How to be more lucky!

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Do you ever think you’re a bit of an unlucky charm? Always arriving at red lights, watching the bus pull away or dropping your iPhone on the way back from getting the screen fixed? Sometimes it seems we’re just darned unlucky, and I thought I could give you a few words of advice.

First, I need to tell you a quick story.

Last week I was flying back from visiting my second family in Malaga. I’d had a great week trekking horses out through the Sierra Nevada mountains, drinking way too much wine at my friend’s bar and scoffing Mexican food down my gob with the girls. It had been brilliant.

After a long day’s journey, my bus creaked up to the airport, so I hopped out and went inside to check-in. Here’s the catch. When I got to the front of the queue I realised I’d left my passport on the bus, which was probably hurtling back to Granada as I frantically patted down my empty pockets.

Shit shit shit shit shit.

‘WHY DOES EVERYTHING GO WRONG FOR ME?!’

I sprinted back towards where the bus had dropped me in a futile hope it would still be there. In my stress I went catapulting off in the wrong direction and ended up in an airport carpark for 20 minutes as I went up and down and up and down and up and down in the lift, my hands shaking as they slammed on the lift buttons. My phone was dead, so I couldn’t call anyone for advice.

What must have been an hour after being dropped I made it back to the bus stop and the bus was unbelievably still there… but it was locked and switched off… JUST MY LUCK. Eventually, after running around like a mad chicken and finding someone who worked for the bus company to track down the drivers number, I managed to get the passport back and sprinted through security to get my flight on the last boarding call… how unlucky!

Now I’m going to tell you the same story.

After the most amazing week with people I love, I got the bus to the airport. I hopped off and went inside. Luckily, my phone had died so rather than going through all of security, I realised my passport was on the bus as soon as I went to get my pass printed.

I was stressed and ran to the car park but luckily a nice member of staff saw I was lost and pointed me in the right direction and wished me luck. A little girl smiled at me reassuringly and it touched me a lot. I was so lucky the bus was still there, it wouldn’t have been if my phone wasn’t dead. What’s more, rather than queuing for a long time at the bus company help desk, a thoughtful lady realised I was stressed and let me skip the queue.

I was so lucky the lady working was helpful and efficient and tracked down the driver straight away, and lucky he was kind and helpful enough to get on his hands and knees and scrabble around for my passport with me.

I was lucky a sweet young man called Waldo noticed my phone was dead as I searched and grabbed a charging port out his bag to save me time getting through security, and that he made me laugh and kept me calm when we went through the bus. I’m lucky he did these things out of kindness not wanting anything from me, and I’m so lucky the airport wasn’t busy, so I made it to the plane quickly.

I’m lucky I speak fluent Spanish, so communication was easy and lucky I know the airport well. I’m also lucky it was the worst thing that happened all week, and that even if I hadn’t found the passport I have enough money to have stayed somewhere safe and never doubted that. How many wonderful people and happy chances;  I was so bloody lucky!

You see, there’s no such thing as good or bad luck; your approach to life is what matters.

Keep your eyes wide open to see the wonderful moments and opportunities that practically fling themselves at you every day, or don’t. It’s up to you but I know I’d rather feel like the universe was on my side than that I’m fighting an uphill battle – it’s all down to how you tell your story.

On self worth; am I good enough?

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You are valuable. We don’t tell ourselves that often enough, and sometimes it hurts.

We live in a society which convinces us that we aren’t enough. Not thin enough, pretty enough, clever enough, kind enough. Constant academic pressure, airbrushed bill boards and social media comparison will inevitably make our self-belief waver sometimes.

But what really hurts the most, is when we let other people’s opinion of us hold power. She doesn’t like me… he thinks I’m a bitch… she doesn’t want to hang out with me… The thoughts feel like a stab right in the gut. It is so easy to believe people’s misconceptions of you, and I just want to let you know that you’re doing ok.

Only you know you. Only you know the kindness in your heart, or the compassion in your mind. Only you know the painful feelings and thoughts that sometimes make you stumble, or the small victories that help you prosper and thrive.

Every single human being has got positive and negative sides to their personalities, and both these positives and negatives help you on your life journey to develop and grow. The only thing that matters is that your heart is in the right place, and if things go wrong sometimes and people misunderstand your intentions, that does not mean that you are not valuable and good.

Every single person has something about them worth loving and celebrating, and no one apart from you has any permission or right to make you believe less of yourself. You are doing so well, and you should be so proud of yourself.

