Anxiety: What It Took Me A Long Time To Learn

I’ve suffered with GAD for as long as I can remember. I remember realising I had something odd going on with my mind when I was in about year 5 or 6. I was having OCD tendencies, which I knew I wanted to stop and made a mental note to do the opposite of what my mind was telling me to do.

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Members of my family suffer from OCD so I knew it was something I’d been exposed to, but it still surprises me to this day that as a child I knew this was an issue and something that needed stopping.

It wasn’t until many many years later I was diagnosed with GAD and found out that this was something another member of my family suffered with. And it wasn’t until a few years after that, that I read a blog post online that really helped to change the way I dealt with anxiety.

I honestly don’t remember where I read the article. I was doing research for a blog post in my job and happened across the post, with relation to something else. But the post struck a chord with me.

Simply put, the author noted that she’d been trying to suppress her anxious feelings. They’d been weighing her down to the point where she was saying no to meetings, new business and opportunities. She’d been allowing her anxiety to define her and it was preventing her from moving forward in a business sense. Until one day she had a breakthrough. She decided she would greet her anxiety – acknowledge it. She moved forward knowing that she would have this reaction and instead of causing herself more stress trying to fight it, she described herself moving forward with the anxiety walking alongside her.

She soon found that it wasn’t there as much. Because she’d decided not to pay attention to it so much, not use up her energy analysing it or fighting it, that it wasn’t getting the attention it wanted and so it didn’t seem as important as it once had.

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This idea was really powerful to me. I hope it is to you, too.

Anxiety is a big snowball of horrid. You have it, you analyse it, you feel guilty for it, and then you have more of it. It’s a cycle that seems so unnecessary and is very tiring. It can debilitate, numb, paralyse. It’s in no way fun.

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It’s different for everyone, but I hope, if you suffer, that by reading this you might find some sense of relief. It won’t work every time, it doesn’t cure, but it might offer a little respite on occasion.

 

Why I: Got Married Young

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I’ve had a few people ask in the last few months, how I met my husband. So I thought that the next post in my Why I series, could be about why I got married young.

I look younger than my actual age, and when people hear that I’ve been married for almost 11 years, they instantly ask my age.

I’m turning 34 this year and I married when I was 23. People always say that’s really young to get married, but I say if you know you want to marry someone it doesn’t really matter how old or young you are!

I met G-Man when I was 19, through a friend’s boyfriend. Our official story is that we met at Glastonbury music festival. The truth is we had met a couple of months before that, and had even had a conversation at a party but the evening wasn’t about meeting boys and so our encounter was brief.

So, when we met up at Glastonbury we were able to have proper conversations, relax and watch music together. And he stayed with me and my friend the whole time he was at the festival.

There was definite sparkage between us, and I knew I liked him. We saw each other pretty much every day from that point on. After about a month I knew this was something serious and the rest, as they say, is history!

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This was the first photo of us together, in my bright orange bedroom!

We look a little different now!

We got married in the garden of a little private manor house in Hatfield, under the roof of a mini garden pavilion, whilst our friends and families sat theatre style outside on the lawn. I walked up the aisle of lavender and it was the shortest but most-perfect ceremony. A beautiful September day, small wedding and fantastic start to our married life together.

Over the years, I’ve had friends ask me things like ‘how do you know when you’re ready to get married?’, ‘how do you know you want to marry someone?’ – and I almost always answer the clichéd ‘you just know’. And that’s because you do – you just know. As certain as you know you’re alive, you just know. And if you’re questioning it, then that’s between you and your partner to work out.

I love my marriage. We get on like a house on fire, we’re best friends and though we used to argue, we know how to argue productively now. I wouldn’t say we even do argue any more. He’s the best thing in my life, and I’m happy every single day because of him.

I don’t want this to sound soppy, but everything I’ve said is true. He’s a proper gentleman and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my days with him!

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Blogging Tools I Can’t Live Without

Since I’ve been blogging for quite some time now, I thought I’d share some of the tools that have come to be invaluable to me.

Technically, you just need your brain and a platform and you’re all set, but there are a few things I’ve come to appreciate as tools I just can’t live without when blogging.

First of all, my laptops. I have a Microsoft HP and a MacBook Pro. I don’t have a word processing package on my Mac so tend to do most of my writing on the HP laptop, unless I’m writing straight into my blogging platform.

