Things that have helped my brain lately

I went AWOL for a bit and that’s because life kind of caught up and dissertation took over.

This month’s been kind of trying for me, mental health-wise. In the past, I’ve suffered from both depression and anxiety and, in its current form, a combination of both. Faced with overwhelming change like a looming cloud threatening to burst overhead, my brain has decided to turn on itself. Right now, it kind of feels like I’m scrabbling at the bottom of a pit, trying to dig my way out. Every morning is now a struggle to motivate myself to get out of bed.

This is not because anything bad has happened to me, necessarily. If anything, I am incredibly lucky to have the life I do. The guilt from this privilege however seems to force me down further into the pit so whilst I acknowledge the supportive people around me and the roof over my head, I also need to allow myself the space to feel what I am feeling. I guess, in a way, it helps to remember that I’m not going through anything that others haven’t gone through before. And it helps to remember that people are complex and deal with things differently, and that just because they seem to be succeeding, this doesn’t mean they haven’t seen the bottom of the pit too.

I am getting better at counselling myself, at knowing when I’m catastrophising or filtering or any of the other terms I learned during my university counselling sessions or my visits to the doctor’s. I am slowly but surely finding what helps my brain to renegotiate with itself, usually around 2 in the afternoon that actually, I am capable, I can work today, I am not an awful human being with no talent and no charisma.

This could be a list of self care tips, if you wanted it to be. Currently I prefer to think of them as my ‘ok, stop, you need to calm the fuck down, now go do this for a bit and then come back’ breaks. Very handy for when you’ve altered your dissertation topic for the fifth time that week. Disclaimer: This is not an all-inclusive list.

1) Yoga With Adriene

Yes, I am starting this list with yoga. IF YOU WANT TO CALL IT SELF-CARE, CALL IT SELF-CARE. Anyway,this saved my life a few days ago, when I had some of the worst PMS I’d ever had and was trying to do work in bed. It didn’t really pan out the way I wanted to, resulting in me berating myself for being lazy, never accomplishing anything. My mood dropped and I managed to notice, immediately knowing I needed some kind of exercise. This was a perfect option: I was moving, stretching, but still comforted (by the sheer amount of pillows used in this routine) and finished feeling clear-headed and in less utter pain. I’ve only done a few of Adriene’s videos but no other fitness videos on YouTube make me as keen to do the next one as her. Aside from maybe:

2) Blogilates

Some days I need yoga, some days I just need to move and dance around. As Cassey says in the video, this is the equivalent of turning up music really loud in your room and dancing like nobody’s watching. It’s fun, gets your blood pumping but doesn’t kill you, and I managed to fit it in between class and a skype call with a friend, making me feel even more productive.

3) Chef’s Table France

If I really can’t be bothered moving, then I need to accept that I won’t be, stop beating myself up for that, and do something else. Taking a break to watch a few episodes of something can risk an accidental marathon but watching documentaries has been an alternative for me at the moment (I’ve already written a “Currently” post about 13th). Watching Chef’s Table is such a good way to feel inspired by people who love what they do enough to put blood, sweat and tears into their craft. Watching the France series has kept my brain working as a way to try and improve my French as well as introduce me to new areas of France I’d never seen before and allow me to return to street corners of my beloved Paris (more posts coming soon). It’s a new perspective on the world, showing me something other than dissertation and job applications – sometimes it’s a grilled carrot that changes everything.

4) Baking/Cooking


In the likely event that I will be influenced by the cooking happening in Chef’s Table, I take to the kitchen. Although I will turn to tubes of Pringles in my time of need, I try to remember how much better I feel making something. Whether it’s noodles or pasta, at least I’ve made it. I’m no chef – in fact I’m very Amy Santiago when it comes to cooking – but I’m trying. So a few new recipes I’ve been making lately include:

  • Frankie Celenza’s EXCELLENT macaroni cheese recipe which has been my go-to for when I need something carby and quick. (Side note: any of the Frankie’s World series has a profound brain-calming-down effect, I highly recommend the one about pretzels. Speaking of which..)
  • Pretzels. I’m currently in the process of adapting a recipe from the Great British Bake Off book, adding to it and changing times etc. It feels good to be able to know how one ingredient can alter an entire pretzel.
  • Soups. My mum always tries to feed me when she visits and last time she brought down three of the biggest sweet potatoes I have ever seen in my life. I’ve been working my way through them, making a variety of soups and again experimenting with flavours. Sweet Potato, Tomato and Basil or Sweet Potato and Carrot are all staples – can’t go wrong.
  • Ruby Tandoh’s lemon wedges from her book Flavour which I highly recommend and from which I need to cook more. I also love the Banana Tea Loaf and other recipes which have slipped my mind for now. The Harry Styles Dutch Baby is happening soon and I’m excited for it.
  • Maverick Baking’s firecracker sausage rolls. Beaut.

5) And finally, if all else fails, rewatch specific episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that I’ve seen about twelve times already, if not more. Something about this show never fails to help me in some way, even a little bit, out of the pit.

Series 1, Episode 5 – The Vulture: a personal fave. The whole squad works together against a superior (the eponymous Vulture) who keeps trying to steal their cases, they’re a bit tipsy, they take the bus to the scene of a crime and solve the case. Plenty of Jake and Amy banter, even a scene where she calls him a butthead. Rosa basically comes out as bi whilst also finding said superior attractive in a humorously detached way. Meanwhile Terry, Holt and Gina go to a gun range. What more could you want?

So that’s it! I mean, I could go on for longer but I feel as though that would officially get into ‘ok, stop procrastinating, let’s get back to work mode now’. Hope you enjoyed this insight into my brain right now. I’ll be back soon.