A chat about suicidal thoughts for National Suicide Prevention Week

What I’m deciding to write about today is a period in my life that I was lucky enough to endure, make careful decisions and survive to become who I am today. It was scary for me in the time it happened and it’s, honestly, scary to have to bring it up again. In writing. Online. But you’d be surprised the reality of the situation and how common it can be for many people.

Suicidal thoughts isn’t a vivid, harsh costume or mask that will be pain-painstakingly obvious to everyone else. You’ll never meet up with a friend and be instantly clued into how they’re feeling at this exact moment. Sometimes it may be more easy than others, but depression and the severity of symptoms can be invisible and the only way to communicate how someone feels is through talking.

Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone at any time

The funny thing to me, personally, about this time in my life is that it was meant to be a period in my life where everything should have been exciting, it should have been fun and things should have been going my way and I should have maybe been kick starting up a whole new ray of confidence inside myself. The complete opposite is true. My mental health hit, what I’d consider, it’s rock bottom. The first few months of University I had a spiral of depression, PTSD, anxiety and self-destructive behaviours that took me so long to get out of. Even today I’m still affected by this period in my life whether it be self-hatred thoughts about how I acted and questioning and regretting constantly what I could have done differently.

A lot of things went wrong for me in my first week of University, this would then eventually lead onto me skipping class, sleeping through the day, not sleeping at night. Things got worse and I found myself pushing away friends, not going into work, being rude and disrespectful to important people in my life, drinking excessively until I couldn’t feel or remember anything, impulsive money spending. My mental health was like a dripping tap that just kept drip, drip, dripping every little reason to be happy. I was ruining myself with self-destructive behaviours and ruining everything around me because I felt this was who I was meant to be and that it’d be fine because I felt maybe soon I’d be gone.

That didn’t obviously come true. I’m still here.

What happened is a personal story, but what happened on the day in a way makes me weirdly thankful for my anxiety. I ended up having a panic attack in work because the thoughts were too much, they felt like daggers in my chest and I could still feel the voice somewhere telling me ‘I don’t actually want this’ so I knew I had to try and get help. I ended up rushing out mid shift and taking myself to Samaritans. A lot of my bad days around this period of University is starting to slowly blur into a weird, fuzzy memory now which I’m grateful for because it makes the healing a lot easier, but I remember visiting Samaritans so vividly. Their building is so quiet and so bright. All the members of staff there are very calm and do want to help you in any way they can. There was a lot of forces that helped me decide it’s best to carry on but physically getting the bad thoughts off my chest and realising what they meant helped me so much. I can’t remember what I did after visiting there but I’m glad I decided to carry on.

My depression has never gone away but eventually after that period in my life I was lucky enough to meet one of the best counsellors I’ve ever had and she was able to help me cope a lot better with my depression, PTSD and anxiety. I learnt to take responsibility for the things I did wrong during my ‘bad time’ but not let them take such a heavy hold on my life and to work on ignoring the bad thoughts, the self-hatred and work towards looking at life more clearly and with more optimism. I feel talking to her and working with her was my physical proof of why being able to access help is so important.

Suicide affects everyone

In 2015, according to Samaritans, overall there was 6,188 people who died of suicide just in the UK. Their statistics also show that the age groups with highest suicide rate per 100,000 are anyone, regardless of gender, in the 45-49 age group. (1) There is also a study online conducted by the University of Manchester, into suicide in children and young people who shows the majority of deaths they included in the study were male (70%) and that ten common themes in suicide by young people include experience of suicide, abuse, neglect, bullying, academic pressures, physical health conditions, alcohol/substances and mental health. It also discusses that around a quarter (27%) of the people in the study had expressed suicidal ideas in the week before they died. (2)

I believe this statistics shows how important it is we need to listen to people and that we all damn well need to get better at it. The truth is a lot of people suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts don’t want to talk about it. It’s draining and stressful and nothing is more terrifying than admitting to anybody close that we aren’t satisfied with living. You might be able to tell through the whole post I’ve even skirted around saying I’ve had those feelings because it’s a horrible feeling to live with. I’ve been lucky enough to get past that feeling, to get help and to move on but some people aren’t so lucky and in the UK year by year it’s getting even more difficult to access help. People are either sent home because they’re not ‘in danger enough’, the waiting lists for counselling are months long or people have to pay extortionate amounts and travel long distances to get help (4). These blocks in the road make it so difficult for people struggling with suicidal thoughts. When someone is at that point and feels that way, they deserve good help. It takes a lot of courage and bravery to ask for help and talk about how you feel so when you get sent home or just told measly rubbish like ‘go outside more’ or ‘think more positive thoughts’ it is literally a kick in the teeth, punch in the guts and then some.

