Open Letter to the Department of Education…

I have been thinking about posting this letter for a long time. I have always talked myself out of it, thinking how on earth can one person change something so large and important? But isn’t that where the best ideas start, with one little voice in the darkness?

So hear goes…

This is my open letter to the Department of Education, UK councillors, teachers and pupils alike,

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen about an issue that keeps appearing in the national press.

It breaks my heart every time I see another teenager has taken their own life. The Samaritans website states that suicide now accounts for 3 times more deaths than road accidents and the Office for National Statistics website has said that teen suicide is at an all-time high in the UK. To me, this is a massive problem that needs some attention, but the Government seems to be focusing their time on the Brexit arguments and how much we should be spending on plastic bags while people are quite literally dying around the country.

As a survivor of the high school bullies myself, I know how it feels to be picked on. I know the pressures of exams and keeping up with the latest trends and all the other things that teenagers have to deal with but the difference nowadays is how blatant the idea of suicide is. It now dominates soap storylines, teen TV series, social media, something that I never had to deal with.

I know that there is a big drive at the moment, through various channels, to reduce the stigma about mental health issues but I still can’t help but feel like everyone is missing the point. Although it is amazing to get the general public talking about mental health, we are still focusing on talking about it. The old saying goes: ‘What you focus your attention on will grow’. I really think it would be more beneficial to put this effort into the solution of helping teenagers, rather than the problem.

A few years ago, I heard the famous quote from a very young John Lennon. His teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. John Lennon said he wanted to be happy. The teacher told him he had misunderstood the question. John said the teacher misunderstood life.

I wish I had heard this quote when I was still at school. There is so much focus on exam results and what job you are going to get when you leave education, that the thought of being happy in life is totally overlooked. It is not even discussed as an option. I always knew I wanted to work with children once I left school, but that is only a very small portion of my life now. I am a teacher, but I am also a sports fan, I like to sing, I do all sorts of creative hobbies, I love to cook. My job is a proportion of my life, so why is the whole of our school years geared towards getting qualifications for a job. Why isn’t it teaching us about other areas of life?

I feel that a good solution to this problem is how we use the Personal, Social and Emotional class that is taught in high schools currently. With all the knowledge we have about mindfulness and how stress affects us, I really feel like the Personal, Social and Emotional curriculum could be put to better use. There is no formal qualification to be gained from this class. A well rounded citizen that is ready to live in the real world is the qualification. Each student will carry it within their thoughts and actions rather than on a piece of paper.

In Canadian high schools, every pupil has to undertake a ‘Life Skills’ class, where they learn about how to budget their finances, the jargon used relating to bank accounts and mortgages, car maintenance etc. Real skills that every student will need at some point in their lives. It is these skills that will show British students that there is a whole world out there to be lived in. The bullies and stresses that surround them now will be for a finite time, but this type of learning would encourage students to think past this time and plan for the future, away from the stresses of needing certain grades in the class.

My vision is to create a curriculum for these classes that would involve all of the skills needed to survive in this new, technological, social media obsessed world. Things like mindfulness, stress management, the Mediterranean diet, finance budgeting, political party values, interview skills, workplace Human Resources, running a business would all be worthwhile skills that need to be encouraged to show students that they have the power to shape their lives, rather than be sucked in by thoughts that drive them to ending their lives prematurely. It is turning the focus, making students think about what they can achieve, rather than being focused on the negatives in their lives.

Between the ages of 4 and 16, a child will split the majority of their time between home and school. Therefore it is the responsibility of the Department of Education to get children ready to live in the world. Currently, too many children are opting out of living.

So something needs to change.

Thank you very much for your time.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah

New Year, New You – Would you benefit from speaking to a therapist?

We all say it:

This year will be different.

This is the year I get fit.

This is the year I look after me.

But what if the thought of making new resolutions or thinking about starting another year is just too much to handle? It feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Is having to fight to stay above the water is too hard?

I know there are lots of people out there who find starting a new year difficult. While everyone around you has that fake, perky optimism that the next year will be different, I know there will be some people out there who are more realistic. Nothing is going to change if you carry on doing the same things that you have always done.

Nothing is going to change unless you decide to live a different life. And you have the power to make that decision. The decision is always up to you.

