Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sunday Snippets - 31st January 2016

How is it the end of January already?! I mean, seriously, wasn’t it just Christmas yesterday?! I know I say this an awful lot, but I really don’t know where the last month has gone. It’s definitely true what they say, that as you get older time goes more quickly. I’m sure when I was a child the days and weeks went on forever! I’ve not been feeling too great this week. I’ve been even more tired than usual and I think I’ve picked up a virus or something, so all I’ve really wanted to do is sleep! But it’s been pretty hectic, so getting some proper rest hasn’t really happened.

Last Sunday was actually a really nice, chilled out day. I had a long lie in and a quiet morning not doing very much at all. I then managed to get two blog posts written (scheduled one of them) and edited some photos using my new Lightroom software. I was quite pleased with myself, as I managed to figure out the basics quite quickly – pretty good for someone who’s terrible with technology! In the evening I decided to treat myself to some pampering, so I ran myself a hot, bubbly Lush bath and enjoyed a facemask from ESPA

Monday was another fairly quiet day. It started with a reflexology session, which is always so lovely and relaxing (I didn’t fall asleep this time!) My reflexologist said I should go for a facial, as my sinuses have been so painful recently and she said they could do drainage ones, which might help the pain. So I’m going to book myself one and see if it helps. For the rest of the day I just did lots of odd jobs like sorting, tidying, organising and catching up on my Uni e-mails. I’m one of those strange people who actually enjoy tidying, so it’s been nice to have time to actually do some and start to get my room looking organised! I was really happy on Monday, as my new tea infuser arrived, which meant I could finally try my new teas from Bluebird Tea Co.

Tuesday was the complete opposite to Sunday and Monday; crazily busy! I had an appointment with my physio first thing, and he did some more acupuncture with me. I think it’s making a bit of a difference for my lower back, as I’ve found the pain seems to get worse as the week goes on, but it doesn’t seem to be helping my neck. My Dad and I then made our way to another hospital for a family therapy appointment with my Mum and sister. We managed to drop in at home for about half an hour before my Mum and I had to head to my friend, Katy’s, house.  While my Mum had her nails done I managed to get some Uni work done, then it was time for me to relax with a full body massage – bliss! When I got home I found this adorable zebra card had arrived from my lovely friend Hanna. Those of you who don’t know, people with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome are often referred to as zebras!

Wednesday was relatively quiet, which was good after Tuesday’s antics! Although I love to have things to look forward to like seeing friends or going out somewhere (preferably not a hospital though!), sometimes I just love it when I look in my diary and a date is completely clear because it means I can actually listen to my body and rest. I spend most of my life trying to pretend I’m not ill, by pushing myself to my absolute limits to do all the things healthy people do. But the fact is, I am ill, and those days where I can just be how I feel are such a relief sometimes. In the morning I had a lie in and did a bit more tidying in my bedroom. Then in the afternoon I did some Uni work, contacted everyone about their Happy Box Swap match and replied to some blog e-mails. As you can probably see, I’m still not very good at just having a day of proper rest! I finally put these new bedroom boots on, after throwing out my old ones that were falling to pieces! These are so warm and snuggly!

On Thursday I had Uni all day, which was tiring but good fun. We started the morning doing some planning for our news packages and then had a guest speaker, who graduated from our Uni, come to speak to us about what she’s been up to. At lunch I headed to Starbucks with a few friends, and decided to treat myself to their new Rose and Pistachio Mocha, made with coconut milk. I couldn’t drink much, and probably shouldn’t have had the cream, but it was so worth it! I mean, who could say no to pastel pink cream?! In the afternoon my friend Amber and I went into the town to a park, where we tried to film some footage of dogs, as we’re putting together a piece about the opening of a new dog grooming salon. We waited for ages and no dogs turned up (which is so typical, as there are usually loads there!) but finally three arrived at once and we managed to get some good footage.

