Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Dealing with Mental Health at University/College

I've been absent from the blogging world for a number of reasons, but mostly because I've been experiencing struggles with my mental health. I thought I had left these feelings behind, but sometimes it's difficult to get to grips with the concept of depression being something I will have to tackle for a long time.

As some sort of sign, I stumbled across an article I wrote for my tumblr friends not long after I had taken my sabbatical from university life last year. This is a chance to both refresh upon my life lessons, and to share with the world my advice on dealing with mental health at university/college.

1. If you’re showing signs of slipping now, act fast.
I’m one of those people that puts off dong things until the very bitter end. I recognised that I wasn’t dealing with life well but instead of nipping the bud, I left myself to fester until I couldn’t dress myself, I couldn’t clean, I couldn’t move from bed, ANYTHING.
Please, please, I implore you: if you find yourself in a slump, act. Do not ignore it. Question yourself: is there a reason that I feel like this? My social life? My course? My workload? Homesickness?
Sometimes, the sadness we feel stems from the simplest of things. Obviously, it is not simple at the time. It snowballs until we are out of our depth. But if you feel out of depth, the best thing is to break apart the problem into smaller pieces so it’s easier to deal with. The smallest solution can feel like a milestone.

2. Contact your university in any way.
Even if you believe your issue is ‘no big deal’ (see number 3), it’s best to let your university know. Tell lecturers, tutors, anyone with authority that you’re experiencing problems. It sounds silly but it makes things a lot easier in the long run, especially if you’re finding deadlines difficult to cope with. They’ll be more understanding than you think and will offer any help available to make sure you’ll do okay.

3. Your mental health is not ‘unimportant’.
Depression is horrible. Anxiety is horrible. Any aspect that brings you down is horrible.
I found it easier to slip into the denial game (‘I’m fine, I just need to get on with it.’ ‘it’s no big deal.’ ‘people won’t care, it’s not important enough.’) which left me getting help a bit too late than would have been useful for me. No problem is too small, nor is it too big. Do not think you need a ‘good reason’ for your sadness. It happens to the best of us, often without any explanation at all.

4. Work when you feel you can, no matter what the circumstances.
I found it impossible to focus until roughly 3am. Still, I found in those wee hours that I could work solidly for ages. I also found that working solidly for small segments of time broken up by breaks helped a LOT when my focus was shot. There is a handy application for Google Chrome called Pomdoro which helps you set work and break times, featuring alarms for either segment.

5. Praise any successes.
You’ve had a low week, spent in bed until one day you have got up, sat at your laptop and wrote an entire paragraph towards your essay. You’re now at a block. Don’t feel down! Focus on how impressive it is to pick yourself up and do a bit of work when you feel this way. Congratulate yourself. Maybe eat a chocolate. Whatever. There is no such thing as treating yourself too much, you need all the motivation you deserve.
This good vibe will honestly make you feel good enough to do more.

6. Your first experiences of support may not be the greatest.
I am the queen of losing faith when I seek help, I’ll admit it. I’ve seen psychologists terrible enough to make me lose my temper, sulk in frustration or make my jaw drop in incredulity. However, I have learnt that there are so many schools of psychology that finding one suited takes time and effort. I’m not giving up on my search and neither should you. Keep trying, no matter what. Even if that last guy is not getting AT ALL what you’re trying to say. Somebody will, soon.

7. Ask and examine all services your school can provide. Shy bairns get nowt (sadly).
I didn’t discover until I had actually dropped out of university that there are facilities in which you can get aid towards your studies. For example, money can be given to provide for printer ink or books if you have anxieties or difficulties in getting to the library. If you find it too difficult to focus in exam rooms, it is possible for you to be placed in a separate room of your own without the distractions to upset you.
Make a list of what distresses you the most in relation to university. Ask for help in association with those troubles. You may be pleasantly surprised with the extra help given and you never know until you ASK.

8. Put your own health over everything else.
I can't stress this enough. From any of the tips, I would highlight and underline and circle this one. I wrote this in the wake of a year's break from university but now, a good year on, putting my mental health before my university life has been the best decision I have ever made. Society puts pressure on us all to go on a course, complete it and live happily ever after, but the most successful people I have encountered have had turbulent times where they have dropped out, or life has taken them through another route that they would not have expected at all. You are number one, not your career path.

