Generalised anxiety and the general responses

Telling people you have anxiety is surprisingly difficult. You’d think it would be useful or reassuring to have an explanation for your strange behaviours or your quiet moods but instead it feels like you’re giving someone permission to change their perception of you. Some people begin over compensating for you, giving you sideways ‘are you okay’ glances when someone refers to you as a stress head. I don’t want it to change people’s opinions of me so much as to realise that my strange moods and my over thinking is not so much a reflection on them as it is a reflection on my own hugely irrational brain.

There are others who try and relate for the sake of relating. Unfortunately people often label themselves with anxiety without any form of diagnosis and this can eventually result in anxiety being taken far less seriously as a whole. So when I say ‘I have moderate generalized and social anxiety’, I so often hear reflected back at me ‘I’m socially anxious too’.  Then they’ll launch into some explanation of how they feel awkward when they first meet new people or how they always babble and say silly things. The problem is that my ‘silly’ stories tend to involve that one time I was an hour late to a party because I made my step dad drive me round and round the block as I felt I physically couldn’t get out of the car and face the people I go to school with every day. That kind of story isn’t met with relatability and laughter so much as it is met with concerned frowns and uncomfortable silence.

When I tell people I have anxiety, I would rather it create a feeling of comfort instead of putting people on edge around me. I hate to make people feel like they’re walking on egg shells, to leave them thinking that I am so fragile that one wrong comment could send me into frenzy.  When people think anxiety, they don’t really think me. I am amazingly good at masking it. The stereotypical image is one of a shy girl who sits in the corner, doesn’t talk very much and frequently bursts into tears. It’s true that this often is someone with anxiety but I am in many ways the opposite of this. I could count the amount of times I have cried in front of others on one hand, my demeanor is usually excitable and bubbly, I often get told to turn my volume down (by a long way) and I have more friends than most people. And yet, I can’t go to sleep without checking every part of my room and making sure 4 of my curtain rings pass a certain point, I have days where  I convince myself that I am an annoyance to everyone around me, I can over think one sentence or offhand comment for several days.

Anxiety is generally viewed as a pretty bad thing, but when it’s so ingrained in your personality it’s hard to completely see it that way. Sure, most of the time it’s a real pain and obstruction but a lot of my anxiety stems from a really over active imagination. Without this over active imagination I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t love writing bizarre poems and stories, I wouldn’t have vivid daydreams to wander through in mind numbingly dull lessons or on lonely train journeys. Despite all its faults (and there are many), my brain is a pretty good place to be. People have a habit of assuming that anxiety and depression are one and the same and while there are many overlaps that isn’t the case. I’m very anxious and I have low moods from time to time but mostly I’m a very happy person so people ‘hoping I feel better soon’ can be a bit strange.

So the moral of the story (or more accurately, the disjointed ramble), when someone tells you they have anxiety try not to assume things about it. Let them tell you about it if they want to without trying to put words in their mouth, be empathetic but don’t immediately jump to being sympathetic because maybe its not so bad, more just different. Tell them about your experiences if you want but don’t try and out do them. Most of all, remember that the happiest, most confident people, can have an entirely different, far more vulnerable side.

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Caring a little more about self care

So, firstly here’s some context for this post (I like to begin all of my posts with a good old bit of unnecessary oversharing). As of late, I’ve been going through some low moods, courtesy of school starting, tiredness and just general annoying hormones. I was confiding in one of my friends about this (I’m a big advocate of talking through how you’re feeling) and she asked me if I had been doing any self care. Now, I had seen these self care related posts on youtube and tumblr etc… but I always pretty much scrolled past them. However, I’m now beginning to realise how important they really are so here are some self care tips. Some are more basic things for when you’re feeling extremely unmotivated and others are a bit more complex for when it’s just been a rough day.

