Weekly Round-Up: 14 – 20 January

Hello, and welcome to this week’s round-up! I spent most of last week working on a new project: creating a junk journal in which to record my book club reads. A couple of weeks ago, one of the neighbours invited me to join the book club that meets in our street, and the next meeting was last Monday. I’ve been wanting to get back into reading for a while. When my mental health starts to slide, reading is one of the things I stop doing – I find it too hard to concentrate. And although I’m well into recovery and reading short magazine articles and daily ‘thought for the day’ type passages, I’ve yet to get back into reading fiction. I’ve also been wanting to deepen my roots in the local community and deepen my relationships, so being invited to book club happened at just the right time, and I jumped in feet first.

I had a lovely time at the club, getting to know the other members and nattering about books, and when I got home I decided I wanted to record my book club adventures and thought what better place to do it than in a junk journal made from book pages (amongst other things). It’s taken me all week, but I’ve finally finished it and completed my first entry. If you’d like to watch the process, you can visit the playlist on my YouTube channel. Here are some pictures of the papers and embellishments. I’ll share the finished article next week.

I didn’t have much time for scrapbooking during the week, so I saved it to the weekend. For layout one, I used the new Florals cut file from Cheeky Studio and cut it on my cameo. I love how the flowers stand out against the background I created using Nuvo Shimmer Powders and LOTS of water!

For layout two, I used the beautiful cloud paper I bought in the winter sale at Lottie Loves Paper. I used my craft knife to cut around some of the clouds so I could tuck my photos behind them. I love this technique – I shall be using it more!

For layouts three and four, I tried to use as many pieces of patterned paper as possible. This month, the For the Love of Pretty Paper Facebook group has challenged its members to use as many patterned papers as possible. So far I’ve used 26 12×12 sheets!

I also created these layouts for the Scraptember Stash Bash. I’m really enjoying delving into my stash this month. It’s so satisfying to use the things I have and to see them come to life on a page.

For Cheeky Studio, this week, I shared another layout where I used my craft knife to cut around the edge of a shape – this time I cut around the outline of the flowers in the bottom left of the paper, and tucked this photo of my daughter beneath. I love how this turned out. The pink in the Autumn Beauty collection went perfectly with the pink of my daughter’s umbrella too.

Well, that’s it for this week! Thanks for stopping by! xxx

Mental Health Monday: Self-Compassion Part One

A few weeks ago, I began planning what I wanted to blog about this month, and today was the day I planned to post about self-compassion. It’s funny how things work out because this weekend was pretty tough, and I had to be compassionate toward myself in a way I’ve haven’t had to be for quite a while now.

Nothing bad happened. Quite the opposite; we went to a family party and caught up with people we haven’t seen for a couple of years. It was lovely, but it was also exhausting. All that talking and smiling and having the same conversation over and over again – I haven’t had to work so hard in ages, and it wore me out. I went to bed at 6pm on Saturday and didn’t even get out of my jim-jams on Sunday. It took me be surprise. I’ve been feeling pretty bright and bouncy lately, fueled by my creativity and all the work I’ve been doing on myself, but expending all that social energy knocked me for six, and yesterday I found myself feeling down and frustrated. I started criticising myself: come on, girl, it’s been a year, you should be back to normal buy now … pull your socks up, woman  … get in the shower, you lazy moo. That kind of thing. It look me a little while of thinking like this to remember that being hard on myself doesn’t do me any good. In fact, it’s bad for me.

Anyhoo … On to what I was planning to write about. The picture at the top of this post is another page from the bullet journal I was using last Spring. It’s part of the notes I made from a workshop called ‘Compassion Focused Skills’ that I attended while in hospital. It consisted of two three-hour-long sessions, so I won’t go into all the detail, but we talked about compassion, what it is and what qualities people who are compassionate have. We learned about the brain, about or ‘old’ brain and our ‘new’ brain and the roles they play in our thinking and our responses to threat. And we learned about the three emotion systems that influence our behaviour and motivation: the drive system, the threat system and the soothing system. We also learned how we can identify what system we’re in at any given moment, particularly, how we can activate our soothing system to regulate our threat system. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Being self-compassionate can play a big part in regulating our threat system, the system that’s triggered when we sense a threat and that sends adrenaline and cortisol coursing through our body, making us feel angry, anxious or scared. It’s our flight, fight, freeze and appease system. Being compassionate toward ourselves can trigger our soothing system which helps us manage our distress via the release of oxytocin, sometimes called the ‘love’ hormone. It makes us to feel safe and protected, cared-for and contented.