Friday was a little less busy than Thursday, but still quite tiring. I had to make sure I got up reasonably early, as the Professor I see in London was due to call me. He actually rang half an hour early, so it was a good job I woke up on time! We mainly chatted about this new diet he wants me to try, which has been proposed by a doctor called Heidi Collins. It’s taken my Dad and I a long time to get our heads around it, especially as I also have to cut out red meat and stick to low FODMAP foods, but I think we’re getting there! It seems to have a lot of similarities with the Paleo diet, so I’ve been looking at lots of recipes that I can make a few adaptations to. I then made a few more medical related phone calls, but mainly got the answerphones. In the afternoon I had an appointment with my Learning Mentor at Uni, followed by a lecture. By the time I got home I was absolutely shattered. I won this book in a competition, so it was nice to open that in the evening, and I settled down with another Bluebird tea, this time ‘Dozy Girl.’

Yesterday was really quiet, which was exactly what I needed after a fairly busy week. I got up a lot later than I planned, but all my body seems to want to do at the moment is sleep! I stop taking my iron tablets next week and will then have a blood test in a few weeks, so it will be interesting to see what my iron levels are doing. I spent some time trying to do some sorting/tidying in my bedroom, but it was just one of those days where it feels impossible to do anything. I then spent ages editing a video for my YouTube channel (the first one in over nine months!) and getting to grips with Final Cut Pro. I’m so happy to have got it edited, and it’s currently uploading as I type (although is taking it’s time, so don’t expect anything very quickly!) I’m hoping now that I feel a little more confident with the editing I can film some more videos and make it a regular thing. All I need now is a dedicated filming space so I can put some lights up and leave my camera set up!

If you haven’t read my blog before, I just wanted to let you know that I have a second blog, which mainly focuses on my health in more depth than I talk about it here. It’s largely for friends and family to follow and keep up with what’s going on, but if it’s something you would be interested in reading as well, you are more than welcome to follow me over there. It’s called Unicorns and Floral Crowns and you can find it by clicking here. I haven’t updated it for a while, but I hope to get into a routine soon. I’m also trying to post on Snapchat a bit more, so if you fancy following me, my username is Jennycole44.

What have you been up to this week? I always enjoy hearing about your news and adventures!

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Dealing with the January Blues

I was a little bit hesitant to write this because I don’t want to give the impression that feeling low only happens in January, or that doing certain things can suddenly cure depression, because unfortunately mental illness isn’t that simple. However, as someone that has depression (and other mental illnesses), I do find that January/February time can be even more difficult, and I know my friends who don’t have a mental illness also find this time of year a challenge. So I thought I would share with you some things that I have come across over the years that might help to lift your mood a bit. Some of these may help some people but not others, so it’s a case of giving things a try and seeing if any of these activities make a difference to you. Of course, there are also plenty of other things you could try as well, and I would love to hear if you’ve found anything that makes life a little brighter at this time of year.

Don’t beat yourself up!

It’s so incredibly easy to give yourself a hard time about feeling low, and I think the start of a new year can make it even worse. All of a sudden the warmth and joy of Christmas has gone, and we’re bombarded with adverts telling us we need to lose weight, get fit, become a ‘new and improved’ person etc. etc. It’s no wonder we feel so down on ourselves! But reassure yourself that it is perfectly normal to have a bit of a slump after Christmas – there are no pretty lights, the Christmas tunes are long gone and instead we are faced with cold, wet days and early dark nights. It’s enough to make anyone feel bad. So try not to beat yourself up if you’re finding life a bit more difficult – the last thing you need is to be horrible to yourself when you’re already feeling rubbish. Give yourself a break and nurture your body and mind instead. It sounds so cheesy, but be kind to yourself and do what makes you feel good.

Get outside

It’s amazing what a bit of sunlight and fresh air can do for your mental health, and you don’t need to spend that long outside to feel the benefits.

For someone with a chronic illness, getting outside can be a real struggle. But I’ve really noticed how my mood lifts a little if I can just get out into the garden for a few minutes. It’s pretty cold and windy at the moment, so make sure you wrap up warm, but I find letting the wind blow through my hair really helps to blow the cobwebs away and makes me feel a bit more refreshed. I know it’s not very appealing to venture outside when it’s tipping it down with rain, but even just sitting in your garden under an umbrella for five minutes can give you that inner peace you need to carry on with your day.

