How my views on #mentalhealth changed.

Not having suffered from a mental illness I can’t fully understand what someone who battles with such an illnesses goes through on a daily basis and the range of emotions they feel. However since working for a health trust provides both community and mental health services I have been fortunate enough to have met a range of people who live with their illnesses and have won the small battles to be able to live a normal life. I developed a better understanding of what mental health is, it isn’t just about the illnesses that you hear about on the television like schizophrenia, bi polar, depression etc it covers so much more; anxiety, postnatal depression can affect both parents not just the mum, eating disorders, autism also comes under mental health. We need to move away from defining people by their illness, not every person with the same illness will behave the same way. They are people with feeling and emotions first, their illness is secondary.

I have written about mental health from an employment point of view in the past since then mobile phones have evolved to mini personal computers, social media has expanded to the point that the people behind the social sites need to consider how to safe guard their users against bullying trolls, and gradually so have attitudes towards mental health.

I not saying that the entire world is now more open minded and educated but charities such as Time to Change, Mind and Heads Together that have been working endlessly to educate and encourage society to change the way it thinks and behaves towards those with a mental health illness.

Cultural boundaries

In my opinion mental health still has yet to cross over cultural boundaries with some cultures still not understanding or even accepting that mental health illness is real instead believing it can be treated by becoming more religious or is a form of possession. Thinking a person cannot ever lead a normal life but with the right treatment it can be possible. I’m not discounting that religion in some cases has helped bring calmness but it’s not to be used as a way to guilt trip the sufferer into thinking they are being punished by god.

A lot of work is still to be done the Asian community in the UK as it’s about breaking down age old barriers and changing the way older generations in particular think. Saying this credit has to be given as cracks are slowly starting to appear in those barriers, communities are learning and understanding that sometimes things in our heads get a bit jumbled up and that we need a bit of help to make things a bit less blurred.

Treatment

When I mentioned treatment your mind may have automatically gone straight to medication but this isn’t always the case. Treatment could be a series of counselling sessions in a group or one to one bases in the way of Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Exercise not only to helps to improve both mental and physical health but encourage socialisation. Fitness in Mind in Brentwood run an series of inclusive exercise classes ‘…designed to promote, encourage and provide physical activity as an aid to mental wellbeing.’ The Mind website has a list of alternative options if counselling or exercise doesn’t interest you.

Despite all these efforts it is still difficult for many people to share the demons they are battling with others for fear of being labelled by their illness. Time to Change recently led the campaign #inyourcorner this campaign focused on being there for your friend when they need you the most and also touching on men’s mental health encouraging to let go of the idea that sharing with you have a mental illness is not a sign of weakness.

Mental health awareness week

Mental health awareness week is 8-14 May #MHAW17, there will be events taking place across the country to get people talking and breaking down those walls. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about mental health and how you could support someone whilst they go through a dark patch and to share your own experiences.

Whatever you think mental health illness is may not be true. Don’t be fooled into thinking it couldn’t happen to you, mental health illnesses can affect any one of us at any time. You don’t have to understand mental health sometimes all you need to do is listen, keep an open mind and be supportive because one day it could be you that needs the same in return.

Linked articles

Are employers missing out by not employing people with autism?

Mental Health and Employment

 

 

We reached our #BHF target!

26 March my youngest two siblings and I took park in 5k run at run in Stratford London at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park‎ supporting the British Heart Foundation, our aim was to raise £300 for the charity. From donations received through our just giving online page and the money raised from the biscuits I baked and sold each week up until the run I’m pleased to say we managed to raise £320.

I wouldn’t say that my siblings and I have the running bug but we have become more active. Unfortunately my family and I are in the group that are at high risk for heart disease and diabetes. A combination of exercise and watching our diet is important especially as we lost both our dad and uncle to the disease.

  • We go to the gym.
  • My sister and I have started going to a Zumba class, the moves may look simple but you get an all body workout!
  • Wednesday’s are usually reserved for a body balance class whilst my brother goes for a workout in the same gym.

