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Friday, 27 April 2018

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Due to sudden events, I'm having to take the week from April 30th to May 6th off from work. This means, there will be no new Instagram, Blog or Podcast content for this week, and we will start over on Monday, May 7th. However, I will try to stay as active as possible on Twitter, so come follow me there to come along on my trip to the south!


Happy podcast Friday!!!

Today's episode is for all you established or aspiring entrepreneurs, freelancers, business owners, or even just content creators!

You know that feeling when you're not sure whether a business idea will pan out and actually make a profit? Or when you put your heart and soul into creating something and share it with someone you trust, only to receive scathing reviews and discouraging comments?

Well, beautiful creator, you are not alone!

Honestly, if you haven't received negative feedback yet, you should probably consider switching tactics! Having said that, it can be incredibly discouraging to only receive negative comments and bad "omens" when it comes to your business idea.

So today, I'm talking about my top four tips on how to protect yourself - financially and emotionally - from all the negativity that invariably comes with business ownership! Seriously, it's not rocket science, and it's definitely not jargon. Give this episode a listen, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Listen to this and every single episode (6.5 hours of awesomeness so far!) of Solid Gold, Baby for literally just $1 by clicking the image below!


Not quite sure what to expect from the podcast? Check out the 15-minute minisode below!



So which of these tips have you applied already? What would you add to this list? Tell me over on Twitter, Instagram, or via e-mail!

As always, thank you for listening, and again, I will be back on May 7th with even more awesomeness!!

I hope you have a wonderful week, and I can't wait to hear all about it when I'm back!

All my love,

Essential reading for when I'm gone:




Friday, 20 April 2018

I hope you're ready to do some mind work today, because we're going to walk through a bunch of exercises that are guaranteed to open you up to your inner pool of creativity!

Creativity on fleek! (a.k.a. how to quickly and effectively get over a creative block)


So recently, my depression has made an on-and-off reappearance, and as a result, my creative juices seem to have dried out a little. If you're in the same boat at the time of reading this, know that you are not alone!

And luckily for the both of us, creativity isn't always this elusive force that may or may not appear today - instead, think of creativity as a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it will get, and the easier it will be for you to create! However, just like any muscle, it takes some heavy lifting to build it up, and sometimes, your creativity will experience fatigue.

So the obvious solution would be to rest and allow your source of creativity to recover from the excessive pressure it might have experienced.

But life is rarely that easy. If you're a career creative - that is, if your main source of income is your art, writing, music or any other creative product - taking a complete break from creativity can be incredibly harmful to your work.

So what do we do when a muscle cramps up but we need to keep running? We give it a good massage.

These super simple exercises will do exactly that, allowing you to create enough momentum, allowing your creativity to gradually return to work.

Ready?

Let's do this!

DISCLAIMER: These exercises are heavily inspired by Sinix Design (whose Youtube channel is honesly the most helpful I've ever seen, by the way), and I do not, in any way, take credit for these ideas, simply for their application!

You will need:


  • A piece of paper and a pen,
    or
    a graphics tablet and a basic art software (MS Paint totally works!)
  • At least 30 minutes with no distractions
You can totally listen to music if you like, but I'd advice against podcasts (yes, my heart breaks too) because we don't really want to be using our conscious brain to do any thinking.


Step 1: Mobilise your arms and shoulders

Begin by doing some basic shoulder stretches and arm rotations. If we're going to doodle mindlessly, we can't be worrying about repetitive strain or a forearm cramp. Make sure your blood is up and running, and your muscles are all warmed up.

One super quick way to achieve this is to pretend you're axing down a tree. Bring both your hands well above your head, then swiftly drop them in a fluid motion. Repeat this a couple of times, and if you're feeling especially stiff, add a mini squat as you go down, to help mobilise your lower body, too.

The reason we're working so hard to get everything in motion is two-fold: 

First, we need to make sure we're protecting our muscles, since there will be a lot of repetitive scribbling involved, which can be injurious to your wrist and elbow if you don't stretch them out right.

Secondly, moving around like this sends a signal to your brain that you're ready to do some physical work. In other words, your brain will know to divert more energy towards movement, rather than conscious thinking.

Step 2: Basic Drills

Now that we're warm and ready to go, it's time to grab that pen or stylus, and find a comfy spot. 

