The University Diaries: Burn Out

Oh hai there! It's been a while.... To be perfectly honest I don't know where the past 10 weeks have gone. Life, or more accurately my university schedule, has been relentless and as the title suggests I'm more than a little bit tired. 

via pinterest

This semester has been incredibly academically challenging and also one of the most exciting. I spent most of my time with BSMS (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) sharing their lectures, symposiums and tutorials. As a 'lowly' BSc student, this did not go over too well with some of the medical students who were clearly still riding an ego-trip and looked down upon us with such exasperation and frustration. This wasn't the case for all of them, thankfully, but something really needs to be done about this. Doctors are meant to have people skills, not a god complex. I could rant for days about the emotions I felt being surrounded by medical students but I'll leave that for another time.  

It was a 30 credit module, crammed into 9 weeks of teaching and closed with a brain dissection - I held brains in my hands and it was the most surreal moment of my life. Each credit is 10 hours worth of study, or thereabouts... and every 50 minute lecture was at least 40 slides deep... so now you know why I've been so quiet! I've had 2 other modules 15 credit modules which only account for 4 hours of lecture time a week and will finish in a couple of weeks. If you happen to be reading this and considering BSc Medical Neuroscience at Sussex, be warned! Haha!! 

I cannot explain just how much pressure I felt to really excel this semester, not just because this was one of very few chances I was going to get to show I can handle a medical subject at a BSc level. All of my modules are medically orientated this semester so I have been very engaged in everything I've had to read, but to be sitting exams with BSMS certainly gives you a push! I still haven't decided if graduate medicine is something I really want to do... but I fell in love with the teaching, the level of engagement and the atmosphere of the medical school and I'm so sad it's all over. 

Despite averaging over 70% this semester, I still feel absolutely clueless and have been relying so heavily on the support of my mentor to get me into a study schedule that works; so while I am able to retain information - chemistry aside, I hate chemistry - and perform in exams, it's come at the cost of my physical health. I have worked myself into the ground and everything hurts. 

There's a lot of other very stressful things going on in my personal life that I will talk about when I feel more able to share it, but suffice to say a lot of huge changes are coming and my mental health is also starting to show cracks under the strain of it all. I'm taking some much needed time away this weekend to visit my grandparents and I'm really looking forward to it. Sadly my revision has to come along as I have an exam looming but getting into a more peaceful environment will help immeasurably. 

I've said from day 1 that university has been the one thing holding me together, and it's become very apparent this semester that that is indeed the case. I have immersed myself in my subjects to escape the pain of everything else and the result has been one I did not expect. I just hope this trend continues for the rest of my degree. If I don't come out of this with a 1st I'll have failed, it's that simple. 

I'm trying to get back into the blogosphere, but finding the time or mental capacity to write is definitely lacking. My next update will be on Adventures in Psychiatry. I've got a LOT to talk about.


Adventures in Psychiatry: Have I Gone Mad? *tw*

Trigger warning. 

Yes, yes, I know that's an obscenity within the mental health community. I am however, questioning my sanity and it's terrifying to be back here. This is why I'm not blogging/tweeting much, again. 

ThatRedheadSaid: Do you suppose she's a wildflower?
via pinterest
I wish I could say I knew what was going on. I wish I could say that 'this' was the point where everything shifted. I wish I was able to open my fucking mouth and tell my CMHT what is happening to me and just how scared I am. I can't, I'm not allowed. I can write. 

The obvious point to make is that university has been incredibly intense and while I have loved every second of my time at the medical school, the pressure I feel is immense, I'm exhausted and it's triggered a lot of anxiety. To be honest, that's nothing really out of the norm. I'm finally studying a subject I have a lot of passion for and it's been reflected with my first exam, scoring a first, much to my surprise! 

We're well aware that stress can make symptoms worse, and yes my anxiety has taken on a life of it's own. We expected that. What we didn't expect was depression to come crashing down with such force I am struggling to do the most basic of tasks. My body does not want to move anymore. It hurts and I get dizzy. Lily won't leave my side. She was much more independent a few weeks ago but now, she's always with me. Purring. I swear she knows when I'm about to cry. She'll go off into one of her loopy sprints around the house, jumping on all the furniture chirping like anything, just to make me laugh. 

