Keepin’ Up or Keeping It Real?

Anxiety, Happiness, Keep Real, Mental Health, stress management

Am I keeping up or keeping it real?

Brandishing the mental health blogger brush within the social media realm, has allowed me to explore my outlook on wellbeing to the many. I even have the opportunities to discuss my journey in workshops, panels, events and every time I do a pop up with my business Keep Real.

I submerge myself in mental health news, keeping up with the latest articles and wonderful folk who are fighting stigma and openly discussing the topic more. Lately however, I forget to look at my own mental health when I am focused on finding everything out about everyone else. The constant need to feel updated.

This past week, I got-to thinkin’. Am I ‘keeping up’ or am I ‘keeping it real’? Priding myself on the brand I have created, has given me permission to explore its true meaning, and why two years ago I needed to create an extension of my ethos to stay true for mental health. 

According to Online Lang Dictionary, to ‘keep it real’ means “to stay true to one’s self; to resist the temptation to be fake.”. My brand/ ethos literally hits the nail on the head right there. So why do I feel lost in my own manifesto?

Recently, I dropped my phone into a toilet (pre-wee thank goodness), to which it never repaired (bet you didn’t think this would be my revelation story!). The journey of not having sustained access to all the news, the latest, the messages and scrolling habits- literally sunk to the bottom of the bowl in a mighty *th-lunk*. 

My reaction to not having a phone, was yes, inconvenient. My first thoughts (to my surprise) was not ‘Holy moly! I have to update my instagram/ twitter! How can I possibly scroll through the internet now?!’. It was a concern for safety…and my online train tickets I couldn’t retrieve. For the 5 days without it, I didn’t feel as upset as I thought I would be. 

The journey of not having sustained access to all the news, the latest, the messages and scrolling habits- literally sunk to the bottom of the bowl in a mighty *th-lunk*. 

The largest inconvenience of not having any digital communication, was while I was sat on a delayed train for 4 hours trying to get into Leeds. I even asked the train guard to borrow their phone, who looked at me in utter disbelief when I asked, ‘Excuse me, I don’t have a phone, may I borrow yours so I can ring my work?’. No technology to hand? Sacrilegious. 

I tend to back away from my phone a lot during a commute, with a priority to reading (currently it’s Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) and going through my filofax diary. You know…trying to keep it real.

I had surprised myself in my innate response to the lack of a personal device. We are so accustomed to accessing all the information, all of the time. No one forgot about me. No one cared that I didn’t update my social platforms. The only important things I couldn’t do, concerned my work and peace of mind if I needed immediate help. Not social media, not ‘keeping up’ like I thought.

Remembering why ‘Keep Real’ exists, eliminates that fear within that I have to keep up. I do what I do now, because I’m proud to navigate reality and the digital world within my small strides. 

We are so accustomed to accessing all the information, all of the time.

Having your own pace, is so important. Being a self-employed ‘go-getter’ if you will, does not mean I have to keep pushing to know more, do more, be more. Neither should you.

Keepin’ it real suits me fine. 

I’m hosting a Mental Health MOT & Mindset Workshop with Scrivener, Wednesday 5th June at Leeds Postal Service! FREE tickets here

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Retail & Mental Health

Anxiety, Discrimination, Mental Health

Working in retail this time last year, really affected my mental health. Having now experienced this year not working in a retail environment after 5-6 years of doing so, has made me realise how deeply it affected me. But you can get through this. Here’s how.

If you’re working in retail right now, you’ll be doing the Black Friday slog and the run up to Christmas. It’s peak time, you’ll be working more hours to keep the store running and obeying the inpatient demands of the general public. You’ll get the lovely regulars with a mix of extremely inpatient customers- but all in all, the magic of Christmas can be beautiful…yet for some, very hard to enjoy. 

Image by Suzanne Wright Photographer

Customer service is rewarding, and building those relationships can be some of the best parts to the retail world. Every job comes with its trials and tribulations, but when you work in retail- you don’t really have the option to take time off during the busiest part of the year, or the option to not smile and have a bad day. So when your mental health is suffering, what options do you have?

