I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a “control freak” as much as I don’t like that phrase. I like to know what’s going to happen, and when, and where, and who with, at least a week in advance. I don’t like people springing plans on me. I don’t like people messing with my plans, with my schedule. To an extent, I think that’s all well and good. There’s nothing wrong with having a routine. In fact, it can even be beneficial. It’s not a crime not to be spontaneous.

However, it does become a problem when, like me, you start to find deviations to your routine so stressful that you start to have anxiety attacks about them; when the idea of breaking your meal plan causes your heart to race, when missing the arbitrary laundry time you set yourself because someone else is using the washer makes it feel like there are a tonne of bricks on your chest, when people trying to make plans with you makes you resent them even though you know you love them and want to see them. My need to be in control has made me anxious, angry, antisocial and someone I don’t want to be.

So, my need to be in control of everything in my life is the next demon on my hit list. As ever, I don’t think that I’m ever going to solve the problem, just tackle it a little bit. Plus, as I said at the start, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking things in a certain way, and it’s probably quite a key part of my personality.

This one is more of a work sheet that requires a bit more input, because, at least for me, the war against the constant need to be in control is one that needs to be fought on a number of fronts. I went with freeform, slightly irregular boxes to help fight the fight against control one arbitrary wiggly line at a time. While this one hasn’t had an immediate effect on how much anxiety I feel over being in control, has helped me be more conscious of where that part of my personality is being a negative influence, and has encouraged me to try and break some of my bad habits. *

You can print and keep the worksheet using the pdf here, in pink and plain white.

Let me know how you get on with the worksheet and please share anything you’ve tried that helps reduce control based anxiety.

*I’m clearly not a psychologist or a therapist, so yeah, just bear that in mind – this is just me trying to tell my own demons to politely fuck off.

I’ve been living in London for 6 months now, so whilst I’m still certainly not a Londonner, I have taken the tube literally hundreds of times and have just about worked out what I’m doing. During those 6 months I’ve realised there are a lot of things you can do to make your journey go a lot more smoothly that no one really tells you before you have to do it for yourself. So, this is me telling you just in case you’re new to the tube/looking to enhance your journey.

GET AN OYSTER CARD

Just get an oyster card. Unless you’re using a contactless card (I would worry about dropping mine, but I am a bit paranoid), they are honestly the cheapest, easiest, and best way to get around the city.

KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING

City Mapper is honestly your biggest asset in the city. It makes it super easy to work out your route before you set off and will let you know roughly how long it will take. When you’re working out your journey it’s good to make a mental note of the number of stops you’re going and the direction you’ll be going in if you have to change lines. There’s nothing worse than having to stop in the middle of a staircase to read the board to work out where you’re going. I’d also check which exit you need when leaving a station because taking the wrong one at bigger stations like Waterloo can leave you in completely the wrong place.

HAVE A PLAN B

Things happen, tubes break down and get delayed sometimes. It’s always good to have an idea of an alternative route if you have to change half way. You don’t always get wifi in the underground so working out your alternative beforehand is the best way to prevent extra stress.

CHECK AHEAD FOR DELAYS

There’s nothing worse than getting to the tube station and only finding out when you get there that there are delays. I have felt that sinking feeling, followed by a panic of “oh shit how am I going to get to work on time now?” too many times. Check your tube lines before you set off using the TFL website, the individual line twitter accounts, or even checking your route on City Mapper. It could save you so much anguish.

STAND ON THE RIGHT WALK ON THE LEFT OF THE ESCALATOR (ALWAYS WALK IF YOU CAN)

Save yourself the ire of rushed commuters by not blocking the left of the escalator. Honestly, Londonners are honeybadgers when they’re on the move. If you’re in a hurry, or like me just hate queueing for no reason, be prepared to walk on the left. For some reason people are prepared to become world class contortionists to get onto a tube but are then happy to queue not to walk up the escalator – why?!

