Why having snacks in my handbag keeps me calm (and other strange habits of an anxious mind)

anxiety habits

I wouldn’t say I’m a homebody, but for some reason being far away from my house for an extended period of time makes me nervous. Maybe that does qualify me as a homebody. I’m not entirely sure.

Oh and by the way, when I say ‘extended period of time’ I mean anything over eight hours. My mind starts working overtime and I often get a tension headache because I’m so tense in my unfamiliar surroundings. I prepare for these scenarios the only way I know how; by calling on my extensive toolkit to help me in my time of need.

If you have anxiety then I reckon you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then let me fill you in on some of the strange habits I’ve developed to cope with my anxiety disorder.

The Mary Poppins bag

To ensure I have everything for any possible scenario my handbag is always full. I carry painkillers (paracetamol and ibuprofen), anxiety medication, something to read (more on that later), pens, lip balm and snacks. Always with the snacks.

For long days I’ll have my breakfast, lunch and a Clif Bar on hand to make sure I don’t get hungry and have a low blood sugar freak out, which is unfortunately standard behaviour for me. I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.

I book ahead

If I can pay for something in advance then you can bet I’ll do it. Why risk turning up unannounced when you can secure your place ahead of time? I have been known to book train tickets six weeks in advance just to feel slightly more at ease as the journey approaches.

I’m also keen on booking gym classes, networking events and tables in a bar if I’m meeting more than one other person. Having to make a group decision about what do to when you can’t find enough seats is not worth thinking about.

anxious habits

Being early is essential

On the rare occasion when I haven’t been able to pre-book a train ticket I’ll make sure to arrive in plenty of time. If I can be at the train station 45 minutes – an hour is better – before the train is due to depart then I’m happy. To be honest, I normally spend that time buying more snacks and painkillers to add to my emergency handbag stash so it’s time well spent if you ask me.

I’m generally the first to arrive at a party, assuming that the start time on the invitation is non-negotiable. I actually enjoy the calmness of an empty room before all the awkward chat begins with people I’ve never met. It also means I can find the seat nearest the door to ensure a speedy exit.

If I’m meeting friends in a pub and I’m arriving alone then it’s tricky. I want to be early but I don’t want to have to enter the pub alone, so I often find myself wandering around aimlessly peering into shop windows long after they’ve closed for the day. Anything to avoid sitting at the bar alone for 40 minutes before the rest of the gang make an appearance.

I use my book as protection

I do love reading, but not quite as much as I love being alone. I don’t enjoy talking to strangers, so having a book to use as a shield when someone tries to start up a conversation is perfect. I can just cover my face and ignore the shit out of them.

I can also highly recommend the book technique as a great way to send the ‘NOT TODAY’ signal when you’re in the break room at work.

anxiety habits

There’s nothing wrong with hiding in the toilet

This might sound like a desperate last resort but it’s actually become quite common for me, and it’s really just my way of finding a safe space when I’m feeling anxious in a social situation.

If I feel emotional I generally just have a little cry in the nearest bathroom and take a few moments to gather my thoughts. I’m making it sound sad but it’s really a good thing, I promise. It’s a private spot to for me take a few deep breaths and call hubby for a chat if needed.

I’m glad I got that off my chest. Do you have any little habits that help ease your anxiety?

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How fitness classes saved my mental health 

fitness classes depression anxiety

I never thought I’d be one of those people who would say fitness changed my life. But here we are. I’ve exercised almost every day for the past five years and I don’t want to imagine a life without it because it makes me so unbelievably happy.

It all began with a Zumba class. I trudged along with my mum to a Saturday morning class and discovered the endorphin rush that comes from using your body to move. Really move. I couldn’t get enough of it and I’ve never looked back.

I found a structure to my day which I so badly needed.

When I was diagnosed with depression was told to take some time off work and that turned into almost an entire year of unemployment. Taking time off was absolutely the right call, as I needed some space to let my medication kick in as well as attend regular counselling sessions.

Apart from that and a weekly appointment with my GP I didn’t have much scheduled in my day. I would often sleep for more than twelve hours a night as my body and mind recharged, but when I was awake I would regularly go to fitness classes.

