Drumroll please… my trip is (nearly) all booked. My best friend is coming with me, and helping me bring my stuff home, and then I’m taking her to Barcelona and we’re spending the weekend so she can catch her flight back to Tallinn on Monday.
It happened really fast and I can’t believe I’m getting on a plane NEXT WEEK. We’re doing five nights instead of a full week in London to make up for the Barcelona costs — they’re necessaryish because she doesn’t want to go there alone and there are no flights to Estonia from Madrid. I’ll have six days in London because I’m reviewing a hotel my first night there, and then Annemari will join me on Friday. I’m very excited.
I’ve got two-three blog posts, a media kit and two blog designs to finish before I leave, which I think is doable given where I am with each. I just need to make a schedule, or a to-do list or something. Also, start writing down addresses and figuring out what to pack. I probably won’t be around very much once the two-three posts I’ve planned go up, so you should follow me on Twitter or Instagram! I also haven’t decided how long or in what way I’m taking September off from blogging, but it may be ‘entirely so I can focus on my rebrand,’ so there’s a chance of that. We shall see.
And now this is where I ask for things to do or see in London and especially Barcelona, because for someone who’s obsessed with the former and has always wanted to visit the latter, I’m drawing a total blank.
A couple of weekends back, a shady, shady link indeed showed up in my WordPress stats: a whole thread — all for me — had been started on a hate forum, and people were clicking over to my blog from it. Being the curious person I am, I clicked. Everything was the usual: either bullshit, accusations of incompetence that made little sense, or remnants of annoyance over the things I do that clash with the most people, especially asking for help.
All in all, I could have shaken it, but the truth is those things stick to me, and that’s why my policy is to block early, block often.
I closed the tab and kept away, but a few days later, when I’d stopped dwelling on it, the link showed up again in my referrals panel.
Google comes up with all sorts of results for hiding referrals in your Google Analytics, but the panel I check the most often — idly, casually — is my Jetpack WordPress stats, and I wasn’t going to stop just in case I was tempted to go feel bad about myself. I’ve been tracking my progress lately, especially my Pinterest hits, and it’s just second nature to look at them.
But seeing a link like that in your stats can be tempting. And seeing a spam link in your stats can mess them up, too. So I went out of my way to figure out a way to hide it. I even directly asked Support. And they gave me a solution, which I am now sharing with you because you know, I stayed strong those five hours, but I could have clicked in the time it took to find a way to hide the link, and seeing the thread on Sunday made me unreasonably sad for four days. I don’t want anyone else to go through that.
Luckily, it’s very simple.
How to Remove Unwanted Referral Links From Jetpack Stats on WordPress
1. Go to wordpress.com. The Jetpack plugin works by connecting your self-hosted WordPress site to your WordPress.com account, so you have stats here. You can see things by country and other things that don’t show up on your self-hosted dashboard stats.
Top left corner: click on My Sites.
2. There, above the little calendars showing your posting activity, click on Days. This will show you the usual stats from your panel, including referrals.
3. Find the link you want to hide, and click on the “…” next to it. There’s only one option there: Spam. This will, evidently, mark your link as spam. Click it! (If it’s the link you want to remove. I’m not marking Lookbook traffic as spam!)
Now the ugly referral link is gone from both your panel on WordPress.com AND your Jetpack stats panel on self-hosted WordPress, even retroactively. I don’t know if this affects your numbers; if you’re blocking spam it shouldn’t matter. If you’re blocking something shady, you may still want to keep the numbers… I don’t know. Does anybody?
But anyway, if there’s something you’re tempted to click on from your stats and you know it’s a bad idea, here’s how to hide it. If I can just save someone five hours of stress, posting this now will be worth it.
Yes, that deserves all the exclamation points. I could have capslocked. It is that major. I feel good now and I kid but we were approaching a disaster of suicidal proportions and that is not a joke. My mom nearly had a heart attack on Saturday, too, from all the stress. It was scary. (I kept calm and helped her through it but I also asked if I should call an ambulance something like five times.)
For ridiculous bureaucratic reasons that have only just now chosen to arise, my grandma can only stay in Valencia for three months at a time now, which means I have nine months to grow my business and save up to move somewhere lest I end up having to share a room with my sister again, a fate that rivals the apocalypse in utter direness. We are not for this. On the other hand, I always vaguely intended to jet off to Estonia next summer to be near my best friend, so the dates work out nicely.
The first day back in my room, there was cleaning and nausea and my mom had some feelings about where a nightstand should go and her being upset upset me and I ended up crying about being a failure and back in my old room again. I watched Bachelorette, which I can’t decide how I feel about and thus will forget in due time, and didn’t manage to finish an entire pizza, and slept like crap because my pillow has doubled in size — thanks, grandma! — and I didn’t feel like touching its insides.
