Destination, Barcelona.

Features, Uncategorized

People travel for many different reasons. To find themselves, to lose themselves, to escape daily life and to experience the unknown. Travel is a mental journey, just as much as a physical one. For me, travel is what I turn to when I don’t know where I’m headed. When my life reaches a sudden point of change and I am forced to decide on the next step, that step is usually in the direction of the nearest airport check-in desk.

It all started when I finished school and didn’t know what I wanted to study at university. Instead of dealing with this unnerving prospect, I decided to take a gap year and booked a flight to South East Asia. I spent six months backpacking through various countries and while I was there decided I wanted to study many things, photography, psychology and nutrition, to name just a few. I ended up choosing none of these subjects but having one of the best experiences of my life. Fast forward three years and I graduated from university and was faced with the even more daunting task of entering the ‘real world’ and perhaps even finding a job, so me and my best friend – neither of us particularly thrilled by this prospect – began planning a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness last year, despite the fact that just getting out of bed was the last thing I felt like doing, I cautiously packed my bags and spent two weeks travelling up the Croatian coastline with my boyfriend. The amount of prescription drugs I was carrying was enough to get me stopped at security, but the best medication was being in a new country, experiencing the unknown, discovering the undiscovered.

This habit of reaching for my trusty old backpack when things get complicated has stuck with me as the years have gone on – although admittedly now it is often a suitcase I’m packing for a weekend mini-break, rather than a six month expedition. When I’m feeling low or unfulfilled I find myself scrolling through stranger’s beach snaps on Instagram, manically Googling holiday deals online and day-dreaming about my next adventure.

Recently, my agreeable nine to five existence came abruptly to a halt and I was faced with whole load of those dreaded, daunting decisions, so naturally I reached for my laptop and Lonely Planet and began planning a trip.

Funnily enough, one thing I don’t mind deciding on is where to travel to on my next journey. This time I settled on four nights in dynamic Barcelona. A city bustling with art, culture, history, shopping, beaches and of course, nightlife. I would go so far as to say that Barcelona is the pretty much the perfect destination for a mini-break, whether you have in mind a romantic escape for you and your other half or an energetic girls weekend away. Culture buffs, sun-worshippers, shopaholics and alcoholics, Barcelona will prevail. Absorb yourself in Gaudi’s awe-inspiring architecture, soak up some sun on the beautiful coastline (the weather was just about warm enough for sunbathing when we visited, although I didn’t brave the bikini) or treat your tastebuds to the illustrious tapas dishes and sip copious amounts of Sangria. Do any or all of these things. This city is what you make it.

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Overcoming the Post-Holiday Blues

Features, Fitness

They say all good things must come to an end, so what happens afterwards?

I hadn’t thought much past the four flights and two days of travelling which I faced in order to get home. When I had thought about returning home, it consisted of the very basic and shallow luxuries such as sleeping in my own bed, not having to worry about toilet roll and eating copious amounts of cheese. It hadn’t occurred to me that after the jet lag had worn of, reality would kick in and I didn’t have a plan for reality.

After a few flight extensions I had spent a total of four months in South East Asia with little else to worry about apart from what I would have for dinner that night and whether I would get any sleep on the night bus. I hadn’t had a moment on my own (aside from showering) the whole time and this was perfect for me. When you’re on the other side of the world with your whole life confined to a backpack, problems I faced at home on a daily basis were non existent. My own head was no longer the enemy, it was my survival kit.

Life was much simpler and I had subconsciously gained perspective and a contentment with myself, but on returning to the UK, familiar feelings of anxiety, emptiness and a lack of motivation had me wondering if this had just been circumstantial.

Most people are familiar with that impending feeling of dismay that surfaces in the final few days of the holiday and sticks around for at least a good week afterwards. Returning to reality after having a week – or a few months in my case – of escapism is an anticlimax to say the least, everything seems dull compared with the sun-soaked greener grass. It seemed I had an extreme case of the post-holiday blues.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one to find themselves suffering this summer, so here is my tips for dealing with a case of the blues.

 

1. Sort your life out

I have a terrible habit of not unpacking when I return from a trip, usually because I’m depressed and I hate unpacking. Actually, as soon as you get home you should unpack your clothes, do your washing and de-clutter your life. It will give you so much space – both physically and mentally – and make your home a much nicer environment to be in.

2. Relive the memories

As painful as it may seem at first, getting all your photographs together and looking through them is a great remedy for holiday blues. Put a slideshow together to show your family and friends, they will appreciate it, plus you get to relive all the best times through them, you’ll soon be laughing as you try to explain that photo!

3. Go outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of British sunshine, make the most of it. If you’re not working have a day out, go on a picnic or even just sunbathe in the back garden. It might not be as spectacular as your previous surroundings but the sun has the same effect wherever you are, and vitamin D is your best source of happiness.

4. Catch up with friends

Make time to see friends you haven’t seen for a while, this will cheer you up instantly, they will be dying to hear your stories and you’ll find yourself eager to tell them.

5. Eat well

Summer is the season of strawberries – and all other fruits – so there is no excuse not to be consuming them by the punnet. For me, coming home meant I could indulge on all my favourite foods I had craved whilst being away, but getting back into the routine of eating a balanced diet is so important to help you feel good. If you’ve overindulged on the all-inclusive, make sure you go back to a balanced diet as soon as you get home. Eat well and you’ll feel well.

6. Get moving

This point needs little explanation, but get exercising (outside if possible) and you’ll have your positive frame of mind back in no time. Especially if you’ve spent the last two weeks lying on the beach, it’s time to get moving again. The longer you’re stopped, the harder it is to get going again.

