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Success

Success is something we all strive for. Most of us want to get the highest grades we can, pass with flying colours, and land the job we dream about. Wanting to succeed in life isn’t a bad thing.

However, if striving for success begins to take over, or it becomes the only thing that matters, this can be really problematic.

It is important to have a balance, and no set of exams should ever be more important than living your life. You shouldn’t put your life on hold for anything. You only have this one life, and your health and happiness needs to be your first priority.

The price to pay for success can sometimes be too high, and though it may feel great to achieve things, there are times when it is more crucial to slow down, and put your health first. Sometimes it is more important to take a break for a while, instead of pushing yourself to breaking point. If something is making you feel poorly, draining your energy, or it is taking you away from everything you once loved, it is not worth it and it never will be.

Society has a very narrow definition of success and achievement. It makes us feel that we should constantly be striving to do better and be better. It transmits the message that we must get better grades, a better job, a better house, a better car, and then we will finally be happy. But success isn’t only found in A*’s. Success can be brilliant relationships, overcoming something that once scared us, or enjoying a day out with family and friends. Being happy is a success, as is feeling comfortable in your own skin, getting through a bad day, or finding something new that you love doing.

You won’t get this time back again, so if anything is preventing you from being happy and enjoying yourself, be brave, take a deep breath, and let it go. If it is truly the right choice for you and it is something you really want to do, it will still be there waiting for you when the time is right/when you are feeling more like yourself again. Don’t feel bad for giving yourself time to do a bit less work, and a bit more life! Here is a poem by Beatrice Robertson that really illustrates the point I’m trying to make. I love it so much!

A girl who didn’t stop:

Let me tell the tale
Of a girl who didn’t stop;
Who climbed on every mountain

Without a pause when on the top.

She’d dance in every blade of grass

Until each one was covered in dew;
The sun knew her by name

But the silver moon did, too.

For a fear had settled in her bones,

A fear of sitting still;
That if you’re not moving forward

It must mean you never will.

So in time, her dance got slower

And she looked at all she’d seen;
But found gaps inside the places

That she’d never fully been.

For she was a human doing,

Human moving, human seeing;
But she had really never taken the time
To be a human being
Happy February!
Chloe posts

Coping with Winter

January can be a really difficult time of the year. The third week in January is said to be the saddest week of the year, with the Monday that has just passed being called ‘Blue Monday’, because it is typically when we feel the gloomiest. This change in mood has been attributed to the dismal weather in the northern hemisphere, the long nights, lots of failed New Year’s resolutions, post-Christmas debt and the end of all the festivities.

It can be tough for us to pick ourselves back up and carry on with things at this time of the year, so I thought I’d share some tips for coping with the winter months:

Exercise:

It can be impossible to find the motivation to exercise in the winter months because it is so miserable and gloomy outside and going out into the cold is often the last thing we want to do. Nonetheless, we should try not to let exercise fall by the wayside because physical activity is a brilliant way to keep ourselves feeling healthy and well. It doesn’t have to be something huge – doing a few stretches and opening your window can make a big difference. It is important to not push yourself too much.

Embrace Hygge:

In Denmark, winters are long, and it rains for roughly 170 days of the year. The Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ focusses on making the most of winter and taking steps to make it a safe and cosy time. This involves lighting candles, spending time with loved ones, cuddling up in blankets, comfort food, baked goods, playing board games, and forgetting our worries and the realities of real life for a little while. Hygge is also about seeking harmony with others, being grateful for what we have, and spending time in the moment. Though they experience their fair share of miserable weather, surveys have shown that Danish people are among the happiest in the world. This is largely owed to their generous welfare system, but their concept of Hygge and their focus on togetherness may also have a lot to do with it.

Spend time with others:

Positive relationships are key to our happiness. Spend time with people who know you well, who you can be yourself around, and who love you for who you are. Share memories and have a laugh with people who know you off by heart. Life is too short to waste time worrying about people who don’t like you. Try to connect with an old friend, join support groups, or find a way to connect with others in your community who share an interest with you. If this is an unrealistic option or it feels too impossible, internet forums and communities are a wonderful tool for meeting like-minded people and connecting with others who are experiencing something similar to what you are going through.

