Thursday, 29 June 2017

How to blog (step by step)

Hello lovely people I hope you are well?

Last weekend I was asked to give a short presentation about blogging, it was really nerve wracking  as social situations aren't something I find easy and it was a challenge but I  pushed through the anxiety. After taking a few days to recover (anxiety can be exhausting)  and the conferences themselves are always in general quite a full on day, very  informative and helpful but tiring too. I thought afterwards, that I would write a blog with the main points of my presentation for anyone interested writing a blog. Especially for those like myself who may have social anxiety or just simply find social situations/confidence difficult. I would also like to thank everyone who attended the Dyspraxia Foundation conference youth conference last weekend. I'm grateful for your patience and understanding it meant a lot to me, and hope what I said might help others in some way. Talking about my experiences will never come easy as I've lived through quite a bit in life and by speaking about some of those life experiences, anxiety/ mental health and also dyspraxia it might stop others going through what I have and help others not feel alone. Hopefully in time social situations/anxiety and confidence will become easier for me, but finding them difficult has made me have empathy for others. Blogging has given me a voice which I'm always grateful for.

1. So how do you blog?
  • There's no set way to blog, everyone is different with their own story and life experiences.
2. Why blog?
  • It can help give you a voice especially if you have social anxiety
  • It can help raise awareness and understanding
  • It can help you connect with others
  • It can be therapeutic and get thoughts out of your head
  • Making a difference and helping others feel less alone
3. What to blog about?
  • Awareness
  • Day to day life, the ups, downs and everything in between 
  • What people may not know about the difficulties you might face
  • Passions/interests
  • What it's like living life differently/not how society expects you to - I have always been 10 steps behind people my own age.
  • What empowers you
  • What floats your boat
  • Important not to sugarcoat
4. What website to set up a blog?
  • BlogSpot
  • Wordpress
5. Then what?
  • There are options where you can change the design you want
  • Create a title
  • Photos or images can break up a blog
6. What if getting ideas down is hard?
  • Assistive technology such as Read Write Gold can be helpful
7.  What I feel anxious/lack confidence in sharing?
  • Share as much as you feel comfortable with
  • Share with people who you know understand you
  • Remember internet safety and be careful who you share with
  • I experienced a not very nice catfishing experience which I wouldn't want others to go through 
8.  What I keep looking at other people's blogs and then lack confidence?
  • It's easy to compare yourself to others we all do it (it's something I've found difficult.)
  • We are all different and on our own journey in life and face our own challenges and focus on being the best version of you. 
  • I'm sure there's lots of lovely things about you! It's easy to be too hard on yourself, I know self esteem is something I've always struggled with.
  • Follow your own advice ( I need to remind myself of too!)
  • But remind yourself why you blog and enjoy it!
Until next time.....

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Spreading Kindness

My lovely friend Claire has written a beautiful blog, in the aftermath of all which has been happening in the world about spreading love. This has prompted me to do one of my own about spreading kindness.

Recently the world has been full of horrible things going on. The attack which happened in Manchester where so many innocent lives were lost and leaving so many people injured. Also left people feeling emotional, or numb and their hearts breaking for those involved.

Ariana Grande selflessly put on a show #onelovemanchester where some of the biggest acts in the world of music performed. Her strength, inspiring hope into many and gaining huge respect around the world. The main message being that love wins over hate. Whether people were a fan of Ariana or her music, she gained so much respect and when she came on stage for One Last Time the emotions were pouring out all over social media. The number of selfless people who have come forward and got involved in the recent few weeks has been incredible, each in their own way paying tribute and helping as best they can.

We can all do a little bit in our day to day lives to spread a little bit of kindness, love or happiness into someone's life. A smile can change their day around and a few words of hope and encouragement can empower them to keep going. If we all spread kindness the world would be a much happier place. You don't even have to know the person to spread kindness: it could be a stranger. But we can all do our bit to help and make a difference, you don't know the impact the kindness could have on someone's life.

I couldn't not visit St Anne's square last Saturday with my boyfriend Matt, when we paid a visit to the city. I was humbled by the number of people paying their respects and got a huge sense of a city coming together with unity and strength.

In these times we must draw comfort in that tiny bit of hope.

The JustGiving fund page for One Love is linked here if you should wish to be involved.
I send all of my love to anyone affected or knows anyone affected, I also send love to anyone struggling for whatever reason in life.
Take care of yourselves,

Until next time.....