DON’T TRAVEL AT PEAK TIMES, UNLESS YOU REALLY CAN’T AVOID IT

If you can don’t travel at peak times, you can find out the peak times for stations on the TFL website. Why travel when you know it’s going to be overcrowded and unpleasant? I know that if you’re commuting this might seem impossible but you don’t even have to travel wildly outside of peak times to feel the benefit, I now get into work for half 8 rather than 9 and I get a seat most days.

WAIT AT THE ENDS OF THE PLATFORM

The ends of the platform are normally where it’s quietest. The only exception to this I would suggest is if you know there’s another spot that will make it easier for you to change platforms at the other end if you need to.

BE PREPARED TO SQUISH IN

If it’s busy you’re going to have to squeeze in.

REALLY DO STAND BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE

Your safety should always come first. Also, don’t push the people at the front of the platform past the yellow line, even when the platform is busy try and take half a step back. It can be really scary to think you’re going to be pushed onto the platform.

TAKE OFF YOUR BACKPACK

Not only does this help you fit into a tighter space and sit down more easily, it’s also just polite. As someone who’s on the smaller side, this is a personal request after being hit in the face too many times by people unaware of the fact that their rucksack sticks out.

AIM TO STAND BETWEEN THE SEATS

While the area by the doors looks bigger, standing between the seats if the tube is busy guarantees you breathing space and puts you in exactly the right place to nab a seat if someone gets up.

BE POLITE ABOUT OFFERING OTHERS A SEAT

If you do manage to get a seat, be conscious when someone who might need it more than you gets on board. Obviously, anyone wearing a ‘Baby on Board’ or a ‘Please Offer Me a Seat’ pin falls into this category, but anyone with a young child who doesn’t look to steady on their feet should come first too. There’s also a judgement call to be made on someone you’d class as elderly, so be polite if you think they’re on the borderline of being grateful and offended at being offered a seat.

DON’T LEAN ON THE POLES

Other people need to hold onto them – duh.

BUT DO HOLD ON!

It can be harder to stay on your feet than you realise, especially if the tube has to come to a sudden halt after someone’s coat has gotten stuck in the door.

DO TAKE THE EVENING STANDARD

Having the paper to distract me has honestly revolutionised my journey home. It’s also just nice to read a physical paper for once. Just be sure to put it in the recycling bin (normally just outside the station) when you’re done with it.

NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES

If nothing else works just block out your entire commute.

The graduate scheme I’m on involves rotating around 4 different companies in a year. That means I’ve met a lot of people, a lot of really fascinating and inspirational people. Meeting all of those people is a big part of the scheme, it’s actually one of its aims. We’re sent around different companies and learn about them in part in order to become some of the most well connected people in the building.

But it can be hard to keep in touch, especially when your work email address is always changing. That was the inspiration behind these, little stay in touch cards, which I now really want to have made up. I feel like they would be a really lovely way to leave something with people you’ve worked with on a grad scheme, an internship, or on a freelance job. I really liked the idea of finishing them by hand so they feel personal and in the moment, so they’re less like a business card and more like a greeting card – I know which of those I am more likely to want to respond to.

Would anyone be interested in a real-life version of these?

“What if they’ve just made a huge mistake and I’m not actually supposed to be here at all?” This question was the chorus of my first (and second and third) year of University. I never truly felt like I deserved to be there. It must have been a mistake, a prank, a sympathy admission. I thought I’d gotten over it by the time I left, but the same little self-doubting voice came back when I started my job in London. These feelings haven’t just been exclusive to my ‘career’ achievements either, I’ve felt it in relationships too.

These feelings fall under the umbrella term of Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome was coined by the psychologists Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, after Dr. Clance identified the same self-doubting feelings of being a fraud in her students as she had seen in herself as a student. It is particularly common among women and seems to have reached its self-doubty fingers into the very highest positions. According to this, really great, piece on Man Repeller about Imposter Syndrome Albert Einstein, Sheryl Sandberg and a number of US Presidents have all suffered from it.

