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NOV 2019 £4.00

on anxiety, panic attacks and love...

'Many men feel that speaking about their feelings is a vulnerability, a weakness, but I’ve always seen the benefits in it'



Tips to recover your self-confidence


steps to address anxiety

From climate change concerns, to fear of small talk


9 772514




Insider advice: Essential insight from the therapy room

Photography | IG: @Karthik.dng

We can save the world if we save ourselves first – LIZZO

The ripple effect Fate, destiny, what will be will be... Sometimes it can feel like we have no control over the things that happen in our lives. That we’re simply pieces on a board game, and someone else is rolling the dice.

together and find support with their mental health, this issue is about helping yourself – but also about the ripple effect that this can have on the world around us.

For some people, this can be a relief – going with the flow and seeing where life takes us. For others, it can breed anxiety because we just can’t predict what is around the corner.

With a special feature where seven counsellors reveal their best advice, and an article on the practical things you can do to address eco-anxiety, we implore you to start really devoting time and energy to taking care of yourself. Because when we do that, we’re in a better position to spread that love and support to everyone our life touches.

While there are many things in life we have no say over, what we hope you’ll find in this issue is a wealth of insight and information on positive things you can do. The ways you can help yourself, nurture your confidence, and create a healthier environment for yourself to thrive – and when we do that, the effect might just spread. From the incredible Chris Hughes opening up about his panic attacks, and the techniques he uses to manage them, to campaigner Luke Ambler sharing his story about starting a safe space for men to come

We love hearing from you, get in touch:


Ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem once said: “No one person can change the world, but one and one and one add up.” Let’s all be that change we want to see – which starts with ourselves.





The Uplift 8 In the news 13 The wellbeing wrap 14 What is eco-anxiety?

How can we ease the anxiety that comes with fears about the future of our planet?

83 Get drastic on plastic

It's time we reassessed our attitude towards plastic, and the ecobricks scheme will help us do just that

Features 16 Chris Hughes

The Love Island star opens up about low-mood, panic attacks, and the power he finds in being vulnerable

30 In the therapist's chair

Seven counsellors share their best advice for dealing with everything from stress to body image

46 Georgina Horne

The plus-size model speaks about creating an online community, and how she coped with the death of her mother

55 Life with CPTSD

How does this diagnosis differ from PTSD?


Life Stories 38 Calli: getting out the hole

Anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD ruled Calli's life for years, until things took a turn when she began CBT and started her blog. Today she reaches out to others so no one has to feel alone

67Jack: the healthy me


Food & Drink 60 Eat the rainbow

Glow from the inside with this delicious winter salad

62 Gut instinct

Discover the power of eating intuitively

Lifestyle and Relationships

A traumatic experience led Jack to receive a diagnosis of PTSD and anxiety. But after a change to his mindset, little by little, Jack uncovered the healthiest version of himself

35 Put off procrastination

87 Anne: finding happiness

74 Before the crisis hits

Sickle cell disease has been a constant in Anne's life since the age of six months. Through huge challenges, Anne has come out on top, and now sees her illness as a key part of the woman she is today

Use these tips to smash your to-do list

51 Dear society...

It's time we spoke about male suicide Here's how you can take action with your mental health, long before breaking-point

80 Luke Ambler

The Andy's Man Club founder on the importance of moving forward with intent



28 Being socially anxious

Explore what it means to live with social anxiety with our columnist, Grace Victory

41 Things to do in November 70 Tai chi teachings


Could this martial art be the key to mindfulness?


72 Stick your nose in



From baths to burners, discover how to use aromatherapy to enhance your wellbeing



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Happiful Hacks 26 Breaking up with friends 44 Support someone with BPD


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58 Create a safety plan

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78 Build confidence after anxiety




Meet the team of experts who have come together to deliver information, guidance, and insight throughout this issue

EDITORIAL Rebecca Thair | Editor Kathryn Wheeler | Staff Writer





Nathalie is a mental health nurse and life coach focused on self-confidence.

Louisa is an aromatherapist and massage therapist.

Tia Sinden | Editorial Assistant Kit Spring | Sub-Editor Rav Sekhon | Expert Advisor Amy-Jean Burns | Art Director Charlotte Reynell | Graphic Designer Rosan Magar | Illustrator




BA MA MBACP (Accred)

Will is a life coach and rapid transformational therapy practitioner.

Rav is a counsellor and psychotherapist with more than 10 years' experience.

CONTRIBUTORS Gemma Calvert, Kat Nicholls, Bonnie Evie Gifford, Becky Wright, Grace Victory, Harriet Williamson, Suzanne Baum, Richard Taylor, Hattie Gladwell, Nathalie Kealy, Ellen Hoggard, Laura Thomas, Lucy Donoughue, Will Aylward, Calli Kitson, Jack Walton, Anne Welsh, Becky Johnston, Karthik Nooli




MBACP (Accred) BACP Reg Ind


Rachel is a life coach encouraging confidence and motivation.

Graeme is a counsellor working with both individuals and couples.

Joseph Sinclair, Krishan Parmar, Joy Goodman, Amanda Clarke, Graeme Orr, Rachel Coffey, Louisa Pini, Josephine Robinson, Nikki Emerton, Andrea Szentgyorgyi, Lindsay George, Keith Howitt




NLP Clin Hyp Dip DCBT

Josephine (Beanie) Robinson is a nutritional therapist, and yoga and meditation teacher.

Nikki is a life coach helping people build resilience.



MA Dip RGN MBACP (Accred)


Libby is a remedial and sports massage therapist based in London.

Andrea is a registered hypnotherapist specialising in in anxiety.

FURTHER INFO Our two-for-one tree commitment is made of two parts. Firstly, we source all our paper from FSCÂŽ certified sources. The FSCÂŽ label guarantees that the trees harvested are replaced, or allowed to regenerate naturally. Secondly, we will ensure an additional tree is planted for each one used, by making a suitable donation to a forestry charity. Happiful is a brand of Memiah Limited. The opinions, views and values expressed in Happiful are those of the authors of that content and do not necessarily represent our opinions, views or values. Nothing in the magazine constitutes advice

on which you should rely. It is provided for general information purposes only. We work hard to achieve the highest possible editorial standards, however if you would like to pass on your feedback or have a complaint about Happiful, please email us at We do not accept liability for products and/or services offered by third parties. Memiah Limited is a private company limited by shares and registered in England and Wales with company number 05489185 and VAT number GB 920805837. Our registered office address is Building 3, Riverside Way, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL.

COMMUNICATIONS Lucy Donoughue Head of Content and Communications Alice Greedus PR Officer

MANAGEMENT Aimi Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Emma White | Director & Co-Founder Paul Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Steve White | Finance Director Happiful c/o Memiah, Building 3, Riverside Way Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL Printed by PCP Contact Us For feedback or complaints please email us at

FIND HELP CRISIS SUPPORT If you are in crisis and are concerned for your own safety, call 999, or go to A&E Call Samaritans on 116 123 or email them on


Head to happiful.c for more s om er and supp vices ort

SANEline SANEline offers support and information from 4.30pm–10.30pm: 0300 304 7000 Mind Mind offers advice Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, except bank holidays: 0300 123 3393. Or email: Switchboard Switchboard is a line for LGBT+ support. Open from 10am–10pm: 0300 330 0630. You can email:



ADVICE FOR LIVING WITH ANXIETY AND PANIC DISORDERS Break free from anxiety. Call the No Panic helpline on 0844 967 4848 (call charges apply, check with your provider) or find information online at


FIND A COUNSELLOR NEAR YOU Search for professionals in your area, and browse hundreds of articles written by experts, by visiting


INFORMATION ON BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER Founded to offer specific support for those with BPD, offers information, and a community forum with more than 50,000 members.


MALE SUICIDE PREVENTION Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is a charity supporting men with their mental health. Call their free, confidential helpline on 0800 58 58 58, or use their webchat at


SUPPORT AND INFORMATION ON PTSD AND CPTSD Find out more about life with PTSD, read other's stories, and discover advice for friends and family at


DISCOVER MORE ABOUT SICKLE CELL DISEASE As it celebrates 40 years of supporting those with sickle cell disease, the Sickle Cell Society offers information at, and on its helpline: 020 8963 7794


New study poses yoga benefits for over-60s

The Uplift

Whether you’re a fully-fledged yogi, or a namaste newbie, it’s no stretch to say that regular yoga can be life-enhancing. From quiet mindful moments to gentle, invigorating exercise, there are countless reasons why this ancient practice has stood the test of time. But now, new research from the University of Edinburgh has revealed that yoga can have a particularly prosperous effect on the lives of those aged 60 and over. In a review of 22 studies, researchers looked at how regular yoga sessions stood up against other activities, such as chair aerobics and walking, as well as those who were inactive. When compared with those who did no activity, the findings showed that yoga supported everything from balance and flexibility, to sleep quality and perceived mental and physical health. And, interestingly, compared with other activities, yoga significantly boosted lower body strength, and helped those with depression. Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that can be easily adapted to suit anyone’s needs and requirements, and this study is more proof that yoga can open the door to everyone who wants to enhance their wellbeing. Writing | Kathryn Wheeler


Free ‘swop shop’ helps families access school uniforms


Veterans dig for vitality with new archaeology scheme Welsh archaelogical site proves to have wellbeing benefits for those with mental ill-health Exciting things are being uncovered in Pontrhydfendigaid, Wales, where evidence of a large Cistercian abbey has been found – known locally as Ystrad Fflur, or Strata Florida Abbey. But due to the size of the site, and a limited number of field archaeologists, the Strata Florida Trust was forced to get creative. That’s when they invited veterans and people with mental health problems to help with the digging, in order to reap the holistic value of getting stuck in the mud. Former Royal Navy sailor, Julian Pitt, lives with trauma after his experience in the Falklands and Gulf wars. Talking about the work on-site, he told the Guardian: “When

you’re out there working, you don’t think of anything else. You can’t be ruminating, you can’t be thinking ahead. You’re concentrating on the present moment. For me that is brilliant, just what I need.” Alongside veterans, others who struggle with their mental health have signed up to help, including Brian White. “It’s wonderful to spend time with people who have the same interests,” he says. “You’re not judged, you just work together with all sorts of people.” It appears that on this particular dig, volunteers are unearthing confidence, self-worth, and a sense of purpose, alongside historical artefacts. Writing | Kat Nicholls

For families across the country, the cost of school uniforms can be another stress on top of the usual hustle and bustle of a new term. Deciding to do something about it, Kristina Murphy opened a free ‘swop shop’ to help families access second-hand school uniforms in Birmingham. Kristina’s home in Rubery is now filled with uniforms sourced from lost-property boxes, which she gives away for free. She tells Happiful that she’s worked in education for more than four years, primarily at an academy for autistic children and those with mental health conditions. Kristina highlights that when parents struggle financially, and possibly with their own mental health needs, it’s easy for them to feel like they’re failing. “By making uniforms freely available, parents can have a more positive week, and the child can go to school feeling stable, without racking up behavioural points,” Kristina says. So far, the Rubery Swop Shop has been a resounding success. But Kristina has set her sights on reaching the rest of the West Midlands – proving the power that kindness, and a little bit of community spirit, can have. Visit for more. Writing | Kat Nicholls

November 2019 • • 9

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened



Video game teaches children to be kind to animals Video games can get a pretty bad reputation, but thanks to a collaboration between the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA) and the University of Edinburgh, one new game could be pushing all the right buttons for kids and parents alike. Designed to promote positive interactions, and prevent kids from being cruel to animals, the pilot of the new PC game, ‘Pet Welfare’, was created for children aged seven to 12. Following testing with 184 children, developers revealed that the game had effectively conveyed the importance of animal welfare, helping participants to better understand that animals have feelings, and how vital it is to behave towards them in a safe way. In the game, players can experience three interactive levels based around the pets who, according to statistics, are most likely to be victims of cruelty: dogs, cats and rabbits. Children then learn key information about the welfare needs for each pet. If your child is one of the 70% across the UK who has a pet, it’s worth noting that accidental animal cruelty is common. Ensuring kids know more about their pets, and how they can avoid accidentally harming them, could be the best way to help avoid any ruff patches. Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford

November 2019 • • 11

Take 5

Put your thinking caps on and tackle this month’s puzzling fun

Diagonal sudoku


Similar to a normal sudoku grid, but with an added challenge – fill in the empty boxes so that the numbers one to nine appear once in each column, row, box, and the shaded diagonals.





6 6



4 7



2 4






9 2




Use the emoji clues to decipher the titles of the following books, films and TV shows.



7 3

4 9




1 ou do? How did y eebies' at Search 'fr shop.happ answers, to find the e! and mor




The Going up

138 seal pups were born on the shores of the River Thames in 2018

Downton Abbey is being listed on Airbnb for one night only!

Lego has released a book on the wellbeing power of play

Emojis |

Bromances 1 in 5 men have no close friends – it's time to reach out

Distractions! New 'focus mode' on Android is coming

Going down

wellbeing wrap Puppy love

In September, cancer They're called man's best survivor and US friend, and it could be for a marathon swimmer, good reason, as 69% of people Sarah Thomas, became say their dog is the favourite the first person ever to member of their household. swim the Channel four The 2019 US study also found times non-stop! She that 40% of owners admitted achieved this incredible to spending more on feat in 54 hours 13 their canine minutes, and dedicated friend than her swim "to all the themselves. survivors out there".


The mysterious beauty of mermaids has been expertly captured, and no we're not talking about the new Little Mermaid film. Since 2017, the Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club has released an annual MerB'ys calendar for charity, starring their own members rocking fishtails, and embracing their 'just washed up on shore like this' looks.

#Inflatable Amnesty

Having a clear-out? Donate your old pool inflatables and beach toys to Wyatt and Jack®! This company creates unique, sustainable bags from these materials in a bid to It's that time of keep as many as possible year when those from landfill.

Spidey senses tingling?

pesky eight-legged critters become our unwelcome house-guests, but do you know how to put them off? Conkers in the corners of rooms are an old favourite, and peppermint oil around your home. Plus a new study has found spiders are drawn to the colour green, so avoid that at all costs!


Putting a wellbeing twist on the life of the party, silent discos are taking place across Glasgow in care homes and for dementia patients in hospitals. Organiser Gillian Machaffie says the idea is to spark #EveryTreeCounts memories, and give people back a On 30 November, the Woodland Trust is leading the Big much needed sense of 'normality' Climate Fightback, where it's urging one million people to by listening to their favourite tunes. take part in local tree-planting events, plant a tree in their own Music is a powerful thing, and garden, or donate so it can plant one on their behalf. alongside the wellbeing benefits Supporting wildlife, absorbing carbon, helping to of dancing, Gillian's seen how the prevent flooding, and reducing pollution, trees really music is a welcome distraction from can lead the charge in the fight against climate the anxious thoughts and confusion change. Get involved at many people with dementia face.


LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED We all know the difference it makes to have someone there for us, but did you know the effect is scientifically proven? A 2018 study revealed that people can actually become more resilient to pain just by holding hands with their other half! It's believed that when we're in physical contact with someone we love, our brainwaves become in sync, and the pain doesn't seem as bad.

People can become more resilient to pain by holding hands with their other half! But it doesn't stop at hand-holding. New research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain found that being in the same room as our partner can have a similar effect. We don't need to touch, or even have verbal support. Just the presence of someone we love can improve our tolerance for pain.

eco-anxiety Exploring

Pollution, wildfires, rising sea levels, thinning ice sheets. We often hear how humans are damaging the planet, but for some people climate change is an overwhelming worry that has a big impact on their mental health Writing | Becky Wright Illustrating | Rosan Magar


hen you think of the effects of climate change, your first thought might be the melting polar ice caps, or the increase of plastic waste in the ocean. But, it’s not necessarily the global disasters that are causing a deepening sense of dread among Brits. We’ve got our own environmental problems right on our doorstep. The UK is known for its varied climate, but gone are the days when we’d witness weather extremes once in a blue moon. We’re now regularly seeing warm winters, beastly cold springs, and scorching hot summers. A report by the Met Office confirms that the UK’s 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2002. But it’s not just heatwaves – floods are becoming frequent, too. It’s these extreme weather events that create a sense of trauma, leaving a lasting impact on people’s wellbeing. In fact, for many, climate change is an overwhelming subject.

14 • • November 2019


The toll of climate change on our wellbeing is far-reaching, and includes stress, depression, and anxiety. In a recent survey for the Recycling Partnership, 96% of respondents were worried about climate change to some degree, with one in four people stating that it was their biggest fear. Hypnotherapist Andrea Szentgyorgyi says: “The concern can escalate as you experience climate change in your daily life. You worry about record temperatures. You feel anxious when you buy anything packed in plastic. You might lose sleep because of your concerns about the future of our planet. Your feelings of it being out of your control can cause panic. Some people are deeply affected by feelings of grief, helplessness, frustration, stress, and even violence and aggression, due to their inability to make a difference.” With the growing awareness of our environment, and the impact

we are having on the world around us, more and more people are becoming concerned with our future on Earth.