NOTE: For every single one of the exercises from this point forward, you are going to use your shoulder and elbow to draw, NOT YOUR WRIST! This is absolutely crucial - your wrist stays steady! Trust me, you'll notice the difference in your confidence almost immediately.

We're going to start by drawing lines, as straight as you can get them, in every direction possible. Go ahead and scribble them out, and don't worry about how it looks - we only care about the motion right now. 

Pay close attention to drawing as long a line as you can, in one quick fluid stroke, keeping it as straight as possible every time. No feathery lines built up from tiny strokes, no slow, deliberate lines, and definitely no going back to refine each line. Keep doing this until you're confident that you can create one long, confident, straight line along the longest edge of the paper.



Next, it's time to draw different shapes with corners - any polygon will do! So think about triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons, octagons - anything that has straight edges and corners. Same as with the lines, you want to draw each of these in one motion, without lifting your pen. Keep going until you're confident that you can draw a standard, perfectly symmetrical polygon in one motion.



Finally, it's time to draw some circles. Now this is where it gets really tricky. If you've never drawn a freehand circle before, start with ovals and work your way up. The point is, again, to use one long line to create each circle/oval. Don't worry about making the ends meet, just make sure you're only using one line.



The easy version of this exercise is to draw a circle in the direction towards your dominant hand - clock-wise for right-handed people, and anti-clockwise for lefties. Once you have this down, challenge yourself by switching directions - draw towards your non-dominant side!


These basic drills are something I do every single day before I start drawing or writing, or even setting up my bullet journal spreads.

How this step works:

Humans have a natural tendency to tense up when they're stressed - this is a simple reflex response, and we all have this. A majority of us store most of this tension in our neck and shoulders. A lot of the times, we carry tension in these areas even when we're not stressed, just out of sheer habit.

By mobilising your shoulders, you're reverse-hacking your brain. If stress causes your muscles to tense up, simple logic states that relaxed neck and shoulder muscles mean you're not under stress anymore.

Your brain doesn't understand causality, just correlations. So if your muscles are tensed, your brain is going to connect it to stress, regardless of whether there's actual stress. And, vice versa, if your muscles are deliberately relaxed, your brain is going to connect it to calm, peaceful experiences, even if you're tied up to a rail track, cartoon-style!

The reason I mentioned using your entire arm to draw, and not just your wrists, was to ensure that your brain is constantly perceiving loose, stretched out muscles, allowing it to calm down and settle into the rhythm of creating.

Step 3: Advanced Drills and Note-Taking

For this step, make sure you also have a notepad or a word processor software open.

Here's what we're going to do: as we free our muscles even more, and direct our conscious thoughts towards slightly more advanced motions, our subconscious/creative brain will take this opportunity to unwind. This is when the ideas will start to trickle in again.

So while you go through the next set of drills, make sure you're able to pause for a second and take notes whenever something interesting comes to you!

Again, try not to judge or analyse any of the ideas, simply note them down.

Okay, so the first think we're going to do is draw a bunch of cubes. These could be facing any direction, have any perspective, and be any size that you want them to be. I highly encourage playing with all of those parameters until you have a bunch of differently sized cubes, facing different directions.



Now, go back to each cube, and begin to draw diagonals on each surface of each cube, connecting opposite corners. You want each face of each cube to have large X-es on them.



Next, draw a circle on each face of the cube, so that your circle is evenly distributed across the surface, and touches the centres of all four edges. This is hard to explain, so just look at the gif below, where I draw these out.



I will say it again: you need to do all of these in one motion each - no going back to correct any of the lines or circles! Sure, you can erase an entire line off and start over, but you absolutely can not simply erase the "bad" parts and correct them.

And like I said, take note of any ideas that pop up. This may not happen the first time you try these drills out, but once you get used to the motions,  your conscious brain will learn to switch off when you're drill-ing!

Also, don't push your brain for ideas. I understand it can be frustrating to go through all these exercises and end up with nothing, but remember, you're doing this for the process and not for the result! It is never a waste to carry out these exercises because, at the very least, you'll end up with a much steadier hand and confident lines!

But should an idea arrive, don't just drop everything you're doing and go chasing that spark. Make sure you finish your drills, because there will be even more where the last idea came from!

And finally, always remember that creativity is an infinite resource.

You will never "run out", and there will always be more. 

