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My Relationship With Social Anxiety

I wrote this post ages ago, mainly as a way of venting to myself, without ever intending to post it. However, I thought you know what? Having social anxiety is nothing to be ashamed or embraced about, so I might as well hit that Publish button. So, here ya go kids...

Ever since I can remember, I have been shy. As a child I would cower away from everyone, whether they be younger, my age or older. I have always been quite happy in my own company, or in the company of a select few who I was incredibly close to. I have never been one to seek attention or crave the spotlight, in fact I am quite the opposite. When I was younger I used to hate my birthday because of the dreadful 30 seconds at the end of the evening when I became the centre of attention, and my family would sing 'Happy Birthday' to me. One year I even hid in the kitchen and refused to blow my own candles out. 

I would often jealously look on at my little sister, in awe at how social she could be; easily talking to people of every age, and in return getting liked by everyone around her. I never felt as though I was liked. I was always the quiet, unapproachable standoffish one, who would hide behind my Mum, or get her to talk for me, in the fear that I would mess up or say something wrong. When you behave like that as a child, it is viewed as sweet or endearing. However when you are still hiding behind your Mum at 19 years old, it is less so. 

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As I got older, I wouldn't describe it as being 'shy' anymore. It was more like 'overwhelmed' by people around me, whether it be a busy kitchen at university, or an aisle full of busy shoppers in a supermarket. People put me on edge, and I didn't know why, because no one else seemed to be like this. During my mid-teens I had got to the point where I couldn't order my own food in a restaurant, or I had to take someone to the checkout with me to help me to pay for whatever it was that I wanted to buy. I ended up getting frustrated with myself because none of my friends behaved like this, or got scared at the thought of a social interaction with someone. It made me feel very inferior, especially as I couldn't describe why I felt that way. I also never really told any of my friends at school about how I felt, as I didn't want them to treat me any differently, or Heaven forbid make a fuss over me. Looking back on it now, I think I would've been a lot happier if I did say something. 

As I settled more into high school and began to make better friends, my anxiousness around people seemed to ease off a little. It got quite bad again during my ALevels and the transition into Sixth Form, but it wasn't anything that I couldn't handle. Then I started university. The very second I moved into my brand new room, surrounded my by new textbooks, bedding and stationery, all I wanted to do was lock my door and never let my parents go home and leave me behind. After a lot of persuasion, my Dad managed to get me to agree to go into the kitchen with my Mum to put my food in the fridge. To my horror, there was  another girl in there with her Mum, and everything went to shit again inside my head. I immediately did the whole hiding-behind-my-Mum thing again, as up until now she had been my comfort blanket in every social situation that I couldn't handle. I was standing there in the kitchen and just froze. I didn't want to be seen, noticed or looked at, in the fear that this other girl (who is actually now my best friend in the entire world) would attempt to talk to me. I have always hated talking. I have never been very good at it, as I have an amazing ability of getting myself flustered and either messing up completely and getting tongue-tied, or just quietly mumbling, resulting in me having to repeat myself saying simple things such as "my name is Ruth". 

I have been extremely lucky in the fact that I quickly made an amazing group of friends at university, who are the most understanding and lovely people I have ever met. I would say that it took me until just after Christmas to properly settle into university life. It was a big change to have to fend for myself, and more importantly, talk for myself. But as I got more and more settled, my anxiety began to decrease. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I will flatly refuse to enter the kitchen if it has more than about six people in, and sometimes all I want to do is lock myself in my room, but I began to feel a lot better about everything. I also tried something different since starting uni: using humour as a coping mechanism. My personal favourite is self deprecating humour, as if I poke fun at myself before anyone else does, it's a lot easier for me to handle. I also found that this gave me a lot more confidence, as at school I never attempted to do or say anything funny. In fact, I hardly said a word at all. But to now hear people describe me as being funny, I feel a lot less shitty about my socially inadequate self. 

However that all changed the very moment I was informed about someone very close to me becoming ill. Once again, everything went to shit, and it has been like this for a couple of weeks now. I have returned to being like that small child who wants to hide behind their Mum. However she isn't here at university, she is at home. I am almost twenty years old now. I have missed out on so much in my life, and given up on so many amazing opportunities like job offers and meeting amazing people. There are less than three weeks until the end of term, and I am so scared that as soon as I go home, I will make the most of being able to hide again, which is something that I cannot afford to do when, up until now, I have come such a long way. 

