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20 May 2018

Being confident and loving yourself is hard. You always point out your flaws and don’t look at an amazing person when looking in the mirror. 

As I’ve grown up, I’ve had these thoughts too, but have now mostly made peace with the fact that I’m going to have spotty skin and a lazy eye, but am a great colleague and friend to have. It’s not easy at all, but hopefully I can help a little bit. 

For my last Mental Health Awareness Week post, I thought I’d give some tips to improving your self-confidence. 

1) Accept that it’s going to take time. 
A journey to self-confidence is quite gradual and even I’m not there yet, but it’s a great and rewarding journey to go on. Also celebrate your accomplishments - I’ll give you an example: I interviewed a lot of people for my podcast, and I couldn’t have done that without the confidence that I could clearly ask them questions or hold a conversation. 

2) Find friends that accept you, warts and all. 
Having people in your life that are constantly putting you down aren’t worth your time at all. A lot of people nowadays are cutting all the toxic people out of their lives and that’s great, it leads to healthier friendships and not anxiety about why that certain friend hasn’t texted you back. 

3) The great things about you are there, you just need to discover them. 
I’m not the skinniest person known to man, but that’s OK. I know I’m great at writing and work to my strengths, so there will be something great that you can harbour and put all of your energy into. However, I do still have some insecurities about my looks, but I don’t care about them as much as I did - instead I pour my thoughts into my creative endeavours and job.

4) The only person who cares what you look like or about that spot on your chin is you. 
I don’t wear much makeup to work, if any. I know - shocker! But there’s a reason for this. I realised that the only person who cares about my spot on my chin or blackheads is myself, my colleagues are too concentrated on their own work or lives to care about what foundation you’re working. 

I admit that makeup does give confidence to some, but not wearing it can also be empowering too. I like to wear makeup for special occasions and not everyday, as I want to look different when I go out so people say “oh you look nice”, rather than looking as I usually do.

5) When on social media, find people that inspire you and follow them instead of those who you’re jealous of. 
Everyone is spending so much time on social media these days, and I am no exception to that. I know a cracking feed is a must, but it shouldn’t make you jealous or anxious to open Instagram in case you get FOMO. 

Your feed (much like mine) should be full of inspiring people that post about their IBS and other issues they have, instead of photoshopped, perfectly-preened people that are only going to make you jealous. That can actually be dangerous for your mental health and make you doubt yourself even more, so fill your Instagram with the queens who inspire you.

That rounds up my tips for self-confidence, I know I certainly have a way to go but the above are all things I keep in mind when my confidence is at a low. I hope you’ve enjoyed my #MentalHealthAwareness blog post series, and I’ll certainly be talking more about mental health in future. 

A K Jones

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17 May 2018

Everybody gets a bit anxious about something coming up that they be worried about, say an exam or driving test, but I could never imagine being anxiety-free. How lovely it would be to walk up to someone and say ‘hi’ without any worries at all. Or go to a shop assistant and ask them where something is, which is probably one of the most challenging things for me. All of these are example of things I can't do because of my anxiety.

More people are talking about their mental health than ever. A lot of people are talking about having anxiety and some say it's become somewhat of a trend. It's actually a debilitating condition that can make everyday life difficult, with complex diagnosis and treatment. Everyone's anxiety is different, and below is my experience with it.

I've never been the most extroverted person, and probably never will be. But the examples I gave at the top of this post are just some of how my anxiety affects me. I don't have "traditional" panic attacks by crying and hyperventilating, but this picture below demonstrates other ways of anxiety manifesting someone.

When I started my job, I was understandably anxious and nervous to meet everyone, build contacts and enter the world of work. I would get heart palpitations as I approached the building and sit in silence most of the day, choosing to not interact with anyone as I got myself introduced to working life. As it came up to Christmas though, three months in, I still felt like that.

I had something that's known as "imposter syndrome" and the definition is exactly what I thought in those first few months: that I would be found out as a "fraud" for not being good at my job and someone would report me, resulting in me being fired. Also phone calls with anyone literally terrified me. If the phone would ring, I would choose not to answer it (something I really wouldn't recommend), or if I did, I was shrouded in worry about how I would come across to anyone, even my colleagues who are always lovely.

These dreadful feelings continued, and I took a shit-tonne of Bach's Rescue Remedy every day just to get through the day. I thought I was going mad - no-one told me it was normal to feel like this for so long. I told my manager about how I was feeling (which is so important) and she was so lovely, offering me support and recommending me to call our mental health assistance service. Confronting my anxiety and phoning someone literally turned my stomach to mush but I did it.

