Twenty-Eight

Tomorrow is my 28th birthday.

And like I do every year, I am writing a birthday eve blog post. This is something that I like to do, to reflect on my life for the past 365 days. 28. Sometimes I feel like I fit into the mould of “old soul”, I have been through so much in my short life that I sometimes feel older than the number designated to me. I often feel like I have been here before and I know that I can be old fashioned in many ways. Other times I still feel like a girl playing grown-up, with a childhood whimsy in my heart that I has never left me and I don’t believe it ever will. Do we ever really “grow up” or is it just another social paradigm that we buy into like everything else? I think I believe the latter. It’s important for us to nurture our inner child and let go of the responsibilities of being an adult every once in a while.

Time is accelerating fast, I am heading towards 30 but it doesn’t scare me any more, not like it once did. Getting older has helped me to cement my ethics, morals, beliefs and perspective of the world. With age, comes wisdom, new experiences and memories – some that I will cherish and some that I would rather forget. In my life, I now have balance, calm, self-love, gratitude and purpose. All the things that I was searching to find in the chaos that was my early twenties.

So, there is no escaping the elephant in the room. The pandemic. 2020 was a crazy year. The world felt like a reversed magnet, everything felt wrong somehow and all humanity could do was adapt. So that’s what I did. I used the lockdown and isolation to get back to words. Pick up a pen and find my voice again. I had no excuses. There was no job or career to distract me. Just like the rest of the world, I spent my 27th year of life at home, staring at the same four walls.

This could have been detrimental for my mental health, I could have dwelled on something that I couldn’t control and spiralled into a state of anxiety but luckily, I have spent a long time healing and working on myself so that didn’t happen. What did happen was – I PUBLISHED A BOOK! I have dreamt of being a published author since the age of seven. Once I knew what a book was, I wanted to write one, see my name on the cover. Growing up, I dabbled in short story and novel writing, but poetry has always been the medium for me. So, I joined the Instagram writing community under the handle name @emmajanepoetry, used the support of the writers I met there to build my confidence and in November last year, I self-published Darkness & Light, my first poetry collection. You can buy it here.

Then something incredible happened! My book became an Amazon bestseller!!! Multiple times!!! It really was a dream come true and I am so proud of myself. Not only did I immerse myself in the Instagram writing community, but I created a collaborative poetry project called First Line Poets, 125 writers from across the world coming together to swap first lines to inspire poetry. The project is something that fills me with joy and I really love being the leader of this inspiring initiative I created.

There is a lot to be grateful for as my 28th year approaches. I have an amazing partner who is my world, I have great friends and family around me, I have just landed an amazing job as a Creative Consultant and I really enjoy it. Life is good. No matter what obstacles come my way, I know that I am strong enough to overcome them. My hopes for the upcoming year are that I continue to be happy, content and feel inspired to create. If there is anything that the year 2020 has taught the world and me, it is that everything you know can be gone in a second, so enjoy, live in the moment, let go of your need to control everything and focus only on the things that bring you joy. Life is unpredictable. And I have learned that no amount of wishing, organising with coloured post-it notes or filling planners with goals will change that. I am learning to let go of the need to know what is coming next. I spend more time in the present moment than I ever have. Sure, I think of the future. But this year has changed me, now I live with the philosophy of living my life – one day at a time.

Emma-Jane

5 C’s To Managing My Anxiety

For the last decade, I have been suffering with crippling anxiety. As I made the transition from my teens to my twenties, my anxiety continued to grow and I started to feel like I was no longer in control of my thoughts, emotions, actions or behaviour. This year, it started to feel stronger than it ever has before. It was like I was living with an uncontrollable monster inside my head, one that was trying to destroy my life and constantly paralysing me with fear and doubt. I have been trying different methods to get rid of this life-ruining anxiety with no long-term success. I was trying to find a ‘magic cure.’ I wanted to be ‘normal.’ I wanted to be ‘anxiety-free.’ That was the problem. I was trying to eliminate my anxiety, rather than learning to manage it. I believe I have found the best way to manage my anxiety and it isn’t just one thing, it’s a combination of five different things. What works for me may not work for anyone else, but I believe I now have the right tools in my anxiety toolbox to not only manage my anxiety on a daily basis but no longer let it take over my life and jeopardise my health and happiness.

