Birthday Blog

newproject_1_original-7Today is my birthday. (Edit…it was two days ago)

Born 9th April 1988, on the 100th day of the year, on the 142nd Grand National Day, just after 1pm. My dad lost his bet…a great start.

Throughout my twenty-nine years on this earth I have pretty much had as much freedom as I have wanted. What a beautiful thing. Reflecting on that, I admit I did not use that freedom wisely most of the time, which is selfish when considering how much some people would simply like freedom. On turning twenty-nine I still unashamedly enjoy some of the same things as I did when I was 9 or 19. I feel I have also learned a million life lessons…but I didn’t feel like that when turning 28…

…interesting.

It is a common notion that knocking on thirty’s door is a time of growing up ‘properly’ once and for all. No more excuses for bad behaviour or for not looking after yourself. Spontaneous drinking sessions with friends fade and those annoying things start to batter at your walls…
…expectations.

As the big 3 0 looms closer, there are suddenly one hundred and one expectations placed20170411_102615 on us. ‘When are you having kids?’ and ‘When are you getting married?’ …are the most frequently asked questions if you haven’t already done those things. Of course, millions treasure the idea of domestic bliss…but not all. There are still those who are happy to embrace the opportunities that arise from simply being one with oneself. The absence of responsibility and obligation is its own fairy-tale and it’s not one that we can all give up easily. It is a little bewildering as to why some view this as unusual or horrifying; ‘time is running out if you want to settle down!’. These kinds of responses can push us in to thinking we must act to keep up with the ‘norms’ of society, instead of growing old alone in a cardboard box somewhere as our heart really desires.

Even when you do embrace a life other than the domestic one, it won’t be good enough for everyone. If you haven’t completed their imaginary list of things to do before you’re thirty then you’re a big fat failure. When our minds cloud with other people’s expectations and ideals we ultimately lose ourselves. And that is the key to happiness at any age. The relationship with Self. Living in the moment by doing what you enjoy as an individual will attract what you truly want in life. Any energy dispelled on people who can only give you negative opinions, rather than adding value to your life, will only hold you back in the long run. They will make you second guess yourself, go against your gut and before you know it you’re knocking on the door of the next decade wondering where it all went wrong.

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People with expectations about how others should live have little going on in their own life (or they’re insecure so they pull others down with them). Let them do that while you do you with a happy mind, whatever your age. The moment you allow yourself to chase life validation you begin to fight a losing battle. Only misery and disappointment will ensue, simply because you’re not living your own truth.

So, in this last year of my twenties, I solemnly swear…to be myself. Young at heart with my mind closed to the expectations of others.

Are you suffering from Chronic Stress?

wp-1491043434690.jpgDo you ever feel, that if you must say, hear or feel one more thing then your brain and body will just explode out of frustration?

If yes then you have the stress.

The problem with chronic stress is that it can take some time to identify if you have got used to coping. Unless you have very close caring people around you who see the subtle changes in your mood and looks, others will attribute them to you just ‘having a bad day’, ‘being out of sorts’ or ‘having a late one’. It is quite concerning how much stress is brushed off as something minor. Even if you recognise it in yourself, you may be reluctant to make anyone aware in case they accuse you of being unable to cope or that you’re being melodramatic…it is okay to feel this way! The emotion needs to come out eventually, although it should be in a constructive way.

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A little bit of stress can be beneficial such as helping you run away from danger, completing tasks under pressure or making a difficult decision. It becomes an issue when it is the only emotional response you are experiencing over a prolonged period. When the body detects stress, it releases hormones and adrenaline, a fight of flight response if you will. Being stuck in this state for a long time will send your body haywire and ultimately strip your immune system of its strength.

Whilst I try to err on the side of mentioning myself in these blogs, I have experience of this unforgiving feeling. Forcing myself to cope with stress resulted in following ailments for nigh on six weeks-

*Cystic Acne- A real confidence destroyer. Scientists can only speculate why this happens but they assume the high hormone levels promote oil production. Cystic acne is deep within the skin and can take months to heal.  The face feels tender and pressurised. Picking it will make it stay, trust me.

*0-100 Irritability- Reacting to comments and situations literally faster than lighting. Shutting down negativity with aggression because you just can’t bear to hear anymore from anyone. Every noise sounding like an atomic bomb. People’s voices sounding like nails on chalk boards. ‘Burn them all!’ is my Cersei phrase of choice. FYI- If you don’t watch GOT that sentence will mean nothing to you.