The counsellor I spoke to said I had something called "conscious incompetence", where I constantly believe that I'm incompetent at my job (as I described) and I needed to change these thoughts to "unconscious competence", as shown in the graphic below. I also kept reminding myself that I'm not in danger, nor do I have anything to be scared of. The lady also said that it took 6 months for her to feel OK in her new job, so it's completely normal, it was just something I'd never experienced before.

I think the fact that the Winter months affect me so much didn't help (as I detailed HERE), and I was more anxious and on edge than normal. But the turning point came as I woke up one day at the end of March and the feelings of anxiety were gone. Just gone. I remember feeling a weight lift off my shoulders as I strode into work feeling great - that has since continued until this very day, where I know I'm as competent as I can be at my job, if I don't understand anything I can ask someone, and even secured some wins for myself and my confidence.

Phone calls have gotten less scary too, I just think of them as a new way to contact someone and build a professional relationship. I think that's down to having command of the Press Office phone for two weeks, where I was forced to speak to strangers who were looking for different things, and you can't not answer the phone in a press office, so was great exposure therapy for me.

Some things still need work, but I'm proud of how far I've come in the last year/18 months. I know I'll never be anxiety-free, but through trying new coping methods and techniques, I can be close. I'll settle for that.

What are your experiences with anxiety? Are they ways you could share to help someone going through a tough time? Let me know.

A K Jones

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14 May 2018

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I decided to write a series of blog posts about how mental illness affects me. Enjoy reading them, and I hope I can encourage you to speak out about what you're going through.

Winter is finally making way to Spring and Summer, and thank goodness for that. It will be more of a relief to people like me who suffer from really bad depression symptoms during the Winter months - a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

SAD is a condition rarely ever talked about, which is quite strange as it's actually quite common - 4 to 6 percent of people may have winter depression, with it starting at the age of 20. Whilst in my last year or two at university (I graduated last year), I never really knew why I got so down in the Winter and all I wanted to do was get into bed and stare at the ceiling, not bothering to do any work or washing up, or anything important.

I thought it was just down to hormones, the stress of uni or my anxiety. But when last year’s winter made its way into my mind, I decided to discover why I feel so rubbish between the months of September and April. Then I stumbled upon SAD. All the symptoms made complete sense: lack of interest in everything you would normally be raving about, no energy or motivation, no appetite/overeating and lots more. I found a website that gives free resources and strategies for coping. One said that I should get Vitamin D tablets, which I did and those helped a lot. 

Even still when I started work, I would be absolutely drained of all energy when going to bed and often didn't want to go in when I got up in the morning. "Oh but everyone doesn't want to go to work on a Monday morning" you may say, but this was different - it was literally a battle in my own head to get up and head out in the dark skies of the morning. I opened up to my boss about it when I started my job and she was amazing, letting me work from home whenever I needed to and giving me space if I wanted it. I also called our Employee Assistance Programme which was also great and provided me a couple of weeks' counselling to work through my feelings.

I’m a lot better at controlling it now, and know exactly why I feel the way I do. I feel sorry for myself for a day or two, but then finally get on with what I have to do - having such a supportive network really helps with this. But at uni, I used to nap all the time because I had no energy and no explanation as to why I felt like that and I'm not talking an hour, we're talking 4 or 5 hours every other day.

I got a so-called “SAD lamp” last Christmas that helps radiate the feeling of sunlight into your room to trick your mind that it’s light outside, and so you wake up feeling a lot better and can aleviate symptoms. I find the lamp to be of great help, as in January and February I was so much more motivated and just felt better in myself - I seriously recommend getting one of you match any of the symptoms. You can find them cheap on Amazon. 

I’m pretty sure I’ll have SAD for the rest of my days, it’ll just be about to trying to help myself feel better during the tricky Winter months. 

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and if you feel that you have any of the symptoms, please do reach out for help. 

A K Jones

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6 May 2018

The spring months are finally ending and it’s nearly summer, time to get your crop tops and shorts out (or umbrellas and raincoats in you live in the UK). I hope you all had a nice April and have kept with my April goals and how I got on with them. So in keeping with the theme, I’m going to share my May goals.
Finish a book. In my April Goals post, I said I would finish a book that's currently sat on my bedside table, however that didn't really happen - so I'm adding it to my goals list for this month and hope I finally find out the ending of a great book.

Upload more to Instagram. I need to get more on to Instagram, particularly as all my stuff is about blog promo, so need to take some pictures of myself or do more on my story. I feel it's been neglected a little bit lately and I love uploading to it - I just need to get myself in gear to schedule some more posts, it's all so hard to keep up with!

Have more self-care. I'm awful at self-care sometimes, as I'm usually at work and then scheduling, recording or writing for my various creative endeavours. I've become really awful at just taking time for myself and chilling out, with no distractions at all. Maybe I should get into meditation? Do you meditate and recommend it?

Create one episode of my podcast a week, even if it's just a short one. In case you didn't know, I have a podcast called Amy Talks (find out more about it HERE), and I hoped to be creating one episode a week, but as of late that hasn't really happened for various reasons or excuses. But I can't have those excuses anymore and need to get back to recording.

It's been 3 weeks since the last episode and I have lots of ideas, just literally need to sit down and record them. You'll definitely be seeing more of my show in May!

Those are my goals for May, I hope to have a positive report at the end of the month letting you know how I got on! Do you have any goals to accomplish this month? If so then let me know!

Happy Listening!

A K Jones

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2 May 2018

It's been a few weeks since I wrote my post listing the goals I want to achieve in April, so now it's time to check in and see how I got on.

Write one blog post a week: I've been trying so much to blog more and I sort of achieved this, but was really ill for a week so wasn't in the mood to write much. Every other week though I've had lots of content out, and sometimes even written more than one post a week.

Reach 500 followers on Instagram: At time of publishing (28th April), I've got 479 followers, so close but yet so far. I hope to be there before May starts which isn't long, but if you don't already follow me on Instagram, is it possible that you could do so? You don't have to, but it would be massively appreciated. 

Finish one of the two books I'm currently reading: I read a little bit of it, but I didn't finish it. That's definitely a goal of mine throughout May though. I will finish it!

Go for a reflexology session: The appointment's actually scheduled for 8th May, but I made the appointment in April, so I'm going to count it. I can't wait to be relaxed and have my feet massaged.

Did you have any goals for April? and if so, did you achieve them? 🌸Nonetheless I still hope you got up to some amazing stuff and wish you a prosperous month of May!

Happy Listening!

A K Jones

1 May 2018

I mean honestly, and it's getting exhausting saying this at the end of every month but where has April gone? How is it nearly May? The speed this year is going by is quite disconcerting, it'll soon be (and I hate to use the c-word) Christmas.

Nevertheless life must go on, and I've got April's playlist for you. It contains a treasure trove of new stuff, which is really unusual for me as I just listen to the same stuff on repeat. Of course it's got The 1975 but also some new The Shires, Seeb and NF, as well as some throwback tunes that will evoke some great memories. See the tracklist and Spotify playlist below for more details.

1.  Accidentally on Purpose - The Shires
2. Wild Silence - The Wandering Hearts
3. I'll Name The Dogs - Blake Shelton
4. Loving Someone - The 1975
5. Fancy - Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX
6. Found You - Kane Brown
7. Somebody Else - The 1975
8. Let You Down - NF
9. Never Be The Same - Camilla Cabello
10. High Horse - Kacey Musgraves
11. What Lovers Do - Maroon 5, SZA
12. She's American - The 1975
13. Finally - CeCe Peniston
14. Oh, What A World - Kacey Musgraves
15. It Ain't Me - Kygo, Selena Gome
16. Love Me - The 1975
17. rockstar - Post Malone
18. Happy & Sad - Kacey Musgraves
19. Chocolate - The 1975
20. Girls - The 1975
21. Drink About - Seeb
22. Run - Scott Quinn
23. Babe - Sugarland, Taylor Swift

Be sure to follow me on Spotify to see what's included in next month's playlist before anyone else. Let me know what you've been listening to throughout April in the comments, I'd love to hear any new recommendations you have.

Happy Listening!

A K Jones

Covers copyright: The Shires courtesy of Decca Records/UMO (source), The Wandering Hearts courtesy of Decca Records (source), Blake Shelton courtesy of Ten Point Productions (source), The 1975 courtesy of Polydor Records / Samuel Burgess-Johnson (source).

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30 April 2018

I recently got the opportunity to review the Mini Emergency Charger for iPhone by Thumbs Up. It just plugs into the bottom of your iPhone and charges away, promising 1 full charge so you can continue your selfie-taking and Instagramming with ease. 

Straight out of the box you get two things: the charger and its cable. That's it. Showing the simplicity of its use, really. One thing I did realise quite quickly was that you have to charge the phone without the case: something quite risky with an iPhone X. Nevertheless I kept the case off and was extra careful not to drop it.

The charger itself is quite small, but mighty. It charges really well and lasts quite a while before you have to charge it again. I also like that it plugs straight into the phone, without any need for cords taking up pocket or bag space (which we all know is precious) and that's perfect for anyone who's phone is out of juice and need a quick boost.

Thumbs Up I have to admit wasn't a brand I'd ever heard of, but I think I'm going to see if they've got anymore products - if this is anything to go by, then their other stuff will be great. If you want more info or to buy one yourself, you can get one at ASOS (click HERE for Android and HERE for iPhone).

Hope you enjoyed this short but sweet post, and go and follow me on social media for more below.

Happy Listening!

A K Jones

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