Dragon Boating: The Importance of Stretching.

Stretching before and after a training session or race keeps muscles flexible, strong and healthy, which is very important – especially when using muscles in a repetitive way, such as constant paddling.

Dragon Boating is a physically demanding sport, guaranteed to increase your overall fitness with a combination of strength and endurance training.

But also requires an element of aerobic fitness, and a certain amount of power.

And for power, you need muscles.

While there is obviously an emphasis on upper-body strength, it does well to note that the sport actually comprises of a full-body workout.

When it comes to any kind of exercise, it is important to look after your muscles. And you’ll quickly realise that Dragon Boating works a lot of different muscles.

Besides the obvious muscles groups involved, such as the arms and shoulders, there are a lot of other muscle-groups utilised.

The most worked muscles in Dragon Boating are the following:

  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Back
  • Legs
  • Core
  • Chest

So how do we look after all these muscles, so they’re kept in powerful, working order?

Stretch!

Stretching is vital when it comes to Dragon Boating in any capacity, whether it be social, competitive or at an elite level.

And while stretching has obvious benefits in warming up your muscles before heading out on the water (sometimes in cold conditions), stretching is also a great way to decrease stress, enhance your range of motion, and improve circulation.

Stretching before and after a training session or race keeps muscles flexible, strong and healthy, which is very important – especially when using muscles in a repetitive way, such as constant paddling.

Remember, Dragon Boating is a full-body workout, so it’s really important to check with your coach and devise a warm-up and warm-down plan.

There’s nothing worse than sustaining an injury and being out for part, or all, of the season.

How?

So what stretches can we do to keep our muscles healthy, and reduce the risk of injury?

See the image below for some basic stretches you and your team can try together, to help get your muscles warmed up before jumping in the boat!

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330995083_Popsugar-fullbody-stretch

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Book Review: Boy Swallows Universe.

A review of: Boy Swallows Universe – By Trent Dalton.

Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37558445-boy-swallows-universe

TITLE:

Boy Swallows Universe

AUTHOR:

Trent Dalton

PUBLISHED:

2018

PAGES:

464

GET IT HERE:

amazon.com.au

Overview:

‘Boy Swallows Universe’ is a raw, coming-of-age debut novel by Australian journalist, Trent Dalton. The novel follows the main character, Eli Bell, as he grapples with finding ‘the answers to the questions’.

It’s 1985 in the suburb of Darra, Queensland, just south of Brisbane. Eli is 13 and juggling his junkie mum, a brother who doesn’t speak, a heroin dealer for a step-dad and a notorious criminal for a babysitter – and he has a lot of questions. Like whether or not ‘Slim’ Halliday, his notorious babysitter, really killed that taxi driver in 1952. Or whether his older brother, August, will ever speak, instead of writing cryptic sentences in the sky with his forefinger:

‘Your end is a dead blue wren.’

And Eli’s questions only get bigger and more complicated as time goes by. And as his questions get bigger, so do his problems.

Eli will have to come face to face with a psychopathic drug dealer and his cronies, meet the girl of his dreams, break into the Boggo Road Gaol to rescue his mum and meet the Dad he doesn’t even remember, all in search of ‘the answers to the questions’.

My Thoughts:

The only regret I have about this book is that I didn’t read it sooner. If truth be told, I picked it up more than once in the store, and, after reading it was an Australian novel, put it back on the shelf in favour of something more gritty.

But ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ was eventually in my hands, and before I knew it, I couldn’t put it down. The detail with which this novel was written is a colossal success. I have never read anything like it – and probably won’t for quite some time.

‘Boy Swallows Universe’ sent shivers down my spine, put tears in my eyes and made me look back on the raw truth of my own childhood – filled with drugs and thugs and alcoholics for family members. And although from the outset, we know Eli Bell has it tough, his story is one of finding himself, finding love and finding meaning in the mess.

This novel certainly sets the bar high for future Australian novelists, and has restored my faith in story-telling. ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ is a true masterpiece – a stroke of genius – and a testament to the author, Trent Dalton.

If you do anything before 2019 ends, read this book.

My Rating: 5/5

If you enjoyed this, check out more below, at:

How Embracing Your Mental Illness Can Empower You.

‘The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.’
– Mark Twain

Mental Illness is a struggle that affects many people and can take many different forms.

Mental Illness can be lonely and debilitating, forcing us to withdraw socially and try to hide our condition from the world. One of the hardest things for those who are suffering from Mental Health Issues to do, is to accept their condition in the first place.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being introverted, or enjoying time to ourselves, but it becomes a bigger issue when that becomes the norm. Balancing those qualities and still having (and maintaining) meaningful connections with those around us can sometimes be hard – especially when we choose not to accept our reality.

Many of us choose to suffer in the dark, rather than admit to anyone they are struggling, or are ‘different’ or ‘sick’. This shouldn’t have to happen.

There is far more beauty, strength and power in accepting and embracing our flaws.

‘The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.’

Mark Twain

Here are a few ways to learn how to embrace our struggles and turn them into something we can use in order to grow in our journey:

Get Diagnosed & Refer To Your Condition By Name.

Being diagnosed can often bring about shame or confusion in many people, as well as feelings of guilt or anger. ‘Why me?’ is something that people ask over and over again.

But as scary as being diagnosed is, it can be incredibly useful as well.

You can’t defeat something if you don’t know what it is you’re fighting. But knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step to finding a solution – a way to fight back.

If you’ve been diagnosed with Depression – call it by its name. Bi-Polar? Name it. Anxiety? Own it. If you name something, you own it. If you own it, you choose how much power it has over you.

If you choose to name your condition, you also help others put a name and face to the condition – making it far easier to relate to and empathize with – thus reducing the stigma attached to it.

Educate Yourself.

If you want to educate others, you start by educating yourself. If you want to be empowered and influential, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the topic you want people to understand.

Having stories, facts and figures at our fingertips can prove incredibly important when we are trying to get our point across to someone. And learning just how many other people out there are in similar circumstances to us can propel us forward and give us hope and confidence.

Sidney Hook put it like this:

‘Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.’

If we can learn about ourselves, and truly know ourselves, it can create an energy within and a fire that can’t be extinguished. Being able to feel good about ourselves starts from within.

Respect Your Mental Illness.

If you want to own your diagnosis, you need to learn how it works.

If you want to tame a beast, you need to know how to make it feel respected.

Some forces demand a certain amount of respect – they are powerful and damaging, but beautiful too – like fire.

The same thing goes for our Mental Health. If we want to own our diagnoses, we need to respect that there are going to be days that are better than others. And that’s okay.

Never minimize your condition. It simply is what it is, and that sometimes means adjusting ourselves accordingly.

For some, that means taking extra self-care steps. For others, it’s removing ourselves from a toxic situation.

Paying attention to ourselves and our conditions is critical when it comes to empowerment and feeling ‘in-control’.

