Category Archives: Mental Health

How To Deal With Anxious Thoughts Around Christmas

For many people, Christmas is a time for happiness and being together, but for others, it can be so terrifying it can cause an increase in symptoms. The anxiety around money, the thought of having to go to family gatherings or parties, the pressure to be happy, the thought of being alone, having people tell you ‘pull yourself together, it’s Christmas!’ can be very unhelpful and make symptoms worse.

I used to hate Christmas and everything to do with it. I would avoid even thinking about Christmas but when it’s everywhere you look it can be hard to do that. The pressure of knowing I had to see people when all I wanted to do was hide, knowing I had to seem happy and put together was almost too much to bear at times. But unfortunately, Mental illness doesn’t take days off – no matter what time of year it is, and having the right tools to get you through is so important. Below are some of my top tips to make things more bearable.


Be honest about your feelings.

This one can be hard if you have people who don’t understand or who are not supportive of your struggles, but if you do have family who understands then be honest. If something feels too difficult or scary, let people know, they might surprise you and you might be able to come up with something that feels easier so you don’t miss out.


Have a plan.

If you have to attend Christmas gatherings or parties, have a plan. Decide what time you’re leaving so you have something to aim towards. For example – ‘I can get through this, there are only x amounts of hours left and it’ll be over’. If you’re responsible for hosting parties or cooking Christmas dinner, have a step by step list or plan so you know exactly what you have to do, so you’ll less likely to become overwhelmed.


Make time for yourself.

Self-care is important – especially if you find this time of year more difficult. It’s important to make time for yourself and your needs, away from anything that stresses you out. It can be something as simple having a bath, feeding yourself and drinking water – anything that doesn’t feel like a chore to do.


Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

There’s already enough pressure from society and other people, so there’s no good piling on more. It’s ok if you can’t do something, it’s ok if you have to leave early or not go somewhere at all, no good comes from putting too much pressure on yourself. It’s okay to say no if you can’t manage something. I know one of the hardest things for me is saying no, but it’s important to have healthy boundaries and realistic expectations for yourself.


Distraction, distraction, distraction.

With Christmas everywhere, it’s hard to escape. However, whilst you always have some degree of control, in the comfort of your own space, you are in the most control. If watching Christmas films or adverts makes your anxious thoughts worse, turn Netflix on and watch something not related to Christmas, listen to music, read books, anything not related to Christmas. It can help to have that space where you can pretend it isn’t Christmas and just relax.


Know where to turn for support.

Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare or try out different ways to cope, you can become overwhelmed. Below, I have listed various organizations you can contact if you need extra support:

UK support.

  • Samaritans (Call 116 123, open 24 hours, 365 days a year, Email, jo@samaritans.org, response time within 24 hours a day). For more information visit their website here.
  • Shout (Text Shout to 85258, open 24/7). For more information visit their website here.
  • SANEline (Call 0300 304 7000, 4.30pm to 10.30pm every day). For more information visit their website here.

International support.


Other posts you might find helpful.


Do you have any more tips on dealing with anxiety at Christmas?

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Ultimate Mental Health Gift Guide For Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner. If you’re looking for that perfect, special gift for a loved one having a tough time you’ve come to the right place. The gifts included in this guide are perfect for anyone struggling with their mental health – whether they have a mental illness or not. Anyone can be having a tough time and it can be hard to find ways to help them through it. You don’t have to wait for Christmas, but if you’re loved one doesn’t like being made a fuss of or you don’t want to seem overbearing, Christmas is the ideal time to show someone you care.


Self care items.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. Some ideas include bath bombs, shower gels, body lotions, candles, face masks. Basically anything that makes someone feel good or taken care of. It’s important to take time out for yourself, look after you mental health and feel good in yourself.


Weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets have many benefits, and people suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses have found them useful. They can improve sleep, help with stress, and help someone feel safe when everything is crumbling around them.


Positive quote necklaces.

I recently purchased one of these for my best friend and she loved it. She even said it helps get her through in times of heightened anxiety or stress. It can give someone something to focus on, a quote to help them through or remind them of how far they’re come. I brought this one from PennyBlackDesigns on Etsy. They are beautifully made and also very affordable.