Booking into a Spin class at 7am just didn’t work for me. I was too tired and unmotivated in the morning, but by 5pm I was often full of nervous energy and felt the need to do something productive. I would book ahead to confirm my spot and this meant I was loosely committed to attending the class or I would have to pay a small fine. This worked wonders for me as I was held accountable in a small way for getting out of the house.

I ended up going to between 5-7 classes per week and it forced me to get dressed, socialise with others and get out of my own head for an hour or so. I know people will think that it’s crazy I found the motivation to do that when I was depressed, and I don’t really have a full explanation for that. I just did, and I’m so grateful for that.

I lost my identity and created a new one

Being off sick from work made me feel very vulnerable. The stigma around depression is still so rife that I wasn’t strong enough to tell most people why I wasn’t working. This led to anxiety in social situations because I felt I was going to be caught off guard at any moment and have to explain what my job was, or admit that I wasn’t working at all. I thought without a career title I had nothing to say.

Everyone has their own way of coping with depression, and I found fitness particularly helpful in my darkest moments. When I started going to fitness classes regularly, I tested out every different one I could find. I did Spinning, Zumba, Body Pump, Pilates, Yoga, Metafit and many others. I became quite knowledgable about strength training, fat burning and was also very physically fit. In fact, I was the fittest I’d ever been and that gave me a new sense of identity.

I felt I belonged to the fitness community, even when I couldn’t get out of bed before midday or keep my house clean. When I couldn’t stop crying for days or find the courage to talk to others, I still felt part of a world where – even if just for a few hours – I could thrive. In a fitness class I was just like everyone else. I was fit and able on the outside even if I was crumbling on the inside.

fitness classes changed my life depression

I suddenly realised that I could change my future, and take my career in a new direction.

Putting my career on hold to focus on my mental health was a huge decision. At the time I thought I would absolutely return to my career in catering to be a manager again. After a few months of being off sick, I realised how much my work life had been contributing to my unhappiness.

I wasn’t built to handle the stresses that came along with managing a team, thinking on my feet and having a vision for a department in an industry that ultimately I had no passion for. It’s not to say that everyone needs to be in love with the work they do, but I couldn’t hold a position of authority in a place where I really didn’t care about the outcome.

After going to fitness classes every day for a year I had the idea that I’d like a career in fitness. I knew most of my class fitness instructors by name and many of them encouraged me, and offered to let me shadow them when I started training.

I started off by looking at the options available. To take a group fitness class I would need to do the Exercise to Music qualification. Although I was interested, I was nervous about the idea of standing in front of a room full of people and remembering a routine whilst keeping in time and correcting everyone’s form. I wish I’d had the confidence to go for it at the time but I just wasn’t ready mentally.

The thought of training people one-on-one seemed way more approachable so I signed up for the Level 2 Gym Instructor course and passed. Not only was I pleased that I’d passed the exams, I couldn’t believe how far I’d come in terms of my confidence.

I did the course over five weekends in a place I’d never been before with people I’d never met. I finally realised that if I was brave enough I could do all the things that I’d been afraid to do because of my anxiety.

Since then I’ve moved to a new city 300 miles away from home, found a new job, secured writing work and taken my blog from a hobby to a real passion. I honestly believe that I owe it all to that first step in the right direction when I did a Zumba class. My only hope is that one day I have time to go back and do that Exercise to Music course and add another string to my bow.

Have you found fitness classes beneficial to your mental health? Check out my You Tube channel here!

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Why learning to ignore my anxiety is having a positive impact on my mental health

ignoring anxiety symptoms

As I sit here on a half-empty Virgin train waiting to leave Glasgow Central, I doubt anyone around can tell I’m trying to stop myself from having a panic attack. I’ve put my luggage away, started typing on my laptop and even exchanged a few words with the woman opposite about seat numbers and how busy the train is.

I’ve secretly popped one of my beta-blockers to slow down my heart rate and I’ve avoided caffeine all weekend to minimise the chance of feeing twitchy and anxious. However, I can’t deny I’ve noticed the little hints that something’s not right.