Implement Self-Care Measures That Work For You.

Self-Care is meaningless if you aren’t focusing on yourself. Self-Care looks different for everyone – and that’s totally fine. What works for one, may not work for another.

The challenge is finding what does work best for us as individuals. There’s no point joining your friend for Yoga if you absolutely can’t stand getting sweaty and bending yourself into a knot. It may work for your friend, but not you.

For some of us, Self-Care is as simple as taking some time out for an afternoon nap. For others, it’s hitting the gym, or a nice hot bath.

Spend some time thinking about the last time you truly felt relaxed, and work from there. If you know how to manage the bad days, you will find yourself feeling much better and more in-control over our situation and condition.

And Lastly…

Embracing who you are is vital on all of our journeys – not just people with Mental Illnesses. Being able to accept who you are, flaws and all, is hard sometimes (even for the best of us). So don’t give up, and remember you are never alone.

If you’re feeling like you need to talk to someone, there are plenty of places you can reach out:

WEBSITES:

Headspace

Black Dog Institute

Kids Helpline

MensLine Australia

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Q Life (LGBTI+ Specific)

PHONE:

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

QLife: 1800 184 527

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Editor’s Note: JUNE.

Winter Has Come!

Winter Has Come…

And just like that, the start of the year is gone, and we find ourselves bracing for the wind, rain and cold weather of winter.

Winter has never been my favourite season – mainly because it means spending less time outside enjoying the sunshine and more time indoors and inside my own head.

I guess the secret to surviving any season of our lives is to turn towards the things (and people) we love, and embrace the changes as they come – from the falling leaves to the frost on our windows – anything is beautiful if you look at it in the right way.

‘Acceptance of a thing makes it easier … No amount of resisting ever kept winter from coming.’

– Scott Tracey

Keeping Ourselves Warm…

Winter in the Flinders Ranges, Australia, where I spent my teenage years, was cold as frozen iron, where the slate floors threatened to freeze you where you stood and the frost on the windows made the dull morning sun dance in a thousand directions on the walls.

The rain came down in sheets, following the hastily dug trench Dad would dig in a bid to direct the water away from the house, winding its way down the driveway and onto the dirt road where we lived, until it pooled in big puddles for days after.

The icy drafts blew through the house, where our old cottage would whistle through the cracks in the french windows. We would all huddle under blankets in the lounge room, where the open fireplace crackled, filling the room with warmth. I’d wake up in the early hours of the morning to Dad stoking the embers, making sure the fire didn’t go out before it was time for us to get up and get ready for school.

In our house, the rule was, we would walk to school, unless it was raining. So most mornings, we would rug up in scarves, gloves and beanies, and trudge down our dirt road until we reached town. The icy wind bit at exposed faces and ankles, and by the time we reached school, our cheeks would be raw and rosy from the cold.

Winter was a time for connection, and reflection, and so it has stayed that way for me. Even now, when the wind starts to blow and the rain hits my windows, I crave the company of loved ones and remember the winters that have passed and how nothing stays the same from season to season.

Midway through a particularly cold winter one year, on a cold Sunday morning, I found out a friend of mine had passed away the night before. I still remember the way the sky looked that day – how the clouds blanketed the town as I rode my bike through the lonely streets, wishing it would just pour down with rain and wash me away.

There’s something strangely nostalgic about the melancholia I get as the days darken.

Winter Doesn’t Last Forever.

If you’re like me, winter can be a bittersweet time – on the one hand, it can be filled with the memories of younger years and on the other, it can be a time of immense sadness.

I’ve found that the best way to get through winter is to embrace the darkness, in order to appreciate the warmer months.

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of the winter to give it sweetness?

– John Steinbeck

Take time during winter to look after yourself, to reflect and prepare for a new season – like a caterpillar waiting to transform. There is beauty hidden in the darkest of places, but it is only us who can find it and appreciate it. It’s surprising, how much optimism we actually have, if only we change the way we think about things.

And I’ve found that the best way to change the way you think, is to find a new perspective. Whether that might be taking a class, volunteering at a shelter, listening to someone over a coffee, reading a biography or simply asking questions – winter is the perfect opportunity to do it.

Let’s Look After Each Other.

As we head into winter, it’s easy to hide away, slip under the radar and go into ‘hibernation’.

It’s also easy to forget that the people around you might need to be pulled out of their slump too.

So let’s not forget about the people around us, and the people right in front of us as the cold sets in. Winter doesn’t stop for anyone, and the rain will fall on us all, regardless of our age, gender, race or any other factor.

Let’s lift each other up, keep each other warm, and offer a helping hand.

‘People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.’

– Anton Chekhov

I hope you all keep warm and happy as the cold sets in, and I look forward to hearing from you all, as I have in the previous months! As always, feel free to connect with me on social media, or contact me if you need a friend, some advice or just someone to talk to.

Have an amazing June! X

Let’s Talk: Psychologist Waiting Periods.

The waiting periods to see a psychologist are far too long.

I’m not saying my mental health is more fucked than anyone else’s, or deserves to be seen to before anyone else.

But what I am saying, is that the waiting periods to see a psychologist are far too long. I’ve battled with my mental illness for many years, and I’m starting to come to the realization that half my problem is that I had stopped bothering trying to seek therapy of any description.

I know that might sound a little self-destructive, but hear me out.

I first saw a psychiatrist when I was under the age of 5.

He was trying to get inside my little, child brain, to understand what was happening around me, and whether I should be placed in the care of my drug-addicted Mum, in a dangerous house that had pedophiles, drug addicts and criminals coming in at all hours of the day and night, or my Dad, who hadn’t so much as raised his voice at me, ever.

When he visited me at my Mum’s house, I would be told by my Mum and Step-Dad that I should ‘tell the man you want to live with me, or all your toys will be sold and I won’t see you’.

Source: pexels

When he visited my Dad’s house, my Dad told me to ‘tell the man the truth’ to the questions he asked.

Do you know who the psychiatrist thought was the better option? My Mum.

And so, my poor relationship with psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors began.

I didn’t see anyone else about my mental health again until I was 15.

Source: pexels

I had been living with my Dad since I was seven (after the Family Court finally realized who the right parent to live with was), because I was a missing person for 8 months because my Mum and Step-Dad took off when they couldn’t pay a drug-debt.

Growing up, I had always been a quiet person, and found myself feeling a lot more mature than my peers most of the time. I didn’t know what depression, or anxiety, or mental illness was back then. I just thought that I was different.

And then when I was 15, a close friend of mine died, and I was encouraged to see a counselor, who I went to see at the local hospital. Even in a town of less than 2,000, it took me 4 weeks to get an appointment.

Then, the first thing the counselor did was point at the scars on my wrists and tell me I was obviously not depressed and just wanted attention.

I immediately disliked her.