I'll end this here for now. If you're reading this, I send my good wishes and love to you. If this helps even one person, it'll be worth sharing. Now to go take some of my own advice... Feel free to share your own tips.

Monday, 8 October 2012

To Be A Busy Bee

Oh, the academic life. I've missed you!
I am finally building the sort of life I originally had expected when I first moved to London in 2009. It may have taken the best part of 3 years to get to this point, but I'm finally pro-active, sociable and studious!

I've began volunteering for Education For Choice, an amazing little project keen on providing factual advice to young people on sexual health and choice. The people there are incredibly intelligent, open-minded and so funny that I get migraines from laughter. From two meetings, I already feel more confident in myself and I'm even throwing myself into involvement for the 20th birthday party for EFC! I applied for funding from Think Big with O2 and was successful, isn't that brilliant? So if you're curious and love a good party, follow the progress we're making with it here: http://www.o2thinkbig.co.uk/Projects/Project-Home/?clubId=2690

I also began my beekeeping adventures last week. On Wednesday, I hopped on the university bus to the Kingston Hill campus where I don't often venture due to being based at Penrhyn Road. I ended up wandering around for quite a while, feeling lost until I saw a lady in full beekeeping gear walk past. I ran after her and next thing I knew, I also had the beekeeping suit on! I must say, I looked so cute in it. I have to get a picture one day. The whole task only took about half an hour but I learnt so much about honeybees, how to check for infestations, eggs and larvae, and I even spotted the queen bee in all her glory.

I began Italian classes where everyone is a little embarrassed and shy as I am but our teacher is very warm and encouraging, so making a mistake feels less daunting. I have classes twice a week and the homework is pretty fun, it reminds me of French lessons in high school which I always remember fondly.

I've found myself with a social life in this big, scary city. I've signed up to a few social clubs through my university and already I've met some wonderful people who have embraced me into their groups, such as the Feminist society, the LGBT society and the Wine society. This is a wholly different experience to what I've had in the few years before so I'm pretty excited!

Kind words that warm my heart.
My favourite social event (tied to university) so far has been the icebreaker session. The evening was focused on us getting over our shyness and feeling more comfortable around each other. The first event, I ended up linking arms with a boy and we were wrapped head to toe in toilet paper in a race against several other groups. Our group won and we had an entire bag of sweeties as our prize. The best activity of the night though was like platonic speed-dating, involving every person having a sheet of A4 sellotaped to their back and everyone mingling for 60 seconds per person before writing a nice compliment on their back. My sheet of A4 paper (see above) had such perfect comments on that I nearly cried, oops...

The weekend just gone, I also finally got the chance to meet up with a few people I knew from online and we ventured to How Does It Feel To Be Loved?, a night that embraces indie pop, Motown and jangly 60's classics: my dream! Calum and Emma are the loveliest people and it's going to be swell having friends with similar music taste as I do so we can dance wildly to Belle and Sebastian without feeling excessive. We've already planned future gatherings, such as a Motown night this Friday. I can't wait.

This week is all about buckling down for my dissertation, planning the framework for my three big essays and working on my self-esteem. I've also got plans to meet up with my new friends over coffee, a trip to the bowling alley in town and maybe go watch a film if I can manage to keep awake. Bless me with all the energy in the world, dear reader; being a busy bee is tiring!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Dealing With Homesickness

I feel a little bad because I keep writing blog posts then getting distracted or feeling too tired to write much. This is because I've just started university again and it seems like I've gone from no activity at all to full throttle, which is rather enduring on the body and mind!

While I do have a long post about what I've been up to (which I'll probably split up and summarise more since I don't want to bore you all to tears), I'd really like to write a little about homesickness. I moved out at 18 years old, way back in 2009. University for me meant a way to move very far away because Newcastle felt too small for me. Perhaps naive, I wanted bigger and better things and was determined that London was the place for me.

Of course, my determination and youthful arrogance vanished as soon as I caught Fresher's Flu and my wonderful mum was not there to nurse me back to good health. 3 years on, whilst it's not a constant difficulty because I've learnt to take care of myself more, I still find that I pine for home. It's not so much the being mothered that I miss but my adored family that I wish were closer than an expensive, 4.5 hour journey away.

