Blogmas – Wishing Wednesday

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Today is the 4th day of Advent and also the fourth day of Blogmas!  Today is “Wishing Wednesday” where I share some thoughts and ideas about gifts.  Today’s Wishing Wednesday is all about that pesky, awkward gift – The Secret Santa gift.

Secret Santa happens a lot in workplaces across the land and is basically a concept where each person participating buys a gift of a certain value, wraps it and then on “Secret Santa Day” (which should, in my opinion, be an official day!) the presents are all gathered together and then distributed randomly to each participant.  There are other variations of Secret Santa where you can draw a name out of a hat, or all gifts are numbered and a raffle type draw takes place.

Buying a gift for Secret Santa can come with a lot of pressure, for one there is usually a fixed amount (in most places I have worked it is usually between £5 and £10) but other things, such as not knowing who you are buying for, buying a gender-neutral gift, getting something that isn’t offensive or that could upset someone and choosing a gift that is value for money can all make getting the perfect gift a daunting task, especially as your manager might be the recipient!

Here are a few suggestions

  • Stationery is always welcomed, especially a nice pen and diary.
  • Hats and gloves
  • Car accessories – I once got gifted a heated ice scraper which was so useful
  • Giftcards
  • Wine or other drinks
  • Household items such as candles, ornaments or picture frames
  • Desk toys
  • Games
  • Family-friendly DVD
  • Cinema pass
  • Cooking related items (I’ve seen some really nice spices sets, tea and coffee caddies, hot chocolate and mug sets…)

Do you take part in Secret Santa’s?  what sort of things have you given or received?  I’d love to know about your best and worst Secret Santa gifts so let me know in the comments!

Blogmas – Merry Monday

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This is the first “real” post for my Blogmas series!  Merry Monday posts will be focusing on preparations for the big day itself so expect to see lots of useful lists and hints here each Monday!

Today’s first Merry Monday post kicks off with a list of things to gather before preparations can get underway!

  • Christmas cards
  • Pens
  • Mailing stamps
  • Gift wrap
  • Sellotape
  • Scissors
  • Gifts
  • Any supplies needed if making any gifts or cards
  • Packaging

In this first week of December I tend to sit down and write out lists for the following

  • Friends and family to send cards to along with addresses if needed
  • Present recipients and gifts already bought
  • Meal attendees (if cooking on the day or in the days prior or post Christmas)
  • Decorations needed
  • Other Christmas supplies needed (such as gift wrap)

By the end of the first week I aim to have all my supplies gathered and lists made ready to make a start on things in week 2!

What do you like to try and get done in the first week of December?  I’d love to hear about your preparations in the comments!

Supporting Friends Througn Mental Illness

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With 1 in 4 people in the UK being diagnosed with a mental illness it is very likely that a friend or family member could be one of these people.  It can be hard to know how to help when you hear of someone getting diagnosed with depression which affects around 300 million people, or anxiety, two of the biggest mental illnesses in the Uk, or any other mental health illness, a lot of what is written on the internet is about how the person affected can help themselves, the types of medical help that are available or guidance notes for employers to follow.

I have been through a diagnosis of mental illness and had 6 months away from work with anxiety and depression coupled with stress, and I am still recovering so the following post is about how you can support friends through mental illness based on the things that helped me.