Talk to somebody:

The change in weather and the lack of sunlight at this time of the year can lead to irritability, hopelessness, difficulty concentrating and a loss of energy. These are all symptoms of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be useful to talk to somebody you trust or a GP if you feel particularly low at this time of the year. It may be a sign of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed with talking therapy or medication.

Here are some links for guidance about SAD and ideas for self-care during the winter months:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/about-sad/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/two-takes-depression/201912/self-care-tips-during-winter

 

 

Chloe posts

Glitter Jars and Glass Painting

‘Glitter jars’, or ‘calm-down jars’ are a great example of how crafts can be used to promote good mental health. Glitter jars are essentially jars filled with water, glue and coloured glitter, that you can shake up and down when feeling stressed or anxious. They can also be used with children as a timer for time-out, or as a tool to help with regulating emotions and sensory needs. They are a wonderful tool for adults too! They are a brilliant stress reliever because watching the swirling glitter settle is very calming!

Glitter jars can also be used as an analogy for mindfulness. You can imagine that each colour of glitter represents something different e.g. silver might represent feelings, and purple might represent thoughts. At the start of the day, the glitter is settled at the bottom of the jar because nothing has happened yet to create bad thoughts and feelings. However, throughout the day, lots of events might take place to shake up the glitter in jar. We might be late getting ready, leave an important piece of work at home, or get into an argument with our sister in the car. It may now be more difficult to concentrate because the jar has been shaken up and the glitter, or negative thoughts and feelings, are in the way, blocking our view and making it difficult to see clearly. The moving glitter represents how thoughts can swirl around in our heads when we are angry or upset, and this can make it difficult to think coherently.

When this happens, we can’t push the glitter to the bottom, and no amount of effort will make it settle more quickly. Being still is the only thing that can be done to settle the glitter and make everything clear again. We must be still, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings, and let them be there. If we are still and acknowledge that the thoughts are present, they will then fall back to the bottom of the jar again and settle so that we can see clearly again. While we wait for things to settle, the glitter doesn’t go away. The thoughts, and feelings are still there and we don’t want to get rid of them, we just want them out of the way. We want to notice that they are there but not always act on them or get carried away with them.

To make a glitter jar you will need:

  • Any jar or bottle you can seal shut permanently once finished
  • Clear glue or glitter glue
  • Water
  • Coloured glitter
  • Food colouring or watercolour (optional)

How to make a glitter jar:

  1. Clean out your jar/bottle and remove the labels
  2. Put 2 tablespoons glitter glue in your jar or fill it until it takes up ¼ of the jar. It is up to you how much glue you add. The more glue you use, the longer the glitter will take to fall to the bottom. You can use coloured glitter glue or normal clear glue.
  3. Add the glitter! Add as much or little as you want but be aware that if you add a lot of glitter, it won’t move around as much. You can also add beads and sequins or anything you fancy.
  4. Add hot water (but not boiling as this may break the glass) and stir with a spoon to dissolve the glue. Fill the jar but leave a little bit of space at the top.
  5. It is optional to add watercolour or food colouring. You can make it as dark or light as you like. Use a stick to stir it in little by little until you get your desired colour.
  6. Seal the lid and shake. Watch the glitter swirl and fall to the bottom!

Here is a link to a YouTube tutorial which demonstrates the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJIYMl_XV00

Here is a link to a website that explains how glitter jars can be used to improve our mental health and help us to be more mindful:

https://www.mindful.org/how-to-create-a-glitter-jar-for-kids/

At the café this month, we did some glass painting and played games. Here are some photos of what we got up to:

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Happy New Year!

Chloe posts

Loneliness

Loneliness is a crushing feeling. It can be really difficult when you feel that you have nobody to experience the highs and lows of life with. It can be easy to blame yourself for your loneliness or worry that you are lonely because there is something wrong with you, but this is not the case. Loneliness is very common, and many people feel lonely at some point in their lives.

There is a sure difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone can be brilliant because it allows us to recharge our batteries and concentrate on the things we enjoy. Loneliness however, is an empty aching feeling, where we feel that we want to connect with others but we struggle to.