I loved where I used to work and I still love them. I have learned that my mental health deteriorated in the slope to Christmas, and even though the end of the year is always the most magical, it is also one of the most stressful and in my experience, the hardest to get through. I remember one specific night two years ago, leaving from a late night, and literally running and crying all the way home because I just wanted to curl up and have a day off.  It was raining, I was tired after getting a 2 hour commute home and I ran the last part home. RAN. Then I woke up at 5am the next day to do it all over again.


So What Can You Do?

Share your concerns with your Manager. Let one of your superiors know how you feel, whether that’s your supervisor, floor manager or whoever. Tell a colleague, but remember you need the right support from your employer. They’ll be able to see what they can do for you. Also remember, they are human! They are working in retail at the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Stick together and ask questions like, “Hey, I wondered if you had time at all this morning or later in the day for a quick chat?”, “I’d love to run something by you in private, if you have time today?”. Even if they can give you a quick 10 minutes in the back when it’s becoming too much- as long as they are aware…you’re in safer hands. Don’t struggle in silence.

If you need a mental health day…take one. To do a good job, be productive and also be a wonderful part of the team- you need to take care of yourself. Being at work and knowing you’re not feeling your best, isn’t helping yourself or any of your colleagues…that’s both physically or mentally. Try not to feel guilty (I’m with you on trying/failing at that!). Your best self is a cared for self. Take the time you need.

Christmas is a mush. Give your mental health some structure. You may be working long as heck hours, different shift patterns and days can pass in a stressful blur. Making a note of how you feel can be really important in trying to track what you’re going through mentally. Assign colours to different moods (blue- ok day, yellow-happy/smooth day, black- terrible day etc) and see if you can spot some patterns. The Mental Health Foundation have some great tools on how to support mental health at work. 

Know your rights. This is so important. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly by your employer, know that you have a right to challenge discrimination. Time To Change set this out clearly and can signpost you to the correct services, especially when it comes to legal stuff and action to take. Unsure of what the Equality Act covers? You can check out the types of discrimination here on Mind’s website.


It’s hard to keep happy during the Christmas period, just know you are not alone in feeling that way. Please check out Keep Real’s list of careline that are available.

Paving The Way For Support

Mental Health, Motivation, Self-Help, Teenage Mental Health, Wellbeing

Recently, I was a guest at Leeds Drawing Club for their last ‘Creative Social’ of 2018 as a speaker discussing all things Keep Real. It was absolutely wonderful to get involved with the folk who attended, and share my story on why Keep Real exists, and what we are currently doing to support more people in the community when it comes to mental health.

It’s always great to open out to a Q&A towards the end, and receive feedback on how we can create more interventions about mental health. One guest asked if I thought Keep Real’s way of business could be the future for mental health support. What a wonderful idea! We have some great events coming up, you can take a look here

In light of it being World Mental Health Day, I wanted to reveal some of my recent favourites when it comes to self care. Here’s my Top 3, which I hope you can take away with you and share.

  • Fiona Thomas: As well as being a mental health writer and author, Fiona utilises her creative talent into developing supportive materials such as the You Got This Zine duo. The ‘You Got This: A Motivational Zine’ is aimed at folk who struggle with depression, and shares her story, as well as others about how to get stuff done through the hard times. She explains what ‘being kind to yourself’ really means and opens up the conversation with Jana Dowling, Rachael Watson and Amy Holland. There’s also the ‘You Got This: A Feel-Good Zine’ where Fiona open up her soul and shares her thoughts on anxiety, feeling ‘meh’ and how creativity can support your wellbeing. The work she has produced hits every note and candidly discusses dealing with mental health issues, and the day to day struggles we all feel.

I feel like more zines and sweet materials like this can just break it down in your own home. It doesn’t feel clinical, it shares the struggles we can all relate to and it embodies the small things we forget. Like how sometimes we don’t want to shower or clean or take care of our selves. We sometimes lose that, and the work by Fiona Thomas ties up all those loose strings we feel we can’t hold onto, and ties it all nicely into these pages. I’m so excited for her book launch ‘Depression in a Digital Age’ (Pre-order here!)

