There isn’t one me, and that’s OK.

A post at Hearthrose’s blog got me thinking about something recently.

Although I take pride in being pretty independent and happy to be alone, like all people I try and craft myself a story which minimizes conflict, which allows me to appear more congruent, to fit into the group.

But the thing is, although I am functional, stable and happy, I am not a sane, balanced, “one story” sort of a person. I’ve done a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff has happened to me, and my refusal to adhere to one group means my outlook on life isn’t from the same vantage point as any given person I am talking to. I have been on welfare and among the elite at the Oxford and Cambridge club. I have spent time in churches and posing nude for painting and photography groups. I have been paid to write liberal essays, but I have also intentionally associated with Marxists and feminists. I have lived across countries, incomes, social boundaries… And between that and the randomly flicking light switch which is my hormonal balance, I am not sane or balanced, there is no “one story”.

I find that with the way my head works, it’s hard to reconcile many different aspects of myself. I learned from a young age that people as disjointed and random as me aren’t “real” people, that I needed to simplify myself in order to be “genuine”. Although no one person has mattered to me beyond Jon, I’ve still tried to minimize conflict by wedging myself into one story and hiding anything which didn’t quite fit.

Pregnancy has given me some time to think about this though, especially about disorders like bipolar and disorders of shallow affect. I know they’re highly heritable. But I don’t want my son to end up like my father: a bipolar alcoholic unable to reconcile all the facets of his identity into something pleasant and superficially genuine, which people might find easier to swallow. I want my son to be able to be weird and disjointed, to not commit to something unless he needs to or wants to or believes it makes sense, to not force himself into an indentity or a group without reason. I don’t want to make him think he has to find a community he can perfectly blend into and fade into the background. Because that is what happened to my father and it doesn’t work.

I don’t care any more if I’m a bit too sweary or immodest at times for the traditional spheres. Or if I’m not racy or flaunty enough for social media. Or if I’m not religious enough for small communities. Or if I’m not abrasive enough for my age group. I don’t care that I read anything from the KJ Bible to Deadman Wonderland, that I’m an anime nerd, that I can’t hate the sex industry, that I prefer to be alone most of the time, that I’m self-absorbed, that I like to do traditional tasks, that I hoard money instead of using it.

I’d rather get on with being me, doing what I must do in order to succeed at what I want, accepting the different sides of myself and not hiding them in order to fit in better or appease someone. If something needs fixing, I’ll fix it, not pretend it isn’t there to give a better impression. And if I lose a few people along the way, then they’re not part of my story, are they?

Being All You Can Be. Part I: Quantity and Quality.

When we hear someone tell us to be all we can be, we often confuse this with “be the best you can be”. If you are a writer, be the best writer you can be, if you are a housewife, be the best housewife you can be, if you are a police officer, be the best police officer you can be. But being the best you can be is only one half of the equation. To be all we can be we not only need to have the quality (be the best you can be), but we also need to fulfill a quantity quota (be the most you can be).

For example, I am sure that when I mentioned the writer, housewife, police officer explanations you imagined three different people. But one person could just as easily be all three. We are not just the thing we do most often, or the thing we make money from, or the thing we love: we are the sum total of everything we do. So not only would this woman want to be the best she can be in all three categories, she needs to acknowledge that all three categories are a part of her and that excluding any one of them to make herself better at another is not being all she can be, it’s simply redirecting whilst staying the same.

Thus, I put forward that whoever you are and whatever you do, in order to be all you can be you must do everything you can and achieve everything your heart desires. Quantity and quality alike. This series will be short, to the point and with plenty of room for thought or addition from you readers, so feel free to chip in! In Part II I will discuss the concept of self-sufficiency and the potential we all have for independence.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

8 Ways To Find Beauty In Everything.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the world for what it is. Or for what it isn’t. Or basically to enjoy it for what it is, even if it isn’t perfect. It’s especially hard when you’re going through a rough patch or have depression in general. Existential misery, the feeling that everything is meaningless or the cloud to every silver lining will blind you to the positives and leave you feeling miserable. And when you’re in that sort of a place you can’t always feel better about it.

But there are some ways to lift yourself up when you’re down and to prevent yourself from being dragged down quite so harshly. Preventative medicine for the mind, or a supplement of happiness to tide you through, as it were.

1: Respect yourself.