I’ve been biting my lip, twisting my wedding ring and have visited the bathroom more than usual this morning. My jaw is locked shut and I’ve been grinding my teeth since the early hours.

But still, I’m the only one who knows that a panic attack could be imminent. In recent months this fact has started to comfort me. Like most people with mental illness I’ve spent a lot of my time feeling isolated. I have a constant internal monologue whereby I talk myself out of doing any social activity that makes me nervous.

The voices inside tell me I’m worthless, boring and stupid and should avoid talking to others. Why risk making a fool of myself when I can stay home alone and overthink everything I’ve ever said and done? The voices have won the fight more often than not.

anxiety mental health blogger uk

Generalised anxiety disorder doesn’t always display physical symptoms. It chips away at my confidence day by day, making me feel sick from the moment I wake up until I manage to fall asleep at 3am the next morning.

It’s often irrational. It doesn’t appear to be connected to anything particular, and things that I normally do with ease – like visiting the supermarket – can all of a sudden be too overwhelming to contemplate.

Many girly nights out have involved me hiding the bathroom of a club, silently crying and building up the confidence to go back out and pretend to be OK. I’ve burst into tears and had to leave the gym, the one place where I usually feel so at home.

So sitting on this train knowing that no one suspects the terror I’m currently experiencing is somehow, a good thing. I guess it’s a feeling of control.

I used to feel like I wasn’t in control of my body. I couldn’t stop myself feeling anxious, depressed and physically tense. I couldn’t stop myself running for the nearest exit as soon as it all got too much.

I still can’t control all of my physical symptoms – like the lip-chewing and incessant bathroom trips – but they no longer control me. I can sit here happy in my own thoughts, acknowledging each habit like an old friend. They pop up now and again, sit beside me and we have a polite conversation. “Ah it’s you again” I think to myself, and I get on with my business as they sit peering over my shoulder.

And that’s where the magic happens. In the acknowledgement of these habits. I can acknowledge them, and move on. Feel them, and rise above them. I don’t have to react to them or let them take over. I can just let them be.

Before I know it, the train has departed and I’m an hour into my journey. I’ve written a few blog posts and enjoyed the scenic views as I watch Scotland fade into the distance.

I look over my shoulder and realise that the symptoms have gone. I know they’re still lurking, waiting to make an appearance at a later date. But I’m ready.



Surviving or thriving? How I realised I was actually recovering from mental illness

surving to thriving mental health blogger

Depression is a tough subject. There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a painful illness that affects many of us, but I want to take a moment to talk about recovery and how it can begin to happen without us realising. I didn’t think I would ever recover, but I did. To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 here’s an account of how I went from just surviving to thriving.

The small things matter again

I can’t pinpoint exactly when this happened for me, but I remember vividly how difficult it was for me to see the point in doing a lot of things. Showering seemed pointless, as did cleaning, wearing nice clothes or taking pride in my home. I didn’t wear make up because I thought, “I just have to take it back off again” so I didn’t bother. This idea of having to do things repeatedly was something that really tore me up inside.

Getting a part-time job was a major factor in helping lift that feeling, because doing the same tasks everyday was essential to doing my work correctly. I started waitressing in a cafe where I’d previously worked as a teenager, so it didn’t take me long to remember how to do everything.

Cleaning down at the end of the night and making sure everything was stocked for the next day was just enough responsibility to make me feel like I could contribute something to society and be helpful to others. Once I saw the positive effect my effort had on other people I felt compelled to continue.

Hobbies are fun again

Although I maintained my passion for fitness during the worst stages of my mental illness, other pastimes didn’t appeal to me any longer. I didn’t enjoy shopping or going out with friends. I used to love going to the cinema but I often found myself unable to concentrate during a movie or would fall asleep half way through.

When I started to take an interest in blogging again, I knew I had won back some of the enthusiasm for life that had been absent for so long. In the past ten months I’ve worked on my blog almost everyday without fail. I still get tired and frustrated with all the hard work but I really enjoy it overall. I get so much satisfaction from being creative and talking about mental illness online that I can’t see myself ever giving it up.