Guilt and being condescending isn’t a way forward

You’ve seen the posts on Facebook. You’ve heard that one relative or person at work who says these ignorant things. Telling people that suicide is selfish and that people who do it don’t ‘think of the people around them’ and that they’re cowards is not helping anyone in the slightest. The scary truth is if someone wants to go through with it, they have a huge chance of doing so. Being condescending and ridiculing them is not helping.

A mental health study in the UK reported that 51% of adults who felt stressed also felt depressed and 61% felt anxious. (3) When the majority of people in the UK are suffering from a mental health issue, diagnosed or not, why are we still being mean? Why are we still making jokes about suicide, making jokes about overdoses and using the deaths of celebrities to shift blame and make clickbait tabloids. Sure, whenever National Suicide Prevention Week and other national awareness days come along, a large majority online now will discuss that we need to erase the stigma of suicide but what we also really need to do is be more respectful as people. Take suicide more seriously and take the people, our loved ones, our fellow colleagues, friends, classmates way more seriously if they come forward saying they don’t feel good. Everyone deserves the chance to reach out for help and try to work their way past these dark feelings. Everyone should have the right to access free, useful mental health help. The statistic in suicide in young people for children who didn’t get to access any service is the highest number for a reason.

The sole thing I think everyone needs to take away and consider on National Suicide Prevention Week is that we all need to fight harder against the people who are trying to strip us of our mental health services. Being able to access counselling could be the one thing that sets somebody who is at their lowest off on a journey of healing and recovery. We all need to take the topic of suicide more seriously. Suicide is never and will never be something you just hear about in young people, celebrities and online. It’s a very real deal that can affect anyone of any gender and age.

HELPLINES UK:

  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • CALM (for men): 0800 58 58 58
  • Papyrus (for people under 35): 0800 068 4141
  • Childline (for children, under 19’s): 0800 1111
  • Switchboard (for LGBTQ+): 0300 330 0630

NHS Website:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

SOURCES:

  1. https://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/Suicide_statistics_report_2017_Final.pdf
  2. http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=37568
  3. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-stress
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/20/help-mental-health-problem-five-stories

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Anxiety Battles

Anxiety has consumed a lot of my life in the past year or the past week or past month, maybe, honestly at this point – I can’t tell or remember the difference. It often feels like the same miserable, self-pitying feeling you get when you have a cold. When you’re full of the flu and your nose is blocked, you lie there in bed surrounded by tissues with the stark realization you didn’t damn well appreciate what it was like when you didn’t have a blocked nose and sore throat. Except at the moment I feel like I’m stuck in an occasional limbo of nostalgically looking back to whenever I felt full of confidence, hope and positivity. I earn some days and nights for the last time I went outside and didn’t have intense paranoia about random possible scenarios that had a 1 to 1000 chance of happening or harrowing discomfort whenever a stranger looked slightly in my direction. The nauseating bubbles in my stomach or the tension headaches from staying up with my mind buzzing of ‘what ifs’ and ‘hey what if this happens?’ or ‘what if this thing you think negatively of yourself is true?’ is so draining and not in the way where maybe I’ll get a good nights sleep when I finally hit the pillow because lately it’s been at least an hour or two sometimes before my mind will calm down enough to let me sleep.