It can be hard to do anything at all when you don’t respect yourself. To try and cultivate self-respect, remember to always make note and give thanks when you get things right, so that these become more memorable. Learn about your own flaws and work against them when they can be fixed and accept when they can’t. From time to time, try and think of yourself as a child or a pet. Would you treat a child or puppy with the amount of love, care and attention you treat yourself? Remember that you deserve to be happy, especially when it doesn’t cost anyone anything.

2: Respect others.

It is just as important to respect those around you. When you have no respect for yourself you will breed sadness, as you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour or the silver linings in life. But when you have no respect for others you will breed anger, as their flaws will routinely disappoint and offend you. Try and think about other people rationally. Look at their skills and flaws and ask yourself if your demands are reasonable. Remember that they may not be capable of what you expect of them, and that they have the free will to deal with their flaws or embrace them. You have no power over them.

3: Hone your senses.

Everything in life can be experienced through all the senses. We have the five main senses, of course, but we also have the surrounding senses, such as proprioception, time perception and intuition. Learn about all of them and from time to time use meditation to bring them all out. Try observing and painting every colour in a flower, or listening to every instrument in a piece of music. By working on your senses you can learn that some things may have an awful scent or colour, but a pleasant sound or atmosphere.

4: Indulge your senses.

Once you have spent some time observing every sense, try and indulge or even overwhelm them. Listen to genres of music you’ve never heard before. Look at psychedelic art. Try eating high concentrations of foods that are often diluted, like saccharine, or low concentrations of foods that are often strong, like coffee. Push yourself to identify more elements of life. Try and meditate to speed up or slow down your perception of time. Try and feel every part of your body without touching it with your hands. Indulge every sense you can isolate.

5: Look for beauty.

And when you’re experiencing everything at least a little bit and striving to experience everything fully, you want to find beauty wherever you look. Maybe a tall tree in your neighbour’s garden is blocking the light from your own. But you can plant shade-loving plants beneath it and enjoy the shelter it gives from rain and sun. Maybe your child plays loud music in the afternoons. But the music may have agreeable qualities that you hadn’t noticed. Maybe chocolate tastes too sweet for you. But the bitter, astringent or spiced tastes that cocoa has shouldn’t be neglected. The beauty is there, if only you look for it carefully.

6: Protect yourself.

That said, be sure to guard yourself against things that have more harm than beauty in them. If chocolate is genuinely too unpleasant for you, then ensure you don’t have to eat it by warning people and learning to politely turn it down. If a certain type of music gives you migraines, makes you feel ill at ease or is simply irritating, explain this to anyone who plays it around you. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can take small steps to remove unnecessary harm from your life.  And these steps are entirely your own responsibility.

7: Disregard unharmful flaws.

However, some flaws are merely mild annoyances that cause no real harm. If a certain type of music annoys you and your neighbour insists on playing it, then there is nothing you can do. It is causing you no real harm, so learn to ignore these things. Inconvenient, annoying or frustrating things happen all the time. The world doesn’t care that your father died in a train derailment, that incense gives you headaches or that you take longer to cross a certain section of a road than others would. Trains, incense and crossings won’t stop existing just because they bother you. If the thing you perceive as a flaw causes you no harm, then learn to ignore it whenever you can’t avoid it.

8: Be honest about positives and negatives.

There are good sides and bad sides to life. Whatever your outlook, things will happen that will make you sad, hurt, angry or frustrated. Regarding these things, the only outlook that helps is acceptance. Sometimes you will find something that has no value to you. So accept them for what they are. Death is death. Devastation is devastation. Disease is disease. They may hold no reward for you, but they’re not meant to. They have their own role to play in life which, however harmful it is to you, is benefiting something, somewhere. Trying to deny their existence or the harm they cause you will only make you less happy. All you can do is accept that they’re there, accept that they play a part in this world and keep on going. After all, the pigs you eat for breakfast and the microorganisms you kill with antibiotics would have a hard time seeing the good in you too!

And those are eight ways to see the beauty in everything. If you make an effort, you will find that everything has something beautiful about it, even if that beauty is completely useless to you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

In brief: Why you should admire and not covet.

Jealousy is a plague that has followed humans since our earliest existence. As living beings, we are constantly competing against our environment and other humans of a similar standing. As social animals, we are in close contact with our competition and superiors. So we naturally look at what we have, look at what they have and want a better lot.