Positivity items.

One of the hardest things to do when you’re struggling is staying positive. It can be helpful for some people to receive little things to keep them going in times of need. There are so many places that sell positivity quote items in many forms – badges, fridge magnets, original artwork and so much more. One of my favourite places to shop for this kind of thing is Art Is My Therapy – it’s run by my friend Liv, who makes handmade items and sells her original artwork. She also sells pick me up boxes with a range of items to help someone through a tough time. I highly recommend her shop – you won’t be disappointed.


Make them a crisis box.

This is the perfect gift if you’re stuck for ideas. It’s great for letting someone know you care and it’s something they can use all year round. I did a full post on how to create your own here, if you need some ideas and inspiration.


Sensory items.

Sensory items are great because they give someone a way to ground themselves if they are suffering from dissociation/flashbacks, or to help anxiety when they are in stressful situations. Sensory items include but are not limited to squishies, candles, body/room sprays, slime or tangles.


What other things come to mind when you think of mental health gifts?

How To Make A Self Care/Crisis Box (Ideal Christmas Gift)

If you’re struggling to find a meaningful gift for your loved one this Christmas why not make them their own self care or crisis box? It’s the perfect gift for a loved one suffering from a mental illness, going through a rough time or anyone who might need a pick me up. Everyone needs self care to get through life, in whatever form that may be. You can even make this box for yourself, and it’s great for birthdays too.

A self care box is exactly like the title says – a box full of items to inspire looking after yourself. Self care tends to be seperated into 6 types; physical, emotional, practical, mental, social, and spiritual. When creating your box it’s ideal to look at the 6 types and try to find items that fit into them. However, many forms of self care are not item based (for example – taking a walk, seeing a therapist, or seeing a friend) so an idea might be to write lists (or find them on Pinterest and print them out) to put into your box so they’re ideal to refer to when you’re in need.

A crisis box is a collection of items to be used when someone is in a state of distress. This might be if someone has self harm urges, suicidal thoughts, or needs grounding from dissociation or flashbacks etc. Something to keep in mind when creating a crisis box is to make sure you don’t put anything in that could potentially be used to hurt yourself/your loved one with, for example – candles, sharp items etc.

Although, a self care and crisis box are quite similar they can be quite different. Self care tends to be to keep yourself well, for example – if you’re feeling deflated or low and need a pick me up. Crisis boxes are for use at crisis point, when trying to prevent yourself getting to a point where you do something to harm yourself.

This is by no means an exclusive list and is designed to give you ideas and get you started. You can add things or take things away. It’s a great gift and allows you to personalise it to what you/your loved one finds helpful or enjoys.


Nurturing.

These are general items used to look after and appreciate yourself. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in life and forget to look after yourself. Small things can make all the difference.

Ideas text with baby pink heart

  • Hot chocolate/coffee sachets.
  • Tissues (it’s ok if you need to cry!)
  • Chocolate or your favourite snacks.
  • A card/letter to show them you’re thinking about them (if you gifting it to someone else) or one you’ve recieved in the past that makes you smile to look at (if its for yourself)
  • Mug
  • Face masks
  • Body lotions
  • A soft toy

Distraction.

Distraction items are great for both boxes. Whether you need distracting from urges, thoughts or memories, or want to do something you enjoy, it’s a great tool to busy your brain and focus on something positive.

Ideas text with baby pink heart

 

  • Books
  • Puzzles
  • Colouring books
  • Craft sets
  • Knitting/crocheting (wool etc)
  • Notebooks
  • Art supplies
  • Planner supplies
  • Puzzle books (dot to dot, wordsearches, suduko, crosswords etc)

Grounding.

Grounding is useful for many different reasons – it’s mainly used during flashbacks and/or dissociation, and aims to ‘ground’ you back to the present moment. Often it uses the 5 senses – sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing, (‘What can you see? What can you hear? etc).

Ideas text with baby pink heart

  • Vapour rub (for smell and touch)
  • Freeze spray/gel (for the cold on skin)
  • Squishies (touch)
  • Tangles (touch)
  • Sour sweets (taste)
  • Slime (touch)
  • Pictures of happy memories (sight)
  • Instrument (touch and hearing)
  • Favourite CD (do people even have CD’s anymore?!)/calming music (hearing)

Useful books/items.

