Seeking Direction By Choosing A Direction

I’m just as unsure as you are about where I was going with today’s title. In the last few months of 2017, I was really unclear about the direction of my blog. I often felt like I was floundering, trying to come up with blog posts ideas that didn’t quite fit what I wanted to write because I felt it was what I should be writing. However, after a refresh over Christmas and a good long planning session, I’ve decided to make a few changes. Maybe I don’t know which direction I’m going in for sure just yet, but I’ll make a start on this one and hope for the best.

Content

I’ve always been intent on the idea that No Space For Milk is a mental health blog first and foremost. But as my blog has progressed, so has the direction I want to go in. As much as mental health is still something I’m going to talk about here, there’s going to be much more emphasis on self-improvement. I asked on Instagram what you like reading and it was clear that most people enjoyed my long form rambling thought pieces which is great because those are what I love writing. So there’s going to be loads more life rambles, reflections and personal development posts.

Books

I’ve spent the last year half-heartedly writing book reviews. I’ve toyed with full posts per book, monthly roundups and theme specific posts but my heart just isn’t in it. I love books more than I love most people but writing book reviews just isn’t for me. I want to read the book, feel the emotions that pour out of the page and let the stories live on in my head long after I’ve read them, but I just really don’t want to write about them. Heck, I barely even read book reviews (Shout out to Lauren EvieAlmost Amazing Grace and Adventure and Anxiety who always get it so right and make me want to buy every book under the sun!). I’ve been desperate to find a format that works for me and my blog just isn’t the place for it, which leads me onto my next point quite nicely…

Instagram

Oh Instagram, don’t we all love to hate you? I fell out of love with you long ago but this year the game is on. You’re going to see a lot more books on my Insta. I want snappy reviews, immediate reactions to what I’ve just read and pretty book covers, whether that’s through Instagram stories or on the grid. Listen to me using ‘on the grid,’ who do I think I am?

I’m also stuffing any kind of schedule. Look at us all running round trying to post at the right times to get maximum engagement. Jokes on you because the algorithm is still going to screw us all. Even if it tells you the best time to post is 7pm, would you even believe it? We all know Instagram is that girl who says she drank 10 vodka cokes but couldn’t even get through 2 without vomming behind the Chinese takeaway.

Twitter

Twitter has long been my favourite social media platform. I just love instant gratification, okay? But seriously, Twitter is the best place to make friends and find new blogs and this year I’m going to do that to the max.

Last year started off with the best intentions, I was going to schedule tweets and join in on Twitter chats but it kind of tailed off. However, this year I’m shaking off the failures of last year and starting again. I can’t wait to discover some amazing new accounts.

Writing

And one last thing, I’m writing an e-book, kind of, sort of. I say kind of because my crippling self doubt won’t allow me to say anything more concrete. At the moment, I’m going to keep schtum on the content matter, just in case things take a slightly different turn while I’m writing. But for now, I will just say it’s non-fiction and I’m excited about it.

Here’s to 2018!

Rachel x-x-x

 

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Why Is Looking After Your Mental Health Embarrassing?

My favourite section of any bookshop has long been the self-help section. I love reading books on wellness and mindfulness and anxiety, basically anything to do with improving your mental wellbeing. For a long time I was always a little nervous of heading into that quiet corner of the shop. What if someone saw the books I was looking at and wondered what was ‘wrong’ with me?

More recently I was sitting on the bus with a guided meditation app playing in my earphones when it suddenly occurred to me to make sure that the screen was off so that no one saw what app I was using. As someone who is quite happy to talk about their mental health, why do I feel so uncomfortable if people find out that I’m making a conscious effort to look after it?

We all have mental health, whether it’s good or bad. Some people can take care of theirs without much effort, some need a little more help, whether that’s through therapy or medication or self help books. And whilst I know there’s nothing embarrassing about that, there’s still some social stigma around people knowing that it’s effort for you.

No one would bat an eyelid over you stretching your legs to make an injury feel better or popping antacids for some indigestion, so why do we feel embarrassed about looking after our mental health?

Maybe some people find having a positive outlook easy but for me, it’s definitely something that I have to work on. I frequently overwork myself or don’t give myself enough credit and as a result I often overlook the positive aspects of my life in favour of the negatives. Over the past couple of years I’ve made a real effort to do everything I can to make sure that my mental health is just as good as my physical health is. I exercise regularly, I aim to get enough sleep every day, I have a mood tracker, I do yoga, I practice meditation, I set myself goals, I don’t drink too much alcohol (most of the time).