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*Broken sleep- Sleep is my first love and if left alone with it, I can easy do a peaceful ten-twelve-hour session. Stress took this pleasure from me and said I can only have 4 hours a night…in intervals of four. Thanks.

*Unable to fall asleep- Turning off electronics, lighting incense and melts, audio books, massage, working out late, none of it helped. Sleeping for a few hours then tackling a 12-hour day just spells disaster.

*Unexplainable rash/hives- As I have resilient skin in that I can use any washing powders, soaps etc. I was surprised when I developed hives on my arms and behind my ears. If this happened to you it is your immune system telling you ‘we’re done, good luck!’. An anti-histamine will only sort it in the short term.

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Lethargy- Walking into the gym ready to do a heavy weights session, feeling pumped. I try to warm up and feel my body rejecting the exercise. Muscles seize up, mind clouds over and suddenly I can barely lift a dumbbell, never mind the 55kg squats I usually do. Sad and defeated I blubber my eyes out in the sauna, feeling like a big fat failure of a woman. My body and my brain had given up on me.

Migraines- These are prompted by all manner of things from lighting to food to lack of sleep. Nonetheless, it is also a characteristic of stress. Your brain is trying to force itself through the cloud of raging hormones and stress to think clearly. The blood vessels are under pressure and the stress increases. Then boom you’re in a 24 hour migraine that medication can’t penetrate.

Feeling alone- This is the worst part of chronic stress. The reality of this world is that most people are only concerned with themselves. We all have that right and I am true believer that you must look after yourself first and foremost. Nonetheless, showing kindness when someone is projecting a negative feeling can go a long way to helping them.

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Getting rid of chronic stress is doable if you are willing to ask for help. You also need to learn to draw the line in all aspects of your life. People pleasing, taking on too much, feeling singled out, resentful feelings, confrontations, making assumptions and all other destructive behaviour/feelings will ensure you burn yourself out. Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell people you are stressed, or if you think that they are being inappropriate and it is impacting on you. Most importantly, it is about choice. What you choose to listen to and how you choose to respond will shape your response to stress.

On some occasions, you will simply have to re-evaluate your environment and you may conclude that it needs a complete overhaul. This could be moving house, changing job, ending a relationship or cutting off toxic people. Remember that it is your right to live in peace and if you’re stressed you’re not living at all.

Take a step back, breathe and look after yourself…FIRST!

Keyboard Warriors

wp-1485965304685.pngThe first step to getting along with someone with an opposing opinion (and possibly changing their mind and creating peace), is acceptance and understanding. Even if that means accepting you can’t change their mind or understand their view. This can be difficult if the topic in question is sensitive such as racism, sexism, religion, Brexit or Donald Trump. I myself was called a fascist this week, which made me laugh myself to tears. I’ve also been called diplomatic but it was meant as an insult…yes seriously. Am I supposed to scream and shout and carry a weapon instead? Apologies for treating humans as humans, my bad. Unfortunately, those who label others don’t realise they feed the right-wing mindsets of this world and ultimately assist in promoting fascism, racism, religious intolerance and all manner of other evils. The bottom line is, any group that is organised is hierarchical and to truly understand the mechanics of the world we must step outside it and look at the wider context.

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Perhaps being a historian allows me to do this a little easier, as I am forever required to put myself in different historical shoes; men, women, devout religious followers, politicians, soldiers, indigenous peoples and so on. The notion that you cannot possibly understand something until it has happened to you is a bit too extreme (in my opinion, please don’t cry). Humans have compassion and empathy built into their DNA, although using it is by choice. If you claim someone does not ‘understand’ without knowing anything about them, then it makes you the ignorant bigot. And this is the problem with our society in the twenty first century, we’re all social media keyboarding bigots.