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Guest blog by Matt: Why I run for anxiety and dyspraxia

Following on from Matt's blog post last year he wanted to write a follow on blog and maybe a little bit more in depth about himself and why he's decided to take up running 4 challenges this year for charities close to our hearts. Even though writing is hard for me it's even harder for Matt, so his writing still will be different to mine. I best stop writing and hand you over to Matt.

Due to my quiet nature, and keeping myself to myself, people don't get get to know a lot about me and my anxiety, confidence issues, or the background to why Rosie and I choose to do what we do. Although taking on a single 10k event in a year is a lot of anyone, I decided to take up four in 2017.

Last year, I decided to challenge myself, I signed up to do four 10k events. The London 10k, British 10k, Great Newham Run and Parallel London 10k. Again with very little work, just the odd gym trip when I could be bothered, I did the London 10k, it didn't really go to plan, although I finished I finished with an awful pain in my right knee, I had never experienced it before, Rosie was going to meet me after the event for some food, but due to my pain I managed to hobble back from the finish to Victoria and back home, we had some food closer to home, and when I got back I was unable to move for several days. A little over 5 weeks later, I ran the British 10k, after 5k my knee went again, I did manage to finish the race, very slowly, but looking back I probably put myself under too much pressure to finish, it was a charity event, but no-one would have minded if I pulled out, and I really should have done. I pulled out of the Newham 10k which was the following week, and didn't run again until late 2016. I did walk the Parallel event in September, but dropped down to 5k.

Mentally this was my tipping point, and talking with Rosie, it was clear that I was running for others rather than myself, obviously trying to raise money and awareness for charity, but by raising this I was putting myself at risk, which isn't really the point, as what awareness are you creating if you are hurting yourself in the process. It isn't fair on yourself, both mentally and physically, changes had to be made.

 I decided to stop the gym and join the ParkRun setup. I decided to make Crystal Palace Parkrun as my local run, which I have since found out is one of the most hilly and difficult Parkruns in London, and often take part in the Burnley Parkrun (which is a lot flatter!) when visiting Rosie's parents. But I've kept persevering and finished the Manchester 10k with a sense of achievement. But I will always help others.

Both myself and Rosie find being centre of attention and putting all eyes on us especially socially and in social situations. Before I met Rosie I was already aware of  her love of Mollie King, her quirkyness and the anxiety/social anxiety struggles she had faced growing up she had no idea she had anxiety until adulthood which is one of the reasons why  we wanted to do this challenge. In Rosie's previous blogs she has discussed about her life growing up and some of the challenges her and her parents faced but there are also some more difficult and private experiences which never have made the blog. She was always a wise soul and a had worked very hard at uni to achieve her degree and then masters when. She took on a role as mother hen to some of the younger people we know not wanting them to go through what she had. A few years ago after Rosie's mental health hit rock bottom due to workplace bullying what happened will stay private between us for now she decided after she needed professional help she didn't want others to feel or go through what she had alone.

Awareness work, both mental health and dyspraxia, and helping others gave both of us a purpose in life and alongside therapy probably saved her life. Anxiety  and social anxiety and her confidence/self esteem are still a struggle and it's an on going journey for both of us but through seeking therapy it will hopefully help her in her own time in her own way.  It's also made her a listener, social anxiety makes bringing her walls down, and being with new people and social situations hard but also sending/writing messages to people. But it's made her determined and one of the strongest people I know and have a lot more empathy and understanding for others.

This determination has inspired me and which is why I am running 4 events this year, and Rosie is joining me in a couple too, to importantly raise awareness for mental health conditions by running for AnxietyUK. A charity both me and Rosie have connections with and have helped Rosie with her mental health issues  and the Dyspraxia Foundation whom I am lucky enough to be a trustee for and have supported Rosie and her parents for many, many years too! Getting more people to understand what dyspraxia is and raising awareness of difficulties and disabilities invisible to the eye.

