How to Stay Sane in a World Gone MadI don’t know about you, but my head feels like it’s going to explode on a daily basis.

Brexit has truly divided the nation here in the UK, leaving many feeling uncertain and confused about what might lie ahead.  

Regardless of whether it ends up being a good thing or not, I’m sure most will agree that these are troubling times to live through.

Sh*t has got very real indeed my friends, which is why it’s more important than ever to have a plan.

Here’s how to stay sane in this world gone mad.

Hold on tight to your integrity

As far as I’m concerned, integrity is everything. Staying true to ourselves in all areas of life means that we can hold our heads high, and know our conscience is clear. You can’t really put a price on that. All too often we see people selling out, and losing their way. There’s nothing worse than a fake, so in a world full of Kardashian-wannabees why not strive to be an authentic, decent human being instead?

I find our celebrity obsessed, trash TV culture deeply disturbing. With so much emphasis on what we look like, and how much money we have, is it any wonder that teen depression rates are through the roof? I’ve always been a firm believer that beauty is skin deep, and I’m good at seeing through people. A pretty face means nothing if you don’t have a kind heart. Also, this shouldn’t need to be said, but we can’t eat money, or take it to the grave. It’s the most obvious thing, but is clearly lost on so many.  

Buy less, make more (or make do) 

Which leads me nicely to my next point. Getting out of the standard consumerist mindset before having children was one of the best things I did. Consumerism only exists because people place too much value on the wrong things, and find it difficult to distinguish between their wants and their needs. I like to do my bit for the planet whilst raising my family, and hope that leading by example will mean my children will continue doing their bit once they’re old enough. 

how to stay sane in a world gone madOne of the easiest wins as far as I’m concerned is buying things second hand. I buy almost all my clothes from charity shops, which has various levels of good karma attached. It means I’m being kind to the environment, not being complicit toward sweatshop exploitation, and I’m giving money to charity all in one fell swoop. Like it or not cheap clothes are bad for everyone.

The same rules apply to toys, accessories and home furnishings, but isn’t exclusive to this list. I’ve written many times before about food, and how satisfying it is to make food from scratch. If you know your diet could use a spring clean, you might enjoy my recent post on redefining what it means to be healthy.

Address your deep rooted issues, and get rid of them once and for all

Cards on the table, are you depressed? You’re certainly not alone, but if the root causes run deeper than the current political climate then you’ll need to be prepared to face them head on. Getting to grips with the root of our troubles will no doubt include dredging up painful memories, but it’s the only way to properly move forward. 

I’ve suffered from numerous bouts of depression over the years, and have had two full on mental breakdowns. If I’m honest, I spent most of 2016 feeling down. I was turning to the bottle far too often, and drowning my sorrows, which just perpetuated the cycle of doom and gloom. Now that I’m hardly drinking, as well as eating super clean, I’m feeling mentally well again. Getting on track is never easy, but the road to recovery always starts with me.

Take a break from social media when it all gets too much

If there is one thing I’ve learnt since joining Facebook in 2007, it’s that social media is not my friend through times of hardship. Yes it’s good to keep in touch with friends. Yes it’s good to stay connected. But there are other ways and means of doing these things if your feeds are becoming a source of misery. 

Keeping abreast through reputable news sources instead of relying on social media should ensure accuracy. Which is essential in our post-truth era. If you’re worried that you’ll miss out on your friends’ news, why not send them a text or go truly old-school and phone them?

how to stay sane in a world gone madFind time for the things and people you love

Whatever your passions are, find a way of fitting them into your daily life. Feeding our souls with the things that make us happy is probably the most beneficial thing we can do for our emotional wellbeing.

Whether it’s through diet and exercise, honing our skills or doing good for other people, do more of the things that make you smile and less of the things that make you miserable.

It’s also imperative to spend your time with people who lift you up, not knock you down. If you are engaged in toxic relationships, on any level, they will be zapping your chances of happiness. Take a break from those who make you sad, and see how the land lies after a little time apart.

Do you have any tips for staying sane in this world gone mad? 

 

Footprints on the Heart, Open Wounds and Letting GoLike many others, I have met thousands of people so far. First came blood relatives and the ones I met through going to eight schools when I was growing up.

Next were the numerous work colleagues in the dozens of jobs I’ve had over the years.

