They’re a shining star in the blackest of nights. A solid rock when it feels like the sands of life are shifting beneath your feet. They’ve been with you through thick and thin. They’ve seen boyfriends (and maybe even husbands) come and go. They are always there for you come day or night, high or low to offer help, advice, comfort and support without judgement. They have our back when we’re right and they are quick to set us right without deflating our ego when we’re wrong. Our love for our best friends is unique in the world. As the world tries to pigeon hole us into the role of wife, or mother, our best friends see through these labels to who we really are. Although life has a habit of getting in the way and the pressures of work, family and fitness have a habit of impinging on our social lives more than we might like, even if you only get to see your bestie once or twice a year it’s vital that you make opportunities for quality time with your best friend. As the years melt into one another, and life places more and more demands on your time the quality of your time spent together becomes vastly more important than the quantity. Thus, we’ve compiled a list of wonderful days out that you and your best friend can enjoy together…

Bestie

Image by Flickr

Create your own scent together

Everyone has a handful of perfumes that they identify with and may well pick certain scents for certain occasions. A little bit of this for a day out at the park, a little bit of this for date night. But few people have a scent that truly encapsulates their personality. Spend a day on a perfume making experience, however, and you can do exactly that! You and your bestest friend can either create a scent that encapsulates your friendship or you can create your own individual fragrances. You’ll top the occasion off with afternoon tea together and be able to keep a bottle of your new scent as a memento.

Escape from a locked room together

There’s no better way for besties to bond than by getting locked away in a secret room by a serial killer. Or getting trapped in a museum after a heist gone wrong, or helping to find a missing secret agent. Okay, so these outlandish contexts may be fictional but breaking out of an Escape Room is a whole lot of fun for friends who crave a bit of adventure. You’ve likely seen one of these fun activity centres pop up somewhere near you. In order to escape the room you have to work together to solve a series of clues. It’s a real blast and a great test of how well you and your bestie complement each other’s skills.

Drink with class on a brewery tour

Any fool can take their bestie down to the pub, but a true friend takes their beloved best mate for a stroll around a brewery for an inside look at the science and art behind making their favourite tipple. You’ll learn a lot about the making of beers, wines and liquers as well as enjoying a tasting session. Because you’re worth it!

The Pramshed

If you are someone who finds it important to look after your mental health in an active way, then you probably want to know everything that can possibly affect it in a negative way. This is harder than you might think, in part because pretty much anything can affect our mental health if we are not careful, and it would mean that we have to be vigilant at all times to be aware of them all. This is not practical, but what you can do is look at some of the things which you can easily control, which do happen to have a say on what our minds are doing. As it happens, there are a few things which have such a direct effect on our mental health that it is actually quite surprising – those are what we are going to look at today.

Mental Health

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Your Smile

There is something of a common trend between people who suffer with mental health problems and those who suffer with dental problems. In general, this is because of a bad cycle which is allowed to continue. You might not have great confidence in your smile, and this subtly affects your feeling of self-worth, and then that leads you to stop looking after your teeth so well. In this way, you allow your teeth to worsen and worsen, all the while also allowing that in turn to worsen your idea of yourself. If you think this applies to you, then you might be surprised at what a profound difference you can make just by improving the nature and quality of your smile. What’s more, this is easier to do than you might think.

If you do want to improve your smile, then you might need to get dental work done – but that does not have to be as scary as it sounds. As long as you go with a trusted professional like renowned cosmetic dentist, Dr Fadi Yassmin, you will be able to have more confidence in your ability to smile again, no matter how bad things might have become for you dentally. This will then vastly improve your self-worth when you enjoy what you see in the mirror much more, and that will begin to create more of what you want in your life. As you can see, your dental hygiene is actually intimately related to your mental health.

Mental Health

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The Weather

Something that a lot of people with mental health issues tend to do is to assume that everything is on them, that it is always their own fault that they are feeling the way they do. Actually, this is unfair, and it is hardly ever the case that we are entirely responsible for our own emotions as human beings. There are plenty of outside forces which affect our emotions regularly, and one of the biggest is something we can do nothing about: the weather. If you live in a highly changeable climate, you are much more likely to experience depression and anxiety than someone who lives in solely sunnier climes. Clearly, this is worth knowing, as it means that you are less likely to put pressure on yourself to feel happier when the weather is poor. What’s more, the more instinctively and strongly you know these correlations, the more likely it is that you are able to do something about it, and try your hardest to lift yourself out of your dark moods. That being said, sometimes the weather just gets the better of us.

