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

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.

 

Chloe posts

Found Poetry at Rainbow Heron

Last month, we had the opportunity to get creative in a poetry workshop, with local poet Genevieve Carver. ‘Found poetry’ is essentially creating new writing from pre-existing writing. It involves cutting out words from magazines, newspapers, articles and books to make a poem, in the same way that you would cut out pictures to make a collage. We all struggle with writers block sometimes, and sometimes we can know what we want to write, but it can be difficult to think of the right words. Found poetry is brilliant because the words are already there for you as inspiration, and it’s up to you to put them together to form something new. Poetry can be a brilliant way of expressing emotions and feelings, and it can also provide a sense of achievement when you are proud of what you have written, and you find that others can relate to it. Reading poetry and fiction, or writing a poem about something completely random can also be a good way of distracting yourself and escaping into another world for a little while. When I’m feeling very low, I also find it useful to write my thoughts down in a journal, because it helps me to rationalise my thoughts.

Music can be a really helpful tool too. At the café last month, we made a playlist of inspirational/positive/happy songs to listen to while creating the poems.

What do you use to distract yourself when you’re feeling low? Do you find that writing helps?
Here are some of the wonderful poems that were created at the workshop this month…