So, whenever I feel sad about not being close to home, I do these things:

1. Phone home
Whilst an obvious option, picking up the phone does wonders for you. How much you want to ring is up to how much you miss that person. I tend to ring my mum once a week and we natter away for a good few hours (I love you free evening and weekend calls!) about all we've been up to this week, what is bothering us at that time and how much we miss each other. It's cathartic and good fun too.

2. Aesthetics
This is a bit of a weird one but it works very well for me. If your parents or your home smells of a certain thing, utilise it. Spray it around your room or on your clothes or on your pillowcase. For example, my mum uses white musk quite a lot. That is her associated scent. So if I'm particularly missing my mum, I'll spray it on myself or a pillowcase and I feel like she's there with me right away. Do not underestimate the power of the nose!
Music is also a good one. I always stick on Motown hits when I'm homesick because it reminds me of lazy Sundays in Newcastle, waiting for lunch. Anything that reminds you of home works.

3. Kind gestures
This depends on your budget but can be as simple as a text saying you're thinking of your recipient and that you miss them. It can be a facebook wall post if they're internet savvy or if you have the spare pennies, post them something! I sent home some flowers (bunches.co.uk is my favourite and you get free chocolates sent with every order!) which made me feel instantly better because I knew it'd perk up someone else's day.

4. Keep busy
If you're still homesick, it's best to busy yourself. If you're far from home because of university, surround yourself with social events or if that isn't your thing, occupy yourself with a hobby, interest or of course: university work. You're far from home from a reason! Plan future events so you always have something to look forward to; it'll keep you upbeat and focused.

5. Photos
I've seen a lot of my friends do this and it's a beautiful idea. Get photos of family and friends printed for your wall, especially on a wall where you'll look at a lot. The funnier the photo, the better because it'll give you a good giggle too. If you can't afford to print photos, Facebook is rather good to just scroll through tagged pictures and laugh with your friends.

6. Talk
When I first got hit by the homesickness bug, I thought I was the only one. I thought that everyone was elated to be away from home and I was being a big baby. How wrong I was! An offhand comment to my flatmates about it turned into a huge discussion about the things we missed at home which then turned into a pyjama party where we watched Disney films and ate junk food to feel better. You're never alone in homesickness and you should never feel like you have to cope with it alone.

I hope this is a tiny bit helpful to anyone else out there that doesn't have the option of hopping on the bus home to see their family and friends. Do you have your own way to deal with homesickness? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Glam Freebie of the Day: Chanel Lippy!!

This deserves a blog post all of it's own because it's quite exciting. Simply click the link below, print the voucher out and take it to your nearest Chanel counter for a mini-makeover and a complementary sample of Chanel Rouge lipstick! This is far too good to pass up so off you pop.


Valid from the 14th to the 30th of September.
Let me know how it goes!

The Liebster Blog Award


I've been tagged by Mel for the Liebster Blog Award, an award aimed at giving blogs with less than 200 followers a bit of recognition for the work they do. A very lovely idea and I'm super happy to be nominated! Now to struggle with 11 facts about myself...

Friday, 14 September 2012

Money Sassing Expert: Freebies and Savings

When you're suddenly faced with very little money, something as simple as a freebie becomes the world to you. Amazingly, thanks to the internet, free stuff and discounts are as accessible as a few clicks. However, it does require an amount of persistence and patience.

1. Martin Lewis

This might be an obvious one but it's necessary to mention. I can't remember a life before Martin Lewis and his weekly email of deals but I don't think a time before him is worth recalling anyhow. Before you buy ANYTHING, I urge you to check this site out for vouchers or discounts on food, clothes, bills, travel, everything.
He's also an information bank for benefits, consumer rights, bank accounts, mortgages and loans. Freebies on this site are quite tricky to get unless you're quick since it's a very popular website. Still worth a try if you're feeling beady eyed.


2. '10 ways to have more money as a student, without working'

A new favourite, this facebook page strives to bring you bargains and freebies across the country. I'm often wary of facebook for getting good deals (I've watched my brother getting swindled too many times to count) but this one is 100% legit. They update very regularly so it's worth checking at least once a day. I've already scored some free tea, a cheap USB stick and a £5 Schuh voucher from this site and it only started a few weeks ago!