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WordPress is my platform of choice, having used a few different ones over the years. I like that even on a free package you can produce a customisable and professional looking blog. It’s flexible and you rarely see two blogs looking the same. It has its glitches, but what website don’t? I feel like at some point in the future I’ll need to move to self-hosted or a paid account, but until then it works just fine, thank you very much. As well as the web-based platform, I have the WordPress app. It’s not without its limitations, but is handy for replying to comments, checking stats and uploading images on the go. You can write posts on there too but I prefer to do that on a computer, mainly because I’m rubbish and slow at word processing on my phone!

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For cameras, I switch between my Canon EOS 400D, Sony a5000 and my iPhone 7 Plus. I’ve been using my SLR less of late for the reasons you’ll read in a moment, but even though it’s kind of old now I love the quality of photos I get from it. My Sony a5000 has earned its cost times over. I love how small it is, the quality of photo and video and it’s light. But other than that, the Wifi function comes in so so handy. I can take a photo, send it to my phone and then edit it, upload and publish it, all within 5 minutes of capturing the shot. The iPhone 7 Plus is pretty awesome for taking photos too, and though I haven’t had it long, I can already see the difference in lens quality with the shots I’ve taken.

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As well as using my iPhone for images, I have a tonne of apps I use for blogging. Here are a few of them.

I’ve mentioned the WordPress app so I won’t go into that again. I use Buffer to scheduling tweets, which I don’t do all that much, but it’s good to have an easy app to do it when I want to. Twitter (of course), Facebook and Instagram – I don’t really have to tell you what those do, right?

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Lightroom app for iOS is awesome for photo editing. The auto presets are a great place to start, and then you can tweak until your heart’s content.

As an amateur photographer, I’ve been uploading to Flickr for over 10 years now, so it’s almost as though I have my own iStock of photos on there. It’s awesome because I pretty much have a photo already taken for a lot of posts I might want to write. So, if I ever don’t have the time to take photos, I can usually pull from there. The Flickr app allows me to save my own photos and then I can upload them to WordPress. Job done!

As I begin to venture into the world of YouTube, the YouTube app has come in very handy, as has the YouTube Creator Studio app. It shows me views, stats, trends and comments all from one place. It also allows me to push videos live, share and copy links right from the app.

For planning I like to use the notes section on my phone, when out at about, and for proper planning I’ll use my Ultimate Blog Planner from Dot Creates. This planner allows me to make in depth notes, or even start writing the blog there and then. There are sections where I can write prompts for photo ideas I’ve had too. It’s really invaluable.

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Photo lighting comes in the form of either the Earth’s sun or, because this is England, I have a pair of softbox lights which I use for both photography and video. They’re pretty new to me so I’m still getting the hang of them, but I love the natural light they throw out. You can find the set I bought from Amazon here!

Other than on my phone, for photo editing on my laptop I use a really old version of Paint Shop Pro. I could upgrade but I know this software like the back of my hand, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I also use this software to make any graphics I need for my blog or elsewhere.

So, those are my ‘can’t do without’ blogging tools. I hope this helps you with your blog planning and editing, and please let me know if you use something you love that I haven’t mentioned!

Dear Bloggers and Aspiring Bloggers….

Dear bloggers and aspiring bloggers,

You are unique. Just as IRL you are the only one of your kind. I want to see you shine and prosper. When I click on your link I want to see something unique, individual and I want to see your opinion. If you don’t agree with me, I respect you. I want to hear why you feel the way you do. I want to hear your passion and conviction. I love seeing your individuality shine – I praise you for that.

It’s just so sad I don’t see you very often. I click on so many links and see the same old stuff. I see the same products reviewed, I see the same blogs retweeted. It makes me sad that you’re so concerned about getting your flatlay perfect that the content isn’t there. I want to hear about what that expensive skin cream did for your skin after a month of using it, and whether you’d re-buy it. I want to read about what movie you saw and what you thought about it, at the trendy roof-top cinema club in London, and not just see photos and hear about how you managed to make the list. Give me substance, give me depth and make me feel something for you.