I need to loose weight. In the first 6 months of last year, I did really well. I dropped 2 dress sizes but by September, the excitement about it had gone, and the bad eating habits crept back in. So this January, I am starting again with the Mediterranean diet but making little goals for myself along the way. I am trying to keep the excitement so I stick to it for longer. There is a dress I really want to get back into, so I have decided to try it on on the 1st of every month to track my progress. I will be challenging myself to make a new recipe every month and giving myself a treat day each month too to look forward to.

I am deciding to change how I do things in the hope of getting better results. Not just different results, but better ones.

It is very easy for me to sit here and type, saying do this and do that. I know that sometimes a little bit of extra help is needed to help you change the things you do not like about your life.

BetterHelp is an online therapy company, who can match you with an online therapist to talk to and give you the support you need. All the therapists have training in the field of mental health, and by being online, Better Help hope that they can break down the barriers to people who find accessing mental health help difficult.

Talking to someone about how you feel, and how you want to change your life can make you feel like you are supported in your goal. Having a support system around you can give you confidence, give you strength and give you accountability, meaning you are more likely to reach your goal.

You can do whatever you want to with your life, but the book starts and stops with your decision to change. If you want different results, try another way of doing things. You have the power. You always have the power.

Sarah x

Please note: This is a paid partnership article. These views are my own and they should not be taken instead of medical advice if your situation needs a professional. This article talks about general areas of life, not issues that need professional help.

Happy New Year 2019!

57eb1f6b-9dd6-4e9b-b09a-e3e8387970d1

Happy New Year to everyone out there. I know it is now the 16th of January, but better late than never, right?

People keep asking me what my resolutions are this year. To blog more? To look after myself more? To be more organised? You name it, I need to do it!

Just before Christmas, I saw the book ‘The Little Bullet Book’ by David Sinden in Waterstones. I keep hearing about the joys of Bullet Journaling but I know what I am like. I know that I would be so caught up in drawing everything perfectly, that there wouldn’t be any time left to do any organising! I needed the page decorating and the sections drawing out for me to get me started.

The idea of Bullet Journaling is to keep track of all areas in your life all in the same book. It is a space where you can dump all your thoughts, your appointments, things to do in the future, things that have happened in the past, everything. But if you google Bullet Journalling or have a look on Instagram, it is full of beautiful drawings and creative ways of using a blank book. I found it all a bit off putting if I am honest so David Sinden’s book is just what I need!

I have filled in the yearly plan and the monthly plan for January so I have a focus for things I want to get done this month. With the best will in the world, you can’t sort your whole life out in one month. Unless you forego sleep, which I am not prepared to do!

The Little Bullet Book has a space each month to track your finances, a monthly calendar for appointments and a really good page each month to help you plan a personal project. I am so hopeful that this is the gem of organisational help I have been looking for!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2019. I hope it brings you excitement and love.

Please note, this is not a sponsored post, I am just super excited to share with you what I have bought!

Sarah x

Online Counselling -Making Talking To Someone Easy.

The official definition of Telemedicine is: ‘the diagnosis and treatment of patients via telecommunications technology.’

When I first heard that medicine was branching out into Telemedicine, I really wasn’t sure how it would work. How could a doctor diagnose your symptoms based on what you described in a live chat? Surely they would not be able to their job accurately without feeling your abdomen, or manipulating a limb, or taking your vital signs with their equipment. But then I thought about all the areas of medicine there are and how the approach to helping patients needs to be different for each and every patient to get the best care possible. Not everyone needs to have their pulse taken. Sometimes they just need to know that someone is listening to them.

There is such a big campaign at the moment in the media and through out the Internet to try and get help to anyone out there who is suffering from mental health issues. There are many people who suffer in silence, for a number of reasons, but often because they are unsure of where to turn to for help or because asking for help is just too frightening.

BetterHelp, who are an excellent online counselling company, approached me and asked me to write this article about how Telemedicine can be so helpful to someone who has some mental health issues, whether they are looking for some guidance and counselling or just to talk to someone about a difficult period in their life.

BetterHelp is made up of a bank of qualified therapists who all have knowledge and expertise in the field of mental health. You are matched with a therapist, who you can speak to through the Internet either on your computer or phone via video chatting or instant messaging facilities.