  1. Drink hot drinks- there’s something incredibly comforting about sitting on the sofa or in bed or wherever with your hands wrapped round a warm mug of some hot beverage. The friend I was talking to really loves herbal teas to help relax her; I like to drink hot chocolates when I’m sad because they feel really nostalgic.
  2. Turn off your phone or log out of pressuring apps- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, phones can actually be the worst. I’m a hypocrite because you’d be hard pressed to find someone on their phone as much as me but it can be a real problem at times. Sometimes the last thing you want to see is a snapchat from the person you want to talk to least or an instagram from a party you weren’t invited to. However, the dilemma is that your phone is also a great way of accessing a friend to rant to so I recommend turning off your wifi but leaving on your phone signal so you can text or ring the exact person you want to talk to without all the interruptions.
  3. Read a good book or watch a good film- Sometimes the perfect way to get a break from your own problems is to immerse yourself in some really intense fictional ones instead. You could watch a feel good film that you’ve seen many times before; my bad day film of choice is 10 things I hate about you. From personal experience, I wouldn’t recommend delving into the dark side of tumblr as it can have some poetry and quotes that just spiral you deeper into your sad mood. The same goes for those really aesthetic black matte poetry books you can get; I own many of these, they’re often really good reads but they aren’t the kind of books that put you in a good mood.
  4. Stay hydrated- Again, huge hypocrite over here. A lot of the time I forget that I haven’t drank any water, but being hydrated can help you feel less groggy and dehydration is often the cause of headaches. Personally, I need motivation to drink water as I have been known to say in the past that I actually dislike the taste of water (I’m a little bizarre). So, I have this jar with a straw that I probably picked up in some paperchase sale but to me it looks really cute so I notice it.
  5. Jumpers and general cosy clothing- When I get in a rough day of school, aka every day of school, I change straight into a sweatshirt and some flowy trousers. Getting your hair out of your face doesn’t hurt either. Another example of me being a bizarre and ridiculous human: I need glasses but don’t wear them because they annoy me in the day. If I’m feeling bad, I think may as well give myself the gift of good vision rather than constant squinting so put on your glasses if you need them too.
  6. Do your skin routine- A lot of the time when I’m feeling down, I’m also feeling pretty negative about myself and for me, my skin is a big insecurity. So if I have one, I’ll put on a facemask and have a lie down. I like to have a fairly long but not too chemical heavy skincare routine. Not only can it make you feel like you’re doing something positive as a result of your negative thoughts but also a lot of ingredients in skin care i.e tea tree can be very soothing and cooling for your skin.
  7. Look at the stars- Okay so this is the only kind of cringey one on the list (let me have one to make me happy). Because my mum is strange like me, sometimes when it’s around 11 at night we’ll go and sit on the swing in my garden in our biggest coats and watch the stars. The night sky is a very pretty thing and it’s a calming constant thing too. Sometimes I’ll talk through my problems but it’s okay to sit in silence if you’re not really feeling like talking.

All in all, sometimes days are just a series of annoying, awkward situations, sometimes people are sucky and other times our brains are just not cooperating. Whatever the case, it’s really important to make sure you’re healthy and to try to give yourself the best chance at being happy. Mental health and self care has become a big topic in my life recently so I’m going to try and contribute some help for others but I’m very far from an expert on the topic so any extra advice or helpful corrections would be appreciated.

Some simple friendship advice

  1. Be friends with people who cause you to act like someone you would like. A key step to happiness is believing that you deserve it and feeling you are a good person is a big part of that. It can be so self-destructive to be around people who turn you into a version of yourself that you would never want to be friends with. I did this for a few months and it was a strange experience, it helped me understand what people meant when they talked about toxic friends. It sucks you into a downward spiral; the people you’re around bring you to their level until you feel that you should be friends with them because you’re so much like them now that you don’t deserve any better. This of course isn’t the case; as soon as you reach out to more positive people you can begin to bounce back.
  2. Be friends with someone you can sit in silence with or have a long gap in conversation without feeling it must be filled. This is a strange one, especially for anyone who overthinks things and often it isn’t natural at first, even with someone who in future could be your friend for life. But everyone gets in moods where they don’t really feel like talking and being comfortable enough to not feel you have to entertain your friends can be really good.
  3. Be friends with people that you want to call as soon as you’re in a bad situation and as soon as you’re in a good one, there needs to be balance. The best friends are the ones who you call to invite to that party and when you’ve had a series of awful events and just want to go and binge watch some films with someone and forget all about it. Relying on one friend for all your bad times and none of your good isn’t fair on them and only reaching out to someone when it’s good could show a lack of trust toward them.
  4. Never be friends with someone who tells you that you embarrass them (in a serious way), you should be able to be yourself around someone without being judged and told to tone it down. Being told you’re an embarrassment can really knock your self confidence and make you feel like you aren’t really good enough for your friend.
  5. Be friends with someone you can tell your secrets to without having to say ‘please don’t tell anyone’. The trust that it will stay between the two of you without having to have that reassurance is key.
  6. Be friends with someone who you can spend time apart from without it being strange when you meet again. Friendship is not a synonym for suffocation. It can also really help in the long run as it’s unlikely you’ll spend every day of your life with your friend and if you can still be close with some physical distance it will mean you’re less likely to drift apart a few years down the line.