This can be very good in that it helps us set high goals, gain healthy respect for our peers and superiors and understand our position and potential. However, it can also cause us problems.

We start to develop a deep envy of anyone who has something we want. We covet what they have, be it a fancy car, curly hair or a knack for music. And rather than enjoy their merits for what they are and look to the good in ourselves, we focus entirely on our lack of these things. Which leads to social disruptions as we become jealous of our peers and lose self esteem over our differences.

And all this is perfectly natural. But, just as eating and getting fat are natural does not make obesity good or healthy, neither is jealousy and low self esteem healthy just because competitiveness and living in close proximity to your competition are natural.

For a healthier outlook, instead admire the positives in others. Don’t look at what they have and get angry because they have it and it’s nice. That may be a natural reaction, but it is also immature and harmful. Look at someone who has the car you want and admire that car. You can do this and accept that you don’t have the money to buy it (yet). Look at someone who does amazingly in maths exams without any effort at all and admire their talent. You can do this and accept that you have to work harder than that and may never get those results. Look at someone who has the curly hair you’ve always dreamed of and admire its beauty. You can do this and accept that your hair is not naturally curly like that.

It’s key to respect your differences. You may want to be the same as your friend or a celebrity in certain aspects, but there is no point harbouring envy and anger because someone has something you don’t. I’m not really a believer in the doctrine of “everyone is equal in their difference”. There are plenty of bright people who are also athletic, attractive and charming. Not every dumb person will have anything to compensate for it. But generally people have good traits and bad traits, even if they aren’t really excellent in any way. You may not have your friend’s hair colour or gift for mathematics. But getting het up about it doesn’t help you get it. It just makes you angry, insecure and bitter, all of which are actually making you worse as a person. And when we try and improve ourselves from a place of jealousy, trying to seize what we covet… Well, like the proverbial flower that is picked, the thing we thought was so beautiful is ruined and dies. When we get a face lift or botox to get beautiful skin, we wind up with unnaturally stretched, creased skin. When we lie in tanning beds or bleach our skin, we get reddened marks, cancer risk and blotchy patches. When we cheat in a French test we get pushed beyond our abilities in the higher classes until we drop out. You can’t just see what you like and angrily grab at it. Sometimes it’s beyond your reach and snatching it will only break it.

So try and appreciate yourself. Bear in mind that the traits you would readily cast aside for something else are also coveted by others. Even the tallest man wants the normalcy of average height. Even the richest person wants the simplicity of less. Even the greatest mathematician wonders about becoming a gardener. Nobody is ever fully satisfied. Someone out there wants your hair, your waistline, your money, your family, your job. You may not enjoy any of it. But at least appreciate that whatever you have has some value.

And if you find actual flaws? Flaws that hinder you, that aren’t representative of you, that you could easily fix? Build yourself up from there. You don’t need to hate your hair to get a haircut or to hate your job to change careers. You don’t need to be bitter towards the maths whiz to work harder in maths or to get angry at attractive celebrities to get fit. Just because the baseline is “be me” doesn’t mean that you can’t go beyond it. You stay “me” every step of the way, don’t you? You will still be true to yourself if you become wiser, more attractive, wealthier, more powerful, fitter, more educated or stronger.

So admire the things you love in others.

Respect the difference between yourself and those around you.

Appreciate every blessing bestowed upon you.

And never stop growing.

After all, you’re perfect, but you need to keep going.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

100 Questions No One Ever Asks.

Stolen from Dorkchops again. She has the best blog for makeup and hair and finds the best crazy lists!

100 questions people rarely or ever ask.

Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed?
Open. I somehow always manage to grow mould on things, even when laden with silica, unless I leave the doors that tiny bit open. Apparently it’s more about the magic than the airflow, though.

Do you take the shampoos and conditioner bottles from hotel?
Yep. Super penny pincher here. Plus, I use them as stain removers. 🙂

Do you sleep with you sheets tucked in or out?
Untucked. I roll around too much.

Have you ever stolen a street sign before?
Not really. I’ve vandalized a few in the past, though.

Do you like to use post-it notes?
As a private tutor, I am by obligation obsessed with all sorts of stationary. It’s actually part of the certification.