I can't tell anyone though. I have to put on a mask and fake my way through everything so they don't know what's going on. I don't know if my CPN knows or not that it's probably not me talking to her, because it isn't. I just sit there watching, entirely unable to say what I need to because something else has control. I'm not part of group treatment anymore because my stupid schedule is so packed I can't make it. What I do find... odd... is that an assessment with psychological services came through We were discussing the option, but were in agreement that it'd be a way off because of the usual NHS reasons. Why is it suddenly within 2 weeks notice!? I don't know, but I'm (why do I want to type "we're") suspicious.

For a long time, I was anxious but didn't feel constantly scared and fearing for my life. We're back to that and it's exhausting. No matter how hard I push back on those thoughts/voices/whatever the fuck is taunting me, it just makes it worse. Some is specific, some is just a general 'the sky is going to fall down' type of feeling. I'm having the same nightmares, almost every night. It feels like a warning... so I stay inside 99% of the time. 

There's more to this I want to say but I can't.... something is stopping me and the noise is ridiculous. 

I want to drink. I am desperately wanting the oblivion that benzodiazepines gave me... the relief of putting something sharp into my skin and watching.... I don't know what else will make this stop. 

I need to shut up. 


JuicyTox Cleanse: Day Four

Let me take you back to Friday 17th October. It's the final day with JuicyTox and I'm starting to feel it's effects, not all of them are terribly positive but nevertheless it's the final push and we're going to rock this no matter what.
You Don't Get To The Finish Line Unless You Start
via pinterest
My day started slowly. I felt tired, sore but full of an anxious energy I couldn't explain. Sleep is so, so important to completing this cleanse successfully. I hadn't had the best night, again due to anxiety, and the impact it had was felt full force. I'm used to sleepless nights, but following days of nothing but juice, you feel like you've not slept in a week. I'd also advise against not going on a cleaning spree of your house!

We left for a weekend in Cardiff at 4pm and didn't arrive at our hotel until 9pm. I had my final 2 juices in the car and I felt utterly miserable. I'm not one to eat a tonne of junk food in the car, but having something in my stomach would have made life a lot more comfortable. 

By this point in the cleanse I believe I entered into a secondary, more intensive detox as the symptoms I was experiencing took on a life of their own and would not shift. Having experienced drug and alcohol detoxes, I could definitely identify similarities - albeit at a vastly lower level of intensity, don't worry - and my liver was definitely working overtime.

Thankfully, the combination of the drive and a king size bed meant that sleeping was no problem at all! There were still no hunger pains, cramps or real cravings going on; just an intense thirst, horrible headache, dizziness, metallic taste in my mouth (ketosis) and waves of nausea. Oh, and being quite grumpy at times! My skin has broken out but I've noticed some improvement in my hair. Sadly, my nails didn't get any benefit as they all broke! 

Despite a 'delayed reaction' and feeling rather miserable at this stage,  I don't have any regrets and am still stunned at how easy this has been! Tomorrow I will upload an 'aftermath' post to discuss the end result and the effects of this cleanse. 


JuicyTox Cleanse: Day Three

Welcome to day three of the JuicyTox Cleanse. I can't believe how easy this is! I apologise for the late publishing of this entry, internet issues are the bane of a bloggers life! 

ThatRedheadSaid: Oh The Things You Can Think
via pinterest

I think the biggest factor today was tiredness but I think considering how busy my days at university are it's hardly surprising and by Friday I'm more that ready to sleep for the entire weekend, so there's nothing really out of the ordinary to report. I'm just tired! On a related note; I'm sleeping so incredibly well. I woke up really easily and didn't feel like I'd been run over by Brighton's buses repeatedly. While I don't remember my dreams, sleeping well  is linked to your REM cycles so my brain is definitely happy with this set up. 

As I initially forgot to mention this in yesterdays entry let's get the 'best bit' out the way; my total loss is now 1.9kg (or 4.1 lbs) which is absolutely mind-blowing. Of course, it's water weight but it's definitely broken the plateau and that makes me oh so happy. 

There are absolutely no cravings for foods of any sort, it's just coffee I miss! I haven't been experiencing cramps, hunger pains, sickness, dizziness or anything beyond feeling a little wiped out when I walk up the hill to my house after uni. There's been no problems with my concentration, infact, I have been able to finally make progress with learning/remembering the cranial nerves and the associated anatomy - medics/anatomists will know the pain of this. 

Without a doubt, the highlight of this process has been check-in chats with Rob to update on how things are going. He can offer you a supportive hand if you need it. This isn't an extra you have to pay for and is a very unique service. I try and include helpful tips on my blogs around juice cleanses but to have someone on hand to sit with you, so to speak, while you ride out a craving or a horrible bout of nausea is awesome beyond words. 