I had a second appointment a couple of weeks later, which I decided to go to, just in case I had misjudged the counselor, or hadn’t given her enough time. But all she did was ask me why I was so sad, and then told me if I couldn’t tell her, that meant nothing was wrong.

I didn’t bother seeing her again.

I didn’t see another psychologist or mental health professional until I was 19.

By the time I was 19, I had finished High School, I had ran away from home, lived in poverty to the point of living in the street, moved to a big city to start University, moved in with a boyfriend, broken up with him, moved to an Aunt’s house, moved out with another boyfriend who was abusive to me, and began to realize that there was something seriously wrong with my mental health.

One day, I broke down and cried and cried and cried, walking around the neighbourhood after dark for hours. I was having terrible thoughts, panic attacks, mood swings and felt like I was all alone. It was then that I decided I needed help.

I went to a doctor, who ‘diagnosed’ me with depression, gave me some anti-depressant medication and sent me on my way. It wasn’t until I went back to the same doctor’s surgery and saw a different GP that they set up a Mental-Health care plan, which included a referral to see a psychologist.

I said I couldn’t afford to see someone. They put me in a queue to see someone in the public system.

That someone was a 45 minute drive away, and was only available to see me every 2 weeks. But I was desperate for help, so I drove the distance and waited for my appointments.

This psychologist was the first one who ever actually seemed like she cared about helping me get better. She asked me about my family history, asked me about my relationships and my studies and my home life. We began to dig a bit deeper, and I remember her telling me that she thought I should get a proper diagnosis from a psychiatrist, but that we’d organize it in the next session.

She moved states the following week, and I never heard from her again.

At 23, I decided to give it another shot.

After the last psychologist, I gave up on seeking mental health for a few years. I had broken up with my abusive boyfriend by this point, but the relationship was incredibly damaging to me. He had told me I was a psycho, that there was something wrong with my brain, that I deserved the things that happened to me as a child, that I should just hurry up and kill myself – among the physical abuse and the rest of it. I had carried the weight of his words ever since.

That burden eventually became one of the reasons I didn’t have much success with relationships after that. My self-esteem was at an all-time low, I was lonely and I had to force myself out of bed just to go to work. I had started taking hard drugs and wasn’t in a good place.

But I finally built up the courage to speak to my (new) doctor, and asked her to help me, because I felt like I wasn’t getting better, I was only getting worse.

I asked her whether she thought I should be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, but she said no.

She upped the dosage of my medication and made a new Mental Health plan, referring me to a counselor close by.

I went to my first session, and was bitterly disappointed. This time, I walked into the room to find a man who spent half our session on the phone, and the other half telling me that the depression was all in my head and what I needed to do was change my attitude.

I told him I didn’t understand what that meant, because I was obviously trying to get better, otherwise I wouldn’t be in his office.

He then said “I don’t know why you’re here anyway, you seem like an intelligent person’.

I went to the doctor again when I was 25.

I told her straight out ‘I think I might kill myself one day’.

She upped my dose of anti-depressant medication, referred me to Yarrow Place (a service for women who have been raped) and recommended I join a gym.

I remember her saying ‘…Swimming is good for the mind.’

To keep things in perspective here, I never mentioned to this doctor I had been raped, that is something she simply assumed. The only other thing she did was give me a list of the crisis phone numbers I could call if I wanted to.

I contacted Yarrow Place and asked when their next available appointment was and they told me that unless it was an emergency (in their eyes?), the next appointment wouldn’t be for the following month.

I wanted to cry. Why was it so hard to get the help I needed?

Here, in the present day, I’m 26 years old. 

I went to my (new) doctor in March this year, and said I really think I need to see someone about my mental health. I told him that I had been feeling down for quite some time, and believed that medication wasn’t going to help me. 

He asked me straight out ‘…What could possibly make you so sad?’

This doctor is a nice enough guy, but he’s not a psychologist. I didn’t feel comfortable telling him much, and to be perfectly honest, I was kind of hoping to untangle all these years of feelings with someone who was qualified to do so. So I said ‘lots of things’ and he asked me to fill out the Mental Health Questionnaire that I’d filled in a dozen times before.

This time though, when he said he was going to make a Mental Health Care Plan for me, I asked him if I could be the person to choose who I was referred to. He said that I could, but that if they’re private practices, there might be a cost involved. I said I didn’t care, so he sent me away to research who I wanted to see, and to come back in a week and he’d write up a referral.

My doctor wrote the referral, and the very next day, I contacted the practice via email to organize my first appointment. The receptionist told me the first available appointment with the psychologist I wanted wouldn’t be until June.

My heart sank.

I asked her if there was anyone else I could see from the practice sooner. She gave me a date in late May and said it was probably best just to wait for my preferred psychologist, and that she would put me on a cancellation list, just in case a space became available.

I decided to grit my teeth a bare it, regardless of the wait or the cost, so that I can try and get better.

It’s now May 30th, and my first appointment is June 13th. I’ve been waiting for 3 months, with the only other alternative option being to present myself to the emergency department and be evaluated, and probably released the same day with no real therapy.

I’m just trying to get better. 

There are days where I drive home from work and honestly consider veering off into a pole, a tree or a ditch.

There are nights when I unpack the dishwasher and hold the knives a little too long, considering the ways I could use them. There are times when I wake up at night in a cold sweat and want to vomit my guts up or scream my lungs out.

There are days when I’m jealous of the people who get to go to therapy.

And then those moments pass, and I try again. I wake up to another day, and try to be optimistic. There are times when I  have arguments with myself in my head about whether I should be here, and I have to force myself to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving towards something that I can’t quite see yet.

I don’t need pills. I need therapy. But because I haven’t tried to kill myself yet, by professional measures, I’m fine. That’s just the way it is.

But the problem is, it shouldn’t be this way.

How many people has the system failed? I think about this every day. How loud do we have to scream to be heard? How much damage and trauma is deemed acceptable for help?

And what about the people who don’t want to talk about it to just anyone? Is it not okay to want to talk to a professional about something, rather than having to admit it to a GP first?

What about the suicidal people who struggle in silence? What about the ones who don’t think their struggles are worth someone else’s time? What about the people who are sent home by the doctor with a prescription and a referral to someone who doesn’t care?

I wonder all of these things and more.

But most of all, I wonder when the system is going to change.

Resources for those seeking help:

Remember, your safety should always be a priority. If you are in crisis or your mental health becomes an emergency, call 000.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you, or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to use the following resources:

Websites:

Headspace

Black Dog Institute

Kids Helpline

MensLine Australia

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Q Life (LGBTI+ Specific)

Phone:

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

QLife: 1800 184 527

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If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more at ‘The Art of Overthinking‘.

Climate Change Is Changing The Way Young People See Their Future.

If you are a young person, the future is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate.