I can spot my obsessive behaviours

Writing about my mental illness means I’ve become even more self-reflective than before. As a result I’ve been able to better judge my behaviour and spot when I’ve been acting irrationally. I used to make family and friends change their plans to make sure I could still go to my scheduled keep-fit classes. I would control which restaurant we went to to ensure I could eat a specific type of food for weight loss, and I would be very anxious if any of those plans changed at the last minute.

I quit dieting about a year ago and since then my whole outlook has changed. I have the freedom to eat what I want and it’s made me feel a lot more laid back about things in general. Now I can see that I was really just using that as a form of control and I’m trying to work in improving that.

mental health awareness week 2017

I can support others

Having depression makes it extremely hard to be sympathetic to others. I couldn’t talk to other people with depression because I was unable to say any kind words. I felt like I was the only one who felt this bad, and that no one – not even someone with the same illness – would understand.

I spent many months relying on my husband and family to assist me with everything. I needed help getting ready, going to appointments and making basic decisions, so how could I hold my own in a conversation with someone just as vulnerable as me? It wasn’t until I was working with a young girl who had depression that I realised I was strong enough to reach out and offer support to someone else.

Somehow, I’d come far enough to be able to lend a helping hand and acknowledge that someone else was in distress. I don’t know how much I really helped her in the grand scheme of things, but I was always kind and tried to listen to her issues and offer as much advice as possible from my own experience. I didn’t realise I was better until I could actually tell someone else with confidence that they would get better too.

I can ignore negative thoughts

Recently I’ve realised that I’m now able to acknowledge my mental illness and let the symptoms play out without letting them affect me too much. I know the things that make me anxious; busy places, being around drunk people, meeting new people and long journeys on public transport. I’ve figured out that I can still put myself in those situations and not crumble, and it feels amazing!

I plan ahead as much as possible and distract myself when negative feelings arise. I avoid caffeine because it makes my anxiety worse. If I do these three things then I know I can ride out the storm and come out the other end unscathed.

Are you learning to thrive in recovery? I’ve just uploaded my first every vlog, you can check it out an subscribe here!


Talking diets and online expectations with Carly Rowena

national no diet day 2017
Source: http://www.carlyrowena.com

At a party I recently saw a friend who I hadn’t seen for almost a year. She had lost a lot of weight and was being praised for the achievement by all the women at the party. With my history of rapid weight loss, crash dieting, binge eating and excessive exercising I stayed silent. I wasn’t jealous (I swear) but it just didn’t feel right to congratulate her.

I’ve actually put on about 20 lbs in the past eighteen months and I’m still coming to terms with how my body feels since I quit dieting. I’ve immersed myself in an online world where it’s OK to have lumps, bumps and visible cellulite. It’s also OK to be thin and not have boobs, wide hips or a bubble butt. I believe all body shapes are acceptable and should be represented in the media.

When I meet women who still praise each other for weight loss I feel icky. In my opinion weight loss itself doesn’t make you beautiful, nor does it deserve a “well done” sticker. Weight loss may lead to a healthier lifestyle, more confidence and self-love but that isn’t attainable purely from calorie restriction. It comes from learning to accept yourself warts and all.

no diet day

In celebration of National No Diet Day which takes place on May 6th, I wanted to speak to online fitness babe Carly Rowena. She’s someone who promotes an exercise regime, balanced diet and above all self-acceptance for what your body looks like at all times.

In the online fitness world there is SO much pressure to appear lean, muscular and eat a clean diet and I’m impressed that Carly cuts through the bullshit and gets honest with her audience. She’s often captured eating chocolate, ice cream and pizza and will express candidly the negative feelings she’s had towards her own body in the past.

When I asked Carly about diet culture in social media she spoke about the importance of being upfront with her viewers;

“I think there is a lack of honesty to a degree, we need to remind people that we don’t eat like that all the time. That’s why I enjoy Insta-stories, it’s a chance to show a behind the scenes. I always try to share my clean days and my relaxed days, honesty is the only way forward”.