Then came the houses I’ve lived in, the parties I’ve been to and the people I met on my travels. More recently I have met other local mums, as well as a ton of people through blogging.

Some have left distinct memories, but many I wouldn’t recognise in a line-up

I’ve written before about how fortunate I am to have the amazing people I do in my life. My rock solid husband, who is everything and more you could want out of a partner. His lovely family, who welcomed me from day one. My ridiculously awesome friends, who are always there when I need them.

Of the distant friends that I only interact with on Facebook, I have tons of great memories. Music has the ability to take me right back to a place and time. I get random flashes of deja vu, which will leave me rooted to the spot. I only have to think about certain people to feel warm and fuzzy.

Footprints on the Heart, Open Wounds and Letting Go

Some of the many people who have left a footprint on my heart

I enjoy hearing news through the social media grapevine. Such and such got married, so and so had a baby (two, three). More recently a friend’s father passed away – a wonderful man, who gave me a job when I was living in Melbourne.

These are the people who have left footprints on my heart. Even if I never see them again in real life, I will look back on our time together fondly

Then there are others. The ones who hurt me, and treated me badly. Toxic friendships based on lies and mistrust. Sacred bonds broken, never to be repaired.

The two boys who abused me when I was a young girl. The mean girls who bullied me at school.

The older work colleagues who took advantage in various ways. The one who tried to pin a crime on me, even though he had a security camera above his head, recording his every move.

footprints on the heart, open wounds and letting goThe family I walked away from.

The boss who literally destroyed my soul, and left me incapable of working for anyone else. Instead of getting another job I haphazardly set up a business on the cusp of the financial crisis, which led me to bankruptcy.

The raft of ‘frenemies’ over the years, who were oh so lovely to my face and downright awful behind my back.

I spent far too long allowing the ghosts from my past to haunt my present

Although time certainly goes some way towards healing wounds, letting go has to be a conscious decision. The first step is forgiving ourselves, and others who have caused us pain.

Other people’s words or actions can have a lasting affect on our confidence, but it’s vital not to become a victim. You must take back control from those who have taken it away from you.

Likewise, when we know we have been the cause of someone else’s pain, we can let that torture us, but we mustn’t. What’s been done has been done, and the best thing to do in these cases is hold up our hands and say we are sorry. A genuine apology can go a long way in helping to rebuild broken ties.

Devising a basic set of principles could help guide you through difficult times

footprints on the heart, open wounds and letting goWe are living in an age where depression is at an all time high. Failed life expectations, and not being where we thought we would be account for a lot of it. Social media portraying the very best bits, and making us think that everyone else is having a better time than we are doesn’t help. Don’t put off conquering your demons.  

The best way to stay happy in world full of sadness, is by living as authentically as we can. I have three guiding principles that I try and adhere to, which keep me on track when the going gets tough. They speak volumes, and have helped me tremendously.

“I will be true to myself today.”

“I will be kind to myself and those around me today.”

” I will make good decisions today.”

Always aim to leave footprints on people’s hearts, not open wounds for them to have to heal

On Being a Bleeding Heart LiberalThe Wikipedia definition of bleeding heart liberal describes me pretty well.

I eat organically, and ethically. I make purchases (or don’t make them) based on whether or not it’s kind to the environment to do so. I am one of the least materialistic people you are likely to meet, and couldn’t care less how much money someone has. If I’m talking to you at a party, I won’t be looking over your shoulder seeing who else I might be able to chat to instead.

I’m open minded, non-judgemental and always try and consider the impact of my words and actions on others. I hate seeing people suffer, and if I can find a way of helping someone less fortunate than myself I will.

Overall I consider myself to be a decent human being. I don’t think that’s aiming too high.

Here’s the thing though.

My moral compass wasn’t set through having an early life of privilege. I wasn’t handed anything on a platter nor was I fed with a silver spoon.

Quite the opposite.

I grew up in a house where ignorance was rife, racism par for the course, and words like F*** and C*** every day language. I couldn’t tell you how many times our phone and electricity was cut off when I was a kid, and my mother had some choice friends. One woman sticks in my mind – she openly bragged about ‘keeping’ her downs syndrome child for the extra benefits, and regularly told one of her other sons that he should have been an abortion.