I still haven’t, actually. I just put it on a vertical position and sleep with my head on the mattress. I napped for six hours yesterday. I was exhausted and the lorazepam helped me out there. So is the escitalopram — I stuck with it because it seemed to have an effect on my sleep schedule, and that appears to have held.
Still settling, all in all. It always takes a little while. I’m glad I have three weeks before London.
London: not exactly booked yet. Sort of budgeted for. I’m waiting to sort out accommodation, which may be a bit last-minute; I’m waiting to hear back from a hotel before I sort something out with someone on airbnb, if she can do my dates — we got mixed up, I think. Then I’m keeping an eye on a hostel that only asks for one week’s notice before people leave, so I can’t book anything there until late August. I’ll be there on September 4 or earlier, and stay for a week or two.
I set up an Instagram account to sell some bits and reduce the amount of luggage I bring back: it’s at lixtidies. I’m contemplating setting up a Calendly to book mini shoots. I made a Pinterest board with some ideas.
Aside from shooting, I’m taking September off. All of it. I’m blocking out August so I can wrap up all my pending projects, and I want to enjoy London. Take a lot of pictures, walk around, do some touristy shit. I may work on my rebrand; not sure about when, but probably not while I’m there.
I’ll probably only blog sporadically until October as well. It won’t be very different from my usual MO, so there’s probably no need to announce it. For once, being unreliable works in my favor. Hooray!
This week, I will
work on two blog designs
host a #bookbloggers chat on YA (today — Tuesday — at 7 PM UK! Be there!)
write three posts, two for this blog and one for femsplain
Oh no, I’ve fallen on the bandwagon. I bring worksheets with me. Oh no.
Right, so. Pinterest. Y’all know I like it a lot. My about page, which is in dire need of updating, literally mentions “wistfully sighing at interiors” as a hobby of mine. Pinterest is also great for gathering inspiration for design and photography, and I regularly use it to save gorgeous photos off blogs I read and particularly stunning portfolio pieces when I peruse designer portfolios.
The social media platform aspect… that’s one thing I’ve, thus far, failed at. I wasn’t sure how to get going, or if I could be bothered. I thought I may have to restructure my content (which, coincidentally, I have done for my rebrand, but I’m not hitting the new sections hard yet) and that it was just sheer luck.
Turns out — maybe it isn’t?
I have lost it.
This summer was a fantastic time for me to randomly decide to work hard on my Pinterest game, because it works perfectly with all my hindrances — i.e. my sister’s presence/lack of alone time and the heat. It’s largely a click click click game, with very little wording necessary, so I’m happy to do it on my phone. And I don’t need to think about it beyond making an effort to remember if I’ve repinned a certain office space before.
In this post, I’m going to share my half-assed strategy, make it into a full-assed one, and share a worksheet so you can join me in making August the Great Pinterest Renaissance on this here blog.
The first thing I did was sign up for Caitlin Bacher’s Little Farm Media newsletter. She’s got a free ebook when you sign up that tells you how she gained 1,000 Pinterest followers in a month. You can get it here!
Thanks to that ebook, I took the plunge and turned my account into a business account and verified my website. For the longest time I had no idea what the point was, but it turns out you get access to stats. Now, I don’t know how to use those stats, but that’s not the point, because you need a verified website to set up rich pins.
How do you set up rich pins? Fran from Free Borboleta tells you how right here.
Those are some cool optimization tools for my website, more than for Pinterest itself. The other thing I came away with from reading Caitlin’s book was this:
Pin like you’re on FIRE. She suggests 50 pins a day, and 10 from your own site. I’ve not reached that number once, but I’ve been pinning two or three dozen a day, and some old posts, and I’m shocked and amazed at the fact that I’m actually getting two-digit figures of hits from Pinterest every day. This is a big big change for me.
The final part of my so-called strategy is not as simple, but simple enough: group boards. Group boards are amazing if you find the right ones. How do you know if a group board is good, and right for you? Two checks:
Is the topic a fit for your blog/business? If you’re an infopreneur, a recipe board isn’t going to do much for you.
Do the pins often get repinned and liked? A board where everyone’s pinning but no one is repinning isn’t going to do you any good.
To find group boards, I recommend going to your favorite pinners’ profiles and checking which groups they belong to. You’ll find boards you want to join much faster this way than by running general searches, in my experience!
To join a group board, check the group description. It will let you know if it’s adding pinners at the moment and how you need to reach out to the owner. There’s usually an email, or it may tell you to follow the board (you have to do this to be added at all) and leave a comment on a pin with your email address. Presumably the owner has a system, so don’t mess with it.
Once you join, heed the above again: only pin things to the board that are on topic for it, and remember to repin the articles you like on it! Like all other social media, it doesn’t work if you get on a soapbox and refuse to come down from there.
So that’s what I’m doing, on top of adding vertical images to my posts — you kind of get used to them after a while, but if you don’t like them, hide them! — and keeping my pin it button.