As someone who has always dieted, I’m curious whenever a new brand comes to market promising to deliver the best plan for optimal health and fast weight loss. Even if I don’t follow the plan I’m still interested in the science behind new fad diets and how they claim to work. However, Carly promises there is no one perfect diet that will work for everyone;

“We are all individuals so how can we ever all have the same results from the same diet? I recommend people really think about what they want, how they want to live and what they can afford both to give and to spend. Most people just need to make a few adjustments, swaps if you will. We need to stop thinking about our bodies as something we have to keep changing, we need to think about our lives and want we want our bodies to be able to do”.

no diet day 2017

Dieting has often left me with the overwhelming urge to binge. I would restrict my calories to 1000 per day, only consuming foods which I deemed ‘safe’ such as salad, fruit and vegetables. After a few weeks the urge consumed me and I would eat up to 5000 calories in the space of an hour to satisfy my hunger. The binges continued for days at a time before I forced myself to restrict again, only to result in an inevitable binge eating episode a few weeks down the line.

“Take a step back, rethink what you want from your life. Are you trying to be a bikini competition or an athlete? If the answer to both is no, then why are you trying to diet or train like one? Most of my clients are under-eating which is why they’re forever struggling to reach their goals. Top tip is to write own your food for a week and find out exactly what you’re eating, how many calories, are you getting enough fats, proteins, carbs or fibre, then you have a starting point from which you can make adjustments”.

I’ve found keeping a food diary is a great way to analyse your behaviour if you feel like food is ruling your life. I’ve learned that urge to binge often comes during a stressful time in my life, or after a period of restrictive eating and now I feel more equipped to deal with those urges when they arise.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that ultimately dieting doesn’t work for me. It works on the surface and I can easily drop pounds by making a few simple changes to my food intake but the damage done to my mental state lasts longer and has been a challenge to rectify.

I’m glad that people like Carly Rowena are talking about the realities of over-restriction and the negative affects of dieting. There’s no shame in simply eating for health, exercising for fun and focusing on loving your body as it is!

Will you be celebrating National No Diet Day on May 6th?



Early morning hacks for a happier day

morning hacks

I wish I could say I wake up at 5am every morning and do a home yoga session before breakfast but it’s simply not true. I’m not a morning person. Ew, just saying that phrase feels wrong. How can anyone wake up chirpy? It defies logic to me.

If I’m being honest I have noticed that my day goes much smoother when I use the morning hours to my advantage, so I’ve introduced a few early morning hacks for a happier day.

1.Get your greens & vitamins

Since changing to a plant-based diet in January I’ve been very aware that I need to get all the right vitamins and minerals in my diet to stay healthy. Although I’m certainly no expert, I can tell you that I’ve been taking iron, b12, vegan fish oil and vitamins A, C and D every morning and have noticed I’m less tired and my nails are in great condition!

I’m trying to get more leafy greens throughout the day so I add a cup of spinach to my smoothie too. These simple additions are a great insurance policy to an already pretty healthy diet, and I’ve found it really easy to implement into my routine.

morning hacks

2.Make breakfast convenient

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and although that’s up for debate, a quick and easy option is always better than nothing at all. Prepping the night before is a good idea if you’re always rushing in the morning. If you like porridge then you will love overnight oats; a chilled version of your favourite hearty breakfast with zero cooking required. Top with different fruits, nuts and seeds to add variety to your morning meal.

For something you can drink on your commute then a protein shake is perfect. I normally drink my Huel shake on my ten minute walk to work. Simply add a few scoops to a shaker and add water. I like to sweeten mine with My Protein chocolate peanut butter flavour drops and it’s like having a milkshake for breakfast!

3.Plan your day

This is something that many of us struggle with. We sleep in late, stumble out of bed and get going before we’ve really planned out what we need to do that day. With a little forward planning it can be easy to make your day more efficient and enjoyable.

I like to plan out my clothes the night before to save time. This doesn’t mean expertly styling a runway-ready outfit! It basically means I make sure I have clean underwear, matching socks and a few work wear options hanging up ready to throw on without too much thought.I also pack my gym clothes to make sure I get in a workout before I come home.

