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Dear 16-year-old me

Dear 16-year-old me,

You're made of tough stuff. You may not feel like it now, but I know you are. You're in the middle of your GCSE's and you're feeling like you're fighting a losing battle, but I promise if you keep working hard you'll get where you want to be. I'll be honest, that even if you try your absolute best, there is no guarantee that you will be at the top, but you will certainly be close if work hard at your graft. 

I know everyone is saying that life isn't all about exams and education right now, even though it feels like it is. If I could teach you anything right now, it would be that your mental health is the most important thing to look after during this time. There is so much pressure from the moment you get into school but please don't destroy your health over some exams. Just try your best, work hard and please look after yourself. It is not worth trying to end your life over. 

Those negative comments from your peers? There will always be those in your life. But, you're doing well to fend them off and have strong sense of belief which will carry you throughout your life and be really meaningful to you. In years to come, you'll remember these people and their negative comments, but it won't matter as much as it does now. You will be striving ahead to be where you want to be and perhaps they won't be. 

If you have the chance, spend more time with your family. You may still be in contact with some friends that you're with now, but your family is still important. Please don't get overwhelmed with everything in life to the point where you don't have much time for them as they won't be around forever. As you get older, the more you'll begin to realise this. Even if they drive you up the wall - just take a moment to think and put yourself in their shoes.

Try to save money and not spend it on things you don't need! It's actually really useful when you get older (!)

Finally, you've been through some rough times which you have faced head on and have come out of the other side. I'm not going to tell you that the future is going to be plain sailing, but just keep it in mind that you do have the strength to make it through, and through this journey you will meet some amazing people and will begin to understand what is really important in life. It's going to be a hard few years to get to where you want and keep your mental health stable, but you will get there and your hard work will pay off. You will grow, you will become more confident and you will get there. 

I am speaking from my 22-year-old self now and I am far away from knowing everything, but  I hope this would've been useful to you and any young person reading!

Keep going,
Amy xx

The impact of contraceptives on mental health

This is a topic that some may regard as sensitive or even private, but I feel that it's extremely important to talk about. 

If you're a woman, it's more than likely that you've dealt with contraceptives in one way or another. By that, I mean hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, coil, patch, implant...the list could go on. Not every woman on the planet will have experienced these first hand as you may not have needed to, or wanted to, but I'm pretty sure that you've at least heard of it. Over the last year it has come to the forefront that there may be a connection between hormonal contraceptives and mental health and I am inclined to agree. People may use contraceptives for a range of different reasons, whether that be to lessen the symptoms of menstruation, to trying to reduce acne and preventing pregnancy. But, whatever the reason there may always be side effects as a result. 

I've spoken to many of my friends about these hormonal contraceptives and there have been mixed reactions. The problem is, is that every single person will have different or even no side effects to these contraceptives and so no one story is the same. The contraceptive which might work for one person, may not work for another. But, I still feel that there appears to be a correlation between at least mood and the contraceptives. 

From my personal experience, I started on one contraceptive pill which I had to take every day. It seemed to serve me well, as I had little to no side effects, apart from weight gain. Speaking to my other friends, they had also been on similar and it was also okay for them. However, I did notice a change in my mood. Having underlying depression and then having what I felt were many mood changes, made it difficult to tell whether it was my depression or whether it was the pill. Ultimately, I changed to another pill and it was much worse, especially with physical side effects as well as mental. It eventually got the point where after a few years, I decided to come of the hormonal pills altogether. For me, I couldn't handle the changes in mood, eating habits, weight gain, body temperature changes, acne...the list could go on. Although these side effects were small in my eyes, the mental element was really the one that concluded the decision for me, alongside the eating habits and weight issues. A year after coming off the pill, I finally had regained regular periods. Most importantly, my mood changed. I no longer felt as groggy, as down and emotional. I felt that a weight had been lifted and I felt so much better in my body. I feel that it did have a huge affect on my mental health, in negative terms and I'm wondering how many other people have noticed changes in their mood too. I just felt like there was almost a fog that I was experiencing in my brain and I was certainly more emotional and this changed when I no longer took the pill. This is only my experience, and it may be suitable for other people, but as far as I am concerned I never want to use a hormonal contraceptive again for those reasons, as long as I can help it.

I'd really like to hear you experiences. Feel free to comment below.

Amy Xx

What it's like to live with anxiety

Below is a guest post from Nina. 

What's It Like to Live with Anxiety?

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions that millions of people around the world will experience at some point in their lives. For some, anxiety will be a short-term problem, but for others, it is a permanent issue that needs to be dealt with before the anxious emotions prevent them from living life to the fullest.
If your anxiety is caused by financial troubles, resources like mentalhealthandmoneyadvice.org might help. If your anxiety is caused by your job, finding a new position might help. But if you have to live with clinical anxiety, the solution might not be so straightforward, unfortunately.
What’s it really like to live with anxiety? Continue reading to learn more, especially if you know someone who has anxiety and you want to understand them better.

You Get Depressed

Living with anxiety often leads to living with depression as well. This is because patients will try their hardest to calm themselves down, but they just can’t seem to do it. It should come as no surprise that, when you feel as though you can’t control your thoughts and emotions, you end up feeling depressed. Many people find that they end up hating themselves, too, or they start to think of themselves as crazy. And when depression strikes, these anxious people want to remove themselves from social situations. By isolating themselves further, they fall deeper into depression, and the anxiety could end up getting far worse as a result.