There are many benefits of talking to a counsellor online, but the one that I feel is most prominent is that sometimes it is easier to talk to someone about how you feel through a keyboard than it is face to face. We live in a world where many people make friends through social media because there is a greater sense of ease when typing how you feel rather than trying to explain it in words while feeling the social pressures that come with face to face conversations. Especially when the subject matter you are talking about is sensitive and difficult for you to express. Talking to a counsellor online means you can take the time to review what you have typed, make adjustments so you can say exactly what you want to, and send it when you are absolutely ready.

You can have these conversations with your online counsellor from the comfort of your own home, or in an environment where you feel safe, rather than going to a medical office, which can be a very stressful experience.  As these services are online, another positive of online counselling is that everyone can access these services. It doesn’t matter if there are factors in your life which make leaving the house extremely difficult or if you need to fit the appointments around the other commitments in your life, having resources online means it can fit in with you.

Obviously, online counselling might not be the right path for everyone,  but the positives of it may reduce the stresses and the reasons why someone has not sought out help before now, giving them a real opportunity to access some much needed professional help.

The Internet has changed so many ways in which we do things, and the ideas of Telemedicine shows that the Internet can help us in the medical world too, by eliminating barriers and spreading help to hard to reach places and to people feeling vulnerable and unable to speak out.

To find out more about BetterHelp and the services they provide, please follow the link: https://www.betterhelp.com/online-counseling/

When suffering from mental health issues, sometimes the help you need can come from the most surprising places. I hope that one of you out there reading this finds this article helpful and it gives you some confidence that there is a pathway to some help that is perfect for you.

Much love at this festive time,

Sarah x

Please note: This is a paid partnership with BetterHelp, however the speech and thoughts explained in this article are my own. This article cannot be used as a substitute for medical advice. I am just presenting an alternative way to access mental health advice. Thank you.

Positive Quotations

In this week’s post, I would to share with you some of my favourite quotes which help me in everyday life. If you put ‘positive quotes’ into Google, all sorts of results come at you and it can be quite overwhelming. Sometimes they can be so idealistic that you think it will be totally impossible to achieve that. I am hoping that by sharing a few quotes with you, it will make them seem more accessible and hopefully speak out to you. Please note, the way I have interpreted these quotes is my opinion only and not related to the accreditation of the quote. Things can be interpreted differently and this is only my opinion!

 

Keep facing the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow...

Keep facing the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow – Helen Keller.

I see this quote as a reminder that we always have a choice. If you choose to face the sun, the warmth, the bright and peachy side of life, then you won’t see the darkness that can cloud our judgement. It is a reminder than what you focus on occupies your thoughts. If you choose to look at the light and the positive, then you won’t be thinking about the negative. Your brain can only think about one thing at once, so make it a positive thought.

 

Be mindful

Be Mindful, Be Grateful, Be Positive, Be True, Be Kind. – Roy T Bennett.

Each of these statements are all things that we know. Each one seems obvious. But in the hectic lifestyles we live today, sometimes it is nice to just stop and think about the things that are really important to you. In this world that we live in today, with all the anger and the hate that flies around us, it is nice to think about how we should live our lives. Be mindful of others, be kind to all, be true to yourself and what you believe in. The real core of what being alive really means.

 

be the reason someone smiles,be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness of people

Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness of people. – Roy T Bennett

It’s Mr Bennett again! I love this quote because it is such a reminder that sometimes we can be so obsessed with what is happening to ourselves that we forget to take a look around and see what is happening to those around us. There may be someone closer than you think who is having a rough time and would really appreciate a hug or for you to stop and say hello. I am not saying get talking to strangers on the bus, but have a think about a friend you haven’t heard from for a while and just check they are OK. There are so many people in the world who have mental health issues and a lot of people often say: ‘It didn’t look like there was anything wrong.’ when that person feels like they cannot go on. Checking up on that friend who is a bit quiet might just be what they needed to hear.

 

Henry Ford

Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you will always be right. – Henry Ford.

This quote for me totally sums up the mind/body connection. If you believe you can do something, you will do it. If you convince yourself you cannot do it, you won’t. Simple as. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from or what you are doing, if you tell yourself you can’t, then you won’t! I have had this quote of my bedroom wall throughout all of my exam periods, GCSEs, A-Levels and University to remind me that when the going gets tough, I will do it. It may be hard, it may take time but I will get there.