Unnecessary public speaking- an introvert’s nightmare

Last week a teacher in my school stood at the front of the room in front of a group of hopeful, nervous kids and told them that there was ‘no point being clever if you didn’t have the public speaking skills to match’. In his mind, an idea was pointless unless the thinker could verbalise it and present it to a crowd. I spent the entire week being given list upon list every morning of these qualifications I could do, each one of them having a public speaking element and being told each time in a variety of ways that if I was too shy to speak, there was no way I would ever be successful.  It’s not just my school either, I see it in each of my siblings’ schools too, and schools seem to have an obsession with kids becoming public speakers.

I have many issues with this; foremost being that it caters perfectly to the extroverted ones and leaves the introverts feeling worthless in the dust. I’ve watched time and time again, nervous classmates being humiliated as they stand up in front of the class; begin shakily reading their speech and break down. My little sister for example has high functioning autism and any time she was asked to speak like that in front of a crowd, she would shut down completely. This public speaking obsession, forces kids through compulsory hellish situations that they dread from the moment it’s announced to the moment of relief when it’s over and they can blend back into the crowd.

Of course there are situations in the work place where you have to speak to a group, maybe at the front of a board room, in a couple job or university interviews but I think the group discussions schools are also eager to ram down our throats suffice for these situations just fine. There are plenty of jobs in which you will never have to stand in front of a hall of people and give a speech; it seems that schools are training kids so that they can all take over as the new Prime Minister instead. The idea that if you lack this public confidence, you will ‘never be successful’ is just narrow minded. There are scientists who change the world quietly with their new medicines without standing on a stage and yelling about it. There are web designers, artists, writers, architects, who go about their work with a small group or alone. Think of Banksy, one of the most famous street artists in the world, and people don’t even know their real identity, never mind a speech.

Instead of teaching kids that speaking when you have something to say gets you far more respect, they are teaching them that to say something, anything, is better than that. We are raising a generation of smiling politicians but we are forgetting to raise a generation of free thinkers, of writers, of introverts. We are teaching kids how to sound impassioned by topics they couldn’t care less about, to memorise a speech in which they score points by moving their hands at the right moment. They are being made to rope learn other people’s ideas and if they trick the listener into thinking they actually care and aren’t just waiting for the ordeal to be over, then it’s a distinction, a pat on the back and a guarantee they will have success in the future.

So, to the introverted, the shy, the observer, the daydreamers who would much rather show their ideas in a variation of creative ways than verbalise them, do not let people belittle you. Don’t let people tell you your strengths are weaknesses. Your ideas can change the world, whether you shout them from the roof tops or not.

My rocky relationship with the colour yellow

When I was little, my bedroom had yellow walls and from the point I could speak to when I moved into my new room, I hated my yellow walls and I desperately wanted to paint them pink. Now however, about a decade later, yellow is my favourite colour on the planet. I have a few theories behind it. My mental health went a bit foggy and weird for a few months last year and when I came out the other side, my eyes were drawn to the yellow in every room because I could focus on it and it made me happy. In my head it had connotations of open skies with bright sunlight, sunflowers and buttercups.

My second theory occurred to me when I saw some baby pictures the other day: I found that my mum dressed me in yellow constantly. I’m talking head to toe, borderline garish yellow outfits. That same day, I realised I was the happiest little kid in the world, without fail I had a cheesy smile in every picture, I was just so clearly in love with everything. I think somewhere in my brain this ridiculously happy little kid exists and it has subtly effected some of my actions over the last half a year. Aside from the sudden inclination to buy and wear everything yellow, as I’ve grown up my natural hair colour has become a very dark brown, a big change from the light golden brown I had had when I was younger. In January I became obsessed with the idea of dying my hair back to that golden brown and I did it a few weeks later. It’s had mixed reviews; my dad was convinced this was my natural hair colour all along and that I must have dyed it before, my granddad hated it and felt compelled to double check that I could dye it back if I wanted to, my friends told me it made me look a lot less pale, gave me a bit of a glow. But none of this was important, for me it just made me happier. I have noticed a strange change in my attitude since the yellow and the hair: I’ve been far less stressed out and angry. Maybe this is all some deep rooted psychological problem but the way I see it is that I lost myself a little bit over the years, I had become a ball of stress, quite short tempered, self-conscious and constantly, cripplingly aware of other people’s judgements, the yellow and the hair just helped me back to that more carefree and happy version of myself.