20170305_201129Don’t think I’ll give up on the unhealthy foods but everything in moderation. I have begun making my own instant oat packets for breakfast, one to save money but the other was to be able to have a variety of flavours that I like. Day one today and have to admit I do like my oats a bit sweeter but before I reach for the sugar bowl I’ll try alternatives like honey and fruit to sweeten it up. 20170424_081830[1]

I’m still making my own flapjack / oat squares things. These ones I added raspberries which blended in with the oat mixture and some mixed chopped nuts I found in the cupboard. I’m not too sure about how these have turned out just yet, think I may have used too many nuts! Managed to take a picture of them before I rushed out the door for work.

Fundraising

I know it wasn’t the most healthy but baking biscuits to raise money appealed to the masses. Each week I would try and bake a different type of biscuit for a bit of variety though I have to admit my shortbread biscuits are pretty good. The final week’s biscuit offerings were a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and shortbread with a bit of orange extract thrown it. I wasn’t sure what kind ofBake the best response these biscuits would receive so you can imagine my surprise when I sold out within two days. They had a crumbly kind of texture and the orange flavour came through nicely.

Courtesy of my cookbook ‘Bake like the Best’ below is the recipe if you would like to make some of your own.

Make about 30

Ingredients

225g Butter, softened
140g Castor Sugar
1 egg Yolk lightly beaten
2 tsp Orange extract
280g Plain flour
100g plain chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate chips)
Pinch of salt

Cinnamon Sugar

1.5 tbsp Castor sugar
1.2 tbsp cinnamon

Method

Preheat the oven to 190C / gas mark 5, line a baking sheet with baking paper

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix well, you can use a wooden spoon I used an electric mixer. Then beat in the egg yolk and orange extract.

Sift together the flour and salt and add to the butter / sugar mixture. Add the chocolate chips and stir until thoroughly combined.

For the cinnamon sugar coating mix the castor sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow dish. If you don’t like cinnamon you can just use sugar or any other flavouring you like.

Roll about a tablespoon amount of dough into a ball and roll in the cinnamon sugar before placing on the baking tray.

Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes. They’ll be soft when the come out of the oven so leave them to cool on the baking tray for about 5-10 minutes then using a palette knife or anything flat remove the biscuits from the tray onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Make your own oat bars / flapjacks

I’m not as healthy as I could but I do like to try and find a balance. I like oat bars but thought I would try and make some of my own, I would know what goes into them and would be cheaper to make a batch at home.

All I wanted was a straightforward simple recipe that I could adapt to suit me, not too much to ask for really. Google search later and a number of recipes pop up from those including protein powder to chia seeds none of which I would have laying around in my kitchen cupboards. I found I could go super healthy and have all the internal cleansing, gut busting ingredients that would that would probably cost me a small fortune or I could start by using a few ingredients that I know I have.

Oat BarsThis recipe from www.inspiredtaste.net probably isn’t considered healthy with the honey, butter and sugar but at least I know what is going into them and cost me pennies to make. I didn’t have any almonds so skipped this step, mine did turn out looking more like flapjacks but tasted nice all the same.

The recipe is versatile that you can add any additional ingredients; berries, raisins, flax seeds etc, I stuck with cranberries and may have gone a bit overboard with the chocolate chips. The only thing I may play around with is the honey and sugar quantities as it was a bit sweet for me, that is just a personal taste. Overall this is a good recipe to start with when making your own oat bars / squares. So what are you waiting for, below is the recipe from Inspired Taste.

Makes 12 bars

Ingredient

2 1/2 cups (230 grams) old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup (80 grams) whole almonds, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup (113 grams) honey

1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup (50 grams) packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (60 grams) dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams) mini chocolate chips

Method

Toast Oats and Nuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees F / gas mark 4. Line bottom and sides of a 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with aluminium foil. Then lightly oil or spray with cooking spray.

Add oats and almonds to a small baking sheet then bake 5 minutes, stir and bake another 3 to 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves.