I cannot recommend JuicyTox enough. Yes I'm saying that with 24 hours to go and I'm not sorry!! 

Tomorrows update will be from the Raddison Blu, Cardiff! yes I am packing my scales to give you a weigh in! 


JuicyTox Cleanse: Day Two

It's day two of the JuicyTox Cleanse which means I'm halfway done already! I can honestly say I am shocked at how easy this is, whether that is down to practice or not I really don't know, but the nutritional content of the juices is definitely playing a major part in keeping everything under control. 
When you feel like quitting, remember why you started
via pinterest
I cannot fault these juices at all. The orange is probably my favourite - no surprises there! - and I'm still deciding on how I really feel about the green juice; while I don't struggle with the morning green juice, the late afternoon one seems to take me a very long time to drink and I'm almost forcing myself through it. I think it's the texture/after-taste, which seems to have echos of a wheat-grass chalkiness to it which it more than likely from the leafy vegetables and pretty unavoidable. I don't know. It's just, not as easy to drink. Regardless, the quality is incredible and that counts for so, so much when you're buying into a cleanse like this. 

Day two and day three are the hardest for the vast majority, I'm definitely nervous about tomorrow! I saw this quote on pinterest and thought it was so relevant to today's diary entry and how we're all going to come up against this time and time again. I'm quite lucky that when my boyfriend cooks his own food, 99% of the time it's not something I would want. What has surprised me is that my only real battle has been with the coffee! My stomach hasn't been growling, I haven't had that horrific bile taste in my mouth, and my mind is much calmer today. Perhaps my brain has realised what's going on and decided to stop drawing attention to the lack of food, because nutritionally, we're ok! 

By far, the most interesting part of this experience so far has been how easy it has been to sleep! If you're new to my blog, it's worth me mentioning that I am a chronic insomniac and have had problems with sleep since the age of about 10. As a general rule from previous experiences, my sleep tends to get into trouble when I'm doing a cleanse, so to go to bed and sleep for 10 hours solidly was nothing short of miraculous and I was genuinely shocked when I woke up. The mint tea definitely had the desired effect as I began yawning not soon after my first cup - you can get two drinks out of a single teabag if you leave it in the mug. 

I have been able to study effectively and don't feel weak or dizzy when I stand up, which I know is a concern for lots of people considering this. 

That's all for today. I'm off to the cinema with the boyfriend to see The Equalizer, my lemon water is coming along too... haha! If you have any questions please leave them in the comments or drop me an email and I'll do my best to answer them in a helpful manner!

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I've lost 0.7kg so far! 

JuicyTox Cleanse: Day One

It's been way too long since I last took on a juice cleanse, so when I discovered JuicyTox via Lyndsay's blog I was itching to give it a try. I guess I would consider myself an experienced juicer, having completed many, many 3 day programmes with soulmatefood and pushing myself through a 5 day cleanse last year. I've never ventured away from my usual programme so this is very exciting and I'm so curious to see what will happen over the coming days. 

ThatRedheadSaid: JuicyTox
Juicy Goodness!
JuicyTox is unique in a number of ways; it's a four day cleanse rather than the typical 3 day, you have four juices a day and all the juices are a combination of fruit and vegetables which are made fresh the day before dispatch. You will receive your juices in 48 hour 'packs' so you will be getting the absolute best quality juices with all of their nutrients intact. You also start your day with a ginger shot which I have to say is a brilliant replacement for your morning espresso! 

What to have and when?

A really nice touch is that the bottles have the times written on them so you don't get them mixed up. Throughout the day you should be drinking 2-3 litres of lemon infused water a day and absolutely no caffeine. Here's what you do:

8am: Ginger Shot
9am: Green Juice: spinach, kale, celery, cucumber, apple and lemon
1pm: Orange Juice: carrot, lemon, orange, apple and ginger
4pm: Green Juice: spinach, kale, celery, cucumber, apple and lemon
7pm: Beetroot Juice: beetroot, carrot, pineapple, lemon and apple
10pm: Mint Tea

It's very important not to chug your juices! If you're really struggling with hunger pains or just generally missing the feeling of 'fullness' then try having a big mug of herbal tea. The continuous action of sipping on either juice, lemon water or herbal tea will keep you in that familiar hand-to-mouth action we are all so used to. 

Day One Diary

I woke up at 7am and was not terribly excited about the day ahead. I had a 3 hour symposium on Stroke at the medical school to sit through and I just knew it was going to be a massive challenge to stay in a lecture hall for that long and stay focused! The ginger shot was certainly a shock to the system and woke me up a little. 