  • Let them know you are there for them. Just hearing the words “I’m always here for you” and knowing that it is meant was a big support for me.
  • Don’t ask “How are you?” as many people will answer with a generic “I’m fine.” Instead, ask how they are feeling. I have a friend who always sends me a text to ask how I am feeling and it has always given me the opportunity to really talk about my feelings, sometimes being able to share those things is easier with a direct question.
  • Ask what you can do to help. Sometimes the answer may be nothing but other times it could be to run some errands or even just sit and chat.
  • Ask what they would like to do, and have some suggestions for things if they say they don’t want to do anything. My friend would ask me this and I would say nothing a lot of the time as I didn’t want to waste their time, but they would always suggest things like watching a film, cooking some food or playing games on the computer which made me feel good that they wanted to spend time with me.
  • Always remember them in group plans. My friend was brilliant at this, even when I’m sure they knew I would say no.  There really is no worse feeling than friends making plans and not being included.
  • There were times that I didn’t want to talk and there were times when I really needed to let everything out and having someone to just sit and listen was so valuable.
  • Don’t judge. There were times, at the beginning of my mental health illness where I hadn’t done any housework for weeks, I was still in the same pyjamas 3 days down the line, my hair wasn’t brushed or even washed and I felt embarrassed but my friends never judged me or made me feel bad about it.  If you can, do a small task for them, like washing the dishes, sometimes that little gesture helps more than you can imagine.  On one of my bad days where I hadn’t taken a shower for a week or even gotten dressed properly one of my friends came round and sat with me while I took a shower, they picked out some clothes for me to wear then blow-dried my hair for me because everything had felt too huge and overwhelming for me to do myself and those little things made such a difference to my week.

I hope that this guide is useful if you can think of any other ways to help support a friend through mental health illness then let me know in the comments.

Supporting Mind with a Crafternoon

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Mind is a UK based charity that helps people who are experiencing mental health issues and offer support to their families and friends.  When I was signed off from work in September 2018 with stress, anxiety and depression I found the resources and guides on-line on the Mind website helped me through the difficult time.  Among the resources offered are a blog, information about where to find support and help, questions and answers along with contact information where you can speak with one of the Mind workers if you need advice, support or someone to chat with.

Mental health support is crucial at any time of the year but especially coming up to Christmas where worries and anxiety run high and many people need some extra support.

I held a Crafternoon event last year and raised £100 for Mind and this year I am aiming to raise as much as I can so that Mind can continue to work towards a future where mental health is better understood, supported and less stigmatised.  My Crafternoon event will be taking place on 30th November where I plan on getting friends together and creating some lovely Christmas decorations, holding a cake sale and raising awareness of what the Mind charity does.  I have set up a Just Giving page and am asking for any donation, no matter how small so that I can reach my fundraising target of £250 which you can access by clicking here or there is a donate button in the side menu which will take you to my page.  Any donation made will go straight to Mind and would be gratefully received.

Will you be supporting Mind this December?  If you are, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

My Perfect Job

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Since taking part in Blogtober and coming to the conclusion that I need to find ways to bring more elements of things that make me feel enthusiastic into my life I have been thinking about work and my job.  I spend a great deal of my day in a job that I have come to realise drains me of energy and feel that a change of job could be one way to inject some much-needed enthusiasm into my life.

I am in a really lucky position, where I am already employed and can take time to really explore this idea before I even start to actively look and apply for anything.  Today I thought I would take some time to think about what my perfect job would be.

I would really like a job that would allow me to do some of the things I really enjoy like art or photography or painting and decorating.  I think I need something that can tap into my creative side and encourage and connect with those skills.

I’d love some kind of job that would make use of my writing skills, maybe something that involved researching and writing articles.  Blogging would be a brilliant job as I could utilise skills that I have learned while letting me learn even more along the way.

I have so many qualifications in art-based subjects and would really like to be able to put those skills to work in a job and not just at home as part of my hobbies.  I’d love to be able to use all of the things I learned in my Degree and Foundation Degree, as well as the self-taught skills that I have mastered.

I would love to be able to create and keep an eye on statistics and be able to report on where things are headed and what I can do to improve on them.

I’d like to have a job where I am appreciated, feel like part of a team and to be included in team chats and outings.

I’d like to work in an office that understands and has respect for each member of the team, where the individual matters as much as the rest of the team.

I’d like to be heard and have my concerns listened to and to be taken seriously.

I don’t have a job role that I am aiming for anymore, most of the “job roles” I have searched for in the past, even working as a member of bar staff, all have so many different requirements, that, now, I am looking at job requirements first rather than job title.

What would your perfect job be?  What would you look for in the perfect job?  I’d love to know your answers so let me know in the comments!