My final, more out there theory involves synaesthesia. I have always been someone who had very strong senses, colours were always very bright to me, I’ve always had strong feelings about textures, and I’ve always linked my senses to each other and my emotions very naturally. It’s very difficult to explain but certain memories have a certain colour I attach to them, certain places have attached themselves to a particular smell. I could probably tell you what colour each person in my life is. While I understand other people have a much stronger synaesthesia, in my case I do think that it has affected my love of yellow. All the happy memories and the positive people in my life are yellow.

I’ll finish this by saying, if any of you see a girl dressed as an oversized toddler, head to toe in yellow with golden, slightly gingerish (the struggle of box hair dye) hair, she may look absolutely bizarre but try not to judge too much because she’s probably pretty damn happy.

Mental health as the weather in your head

Someone told me once that mental health is effectively like the weather in your head. Some days you wake up and it just happens to be sunny up there; you’re all smiles and rainbows and it’s wonderful. But some days you wake up and it happens to be cold and rainy in your head. It can feel pointless to get up, like the day is wasted. And there isn’t a reason it’s rainy up there and there isn’t a reason why it’s rainy in the literal sky either (well obviously the water cycle is involved but just go with it for the extended metaphor). So when someone asks what’s up or what’s making you sad, it is sometimes without reason and is as disconnected and random as the weather; you can’t explain it, it just happens to be miserable weather in your mind that day and that’s okay. Some days sudden thunder storms can hit without warning and tear through your thoughts like a hurricane despite it having been sunny all week.

Anyway, my point is that you wouldn’t shout at the sky for raining and you wouldn’t search for something to blame for a thunderstorm.  So no matter how inconvenient, you shouldn’t hate your brain for being a little cloudy and no one else should blame you either. The weather cannot be helped, in your mind or outside the window.

GCSE revision advice from a (complete and utter) amateur

GCSEs are really not a fun time for most people, myself included, and while I could sit here and tell you from my high horse/ actually strangely close to the ground bed, lots of very intense revision tips about sticking to a very tight schedule and being up and in the library for 9am, I would be a hypocrite. So, that being said, I intend to share some revision tips for the not morning, easily stressed out, like-minded people, mixed in with some relaxation and better sleep advice.

