character.

While I’m not in the best mental place right now and probably won’t be for a while, there are a few things that I would say to someone else in my position…

  • Lots of people get sacked. You might have heard it’s difficult to lose your job in this day and age but that’s just not true. Check out this article from the guardian. It really helped me process the idea of being sacked when I felt it was the worst thing in the world.
  • Keep yourself busy. If you’re waiting to hear the official word all you can do is wait. So don’t waste your time thinking about it. Meet up with friends. Clean the house. Apply for other jobs. Don’t sit around overthinking it.
  • That being said – learn to relax. Feel like you want to lie in bed all day eating crisps and cereal straight from the box? Do it. This is a very stressful time for you and you need rest.
  • Accept help. If your loved ones are offering to help you out financially or lending you a shoulder to cry on take it. They don’t think any less of you and you could use the support. This is no time for pride to take over.
  • Know that this too shall pass. You hurt a lot right now. I understand. I still hurt. However it won’t always be like this. You’ll move on. You’ll find a new job eventually. Don’t let yourself spiral so far into the oblivion that you can’t get out. Go through your grief and move on.

I hope sharing my experience was helpful to some of you, it’s been an emotional time and I felt that any advice I could share might help another going through this pain.

If you have any reflections on your own grief, let me know in the comments I would love to hear them.

Nikki

How treating the senses can change your outlook.

This month has been a particularly trying time for me. My personal life has been chaos and I’m in a difficult work situation all while applying for my Masters degree. It’s safe to say that my usual self-care methods weren’t up to scratch, so while I lamented over my situation the gears were turning on how I could calm my anxiety to a reasonable level.

My environment has a huge effect on my mood. If my house is messy – I feel messy. Inside and out. This made me have a long think about what influences my environment and how I could help myself and others by learning how to transform your environment when you feel messy. Hopefully some of these methods work for you as they’ve worked for me.

Sight

Get out of the house. I mean it. While the part of your brain that is screaming that you don’t deserve to go out when the dishes are long past ‘starting’ to smell and you’re almost out of clean clothes you need to get out of there. Seeing this mess is making you feel worse. Allow your brain to reset by talking a walk anywhere you can. Even if it’s just going to the shop for a pint of milk.

Some interesting places you could go are;

  • The beach
  • The nearest patch of green in your village/town/city (likely to have cute dogs)
  • Go to the supermarket and try and look through isles you hardly go through (you might find something new you’d like to try)
  • Take a wander into some shops you’ve never been into before; little nick nak stores are a favourite
  • A Pet Shop

While I was researching for this post I visited my local Pets at Home and enjoyed looking at this very sleepy bunny. Truly a treat for the eyes!

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Smell

Maybe you haven’t showered in a few days. Are those empty pizza boxes from last week? When was the last time you opened a window?

  • Open that window! Never underestimate what a difference some fresh air circulating your home can do for your mood.
  • Light some candles. Primark and Morrisons do pretty decent candles for cheap and ASDA more often than not has discounted Yankee candles and melts.
  • Get some cheap flowers. You can get a decent bunch of flowers from any supermarket for around £2. Flowers make me feel as if my house has life in it, something it lacks often as I live alone and often don’t feel myself.

Hearing

This is all down to personal taste. What genre do you love the most? I’m not going to tell you who you should listen to. However sometimes music isn’t enough – sometimes it’s too much. When the music you usually listen to isn’t doing the trick to make you feel at ease I have a few recommendations;

Touch

For me, I know I’m feeling anxious and downtrodden when I start to feel unclean. I could have showered that morning but for some reason my hands feel clammy, my clothes feel like they’re too tight, and my skin feels as if I’ve rubbed it in oil and dirt for the heck of it. If this sounds familiar;

  • Shower again. Take your time. Rise and repeat your shampoo. It makes such a difference when your hair feels light and fluffy after drying. Cut your nails and moisturise. You’ll feel like a giant baby (in a good way).
  • Face masks! They don’t have to be the expensive ones that are trending. Most supermarkets sell good face masks for £1 for different skin types. Have fun picking yours out and touching your soft cheeks afterwards.
  • Shave your legs. If you prefer to let it grow natural that’s okay. For me, the feeling of my PJ’s against freshly shaved legs is to die for.

Taste

Taste is my favourite sense. I love food. Like, really love it. Don’t waste time eating food you’re only kind of enjoying. When we’re feeling depressed it’s difficult to make good food decisions. Overeating and going on a binge is something I struggle with in times of crisis. Due to the complex nature of people’s relationships with food this sense is too personal for me to recommend my favourite snacks or how to eat less or more. Instead, here are some small bits of advice;

  • Forgive yourself. It doesn’t matter if you ate two more grapes than planned or ate a whole pizza when you already had dinner. You are still a good person and your relationship with food doesn’t define you.
  • Avoid people who make you feel guilty about your food choices. If a good friend’s posts on social media about their diet is making you feel uncomfortable – unfollow them. If they care about you they’ll understand.
  •  Flavoured teas. No matter your food situation we can all enjoy a good cup of tea. A few of my favourites are Earl Grey, Apple and Pear, and Gingerbread green tea.

 

I hope some of you found this trip around the 5 senses helpful. If you like to reset your environment by treating your senses let me know in the comments what works for you.

Treat yourself right.

Nikki

An introduction to the blogger.

I never thought I’d want to run a blog. Spewing out my thoughts and feelings online for everyone to see filled me with dread. What if I gave bad advice? What if they made fun of me?

Or even worse…

…what if nobody cared what I had to say?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if anybody reads this. I would love to know that I’ve helped even one person – but first and foremost I want to help myself.

We should all learn to put our self first.

The purpose of this blog is to take care of my own mental health. Maybe yours. My posts will all have a similar theme.

How to take care of yourself.

Small ways you can get through the day when it seems all too much. Sometimes it takes seeing the words on paper (or in this case, on screen) to organise your thoughts and feel you can take action.

So.

Take action.

Start taking care of yourself.

Nikki.