Blogtober Results and Reflections

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Since the end of Blogtober, which saw me answering the same 3 questions each day ( What made me feel enthusiastic?  What drained me of energy?  What did I learn about myself?), I have been analysing my answers and thinking about how I can make changes to my day to day life to change the energy drains and to bring in more things that make me feel more enthusiastic.

What made me feel enthusiastic?  Mostly the things that made me feel enthusiastic or filled me with enthusiasm were crafts that I enjoy, creating logos, drawing and decorating.  Other things that got my enthusiasm flowing were taking time to listen to audiobooks, read, spending time with family and friends, housework, making plans and getting tasks ticked off from my to-do list.

What drained me of energy?  Work drained me of energy quite a bit which came as no real surprise.  The weather getting colder, rain, the mornings and evenings getting darker, headaches, tiredness, being interrupted when I am in the middle of something and not being as productive as I had planned were also big energy drains.

What changes will I be implementing?  I have been thinking about changes I can make in order to feel more enthusiastic about everyday life and have decided that I need to make changes regarding my job and how I plan my time.  I am not sure whether I need a total change of job, looking at a career in something that is creative and gives me an outlet for all my skills or if I need a change of work pattern so I can utilise my spare time to spend larger parts of my day focusing on my own creative projects.  I would like to better plan my day so that each draining activity is broken up with an activity that makes me enthusiastic so that I am less focused on the negatives of certain things and more focused on completing them so I can then do something I enjoy.  One of the lessons that I learned during this time was that I am able to be less drained of energy when I have fun things to look forward to and that the enthusiasm I have for some things can be carried through to less enjoyable ones.

In all, this was a really useful and interesting challenge that I set myself for Blogtober and I think it is one that I shall be doing again in the future.

Did you learn anything during October?  Has it made you re-think how you do things?  I’d be really interested to hear any of your thoughts so let me know in the comments!

What Is Burnout?

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What is burnout?

Burnout is something that can happen in life regardless of your age, gender, race or employment status and can creep up on you so you don’t notice it is happening, often until it is too late.

Burnout can affect each person in different ways. Some may experience stomach problems, sleep issues, not feeling motivated to do anything, not finding enjoyment in the things you once found fun, general “fogginess” of the mind, feeling numb to things, memory problems, loss of appetite and other symptoms.

Why does burnout happen?

Burnout happens when the body and mind are subject to stress, lack of sleep and the cause can be the modern lifestyles. In this day there is a pressure to always be “on”, connected and busy – whether it is working all the hours, side hustle, study, hobbies or interests, something needs to be filling each minute of each day. The internet, especially social media, reinforce these beliefs with eh sharing of such “motivational” images “Live your best life” and others that encourage doing all the things.

Other causes can be from social media, email and mobile phones. For some, there is a pressure to forever update statuses, share photos and engage with followers 24/7, check and respond to emails as they happen. The ping of a new message or notification can be a buzz that becomes addictive and one that commands attention.

Even day-to-day life can be a cause of burnout. There are so many different things to juggle day to day, from paying bills, working, housekeeping, washing, cooking, hobbies, interest and other pursuit’s that can be a drain on your energy, lead to stress and lack of sleep.

How can we identify burnout?

As burnout can affect everyone differently, and the cause can vary; the best way of identifying burnout is to pay attention to how you are feeling mentally and physically. Are you tired all the time? Do you feel stress? Are you avoiding doing certain activities you once enjoyed? What are your reactions like – are you short-tempered or annoyed quickly? Also, assess how much time you have been “on” and doing things, if this is higher than usual then it is possible that you will be experiencing a form of burnout.

How you can treat burnout?

If you are starting to feel the effects of burnout, one of the best things you can do is to step away from all of the activities that have been taking up your time and energy, turn off your social media and email notifications and take some time to yourself.

Going for walks in the fresh air, spending time with friends and family, eating a healthy and varied diet, stretching exercises, reading and mindfulness can help, but one of the most restorative is sleep.

Safeguarding against burnout in the future.