Come play with me! Leave your Pinterest account in the comments (follow mine!) and I’ll make sure to check out what you’re pinning and help you in your Pinterest Renaissance! (Naissance? I’m definitely in the naissant stage. Man, I should really practice my French if I’m going to move to Paris next year. I had to check to be sure the infinitive form of naiss-whatever was naître.)
I’m not bothering keeping freebies behind the curtain until I rebrand, but you should totally sign up to my mailing list anyway. You won’t regret it.
PS: Following me isn’t a requirement! It is just, er, strongly encouraged. ;)
PPS: Tell your friends! This took a million years. Well, no, but it felt like it. People make worksheets look so easy!
I stopped spending time in the living room in my flat — my family’s flat — when I was eighteen. I only held out that long because the only computer I had access to was a desktop and it was there. As soon as I had a laptop I was out of there. There are several reasons, the main two of which can be summed up as “my parents refuse to not smoke in my presence even though it makes me sick” and “my father exists.”
So I lived and now again live in my bedroom. There was a three-month stint at a dorm, which also had nothing comparable to a living room.
Last year, I moved to London. London: where housing is so expensive people turn living rooms into bedrooms so they can get another flatmate in to share the rent! I went through some places with no living room, or where the only room I could work in was the living room, or where I stupidly didn’t make the most of the living room.
And then I was in Crouch End for two weeks. That flat was all kinds of gorgeous, and well-decorated, and the living room had the most comfortable couch in the whole entire world. I missed it the entire time I was in Hampstead Heath, and then I moved to a place where the living room was off limits, though I asked to use it a time or two. Briefly. No blanket permission.
Holy god, I miss having a living room. I miss curling up on the couch and still being upright with my laptop, and I miss the light, and I miss not being in my bedroom all the time. I miss watching mindless TV and I miss the dining table. I kind of miss socializing with people I actually find interesting.
As usual, I dream through Pinterest. According to my interiors board, which is by far the most populated on my account, my dream living room is apparently spacious, bright, with comfortable seating, with gorgeous wood flooring, and painted like a 20s film.
Sometimes a bit of teal or mustard pops up. It’s rare. I tried to do this with my branding and I got bored and I’ve been wanting to rebrand with actual color — multiple colors, even! A color wheel, if you will! — for a year. My room in Belsize Park was super white and felt mightily sterile, like a hospital ward, so I don’t want to go entirely in that direction.
But grays with pops of color are my interior design of choice, and one day I will get something like it, goddammit. I deserve to decorate a whole place. #dreamjob, tbh. Well, maybe #dreamhobby. There’s no room for any more career paths up in my brain.
If you’ve been around for any of my moves on Twitter, you’ll know every time I complained about packing up until the fifth or last pack, at which point I finally thought to lay everything out on a bed and go SCIENCE.
I mean, it’s not science. Probably. But by the time you’re thinking about weight distribution, standing over your laid-out clothes and saying, loudly, “Step back! I’m going to try SCIENCE!” feels like the only way to hold on to your sanity for long enough to get you on your way.
Today, I’m sharing some tips on packing light for your summer holidays, and a few of my travel essentials! Just a heads up that by summer holidays I mean “holidaying somewhere it’s summer, and relatively warm,” so if you’re heading to Antarctica, even if it’s July, this may not help as much.
Photography by Lix Hewett. Model: Ling K Tang
How to Pack Light For Your Summer Holiday
First of all, you’re already ahead of the curve. It’s hot, which means packing light is way easier than it would be in literally any other season. This is for two obvious reasons:
Dresses and shorts take up less space and weigh less than hoodies and coats. Duh.
Even if the place where you’re staying doesn’t have a laundry room or laundry service, or you don’t want to carry your shit to a launderette and back, you can handwash anything in the sink, hang it somewhere and it will dry quicker than overnight. So if your holiday is longer than you can fit a daily outfit for in your suitcase, you can just wash the ones you put in instead of pack more stuff.
With that in mind, you can get away with not having to check in a suitcase at all. You save money and you save your back: it’s a win-win. Here’s ten things to keep in mind to achieve that goal:
1. Pack for summer. Erase “what if it suddenly gets cold?” from your vocabulary. (Unless you’re holidaying in England. Pack some cardis if you’re doing that.) It’s highly unlikely to get cold in late June/July/August/early September. Last week there was a storm, and I went out to my patio and danced half-naked in the rain. And if it somehow does cool down in a heavy-summer country and you need some sleeves, you can take the opportunity to do some shopping. If you packed light, it shouldn’t be a problem to bring some stuff back with you!
2. Roll your clothes. This is on every advice list ever these days, but while rolling clothes won’t make hoodies or coats any less bulky, it definitely helps with anything thin or cottony. If you roll your t-shirts and dresses, you’ll have more room for denim, towels and other thicker textiles. They’ll also come out less wrinkled. Just do it.
