Do you have all four legs on your mental health table?

Recently, I’ve been binge-listening to a podcast called “Economic Update”. Sounds like a real snore-fast, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s soothing, gripping and depressing all at one.

In an episode from a few months ago a regular guest, Dr Fraad, was talking about what support humans need to maintain good mental health. It stemmed from a question about why do Americans kill each other more than Europeans, but it was connected to what mental support we need and how best to provide them.

In order to not become so hopeless that we murder people, or resort to substance abuse, or become motivated to hurt anyone (including ourselves), we need all four legs on our mental health “table”.

Your Soul

We need a personal connection with someone. Unconditional love that you can depend on. Whether this is from your partner, children or bestie, doesn’t matter. It’s about a connection you have full confidence in having forever.

Your Circle

You need friends and acquaintances that help you keep moving. They might be friends you hang out with all the time, or it might be colleagues you only see at the office. These are people that help you thrive, motivating you and generally making you feel good.

Your Cause

This is the group of people who share your beliefs or interests. Traditionally, this was often a religious group you would meet regularly, but it could be a charity you volunteer with or even a special interest website where you chat with people who share a hobby with. You may not be friends with anyone there, but you feel connected by your shared cause.

Your Purpose

You need to feel part of humanity as a whole. You need to be aware and really feel that you are more than just another blob wandering about this planet. You mean something.

Do you have them all?

While I have heard a few similar methods of self-evaluating mental health, this one was a little different. I didn’t think I understood the difference between “cause” and “purpose” in this method, but I thought back to some of my most happiest times. Working in my cause, helped me feel like I had a purpose, but the emotions behind the cause – the reasons I enjoyed it – gave me more purpose that the work itself. I’ve drifted away from some things that gave me this sensation, so although I found this metaphor slightly awkward, it did make me think. That’s always a good thing.


What do you think about the mental health table?

How to you quickly energise yourself

Introverts find their energy draining very quickly in social situations. It doesn’t matter how much you may love and adore the people we are with – eventually you begin to notice that you’re quieter, it’s harder to find the words you want to say and instead of being involved in the conversation you start zoning out. Your close friends might be used to this and just let sit there in your bubble. But when you know you have to be “on” for a long time around lots of different people, how to you manage your energy levels?

  1. Find a quiet space and walk around

    Fresh air and a little space is always a great way to calm an overactive brain. If you can’t get outside or away from people, try finding the quietest space you can. Put your phone on silent and pretend to listen to a voicemail. That way you will look busy but you don’t have to talk to yourself.

    Unless you want to, of course. That can feel good too.

  2. Zone in

    You’re used to zoning out, but have you tried zoning in? Think of it link a mindfulness exercise. Pick one think to concentrate on and focus on it. Maybe it’s a wall hanging, or a clock. Your drink can be good for this. Look at your lemonade. Concentrate on the bubbles. The speed at which they move. The different sizes of the bubbles. Where are they close together, where are they spread out. Then move from the sight of the bubbles to the sound of the bubbles. Listen as intently as you can. Zoning in to something for a few minutes is a great way to get your brain to stop bouncing from one thing to another. A few minutes of zoning in is like giving your mind a few deep breaths.

  3. Fake being productive

    Introverts like creative projects and love to feel productive. But you can finish your screenplay or coding during a party. But you can hide away somewhere for three minutes and play a quick game on your phone. You can get a pretty good, albeit temporary, sense of satisfaction from pseudo-productivity, such as crushing candies or a quick word jumble. SUGAR CRUSH!!

Have you tried any of these tips? What works for you?
Have you tried screen-free time?

When the screens get between you – reconnecting with your partner

Are you in a closer relationship with your screen than your partner?

If your partner asks a question during the TV ad break, and your phone notification sound goes off at the same time , which do you respond to first? I will be honest here. I will usually reply to my husband while checking my notification. It’s an automatic action and he hates it.

Screen time is eating in to our quality time. Is this happening to you?

The “Screen-Free Time” experiment

I’m a phone junkie and hubby is a TV junkie. So the idea of allocating “screen-free time” for ourselves was quite challenging. When we come home from work we sit down and have coffee and a biscuit and chat about our day. We used to have the TV on at the same time and we’d both check Facebook and show videos to each other. Not anymore. Now we decide that coffee time is “screen free time” – a full half an hour of no TV and no looking at our mobiles.