 

Thank you for reading my four favourite quotes and I hope my explanations and thoughts on each one will have given those reading this some food for thought and hopefully made each quote a little more accessible. Hopefully you can see the applications they would have to your own life and I hope they spread a little positive and love!

Sarah x

Are you being cyber bullied?

Cyber bullying post

The last 20 years has seen the rise in the wonderful world that is social media, without which I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. But what happens when this amazing tool designed to connect people together is misused? Unfortunately, being concealed behind a screen seems to give people the confidence to say hurtful and direct things that would not be said in real life.

I touched on this subject a few weeks ago about being more mindful about what we say over the Internet and how written words are different from spoken ones. Leading on from this, this blog post is a practical guide for those of you out there experiencing cyber-bullying.

Cyber-bullying is when messages of threat, intimidation or upset are sent to another individual or group with the intent of causing hurt or harm. Unfortunately, wherever you go in life, there is always going to be someone who gets a little bit of pleasure from upsetting others, for whatever reason. But when this upset is coming at you through your phone or laptop, when you cannot even see the person, it can be so intimidating.

Here are a few advice points that I have written to help someone experiencing cyber bullying:

1.You do not deserve to be treated like that.

Firstly, remind yourself that you don’t deserve to be treated badly by ANYONE. That’s a general rule of life. No one has the right to make you feel bad about yourself. EVER. Tell yourself that it is not your fault that you are in this situation. If someone else chooses to say nasty things to you, that is their choice, but how you deal with the situation is totally your decision and in your control.

 

2.Don’t respond or retaliate.

This is an important one. However tempting it might be to let rip and put this bully in their place, don’t! Because A) throwing shade back makes you just as bad as them, but also B) it is not going to help the situation, it is 100% going to make it worse and more often than not, it is going to make the situation escalate. More often than not, bullies are looking for a reaction from you so they know they have upset you. Retaliating to hurtful texts is just playing into their hands.

 

3.Don’t take matters into your own hands.

In the world of social media, things very easily go viral. So don’t be tempted, instead of messaging back, to share the posts/text messages with as many people as possible to ‘make an example of the bullies.’ This is cyber bullying too. Plain and simple. Don’t sink to their level. You are better than that.

 

4.Save the evidence.

The best thing about cyber bullying is that everything is written down, meaning you can save, screenshot or print what has been said. It eliminates the ‘well, she said…’ ‘No I didn’t…’ argument because it is written down for all to see. Save the evidence of abusive messages with the date and time stamp on them if possible. If things escalate, then you have proof to support what you are saying.

 

5.Tell an trusted adult and think about your next move together.

Whatever is being sent to you, you must tell an adult. A parent, a teacher, a neighbour, anyone you trust. Not so they can sort the problem out for you but so you can talk through what you want to do together. Two heads are always better than one. It also gives you a good opportunity to calm down and talk through what has happened before you decide what to do next. Anything done in the heat of the moment is often regretted. Take some time and get someone else’s opinion.

A trusted adult on your side will also be able to give some support if you want to make your school aware of what is going on on social media or if it is a matter for the police to deal with. This obviously depends on your individual situation but it is something to consider with someone you can openly talk to.

 

6.Use the social media tools available.

As standard and as a tool to protect their users, all social media platforms have a ‘Report User’ function for you to make them aware of unwanted happenings. They can then decide if the bully needs a time out or if they have violated the platform rules and need their account disabling all together.

If this feels a bit drastic to you, you might feel like blocking the person from contacting you is a more appropriate action for your situation. You should probably do that anyway so they cannot make contact with you.

 

7.Resilience is learnt.

One positive outcome of cyber bullying is a built up resilience, which is a skill that will be super helpful later in life. If someone is sending you horrible messages, the best thing to do would really be to ignore it. As hard as that sounds, they will soon stop it if they get no reaction.

When a new message pops up from that dreaded account, don’t open it. Just delete it. Whatever it contains, it won’t be helpful or add joy to your life so you don’t need to see it. If it carries on, use a different social media platform to connect with your friends. Remove yourself from the situation. The bullies will soon get bored and move on. It can be so hard to think like this when you are in the middle of a horrible situation but I promise you, it will end at some point. Each time you ignore a message, it will strengthen you. It will get easier. It will make you laugh at how ridiculous they are. Cue funny picture about how silly online bullies are:

IMG_1517

You are in control because you can walk away. Or turn off your phone in this case.