With evidence of weather extremes, as well as the influence of people such as Greta Thunberg and the rise of Extinction Rebellion, there’s been a dramatic change in the level of public interest in environmental issues. People are demanding action, and politicians have started to take notice. The UK government has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – but is this soon enough? There’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global crisis. A recent poll by Greener UK and the Climate Coalition found that almost 70% of the British public would like to see urgent political action to address climate change. But, some feel that this method of reporting, and talking, about

climate change is unhelpful and unnecessary. Yes, we need to take action, but it’s the ‘scaremongering’ that leads to (or worsens) ecoanxiety. Instead of empowering people to take action and positively make changes, the majority of people feel scared, insignificant, or as if their efforts won’t have any impact.


When we’re worried, or feeling overwhelmed, it can seem natural to avoid the source of our anxiety. So, in the case of eco-anxiety, it can be tempting to switch off. However, experts say it’s important to confront the issue of climate change directly, and stay informed about environmental issues. There’s currently no specific treatment for climate anxiety, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth seeking professional help. Successful treatments for anxiety include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy. Each can teach you coping mechanisms to manage your anxiety. “A therapist can help you to manage your anxiety, learn to relax, and boost your self-confidence,” Andrea says. “Feeling strong and empowered makes you confident, and will encourage others to listen to what you have to say. And so you can feel more in control and influential about your role in saving our planet.” Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that, while we can’t fight nature, we can work with it. There’s a huge amount we can still do, and it’s very much in our power to protect what’s left, and to make a meaningful difference.


• Calculate your carbon footprint at for ideas on how to improve your daily habits. • Change your diet. It’s well-documented that reducing meat consumption can make a tangible difference to the environment. • Stay informed – especially if you live in an area where there’s a high possibility of flooding, wildfires, or extreme weather. • Connect with others who have an interest in the environment. Visit to join Extinction Rebellion and find out more about events in your local area. • Share your knowledge. Educating others to encourage change is an important part of being a responsible citizen of the world.

• Above all, remain positive. Positive change requires a positive mindset.


For every tree used to make our magazine, we ensure two are planted in its place. We source all our paper from FSC® certified sources, which guarantees that the trees harvested are replaced, or are allowed to regenerate naturally. Then, we ensure an additional tree is planted for each one used, by making a suitable donation to a forestry charity.

November 2019 • • 15

Speak your mind Whether you know Chris Hughes from Love Island 2017, his TV shows with Kem Cetinay, or his presenting for ITV Racing, chances are you already know what an endearingly open guy Chris is.

Since entering the spotlight, he’s used his platform to reveal the power in being vulnerable, and is encouraging all men to feel no shame in showing their true emotions. As an ambassador for charities CALM and Movember, Chris is striving to help change the narrative around men’s mental health, and make a real difference. This Movember, Chris candidly shares his anxiety, catastrophising, and panic attacks, the techniques he uses to ground himself, and feeling ‘low’ for the first time in his life... Interview | Gemma Calvert

Photography | Joseph Sinclair

18 • • June 2019


hris Hughes saunters out of the elevator at Happiful’s east London studio, puts down his backpack, and within five minutes is unloading his innermost feelings, even before the dictaphone is running. Some celebrities require a few questions – others an entire interview – to build an emotional connection with a journalist, but Chris is the polar opposite. In person he’s exactly who he seemed on Love Island in 2017 – tender-hearted, empathetic and sentimental – an open book who was commended by fans and health professionals alike for laying bare his deepest state of mind again and again. Chris, 26, was often filmed in tears interacting with other contestants, and particularly when navigating the choppy seas of romance with then-girlfriend Olivia Attwood, who he split from in February 2018. He has since used his place in the public eye to raise mental health awareness, in particular talking about a difficult three years from the age of 19 where he was racked with anxiety. Panic attacks were a frequent reality. Eventually Chris turned to a professional hypnotherapist, and the treatment worked. He was anxiety-free before, during, and after Love Island, but today admits he’s noticed a decline in his mental health. In August, during a holiday to Bali with girlfriend, Little Mix star Jesy Nelson, Chris endured a severe episode of anxiety, and has since, for the first time in his life, been struggling with low moods.

“It’s really strange that we’re doing this interview now, because it’s come at such a poignant time,” sighs Chris, taking a seat on a sofa in the studio lounge, and breathing in the views of the River Thames. “Three days before we were coming back, I decided to get really drunk. I had a good blow out, then I felt awful the next day and started thinking: ‘Maybe there was something in my alcohol, maybe this isn’t the same kind of alcohol.’ I was panicking and worrying myself over it. For the last three or four days of my holiday, I couldn’t shake the anxiety, and now I’ve started feeling really low and down. “It is confusing because I can’t put my finger on why,” continues Chris, scrunching up his brow.

“Anxiety is feeling compelled to keep looking ahead to the future. With depression and feeling down, it’s the other way, about looking back” Perhaps being propelled into stardom on Love Island was a contributing factor? Within three days of finishing third, Chris and winner Kem Cetinay landed an ITV2 spin-off show, You vs Chris and Kem, and went on to launch a fitness DVD, release a music single, and co-present from the National Television Awards red carpet. Chris has also published an

autobiography, and worked with blue-chip brands galore including Topman, First Choice Holidays and McDonald’s, as well as landing a dream presenting job with ITV Racing in June this year. Most recently, Chris and Kem developed a new TV show idea, which they’re pitching to a production company. “I’ve enjoyed all the work I’ve done since Love Island, and I really like life,” he says. “I’ve got the best family, the best girlfriend, the best social life, the best friends, I love where I live. I don’t dislike anything. This is why it’s so weird. I shouldn’t be [feeling] like this. I learned the other day that anxiety is feeling compelled to keep looking ahead to the future. With depression and feeling down, it’s the other way, about looking back, but there’s nothing I reflect on and regret, or think, ‘I should have done that.’ I just can’t work out why I’m feeling this way.” Last year, on World Mental Health Day, Chris was unveiled as an ambassador of CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably charity, which receives thousands of calls a month from people experiencing anxiety and depression. He’s also an ambassador for Movember, a charity dedicated to investing in prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide prevention. Shockingly, 12 men in Britain take their own lives every day, making suicide the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. In March this year, former Love Island star Mike Thalassitis, 26, ended his life. Sophie Gradon, who was a contestant in 2016, died by suicide in June 2018. >>>

November 2019 • • 19

“My hands clenched together and I couldn’t move. I seized up and at that point, my mind was gone. I couldn’t breathe. I was hyperventilating”

Mike’s death heightened calls for improved aftercare for those who take part in reality TV shows. Chris, who describes the psychological support provided by ITV as “brilliant” and says it’s “completely” unfair to blame the channel for the contestants’ deaths, never felt suicidal, but admits that lately he has been better able to understand the plight of those who feel there is no other way out. “Since I’ve been feeling down, I’ve thought of people that have done it, and that’s a scary thought,” he says. “I think, ‘Does that mean, this is how they felt?’ I tell myself that how I am feeling now is how those people, who completed suicide, felt and that makes me feel worse inside. What I’m doing

20 • • November 2019

is convincing myself that I’ve got a greater issue or greater level of lowness than I actually have, and that’s what’s making me worse.” In an attempt to get to the bottom of his feelings and better understand himself, Chris turned to a London-based clinical hypnotherapist called Pippa, who advised practising excellent selfcare to feel his best possible self on the inside. “She explained that getting out for a one-hour walk in the sunshine, even on a cloudy day, increases your levels of serotonin – that happy hormone – and that it can also be increased by eating foods high in omega oils. This morning I made sure I had salmon and eggs for breakfast, because I wanted to

get those fish oils in me,” explains Chris, who is also trying to reduce the time he spends on his phone. “My average is seven hours and 54 minutes. It’s a joke. I need to relearn how to be bored, but the main thing is to eliminate negative thoughts. I’ve got to stop saying to myself, ‘You’re feeling alright now, but you’re going to feel sad in a minute.’ Pippa tells me to think, ‘I’m OK, I’m happy, I will do this, I am this,’ instead of, ‘Will I be OK?’ You’ve got to be positive.” Chris has been sports-obsessed since the age of four, and over the years has played cricket, tennis, and semi-professional football. He’s ridden race horses, and is a huge fan of golf. It’s hard to match the go-get-’em mentality of sportsman Chris with the frequently negatively thinking version, and it’s puzzling for him, too. “I never walk into anything in sport and think, ‘I’m not going to play it well today.’ I walk in overly confident; it’s like I know I’m going to be better than everyone else. In my day-to-day life, it’s the complete opposite,” he says.

Suit | Remus Uomo, shirt | H&M, Shoes | Mochee Kent

Naturally, Chris is aware of the wellbeing-enhancing benefits of exercise. Before Love Island he worked out daily to get himself in tip-top shape, so it’s surprising to learn he’s steered clear of the gym for the past six months, following a terrifying panic attack 45 minutes into an early morning PT session. “I started getting pins and needles in my hands,” recalls Chris. “These pins and needles took over my whole body. They started at my feet and it was like a wave, going up my body and to my face. It even felt like they were in my cheekbones. In that moment, my hands clenched together and I couldn’t move. I seized up and couldn’t open my fingers, then at that point, my mind was gone. I couldn’t breathe. I was hyperventilating. I thought I was having a stroke.” It took “eight or nine minutes” before Chris was in a position to implement the calming techniques he’d learned in therapy when he first went through anxiety – a combination of deep breathing to “get rid of adrenaline by feeding it with oxygen”, visualisation and imagery, where you place negative thoughts inside different shapes to contain them. Again, he has struggled to pinpoint the cause, and although he’s not had a repeat episode, Chris’s life has been affected by the incident because he no longer feels able to enter a gym. When he first experienced anxiety, Chris would leave his family home near Cheltenham late at night and drive around aimlessly to avoid being in the place where his first episode of anxiety happened. Avoiding the gym is also about avoiding painful memories. >>>

October 2019 • • 21

Outfit | Mochee Kent

“I don’t like going back to environments where I’ve been mentally scarred,” says Chris, picking at an invisible mark on the leg of his heavily ripped combat trousers. They’re noticeably baggy. “I’m a little skinnier now,” he explains later. “I’ve lost muscle because I haven’t been training.” Chris’ propensity for imagining “the worst” – wanting a blood test “for peace of mind” during his first anxiety attack, believing his hangover in Bali was the result of his drink being spiked, and fearing his pins and needles in the gym were caused by a stroke – is classic catastrophising behaviour, which psychologists describe as a cognitive disorder. Sufferers frequently imagine unpleasant and undesirable situations to be worse than they actually are. “That sounds about right,” agrees Chris. “Everything’s escalated and becomes 20-times worse.” Jesy, Chris’ girlfriend of nine months, who he moved in with four months ago, is one of his most treasured confidants – perhaps because she understands on a level that few ever could. In September this year, the 28-year-old singer spoke out in her moving BBC3 documentary, Odd One Out, about being the victim of years of online bullying after she and her Little Mix bandmates, Perrie Edwards, Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock, won The X Factor in 2011. In the film, Jesy revealed that in November 2013, after being relentlessly trolled over her body shape and size, she was driven to attempt suicide. “It was really difficult to watch,” admits Chris. “Some stages,” he breathes in then exhales sharply,

“I’ve got a respect for Jesy that I’ve never had for another girlfriend. Just seeing all the things she has been through and overcome, she deserves every bit of happiness now” “it broke my heart. It was proper difficult to watch. I’ve got a respect for Jesy that I’ve never had for another girlfriend. Just seeing all the things she has been through and overcome, she deserves every bit of happiness now.” He can count himself largely responsible for that. At the end of the documentary, Chris and Jesy are seen strolling side-by-side along a pier, cuddling as though their lives depend on it. The pair appear incredibly well-matched, and their future is mapped out. During an appearance on MTV’s Geordie OGs in September, Chris told pal Gaz Beadle he wants to marry and have babies with Jesy within 18 months. “I might have been getting carried away there!” he laughs. “I wouldn’t mind it, and we do speak about that kind of thing, but her career’s still flying. I don’t think you should rush into having children, but enjoy the time together, and do the things that you can’t necessarily do when you’ve got kids together first.” What’s indisputable is the couple’s solidarity, which Chris argues is all the more robust because of their shared understanding of each other’s struggles over the years. “It’s just about having someone to speak to who understands you,” he explains, adding that he too faced a barrage of “brutal” Twitter comments after being announced as a presenter on ITV Racing.

“The amount of abuse I’ve received on Twitter since has been crazy. People think I’ve got that job because I’ve come off Love Island and I’m ITV talent, but people are quick to judge,” says Chris, who was raised on a farm in the Cotswolds with brothers Will, James, Tom and Ben, and began horse racing at the age of 11, encouraged by his dad Paul, who still owns and trains racehorses. As Jesy’s plight has proved, there can be very real consequences from digital attacks. Like Ed Sheeran who quit Twitter two years ago after after a stream of abuse, she has since deleted the social site from her phone, and former TOWIE star Gemma Collins recently urged her followers to boycott all social media to encourage the companies behind them to better protect users from online attacks. “It’s a catch-22, because the more we talk about trolling, the more trolls see the effect they’re having, which is their aim, but you need to make people aware of the circumstances, and Jesy has proved that her life is better for coming off [Twitter],” says Chris. “Twitter’s evil. More needs to be done by the social media providers.” In his capacity as a reality TV star, and with more than 2.5 million followers across his Instagram and Twitter profiles, Chris is proud to >>>

November 2019 • • 23

be in a position where he can not only inspire change, but actually save lives. A year ago, as part of his role as a Movember ambassador, Chris had a testicular cancer check live on ITV’s This Morning in a bid to show men that they shouldn’t be embarrassed about getting their testicles examined. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men, and although there’s a 95% chance of survival, one in 20 don’t make it. Chris, who had three operations on his left testicle as a teenager, could never have anticipated the outcome of his appearance on the daytime show. The following night, his older brother Ben, 27, found a lump in his testicle, which turned out to be cancerous. In January, he underwent an operation to have it removed, and in May Chris shared the happy news on Instagram that Ben is cancer-free. The brothers are now filming a BBC documentary about male infertility. “One hundred percent, it feels good knowing that by talking out loud about my feelings and experiences I’m encouraging other guys to be open about their emotions too, but with the testicular examination, if it helps just one person stay healthy, that’s a really good thing,” says Chris. “That’s the beauty of having a platform; it allows you to help others.” But what about his own journey? Chris is evidently doing his best to get his mental health back on track, and counts the listening ears of friends, family, and, of course, Jesy as “crucial” in his recovery.

“Many men feel that speaking about their feelings is a vulnerability, a weakness, but I’ve always seen the benefits in it. It’s little obstacles,” he says. “You’re not going to be happy every day of your life; it’s normal to have low points. Now I just want to shake it, and I’m trying to do everything right in my lifestyle to make myself feel better.” This Movember, whatever you grow will save a bro. Sign up now at, and change the face of men’s health.

Outfit | Marks & Spencers

Styling | Krishan Parmar Grooming | Amanda Clarke at Joy Goodman, using Kiehl’s

How to survive a

friendship break-up

Letting go of a friendship can be just as painful as saying goodbye to a partner. We share five tips to help you move onwards and upwards Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford


here’s nothing more heartbreaking than a bad break-up. When we think of the b-word, ex-lovers are often the first thing to come to mind. Yet, if we’re honest, moving on from a close friendship can hurt just as much – if not more. When a romantic relationship comes to an end, we have loved ones on hand to offer comfort. But when a friendship is on the rocks, who do we turn to? Breaking up with your bestie can leave you feeling hollow and isolated. Our friendships can feel bigger, more dramatic, more... permanent, than romance. There may be plenty more fish in the sea, but finding a true BFF? That’s a lot trickier. Whether your friendship is drawing to a slow close after drifting apart, an epic argument has left everyone with hurt feelings, or you’ve entered

Illustrating | Rosan Magar

different phases in your personal lives or careers, recognising and acknowledging that rift can be tough. Keep these five things in mind to help you approach the end of a friendship with an open, more positive mindset.


When emotions are running high, it can be easy to say something you may regret – or to say nothing at all. Ghosting can be upsetting for both sides. Taking away the opportunity for closure, by disappearing rather than responding when a friendship begins to break down, can leave you with unspoken regrets. If possible, try to exhibit the changes you would have liked to have seen in your friendship. Keep the lines of communication open, honest, and kind. If the other person isn’t able to meet you in the middle, at least you’ll have a clear conscience, with fewer ‘what-ifs’.


Closure may be the more healthy, emotionally mature way to go – however, it’s important to allow this to happen naturally, when you both feel calm and ready. When a friendship starts to break down, it can be tough to express how you are feeling without things escalating. Accepting that your friendship has come to a natural end can be tricky, yet try to remind yourself: you may not be able to achieve closure right now, but you never know what the future might hold.


Letting go of old friendships can open up time and emotional bandwidth for new, exciting possibilities. For those working the typical nine to five, we only get 52 precious weekends a year. When you take out bank holidays,

family obligations, birthdays, holidays, overtime, needing some space for self-care… you may be left with fewer free days than you’d expect. Having fewer friendships doesn’t have to mean your social life is more limited – it can mean that you are choosing quality time with those who matter to you the most. Challenge yourself to use this extra time to try something new. Sign up for a new class, try your hand at a different hobby, or get more active. You’ll be amazed at how many opportunities this can open up to

get to know new people. Chances are you may have more things in common than your old friends, thanks to your new shared activity.