Your Water Intake

How much water do you drink every day? The truth is that most of us do not drink anything like the required minimum amount, and this is actually highly dangerous when it comes to our mental health. It’s one of those things that are hard to notice the effects of in our daily life, but the amount of water you take in has a direct correlation with how you are feeling. In general, if you are depressed a lot of the time, you can drastically improve the situation just by making an effort to drink more and more water, even perhaps exceeding the recommended eight glasses a day. Just try it – you will be amazed at how much better you feel, and how quickly. If you find it hard to remember to do, try taking a bottle of water with you everywhere you go. Then you will be bound to keep drinking it no matter what.

Mental Health

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Your Sleeping Patterns

Although you are probably aware that your sleep is tied up with your mental health, you might not know exactly how intimately, or just how this is the case. The truth is that if you are not getting much sleep, this can mean that you feel worse in your mind, and that can in turn lead to a loss of sleep the following night. Add to this the fact that people in this situation will generally also drink more coffee to stay awake throughout the day – therefore fuelling anxiety – and you can see why this might be a cocktail for mental disaster. It is hard to get out of this cycle once you are in it, and for some people it continues for months and months. Taking basic steps such as exercising or cutting out caffeine can help, as too can talking aloud about your feelings to someone. If it comes to it, you can always go to the doctor and see if they can prescribe you something, but only if you feel it is necessary. You might be amazed at how much better you feel once you start to sleep properly again, so it is definitely worth looking into if you are starting to feel depressed and you’re not getting much sleep.

The above are all things you can fix in the long term, in some way or another, even if it is just by understanding them better. By doing so, you will be taking an active stance with your own mental health, which is about the best that anyone can hope for.

Run Jump Scrap

When it comes to raising children, there’s a lot of things they have to learn for themselves. You do all you can to make sure they’re ready for major events and experiences, but ultimately, it’s up to them. And one of these such experiences is university, which is a huge undertaking for anyone to handle.

So all you can do in return is advise them, and give them your best advice. If there’s someone in your family who knows absolutely that university is for them, it’s time to do your best to prepare them for standing on their own two feet. Whilst you’re only going to be on the end of the phone whenever they run into some trouble, you can’t jump in to conjure up a solution for them (no matter how much you want to!).

With that in mind, below are some of the biggest questions you should talk through with your child before they head off.

University

Meeting time! (Credit)

Whether They Should Work as Well

Working whilst working towards a degree isn’t something a lot of people would advocate to do. However, sometimes the loan itself isn’t enough for your needs, and getting a part time or side job would pay your way a lot easier. Make sure you talk about this with your kid before they head off by themselves, as a second opinion and some reassurance would really help here.

How to Pay for Their Car

That’s if they’re going to be driving at all, which sometimes is the wrong way to commute when it comes to university towns and navigating campus. On the one hand they could simply purchase a railcard or a bus pass, but on the other hand, if they have the wheels available, they could make a real go of it.

However, it’s not just the petrol they’re going to have to worry about. There’s the insurance as well, and in a town full of young people on nights out, it’s definitely going to come in handy! Head to GoCompare to find student friendly plans and considerations, and get the best quote for the loan your child is on.

How They’re Going to Feed Themselves

Being able to buy food each week to stock your cupboards up with is one thing, another is being able to arrange and cook those foods into an edible format! It’s crazy how many students are living from noodle cup to soup packet because they don’t know the nutrients that are actually available to them!

Go through some recipes right now, make sure your child has the basics down, and even give them a copy of Grandma’s fabled cookbook. Anything is going to help here, and you don’t want your avid student making themself sick over improperly cooked chicken!

Helping your kid to make up their mind about some big decisions is as far as your mentoring should go, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep quiet whenever you see them about to make a mistake!

.Recently I have watched Emmerdale on the television and seen how the character Belle is hearing voices. An old friend used to experience this and is one of the most impressive people I know because he used that experience to go on to help others in a kind and caring way. Today I am sharing Molly’s story where she shares generously and openly about what it feels like when you are hearing voices together with  who has supported her over the years and how she now runs Exhale to help other people with mental health difficulties.

Hearing Voices

 

Please tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years

Whenever I think of my childhood I have very conflicting emotions. I was a very lucky child in many ways. I had a very loving family and extended family, I didn’t go without, I got a good education and I had friends.