In the morning I spend a few minutes planning what I’m having for dinner and write a list of anything I need to to pick up from the supermarket. I also go through my emails and red flag anything that needs attention straight away. After my shower I spend about an hour replying to emails and write down any tasks which need to be completed by the end of the day.

morning hacks

4.Get handbag ready

Having anxiety means I’ve identified a few triggers that make me feel nervous throughout the day. Going without food for a long period of time can often make me feel sick and panicky, so if I’ve got a stressful day ahead I always try to take a few healthy snacks in my bag for emergencies. My current faves are Clif Bars and Brazil nuts.

I also get stress headaches and although I normally have painkillers with me, I’ve started to try alternative forms of headache relief which is great if you don’t like taking tablets. I like 4head as it gives quick, cooling relief which can be particularly soothing when I’m anxious.

If you’re OK taking tablets you might also benefit from these Be Calm pills from Superdrug. I find even if I don’t take them it gives me peace of mind knowing that they’re right there in my bag if I need them.

For longer journeys it’s always great to remember a phone charger and your favourite book. I also carry a notepad and pen so I can make lists; a good way to easily de-stress whilst on the go.

What are your morning hacks for a happier day?

3 bad habits I eliminated to help my anxiety

bad habits I gave up to help my anxiety

I’ve seen my anxiety start to level off in the last twelve months, after struggling to cope with it everyday for over five years. Like many of you, I was particularly anxious about work and social interactions. I’ve always been happy to go to the gym, walk around town and use pubic transport all on my own, but facing big groups or social situations has always been a trigger for me.

As my depression has slowly become less prevalent I’ve found my anxiety also become easier to manage. Can I get a ‘hell yeah’? Along with medication and therapy I’ve also found that eliminating a few bad habits from my routine has really helped me take control of my anxious mind.

Although not completely cured (is that ever really a possibility? I’m not sure) I’m happy to say I can now face most social interactions with a positive attitude. Here are a few bad habits I’ve given up along the way…

1. Drinking too much alcohol

I gave up booze a few years ago after my GP told me I couldn’t drink whilst taking anti-depressants. In all honesty, I continued to get drunk for several months into my treatment before I took the advice on board and went completely tee-total.

I drank to excess and was making my situation considerably harder to bear. Lots of people around me were telling me to loosen up and enjoy a few drinks -as though that could cure my low mood – but I knew deep down I was using it as a crutch.

Since going without alcohol for a full year I’ve dabbled in drinking now and again. When my anxiety is bad I often consider having a drink to ease my nerves, but thankfully I’ve not felt the need to self-medicate in that way.

The truth is that even one drink can trigger a depressive episode for me and that then leads to an increase in my anxiety. Living without alcohol means I’ve more in control of my moods so it’s a no brainer really.

giving up alcohol for anxiety

2. Relying on caffeine

I’ve loved drinking coffee ever since I started working in cafes when I was seventeen. You would think being a barista all week would make me sick of it but I think it make be more addicted. Having the good stuff on tap at all times has been a temptation that I’ve given in to for years, knocking back between two and ten espresso shots every day to keep me energized.

Walking into the welcoming smell of freshly ground coffee beans feels like home to me. It’s so familiar that I gravitate towards it when I need pick me up or some down time.I’ve always been quite sensitive to caffeine, so I felt like giving it up was something that would definitely help.

I often get the shakes and butterflies in my stomach after too many cups. Considering my anxiety symptoms are very similar, intentionally bringing them on with coffee seemed like a silly thing to do.

I made the switch to decaf about six months ago and I’ve really not missed my caffeine fix at all. My favourite drink when I’m out is a decaf soya latte, and when I’m at home I love Percol Decaf Columbia which you can pick up in most supermarkets.

off work with mental illness

3. Restricting my food intake

I always thought my approach to healthy eating was having a positive impact on my life, but recently I’ve realised that it contributed a lot to my anxiety.

I’ve always been on some sort of crash diet or eating plan which dictated a set of rules to follow for weight loss. This meant whenever I ate out at a restaurant or at someone’s house I was constantly about what I would be able to eat.

I was forever scouring the internet for menus, asking people to cook specific food, requesting we go to a certain restaurant or avoiding eating all day in order to save enough calories to indulge at night.

Not only did this put pressure on my mind because of all the extra stress and willpower involved, but the lack of calories put my body through hell. My blood sugar was all over the place and I wasn’t fuelling myself properly to do all the exercise I loved. I was always tired and aching all over which meant I wasn’t recovering properly. I had brain fog, was always very tightly wound and I snapped and people because I was so hungry all the time.