Whilst I talk about lots of those things on my blog, I would rarely tell anyone in ‘real life’ that I meditate or that I fill in a mood tracker every day. For me, on some levels, it does feel a little embarrassing that I need to make the effort. Surely everyone else doesn’t have to go to the same lengths to keep their mental health in peak condition.

But on reflection, looking after my mental health doesn’t feel so much different to looking after my physical health. When I go to the gym and eat well, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud for taking matters into my own hands, for working hard and for seeing results when I look in the mirror. When I look after my mental health, I should feel the same. But at the moment there’s definitely a wall there for me.

I hope that 2018 is the year that I can proudly tell people that I meditate because it makes me feel calmer, that I track my mood so that I can see if certain days, or times of the month are good or bad for me and that looking after my mental health isn’t something that comes as easily to me as my physical health.

Rachel x-x-x

 

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Looking After Your Mental Health in Winter

Whether it’s panicking about how you’re going to afford Christmas or you just feel miserable when the sun isn’t shining, Winter contributes to a dip in mood for lots of people. Grey skies, dark mornings and being cold ALL THE TIME are bad enough without all the extra stress on your mental health.

Here are a few ways to make things easier on yourself in the Winter months.

It’s okay not to be super excited about Christmas

When you’re not feeling 100%, the last thing you want is feeling like everyone else around you is having a holly jolly Christmas. Winter time and Christmas can be really hard for some people, whether it’s dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder or difficulties around spending Christmas with your family. It’s totally okay to take a step back from the festivities and make extra time for self-care.

Choose handmade

Christmas shouldn’t be a competition over who can spend more. It shouldn’t wrack you with fear searching for a Secret Santa present. You shouln’t feel panicked about getting THE BEST gift. Christmas isn’t about money, it’s about whatever you want it to be about, whether that’s spending time with family, friends, religion, whatever. You do you.

It can be really hard when everyone seems to be Christmas shopping from the start of November but instead why not give a handmade gift or something sentimental over something expensive. Getting into debt for Christmas is never worth it and who doesn’t love a handmade gift anyway?

Ignore the food guilt

We all reach for the carbs a little more in Winter than in the warmer months and maybe that means the scales go up a teeny bit, but what you’re not going to do is beat yourself up for it.

Try and get some exercise each day if you can and stay hydrated if you’re drinking alcohol.

Invest in a SAD lamp

If you struggle with getting up in a morning and feel like your mood is impossible to lift in Winter, maybe it’s time to invest in a sad lamp. I have the Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock with Sunrise and Sunset Features and it’s changed the Winter months for me so much.

I love that the light starts half an hour before I have to get up so sleepy little me can get used to it before I open my eyes and I also set it before I go to bed so that the light goes out gradually and I feel much more able to relax before bedtime.

What do you do to look after your mental health in winter? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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Things No One Tells You About Meditation

When it comes to meditation, I am a mere newbie. Over the past few years I’ve come back to meditation time and time again with no success until more recently. Before I really put some effort into it I thought meditation was a load of rubbish. I just couldn’t see how sitting quietly was going to make me feel better. But miraculously it has helped, a lot.

I’ve told very few people that I meditate but those I have told, have given me some erm varying responses, such as

“It doesn’t do anything, you know.”

“Didn’t have you down as a hippie.”

And from my Mum:

“I always think it’s nice that you try new things.”

Generally people aren’t as nice as my Mum was so it’s usually met with a negative response that makes me sound as though I’ve just told someone I can levitate. After some research on the internet, it seems that there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation, so here are a few things that no one tells you about it.

It’s not like the movies

Meditation doesn’t always look like a Buddhist monk sat on top of a mountain chanting Om. You can do it anyway you find comfortable. Personally, I just plonk myself down on my yoga mat, either sitting on lying, whatever I fancy and breathe. Make sure you’re wearing something comfortable, because the last thing you want when you’re meditating is to be thinking about how tight the waistband of your jeans is.

It doesn’t take up loads of time.

I try to meditate for 10 minutes a day. This fits into my schedule and it’s not too time-consuming. I like to practice meditation after a workout or yoga practice, because I can just tack ten minutes on to the end of it. You can do it for longer if you have the time or shorter, depending on how long you have.

It’s hard to start with…

I am someone who really struggles to quieten my mind. It’s always whirring with thoughts and worries and I’m always thinking about the next thing that needs doing. Meditation is really hard to start with, because bringing your mind back to the present when it starts wandering isn’t something we do on a daily basis.

But it gets easier

The more you meditate, the easier it gets. The worries subside and it becomes so much easier to just focus on your breathing and appreciate your surroundings.

Have you ever tried meditation? Let me know in the comments! 