There are a variety of useful things you could pop in the box such as books on mindfulness, happy/gratitude journals and books containing bright positive or inspirational quotes. You can also get bands that have quotes on them such as ‘you matter’ or ‘keep fighting’ etc which can be useful to wear on your wrist to remind the person of how far they’ve come/that they’re ok etc.

The three wristbands in the picture are from Stickman Communications, they’re useful to wear either as a visual reminder for yourself that you’re struggling (and so to be extra kind to yourself), or doing good. Or to let other people know how you feel (such as people you see regularly or live with) so they’re aware of how you’re feeling without you having to explain it – we all know how difficult that can be.

Ideas text with baby pink heart

  • Mindfulness books
  • Happy/gratitude journals
  • Books with colourful positive/inspirational quotes
  • Wrists bands with meaningful quotes on
  • Notebooks/pens

Remember this isn’t an exclusive list and things can be added or took away, it’s really up to you! Just have fun putting it together for yourself or someone else. 

Have you got any other ideas of what someone can put into a self care or crisis box?

charleigh signature

How To Avoid Stigmatising Mental Health In Your Novel

Hi guys and welcome back to my blog. In today’s post I’m going to be talking about how to avoid stigmatising mental health in your novel. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness (and in my opinion made worse by social media) and people seem to be determined to see mental illness in a certain way. Every single person suffering from an illness is completely different, and everyone’s experiences are individual. The portrayal of mental illnesses in popular fiction (books, TV, film etc), if done incorrectly, can make the stigma worse and is damaging to those of us who suffer. Below, I’m going to share some tips to help you portray mental illness in the best way you can..


Although not everyone will feel comfortable sharing their experiences, as long as you are respectful and remain non judgemental some sufferers will be perfectly happy to give you some insight. Talking to actual sufferers of mental illness can be enlightening and give you valuable first hand accounts on what it’s like to live with a condition. This information can enable you to to craft a realistic portrayal of a character suffering from a mental illness.

Side note – remember never use information that enables anyone to be identified. Remove all identifying features, change their histories and/or life experiences so your character is a new person. Lots of writers use bits and pieces from all different kinds of people to create characters, because basing a character too similar to someone in real life can open you up to problems.


Use proper, respected sites to gather your information about the mental illness you are including in your novel. Remember that there are many different symptoms related to mental illnesses and you don’t always have to just use the typical, well known ones in your novel.

Some greats sites include Mind | Childline | Rethink | Beat.


Don’t scrimp on research, and make it a priority to check and double check before the final manuscript is released. Also, take your time when you are developing characters to make sure that every aspect is weaved into the story. Make sure you have accounted for things like possible causes, a detailed history and how it affects their everyday life.


It can be easy to observe mental illness in films/books/tv shows and automatically assume the portrayal is correct or that’s the only way someone with a mental illness presents. Sadly, many fictional portrayals (especially films) can be highly stigmatised and often show sufferers to be dangerous. Also, don’t use information from tabloid newspapers. These articles can be harmful for stigma and often contain incorrect information.


This irritates me because recovery is not something that happens overnight and it’s unlikely to happen without treatment of some sort. These things take time and hard work. Acting like miraculous recovery is the norm may make people believe that that’s how it happens in real life, or that all you have to do is think positive and boom, you’re cured.


Have you written a fiction book including mental illness? Do you have any tips for writers on this topic?

6 Helpful iPhone Apps For Managing Your Mental Health

Hey everyone and welcome back to my blog. Today, I’m going to be sharing 6 apps that are great for managing your mental health. I have personally tried out all of the following apps and I have seen the potential they have in making it easier to manage your illness. I hope these apps are useful and you find something new to help you along…

(All app titles link to the App Store).


Think Ups.

Price – Free.

This is a lovely little app I discovered by accident. It contains 6 mini activities – happy taps, habit maker, mindset, positivity, breather and illuminator. All of them are based around positive thinking, good habits and mindfulness. My favourite game is positivity, which is a word search game. You are given words revolved around positivity and you have to find them in the grid.