I started eating intuitively a few years ago and of course I gained some weight. That made me really upset, so I went back to dieting. It wasn’t until 2016 that I truly began listening to my body and follow the Intuitive Eating guidelines; eating when hungry and stopping when full.

I now find my anxiety around food has almost completely  gone, although I’ll admit I still get a little worried when I have to eat whilst travelling. However, this is an ongoing project for me and one that I’m committed to working on to create a more balanced relationship with food.

Have you given up any bad habits in order to improve your mental health?


5 subscription services that will make life better

subscription mental health make life better

Is it just me or are the weekends getting shorter? It seems I can’t do anything other than fall asleep on the couch on a Friday night and before I know it I’m having my obligatory Sunday afternoon nap. I guess being over 30 isn’t as exciting as I thought it would be!

I’m trying to be more active at the weekends, as well as during the week. It’s too easy to let time run away from us after the working day is done and I don’t want to waste time slumped in front of the telly any longer than necessary. Because let’s be honest, sometimes it’s necessary.

Here are few subscription services that I think help make life better, more spontaneous, less stressful and more fulfilled without having to fork out too much money.

1. Cinema

I’ve always loved going to the cinema but as prices have steadily increased since I was a teenager I was often put off paying nearly £10 to see a movie, especially when I was unemployed. Even once I was well enough to work again my minimum wage salary didn’t really accommodate weekly visits to the local cinema.

Once I moved to Glasgow city centre and heard about the Cineworld Unlimited card I knew that I had to sign up. I currently pay £17.40 a month and can see as many movies as I like, although some movies like 3D or IMAX cost a little extra.

Working to a tight budget means that even if I’m skint one week, I know I can still go and see a film. With it being my favourite thing to do anyway, I think that’s awesome! It means that all those movies I probably wouldn’t have paid full price to go see (you know, all that Adam Sandler trash) are now available to me within my monthly payment should I wish to waste away a few hours of the day.

My husband isn’t a fan of horror, but now I can go on my own in the afternoon after work and use my Cineworld card. In fact, you might notice that cinemas are now over-run with people going to see movies on their own which I think is a great thing for us little old introverts.

2. Cooking boxes

I’ve never thought of ordering a cooking box. My talents as a chef way exceed anything that I could be sent in the post – joke – so how on earth could it benefit me? I pride myself in cooking most of my meals from scratch so I’ve never thought I needed the guidance of a ‘how to’ style delivery service with pre-portioned ingredients and accompanying recipe card.

However, after a long weekend I was surprised at how helpful a Gousto box was when I returned from holiday, stamping my feet and moaning I DON’T WANNA COOK. I made a tasty Aubergine Katsu Curry (which you can see in the video below) and some Sweet Potato Taquitos.

Although the recipes weren’t difficult, they’re still ones that I wouldn’t have picked out myself because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand. The best thing about Gousto is that they give you the exact amount of each item, meaning you don’t have to fork out for some random spice or condiment that you’re never going to use again.

This means you can expand your cooking repertoire without wasting food or money in the process. Bonus!

Discount code: To receive a generous £40 discount on your Gousto order (£20 off your first and second box) use the code TORNADO

3. Snack boxes

I’m still getting to grips with intuitive eating after years of restrictive eating, so having snacks on hand can be a tricky balancing act for me. Subscribing to Graze or The Vegan Kind is something that I’ve been looking into trying after my success with Gousto.

I personally tend to get stuck in a rut with what foods I eat, and snacking on the go is something I struggle with. I always eat Nakd Bars and if I can’t find them I often end up eating flapjacks and cereal bars which are full of sugar. Not the best thing if you’re trying to train your brain to escape the binge-eating/diet cycle.

Having tasty, healthy morsels in my bag for when I’m at work or at the gym is something that I know would make my life easier, and take away some of the guilt associated with eating the wrong foods when I haven’t planned ahead. I’m definitely going to be giving these a go.

