Fern & Oak


10 ways I'm helping myself stay positive

Lately I have been gloomy, snappy, overtired and over-emotional. I’ve been plagued by restless nights lacking in good quality sleep, constantly feeling like there’s a stone in my stomach. Talking to a friend the other day, I can only describe my current status quo as having a general ominous feeling that there’s a black rain cloud hanging over my head.

A lot of these feelings have been triggered by what is happening in the world at the moment. Every time I go on social media, visit the news website or just look at a newspaper there’s something else deplorable that has happened. I get sucked into spending hours poring over one tragic news story after another, with the feeling that I must stay informed. But then, I feel so helpless – and guilty. I have a good life, I don’t wake up every day in a war zone or some fascist regime. How can I be happy when there is so much suffering out there? What can I do to make a difference? Am I even in the right career, shouldn’t I quit my job and become a charity worker? Why am I putting s much effort into creating art, that’s not going to help feed hungry people? Why bother? Why do anything? I’m just one girl.

So, that’s a long way of saying for the past couple of weeks I’ve been in a real fucking funk.

It came to a head last night when I realised I was sat at my computer, dirt tired and just crying as I scrolled through various videos, photos, articles and political statuses.  Emotionally and physically, I had saturated myself with the hurt of the world and I couldn’t continue what I was doing.

So now what?

At my moment of “what am I doing, this can’t go on?” realisation, it was like a little of the gloom fog had been lifted. I had acknowledged that this was really not a healthy way of living right now and that I needed to change some things – in the very short term and also the long term. I definitely don’t have all the answers in this blog posts (sorry, spoiler) but I do have some ideas I’m mulling around and will be trying out this month, to see if I can help myself get outta this funk. I’m also pretty sure I’m not the only person feeling like this, so I hope if you are too then this is helpful for you as well.

Here’s what I have come up with, to try to help heal my soul and also the world’s. As I might just be one girl, but I’m not alone in this world and together, I do think it is possible to make a positive difference.

1 – Donate to charity, what I can, when I can.

I’m lucky – I can afford to spare a some money here and there to be able to donate to charity. Last night I made a donation to a charity I was familiar with (to save time having to research other charities – I want to be sure my money goes to what it’s been pledged to) that I feel does great work for humanity. It wasn’t a life changing sum of money, but it was enough to feel that I had made a contribution. I already fairly regularly donate to charity, but I’m going to be researching a lot more this month and coming up with a more consistent system of donation.

2 – Stay informed; don’t get immersed

I’m going to limit myself to news reading. I feel with me, I get sucked into these tragic and frustrating news stories very quickly and it’s a slippery slope from reading one article to laying in bed crying at night about the state of everything. I’m limiting myself to one checking of the news a day, for a max of half an hour. That way, I still know what’s going on but I’m not drowning in it.

3 – Practice gratitude

Yes, things are pretty bad at the moment but I just saw the sunrise and it was fucking beautiful. Yesterday I watched a heron gracefully soar across the sky. The day before, my boyfriend held me and whispered he loved me. Life sucks, but it’s not. All. Awful. Reminding myself of the daily miracles we see and feel will help me stay positive and see the bigger picture.

4 – Keep creating

If I go even just a few days without creating I start to feel drained and down. Making art is not just about painting pretty pictures for me, my art is often steeped in secret personal symbolism and helps me process my thoughts, dreams, fears and feelings. Especially my art journal, which is a little visual glimpse into my soul. By creating for myself, I show love for myself, and you can’t love others without loving yourself first. By continuing to create, I’m actively practicing self love.

5 – Raise money for charity

As well as donating money, I have a really deep urge to create something to raise money for charity. I’ve participated in a couple of online charity art auctions before and found the experience very fulfilling so this is something I definitely want to do again. It’s one of my creative goals this year anyway, but now seems like a good time to start seriously planning this. Whether it is an auction for a piece of art, or a series of prints sold online, I’m going to create something especially for donating the funds to one or several chosen charities.

6 -  Be kind

My word of the year in 2017 is courage. It stems from my life motto have courage and be kind. It seems I’m in need of both things pretty desperately right now. Being kind, not just to others but to myself. Less self flagellating, more gentleness. Being kind to others, I always strive for anyway. Having courage, to speak up for what I believe in and not be a passive bystander and to know when to step back and regroup within myself.

7 – Sign petitions

A pretty quick and easy way to feel like I am helping to make a difference. I know people bemoan petitions a lot, but for me I feel it’s a good way of collectively making our voices be heard. A couple of the petitions I have signed in the past, actually went on to make real differences so I’m a fan and I’ll keep signing what’s important to me.

8 – Protest

Now – this is a tricky one for me. Trust me, the idea of protesting I am all over. I am so proud of the people who gather together to unite and say NO to what is happening. I love seeing the signs, the solidarity and the collective message of “we will not stand for this”. I would dearly love to join in, but I get extremely anxious in large crowds of people. Like, I’m going to faint/ be sick/ hyperventilate anxious. I’m not 100% I’m best serving the world by putting myself in a position to get into that state. I’m also not a fan of self guilt tripping (e.g. “I didn’t go to that protest, I’m a phony” or “I didn’t protest that, I don’t really care”) because it’s that kind of self destructive thinking that has helped get me into this mental pickle in the first place! So this in an idea, but pending.

9 – Look after my body

This month I’m going to be trying to eat more healthily by taking little steps. Drinking less alcohol, limiting refined sugars and reaching for fruit instead of chocolate. I’m also aiming to go on at least one long walk out in the woods (I’m pretty limited for free time in February) to help reconnect with nature, clear my head and get away from it all!

10 – Look after my mind

This ties back to limiting time on news sites and social media. I’ve already started re-reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert as for me it’s such a comforting and inspiring read. I’ve also been listening to inspiring podcasts and working my journal, illustrating notes from educational creative talks. I’ll be focusing more on mindful input to help make myself a more informed, creative person following curiosity not fear.