A couple of quick ideas to help you with your self-worth:

  • Try getting a little diary and writing down one thing everyday that you are proud of, even if its tiny like, ‘I made the effort to smile at people in my class today.’
  • Try meditating – particularly check out guided meditations which relate to self-compassion. The free app Insight Timer is totally fantastic and has transformed my life.
  • Spend time with people who make you feel good. If spending time with some people makes you feel less secure and valuable, then step away and redirect your time and attention to people who help you to glow and thrive.

Found this useful?

Why not check out some more of my blogs:

A tablet a day keeps depression at bay

What should I say? How to support a loved one with depression

Meditation as an alternative to therapy?

Have I had sex with too many people?!

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Navigating the social politics around sex is confusing at the best of times. Still a virgin? Oh, you prude! Having regular sex? What a slut! (Unless you’re a man, in which case you’re a legend.)

Are one-night stands liberating or humiliating?  How many can you have before you’re just easy? How many people should we have had sex with by now?

Fear not my friends, the wait is over.

You have not had sex with too many people. You have not had sex with too few. You have had sex with just the right amount of people because you did what you needed to or wanted to do at that moment in time. Think of yourself as Goldilocks and your sex life as baby bear. No. Actually, don’t.

If you are reading this article because you feel anxious or unsure about your number of sexual partners, you can take a breather for a bit whilst you work out what you want. But the number of people you have gone to bed with has absolutely 0 reflection on your worth or value.

Worry about your family and friends. Worry about being compassionate, kind and authentic. Worry about politics, the environment and global injustice… Worrying about the number of notches on your bedpost deserves a pretty low place on your list of concerns.

Some of us like to have one-night stands, no strings attached and do whatever feels natural. Others want to take things slow and wait until you feel the right level of trust and love. Both are fine, and the only person you have to prove anything to is yourself.

Another thing. If you started off wanting to have casual fun and then began to feel weird about it, its OK to change your mind. You don’t want to do hook ups anymore? No problem girl, I’m glad you gave yourself the experiences and time to figure that out. How is anyone supposed to know what they want without a few false runs.

Not of all us like waking up after a night out with a blonde guy you’re pretty sure is called Alex. One-night stands are a drunken fumble at the best of time and I’ve never heard a friend raving about how fantastic their night with the guy from pre-drinks was. Its usually a little bit awkward but kind of okay, nothing to write home about. (Thankfully for your parents)

But if you like to have sex and it makes you feel good, don’t stop for some distorted sense of what you should be doing. Life is short and sweet, so meet judgement with a knowing smile and live your life for you.

If you have sex with 1 person or 1000 people in your life, both are absolutely fine. Check in with your subconscious and if you feel comfortable and good about what you are doing then don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Easypeasy ways to save the planet.

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Thinking about the environment can be daunting. I have had fazes where I’ve wanted to bury my head in the sand and stop CARING about something that seems so overwhelming and impossible. Climate change, coral bleaching, mass extinctions, plastic pollAHHHHHH.

Stop, take a deep breath and acknowledge you can’t ‘fix the world.’

Quite a relief really. What you can do is make some small and easy changes to your life, and educate your friends and family about these ideas too. Small things can spread, and before you know it your little change in attitude has made a big impact, all without drastically changing your lifestyle.

So, here are just a few ideas to start you off:

  • Change laundry powder. Stop what you are doing and look on the back of your laundry detergent. On EVERY mainstream brand you will find the words ‘harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effect’ printed on the back of the pack. When I found it on mine it felt like a big old slap in the face. Every time I wash my clothes I’m pouring this toxic shit down the drain?! POOR FISH. Well, there are solutions. You can use the ecover brand which is much better for the environment. Alternatively, there is a brand called bio d which will also do the trick. It’s not just laundry powder that can be harmful, pouring thick bleaches down your toilet and even household cleaning products are toxic, you could check out the whole ecover range if you like.
  • Reduce plastic. Sounds so obvious, but come ON people. Don’t use plastic polypockets to file your work, whack a hole through the paper with the hole punch. Get a reusable water bottle, you will save so much money by filling up instead of buying more. You can also avoid cotton buds with plastic sticks and go for paper versions, buy paper plates instead of plastic ones, and bring a spare fork in your bag if you might buy a salad out. Even things like toothbrushes are unnecessary disposable plastics. Check out the ethical superstore for plenty of great alternatives like toothbrushes made from bamboo.
  • Careful about palm oil. Palm oil is a common ingredient in processed foods but is linked to deforestation, climate change and destruction of habitats. The organisation ‘Say No to Palm Oil’ campaigns against its unsustainable use and says

‘According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.’