Now you’re probably thinking, hey Helena where are you going with this? Is this meant to be a story of anxiety struggles but something marvelous has happened and it has a happy ending? Is this a set up for a post to give advice about anxiety where you act as if you know how to handle it when really you’re probably the least tactful person when dealing with your own anxiety? Is this really a sneaky review for something? Honestly, this is just a chat. From me to computer screen to whoever may feel like reading. If you’ve made it this far, I commend you. The past few nights and especially after watching a video on Youtube, which I’ll mention in a bit, I’ve considered expressing my struggles, my aspirations, my ideas and my hopes and goals a lot more through my blog. It’s almost egotistical in some senses but maybe this will benefit me, maybe this’ll benefit someone else, maybe there’ll be one word or phrase in something that I word-vomit onto this blog that could speak to someone. Two of my current goals in life that I feel that I, honestly, need to do better at is – a) Looking after myself more and b) Looking out for others and helping others more.

Kindness and empathy are two traits I think are so important in day-to-day life and in the world we live in at the moment. I absolutely adore reading stories of people doing random acts of kindness, people setting up charities and movements that they personally run to help others, people creating art and media to inspire others and reflect a positive mental attitude. It’s something that gives me hope and lately I’ve needed hope really badly. On some nights it feels like I’ve been housing a nocturnal, pessimistic demon in my brain who likes to send my brain into a spiral as I’m trying to sleep and the funny thing is, is how I don’t feel I’ve ‘given in’ to this demon at all because deep down I want so much good for the world, I want to be an activist, I want to create things, I want to actively work towards helping others even if its small things like smiling at someone or being there for them when they feel a bit down, or making people baked goods just to see them smile – I want to do better, I want to be the ‘change you wish to see in the world’ and all that cliché, but the catch is my anxiety is almost weighing me down with opposing negative thoughts. Because of my anxiety I feel so much fear, distrust and fatigue. I feel so nervous around other people, I feel so nervous about doing new things, I feel so nervous that going out of my comfort zone will end up with me hurt, people I love hurt or embarrassment or a bigger knock in confidence. Sometimes I feel like I do not trust anyone and my anxiety makes me think everyone is out to get me or doesn’t like me unless proven otherwise.

The video I watched that randomly stirred a new feeling of being absolutely sick and done with this anxiety was weirdly a Markiplier video. Now if you don’t recognise that name, he’s a big youtube name who does gaming videos mostly but has also done quite a lot of charity work and I believe is working on an interactive project? I’m not engrossed enough to know completely but essentially the video I watched is Mark discussing ‘pain’, what some of the worst ‘pain’ he’s been in his life has been and how it’s changed him and changed his perspective. What stuck out to me is how he talked about after having quite a horrible doctor during painful recovery after surgery how a lot of his family were telling him to sue but he talks about how he never wants to be a ‘revengeful’ person even if he feels like he can be quite spiteful. He talks about how if you only ever use anger as a release for stuff, it’s going to be very toxic and damaging to yourself and it spoke to me because lately, especially during at university, I’ve had so many occasions when either things have gone wrong, people have upset me or taken advantage of me and all I’ve felt is anger and stress. Both at other people and then after trying to teach myself to understand other people’s perspectives and take responsibility, I’ve been angry at myself and when you get to that point, there’s never really any letting go of that completely. So now, yes I’m pissed off at my anxiety for how much it’s drained me and taken over my life, my perspectives and my attitudes towards things, but I want to teach myself how to not get so stressed about things, especially when they go wrong.

Being angry is completely valid. Being upset is completely valid. When people hurt you or let you down, you have every right to be upset. What I wish to learn though is how to make that passage or journey after something like that so less stressful and draining. I want to learn how to not let stuff like that be extra building blocks for the walls my anxiety puts up. I want to learn how to feel something, feel the feelings I am allowed to feel as a human, but then communicate with people who care about me and take the steps and responsibility to not let it break my confidence down but instead learn from it, distance myself from the pain and carry on. I don’t want anxiety to be my definition or control parts of my life.

So I don’t really have any happy ending or resolution for all this but that’s kind of how living with anxiety can be, isn’t it? Some times you will actually feel a release or something will happen and you’ll be told by others how much ‘better you’re doing’ and you think ‘Wow, I’ve done it, I’ve beaten anxiety’. But the reality is sometimes it’ll come back and come back hard and honestly that’s what I’m going through right now. I hope maybe as time goes by, I’ll be able to figure out how to live with it and accept it.

 

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What is writing to me?

Writing is a pain in the arse.