3. Shoes take up the most space of anything. Luckily, you’re not going to be wearing boots to the beach. If you’re going somewhere hot, you don’t want trainers, either, or socks. Pack flip-flops or sandals, a pair of closed shoes (heels or flats, not my decision, but flats are easier to pack!) in case it’s cool at night, and leave it at that unless you have space left over. You don’t need that many shoes.
4. Put your underwear inside your shoes. Also fits inside shoes: chargers, batteries, small deodorants, jewelry pouches, particularly thin t-shirts (may be gross to some, it is to me), epilators, razors.
5. Go light on the tech. You’re on holiday, for god’s sake. If everything you want to do can be done on a tablet or laptop, leave the laptop home. That shit overheats, and if you’re coming somewhere around the Mediterranean, you will want to throw it in the ocean five minutes after you turn it on. This is where I, e-book lover extraordinaire, recommend taking a paper book or two with you. Don’t overdo it, because they’re heavy, but mmm books.
(Remember to take a converter plug if you’re going somewhere that has different outlets than your tech does.)
6. Another thing you can go without is a hair dryer. If you’re a stickler for drying your hair with it, check if the place where you’re staying has one. Most hotels either have one in every room or will give you one at reception if you ask for it. I started air-drying my hair in mid April, though, because it’s so hot in Spain that having a wet head of hair is like relief and it will dry on its own even faster than clothes, so you don’t have to pack a dryer at all.
7. Think about how much makeup you’ll be using. Now think about how much makeup you’d be devastated to find completely melted in your bag. Pack accordingly. (Also pack according to airline standards, obviously.)
8. If you’re going to be buying travel-sized toiletries — buy them where you’re going instead of at home, and leave them there before coming back. Check what the hotel will give you, too, and see if you can’t use that. Toiletries are about the same prices everywhere, and if you’re one of my UK readers and you’re going somewhere that sells in US dollars or Euro, you win on the conversion rate anyway.
9. If you’re going with other people, even if they’re friends and not family, combine your luggage. This is where SCIENCE! comes in, and it’s especially handy if you’re carrying backpacks instead of hand luggage. It’s a great opportunity to redistribute weight if someone is falling backwards every five steps or your suitcase keeps veering to the side and trying to kiss the floor.
10. Don’t forget your earphones. Or you may come home a year later to find out your beloved Apple earphones that still worked perfectly after seven years have been destroyed by the animal that is your sister. Not to be dramatic or anything.
What a summer holiday packing list would look like for me:
1. laptop + charger (maybe)
2. Canon DSLR + kit lens + 50mm lens + charger + USB cord if taking laptop with me
3. phone + charger
4. ipod + charger + earphones + USB cord if taking laptop with me
5. a notebook; I usually carry three or four, but we’re talking holidays: I don’t want to take my work with me
6. hair brush + deodorant + sunscreen
7. nail pouch with: nail clipper, nail files, tweezers, razors or an epilator
8. makeup bag with: foundation, concealer, eyeliner, maybe some choice lipstick and eyeshadow, and all this only if I’m planning to shoot
1. underwear + a couple of bras. I don’t usually wear bras with sundresses anyway.
2. if I’m going somewhere hot, a bikini or bathing suit, maybe two
3. all of the dresses I’m comfortable in during summer
4. a pair of shorts, a few t-shirts
5. flip-flops or sandals + one other pair of shoes + a third if there’s space left
6. maybe some jewelry if I’m shooting, planned beforehand
7. a towel
First of all: life, stop throwing curveballs at me. I need to save up for London. I can’t wait to go and get it over with and have a whole year to save up to go anywhere again.
Yesterday’s curveballs weren’t that bad, to be fair: a client changing her mind about a project and a troll resurfacing on Twitter. It was a lorazepam day, so I handled it fairly well, though it made me even less productive than I already was after accidentally falling asleep out of boredom waiting for my sister to leave me alone.
Sometimes — I was going to say ‘some days,’ but it’s all the days now — I think about going to London early. I’d get some cool weather, do some shoots, and be on my own. But I have responsibilities to fulfill and I can’t tell my clients, “So long, see you in two weeks!” Plus I want to be there in September for a blogger event I’m hoping to shoot. I don’t want to have all that bogging me down. I want to actually focus on shooting and have time to edit the photos at my leisure afterwards.
So I keep waiting.
Podcasts, as y’all know, are awesome. I would like to listen to them more consistently, and maybe edit pictures while I do, or sew, because those are lovely things to do while you listen to podcasts. Unfortunately I need my room back for the latter and alone time for the former. In the meanwhile, I’m exploring the world of podcasting and booking guest spots on things. My family leave me alone to record, so that’s an upside!