  • Podcasts. Oh man. So I was a podcast hype for a while this time last year, but I lost myself within them and couldn’t find the right fit. When it comes to hearing people talking for a long time, some didn’t appeal to my tiny ears as much as I’d have liked. However, some of my favourites are the pivotal Russell Brand ‘Under The Skin’– there’s a great episode called ‘Mental Health Crisis: Is Community The Answer?’ (Listen here). I go into podcasts with an open mind and I also LOVE ‘Made of Human with Sofie Hagen‘. She covers a range of topics, discussing this with amazing people from comedians, journalists to bloggers. It’s one of my favourites this year because it collates so many wonderful topics all in one, not just mental health but feminism, how to adult, LGBTQ issues, #MeToo and more.
  • Home is Where The Heart Is. Since moving back home in June this year, I found myself twisting into old ways from when I used to visit home during my University years. That means leaving clothes everywhere, leaving mess everywhere, cups EVERYWHERE (gal loves a brew) and all the things in-between not pitching in. But lately after leaving my job, I’ve been learning to respect my surroundings more. I’m not perfect, but I know why I get so distracted and leave things everywhere. It’s an extension of myself. My bedroom is my happy calm place. It’s small, but it brings in a lot of light, is fresh with plants (and copious amounts of books) and I feel like I can relax there. When my space is messy, I feel messy, unproductive and no schedule. So with World Mental Health Day, take a look at your room/house/flat and see if keeping it tidy/clean supports you.

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You Are Relevant

Mental Health, Self Worth, Wellbeing

Do I write about what’s going on in my head? Do I write what I think people need to hear? Do I write down what’s going on? How I feel?

Here’s what you and I need to read. Period.


There’s nothing that goes against my grain, than too many positive quotes coming my way. The circulation of those hashtags, the classic #mondaymotivation and #fridayfeelings when those feelings don’t circulate in myself. So many wellness platforms telling me how I can feel better, too many corporates riding the wellbeing wave, looking to bank on my bad thoughts.

Is it just me?

Sometimes the social platforms we have just become so saturated; we feel the pressure to be relevant, if we are to keep on the digital pedestal we gotta post and share opinions and create the best content and share share share.

Not any more.

Your devices have switch off buttons. To stay relevant we have to rely on the now. Look up, look around and stay in focus. It’s hard to type that and become the hypocrite. I’m typing away while life goes on. But this is important right now.

You are important right now.

Brush off the pressure, take off that comparing coat and remember that you go at your own pace. Yeah, we’re living in times that are hard. Being a human within this world is harder than ever. It’s all plastic, poverty and too much power.

Just take this as a sign that you’re gonna make it. There’s beautiful days you haven’t seen and there is love you haven’t felt yet.

There is love you haven’t felt yet.

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Question Mark: A Millennial Feeling

Mental Health, Self Esteem, Teenage Mental Health, Wellbeing

Folks, this is a biggie. We’ve heard of the ‘quarter-life crisis’, especially from articles in circulation that states “Research finds that more than half of millennials are going through a quarter life crisis” (See article here)- but actually feeling like this is happening, is a much larger problem in our society. I’m sharing my story.


*

I’m definitely having one. One of those ‘quarter life crisis’ things. And y’know what? A lot of my loved ones at my age are too. It isn’t just me, it isn’t just you. This is something I have noticed that’s happening to us as young people. That post-university, the ‘what-am-I-doing-with-my-life’ years are sadly becoming a reoccurring thing. We have financial pressures, we’re bombarded with media that tells us to spend, spend and yes- s p e n d when payday hits, get the dream job, and the pressure to have it all figured out right now. YES! RIGHT NOW!!

Where is it coming from?