When I started blogging around 15 years ago, I was in a minority. People thought it was weird if I told them I wrote a blog, but to me it’s simply keeping a diary. I wrote, and still write, my blog for me. I write what I did, what I saw, and what I think. I don’t have thousands of followers, I don’t need them. (Of course it would be flattering though) I don’t seek acceptance, but I appreciate every follow, every comment and every share. If one person enjoys what I write, then I’m happy. (And usually that one person is me!)

I recently set up a dedicated twitter account for this blog (@Shutterbug_Blog if you fancy following! – I’m still okay with a shameless plug!) and it allowed me to follow blog sharing accounts and bloggers in a closed environment that didn’t flood my personal twitter account. It totally opened a new world to me. It’s a world where people will fight for followers, suck up, and retweet the same blog over and over again ad nauseam (this makes me not want to follow you btw). I’ve found out you can schedule tweets, which seems like a massive waste of time to me. And I’ve discovered a community of Regina Georges. People who will act so cosy with you but secretly it’s a case of sucking up to gain momentum for yourself.

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Obviously this isn’t exclusively the case, as I’ve also met some really amazing bloggers too. These are bloggers who don’t take themselves too seriously, they speak from the heart and tell the truth, and you can just tell they’re genuine. Fake-bloggers (or floggers as I coined them a while back)- I can see through you, and so can others.

The obsession for followers makes people act obsessively. It makes people call out others when they’re unfollowed (seriously, you can find out who unfollowed you and call them out on it….) If I get unfollowed it’s okay – seriously I don’t mind. If you don’t want my content in your feed, then I don’t want it there – no biggy. I actually had someone comment on a post the other day and mention they were actually afraid to attempt a flatlay. That seems crazy to me, but I understand it. The pressure to get EVERYTHING perfect on a blog is so high. But when all you see is the same thing from everyone, how do you stand out? You stand out by showing your personality in your photos. You have an opinion, and if other people don’t agree then you either listen to their counter argument (if they articulate it clearly) or if they’re just darn abusive you let their venom shine out for all to see.

London Beauty Queen wrote a really interesting series of tweets a few weeks back about how it’s not normal for a 20-something to own a new designer bag every week, and followed it this week with a really interesting blog you need to read. What she wrote is so true – what professional and successful bloggers and Vloggers are portraying is often unattainable. When we see celebrities acting the same way we know to take it with a pinch of salt, but when we see people we view as being on the same level as us acting the same way, we suddenly feel bad about ourselves. And eventually we stop being able to relate to them and turn away. I want to read about the pretty, hard-working blogger tripping on the tube. I want to see a photo at their posh burger lunch where they’ve accidentally dribbled sauce down their front. I want to read a tweet where they’re feeling irritated by life, but still plodding on. I want REAL people. Give me REAL people!

So, dear blogger and aspiring blogger, my advice to you today is to remember to write from the heart, write for yourself and remember to be kind. You’re writing a blog for one of three reasons:

  • For you
  • For money
  • For celebrity

My recommendation is to write your blog for you. If the other two come as a result of this, then I’ll give you a high five. Money and/or popularity are shoddy foundations to build your blog on and you’ll end up stressed and obsessive like so many bloggers I see. Happiness cannot be attained from this – you’ll just get a stomach ulcer.

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It’s Hard Out Here….

(FYI this post mentions women’s monthlies – if you’re bothered by that maybe skip this post!)

This week was supposed to be my second full week of training. I say meant to be, because on Monday I got my period and it really threw me off. I’ve just come off the pill due to trying various different types and them all messing me up in many different ways. I decided to just stop taking it for a while but since I have been for over 10 years my body doesn’t know what’s hit it. It got me to wondering what other women do and whether it even stops them training. I was able to train fine up until now but because I’m getting used to my body doing things naturally I was knocked out by tiredness and my hunger was through the roof.

I’d be really interested in hearing what other female runners do to overcome uncomfortable periods when they’re training? Herbal remedies and motivational methods are welcomed!

I didn’t let this unfortunate turn of events put me off training altogether though. We still made it to the gym at the start of the week and I’ve also begun a 30 day plank challenge. Since I have zero core strength I thought it would be a good place to start!

I’m on day 8 today and so far it’s going fine. The first day’s 20 seconds was so tough. I was shaking the whole time, but now I am managing to stay solid for the first 20 seconds and just shake for the rest 😀 I don’t know how I’ll be able to manage 5 minutes by the end, but we’ll see. Each day seems achievable as I come to it.