Did your friendship break up for a reason? Were there things you could have done differently? We aren’t saying you should obsess over the whys and hows, but allowing yourself the time and space for reflection can give you the chance to identify any

potentially toxic behaviours you may not have noticed previously. No matter what you discover, remind yourself: there isn’t always something we can do to fix our relationships – and that’s OK.


Before you rush off searching to fill that BFF-sized hole in your life, try to give yourself some space. That could mean logging off social media for a couple of weeks, letting joint friends know you’d rather hang out in smaller groups, or one-to-one, until things settle down, or even muting that shared WhatsApp chat.

Having fewer friendships can mean that you are choosing quality time with those who matter to you the most Things may feel awkward for a bit, but good friends will understand that you need to put yourself first for a while. Your wellbeing should never take second place.

HOW TO SPOT THE SIGNS OF A FRIENDSHIP BREAK-UP The signs may be clearer than you might think… • Do you dread seeing them? •D  o you feel more undermined than supported? •D  oes it feel like you’ve grown apart, or have nothing in common?

• Do you find yourself slow or reluctant to respond to their messages? • Do you find yourself cancelling (or being cancelled-on) last minute? • Does it feel like all of the effort is one-sided? November 2019 • • 27

How to manage social anxiety wit h


Candid and charismatic, author, vlogger, and all about empowerment, Grace Victory shares her experience and insight each month


hat time of year is almost here – delicious mince pies, sparkly dresses, and Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. The time of too much prosecco, Mariah Carey on repeat, and social anxiety. Yup, I said it: social anxiety. The dreaded: ‘I have to leave my house and talk to people.’ The sweaty palms, days of worry, and last-minute cancellations of plans because everything feels a bit too much. I’ve been there (we’ve probably all been there) and it’s horrible. It can often feel that with every breath you take, the anxiety monster is going to consume you, spit you back out, and leave you in a tearful mess on the floor. Fight or flight mode is activated, and you’re about to either lose your sh*t and scream, or fly out the door – with a high possibility of falling over and flashing your knickers. Social anxiety is hard at the best of times. Whether your anxiety comes from unprocessed trauma or introvertedness, the physical and emotional toll can be completely taxing. Back in 2012 and 2013, when I first started going to PR events and social gatherings for work purposes, I would succumb to

worry. The journey into central London would be Googled 30 times so I was 100% sure I knew where I was going, and yet I still had an overwhelming fear that I would get lost, my phone would die, and I would end up in a gutter somewhere. I’d panic most about what to wear and who would be there. There was practically nobody else within the YouTube scene who was plus-size back then, and I’d be lying if I said flying the flag for fatness was easy. It wasn’t, and at times it’s still not easy now. I’d be in a room full of thin, glamorous bloggers and I felt like the odd one out. During those years, I desperately wanted to fit in because I was so hyper-aware of all the things that made me different. I would ask for a list of other people attending just so I could see if I’d know anyone, and then I would spend hours trying to put together an outfit – one that was appropriate for the event, to travel in, and to also feel comfortable and stylish in. Attending these events alone was also not possible – even with the list of attendees. It just wasn’t even an option. If I couldn’t find anyone to go with, then I wasn’t going. Walking into a room full of people I didn’t know or feel comfortable around was something I absolutely

I think my event anxiety stemmed from low self-esteem, and not knowing how to protect and preserve my energy dreaded, so before any event I made sure I had a plus one. Having someone close by made the anxiety more manageable. Looking back, I think my event anxiety stemmed from low selfesteem, and not knowing how to protect and preserve my energy. I’m an introvert, which means I struggle with small talk and socialising because it depletes

HAPPIFUL’S NEW COLUMNIST! @GRACEFVICTORY I am an absolute advocate for having boundaries in place, and only doing things that you really want to do. But unfortunately, that advice isn’t always feasible. We can’t always get out of festivities, so here is a little list of things you can do to help you during this time – and remember, you aren’t alone in feeling anxious. This too shall pass.


Have an escape plan. Know where the back door is, the toilets, a quiet room. If you feel uncomfortable or as if you can’t breathe, remove yourself from the situation. You can excuse yourself to go to the loo, or say you need some fresh air.

Photography | Paul Buller


my energy, and can make me feel drained. I didn’t know how to recharge and put boundaries in place so that I felt safe and secure. Social anxiety, for me, was all about a fear of being seen, being judged, and being laughed at – which is funny because these are all topics I am speaking about in therapy at the moment. As we approach the festive season, social anxiety can be heightened for those who already suffer with it, or it can be new and confusing feelings for those who haven’t really experienced anxiety

before. Social engagements seem to happen every week, alcohol is nearly always involved, and you may have to attend events with people that you don’t particularly like or know. Towards the end of the year is also the time you may be around family more, and for some people this can be a real trigger due to childhood trauma. It can often feel like you’re forcing happiness and socialising, when all you want to do is hide under the covers with a box of Maltesers, while watching The Grinch.

Keep your routine. There is nothing worse than having a mental health down day (or week/month) on top of your usual routine going out the window. With all the events towards the end of the year, you might find you’re not eating enough veggies, not having enough sleep, and not finding enough time for you. Try to keep parts of your life ‘normal’ so you remain with some of your familiarity and routine. Organise a support group. This can be as simple as a WhatsApp group chat with a few of your mates; a place where you can all hold space for each other during this difficult period.


Love Gracex

Words of wisdom from the therapy room

We all have different experiences when it comes to our mental health, but often we can be comforted by the same words. If you’re experiencing mental ill-health, seven counsellors offer their words of encouragement Writing | Becky Wright


rom stress to anxiety, bereavement to body image problems, we all face different challenges in our lives. And, although it can be difficult, talking about what you’re dealing with is one of the best ways to open yourself up to a wealth of support. The proverbial saying, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ might not be strictly true, but it can certainly help to lighten the load for you. Remember, no matter how you’re feeling, you are worthy of help. Here, we offer some words of wisdom about seven common mental health issues.

IF ANXIETY IS GETTING IN THE WAY OF YOU LIVING YOUR LIFE Feeling anxious from time to time is normal. It’s a sign that you’re human, and are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. There is a difference though, between the feeling of butterflies and something more sinister. Person-centred counsellor, Andy Kidd, explains how to work out what is causing you to feel this way. “It’s important to break down what you’re anxious about. Be specific. Defining problems helps to find

solutions. When you are feeling anxious, what are you paying attention to? What scares you most about it? Why?” Once you’ve determined the cause of your anxiety, the next step is to tackle it head-on. “Anxiety screams ‘Avoid!’, often leading us to assume the worst. But one useful tip is to voluntarily face challenges, rather than bracing for disaster,” says Andy. “The trick is to hear what your anxiety is telling you, then tell it something back. Therapy, particularly assertiveness training, can teach your anxiety that you’re more capable and braver than you thought.”

IF STRESS IS OVERWHELMING YOU Although stress isn’t an illness in itself, it can affect us in many ways. From sleeping problems to loss of appetite, or sweating, many physical symptoms can occur when we’re feeling overwhelmed. 30 • • November 2019

“Stress is the body’s natural defence mechanism against perceived dangers,” says counsellor Carole Brooks. “But, unlike our stone-age ancestors who could fight in the face of danger (reducing harmful hormones), we can’t do this with today’s stressors.” For this reason, Carole explains learning to control our response

to stress is imperative. For some, this can mean making some ‘metime’, exercising, or mindfulness. For others, it’s not as simple. If you’ve been feeling stressed for a prolonged period, consider what changes you could make to your life. If your stress is work-related, it might be beneficial to speak to your manager, or even seek a new job if you’re able to.


The trick is to hear what your anxiety is telling you, then tell it something back IF FOOD AND BODY IMAGE ISSUES ARE TAKING OVER Dieting can keep us locked in a cycle of deprivation, bingeing, and feeling guilty, but finding a way to break free and stop dieting isn’t always straight-forward. It can feel scary at first but, in the long-term, it will help to improve your relationship with food, putting you back in control. Counsellor Kerry Trevethick, whose passion is helping people overcome food and body image issues, says food itself is rarely the

root of the problem. “Working on what you are feeling and thinking can help your relationship with food and your body,” she says. “If your body image is stopping you from doing things, ask yourself: ‘Is it my body that’s the problem here, or is it how I’m thinking about my body that is holding me back?’” If you’re struggling with body image issues, body confidence might feel like an unrealistic goal. Perhaps a better aim is body neutrality – not thinking about your looks as an important part of who you are.

Losing people we love is part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to process. Leah O’Shaughnessy, who specialises in bereavement counselling, offers some comforting words. “Feeling your emotions rather than suppressing them will help it to pass. Grief isn’t something that goes away, but the raw pain does lessen. In time, we learn to live our lives around it. Accepting this is an important part of dealing with a bereavement.” Someone once said to me: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” It’s something that’s helped me through moments of sadness in my life, but it’s not always easy to smile. This is where extra support, particularly bereavement counselling, can be helpful. “Coping with a bereavement can be very distressing. Sometimes the support of a counsellor is needed to help you through it. They will help you recognise that each stage of grief (shock, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance) is completely normal, as is moving in and out of grief stages, rather than following a linear pattern,” says Leah. >>>

November 2019 • • 31

IF YOU’RE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSIST Often, narcissism is mistaken as an obsession with a person’s appearance. However, there is more to it, as psychotherapist Anne Glynn explains. “Narcissism is usually the result of an upbringing where the person was loved only if they conformed to certain expectations. So, while they may appear confident and even conceited, this veneer covers a flimsy, depleted inner self.” As a result, narcissistic partners can be very challenging. Anne says there are several behaviours you can look for if you think your partner may be a narcissist.

“They may use various defences to protect against the shame of exposure: contempt for others, entitlement, grandiosity, blaming, boasting, idealisation of you and others, followed by denigration. “It’s a sad, anxious existence for the narcissist,” says Anne. “Narcissists deserve understanding, but they can be draining and destructive.” For this reason, advice for partners of narcissists is usually to leave the relationship. However, this is often easier said than done – the love you once felt for this person can be a pull to keep you together. If this is the case, seeking professional support may be a good option. “A narcissist doesn’t change easily, and although they seldom engage in therapy, this could provide a lifeline for you.”

IF YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT A LOVED ONE’S DRINKING If a loved one’s drinking is affecting you, it can be a difficult and challenging time. Bear in mind, for them to make the necessary changes, the choice to do so ultimately remains with them – but there are things you can do to help. Humanistic counsellor, Mark Thresh, says a good place to start is to find out how they feel about their drinking. “If they’ve been thinking about making changes, they may

32 • • November 2019

feel relieved to talk about how they are feeling, and might welcome your support. Prepare before you talk, as this will help you to avoid getting emotional, angry or saying something you might later regret. “Talking with them when they are in a good mood and haven’t been drinking is always a good approach, and never when they may be hungover. It’s always wise to try to avoid accusations and blame. Your loved one may already be feeling low, upset or anxious about their drinking, and may become defensive if they feel under attack.”

‘Listen to your body when it says you need more rest. This will help you practise selfcare better, and live a more fulfilling life’

IF YOU’RE STRUGGLING TO MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE “Selfcare is an important aspect of our lives, yet we tend to leave it until last on our to-do list,” counsellor and self-care specialist, Karin Brauner, explains. Making time to look after ourselves is very important in managing our overall health – mentally and physically. So, how can we make time? According to Karin, one of the most powerful techniques she uses with her clients is helping them set boundaries. Here, she provides some tips to help set clear boundaries for self-care. “Stick to what works for you. Boundaries are there to keep you safe; you set a certain boundary for a reason, so keep it in place no matter what,” Karin says. “Listen to your body when it says you need more rest, or your thoughts saying, ‘This is an uncomfortable situation, you need to leave now.’ This will help you practise self-care better, and live a more fulfilling life.”

If an aspect of your life is affecting your wellbeing, help is at hand. Visit for a wealth of free resources, or to find a counsellor in your local area.

November 2019 • • 33




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Self-care, work-life balance, personal stories – you name it, we publish it. Always sensitively and responsibly written to uplift and inspire.

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Be your most productive self

Does your to-do list bring you out in a cold sweat? Well, fret no more – we’ve got an arsenal of tools to help you tackle your list, save time, and stress less

Images | Forest app: Google Play, gtd:

Writing | Kat Nicholls

1 Download the Forest app

If scrolling on your phone gets in the way of work, try the Forest app. The idea is to plant a virtual tree, and set a timer for however long you want to be off your phone. As you work, your tree grows, but if you give in to technological temptation before the time is up… your tree dies. Keep working and planting to create a forest full of trees. Bonus: Forest partners with a real tree-planting organisation called Trees for the 1 Future, so you can contribute to building a real forest when you’re creating your virtual one, too.

2 Listen to the ‘Getting Things Done’ podcast

2 Hosted by David Allen, author of international bestseller Getting Things Done, this podcast is a mustlisten for anyone in need of productivity guidance. With episodes such as ‘Overcoming procrastination’ and ‘Wrangling your priorities’, expect plenty of practical advice. Podcasts, in

4 Listen to music

general, are a great way to harness your time as you can listen hands-free while cleaning, on your commute, or while exercising.


3 Try the Pomodoro Technique

This time management method was developed by Francesco Cirillo, and is named after the tomatoshaped kitchen timer he used as a student. The Pomodoro (Italian for ‘tomato’) Technique involves breaking work down into chunks of time, usually 25 minutes. After 25 minutes (one pomodoro), you take a fiveminute break, and after four pomodoros, you take a longer break of 15–20 minutes. Setting a timer instills a sense of urgency, while splitting up pomodoros with breaks helps to transform big tasks into manageable chunks. Want to try it? Head to


A study by Dr Teresa Lesiuk from the University of Miami, discovered that those who listen to music while working were faster, had better ideas, and experienced positive mood change. Try a range of music and see what works well for you. We love soothing lyric-less music like Balmorhea, and Bill Laurance.

5 Pause your inbox

Emails can be productivity killers, and while limiting the number of times you check your inbox can help, some of us need a little extra support. Boomerang for Gmail has a number of features, but our favourite is the Inbox Pause. This stops new emails from coming in until you’re ready. You set what hours you’re happy to receive emails, giving you the quiet time you need to get your head down.


Ask the experts Counsellor and psychotherapist Lindsay George answers your questions on SAD Read more about Lindsay on

WHAT IS SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is also known as ‘winter depression’, because the symptoms are usually more apparent, and more severe, during the winter.



I find the winter months really difficult, but nobody seems to understand how bad it can be. How can I help other people realise I don’t just have the ‘winter blues’?


It’s frustrating when people around you don’t seem to understand how you are feeling. Knowing you have a support

network, in which you feel comfortable talking to them, or they at least try to understand what you are feeling, is very important in ensuring you get the help you need. While winter blues often involves lack of sleep, SAD will likely leave you feeling fatigued and lethargic, and even getting out of bed can be extremely difficult. All of these symptoms can vary in severity, and if untreated, can have a significant impact on your overall health

and ability to carry out day-today activities. The first step you need to make is speaking to someone. It might be a good idea to make an appointment with your GP, and explain how you are feeling. They will want to know how long you have felt like this, and whether there is a correlation to the weather, your lifestyle and personal circumstances, in order to identify whether you have SAD or depression, or if there is something else going on.

Seasonal Affective Disorder SYMPTOMS


I’m dreading the darker days. How do I manage symptoms of SAD when the UK has such a long winter?


Many people dread the darker, winter months, however, there are a number of things you can do to help yourself get through them, and manage symptoms of SAD.



Is it true that counselling, CBT, and light therapy can be beneficial in managing SAD? How does this work? What should I expect from counselling for SAD?


A combination of counselling, CBT and light therapy can really help manage the symptoms of SAD. The idea behind light therapy is to create a simulation of sunlight, so that the melanopsin receptors in the eyes can trigger the required serotonin

release within the brain for natural sleep cycles, and general feelings of wellbeing. Counselling can help you in a number of ways. A good counsellor will help you to feel supported at all times, and more in control of your problems. They will help you to develop a better sense of self-awareness, and discuss and encourage how to develop better coping skills. If you’re one of the many people who recognise that your mood and wellbeing falter during the winter months, please do take comfort in knowing you are not alone. Help is available.

• Lifestyle measures: Aim to get as much natural sunlight as possible, exercise regularly, and manage stress as best you can. • Light therapy: Invest in a light box to simulate exposure to sunlight. •T  alking therapies: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and/ or counselling to talk about how you’re feeling with a professional. •S  peak to your GP: Your doctor may refer you for further treatment such as counselling, and/or medication. •D  iet and nutrition: Consider speaking with a nutritionist to ensure you are getting the nutrients known to benefit mood and general wellness, such as omega-3 and 6. •S  upplements: Public Health England (PHE) recommends that people in the UK take a daily vitamin D supplement between October and March.