After a (thankfully) rare punch in the face one morning from my step-father, I left home. Education-less and with £50 in my pocket, I emerged into adulthood at fifteen. I struggled for many years to come to terms with the hand that I had been dealt, and spent no less than a full decade in self-destruct mode. I drank and partied my sorrows away, and at one point wrote myself off as too messed up.

on being a bleeding heart liberalI now see it all as a gift, because that punch gave me a way out early enough for my opinions not to get completely clouded by right wing venom. 

I had almost a year to wait until I was legally able to work, and spent that time sleeping on floors, doing £2 an hour cash in hand jobs. Mostly I worked for men three times my age, who routinely encouraged getting ‘their girls’ absolutely plastered to try and shag them.

Thankfully I foresaw where it was going early enough for it to not end up being a complete tragedy. Once my national insurance number came through I applied to work for a department store, and my aspirations started to grow.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had to dodge unwanted advances from older people. I was always the youngest, and there were many who tried to take advantage in some way or other. I had more near-misses than I care to recall during those years.

I’m thankful that nothing awful happened to me. Even though I know how absurd that sounds saying it out loud.

After working in retail for several years I got a job locally in a small office to get some computer experience. Those six months gave me the confidence to take myself, and my over-inflated CV off to the City where I knocked on doors of recruitment agencies until someone gave me a temp job.

The two week position led to a permanent placement, and I stayed at the firm for three years. After that, until I stopped working just last year, I worked in decent companies and got paid well for my efforts.

I joked with a friend on Facebook recently that I was glad I grew up in the days before background checks.

I wasn’t even joking. You’d need a degree nowadays just to man the reception desk of the companies I’ve worked at, let alone do some of my previous jobs. If fifteen year old me was emerging in today’s world, she wouldn’t stand a chance. Social mobility is almost non-existent already, and that is surely only going to get worse.

It bothers me.

Not for me, because at thirty seven I’m now okay. I married up, I have a lovely middle class life. My kids will be okay, and their kids will no doubt also be okay.

I’m a success story apparently. My friend said that I’m one of those rare people you meet who makes you stop in your tracks and think ‘how did she get from there to here?’

on being a bleeding heart liberalI’m fine now. But what about the millions of people who aren’t and won’t be okay?

We are living through some seriously dark times, and ultimately the best thing we can do is behave like decent human beings.

That means walking away from pointless Facebook fights, and not tearing ourselves into shreds worrying over the state of the world at the detriment of what’s going on inside our own four walls.

Check out this post for ways to help others who are needier than us, without it taking over our own lives. It might not seem like much, but doing something is always better than doing nothing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if caring about others makes me a bleeding heart liberal, then I’ll own the title with pride.

Don’t assume that we’re all completely out of touch, and don’t have a clue how the other half have to live though.

The reason some of us care so much is because we’ve lived it ourselves.

i-will-not-apologise-for-being-a-strong-womanMy name is Reneé, and I’m a strong woman. Hope that doesn’t cause you offence. No? Oh good.

Let me start by saying that I’m UK based, which means I’m not hugely entitled to an opinion on Stateside politics apparently. The third presidential debate has stirred something up inside of me though, because one thing has become pretty damn obvious recently.

Huge amounts of people do not like strong women

I, like a lot of other strong women out there I imagine, am not strong out of choice, I’m strong through circumstance. I’m a survivor of so much sh**, that it must seem as though I’ve made up half my life. One of my lovely friends, who I met through antenatal class seven years ago, said this to me early on in our friendship.

“You’re like Phoebe from Friends!”

I Will Not Apologise for Being a Strong WomanWhat she meant of course was that every time I shared a snippet from my past it sounded incredulous, as it does to me when I dredge up certain memories. Especially the deep dark secrets, and I think to myself, did those things really happen to me?

Did I really leave home at fifteen, fend entirely for myself, get myself mentally stable, recover from rock bottom, then go on to not just live an average life, but live a pretty awesome one? You can read more about that in my book if you wish to do so. 

I sometimes wonder how on earth I managed to get myself from there to here. How did I pull off bagging myself a wonderful husband, and having three gorgeous kids? Do I really get paid to write? I mean wow, how many of us get to work in our dream job?

I didn’t get from there to here because I took the easy road, far from it. I’ve never taken the easy road, and nor do I intend to start doing so. I got this life because I’ve worked damn hard for it. Through being a strong woman. Through going against convention every step of the way, and sticking two fingers up to the haters in the process. Like other strong women, I don’t quit.