Edit: A few weeks after originally writing this Post.

It is now the summer holidays, and thankfully I will be able to go back to university relatively soon! (If you told me that I would say that last September, I would have certainly laughed in your face and told you to do one!) After several failed visits to the GP to try and sort this situation out, I have decided to take it upon myself to try and fix this without the use of any more medication (this is my personal opinion as it did not work for me, but everyone is different). I literally cannot wait to properly move into my new uni house with my favourite people, and start my new course (more about that later). At the moment I am feeling extremely positive about the future, and for the first time I feel like everything is going to be just fine. 

Dying My Own Hair Pink

Since getting my hair dyed pink over Easter, I have felt a lot more confident and just a little bit badass! However, as my hairdresser explained, pink is a 'fashion colour' and is therefore only semi-permanent, and can wash out. She recommended a self-dye brand to me called Crazy Color, which I can use to top up the colour whilst I'm at university and cannot go back to the salon regularly. I should also mention that it will only work on bleached or very light hair.

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So, without further ado, this is how I dye my hair:

What you'll need:
  • Shampoo
  • Hairbrush
  • Towel
  • Crazy Colour hair dye
  • Plastic gloves

How I dye my hair:

Step 1
Wash your hair with your normal shampoo, but don't use a conditioner.

Step 2
Towel dry your hair. I also like to brush it through at this stage to remove any knots, which makes it easier to apply the dye.

Step 3
Once my hair is brushed through, I split it into four sections to make applying the dye quicker and easier 

Step 4
Make sure that you are wearing gloves. Squirt the dye on to your hand (I use the shade Candyfloss) and apply to one of the sections of hair. I apply slightly more than necessary to make sure I get the colour I want, and to also make sure that I don't miss any strands of hair. As my hair has been bleached as a dip dye in the salon, I normally only need to use just under half a bottle. My natural hair colour is quite a dark blonde, so I also don't need to be as careful when applying the dye, because it will only colour the pre-bleached areas and not my natural hair colour. 

Step 5
Once you have applied all of the dye, wait 15-30 minutes (I normally wait for 30 so I get maximum colour pay-off), and rinse out the dye in the shower until the water runs clear (You don't need to shampoo it out).

Step 6
Style your hair!

Tips and After Care
  • I wear a dark t-shirt whilst applying the dye, so that it doesn't stain. As soon as I have finished, I just remove any dye that has got onto the t-shirt with a makeup wipe before it dries, and it completely removes any stain.
  • To maximise the colour longevity, only apply shampoo to your roots when washing your hair, and only apply conditioner to the ends, to keep them frizz-free and in good condition.

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Disclaimer: I use Crazy Color because it was recommended to my by my hairdresser, as it does not damage your hair. You can use whatever brand of dye you wish, and the process will be very similar. Just follow the instructions on the box :)

Lemon Drizzle Cake Recipe

What better way to celebrate the start of summer than with an refreshingly cool glass of Pimms and a slice of zesty lemon drizzle cake?! I made this cake with my sister when I came back from University for the weekend and thought I would share it with you all. Here is my favourite recipe that is simple and easy to follow:

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Ingredients for the cake:
  • 175g Self raising flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 tablespoons semi-skimmed milk
  • Zest 2 1/2 lemons
Ingredients for the drizzle:
  • Juice of 2 1/2 lemons
  • 115g caster sugar
Ingredients for the icing and decoration:
  • Lemon juice
  • Icing sugar
  • Water
  • Handful of raspberries

Instructions:
  • Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the flower and the baking powder.
  • Add the rest of the cake ingredients and beat together with a wooden spoon (I found this may take some time as it takes a while for the butter to become completely smooth!)

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  • Lightly grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  • Spoon the mixture, carefully, trying not to get any excess on the paper so that it doesn't burn in the oven.
  • Place in the oven at 180 degrees for 40 minutes (poke with a cake skewer to test when done, timings may be slightly different for you).
  • Once cooked leave on a cooling rack to cool slightly.
  • In the mean time, in a saucepan gently heat the lemon juice and sugar until all the sugar has dissolved (I found using a whisk better to remove any lumps).
  • Poke a few holes into the cake with a knife and pour over the cake whilst it is still warm.