My first ever podcast guest spot was on the digital scrapbooking podcast Digiscrap Geek, a weekly chat about scrapbook design and memory-keeping! We talked about capturing personality in casual, day-to-day portraiture, and it was a lot of fun. I’m embedding the audio below so you can hear me be ridiculous on the record and probably mispronounce VSCO. It’s a wonder I spelled it out instead of saying ‘vesco’ like it sounds in my head.
And you can see the show notes here. Let me know what you think! But only if it’s good. I’m fragile.
I still want to launch my own podcast on a topic related to my blog/biz, but I don’t have time (alone) right now, so yesterday I had this grandiose idea of doing a mini biweekly thing where I read my poems and then try to analyze them. Or explain them. Or explain what was going through my head when I wrote them. The way I write poetry, I really don’t put meaning into it; I make it up afterwards. So it would be fun to read a poem and analyze it in the following episode, giving listeners (if there are any?!) a chance to interpret it on their own! Could have guests as well. It’s a silly idea but I think it would be fun and pressure-free, and not necessarily indefinite.
Thoughts on that?
My other two business thoughts:
1. Stock licensing. Maybe instead of licensing photos one by one, I could have a monthly membership library that would give holders a simple license to use my photos for individual blog posts or websites, and they could choose to purchase further licensing if they needed the photos for print, books or advertising campaigns. Need to separate a bit there, but I want to profit more if they’re profiting more, essentially. But I like the library concept a lot.
2. Referral scheme. I was working this out in one of my Facebook groups and they suggested giving affiliates (or… referrers? What IS the difference?) a personalized discount code. That way clients would be less likely to forget to mention who referred them. And the affiliate would get 5% of the sale in cash OR 10% in design credit.
Thoughts on any of these? Would you buy access to the stock photo library/refer people to me? I mean, they sound like good ideas, right?
Do you listen to podcasts? Which are your favorites? When do you normally listen, and what do you do while you listen?
Anxiety has been a companion of mine for a good long, long decade. It’s hard to think of a time when it wasn’t pushing its way through the crevices of my brain and knocking on my temples like a five-year-old child going, “Pay attention to me. Pay attention to me. Oi! Pay attention to me.”
In that time, I’ve tried a sizable amount of techniques and attempted to build habits; I’ve been hesitant to use medication and refused completely and gone back around to ‘yes, let’s'; I’ve accumulated a long list of shit that doesn’t work — much of which makes me angry, too — and a much shorter list of shit that works — well, sometimes.
Sometimes still beats never, so I’m going to share those things that make living with anxiety a little easier on me.
I’m putting the most drastic tactic first. The rest of this list is a lot more predictable, which is why I’m including a place to start for each item besides this one. I wanted to be actually helpful and not just regurgitate what you see everywhere.
What do I mean by quit? Well, obviously I’m not saying you should quit your life. (Please don’t. I know the feeling. If you’re at that point, there is help available.) But we all have stressors. Anyone with anxiety can probably list five or ten off the top of their head. Right now, some of my stressors are: my work backlog, financial anxiety about going back to London, anxiety over how I’m going to bring all my stuff back, the thing where I can’t get alone time to work, my bad eating and sleeping habits and the guilt that comes with them, my rebrand and how big and unsurmountable it feels given all the other things I have to do and situational hindrances.
All in all, it’s not that bad. A few months ago, my biggest stressor was financial, too — but it was the kind of thing where if things went wrong, I was really fucked. They did in fact go wrong, and I was so fucked that I moved back home. I no longer have to worry about rent. I’ve traded it off for living with my family again, but boy, has it made a difference to my general mindset.
It could be a job that’s stressing you out. A hobby that takes up too much of your time. Maybe you’re a freelancer and you’re not giving yourself enough time off. (Been there!) I’ve also been in a place — back when I first got a room of my own, same month I first got on paroxetine — where a hobby had become my only source or measure of productivity, and it had become unhealthy. I was in a place in my life where I was able to quit that and be listless for a few months, and that’s how I ended up feeling confident enough to start a business.
It could be a person. Anything from a friend you don’t see eye to eye with to a relative who puts you down to a close family member who’s abusive. I understand how hard it can be to let go of people, both emotionally and practically. I live with my father right now, and while his abuse is less frequent than it used to be, he’s still someone who continually hurts me. I wish I could let go of him. I told you letting go of rent worries was a trade-off.
But maybe there’s someone in your life you don’t have to put up with, and maybe that’s key to making your anxiety manageable.
So: identify where the stress, the dread, the worries are coming from, and see if you can let go of some of it. Delegate it. Postpone it. Simplify it. Trash it. Whatever works. And yes, go cold-turkey. Don’t still do a bit of it. If it’s a real stressor, if it’s the kind of thing that’s filling you with dread? You need to let it go.
It doesn’t mean you can never come back to it. But if you can afford to quit something that’s making you miserable — even if it doesn’t only make you miserable; even if it also makes you happy, but mostly you just want to never think of it again — I genuinely encourage you to do it.