It’s amazing how often we reach for our phones to “check something”. Weather, confirmation of a stated fact, what’s happening around town this weekend. Every day one of us reaches for our phone within the first 5 minutes. Then we realise what we’re doing and stop.

How did things change?

Since we started this experiment we have noticed a difference in the way we communicate with each other. We have more energy when we chat to each other. We are tired at the end of the day and it’s tempting to just sprawl out across the sofa and watch trash. But knowing that we have half an hour dedicated to relaxing in each other’s company, we started finding new topics to talk about.  Instead of just “how was your day?”, we talk about history, politics, cookery, match-making, and archery. It’s a curious new world of conversation every afternoon!

What did we learn?

We improved our listening skills. Knowing that we had to fill the half an hour with nothing but talk, every day, after fairly unstimulating hours at work, we took our time when talking, listened carefully and asked each other questions. It’s a slow-paced conversation, but it is detailed and engaging.

We learned more about each other. Coming up with new questions to ask every day led us to some very unusual questions. Why we chose the subject we chose in high school. Who we looked up to as kids. Debates about how good/useless we would be at running a B&B. It’s been quite enlightening!

We felt more relaxed because we actually unwound properly. Talking slowly, thinking slowly, responding slowly. Not thinking ahead to what else needs to be done. With a self-inflicted restrictions on what we can do, we simply had no choice but to chill. And who better to chill with than the love of your life 🙂


Do you practice screen-free time? How does it work for you?



Do you feel like an imposter

Imposter syndrome: the mysterious curse of successful people

I have a friend who is highly successful in his field. He doesn’t seem aware that he has done well for himself. High grades through school, scholarships, placements, and he’s now in a very prestigious job. None of it seems to matter to him. It’s not that he doesn’t value what he has, it just that he still doesn’t think it’s as much of an achievement that everyone else thinks it is.

The other day I realised why this could be. None of his achievements are his own.

Have you ever found yourself in that situation? You’re being told you’re good at your work, but you’re not sure? Perhaps you wonder if you really belong there.

Imposter syndrome

It’s common for successful people to feel as though they don’t deserve to be where they are. Part of it comes from a competitive environment, but it also comes from the feeling of control. Sometimes we feel as though we aren’t in control of our our lives and it’s a negative feeling about negative situations. The car broke down, your colleague got the day off you both asked for, the dog puked on your bed. You have no control and it’s all just rotten. But it is possible to have the same uncomfortable feeling when things are going well, such as promotions, networking opportunities or free gifts. It not the actual outcome that’s making you feel uncomfortable. It’s the obligation that you never asked for. It’s still a feeling of not being in control.

In the case of my friend, he was naturally good at schoolwork. All his school-related decisions were made by his teachers. When school was finishing he didn’t choose something he was passionate about. He let the course choose him by offering a scholarship. His excellent grades got him a good job placement, which lead to good jobs but these jobs were orchestrated by his network and colleagues rather than by himself. By 30 years old he managed to get to the top of his field without the feeling personally achieving anything. He was missing the sense of accomplishment.

Resetting your confidence

You can fix this feeling without giving up everything you’ve earned (even if you don’t feel as though you’ve earned it). All you need to do is change one thing. It could be your job, if you want. But it could also be a change of hobby, a new routine or even a new wardrobe. Find one simple thing that is your decision and own it. It will build your confidence and calm your nerves to know that there is at least one thing in your life that is entirely your own doing.

But guess what? He’s just gotten a new job. Same industry, different role. It includes travel. Everything will be new and he’s experiencing a new feeling – control of one’s own destiny.

It’s never too late to experience something new. Is something stopping you from taking a chance and making a change?

Could La La Land help your career?

How watching La La Land could help your career (spoilers)


Boy-meets-girl, both meet career expectations.

This is not another review about how La La Land is a nostalgic escape from the political turmoil of the day. Nor is it about how the film is a saccharine example of why the world is so polarised. The movie is both of those things. This article is about La La Land as a different genre: a feature-length infotainment production about career progression in a competitive job market.

If you don’t want spoilers…

What you should know: It’s a pleasant movie with a secondary storyline about romance. It’s not about romance. That doesn’t mean that it’s not romantic, but it has more than one definition of romance. Now, stop reading because the spoilers are coming.