My mum and dad divorced when I was four. I spent the weekdays with my mum and my 2 older brothers, and the weekends with my dad. When I was little I was worried about house fires, burglary, black holes, carbon monoxide, cancer, my mum leaving and not coming back. I also had voices in my head who were being really mean to me. It took over my life.
At this stage, my relationship with my mum wasn’t very good. I spent most of my childhood angry at my mum for divorcing my dad and leaving him alone. I was angry at her for not spending time with me and for always working. She would be working instead of picking me up from school like the other mums were, she didn’t come to plays or sports days. So I didn’t speak to her about what was going on in my mind because I was adamant she didn’t care. I was too young to understand that she was depressed and only working all those hours to provide for us.
Despite having friends and family, I didn’t tell anyone about how scared of the voices I was or how bad my anxiety was and so it really did start to eat at me and wear me down.
When I look back at my childhood all I really remember is being scared 24/7 and having a voice in my head (I called him Winston) telling me that I wasn’t ever going to be good enough.
Once I hit thirteen, I think things took a real turn for the worse for me.
I was lying and faking illness to get out of school because I was suffering really badly with paranoia. I really believed that people were talking about me in school and I could always hear them whispering. The voice in my head said it was always about me and it terrified me.
I would fake tonsilitis to get out of school. My attendance at middle school was 24%, shockingly low. I never told anyone because I thought they’d be angry at me for lying about being ill, or my friends would laugh at me or tell me that I was being dramatic. I didn’t eat much, I could go for a week or two just eating flapjack or smoothies because the voice in my head made me worry about throwing it up or not being able to swallow.
I felt very alone as a teenager. Despite having good friends and a close family, I felt so alone. I had panic attacks regularly over my health, I’d pull my hair and pick my skin, I barely slept. I had to sleep with my mum a lot just to get a half decent sleep. I felt like I needed to be defined by what people thought of me so if a guy didn’t think I was pretty or someone called me stupid, it really knocked me back.
I didn’t have an ounce of confidence: my nose was too big, my hair was too thin, my boobs were too small, I wasn’t smart enough, I wasn’t funny enough.
I hated school. I never wanted to be there, but nobody ever found out because I had really learnt how to pretend that everything was okay and that I was ‘normal’.
Many people say that they’d love to go back to being a child or a teenager, but I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t do it for a million pounds.
How have your mental health issues affected your life?
I’ve struggled predominantly with health anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, depression and general anxiety. This has all really had an impact on my education, my relationships and my self-confidence. It has really impacted who I am and how I talk to people. I also have endometriosis, which increases my anxiety quite substantially.
Who supports you?
My family are very good and both my mum and dad have suffered from their own fair share of mental health issues. My dad has panic attacks and worries about his health while my mum suffered from depression and anxiety, so they know and understand how it is. My mum is my safety net, mother and best friend all in one. We’ve gone from having a very poor relationship to being as thick as thieves. She has sat with me through so many panic attacks, listened to me ramble on as I have worried about yet another cancer, and she always answers the phone even if it’s 2 am in the morning. My mum is my rock.
At school, however, I had Ms Duggan. She was the only person who really knew how bad things were for me at 13. She took me under her wing. If the paranoia was too bad, I’d do my work in her office. She’d listen to me every time. She gave me a safe space to go to. I honestly think Ms Duggan is part of the reason why I am still here.
I also have my boyfriend who I met three years ago. He’s my anti-depressant. He drops anything and everything the moment I start to breathe funny. He knows a panic attack is coming before I do or that I’m anxious before I do. Countless nights he has held me as I shake violently from a panic attack. I can cry, scream, throw up, kick and shake so hard that even he is being thrown around, but he stays calm, holds me and does what he knows helps me. He picks up the phone each time and listens to me even if he should be working. Whenever I’m low and refusing to get out of bed, the first thing he says is, “What do you need?”
He has become my safe place. Now, if I’m anxious, I just need to look at him and it helps because I know whatever I’m anxious/panicking about can’t hurt me if he is there. He’ll moan at me for being so cheesy.
Tell us about moving away from home
I studied journalism at London Metropolitan University. It wasn’t easy. I went to a London university to throw me out of my comfort zone. I knew if I stayed in Stoke then I’d never deal with my mental health because I’d always have my safety nets. So I went to London, where I had absolutely no safety net.
It was hard. There were times when, after I had come home for a visit, my mum would have to force me to get on the train as I cried my eyes out. A large problem was when I got to university I didn’t know who I was. I knew I was someone with no confidence and anxiety, but I didn’t know who I was, what I believed in or who I wanted to be. I was very naive. But, I met a bunch of women who were like no women I’d ever met before.
The girls on my university course were ballsy, fierce, opinionated, strong, independent, loud, demanding career women. If they didn’t agree with something, they’d stand right up and say it. They weren’t afraid to argue their point or say what they thought. They weren’t afraid to tell someone when they were wrong. They stood up for themselves. They weren’t afraid to brag about how awesome they were because they knew they were. They weren’t letting themselves be defined by their money, looks, men or what people thought of them. What defined them was their intelligence, their confidence, their sassiness and this sisterhood they had formed with one another.
I remember thinking that’s the type of person I want to be. I didn’t want to be the anxious and paranoid little girl who was too scared to share her opinion and too frightened to stand up for herself. I wanted to be like these girls.
After time, these girls, who are now award nominated journalists or starting their own businesses and using their voices for the greater good, made me realise that I was a lot more like them than I thought and that I didn’t have to be scared to tell the voice in my head to shut up. They reminded me of how brave and strong and empowered I was.
So university, despite being a challenge, was where I found who I was and that helped me immensely when it came to dealing with my mental health.
Have you ever considered suicide?
Suicide is something I only started to talk about recently.
