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Flipping the Script

By Julie Morris. Rather than coming up with a list of restrictions and things we need to stop, let's focus on the positive and what we can do. Building a foundation for positivity and wellness can help you sustain your mental health and overall wellness. Head Space The first and most important part of seeking overall wellness starts in the mind. The mind is at the root of our overall well-being. While for some having good mental health is a process that can involve therapy or medication, most of us could benefit from refocusing our minds. There are many ways to achieve this, so find one that works best for you. It could be the act of mindfulness, or being aware of your thoughts and actions as you make them. It might be shifting from negative thinking to positive thoughts through concerted effort to create new thinking patterns. You may try absorbing mostly positive media, from happier news stories and television shows to cutting back on social media, which can be rampant with negativity. Finding something that works for you to aid your mentality may be a challenge, but it can be a worthwhile one. Home Space Whether it's a meditation room or simply a room to disconnect and unwind, having a place you can call your sanctuary at home is vital. Redfin suggests that you “Set aside a room in your home without electronic distractions for your creative pursuits. Buy a comfortable chair, some paintings of nature, and other relaxing décor to inspire less stress.” Find things that work to de-stress you, things that you enjoy and make you feel at peace. If you can integrate your olfactory senses, it may help enhance your sense of peace, so find your favorite incense, scented candle or wax warmer and use it when you need to unwind. Natural Space It has been suggested that taking time out of our busy urban environments and visiting nature can have a positive effect on one's well-being. If it's possible, schedule yourself some time to enjoy the natural world around you. Spend fifteen minutes of your lunch break each day sitting in a park and enjoying the green without checking your phone. When you're out and about enjoying the outdoors, really try to immerse yourself while doing so, meaning little to no distractions. Put your phone, tablet and laptop away. Not only may it help your memory and lift your mental wellness, but it may be healthy for your body as well. Physical Space It is no secret that staying active may boost our mental wellness. Aside from the balance of serotonin and dopamine, taking care of our bodies is another part of overall well-being. We inhabit our bodies, after all. If you're just starting or have very little experience exercising, there are ways to ease yourself into a good routine, like taking up swimming or yoga. It's important to keep your goals non-specific. If you focus on trying to lose weight, you may become discouraged when, after two weeks, you see minimal results on the scale. The focus should be on health and how you feel. Notice how your body feels different, how it becomes easier to do the exercises that may have once been a challenge. Focus on how you can bend further, swim more laps, or switch to heavier weights over time. Remember, if there are no negatives, there is no losing. You're gaining wellness with your routine. There are so many ways to be healthy and to be well. We may not be able to affect the things outside of our control—politics, our work environment, our families—but we can always affect and work on ourselves. This is the time to truly be the best you that you can be. About the Author Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. You can read more about Julie and her work on her website:

Autumn Equinox

By Tara Vaghela. "And the sun took a step back, the leaves lulled themselves to sleep and autumn was awakened." -Raquel Franco On 22nd September, the northern hemisphere celebrates the Autumn Equinox - the beginning of Autumn. Due to the Earth’s tilted axis, the Sun shines equally on the northern and southern hemispheres only twice a year, and when this happens, it's known as an Equinox. It is on this date in September when the day and night are both approximately twelve hours in length; this is the reason we use the word Equinox, as it means ‘equal night’ in Latin. It is after this point in the year that the night becomes longer than the day. You may have heard of the Harvest Moon, it is a wonder which occurs within days of the Autumn Equinox. It is apparently so bright that farmers are able to work late, harvesting crops by moonlight. However, the Harvest Moon is not the only thing to illuminate the night sky at this time of year; there is an increased chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis light up the northern skies during this period. In the UK, Autumn is a favourite season. This is because of its natural beauty and changing colours - leaves and foliage transform from an olive green to amber to burnt orange, crimson and finally golden brown. The fashion world too mirrors these warm, vibrant colours; featuring warm layers, chunky knits and of course, it’s sweater weather! The harvests of Autumn also bring a variety of flavour and colour to the dinner plates of the nation. Comfort food from tomato soup with tiger bread to pumpkin pie and crisp cinnamon apples. You'll find a number of Autumnal recipes here: As the season changes from Summer to Autumn, why not cosy up on the sofa in your sweater, in front of your favourite TV show and tuck into a pumpkin spice latte with toasted marshmallows and a slice of apple pie with homemade custard. Delicious! Resources:

Autumn Bliss

By Maya Potter. ‘The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale’ - Lauren DeStefano When it starts to get darker much earlier each evening, it is a sure thing that summer is coming to an end. The autumn equinox changes annually and this year it fell on Wednesday 22 September. The equinox is worked out by the sun crossing the equator and being positioned exactly above it, resulting in the day and night lasting for approximately the same length of time. Although this may mean the end of the warmer weather in the northern hemisphere, there are many things to enjoy and look forward to in autumn. As Winnie the Pooh said, autumn is 'a time for hot chocolatety mornings, and toasting marshmallow evenings, as best of all, leaping into leaves!’ Nature is arguably at its most spectacular during the autumn months. Going for a stroll amongst the resplendent orange hues feels like walking through a painting, with a satisfying crunch underfoot. Check out this guide to some of Britain's Best Autumn Walks for some great places to explore. The months of autumn also include several festivities with Halloween on 31 October and Bonfire Night on 5 November. Both are popular during the colder months and bring people together in celebration. Why not grab a sparkler and hotdog and enjoy some of the magical firework displays that take place across the country at this time of year. Whilst it may be nice to enjoy evening BBQs during the summer months, the latter part of the year gives us the opportunity to have cosy nights in. Autumn brings enthralling dramas and the return of favourite series to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. If you are snug under your fluffy blanket wondering what to watch, why not have a look at some of these Top TV Recommendations. So whether you prefer embracing autumnal walks, celebrating with friends and family or hibernating on the sofa, autumn really does have something for everyone to enjoy. Happy Autumn Equinox! Sources: - - - - -

Living through the Pandemic

By Julie Morris Living through the COVID-19 Pandemic has changed so many things in our daily lives, including how we manage some of life's major milestones. We take a look at the way people have needed to adapt their lives and plans to deal with this new changed world. Life has changed for everyone during the pandemic. We’ve stayed home, worked and learned remotely, and navigated economic uncertainty as coronavirus upended life as we know it. However, for some people, that’s not all that has changed during the pandemic. By choice or by force, people have experienced major life milestones during the coronavirus pandemic, and these didn’t look like they usually do. Graduating For new graduates, what to do about their commencement ceremony was only the first of their worries. Most schools adapted their graduation ceremonies to the times with virtual and drive-through events. However, students were left wondering what to do next long after their robes were hung up and put away. For many, there was the question of whether to take a gap year or enroll in university knowing classes may remain online. While there are no easy answers, new graduates shouldn’t feel bad about living with parents or taking up freelancing or gig economy work while searching for a full-time job. In the meantime, they can brush up on their video interview skills and take online classes to build the skills that can make them more desirable candidates when hiring picks up again. Finding a New Home Some people who graduated during the last economic downturn found themselves on the cusp of another milestone this time around: buying a house. Millennials were wondering if low interest rates meant this was finally a sign they could afford to buy a home. While it might be a good option to buy a home during a crisis, it wasn’t a simple process as sellers were reluctant to list their homes and hesitant to let buyers in due to concerns over the virus. Buyers had to be flexible and view homes via virtual tours rather than traditional showings. Moving house safely has been made even more challenging by making sure Covid controls and protocols are maintained and feeling somewhat even more stressed when restrictions or lockdowns are suddenly put in place just when you don't need them! Finding Work Heavy job losses across the country took a significant toll. The difficulties of finding employment made an uncertain time more fraught with worry and stress. To offset this, many people found creative ways to generate income. Some turned to the gig economy or freelancing, while others found that this was a great time to launch a business — especially for services or products that help during the pandemic. True, it may have felt risky to start a business during an economic downturn, but some simplified the process and lowered their risk by opting for a home-based business. For those with an idea with potential to be highly profitable, launching a venture was easier and cheaper than expected. Thanks to the internet, there was a wealth of free and low-cost services to help businesses get set up quickly. Having a Baby Having a baby during the pandemic was especially scary. Not only could attending prenatal appointments put people at risk of transmission, but expectant mothers also had to worry about giving birth alone as hospitals put restrictions on visitors. Fortunately, pregnant women were able to take extra precautions to prevent illness, like staying home and using telemedicine for prenatal care when possible. Screen Time For most people our screen time and online usage has majorly increased with extended periods of time sitting on a computer or a phone for work, shopping, study and care needs. You can help yourself by giving your mind, eyes, body posture and mental health a break by taking frequent and regular short or longer rest times. A quick Google search can help find sites that have great tips and guidelines that can be very useful. Take breaks, stretch often and try to get outside if you can, get some fresh air and go for a walk. Life doesn’t stop for anything — not even a global pandemic. While it has been somewhat scary approaching these major life changes in unprecedented times, people were able to take control of their situations - we are an adaptable and resilient bunch! Whether it is changing our plans, learning something new, boosting resumes, revising goals, or getting creative about how to find a new home or employment, the right solution is just around the corner. Just keep going, perseverance at your own pace is the key. About the Author Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. You can read more about Julie and her work on her website:

International Cat Day

By Marilu Isabelle Sit back, close your eyes and allow your feline friend to purr you into a deep state of calm. This is just one of the special privileges cat lovers know very well. So, what is this unique bond we have with cats and how can we commemorate their crazy antics and purr-fect companionship? International Cat Day on the 8th August was created exactly for this reason, to celebrate and advocate for cats around the world. It was initially set up in 2002 by IFAW, International Fund for Animal Welfare and other animal rights groups; continuing to be a popular annual celebration. How did the feline and human connection start? Cat domestication first began around 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and later in ancient Egypt. Cats therefore, are one of our oldest furry friends! From ancient Egyptians mummifying their cats into the afterlife with them, to the hypnotic world of cat videos - we haven’t stopped being mesmerised by these quirky fluff-sters. The ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, was generally known for being the protector of home, family and protection against diseases. Interestingly, nowadays researchers have found a number of ways in which cats contribute to your positive mental well-being, lowering stress and relieving symptoms linked to anxiety and depression. Karin Stambach and Dennis Turner of the University of Zurich help explain the attachment theory where cats are not just dependent on us but we are also soothed by their presence. Additionally, there is a scientific scale for this attachment. One Australian study found that cat owners do have better psychological health than people without pets – finding that they were more confident, happy and better equipped to face life’s challenges. You may have also heard of cats being used as therapy for individuals with a variety of needs. More frequently, dogs have been used as therapy pets, with organisations like Pets As Therapy working to support individuals in a variety of settings. However, a cat’s superpower of lowering stress in humans, means that they have been used to help individuals in different ways. Examples include supporting children with autism to be more comfortable with the world around them and with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to stimulate memory. In Canada, Therapeutic Paws of Canada have a successful educational programme called Paws To Read, with many school pupils benefitting from the cat’s calming presence. So, we know how much cats do for us – what can we do for them on International Cat Day? RSPCA report that at the end of 2019, they took in 29,432 cats to their centres and Cats Protection centres are often full due to cats needing homes. If you’ve carefully considered getting a cat, support your local rescue centre’s adoption and rehoming by finding your fur-midable friend there. Alternatively, if you’re not able to have a kitty just yet, supporting your local cat rescue centre by volunteering is always appreciated. And, if you’ve been honoured by a feline friend coming to live in your home, here’s some things you can do to show you care on their special day: 1. Keep up with their annual vaccinations and vet check-up, worming and flea ointment when needed. Regularly brushing your cat reduces furballs and makes them content (giving a few treats during the process helps get them used to it). 2. Veterinarians and cat advocacy groups advise to ensure your cat is neutered or spayed; this reduces a female cat’s risk of unwanted pregnancies, various cancers, cat flu and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Unneutered males are more likely to get into fights and risk contracting the same diseases as females as well as injury. 3. Provide lots of stimulation and play; changing up toys, providing different levels in your home for jumping, scratching posts, puzzles (create your own!), tunnels and of course cardboard boxes. Aim for at least 10mins of play each day. 4. Give a varied diet and clean drinking water - avoiding myths like ‘cats drink cows’ milk’ – they’re lactose intolerant! 5. If their behaviour suddenly changes in a negative way, try to check for any stresses (moving home/moving furniture) or possible medical issues so they can return to being their happy selves. 6. And, last but certainly not least, if you’re cat enjoys cuddles – spoil them, etching time in your schedule every day. If your cat instead enjoys exchanging ‘love blinks’ with you from afar, keep persisting until they’re ready to cuddle. Some purr-fect pics to enjoy! References