If you’ve already seen it, or you don’t care about spoilers, read on…

This is a playful movie about how to be good at networking. Read this version of the synopsis and tell me I’m wrong:

La La Land is about two people in the same industry trying to rise up the career ladder. Promotions elude them because of their poor attitudes, which causes friction within their networks. The girl learns to focus on positive-thinking and skill development. The boy learns about grief management techniques and goal setting. Both are able to achieve their professional goals, but the audience is able to see that if they had not been so negative during their networking activities, they would have reached their career goals faster and experienced smoother personal lives as well.

Lessons from La La Land

The main theme of the movie is networking. Whatever your goals are, if your interactions with others are positive, your life will move in the direction you want it to move. When Mia and her friends sing “Someone In The Crowd”, they may have well all been recruitment consultants. The message (somewhat lost in their desperation) was about nurturing positive relationships. Even outside of the entertainment industry, this is a good lesson. Actually, La La Land has a lot of good lessons.

Lesson 1: It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know and how you treat them

Have you ever had a job that you didn’t care about? You did the minimum amount of work, maybe you turned up late a lot. You didn’t put in much effort because you knew you wouldn’t be staying there for long. So what happened when you were ready to leave? You didn’t have a good referee because nobody wanted to vouch for you. You didn’t care about their job, why would they care about yours now that you’re leaving? But it’s not just your relationships with known connections that could be affected. You never know who is going to be a useful connection, so don’t burn your bridges.

Lesson 2: Sacrifice is not the answer

As discussed before, sacrifice is stupid. If you lie to someone to make them or someone else happy, you will hurt someone. If your personality, beliefs, passion and soul all align and then you give up who you are for someone else, you’ll both end up miserable. You’ll get stuck in a sacrifice circle until one of you breaks. That’s not fun. But if you are positive and stay true to who you are, you’ll get wherever you are headed faster and it will be an easier ride.

Lesson 3: It’s not too late to change your career trajectory

Feel like you have stalled, think about what you can do about it. Could you get some extra training, maybe a free online course or a via a local meet-up? Could you attend some networking events, and if you already do are you developing meaningful connections? Have you actually identified your goals so you know exactly what you are working towards and why?

Lesson 4: Your vision of success can change and you can still be happy

Don’t adjust your vision to fit your resources. Identify your vision and adjust your resources to fit. What did Mia truly want from her career? She wanted her work to have a positive impact on people.  That success could have taken many different forms, but if she had held too tightly to the vision of affecting others through screen acting, she wouldn’t have worked on her play, which developed her storytelling skills, which got her film gig. Her skill development advanced her career in either ending, but when Mia enjoyed the process she had a greater impact in her audience and felt more successful. As said in Lesson 3 above, it’s not too late to change your trajectory, just remember to enjoy the changes on the way.


If nothing else, think of La La Land as a reminder that we could all benefit from a little self-reflection. Re-evaluate what you want from life and see if you’re on the right path. While you’re contemplating, put the film’s soundtrack on. I think we can all agree it’s pretty damn good.

Introvert gifts for quiet people girfts for shy people

Gift ideas for introverts

It can be very hard to buy a gift for an introvert. If it’s for someone you haven’t known for long they may not have opened up much, so you may not know any of their likes or hobbies. If you’re trying to win a quiet someone over on Valentine’s Day or make a good impression at work with a great Secret Santa gift for that aloof colleague, here are some ideas that might help!

If you are an introvert and have any other suggestions, let me know and I’ll add it in! Let’s start getting gifts we want!



Everyone loves a good notepad and pen set, particularly introverts who prefer words to be written rather than spoken. The amount of stationery available is so exquisite, so varied, so addictive it’s almost a fetish. Introverts think a lot, often about too many things at the one time, so we like to feel organised whenever we can. Organisers, pen sets with specialty post-its, bulldog clips – all of these things can give an introvert mind a sense of order and calmness.


Home Comforts

Who doesn’t like curling up on the sofa with a book? This is one of the textbook images of an introvert! Although introverts already feel very comfortable at home, that doesn’t mean you can’t make things even cosier! Think blankets, slippers and the much-maligned, but truly satisfying, snuggle blanket.


Consumable Indulgences

If the standard box of chocolates doesn’t seem impressive enough, get a little more creative! Luxury Thorton’s (my favourite brand of chocs!), quirky tea packs, international coffees or chocolate coated coffee beans – yum!


