1. Be Yourself -
Do what makes YOU happy, and prioritise the art of please nobody but yourself.
Disregard any hang-ups on what others may or may not think of you, your decisions, and your life. The only person you have to answer to is yourself.
After my time travelling Europe alone and living in Spain, I lost all ability to care what others thought of me, and I can’t tell you how much happier I have been ever since.
If someone doesn’t like you for you, then they’re quite simply not worth your time or effort. There are plenty of people who do, and who will, like you and the person you are, so cut the crap from the negativities as soon as possible, because why should you have to contend with that? Why should you have to change yourself, your personality, your likes and dislikes, for anybody but yourself?
At high school, I was frequently ridiculed for my passion for writing, so much so that I attempted to conceal it, and strived to become somebody I wasn’t, making myself feel even more unhappy and insecure in the process. Now, ‘geeky’ or not, I couldn’t care less who knows that I spend my spare time writing children’s books. It’s a much more constructive pastime than channeling your energies into judging people’s life choices, purely because they differ from what you personally consider to be ‘the norm.’
Yeah, I make capes for my hamster, and I like to unwind after a long day by watching Escape To The Country – but what you gonna' do about it?!
Your personal quirks, your individual sense of humour, and all of your passions and irritants are what makes you you, and you should totally own it.
Those who deserve your time, love and respect are the ones who openly love you for the person you are, flaws and all.
‘Be an alpaca in a field of sheep’ is a fitting expression I’d use to back this theory up. (Is that an expression? It is now.)
2. Sing & Dance -
I have literally just closed the curtains and had a crazy jive around my living room to Jenny From The Block, and I feel a million dollars. Honestly, there were arms and legs flailing everywhere, and I almost blinded myself with my own ponytail. It wasn't my finest hour, but I really do feel elated!
Although I have never touched alcohol in my life (aside that liquor chocolate, but we’ll brush over that unfortunate experience...) I am always presumed to be the ‘drunkest’ on any night out – an assumption largely attributable to my constant, giddy dancing and slut-dropping. I mean, I like to think I look like some sort of sexy goddess from the background of a Pitbull video... In reality, I probably look more like white girl wasted, but you know what? I’m having a ball, so I couldn’t care less.
On a night out, the chances are, everybody else is completely out of it, so really, who’s going to remember you dancing around like a fool?! And in theory, who really cares?!
I am a firm believer in the power of music as therapy, and swear by the fact that a good Youtube sesh can fuel a whole array of emotions. Music can trigger nostalgia (for me, ‘No Letting Go,’ by Wayne Wonder takes me right back to summer 2003, and drives with my Dad in the blistering hot sun), elation (anything by Wham, really), and even sadness when you just need a good weep (I usually go for ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt). It can get you ready and buzzin' for a night out (‘Me Too,’ Meghan Trainor – yassss girl), or it can simply be on in the background to help you through a uni assignment (The best background music for me? Anything by Arctic Monkeys, PRE 2018. Soz Alex.)
The point I’m trying to make? Sing and dance whenever you get the urge. It can do wonders to your mood. Relish a free house, close the curtains, bang on your fave tunes, and just go cray. I promise, you’ll discover your inner Beyonce in no time.
3. Eat well
Having suffered from an eating disorder in the past, I tend to frown upon gruelling dieting and exercise addictions. By all means, be healthy, but don’t kill yourself or your spirit in the process. One chocolate bar won’t make you fat, just as one salad won’t make you thin.
Dieting, a lot of the time, leads to one going completely ‘cold turkey’ on a lot of foods they consider to be bad, which, in reality, are actually needed to complete a balanced diet. Carbs, sugars, and the like should not be ruled out entirely. The longer you restrict your body, the more intense your cravings will become, which often leads to setbacks. Diet frivolously, and listen to what your body is telling you. If you’re having constant cravings for something, the chances are, your body needs it. I’m not a dietician or a PT, whatever, but I know that I weigh only a stone or so more now than I did when I was poorly, because I eat what I want, when I want within reason, exercise whenever I get the chance and I feel like it, and I no longer restrict and then binge. My eating patterns are consistent, and I never alarm or damage my body with sudden cut-backs or indulges.
A diet, or an urge to look a certain way, should never have an impact on your social life, or your personality, and as soon as you start declining afternoons out with friends in the fear that you may give in to ‘forbidden’ food, is the moment you must realise that you are developing an unhealthy relationship with food.