Rachel x-x-x

 

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How To Be Alone

As an introvert, being alone is something I’m pretty skilled at. I love being alone, I crave it, and when I don’t get it, life feels pretty overwhelming. But not everyone feels that way. There seems to be a misconception that being alone equals loneliness when actually that is far from the truth.

Nowadays, alone time is rare. There’s always something to be doing or someone to meet up with, so getting some time alone is something that you need to make a priority, because being alone can be so beneficial. Even if you live with a partner or housemates, it’s important that you make time for yourself too.

You can think more clearly when you’re alone and you’ll be more productive as a result. It also gives you time for problem solving and deep thinking, and by understanding yourself better, your relationships will improve to.

But, for lots of people, spending time alone can be a challenge. Having spoken to some of my more extroverted friends, I’ve found that they hate being alone, and rarely go out and do anything by themselves.

I spend loads of time by myself and I love it, so whilst spending time with a group of people makes me feel incredibly nervous, doing things alone is just second nature to me.

So if you’re a person who struggles to spend time alone here are some ways that might help.

Understand why you always want to be around others

Some people just love social interaction and want to surround themselves with friends all the time. This is great, but make sure you’re not doing it purely because you don’t want to be alone. Being alone means time to think and that doesn’t appeal to everybody, because thinking too much can cause pain. But you also shouldn’t just be filling your time with seeing others as a way to avoid thinking.

(P.S. I’m not saying all extroverts are running from their thoughts!)

Start small

If you want to do more things on your own but aren’t sure where to start, then start small. Take yourself out shopping or for a coffee before moving onto some more daunting tasks like going to the cinema by yourself or for a meal. But, I promise that no one will think you’re weird for doing these things alone.

Embrace it

Alone time shouldn’t be scary. It’s the perfect excuse to do whatever you want with no judgement from anyone else. Get creative doing something you can’t usually do around your friends and you’ll soon find that you’re more focused on the activity than you are on being alone.

Plan

One thing I hate is when my boyfriend goes out for the whole day and I’m left with a huge expanse of time alone. Like I’ve said, I absolutely love being alone but when the person you spend the majority of your time with isn’t there for a period of time, it can feel pretty lonely. To combat this, I like to plan. I decide roughly what I’m going to do with my day, and make sure I’m not spending 8 hours feeling like I’m desperate for human contact.

Do you love alone time or can’t stand it? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

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Why Reflection is Important

When you’re a nursing student, life without reflection doesn’t exist. Each day we’re supposed to take half an hour to reflect on our practice, so what initially started as a way for me to reflect on my nursing practice and deal with difficulties I was facing, has turned into reflecting on all aspects of my life.

If I’m being totally honest, I don’t reflect for half an hour each day because that’s just quite a long time really isn’t it? But I definitely reflect at least a couple of times a week on average.

Reflection is all about making a conscious effort to look at an activity or event in retrospect and understand what went well and what didn’t. This means that you can work out how to do something better next time or help others to do the same activity.

To make this a bit more applicable to real life, here are some times when I use reflection to better myself:

  • Reflecting on my day as a whole – what went well, what didn’t? Is it something I can change?
  • Relationships – Am I giving enough to my friendships and am I getting something out of them?
  • Fitness – Have I been fuelling my body well and exercising? If not, why not?
  • Mental Health – Is it good or bad right now? Has something changed? Can I do something to change this?

Why is reflection so good?

  • Reflection helps to learn from your mistakes and improve for next time. I’m always striving to do better so it’s a really good way of looking what you’ve done in a rational way, to see what the next steps are, rather than pushing yourself too hard.
  • Reflection really helps me to stop beating myself up. I am prone to blaming myself for the slightest mistake but when I can reflect I’m better able to see that things aren’t always my fault!
  • A great thing about reflection is that it’s scheduled times which lets you think things over so that worries about your day don’t seep into your leisure time.
  • For me, reflection really aids my creativity. It’s the best time for thinking up new ideas and feeling that lovely feeling of being able to do anything.

What do I do?

Whilst there are lots of different frameworks you can use for guidance (Check out: Borton’s 1970 Framework Guiding Reflective Activities or Gibbs, 1988) I prefer a less structured approach.

I’ll take some quiet time to myself, maybe in the bath or post yoga. Rather than just sitting and thinking, I prefer to write things down because it helps me organise my thoughts, so for, journaling and reflection are really interlinked. But the nice thing about reflection is that there’s no set way to do it and any reflection on yourself will aid personal growth and help you feel more in control of your life and happiness.

Do you use reflection in everyday life? Let me know in the comments!

Rachel x-x-x

 

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