I had my first juice at 12pm while travelling home, having already consumed 1.5 litres of lemon water during the symposium! I was starving, desperate for coffee and not a nice person to be around. By 2.30pm I'd had my 2nd juice and decided the only way to escape the withdrawal headache was to sleep, so I napped until 5pm - ooopsy! 

It's now 8.15pm and I'm sipping on my last juice which is a much welcome savoury end to the day. The juices are fantastic and I love that they're not entirely smooth, by which I mean there's a few little bits lurking and it's wonderful. Physically, I don't feel hungry but my brain is well aware of the fact no solid food has made an appearance today. It's very much a case of listening to your body rather than your mind, trusting the process and why you're doing this! I'm looking forward to  my mint tea! 

Why am I doing this? I always find that after a cleanse my cognition is vastly improved and my digestion is better. It pushes out those awful cravings for refined sugars and will break this nasty caffeine habit I've formed! I've also been unwell with Freshers Flu so a significant dose of vitamins and minerals is much needed. I also think that this process will push out any lurking remnants of medications in my system and of course it'll break this painfully frustrating weight-loss plateau I've been at for the past couple of months, however weight-loss is not my main motivation. 


The University Diaries: tearful in lectures?!

It was bound to happen. I anticipated it and had somewhat discussed some strategies with my CPN for how to manage this situation. What I didn't expect was for this to happen on a Friday afternoon when I was physically and emotionally exhausted. My resources and tolerance were at pretty much zero and the sound of people breathing loudly was enough to make me want to scream. 

Friday was a long, long day in the medical school. 2 lectures, back to back, then an hour off to recover from the information overload. Then a tutorial with medics, which went down exactly as I had anticipated, then another short break before 2 more lectures. It was following the tutorial that things started to slide a little downhill. 

I was overwhelmed and at a level of tiredness where the slightest noise, any level of brightness or having to move made me want to curl up into a ball and cry. I've been feeling very isolated and alone lately too which is unnerving. During my second break I couldn't bring myself to pick at more than popcorn while drinking copious amounts of pepsi max and water; just sat on a bench trembling. This sounds so pathetic. 

The final two lectures pushed me over my limit. The lecture theater is very noisy and I had to put my hands over my ears to at least limit the sheer volume that was hitting my brain and making me feel dizzy. I wanted to scream at the entire room to just shut the fuck up, or leave. Or both. But I couldn't because I needed to be in these lectures. So I sat there, with my hands over my ears and tears in my eyes. Counting. 

Lecture 3 touched on dopaminergic systems which instantly made me feel a rush of anxiety and almost a sense of fear. I spend my life tip-toeing around my dopamine receptors. I don't want to wake them up too much. I was staring this monster in the face and it wasn't a nice feeling. It's going to get a lot worse in a few weeks when we start our psychiatric lectures.

Lecture 4 talked about consciousness and brain death. This was a lesson in reading the lecture slides prior to attending. Coma was discussed in some detail, as well as brain death following cardiac arrest. While I'm sort-of "over" my experiences of being in a coma and the whole near-death experience thing, nothing prepared me for being lectured about the biological and medical protocol that led to the death of my friend. I don't think I've really given it too much thought before now. I knew what happened to her and I knew she didn't suffer, but to see it up on a screen in a lecture theater was just way too much and I couldn't stop thinking about her and feeling angry/upset/something I couldn't control. I couldn't get out of that room fast enough. 

It's left me quite shaken and I'm not entirely sure how to approach this. I don't even know if it's a problem that needs addressing. I absolutely do not want to be removed from this module because the content is too challenging for me to deal with psychologically. I don't want even more notes to be added to my file for lecturers to see... It's embarrassing. 

It's been a difficult week and my mind is not somewhere I want to be right now. 


GIVEAWAY: OM Yoga Show 2014 *CLOSED*

Interested in yoga? Already a practicing yogi? Would you like tickets to the OM Yoga Show?

That's right folks. I'm giving away TWO PAIRS of WEEKEND TICKETS to the OM Yoga Show! 

The Yoga Show offers the perfect introduction to this ancient Indian practice with workshops and classes on all kinds of yoga, including BoxingYoga, Hot Pod Yoga, and even Hip Hop Yo’ga! For those who are experienced yogis, there is the opportunity to learn new skills, or improve on existing ones. 

