Chloe posts

Failure

One of my favourite teachers from school had a poster on his wall that read “fail – first attempt in learning.”

He viewed failures as nothing more than a bump in the road, a stepping stone towards later success.

But even if failures are only first attempts in learning, it doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. It is incredibly difficult to face failures, especially if we fail at something we really care about, or something we think we’re good at.

But unfortunately, no life is free of failure. We all are only human, and it’s completely natural and inevitable to fail at things from time to time. Being afraid of failing and viewing mistakes in a negative light will only do more harm than good. Luckily, it is what you do to pick up the pieces and put things back together again that counts.

It is our failures and mistakes that help us to learn and grow, then adapt and change our tack so that we can do better next time. Everybody has to start somewhere, and failing is nothing to be ashamed of.

It is helpful to avoid viewing failure in “black and white” or “all-or-nothing” terms. Although we may feel that we have failed, and that things have played out horrendously, it is likely that not everything has gone badly, and there may be a lesson to be learned amidst it all.

When things aren’t going so smoothly for me, I find it’s helpful to remember that everybody who has succeeded has also failed. Even the most successful people have failed at things, and several famous people were first high school drop outs. Life is full of second chances and new opportunities, and none of us can succeed at everything, all of the time.

Although it’s difficult, it’s important for us to try and change the way we think about failure. Instead of seeing it as a setback, we should try and use failure and criticism constructively to push us further.

I have heard about a stress management strategy called compensation, which involves building up other areas of your life, to compensate for the areas you feel you’re failing in. So if you feel that you’re failing at work, for example, working on other areas of your life such as your hobbies and your social life could be a good step to take. This then allows you to think “so work might be going badly, but at least I have my guitar playing, which is going well, and my social life is good. I’m really enjoying spending time with my family at the moment, and I have a good circle of friends around me.” This can be a useful tool, to help lighten the shadow that failure casts, and to help you to feel as though you’re succeeding in other areas of your life that you care about.

Generally, it’s good to make sure that you also consider the things you’re good at, alongside the things you feel you could improve on. Reflecting on failures and using them to improve is so much better than constantly going over them in your head and berating yourself for them.

Chloe posts

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:

82264169_2224729211153978_1674163215300296704_n

81654254_1269465503251784_5529301769718333440_n

81527106_598519160950234_6724209233933369344_n

81251210_630646157706875_5624693770751574016_n

Happy New Year!

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

Coping with Stress

Few of us cope well when we are stressed. The most put-together, organised person may still be prone to crumbling under pressure. Stress occurs when the demands of the situation are greater than our perceived ability to cope with it, and none of us are immune to the effects of stress. It can weaken our immune system and cause stomach aches, colds, and headaches, yet we still persist with work and projects that trigger our stress responses. Though it is practically impossible to avoid stress completely, there are many strategies we can use to try and cope a little better with it. Here are a few tips and techniques to try:

Problem-focused coping vs avoidant coping

Distraction techniques such as having a bath, relaxing, and doing something you enjoy can be helpful, but they can often lead us to avoid the stressful situation, rather than face it. In the past I’ve found that when I cope with my stress by avoiding it, the stress reappears as soon as I’ve stopped distracting myself. For example, if I’m stressed about a difficult assignment, and I spend the day socialising to avoid thinking about it, the stress will come back once I’m on my own again. Problem-focused coping means thinking about the root cause of your stress and identifying steps you can take immediately to solve the problem. If I’m stressed about work, I’ve found it’s far better to be pro-active by writing a plan, e-mailing my tutor for help, or getting started on it, rather than distracting myself and pretending that the work doesn’t exist. However, when we are incredibly overwhelmed and stressed, thinking of solutions to the problem can seem an impossible, insurmountable task. Distraction techniques can be helpful when we feel this way, because they allow us to improve our mood so that we feel able to get started.

Avoid taking too much on

Having high standards of ourselves can be wonderful, because it means that we’re challenging ourselves. However, there is a fine line between pushing yourself, and taking on more than you can handle. If you find that you have more things to do than time to do it all in, it can be useful to remove a few activities from your to-do list so that you can quickly reduce the number of things you are worried about. If this is difficult, try thinking about your values and the things that matter to you most. It can be helpful to make a list with 3 sections: things that I must do, things that I like to do occasionally, and things that I do not like to do. You might find that your life is very cluttered, and you are wasting a lot of time doing something you do not enjoy (scrolling through social media, getting distracted by the television…). You may realise that you could swap the half hour you spend scrolling through social media in the morning, for something more enjoyable and productive. It’s important to remember that it’s completely okay to be assertive and say no to things that don’t appeal to you/activities you don’t have time for. It is your life and your time to spend how you please, and protecting your mental health will always be more important than pleasing other people!

Think about the situation from another person’s perspective

It’s easy to become our own worst enemies, and this can become even easier when we’re stressed. It’s easy to beat ourselves up about all the things we said we would do but didn’t do and ruminate about everything we are worried about. But this style of thinking isn’t productive for anybody, and it only serves to attract more negative thoughts. Thinking about what you would say to a friend if they were in your situation and practicing self-compassion can be useful to combat these thoughts, and it helps us to stop being so hard on ourselves.

Focus on what you can change

There are some stressful situations that we can change. We can cancel going to a social event that is worrying us or change jobs to one that won’t stress us out so much. We can control how we react in situations, where we work, what we say, and how we act. There are other stressful and worrying events that we are powerless to change. We cannot control the disturbing events on the news, what other people say about us or the way that they act, so it is pointless to spend lots of time worrying about these things.

 

b2a3c7f68ab63e7a86d683770b8ade8d

 

Chloe posts

The Positive Box

My friend recently introduced me to the idea of creating a ‘positive box’ to use at times when you’re feeling low. A positive box can be any type of box, filled with self-care things that will automatically cheer you up. At times when you feel that you want to use an unhealthy coping mechanism, you can take something out of the box to distract yourself for a little while, until you feel better.

Examples of things you could put in your positive box include:

  • Photographs from happy times, with family, friends etc.
  • Your favourite book, magazine, film, music or TV series.
  • Tea bags/hot chocolate sachets
  • Positive notes/quotes, written by a friend or yourself
  • Nail polish, face masks, makeup, bath salts/bubbles, body creams etc.
  • A notebook and pen for you to write down your thoughts
  • A fun to-do list of activities you’ve been meaning to do
  • Paintbrushes, sketchbooks, colouring book, arts and crafts items
  • Something that reminds you of your favourite memory
  • Phone numbers for friends/family you could talk to
  • Write a letter to yourself (when you are in a positive/rational mood), which you can then read over when you are at your lowest and struggling to think logically

Your positive box can be anything that you want it to be, and it can be something private that you keep for yourself, or something that you share with others. There are no restrictions on what is allowed to go inside the positive box – but it can’t be something that will make you feel worse! Nothing negative is allowed inside of the positive box!

It can be really difficult when you feel like you don’t deserve the things in your box, but it is at these times that when you need and deserve them the most. Going to your positive box when you feel low can be an effective way to distract yourself from difficult emotions, express your feelings, and channel negative energy into something more positive. It can help you to manage the thoughts in your head in a healthier and kinder way.

It might seem like a silly idea at first, but having several go-to coping mechanisms in one place can be extremely helpful for those times when you need something to distract yourself.

And of course, you can design your box in whatever way you like! Here are a couple of  ideas…

positive box

Komposed-Self-Care-Box-0