2. Make time for fun
In the vein of ‘quitting,’ I think many people with anxiety — including me — end up in these lifeless, funless ruts where all they do is work, if anything, and they spend their downtime entertaining themselves with unfulfilling [insert choice of game/TV show/youtube/blog that they don’t enjoy that much] that takes up little energy, little headspace, and they don’t care about enough to be fully present in the moment and enjoy.
It happens to me a lot. I tweeted about it last week — I often avoid things I really, deeply enjoy because I don’t think I’m in a good enough headspace to get the most of them. Lately, that’s because I’m tired and hot and out of it. When I was in London, one of my little dreams was to be caught up on my work and actually take a day off to go to Starbucks with a physical book and no tech. This is not ‘how to fix anxiety if you work from home’, but if you have that problem, I recommend scheduling your time and scheduling breaks as well as an hour beyond which you will not work. I managed the last thing for a while, and it was wonderful: after 9 PM, I put aside my work and cooked my dinner, and watched a movie, or some TV.
But this can happen even if you have a standard job, or if you’re in school, or if you’re not working for whatever reason. (That reason could even be your anxiety.) So this is where I tell you to make time for it. Make time for that book that will have you giddily screaming into your sleeve. Make time for the movie that will make you cry fat tears of bittersweet joy ten minutes in. Make time to play guitar. Make time to play a game you can truly get invested in. Make time to read some fanfiction. Put it on your schedule and do it. Let your mind drift off and be comforted for a while.
There are many ways you can take this. You could write a journal. Putting your thoughts and emotions down on paper can make them seem clearer, less scary, maybe even surmountable. In the same way you could journal, you could also find a therapist, and talk it out, if that’s available to you. You could talk it out on a voice recorder, if you want the privacy.
You could find something else to do on paper that helps out. Maybe that’s to-do listing every tiny task so you get the joy of crossing it off. Maybe it’s drawing, sketching, painting, doodling, collaging, scrapbooking. Maybe it’s worksheet exercises you can find on the web. Maybe it’s one line a day. Maybe it’s writing daily about what made you happy — what some people approach as a ‘gratitude journal.’ I have issues with the word ‘gratitude,’ but I admit that keeping track of what’s made me happy has helped me a few times. Most recently, I did it for a Simply Health campaign on twitter of all places, and it was interesting how by the last day, I had a significantly easier time thinking of things that had made me happy — and it wasn’t even a particularly good week.
The great thing about ‘things that make me happy’ is that you can do it in so many ways. Many, many people blog or vlog weekly about their progress. It can be a way to keep yourself accountable, if you commit to having a post up about it every week. Many podcasts — like one of my first faves, Pop Culture Happy Hour — have a regular section where everyone talks about something that made them happy. You can instagram it, if you’re a visual sort. It can be a photography project. Whatever it is, and as many issues as I have with general ‘think positive’ attitudes, singling out the positive can truly help you be more aware of it going forward. And that will definitely help your anxiety.
Like yoga, but without the physical effort. No, seriously. I first tried meditation a few weeks ago, hoping it wouldn’t make me feel ridiculous, and it was very, very similar to doing yoga — except I didn’t have to expel a drop of sweat or leave my lungs on the floor trying to hold a downward-facing dog pose for longer than my admittedly pathetic endurance can handle.
I know some people just, like, meditate. They can zone out and empty their minds and let all thoughts go. I can’t do that. I can’t even do that when I’m trying to sleep. I need someone to guide me. Now, if you have access to slash can afford a personal trainer, or like group classes, that’s for sure an option! Me, I have no disposable income and I don’t have the greatest track record with group things involving exercise — granted, that was high school, but I doubt a group class will wait for me to catch up while I wheeze — so I found some guided self-help type stuff on the Internet.
If you want to try meditation and you have a smartphone — Android or iOS! possibly other systems — you’re in luck. There are quite a few apps that will offer you a range of meditations you can pick based on your mood, what you need to accomplish, what works for you, how long you have, and other factors.
I got four apps on my Android phone to test out, and I haven’t got round to them all, but here they are (they’re all free): Mindshift, Breathe2Relax, SAMapp, and Stop, Breathe & Think.
Breathe2Relax was a nice quick foray into simply breathing without it being a part of a yoga exercise, though it’s not the nicest thing to look at.
However, the one that really turned me onto meditation was Stop, Breathe & Think. You can keep track of your progress, which meditations you’ve tried, how you felt before and after them. You even get stickers! I love having a way to cross things off a list, as it were, that doesn’t require me to remember to put them on my to-do list. Also, it’s beautifully designed. These things matter to me.
So yeah. I’m sure making meditation as a habit can be good for you, but as it is, I know that taking a few minutes to not think about anything definitely is. And a guided meditation — just because it’s telling you to listen, and focus, and you’re paying attention to that — does just that.