It is important that we don’t blame ourselves for feeling lonely. Sometimes events happen in our lives that cause us to isolate ourselves from others, and sometimes people can walk out of our lives unexpectedly. Sometimes a lack of self-confidence might make us avoid putting ourselves out thereor health conditions like anxiety can cause us to isolate ourselves and worry about interacting with others.

When I am struggling with feelings of loneliness, I find it useful to distract myself with studying, music, and hobbies. Joining a group to meet like-minded people is a good step to take, but it is also a very daunting one if you feel you are not ready for it, or you struggle to trust others and open up to them. If you are experiencing loneliness, it is helpful to remember that the way you are feeling now is temporary, there are steps you can take to change things, and it doesn’t have to be this way forever.

The mind website has some useful information about loneliness and ways to manage it: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/#.XdF51Ff7TIU

This article is also a brilliant read for relatable real-life stories and statistics about loneliness:                                                                                      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-45561334

Chloe posts

Sleep

Sleep is important for our mental health. Studies have shown that without sleep, it can be difficult for us to learn, be attentive and form new memories. Poor sleep has been linked to difficulties with information processing and concentration, and it can make us feel agitated and restless. When we are sleep deprived, it may also be harder for us to regulate our emotions and rationalize our thoughts. Sleep is so crucial because it gives our brain time to recharge, and it allows us to restore our energy.

Here are some ideas for improving sleep:

  1. Get into a routine

Though it is often a lot easier said than done, it can be useful to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This is helpful because it allows us to get into a pattern where we get tired at roughly the same time each night.

  1. Avoid using electrical devices before bed

Studies have shown that it is unhelpful to use screens with bright lights before sleeping, because light inhibits the production of melatonin (a hormone we need for sleep). I have found that it is helpful to keep my phone in a different room/away from my bed, so that I’m not tempted to look at it at night.

  1. Meditation and focusing on your breathing

It can be a good idea to do breathing, relaxation, or meditation exercises to calm yourself down before bed. Thinking of pleasant memories and calming thoughts can also be useful. I really like the Calm channel on YouTube for guided meditations, and the headspace app.

  1. Do something relaxing before sleeping

It can be helpful to read a book, have a hot bath, listen to relaxing music, or write in a journal before bed. I find that jotting down unresolved worries and anxieties before bed is useful because it gets them ‘out of my system’, and it helps me to stop worrying whilst I’m trying to sleep.

  1. Talk to someone

Sometimes poor sleep can be a sign of an underlying issue, such as stress at work, low mood, or a medical problem. It can be a good idea to talk to a friend you trust or your GP, as they might be able to offer advice, prescribe medication or figure out whether there may be an underlying condition that is affecting your sleep.

Healthy bedtime habits

Chloe posts

Swimming in the Deep End

New opportunities are exciting but frightening. We’re all familiar with that uncomfortable feeling of over-fullness when you eat that extra cookie despite feeling completely stuffed, or when you opt for a greasy take away on a Friday night, overdo it a little, and then regret it the following morning. I’m learning that sometimes opportunities in life can be like that.

You jump in head first because the opportunity is all too exciting to let go, or the cookie looks too tasty to leave on the side, and then later you worry that your eyes were bigger than your belly, and you might’ve bitten off a little more than you could chew. I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks, about how to manage your thoughts when you feel like you’re overstuffed and overflowing; like you’re swimming in the deep end and you’re a river about to break its banks. Here are some tips for the times when you’re drowning in to-do lists, and you’re struggling to keep your head above water:

1. Remember that you’re only a human, and not a superhuman-superhero-wizard.
Everybody makes mistakes!

2. Stop comparing yourself to others, try to stop worrying, and stop bullying yourself for not living up to impossibly high expectations. We all learn at different paces and in different ways, and that’s perfectly okay. Remember that nobody’s life is perfect, and you only ever know what people choose to tell you. Worrying about not being good enough will only make you feel more negative. It can be useful to ask yourself ‘is thinking about this problem and analyzing it helpful, or am I going around in circles? Is the problem within my control, or out of my control? Are there any practical things I could do to solve this or ease my anxiety? Is this problem/task as big as I am making it out to be?