Hope I’m still not offending you? 

If chauvinistic pigs like Trump had his way, I’d have stayed in the gutter as a teenager. I would never have been exposed to the opportunities that created my lucky breaks. After being bullied and abused for much of my childhood, I would have been so beaten down by life that I would have known my place, and not had the audacity to venture from it.

You see, I’ve rolled with the punches since I was a little girl. I was exploited so many times, and in so many ways, mostly by older men, when I was younger, that I’ve blocked a lot of it out.

I estranged myself from my entire family in the name of self-preservation. I’ve been through business failure, bankruptcy, mental breakdown. When the going gets tough, I put on my fight face and ‘girl up’. I try and set a good example to my children, and always strive to find solutions to family challenges.

Above all else, I’m not afraid to look inwards, and recognise when I’m the cause of the problem. When this happens (as it did recently), I change the necessary, and put measures in place to stop small things escalating. I never ever bury my head and hope that things will magically improve all by themselves. I grew up around adults who did this, and I’ve got to tell you, it didn’t get them very far.

The trouble is, strong women are easy to dislike

We don’t dwell on our shortcomings, and share our successes. We try and remain positive in the face of adversity. We look so in control, and always appear to have the answers. These things can make others feel bad about themselves, but as Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said, no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

I don’t know much, but I do know that the world needs more strong women. Ones who will volunteer for the messy work when it needs to be done. Ones who’ll stand up to the bullies who try and put them down.

Us women need to be strong. For ourselves, for our families and for the sisterhood.

My name is Reneé, I’m a survivor of life and will not apologise for being a strong woman.

Whose with me?

bob_marley_being_strong

When Being Me Sucks

Carefree days when I thought wearing a plastic bag on my head to keep me from getting soaked in monsoon was absolutely hilarious!

There’s absolutely no way to sugar coat this and turn it all into a positive – being me sucks this week. Big time. 

On top of the usual woes we have to deal with in my house as standard, it’s fair to say we’ve had quite a few extras, and it’s only WEDNESDAY for crying out loud! 

On Sunday I discovered worms for the third time in six months

Which meant we spent almost an hour at the doctors getting a prescription for stronger medicine than the stuff we’d previously taken. I’d done three loads of boil washing by midday, including all the kids favourite night time teddies, which are now about a third of the size they used to be.  

After the doctors, we went to the dentist for our six monthly check ups. I got told off for my 4yo’s teeth not being a nice as they could be, and also got told that my eldest was going to need braces at some point. Apparently the poor little thing has a small jaw but large teeth and these things happen. That’s all very well and good for the dentist to say, but for my highly sensitive girl, who can’t stand the slightest irritation, this is going be an effing gigantic big huge deal.

So that was Monday, not exactly what I’d class as winning…

Tuesday morning was a relentless onslaught of challenging behaviour, interspersed with children screaming in my face. I did come up with an effective time out method though, which seems to be working, so every cloud and all that. 

My friend popped over in the afternoon, and I was telling her about my extremely itchy head. The one that I’ve been scratching for the best part of a fortnight. 

“Do you want me to check for nits?” she asked.

“Surely I’d know by now if it was nits?” I dumbly replied, the penny slowly dropping, for until that point the thought of creatures living on my head hadn’t even crossed my mind.          

“Hmmmmm, I can’t see any crawling around, but I think there are some eggs here. It’s hard to tell because your hair is so dark.” 

The optimist in me wanted to believe it was just a random itchy head, but the realist knew there and then that I would be finding critters when I went through my hair with the nit comb.

Sure as anything there were plenty of live bugs dancing around. I thought the kids were in the clear, but realised today that they weren’t, so I spent approximately three hours of my life combing out nits… and eggs… and dousing our heads in tea tree oil and cider vinegar.

More lost opportunities

If all this wasn’t bad enough I was supposed to be doing something pretty special for the blog tomorrow, but as hubby can’t work from home or even get home early I’m having to miss out. Again. It’s hard not to feel a teeny bit sorry for myself. Oh I know how fortunate I am, and that so many others have it so much harder, but sometimes a pity party is in order.   

I’m using every single one of my super powers to resist opening a bottle of wine and drowning my sorrows right about now. 

Instead I’ll try and cheer myself up by looking at old travelling photos. 

Things can only get better right?!