Right, so you like the meditation thing, but you also want the physical effort. Maybe you need an extra thing to focus on, and poses (or other types of exercise) will do the trick. In that case, yoga’s the obvious choice. It’s so obvious I feel silly even putting it on here, but honestly. I won’t pretend to be super knowledgeable about yoga, because I’m not, but I’m going to point you to a website I’ve used that has free sample recordings of some of their lessons — most are 20-40 minutes long, they’re doable, they address different issues, and you can get PDFs of the poses to go with them. If you sign up for a membership, you get unlimited access to even more lessons, video, and a bunch of other stuff.
The site is YogaDownload. I can’t vouch for the premium stuff (and this is not an affiliate link), but I can vouch for a number of lessons. The Gentle Hatha set is fantastic for someone just starting out — someone who isn’t very flexible or strong or energetic. It’s also great for anxiety. It runs you through a number of poses, all doable, some harder than others (I really do find the downward-facing dog the hardest one there), and at the end, you’re lying on the floor spread out thinking “can this just go on for a while longer? Like an hour? A year? Shh, outro music. Shh.”
I can tell you from personal experience — as someone who avoided all forms of exercise for twenty-one years, flunked PE once in primary school and rage-quit it near the end of high school — that exercise is fucking amazing for mental health. I mean, seriously amazing. The trick, if you’re not into sports in general or have the endurance of a block of spam, is to start as low as you truly feel, and go from there.
Listen, I’m going to tell you the truth here: the summer I got my room to myself for the first time, got on antidepressants and quit writing, I also got into watching gymnastics, and that gave me motivation to work out. When the Olympics were over, I started Make It Or Break It. Following concepts I explained in #3: Write, I created a super complicated exercise chart full of little exercises I wanted and felt capable of doing, and every day I wrote down how many repeats I did of each. I chose the exercises! And I followed programs like OneFiftyDips and TwoHundredSitups and HundredPushUps, though I’ll admit I was pretty easy on the last one because push-ups suck. I hate push-ups, and that’s okay! I was surprised I was able to start a few weeks into the first two programs, but I tested myself first.
The rest of the exercises on the chart? Jumps. Mini leaps. Straddle stretching. Pike stretching. Shoulderstands. (I can’t do headstands. I tried with my sister and nearly broke my chin. I’ll try again, when I find a gym that I can pay for and that has massive mats to fall on.) Roll-ups (for real). Jumping jacks, sometimes. Squats, sometimes. Walking en pointe and variations of ballet walking. Turns.
I spread these out throughout the day because doing too much at once made me sweaty and I didn’t want to waste hot water or clean clothes changing again.
Somehow, what had seemed impossible for so long became easy and fun and something I looked forward to. It gave me energy. And I felt happier.
So what I’m saying is, exercise can be awesome. There are loads of programs out there. You can pick a sport you love and do that — another little dream I have is being able to hire a gymnastics coach, but I would also go for tennis lessons. You can create your own workout.
Don’t force yourself to do things you can’t do. It’s funner when you start where you are and actually accomplish things, step by step. Most of all, do what works for you.
And that goes for everything here. Anxiety, like any other mental illness, rarely looks the same for two different people. What works for me may not work for you, and viceversa; what works for me may work differently, or better, or worse, for you than it does for me. None of this is a cure, and sometimes depression knocks you down so you can’t try it at all — I’ve been there, and that’s why antidepressants are a choice I make.
Regardless, I wrote this post to give you an idea of where to get started with helpful life habits, and I hope it serves its purpose!
Do you have anxiety and hate it when people tell you to think positive? Let’s commiserate!
Disclosure: This post contains no affiliate links and I wasn’t paid to mention anything in it or write it (which is outrageous, frankly; it took forever) but Simply Health will donate a small sum in my name to the organization Mind in exchange for my participating in their campaign and including their link in this post.
I’m nowhere near as lazy about walking when I can do it with my camera, slowly, especially with a friend. So the first week I spent in London last year involved some long-ass walks. I’m not sure which was the longest; our first day there, Annemari and I took a while to find — after, let’s be real, probably getting lost — the building Ashley was living in at the time, and I basically got a full view of Marylebone right there… and a fair share of Fitzrovia. The last Sunday, we covered a ridiculous amount of ground, between Regent’s Park and Baker Street and the one successful flat viewing of the week (it was Benji and Mindy and the chihuahua, wasn’t it?).
Today, I’m showing you what I wore on Wednesday — yes, this is April 30, 2014, but let’s be real, I still wear this shit on a regular basis. (Except the jeans, which I only wear if I’m going to be photographed. They’re too thin. Too much like leggings.)