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Keyboard warriors just cannot help themselves. They type without thinking. I have been there myself when feeling passionate and instantly regretted it. This approach  just does not work. If you cannot have a debate without it turning into a heated argument, then you’re probably better just logging off for your own wellbeing. Those who continue relentlessly usually aren’t well read and most likely eat up the headline of every article they did not read. Finding the truth or getting to a place of understanding (understanding something doesn’t mean you agree!) takes research and a degree of cross referencing. Being unable to entertain a thought you don’t agree with means you’re being close minded. This approach will make it difficult for you to place people and events in a wider context. It also results in a lack of personal growth. Sadly, many individuals go with majority opinions without researching topics themselves because they either-

  1. Don’t know their own opinion or how to form it.
  2. Are brainwashed
  3. Are attention seeking
  4. Bored of their existence

Those who are adamantly opposed to any opinion but their own will always focus on the negatives. They will find numerous problems with your solutions and anything you verbalise will fall on deaf ears, even if it makes sense. It is admirable and strong to stand alone in your opinion, although speaking to be right only wastes time and energy and does not bring any form of peace or understanding. You’ll know if someone knows their stuff because they will debate, not argue with you. Anyone who evokes their anger does so due to feeling uninformed and backed into a corner, as they do not really know enough to keep the debate going peacefully.  Anyone with a well-informed opinion will stay humble and hit you with facts. Don’t be too proud to admit it if you have come around to their way of thinking either. This is how society should operate!

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In closing, there is no shame in changing your opinion or sticking with it, providing you are willing to consider and examine the views of others. Those who respond with anger by labelling you or getting upset are the ones that create mass panic in this world. Only brainless people will be keen to jump on that band wagon. Unfortunately, social media is full of people like this so 99% of the time you will face persecution if your opinion differs from the majority. Don’t let this get you down though, things could be worse…you could be living like them… with your eyes wide shut.

So, remember, knowing is being well read, taking time to read between the lines and coming to your own conclusions, not taking a headline and running with it. Do this and at least your opinion will have understanding from all perspectives, rather than the agenda of someone else.

Dear diary, am I living?

wp-1483736788875.jpgWe all have different ideas about what it means to live a full happy life. There are those ‘superior’ people who insist that if you haven’t done what they have done or do what they are doing, then you have missed out. These kinds of people lay their words on you thickly and they want you to feel envious of their fabulous existence. The truth is though, it can’t be all singing and dancing if they find the time to brag about that existence to you. A higher being did not descend upon them and instruct them to spread the word that everyone should live like them. If they need to put it all up in your face, then perhaps they are not fully enjoying themselves either. The point is, these people make you doubt your life and that is unacceptable. You could have a little fun by pointing out the flaws in their life or ask them if they have considered that not everyone needs the same things as they do…but you would be wasting your time. Leave the self-confessed ‘high fliers’ to their business and wish them well in their future endeavors (like what ex employers who hate you tell you when you leave!). It is delusional to assume someone is jealous of your circumstances and then to be smug about the fact that they feel that way.

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Our society as a consciousness is mainly concerned with success in a monetary and popularity sense. This can push us to chase things that aren’t really for us and this eventually damages our self-esteem, particularly if we fail. Seriously though, who wants to be remembered for how much money they made or how many people they knew?! There are likely to be people who do feel like that and we are not here to judge them, although spiritual living sounds much more appealing than buying ‘stuff’. Money undeniably makes things easier, however, it shouldn’t define the worth of your life. Knowing lots of people may make you feel popular but if they don’t lift your spirits what are they doing for you? We often compare other people’s fun to our own existence and this results in us surrounding ourselves with the wrong people. There are those who think living is going out partying and getting drunk. Others think it is seeing as much of the world as possible. Many parents don’t need anything but the presence of their children to feel fulfilled and see them as their greatest accomplishment. Interestingly, I often see the below meme, which gets thousands and thousands of likes on social media.

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Perhaps living simply is the real key to living? 

Getting bogged down with trying to save for that holiday, getting that promotion or getting little Timmy into that school are all examples of situations that cause us stress. It could be that you keep dropping something (my own cause of stress! Why won’t my hand just keep hold of the damn things?!) or your computer plays up and for the rest of the day you’re annoyed and stressed. These instances stop us living in the moment. For every short spurt of annoyance and anger, happiness disappears from your brain. How many of these moments have you had only this week? The simpler you live the less stress there is to take away your happiness…

…and you will start to feel like you’re living life to the full.

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It’s like when you come across an old friend and have a simple conversation to catch up. There is only you two but the laughter can be heard in the far east because you are feeling spiritually alive. Sadly, we all had the freedom of living like this when we were little children. Whilst children may fight for a toy or paddy at eating dinner, most of their time is spent finding fulfilment in simple things. You buy them a toy and they play with a cushion (lols).