4. Prescription

It might sound simple but setting up a repeat prescription has changed my life. My anxiety makes GP appointments a stressful affair, but because I take anti-depressants I can only receive one months supply of my medication at a time.

Although I do kind of understand the reason behind this, my mental illness means that I constantly dread making an appointment (using the phone is a fear of mine) and talking to a doctor about my health over and over again.

Now, the doctor is happy because I only get 28 tablets at a time and I’m less worried because I don’t have to go through the torture of making an appointment every month.

subscription mental health happiness hobbies

5. Audio books/podcasts

Instead of mindlessly watching TV or scrolling on my phone, I find it helpful to listen to podcasts and audio books. Although most podcasts are free many of them offer a payment scheme where you can get access to exclusive episodes before anyone else. I love listening to Emma Gannon as well as My Favourite Murder and Generation Why.

Audible is a really affordable app which gives you enough credit to buy one audio book per month and there are thousands to choose from. Once you’ve downloaded it you actually own it and can listen to it a many times as you like. You can also return books that you didn’t enjoy and get a full refund!

I find Audible great for when I want to read up on a subject like healthy eating or time management. It’s also great for catching up on those classic books that you never got round to reading. Either way, it stops me from passing out on the couch and is a great incentive to get outside walking too.

Have you used any subscription services to make life a little easier?


Things to consider when you’re off work with a mental illness

off work sick with mental illness

I have such admiration for people who can continue to work whilst being treated for mental illness. I struggled so badly that I had to quit my job and was subsequently out of work for over a year whilst I built up my confidence to return.

I know for some people going to work is the one thing they continue to excel at whilst their mental health suffers, but for me it simply wasn’t an option.

It took me a long time to come to terms with that. When I lost my career I felt like I lost my identity, but I wish I’d realised that is was OK to be off work. It was OK to need help. It was OK to take as much time as I needed. It was more than OK – it was necessary.

Whether you’re off work for a day, a week or a prolonged period of time; you should use this time to make your recovery as wholesome and speedy as possible.

Don’t beat yourself up

Once you’ve decided to take time off, it can be common to feel guilty about being at home resting whilst your family and friends go out to work. You may feel bad that your colleagues are left with more work to do, but remember they’re mentally well enough to cope with added stress whilst you are not.

With the physical symptoms of mental illness often hard to see, certain employers often doubt whether they are there at all. This can be very frustrating – but try not to let it get to you. It’s merely a reflection of how little knowledge most people have about mental illness, and not an indication of whether or not you should return to work. That’s a decision that should be made by you with the advice of your GP.

Consider your finances

If you’re unemployed or off work long term this can be very stressful for a lot of people. If you’re running out of savings you should be honest and consider making a plan for the future. If you live in the US you may want to have a read of the DRB Capital structured settlement review. I was receiving benefits and Statutory Sick Pay when I was off sick abd residing in the UK, more information on which can be found here.

Any extra cash can be pivotal when you are no longer earning full time, and this will also help take the pressure off you rushing back into work when you’re not totally ready to do so.

off work with mental illness

Implement a routine

When you’re out off work for a prolonged period of time it can be hard to find structure in your day. I know for me the days often ran into one another, with sleeping taking priority over eating, showering and staying in contact with family. You should try to avoid the days slipping away by implementing a loose routine.

Try setting your alarm every morning and try to follow a basic self-care routine. This could be something as simple as getting up before midday and making a cup of tea. Over time you can add more difficult tasks such as washing, cooking breakfast and leaving the house. This will give some purpose to your days without adding too much expectation or pressure.

Try to stay active

This doesn’t mean going a run everyday or religiously going to keep-fit classes like I did, but it will benefit you to get out of the house and move around a little most days. I know how hard it can be to get out of bed and it’s OK to spend all day sleeping when you need it. But if you do feel the urge to do something like rearrange your bedroom or pop to the supermarket then you should capitalise on that positive attitude.

Completing the smallest tasks can feel like a big win when you’re at an all time low. I remember one day following a bad spell of my depression I suddenly felt compelled to clean my windows. It felt like such an achievement and as silly as it sounds, it was such a great day for me and my recovery.

What steps are you taking to help with your mental illness whilst you’re off work?