Friday, 2 March 2018

What is anxiety and what can you do about it?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a common emotion, which exists to keep us safe from harm. However for many of us, it is something we experience excessively, which can have a massive effect on our lives. It is a complex problem that I have spent a long time trying to tackle. If you are new to the not-so-wonderful world of anxiety, or just want to know what you can do about it, then read on.

The science.

Acute anxiety is a normal response to dangerous situations. Our bodies release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, preparing you to fight or run away – the fight or flight response. This response was extremely useful back when we had to worry about being attacked by wild animals. It's not so useful now when you're at work or trying to enjoy yourself at a social event.

Anxiety can provoke a range of physical and mental symptoms. Here are just a few.


  • A fast heartbeat or palpitations
  • Chest tightness, faster breathing
  • Butterflies in your stomach
  • Sweating or chills
  • Feeling sick
  • A panic attack


  • Worrying to excess
  • Feeling stressed and unable to relax
  • Worrying something bad will happen
  • Immediately jumping the worst case scenario

What you can do to help.

As a starting point the best thing you can do is to talk about it. It is so common to feel alone but you might be surprised at how many people feel the same way. Talk to friends and family or seek out support online – there are many helpful forums and communities.

Visit your GP, they will be able to tell you what help is available in your area. This might be counselling, or cognitive behavioural therapy which helps you change unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviour. In some cases medication can be helpful but this depends on your individual situation.

Mental health charities can be a brilliant support. 

I have had some excellent counselling provided by Mind, who have branches throughout the country.

Anxiety UK is another fantastic charity, offering private therapies at reduced rates and phone services you can call for advice. They have many volunteers working for them that have direct experience of anxiety.

Self help is another good starting point, check out the self help section at your local library. It's also worth taking a look at your general lifestyle. Exercise, a healthy diet and a good nights sleep are all a step in the right direction.

Mindfulness meditation is another good option. It enables you to feel more present in your life and be aware of your thoughts and feelings. This can help you put things into perspective and take a step back when you feel overwhelmed.

There are even apps to try on your phone. Check out my previous post on one called Headspace
Sadly there are no quick fixes – believe me I've looked, but please don't despair if you are struggling. There are people out there who want to help and understand what you are going through. For me, seeking out like minded people has been invaluable to my ongoing recovery, I hope some of these suggestions help you on yours.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Top 5 things you need to know about Headspace

You may have read about the numerous benefits of mindfulness meditation but have no idea of where to start. Using an app such as Headspace can be a great starting point for beginners. App meditation is so convenient, most people always have their phones to hand. The best meditation app I've tried by far is Headspace.

Here are the top 5 things you need to know about Headspace.

  1. It was founded by Andy Puddicombe, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk. He wanted to make meditation accessible to ordinary people, struggling to cope with the stresses of life.

  2. It's interactive and you can tailor it to your needs. Meditation sessions are often accompanied by animations to help you consolidate what you have learnt. There are many themed guided sessions depending on what area you want to focus on. Some of these include: anxiety, depression, anger, self-esteem, productivity and focus.

  3. It's great for the time poor. You can use it as much or as little as you like. Most of the main sessions only take between 10-15 minutes. There are also mini meditations to try if you only have a spare minute or two.
  4. Struggling with motivation? You can use the app to set reminders on your phone.

  5. It's easy to keep track of your progress. The app shows you stats such as the time you have spent meditating and the sessions you have completed.

Headspace makes it really easy to incorporate mindfulness meditation into your life. Why not learn the basics and start the 10 day free trial. Check out or download the app on Itunes or Google Play.

If you decide Headspace is the app for you, subscription is £9.99 a month or £5.99 a month for an annual subscription. I recommend buying the full version as it is regularly updated and has a lot of content to keep you going.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Be kind to yourself

Just a quick post to say hello.
I've been pondering the concept of being kinder to yourself. It's something so simple yet something I think we can often forget.
If you don't achieve something that you set out to do, it's easy to get caught into a cycle of negativity and self doubt thinking that you're just not good enough. When in fact, you were just doing the best you could in that moment, perhaps it will be easier next time.
I think very few people set out to sabotage their own lives, if you are doing your best then I think that's perfectly fine, and that you shouldn't compare yourself to what other people have, or are achieving.
So the next time you catch yourself berating yourself, stop and think, that's okay I know I'm doing all that I can. Tomorrow is a new day, you can try again, try to move forward.
Which I think brings us nicely into the "Serenity Prayer," something I have always liked and found helpful.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Learning a language

Last year I went on holiday to Tenerife and funnily enough it was travelling here that inspired me to learn a language. We did the stereotypical tourist thing of going on a coach trip. It was to the volcano on the island called Mount Teide, and was a very interesting day.
I was particularly impressed by the tour guide. He could speak english, french, german and italian which is incredible really, I do admire a polyglot. He was rattling off the facts about the mountain in all of these languages like nobodies business; and it made me think if he can speak four languages then surely I can manage to learn one.