I think as we’re exposed to lot of more information than our predecessors, we’re simply questioning everything. What career do I want? Do I have to work 9-5 for a company that  has one ambition- to just increase profit? Do I want to be in this relationship? Is there more than this? Why am I checking my phone so much? Is this is what I want right now?

So.

Many.

Question Marks,

???????

It leaves us feeling like a question mark. I sure as heck feel like one, this past week that’s all I have been feeling. From the outside looking in, you would think I have it all figured out. But actually, no one does- I really don’t. I’m questioning everything at this stage- where do I want to live, if my personal choices are the best thing for me right now. To smaller questions like do I continue to write a blog, is my artwork good enough etc etc. I wake up some days, and I have no clue what I am doing or how I am feeling.

Do not feel alone in this.

It’s ok to start reflecting your choices, even though it’s so scary. We’re in a world where we’re searching for more meaning than ever. It’s ok.

 

It’s ok.

 

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Imposter Syndrome

Achievement, Anxiety, Aspirations, Business, Community, Confidence, Enterprise, Mental Health

Doubting yourself is part of growth. It depends on what situation I am in, but recently when it has been intimate/ small meetings I tend to seriously doubt why I should even be there. Why lil ol’ me? My body language shifts, I try cover up the adrenalin/ nerves/excitement as my body blushes and I’m constantly thinking “Don’t go red, don’t go red! Get your words right!”…

Well, I have to remember ‘lil ol me runs a business and it’s time to grab life by the lady balls and realise that my opinion is valued. We’re all human.

I had a meeting last week for something that it being put together in Leeds, which I happen to have the pleasure of being on the steering board for. I sat down with a wonderful mixture of health professionals, each taking it in turn to introduce ourselves and what we’re all about. Each person there was absolutely incredible. Doing amazing things for folk, highlighting elements of health and wellbeing they would like to be improved. Then it was my turn and I felt that prickly red heat spreading over my body before I opened my mouth. 20180821102643_img_3753-01

I’ve spoke about Keep Real many times, in various settings. I’ve done it in small meetings, groups of over 50, even on stage to over 100 people. Small meetings are a struggle for me.  Sometimes I’m in a great headspace and can talk about it easily and freely. Others I can be a big walking rashy queen. It’s a case of mind over matter, I can get so caught up in my body’s reaction that I completely lose track of my thoughts, which are obsessively saying “You’re going red!! Not again!”, “Your neck is getting really hot now, they’ll all notice!“.

But do you know what?

The other wonderful folk in the meeting who spoke after me had the same thing. I noticed they were just like me. The man next to me even said “How do I follow that?!” after I spoke about Keep Real.  The folk after me blushes as they spoke- and I was relieved. Absolutely relieved. 

So it isn’t just me! It wasn’t necessarily the notion of comparing myself to these inspiring people, it was more a case of feeling undeserving.

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Sometimes we have to open our eyes to the fact that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel that way, we can recognise it and move forward. I recently read an article on Forbes around overcoming that ‘imposter syndrome’ feeling (read it here).

I messaged my friend and advisor Catherine about feeling this way, and she even said that she still feels like an imposter at work and every time she’s put in the position to lead a meeting. So, no. No it isn’t just me, and it isn’t my age either in this entrepreneurial world. It in fact, happens to everyone. And that’s ok.

Have you ever felt like a bit of an imposter? Let me know if it’s happened to you!

What Is “Self Care?”: A Guide For Trying To Keep It Real

Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Positive Thoughts, Self Esteem, Self Worth, Self-Help, Teenage Mental Health, Wellbeing

So many of you lovely lot know I run Keep Real®  and with that comes a fair few things. Such as responsibility, creativity, management and hmmm I’m gonna say…self care. Yes! I said self care!! Whoa…Did I really just say that?


I did. A lot of folk won’t state that or *gasp* even mention it as something that comes with their life, business or whatever else. For example, entrepreneurs- our little metaphorical ent-baby needs to grow and flourish, but it will get sick or needs to learn how to walk, we don’t actually put ourselves in the equation. We love it, so self-care is just…non existent. It’s non existent for many! We just wanna keep the ball rolling. As long as it’s moving, its…doing something.