3. UK Freebies and Free Stuff

I'm kicking myself for revealing this one as it's my favourite website in the world for free stuff but because I'm a loving and caring person, there you go. It updates pretty much every day with free things to sign up for. You can use an alias email if it really bothers you but I'm too lazy for that. I've scored myself tea, coffee, biscuits, perfume, facial creams and razors from this website alone! It also consistently links to Boots samples which you'd otherwise need to be signed up for.


4. Land of Freebies

Absolutely hideous layout for a website and a fair amount of rubbish to scroll through but there are gems such as vouchers for free crisps or cereal bars.


5. Hot UK Deals

Another obvious one perhaps, but this is ran by a community that wants everyone to have good deals. The best deals are considered 'hot'. Again, if you're considering making a big purchase such as a laptop or camera, check this site out first. Also, now and again they have stackable vouchers for shops such as H&M - great if you want to boost your wardrobe for cheap.


6. Bitter Wallet

Good for consumer news and deals and picks out the best deals from Hot UK Deals, if you can't be bothered to scroll through yourself.


7. Social Networking

If you have certain brands that you love, make sure to follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Check out their websites. Get involved in any and all competitions. A great example is Twinings, who have competitions running all of the time and interaction with facebook fans daily.
 The key is to be absolutely shameless about getting involved. Send letters or emails! I once sent an email to Gü puds telling them how their puddings made my day and they sent me a tote bag back! It's a little embarrassing but hey, I got a cute bag out of it for nothing.

This can also apply in real life too. If there's a stall with freebies, don't wait around for them to dish out the goods to you personally - storm right up there and ask! If you get chatty with the promoters, they can often give you a few more samples on the side. After all, they want to get their product out there.

This was just from a few minutes of signing up for stuff, in a few weeks!
This is just a small window into the world of getting stuff for free. It may seem a little redundant to some when you're only getting a few tea bags out of it but those tea bags in the post can completely transform an evening into something pleasant after a horrible day. Saying that, I've saved a bunch of money from these sites so it's been completely worth it.

I hope this helps you guys too!

Feelin' Fancy Free: What's In My Handbag

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have an addiction to make-up. It took me a very long time to get interested in cosmetics because despite my curiosity, I was overwhelmed by the choice. I spent hours standing in Superdrug and Boots, staring aimlessly at foundations and mascaras before running out empty handed. So, make-up didn't enter my life until I was about 18 (I'll never forget that first application of red lippy!) and since then, I've slowly gathered a ridiculous pile of the stuff.

3 years on though, and I'm still staggered by the choice that's on the market. I'm hesitant to spend much money on a product unless I'm assured that it's going to be worth it. This is where What's In My Handbag comes in. I'd describe it as an online, interactive magazine that focuses on the contents of one's handbag. Make-up artists, musicians, fashion icons, actresses, all spill open their bags in order to reveal what their cosmetics of choice is.

The website does not feature strictly makeup either. It also shows perfume, hair products, facemasks, consultations, or even snacks on the go. Users then click on whichever products take their fancy and compile a wishlist. WIMH also brings out free samples each week of upmarket products and all you need to do is register. Receiving it depends on luck as demand is high but it only takes a few seconds to apply for the freebie and it's often top quality stuff that you won't necessarily get the chance to try.

Members of What's In My Handbag are encouraged to upload their own bag contents which can be shared and compared with friends. There is also an invite system where if you invite 25 friends, you receive a free gift worth £25, or if you're super popular then 50 invited friends can grab you a £50 voucher at Selfridges!

Due to my persistant nature, I've already hit the 25 friends mark and my box of goodies was sent in the post last week:

Perhaps I'm easily pleased but the little sticker with my name on in fancy text had me squealing like a small child with excitement. I'm just fond of feeling like a fancy lady, alright?

Nestled in a sleek box filled with black paper was a huge bottle of Mythic Oil by L'Oréal Professional which restores shine to tired hair (something I direly need!) and a bottle of Filthy Gorgeous nail varnish in the shade of Rosey Posey. 

So, for simply browsing the contents of handbags (sounds rather naughty when I put it like that) and inviting my friends to get their own freebies, I managed to get my own fancy products to indulge with. It seems like a win/win situation, doesn't it?

Sign up for What's In My Handbag here: http://www.whatsinmyhandbag.com/r/j9t