That’s why imposter syndrome is the next of the demons I’m going to attempt to ask to politely fuck off. I designed this poster to remind me of my achievements in regards to places where I feel like an imposter. This hasn’t completely eradicated the feeling, and I’m not sure anything ever will, but it has helped to consider all of the things I have done before and in my job, that weren’t just luck. By making a slightly unnecessary certificate for myself I’m also trying to get over the idea that any praise is false and that I don’t deserve it.

If you’re not sure if you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome, or if you need to justify to yourself that it’s real, this test allows you to place yourself on the Clance IP Scale. If it helps my score was 89, I’m an Oxford Grad now working in a competitive communications grad scheme while freelancing as a designer.

Download the certificate in gold and grey here.

*I’m clearly not a psychologist or a therapist, so yeah, just bear that in mind – this is just me trying to tell my own demons to politely fuck off.

Happy Galentine’s Eve!

I love Parks and Rec. I’ve loved it from the moment I first binged it to every time I’ve come back when nothing else has quite compared.

I’d say I’m 90% Lesley (10% April) an assessment that has scientifically been verified by several Buzzfeed quizzes. So, it should come as no surprise that I think that Galentine’s day should be an official national holiday. I say this even though I’m admittedly a little light on the lady friend front currently (hit me up gals). I mean what could be better than a holiday where ladies celebrate and support ladies over waffles?

Even though it has still yet to be officially recognised I wanted to share some ideas, and a couple of cards, to help inspire great Galentine’s celebrations (not one of them involves buying a gift):

1. Embrace the traditional spirit of Galentine’s and take your ladies out for brunch. It can be hard to put the effort in and actually get everyone together, so managing to have something as simple and tasty as brunch can feel like a special occasion – especially if there are mimosas involved. Top brunch spots in London include: Palm Vaults (everything pink and wonderful), Farm Girl (good for anyone with a restricted diet, but not boring at all!), Foxcroft and Ginger (damn tasty), Bronte (if you’re feeling a bit posh).

2. Print out this postcard and send it to a lady you love. There’s something special about a handwritten card, they’re a bit more personal. In a time when almost all of the post we receive is bills or ASOS orders bound to be returned, getting a handwritten card from someone we love is a real occasion. So, why not brighten your galentine’s day and send her a postcard. I’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting, all you have to do is: print them off, write your message, put a stamp on it and drop it in one of those big red boxes. (I went a postcard because they’re not as intimating as writing a full card, they’re a bit more fun, and they’re cheaper to send internationally.) You can print yours here!

3. Call your mother. When you bring up the idea of Galentine’s day most people think of going out with their female friends. But let us not forget the ultimate gals who were there for us before we could even day the word gals who looked after us when we were sick or grumpily throwing tantrums in supermarkets, who had our backs even when we made the most questionable of pre-teen fashion choices. Taking the time to have a proper conversation with your mum, not just a text or a cursory email, but a proper conversation where you really listen to how they are, and let them know how much you appreciate them, can mean more than you realise. While you’re calling your mother, why not reach out to all of those female relatives who you don’t speak to enough. I know I for one don’t call my grandma enough either.

4. Pledge to Knopify your friendship for a year, and follow through. Just like puppies aren’t just for Christmas, friends aren’t just for Galentine’s day. Use this contract to pledge to be the best friend you can be for the year ahead, and come back and review it next year. Don’t just sign it and put it in a draw, stick to it. Tell your friends you love them more. Carve out the time to see them, to call them, to write to them. Email them that stupid article that made you think of them. Send them cookies if they’re having a bad day. Make binders about your friendship. Be as fierce as Leslie Knope is about her female friends. Take the first step now, and print your copy of the contract.

5. Celebrate and support your gals across the globe by donating to a women’s charity. There are so many women’s charities out there that are in need of funding that it’s impossible to list them all or pick out the most important ones here, but The Life You Can Save has a useful list, The Women’s Resource Centre is a network of women’s charities across the UK, Woman Kind supports the rights of women and girls across the world as do Women for Women International. There are so many more so you can easily find a charity that supports something close to your heart.

Who are going to be your galentines this year? What are you doing to celebrate?