So what is this “self care” thing anyway? Let me break some things down for you…

  • SELF CARE IS NOT SELF INDULGENCE – Let’s get that little myth solved, mkay? It isn’t ‘retail therapy’ and sure as heck isn’t finishing off a full bottle of wine. These are temporary fixes. In a world that wants you to consume more…you gotta stick it to the man and just do yo’ thang.
  • SELF CARE IS A GENTLE BUT TOUGH MISTRESS – It ain’t always plain sailing. Self care can actually be real hard to do. When we’re so fast paced and overwhelmed- we feel that we actually can’t slow down. Self care comes in many forms. It may be going to bed an hour or two earlier, or going for a long walk. Not a walk to work, not rushing to be somewhere. Just a w a l k . Nothing more. It can be hard to do things for ourselves, but we need to learn to slow down a lil’.
  • SELF CARE DOES NOT COME FROM OTHERS – Sorry sweetpea, but self care doesn’t come from any other human being, doggo or your favourite cuddly toy. Self care has to come from you and you alone. Sure, other folk will support you- but there’s a reason why it’s called ‘self’ care and not ‘other people care’. Try not to focus on relying on other people for that comfort. Self means self, so soothe that soul. Pick up a musical instrument or pen (even if you’re terrible at music or art), create something, make a pinterest board or ‘life board’ of your goals and things you have achieved, take a bath and moisturise! Anything for you, that you can do by yourself is self care. The most important relationship you have, is with yourself.

So, treat yourself how you would treat someone you hold dear. You deserve to take a break. I still need to remind myself that too (Oh hi blog, you naughty reminder you) – because we can’t burn out and expect a quick restart. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t work harder, just work smarter. And that starts with self care.
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Social Platform Creature: Our Mental Health Impact

Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mindfulness, Personal Development, Personal Growth, Self Esteem, Self Worth, social media, Wellbeing

Being the social creatures we are- having connections is something we feel makes a profound difference in our lives to establish meaning and fulfilment. It’s super sweet, it makes us do the floss (which I’ve recently discovered the name of as that funny dance with the hands and the hips…) and it allows us to go “Heck yeah, this makes me want to LIVE!” in some way or some form. Thank goodness for technology- I can feel connected straight away when I’m having a hard time.

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Then why do so many of us feel that loss of meaning in a digital world? That niggling desire to perhaps gain a love heart on a photo, buy the latest tech or that pair of trousers you know you don’t need but you want to purchase anyway (Oh, wouldn’t they look great on my feed?!)…


We’re hardwired by all sorts of thaaangs to want more. More of everything. Sure, we can connect quicker and establish relationships faster- making our millennial age, the years of the throw away feelings (Hi, Tinder). But it also means we’re quick to focus on such a microscopic lens of our lives and dissect everything within an online platform. I feel we need to fall back in love with the slower processes- the most meaningful of relationships with ourselves, our loved ones and the world.

And maybe switch off our phones more often…maybe like a lot.

From the Mental Health Foundation, 49% of 18-24 year olds who have experienced high levels of stress, felt that comparing themselves to others was a source of stress, which was higher than in any of the older age groups. In 2015, Time Magazine stated “Young adults are now spending more than one full day per week online, according to new survey data from a U.K. communications regulator.”

The online world has given us a great gift and a great…distraction. The idea that we can connect quicker- but we are now constantly entwined with the notion that we need the online connectivity to affirm what we want to affirm. Whether that be fame, attractiveness, money, fame etc. It has given us the instant gratification we actively seek. We are now consumerists of emotion. In a round about term, we’re a bit addicted to quick gratification.

We just need to slow everything dddooowwwwnnn. Sllllloooowwww. Sit back and away from your phone/laptop/electronic device. You got this!! We survived before and we can survive now!