A lot of us are afraid of "using up" all our creativity, and "peaking too soon". I promise you, as long as you're open to creativity, it will always bring you novelty. And all of these drills and exercises will help you become and stay open to these novel ideas, regardless of which field you work in, because creativity is universal!

So play around with these exercises and tell me how well they work for you! You can drop me a message over on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or via e-mail at any time, and we can talk about anything under the sun, whenever you like! And if you like this post, please take a second to share it and help a friend unblock their creativity, too!

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Creativity on fleek! (a.k.a. how to quickly and effectively get over a creative block)


As always, thank you so much for reading, and I'll see you guys again very soon!

All my love,


Like this post? You'll love these!





Friday, 13 April 2018

HOW HAS THE PODCAST HIT TEN EPISODES ALREADY?!

Seriously, I still feel so new to this, even though we've already got six hours of content? Boy, does time fly past.

Today's episode is for all you bookworms out there who, like me, are obsessed with non-fictional, self-help books. I'm talking all about my top ten recent reads, and the one lesson I take away from each book....and it's not what you think!

CLICK THE BANNER BELOW TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:


Ten Lessons From Ten Self-Help, Personal Development and Creativity Books


Or, listen to the minisode below, for the first five lessons!



Now as I promised, here are links to purchase each book. BE WARNED: the are affiliate links, which means I will make a small commission if you purchase using these links, but I promise it doesn't affect your own purchase in any way!


The ad won't load? Check out these books on my Goodreads shelf! (Yes, I made a Goodreads account just for this post!)

     
     

       
         

   
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams and Reaching Your Destiny

   
Rework

   
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

   
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

   
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

   
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World

   
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

   
The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

   
Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers

   
Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

   

Srish's favorite books »
 
 

     
Have you read any of these books? What was your biggest takeaway from them? Which book/s would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments below this post, or over on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, or via e-mail!

I truly hope this episode brings you to your new favourite book, or helps you revisit an old one with a new perspective. If it does, I'd super appreciate if you could take a moment to share this post with a fellow bookworm!

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Ten Lessons From Ten Self-Help, Personal Development and Creativity Books


Thank you so much for listening, and I'll see you again next week with a brand new post!

All my love,

     

Like this post? You'll LOVE these!





Friday, 6 April 2018

A Year on Anti-Depressants: My story of depression, anxiety, medication and University



WARNING: This post contains MULTIPLE TRIGGERS, including mentions of severe depression (obviously), self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and everything that might fall under that umbrella. If any of this could severely hurt your mental health, please do not read this post. This is me telling my raw, uncensored story, so please proceed with caution!

If you're still here, first and foremost, go make yourself a drink, cause lord knows I would.

Secondly, thank you. The fact that you're reading this means that you or someone you love might be going through depression, and you're considering seeking help. Trust me, I know the feeling of being terrified about what happens after the diagnosis, and I am incredibly proud of you for making it this far.

No, I'm not coddling you. I just wish someone had said these exact words to me.

Alrighty, so today's post is obviously personal, but I'll try to keep it fairly light - prepare for some dark humour, because that is the crutch I rely on.

So, depression. The big D. I'll begin by explaining my perspective, so there's no confusion about which "side" I'm on.

I studied the brain for three long years, the same three years that my own brain struggled the hardest. Mental illness is very real, it's not just a cry for attention, and it definitely has physical symptoms. I'm 100% for medicating mental illness, because I'd probably not even be alive to share this post without medication.

Yes, there are non-medicated ways to cope with mental health issues - anxiety and depression, especially - but I recommend getting help only from trained professionals. And more often than not, that kind of professional help is way out of anyone's budget.

So, yes, I'm on little white and orange pills that help me stay alive, and no, I do not intend to get off them without professional help. I do still have bad days, and anxiety still colours some areas of my life. I know now, though, that I have the power to step away from situations and people that threaten my health and safety.

As someone who spent most of her life trying to please and impress the entire world - just so I could feel worthy of existing - I now fearlessly and shamelessly cut out the people who push me away from the woman I want to be. Because no one has nearly as much right to my life and my time as I do.

Now that we have a precedent, let's jump into the story.

Of course, I've shared all the emotional bits before, and if you're on my e-mail list, you've already read most of it in the second e-mail of the welcome sequence. I won't repeat myself, but if you haven't come across it at all, you can check out my e-mail list by signing up at this form:






   


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No spam, only good content, scout's honour!