7. Grab a new book

The bookworm that I am, finding a new can’t-put-down novel always cheers me up and keeps me occupied. Summer is a great time for new releases and must-reads so engross yourself in that book you’ve been meaning to read, to help pass the long summer hours.

8. Think positive!

Thinking positive can seem impossible when you feel surrounded by negativity, but it is so worth it. Just one small positive thought can make a world of difference to your mood. Try and look for the positives in every situation, you might be feeling miserable because your trip is over but that is only because you had such a damn good time.

 

 

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The Christmas Fear – Dealing with Overindulgence

Food

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It’s that time again, when the mulled wine is flowing, turkeys are being stuffed and mince pies are everywhere in sight. Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Not if you are battling an eating disorder. If you are one of the many sufferers, you are most likely counting down to a time full of dread, guilt and self-hatred.

There are no words I could write that would magically rid these feelings, but here I have offered some (hopefully) helpful advice, on how to deal with overindulgence and disordered eating, this Christmas.

Keep Moving

It’s not always possible or realistic to exercise regularly at Christmas, but if you can, do it. Even if it’s just a stroll on Christmas Day, exercise will keep you feeling positive and healthy even when you’re surrounded by guilt-loaded foods. it will also help keep guilty feelings at bay and discourage binging.

Know Your Limits

Overeating is so easily done at this time of year, it’s cold, it’s a holiday and everyone else is doing it, but it’s important not to lose control of your eating. Know what you can manage and don’t try to push yourself too far at the risk of binging, but at the same time don’t shy away from the kitchen because it’s the easier option.

Don’t Over-Do the Drink

Drinking too much is almost a Christmas Day ritual, but it will only make you lose you inhibitions and therefore your control. Don’t be tempted (as I have been) to drink yourself numb on the run up to dinner to avoid dealing with those unhelpful thoughts and frustrations, it will only make things a great deal worse – trust me.

Recognise the Unhelpful

It’s difficult, but recognising the unhelpful thoughts is almost half the battle. Once you are aware, it is much easier to try and combat them and overcome the guilt pangs.

Distract Yourself

One positive about Christmas Day is that there are usually people around and it can be easier to find a distraction. If you feel urges coming on, try to distract yourself in some way, go for a walk, anything which will help to remove yourself from the situation and gain some perspective.

Stay Strong

Cheesy as it sounds, it’s important to remember how far you have come and the strength you have shown. Don’t let this one day take that your achievements away from you. It’s possible that you will feel out of control but remember that it is just that, one day.

Don’t Give In to the Guilt

This is much easier said than done, and it is unrealistic to not expect any guilt bogging you down, but don’t let it engulf you. After all, it is Christmas and it’s tradition to eat more than you would on a regular day. Providing you stay in control and fight the urge to binge, the guilt you’re feeling is unnecessary, it can be overcome and you can enjoy Christmas.

Seek Support

If you are someone who hasn’t started recovery, and is still suffering with an eating disorder on your own, maybe it’s the time to talk to someone. Coping with these thoughts and feelings can be a lot to deal with, particularly on holidays such as this, it can tend to make you feel even more alone and isolated, increasing the obsession. If, like many, you find yourself plagued with guilt, regret and hatred after Christmas, speak to someone and get help. Don’t spend too much time suffering in silence.

Taste the Difference

Food

As a bowl of transparent liquid was placed in front of me, a curious island floating in the middle of it, which I would later discover to be a crouton, I felt my stomach drop. It was my third night in the town of Bad Hofgastein in Austria, where I was staying with my parents. A family holiday was not exactly what I had in mind when I had envisaged myself at the age of 22, but this is where I was.

Not much of this holiday was to my taste (excuse the pun), in particular, the set dinner menu at the hotel. One reason being that I personally prefer to dine in a variety of places, when experiencing another culture but mostly, because the idea of the food I must eat being chosen for me fills me with dread. Combine this with a country in which the staple foods are meat and dumplings and you have yourself a recipe for disaster, in my eyes.

Eating in a foreign country, where not much English is spoken can be a struggle for even the healthiest, most open-minded, tourist but battling this and the voices of an eating disorder is almost too overwhelming. However, instead of retreating into my Ana-riddled comfort zone, I vowed to see this experience as a challenge and an opportunity rather than the nightmare it promised to be. When recovering from an eating disorder, trying new foods that you would never dreamed of eating before, can be a daunting step, but it is a step which has extremely positive outcomes. Once you combat the unhelpful thoughts and initial fear, you are left with an incredible range of tastes and experiences that were cut off from you previously, but everyone else has been enjoying. You are left with choice.

That is not to say that you will enjoy every new thing that you try, I tried many meals that week which I am glad I won’t have to eat again, dumplings and pumpkin seed dessert being examples, but the importance is just that, I tried. Choosing the vegetarian option most nights – to play it a little bit safer – I ate foods, such as cottage cheese parcels, French onion soup, gnocci with spinach and I even dabbled with dessert, a complete stranger to me. I ate and surprisingly enjoyed the cherry strudel with custard and some form of sponge with apricot filling – to this day I could not tell you what it is.

Eating food which you are not familiar with, and in some cases not even sure what it is, can be one of the hardest parts of recovery, but the fear of the unknown is definitely worth overcoming.

Apologies for my photography skills on this one!

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Potato with cheese and spinach filling

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Gnocci with spinach

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French onion soup with cheese crouton

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Pumpkin seed mousse and raspberry coulis