Home Hobbies

Chances are your introverted companion has some hobby they enjoy at home. Do a little digging and find out what it is. Guitar, photography, quilting, etc. If you can’t find out, don’t worry. Being intense thinkers means that introverts are interested in learning about pretty much anything. Buy almost any how-to book and it will be devoured! If you’re still not sure, go for one on mindfulness or meditation. Both are great methods of restoring an overworked introvert mind.


Ways to hide

Sometimes an introvert just wants to hide from the world. A Fortress of Solitude is a little hard to come by, but sunglasses, headphones and hoodies are an affordable alternative! I’ve thrown a birdhouse in there too. They are a lovely way for introverts to enjoy watching wildlife from the comfort of their own home!


Things to get an Introvert to go out

If you can’t bear the thought of encouraging introverted behaviour with the gift of staying indoors, you can give a supportive “get out there” gift that an introvert will actually use. Local walking guides, membership to National Trust or National Parks



Firstly, there’s the lazy, but loved, voucher option. Vouchers and gift certificates. I know, it’s a bit of a cop-out. So avoid the obvious choices and find one from a specialty store or for a non-intimidating experience. Homemade gifts from local markets or specialty stores (Etsy), theatre or wine-tour vouchers are good choices. There are still other good ideas if you want something more “gifty” – I was given a shopping bag years ago and I still use it all the time. Best Secret Santa gift I’ve had so far! And don’t forget clothing accessories. If you don’t know what colour to get, go neutral. But don’t be afraid to take a chance on something bolder 🙂


Don’t forget…

Introverts aren’t always shy, and we don’t all hate socialising! The main feature of introverts is that socialising drains our energy more quickly than for extroverts and we need time alone to refuel. It’s nothing personal. We just think too much and wear ourselves out!

For more introvert resources, check out the Hermitopia blog for helpful tips on travel and careers, there are Simple City Guides and free job help, too!

And follow Hermitopia on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram


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Sacrifice is stupid, so stop it

Can we please stop glorifying sacrifice? It’s not the great gift people make it out to be. It’s teaching us all to be lazy and stupid.

I often get very sappy posts in my feeds, but lately I’ve had a few that made me edgy. Colourful little cartoons have appeared, telling me to be thankful to my mother/father/sister/brother. All very nice, BUT – the message behind some of these is completely and totally warped.

One really tugged at the heartstrings (possibly in an attempted strangulation), encouraged readers to thank the men in their life for the sacrifices they have made for them, in a list including thanking fathers for being debt-ridden for life to keep their children happy.

Not to keep them fed. Not to keep a roof over their heads. To keep them happy. Personally, if you child is happy that their parent is working long hours and is crippled by debt, the extra money you’re making should be spent on therapy – for both of you.

One post even that to be a good parent, your career goals will have to stay as a dream, never to be fulfilled. You must live through your children now, to watch them achieve their goals.

But it’s okay, further sweet cartoons tell us what we, grown children, should be doing now to thank our parents for the sacrifices they made. Buy them flowers. Visit every day. Don’t do things that will worry them in their golden years. Spend your time and money on them now, to make up for all those sacrifices in the past.

Sweet… to an extent. What are we actually saying?

Parents should not have dreams because such dreams would limit their children’s happiness. Children should not have dreams becuase to chase dreams would worry their parents (young children) or cause grown children to abandon their parents.

What does this achieve? The end result is a cycle of parents sacrificing themselves for their kids to succeed, only to watch them have kids that they make the same sacrifices for, and so on an so forth. We have a self-sacrifice-cycle in which nobody experiences their own happiness. How many families who are gifted at sciences, design or engineering have been caught in this trap? If both parents and children had agreed to keep in touch (for safety and support), we could all be driving solar-powered cars by now.

Instead of teaching our children to live by outside expectations (that make everyone feel bummed), how about we teach negotiation and compromise?

Speaking of cars, when my friends and I approached driving age, we all wanted our own cars. Some had parents with multiple cars, so they just borrowed the “spare”. Most were bought cars by their parents. Our household only had one car, and there was no way my parents were going to buy another one for me. Nor would I have expected them to buy me one. Dad and I simply shared the one car, and he had first dibs. After all, he paid for it.

I got busier with studies and multiple jobs and really, really wanted my own car that I didn’t have to reserve in advance. But I couldn’t afford a good loan on my part-time income.