 

If you know someone who is being cyber bullied, be there for them. They would really appreciate someone to talk to about it. Quite often people don’t want someone to swoop in and save the day, just knowing there is someone there so they are not going through it alone is often just the support they need.

My final piece of advice, and it is an important one, is this:

Please, please, PLEASE think about the things you are sending to other people electronically, whether it is over social media or texts or emails. Even when you are sending things to people who are your friends. How often do we see in the news that a celebrity’s sex tape has been leaked, or naked pictures that were sent to a boyfriend have ended up on the Internet for the world to see? Once it is on the Internet, it will always be on the Internet, you loose control over who sees it or shares it. Please think before sending anything so that you don’t end up in a difficult situation in the future. Please protect yourself. As sad as it sounds, people who are your friends currently may not always be your friends. If you aren’t prepared to put it on a bulletin board for the world to see then don’t send it to anyone!

Sarah x

Who is your friend there?

How is it that your pores know exactly when you have a special event coming up like school picture day or a party? It can’t be coincidence that it is ALWAYS on that day you wake up with a fresh spot outbreak!! Anyone else get a mental image of their pores all sitting around a table having a meeting, discussing when would be most inconvenient to deliver a fresh wave of spots?

I felt like Benjamin Button when I was 17/18. The older I was getting, the more spots I seemed to have. It was getting worse by the day. Not in an acne kind of way, just those ones with the little white heads on them. I must have tried every product on the shelf: face packs, cleansing gels, anti-spot cremes etc etc. Especially when I saw a new advert on the TV. I was always convinced that the happy teenagers on the screen wouldn’t lie to me, that this new product was the one I had been waiting for.

It has taken me years to get to a stage when I don’t wake up with a new little friend on my face. It brings me a lot of joy that I can finally say I have found some facial products that I am pleased with and use every day. I am by no means an expert, but I would like to share these products with you as they are how I keep my spots at bay.

The best tip I was ever given was the classic step by step ritual:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Moisturise

Honesty, doing this, without fail, both morning and night made such a difference to my face. I used to be really lazy and just wash my face with a face wash and then sometimes moisture if I remembered. I have tried products from pretty much all of the companies on the shelves but I have found that the Simple range suits my skin the best. I use the Simple Cleansing Face Wash to clean my face in the morning and wash my make up off at night. I then tone my face with the Simple Facial Toner (see picture).

To moisturise, I use Oil of Olay Day Fluid. It is not the cheapest product out there but even the smallest bottle will last you ages. It is thick enough to moisturise my fairly dry skin but not so heavy that I feel greasy. I always thought that if you had naturally greasy skin like I did, then adding moisturiser to it would just increase the grease, but I was told by one of those beauticians behind the counter at John Lewis that if you don’t moisturise every day then your pores will produce more oils to compensate. So if you moisturise your face with a product, your pores won’t be so active. (I didn’t learn this until I was about 23 and it changed my life!).

IMG_1545

Unfortunately, as much as I have tried to ignore it, eating chocolate and sweets makes your spots worse. I’m not going to lie, it breaks my heart to type this for all to see but I cannot ignore this fact any longer. Sugar increases the spots on my face. After having a right sulk about it for a few months, I vowed to try and watch what I was eating before a special event like a party. It probably wasn’t a bad thing anyway because I ate waaaaaay too much chocolate so being a bit healthier was only going to benefit me in the long run, aside from clearing up the spots of my face. I always try and drink water when I am at home too as I find it helps my skin look fresher.

I am by no means an expert or a beautician or anyone professionally linked to these beauty products but I thought it might be helpful to some of you out there to hear about my experiences and my own research. Everyone is difference and everyone has different needs with their facial products so you might need a heavier cleanser or a thinner moisturiser, depending on what your skin is like but let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter/Instagram. It would be awesome if we could share some of our secrets with each other!

Also, I am super interested in trying those black face masks that target black heads. I have so many black heads on my nose, they need some attention! If anyone can recommend one to me, that would be excellent! Advice columns go both ways!

Sarah x

Disclaimer: I am not endorsed by any of these products, the thoughts above are my own personal experiences and should not be followed instead of professional advice!