 

 

In case you’ve been living under a rock…

Climate Change is a very real, defining issue of our time. Regardless of whether you live in a place like the United States, where the President denies Climate Change (along with pulling out of the Paris Agreement to curb Carbon Emissions), or somewhere more advanced in its leadership on Climate Change, like France, who’s Prime Minister ended an address on the subject with: ‘Make our planet great again.’ … Boom.

Either way, we all live on the same planet, and it is our individual and collective responsibility to take action on Climate Change if this planet is going to survive even the next 40 years. NASA says the evidence for rapid Climate Change is compelling, noting key indicators, including:

Global Temperature Rises;

Warming Oceans;

Shrinking Ice Sheets;

Glacial Retreats;

Decreased Snow Cover;

Sea Level Rises;

Declining Arctic Sea Ice;

Extreme Weather Events and

Ocean Acidification

Climate Change is affecting the planet in significant, detrimental and soon-to-be irreversible ways. Without drastic action, the planet we know today will be gone, replaced with a landscape characterized catastrophic natural disasters, mass-extinction, global food shortages and increased exposure to conflict.

It’s for this reason that the younger generations are gearing up for a rough ride, and changing the way they see the world, in order to survive the damage our ancestors have inflicted on the planet.

 

 

Young People Don’t Want To Raise Children On A Damaged Planet.

More and more Millenials are becoming concerned with what the future may look like in 10, 20 or even 50 years from now. The phrase ‘I don’t want to bring children into this world’ is something you wouldn’t often have heard someone say 50 years ago. But in this day and age, there is a real, tangible fear of what the future may hold.

Global birth rates are declining, with more people becoming aware of the planet’s situation. The fear of bringing children into a world of uncertainty is a very real issue facing the young people of today. Even as recently as February this year, United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) asked the question ‘Is it still OK to have children?’ on her Instagram Story.

AOC argues that although the answer is not clear-cut, there is a scientific consensus that the lives of future generations will be difficult. And they know it. More and more young people are taking part in Global Climate Change Protests, like those started by Greta Thunberg who recently stated:

‘You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes… We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis…if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then… we should change the system itself.’

– Greta Thunberg

Younger generations are increasingly opting not to have children, with worries of food and water shortages, global unrest, natural disasters and political unrest present themselves as very real threats.

 

 

Young People Have Little Faith In Their Government.

A lot of Millenials are written off as out-of-touch with politics.

But the truth is, Millenials simply have no faith in the people representing them. Evidence of this is in the record number of Australians enrolled to vote this election – 96.8% of the total eligible voting population. This includes a record number of 18-24 year olds.

The world’s leaders have a responsibility to fight against Climate Change. We can only hope that as the older generations die out, they will be replaced with more switched-on individuals, who are dedicated to helping the planet and the people living on it, rather than continuing to be more preoccupied with the 1%:

“That future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once. You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to.”

– Greta Thunberg

A survey carried out by Triple J found that 89% of young Australians believe the politicians in power aren’t working in the best interests of the planet. And guess what? Those same young people voted Environmental Policy and Climate Change as the most important issues to them, come election time.

That’s pretty damning.

 

 

Younger Generations Are Experiencing Higher Rates Of Mental Illnesses Dubbed ‘Eco-Anxiety’ or ‘Ecological Grief’.

The negative impact Climate Change is having on the physical environment poses real risks when it comes to the Mental Health of young people. A sense of doom where the future contains things like poverty, unemployment, natural disasters and resource shortages are very real issues that young people are having to face.

Even as far back as 2012, the National Wildlife Federation reported that over 200 million Americans would be exposed to serious psychological distress from climate related incidents. Of a study done by Millennium Kids Inc., 94.6% of the target demographic felt that Climate Change would be a problem in the future.

In the face of a changing climate, Eco-Anxiety is only going to become more and more apparent, with Mental Health organisations starting to get on board, such as ReachOut, who have a page dedicated to: How to cope with anxiety about climate change.

The page in question lists a variety of reasons young people might feel strained, stressed or anxious about Climate Change, including:

Feeling like planning for the future is pointless and/or hopeless;

Angry that the people around them aren’t doing anything to help;

Frustration at a lack of action they can take to help;

Worrying about whether it’s responsible to have children (see above) and

Feeling like their future is out of their control.

All very valid points. Climate Change is a hugely relevant issue in the world today, and one that deserves to be treated with urgency.

 


HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED?

If you are a young person, the future is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. There are lots of ways you can help the environment in meaningful ways, including:

 

Taking part in conversations with others about Climate Change

Joining the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition

Taking part in School Strike 4 Climate

Joining the Australian Student Environment Network

Finding articles about ways to help the environment at home

Being active on Social Media Platforms

Joining clean up efforts, such as Sea Shepherd’s Marine Debris Campaign

 

 

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Join the conversation at www.theartofoverthinking.com

 

 

 

Anti-Depressants (What The Doctors Don’t Tell You).

What (the Doctors don’t tell you) to expect when you decide to take Anti-Depressants.

 

FIRSTLY:

The decisions to start taking any kind of anti-depressant medication can be very daunting, especially when you may not know much about the drug your GP is prescribing or recommending. Most of the time, in my experience, you don’t even really make the decision at all – your GP does.

And although Doctors/ GP’s are intelligent and educated people, they don’t always gets it right – much the same as us. Sometimes they forget that there is a human being attached to their diagnosis and treatment plan. It’s for this reason that I recommend always double checking a few things, and even perhaps getting a second or third opinion, before blindly beginning a long-term medication.

 

 

MY PRESCRIPTION STORY:

Visiting The GP.

When I decided to visit my GP on the suspicion that my depression and anxiety was getting worse, this is (step-by-step) what happened:

  • I was asked how long I had felt the way that I did
  • I was asked to explain why or what was making me so sad and stressed
  • I was asked to fill out a generic questionnaire/ mental health assessment survey
  • I was told by my GP that I was most likely suffering from the effects of depression and anxiety
  • A Mental Health Care Plan was organised for me
  • I was prescribed an Anti-Depressant medication and told to take one daily

 

Is that all?

All of these questions, and diagnoses, were completed by my GP within 20 minutes. And a lot of people have the same sorts of stories. So for starters, let me just note a few things here:

  • I was 18 at the time
  • I wasn’t asked about my Mental Health history by this GP at all
  • I wasn’t referred to a Psychiatrist for any kind of evaluation or diagnosis
  • I wasn’t offered a choice of who I wanted to see or asked if I had anyone in mind
  • I wasn’t told I had a choice about whether to take the medication I was prescribed
  • I wasn’t told of any side-effects that I might experience if I did take them

 

But wait! There’s more!

Every GP you see will be different, but just remember that if you have any questions, or doubt what your GP might be saying or prescribing, remember you have every right to ask questions. It is your body, your mind and your life.

You do not have to go into any details with your GP about why you’re feeling the way that you are – they are not a Psychiatrist. You have the right to ask to be referred to a preferred psychologist, or be referred to a psychiatrist.