Writing, to me, is feeling absolutely overwhelmed even though your mind is completely empty. It’s feeling like you’re in a fight with your brain because you can’t find the words you want to put out there. It’s fighting with your brain because you feel too stupid to articulate what you want to say. Fighting because you’ve been itching for hours to do the only thing you thought you were good at. It’s the writers block that has been going on for days, for weeks, for months. It’s feeling that now you haven’t been able to write anything for a day, you probably won’t be able to write anything for a week. It’s feeling like the person who wrote stories when you were younger is not the same person, because you can’t pull out the motivation or imagination that was able to create so much back then. It’s having a white, blank page glare back at you for so long that the screen warps and it feels like the icons and buttons are laughing at you. It’s watching the word count flicker back and forth as you dislike what you wrote five minutes after finally typing it out. It’s frowning so hard and tapping at your skin in hopes this will force words out.

It’s envying the people who didn’t struggle with the class coursework, it’s feeling like you might not have the capability that everyone else has. It’s worrying that you’ll never be able to move anyone with your writing. That your prose will never give anyone goosebumps. That your poetry will never make anyone’s heart throb. It’s watching words repeat and getting sick of them. It’s trying to bring new words into your vocabulary and second guessing yourself because you’re not sure they fit well. It’s like having a puzzle dumped in a moving river and trying to gather it all together but losing parts one by one as they get pulled into a whirlpool full of everything you’re stressing about. It’s laughing at your own metaphors because anybody with common sense could think of a better one. Writing is feeling like everything you want to say and everything that comes from the heart is dissolving as soon as the idea even passes your mind. Writing is feeling there’s no point to even note your idea down because you’ll instantly find flaws in it.

But writing is also the best skill I have in my life.

Writing is therapy. It’s finally unscrewing the overflowing, pressurized bottles inside and letting all the bubbly mixture pour away into a delicious mixture. It’s knowing that sometimes the words you manage to scrap together will flow beautifully and sit comfortably just like the feeling of sitting in front of a cosy fire in the winter. It’s finishing a long piece of coursework and feeling satisfied because you did that. You put all your heart and soul into it. Writing is getting the anger out. It’s letting yourself breath, it’s unfastening the frown in your eyebrows and letting your hands exercise. It’s distracting yourself from the defeated feeling, it’s distracting yourself from the stressed feeling. It’s proving to yourself that you’ve gotten better and stronger than you were when you were younger. Writing is having people tell you that they love your writing. It’s having people tell you that something you wrote related to them hard. It’s seeing your poetry at an exhibition, it’s your tutor telling you that your ideas would be publishing material, it’s having people tell you that they can’t wait to see you become the writer you’ve always wanted to be. It’s sticking at your blog for three whole years through heavy depression, through manipulation, through bullying, through bad jobs, through the low confidence. It’s knowing you have proof to show you survived and that you kept doing what you loved. It’s living life and seeing beauty in a sweet coffee you had on the commute to work or the song of a gorgeous bird making you smile on a walk home. It’s keeping all these feelings, these memories, these glimmers of hope and knowing one day you’ll be able to express them in so many different ways whether it’s a poem, a children’s book or a blog post.

Writing is knowing you have a voice and using it for great things.

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September reading goals and blog rambles

According to WordPress today is my 3 year anniversary of blogging! It’s so weird to think about how many blog posts I’ve done, how much work I’ve put into it or things that have gone well for me because of it. It’s almost ironic that the past few months I’ve felt incredibly down and stuck when it comes to my blog – honestly some days I can’t even find the motivation to do a blog post because I don’t think people will read it or I’m struggling to find the topic to write about. Some times I want to write personal posts – I want to share with the lovely people who continue to read my posts and support me stuff that is strange, sweet or a struggle in my life. I want to talk more about mental health or university/work struggles and break any stigma about discussing depression, anxiety and such. I want to talk about what it’s like to have a hearing disability or how I felt at 3am last Tuesday when I couldn’t sleep and the shadow of my coat hanging up in my room looked more like a ghoul than usual.