So what does self-compassion look like? Well, for me I try to think about how I would talk to my best friend if they were experiencing what I was experiencing. I wouldn’t say things like: come on, girl, it’s been a year, you should be back to normal buy now … pull your socks up, woman  … get in the shower, you lazy moo. I’d say: you’re doing so well … it’s only been a year; it can take a long time to recover from such a severe depression … don’t forget you’re still taking medication, so you’re not completely well … and don’t forget the medications have side effects too … they can make things hard work. I’d say: why don’t you take a bath, lie back and relax … take it easy for a few days … just do something nice … something that nourishes you … light a candle … have a hot cup of tea … an early night … meditate … visualise your happy place … listen to music … watch some TV … doodle in your sketchbook.

It can be hard to be compassionate toward ourselves. We may worry that we’re really just making excuses or being lazy. We may worry that we’ll become less resilient and weaker. We may worry that being kind toward ourselves will open some floodgate of emotion that we’d rather not wash over us. I think it’s important to get support when we feel like this. There are times when I only start being self-compassionate after my husband has given me a pep-talk. Somehow it feel okay to believe myself if I hear it coming from him first.

I think it’s important to identify ways of being self-compassionate when we are in a well period, because in some situations, it could be easy to choose the wrong things to soothe ourselves with. I know that I’m a ‘comfort eater’ and I know that I over-indulge in unhealthy foods to try to activate my soothing system, but I also know it’s a short-term solution that has long-term health implications, so I’m trying to soothe myself in other ways, such as doing something creative that will occupy my mind and body until the threat I’ve sensed has passed. I’m also very mindful of the way my mind works these days and can spot when I’m getting into a negative thinking loop or unhelpful thinking habits. Through self-compassion, mindfulness and creativity I’m starting to retrain my brain and even though it gets tired and overwhelmed sometimes, I know it’s more resilient than it was a year ago.

Gosh! This has turned into a long post. I’d better stop and save the rest of my thoughts for another day. I hope you’ve found this helpful. Have you any experience with self-compassion? What do you do to activate your soothing system?

Thanks for reading! See you soon. xxx

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Hiatus

last line first 300Once again, I must apologise for being a tardy host! I was supposed to post this on Monday, but life got in the way. Speaking of life getting in the way, I’ve decided to take a break from running Last Line First, so this will be the last post for a while. Thank you to everyone who has taken part. It’s been a delight to read your stories and wonderful to see what you’ve done with each new first line.

We started, back in January, with “He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.” from Frankenstein; or, the modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and we go into our break with not one but two great last lines:

  • I just hope I am making a big difference to these people’s lives. From Listen and Learn by Paul, and …
  • She would wait for this man, who she loved more than life itself, to wake and then she would break his heart and hers. From Heartbreak by Denise.

Thanks for playing, and keep flashing!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 16

last line firstGreetings on this Bank Holiday Monday! I hope you’ve had/are having a lovely day – wherever you are. I’ve got five minutes before I have to put the kids to bed so I’ll keep this brief … This is flash-fiction we’re talking about after all!

Your last line prompt this week comes from Stillness by Denise. I picked it because it grabbed me with its urgency.

Remember, you have until midnight (BST) on Sunday 3 May to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions, and you can change the prompt however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories please visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

Today the still small voice must be heard.

Happy flashing!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 15

last line firstWell, aren’t you a cheery bunch! Last week’s screams inspired ailing grandparents, demons, monsters and serial killers. Death stalked the stories, giving my goosebumps goosebumps and even bringing a tear to my eye. Great job!

Your last line prompt this week comes from To Rest by Jacki Donnellan. I picked it because it immediately brought an image to my mind. I hope it inspires you as quickly too!

Remember, you have until midnight (BST) on Sunday 3 May to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions, and you can change the prompt however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories please visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

Time to turn up the volume.

Happy flashing!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 14

last line firstAnd so, another Monday rolls around, bringing us to the start of another week of Last Line First. I hope you all had a chance to read through last week’s stories. Maybe you’ve already been playing with some of the submitted last lines?

Your last line prompt this week comes from Charlotte‘s story. I picked it because it because it’s another one of those lines that can be interpreted in many ways … we scream for all sorts of reasons, don’t we?

Remember, you have until midnight (BST) on Sunday 26 April to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions, and you can change the prompt however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories please visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

Their screams are music to my ears.

Happy flashing!

#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 13

last line firstOops! Nearly forgot to launch this week’s Last Line First! My excuse is that it’s the school holidays and, as usual, I’ve lost track of the days. Bad host. Bad, bad host! Sorry. Anyhoo …

Your last line prompt this week is from The Indescribable Girl by Voima Oy. I picked it because it has the potential to lead into both a cheery story and a not-so cheery story. What kind of day has your protagonist had that could make them start their tale with such a statement? Will the next word be ‘but’ or ‘because’ or something else entirely?

Remember, you have until midnight on Sunday 19th April to comment on this post with your ≤200 word flash-fictions, and you can tweak the prompt however you see fit. For a full run-down of the rules and easy access to previous challenges and their stories please visit this page.

So, here’s your new first line:

Some days I love this job.

Happy Flashing!