Three Good Things.

Price – Free.

What I love about this app is how simple it is. Everyday you receive a notification to input 3 good things that happened to you that day. It’s a great way to try and pick out the positives of the day, even if it’s been a particularly tough day.


Cove.

Price – Free.

This is one of most unique apps I’ve ever come across. Cove allows you to express how you’re feeling through music. You pick an emotion and it then allows you to add a base, melody and percussion to create a song. It’s great if you’re struggling to express how you’re feeling or you can’t find words to describe it. This app is also working with NHS (you can read more about this here).


Stigma.

Price – Free with a pro option.

Stigma is an app that allows you to track your mood and add journal entries. It also has a pen pal option – where you can connect with other people in similar situations to yourself. I haven’t tried out the pen pal aspect but I can imagine how helpful that could be to someone’s support system. One of my favourite aspects of the mood tracker is you can add a visual representation of how you’re feeling, which you can track over a certain period of time (daily, weekly, monthly).


Quit That.

Price – free.

I’ve added some examples to show you how it works

This is a very simple app that allows you to track habits you want to quit. It isn’t necessarily a mental health app, however, it’s great if there are bad habits, possibly related to your illness, you’d like to stop doing. It also allows you to input if the habit costs anything per day, and it will then show you how much you’ve saved since you’ve quit, which I think is a great motivator.


Clementine.

Price – free.

This is an app that uses hypnotherapy to help you deal with the struggles you may be facing. It includes several audios to listen to in the categories sleep, confidence and de-stress. It also allows you to add mantras (or choose the surprise me option) and the app will send you reminders throughout the day to remind you of them, which is think is a lovely touch.


What apps do you find helpful in managing your mental health?

7 Valuable Lessons I Learnt In 2018

Hey guys and welcome back to my blog. 2018 was a tough year for me and I learnt many lessons. Sometimes it’s hard to remember the good things when you are going through a tough time, and I think it’s so important to try and take something away from stressful or tough times. In today’s post I’ll be sharing 7 of the most valuable lessons I learnt in 2018..


In amongst the bad – something amazing happened to me in 2018. If you’ve read my blog for a while you will have read me go on and on about my new accessible home (you can read about my first accessible Christmas in my new home here). I’ll never forget the day we got the phone call that we were being offered this property and the day we actually moved in. It reminded me that yes life isn’t fair at times and bad things do happen, but if you keep persevering, keep fighting, good things can and will happen.


Yes, it may take you longer to get to where other people are but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get there. Many people my age have jobs and spouses and kids and I’m just not there yet. It doesn’t mean it’ll never happen, I’ve just taken the longer route around. But you know what? That’s okay, and it just means it’ll make it all the more worth it when you get there.


You can’t just sit around and wait for something to happen. I am the master procrastinator and sometimes it can be easy to believe that’s things will just fall into your lap when you least expect it, but life doesn’t work like that. I want to write my book? I have to put the work in. I want to grow my blog? I have to put myself out there. Work hard and if you do the results will come.


It helps me get places, it means I don’t have to stay in bed, it means I can go out and do things I want to do. No matter how frustrated I get when places aren’t accessible, or when I crash into everything, or I hurt my shoulder transferring into it, it’s given me a life outside of my bed and that’s an amazing thing.


Don’t let anyone push you around. There are people that will take advantage of you if you let them, including those who are supposed to be providing a service that helps you live and improve your life. If someone is mistreating you, you have to stand up and say ‘hey I am a person, treat me like one’. No one has the right to belittle you and treat you like you mean nothing. I am lucky that I have an amazing best friend who stands up for me when I can’t stand up for myself. That’s a precious gift I’ll never take for granted.


Writing a book is hard work, committing yourself to learning everything about the craft of writing is hard, committing to improving and growing as a writer is hard. But the thought of never publishing a book, of never achieving my goals and dreams I have for my writing is worse, terrifying even. And every time I don’t want to write or I don’t feel inspired or motivated I remember that prospect and it keeps me going.


And you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. It doesn’t make you weak or selfish, and it’s okay to not have the energy to deal with those toxic people. You shouldn’t have to continue associating yourself with those people if it’s affecting your mental health. This is your life – nobody else’s.