The organisation has a really cool programme you can try for a month where you can slowly alter what you buy to try and live deforestation free. Check it out here.

  • Reduce meat and fish consumption. You may not want to hear this but the worst thing you can do for the planet is support the livestock industry. Seriously, it’s the leading cause of water use, ocean acidification, fossil fuel consumption and deforestation in the world. Don’t panic, you don’t have to wave a vegan carrot wand right away, but you need to understand that meat eating is destructive if you want things to get better. You can learn more by watching the movie Cowspiracy which explains the issues in detail. To start, you could try ‘Meatless Mondays’ every week and see how you feel.

I’m going to leave it at four for now because I don’t want to overwhelm you. If you have any suggestions you’d like me to include in a second article please get in touch and I can release part 2 a bit later on. Feel free to email rachelpowellhorne@gmail.com or leave a comment.

 

Thank you!

Mental Health and Racism; the West is getting it wrong

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Credit: visionsteen

Earlier this year I went to a talk about Black Masculinity and Mental Health and Leeds Uni.

A couple of interesting points worth sharing:

 

The British approach to mental health is intrinsically racist

As we know, police disproportionately target young black men for stop and search. In the 80’s, when legislation made it more difficult for police to stop black men without a reason, the mental health act was widely used in order to justify unfair targeting of black people. An official police reason for stopping black men in the street was suspected ‘ganja psychosis’. Not kidding!

The mere fact of being black was ‘enough’ reason to stop a black man in the street for fears he might be psychotic as a result of the devil’s lettuce. If you look through records around this time you will not find an example of a white person being diagnosed with this ‘disease’, also named RASTOFRANIA. Seriously, this happened.

Flash forward to the 90s. Malcolm, the black mental health worker who explained this to me had worked for the ‘upstairs project’ in London for 5 years, where suicidal or mentally ill people could get referred over for emergency treatment from a London hospital. In these 5 years, EVERY SINGLE PERSON referred to the project was white. Malcolm explained this stems from the idea of a black person as a threat needing to be detained, versus a hysterical white person needing understanding and treatment. People of color have less access to resources and treatment.

When Malcolm studied human psychology at Leeds University (admittedly over 30 years ago) racism was intrinsic to the curriculum. Of 8000 students at the time only 4 of them at the uni weren’t white. What’s more, he had to sit through classes in which lecturers explained the innate inferiority of black people compared to white people, which could explain why black people are suffering more pressures like poverty, unemployment and mental health problems.

We aren’t talking hundreds of years ago, we’re talking the 80s.

The West Can Learn a Lot from Africa

Western approaches to mental health are unique in ignoring the spiritual world. African approaches to depression and anxiety are more likely to acknowledge that when all is said and done, human beings are searching for meaning in our lives and relationships. This search for meaning is intertwined with mental health problems.

Traditional African approaches acknowledge that mental health and well being are about so much more than measuring serotonin levels. Of course, medication and psychotherapy can be useful to many, but white culture has broken the issues down in such a way that depression is more and more a scientific problem to be fixed in a sterile hospital room, rather than considering holistic approaches such as meditation, reflection, nature, yoga and lifestyle changes.

Thank you so much for reading – hope you found this an interesting conversation starter!

Coping with life; is CBT for me?

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NB: when in doubt find a four legged animal and forget all other advice

Life can be bloody hard sometimes. It really can feel like an uphill struggle just to get through day to day existence, let alone the added stress of exams, money or relationships.

Recently I started CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). This differs from other types of therapy as its not just a chance for you to complain about a million reasons why life is getting you down, but forces you to take control and realise that you yourself are at the driving seat of how you feel and how you live.

Don’t shut down, I’m not trying to insult you. Considering depression and anxiety are such crap things to go through it’s kind of weird how much we defend them. Like someone telling us that we don’t have to hold on to these unhealthy feelings and thoughts somehow insults us and belittles the pain that we are suffering. Not at all, but anyone who tells you there is nothing you can do to feel better is lying to you.

The NHS waiting list for CBT was over 3 months long, and my student waiting list for counselling was over a term. Despite referral for immediate counselling, I’ve been waiting for a placement for a few months now and I don’t even have a start date.