You are within your rights to not take any medication without seeking a second opinion – this type of medication can sometimes be very hard to come off of, so it’s important you know what you’re getting yourself into. And you should always ask what the side-effects may be.

 

 

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT:

Within an hour of leaving the GP’s office, I had been to a chemist, had my prescription filled, and had taken my first pill, and that was that. Or so I thought.

 

Immediate side-effects…

When I hopped in my car to head home after visiting the chemist and doing a bit of shopping, I realised something was really wrong. I drove halfway up the street before I had to pull over. My head was spinning, my vision was blurry and I felt lethargic, like every muscle in my body was working in slow motion.

I rang my GP straight away and explained my symptoms. I was told this was completely normal, and that I would be okay in a day or so. I managed to get home safely, thank goodness.

But that information may have been better received before I tried to drive home.

 

Research, research, research!

I can not stress the importance of researching your medication enough.

The first night, I went to sleep very early. I woke myself up about 10 times that night grinding my teeth. By the morning, I was exhausted, my head hurt and I felt terrible. So I decided to look up the product information for my new medication, to see what else I might be in for.

It was hard to tell which possible side-effects I might experience, because there were quite literally hundreds of them.

And the GP never told me about a single one of them.

 

Why wasn’t I told?

Beginning a new medication without being warned of the things I might experience, like common side-effects, was really upsetting and confusing.

Not only was I dealing with the issues I had before I began taking the medication, I now had a plethora of other sub-issues to contend with.

At one point, I was even prescribed a higher dosage of the same medication, when I explicitly explained the side-effects I was suffering from to a completely different GP.

 

 

THESE DAYS:

It’s been over seven years since I was first prescribed my Anti-Depressants. I am still taking them, and I do still suffer from a lot of side-effects. I’ve learned to manage most of them, but more importantly, I’ve learned how important it is to question your GP’s opinion if something (no matter how small or how silly you think it seems) doesn’t feel quite right.

Anti-Depressants can be very dangerous medications, so it’s important you ask questions. For me, this medication rules my entire life. When I first started taking my medication, I wasn’t told much, so I thought I’d compile a list of a few things my GP didn’t tell me about:

 

Numbness

My GP didn’t tell me much about the side-effects of my Anti-Depressant. The way they described it, I would take the medication, and I would feel better.

But I didn’t feel better, necessarily. I came to realise that the medication simply numbed my emotions. On the one hand, I wouldn’t feel very depressed. But on the other, I wouldn’t feel very happy, either.

It’s taken a long time to adjust to feeling very… well, bleak. Not too sad, but not too happy. Just existing, some days. Yes, not having overwhelming sadness is good. But not being able to feel joy and excitement can sometimes be hard.

 

Dry Mouth

A very common side-effect of Anti-Depressants is having a constantly dry mouth. And one definitely not worth overlooking. Dry mouth can lead to infections, soreness and a bunch of other oral-related nasties, including bad-breath.

 

Weight Gain

While there are other factors involved in gaining weight – lifestyle, work, levels of activity – since beginning my Anti-Depressants, I’ve gained around 15kg. That might not seem like a lot to some, but weight gain can cause serious self-esteem issues and can make you feel even worse about yourself.

 

Sex-Drive

I would say that I was about average when it came to being sexually active, but as time has gone on, I’ve noticed my disinterest in sex. Which is another thing my GP failed to clue me in on. Sometimes I really have to force myself to have sex, and it’s not a nice feeling.

On the occasions where I do feel like sex, I also have to battle with the fact that it doesn’t feel as good as what it probably does without medication. It can really drop yours (and your partner’s) confidence, and it can be difficult to connect without that intimacy.

The right person will understand, of course, but it can be an incredibly difficult thing to bring up.

 

Withdrawals

This is the biggest challenge I have with my medication these days.

If I go even six hours without taking my medication on time, the withdrawals start. And they’re not pretty. I wind up feeling like a full-blown drug-addict coming down, and I’m not over-exaggerating.

I get headaches, lose concentration, feel dizzy and nauseous and sweat so much people notice the marks under my arms and on my back.

If I go twelve hours without it, my anxiety kicks back in with a vengeance, my heart races and everything around me is suddenly overwhelming  – too loud, too big, too close. The fine balancing act my brain plays on a daily basis is derailed and I become a nervous wreck. Every noise is terrifying.

Twenty-four hours without my medication is agony. The only reason this usually happens is if I forget to get a prescription filled and the chemist is closed for a public holiday, or I forget to pack it if I go somewhere.

It’s horrendous. I get brain-zaps, which are basically described as a feeling as if your head, brain or both have experienced a sudden jolt, shake, vibration, tremor, zap or electric-shock. You can find out more about them here.

Along with the brain-zaps, I start to get so wound up I can’t sleep, can’t talk properly and every muscle in my body is tensed. I don’t eat and I become paranoid. I can’t even begin to explain to you how much pain you experience, having to go through this.

And my GP never told me about any of it.

 

Memory

Even though my GP knew I was studying at university, they still failed to mention that a possible side-effect of my medication would be that my memory could be affected.

I became forgetful, unfocused, lethargic and wasn’t able to remember basic things, like what I did the night before. I couldn’t describe certain things – my mind would go blank. It was an awful feeling, realising my memory was becoming hazy. Even now, I struggle with words, remembering small things and even people’s names.

 

Suicidal Thoughts

Again, you would think that the GP may have mentioned to me that I might get sudden urges to swerve my car into a tree, purposely do dangerous or risky things (like drugs) or think about how utterly pointless existing is on a daily basis. Nope!

Suicidal thoughts are a common side-effect of Anti-Depressant medication, and it’s hard work, reminding your brain every day that you don’t, in fact, want to kill yourself. Especially when you’re getting urges to do just that. Not to mention, it’s pretty disturbing and can feel incredibly invasive.

There have been loads of times where my medication has made me question my own sanity.

 

 

WHAT NEXT?

Every person will experience the effects of their medications slightly differently. You may find that you experience things I haven’t noted here, or perhaps there are things you don’t experience, that I have noted. There’s no right or wrong answer.

Deciding to take Anti-Depressants is a personal journey, and that’s why it’s so important to listen to your body, and ask questions.

Remember to keep an open mind, ask questions, don’t overlook your concerns, and remember that Anti-Depressants aren’t going to fix you. You need to use them in conjunction with therapy, healthy lifestyle habits and in a responsible way.

If you, or someone you know, wants to find out more information, there are plenty of places that you can reach out:

 

Websites:

Headspace

Black Dog Institute

Kids Helpline

MensLine Australia

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Q Life (LGBTI+ Specific)

 

Phone:

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

MensLine Australia: 1300 789 978

QLife: 1800 184 527

 

Related Articles:

Why Mental Health & The Workplace Go Hand-In-Hand.

5 Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship; My Experience & What I Learned.