3. Be in the present moment – be as observant as possible and keep your eyes and ears open. Try to bring yourself back to the task at hand if you find yourself falling into a spiral of anxiety and worry.

4. Set high standards but be compassionate with yourself if you don’t meet them. Remember that you can only do your best.

5. Practice gratitude, celebrate small achievements, and try to find the silver lining to every situation. It’s rarely the case that absolutely everything went badly. What went well in your day?

6. Remember that we all go through peaks and troughs. No flower blooms all year
round (or maybe some do but…who cares about those flowers anyway? Maybe
they’re hiding something…)

7. Remember that even if things don’t work out, you’ll be okay. Life is full of positive experiences to look back on fondly, and negative experiences that teach us things. Experiences, good and bad, are all part of life’s rich tapestry. Sometimes we take on new opportunities that make our life feel bright and cheery, and at other times, they leave us feeling bleak, despondent and dull. Sometimes it’s a mix of the two. It’s important to be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, even if it doesn’t work out exactly how you’d first hoped. If something doesn’t go to plan, try and find the lesson from the situation and learn from it, instead of regretting it.

September can be a time of new opportunities and adventures for many of us. September sees the end of summer and the start of autumn, the start of a new academic year, and for some, it symbolizes hope and new beginnings.

At the cafe last month, we also did something a little bit different and new. We made the most of the heatwave and headed for a picnic in the sun. We had a brilliant time drawing and painting, and we enjoyed sitting in the woods and chatting. We then headed back indoors and had fun playing with FIMO (a type of modelling clay). Here are some of the wonderful pieces of art that were created by the cafe’s talented attendees last month.

 

Chloe posts

The Pressure to be Perfect

In 2019, I’m convinced that looking after our appearance could be a full-time job. We live in a world where the way we look is of increasing importance – we must have a toned hairless body, a full face of makeup, manicures, pedicures, balayage straightened-then-curled hair, tanned, blemish-free skin, white teeth, eyelash extensions, Instagram-ready eyebrows, and the perfect outfit, with shoes to match. Society’s beauty standards are excruciatingly high, for all genders, and they’re practically impossible to live up to.

Perfection (or our idea of what perfection is) may seem desirable, but the truth is that striving for perfection can be exhausting, and it is difficult to maintain in the long run. Often when we spend too long trying to make something perfect, it can stop us from enjoying the activity, or we can spend hours agonizing over it, and picking out flaw after flaw. Nothing is perfect, and the definition of ‘perfect’ is highly subjective, so pursuing perfection can be a waste of time.

This can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for the perfectionists amongst us, but constantly pursuing perfection can prevent us from enjoying life. It’s better to start living our lives now, rather than waiting until we feel that we are the perfect version of ourselves. In reality, the way we look is actually quite irrelevant, and it doesn’t matter half as much as we think it does. Our bodies are just bodies; they’re just things that kart us around the world, that allow us to jump, walk, talk and enjoy life. It’s important to appreciate our bodies for everything that they can do for us, rather than hating them because they don’t measure up to an impossibly high ideal.

The message that ugly is bad and pretty is good has been transmitted to us from a young age, so it’s a difficult myth to debunk in our heads. In Disney films, the villains are portrayed as evil and ugly, whereas the princesses are presented as kind-hearted, with an otherworldly type of beauty. Because of the messages we receive from society about the way we are expected to look, we can feel compelled to seek out treatments and enhancements to improve our appearance, so we can finally become ‘perfect’ and eradicate our insecurities. Perhaps society’s standards are so unobtainable for a reason. If society made people feel comfortable with themselves, we wouldn’t feel that we have spend money on improving ourselves, and it wouldn’t be good for business. Though we can use things like makeup and beauty treatments to express ourselves and increase our confidence, it can quickly become harmful if we begin to feel that we’re not good enough without it. Even if we don’t look like supermodels, actresses and popstars, we are good enough, and we are completely fine as we are. The way we look is only one tiny fragment of who we are, and though it can be difficult to remember this sometimes, it is not the only thing that matters.