This amazing event has been running for 10 years and hosts over 250 of the best vendors in food and drink, yoga clothing and accessories, complementary therapies and so much more to discover in-between classes! Why not have a browse of the programme, which you can access for free via this link

The latest issue of OM Yoga Magazine features some of the vendors, so if you fancied a read of the magazine you can grab yourself a copy via the link!

Fancy coming along? Here's the details: 
  • Where? Olympia National, London, W14 8UX
  • When? Friday 24th, Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th October 2014.
  • Opening times? Friday: 11am to 6pm | Saturday: 10am to 6pm | Sunday: 10am to 5pm
  • Perks? Your OM Yoga Ticket gains you access to the Mind Body Soul Experience! I will also be attending on Saturday so you can explore the exhibits with me if you like, totally optional though... haha! There's also a children's area so if you have little ones, they can come too! 

To enter the giveaway, just fill in the rafflecopter! This giveaway will run from Saturday 4th October to Sunday 12th October 2014. There will be TWO winners. One winner will not gain both sets of tickets. You will be required to email me and give me permission to pass your details on to the provider of the tickets so she can email you directly. 

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments or email me: 



The University Diaries: Welcome to 2nd year!

Welcome to 2nd year undergraduate study at the University of Sussex! Let's get right in to it because there is a lot to talk about; I'll try not to ramble on though!

It was only right I recycled this picture, now it's actually true!


I PASSED!! Due to my appeal being rejected, my results were capped to the bare pass mark of 40, but to my surprise I was able to see the actual grade which means my lecturers also know that I'm not a complete idiot and that's always reassuring. I almost trebled my Neuroscience score (23 to 62), almost doubled Biological Chemistry (30 to 55) and passed those god awful essays for Cell Biology (30 to 41). Overall, I passed two modules with a solid 2:1 which I am trying so hard to focus on and not get drawn into the fact that my grades are vastly below average compared to the vast majority of my cohort.

Something I'm really not too keen on is the 'yearly summaries'. We get given a lovely graph which shows your modules average grades, the range of lowest to highest and where you sit among all these. While I can see it being a useful tool, for those that have clawed their way though and had a very difficult time getting to grips with how Sussex University operates, it's like twisting a knife in an open wound and not terribly constructive.

Nevertheless... I made it through!

I'm spending a semester with BSMS!

This is so exciting and intimidating! We are sharing a module with the medical school and oh my word it is the strangest feeling ever. In a way, I think we are incredibly lucky as we get access to some amazing resources and lecturers, and can improve the quality of our work significantly. It's been a baptism of fire, but I think that's the nature of medicine to be honest! The lectures are so interesting, but move so fast I am unable to make notes and listen because I'll miss the next point or get confused. The workload is very, very hard and I'll freely admit to already feeling pressure and a pit at the bottom of my stomach. 

Getting an insight into what medical students have to do every day has given me a new-found respect for them and reaffirmed that doctors really are a different type of human! I also feel more settled in my decision to take a BSc before making that next leap; it certainly hasn't put me off wanting to study medicine at all. It's difficult not being with people I spent a lot of time with last year, instead I'm inflicting myself on people I recognize from previous modules just so I don't have to sit on my own surrounded by people that know I'm not supposed to be there... Probably not the most rational or logical of thought patterns but that's where my brain is.

I'm excited for all of my modules and really hope this will help boost my grades; especially as this year counts for 40% of my classification

Mature Student Ambassador!?

Once again I fell into a job! I went along to an interview on campus and somehow got offered a paid position as a mature student ambassador. In a nutshell, I will be showing prospective mature students around campus during open days and information sessions, taking part in presentations and question and answer panels with fellow ambassadors. My job is essentially verbalizing what I have been writing on this diary for the past year. I really hope that some Open University students come to see Sussex University! It's slightly surreal to think that last September I was talking to an ambassador during our inductions and now here I am about to do the very same thing. Life is really bizarre. 

That'll do for now I think! This year is going to be a good one. I can feel it! 


Happy to be back


I'm back after what has been one of the most hectic and stressful weeks ever, only the stress of moving to Brighton tops it to be honest! I said a little while ago that blogging had to take a back-seat while I figured out what I wanted to do and exactly how I was going to implement these changes/ideas/random ideas. Now I know what my timetable it - yes, I passed my resits - and have had a week to get a feel for whats required of me, I think I know how to make this work. I'll talk about university and the resits in my usual The University Diaries series so keep an eye out for that. 

I'll try and keep this brief as I know no-one really enjoys reading huge bulks of text! 