I want to help people, advise people, I want to talk about my experiences in hope people might relate or find hope or inspiration. But then I feel ‘god, who wants to hear me rant and ramble on about my life?!’ and I consider taking my blog in a direction of it being like a service to people. Reviews, tips and tricks and general advice about simple things that most people have covered before. But it just feels so not-me. So commercialized and through that I lose my real writing voice. I feel I’m focusing more on ‘will my friends share this on facebook?! will this get me noticed by a company?! will this get lots of views?!’ instead of ‘did I enjoy writing this? did I put my heart and soul into this? would I enjoy reading this if it was someone else?’, which at the end of the day is what matters more and the blog posts that come from me wanting to be genuine and the writing that comes from my rambling heart tend to be the posts I have more pride in.

Does this mean I won’t write reviews or tip posts again? As you can see by this title obviously not. When I say I love helping people or advising people, I take that in every aspect of life. If someone even tries a new flavour of tea or watches 5 minutes of a TV show because I suggested it, it makes me smile. Much like if I can make someone laugh after they’ve had the most horrible day at work or if I can let somebody rest by helping them with the washing up or a chore I feel better about myself and feel a lot happier. Whenever anyone even says they like my writing or enjoy reading it – that makes my heart soar. So when I combine advice and writing it’s almost like a very small, itsy-bitsy bit of therapy.

So today I thought I’d share 3 books I’m planning to read and complete by hopefully the end of September and the themes of these books are to help me better myself, help me in a dark mental health time and just in general cheer me up. Reading is beneficial, no matter whether it’s fiction, a self-help book or a picture book.

The first one in my list is ‘How to be a Better Person’ by Kate Hanley. This adorable little book shares 401 simple ways to help you become a better and kinder person as well as make a positive impact on the people around you. Although sometimes these books can feel like you’ve paid money to read something you already knew, the real trick is taking in everything you can from these simple tips. Sure, of course it suggests being more interactive with nature – but this book helps you recognise why this will make you feel better and make you more mindful and present and why simple things like drinking more water, getting better sleep, complimenting people more, smiling at strangers etc. will benefit you and make you a more positive, approachable person in the long run.

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Second is a fiction YA novel I bought a while back that I’m going to try to finally get round to reading this upcoming month and I’m holding out that it’s going to be a book that’ll make me feel good and keep me immersed in a fictional world whenever I need a bit of a distraction and break from real life. ‘Ramona Blue’ by Julie Murphy is a young adult novel that is a story about friendship, growing up, sexuality and family. I’m excited to read this since the description implies a discussion about possibly bisexuality and how sexuality is fluid and I’m really looking forward to discovering Ramona as a character since I’ve found it hard to find books with female bisexual characters (I’m probably not looking hard enough – would love some recommendations!). A lot of people on GoodReads have said that parts of this book stayed with them after finishing it so I’m very excited to have that feeling of absolute amazement and generally be dumbfounded and emotional after finishing a good book because I predict it will happen with this one!

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The final book in my little pile is a book by an author I’ve been following on social media for a while and for ages kept meaning to pick up one of his books and finally I’ve managed to pick up ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. This memoir is by the amazingly talented Matt Haig and I’ve heard so many positive comments about this book and his other things so I’m very much ready to curl up and read this one. ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is Haig’s story of dealing with depression and mental illness and how different it can be for everyone but also the tale of how he survived and overcame some of his lowest points in life. I feel this is a book I really need right now as I am at a point in my life where my mood is fluctuating constantly but when I’m down, I’m very heavily down almost like I’m stuck in a well and somebody’s covered up the hole so I’m alone in pitch darkness. I feel ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is going to help me find something to relate to amidst the stress of starting back at University and other things and I am so excited to start it.

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Although most of my reading these upcoming months should mainly be dissertation related I thought I’d share these so you guys could have an insight to what book reviews might be coming up, plus I would always love to hear what people are reading at the moment or have on their to read list! Sometimes when mental illness is being a bit crap, it helps to push yourself to do a hobby you love (in my case reading and writing) despite how much you want to give up and how you feel you are losing hope. I’ve chosen these books this month because I think they’re good choices if you need a little bit of pick me up or something to reignite that spark of hope in you.