At 14 I was suicidal. I was so tired of being me. I didn’t want to be anymore because it wasn’t fun and I was hurting so much. So I Googled the nicest way to die. I was sure I was doing the right thing, I thought everyone would be better off without me and that I was a hindrance more than I was benefiting anyone.
I made a plan and I was going through with it. I went all the way with my plan and as I started to go through with it the voice in my head told me, and I remember hearing it clear as day, “If you go through with this, your dad will find you and he will never be able to live with it. Just hold on a little bit longer.” It was a shock. Firstly, because it was right and secondly because the voice that had been tormenting me for so long had saved me.
I realised that if I did that to myself then I’d basically be ending my dad’s life too. I didn’t want to do that. I threw myself to the floor and threw up. I was so sad and scared. Stupidly, I pulled on my PJs and went downstairs to my dad with no intention of telling him. He probably wouldn’t believe me, I thought. I should have told him exactly what I was about to do, what I wanted to do and why I stopped. That would have been the smart thing to do.
Instead, I just sat next to him and watched the rest of the film he was watching. I never said a word to anyone about it until six years later. I held on to it. I really wish I hadn’t because I needed help, but I was too scared and embarrassed to ask for it.
What do you think triggered your mental health issues?
I think my mum and dad divorcing really had an impact on me.
I was a really lonely child and spent a lot of time in my own head. I also didn’t know who I was. I was always wanting to know what my purpose was and I didn’t.
I realised at a young age that I wasn’t a partier, a sporty person, a socializing person, an academic person, I wasn’t musical or political. I didn’t know who I was at all.
But, and I think this goes for a lot of young people who are suffering from their mental health issues, the divorce might have triggered the anxiety but not talking about it or getting help for it was like pouring petrol onto a flame. The more I hid it, the more things helped the fire grow and nothing was being done to put it out before it was too late and it had spread throughout my entire life.
How is your life now?
Things are better now than they have ever been before. I’m not cured and I don’t for one second ever think I will be cured of it, but I am happier than ever.
I still have panic attacks, I’m still anxious, but I’m not embarrassed about it. In fact, I will talk about it to anyone. I don’t care anymore. I have been through and dealt with a lot and I no longer look at that as me being weak. In fact, I think I’m pretty f***ing  strong!
I will talk about mental health and my experiences to anyone because I don’t want another young kid to grow up hiding their struggles and fears to the point where they also see no other option than suicide.
I was lucky that I stopped. Not every person in the same situation does. I don’t want a young person to commit suicide because they’re too scared to talk to their parents or embarrassed that kids at school will take the mick because they’re struggling with their mental health. Not having that fear has helped me grow and get more confident in my own mind.
I started hanging around with people who had a positive impact on me. I started standing up for myself. I cut out all the things that I knew were bad for me (alcohol, caffeine, people) and I started working on things that are good for me. I still have my days where I don’t want to get out of bed or eat. I still call my mum in a panic attack because I think I have cancer. I still shout for my boyfriend when I am having a panic attack, I still can’t get on a bus without freaking out but that’s okay. I’m working on it. I’m working on myself and each day I get a little further.
I’m not an anxious person, I’m a person with anxiety.
Describe your work with Exhale
So I started Exhale to help others who might be or have gone through similar things.
I hate how all these charities are saying, ‘We need to talk about mental health!’ abd  ‘we need to feel comfortable talking about mental health like we do physical health”. Yes, we do, but it’s not just enough to say it. People aren’t going to talk about mental health without being given a comfortable and safe place to do so. For most people, talking about their mental health isn’t going to happen overnight. We need to build up their confidence first and get rid of that sense of loneliness. It’s not a switch that we can easily flick on and off whenever we want to. We’re not going to talk so openly about mental health when there still isn’t a viable environment to do so. That’s like saying, ‘We all need to go plastic free!”. Yes, we do, but nobody will go plastic-free if they aren’t given viable plastic-free options to do so.
Exhale was formed to do that. I run completely free day events dedicated to mental health in all forms. They’re family-friendly and accessible to everyone.
Our slogan is ‘shattering stigma” | building communities’. We encourage people to listen to as many talks as possible. We invite them to talk to one another and make friends. We encourage them to get talking, even if it is to a stranger. At our events, when someone says ‘I understand what you’re going through’ they truly do mean it. Our attendees have got such sad back stories and yet they’re all determined to help other people first. So Exhale brings them together in one space to help one another and it works.
At our last event, one woman said she had never said ‘I am depressed’ to anyone before, but she said it to a stranger that day. She didn’t say anything else, but she didn’t need to. She had taken the step to talking about mental health and that’s fantastic.
Charities, GPs, therapists are helping to shatter the stigma and helping people cope with their mental health, but I truly believe that when all is said and done, the best help will come from the communities who have been through it and are fighting their anxiety, depression, eating disorder, PTSD, OCD, paranoia, BPD, pack attacks, BDD, schizophrenia on a daily basis.
You see it already, there are large communities on Twitter of people who are dealing with all sorts of mental health issues helping one another. One of them might Tweet, “I’m feeling really anxious today, don’t want to get out of bed.” And they’ll get a quick response of, “You can do it. You’ve done it before. I do this when I feel like you do…” It’s amazing. It’s strangers coming together and building support networks.
What would you do if Exhale had funding?
If Exhale had more funding our events would be bigger and we’d move around the country running them. We want to be huge and most of all, we want it to stay free. Nobody. should pay to talk about mental health.
What would you say to a woman who has a spark of an idea but lacks confidence?
 If you believe in something so much, do something about it. We’ve all got the power to make a difference. Whether you do something little or you go all out and do something huge, do something.
What book would you recommend to another woman?
The Chimp Paradox – an amazing book. You learn a lot about the mind with that book.
Huge thanks to Molly for sharing her story so courageously and telling it as it is. This young woman will move mountains one baby step at a time and I look forward to following her journey.
My Random Musings
JakiJellz
The Pramshed