Do you cut out coupon but then never use them?
All the time. Takes hardly a second and if you use it, it was worth it.

Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of bees?
A bear is statistically less likely to kill me once the attack has started, so bring it.

Do you have freckles?
Not always, but I get a rare case of ginger-vitis when I’m in the sun for too long.

Do you always smile for pictures?
When I feel like smiling I do.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

People changing the definitions of words every five seconds to suit themselves.

***

Do you ever count your steps when you walk?

When I need to relax I will count or hum to anything.

Have you ever peed in the woods?
Yep.

What about pooped in the woods?
Yep. Scouts are unforgiving there.

Do you ever dance even if there’s no music playing?
No sense of rhythm, so it’s either a few steps of bachata or a sort of flail.

Do you chew your pens and pencils?
Pens, pencils, cutlery, cardboard, wire, anything chewable.

How many people have you slept with this week?
One.

What size is your bed?
King, but I miss our giant Queen sized one.

What is your song of the week?

Is it okay for guys to wear pink?
If they understand that people will judge them whatever they do, then sure.

Do you still watch cartoons?

Anime every day. OnePiece, The Seven Deadly Sins, Tokyo Ghoul, so good.

***

What’s your least favourite movie?
All the Winnie The Pooh ones. We overdid them in our home when I was little and I am still overdosed.

Where would you bury hidden treasure if you had some?
Under the shed.

What do you drink with dinner?
Water or coffee, depending on the mood. Sometimes Bailey’s in the coffee, also depending on the mood.

What do you dip a chicken nugget in?
The bin. I hate fast food chicken.

What is your favourite food?
Eggs, hands down as an ingredient. Pizza as a food.

What movies could you watch over and over and still love?
Oliver and Company or any of the One Piece movies.

Last person you kissed/kissed you?
Jon.

Were you ever a boy/girl scout?
For many years. Loved it, but never made any progress due to zero interest in hierarchy or other people. I was basically there for the mud.

Would you ever strip or pose nude in a magazine?
I’ve been an artist’s model, so it depends on the magazine, I guess.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
A few months ago when I sent my Dad a care pack with some goodies he can’t get at home.

***

Can you change the oil on a car?
Jon taught me, but it doesn’t stick.

Ever gotten a speeding ticket?
So far still can’t drive.

Ever ran out of gas?
N/A.

Favourite kind of sandwich?
Peanut butter with butter.

Best thing to eat for breakfast?
Steak and eggs and chips.

What is your usual bedtime?
Around 10.30 when Jon’s on days and midnight when he’s on nights or we’re both off work.

Are you lazy?
I probably use my depression as an excuse for idleness from time to time.

When you were a kid, what did you dress up as for Halloween?
It was never so popular in Spain, but I loved dressing as a vampire pretty much every time I could

What is your Chinese astrological sign?
Rooster.

How many languages can you speak?
Three, going on four this year. 🙂

***

Do you have any magazine subscriptions?
RSPB one and National Trust that we get free with our memberships. BHWT one for adopting hens.

Which are better, legos or lincoln dogs?

Lego.

Are you stubborn?
Not as much as I used to be, I don’t think.

Who is better, Leno or Letterman?
I have no idea who these people are.

Ever watch soap operas?
Not since I escaped Spain, land of rubbish dubs and Mexican telenovelas day in, day out.

Are you afraid of heights?
Quite a bit. Wouldn’t like to cross a bridge and find it awkward to stand upright on a chair.

Do you sing in the car?
Jon and I often start belting out heartfelt nonsense to the tune of whatever’s playing.

Do you sing in the shower?
Only when someone is listening to suffer.

Do you dance in the car?
Don’t think I have the skills for that.

Ever used a gun?
No.

***

Last time you got a portrait taken by a photographer?
Ages ago. Probably three years, maybe more.

Do you think musicals are cheesy?
Very. It’s part of the attraction.

Is Christmas stressful?
People? Too many people. Gah. Yuck. Alone please.

Ever eat a pierogi?
Yup. 😀

Favourite type of fruit pie?
I love cherry and plum. Together or separate.

Occupations you wanted to be when you were a kid?
I thin I always wanted to be a writer.

Do you believe in ghosts?
I think there are things we can see that we can’t explain with our current understanding of the world. Mountain gorillas started as cryptids, why not ghosts?

Ever have a Deja-vu feeling?
Often.

