Mental Health Awareness Week

I’ve been thinking about mental health a lot this week. Particularly apt due to it being mental health awareness week.

Everywhere I’ve turned there have been reminders about looking after our mental health. Social media has been full of interesting quotes and articles, and celebrities as well as us ‘normal’ folk have been talking about our own mental health.

I had an interesting conversation with someone yesterday who said they feel as though everyone has mental health problems these days, and that sometimes it feels as though people are just ‘jumping on the bandwagon’.

Whilst I’m not sure people are ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, it certainly does feel as though more people have mental health problems these days. However, I’m not sure that this is true either.

What seems to be true, is that more people are opening up and talking about mental health.

Radio 1 have done a great job at allowing people to open up and talk about their mental health, frequently talking about different ways to cope, and just allowing people to air their problems.

Celebrities too have been opening up about their mental health experiences, which somehow makes it easier to discuss things. By opening up and telling us their stories, they are letting everyone know that it is ok to not be ok.

Workplaces too are taking a tougher stance on mental health, ensuring staff know what to do if they are experiencing problems, or by simply making staff more aware of the signs that one of their colleagues maybe struggling so they can help, or find someone who can.

I too created The Mindful Musings of a Gingernut as a way of managing my own mental health. I often struggle to put things into words when speaking out loud, but writing my blog helps me to have a voice, and to say the things I often wish I could say in person. It also helps me to reflect and to make sense of things.

Yet, I can’t help but feel a sense of bittersweetness when we talk about mental health.

In a couple of months time it will be the anniversary of my best friends suicide.

I often wonder, if there had been more publicity about mental health back then, if there had been easier access to information, support groups etc, whether she may still be here.

We’ll never know.

What I am grateful for, is the fact that times are changing.

Mental health has a growing voice.

Mental health is finally being listened to.

Amen to that!

🙏🏻

Cumin

Isn’t it funny how certain tastes and smells we experience, stay with us throughout our lives?

Standing in the kitchen today, frying up a couple of eggs for lunch, I decided to sprinkle a little bit of cumin powder on top of them.

As I lifted the lid off the cumin powder, I was instantly transported back to Marrakech. Although I long to go again some day, I haven’t been back since my first visit in December 2015.

Moroccans seem to add cumin to everything, including their fried eggs.

The smell was such a powerful reminder of my trip. Other memories came flooding back. Not just the smells, but the taste of the food, and the sounds.

Whilst visiting Marrakech, I heard the Adhan (the call to prayer) for the first time. The first time I heard the call to prayer, I had no idea what it was, but it sent shivers down my spine. No matter how many times I search you tube, I just can’t find a video that does it justice. Maybe it’s just one of those sounds you have to hear for yourself rather than through a video. Hearing the Adhan was like being cast under a spell. I wanted to follow the sound to see where it led me.

Along with the sound of the Adhan, and the taste and smell of cumin, the other smell that will forever remain in my memory, is that of the petrol fumes. If you have ever been to Marrakech, you will know that the souks are a maze of narrow streets full of traders, locals and tourists alike, bartering over the many goods that are on offer. It’s incredible how anyone gets through those markets in one piece, on or off a mode of transport. The scooters and motorbikes somehow navigate their way through the markets, dodging people, animals and other modes of transport in order to reach their destination.

I quickly grew accustomed to the powerful effect Marrakech had on my senses in the short time I was there.

When I returned home a few days later, I opened my suitcase, ready to unpack, and was instantly hit by a wave of petrol fumes, spices and memories of the Adhan.

The tastes, smells and sounds of Marrakech can be overwhelming and powerful to the western tourist. I know people who have visited Marrakech and couldn’t wait to leave. But for me, Marrakech stole a piece of my heart. I will forever remember the excitement that comes with having your senses caught up in the spell that is Marrakech.

There are many other smells, tastes and sounds which remind me of the past and they almost always give me reason to smile.

What brings your senses alive?

Valentines

Happy Valentines to you my lovely followers ❤️.

Whether you’ve been celebrating today with your partners, your friends, or by yourself, I hope you’ve been kind to yourself today.

This is my first single valentines for a couple of years. So many singletons seem to dread the day. Quite frankly, even those in relationships often turn their noses up at the thought of it.

However, even as a thirty something singleton, I’ve been looking forward to today.

I may not have anyone to have a romantic night in (or out) with, but for me, today has been about celebrating self love.

Ok, so maybe I had a bit of a flirt here and there, but for the most part, I have been celebrating self love.

For possibly the first time in my life, I feel happy with who I am. I feel like a new person since my trip to Portugal. Even my colleagues have noticed a change. I feel lighter, happier.

My wellbeing and my happiness have become a priority. I have spent years trying to make others happy, making myself miserable in the process. But now, I finally realise the importance of self love.

If I love me for who I am, and make sure that I stay true to myself, if I find myself looking for romantic love again, there will be no changing me to make others happy from now on.

I have lost count of the times I have changed for other people. And all it’s done is caused me to lose my identity and to end up as miserable as sin.

I’m done with all that rubbish.

If you’re not going to love me for me, then you don’t deserve me, and you certainly won’t have a future with me.

So today, my friends, has been about celebrating my happiness, my freedom, and most importantly, celebrating finding love for myself.

And this evening, I have celebrated in my cosy little London flat, with my four legged friend, a bottle of wine, and a chocolate pudding.

And I’ve loved every minute ❤️❤️❤️

Praia Santa Eulália, Praia da Oura and Alfagar II Aparthotel

I’m now back in gloomy, grey, England after a beautiful few days in Portugal.

The flight into Gatwick yesterday was slightly unnerving, as we landed in high winds. There were gasps, followed by a few expletives from passengers as we made our descent, but thankfully, our pilot got us back safe and sound (and without the drama this plane had trying to land at Heathrow yesterday – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-47177383/plane-struggles-to-land-in-strong-winds-at-heathrow-airport).

Thursday was my last full day in Portugal. I had intended on having a rest day, but I also wanted to get back out to see what else was around, close to where I was staying.

I had been staying at the beautiful Alfagar II Aparthotel, which has private access to Praia Santa Eulália. Although I had taken a walk down to the beach on the day I arrived, I really didn’t explore that much. So, I decided to pack up my rucksack and head down to the beach armed with my book and my beach towel ready to explore Praia Santa Eulália.

View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
View from Alfagar Resort
Private access path down to Praia Santa Eulália.

Once I arrived at the beach, I noticed the tide was out, so I decided to keep walking and followed the beach around towards the next cove. The beaches around this part of The Algarve are stunning. They are rugged and wild, but magical and serene at the same time. The cliffs were something else, and their colours are just beautiful.

As I continued my walk around to the next beaches (Praia da Oura Leste and Praia da Oura), I turned back to look at the view. It was such a stunning spot. So it was there that I sat and read my book until lunchtime approached.

After a spot of lunch by beachside restaurant Vivaldo’s it was time to head back to the hotel to enjoy my last afternoon poolside.

The view from Vivaldo’s

As the evening set in, it was time to reflect back on a fantastic trip.

I booked the entire holiday (flights, hotel and transfers) through easyJet, and I couldn’t fault any of it.

The hotel was absolutely stunning and spotlessly clean, the staff were really friendly and helpful, the food at the Buganvilla Snack-Bar where I ate my evening meals was fantastic. The portions were huge, with a wide selection of starters, and main meals. The apple pie was to die for, and the chocolate mousse was simply divine! The evening entertainment was on the cheesy side, but I guess you expect that in resorts, and in actual fact, holidaying in February, I was probably lucky that evening entertainment was on the menu! The little supermarket in Alfagar Village was well stocked with everything you could wish for, including fresh bread, a butchers, and plenty of wine.

I didn’t use all the facilities on site (there is a car rental office on site – not sure I trust myself to drive on the ‘wrong side’ of the road yet!), but those I did use were superb. The gym, the spa, the pools, as with the rest of the hotel were spotlessly clean and well looked after.

On my first day, I had a slight problem with my lights not switching on in the apartment, however, I called down to reception, and within 15 minutes the maintenance guy was at my door, ready to fix it for me. 2 minutes later, I had light and had no further problems throughout my stay.

Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel
Alfagar Aparthotel

I had also booked my transfers through easyJet. Finding the meeting point at Faro airport was really straightforward, and only took 30 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel. On the return journey, thankfully I was early, and already in reception, because the transfer was a good 10 minutes early picking me up. We got to the airport early which at least meant I had a bit more time to look around duty free!

And despite landing in windy conditions, both flights were excellent.

All in all, a fantastic holiday!

Where to next I wonder?

(All photos in this blog are my own)

Olhos de Água and Praia da Falesia

After my relaxing day on Tuesday, yesterday I was back into explorer mode.

This time I decided to head east of the resort, and headed to the beach at Olhos de Agua. Again, I chose to walk, as good old Google maps told me it was only a short walk away.

20 minutes later, I arrived at the beach. Olhos is small fishing town where the local fishermen still pull their boats onto the sand when they arrive back to the shoreline with their fresh catches. It’s a much quieter town than Albufeira, but lovely if you have a young family and aren’t looking for somewhere overly commercial.

As there wasn’t an awful lot to do or see there, I decided to head down onto the beach to see if I could walk round to the next Praia (beach), Praia da Falesia.

(All photos in this post are my own )

If you are lucky enough to get down to the Praias on the Algrave’s south coast when the tide is out, it is really easy to walk from many of the beaches to the next without too many problems, albeit over a few small rocks. However, once the tide comes back in, these parts are pretty much impossible to reach by foot.

Luckily, the tide was out when I arrived in Olhos de Água, leaving a clear path right i round to Praia da Falesia.

As soon as I walked around the corner of the cove onto Praia de Falesia, the view took my breath away. Seeing the vivid orange colours of the cliffs and the distinguishable layers of rock, made my inner geographer do a little back flip of joy!

I must’ve walked down almost the entire stretch of the praia with a massive grin on my face. Every new section of cliff face I came to had something different to offer.

As I continued to walk along the beach, I realised how light and carefree I felt. I felt more relaxed and content than I have done in a long time.

As I walked along, I did a lot of thinking. I started to make a lot of sense out of things on that walk, putting some things into perspective, letting other things go, and thinking about some of the changes I need to make in order to create more happiness and feelings of being carefree, on a more regular basis.

I will share some of my thoughts with you over the coming days, but for now, it’s time to pack and wave goodbye to Portugal as I have a flight back to London to catch tomorrow.

Active Relaxation

After reading an article the other day on active relaxation, it got me thinking.

I’m not always very good at slowing down and relaxing, even at weekends. I tend to think that days sitting around not doing much are wasted days. In a world where there is so much to explore, why would I want to spend a day or two a week, not doing anything?

Although I have to admit, this afternoon has been one of those rare times I haven’t moved far from the sofa…and I haven’t felt guilty or frustrated by this in the slightest. It’s been another incredibly busy week. I crawled my way to the weekend. It’s as if my body and mind have turned and looked at each other and said, do you know what, this weekend she needs to re-charge and rest. It’s a rare thing, but for a change I’m not ignoring what my body and mind are telling me.

So despite not being very good at relaxing, I do seem to be pretty good at active relaxation. Sometimes we need to move around to feel better. Sometimes we need to get outside for a walk or some exercise to feel good, taking in some fresh air, taking in our surroundings, and watching the seasons change.

Other times, we may chose to cook to make ourselves feel better. Since I have been adjusting to living alone, I am throwing myself into cooking new and exciting dishes. Nothing overly complicated, especially during the week, as I simply don’t have the time or the energy. Even cooking simple, quick recipes for the first time helps the mind to switch off from the day to day and to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s why I love to bake too. I lose myself in the recipe (and have to admit, that whilst I like to cook new things, even the oldest dishes in my repertoire, I still need to follow a recipe to get it right 🙈), allowing me to free my mind.

Writing is also another great way to practice active relaxation. Transferring my thoughts from my mind into my blog for example, helps to clear my mind, and really helps me to process the information in a more constructive way. It makes me question my thoughts and helps me to process them, freeing up my mind, and making my mind a much more happier and relaxed place.

So, as much as I find it difficult to sit and do nothing, active relaxation appears to be something I practice a lot, without even realising it.

Are you good at relaxing? Have you tried active relaxation to help free your mind?

Homemade Harissa Paste
Harissa Chicken
Enjoying the great outdoors
Writing helps to clear my mind

Early Riser

I love being the first to wake up in my household, especially at the weekend.

That makes it sound as though there are more than two of us living here. There isn’t. It’s just me and Ali.

When we first moved in together, I would lie in bed reading or checking my social media on my phone until he woke up. He’s not an early morning person, so that would often mean I would vegetate in bed until midday waiting for him to wake.

Just thinking about this gives me a fuzzy head.

We would get up until around midday. We’d then get up, shower, eat and wouldn’t be out enjoying the weekend until perhaps 3pm in the afternoon. If we were night owls this might be more understandable. But we were going out for a couple of hours in the afternoon to grab what was left of the day, going home, eating, watching tv and then going back to bed again.

I soon became frustrated at the chunk of the day I was missing out on for not getting up early.

So I started to get up more or less when I woke. I might give myself half an hour extra in bed just to make sure I’m fully awake and to let my body and mind catch up with each other. But after that, I’m up.

There are so many things I love about being the first to get up.

I love that the flat is quiet, except for the creaking of the radiators as they warm up and, the sound of the early morning London traffic outside.

I love the short walk across my flat to the living room blinds, and being the first to let the daylight pour into the flat, come rain or shine.

I love to be the first to walk into the kitchen to switch the kettle on, followed by the first smells of either peppermint tea or as is the case this morning, camomile and spiced apple.

I love to hear the rest of the world stirring. The sound of people starting to go about their business just outside our flat. The local shopkeepers starting to arrive to open up there businesses for the day, the sound of the flats around us waking too.

Yet, despite the sound of the city coming to life, my morning world feels calm, allowing me time to think if I chose to, giving me the opportunity to reflect on the working week thats just come to an end, or to contemplate the opportunities that may arise from the day ahead.

I also find it the best time to write. I will quite often sit and write a couple of blogs before Ali even begins to stir.

It would be nice to wake up together sometimes, but I just can’t lie in bed all morning waiting for that to happen.

Happy Saturday all x