CALM

If I consistently practice yoga and meditation and give myself a little bit of time each day to unwind and slow down, it has a huge impact on my anxiety levels. Yoga has the amazing ability to change the outcome of my day. Focusing on the breath takes my attention away from my thoughts, even if it is only for thirty minutes a day. If I ever find myself overthinking, a quick sun salutation is sometimes all it takes to press the refresh button. I started doing yoga about five years ago and I still remember the first time I tried it, honestly, it has been a lifesaver during my lowest moments. I go through phases of laziness when I don’t practice and I see a big change in my mood when I don’t spend time on the mat. I need to be stricter with my yoga practice because it really does benefit my overall wellbeing. Meditation is something else that keeps me grounded. I have the Headspace app on my phone and sometimes a guided meditation is all it takes to change my mindset for the day. Yoga, meditation and finding time for self-care are all the ways I find calm in my day.

CBD

Something new I decided to try was CBD oil. I have always known about it, well before the current CBD craze that has swept the internet recently. I was always a little hesitant but decided to buy some a few months ago. I was taking it every day and felt much calmer. However, I didn’t know if that was just a placebo effect. When I ran out, it gave me a chance to see how I would feel without it. I spent four weeks without my daily dose and slowly but surely, the panic started to return, I found myself going back into old negative thought patterns and whenever I felt stressed at work, it started to affect me in a physical way, tight chest, headaches and light-headedness. I’ve started to taking it again and the only word I can use to describe how it makes me feel is zen. I know CBD oil has many benefits but for me it keeps me in a even-tempered state, it’s almost as if the things that usually trigger stress and lead to anxiety didn’t bother me in the same way…. magic!

CREATIVITY

I’m a creative person. I love art, music and poetry. I am always looking for new ways to be creative. What I have found is that having a consistent creative outlet, whether this may be cross-stitching, painting, playing guitar and ukulele or writing poetry, it has a drastic change on my thoughts, my mood and my overall anxiety level. Something that has really helped me is creating an art journal. On a regular basis, I get out my art box, which is full of paints, pencils and pastels and I just create. I spend hours, I get lost in a creative haze and during that time, I am free to do whatever I choose to do. Now that I have a job that gives me more time to spend alone to do these things, I have noticed a big difference in my health and happiness.

CAPSULES

I’ve never been one for prescription medication. I am extremely sensitive to anything doctors prescribe me, so when I can, I find natural and holistic alternatives. Holland & Barrett is one of my favourite places! What I love about it is not only can you find supplements to aid different problems in your life, the staff are extremely knowledgeable. After talking to someone in H&B, I decided to give 5HTP tablets a try. If you’re not sure what they are and what they do. 5HTP is a daily dose of serotonin (Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the human body. It helps regulate mood and low levels of serotonin can contribute to depression) I started taking them every day and my mood was so much better! I also stopped taking hormonal birth control (as I believed that this was contributing to my anxiety and depression, five months later and my mental health has improved dramatically, so I am 99% certain that being on the pill for a long time was a contributing factor to my decline in mental wellbeing in the last 9 years).

COUNSELLING

I’ve always been open on here about my struggles with my mental health because I think it is important, it helps to remove stigma and let people know that they are not alone. I have tried CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) in the past, twice, but it didn’t work for me. This year, I finally took what feels like the final step in my anxiety journey. I booked to see a private counsellor. I was tired of my anxiety holding me back. I had no idea if it would work but I’m so glad it did. I’ve had five sessions already and I feel like a different person. The things that have weighed me down for years suddenly feel lighter. I still find myself being anxious from time to time but it quickly passes like a cloud, it doesn’t stick around anymore, it doesn’t build and build until I have a panic attack, I finally feel in control of it and this is because of my counsellor, she’s amazing and worth every penny!

Finding these five different things and doing them all simultaneously has been the key to managing my anxiety. Finally, I feel free from it. I no longer walk around believing there is something wrong with me because there isn’t. The label of General Anxiety Disorder that I wore so proudly for years has been ripped from my chest, I don’t want it anymore. Anxiety is a normal part of life. Allowing it to consume you and become part of your identity like I have been doing isn’t healthy, I know that now. Letting anxiety affect your daily life and being so paralysed by fear that you don’t allow yourself to be happy is madness, yet I let it happen for years. I was blinded by anxiety but now I see everything so clearly. I’m ready for then next decade, 2020 is going to be a continued year of personal growth for me and my number one goal is to continue managing my anxiety and live a calm, balanced, happy and healthy life.