Pour butter mixture in to bowl with toasted oats and almonds. Mix well.

Let cool about 5 minutes then add cranberries and a 1/4 cup of the mini chocolate chips. Stir to combine. (The chocolate chips will most likely melt a little. This is fine, they turn into glue and help to hold the bars together). I should have waited a bit longer as the chocolate melted quite a lot.

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan then use a rubber spatula or damp finger tips to firmly press the mixture into the pan. (Press hard here, this way the bars will stay together once cooled and cut — We press for about one minute to be extra safe).

Scatter remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips over pressed granola mixture then use a rubber spatula to gently press them into the top. Cover then refrigerate at least 2 hours. Remove block of granola mixture from pan then peel away aluminium foil. Cut into 12 bars.

Store bars in an airtight container for up to one week. For the softest bars, keep at room temperature. For slightly harder bars, store in the fridge.

Artificial Intelligence in a human world

Since joining Netflix I watched a range of films and television series even sometimes binge watching a particular television series that has me hooked one of them being a series called Scorpion. It’s about a team of geniuses who have the intelligence to create a functioning computer out of your toaster and your mobile phone but lack the social skills to interact in what is considered normal society.  This series though repetitive got me thinking about all the hype surrounding artificial intelligence. Like it or not AI is steadily infiltrating the world as we know it. We already heavily rely on techinology to communicate, work and play.

AI didn’t just happen overnight and appear on our doorstep one morning, Kismet, a robot head created in the 1990’s at Massachusetts Institute of Technology  was able to recognise and imitate human emotions. Fast forward to today and we have Google working on a self-driving car and a sex bot in the making courtesy of Realbotix, something for everyone.

How does AI work? Very much like a computer that is programmed with a number of possible scenarios that could be encountered followed up with the number of possibly human reactions. From watching the series Scorpion I learnt that with a skill for coding and an ability to hack into almost anything a computer programme can be overridden and left in control of the hacker. How can an AI machine be programed with every possible outcome of a situation, humans adapt we learn from experiences and evolve so how can we expect an AI robot to behave in the same way? MIT may have solution with a robot that works off the brain signals from a human; ‘The robot/human interaction with EEG signals allows for direct and fast communication—communication that could remove barriers for operating a robot.’

For now AI technology behaves the way it is told to but how long before it advances to think for itself and behave accordingly? Machines are designed to think in black and white most of the time there is no grey area, a machine can learn to assess a situation, weigh up the pros and cons of various reactions but will it consider the emotional element that separates the human race from a machine? I’ve seen I Robot where one robot goes ‘rogue’ and believes it dreams for itself, those dreams had been implanted by its creator, was able to feel emotions, evolve and create an uprising of forgotten good machines against the evil one.

Worries aside AI does have its uses. Heard of the robot Zeno helping autistic children to communicate and interact with others? If you know anything about autism depending where on the spectrum the child is emotional interaction whether it is verbal (sarcasm, jokes) or physical (actions, hugging) is not easily understood. Zeno in a fun way to interact with a verbal and non-verbal child through conversation, facial expressions and actions making them feel comfortable so they don’t realise they are learning important social skills.

We’re not at the stage where we can worry about a rise of the machines but the focus on wanting to create a lifelike as possible robotic humanoid is a bit worrying. A machine maybe more efficient, can work longer hours possibly be considered safer and more effective but it’s still a machine.

Baby showers; love or hate them?

Baby showers are like marmite, you either love them or you hate them, not sure if there is a middle ground. I attended such an event over the weekend to keep my sister company, though not as painful as I had expected it to be it still wasn’t enough to sway me into the ‘love’ camp.

After a bit of research, ok Wikipedia baby showers though under different names take place across the globe. In the case of the UK we have been influenced by America especially with the games, gender reveal cakes / events and lets not forget there is a baby gift lists where the expectant parent/s will have a list of things they would like bought for their unborn offspring. A list could be seen as being sensible approach so the prospective parent/s don’t get too many baby grows but then it’s also room to take advantage by adding items they would like but know they can’t afford.

Then there are the games;

  •  Pin the dummy on the baby
  •  Whilst blindfolded guess the flavour of the baby food
  • Charades with baby related words
  • Guests bring a picture of themselves as a baby and the pregnant woman has to guess who the adults are

All the while those attending and can / do drink get drunk as a skunk, must be their way of getting through these things.

These things can be expensive not only for the guests but also those organising the event.

  • Food & drink
  • Decorations
  • Things required for the games
  • Yes there are even gift bags to take home which can contain small bottles of bubbles (not alcohol) with blue and pink lids, sweets & popcorn, you get the idea.

I shouldn’t knock these things too much as I have been to some baby showers than have been somewhat bearable but they are not something I would miss. Plus when I was making cakes / cupcakes more regularly I have made baby shower themed ones.

If I am ever fortunate to be blessed with a child I have already told my sister I am not interested in a baby shower. I know, the social butterfly that I am (that was sarcasm) however I would much prefer something like a spa day and food that could be lunch, dinner though at the moment I swaying towards afternoon tea. The idea of being surrounded by hoards of people trying to guess the sex and weight of the baby whilst you are thinking I may need to pee again as this baby is crushing on my bladder. Then there are those who may feel compelled to come and rub my pregnant belly… personal space best to keep out of mine unless invited in.

Apologies to anyone I may have offended and you absolutely love these type of events but in my case if it’s possible I’ll decline the invite to the next baby shower, will just need a good excuse!

How far would you go for the perfect, memorable selfie?

How far are you willing to go to get that perf6ect, memorable selfie? Are you willing to risk your life for a kilfie? A kilfie is self explanatory, a selfie that results in the person in the photo being killed, this could be falling down stairs, falling of a cliff, getting hit by a train etc.

We live in a self-obsessed time where the number of likes a photograph get can determine if it remains online or gets relegated to the reject pile. Another snap of you drinking a latte in different coffee shop just doesn’t make the cut, you need a more daring, more creative, take that next selfie like your life literally depended on it. Yes I am being sarcastic because I can’t

Though other social media networks play a role Instagram was recently named as the most narcissistic social media platform by 64% of millennials. Is this social media platform spearheading a generation of self-obsessed image crazed individuals that feel the worth of an image and themselves is determined by the number of likes and post shares it receives?

Social media plays an active role in many people’s lives it’s the first thing they check when they wake up. This crazed approach to living your life through an online status is resulting in people competing to get the most likes, shares and followers. Recently a Russian model leant backwards on the rooftop ledge of Cayan Tower in Dubai Marina 1000ft above the ground with only another human being holding her arm for safety with a camera held in his mouth to get that perfect shot. That’s dedication right there for you, the tough decisions some people have to make; your life or a memorable photograph?

In India last year two teenager died taking selfies on an active train track. India has many beautiful places to take a selfie why pick train tracks?

What is driving people to behave so recklessly? Is it more than just an obsession to have your life mapped out through photographs, the more dangerous the better or does it go deeper psychologically, that face to face communication is being replaced by a series of images? We thought written post updating the world about babies, food, television programmes was bad enough but to see the last photo taken just before the person/s in the photo dies is disturbing.

If you like your statistics, men are more likely to take dangerous selfies than women, most of the people who took a kilfie were under the age of 24, and in a study conducted out of 124 selfie deaths reported worldwide India was at the top with 76. (http://wapo.st/2oQlWiM)

Being an adult is expensive

Shrinking Pound

Ever had one of those days, week’s months? It all started off with the car, something I already knew was on the cards and an expense that I was prepared for and had begun the search. Then there was one of the bedroom windows where the lock suddenly broke, the window itself is in good condition but considering it’s age there was the risk that I would have to replace the whole window including frame. Fortunately with a bit of thinking the problem was resolved, the window has a lock and is once again secure.

Could anything else happen? Daft question really when the answer is of course! I got bitten on the thumb by some a creature that resulted in my thumb doubling in size and feeling quite painful to touch, it was like my thumb had developed a parasitic twin! After four days of taking antihistamines and applying antiseptic treatments my thumb returned to normal size and once again functioning. You don’t realise just how important your thumbs are until you can’t use it.

You know the phrase; ‘things happen in three’s’, that isn’t the case here just when I thought I could breathe a sigh of relief and relax, the day I get my new car home the boiler decided it no longer wanted to work. No heating or hot water for 3 days, like my thumb you don’t realise how lucky we are to have basic things like hot water and heat until it is taken away.

I was hoping the boiler could be fixed but considering my recent track record that wasn’t going to happen. Repairs versus the cost of having a new boiler fitted, it made more sense in the long term to have a new one installed. The next topic of issue was how much it was going to cost me; you have to remember I have just bought a car and repaired a window. Not going to lie part of me did crumple and wanted to hide in bed but I wanted to be able to have a hot shower in my own home. I handed over the money that was necessary and it was installed relatively quickly. March has been an extremely expensive month for me, just glad I was fortunate enough to have had the money available for these emergencies.

There is silver lining among all of this, I have a new car that when I drive it doesn’t feel like I am going to lose part of the engine every time I drive over a bump in the road. The window is secure, my thumb has recovered and there is a new boiler that should last a few years. I had to wait until pay day to feel somewhat financially stable at least until next pay day.

British Heart Foundation 5k run, jog, walk!

Sunday 26 March was the day of the British Heart Foundation 5k run in Stratford London at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park‎.

If you are a follower of my blog you will know why my siblings and I chose to take part in this run with the team name of Rocking Raccoons. Asians in general are at high risk of developing heart disease and succumbing to the effects, sadly our dad was one of them. This aim of this run was not only to raise some money for BHF but was also part of our healing process, it’s still a long road but we’ll get there.

20170326_115321[1]My brother, sister and I hadn’t planned to run, we’re not that active but did manage a combination of walking and jogging finishing the run in about 50 minutes, not bad for running newbies. I was exhausted but it was worth the feeling of 20170328_081943[1]accomplishment felt crossing the finishing line, getting the medal just before finding a spot to collapse.

After regaining a bit of energy and sampling an energy bar of some kind, we got our medals engraved with the date and our surname which was also our dad’s name. Being at a BHF event it was a good opportunity to take advantage of the CPR training that was on offer. You don’t realise just how forceful you need to be when doing the compressions, there is no room for worry of breaking any ribs when it comes to potentially saving a life.

The outcome of taking part in this event apart from the sore legs, free t-shirt and a medal we raised over our fundraising target of £300. Even though it took three days to fully regain the use of our legs out of the three of us it is our brother who is keen to try another running activity. Until we decide on a charity event we may try a bit of street / park running.

Suffering from FOMO?

Who doesn’t like another acronym finding its way into the language as clearly there just aren’t enough? FOMO isn’t new it has been doing the rounds for a while, I just didn’t know what it meant. Though it may sound like it could be a swear word, it isn’t, FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out. So much so that people develop an even more so unhealthy relationship with social media that can lead to anxiety, overstretching yourself to try and go to every event going whether you want to or not just in case you miss out on something interesting. The constant updating of status’s; how babies are able to use the toilet from birth, holiday pictures, going to a high profile, exclusive events is creating a feeling of inadequacy in others the feeling that their lives aren’t exciting or as fulfilling, even though we know that logic dictates that just because those pictures may look great they don’t really tell the whole story.

With easier access to our online profiles through a range of media outlets, you don’t have to wait until you can get onto a computer to post a message, you can tell all your followers what you are doing in real time through an app on your phone. Trying to maintain that kind of image and keep up with others sounds exhausting, it’s no wonder that the constant checking and updating of is creating obsessed, burnt out individuals aka FOMO. Sounds dramatic but think about it, before technology if you felt the green eyed monster rearing its ugly head when a friend shared details of their excellent holiday to the Carribbean you could walk away and forget about it, avoid seeing their holiday snaps. Now it’s smack bang in your face all over your Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. There is no escape.