Thank you for reading,

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How to Study Comfortably

It is starting to get closer and closer to the end of the Summer break and depressingly enough that means for some people it’s getting closer to studying again. Whether you’re starting afresh at college or university and you’re full of excitement and curiosity about your new course or you’ve already settled in and you’ll be revising for upcoming exams or you might be in my boat and about to go into your final year and you’ll be having to prepare and study for upcoming projects or dissertations.

It’s not a very comforting thought knowing how much stuff you’ll need to do and how much of your time you’ll have to take out to contribute towards essays, projects or other things related to your college course/university degree, however there is some ways you can make the task of studying/revising a little less daunting and I thought I’d share them today!

  1. Find an appropriate study space

It’s not exactly a lie that cosying up in bed, sticking Netflix on and at least having a text book open in front of you, whether you’re reading it or not, is the ideal situation to be ‘studying’ in, however unless you’re extremely dedicated to the fact you’re going to study and you can promise you definitely won’t get distracted by the interesting documentary you’ve put on or find yourself dozing off in the comfort of your duvet – it’s not going to help you study. If you have your own desk in your room, tidy it up and organise all the essentials you need onto it. Having everything ready in front of you and keeping yourself sat upright will keep you alert and focused. If you don’t have a desk to allocate studying too, back at my parents I always found it useful to bring my laptop and everything downstairs and sit at the dining room table, this also helped keep me far from the temptation of just crawling into bed and napping whenever I got bored.

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  1. Have a nice drink and snacks on hand

My ideal study drink is either a brew or my water bottle as both will keep me hydrated or awake. Preparing a little bowl of snacks and a drink before you sit down to study will help you keep the focus on your work instead of getting a couple of minutes in and using the excuse of being peckish to get up and procrastinate work. BrainMD explains that a proper diet built on protein, omega-3 and other healthy fats as well as high fibre will help your energy and concentration. They also say high sugar, high fat and high caffeine treats only give you a temporary boost in energy and can lead to a crash which isn’t ideal for studying for long periods of time. Snacks like blueberries, apple slices, nuts, cucumber slices or carrot sticks and hummus are great possibilities for a healthy, energy-boosting study snack. (However, I won’t judge you if you have that one packet of crisps or can of Coca-Cola!) Eat and drink what works best for you and your study situation, however listen to your body. If you feel drained, that is not a hint for you to down a fifth mug of coffee – go get a glass of ice cold water instead.

  1. Stick on some good music

The trick here is that music could either be a great motivator and help calm any anxiety or stress when studying or it could be an absolute distraction. I have been in both these situations, so I completely understand but there is a way of combatting the distracting side of it. When you have music on in the background, don’t have the music video on YouTube or the TV. Don’t give yourself a reason to switch tabs to watch the video for the song or to be distracted by changing the TV channel because something rubbish came on. In advance when you have the time, make a long Spotify or YouTube playlist of songs you like. (In Youtube’s case add on lyric videos as it’ll give you less reason to switch tabs to watch the video). See if you can make your playlist the same amount of time as you wish to study each day, so you never have to switch over to change songs. In some cases, people have found music to aid memorizing stuff whilst they study. Because the music creates a positive mood whilst studying, they find remembering the topics they were looking at easier.

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  1. Use an app to prevent you from getting distracted by your phone

My phone is my worst nightmare when it comes to getting distracted whilst studying. I always find myself just picking it up and unlocking it without even thinking whenever I’m waiting for something to open on my computer or if I’ve put my pen down for one minute. Although you can use your phone to aid your studying or perhaps you’ve got a notification for an important email you need to respond to. There is a very cute phone app out there, available on both Android and iOS, to encourage you to not pick up your phone for set amounts of time. ‘Forest’ is a wonderful free app, where you metaphorically can grow a tree by not picking up your phone for a set amount of time, but if you pick up your phone and unlock it you kill the tree. I did a review on the application back in 2015 and it still holds up on how amazing it is.