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To Decorate:
  • In a bowl whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice, with a dash of water to your preferred thickness (You can adjust the measurements accordingly).
  • Once the cake has cooled pour over the icing and decorate with raspberries. 

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Anyone for Tea?

Just after I came back to university after the Easter holidays, I had a (very brief) health kick, mainly consisting of me putting spinach in every meal possible, and drinking a load of different fruit and herbal teas. Although the health kick and spinach obsession is over, I have developed a new appreciation for drinking tea and the health benefits that come along with it.

Lemon Green Tea

I've always heard that green tea is meant to be very good for you, however I also heard that it can taste awful if made incorrectly. So, I decided to get lemon green tea first, in the hope that it wouldn't taste too strong, and put me off my health endeavour before it even really started! I also only let it infuse for one minute, as I don't want it to be too strong. Because green tea is an antioxidant, it contains many nutrients that your body needs. It has been proven improve brain function, and is also a natural fat burner because it can increase your metabolism (which is why I drink a cup every morning with my breakfast, to set me up for the day). It may also reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

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Raspberry and Strawberry Tea

Raspberry and strawberry tea contains many very important vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, and also provides many antioxidants and nutrients that are beneficial to digestive health. I usually leave this to infuse for about two minutes as it can also be quite strong, but it can be left longer if you prefer. And, with only 2 calories per cup, this is the perfect afternoon drink for the summer!

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Lemon and Ginger Tea

Lemon and ginger tea has antibacterial and antiseptic properties (I know, fancy huh?!), so along with its high vitamin content, it does wonders for your skin and also hair! Its anti-inflammable characteristics can also reduce headaches, swelling and inflammation. Both lemon and ginger promote fat loss, and can therefore be used in combination with a healthy diet to lose weight. I've also found that adding honey not only adds to the flavour, but also can help to relieve a sore throat. I brew mine for about two minutes to get the perfect strength of flavour.

Peppermint Tea

I love to drink peppermint tea at night before I go to bed, as it has been proven to give you a more restful sleep, due to its menthol properties. It may also cause a slight oestrogen boost, leading to hormonal benefits such as clearer skin and acne reduction. It also has mental health benefits, as it can improve concentration and focus, and relieve anxiety. I leave the tea bag to brew for about 3 minutes, as it isn't as strong as green tea, so you can afford to forget about it for a while!

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Summer Smoothie Recipes

Summer seems to finally be here, so what better way to celebrate the occasion than to share with you some of my favourite summer smoothie recipes! I went through a phase of hating smoothies when I had to churn them out all day at the coffee shop I used to work in. However now that traumatic experience has almost fully left my mind, I have started to really enjoy them again. I will admit though that the first few that I made didn't turn out too good, and actually ended up looking like polyjuice potion, much to my friend's disgust/amusement. Now that I've had a little more practice, here are my favourites:

Ultimate Pink Smoothie

What says summer more than a brightly coloured pink smoothie?!

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To Make:
  • 1 banana
  • Handful of raspberries
  • Handful of strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons natural yogurt
  • Top up with orange juice

Blueberry Blitz

I did this as a smoothie bowl and added chia seeds and raisin granola for an extra crunch!

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To Make:
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons natural yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons honey

Glowing Green

It has been scientifically proven that avocados can improve your skin, giving you a natural glow, and along with the spinach which is rich in antioxidants, this smoothie has amazing health benefits. 

To Make:
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of baby spinach
  • 1/2 avocado
  • Handful of chopped mango chunks
  • Handful of chopped pineapple chunks

Chocolate Peanut Shake

Although it looks unhealthy, it actually contains cacao powder, which is a superfood and a healthier substitute for chocolate powder.    

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To Make: 
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
  • 2-3 teaspoons cacao powder
  • 3 tablespoons natural yogurt

Extra Tips:
  1. Blend in chia seeds for extra protein
  2. Add orange juice or soya milk if you prefer your smoothie to be thinner
  3. Blend in a few ice cubes or use frozen berries for a colder drink