We need to look at using technology in an altruistic way. To give back, to share support- to share love, kindness, gratitude. All the wonderful things that takes you away from the incessant need to just…feel connected. In a wonderful, deep way. Something as simple as seeing your friend share a snapshot of having a day off, enjoying the sunshine- break the mould and start a conversation, ask to meet up face to face next time they’re free. Not just a love heart, nor a facebook ‘reaction’.

Use this digital world to your advantage. Altruism, yes- but surround your digital self with a lot of digital love. Not a platform to subconsciously make your self esteem drop, for your bank account to fall out of your butt and overall lose your sense of self.

You got this. WE GOT THIS. 

What’s Going On, Kim?

Anxiety, Depression, Keepin' Up With Kimberley, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Self Worth

Before I begin, I want to say how my personal mental health has changed over the years. It has fluctuated in response to a multitude of events, grown through a variety of focuses and also stayed dormant through different phases. Note that every part of that sentence, is an accumulative of change. This is what mental health is. Very much like physical health, you take more notice probably of achey bones and tension in your shoulders. However if you take note of your mood changes or events in your life timelines, you’ll know how your body and mind go through transitions. Just know that it’s ok, you’re human. I’m human. I wanted to share a small glimmer of mental hope in my life timeline at the age of 23/24 from the past 10 months.

So here goes.

Currently, I have been on anti-depressants for 5 months. I had such a difficult time during the Christmas period, knowing I wasn’t coping. I knew it was an amalgamation of things; moving out, moving away, commuting, balancing a small business and work commitments, paying my way etc etc. My days off were spent crying and feeling real down. I was even crying at work, I just knew I wasn’t doing well.

I remember going to my doctor (who, by the way- was lovely to me) – and I blubbed out that “I’m finding being an adult so hard.” She also asked me what was making me feel the way I was feeling. I knew- and still know- that I tend to have a lot on my plate. I also know, that I don’t put myself first as much as I should.

When you’ve had counselling, you have tried mindfulness, multiple apps and feel like medication is still a route you haven’t gone down yet- try it. If it helps, try it.

I actually haven’t taken my medication for 4 days. I know I should have collected my prescription, but I’ve been too focused on the fact I’m moving out. It’s also bank holiday weekend. This week has been hard.

I’m at a point where I’m unsure where I am. It’s a little unsettling and I know I need some down time to process some changes. I think I’m just exhausted. But I know there’s hope- that’s what keeps me going. There’s so much I haven’t experienced yet- what a wonderful feeling that is.

Keep going.
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SOC-ENT Part 3: Mental Health Workshops begin!

Enterprise, entrepreneur, Keep Real, Meet The Blogger, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Personal Growth, Self-Help, Small Business, So What is Keep Real?, Social Enterprise

What’s going on Kim, I hear you say? A lot…as always!

So a lot of you folk know about Keep Real, I’m so humbled to announce the beginning of mental health workshops for the social enterprise!! The first workshop will be in Sheffield as part of the CIC Golddigger Trust for ‘Girls Day’ (you can grab tickets over on their website).

I ran a workshop the previous year, however I’ll be officially running Keep Real’s first workshop for mental health. It will see the yet-to-be-launched colouring books (…have I said too much?) in full swing. I can’t wait to see what the girls think of them! Then they’ll be launching with the new merch in the next couple of months.

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A year on from launching the business officially online, this year is for growth and learning. I think the hardest part is to know what direction to go in. My advisor asked me an extremely inspiring question the other day, “Do you want your business to be big…or do you want it to be deep?”. In simpler terms, do I want to create social change in the community and directly be part of every workshop, making sure that Keep Real is providing qualitative feedback on mental health…or do I want it to be something incredibly huge and part of the wider UK, but without the personal touch?

As much as I’d love Keep Real to support the wider community, being a ‘deep’ social enterprise aligns with what I want currently. I want it to make a difference to young mental health in the community- and at the moment exploring those options on how to do that. Such as the mental health workshop with secondary school girls in Sheffield, and the live event in July.

Next week will begin the process of looking at various directions of growth for the business, and ways in which it can reach a wider audience. I can’t wait to see where it goes!

What do you want to see of from Keep Real?