  • Know the signs of burnout that are personal to you.
  • Understand what your burnout triggers are.
  • Take time out each week to relax.
  • Exercise, eat healthily and get enough sleep.
  • Take regular breaks from social media, emails and other communications.
  • Listen to yourself. Your body will often give you hints about what it needs and tuning in to this can be the preventative measure.
  • Assess how you spend your time and alter it to include more time focusing on relaxing.

Case Study – My Experience with Burnout.

I have been experiencing burnout for the past few weeks. I started to become aware that I was not very motivated to do anything much, preferring to spend my time mindlessly scrolling through Instagram rather than blogging or doing any of the other things, I usually enjoy. I felt disinterested in everything and struggled to get up for work in the mornings.

I had a pretty busy October and figured out some of the triggers for this burnout, these things included

  1. Blogtober, a month-long daily blog challenge, where I challenged myself to answer three questions each day, which, as I tend to blog daily did not seem too ambitious coupled with trying to maintain my usual blog routine.
  2. Season changes. The past few weeks have been really dark and gloomy, with a lot of rain and bad weather, which I have found, affects me.
  3. Shoulder pain. My shoulder injury has meant that I have not been sleeping properly and have been unable to do some tasks that I would normally be able to carry out.
  4. Inktober, a month-long drawing challenge where you create artwork from a daily prompt word.

I already knew that stretching my creativity could cause me to experience burnout, something I discovered in University but I thought that, because the activities I had set for myself through October were fairly varied then I would be ok.

As I had suffered from burnout previously I was able to recognise some of the signs and take steps to overcome it.

You may have noticed that I have not posted many “proper” blog posts for a week or so (aside from my Blogtober posts and my Saturday Shout Out Advert). I took the decision to step away from the blog, art and design work and get some well-needed rest.

I am now, slowly working my way back into my routines and looking at what I want to achieve, how to balance my work, play and relaxation time and how I spend my time.

 

 

Roxy Turns 5!!!!

Today marks my bestest friend’s 5th Birthday and what better way to celebrate than a blog post in her honour! (Of course, she will be getting totally spoiled by me later too!)

Here are some photos of Roxy when I’d just bought her home for the first night with me…

And some more recent ones…

I could write a huge, long post about how brilliant she is but I know she won’t read it but she is my most loyal companion and there through everything with me and I don’t know what I would do without her.

Fun Fact: Roxy’s full name is Roxanne Rhianwen Puppercakes.  She is named after Roxy Mitchell, a character in the soap Eastenders, and her middle name is Welsh and means White Maiden.

Blogtober Review

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It’s now the start of November and Blogtober is now over.  Today I am sharing my review of Blogtober.

When I decided to participate in the Blogtober Challenge I thought that I would be able to continue with my normal blogging schedule at the same time, after all, setting myself 3 questions to answer each day would be easy, or so I thought.

At first, answering the 3 questions, “What made me feel enthusiastic today? , What drained me of energy? and What did I learn about myself today?” was fairly easy but as the month went on I really had to dig deep at times to find the answers.  Some days had been pretty mundane and I found it hard to find even one single thing that piqued my enthusiasm, other days it felt like everything drained me of energy and there were occasions where I had to really sit and go through my day to find something I had learned about myself.  It was pretty tough going at times.

While I managed to keep up with Blogtober I did find it hard to write any of my normal blog posts and have a few that I will be sharing through November that I had planned (but never written) for October.  It was hard, after sitting and really examining my day, to find enough mojo to write anything else.

I also started Inktober, approaching it with a logo/graphic design/sketch slant and managed to get just over halfway with that.  I am aiming to complete at least the sketch part by mid-November and then spend some time creating the digital versions.  Hopefully, I will be sharing the sketches soon!

I really enjoyed this Blogtober Challenge that I set myself and think I have learned a lot about myself along the way.  My plan now is to analyse the answers that I gave and come up with some facts and figures to see if there are any changes I can make in my life to bring more enthusiasm in and less of the draining things.

Did you take part in any October challenges?  How did they go?  I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!