Mental Illness: Surviving & Thriving

A Beginner’s Guide To Self Love

You Are A Miraculous Work Of Art.

 

 

 

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If you enjoyed this article, feel free to check out more at: www.theartofoverthinking,com

5 Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship; My Experience & What I Learned.

My story and the lessons I learned along the way.

 

NOTE:

Before I go any further, let me just say – it isn’t anyone’s place to judge another’s relationship, and that is not the intent of this article. This is simply a personal experience, and the things I found to be true for me.

 

 

MY STORY

The topic of a abuse within a relationship is often hard for a lot of people, which is one of the reasons I haven’t written about it until now. A lot of the time, the person that puts you through this type of thing has such a profound emotional hold over you, it’s hard to talk about your experiences, no matter how much time has passed.

For that reason, in this particular article, I’ll refer to that person as ‘He’.

For me, ‘He’ was the one. We had known each other for a couple of years, He was a social butterfly, He made me laugh and every time we hung out, it turned into some kind of fun adventure. People talk about the ‘Honeymoon Period’ of relationships – a brief period of time where everything seems perfect, you agree on everything and arguments are non-existent. This was the Honeymoon Period to beat any other – and I should have realised then that it was too good to be true.

I had suffered from Anxiety and Depression for a number of years before meeting him, and he helped me see the fun in life. He was smart and logical, but He had a spontaneous streak that was so much fun.

I truly believed we would get married, have children and live happily ever after. We had stupid nicknames for each other, we played pranks on each other, we stayed up late giggling and we took photos of each other snoring. We spent our weekends happily exploring the city and beaches and never fought about anything. Everything was fun and easy.

At that time in my life, I was a University Student, and he was a tradie/ labourer. It didn’t take long for us to move in together. He worked long hours and was the main breadwinner, and He was proud of that. I would spend my days studying, going to Uni, cleaning the house and making sure there was food on the table for Him when He finally trudged through the door.

Soon enough though, I could see He was starting to resent the fact that I didn’t have a job, although I was trying to work my way through Law School and look after things at home. I spent every penny of my Student Allowance on rent and things for the house, but it wasn’t enough. Before I knew it, I had picked up a couple of casual jobs working retail to try and even things out. I wanted to help. I loved Him. He could do no wrong in my eyes.

It wasn’t long after this that He came home and said He had been let go. At the time, I didn’t see it as too much of an issue – He was a robust and confident person, and I was sure He would pick up something new quite quickly.

I was wrong.

Ever since He was an apprentice, He had never not had a job, and His confidence plummeted. Something ‘snapped’ so to speak and He was never the same. Him being fired sent Him into a rapid depression, followed by paranoia and anxiety.

I tried everything in my power to help Him, but I was struggling too. I began taking my anti-depressants again, was stressed and taking on extra shifts at work to get us through to the next week. I eventually realised that I would have to drop out of University if I was going to help us get by. So I did. I deferred University to focus on looking after us. I loved him. I wanted to help.

I had heard about people developing paranoia, but His paranoia was something I had never experienced before, and I had no idea what I was meant to say or do to help Him. I tried everything. I listened to his rants without judgment, I offered my support, I told Him I believed Him when He said He was worried about people following him. I helped Him write job applications, introduced Him to new people, suggested He get professional help.

Nothing would calm him down.

He truly believed someone was ‘out to get Him’. Every conversation we had would go down the same path; ‘there’s someone following me’, ‘someone’s been in the house’, ‘they know too much’, ‘don’t talk about personal stuff over the phone’… it was overwhelming.

I came home one day and He was scanning the walls with a device that checks for ‘bugs’. He wouldn’t apply for jobs because he was convinced ‘they’ would sabotage him. He would constantly sat he was being followed in his car, or at the shops.

He started to become suspicious of me. I didn’t understand it, because I couldn’t see it. There was never anyone following us, nothing out of the ordinary happening in our lives besides His behaviour. I couldn’t find a way to help Him. All I knew was that I loved Him dearly and believed that He would snap out of it as quickly as it all started, if He just got another job and got back on track.

But it didn’t work that way.

Things went downhill. Rapidly. Nothing I would say would convince Him that there was no-one out to ‘get’ Him. I was so caught up with trying to help the person I loved, I failed to see I was becoming tangled in an abusive and toxic situation.

It was subtle at first, but by the end of our tumultuous relationship, the house was a war zone. Even now, years after, I experience the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Small things like someone grabbing my wrist, coming too close to my face, raising their hands or even the slightest raise in someone’s voice sets me off.

 

I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. And I wanted to list the types of warning signs I missed, but wished I hadn’t. It’s hard to recognise these things when you’re blinded by your situation. Because you don’t want to believe that the person you love is also the person destroying you.

Even if this helps one person recognise their situation for what it is, that would be enough for me. Keeping in mind that every relationship is unique along with the people in it, these are the 5 signs I look back on and wished I’d noticed:

 

 

 

NUMBER ONE:

Isolation.

I realised too late that I had distanced myself from many of my friends, probably at a time when I needed them the most. Once He became paranoid, He needed to keep me ‘safe’. He was scared someone was out to ‘get’ me too. He didn’t want me on Social Media, He was suspicious of visitors, new friends and even old friends.

I ended up cutting ties with a lot of people, all based on who ‘He’ thought was ‘safe’. Every person He met was a threat. He believed people who visited the house planted devices or stole things, and eventually it became easier to placate him by simply cutting people off.

 

 

NUMBER TWO:

Gas Lighting.

Whether it was intentional or not, He made me believe I was going crazy. He used my history of mental illness against me, telling me I was the crazy one. He would tell me that I was a psychopath, that I was the one with no heart and that I had no idea how much I put Him through.

When we fought, He’d tell me to ‘take another pill, crazy’, ‘go cut your wrists in the bath’ or ‘do the world a favour and kill yourself’. We had a small unit, so I would try and lock myself in the bathroom to get away from the taunts. When I did, He would yell that I was crazy and why would I lock the door on HimClearly was the suicidal one, and would kill myself in the bathroom. He’d break down the door to get to me, ripping the handle completely off, or making a hole in it – just so He could tell me to stop being an attention seeker.

If I tried to leave the house to get away from Him, He would stop me. He would stand in the door frame and tell me I was being dramatic. He’d tell me I had started the fight and that He hadn’t done anything wrong. He’d tell me I wasn’t leaving because I might hurt myself. He’d steal my keys, break my phone and threaten me. All the ‘help’ me.

He truly convinced me that I was the crazy one. That hiding in the bathroom to get away from Him meant I was the one with the issues. .

When I’d eventually open the door (or He’d break it down), He’d say things like: ‘I’m trying to help you’ or ‘I don’t want to have to break down the door again or call the police on you because I think you’re going to kill yourself in there’. He and I both knew that it was never my intention to hurt myself, but I began to believe that maybe I might. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I was suffering from my mental illness in such a way, I couldn’t see how crazy I really was.