Take a vitamin daily?
Omega 3 supplements, but nothing else regularly.

Wear slippers?
At Jon’s insistence because he’s worried I will freeze all the soft tissues in my feet to death.

***

Wear a bath robe?
Love them. Soft and fluffy.

What do you wear to bed?
Nothing when it’s hot, nightie or pajamas when it’s cold.

First concert?
Something arranged by scouts.

Wal-Mart, Target, or Kmart?
Aldi.

Nike or Adidas?
Puma.

Cheetos or Fritos?
Patatas no! Pipas!

Peanuts or Sunflower seeds?
Pipas.

Ever heard of the group Tres Bien?
No.

Ever take dance lessons?
For a while. Latin ballroom dancing. Almost all of it stuck, but it didn’t cure my absence of rhythm.

Is there a profession you picture your future spouse doing?
I like Jon doing whatever makes him come home happy.

***

Can you curl your tongue?
Yes.

Ever won a spelling bee?
No such thing in Spain.

Have you ever cried because you were so happy?
Never.

Own any record albums?
A few classicals and musical soundtracks.

Own a record player?
No, so the records are going to waste.

Regularly burn incense?
Often. But not as often as candles.

Ever been in love?
Only for the last four and a half years.

Who would you like to see in concert?
Sonata Arctica.

What was the last concert you saw?
Something at Download 2014. Probably Trivium.

Hot tea or cold tea?
Hot tea.

***

Tea or coffee?
Coffee any day.

Sugar or snickerdoodles?
Neither. Too sweet.

Can you swim well?
Nope. Used to be able to, but lost my floatability.

Can you hold your breath without holding your nose?
Yes.

Are you patient?
Depends on the hour or the minute or the month.

DJ or band, at a wedding?
Neither, really. Not much of a wedding person or a wedding music person. A tribute metal band, if I have to pick.

Ever won a contest?
A lot more when I was younger and cared more.

Ever have a plastic surgery?
Not really and don’t want to, despite the fact it’s the only way to clear up the last of my skin sag.

Which are better, black or green olives?
Green, pickled.

Can you knit or crochet?
Not properly, but there’s nothing I can’t make on my loom.

***

Best room for a fireplace?
The living room or bedroom. I just need a big enough bedroom, is all.

Do you want to get married?
Yes.

If married, how long have you been married?
N/A

Who was your HS crush?
This guy:

I was a bit of a nerd.

Do you cry and throw a fit until you get your own way?
Nope. It never worked anyway.

Do you have kids?
Not yet.

Do you want kids?
At least four.

What’s your favourite colour?
Blue. Green is nice too, but mostly blue.

Do you miss anyone right now?

Not really. I like letting people go. Everyone who is important in my life tends to stay in it.

Well, that was weird. Time for another coffee!

And feel free to tag yourself if you’re feeling up to it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

12 Swaps To Make Today.

There are so many things in everyone’s life that we need or want to change. Paint the kitchen, learn a language, lose 50lbs, change the car tyres, get certified as a chef, have children, etc. And a lot of these tasks are long, take hard work and commitment and feel quite daunting.

So here are 12 super easy, super simple things you can swap around in your life today, as in, actually this very day, without much time, effort or money involved. They will improve your health, finances and peace of mind massively, too!

1: Skip the snacks aisle.

Next time you’re in the supermarket, steer clear of the chocolatey, cereal bar and candy aisles and instead linger a little longer around the fruits and greens. Your body will thank you for something a little fresher and more nutrient dense.

2: Clean as you go.

When you’re  waiting for a pot to boil, wash anything you’ve recently used. When you’re making the bed, collect the laundry. When you’re choosing a DVD, put away the ones that are out. The house is so much tidier for just a few seconds’ work.

3: Get a charity box.

Keep it near the door and whenever you find something you aren’t using, drop it in. Then, when you’re next charity shopping or just in town, drop it off. Some charity shops, like the Salvation Army, have bag reward schemes where you get in-shop discounts for your donations, so ask about them.

4: Have tea or water.

Next time you’re ordering or making a hot drink, switch to tea. Next time you’re ordering or getting a cold drink, grab water. It’s healthier and cheaper and takes no extra effort.

5: Turn the TV off.