Counselling Directory is part of the Happiful Family | Helping you find the help you need

Overcome with anxiety

Anxiety and panic attacks blighted Calli’s life for years, but after therapy, and starting a blog, she’s on the road to recovery, and is helping to end the stigma around mental illness Writing | Calli Kitson


y first memory of anxiety was when I fainted in my local hairdresser’s. I had no idea why, other than I got too hot and flustered. It happened again during a violin lesson, after I got stressed when I couldn’t read the music notes. I didn’t identify this as anxiety at the time, as I didn’t really know what anxiety was. It was about six years ago that things started to make more sense. It was the summer before I was due to start high school, and I’d been experiencing symptoms of anxiety before every long car journey. 38 • • November 2019

At the time, I didn’t know what it meant or why it was happening – I just wondered what the odd feeling in my stomach was. It became more clear on a trip to the zoo with my sisters, my niece, and my sister’s friend, when the car broke down. We pulled over at the side of the road and the feeling in my stomach began. I started to feel very hot and flustered. I asked my sister if I could step out of the car for some air, but she wouldn’t let me. We were on the side of a very busy road, and it would’ve been really dangerous for me to go out, but at that moment I didn’t care, I just had to get out of the car.

Later that same summer I had my first panic attack when my mum suggested we go to a theme park. I got that horrible feeling in my stomach, clammy hands, became hot and flustered, and I began hyperventilating, which eventually led to a panic attack. My mum, who had experienced her own mental health problems, told me that I probably had anxiety. To be sure, we went to the doctor, who confirmed it. For the past two years, I’ve been on a very long road to recovery after being mentally ill for five months. I’ll be honest, I’m still not fully happy with my mental health.

In those five months, I fell down a hole so deep that I wasn’t sure how I was going to get out. Every time I’d have a moment where I felt sad and low, I’d think: ‘It’s just a phase, this won’t last forever.’ These months of torture began after I started a new job as a chef. Sadly, I only managed three days and had five panic attacks. It was unbearable, so I left. It was around this time when I was out of work and my brain had nothing to focus on, that I became aware of my OCD. Every night I’d go downstairs and begin a series of rituals – and I was aware this wasn’t a normal thing to do. After a bit of research, I soon realised I had OCD.


It’s extremely difficult to do something that makes you anxious. It’s like being stuck in a vicious circle

You can’t predict when a bad mental health day will happen, and you certainly can’t predict a long period in your life when you become mentally ill, but I felt as though the five panic attacks I had during that short period of time affected my mental health massively. In September 2016 I began cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which really helped me to feel better about myself. CBT teaches you about why you get anxious, and ways to calm yourself. Something that also helped me was setting up my blog – ‘Looking Through Rose Tinted Glasses’. It was originally created to be a place

where I could write and share my baking recipes, but now it’s also a place to write about mental health. Allowing other people to share their mental health stories on my blog is a great way of getting people to read and understand how everybody’s mental health is so different. It’s a good place for me to write about my experiences and offer advice.

I called my blog ‘Looking Through Rose Tinted Glasses’ because, ironically, that’s what I do every day. I have a processing disorder called Meares-Irlen Syndrome, which means I find it difficult to process visual information, and the glasses I wear to help this are rose-tinted! Now? I’m a lot better than I was a couple of

years ago, but I recently fell down that same mental health hole once more. It was as if the ladder that was supposed to help me had broken, and had dropped me halfway down again. I’ve had various jobs but hadn’t worked regularly since December 2017. Last year I started a new job, working two days a week in a clothes store. Of course, I was anxious about starting, but not as anxious as I expected. I managed to do my first day, but at the end of my shift, instead of feeling pleased with myself, I felt fed up. The next day, I drove to work, and that’s all I could manage. I was feeling so anxious and sad that I couldn’t physically get out of the car. Returning to work was a lot harder than I thought. I spent most of the day before my next shift feeling incredibly anxious and crying a lot. The next day, the crying started >>> November 2019 • • 39

It was as if the ladder that was supposed to help me had broken and had dropped me halfway down again again. I started walking to work, got to my local park, and that’s all I could manage. I sat on a bench and, oh boy, did I cry. When you have anxiety, it’s extremely difficult to do something that makes you anxious. It’s like being stuck in a vicious circle. In my case, I need to have a job, and I need to make money, but because going to work makes me feel so low and so sad, it’s easier not to go. But if I don’t do this thing that makes me feel anxious, I can’t get better mentally and make progress in my life. I’ve learnt a lot of ways to help my anxiety over the past six years. I have different coping mechanisms, including writing, using what I’ve

40 • • November 2019

learnt in therapy, or using herbal remedies to help me feel less anxious. Looking back at my life these last few years, I can say that I wasn’t like your typical teenager. Maybe, in 10 years’ time, I’ll look back on my teenage years and realise that I didn’t achieve as much as I’d have liked. But that’s OK. People go through stages in their lives where things don’t quite go to plan, and it just so happens that mine was as a teenager. As we reach the final few months of 2019, it’s amazing to see how different my life is now. In 2018, depression took over my life, and the anxiety that came with it just made everything so much harder.

Now, I’ve helped with the shortlisting for the Mind Media Awards. A year ago, I would never have imagined I would be asked to do this. Also, now I write about soaps, continuing dramas, and mental health portrayals in the media. I’ve used my experiences to my advantage, and get to write about mental health to get more people talking. Don’t let anyone tell you that depression won’t change you as a person, because it will – it will make you a better, stronger individual. Calli Kitson is a mental health writer for and Digital Spy. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @callikitson

OUR EXPERT SAYS Calli’s inspirational story highlights the debilitating affect that living with anxiety and depression can have on our wellbeing. Her bravery and strength are admirable. With counselling support, she is facing her difficulties head on, and this has led to her being more able to manage them on a daily basis. Experiencing depression and anxiety doesn’t have to have a negative connotation – it has the potential to empower you, and lead to positive change. Rav Sekhon | BA MA MBACP (Accred) Counsellor and psychotherapist



Welcome in winter with a new way to shop sustainably, get up close and personal with the nation’s favourite pets, and discover the secret to a good night’s sleep

3 1


The National Pet Show Meet the world’s best pets, watch spectacular animal action displays, and enjoy fascinating talks from animal experts at Birmingham NEC. From visiting the animal rescue barn, to meeting the dogs with jobs, it’s the purrrfect place to enjoy some animal company. (2–3 November. For more info and tickets visit

Images | Little earthlings: @littlearthlings


Littlearthlings Enjoy positive affirmations and words of encouragement from Littlearthlings. These cheerful illustrations are gentle reminders to be kind to yourself, and believe you can do it. You can even share them with a friend who might be feeling down, to let them know they are not alone. (Follow @littlearthlings on Instagram)


PAGE-TURNERS The Art of Sleeping by Rob Hobson If you lie awake wondering how to get a good night’s sleep, this could be the answer to all your problems. Written by nutritionist Rob Hobson, The Art of Sleeping explores the three pillars of a good night’s sleep: behaviour, environment, and diet (BED). (Out 14 November, HarperCollins, £9.99)





Ally Pally’s Fireworks Festival Enjoy foot-stomping live music, a taste of Bavaria at the German beer festival, and classic cult films in a stunning Victorian theatre, at London’s biggest fireworks festival. Wrap up warm and bring your earmuffs for the incredible firework display! (1–2 November. For more information on the festival, head to

AllTrails: Hike, Run & Cycle Whether you prefer walking, cycling or running, spending time in the great outdoors can do wonders for your wellbeing. Explore more than 75,000 hiking, running and biking trails around the world, track your own routes, and save your favourites. Adventure is out there! (Download from the App Store and Google Play, find out more at Continues >>>

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future – THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

Photography | Ian Stauffer




Images | Forzen 2: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Night of Neon:

‘Feel Better, Live More’ with Dr Rangan Chatterjee GP, presenter and author, Rangan Chaterjee is on a mission to make health simpler. Each week he is joined by guests such as Matt Haig, Natasha Devon, and Emma Willis, who share their own health journeys to help you become the healthiest version of yourself. (Visit for more, and listen to the podcast on iTunes and Spotify)





Movember With more pressure on men than ever before, take time this month to highlight men’s mental health. Throughout November, Movember is the charity that’s challenging men to grow moustaches and raise funds for life-changing men’s health projects. But it’s not just for those with furry faces. From fun runs to local events, anyone can get involved to help end the stigma. (November 2019, visit to find events near you)


Frozen 2 The Disney musical that melted our hearts is back for a second instalment! Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven set out on a quest to find the origin of Elsa’s powers, in an effort to save their kingdom. Frozen 2 is the perfect family favourite to get you in the mood for winter.



Night of Neon Manchester Wear your brightest outfit and light up the night. Choose from the 5K and 10K routes, and raise money for the Christie Charity while you dance, walk or run your way around Salford Quays. Time to get glowing! (9 November, find out more at

(In cinemas 22 November)



Sustainable shopping Trying to be more eco-conscious can be hard, especially with the amount of waste packaging can bring when shopping. Wearth is a website that stocks ecofriendly and ethical products, making it easier for you to shop and live more consciously. Search products by values such as plasticfree, vegan-friendly, and sustainable materials. (Visit to find out more) Win a £25 voucher to spend on Wearth London! What percentage of plastic packaging is the UK’s target to recycle by 2020? a) 27%, b) 55%, c) 75% To enter, email your answer to UK mainland only, entries close 21 November 2019.


How to support a friend with

borderline personality disorder

BPD can be a tricky illness for friends and loved ones to understand, but there are lots of ways that you can be supportive without becoming overwhelmed by the condition’s symptoms Writing | Harriet Williamson Illustrating | Rosan Magar


orderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder, is a broad diagnosis characterised by difficulties with mood and interaction with others. It means that sufferers often think – and perceive the world – differently from the average person, and they may form very intense relationships that end up being short-lived. Unfortunately, personality disorders like BPD still carry a great deal of stigma, due in part to outdated ideas about the condition, and labels such as ‘toxic’ that still get unfairly attached to people with BPD. Despite their difficulties forming and maintaining

stable relationships, BPD sufferers can be the warmest, most empathetic and loving people, and offer truly rewarding connections. Although the condition can be hard to manage – not just for the sufferer, but for those around them – there are practical things that you can do to make sure that your relationship with someone who has this mental health condition is positive and solid.


Ensuring that you know what BPD entails will make life easier for both yourself and your friend. A quick read of the NHS or Mind websites will offer plenty of insight into the illness, and will mean that you can approach difficult situations with more awareness and compassion.


The hypersensitivity that comes with BPD means that those close to sufferers may feel as though they are ‘walking on

eggshells’ at times. But, this doesn’t have to be the case. Open and clear communication is key, as is a basic sensitivity towards things going on in the other person’s life. For example, if someone with BPD feels unhappy or unsupported at work, dismissing these concerns with words such as ‘You won’t find a better job elsewhere’ is definitely not the right approach. For a BPD sufferer, this sounds like ‘I don’t care about you’ and ‘You don’t deserve to work in an environment where you feel comfortable’. Being sensitive doesn’t mean treating the other person like they’re made of glass, but it does mean having an awareness of the impact of your words and actions.


BPD is often accompanied by intense fears of abandonment, heightened by the transient nature of many relationships in the sufferer’s life. If you’ve had a string of broken or incredibly short friendships, you might be very wary of others, and terrified of being left or let down.

As the friend of someone with BPD, it’s helpful to be as consistent as possible with what you say and do. If you make plans, try to keep them, or offer a clear reason why you can’t. Make sure you’re not blowing hot and cold.

BPD sufferers can be the warmest, most empathetic and loving people, and offer truly rewarding connections 4 ENCOURAGE SELF-CARE

People with BPD often have a hard time caring for themselves. They might believe that they don’t deserve to be cared for or loved, and may engage in self-destructive behaviours such as self-harm, compulsive spending, bingeeating or starving themselves, and abuse of drugs and alcohol. As a friend, it’s incredibly important to

promote caring behaviours without shaming the sufferer if they do slip into destructive patterns. Baths or showers, distracting books and films, scented candles, and time spent with pets, are positive ways to deal with emotional instability that you could suggest. Sometimes, just the offer of a coffee and a listening ear can be a game changer for someone struggling with the daily realities of BPD.


Having BPD can be like living with an evil gremlin inside your head, constantly putting you down and telling you that you’re unlovable, or not good enough. Try to counter this perspective by telling your friend what you like about them. They may be an excellent listener, really good at baking, or amazing when they make you laugh. Let them know this.


As much as possible, try not to be a ‘fair-weather friend’, who’s around when things are going well, but absent when times are tough. Of course, it’s important to make sure that you care for yourself, too. It’s entirely possible to be supportive without putting your own wellbeing at risk. Just offering to be there at the end of the phone or making positive plans for the next week can be so meaningful for someone with BPD when they are struggling with self-destructive impulses or overwhelming emotions.

September 2019 • • 45

The Full

De-Brief A bundle of energy, positivity and fun, Georgina Horne has gone from working in a restaurant, to travelling the world as a plus-size model. Through her fullerfigurefullerbust social media platform, the 31-year-old has created an online community for the larger lady in a bid to promote body positivity. Having faced fat-shamers throughout much of her life, she channelled her experiences into a support group helping women to embrace their curves, boost their confidence, and feel empowered. However, it’s not always been a smooth catwalk for Georgina. Here, she tells Happiful about coping with trolls, her mental health, and why now – 27 years after her mother’s death – she has turned to therapy >>> Interview | Suzanne Baum Photography | Alison Webster


t’s rather fitting to interview Georgina in a room full of half-dressed women. For, without her support, it seems possible that many of the 100 or so ladies here would have never dreamed of flashing their flesh in public. And by this I mean happily agreeing to be photographed at a lingerie shoot for Curvy Kate – a brand which uses its diverse range of customers as models, for which Georgina is fronting a campaign. As we sit together in a corner of the studio, I feel instantly at ease with Georgina; so it seems does everyone else as they grab her for a hug and look on fondly as we chat. In fact, although I am the only woman in the room wearing a top and skirt, I feel somewhat underdressed beside Georgina, who is modelling a gorgeous limegreen, off-the-shoulder, tropical print set that features in a new collection she’s designed. “Feeling comfortable in your own skin is so important,” Georgina tells me, and it’s clear she embraces this herself. The outfit hugs Georgina’s body in all the right places, and with her flawless skin and good looks she seems every inch the vintage pin-up. Glamour aside, Georgina has such a bubbly personality and warmth, which undoubtedly adds to her charm online, where she has amassed a huge following of more than 250,000 on Instagram. A former waitress, Georgina’s world changed overnight seven years ago, when she started an online blog for plus-size ladies. It was a time before blogging had taken off, and Georgina believes the success she enjoyed was partly down to the fact that she was filling a niche before anyone else. >>>

“I had entered a competition for Curvy Kate and came third, and although I didn’t win, the amount of support I got for putting myself out there in the first place was immense. For years I had put up with fat-shamers – including shopkeepers, neighbours and even former friends – who seemed disgusted by my size. From the support I received following the competition, I realised that largersized women needed a platform where they could come together.” Growing up, Georgina developed what she described as “large breasts” and “a fat bottom” at secondary school, and found going through puberty a challenging time. “I used to get a lot of nasty remarks about my size, and bullying became the norm.” But she refused to let the bullies get her down. “I was always quite a cheeky and cocky child, which kind of gave me some inner confidence to cope,” she says. And alongside these traits, Georgina had a passion for writing, so it was no surprise that she took to blogging so easily. “Blogging proved so therapeutic for me,” Georgina recalls. “I could write about things that bothered me, and realised that so many people could understand and relate to my situation. Being large is not easy; everything from finding the right bra shape, facing rude shop assistants, and even intimacy as a bigger woman, were things that only people like myself could understand.” What started as “diary entries” soon became something much bigger, with brands reaching out to Georgina for lingerie and clothes

collaborations, leading to jobs with international designers that soon saw Georgina flying to places such as Milan for modelling work. “Being appreciated for my size, rather than revolted by it, gave me the belief that people were finally able to see past models of one size. “I felt empowered to help women look and feel their best, whatever their size or shape. I think that through my blog I was able to spread a message of body positivity, being able to love oneself at any size.”