 

 

NUMBER THREE:

Becoming Physical.

This is the stereotypical sign of being in an abusive relationship, but it wasn’t until the physical abuse became very violent that I realised it had started long ago.

It started with things like grabbing my wrists or arm to stop me leaving a room, or holding me on the ground or on the bed so I couldn’t use my phone. But it got worse.

Any time we had an argument and I tried to leave, phone a friend or go into another room to get away from all the verbal abuse and tension, things would go flying (me included). He would put things like my laptop outside in the middle of the road. He would take my dinner outside and tell me to eat out there ‘like the dog I was’. He would laugh when I cried and begged to be allowed to leave.

Arguments in the car were common, because He know I couldn’t escape. He wouldn’t get out when I asked Him to, and He wouldn’t let me pull over and get out either. I had no choice but to keep driving, while He screamed in my ear, spat in my face and kicked the interior of the car.

One day He was so out of His mind with rage, He ripped the radio clean out of my car, wires dangling, and threw it out the window of my car into traffic while I was driving.

I was constantly having to come up with stories to tell my family and friends about why my things were constantly damaged and broken. The radio had ‘malfunctioned’. My phones were always being ‘dropped’ or ‘run over’ or simply ‘stopped working and needed to be replaced’. Sets of glasses never lasted long, the holes in the doors were from ‘tripping’ and the bruises were brushed off as me being clumsy.

Make no mistake, all of these things are abusive and violent. But when you love someone, sometimes you don’t see them for what they truly are, and brush them off.

 

 

NUMBER FOUR:

Put Downs and Name Calling.

There’s a saying: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. But they do. Especially when you’re told everyday how awful you are. When you’re told you’re fat. Told you’re a psycho. Told you need to go to a psychiatric home. Told that no one will ever love you besides Him. Told that you deserved all the bad things that ever happened to you. That you deserve to be alone. Especially when you’re told all this by someone you love.

Eventually these things get to you. And once you start believing them, you gain a sense of hopelessness that doesn’t fade, even after you leave. You truly believe you are defected, damaged and no-good. It has taken years to be able to look in the mirror without hating my own reflection, and even now, I suffer the consequences of the verbal torment I was put through.

 

 

NUMBER FIVE:

Guilt and Blame.

This mightn’t seem as important as the other signs. But this is the thing that affected me more than anything else.

Every fight we had, no matter how violent, ended with Him saying things like: ‘I’m sorry, I love you’, ‘Please don’t leave me, you’re all I’ve got’ or hours of tears and promises to do better.

It was emotional torture. The man I once wanted a future with and who I loved so dearly, was hurting me in ways I never knew I could hurt. Of course I wanted to believe Him. Of course I wanted to brush off His behaviour as nothing more than a momentary lapse in judgment.

I remember the fights, and the anxiety crushing my chest. The tears, the fists and the threats. Then one day, His beloved Nan died. I knew this would make everything so much worse. If He was depressed, anxious and paranoid now, then this would surely tip Him over the edge completely. I wanted desperately to be there for Him. I wanted to comfort Him, to bring Him back to what He used to be, but I couldn’t do it anymore.

I was exhausted. I knew every fight we wold have from thereon out, every time he would hurt me, it wouldn’t be ‘His’ fault anymore. It would be because His Nan had died. Everything He did would be blamed away.

So I left.

Maybe deep down He was messed up and maybe He was sorry and perhaps He truly did need me. And I knew He must have been feeling very isolated and hurt too. But I realised much too late, that you can’t help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves.

I left Him after His Nan’s funeral. I would have left sooner, but again, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I loved Him. I felt like I needed to at least get Him through the funeral. I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person.

But who is ‘that’ person? I stayed so long. Put up with so much. For what?

 

WHAT NEXT?

Leaving Him was the most painful thing I have had to do in a long time. I’m not going to pretend that it was easy. I was so emotionally broken, I could feel my heart breaking with every breath I took.

Even after I left, I paid the rent in the unit we lived in for months until He moved out. I cleaned up all the mess He had left once he finally did leave. I never sent Him the bill.

I called Him every day after He moved out to make sure He was okay. He would cry on the phone and tell me He was so sorry. I would drive past His new house and bring Him food, because I knew He hadn’t eaten for days. I took Him to appointments, kept in touch, made sure He was okay and wasn’t going to hurt Himself.

Once I would get home, I would cry by myself on the kitchen floor for hours and hours, wondering how everything had gone so horribly wrong. I had given Him everything I had, and I had nothing left to give.

He begged me to give Him another chance.

But I couldn’t.

Because you can love someone so much, but at the end of the day, you have to love yourself more. And sometimes it takes a long time to realise that. When I look back on what I went through now, I wish I had seen the signs earlier. It took me so long to leave. Because I kept putting Him first, making excuses for Him, allowing His toxic behaviour to continue, because I was more worried about losing Him.

We do so much for the people we love.

But in the end, we are all human. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we are all on a journey. And you can’t save everyone on the journey to save yourself.

And that’s okay.

 

 

 

 

 

Quote Of The Day 02/04/2019

TUESDAY, 02/04/2019:

Source: https://weheartit.com/entry/328165663

‘Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.’

– Shannon Alder

A Beginner’s Guide To Self Love

‘Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.’

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

My friend once gave me the perfect analogy for self love:

‘Shayde – there’s a reason they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first when you’re on an airplane. You can’t help the people around you if you haven’t first helped yourself.’

How nice it is, to have friends that point out the glaringly obvious, when you can’t see it for yourself.

 

Some days are incredibly hard. That’s just life. Sometimes we forget about ourselves, on our journey through life. We give and give and give, until we have nothing left for us to fall back on. But it’s inherently important to take time to slow down and look after yourself.

But loving yourself is not an easy task. It never has been and never will be.

 

But why don’t we love ourselves?

‘You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.’

– Buddha

 

We are surrounded by things that say we shouldn’t love ourselves, day in and day out. Of course, you all know what I’m talking about: magazines, social-media, advertisements, unrealistic ‘reality’ shows on television, sales professionals, sometimes even our bosses or our loved ones… wherever we turn, we seem to constantly be being told we are not quite good enough.

We’re told we need to be thinner. We need to have clearer skin. We should be more tan. We need less cellulite on our thighs. We need higher sales figures. We should have a house and kids by now. We should be getting better grades. We shouldn’t talk about our mental illnesses. We need a newer car, a bigger house and a six figure salary. We need to have prettier clothes, taller shoes and more make-up.

Everywhere we look, there is something to compare ourselves to. But the problem is – we shouldn’t have to. We need to realise that society has an unrealistic expectation of what ‘perfect’ is.

And it is really none of their business!

Perfect for you may look completely different to my idea of perfect. You may hate your curly hair, but another may envy you for it. Your friend eats whatever she wants and stays as thin as a rake – and yet she wants the curves you have.