  1. Try lots of different methods- There is not one way that works for everyone, if you’ve found a way that works by all means stick to it but if you’re still not sure, try a few different ways. For some people, watching YouTube videos on the topic you’re revising is actually really helpful. There are more GCSE YouTube videos and channels than I had ever realised, they are everywhere and they could be a really big help. Some of my friends record them saying their notes and listen to them on the bus or before bed or walking home, whenever really and my favourite part about this is that people will walk past you (I mean probably not in your house but you know) and have no idea that you are talking to yourself through your earphones. But don’t forget, that the less exciting but ultimately nicely simple method of revision cards and note-taking is what works for some people and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
  2. Breaks- Take them. This is very easy, just do not reach a point where your brain feels like mush and you can’t take any more information in because if you did you would explode. Watch a bit of TV in between, facetime someone for a few minutes, read a book, anything that will relax you and rest your brain for a few minutes.
  3. Schedules- Some people love them, some people hate them. Personally, I find it useful to make them but I do not feel need to really tightly stick to it. It’s useful to see how much work you need to do, roughly how long it will take and how much you should be doing in a day, but there is no point stressing over it. Allow for a margin of freedom with it. Maybe have it so there are a couple of weeks before your exam that you haven’t scheduled so that if you need to fill it with extra work for a subject you can.
  4. Libraries- They are not essential but for the easily distracted mind, they are definitely handy. I’ve been trying to go a few times a week during the holidays and what I’ve found is that it is very hard for me to get up before it gets full. So I just really reward myself for getting out the house before 9; I buy myself a coffee, a nice lunch, sugary food to try and make myself associate the library and getting up with good things. It’s working a bit but there is a lazy alternative. There are two times a day in which there are seats in a busy library, at least in my experience, and that is as soon as it opens and at around 5pm because people tend to stay 10am-5pm and 5pm- some really late hour. Catch them in the switch over and you’ll have a seat.
  5. My dear friend Aeroplane Mode- I am, to put it directly, addicted to my phone. I have tried most things e.g. those apps that tell you how long you’ve spent on your phone that day to strike a deep rooted existential crisis within you, didn’t work. The only thing that works for me is to take my phone, put it on aeroplane mode and then put it in a draw on the other side of my room. This does help, because seeing the notifications appearing on your phone every 10 seconds is a self-control test for even the most motivated of us.
  6. Smells- It is not a well-hidden fact that I am a massive stress head; my entire family are acutely aware of it. So, before my GCSE’s started, my mum bought me an oil diffuser and it is my favourite thing in the world. Basically, what it does is fill my room with the smell of these really calming oils like rosemary, lavender, and frankincense. Half of my revision time is spent making weird concoctions of oils for my diffuser before I start. The lavender is particularly useful for filling your room with before you sleep and if you’re feeling a cold coming on, adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil is honestly a great idea.
  7. Comedies- No one can revise all day, nor is it going to be any use to you to do so. In those breaks between revision, you might be craving Netflix or TV in any form. But, it is so easy to get hooked on a drama; they lend themselves to addicted binging of season after season. While, I love a good drama, a comedy is usually the way to go when you’re supposed to be revising for a couple of months. They’re light hearted and most of them don’t completely take over your every waking thought; it’s a good way to cheer yourself up and boost your mood. But, if you do start spending more time watching more TV than you do revising, it may be *cries a little* time to cut it out entirely.
  8. Changing your sleep schedule- As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am not the best at going to sleep but, to focus for exams and revision, you really need to be getting a good amount of hours. The recommended minimum for 16 year olds, is (according to a 2013 BBC article) 9 hours. I find the best way to start getting your sleeping schedule closer to this is to go to bed a little earlier each night. I’m in the process of achieving this and I’m getting there, I’ve going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night and I’m aiming for 10pm by the time my exams start, but we’ll see how that goes.
  9. Head massages- Linking to my stress-head ways, I do get stress headaches and as I don’t want to be taking painkillers every day for the next 2 months, I’ve been finding other solutions. Short of chopping my head off, head massages appear to work pretty well. I pretty much rope anyone into being my masseur: my mum mostly, but also my little sister, my best friend, anyone can give an amateur head massage. Here’s where I would give some advice as to how to give a head massage but I don’t want to risk being sued for giving really poor advice and leading to injury. So concludes this bullet point.

There you have my list of exam related tips, I wish whoever is reading this really good luck in your GCSEs or whatever exam you’re sitting or if you’re not sitting any exams then I just wish you a good day. I said good day! (Sorry that was my very poor attempt at referencing that 70’s show, one I really recommend as a revision period comedy actually).

An experiment in confrontation

Who are people more likely to listen to: someone who confronts everyone about everything or someone who doesn’t confront anyone at all? There is a complicated balance to be found between putting your foot down too often over things that don’t really matter and becoming the human version of a doormat. I have recently been attempting to toe this line. When you’re a quiet person who is extremely easily panicked, confrontation and actually standing up for yourself becomes very hard. In my 16 years of life, I have managed to get into only a handful of arguments (not including family) but I wouldn’t say that I have been angry and irritated by people any less than someone who argues with one person a day, I just internalise a lot more.

Rather egotistically, I used to see it as this great strength because I thought I was this peaceful person who loved everything and never upset anyone but really I was just someone who had become so used to walking on eggshells that they didn’t even notice they were there anymore. I wasn’t any more peaceful than anyone else and it didn’t mean anyone liked me any more for it, I put up with a lot from people in school that I shouldn’t have, I stood by while those same people upset others in ways they shouldn’t have and my ‘peace-loving’-self did nothing about it. But then, on the other hand, I had friends who would pick a fight over anything, who couldn’t help but get involved and would sometimes throw in irrelevant things to an argument.  For example, there was a group of girls in my school when I was younger who would constantly upset other students and put them down; they would yell and make so much noise in class that they completely distracted people from their education and a friend of mine (note again, not me) confronted them on it, putting forward those points. Mid-argument, another friend of mine, who often got herself into fights, threw in that one of the girls had bad hair or something along those lines and it just took away from the whole thing. We had the moral high ground but by stooping down to their level we lost it. So that begs the question, should she have got involved? What if it was just her way of showing support? I still don’t know what I think on that.