Everyone is different in life and has their own story and deals with their life experiences differently there's no right or wrong way. On Sunday I got to observe Manchester coming together in what had been a horrific time for the city. Being part of 30,000+ runners in Manchester was a magnificent moment, and something I was proud to have taken part in! If you want to keep up-to-date with our 2017 challenge please check out 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Anxiety and concerts

Ever since I was 14 and went to my first pop concert,  S club 7 I got got a buzz for seeing groups and artists I enjoy supporting,  live. From a young age I have  been passionate about music and the artists I like.  I can be quite randomly knowledgeable about them and their music. This helps me through difficult and more challenging times in life and has lifted my mood. 6 years ago my love of music brought my boyfriend Matt and I together through The Saturdays and I've made some special friends through them and other groups over the years. Despite all the loyalty,  support and passion I have for the artists I love, many of you will be aware of my anxiety and social anxiety struggles as well
as my confidence, one trigger involving crowds or big groups including concerts. Also the thought of getting  trapped in my seat and unable to leave quickly, and noise. I will always say that whenever I've seen Mollie King in concert either solo or as part of The Saturdays the moment she gets on stage it's like all my anxieties melt away. In person she's always been really understanding towards my anxieties in these situations.

For me this can escalate into bad  panic attacks, which when you also have social anxiety and the thought of an arena full of people looking at you, with all of the worries and thoughts doesn't help things. Not everyone with anxiety will find crowds or being in big groups of people challenging.   For those of you who are dyspraxic and read my blogs some dyspraxics may have anxiety disorder struggles some may not, some may also find they are also sensory sensitive to noise, lights and smells, some may not. I find as well as my anxiety I can be quite noise sensitive.

I wasn't able to go to many concerts at all for a while due to my anxiety and a bad panic attack experience, but this year with help from CBT and the reassurance of my boyfriend it's something which we both want to get back into and manage better in little gradual steps. As music has always been an escape from reality for me, with two concerts looming, I thought I would blog about some  tips which I hope will help me, help with my confidence and maybe help others in a similar position. I will always say my experiences have made me have have  a lot of empathy and understanding for others. If you see someone looking anxious or overwhelmed at a concert give them space and a little bit of empathy. It will mean a lot to them.

  • My boyfriend always tries to get seats on the end of rows so if we need to get out we can if I feel overwhelmed or panicky
  • Go at your own pace and in your own time, don't try and do too much at once break it down.
  • Take something to fidget with like a tangle or fidget cube
  • Ear plugs if you find you're noise sensitive
  • Don't be scared to take time out if you need to and plan time afterwards, I really struggle with fatigue and energy levels the day after a concert from all of the adrenaline and energy  and need time out. 
  • CBT and other strategies to help with breathing, panic attacks and thought challenging, which is something I'm still working on.
  • Most importantly you're not alone, it can often feel like it's just you experiencing anxiety and finding situations hard 
  • Anxiety UK have a lot of information on their website.
  • Choose artists who's music or aura you connect with or will empower you, I love this quote I've found!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. I always think awareness weeks should be more than just a week and awareness should be carried out all the time. Mental health is often overlooked and stigmatised, yet there's a high chance that you reading this blog, someone you love or care about or know of will have been affected by mental illness at some point in your lifetime.

Recently in the press Everton footballer player Aaron Lennon was in the press after being admitted to hospital. There was a huge outcry on social media and questions asked, such as, "How can someone in the public eye have a mental health condition?" When just like physical health, it does not discrimate who can be affected it doesn't matter who you are, what job you have or lifestyle you lead  Mental Health can affect anyone at anytime in their life time.

Quite a while ago a mental health therapist told me that I didn't look like an anxious person and I couldn't have the mental health struggles I did as I have Matt my boyfriend and a few friends who I will be forever grateful for. Mental health doesn't have a look, and affects people differently at different times in their lives. Whilst there may be a criteria for diagnosis, everyone is different, what might be a trigger for one person might be completely different for someone else.

Whilst awareness is crucial, it's also important that change happens and with so many cuts happening left right and centre for mental health , that people get access to the right help and support they need and deserve to manage their struggles more easily.

Finally, to those who have experienced mental health difficulties: keep going, keep persevering. Never loose hope, tomorrow is a new day.  You deserve as much kindness and compassion as you willingly give to others. You're a lot stronger than you think you are and if nobody has told you this today I'm proud of you.

It's important we keep the conversations going about mental health, you never know when or how you might be affected by it. Alongside dyspraxia/invisible difficulties awareness it will always be something important  to me and I'll be passionate about. Until next time....

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Breaking things down

Hello everyone, this blog is about something really important to me, which people often come
 to me for advice about. Due to my anxiety disorder, the thought of having to face or do a lot at once, whether it was uni work, work or general day to day life, has always been really overwhelming for me. I need to build up to face challenges and break them down into smaller manageable
steps. Given the overwhelming nature of anxiety and the irrational thoughts and worries which come with it, to break things down in the moment can be tricky. It can be hard explaining  to others situations you might find the little things more challenging, and that you need to do things more slowly. But everyone is different, and it takes time to find out what works or helps you.