Being within the dark clutches of an eating disorder was the loneliest place I have ever been. My unrealistic desire for control over my life – presenting itself in the form of anorexia - led to me becoming completely isolated, which only added to my despair.
Enjoy every taste, every flavour, and treat yourself every now and again. Your body, alongside your mental health and wellbeing, will thank you for it.
4. The therapy of a good walk
Admittedly, I am a bit of a country girl, but there are genuinely very few things I find more relaxing than a good trek in the hills. In England, we are constantly surrounded by such beautiful scenery, and it is not something we should take for granted, nor is it an element of our own personal wellbeing that we should turn a blind eye to.
Feeling stressed, worried or just a bit down in the dumps? Don ya' oldest Converse, head out, get yourself completely lost, find a quiet spot boasting a stunning view, and just take a deep breath.
Walk bare foot through fields and feel the grass seep through your toes; the sensation raking up so much nostalgia. Inhale the sweet, fragrant smell of flowers, and marvel at the way the bees dive in and out of their tender leaves of a multitude of colours. Appreciate the rare summer rays on your back. Embrace the whipping wind as it sends refreshing spirals across your mind, clearing it almost completely of all anguishes. Marvel at the cold pellets of rain piercing through your jumper.
Whenever I’m worried about something (about 953 times a day, on average), I take myself off for a walk, no matter how long or short, and simply enjoy the space to breathe. I use the serenity to put all of my concerns into perspective.
5. Talk to People -
While I’ll be the first to highly recommend a little ‘me time,’ I would also like to stress the importance of finding the joy in talking to others.
I know that whenever I have been particularly worried about something, the kind words of friends and strangers alike have really lifted my spirits. While I was working abroad, I would often feel homesick, and the families who would come into my office every single morning for a chat absolutely made my days worthwhile.
I’ll never forget the relieving moment that I finally acknowledged my eating disorder, and opened up a friend while we were at work one day. Saying it out loud – I felt terrified, yet I was also awash with a huge sense of relief. My friend couldn’t have been more supportive, and actually went on to be one of the bridesmaids at my wedding last year – a gesture I hope shows even the smallest fraction of how grateful to her I am.
I have so often expressed my sincere gratitude towards my amazing group of friends, and I have lost count of the times their supportive words of advice, humour, and parallel rants have been nothing short of a blessing.
But I’m not just referring to the obvious when I advise you to talk – I do mean broaden your mind by speaking to a variation of people. When you travel, speak with the locals, ask them questions.
Ask old couples how they met – I bet you’ll be enthralled by some of the stories you hear!
Simply exchange words with the lady working tirelessly in your local cafe, or your frazzled looking bus driver – you never know the value or the appreciation of your words.
6. If You Hate Your Job – QUIT
At the age of 21, I was two years into my first ever full-time job, which I absolutely detested to a level I can’t even describe. I was so young, and after the best three years of my life at college, I was working ridiculously long hours in town, with a three hour round commute, in an environment that really wasn’t good for my self-confidence.
I was stupid enough to sit back and accept my disdain for two years, wrongly assuming that this was just it now – the rest of my life. My eating disorder stemmed from the despair I felt in regards to my job, and the monotonous direction my life seemed to be taking.
Despite making true friends for life at that job, my only regret is that I wasted two whole years feeling so fed up.
Going travelling around Europe and making the drastic decision to apply to work abroad was the best thing I have EVER done. It completely saved me, and brought back the happy, bubbly person I had been at college.
If you’re in a job that’s wearing you down – LEAVE. I know it sounds like a terrible cliché, but ‘we work to live, we don’t work to live.’
I know it’s scary to even consider quitting a job and eradiating your only source of income, but no job, no wage is worth any ounce of your unhappiness. A new job, a new opportunity will come along when you least expect it. Your mental health, however, is a lot harder to rectify.
I personally have always had an undying fantasy of just upping and leaving a job I hate, chucking paperwork and upturning desks as I go, telling the boss to stick it, Bridget Jones style. Had I not feared for any future references so much, I would have very much liked to have executed this exit on my last day at my first job!
For the first time since working abroad, I am currently in a job that I love, and I am surrounded by people who make me feel good about myself during my working day. I can’t even begin to express how incredible it is, and how important it is for as many of us as possible to feel this way in regards to a place that they spend the vast majority of their time.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©