But let’s drag it to a bigger scale, there have been many revolutions and movements in history, many even in the last 100 years, take the women’s movement from the 60s onward, the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement. As a species we reach change through confrontation and for these revolutions to be taken seriously, we have to have solid points rather than attacking too many points and places at once, causing people to lose track or in some cases  taking it ‘too far’. For example, the women’s movement in the 60s was incredible and managed to achieve so much important social change like getting women into sectors of work they couldn’t have dreamed of a decade or so prior but it could be argued that there were parts that went too far like not allowing women to bring their male children to meetings. These steps ‘too far’ or more off the path entirely were largely ignored and could have even caused some people to lose faith. So my point is that by confronting problems that aren’t there or becoming too much like the oppressor, you are fighting against your own goals.

Now taking it back to the matter at hand, to the individual, we need to remember to choose our battles of course, but if we ever want people to hear us and to see the problems and therefore make the change then we need to say something. Despite being a quiet child, there are certain things I have always stood up for. When I was 10, I confronted a boy who told an Asian girl in my school to ‘go back to her country’, when I was 11 I confronted a boy who was branding a girl ‘a slut’, when I was 12 I yelled so much at someone who flippantly told me that an entire race should be removed from the country that they cried and stormed home away from me. Even though I am quiet, there have always been occasions when I have been loud and I have been angry and I have acted on it. But, in all honesty I don’t think I do that enough; I am still constantly letting things slide and letting other people struggle alone when I think the same as them. I too often allowed other people to be my mouthpiece rather than speaking myself.

Every day, I am still trying to call people out on things more, to appear like less of a doormat. I am trying to use my voice to tell people what I think needs to be changed on an individual and a global level. So what I want to encourage is this: I encourage you to stand up for what you believe in, loudly and boldly, to stand up for yourself and make people see you for what you are- a force to be reckoned with. I encourage you to avoid the unnecessary arguments and the pettiness and that when you do confront it, get straight to the heart of it and make sure the change you want is clear because even though it would be handy sometimes, people are not mind readers and they need to know what you have a problem with because they might not be able to see it on their own. Where you see people’s perspective, where you can see their injustice and you can see it isn’t being fixed, don’t speak for them, just hand them a microphone, be that microphone even. Even though it isn’t the 60s or 70s anymore, even if we forget that the injustice is there, believe me when I say it is still alive and kicking, sometimes it’s being concealed and sometimes, let’s be honest here, it’s stood in plain sight. So please don’t stop fighting racism, sexism, homophobia and the thousands of other injustices because there are too many cases of them all today, please don’t stop speaking up.

The good things about insomnia and being awake while the world is asleep

Throughout my life, I have had blocks of time where I really struggled to sleep and my feelings about that have changed a lot over the years. Between the ages of 8 to 12, it really bothered me because I hated feeling lonely and there was nothing that seemed lonelier to me than being in a house where no one else was awake so I had no one to talk to. Kids in school were really impressed when we were discussing what time we went to sleep and I replied with 4 o’clock in the morning because that was just so rebellious and grown up but I just thought it was really annoying.

When I got to 13 it became even more of an irritation as my melodramatic newly teen self decided it was simply going to ruin my life. This was because I had just run into the brick wall that was the workload of high school compared to my easy going primary school. I was unable to sleep on Sunday nights and would be coming to school with huge bags underneath my eyes and would be completely unable to focus. This didn’t happen all the time, usually just for a month or two each year but when it fell on exam week, I was incredibly upset by it and therefore managed to mix panic and sleep issues to create a pointless all nighter the night before my exams.  In the end I managed to get through the exams and had my usual grades in the end but it had been a lot more stressful than it needed to be.