“I always thought the deep sadness I felt at losing my mother would fade, but on the contrary, the grief got deeper” Having always been a fan of exercise, Georgina often posts pictures of herself at the gym or doing burpees, dismissing the myth that ‘fat girls can’t lead a healthy lifestyle’. She also hosts – alongside another popular plus-size blogger, Hayley Stewart – a very successful yoga retreat abroad, where women of all sizes come to switch off. “Yes, of course I sweat buckets when I exercise; at times I am exhausted and gasping for a drink, but I’m normal. I’d much rather be large and happy, than thin and miserable, and I’m brilliant at yoga by the way – that’ll have the body-shaming trolls bending over backwards!” With her huge grin and sparkly eyes, Georgina tells me that she

always tries to smile at everyone to put them at ease. Her desire to embrace life is infectious – especially for someone who had such a difficult childhood. Georgina’s mother died from breast cancer when Georgina was just four years old – a tragedy she believes she never properly dealt with. “Over the years, I always thought the deep sadness I felt at losing my mother would fade, but on the contrary, the grief got deeper. Every milestone in my life I wish my mum was here to see it. I am very conscious that in a few years I will be 34 – the same age she was when she died. I feel like I’ve kind of hit a brick wall.” It was finally admitting that she needs professional help that encouraged Georgina to go into therapy. “I’d had the worst childhood trauma, which often left me feeling anxious, tight-chested and, at times, deeply sad. I knew I had to address the issue, and although it has taken me decades to admit it, seeking therapy was exactly what I needed to do.” Having started counselling, Georgina is adamant that it is the best way forward. “Getting things off my chest, as it were, may sound tongue-in-cheek, but talking through problems really does help. “I get so many women messaging me about how grateful they are for my honest account of what it is like being plus-sized – it feels good that I’ve built a community where we encourage conversations, to ensure everyone has each other’s back.” When it comes to mental health, Georgina knows only too well how soul-destroying it can be for people

with weight issues to strive to be skinny. “It’s no surprise that some of the younger generation who have grown up with social media develop issues because they want to lead the ‘perfect Instagram life’. “It makes me even more passionate about spreading the word about the importance of talking. Whether that means to a community like ours, your friends, or a therapist. “With my own grief counselling, I have learnt coping mechanisms on how to start healing myself. Although I am proud of what I have achieved, I am constantly aware of just how fragile life can be.” It goes without saying that if you are in the public eye there will always be trolls, and Georgina has had her fair share of them. From vulgar comments on her Instagram posts, to an outcry of “disgust” when she chose to lose some weight for her wedding, Georgina has learnt to turn a blind eye. “Empowering women is my goal. Although brands are starting to look at making bigger-sized clothes for larger ladies, fatism is still as bad as it always was. “Nobody likes to be the elephant in the room,” she adds, “whatever size or shape you are. I mean look at all these wonderful women in this studio not giving a toss – they are happy, healthy and embracing life. They may be friends I have made through my social channels, but they are the real deal – the best bosom buddies a girl can have.” Follow Georgina on Instagram @fullerfigurefullerbust, and read more from her at

November 2019 • • 49

Take our word for it Back yourself with these uplifting affirmation cards

Some days we feel like we’re on top of the world, and other days we need to have a word with ourselves. But it makes all the difference if those words are kind. Gone are the days when we would frustratedly hiss at ourselves in the mirror to ‘get a grip’ – negative selftalk is so last season. Pepping yourself up with positive affirmations has the power to transform your psychology. And we’ve got the science to back it up. After looking at the way that our brains respond to affirmations, a 2015 study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that self-affirmations activate the brain systems associated with rewards and self-image. In other words, they’re good for us on a neurobiological level.

This month, we’re bringing you a set of positive affirmation cards. Cut them out and display them on your dressing table, your desk at work, or anywhere you feel like you need a boost. As the darker days begin to draw in, it can be easy to lose the positive spark that flourished throughout the summer months. If you feel like you need to pick up your energy this autumn, we hope that these affirmation cards will do the trick. We all need to learn to back ourselves. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it can take us a lifetime to unlearn bad self-talk habits. But take the first step to a kinder, more uplifted you. Chose to believe in yourself. You’ve got this, we know it.

Every two hours in the UK, a man takes his own life‌ The stats are shocking, but behind the numbers are real men, with real, individual experiences, struggling and urgently needing our help. Here, writer and mental health advocate, Richard Taylor, pens a moving open letter, putting out the call for us all to think about how we can make a difference to the lives of others >>>

Dear Society, I’ve been trying to write to you for a long time, but I’ve never been quite sure who I’m speaking to. Maybe I’ll have figured it out by the end of this letter, but while I’ve got your attention, I’d like to talk about the fragile and complex conversation regarding male suicide and men’s mental health (and yes, it’s still taboo, and it is still necessary to keep talking about it). There have been gargantuan strides made with regards to addressing mental health in society. Every other office has a mental health first aider (OK, slight exaggeration, but run with me please), it’s brought up in conversation in pubs and on the telly, radio programmes talk about it, and celebrities have helped to bring the topic to a wider audience, and acted as role models to show us how important it is to talk about mental health, and be open and honest with each other. Yet, in spite of this, 84 men die by suicide every week. Every two hours in the UK, a man takes his own life, affecting families, friends, and creating a ripple that will go on to devastate those who are left behind, leaving them weighed down with questions and heartache. When my dad broke down in front of me in tears, racked with fear, what he said next would go on to shape the rest of my life and our relationship together. “I can’t do this any more, Richard. I’m watching my son die in front of me and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, and I just can’t take it anymore. So if you’re gonna go, let’s go together. Because my life isn’t worth living without you.”

52 • • November 2019

Richard is a writer, mental health advocate, and campaigner. He works for GoodGym, and when he’s not working or writing can be found with his head in a book or playing Playstation. He is incredibly open about his own experiences with mental health on Instagram and Twitter, and you can follow him over @RichBiscuit21

For context, at this point in my life I had effectively been bedbound for nine months at the cruel, invisible hands of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I was dangerously underweight, my mental compulsions and rituals were omnipresent and oppressive, controlling every aspect of my behaviour and thoughts. I had to be bathed with the help of my dad as I stood naked, bereft of any dignity, and I could only go to the toilet once a day – again with my dad’s help. If you’re reading this and wondering what form that help took, he held a carrier bag under me so I could go to the toilet, and then disposed of it for me. It made me feel feral and it stripped me of my humanity every day, but that is the nature of OCD – it cares not for how it makes you feel, or what it compels you to do. My life revolved around a 24-hour cycle of waiting to feel clean enough for all of the intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours to stop.

I was between the ages of 18 and 20 when all of this occurred, so from a male perspective, having to rely on someone to pretty much care for you in all aspects of your life felt overwhelming – especially when that person was so closely related. I had regressed to childhood, incapable of keeping myself alive and functioning. Previously, OCD had prevented me from living an ordinary life and, at this time, I’d already

Society is those willing to bare their pain, grief and sorrow to the world, and invite others into those emotions been learning to alter my days according to the new set of rules that OCD forced me to live by. I was living a secret double-life behind closed doors that I tried desperately to keep hidden from everyone around me. For my dad, I can only imagine what he must have been experiencing; as a father watching his son fade away in front of his eyes, to speak those words, let alone think them. The desperation and hopelessness had to be excruciating. I’ve since spoken to him about what he was feeling, and he said that his only thought was not wanting me to die alone. He explained that afterwards, he felt guilty that he never thought about his mum, my mum or my future life, only that he did not want to see me suffering. So what am I asking you to do, as a member of society, to help men like myself and many others? Listen to us. Hear us when we say we’re struggling, and don’t assume that we’ve got a load of mates who we can turn to. WhatsApp group chats aren’t the kind of places where mates discuss depression, suicide and other complex mental health topics, but why not? These spaces should be fertile ground for

Richard, his partner, Megan (middle), and their close friend, Laura (right), exploring the wintry sights of Vilnius, Lithuania, in November 2018

open, healthy and compassionate conversations for blokes to look out for each other. Invariably, when you ask a guy how he’s feeling, he’ll fob you off with a casual: “I’m fine.” But don’t let him get away with it! Press him on it if you’re concerned, because nothing bad can come out of directly asking someone how they’re feeling. If you’re in a group setting and notice someone acting differently, give them a nudge later on when there’s a bit of privacy. We hear and see all too often the gutwrenching posts on Facebook and Instagram from guys who have lost a friend to suicide who regret not asking sooner. Opportunities to have these kinds of conversations are on the rise as a direct result of campaigns from mental health charities and organisations targeting men specifically. A simple reminder that poor mental health isn’t a sign of weakness, and to admit that you’re not coping well is all it takes. From

experience, I know most men are crying out for someone to talk to, but they feel like reaching out will make them a burden to friends and family. So I go back to my original question; who is society? Society is you, reading this right now. It’s me, writing about my personal experiences. Society is built on the conversations between us and the courage we have to challenge the norms that have been built on beliefs that no longer reflect the majority. Society is those willing to bare their pain, grief and sorrow to the world, and invite others into those emotions. It is the people of all different cultures, creeds, races and religions, gender or age, sexual orientation or financial status. We all have the power as individuals to help shape what society looks like, and how it cares for us. I think that when it comes to the men in our lives, we need to hold on to the hope that we’ve not missed the boat, and tell them that we’re listening.

Photography | Jeryd Gillum

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be


Living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder

They are two similar conditions, but triggered in different ways – and each comes with its own range of symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about CPTSD vs PTSD Writing | Hattie Gladwell


nxiety, racing heart, nightmares, and flashbacks making you relive the worst moments of your life, over and over again. Many of us are familiar with the concept of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); an anxiety condition which may develop after being involved in, or witnessing, traumatic events. First identified in war veterans, it can also be triggered by a wide range of traumatic experiences. But just knowing what PTSD is, doesn’t convey the true, debilitating reality for those experiencing it. It’s trying to live your daily life, not knowing when or what might trigger those flashbacks. It’s feeling on high alert, constantly on guard, all the time. It’s the world moving on around you, and trying to move with it, only to be snapped back and trapped reliving your darkest moments.

Sometimes these symptoms are a sign of PTSD, but what you may not have heard of is another similar condition that has some key differences: complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).


CPTSD is a form of PTSD that is vastly different from the traditional diagnosis. Unlike PTSD, which can develop at any age, CPTSD generally arises after someone experiences longlasting, on-going trauma from an early age. It is also common in people who have experienced multiple traumas, or were harmed by someone close. Alongside traditional PTSD symptoms, which can include nightmares, anxiety, feeling unsafe, and a lack of trust in people, CPTSD has additional symptoms that can often be confused with borderline personality disorder (BPD). >>>

These symptoms include difficulty in controlling emotions, feeling hostile or distrustful towards the world, feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, or being damaged, feeling that nobody understands, and having regular suicidal thoughts. People with CPTSD may also experience dissociative symptoms, such as depersonalisation or derealisation.


One of the main differences between the conditions is in the form of flashbacks. For PTSD, these are usually quite visual, but most people who experience CPTSD have emotional flashbacks instead. This is where you have the intense feelings you originally felt during the trauma, such as fear, shame, sadness, or despair. Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of the Chelsea Psychology Clinic, in London, says the main difference is that PTSD tends to happen as a result of one very traumatic event, whereas CPTSD occurs when that trauma has been prolonged, and typically stretched over a very long period of time. “CPTSD shares the same symptoms as PTSD but typically presents alongside additional symptoms, too,” says Dr Touroni. “Those affected will likely suffer from flashbacks and distressing images, and/or nightmares of the trauma itself, sleeping difficulties, problems concentrating, and a racing heart – all common symptoms in PTSD.

56 • • November 2019

“They’ll experience difficulties regulating their emotions, disassociation, an unstable sense of identity, and problems with relationships, too. “Because the trauma was so prolonged, people experiencing CPTSD will usually carry very heavy feelings of hopelessness. They might even believe they are responsible for what happened to them.” Dr Touroni explains that because having difficulties with regulating emotions is a common feature of CPTSD, people experiencing it might find it hard to identify or control their emotions, which can cause problems in their relationships – exemplified also by feelings of mistrust.

Because the trauma was so prolonged, people experiencing CPTSD will usually carry very heavy feelings of hopelessness WHAT IS IT LIKE TO EXPERIENCE CPTSD?

We spoke with Elena, 28, was diagnosed with CPTSD in 2017. She struggled with her mental health from a young age, but her diagnosis only came after an inpatient stay. She was initially wrongly diagnosed with borderline

personality disorder by a psychiatrist, which Elena says she knew wasn’t right. After several months of working with her psychotherapist, her diagnosis was eventually corrected. For Elena, CPTSD mainly presents as anxiety and depression. “It affects my life so much,” she explains. “I have flashbacks, my dreams and sleep are really affected, I have no confidence in anything I do, and constantly seek reassurance. “I attempted to end my life when I was 17. I’ve been on and off medication since I was 15. Only after I had my complete breakdown in 2017 has it started to get better, and now I can live a pretty much normal life, although I still have flare ups. All of my flashbacks are emotional, the only visuals I’ll have are in my dreams.” Elena says she feels her CPTSD differs from PTSD, because it wasn’t just one event that caused it. “I have so many traumatic memories, and flashbacks are so common for me from so many things,” she says. “Only now that I have been having therapy for years, and have been reading so much about the science of trauma, am I finally realising how each of these little traumas has built up and affected me over time. I lost my relationship, job and home because of it.” Chloe, 24, also has CPTSD, which is the result of a number of medical traumas from the age of 16. She says: “I was surprised when I was diagnosed with CPTSD, because I didn’t realise you could get it from medical trauma. I’ve always been quite unlucky with my health, but

two near-death experiences have really affected me. “In 2011 I fell ill, and was misdiagnosed at the hospital. I had pneumonia, but because it wasn’t caught early enough it collapsed my lung. I ended up in an intensive care unit, and had two litres of fluid drained from my lung.” In 2015, Chloe fell ill again, after experiencing symptoms such as severe weight loss and stomach cramps for two years, but doctors told her it was ‘women’s troubles’. “I ended up in hospital with suspected appendicitis,” she says. “I had my appendix removed, but I continued to get worse. I was lying in a hospital bed in horrendous pain when I started hearing popping sounds from my stomach. “My large bowel had actually started to perforate. I was rushed to theatre, had a three-hour operation to remove my large intestine, and woke up with a stoma bag. I was traumatised.” Chloe says that now her anxiety about her health and misdiagnosis has increased – if she starts to feel remotely ill she will panic and have an emotional flashback, giving her the same feelings she had both times in hospital. These experiences have changed her personality and dependency on people, making her more of an emotional person, who has difficulty controlling her moods. “I struggle with suicidal feelings, and feelings of hopelessness,” she says. “I’m in therapy and working on it, but I know I’ve got a long road ahead of me. I’m thankful to have a correct diagnosis so I know what I’m working with, and so I can understand my symptoms better.”


For anyone concerned about their mental health, the first thing you should do is speak to your GP, and get in touch with a mental health professional. Specifically with CPTSD, Dr Touroni says: “Trauma that has happened over a long period of time can sometimes take time to unravel, so I’d encourage people to be patient with themselves. “Healing is very much possible, but it can take time. When someone has felt very powerless, it is about building up that sense of

self and empowerment gradually. Practise self-care as much as possible, and do the things that nourish you. Getting outdoors, plenty of fresh air, grounding techniques, and practising mindfulness breathing exercises, can all be really beneficial.” For more information on CPTSD and PTSD, and to find a professional to support you, visit For more from Hattie, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @hattiegladwell

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Create a plan to address stress When did you last feel stressed? For most of us, it will have been incredibly recent – in the past 48 hours. But the good news is you don’t have to keep feeling this way... Writing | Nathalie Kealy


ou might be all too familiar with symptoms of stress, such as feeling foggy in your mind, tense muscles, difficulty going to sleep, waking up feeling tired, being preoccupied with worries about the future, nausea, digestion issues – the list goes on. Stress can feel like a tricky cycle to break free from, as often the symptoms then add to our stress, and we feel worse. But the good news is there’s a simple way we can manage the impact of stress, and it’s all about planning. A study by American psychologist Robert Epstein found that above all other techniques, planning is the most effective tool in living a happier and stress-free life – it helps us gain perspective, prioritise, and turn a daunting todo list into manageable chunks. As a calm and confidence coach, completing this simple planning tool or ‘safety plan’ is one of the first stages I take my clients through. It’s one of the most practical tools you can use, helping you to feel more in control of your life, motivating you to achieve your goals, and helping to maintain balance and calm. Encouraging people to write down their goals, and considering potential barriers that could come up, offers a sense of security and confidence that when stressful

You’ll need a pen, a piece of A4 paper and a quiet space

things happen, you will be prepared for it, using this plan as an anchor back to a place of calm and stability. Here’s what to do:

same simple technique to our mental wellbeing can have a similar effect.



Ask yourself this question, and write down what might help you stick to this goal. For example: reading, taking a bath, yoga, talking to a friend. When we are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, our brain isn’t as resourceful as usual. This can mean we struggle to find a way to get back on track, and can quickly lose sight of our goal. The simple way to get around this? Be prepared. Think in advance about what will help to motivate you.


Think about what you want to work on, then flip it on its head and think about the positive behaviour you want to achieve. For example: I want to feel less stressed. Therefore my goal is to feel calm and relaxed. Spending a few minutes physically writing down your goal forces you to clarify exactly what it is, and encourages it to become a reality, meaning you will take it more seriously. In most areas of our lives we have goals – physical health goals, career goals, life goals – which can help to anchor and motivate us. So applying that

Systematically work through those vulnerable times in your day, or potential barriers that might come up, and identify what positive behaviour you can use to ensure these situations don’t throw you off track. For example: if an argument happens at work, then I will go to my desk and listen to music for five minutes. If I start to overthink a situation, then I will distract myself by going for a walk. Note: if you’re prone to catastrophising, this might not be the best method for you, unless you can really focus on the ‘then’ part. We’re all unique, and the most effective techniques might vary for individuals. The course of life never did run smooth, but remember the more we prepare ourselves, the less impact these situations will have on our mood. Having all this written down can take the pressure off you having to think of coping strategies in the moment when your mind is most vulnerable. If you’re interested in exploring this further, Nathalie offers a free ‘find your inner calm’ coaching consultation call. Facebook | @valueyourmind Instagram | @value_your_mind

Nathalie is offering 20% off her coaching packs this month for Happiful readers. Visit, and use the code HAPPIFULREADER by 17 November.