Daylight is important

A huge number of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) at this time of year because it is so difficult to get enough daylight when it’s dark, rainy and cold. If you’ve noticed that your mood drops in the winter months, it might be worth looking into lamps that simulate daylight.

I received this Lumie light a couple of years ago, and although it hasn’t made a massive difference to my depression, I do think it makes getting up on a dark, cold morning that little bit easier. This particular light is said to complement a lightbox when treating SAD, but Lumie offer a whole range of different lights depending on your personal requirements. If you’re not sure whether a lightbox will work for you, it is also possible to hire one from Sad Shop, which I think is a great way to test out the idea before investing in a light of your own.

Borrow a pet!

I think animals have amazing qualities when it comes to helping people with mental health problems. I know from personal experience, if I’m ever feeling down, unwell or anxious, my dogs and cats will come and sit with me and help me relax a bit.

It’s not always possible to have a pet of your own, so why not ask to borrow one from a friend?! I don’t mean you necessarily have to take the pet on for a long amount of time, but you could ask a friend if you could walk their dog, look after their guinea-pigs for a day or go round for a cup of tea and cuddle their new kitten! As regular readers of my blog will know, we have two dogs and two cats. I would be more than happy if one of my friends wanted to come and spend some time with them, and it could also be an opportunity to have some social contact with a friend at the same time.

Don’t make unachievable resolutions

To be honest I’m not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions, as I feel like if there’s something I need to change I might as well set a goal there and then.

But if you’re setting yourself goals, then try and make them achievable, otherwise you end up spending all your time berating yourself for not reaching them. Simply saying you want to ‘get fitter’ or ‘eat healthily’ means it’s very difficult to know when you’ve actually achieved them. A technique I’ve found really helpful is to ensure I make S.M.A.R.T goals. This means they need to be:

·      Specific – what exactly do you want to achieve (e.g. to eat 5 portions of fruit/vegetables a day, to go swimming twice a week)
·      Measurable – how will you know when you’ve achieved the goal?
·      Achievable – it needs to challenge you, but at the same time it shouldn’t be impossible!
·      Relevant – does the goal you are setting actually matter to you? Will it help you progress to a place you value?
·      Time-based – give your goal a time frame; a target date to achieve it by

There are slightly different interpretations of the S.M.A.R.T criteria, but they’re much of the same. I think by breaking a goal down like this, you are able to really focus on what you want to achieve and can also have the satisfaction when you can see you’ve achieved it.

Book a holiday

Around this time I like to start making plans for the year ahead. Now, I don’t mean things like assignment deadlines, chores and all of that boring stuff – I mean nice things! A holiday is the first thing that springs to mind, but sometimes it’s not possible to get abroad or go to a luxury hotel (obviously if it is possible then go for it!) But I rather enjoy planning smaller things. A big holiday is great, but essentially that’s only one event to look forward to that will perhaps take up 14 days, if that. So what about the other 351 days of 2016? It really helps me to schedule lots of little things throughout the year – meeting up with a friend you don’t see often, going for a day trip to the zoo or the seaside. As the year goes on, I think it can really help to fill up your days with nice things to look forward to, so perhaps make a list of all the lovely things you would like to do (meet a friend for coffee, go for afternoon tea, take photos when the spring flowers start to bloom…) and then start making them a reality.

Get some sleep

Sleep is so important; I think we’ve all worked that one out by now, but over Christmas your sleeping pattern can go a bit out the window so it’s important to get back into a routine.

I feel a bit of a hypocrite writing about good sleep, because I really struggle with my sleep routine, but I do know how important quality sleep can be. It is widely advised to stick to the same sleep routine, whether it’s a work day or weekend, but I know it’s not always that easy when you’re dying for your Sunday lie-in! But trying to go to bed at the same time each night can help you to sleep better, and if you don’t get great sleep your mood will suffer. Sleep hygiene is really important (if you don’t know about sleep hygiene let me know, and I’ll do a blog post about it!) as it helps you wind down and get to sleep. Make your bedroom a sanctuary where you feel relaxed and calm so it’s as easy as possible to fall asleep there.