Try and keep the TV off for an hour or so a day when you would usually watch it. If you watch it whilst sewing, try the radio or music instead. If you watch it for its own sake, try reading or crafting. TV can overwhelm the mind and distract you, so a break is good.

6: Unwind.

Before you go to bed, try and spend some time relaxing, even if it’s just five minutes. Do a little yoga, stretch off, meditate, listen to music. Anything to let go of the day’s stress and ease your body and mind so you’re ready for sleep.

7: Take the stairs.

You won’t always be able to do this. Sometimes you need the quickness of an elevator. But whenever stairs are available, ask yourself if you could take them.

8: Set aside half an hour.

Try and make half an hour free to spend some time with your friends and family. Whether you’re on the phone to your grandma whilst you do the ironing, Skyping with your cousins or sitting to play board games with your friends, try and spend time with the people who matter.

9: Doll up.

Put on some lipstick, trim your hair, paint your nails or pick out something nice to wear. However small, do something to make yourself look good and feel good.

10: Put away the distractions.

Even if just for a few hours, put your phone down, turn off your laptop or TV, put away the kindle and games and try and focus on something or just enjoy the quiet for a few minutes.

11: Read 10 pages.

Reading is good for you. You can learn something, enrich your vocabulary, or, at the least you learn something valuable about the writer or society as a whole. And it doesn’t need to be too time consuming. Just keep a book, e-reader or notebook by the side of your bed and try and read ten pages of something of quality.

12: Doodle.

As I have discussed, crafting is good for you. So even if you aren’t big on art or don’t think you’re talented, try and sketch a little here and there. It can help you refocus, relax or just get your head around something.

And those are twelve things you could change today, without much or any effort, and see your life change a little bit for the better.

What other ways can you think of that you could improve your life easily?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Pieces Of My Own Advice I Should Probably Follow.

I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. But considering how often I’m right, it’s appalling how often I fail to follow my own advice, heed my own warnings and do the right or best thing.

5 Pieces Of My Own Advice I Should Probably Follow!

With that said, in a moment of unprecedented honesty, here are five pieces of good advice I give out more often than I act on. I will strive to actually take this advice in the future.

1: Make Yourself Happy.

This is a compound of two deeply set beliefs of mine. The first is that it is nobody else’s responsibility to make you happy, or, indeed, do anything for you. You are born into this world naked and frail and, whatever rights and contracts are formed between you and those around you and enforced, under that veil of civility we are still all barbarians who would stab each other in the kidney for no good reason. Nobody owes me anything, so my happiness should not be in their hands.

The second belief is that optimism is the only way to truly enjoy life. There is a silver lining to most things and a plan B for everything. You may not feel happy about everything, but you can find the more pleasant unintended consequences, the things that at least didn’t go wrong, the things you have left. If you lose your family, your home and your job, at least you’re still alive and have your brain and live in a world full or charitable people and resources. You are alive and will keep on living until such a time as there is nothing left.

Combine the two, and you can see why I recommend to always try and make yourself happy. So long as you’re here, you have something going for you. And the stars will never wholly align to make everything perfect. The best you can do is take things into your own hands and adopt a more positive attitude.

But I don’t really take that advice all that often. Something I’m not particularly secretive about, but don’t really go on about, is I have what we currently believe to be cyclothymia, a mood swing disorder like a light form of bipolar. So when I’m feeling generally good about myself, ie, when I’m on the way down, but well rested and haven’t got much to do, or on the way up and hitting every target, the advice is easy to follow. I slept for twelve hours, but it’s OK because I cleared my work. I lost £200 of income due to a timing error, but money comes and goes and we’re in the black anyway. But part of the cycle is occasional, pretty intense periods of existential depression, which basically amounts to alternating nihilism and anxiety, sometimes to a point where I am in deep despair and paranoid.

And, to be honest, I use that as an excuse. Yes, it’s hard to feel happy when something flips in your brain and you just want the world  to end so you don’t have to face another day on this planet. But you can at least alleviate it by focusing on the good things, relaxing and not getting wound up about things.

2: Let it go.

This one is based off a simple principle. Things will always fall outside your control. You may be lucky or you may not, you can influence the outcomes, but you can never decide them. Sometimes things will go wrong, people will act like idiots or life will just generally be rubbish.

And, just as with making yourself happy, you need to let go of these things. Sometimes being stressed helps you focus and deal with things, but sometimes it’s just stress.