What lessons did you learn in 2018?

Dealing With Christmas Money Guilt + Tips

Welcome to Blogmas day 18. It’s now officially 6 days until Christmas. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m super excited! Today I’m here to talk about another topic revolving around Christmas time – Christmas money/gift guilt. Christmas can be an expensive time and it seems once you’ve sorted out one expense, another one creeps up on you. Sadly, society has taught us that spending money and buying loads of gifts is the sole purpose of Christmas. The adverts, social media and shops all try to ram home that it’s all about gifts, gifts, gifts – and when you don’t have a lot of money that can cause a lot of pressure, upset and worry. Today I’m going to be suggesting some tips that may help you feel less guilty about not being able to buy many gifts this year..


Make your own gifts.

Check out Pinterest – it has some fabulous ideas about what you could make for Christmas gifts. Many projects don’t need a lot of materials or artistic skill, and it adds a lovely, personal touch that your loved one will love. Knowing that you’ve put the time and effort into something can mean the world to someone – I know it does for me.


Set gift buying boundaries.

This could include things like only buying for immediate family or children, setting strict budgets or implementing gift ‘rules’. I know some families have the mutual agreement to only buy for the kids. If your family doesn’t have any agreements like that then try talking to them and see where everyone else stands. You can also set yourself strict budgets so when choosing a gift you know how much money you have available to spend on each individual person. There are also gift ‘rules’ you could stick to. One I’ve seen around a lot lately is the ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read’, and I’m sure there will be lots more out there too.


If you can’t afford to buy your children gifts, consider looking into a charity.

I’ve seen so many charities collect donations before distributing them to families in need. If you can’t afford presents that’s nothing to be ashamed of and there are people out there who will and can help. We all go through tough times and sometimes we all need a hand to help guide us into the light. It’s OK to ask for help if you’re struggling, it doesn’t make you a bad parent.


Remember the reasons why Christmas is celebrated.

The real message of Christmas is not about giving gifts. It’s about celebrating and spending time together as a family. Don’t drive yourself into the ground trying to buy gifts for every man and his dog. It’s so easy to get swept up in the pressure whirlwind of buying Christmas presents, but always try to remember the real reasons why we celebrate.


Try not to compare your Christmas to others.

This is easier said than done, but scrolling through your Facebook and Instagram feed and feeling insane jealously and longing over other peoples Christmases is a surefire way to make yourself miserable. Some parents may seem to overbuy for their child, however, it’s important to remember they have a right not to be judged, just like someone who can’t or doesn’t buy their child tons of Christmas gifts. Everyone’s Christmases look different and comparing yours to someone else’s is one of the worst things you could do.


How do you deal with the pressure of Christmas?

How To Deal With The Anxiety of a New Year

The thought of a new year when you have anxiety can be an overwhelming and terrifying thought. The bone crushing fear of another year full of promise, and the overwhelming expectations can end up in another year full of so much anxiety and failure that it can overwhelm you. The fear of failure is unrational, the fear of not being good enough is unrational and for the most part we know that – but that overwhelming fear is a reality for many of us who suffer with anxiety.

I for one was adamant that 2018 was ‘going to be my year’ – just like all the other years before that. Instead it ending up being another in a long line of bad health and stressful situations. There were amazing things that happened this year – including finally moving into a wheelchair accessible bungalow, starting up my blog and finally starting to write my first draft of my book. I don’t have all the answers neither am I living proof that the following things are guaranteed to work but hopefully the following advice can somehow make 2019 less of a burden for you…


Make goals.

And I don’t mean massive stuff like lose weight or learning to drive or starting a new job. I mean small, actionable goals, things you can easily cross off so you don’t feel like you’re useless and can’t do anything. For example – say you want to learn to drive, you could break that bigger goal down into actionable steps like ‘decide on learning manual or automatic’, ‘research driving instructors’, ‘contact driving instructors’ and so on and so forth until you achieve the big goal.


Surround yourself with positive people.

Unfortunately there are people in life who can become toxic and affect your mental health. Cut ties with the people who make you feel negative and bring you down instead of building you up. As hard as it may be you have to do what is best for you and if that means cutting ties with people who make you feel bad about yourself then it’s what you have to do.


Don’t expect too much from yourself.

There’s no use in pushing and pushing until you explode because that’s not going to get you anywhere. Start small and work your way up. Don’t put pressure on yourself to do things you aren’t ready for and focus on the things you are better able to do at a given moment.


Try to be proud of the little things.

Sometimes it’s easy to become fixated on all the things you can’t do. You forget that it’s the little things that get you through – getting out of bed, taking a shower or cooking a meal. To a lot of people these things may be the easiest thing in the world but for those of us with anxiety they are massive. Be proud of these small accomplishments as well as the bigger ones.


 

Do you have any advice to someone who is feeling anxious about a new year?

5 Tips On Supporting Someone Who Is Struggling This Christmas

Christmas is a lovely time of year however it can also be the time of year that people suffering from a chronic illness (whether that’s physical or mental) particularly struggle. If you know someone – whether they are family or friends here are some simple tips to better able you to support them this year…


If you know someone is going to be alone, consider inviting them around to spend Christmas with your family.

It’s probably not going to take you much longer to serve another person their Christmas dinner and involve them in the festivities. But to someone who’d otherwise spend it alone it would mean the absolute world. Back in 2012 I was faced with spending Christmas Day on my own for another year in a row. My best friend and her amazing grandma let me stay with them so I didn’t have to spend it on my own – it meant so much to me and I’ll never forget the gesture.


Don’t put pressure on them.

Invite them but don’t be offended or pushy if they say no. Sometimes people need to stay away from big events for their own well-being. However, the gesture is still a good thing for them to know someone is thinking of them and wants to include them. The same goes for not eating or staying quiet – never put pressure on your loved one to do anything they aren’t comfortable with.


Check in on them.

It doesn’t take one minute to check up on someone. A simple text, message, phone call, video call can go a long way. Ask them how they are doing, ask them what they’ve been up to or just let them know you’re thinking of them. Sometimes all someone needs to know is that someone cares or is thinking of them – especially at Christmas.


Don’t get angry if there’s something they can’t do.

There are certain things that your loved one won’t be able to do and you need to accept and respect that. Everyone is at different levels when it comes to their ability or illness – for example, some may be able to cook a 4 course meal but others won’t even be able to, but they could put the kettle on.



If you see them struggling – ask if they need help.

Not in a patronising way – but in a way that makes them feel like it’s OK if they need help. Sometimes it can be hard for someone suffering from an illness to let people know they need help, so offering can be a useful thing for you to do.


Do you have any tips of how someone can support their loved ones this Christmas?

Dear Best Friend – I’m Proud Of You

Dear Best Friend,

I’m proud of you everyday you get up out of bed and march on with your day. Even when it’s the last thing you want to do, even when you want to pull the blanket over your head and never come out. I’m rooting for you.

I’m proud of the battles you fight and win even if it doesn’t feel like you do. I know it’s exhausting and hard but I’m proud of you for winning. The amount of fights you win on a daily basis are massive and I know you’ve got it in you to win the war. I believe in you.

I’m proud of you for everything you do for me. Not many people would do what you do on a daily basis – in fact they’d probably shy away from it and pretend it doesn’t exist. I’m proud of you for taking it on and not letting me suffer. You don’t have to do it but you do. I’m proud of you for ignoring other people when they judge you or try to force you to stop – you are your own person and that makes me incredibly proud. I am thankful for you.

I’m proud of you for trying new things even when it’s scary. There’s times I find myself watching you and I feel my heart bursting with pride. You’re doing something you love and you refuse to let anything stop you. You are amazing.

I’m proud of you for sticking with your studies even when your brain feels like it’s on fire. I’m proud of you for striving to make something of yourself even when you feel like you’re not worth it. Don’t worry – I’ll be your own personal cheerleader and I’ll cheer you on when you don’t want to cheer yourself on. You got this.

And most of all I’m proud to call you my best friend. I’m proud to spend day in and day out with you, by your side. I couldn’t ever wish for a better best friend, companion, and sister. Thank you for being my cheerleader, my shoulder to cry on, my buddy to laugh with, my sane voice, my rational voice.

Thank you for being mine!