Go back to basics and find life in your immediate surroundings. If you feel the need to steer yourself somewhere else, then go for it. As long as you are still finding happiness in the simple things, you will always feel fulfilled and that your living your life…not just existing. In the end though, only you can validate it!

A Christmas Poem

It’s Christmas Eve so Santa please

grant me this one desire

When I go to bed and lay my head

don’t set my house on fire

 

Down the chimney you wander nimbly

making footprints with the snow

Just leave your gifts so I can sift

through them all in one crazed go

 

It would make you sad if I’d been bad

I assure you I’m good as gold

but if you wake me up I’ll stamp my foot

and put you in a choke hold

 

Your fat belly knocks over the telly

you scramble to put it back

Then in haste as you move your waist

you trip over our sleepy cat

 

For a sec I had to check

for on its end stood my hair

In my bed I think I said

‘Santa are you there?’

 

The magic dust was a must

you sprinkled it on my head

I forgot… your present plot

and went back to my bed

 

In the morning when day is dawning

perhaps I will remember

That special feeling that left me reeling

one night in dark December

 

Christmas Wars

wp-1481446743074.jpgWhether you think it or not you are in some sort of Christmas War, we all are. From fighting the queues in the shops to convincing your five-year-old Santa is real (because someone at school said he isn’t!), we all want that happy magical day. So how do we get through these festive times of stress?

Well, checking Facebook and Instagram posts I have found some common themes that cropped up last year…

The age old ‘I’m a better parent than my ex’

Number one so far on Facebook is baby mother/father drama. I’m not quite sure why I thought this wouldn’t be a reoccurring theme but it seems I am filled with too much Christmas hope that parents can get on for the sake of their kids. Let’s get this clear now, if you’re letting your ex drive your emotions so far that you must post on Facebook, then you haven’t fully moved on. Whether it is love or anger just let it go, let it go, they can’t hold you back anymore! Ultimately, kids don’t care if Mum spent £100.00 more than Dad, or if they open their presents at yours or Grandma Joan’s, they just want happy festive fun. So, if deadbeat other parent is not having the sprog over the holidays or they haven’t met your standards of buying, maybe you should keep your beak out of their business? You’re doing everything right, right? After all, they are nothing to do with you anymore, you just share kids! It is ‘social’ media not ‘personal’ media. Let it go, accept whatever your ex is doing with the kids and make sure YOUR time with them is memorable.

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‘I told my mum we’ll be there at 12pm’

When two people merge their lives, they must haggle over their ‘Christmas time’ and who gets it. You may spend the festive day at your mums for dinner, see Aunty Julie in the afternoon and then share a sherry with Grandad in the evening. Your partner protests this, as they have already told their mum you are going to hers for dinner! Major time consuming debates ahead to resolve…but there is an easy answer…stay at home! Why let your day be ruined by social dictators? If they want to see you and your kids so bad tell them you’re having Christmas at home and they are more than welcome to stop by for egg nog (said no one in the UK ever). You should anticipate some guilt tripping from family over Christmas, just remember, it is your day too and you are not obligated to spend it trying to people please.

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‘I can’t go to the pub, I’m skint mate’

How many of us get to January with empty wallets and pray we can make our pennies last until payday? The pressure of buying for lots of people, or getting literally everything your child wants can easily spoil the break. Where Christmas used to be a religious holiday, in its place lies an overly commercialised day which the media and high streets ram down our throats. Each year proud mothers post the pile for presents for their little one on Facebook, to show off their generosity (or stupidity depending on your view point) and general superiority as a parent. Take it from Thrine in the politest way…no one gives a damn what you buy your kid for Christmas. If you want to be suckered in to filling your house with crap and creating a brat in the process, that really is your business. To those with common sense, only spend what you can afford and don’t feel obligated to buy for adults. The day is about family and love, don’t let the materialistic aspects take over too much. If your children get to a point at Christmas where they openly tell you they don’t like their presents, or some presents remain untouched for months after then you have over done it…you have successfully created a spoiled brat. Lastly, adults deserve fun at Christmas too, so at least save yourself some money for a cheeky tipple!

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‘I don’t celebrate Christmas’         

You think you have it bad trying to plan Christmas? Think about those who don’t celebrate it! Almost everything in the UK is shut on Christmas Day. The High Streets, Supermarkets, Restaurants…you name it, it is shut, confining everyone to their homes. In addition to the inconvenience of the day, there is the big Christmas rush leading up to it. A non-Christian, non-Christmas day celebrator may need to go Primark for some socks in December and he/she is met with a snaking queue that stretches to the street outside. He/she seeks out the pound shop for some AA batteries but can’t even squeeze in the door due to some women fighting over the last Santa sacks. Help him out by doing most your buying online…in November!

