Monday, 8 June 2015

Dealing with Anxiety | My Top Tips

Anxiety isn't easy. Actually, it is anything but easy. It can be overwhelming, unexpected and challenging to deal with. I'm not just talking about the butterflies you get before an exam or first date nerves. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK. In recent years I have noticed more and more people speak about it openly, and being a sufferer of anxiety myself, I know how helpful it can be reading about how others deal with their experiences. It has taken me years understand my anxiety and accept it. Not everyone is the same and different techniques work better for some than others. These are tips that have been given to me over the years or I have tried and tested myself. 

Limit worries 
Learn to stop worrying about the things you have zero control over. These worries are an unnecessary burden to add to your anxiety. This isn't always easy, I'm a natural worrier myself, but it does help a lot. In my past, dealing with family illnesses was the hardest because as much as I wanted to take control there was absolutely nothing I could do but support family members and tell myself what will be will be. Even now that saying makes me shiver but unfortunately it is very true.

Defeat the fear of the unknown
"Yes". Saying this word can be scary. It can be so easy to stay in bed, skip lectures, miss social gatherings or amazing opportunities that come your way. Why is this? Because it can be scary trying something new, the unknown. However, wipe away those negative thoughts. Immediately. Now think to yourself how amazing it could be. How every tiny experience can shape you as a person and ultimately push you into new directions. I find the more I do something, the less scary it becomes. If you have a bad experience, remember you are allowed to have those. Avoid what causes unbearable anxiety and start with the smaller challenges. Work your way up and defeat them one at a time. All you need is the initial push and the only one who can do that is you.

Bye bye baddies
Caffeine, sugar and alcohol can intensify the feeling of anxiety. Instead of cutting them out of your diet, try to reduce your consumption of these during anxious periods. Caffeine is good during exams for those early morning study sessions but not to the extent you are a full blown trembling wreck. Keeping sugar levels steady is important. Massive fluctuations can put me on a bit of a roller-coaster ride. 4pm slump anyone? No thanks. Lastly, alcohol. Hahaha, this little culprit. Sometimes alcohol can actually help with my anxiety and takes the edge off social situations. Though, it really is Russian roulette, and can occasionally heighten any underlying feelings of anxiety. My main tip is to be careful and aware of how these can affect you when you are anxious and limit them when you can. 

Get some zzz's 
Sleep really does help me have a clear mind. If I'm tired I struggle with motivation a lot, which then leads to heightened anxiety as I feel I'm not working to the best of my ability. Also getting into a routine, especially over exams or a stressful period, can help with getting quality sleep.

Walk, Run, Whatever gets you moving 
Yes the dreaded exercise tip. For those of you who do not go to the gym, don't worry. Even a walk on a nice day, going for a swim can boost your mood or some super easy yoga. It really is true what they say, exercise makes you feel better mentally and can boost confidence as well.

Self help books
Usually hard to find, but a good self help book can come in handy. This is more for day to day anxiety and keeping a good mindset. My recent favourite is Flip It. It has allowed me to think of situations when I normally get anxious and open my mind up to alternative thought tracks. A very worthy purchase.

Sometimes anxiety can be very unexpected so applying these tips in moments like this can be a challenge. Training yourself to gradually become more aware of your mood slipping into an anxious state is the first step to controlling it. I am continuously learning about what triggers my anxiety attacks and what methods are best for coping with them. I have come to realise that anxiety doesn't just disappear, it only gets easier to deal with. This happens over time and it is a learning journey. Don't let it defeat you and stay strong!

Do you have any tips?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Spicy Aubergine Burgers and Rustic Chips | Going Vegan?

No oil, no dairy and no meat. I have been loving vegan meals lately. Filling, colourful and packed with flavour, this plate is a great alternative to your typical beef burger and fried chips. Vegetarian and vegan meals really should not be scary! They give me more energy and don't leave me feeling sluggish. I was going through a period of crash dieting and then trying to eat "healthy" but really I wasn't providing myself with enough nutrients and was severely lacking plant-based energy sources. Since reading blog after blog, watching hours of YouTube videos and Instagram stalking vegan foodies, I feel a lot more educated about the plant based way of life.

When I told my parents I wanted to make my own meal instead of having a curry they were a little taken aback. I don't blame them, I love food and curry is a favourite of mine, but it was the additional comments that got to me. "She's just going through a phase" or "Where will you get your protein" are a few examples.Something has changed about my outlook on food and I believe it started when I watched some vegan documentaries and talks on the internet just over a month ago. Since then, the thought of meat makes me feel sick and I feel no need what-so-ever to consume dairy. Especially when there are so many alternatives out there!

My new outlook is this:
100% vegetarian
95% vegan

For now I will cook vegan at home and limit dairy as much as possible when eating out. More on this to come in later posts! Now lets talk about how to put together this scrummy meal...

The Very Simple Ingredients
(which can be changed up depending on what you like) 
Bread Roll
Spicy Pepper Sauce
Guacamole, Mango Chutney and Spicy Lime Pickle (for dipping)
Smoked Paprika
Garlic Powder

Easy Peasy Steps
  1. Cut the potatoes into wedge shaped slices (similar sized) and put on a tray with tin foil or baking paper. Dust these with some cumin and paprika (optionally salt as well), then place in the oven at 200 degrees. 
  2. Cut the aubergine into the thickness you want and place on a separate tray (I usually do more than one to fill out the bun). Add some salt and garlic powder.
  3. Once the chips are starting to brown take them out, mix them around and put them back in the oven. Time to put the aubergine in the oven! (turning it down to 180 degrees at this point)
  4. The aubergine is cooked best when you can put a fork through it pretty easily. Make sure whilst the last bits are cooking to prep your bread roll with houmous and sauce, slice you tomatoes and collect any dips for your chips!
  5. The chips usually take about 40 minutes depending on the size but test them to double check. Simply put the baked aubergine in the roll, add the spinach and tomato and there you have it!
Get creative with this and put your own spin on it. I always change it up a little when I do this meal for myself. Great if you have veggies that need to be eaten up!

What is your easy go to meal?