I decided I'd like to learn french, as I find the language and culture interesting - it just took my fancy really. Funny that a trip to a spanish island inspired me to speak french but there you go, sorry Spain! I've been learning for a year, and it has been a really fun hobby that I enjoy. I'm nowhere near fluent yet but I'm not giving up.

I do amuse myself though, there's a certain amount of irony to learning a language when you are afraid of talking to people (hello social anxiety) but that just adds to the challenge. If nothing else I have really enjoyed absorbing a bit of the culture, watching french films and tv and listening to french music. I would love to be able to get to the point of being able to read a novel.
I can always start with Le Petit Prince!

Something that surprised me when I started learning was that I know nothing about grammar! It's not something you might immediately think of, but learning a new language helps you to understand your own better. It's also good for the old brain box, with studies showing that it helps to improve memory, multi-tasking and decision making skills.

I would definitely encourage other people to learn a language, it's such a useful skill to have. I recommend checking out it's an amazing free resource with a selection of different languages to learn, you can access it online or as an app. 

I'm thinking a trip to Paris is on the cards, I'll try and be brave and speak to a few locals!

A bientot!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Mental Ilness, where are we going wrong?

Modern life can be stressful. We are living in a time where 1 in 4 british adults suffer from mental illness, and emotional mental disorders are a leading cause of disability worldwide. So where are we going wrong?

Human beings have evolved to be social animals, with these social bonds proving to be highly important and essential to our survival. Much of the world's population now live in over populated cities, but yet more and more people are living alone. Unsurprisingly these conditions are harmful to us and our mental health. After all, many prisoners have said the solitary confinement is akin to torture.

Society also adds to this, with research stating that mental health problems are more prevalent in unequal societies. With problems such as low income, poverty, unemployment, poor housing and low levels of education and the vast gulf between this and the rich getting richer, it certainly gives you pause for thought.

People at the margins of society are finding themselves increasingly isolated.

I think there is a stigma attached to lonliness which is why I think it's important to talk about it, the people affected by these issues are often hidden and don't have a voice.

However there are things we can all do to do help. It is such a vast issue, but even small things such as supporting mental health charities, taking the time out of your day to talk to a vulnerable friend or neighbour, or campaigning towards creating a more fair society are a step in the right direction.
Here are a few charities that may be of some interest:

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Benefits of Mindfulness

For the past few months I've been doing a lot of reading into mindfulness, which is typical me really, do a lot of reading and resarch, but then not so much putting things into practice.
I've bought this very handy little book called Mindfulness on the go, by Padraig Moran, and so far it's been very eye opening. There are so many little moments each day, where you can just stop a moment and focus on what you are doing, or even just take a few breaths. I would reccommend it to any minfulness beginners, as it gives you easy tasks that you can incorporate into your life - no sitting in the lotus position for an hour at a time!

So, what are the main benefits of mindfulness?

It allows you to take a step back from yourself and observe what is going on around you and in your mind, without judgement. Ever been in a bad mood and not really know why? Mindfulness can help you understand yourself better and increase self awareness.

It will probably come as no surprise to you that it can also improve mental wellbeing. Taken from the NHS UK website, "Studies have found that mindfulness programmes, where participants are taught mindfulness practices across a series of weeks, can bring about reductions in stress and improvements in mood." This reduction of stress is also very beneficial to physical health.

It can also reduce pain in chronic pain sufferers, improve memory, creativity and attention span.

All in all it's well worth doing, something that I need to gently remind myself of, without judgement of course! So for this week, I'm going to take a few exercises from my book, and do them each day, easy.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Lack of motivation

It's time for my weekly post, and I'm having a bit of an unmotivated day. Sometimes everything just feels like a lot of effort.

It's something a lot of people struggle with when doing something new - how many people are still keeping up with their new year's resolutions for example?
I think to myself, shall I put in the effort into practicing x, or shall I just go online, it's easy to give up and get that hit of instant gratification.

I think it's about finding what's important to you. It's something so simple, that really makes sense. It might not always be something that you inherently enjoy either. I've been practicing meditation lately, sometimes it can feel like a bit of a chore, but I know it will be really beneficial to me in the long run. I am finding motivation in the will to better myself, and to not just accept this anxiety that has blighted my life for such a long time.

Setbacks can be very useful too. The desire to not repeat past mistakes - use that, and if at the end of it all you don't quite manage it, be kind to yourself. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start, you don't need a new year to make changes!

I'm about to toddle off and do some meditation now, because that's what's important to me.