Eat well

Again, I feel a little bit guilty about talking about eating well, as my diet is far from ideal! Over Christmas we all tend to indulge a bit, and it can leave you feeling pretty rubbish come January. Eating a range of fresh fruits and vegetables, slow release carbohydrates and enough protein can make you feel good from the inside out. But I’m a big advocate for having a little bit of what you fancy – everything in moderation is my motto, so don’t deny yourself that chocolate bar or bag of crisps. As long as that’s not all you’re living on then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with allowing yourself the odd treat.

Pamper yourself

You know me, any excuse for a pamper! But January and February are the perfect time to really indulge in relaxation and spoiling yourself.

Whether you decide to have a Lush bubble bath with scented candles and a face mask, paint your nails, treat yourself to a massage or spend some time putting on your favourite make-up (or all of the above!) there’s no right or wrong when it comes to pampering.

Be sociable

When it’s cold, raining and dark, it can be very easy to snuggle under a blanket in your pyjamas and watch Eastenders, which is OK sometimes. But it’s also really important to see other people, to go out for a coffee or to the cinema. Being around people who make you feel good about yourself can be really helpful, whether you’re feeling down or not, and putting a date in the diary for a DVD night or Starbucks date gives you something to look forward to as well.

Fairy lights and candles

I think candles were made for this time of year! I can’t think of anything better than lighting a Yankee Candle that I received for Christmas, and then having a bath or reading a book while the scent fills the room.

The same goes for fairy lights – why should they be saved for just Christmas?! There are so many pretty fairy lights available these days, and I think they just help to bring a bit of light and warmth to these wintery days. I bought these white heart lights from Amazon a while back, and really love having them round my bed.

Start a Happy Jar

I’ve been using a Happy Jar/Good Things Jar for a few years now and really love filling it up throughout the year.

The idea is, you start with an empty jar, which you could decorate as I have done or just leave it blank. As the year goes by, you then fill it with things that have been good or have made you happy. I decided to get some rainbow paper and chose a different colour for each month. I then write my happy thing on a slip of paper, fold it up and pop it in the jar. But you could also put in things like cinema tickets, little notes from friends – basically whatever you want! At the end of the year you empty your jar and remember all those little (and big!) things that made you smile. It’s a really nice visual reminder when all you can see is the bad stuff. I often look at my jar filling up, and it reminds me that good things have happened, and therefore will continue to happen.

Find something to laugh at

One of the best things to do, but possibly what you least feel like doing when you’re down, is to laugh.

I remember when I was a lot younger, and had been in and out of hospital and was therefore feeling really low. My Dad sat down with my in front of the TV and put on a Billy Connelly stage show. At first I just wasn’t interested, but soon, for the first time in a long while, I was giggling. And it made me feel a bit better, even if only for the time I was watching it. I think films are a great way to escape and just laugh. My personal favourites are anything from Disney, Miranda Hart, Bride Wars, Russell Howard and Bridesmaids.

Do some spring-cleaning

This could be just me, but I love tidying, throwing things away and cleaning. I just find it really therapeutic, and the satisfaction you get when you’ve finished and everything looks neat and tidy is great! This is unlikely to be for everyone, but maybe give it a try. Just start with one draw and see if you can get rid of some stuff – we all hold on to so much more than we need to, and I find it refreshing clearing things out and sending lots of black bags to our local charity shop, knowing I’m also helping a good cause.

Be creative

I absolutely love to get creative, and feel really sad that I just don’t have enough time for it these days.

But I’m starting to realise you don’t need hours and hours – even if you just have ten minutes you can still do something creative. Adult colouring books are a massive craze at the moment, and are brilliant for being mindful, acting as a distraction and calming anxiety. There are so many other things to try, from knitting and crochet to scrapbooking and Project Life. It’s just a case of finding the things you enjoy and then making some time just for you because we all deserve a bit of ‘me’ time.

Fresh flowers

Fresh flowers never fail to brighten my day, especially if someone else gives them to me!