Seasonal salad It’s sticky, sweet, and the perfect recipe for all occasions Writing | Ellen Hoggard


s the days get darker, the harder I find it becomes to choose fresh, colourful foods for mealtimes. When there’s a chill in the air, I tend to lean towards one-pot, warming meals such as stews and soups. But this year I’m wanting something different. While summer seems a distant memory, I want to cling on to the fruits and vegetables, eating the rainbow in abundance. That said, the change in season brings with it a whole host of in-season and local produce. Shopping seasonally and experimenting with new recipes can be incredibly enjoyable, as well as beneficial for the environment. So as we say goodbye to the sweet strawberries and beautifully ripe citrus fruits, we can turn to the equally as delicious, autumn vegetables: butternut squash and parsnips. This month, you'll find a recipe for a sticky and sweet winter salad, featuring two of my favourite root vegetables, with a special summer twist. Put away the gravy – this recipe is light, but filling. It’s sweet, yet savoury, and is perfect for lunch or dinner.


• 1 butternut squash • 2 red onions • 4 parsnips • 3 tbsp olive oil • 1–2 tbsp honey or agave syrup • 1 small ciabatta • 225g spinach • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar • 1 tsp Dijon mustard Optional: crumble feta cheese over the top to serve. If you want to make the salad more substantial, add chicken or tofu. Method • Preheat the oven to 220 degrees, gas mark 7. • Slice the butternut squash into thin wedges, and add to a large roasting tin. Slice the onions and parsnips, and add to the tin. Drizzle with half the olive oil, and season. • Roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with honey. Tear the ciabatta and add to the tin. Roast for a further 5–10 minutes until toasted. • In a large bowl prepare the spinach. Remove the vegetables

and add to the bowl. In a small jug, whisk the vinegar, mustard and remaining oil. Season to taste. Add to the salad and toss. Serve warm with a crumbling of feta cheese.

Find a nutritionist near you at

OUR EXPERT SAYS‌ This wonderful seasonal salad will offer you many vitamins and minerals, alongside a number of antiinflammatory properties. Due to the variety of vegetables, this salad is high in fibre and has a rich nutritional profile. The combination of fibrous vegetables with olive oil promotes gut motility, and aids digestion, thus improving bowel movements, while also supporting the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. The butternut squash, parsnips and spinach are all rich in potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure. Plus, the high vitamin C content in both squash and parsnips will not only help your skin glow, but will also boost your immune system. The salad boasts a number of superb anti-inflammatory foods, such as red onions – which contain twice as many antioxidants as any other onion. They help the body produce cysteine, which can aid detoxification and improve fat metabolism. The spinach, which contains an abundance of vitamin K, helps to protect our nerves, and contributes to proper brain function. A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil has a high polyphenol content, making it another significant anti-inflammatory ingredient. Josephine (Beanie) Robinson is a nutritional therapist, yoga and meditation teacher and co-founder of The Health Space, helping individuals find the time to take their health and wellbeing seriously. Find out more at

Going with your gut

What’s your first thought when you hear ‘menu planning’? For many, it might spark reminders of meal prep, and a rigorous, repeated cycle of food. But the truth is you can bring the magic back to mealtimes, and make life a little easier for yourself, by combining intuitive eating and menu planning Writing | Laura Thomas


or many of us who’ve been caught up in the diet cycle for most of our lives, menu planning summons imagery of sad Tupperware boxes, filled with insipid-looking chicken, oversteamed broccoli, and cauliflower that has the audacity to call itself ‘rice’. It can feel regimented and restrictive, and the thought of it might bum you out a bit. But on the flip side, intuitive eating, can feel like freedom from the rules. After all, the whole point of it is to reject dogmatic diet rules, reconnect with the signals your body is sending you, and find pleasure and satisfaction in what you’re eating. That’s the short version anyway! The longer version is that intuitive eating is a framework of 10 guiding principles that help you develop a healthier relationship with food and your body. It’s a process of moving away from, and completely deconstructing, food rules. It’s getting away from external influences on what you should or shouldn’t eat, and instead making food choices based on internal cues – hunger and fullness, satiety, but also pleasure, and how food makes you feel. Above all, it’s a connection between your brain and body. It helps you to understand emotional eating, and develop new skills for looking after yourself. It brings all these things together with intuitive movement and gentle nutrition – instead of punitive exercise just for burning calories. So, what if you’re working through the principles of intuitive eating and finding you’re craving

The Food Foundation’s Broken Plate report estimates that the poorest 10% of UK households would need to spend 74% of their disposable income on food to meet the Eatwell Guide costs. This compares to only 6% in the richest 10%. Food security is not available to everyone in this country. If you are able to, please consider donating to, or volunteering with your local food bank.

a little bit of structure? Or you can’t afford to buy whatever you fancy for lunch? Is menu planning antithetical to the flexibility and adaptability baked into the principles of intuitive eating? The short answer is no. But it is important to check in with your motivations for doing this – to take care of yourself, or out of fear? This is something that comes up regularly with our clients at the London Centre for Intuitive Eating, so we’ve put together some ideas on how you can approach menu planning without triggering diet mentality. Of course, if menu planning does feel too similar to ‘meal prep’, or you just don’t want to, then you don’t have to; it’s your call. Intuitive eating is about finding what works best for you and there is no single ‘correct’ way of approaching it. Stay curious, and if things don’t go to plan, offer yourself some compassion; we’re all human. What would it be like if we were kind to ourselves, instead of beating ourselves up? Menu planning can be a useful tool if you’re on a budget. However, I appreciate that not everyone has the economic security to to get exactly what they want, or enough to eat. If you’re in this position, the Trussell Trust is a nationwide network of food banks that can provide emergency food parcels, and connect you with support services.

For those looking for a little gentle, supportive structure around menu planning, read on...

Step 1 Before you get started, here are some things to consider. Take what works for you, leave the rest. • C  heck in with your intentions behind menu planning – is it coming from a place of self-care, or self-control and fear? • I t can be helpful to reframe this as your menu for the week – not a ‘plan’ that you have to stick to. Remember to consider which days or meals you may be eating out, or have to pick something up. •T  hink about balancing your meals – this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a little gentle nutritional guidance to help cover your bases: grain, protein, fibre, fat, and calcium. Don’t worry if you don’t check all boxes at each meal, just notice how it feels. How are your mood and energy levels when you skip a grain (bread, pasta etc.) at lunch? Is the afternoon a slog? • D  on’t forget a fun food – meals are something to look forward to and enjoy. •T  hink about playing with flavours, textures, temperatures, and get plenty of variety. Think about >>>

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which type of cuisine you might want to experiment with, and consider adding a new recipe to your repertoire. • L  ook for inspiration from your favourite chefs, home cooks, and recipe books rather than ‘clean eaters’, which might leave you feeling unsatisfied. It can be worth bookmarking some of your favourite recipes. • I nclude quick and easy options for days when you don’t have the time or energy to cook from scratch – ready meals in the freezer, or a cook-at-home pizza with a salad. And don’t forget the humble beans on toast with cheese on top – economical, quick, balanced, and satisfying. • G  ive yourself permission to be flexible – if your friend asks for a last-minute dinner date (assuming you want to go), you can shuffle things about. Ultimately, intuitive eating is about being flexible so you don’t miss out on other important aspects of your life that dieting and obsessing about weight can often steal from you. •Y  our menu is about being kind to yourself, not something to beat yourself up about if things don’t go to plan. That curry you batchcooked can be thrown in the freezer for another day. • D  on’t forget to schedule in some self-care each day – it can be low-key, such as going for a walk or listening to a podcast, or less exciting but important stuff, such as doing laundry, going to the doctor, or simply resting.

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Step 2 Here are some questions that might be helpful for you when planning your menu for the week. These help you focus on aspects of the meal other than worrying about the minutiae of macros, calories, or other diet-y distractions. Menu for the week of – How’s the weather looking this week? Do I want something warming or cooling, or a mixture of options?

– Which flavours and textures am I craving? Salty, spicy, sweet, umami, creamy, crunchy, gooey, flaky, wholesome, comforting, refreshing?

– How’s my energy level and time availability? Do I want to cook from scratch, or do I need some more convenient options?

– Which days am I busy and need to pick something up on the go, or have plans to go out to eat? When might I want to pack a lunch?

– Is there a specific food I’ve been craving I could add into my rotation this week?

– Can I double up any of my recipes to stash in the freezer, or have as leftovers?

– Breakfast ideas for this week:

– Snack ideas for this week:

– Main meal ideas for this week:

– Fun food and dessert ideas for this week:

– A new meal, dish, or snack I want to try:

Remember that your menu is about being kind to yourself, not something to beat yourself up about if things don’t go to plan Step 3 Fill out as much or as little of the table as feels good to you: Mon











Dinner Snack/ dessert Self-care activity for today You can follow Laura on Instagram @laurathomasphd, or download her podcast, ‘Don’t Salt My Game’, on Laura’s book, ‘Just Eat It’, is available now.

November 2019 • • 65




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Trauma and anxiety kept me constantly on edge After getting support for his PTSD and anxiety, Jack’s mental health was improving, but something was still off. It was in transforming his mindset that his life really changed... Writing | Jack Walton


itting on the edge of my bed one night in 2013, it felt like a particularly dark one. It wasn’t the first time, and it definitely wouldn’t be the last, where I said both physically to myself, and mentally, that I didn’t want to wake up the next morning. If life was to continue like this for me, I didn’t want to be a part of it. Fast forward six years and things couldn’t be more different. I’m beyond grateful that I finally reached the light at the end of a very dark, and sometimes lonely, tunnel. Growing up with a single parent wasn’t always easy; my dad left when I was just

six years old. I couldn’t totally comprehend the enormity of the situation, and although I never had a happy relationship with him, I never expected this. This experience and situation had a lasting effect on me for a long time to come. Overall, primary school and my childhood was a happy time – I never really wanted for anything, and had a nice circle of friends. But everything came crashing down to earth when I started high school in 2009. It was apparent from the off-set that I was different in some way – I wasn’t openly gay then, and certainly hadn’t found myself. Realising I was

different and not like the other boys was a pretty damaging experience. I wasn’t close to accepting anything – at the time, I just wanted to fit in, to be like all the others. The bullying wasn’t instant, but as the years progressed it got worse and worse, to the point where I’d dread going in each day, as it never seemed to stop. I felt powerless and wanted to be somewhere where I was accepted, where I wasn’t tormented for something I couldn’t control. Although the bullying was never physical, I think verbal can be worse sometimes. When you go somewhere every day

that doesn’t make you feel good, where you feel you can’t express your true self, it’s not long before it has a knock-on effect on your mental health, and sadly, that’s what happened for me. Between 2009 and 2010, when I was around 13, it started with anxiety. I’d be constantly on edge, and scared of the smallest things. Because of this, most days I’d feel so tired, exhausted even, I made no real effort with my schoolwork because I had zero motivation. I didn’t have any real friends either. Upon reflection, I can see now that the reason for this was down to the wall I built up; I didn’t speak to people >>> November 2019 • • 67

I’m beyond grateful I was accepted for the person I am

Jack with his friend Vic

about my mental health or the way I was feeling, which resulted in me being isolated a lot. I would spend lunchtimes with my sister; she was my best friend in school, and a comfort. My mental health got to its worst place in 2010. In the summer of that year, my house got broken into. It was very traumatic, and although initially I felt OK, the feelings were delayed, and didn’t surface until a few months later. Then just before Christmas, my nan passed away, which nobody in the family saw coming. It honestly felt like the world had ended. I can’t even put into words the emotions I felt. As 2011 progressed, it was clear I wasn’t OK. I developed obsessive

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behaviours where I’d constantly check locks, look outside my house to make sure nobody who I considered a threat was there, along with being unable to leave the house to even go to the shops – it all happened so fast and felt so extreme. I would cry pretty much daily, and was convinced I had OCD. But after a doctor’s

appointment it turns out it wasn’t that, but something else... I was officially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with anxiety. I never relaxed, I felt constantly on edge, I developed a neck twitch and honestly, things weren’t good at all. I didn’t recognise the Jack I saw before me.

I received counselling around this time from the NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), which helped a lot, and I slowly started to develop strategies to improve. My mind was in such a destructive place that I had to take baby steps. With time I began to recover, which I realised when I finally stopped doing the obsessive rituals, and took it as a sign I was improving. Things progressed well in the coming years. I started college, and away from the previous years of bullying, I started being myself. It was such a strange yet freeing feeling at first. I came out to my mum in 2014, which felt like the biggest weight off my shoulders. I’m beyond grateful I was accepted for the person I am. Although I was doing fairly well, my mindset hadn’t improved. I was always a negative person,

and would be instantly sceptical when anything good did happen. It was self-sabotage at its finest, but you don’t realise that in the moment, do you? I was always chasing the external, obsessed with spending money on clothes and material items to fill the empty void. But I was fighting a losing battle – if only I could have seen that then. Fast forward to 2016 and my life changed forever. In June of that year I was in bed with a bad cold and temperature. Something strange happened; it was like an out-of-body experience where I heard

what sounded like me speaking. It was a healthier and happier version of me, who said that I needed to change. I can only describe it like something clicking within me, for the first time in forever, I stepped back and reflected. I could see how damaging my thoughts were, how unhealthy my mindset was, and I knew that something had to give. Did anything change overnight? Of course not, but little by little, my life began to change for the better. At that point, I couldn’t even look in the mirror without hating what I saw, so I started

researching self-love. I knew I needed to love, accept and embrace the person I am, which gradually began happening. My mental illness had been affecting me physically, and I’d been experiencing IBS, but as my mental health improved the IBS became more manageable. Now, three years later in 2019, I can happily say that it hardly affects me at all – changing my mindset and working on becoming my best self has made such a difference. There aren’t any fasttrack passes to recovery – it’s been daily work and those negative thoughts still pop up, but now I don’t believe them like I used to. It’s finding what works for you – I meditate daily, visualise what I want to achieve, write monthly goals and eat healthily. Of course, this way of life isn’t for everyone, but for me, it both saved and changed my life in every possible way. I’m now a mental health advocate, and my biggest achievement so far is that I now have my own self-published book, Being the Best You, which details my experiences. If there’s just one takeaway I can give anyone reading this, know that no matter how dark times get, how it can feel

impossible, I used to think that I’d never find the light at the end of the tunnel either, but I did, and you can too. I now see I have a purpose; I have to turn all of this into a positive, as a tool to help others, because when it comes down to the very core of it all, we all deserve happiness. Jack’s book, ‘Being the Best You’, is available on Amazon now.

OUR EXPERT SAYS Jack’s inspirational story is one of growth, realisation, and change. He had to deal with many challenges in his young life, and so often when that happens we just try to get through the day. But this doesn’t give us the chance to process what is really going on. For Jack this surfaced in his PTSD. Importantly though, Jack sought help. He began to grow stronger, realising he was in charge of his own mind. Changing our mindset and the way we think really can – and does – transform lives. Jack is now on a positive path, sharing his story and helping others in the process. Rachel Coffey |BA MA NLP Mstr Life coach

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Mindfulness in motion

It’s been practised by people around the world since it was first developed in 13th-century China – but when you consider the wellbeing benefits that tai chi boosts, there’s no surprise it’s stood the test of time. Here, Kathryn Wheeler tries a tai chi class for the first time, and learns more about the unique way that coming together to take part in activities can boost our mental health Writing | Kathryn Wheeler


fter just a short drive from the Happiful office, I’m the first one to arrive at a small community centre in Crowthorne, Berkshire. I’m here to take part in a tai chi session hosted by Sport in Mind – an independent mental health charity that harnesses the power of sport to support our mental health. I’m a total tai chi newbie, and the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the martial art is the opening scene of the 2003 film Calender Girls. Today, Dame Helen Mirren is nowhere to be seen, and the community hall has a different vibe from the dramatic hills of North Yorkshire where the classic feel-good film

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Illustrating | Rosan Magar

was shot – but, as I soon found out, the experience was about to be no less invigorating. A gentle martial art that flows slowly through a series of poses and movements, tai chi has been practised since the 13th century. Though studies are still in their infancy, research published in Frontiers in Psychiatry found that tai chi can effectively be used to regulate our moods, relieve the effects of anxiety and depression, and it is often recommended as a low-impact exercise. Before the class begins, I catch up with Calum Pettitt, volunteer coordinator at Sport in Mind. He tells me that their sessions – that run across the south east – are about having a safe place to express yourself and enjoy

taking part in sport. The charity was first established when its founder, Neil Harris, created a sports programme to support a friend who was going through a difficult period with his mental health. For Neil, it was all about supporting one another, and having fun while doing it. As people begin to arrive for the class, I already get a sense that we’re in this together. The class begins with a series of very gentle warm-ups, while serene music plays in the background. Once stretched, we begin with a standing pose. With our legs hip-width apart, and our hands held loosely in front of us, we close our eyes and hold this position for five minutes, breathing gently.