Compromise: I asked Dad if I could buy his car on instalments.

On a part-time income, buying a car by myself was going to result in either years of debt or a budget banger with reliability to match. What I could afford was to buy my Dad’s car over 12 months, during which he would still have priority. Mum and Dad thought about it and realised that was a pretty good deal. They didn’t have to worry about me being in debt or buying a piece of junk. Instead, Dad got excited about getting a new car, and he had a whole year to find one he liked. Mum didn’t drive, but two cars and two drivers meant twice the likelihood that she could get a lift when she wanted one. It was perfect for me, I got a car I was comfortable driving, completely interest free.

This solution confused some people and, strangely, bothered others. I was asked why my parents didn’t buy me a car, or why I did use taxis, or why I didn’t quit one of my jobs so I wouldn’t need to travel as much. The answer was clear to me: because those options would have been unnecessary sacrifices; unnecessary because there was a better option for everyone.

What do you think? Is compromise a better way of keeping everyone happy? Or does it ultimately let people down?

Start. Anything. Just start.

I voted Remain and I don’t agree with Trump. I also don’t feel very connected to many other Remainers or anti-Republicans. Why? Because right now I’m seeing a lot of cheap insults from both sides (and a lack of independent journalism) and so I really don’t want the “Remoaner” or “never-Trumper” label. Or the “ignorant elitist”. Yikes.

What I really want is an action list. So I’ve made one. Feel free to follow it, ignore it or criticise it. But it made me feel less defeated.

  1. 1. Sign the petition for electoral reform. End the oppression of First-Past-The-Post.
  2. 2. Follow the plan to introduce associate membership of the EU. You take the UK out of the EU, but you can’t take the EU out of the 48%.
  1. 1. Join your local electoral reform group (UK, US, and I’m sure many other countries have their own groups). Yes, that includes you too, Aussies. Your voting system may be better than many others, but it could do with some tweaking.
  2. 2. Pick the one thing about the world today that depresses you the most. Support a group that’s trying to fit that. It’s hard when you start thinking “I want to help refugees, but what about all the homeless people? And how can I help the disadvantaged access the opportunities that I have had? Oh god, what about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and all those fish eating plastic, and all the people with cancer or dementia?!? THERE’S TOO MUCH HORRIBLENESS IN THIS WORLD!!! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!”Don’t get overwhelmed by everything that’s a mess right now. Pick the one issue that makes you the most angry/queasy/depressed. Don’t feel guilty if you’re helping trees instead of people. The point is that you’re helping.

Start today, and you’re already doing more than you did yesterday.

Start. Anything. Just start.

I’ve started giving free jobhunting help. Doing something starts now.

Which items on your list need to kick the bucket?

I often think about what I want to achieve in life. I also like to think about soulful things that hubby and I can do together. So I was very excited when he got on board the idea of creating a “40 before 40” list. I’ve come up with 20 so far, hubby is already at 30. I decided to tap into a former version of myself for inspiration.

10 years ago, a friend and I were emailing each other at work. Not sure what her office thought about that, but my office was very chilled. The actually said “once you get your work done, you can just sit on MySpace for the rest of the day if you like”. Yes, that chilled. Yes, that long ago.

At some point my friend and I got to talking about bucket lists and we each came up with 100 things to do before we die. That list still sits in old email account and here are the highlights:
1. 23 year old me was kooky. The list included “Shave my head” and “Convert a 1983 Nissan Bluebird into a fish tank”.

2. In 10 years I have ticked of 19 goals, including 3 career goals (e.g. “Become a manager”), 1 family goal (“take Mum on a holiday”) and 15 personal goals (“Live on my own”).

3. Some of the goals on the list weren’t mine.

This is something many of us struggle with – knowing why we want something. Maybe it’s because others tell you should want it because they do, even though you’re not interested (“Steal a street sign with my name on it”). Maybe you think that a particular achievement will increase others’ opinion of you or respect for you (“Have a job that pays at least 70k”).

Sometimes it’s because we’re not sure that we know everything there is to know about ourselves, so we want to try somebody else’s experiences and find out if we feel the same way they do. It may not be your own goal, but at least you know that you’re borrowing it.

“Learn Latin or Salsa dancing”  was on my list for that reason, and I might still keep it. What’s on your list? What goals have you taken off your bucket list?


CC0 image from Pixabay