Alongside anxiety I am dyspraxic/dyslexic, whilst not every dyspraxic has mental health issues alongside their difficulties many have processing difficultie, and my brain processes information slower: this could be taking it in, completing day to day tasks, following instructions, reading, writing or processing the world around me. Which means to learn a new task, complete a piece of work or face something more challenging, it means my brain has to work that bit harder and needs more time to be able to do this. Organising myself in time, distance and space has never come easy for me either.

I've always struggled a lot with confidence and self esteem  alongside anxiety. It can be easy to doubt yourself and compare yourself to others.
 I hope in time this improves for me through therapy. Be patient that someone might need need to do something at a slower pace. It's so easy to assume they aren't trying hard enough or being slow and lazy.

Next week I am honoured to have been invited to Parliament to talk about my experiences of having dyspraxia and an anxiety disorder in the workplace. It's going to be a real  challenge for me social anxiety wise but I hope it might help to inform employers what things might help those with a difficulty or mental health condition at work. I also hope to turn my experiences into a positive one by helping others.

For those who may relate to this blog:  you are never alone and I hope by reading this blog I hope it makes you feel it's not just you being you.
Your hard work, effort and perseverance will pay off, keep going.
You're stronger than you think.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The value of empathy

Today I thought I would blog about something which has become very important to me and that is the value of empathy. Many of people think empathy and understanding are the same thing, but in reality we cannot fully understand what it is like to live or experience something unless we are the person him/her. Empathy however, is the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, see things from another perspective,  that of someone who has lived through the experience.

My boyfriend Matt calls me his wise owl, because I've had a wealth of experiences in life, I've gone through some quite difficult and challenging times, but hopefully tried to do something positive with them by helping others. If you've read my previous blogs I talk about day to day challenges  and the ups and downs in life dealing with dyspraxia and quite bad anxiety/social anxiety. I have also discussed issues such as bullying, social isolation and the impact they can have on someone: for me it meant I hit rock bottom and struggled with self harm. But do all I can do others don't have to go through that.

There are also private struggles which I've been through and experienced which never may make this blog, but all have shaped me as a person in some way. Although it's been tough, especially anxiety wise, they have also made me have a deep sense of empathy for others as well as making me stronger/more determined I hope in the long run. Through these blogs I write and the awareness work I do, I  hope something positive comes out of them and if they help one person writing them will always be worth while.

From a social anxiety perspective, it can take me a while to feel comfortable, to lift my protective walls and come out of my shell. It can take a while for me to be understood .
 Meeting new people and going into new places can be challenging. Then add into the mix my brain wiring and slower processing of information and the world around me due to dyspraxia/dyslexia. This makes me try to be as patient and reassuring as I can be with others who, for whatever reason, find social situations difficult.

When people take the time to get to know me, I try and give back in gratitude. When you to take a lot longer to be able to complete tasks or be able to face a fear, it makes you have a lot more patience and tolerance for others, as you know too well how frustrating it can be.

It can also make you more non judgmental and open minded, you never know what private battles or struggle people might be facing behind closed doors. Issues such as: mental health and difficulties/ disability should never be a competition, everyone has their unique journey and their own story in life and lived life differently. Everyone faces something in their life which shapes them. Everyone is different and deals with these differently. My boyfriend Matt for example: is a very private person and is  a closed book.

My self esteem and confidence has always been a struggle alongside my anxiety, both of them can be quite easily knocked. But, I also know too well how much the little things which people say and do can make you feel about yourself and give you a little boost and strength and to keep going, and help to build someone up.  Helping someone celebrate their little achievements is key as it can help give them the confidence to build on these. In my last blog I talked about how Mollie inspires me and her kind words help me. I was fortunate to meet her last week and her own empathetic nature gave me a little boost.

Empathy can also mean different things to different people.  what might be reassuring and encouraging to one person might not help someone else.  Which is why it's important to take a bit of time to get to know someone and listen and see what might help them. I've seen this Brene Brown video on empathy and it's well worth a watch.

 I will always be grateful to those in my life who have been supportive and encouraging especially,  over the last few months which have been quite challenging for me anxiety wise. I hope if you're reading this you know who you are, it's meant a lot to me:) The world would be a boring place if we were all the same!
Until next time...

How to blog (step by step)

Hello lovely people I hope you are well? Last weekend I was asked to give a short presentation about blogging, it was really nerve wrackin...