Coming into the class, I thought I was pretty relaxed. It wasn’t until the instructor gently prompted us to let go of the tension in our bodies that I realised how intensely I was clenching my jaw and shoulders. Five minutes may seem a long time to stand in one position, but the time quickly slipped by, and I found myself reluctant to open my eyes again, like I was creeping out from under a comforting duvet. Tai chi is not something you can master in one afternoon. It takes time, dedication, and patience. That said, even a beginner’s attempt at the sequences was incredibly grounding. As the room slowly flowed into each position, it felt like mindfulness in motion. We move around the room in a series of soft actions, often starting

from the hands, but extending through the entire body. The flow comes more naturally with every repetition, and it begins to feel like dancing in slow motion. Afterwards, we paused as the group stood in a circle to assess our progress. The instructor told us about a tree in his dad’s garden. When he was young, he could fit his hands around the trunk, but without him even noticing, today he can barely get his arms around it. The point being, so often we don’t notice the progress that we’re making every day – it’s too small. It’s only when we look

Stand with your feet hips’-width apart. Bend at the knees slightly, but not so much that you feel strained. Lift your arms at your elbows and, keeping your hands flat and turned up, hold them at waist level. Try setting a timer for five minutes, or stay here for as long as is comfortable, allowing your mind to clear or gently wander as you reconnect with your body. back over the years that we can see how far we’ve come. For anyone who wants or needs it, tai chi is a method to align your body and mind. The gentle exercise will get your endorphins flowing, but it’s the controlled pace and grounding in meditative techniques that will leave you calm and revitalised. Learn more about Sport in Mind and the services they offer by visiting

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The healing power of scent Could aromatherapy be the self-care tool you need? Writing | Kat Nicholls


aking care of yourself is an integral part of your wellness, and the brilliant thing about self-care is there are a hundred different ways to practise it. Complementary therapies can be a great way to up your self-care game – and an easy one you can try at home is aromatherapy. Using essential oils from plants, flowers and herbs to assist your body’s natural healing abilities, aromatherapy can energise you, or encourage you to relax, depending on which oils you use. Aromatherapist Louisa Pini explains: “Aromatherapy has such a powerful effect because it taps into our limbic system. This part of the brain deals with emotions, memories and stimulation, and can even influence hormonal responses. Aromatherapy oils are able to bypass the blood-brain barrier through the olfactory system. Once inhaled, essential oils can stimulate memories, moods, and feelings.” If you’re looking for support with a specific concern, you may want to visit an aromatherapist. They’ll take your medical history and create the right blends to support you, often offering relaxing aromatherapy massages. Be sure to tell them about any medications you’re taking, and speak to your GP before trying any new forms of therapy.

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A simple way of using essential oils is through an oil burner or diffuser. “Add three to five drops of essential oil to some water, and enjoy the diffusion for 30–60 minutes,” Louisa says. “Remember that essential oils are powerful, and are directly absorbed into your body and those around you – don’t diffuse them all day long.” If you don’t have a diffuser or oil burner handy, Louisa says you can always put a couple of drops of oil on a tissue, and simply inhale as and when you need. Alternatively, you can use essential oils as an aromatherapy bath blend. “Use up to six drops of essential oil in 10ml of a base carrier oil – like apricot kernel, sweet almond or jojoba for example – and then add it to warm running water. If you just add essential oils directly to your bath, they will sit on top of the water and could potentially irritate your skin when they come into contact with it.” Louisa explains: “The only two essential oils that are safe to apply directly to your skin are lavender and tea tree, but even then, be cautious if you have very sensitive skin.” So it’s best to add drops to a carrier oil if you want to use it on the skin.

Bath blend to relax and de-stress Louisa shares an aromatherapy recipe to help you unwind:

• 10ml of carrier oil like organic jojoba oil

Ingredients: • 2 drops of ylang ylang • 3 drops of lavender • 3 drops of bergamot

Method: Mix all of the above together, and add to a warm bath. Soak and relax for at least 15 minutes.

Find out more about Louisa Pini at, and to learn more about aromatherapy, visit


If you’re looking for something to help you feel uplifted and calm during the winter months, Louisa recommends bergamot which has been shown to reduce anxiety in studies. “Another lovely oil that can be suitably warming with winter on its way is sweet orange oil,” she adds. “Its pleasant, sweet scent is gently uplifting, and combines well with bergamot for a powerful mood enhancer.” If it’s relaxation you’re after, Louise suggests ylang ylang or lavender oil. “Ylang ylang oil acts on the parasympathetic nervous system, and slows your heart rate and breathing, which in turn can help to lower blood pressure. When everything is racing and you feel panicked or anxious, pop a drop of this in your oil burner or on to a tissue and take a few deep, slow breaths. “Lavender oil has wonderful sedative properties, and is recommended to help you sleep. It has a calming and soothing scent, and a recent study in Turkey revealed that lavender essential oil increased quality of sleep and reduced anxiety levels in patients.” Aromatherapy can be a beautiful way to tune in to your needs. Try different scents and combinations, and see what feels good to you. November 2019 • • 73

Crisis averted

You don’t have to wait until stress and worries reach a crisis point before seeking help. It’s time to prioritise ongoing nurturing and protection of our mental health and wellbeing – and here are seven simple steps to get started... Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford


veryone knows the importance of taking care of our physical health – going to the gym, or taking a walk, and nourishing ourselves properly. We know we have to look after our bodies to keep ourselves feeling healthy. So it’s strange that for many of us, maintaining and protecting our mental health doesn’t always factor into the same equation. All too often, we don’t pause to consider our emotional health and wellbeing until we are already starting to see a negative impact – be it on our stress levels, the quality of our sleep, or our ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. But, while when we’re physically unwell our symptoms may go away within a few days or weeks, with mental illness, the symptoms can be harder to spot – and often won’t go away on their own. By continually protecting and nurturing your mental health and wellbeing, you can try to address issues before they escalate. It’s

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maintenance, upkeep, care and attention, so we can hopefully prevent reaching burnout, or a crisis. It’s no guarantee, but looking after yourself to support your emotional health can only be a positive thing. And the good news? You can start right now.


It’s a situation that happens dayin, day-out; someone asks: “How are you doing?” The chances are, you may have given the automatic response of: “I’m fine,” or “Can’t complain.” It’s easy to dismiss how we’re really feeling, to assume others are only asking out of politeness. But there are people who truly care, and who would be more than happy to listen or offer a helping hand if you’re struggling. It can be tough, but try taking a step back and ask yourself: “How am I really doing?” Evaluating your overall sense of wellbeing can help you to pick up on all


those small things that might not have seemed like such a big deal, but may actually be having a big impact on your overall stress levels.

IDENTIFY THE WARNING SIGNS When we’re in the midst of things, it can be tricky to identify the signs that something might be wrong, and some symptoms of common mental health concerns, such as anxiety and stress, are easy to overlook. Burnout has become a popular buzzword in the media, yet many of us don’t know the signs

encompass so much more. A sustainable, everyday self-care routine may include making time to be active, ensuring you get enough sleep, or spending time catching up with a colleague over coffee. Life coach Nikki Emerton describes it as “a way of giving back to ourselves in the form of doing activities that fuel us, and that are just for us”. She explains that you should take time to acknowledge what you’re already doing as self-care, and recognise any gaps you might have (e.g. not getting enough sleep). You can then make a plan to improve this. “Once you’ve set your plan in motion, the next step is to hold yourself accountable by measuring your success,” Nikki says. You could do this using a calendar, diary, or an app on your phone. By checking in with yourself

to watch out for. Exhaustion or insomnia, trouble concentrating, or increased forgetfulness, as well as increased levels of anxiety or anger, can all be indicators – alongside a host of physical symptoms. Keep yourself informed and aware by reading up on signs of common mental health issues on sites such as,, and


Self-care isn’t selfish, and certainly not something to feel guilty about. Making time to look after ourselves physically and mentally can help us to feel more prepared to face life’s challenges, and be a vital part of caring for our wellbeing. Although many of us may think of candles and long baths when we hear the term ‘self-care’, it can

“All too often, we don’t pause to consider our emotional health and wellbeing until we are already starting to see a negative impact” at a future date, it’s a chance to reflect and see if you need to make adjustments to your plan. >>>

November 2019 • • 75


How we approach our health and wellbeing can be just as varied as the problems we experience. For some, taking a holistic approach can benefit them physically and emotionally, as treatments often focus on treating the whole person, rather than specific symptoms. Complementary treatments or alternative therapies such as acupressure or Bowen therapy can help with stress. Aromatherapy may be able to help with anxiety, insomnia, and even chronic pain – perhaps have an aromatherapy massage session, or try one of our suggested blends back on p70. Hypnotherapy has also shown positive results for numerous mental health and wellbeing issues, including helping you become more emotionally and physically calm, gain a better night’s sleep, or even recognise and overcome obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. There’s no right or wrong way to seek help and support, so if one method doesn’t work for you, don’t be discouraged. There are many options out there!


Being active can help us to feel good about ourselves and the world around us. Physical activity can help protect against anxiety, combat symptoms of mild depression, and boost our selfesteem. Fitting in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity around a busy schedule can be daunting. If you struggle with using that gym membership or making it to your local park run, it could be worth

considering a class such as Pilates or yoga. By committing to attend regularly with a friend, this can give you an added motivation and support boost. Eating a balanced, healthy diet can have a big impact on our wellbeing, too. Ensuring that what we eat is balanced can help us to feel less tired, manage stress, and may even help with symptoms of depression.

“Hypnotherapy can help you become more emotionally and physically calm, gain a better night’s sleep, or even recognise and overcome obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours” FIND RELAXATION TECHNIQUES THAT WORK FOR YOU Relaxation is a very personal preference. An introvert may find an evening with a good book is just what the doctor ordered, while an extrovert may feel recharged after a night out with friends. Exploring different relaxation techniques can help you to identify which methods have the most benefit for you. Mindfulness techniques can offer a gentle form of relaxation. From mindful breathing and meditation, to mindful colouring, there are many ways you can

apply mindfulness at work, during your commute, and even while planning big life events. Taking up a hobby can allow you to add a moment of calm and another form of relaxation to your daily routine. Gardening and birding can have some surprisingly positive impacts on your mental health, with an overwhelming 80% of us reporting feeling happier after visiting gardens. If you don’t have a plot of land to call your own, you can still gain many of the benefits of gardening through house and office plants.


Speaking with a qualified therapist can offer the chance to open up about what is worrying you in a safe, judgement-free environment. This can help us to recognise not only what may be causing us distress, but also enable us to work through problems, and find solutions we may not have otherwise considered. There are many options with therapy, so you can find a method that works best for you – face-toface, over the phone, online, or group sessions. A counsellor can help you identify the key areas you want to work on, and offer advice on what type of therapy will best support you. But if you’d like to do your own research, you can read the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) recommendations for therapies to help with different mental health concerns. ‘From mindful breathing and meditation, to mindful colouring, there are many ways you can apply mindfulness at work, during your commute, and even while planning big life events’

Nikki Emerton is a life coach, passionate about helping you take back charge of your life. Find her on

How to get your confidence back after anxiety Anxiety attacks can often crush your self-confidence – and that can make you feel like you’re trapped in a vicious circle. But don’t despair, you can break free from the damaging cycle, and return to your very best Writing | Will Aylward


nxiety and selfconfidence: how are they related? In my work as a life coach, many of my clients tell me that since living with higher than normal levels of anxiety, they feel their selfconfidence has been knocked. This makes sense, because living with high levels of anxiety causes us to feel limited, to doubt ourselves, and our capabilities. This feeling of limitation lowers our self-confidence, which only adds to feelings of anxiety, as we feel less sure of our ability to handle anxious situations. But there is hope. We needn’t stay in this cycle. Here are some ways to get your confidence back after anxiety.


Start by asking yourself, right now, where would you score your level of self-confidence out of 10? (With 10 being high, and one being low.) It’s important to be compassionate, and not to judge your answers. Next, imagine what higher levels of self-confidence look like for you. What would greater levels of self-confidence allow you to do?

Write down some examples of behaviours, habits, and feelings that your most confident self would have. Feel excited knowing more self-confidence is not only possible, but you deserve it.


Using your self-confidence vision to inspire you, take action and lovingly challenge yourself. When my self-confidence hit rock-bottom after anxiety, I got fearful about bumping into people I knew, being caught off guard, and having to make small talk. Aware of this, one day I set myself a challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I would go to the busy local supermarket where there was always a high chance of seeing someone I knew. If I met someone, I’d have to say "hey" and make small talk. Part of me was scared. Part of me was excited. By day 30, my self-confidence had grown tremendously, because I’d moved towards my fears, instead of away from them. Remember to start small, and, as your confidence grows, so will the size of the challenges you set for yourself.


Make it a habit to praise yourself. Every night before bed, stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and (silently or out loud) praise yourself for one thing you did well that day. Make self-praise familiar. Become a cheerleader for yourself. When you notice feelings of anxiety, which is only to be expected as your comfort zone and confidence grows, reassure yourself by saying: ‘I can do this.’ You may like to write down a list of other phrases, affirmations, or ‘power thoughts’ you’d like to say to yourself throughout the day. You could even set silent alarms on your phone, so these empowering words pop up for you to read.

Living with high levels of anxiety causes us to feel limited, to doubt ourselves, and our capabilities


During ‘fight or flight’, our sympathetic nervous system helps us face the threat by increasing our heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Once our mind feels the threat has been eliminated, our blood pressure, heart, and breathing rate return to normal, our muscles relax, and processes such as digestion – which stop during ‘fight or flight’ – are resumed. This is because of the parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest’ response, which works to restore balance in the body. Each day, create time for self-care – which will trigger your ‘rest and digest’ response. How you do this is down to you, but could include meditation, yoga, or breath-work.


Remember: you are not alone. Share your thoughts, feelings, and challenges, with friends and family, and ask for their support. They, too, will want to see you back feeling more confident again. There are support groups, online and offline, for people on the same journey as you, wishing to rebuild their confidence after anxiety. There are also skilled professionals who can help you understand the roots of the anxiety, and share tools to make you feel better equipped when life gets stressful. Will Aylward helps people around the world to get their freedom back, and works as an online life coach and rapid transformational therapy (RTT) practitioner. Learn more at November 2019 • • 79

D R I V I N G C H A N G E Luke Ambler is a man on a mission. From encouraging other men to talk in his role as founder of suicide prevention charity, Andy’s Man Club, to motivational speaking and planning adventures for his family, he’s always moving forwards – and with intent. As Luke shares with Happiful, it takes work to get what you want, and he’s prepared to put in the hard graft Writing | Lucy Donoughue


ecently, in just one week, 660 men walked through the doors of Andy’s Man Club meetings, wanting to talk, listen, and share their experiences. For many of these men, the meetings are lifechanging and, for some, life-saving. The club was named after Luke Ambler’s brother-in-law, Andy, who died by suicide in 2016. Witnessing his family’s grief spurred Luke on to do something to make a difference, and now the suicide prevention charity holds free meetings for men across the UK every week. What began as an informal support network in the North of England, has now spread across

the country, with meetings all the way from Devon to Scotland. The number of attendees only continues to grow, as do advocates for the user-led movement. In early September, club facilitators took to the streets as part of a tour across 22 locations, reaching out to men who may not have been aware of the charity, or who might need encouragement to take their first steps towards help. It was an epic undertaking – but for Luke, the most powerful element of the day was the faceto-face conversations. “As big as it [Andy’s Man Club] is now, I’m still about the grass roots,” Luke says. “Too many people get bogged down with the big stuff – I think the little stuff is the big stuff. The

conversations in the street are what makes a man want to come to the club, because he’s seen you and knows that it’s real.” The sense of it being ‘real’ is greatly helped by club attendees being at the frontline of spreading the word about Andy’s Man Club – an achievement that isn’t lost on Luke. “What’s lovely is that all the guys who came out on tour, they’ve all walked through those meeting doors in need at one time, and now they are facilitators. It’s unbelievable.” Each time I speak with Luke I’m blown away by his energy, drive and generosity of spirit – but mostly by his ability to be completely honest and unfiltered about his work, and personal life.