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  1. Do not compromise your sleep for studying

Studying and revising is going to be extremely important no matter what year of college or university you’re in. If you want good grades you’re going to have to put the extra studying in and you’re going to have to work your butt off for results. But at the end of the day, your health – both physical and mental come first. If you’ve had a long day or you’re ill or it’s 11pm at night and your eyes are literally forcing themselves shut – go to bed. If you have a deadline the next day, I understand you’re going to want to finish and keep going but this is why getting most of it done before the day before deadline is so important. You should never have to compromise your sleep for studying. If something has been going on personally that has affected your ability to get work done for a deadline, I encourage you to talk to your tutors and explain the situation because it might be possible to get extra time and your body’s health is way more important than trying to convince yourself you don’t need extra time. If you are just revising and studying in general and your body is not feeling up to staying up another half hour and you can feel yourself falling asleep – let your body rest and start again tomorrow. Put yourself first.

I hope some of these tips help because they have helped me throughout my second year of University and I am going to try and follow my own advice going into third year and doing a portfolio, dissertation and other essays. If you want me to share more study tips and how I go about preparing for uni/college work – please comment and let me know!

Enjoy your day and thank you for reading!

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Beauty Kubes Shampoo Review

In 2018 there has been an uprising of companies, brands and creators, in general, trying to improve their ecological footprint and how eco-friendly their products are. From plastic straw bans to more vegan options in chain restaurants – it can be seen as a small but positive change that terms like ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘green’ are starting to edge their way into the spotlight, albeit the fact that not all companies who are suddenly trying to be more green are taking the best steps or are maybe doing it to appear more environmentally empathetic to make money, I do quite like the fact it’s becoming more accessible to find cruelty-free alternatives and that statistics and the discussion of global warming and environmental impacts are popping up a lot more than it used to.

Today I bring to you a product that falls under a lot of those good, eco-friendly categories. A product that has minimal packaging, is vegan, cruelty-free and made in the UK. These are the Beauty Kubes Shampoo cubes. They are little package-free, plastic bottle free alternatives to your regular shampoo and work just as well!

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The website describes the Kubes as ‘zero waste, organic beauty products – vegan friendly’ which is everything an environment-fan could dream of in terms of shampoo. The instructions are literally – take one of the solid shampoo Kubes into the shower, crumble it up in your hand, add water to create a paste and smooth into wet hair. It’s all very simple and the Kubes themselves smell amazing! The website claims that ’27 Kubes in each box is equivalent to a 250-300ml bottle of conventional shampoo.’ You could claim that a lot of cheap, branded haircare products such as a big bottle of Tresemme works out better in price in the long run but with Beauty Kubes you can rest easy knowing your money is going to ensure your haircare is vegan, cruelty-free and you are sending out barely any trash when you are finished with them. The most packaging it comes with is the parcel itself and the small recyclable box the Kubes arrive in. There’s no extra plastic like you would get with plastic bottle shampoo kits! According to Beauty Kubes website the UK chuck away around 16 MILLION plastic bottles every day so I think it can be worth it to invest in shampoo that prevents yourself from adding to that drastic number.

The website has a couple of different Beauty Kubes according to hair type including normal to dry hair, oily hair, unisex normal hair and hair & body wash for men. I have been using the Beauty Kubes for Oily Hair and I honestly think it’s made my hair feel so lovely and soft. The scent of the Kubes both in their first form and after you’ve lathered it up is really nice and not too perfumed/overwhelming. During my shower, I found it at first slightly difficult to create the shampoo paste as I kept dropping little bits of the Kube paste on the shower floor however once I did create a paste it lathered up amazingly! One tiny Kube was enough to wash my entire head of hair which is great considering I have quite long, thick hair.

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After washing with the Kube I followed it up with my normal hair conditioner (which at the moment is Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula) and overall my hair felt lovely, soft and light after drying. My hair felt very ‘squeaky clean’ and healthy. It’s suggested that some people felt just washing their hair with the Kube was enough and felt no need for conditioner, however, I have not tried that (mainly because my hair is already quite dry from dying etc. enough as it is).

A popular product to compare it to is probably LUSH’s Shampoo bars which I have also tried and enjoyed before, although I’m not sure if I could say getting Beauty Kubes works out cheaper, I personally felt my hair felt healthier and much easier to brush through after using the Beauty Kube compared to a LUSH bar and the solid paste lathered up way faster in comparison to my experiences with a LUSH bar. As well as that with LUSH bars they break up randomly over time so you’ll either be left with a big, nice slab of shampoo bar to use or tiny parts you can barely hold so you find yourself struggling to lather into anything worth putting on your hair. However, the Beauty Kubes come in organised, evenly cut cube shapes so you’ve always got the same amount each hair wash.