Over the last year or so, I have started to accept that this is something that will happen to me a couple of months a year and that there wasn’t too much I could do about it. Now I have found ways to actually enjoy nights when I cannot sleep.  As per usual, I was inspired by a book: ‘The Raven Boys’ by Maggie Stiefvater in which one of the characters suffers from insomnia and uses his nights to build things or research things, he made them productive. So now when I feel a sleepless night is about to happen, I think of something productive to do, whether that be writing or reading a book, learning a song on piano or anything else. Sometimes I find less productive things to do like finding new songs I like or learning new hair styles or making weird snacks. I tend to avoid things like school work because the point is not stress myself out and school stuff does just that. What I have realised is that the middle of the night is the time I feel most creative and this is down to a few things:

  1. There are no people to distract you- Most of your friends will be fast asleep and there’s no chance anyone’s going to come in and ask you to do anything else. For example, it is the one time of day when I am guaranteed that my mum will not come in and ask me why my room isn’t tidy and my sisters can’t wander in asking me to take them to the park.
  2. There is nothing else you should be doing- Well, other than sleeping and  it’s important to note that if you can sleep, DO sleep, this whole post is for nights when you legitimately can’t. However, as soon as you have accepted that for whatever reason sleep isn’t going to be an option that night, you are left with these hours where you don’t have to do anything, you usually can’t run down to the shops or make a call or anything like that so you gave this block of free time for whatever you want to fill it with without feeling guilty about it.
  3. There’s just something about it- I can’t tell you exactly what it is about night time but now I understand where the phrase ‘burning the midnight oil’ came from. For some reason, my mind is most imaginative at night.

So, while having a normal sleeping schedule is definitely much more healthy and something that I recommend hugely. If you are struggling to sleep every night then please do get help or try methods to actually help you sleep, things like mindfulness, breathing techniques or go to a doctor. But the odd night where you struggle to sleep doesn’t have to be so irritating and unenjoyable. I am sure many strokes of genius have happened at 3am while the world is asleep.

Why me visiting a bookshop is basically the same as a kid in a candy store

I am a self-proclaimed lover of books and recently I have been wondering just why I love them so much. There is no shop that I love more than a book store; I go in and have to be dragged out with people having to stop and double check I haven’t run off again- I’m pretty much the two year old sister my best friend never had. I’m not quite sure why but seeing books makes me so excited and happy and being around other people who feel the same just makes me feel so at home. But ultimately it is just a few hundred pages filled with words so why is it I spend so much of my life looking at them, reading them, maybe even attempting to build a career around them?

Books have had a huge effect on my life; they have taught me a lot. They have opened my eyes to entirely new perspectives: they mean I can visit a different century, planet, and an entirely different lifestyle. I’m sure if I read the same genre by the same author from the same year, I wouldn’t think this and there are definitely books that don’t teach me as much but I can read a book and gain an understanding on something I knew nothing about like psychology books that explore introversion and mental illness. I finish them feeling like I’ve gained knowledge.

Books are educators, they preach acceptance and to me are the physicality of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. They build bridges between people, some of my strongest friendships have been built on a similar taste in books, I love talking about them and sharing them, comparing thoughts and seeing how the same book can take on a different meaning depending on the reader. They are such a personal form of education, I don’t think that there’s any format that you can see into someone’s brains and really understand an idea as much as you can through reading. Certain books can change a generation or flip a view on its head- books have made me more open-minded like The Outsiders by SE Hinton as before reading that I think I would have prejudged people more, now I think anti-heroes are important.

Books are relatable- I honestly think there is a book out there on every problem I’ve ever had or ever thought of. I’ve learnt things about myself through reading about these characters that I relate to and when I see them in an entirely different situation to my own, it inspires me to change. Seeing a character develop through the course of the story makes me want to develop as a person and makes me feel like I can too, there are countless books that have made me feel braver or made feel like I can do something: Evie from Am I normal yet? made me see that mental illness should be talked about, not made fun of and hidden, Frankie from The disreputable history made me realise that girls should not hide their intelligence to make boys like them, Blue from The raven cycle helped me understand that we can’t always follow the path that our parents want for us and that first impressions are often wrong. That is to name a few, there are countless books and characters that have given me infinite lessons that I use in my life.

A teacher told me the other day that books and other forms of printed word were a thing of the past- they are to be replaced with documentaries and films. Don’t get me wrong I do love films as well; I do however think that a world without books would be sad. Maybe it’s the hoarder in me but I love being able to archive things and being able to actually hold my thoughts and ideas or someone else’s in my hands.  So I suppose this post is me asking for books to stay circulating, for bookstores to remain open and for stories to continue to be shared through a few hundred pages and a few million pairs of eyes.