In 2017, Luke had the honour of sharing his campaign #ItsOkToTalk with Prince Charles

Luke is passionate about making positive change, having worked on himself after a childhood in which he often felt like he had to “be fake” to fit in. Later, he had a career in professional rugby where he says there was still an element of pretence in how he presented himself and interacted with others. Change happened for Luke – before the creation of Andy’s Man Club, but after some dark times following the end of his rugby career, which resulted in him being arrested after a night out. But it was the beginning of a new path for Luke; one which came with a shift in perspective and the will to embrace who he authentically is. It was a process that took time and effort. Working at life every day is something Luke strongly advocates, stemming from his

I think we all need to put in effort to be the best version of ourselves, rather than trying to beat someone else, then we’d all live better lives own experiences. And he has concerns lately, for what he calls, our “microwave society”. “The problem is that a lot of people want everything ‘now’. We get everything so instantly – fast food, fast relationships – almost everything you want at the touch of an app,” he suggests. “And for some people, if they have to really work at getting what they need, they struggle. “If you do what is easy though, life will be hard. If you do what is hard, life will be easy,” he

continues. “Take parenting. Sometimes you might have to sit with your kid when they are kicking off at the dinner table to show them how they should behave. It would be easier to just give them a tablet to play with, to keep them quiet and busy, but in the long-term they won’t learn. I think that approach of really having to work at it applies to most of life’s challenges.” Parenting and family dynamics are often woven into Luke’s insights on self-development, and >>>

Motivational speaking spurs Luke to be more self-aware

it’s clear his family are solidly at the heart of his life and future aspirations. Travel is one of these, and Luke’s latest project is the overhaul of a van, turning it into a campervan so he can explore the world with his wife, Lisa, and children, Alfie, Aubrey and Ada. Spending time together as a family is important to him, but the project also serves another purpose – to support Luke’s own wellbeing. “With everything I do – the mental health work, suicide prevention, mindset development – as much as it’s all good, I felt like I needed something for me. After retiring from rugby, I didn’t have that outlet anymore.” This project has been a longterm dream for Luke, but was put on hold when his third child, daughter Ada, came along. However, while taking part in a

gruelling Ultra Marathon (100 miles in two days) earlier this year, he travelled and slept in a camper van, and says the experience “gave [him] that little itch again”. “We’re in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with information, and I just want to get away from it all, and back to basics,” Luke says. “It’s hard to get this across on social media, but I constantly flit between roles in my life – and so the idea of just being able to stop and say, ‘I fancy going to the Lake District tonight,’ and getting in the van with my wife and kids is really appealing. Going off grid.” It’s understandable that Luke would need to create some unscheduled time and space for himself and his family within their life. With the diverse work he does, and the array of professional responsibilities he has, managing

his own mental health needs is crucial. “Self-awareness is so important,” he explains. “I went through a weird patch recently. As a motivational speaker, I found I suddenly didn’t have a lot of motivation. I felt like I’d spent my whole life trying to prove people wrong – and I’d done that. Everything I said I was going to do, I did. I was left with the thought of: ‘Well, what’s next?’ “So I’m now working on balance – being a good dad, being a good charity chairman, and everything else – and I feel like I’ve found it.” Luke’s certainly not one to rest on his laurels though. “I’m constantly testing myself and challenging myself to be better,” he adds. “I think we all need to put in effort to be the best version of ourselves, rather than trying to beat someone else, then we’d all live better lives.” And he doesn’t believe this starts with looking inwards – he insists it’s about working inwards. The Ultra Marathon earlier this year, he says, helped him to do this. “Once you test yourself mentally, you know what you’re capable of. So doing that run and knowing I can come through that, it’s become an analogy for life for me. I know I can handle that – and any other curve ball life sends me. “It doesn’t mean I’ll find it easy – I didn’t find the run easy – but I know that I can get through the tough stuff.”

To read more and find a club near you, visit Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeambleruk and listen to him chat more on Happiful’s ‘I am. I have’ podcast.

THE PLASTIC REVOLUTION STARTS NOW Life in plastic is not so fantastic, and our ecosystem is paying the price. But you don’t need to let eco-anxiety weigh you down. Ecobricks is the initiative taking back control of the plastic we’re consuming by turning it into usable building bricks – and you can get involved... Writing | Kathryn Wheeler


e’re in the midst of a plastic crisis. It’s dominated public conversation in recent years, and for good reason. According to the journal PLOS ONE, more than five trillion pieces of plastic can be found floating in our oceans, and by 2050 it’s predicted that every seabird species on the planet will be ingesting plastic. It’s catastrophic. But we don’t have to sit back and watch it happen. Each of us has the power to make a change in the world around us, and ecobricks is one such

scheme that’s empowering us all to step up.


Ecobricks are made from used plastic bottles, tightly packed with unrecyclable plastic. The bottles are then used in building projects, with the majority going to small home, community, and school creations – from furniture to the structures themselves. Both a way to take a hard look at our personal plastic habits, and to prevent plastic entering the ecosystem, this innovative scheme helps reclaim control of the plastic in our lives, and lay the foundations for a greener future.


We’re living in a time where we’re creating more waste than we know what to do with. Worldwide, we only recycle 9% of plastics. The rest – incinerated, or left in the sun or sea – break down, releasing toxins into our environment, and poisoning wildlife. Ultimately, we need to use less plastic. There are many ways to do this, and with more reusable products on the market, it’s never been easier to cut back. Unfortunately, that doesn’t address the plethora of plastic that already exists. >>>

Find out more about ecobricks at, and find groups near you at

Community sculptures using ecobricks

But what if we stopped thinking about plastic as something we’re fighting against, and instead understand it as a valuable resource when used effectively? Rather than seeing plastic as something expendable, ecobricks asks us to see the value that it can bring us, in the form of a free building material that can enhance our communities. The properties of plastic that make it so difficult to dispose of properly – durability, longevity, and water fastness – make it a fantastic building material, so it’s about reframing the way we utilise materials.

What if we stopped thinking about plastic as something we’re fighting against, and instead understood it as a valuable resource?


We’re all part of something bigger than ourselves, but ultimately change starts with the individual. This initiative is about finding an answer to the plastic waste in your life. It’s about being the change that you want to see in the world, and finding a solution that is powered by the people. Jack Jones from Chessington, Surrey, began making ecobricks after spending most of his adult life in the construction industry, where he saw how much material was going to waste.

“For a long time I wasn’t sure what I could do on a personal level,” Jack tells Happiful. “That was, until my mother showed me ecobricks. It was then that I found the sense of direction, and also relief, that I was looking for.” It can be easy to forget about the plastic we pick up throughout the day. Collecting what we use for an ecobrick helps us to measure how much we actually consume, as well as effectively following the journey of our waste. For Jack, this is what prompted him to go on to incorporate ecobricks into

Drinks companies alone produce more than 500 billion plastic bottles every year his business, and he now finds it to be an effective way that he can take responsibility for his waste.


Ecobricks is a worldwide initiative, meaning that each brick is used in a way that is most beneficial to the community it is collected in. In South Africa, projects include outdoor classrooms and community gardens, and in Guatemala, there are 38 schools built out of ecobricks. Here in the UK, ecobricks are used in playgrounds, and also to create benches in local communities. With a little bit of creativity, this material that is in abundance can be easily turned into something that makes a real difference in our local environments.


“We’re all creators of our own individual realities,” says Jack. “If we don’t like what we are currently experiencing around the world, we must take responsibility to change the reality we live in.” And we can do it. Whether it’s by getting involved with local ecobricks groups, or collecting the plastics that you come across in your own life, we each have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world around us.

MAKING YOUR ECOBRICK Ready to start creating your own ecobricks? Pay close attention to the guidelines, and get building!


Begin by cleaning all your plastic so that it’s free of food, grease, or dirt. Once washed, allow the plastic to dry completely before moving on. It’s important to be very thorough during this first step, as any residue left on the plastic could lead to methane collecting into the ecobrick, resulting in bloated bottles.


It may be a good idea to begin by using smaller bottles to get you started. However, the most important thing to consider is what type of bottle is in most abundance in your local community. For building projects, the bottles will need to be the same size. Do you have regular deliveries of a certain type of bottle at your place of work, or you get through a lot of the same thing at home? Consistency is key.


You’ll need a stick to poke the plastic inside your bottle, but there are a couple of factors that you will want to consider when choosing yours. The stick should be about a third the width of the bottle opening, and twice the height of the bottle. Ideally, it should have a rounded tip so that it doesn’t pierce the bottle as you compress the plastic.


Cut your plastic up into small pieces so that you can pack as much in as possible. Mix together soft and hard plastic, and then use your stick to push it down into the bottle, making sure it is compressed as you go. The minimum weight of the bottle should be 0.33 times the bottle volume (e.g. a 1,500ml bottle should be 500g, and 600ml should be 200g.)


Register your ecobrick at You’ll be able to find a nearby drop-off point for your brick, and will be given a serial number for your bottle, so you can track how your community is getting on with their project. Read the full guidelines at

I’m on a rollercoaster that only goes up, my friend

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Fighting a physical illness can be a mental health battle Anne has lived with sickle cell disease all her life, but she sees that it was the illness which helped her become the successful, contented woman she is today Writing | Anne Welsh


n the end, it was my nursery school’s concern about me eating plastic foam that led to the diagnosis of incurable, debilitating, and dangerous sickle cell disease (SCD). While the illness, a constant in my life since the age of six months, has sent me to the depths of despair, I have learnt to value the lessons it has taught me, and it has made me realise that every cloud has a silver lining. SCD is when your blood cells, normally round, are curved and hard. This means that they don’t flow as easily, and can get stuck in the small blood vessels in your chest, stomach,

and joints – what’s known as a sickle cell crisis. The intense, debilitating pain this causes can last from a few hours to a few weeks. I was born in Nigeria in 1980, and while there were warning signs in the form of unexplained swellings and pains, it was only after we moved to the UK that I was diagnosed, when my nursery school picked up on my strange craving for foam – something which is apparently common in sufferers of SCD. SCD wasn’t well known at that time, and finding the correct pain management for a small child was difficult, leading to me spending a lot of time in agony – distressing for me and my family.

By this time my father had returned to Nigeria, so my mother was studying for her teaching qualifications, looking after three children singlehandedly, and dealing with an extremely sick daughter. In addition, she had been told that children with SCD had a reduced life expectancy, so she was terrified of losing me. Starting primary school was a challenge. My mother gave teachers a care plan, and I was allowed special ‘privileges’, such as being able to drink water in class, and having regular breaks if I was tired. The other children didn’t understand my special treatment,

and I also couldn’t join in games, so I became isolated. At seven, I moved back to Nigeria with my elder brother and two younger sisters, to live with my father. But it was then that the family was struck a devastating blow – the death of my brother, Eric. He had fallen ill, and, after an operation in hospital, he had caught an infection that killed him. I felt overwhelming guilt when Eric died, asking myself why he was taken and I, whose illness caused my family so much heartache, was spared? The loss of my brother made me determined to find a direction in life, and to fulfil a higher purpose. >>> November 2019 • • 87

When, as a teenager, it was decided that it was time to move back to the UK to live with my mother – now a primary school teacher – it meant another massive readjustment. To make matters worse, I had failed the GCSEs required to start college, so I had to find somewhere to retake my exams.

Anne in Nigeria, being interviewed for sickle cell awareness

I have learnt to accept that I cannot be all things to all people, and must live as best I can – and only I can do that This was a very difficult time for me. I was in a new place and was struggling with my identity. Who

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was I, apart from the sick daughter/sister/friend? This negative mindset meant that I wasn’t taking

care of myself, so as well as being mentally low, I was constantly ill, creating a damaging downward spiral. Once again, my education suffered, but I achieved enough to get in to college. From there, things started to improve. I got a grant to buy a car, and was given a disability badge, which made life much easier and college more accessible. I began to believe that I did have a future. When I found I had been accepted on a degree course, I was determined that my illness wouldn’t hold me back. University was a real turning point. I came to understand that I had to ask for help. I realised I

had to be kind to myself, focus on the positives, and stop comparing myself with others. After leaving uni with a 2:1, I had a new sense of purpose, and undertook a master’s in investment management, which I hoped would give me a good start for a career. My approach to life was slowly improving, and I had more faith in what I could achieve. By this point I’d still not had a romantic relationship, partly because my mother wouldn’t have approved, but also because I was nervous of the impact my illness would have. Who would want someone whose condition has such an impact on their life?

The loss of my brother made me determined to find a direction in life and to fulfil a higher purpose

Anne at her graduation from Cass Business School, London

A chance meeting in a record shop changed all that. I was instantly attracted to Marvin, and on our third date told him about the illness. To my surprise he wasn’t disgusted, but interested and concerned. It was three months later when he first saw the real impact. We were making dinner when the pain struck. I asked Marvin to call an ambulance and ring my mother. He hadn’t met my family yet, so my mother was surprised to see a stranger at my hospital bedside! When he left, I was sure I’d never see him again. But when I checked my phone later, there were a number of missed calls,

so I was reassured that he was here to stay. We got married after six years, and although I was still worried about the illness getting in the way of our relationship, he was always supportive. I was desperate to have children, and before long, despite worrying about the risks caused by my disease, I found myself pregnant. I was working full-time at Lehman Brothers, but after three months had to face the fact that I couldn’t physically meet the demands of the job. I reluctantly left, but still needed a challenge, so decided to volunteer with the Sickle Cell Society and joined the board.

A year later I was appointed chair, and we lobbied the NHS for improved screening, raised awareness and improved treatment. I am now happily married with two beautiful children (Connor and Caroline), and despite everything life has thrown at me, have achieved things I never thought possible. Living with SCD is difficult, and there is a strong link between the illness and depression. I never know when I’m going to be ill, so I live day to day. I have learned to accept that I cannot be all things to all people, and must live as best I can – and only I can do that. I defeat any negative thoughts by considering all the positive things I have in my life. This isn’t always easy, but I’ve found it makes a real difference. After years of struggle, I can now say that I am truly happy and blessed. My illness has led me to do things and meet people I would not have

otherwise, so in some ways it has helped me achieve more than I ever thought possible. Oh, and sometimes I still have a craving for foam!

OUR EXPERT SAYS For Anne, living with a chronic condition brought many challenges. Throughout her experiences, she struggled with her mental health, identity, and emotional state. Starting university was a real turning point for her, and the place where she began to feel she was improving. Later, meeting her future husband, she found someone who loved and supported her, and whom she could trust and rely on. Anne found that with self-care and his support, anything was possible. Perhaps asking for that same support and self-care could help us all. Graeme Orr | MBACP (Accred) UKRCP Reg Ind counsellor

November 2019 • • 89

Mental health matters From anorexia to depression, body dysmorphia, and BPD, artist Becky Johnston has had a lot to contend with. But her mental health journey also inspired her to use her creativity and experiences to support others, so no one has to feel alone Mental health matters to me because… for what feels like a lifetime, I have suffered at the hand of crippling anxieties, depression, and the umbrella of cascading torment, BPD; the catalyst for the ‘mental illness flux’ I find myself in. Anorexia shrouded my reality, and body dysmorphia further impaired my already confusing life. It prompted my desire to use my experiences as a platform to inspire, promote awareness, and lend a hand to hold. The more we talk, the easier it will become for sufferers to open up. When I need support I… pluck up the courage to be honest. That weight needs to be lifted from your shoulders, particularly when emotions heighten so abruptly.

To view Becky’s art visit

Talking is the first and most important step. Once you break through that initial barrier, you can embrace a level of freedom, allowing new doors to open. Take a breath of relief. People are much more understanding than you’d expect. When I need some self-care, I… have found the use of a whiteboard and reward chart profoundly useful, with guidance from my mum. Mark down anything from brushing teeth to filing nails. Acknowledge it’s an achievement, and tick it off. My mum is my carer; there is no shame in dependence. I may rely on her immeasurably, but I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for her. Remember, mental health

is paramount. If you need that extra support, it is imperative that you recognise and accept it. The escapism I have turned to time and time again is... my crafts. Though my illnesses have taken a great deal from me, it’s for that reason my heart has held on to art. Not only is it a form of healing, but it allows us to express things we wouldn’t normally find easy to articulate. I hope to utilise my creativity to bring hope, spark conversation, evoke profound thoughts, or raise a good old grin. It is OK to be you, to be imaginative, dramatic, bonkers and brilliant. Explore the arts – allow your mind to expand and let go.

The best lesson I’ve learned in life is… you are not alone. The mind manages to twist things so we feel deserving of pain and anguish. But it is simply not true; no being deserves to be tortured by their own mind. Personally, I found my diagnoses to be somewhat of a relief – at last a reason for why I am like this. There are others out there. I am not alone. But you also need to understand that your mental health does not define you. It’s a part of you, but you are still a unique living being, and that’s pretty special.

The main thing I want people to know about mental illness is... it is not a life sentence. With BPD, the intensity of emotion can reach an internal pain difficult to fathom. My reality becomes distorted, fluctuating through psychosis, paranoia. Every aspect of life is a challenge, hard to differentiate between the imagined, expected, and even the past and present. And it can be extremely isolating. But I have learned that we can all survive things we never thought possible, and that we gain understanding, empathy, passion and self-awareness.

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I have a desire to help others, because the constant agony I survive each day terrifies me that many more suffer the same. It has taken my mental and physical health to rockbottom, and I wish it were better understood so there could be more research and less stigma. In the end, it comes down to us. We have to raise this awareness, we have to help one another. You have more importance on this planet than you’ll ever believe.

Watch out for Beck y’s exclusively designe d Christmas cards fo r Happiful readers in our December issue!

As the year draws to a close, send a message of encouragement and support to someone you love with our free, exclusive cards illustrated by Becky. Representing togetherness, each card is the opportunity to connect, and let someone know you’re there to talk. Pick up a copy from 21 November.

December 2018 • happiful • 91

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