Chocolate, Glorious Chocolate

By Tara Vaghela “All I want is peace, love, understanding, and a chocolate bar bigger than my head” – Anonymous Almost everyone in the world loves chocolate, it's a weakness we happily indulge in and yes, I am someone who is mostly definitely hooked on chocolate! World Chocolate Day is celebrated each year on 7th July, as it’s believed this is the date cocoa was first introduced into Europe in 1550. Prior to this, chocolate was limited to specific countries; South and Central America and Mexico. In Aztec culture, chocolate was often used as a form of currency. Chocolate was discovered by invaders of these countries and then travelled around the world, becoming popular everywhere it was taken. It is said that a Spanish explorer was served a chocolate based drink by the Aztec Emperor, Montezuma, the explorer returned to Spain with the chocolate drink but added vanilla, sugar and cinnamon to improve its bitter taste. Solid chocolate was not introduced until the 1800s, when Dutch Chemist, Van Houten, invented “Dutch processing”; which turned chocolate into a powder, and the cocoa press; which separated cocoa butter from roasted cocoa beans. These processes made chocolate more affordable to everyone and opened the door for mass production. Today, approximately 30% of the world’s cocoa is grown in Africa, despite the cocoa bean originally coming from the Amazon. Chocolate is considered unhealthy due to the large amount of sugar added by confectionary companies. However, dark chocolate containing at least 85% cocoa is considered great for health. Dark chocolate can be a natural mood enhancer and contains a number of properties that can help immunity, heart health, boost memory and brain function. Dark chocolate consumed two or three times a week, in moderation, can help control weight, aid digestion and reduce sugar cravings. So whether you’re celebrating World Chocolate Day with dark, milk or white chocolate. Flavoured with mint, orange, cherry, chilli, lemon or champagne. Garnish with nuts, fruit, popping candy or just more chocolate... just relax and enjoy! Sources:

Sunny days are here again

By Aaina Chopra. Now that we are officially in Summer and as COVID restrictions are easing in the UK, you may be needing some ideas for some summer activities you can do! Below, we have come up with a few, unique ideas of things you can do this summer; whether it is by yourself, or with friends and family, the main thing is to have some fun! 1. Beach Day This is quite an obvious suggestion, but why not try going to a local beach or a quieter beach that you have not visited before! Avoid the crowds by visiting a less well-known place and make sure you grab a picnic or support a local restaurant to spend the day fully enjoying the sights. To make the most of your day, why not get to the beach for sunrise and pack a breakfast picnic? 2. Visit a Pick Your Own Farm Dotted around the UK are a number of farms that are home to fresh produce, usually fruits and vegetables, that you can pick yourself! Wander around fields of strawberries and raspberries and pick some onions or courgettes from the ground – picking it yourself is not only fun but also ensures that you get the best produce. Why not grab something that you haven’t tried before and make a new recipe when you get home? 3. Arts and Crafts Day Whilst arts and crafts are not for everyone, having an artsy day with friends or family can make some great memories! For some at home DIY ideas, you can give embroidery, pottery painting or knitting a go. If it’s a sunny day, why not get out into the garden and create some art in the sun? If you would prefer to get out of the house, you could even go to a pottery café and give vase making a go. Similarly, you could try silver ring making or a canvas painting class! 4. Go to a Street Food Market Street food markets can be found outdoors or indoors and provide for an amazing experience. They are home to some of the best dishes and the variety of different vendors means you can try a bit of everything! Take a couple of friends and you can buy a number of dishes to share. Here is an article on some of the best ones in the UK that you can visit - 5. Try out a new sport You may be an avid runner, or love a good surf but why not try out a new sport this summer? It’s an amazing way to keep fit but is also a lot of fun! As COVID restrictions ease, many sports clubs are beginning to start classes again. So this might be the summer you find a new passion for kickboxing, become a spin-class lover or take on yoga! Whatever it is, make sure you have a good time & stay safe! Enjoy!