But that doesn’t happen particularly regularly, so I’ve started to buy myself flowers instead. A simple bunch of roses or tulips can brighten a room, and they really make me smile every time I see them. I’ve noticed recently that Tesco offer some amazing bargains when it comes to roses especially, but it’s worth looking around supermarkets and local florists when you’re out and about. I also like to send my friends flowers from a website called Bunches. They have such a great range of bouquets at really reasonable prices, and you even get some free chocolates with every bunch!

Get professional help

In a way this piece of advice doesn’t belong at the end of this post, because it is probably the most important. Like I said at the beginning of this post, it is normal to feel a bit down after Christmas, but it isn’t normal if it becomes anything more than that. If your mood is low all the time to the point it’s affecting your everyday life, you feel tearful, anxious or are consumed by negative thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself, then it’s really important to seek help as early as possible. Your first port of call is normally your GP, and I would recommend writing everything down about how you’ve been feeling and what you’ve been thinking, so that they get the best understanding possible.

I would also really recommend the charities Mind and Blurt, who both have a wealth of information about depression and other mental illnesses, as well as guidance on how to get help. Being depressed is not ‘normal’ so don’t just put up with it and hope it will go away. You deserve help and support, and although it can be difficult to find sometimes, it is out there. Whether it’s the NHS, a charity or a private therapist, there are people who care and who want to help. I really hope this post has offered some suggestions of things you can try to help lift your mood, but I can’t stress enough the importance of seeking professional help if you’re struggling.

What do you think of the ideas I’ve suggested? Is there anything that helps you get through the winter months or that improves your mood?

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Sunday Snippets - 24th January 2016

As I was changing my daily calendar this morning, it suddenly hit me that exactly a month ago was Christmas Eve! Seriously, where on earth has that month gone?! It’s kind of scary how quickly time seems to be going these days, and sometimes it can leave me feeling quite overwhelmed. It’s been another relatively busy week, more so towards this weekend, but I did manage some quiet days at home as well. 

Last Sunday was quite a relaxed day, which is always nice. I had a much-needed lie in and then went over to Pets at Home with my Dad to get some cat litter (exciting stuff!) I’m terrible when it comes to pet stores though, and can’t possibly leave without a treat for our furry friends! Thankfully I’ve been very restrained when it comes to adding to our menagerie, but I did pick up a couple of things – a new cat bed for Jaffa (to be fair, he needed a new bed as we had to chuck his old one out) and some teeth cleaning chews for Alfie and Freddie. As soon as we came through the front door and they saw us, they were jumping around all over the place – I’m sure they can always tell when we’ve been to a pet shop! I then spent the afternoon blogging, and also sorted out a load of (very!) belated Christmas presents so they were ready to be collected by the courier the next day. In the evening we all went out for a family dinner to celebrate my brother (Richard) and my other brother’s fiancé (Emma) birthdays. I decided to treat myself to a fruit cider, which was really yummy even though I couldn’t manage it all! They also had the most amazing Black Forest Gateaux, which is one of my all time favourite desserts. Thankfully I had Mum to help me eat it as I struggle to eat normal portions, but it was so good!

Monday was a really chilled out day and I managed to be quite productive, which always makes me feel a bit better mentally. I spent the morning doing some tidying in my bedroom. I’m really bad for not putting things away and just creating piles of things around the floor, mainly because I just run out of energy and don’t have anything left to start thinking where to put new things! But it ends up making me feel really stressed, so whenever I can I make sure I set aside some time to do some sorting and tidying. It didn’t look a whole lot different after I finished, which is frustrating, but it’s little steps in the right direction. In the afternoon I spent some time playing with Lightroom (the new photo software I received for Christmas) and managed to edit some photos and upload them to Facebook, so I was rather proud of myself! I also caught up on my Facebook messages and blog emails (again, I’m awful for letting them build up!) I decided to change the desktop background on my main computer, and thought this cute quote from Pinterest would motivate me when I’m blogging.