So in January, 2017, I was officially diagnosed with moderate to severe anxiety and depression. My GP, an honest-to-god miracle worker, suggested that the depression was likely a result of life-long undiagnosed anxiety, and I completely agree. Anxiety has been in my family for generations, going undiagnosed because no one really believed in mental illnesses apart from paranoid schizophrenia.

The real struggle was actually seeing my GP in the first place, that was probably the bravest I've ever been in my life. You see, very often anxiety comes with a massive side order of Impostor Syndrome. Not only was I terrified of literally everything - loneliness, crowds, heat, cold, authority, freedom - I was also convinced that my fears were normal and that I was making a mountain out of a mole-hill.
\
What if I went to the GP and learned that I was being overly paranoid? What if I was fine and ended up looking stupid because I actually thought my tiny problems were serious? Was I being a "special snowflake," ungrateful of all the luxuries in my life that someone else would give anything for?

But then my grades plunged. And as a life-long straight-A student, that was all the push that I needed. The next day, I was at the student health centre at University, my first healthcare appointment that wasn't about birth control. And thankfully for me, my GP happened to be a director in the mental health field for that particular centre.

So I told her everything, and walked away with my first prescription for Citalopram and another one for something to help me sleep. And so began the long and arduous task of finding the perfect cocktail that kept me alive, but also took the edge off.

Here's the thing about being diagnosed with anxiety and depression - they pretty much contradict each other. This is a very loose explanation, but anxiety tends to have you all riled up and worried about every little thing, while depression has you in complete dysphoria, uncaring of anything at all.

Anxiety has you running from a tiger that doesn't exist. Depression has you lying on the floor, hoping the tiger will eventually get you.

The cherry on top? The biggest side effect of an antidepressant is, you guessed it, anxiety.

I was told to take the Citalopram - the anti-depressant - in the morning, and Zolpidem - the sleeping pill - at night. That first night, I had a horrid reaction to the sleeping pill. There was actual hallucination - the windows were rattling because the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were visiting, and the fire alarm was wrapped in purple felt. I gave my unsuspecting room-mate a good scare, had to be dragged from my chair to the bed, woke up and had to be walked to the toilet and back, and then threw up in the wash basin. It was amazing.

So I was told to only take half the sleeping pill, and definitely not to get out of bed after taking it. Here's the thing: eventually, the hallucinations were limited to the text floating off my phone screen, the birthday cards on my soft-board coming to life, and my room-mate's duvet constantly rolling off the bed. Eventually, it became a game I played with myself.

Later, I realised, that was the beginning of the addiction spiral.

I'm honestly so grateful that my GP saw the signs and took me off that pill right away, because I was told to take it three nights a week, and I was already taking them every night - I rationalised it as being unable to sleep without it. Truth is, I just enjoyed the high.

On the other hand, the morning anti-depressant had me feeling groggy. When I was working on my research project. It involved slicing tissue in a cryostat - to put it mildly, there was a blade sharp and heavy enough to cut through a marble counter, in a - 30 deg. C. cabinet. I didn't realise just how hazy I was until my glove froze-stuck on to the actual blade.

And I was still depressed - in fact, the depression was worse. I preferred being alone a lot more frequently, didn't eat nearly as much as I used to, never left my room unless it was for a lecture, and couldn't focus on a single thing.

That's the irony of medicating depression - it always gets worse before it gets better. Luckily for me, I'd studied this, and knew exactly what I was getting into, and that I needed to get through the initial "settling in" period. Did that stop me from thinking all the horrible things depression makes you think? Absolutely not.

There was a silver lining to this all though - my anxiety was gone almost immediately! And it was only after it left that I realised just how bad it really was! I woke up one day and suddenly, the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. Of course, it was replaced by complete apathy, but still, it was nice to be able to breathe. I didn't even realise how much I'd been held back by irrational fears until I wasn't anymore. Suddenly, I could go grocery shopping, and check out University buildings I'd never been to, and meet people I'd never met before, and smile at the baby in the grocery store.

So I kept up with the medication. And they doubled up my dose. And then the anxiety came back. So they put me on a different antidepressant, and changed my sleep meds. And the cycle began again.