Someone you know may like dating younger people, another may prefer someone more mature. Perhaps your friend may find someone who is strong and muscly preferable over someone who is academically gifted.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And I’m here to tell you that no matter what you look like, where you’re from, what your age or preference, who you are – you are worthy of love – just as much as the next person.

And so we come to our first obstacle on the road to self-love:

 

 

ACCEPTING YOU ARE WORTHY.

‘Your problem is you’re… too busy holding onto your unworthiness.’

– Ram Dass

Before we can even think about giving ourselves the love we so desperately need, we need to believe we are deserving of it. And that’s where a lot of our problems start. We sow seeds of doubt in our mind that we aren’t good enough, we don’t deserve anything, and we end up feeling guilty at the very thought of looking after ourselves.

There is so much hate and pain and suffering in this world to simply act like it doesn’t exist, that is the plain and simple truth of it. But that does not mean we need to neglect ourselves out of some desperate attempt to help the people around us.

We must press on, or else be swallowed up by our insecurities, our pain and our problems.

‘You cannot pour from an empty vessel.’

Self-love is harder than what you see at surface value. It’s easy to have a bath, get a massage or a manicure, or spend a day in bed. What’s not easy is convincing yourself you truly deserve such things. It’s not easy to see past the action itself and into the ‘why am I doing this for myself?’.

There is an art to self-love. An art of really appreciating and understanding the love you give to yourself is in fact just that: LOVE. Love is something that needs to have room for growth – or else it wilts like a pruned rose in a lonely vase.

One of the greatest wonders in life is love. We simply cannot live without it. It’s proven time and time again in various forms – living beings that receive love and nourishment thrive next to their neglected counterparts. So it only makes sense that in order to spread that love, to truly thrive in the world around us, we must first know what it feels like to be loved.

So the first thing we must do on our journey to self-love, is to accept our flaws and to understand we are deserving of love in spite of them.

Treat yourself with respect and dignity, and never feel as though you aren’t worthy. If you don’t feel you are worthy of being loved, you will wilt. You may receive love, but it will be clouded by guilt.

It takes time and patience and won’t always seem right, but once you realise you are worthy of love, you can start to find yourself – which brings us to the next step in learning to love yourself:

 

 

SOUL SEARCHING.

‘Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.’

– Carl Gustav Jung

Someone once said something to me that made me stop and think for a really long time:

‘Every single person you meet has a different version of you in their mind. No two people know and remember you in the same way.’

It’s true. The way I think or feel about some of my friends will be completely different to how the person next to me perceives them. So the real question then, is this:

Who do you think you are?

How would you describe yourself? What are your favourite things to do? Who do you think about before you fall asleep? What are your aspirations? Your values?

To truly be able to take care of yourself, you need to know yourself. You need to know what you stand for, what you believe in, what you would fight for.

What use is it, trying to care and stand up for yourself, if you do not truly know what you actually stand for in the first place? Self-care loses meaning without knowing who you are. You may as well buy yourself a present from the Kris Kringle variety isle and be done with it.

So again: who do you think you are? It’s a question worth asking again and again until you’re sure. The stronger your foundations, the stronger the structure on top – fundamentally speaking.

This isn’t always easy. Especially when you start thinking about societal norms, expectations, religion, sexual preference, gender, war, history etc., etc., etc.. But not to worry – there are plenty of ways for you to begin to pick yourself apart – so to speak. Here are some interesting ideas for helping to find your true self and values:

  • Keep a journal
  • Keep up-to-date with current affairs
  • Find a creative outlet
  • Travel
  • Ask your friends what they think you’re good at
  • Take a personality/ strength quiz
  • Talk to people you normally wouldn’t
  • Learn to meditate
  • Keep a note of what and who you say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to
  • Read your horoscopes
  • Acknowledge your fears
  • Accept your shortcomings
  • Apologize when you’re wrong
  • Research your heritage

There are so many ways to explore who you are as a person – it is all about keeping an open mind and finding what makes you ‘tick’ as a person. No two people are going to be exactly alike. Just like no two people are going to see you in the same way. So who do you think you are?

Once you have an idea of who you are, you can start exploring the next step on your self-love journey, which is:

 

 

WHAT DOES SELF-CARE LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

‘When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small. My judgment called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.’

– Kim McMillen

Everyone’s idea of self-care is going to be different, based on their loves, values and personal ideas.

For one person, that might mean going and getting a pedicure. For another, a pedicure is an absolutely horrid ordeal.

Another person may want to buy tickets to a much-loved band, whereas someone else may cringe at the idea of a crowded venue being anyone’s idea of ‘self-care’.

It is all about you.

That’s why it’s called self-care and not other’s-care. And why it’s so important to know who you are, and what you love. And sometimes, certain situations call for different types of self-care.

For example, when I’m feeling at my worst, emotionally speaking, I’ll hide under my blanket for a few hours and block out the world, or I message my friend and ask him how he is and whether he wants to get coffee. And I feel better for it.

Other times, I might wake up and decide the definition of ‘self-care’ for that particular day is to not worry about the dishes on the sink, and watch a good Ted Talk or a documentary.

On the contrary, my partner’s idea of ‘self-care’ may be time with his friends, or going for a motorbike ride, or heading to the gym. Everyone is different, and every day is different.

It’s about recognizing how you’re feeling, and adjusting accordingly.

There is nothing wrong with learning to love yourself, understand yourself, and deciding to look after yourself. And there is certainly no shame in admitting you may not look after yourself as well as you perhaps should. It’s easy to lose sight of ourselves when the world is so loud, busy and consumer focused.

And so it makes sense then, in such a busy world, that the last (and probably the most important) step in our self-love journey is:

 

 

PRIORITIZING YOURSELF.

‘Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.’

– M. Scott Peck

It’s all well and good to think about self-care, and what it looks like and how deserving you are of it. But how many of you are thinking:

‘I don’t have time.’

Well I’m going to break it to you hard and fast. I won’t apologize for it, either. You do have time. We all have time. You just need to prioritize yourself.

What do you do that takes up so much time that you aren’t looking after yourself? Are you working too much? Taking on too much? Saying ‘yes’ too much, and ‘no’ too little?

Are you giving too much, and receiving little in return?

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

Take the time to look at your life, your schedule, your priorities, and truly evaluate. What is taking up so much time and energy that you have decided you aren’t important enough to look after?

And then make some adjustments. Perhaps you decide to take the train to work, so you can read for an hour rather than be stuck in traffic. Maybe you wake up an hour earlier so you can do some yoga, or make a healthy breakfast. You could start a self-care tradition to go get a massage on a Thursday night after work.

Whatever self-care looks like for you, you need to make it a priority. Because at the end of the day, you are all you have – and that can be scary or comforting, depending solely on how you treat yourself.

 

 

And always remember you are worthy, you are unique and self-care is important in order to grow:

‘Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.’

– Ralph Waldo Emerson