Today we had a great gym session working on strength and I managed to move up a weight on the pre weighted bars (15kg) It’s great to see the difference in my arms and I’m really looking forward to the summer when I can show them off! Tomorrow I’m back to cardio and will hit the dreaded treadmills to try to escape the rain and cold wind.

Other than being a moody female and weight training this week I’ve gotten to see my wonderful friends a lot this week. On Thursday night I had dinner with two of my amazing best friends at one of their homes. We had a wonderful chicken and roasted veg meal and some great chats, watched TV and laughed a whole whole lot. I had so much fun! The following evening Gary and I went back to my friend’s house for her birthday party and had an amazing time. We chatted and drank and then headed off to a local club where we danced and eventually left everyone at 3am still dancing – I was way too tired to carry on. We had such a good time though – there’s nothing like good friends and having fun.

We’ve had some great meals this week too – I seem to be getting the hang of this healthy eating and cooking well enough to keep us going after and before training. I’m a food snob so it has to taste good too, and I think I’m doing an okay job!

I’m really loving the non-routiney routine we have going this year, throughout the week and then the weekends. I love that we’ve been both working hard and playing hard. We have so much to look forward to this year, and it’s started out great!

What advice do you have for dealing with painful and PMS-full periods during training?

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The Christmas Queen’s guide to Gift Buying

As my regular readers will know, I adore Christmas. And it’s come to the point in the year when a Christmas list needs to be made, and presents need to be bought. I have always loved buying presents for people and make it my goal to buy the perfect gift for each and every person. It requires thought and planning and knowing the person well, but in the end it’s so worth it.

I still find it strange when people buy the wrong present for friends and family, or simply can’t think of anything to get. So I thought I’d write a guide to finding the perfect present, and simple does and don’ts for those gift-buying challenged readers.

Firstly the simple rules of gift buying: The definition of a perfect present for someone, is something they’d love to have but wouldn’t buy for themselves. Stay away from the clichéd gifts. People say if you buy something for someone which you’d like yourself, it makes a good gift, but I’d say if you buy your Nan a set of iPod speakers because you’d like them, you’re doing it wrong.

When I say stay away from clichés I mean don’t get the standard tie, socks, perfume etc. unless you know they really want them.

Gifts for women are easier than for men, in my opinion. But stay away from the obvious. If the woman you’re buying for loves a certain perfume, don’t buy that for them, because they’ll already have a bottle and it’ll take them at least another year until they use it. Instead, think around that theme – buy them an atomiser for their handbag so they can carry a small amount of scent around with them. Or get a beautiful perfume bottle to decant into. Don’t buy make up because you’ll get the shade wrong no doubt. And never ever buy a woman electrical kitchen appliances UNLESS she’s asked for it specifically. No woman wants a hoover for Christmas.

Men are very tricky, but they love gadgets or kits or puzzles. Think around their hobbies. If they like to read, get them a book journal or a set of book ends. If they like gardening, buy them a bird feeder or set of binoculars. But no to ties, socks or slippers! Those driving experiences are the sort of thing he’ll love! I know all men are different but if you think around hobbies you’ll get it right. Music lovers might like a biography of their favourite artist, if there is one. Book lovers might like books like ‘Eats, Shoots and leaves’. TV lovers might like a boxed set of their favourite show or a book guide to it. Animal lovers might like a kit where you’ve adopted their favourite animal on their behalf.

Kids – remember when you were a kid? Think about how much you loved the little off the cuff gifts you got that you would never have dreamed to ask for? I got a Funfax when I was little which I loved to death. It’s easy to spoil kids and if they’re your own, go ahead – but it they’re not yours it’s not up to you to spoil them. Buy them a book, or a small toy or a little electronic diary and leave the spoiling to their parents. And don’t forget that 10 minutes after they’ve opened your gift, they’re looking for the next one. So don’t waste your time and money – spend it on one good gift that they’ll love. Puzzles, teddys and little electronic games can be bought cheaply and will be used eventually if not straight away.

So that’s my little basic guide to pressie buying. I hope it’s given you some ideas – but feel free to comment if you want help buying something for someone – it’s my pleasure to help!

From the Christmas Queen