What A Wonderful World

By Tara Vaghela. “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” – Native American Proverb World Environment Day is on 5th June, followed by World Ocean Day on 8th June. We live in such a wonderful world, yet we’re destroying it with single use plastic and farming palm oil unethically. Palm Oil Palm oil is in 50% of household items; however, it’s production destroys vast amounts of rainforests and endangers wildlife. In South East Asia, areas the size of 300 football fields are being destroyed every hour for palm oil farming. It’s thought production will double between 2009 and 2050. Palm oil farming expels millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases which is contributing to global warming, it also exploits workers. Palm oil can be sourced sustainably from genuine farmers, and companies using it will display the certified Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) logo. Plastic There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. Discarded fishing nets make up 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is micro-plastic debris that stretches from California to Japan. Micro-plastics never fully dissolve, they're in the air we breathe and the fish we eat. Plastic has also been found in 83% of the world’s tap water and 93% of the world’s bottled water. Not surprising when the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of plastic is dumped in the ocean every minute. Of all the plastic that has ever existed: more than half was produced in the last 15 years. Only 2% of recyclable plastic is effectively recycled. How to help Make the switch to non plastic and sustainable palm oil! Here's some ideas; Reusable products; bottles, cups, sanitary products, nappies, utensils, shopping bags, cotton pads. Eco-friendly products; shampoo bars, flushable sanitary towels, bamboo toothbrushes, wax food wraps, plastic free wipes, bamboo cotton buds. Eco-friendly cleaning products: using sustainable palm oil or no palm oil and zero plastic waste. Make your own natural cleaning products: Upcycle clothes, furniture and other household items. Switch to palm oil free products or those certified as sustainable by RSPO. Here are some links to small businesses and organisations fighting to save our environment; Break free from Plastic, a community movement raising awareness about plastic pollution - Peggy Rain, a self starting washing line made from recycled fishing nets - Shoreline Shaving, eco-friendly razors with a lifetime guarantee - Planera, the first certified flushable and biodegradable sanitary pads - Gruum, unisex skin care range using natural ingredients, is cruelty free and uses recyclable materials - Ecovibe, household products and make up to food that are eco-friendly - “Clean Up” by Nathan Bryon, a kids book which highlights the problem of plastic on beaches and in the ocean. Sir David Attenborough's special "Extinction" is sobering viewing and is a must watch for all of us. You can see first-hand the facts and impact our consumption and misuse of precious resources is putting us on a one-way trip to nowhere... and fast! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Less is more! Resources: Other useful links

Water a Flower Day

By Rachel Monaghan. National Water a Flower Day is on 30th May.

Yes, there is a National Water a Flower Day! Aside from just looking very pretty, and brightening up a room, flowers also have many other benefits and this day is to ponder and appreciate the many benefits provide. Studies have shown that flowers can have long term positive effects on our moods. After receiving flowers, study participants reported feeling less anxious, depressed and agitated. As well as this they reported higher life satisfaction and a sense of enjoyment.

There is also environmental benefits of planting and watering flowers. Plants and flowers take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen which ‘cleans’ the air. As well as this, plants and flowers don’t just work above ground, they also clean the soil by taking up chemicals and heavy metals that lie in the soil and this works towards a healthier ground. This day brings special attention to flowers and the many properties they benefit us with, such as their medicinal-, therapeutic-, and aesthetic properties. Flowers are used by scientists to extract important medicinal qualities that have helped people overcome problems related to their skin, hair, organs, immunity, etc. Planting and watering flowers is also good for the falling bee populations. Bee's retrieve nectar from plants so that they can produce honey and in turn, they carry pollen from one plant to another which enables the plants to reproduce. Without bees, there would be significantly less flowers and plants which is not good for the environment. To help save the bees you can plant particular flowers that Bee's love to retrieve nectar from. Examples of flowers that are really good for bees are lavender and sunflowers and people are encouraged to plant them in their gardens to boost the growth of bee populations. To celebrate National Water a Flower a Day, why not go out and buy some seeds, plant them, water them and enjoy the worthwhile experience of watching them grow into beautiful flowers! Brilliant!

Blooming Lovely

By Maya Potter. ‘The Bluebell is the sweetest flower That waves in summer air: Its blossoms have the mightiest power To soothe my spirit’s care’ Emily Brontë There is no greater sight or indication that spring is in full swing than stumbling across a woodland adorned with vibrant, violet flowers. Recognisable by their colour, bell shape and sweet fragrance, bluebells are in abundance from mid April until late May. The bluebell has many different names from wild hyacinth and bell bottle to the slightly more obscure cuckoo’s boots and witches’ thimbles. The flower is native to western Europe with almost half the world’s bluebells found in the UK. They are usually found in ancient woodland but can also grow in fields and along hedgerows. The bluebell is a symbol of humility and gratitude but also constancy and everlasting love. There are many myths surrounding the flower, for instance if you turn it inside out without tearing it, you will win over the person you love. Also, by wearing a garland of bluebells, you will be compelled to tell the truth. There are also numerous folklore tales connecting bluebells with enchanted woods and fairy magic. The myths relay that fairies gather when bluebells ring, however if a human hears the ringing, a bad fairy will visit them. Also, if a human were to pick a bluebell, some believe they would be lured away by fairies and trapped. Whilst these stories are quite literally fairy tales, it is actually against the law to deliberately pick or damage bluebells. Today bluebells are largely seen as decorative but they have had other uses throughout history. Their sap was used for binding books and creating arrows, whereas their bulbs were crushed to make starch for clothing in Elizabethan times. Bluebells are considered to be toxic, however they do also contain biological compounds similar to chemicals tested for use in fighting cancer and HIV. There is definitely a lot more to this little and not so humble flower than initially meets the eye. It’s currently peak bluebell season so there is still time to experience nature’s cobalt carpet for yourself. Check out this guide to the UK's best bluebell woods to find out where you can spot them. Bluebells, another one of natures delights! Sources:

It's only natural

By Alice Baker. Did you know that spending time in the natural environment like fields, trees, parks, gardens or by water actually helps your mental health. A lot of the messaging centres around the physical gains of getting out and about, but there is an increasing focus on the mental health benefits as well. Getting out into nature has been scientifically shown to help with mental health issues such as mild depression and anxiety. There is even a certain type of therapy called ‘ecotherapy’ which centers around doing activities outside. The exact reasons behind the positive effects of nature on mental health are still being explored. A common explanation is that nature stimulates our senses in a way which puts our minds at ease. For example, listening to the gentle sounds of nature and even seeing natural shapes helps your mind feel more restful. The idea of humans having an built-in link with nature is not a new one. In 1973, Erich Fromm used the term ‘biophilia’ to describe a love of nature. In 1984, Edward O. Wilson explored the idea of biophilia further and proposed that our bond with nature is rooted in our genetics. Throughout human history the natural world has been a constant and is a deep rooted part of our cultures. As technology has progressed, humans have slowly taken themselves out of nature, both physically and mentally. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look after your mental health and get back into nature. As you read at the start, going out for a good walk is a foolproof way to get the benefits of nature. If you needed another reason, May is National Walking Month and the perfect opportunity to explore some new areas! Whether you’re going to your local park or venturing further afi eld you can make your own adventure. Even if it’s only a short walk ‘round the block, you’re bound to spot something natural along the way. Take a moment to recognise and appreciate the little bits of nature you see like trees, hedges and even little plants in the pavement. If you don’t want to, or aren’t able to, go outside, you can bring nature to you instead. Adding a few potted plants, a window box or a vase of flowers will bring you the benefits. Even something as simple as changing your phone or computer background to a natural scene has been shown to help! There’s something out there for everyone. Enjoy! Sources:

Finding Your Voice

By Tara Vaghela. For me, the ultimate form of self care is looking after my mental health. It's the most important thing and if it’s not nurtured, everything else seems to be harder to manage. It's personal I’ve struggled with my mental health for a long time, from childhood – social anxiety and lack of confidence – Remember the fear of having to read out in class? I’d always say “I don't want to read today”, because I didn’t feel my voice should be heard. Later in life, this spread into the workplace, where speaking up in meetings or to colleagues was a big “no, no”. In 2013, my mental health took a hard hit due to large scale bullying at work. I left the job and whilst recovering, I started to question why was I being silent, when others weren't. We’re all equally important. It's a journey I forced myself into uncomfortable situations – starting a brand new profession, having lunch with my new colleagues, talking to strangers, taking on new challenges. This exposure therapy was the positive change I needed at the time and it felt great! Even though I started having panic attacks in 2014, I taught myself ways to manage them. I've put in a lot of work through trial and error. For me, box breathing works well – inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and repeat. It's natural At the end of 2019, I found out I was pregnant! One of my biggest fears in life is pregnancy and childbirth. My pregnancy was planned, even though it terrified me, I wanted a child. 2020 hit! Global pandemic! All the anxiety rushing around my head – pregnant women at greater risk, attending antenatal appointments alone, working from home, a clinically vulnerable husband, isolation, rules, restrictions; the list goes on. We made a decision to set boundaries, this is a useful tool when it comes to managing mental health, and it’s something I’ll continue to use. My pregnancy was uneventful, we enjoyed our little closed off bubble. The labour and birth, however, were traumatic, a lot of things went wrong very quickly. Things I’d never even thought about in my anxious mind were happening, it was messy and there were a lot of people involved! Both my physical and mental recovery are ongoing, and as well as box breathing, I now also use the 5,4,3,2,1 grounding technique: It's about you It’s through all of these mentally challenging times that I found my voice! We learn valuable lessons and grow from such experiences. Although tough at the time, when looking back we can map how far we’ve come. But remember, only ever look back to see how far you've come! Useful link - Join the conversation, share your story, mental health matters.