Every day we make decisions that affect our future, but have you ever thought about the impact learning a foreign language could have on your life? When I made the decision to start studying French around three years ago, I never imagined the varied ways it would end up influencing the rest of my life. Arguably, learning any foreign language can have a positive influence on you, but if you’ve picked French, here are some amazing ways it will change your life for the better!

Travelling gets easier

There are nearly 30 countries around the globe where French is spoken as a language. From Europe, to Africa, to the North American continent, you can find French speakers all around the world! Knowing this language will hugely benefit you because it makes travelling and visiting these places a heck of a lot easier. You’ll be able to veer off the standard tourist trails and really explore France, Madagascar, Haiti or a multitude of other amazing nations!

Culture grows closer

There is no better way to truly delve into a culture than by learning the language. Being able to speak French will make it easier for you to foster strong and lasting relationships with native speakers in other countries. Locals always appreciate it when foreigners make a genuine effort to speak their tongue, and you’ll find it a lot easier to make friends, which will lead to a deeper exploration of their culture, too. And by learning the nuances of the French language, you’ll be unlocking the fascinating features of the culture as well.

Career opportunities increase

Did you know that by learning French you’ll actually be giving your career a boost too? Bilingual and multilingual employees are always considered assets to companies, and not just because they’re capable of travelling easily to different countries for business. Learning French will increase your ability to multi-task and problem-solve, both of which are considered very desirable traits by potential employers.

Your brain stays happy

Hobbies are an excellent way to help you unwind from the stress and strain of your work life, and we all need good hobbies to get us through those tough days. Choosing to learn French as a hobby can provide you with some quality fun time, all the while teaching you important skills! By making French your hobby, you’ll be increasing your knowledge and challenging yourself. Taking French lessons and working with native speakers through sites like Listen & Learn, Babbel or even using resources from the BBC can help to give your confidence and self-esteem a serious boost, which translates to, you guessed it, a happier brain!

At the end of the day, learning French is definitely a win-win situation—regardless of whether you’re doing it to further your career or simply for the joy of learning. The French language will continue to influence and impact your life in a positive way long after you’ve stopped taking lessons and moved on to other things. All it takes is one decision to change your life!

 

My Random Musings