This was related to my #NoNothingNovember challenge and I’m still working on it. The problem is that stress is almost addictive. And once you get it started, it just keeps going. Every single thing becomes straw on a camel’s back, when it should be water off a duck’s back. And the more stress I add, the more I hold onto it.

Releasing emotions is fine. Easy even. I can forgive, forget or despise someone in a blink of an eye. That much “letting go” comes naturally to me. But stress? I’ll hold onto it to a point where I break down and procrastinate rather than get anything done, because if I start working I’ll remember how much I have to do and panic. Not a good cycle.

3: Look after yourself.

Another important one. Often we focus too much on other people and forget to look after ourselves. You know that warning in airplane safety videos? “Please put on your own mask before you assist anyone else”? Well that’s true in all of life. You may think you’re being good and generous, but you aren’t helping anyone if you’re jobless, homeless, penniless and destitute. You need to find a safe place you can work from before you decide what you can do for others.

There are so many little and big ways of caring for yourself, from having a relaxing bath to ensuring you are as independent as you can be. And all of them help us live longer, happier lives, and ultimately help others and society more than if we hadn’t looked out for ourselves.

Which is why I’m confused and annoyed every time I feel run down and realize I don’t have to feel run down, I did it to myself and I’m the only one to blame. I don’t put many people before myself. But the few people and the work I put before myself is enough to weigh me down. And I do love Jon. And we do need the money from my work. But getting so ill I can’t work for a week because I didn’t want to take a day off lessons and I wanted to make his favourite dinner isn’t going to help. It does him no good when I’m ill and I can’t earn when I’m ill. Likewise for stress, undereating or any other way I neglect myself. And I do it because I put every essay, every exam, every meal, every task, every animal, every lesson before my own wellbeing. “Just one thing more” is sometimes too much.

4: Spend less time online.

The time you spend online is the time you don’t spend offline. It sounds simple and obvious, but I think it actually needs mentioning and giving some thought. When our entire world is connected by assorted websites, programs and devices, we forget how much time we spend connected. Especially so when more and more work is done online and online content is so easily accessible and engaging. You log on to check your emails or Skype or do some research and you stay online watching videos and looking at daft pictures on reddit.

But all that time doing mindless things online is taking away from your time in the real world. And whatever some people feel, most of us would rather be in the real world. We would rather talk to friends and family than argue with strangers online. We would rather care for our homes than blog about them. We would rather watch a film than trawl YouTube or go to a park than click through Facebook.

And that was the main reason I chose to eliminate timewasting websites and restrict access to useful websites that lost their productive value as part of my #NoNothingNovember. And I am sticking to that.

But I’m still easily spending far too much time online. I need to get myself more focused, use my time online sparingly and wisely and try and spend more time with Jon and out in the open. It’s so easy, even when you’re being productive, to assume the online time isn’t having much of an impact. But even if it’s work, if I spend a week writing scheduled blog posts, forget to do my work and have to spend one of Jon’s days off catching up on work, that impacts our life negatively.

5: Ask yourself why.

Often it’s easy to get wound up, stressed, distracted and not notice why. We find ourselves in a state and just get caught up in it and don’t ever track it back to its source. Sometimes when we track a problem back far enough we find a root cause that is completely unfixable, such as the genetic lottery or someone or something else’s actions. But most of the time the cause of our troubles can be found and fixed on our own.

For example, we may find our health suffering because of poor diet. If we just look at the ill health, we may see no solution. But if we track it back we see all the causes. The ill health is caused by a bad diet, that was caused by a childhood eating disorder, that was caused by depression, that was caused by an internal malformation of the brain you were born with. You can’t fix your brain. You can’t undo the eating disorder. But you can work with the depression and you aren’t doomed to eat a bad diet.

Likewise, we rarely ask ourselves why we are in a situation. We need to ask how we wound up there, what we did to contribute to it and how we can remedy it. It’s no use to stay focused on your problems if you aren’t looking for a solution.

And somehow, knowing all this, I manage to get het up about problems that often have very simple solutions. I don’t always remember to ask why I am in that situation, only what I can do to get out of it. And that way I am only looking at the symptoms and getting distressed, rather than actually noticing the disease.

And those are five pieces of my own advice I should probably follow. What advice do you wish you followed more often?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!