Essentially, I am stalling while I figure out what each main point of our walk was, because quite frankly I’m fuzzy on the details of the whole first bit. Let me just…
Holy god. That was a long-ass walk. I didn’t realize St Paul’s Cathedral was that far out there! Well, we were there to meet Ash, but we missed her, and so I decided I wanted to see the Tate Britain. It’s a thing. I planned my first trip to London — in 2007 — around a Millais exhibition. I’m a walking cliché, but that’s my favorite museum in London, in terms of the art inside. (Favorite building is the Royal Academy; I couldn’t tell you why.)
So I stopped at a Waterstones to use their WiFi on my tablet — I didn’t have a phone plan back then — and figure out how to get there. Or rather, how to get to the river. From there I was pretty confident of my ability to keep walking until I saw Vauxhall Bridge.
And then we walked. For EVER.
It was brilliant, and this is an outfit post and therefore just a taste of the truly outrageous amount of photos I took that day.
Well, we’re due one of these. I was going for Sunday and hoping to have a normal post up yesterday, but that didn’t happen, and here’s why:
It is hot as shit.
In case you’re unfamiliar with my deep and intense hatred of summer in Spain, I’ll remind you of two things:
1) How much I complain about it. On Twitter, Instagram, in response to other people, in real life, on this here blog, did I mention on Twitter? Yeah.
2) I moved to London last year in spring so I could escape this hell, and my most defeatist plans for coming back home weren’t supposed to go into motion until September.
Also, I have a half-written post about how to survive summer in Spain. I don’t know if I’ll post it, but item #1 is: Spend it somewhere else. Item #10 is: Seriously, I hear Siberia’s nice this time of year.
In short: I fucking hate summer.
Fortunately, or neutrally, or the opposite of fortunately let’s be real, it was so unbearable that it made work impossible, so I broke down and bought an electric fan. This was a trade-off not only in the sense that someone took my money and traded it for a thing that blows air on me, thereby returning the ability to think to my brain, but also in the sense that I’m not the only person in this house who’s basically dying in this weather, and I’m also not enough of an asshole to tell my mom to go become a puddle of sweat somewhere else. (I have fewer qualms about telling my sister this, sometimes.)
So there’s another obstacle to work. I’m managing today because my sister’s meeting friends. My mom napped here and it was eh, okay, and then I kicked her out at 8 PM, which wasn’t that cruel. I wanted to write and it was fine when she was sleeping, but when people use gadgets behind me, it drives me up the wall. And I have enough concentration issues as it is.
What all this means is the same thing I’ve been saying since I moved here: I have got to get up early so I can enjoy the patio while there’s still a breeze. I’m never more productive than the two hours after I get out of the shower, and I can’t use them if I spend them in my room because as soon as the electric fan goes on, somebody invades.
But hey, at least I can think again. Near my laptop, even. This weekend was bad for me and my laptop. I went near it and went ‘arghhhh’ and stepped away.
One of the things I can do is keep taking the Skillshare class I’m taking on surface pattern design. I’m learning loads about Illustrator, you guys, I recommend it. The more I learn about it, the more it doesn’t look that different from Photoshop. Isn’t that lovely? Yes it is.
Even lovelier is the fact that they approved my scholarship request, which means I can continue to take classes for a year without paying for it. I love that they took me at my word and gave me the chance to keep using the site and my respect for them has basically increased tenfold knowing the scholarship program is legit.
I just need some time to play* with my skills without money on the line, you know? Learning is thrilling and creativity and art are joyful and I miss them not being so tied up to client work. I want to work on more passive income streams, but I also want to have something structured to do that I don’t have to feel guilty or stressed about. So I’m very excited about this.
* They also didn’t revoke my scholarship after I used this line in my thank-you email preceded by the sentence, “In the immortal words of Avril Lavigne,” so extra bonus points to them.
I’m also excited about all the posts I want to write for the blog. I feel like I should work on my rebrand first, but maybe I could set a goal of posts scheduled and written before I do that? If I’m doing three per week, and rebranding will take me maybe two months in between client work, let’s say — 24? Damn, that’s a lot. Doable, though! For sure. I have fourteen posts outlined and one in my head already anyway. This should be fun.
The picture in my head is becoming clearer, as far as content at least. It’s scary because it’s a little different from every blog I follow, so I don’t have any people I can clearly use as a guideline. I’m not comfortable breaking molds, me, I like to transform them mainly. But it’s finally coming together and hopefully it will work out.
One of the posts I’ve outlined is about rom coms, so media, which is something I want to do more writing about. It’s my first passion and I feel like going back to my roots. I’m not sure if I’ll do it mostly for this blog or find a gig somewhere else, but I’m finding myself finally wanting to watch things — movies and TV, not just John Oliver and gymnastics on youtube — again, and that makes me happy.
Finally, I’m guesting on a podcast on Thursday! It’s a small one but it looks like it’s full of lovely people and I’m SO excited to get some experience with that. The podcast is Digiscrap Geek and I’ll be talking about how to capture personality in portraiture.