Having had 2 months where I felt flat, tearful and lonely at the beginning of my final year of uni, despite taking medication for a few years which I wanted to ‘fix everything’, I realised it was time to step up. Private sessions can cost a lot of money. I pay £70 an hour, which is by no means ‘expensive’ but neither is the cheapest in this field. My parents are helping me pay for this.

The good news is that CBT is a short-term therapy which aims at building healthier ways to look at the world and people can get huge benefit from just 4-6 sessions. I eventually realised that if I can pay to go on nights out and holidays there is no excuse to avoid paying some money towards my mental health; surely feeling happy is the whole ‘point’ to being on this spinning hunk of rock anyway?

In CBT sessions you realise that it is not reality that make you upset 99% of the time. In the vast majority of cases it is how you react to them.

For example, it’s raining on the day of your graduation.

Person 1 would say ‘This is just my luck, I just wanted one day to go well for once in my life after all this stress and poverty at uni and now it’s all ruined.’ Possibly leading to a spiral of negative thoughts and ruining the day.

Person 2 on the other hand ‘uh oh, oh well.’ or ‘Good job I packed an umbrella!’

The fact it is raining didn’t upset the two people in the same way, the reaction is what caused pain. Of course, if it was this simple I’d not be forking out for more sessions but the basic premise if that if you take some ownership of your thinking patterns you can have a better life, even if you are incapable of changing the people and events around you. The only thing you can change is your attitude, and it can make your life better.

I highly recommend the book ‘Mind Power; Change your thinking, Change your life.’ By James Borg. I promise it’s not as corny as it sounds. Actually, its got some great tips for helping you out with taking control of your happiness if you can’t afford or aren’t ready to seek out CBT. If you’re having problems with emotional ups and downs, depression, anxiety, anger or stress, it’s a gem.

You can read more about my experience and advice for mental health medication here

Click here to read about supporting a loved one with depression.

Or why not try out the article I wrote about meditation as an alternative to therapy? You can read it here.

Meditation as an alternative to therapy?

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credit zmescience

Sometimes things feel quite alright, and (rather unlike Theresa’s government) I really do feel strong and stable. Other times, things are hard. Depression and anxiety are hard to explain because they are hard to understand, even if you are experiencing these feelings.

I can feel terribly sad, worthless and lonely, even when I’m surrounded by loving and supportive friends and family. I can feel unsure of myself, questioning every word I say and even get waves of grief pass through me, even though I haven’t lost somebody at the time. I can also feel ace.

Peaks and troughs – story of my life!

After 7 years of taking medication (from such a tender wee age), I decided it’s time to try alternative methods. I’ve been trying yoga, exercise, healthy eating and I most recently adopted a bunny!

So, I popped a long to a Buddhist Meditation class at my university to see whether this might fill the role of reducing anxiety and processing my feelings in a healthy way.

The sessions are completely free and for 2 hours every Wednesday I can join a non-judgemental environment to relax, meditate and reflect on everything going on in my busy little head. People go for all kinds of reasons. Some are very spiritual, some are just slightly stressed out with deadlines and various people are dealing with personal issues through this method.

We sit quietly and breathe deeply, whilst someone ‘guides’ the meditation, speaking softly about what we can be thinking about and focussing on. You don’t have to Buddhist and you don’t have to know anything about meditation.

We wear comfy clothes, sit down on pillows and listen to soothing words. We drink tea in the middle and chat, and it’s a space where no one is interrupted or made to feel out of place.

On the first session we did a ‘prayer of love’ where you think about people you love and wish them the best. Then you think about someone whose hurt you and do the same for them. Oh my Christ, I was sobbing my eyes out. I didn’t realise I had stuff to process until my snot and dribble formed a single line of yuck, but no one so much as batted an eyelid.

All night I was subdued and felt strange, but to think I was holding all that sad inside without even knowing is quite a scary thought! We are constantly running around trying to push aside our feelings for a more convenient time so this is a healthy safe space to deal with shit without worrying you’re wasting valuable ‘doing’ time. I am feeling the same impacts that I have felt from formal counselling before, but this is free and there’s a real focus on working through your own issues and not having someone external ‘fix you.’

If you can’t afford, or are unsure about formal therapy, I 100% recommend trying out some meditation.

Hope you found this article helpful! If yes why not check out my other work: