Building Emotional Resilience

I lived in Cardiff for four years whilst I studied at Cardiff University. I loved the city, its people and being back in Wales.  I made some incredible friends and had some amazing experiences.  So why, when visiting the city recently, did I feel anxious, insecure and a bit emotional?

When I headed to University in September 2008, it marked the end of a fraught couple of years where A Levels had, instead of being a priority, been a sideline to a number of other things that were going on in our life as a family.

I was excited about Cardiff, I got a place through clearing to study Genetics and I arrived in University Halls with twice as much stuff as I needed (you never know when extra fairy lights will come in handy).

My first year was horrendous. I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I had been looking after my three siblings, caring for Mum when she came home from a long long stint in hospital and trying not to argue too much with my Dad. Suddenly, I found myself sat in a prison cell-like room (oh! Those breeze blocks!) in student residences, just myself to care for and a Uni course to embark on.  Should have been easy, right? All that freedom?

It felt alien. Bizarre.  Looking back now, I was in shock in a way.  The intensity of the three years prior to that moment all suddenly gone. I felt guilty, guilty for having left my siblings and guilty that I wasn’t there to help my parents.

I threw myself into student life to try and mask the strange emotions.  I joined societies, got involved with the University Royal Navy Unit (something that the Armed Forces Careers Office had recommended to me when I decided to go to University) and drank too many 2for1 cocktails in Live Lounge. The same as any other Fresher really but for me, this was a change of pace. I hadn’t had the usual social life around Sixth Form and turning 18. That hadn’t been feasible for me before.

Everyone back home was pleased for me, I was at a great University and seemingly having the time of my life.  I just wasn’t that happy.  By the middle of first year, I was exhausted.  I was desperate to do well at University and had been getting good grades in my assignments but I felt like I was in a bad dream where I was running and running but not getting anywhere. Perhaps I had just been burning the candle at both ends. It was highly likely!

But something didn’t add up, why was I so sad? Why did it make me want to turn tail and hide? Why did it feel that every morning I had to get up, put a mask on and crack on.  After all, I had always just ‘got on with it’.  For years I had been told that I was so resilient, so capable at dealing with the unexpected and so independent.  Where had the girl gone that had juggled so much in the last few years?  Why couldn’t I cope with the fun and opportunity that lay in front of me at Uni?

Emotional Resilience

Now I can look back and see the worried 19 year old who thought the world was on her shoulders. I can see how that transition from Carer to student could have been managed better, how it wasn’t entirely surprising that I was overwhelmed.

That’s the thing though isn’t it?  Resilience.  As a society, we have a ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude towards ‘getting on with it’. We are a resilient nation – proved countless times through history.  We pride ourselves on getting back up, dusting ourselves down and being strong, supportive communities. Of course, that is true in so many ways, incredibly important and also so very necessary for so many people. However, we have to be careful when we here the words ‘I’ve got this’ or ‘I’m fine’ because situations change, sometimes even more so after the event when pressures have been released. It’s at that point when it can all come crumbling down, when you don’t ‘have’ to cope anymore. When it isn’t all about keeping balls in the air, caring for others and ensuring that routines are protected.  That’s when, actually, we see people take a deep breath and start to realise what has just happened.

It’s not too different from when we see victims of traumatic incidents go into a state of shock after the immediate emergency or once the rescuers arrive.  The initial adrenaline has stopped, they don’t have to keep holding it together any more and that’s when we need to turn our eyes to the one that says ‘no, I’m ok’.  Are they really?

So perhaps it isn’t such a surprise that on my trip to Cardiff, I felt quite so uneasy.  It’s been a while since I’ve been back and the first time I’ve been back on a trip unrelated to Uni friends or really happy memories (back for work meetings this time – never quite as fun!).  As I drove down the road past my first year accommodation, the feeling of anxiety that rose up is almost out of sympathy for the 19 year old me who thought she had to still hold it all together and couldn’t quite find the words to ask for help.

I hope that if you are going through times of pressure now that call for resilience, that you don’t forget to take time to take a deep breath and ask for help if you need it.  It’s much better to talk through the situations and fix the cracks properly, rather than use masking tape which only comes unpeeled once the biggest stresses have passed.

It’s ok to ask for help, it doesn’t make you a weaker person. It makes you one that wants to retain the ability to be strong for others in the future…just don’t forget to be strong for yourself too.

It is Mental Health Awareness Week from 16th-22nd May. Lots of organisations are offering support and help, so if you feel you need somewhere to turn – don’t be afraid to reach out. Help can be found in a number of places but if you’re feeling lost, then try the Samaritans or Mind.

Loch Lomond Luss Cottage

As you may already know or remember from reading this post….my other half is a submariner. That sees him based in Faslane and he works there Monday-Friday. Most weekends he can come home but sometimes he is duty or away on Patrol (boo!).  He is such a gem about flying home every Friday that he can, so I try to return the favour and fly up there occasionally too.

Recently we had a Scottish weekend and I snuck in some annual leave on the Friday and Monday to make it a long weekend.  An early flight saw me land in Glasgow by 0830 (ohmygoodness, 0345 alarm to drive to Gatwick – yuck) but that did mean that I had made it across to Helensburgh by mid-morning ready to catch up with one of my wonderful girl friends who also happens to be based up in that neck of the woods.

Loch Long Faslane

Handily, Phil finished work around lunchtime and we three headed up to the end of Loch Long for a pub lunch in the beautiful Scottish sunshine.

One of the things that blows me away every time I drive in Scotland are the views. It really seems like there is a new spectacle to admire around every corner.  The West coast, where Helensburgh sits, really is incredible – lochs, rolling hills, mountains and fields full of grazing sheep.  Stunning.

Boats on Loch Lomond Scottish

Sheep in Luss

Luss Pier

Luss Postbox Loch Lomond

Luss General Store

That evening we trundled up to Luss, a picturesque village that sits on the edge of Loch Lomond.  We arrived in the golden evening sunshine, smoke rising from the chimneys of the little bungalows that line the pretty roads. We wandered to the water’s edge and drank in the atmosphere. Moments like that are so wonderful, just marvelling at the natural beauty and revelling in each other’s company.

Water's edge at Luss

Smoke rising in Luss

Street in Luss

Luss cottage

Loch Lomond

Dinner was at the charming Loch Lomond Hotel – fresh venison ‘Staggis’ for him and super rare black-faced lamb for me!  A slow winding drive home summed up a beautifully relaxed evening.

Saturday morning the sun was shining so we abandoned plans to head straight into Glasgow and instead drove up into the Trossachs. One of the most gorgeous Loch-side drives with a good walk in the fresh air at the end.

Trossachs Walk Phil

Trossachs walk Scottish view

Another perk to visiting that part of the world for me is that my dear cousins, Aunt and Uncle live in and around Glasgow!  So we were blessed to spend time over the weekend with my Aunt, Uncle, cousins, their respective partners and their teeny tiny little ones. Plenty of new baby cuddles as well as giggles with the toddlers.

I love to travel to new places but there is also so much excitement and pleasure from getting to know a place better – driving into the beautiful countryside that is to be found in the West Coast of Scotland, soaking up the fun atmosphere of Glasgow and making the most of the glorious sunshine.

I can’t wait for our next visit! Any Glasgow recommendations for us?


Retro car

What could be lovelier than ice cream and sunshine in Arundel on a Saturday afternoon? Well, simply add a wonderful friend who you haven’t seen in FAR too long and the subsequent chatter that results.  Bliss.

Katie had scouted out a new Ice Cream Parlour on Tarrant Street in Arundel that looked like the perfect place to plonk ourselves in the sunshine.  With its candy colour furniture, polka dots and cute retro accessories – you couldn’t help but fall in love with the little place.

Plants outside Florists in Arundel

Piles of Ice Cream Cones Arundel

We ordered our sundaes and set about catching up on the couple of years that have passed rapidly since we last saw each other.  Katie also blogs over at Katie Kirk Loves (check it out – she has the most gorgeous outfit photos!) so it was also talk all things blogging as well as what our siblings are currently up to!

The ‘English Picnic’ sundaes arrived, much to our delight – a warm fruit scone split open and laden with strawberry sauce, strawberry and vanilla ice creams and whipped cream. Delish. (and OH SO NOT Slimming World friendly…flexisyns are my friend!)


Retro cupboard in Arundel Ice Cream parlour

Arundel is one of those places that makes you feel like you have all the time in the world, especially on a sunny day when there is lots of people watching to do!  Pretty shops to mooch through and flowers piled up outside of florists crying out to be Instagrammed…I’m not even going to apologise for the amount of flower photos currently swamping my IG account!

Herbs at Arundel Florist

Arundel Florist

We’ve now got a whole summer of trips to plan but several more visits to The Ice Cream Parlour to taste-test a little more of their menu.

Where is your favourite Summer spot?


West Dean House

The week that was…

full of family

Seth’s first birthday

sunny but chilly!

Instagram saw…

Flowers at West Dean

We spent a wonderfully sunny day at West Dean House with our lovely friends, Alice and Neil.  They are both incredibly talented – Neil is a furniture restorer/framer/absolute magician with wood and Alice creates beautiful prints as well as being a ceramic restorer AND Early Years teacher – how cool?!  Neil works up at West Dean and Alice trained there so they were our expert guides for the morning.  It’s a gorgeous house that is an arts and crafts college set in amazing grounds with a meandering stream.  One of my favourite parts is the walled kitchen gardens with rows of greenhouses and neatly planted vegetable beds flanked by fruit trees.  This pile of tulips injected vibrant colour into the Spring garden – I couldn’t resist a snap!

My favourite moment…

Two Mondays in a row where I haven’t been in work – what a treat!

This week sounded like…

I grew up listening to Blues and Soul music – my Dad has a brilliant taste in music! This is one tune that always gets me smiling.

This week tasted like…

Marshmallow squares – I whipped up a massive batch for my nephew’s first birthday, SO sticky!

This week I spotted…

Dulux Willow Tree paint

We picked up some paint for the spare room in B & Q’s bank holiday sale – this is the colour we settled on, Willow Tree pale green to transform the plain white second bedroom into a relaxing study and guest room.  Can’t wait to set about painting!

I learned all about…

West Dean house and its links with Salvador Dali!

Next week will be…

A short one, thanks to the bank holiday, leading into a very exciting weekend that is the beginning of a new chapter…more soon on that one!

What does yours look like?