You Feel Out of Control

In addition to feeling depressed, anxiety could also cause you to feel as though you have no control over your life. As anxiety starts to creep in every day, you might find that you can’t do the things that you used to love doing, or you might restrict yourself from experiencing new things because of the fear and panic that your anxiety causes. As you can probably imagine, patients with anxiety might prevent themselves from applying for a dream job, taking a risk in a relationship, travelling, and doing other things that would otherwise bring them joy.

Even Little Things Become Stressful

The problem with anxiety is that it could be triggered by a variety of things, and different patients will have different triggers. This means that everyday tasks could become difficult. For some, even just going to the shops could be an ordeal. Too many people, too many loud noises, and bright lights could all make a normally easy experience more stressful than it needs to be. Even just figuring out what needs to be purchased and then picking products off a shelf could be an anxiety-causing task. If you have this level of anxiety, you might just leave the trolley in the middle of the shop and walk out, or you might become so overwhelmed by all of the choices on the shelf that you end up breaking down.

You Find It Hard to Attend Social Events

Social anxiety is rather common, and it is the type of anxiety that makes it difficult for people to spend time around others. Individuals who have anxiety might be comfortable around a select few people. But when they find themselves in the middle of a classroom full of students, or when they are shopping at a crowded shopping centre, their anxiety could get the best of them and they could start to panic. This could inhibit someone with anxiety from pursuing a variety of job opportunities simply because they are unable to cope with being around a lot of people all the time or because they find it difficult to interact with strangers comfortably. And social events, such as networking events, company parties and parties with friends, are often out of the question as well.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

To further put things into perspective, here are a few of the common symptoms that are associated with anxiety and panic attacks:
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Having tense muscles
  • Experiencing tingling or numbness in the feet or hands
  • Having an inability to stay calm and still
  • Developing a dry mouth
  • Having feelings of fear or feeling uneasy
  • Having sweaty or cold feet or hands
  • Developing heart palpitations
  • Experiencing shortness of breath

If you feel anxious or depressed, it is really important that you talk about what you are feeling rather than bottling up your emotions and trying to get through it all on your own. In addition to talking to trusted friends and family members, you could also consult with your doctor and/or a psychologist to figure out the best treatment options for your needs. Before long, you could start getting your anxiety under control, and that will put you back in the driver’s seat of your life.

Top tips to reduce stress!

Below is a guest post from Dan!

How To Manage Stress?

One of the most important questions we have to ask ourselves (but we aren’t doing it), is how do you manage stress. Today, stress has become a part of our routine and we aren’t paying attention to how to manage it, but we are definitely paying attention to it. Talking about how stressed you are and not doing anything is like looking at the burning bed and doing nothing. Soon it will spread to the bedroom, then the entire floor and in the end, it will burn the entire house down. The same thing is with stress. You will notice that you are stressed and you will continue doing your chores. Then you will notice that it is harder to handle the stress but still won’t do a thing about it. The last step is completely stressing out when the stress will be too much for you to handle.
So, to avoid that situation you have to learn how to manage stress and how to keep it under control. If you think you don’t have to do anything about it you are wrong, because it is never too early to start dealing with stress.
You don’t have to do much. You can find some activity which will help you release negative energy. That can be some recreation like yoga, jogging or swimming. If you aren’t a fan of that, you can always find someone to hang out with. Beer, friends and a Tornado foosball table are a great anti-stress therapy, just like reading a book if you are a bookworm. There are numerous situations you can make your anti-stress therapy. Just do whatever relaxes you and you will have stress under control.
If you aren’t sure you can recognize stress, the best way to do that is by learning about it. Stress is a natural body reaction and it affects every person on earth, the only difference is that some feel it more intense. If you are willing to learn more about stress, how it starts and how to handle it, read this infographic about stress.
Infographic source: 

An anxiety-reducing blanket?!

The other day I received a blanket in the post. However, it's not just any normal blanket but one that claims to help with anxiety. I don't know about you, but I have seen these blankets advertised around for a while and they seem to be fairly new to the market in terms of anxiety remedies.The blanket that I received weighs 15lb which is just over a stone and about 10% of my body weight (which they recommend) These claim to reduce anxiety by making you feel safe, calm and acting as a hug. I did begin to wonder how a blanket was able to do all of this and I wasn't the only one, my partner was sceptical too. But, I'm always willing to give things a try. 

I was completely surprised. I had the best sleep in a long time after using the blanket for just one night. I must admit that it is first of all, extremely comfortable albeit being very heavy. It has improved my sleep immensely and keeps you warm, especially at this time of year. It's not noisy either, if you're a person who moves around a lot like myself. I've been using the blanket for around two to three weeks now and I still definitely notice an improvement in my sleep and the comfort of such. My partner also agrees - it's often difficult to get him out of bed when he's wrapped up in it. The blanket also provides another function; to make you feel calm and relaxed, which not only can I attribute to my improvement of sleep but it certainly does help when you begin to feel anxious. It's hard to describe but the weight of blanket gives you that feeling of safety which in turn makes you feel less anxious - just trust me on this! 

I would definitely recommend the blanket as it certainly has improved my sleep, comfort and anxiety. It's not a cure to anxiety, as of course you can't take the blanket everywhere with you...but it does certainly give you moments where you can relax and be comfortable. If anything, it is a superior blanket and for it's price, I'm not sure you could find something similar. 

If you're interested, you can find out more, here and purchase the blanket via amazon, here.

Amy Xx