Tuesday started like last week, with another hospital appointment. I saw my physio and we did another session of acupuncture – I’ve got to see if I notice any difference and then I’ll have one more next week. If I feel it’s helping then he’s said we can carry on, so that’s good to know. I think it might be making a little bit of a difference, as my pain does seem to get worse as the week goes on, but it’s so hard to know as it’s so gradual. I then came home and did some more tidying (I’m seriously on a roll right now!) but I ended up curled up on my pillow on the floor feeling really faint and dizzy, so I don’t know if that was a side effect of the acupuncture or just me. While I was tidying I found my ‘Happy Box,’ which I fill with things like letters, cards, little quotes I like and anything else that will cheer me up. Only problem is, I’m running out of room in this box, so I need to find a larger one – if anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them! I’d love to continue to add to it with special letters that people have sent me. I spent most of the afternoon snuggled on the sofa doing little bits on my laptop and watching rubbish daytime TV. Late afternoon I had an appointment with my GP, which I think went OK. We discussed the fact my hair keeps falling out and she thinks it could be because my iron levels are so low, so I’ve got to stop my iron tablets for a few weeks then have a blood test to see what’s going on with them and whether they’ve increased at all.

Wednesday was another quiet day – a bereavement counsellor was meant to come and see me first thing, so I got myself up nice and early. Unfortunately I had a phone call to say she was sick, but as I was up and dressed, I decided to try and use my time in a positive way and get some jobs done. Problem was, I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do anything – all I wanted to do was sleep! I managed to do some tidying in my bedroom, then in the afternoon I caught up on some of my blog emails, replied to comments and then wrote a few letters using these cute sausage dog notecards.

On Thursday I was at Uni all day, which was a struggle as my fatigue levels are pretty bad at the moment. We spent the day working on our news stories for our broadcast in February. When I got home I had a bit of a doze on the sofa, as I was beyond shattered. I also opened my post – my favourite thing was this cute shoe card from my friend Leanne.

Friday was a really busy and exhausting day. My Dad drove me all the way to Orpington, to The Princess Royal Hospital. The weather while we were driving was awful, but traffic was good so we arrived at the hospital in plenty of time. Unfortunately, there was no disabled parking left, so we ended up just about as far away from the hospital you could possibly get – thankfully I had my chair! We headed for the café first, and I had a salted caramel soya hot chocolate, which was really yummy. There was a two-hour delay to see the doctor, which I kind of expect when I go to see the top specialists, so it doesn’t bother me too much. I took my book along and managed to read quite a few chapters. I saw a registrar first, who basically took some history and asked to see how hypermobile I am (I never understand why new doctors I see ask me to demonstrate this, as I’ve already been diagnosed with EDS Hypermobility Type!) I then saw the consultant, who specialises in POTS. He was really lovely – very understanding and knowledgeable about EDS and POTS. He wants to start me on Midodrine, but I will need to be admitted when they give me the first dose. He also went over some of the lifestyle adjustments that might help a bit, such as drinking three litres of water a day, adding lots of salt to my food, gentle exercise and compression leggings. He said that my digestive problems make it a lot more difficult to treat me, but will see what he can do. He also said he would refer me to an EDS Urologist at Denmark Hill. We got home early evening, and I spent the rest of the evening resting on the sofa.

Yesterday was really lovely thanks to my brother, David, and his fiancé, Emma. They came and picked me up around lunchtime and took me to a gorgeous little tearoom, which is literally a couple of minutes away from their new flat. I can’t believe I didn’t know it existed until now! They treated me to afternoon tea, which was amazing but I had to bring quite a big doggy bag home, as my poor digestive system couldn’t cope with it. So I’ll be spreading all the yummy goodies out over the next few days. We then came back to mine and had a quite afternoon watching Bolt – I’d forgotten how funny it is!

If you haven’t read my blog before, I just wanted to let you know that I have a second blog, which mainly focuses on my health in more depth than I talk about it here. It’s largely for friends and family to follow and keep up with what’s going on, but if it’s something you would be interested in reading as well, you are more than welcome to follow me over there. It’s called Unicorns and Floral Crowns and you can find it by clicking here. I haven’t updated it for a while, but I hope to get into a routine soon. I’m also trying to post on Snapchat a bit more, so if you fancy following me, my username is Jennycole44.

What have you been up to this week? I always enjoy hearing about your news and adventures!

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