It doesn’t stop with your social circle FOMO is infiltrating the workplace, with the fear of missing out on an important meeting or not being involved in a project even if it isn’t relevant to you. Let’s not forget LinkedIn, got to keep that profile up to date, have people endorse your skills, updating your status etc. Instead of encouraging, supporting, empowering each other indirectly we’re tapping into people insecurities and making them feel low.

I’m bashing FOMO a bit here but I wonder how much of this behaviour is age related with people establishing themselves and figuring out who they are. I’m nearly 40 and am still developing as a person with opinions, interests changing constantly but my relationship with Facebook and LinkedIn is no longer as consistent. Twitter is another story. Even with the social networks shares are going down its popularity slowly waning I am working on boosting my profile and have found myself updating daily and checking to see if my number of followers has increased / fallen. FOMO is like a disease it gets hold of you little by little until you are hooked, its ok I only have this problem with Twitter there is still hope I can wean myself back to a healthy relationship with the network without compromising my own sanity.

Amongst the sea of negativity surrounding FOMO there was a positive response to a question that was posted on Quora and shared on Huffington Post about dealing with FOMO. Don’t let it control you, you control it but taking the positives from other people’s interests and experiences that you wouldn’t have considered before. Take part in things that would have otherwise bypassed you and not just because others are doing it. Use FOMO to develop and create a happier, confident you.
With that outlook who wouldn’t want a bit of FOMO in their life?

Time for a new car

I love my car, I know some people choose not to humanise their vehicles, although my car doesn’t have a name I do think of it as a ‘she’. She has been through a lot with me over the years, the highs and the lows not once faltering, needing the general wear and tear repairs and replacements such exhaust, tyres, wheel bearing. Sadly now the time has come where she is struggling, the girl is a Peugeot 207 having done over 122,000 miles only needing a new clutch last year. At first I thought the suspension on the car was done in, but fortunately that wasn’t the case and she is still safe to drive. I would happily keep her longer but she will eventually need some new front engine mounts & possible suspension rods, all of which will be costly for my car, you learn a bit about cars over time, and a decent mechanic will always explain everything to you. So I have set about on the journey to find a new car, exciting in some ways but could also be compared to wanting to bang your head against a brick wall in frustration.

I have bought cars over the years and have not had any problem with the garages I have bought from but the some of the sales people I came across this weekend confirms all that is said about car sales men. One car didn’t even look like the picture, the engine was filthy and it would have needed four new tyres not forgetting and the worrying lack of paperwork considering the car only had one owner and some service history. It’s common sense to ask about the missing paperwork, the salesperson replied with ‘garages don’t supply paperwork these days when they do a service, they just stamp the book’. Don’t know what mechanic the previous owner used but the mechanics I go to always provides evidence of what work was done and which parts had been changed.

Onto the next viewing. The salesperson was just plain rude and arrogant, all the traits that puts off people dealing with car sales people, didn’t get a good vibe off him at all.

The third place was a breath of fresh air, salesperson was friendly, patient, not intimidating in any way. The car itself, you could tell the garage had taken the time to cleaning the car inside and out just a shame that after a test drive it wasn’t a car I was interested in buying but still a garage who’s website I will keep an eye on to see if anything I like turns up.

Summarising what I have learnt about car buying so far is;

  • Go with your gut instinct, if something feels wrong there probably is something to be concerned about.
  • Check for paperwork be that MOT, service, repairs done on the vehicle. This is the evidence to prove which parts have been changed and what is likely to need work in the future.
  • Do your research. If there is a vehicle you are going to view read reviews about the make, model and year of the vehicle. Everyone’s experience and opinion will be different but you always want to know a bit about the mechanics of the vehicle and if there are any common problems.
  • Stick to your budget. It’s easy to get carried away when looking at cars, try and stick to what you can afford it will save your bank balance in the long run.
  • Take someone with you. It doesn’t hurt to take someone else along with you, they may ask questions that you hadn’t thought of.

The search continues.