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Overall I really enjoyed using these in my hair and loved the way my hair felt afterwards. I think these would be really easy to pack and take on holiday or to a swimming bath instead of a big shampoo bottle as well. I’d definitely recommend them because of how great they made my hair feel and the environmental benefits of buying them! Plus it’s always amazing to support a small, independent business instead of a chain!

Thank you for reading and let me know if you have tried these before too!

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‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ by Becky Albertalli: Book Review

One of my favourite feelings is when you’ve been non-stop reading a book for hours in one day and finally finishing it at god knows what time in the morning and having that feeling of fulfillment and excitement to share how good it was with people. I had that last night with Becky Albertalli’s ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’. It’s a wholesome, funny tale of accepting yourself and falling in love with who you love no matter what. It’s a book for LGBT youth with a happy ending and adorable tidbits to give a feeling of hope.

The story follows seventeen year old Simon Spier who is gay, but isn’t open and not quite ready to come out yet. He lives a very chilled and fun life with a dorky but caring family, supportive, funny best friends and has recently started talking to a guy who is also gay going by the anonymous alias ‘Blue’. The novel shares each email conversation between Blue and Simon (who is also anonymously going by ‘Jacques’) as the story develops and reading Blue and Simon share their favourite food, favourite songs, little memories from their life and how each of them feel about coming out and being gay just put a smile on my face each time because seeing them fall in love and seeing Simon find someone he feels so comfortable with and someone who inspires him to come out was just lovely and precious.

Compared to the film (Love, Simon – which I also recommend watching as it was one of my favourite films of this year!), the book has a lot less ‘drama’ moments and focuses more on Simon’s feelings and him trying to figure out who Blue is. Without spoiling anything, in general Simon’s friends are a lot more accepting and understanding of how Simon acts when he is blackmailed. In the film I found myself angry at his friends for being so selfish and not taking a minute to think of how much of a big deal it was for Simon to have his emails between Blue under blackmail. ‘Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ discusses the topic of coming out and the ‘ceremonial feeling’ of it often and points out the unfair fact that ‘straight’ is seen as the default or the sexuality everybody has until said otherwise and that straight people will never have to come out or worry about people’s reactions when it comes to bringing an opposite sex partner home. Blue also points out the fact that ‘white’ is seen as a default too which is another very interesting point and even Simon corrects himself and takes responsibility for instantly believing Blue could be a white person. The book raises important discussions which I really appreciated and I have to hand Becky Albertalli a lot of credit for being very observant on LGBT topics.

Another interesting point to think about when reading is that Simon is very lucky to have probably the more ‘easy’ end of coming out. His family is already very liberal, his friends instantly accept his sexuality and even when he is teased in school when his sexuality is revealed a lot of classmates are quick to defend him and his teacher ensures the suspension of the homophobic perpetrators. Although reading his coming out story might be a bit of a slap in the face or a bit of a strain on the heart for LGBT people whose family didn’t readily accept them or their coming out story was a lot more stressful, I think the story in itself is very hopeful and heart warming and hopefully is a reminder that good people are out there with open minds and open arms.

The story itself is very adorably written. Simon is instantly lovable with his obsession of Oreos, his sarkiness and slightly moody music taste. His friends and family are also very lovely although in comparison to the film I didn’t like Leah as much in the book as I did the film. I’m hoping reading Albertalli’s next book ‘Leah on the Offbeat’ will clear up some things for me. I really enjoyed how much music came in to play in Simon’s story because I feel people’s playlists can really let you inadvertently know a lot about how the character feels and views themselves or people around them. The soundtrack for the film was already incredible but I really loved taking songs and musicians mentioned in the book and listening to them whilst I read it really gave the whole reading of this book a new, wholesome atmosphere.

There was so many incredibly adorable and funny moments in this book but I don’t want to spoil too much so all I can say is that I highly recommend you read this book! It’s quite a quick read (especially if you find yourself lost in it like I did) but it’s such a feel good book and such a lovely read that I give it a 5/5!

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Thanks for reading,

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