Thankfully this time, there was no hallucination, but it was still Diazepam - the stuff that far too many people are addicted to. And then the anxiety went again, but the depression got even worse. Somehow, there were large cuts on my forearm and both sides of my hips. All of my clothes were too loose because I wouldn't eat, and then too tight because I'd binge every weekend. My research project was a mess because my notes were a mess because my room was a mess because my brain was a mess.

And the addiction switched from sleeping pills to pain. It wasn't some weird, sadistic self-hate thing - my internal monologue did the job well enough anyway - but it was more of a need to feel. You see, I was in a lot of pain, and without the veil of anxiety, I could actually see that I was in pain. But there was no reason to be in that much pain, and I couldn't find the source of it. So it made perfect sense to my broken brain, to give myself a source of pain so that I could tell exactly where it was coming from. And then one cut became three, and then ten, and then forty, until I could no longer wear short sleeves without inviting an intervention from the incredibly supportive people around me. There was simply no time for that.

So my GP doubled the dose again, and I couldn't go to the kitchen to make myself a meal, because my flatmates would be there and I absolutely could not be around people. I cried myself into breathlessness, which led to a panic attack, which led to more breathlessness. And that was just a regular Tuesday.

You don't want to know just how many nights I went to bed, wishing never to wake up, so that everyone around me was free from the burden of my selfish existence. There were multiple iterations of suicide notes, each convincing me that this was going to be the last one.

So she gave me a second, unconventional anti-depressant which indicated drowsiness as a side effect. Being the genius that my GP was, she made sure it was entirely non-addictive too.

So I was on 100 mg of Sertraline in the morning (bear in mind, I started with 15 mg of Citalopram just two months before) and 15 mg of Mirtazapine to put me to sleep. The anxiety came back briefly, because of the incredibly high dose of the Sertraline, but the Mirtazapine was able to counter it effectively.

And then, days before my 22nd birthday, the fog broke.

I woke up, and my first thought wasn't "ugh, this wasn't supposed to happen". I opened the bedroom door quietly - my best friend was still asleep - and went to the kitchen, actually hungry now. I took a sip of my coffee and my eyes welled up immediately, because it was there. It was warm, and aromatic, and strong, and caffeinated, and it was right there in the moment with me! When the toast popped out, warm and crisp, I felt the crunching in my mouth. The sun was up, and the warmth was on my skin, flooding its way into the frozen recesses of my mind.

I was alive.

It doesn't bother me which side of the medicated-moods argument you're on, because I know that those magic pills saved my life. And my grades. I graduated that July with Honours, and my parents were right there, and I cried because they were happy, and because my best friend graduated with me, and because one of my course-mates jumped off a bridge a few months before and couldn't be there to receive her degree. I cried because it was entirely too warm in that hall, and I could feel the warmth. And my graduation gown was way too large, and incredibly expensive to rent for a few hours, and I tumbled down the stairs from the stage and landed on my butt, and the pictures were amazing, and it was a sunny day, and there were so many people.

And I was happy.


***

Sertraline is a selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and is used to treat depression, OCD, PTSD, panic disorders and other illnesses related to too little Serotonin in the brain. For my 22nd birthday, I got a tattoo on my right forearm, a few centimeters from all the scarring, of the Serotonin symbol that saved my life.

Mirtazapine is the most potent of Tricyclic and Tetracyclic Antidepressants, which works as an antagonist on receptors for Serotonin, Adrenergic and Histamine receptors. It is classed as an atypical anti-depressant, and is usually indicated for severe mood disorders, including anxiety, OCD, major depression, PTSD, as well as insomnia.

Please do not take any medication without professional help and a prescription, because it will hurt you. And please do take any medication that has been prescribed to you, and if you have unfavourable side-effects, please discuss it with your GP, because more often than not, side-effects can be dealt with. Going off medication without the permission of your doctor or prescription nurse can be very dangerous. 

TL;DR: stick to the script, don't take anything you aren't told to, and don't stop taking anything you were told to take.

***

I'm always open to talking about mental health, answering any questions about my experience, and just to listen if you need someone to talk to, so hit me up on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or via e-mail. I promise you an honest, judgement-free, 100% confidential conversation. Depression works by isolating you, and then feeds off your isolation. Please remember to always reach out to those you love, or even anonymous helpers.

Thank you so much for being part of my story today, and if life is difficult right now, I promise you it won't always be this way.

All my love,

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A Year on Anti-Depressants: My story of depression, anxiety, medication and University

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