So, there you have it, a little overview of ‘Christmas Wars’. Rest assured, there is a happier Christmas blog post in me somewhere. I will get it to you before the guy with the white beard comes down your chimney or when the cows come home…whichever happens first.

Why it’s good when bad things happen

wp-1479649605358.jpgWhen bad things happen, we start blaming the world for our problems, build resentment towards others and ask the sky what the hell we did to deserve all this. The truth is though, you can’t have the good without the bad. Too much good and you’ll end up taking things for granted. Too much bad and you may turn a little crazy and/or evil. Whatever bad situation you’re in, there is some good to come from it I promise. The main thing to remember in any predicament is that there isn’t a reaction…without your reaction. In other words, things are only bad if you let them be. Of course, there are also the terrible times we all go through, such as death and betrayal but even these have a somewhat ‘good’ aspect to them depending on how optimistic and hopeful you are.

Death reminds us of the old cliché, ‘life is short’. Losing a loved one immediately grounds you and all the problems you thought you had become extremely small and insignificant. We are reminded that we all face the same fate and we must muster the mental strength to grieve and mourn ourselves to a place of acceptance. So, where is the good here? Well, it is hard to see and you won’t exactly feel good but it is a positive to your wellbeing in the long run either way…it is self-reflection. The notion that life is short hits us hardest when we lose someone and this is often a catalyst to ‘live life to the full’. The grief also enhances our ability to be compassionate and kind to others, traits that some people don’t usually have.

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Betrayal is painful. It is painful because it comes from the people who we thought we could trust and we end up replaying situations with them over and over to try figure out how we could have been so stupid. Each of us has our own internal battle and our own way to reason, so you may never understand why someone betrayed you. What you can do is examine what you tolerate. You are not obligated to spend time or converse with anyone, even family. If you need to take a step back to protect yourself then don’t feel guilty about it. The betrayer may continue to try justify their actions to you or may even get angry when you don’t see it from their point view. Ultimately, you should weigh up if the person can add value to your life. If they don’t then keep your distance and remain neutral about their existence. Causing further drama means you have adopted your betrayer’s ways of handling things. The good in taking these steps is that they ensure you have the right people around you to help you live your life to the full. Negative people are betrayers too, as they are blatantly opposing aspects of your existence…true friends would never do that. Your business is your business, negs can keep on walking by.

Other bad things that happen to us can be minor. A car drenching you by driving through a puddle when you are on the path (been there!), being late for work, failed promises from loved ones, being let down by a friend etc. etc. These are the ones that don’t exactly shake you to your core but they may reduce you to tears of frustration if they keep happening one after another. If you get easily flustered like me, try sitting still for a good ten minutes and arrange your thoughts. The universe must pick on someone and today it is just your day. Remind yourself it will pass and that there are more serious things to get bent out of shape over. I take these moments as a test of my patience and self-control. A good sweaty gym session and sauna always calms me down, or letting out random screams (hahaha).

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As stated in the opening paragraph, having good things happen all the time can make us take our good life for granted and it just becomes normal.  For instance, if a child is bought and given everything they ask for, they stop understanding the value of gifts, so they then start to demand things. If they always get their own way, they will be distressed and angry when they do not. It is all about balance. Bad happenings switch on and expand our coping mechanisms in life. If children learn when they are young that not everything is a given, they will cope much better as an adult when things don’t go their way. This understanding also breeds a self-confidence and allows them to recover quickly from failure. If you struggle to cope with bad events, then look back to your childhood and consider how ‘sheltered’ you were. You may have developed a big ego from people always letting you win, or a strict stubbornness because you were always told you were right. This can be difficult to reflect on and you will need to be willing to humble yourself to heal.

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So, the moral of the blog really is to first take a step back and try reason with the bad, so that you may take some good from it, however small. If you can adapt this practice you will be happier and cope much better in times of trouble. If you completely struggle to do this then you may need a proper break from your surroundings, away from the people you see day to day. Get back in touch with your sense of self and remind yourself of the things you find joyful. Train your mind to take the good with the bad so you may live in balance.