Here's what you can expect from ThatRedheadSaid:
  • Therapy Tuesday and Foodie Friday will remain, with The University Diaries or other features going up over the weekend. If you see any others going live between Monday and Friday it means I've been super productive and even scheduled some! ha...
  • I'm back on social media! 
  • Very soon there is an absolutely amazing giveaway launching! 
  • I'm looking for student bloggers to collaborate with as an extension of The University Diaries series, so please get in touch if you'd like to know more.
  • The blog will be getting a face-lift and HTML fixing from someone vastly more experienced than me very soon. 
So that's all for now! 

I'm so happy to be back! 

Lots of love, 
Sami x


Marmalade and Toast: What does your breakfast say about you?

The good people from Robert's Bakery and Duerr's contacted me via twitter not too long ago about a quiz which claims to be able to analyse what your breakfast choices say about you and your love life! Marmalade and Toast is the product of research by Senior Lecturer of Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, Dr Sandi Mann

MarmaladeAndToast: What does your breakfast say about you?
The psychology of toast?

Dr Sandi Mann said: “How we eat our toast and marmalade might seem intuitive but the fact is, we each individually make a series of choices at breakfast – based on learnt preferences, innate behaviour and conditioned learning – which could underscore the personality type of last night’s bed fellow.”

Tim Wild, Commercial Director at Roberts Bakery, comments: “We’ve seen a huge rise in our sales of Roberts 50% White 50% Wholemeal which suggests – initially - we’re a nation of angels. Yet it’s the personal touches we each instinctively make from the moment we put a slice of bread in the toaster, that subconsciously reveals so much of the inner you – that this might be the fastest way to determine if your partner is a slice of alright – or should be toast.”

Dr. Sandi Mann of the University of Central Lancashire conducted the study, which reveals:
  • Spreading butter to the edge means you are a fussy perfectionist who likes things to be just so.
  • Cut the crusts off? You are intolerant of things going wrong and like everything to be just so.
  • If you like exotic flavours of jams you are an experimenter who craves new, fresh experiences.
  • Thick bread or thick layer of spread? You are self-indulgent – because you are worth it.
  • If you like 50/50 bread you are a compromiser who wants the best of both worlds.
  • Self-cut slices? You like to be in control!
  • If you like a different breakfast every day you crave variety and excitement in your life – and hate routine.

This is a fun little quiz that I have spent most of my summer trying to avoid! There are 15 questions, ranging from how you like your toast to whether or not you would dare to put a buttered knife into a jam jar... seriously, just no. It made my toes curl just reading that question! Another question that made me cross-eyed was the idea that some people have butter AND two spreads on their toast?! I just don't understand that. 


Apparently I'm playful! While I certainly don't see myself in this light, I can admit to being perhaps slightly childish at times; you should see my lecture slides and revision notes. As for the compatibility results, they describe the boyfriend as 'Rebellious' which is painfully accurate; what really made me laugh was: "As far as food goes, you hate being told what to eat and what not to eat and you cheerfully ignore the latest healthy eating guidelines (as far as you are concerned, they change all the time anyway, so why bother?)." He really, really does not listen to my concerns about his diet and the impact on his health! 

While I can't say I completely agree with the notion that what you have on your toast in any way relates to your choice of partner, it's an interesting concept. Toast is toast and I'm sure 95% of the time you only have two or three options available as your topping... It is what it is. Whatever psychology and computer-geekery went into this quiz was still time well spent in my opinion! 

Have a go on and share your results in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter! Do you agree with what your results were? Do you think what you put on your toast when you're half awake means anything beyond what you grabbed first? 


Banana Moon: A study of the Student Species

It's a new school year! Whether you're starting college, embarking on your degree or lamenting the fact you've graduated, you're a species of the student variety according to Banana Moon!

Infographic via Banana Moon

I'm a second year undergraduate. I feel like that means I'm supposed to know something, but I am still getting to grips with this whole university lark and training my 27 year old brain to stay on 'student mode'. Having left education at 16 and returning at 23 to The Open University meant I'd forgotten how to study; there is a significant difference between being an 'at-home' student and attending a full-time institution. I love my university and still feel incredibly fortunate to have a place, every day is a different challenge. 

According to Banana Moon, there are eight species of student: The Procrastinator; The Geek; Teacher's Pet; The Hipster; The Student Activist; The Perfectionist; The Party Animal and The Non-Student. 

This was a difficult decision for me! I procrastinate an extreme amount when a deadline isn't a code red threat, I study Medical Neuroscience so that has geek covered pretty well, am a classic type-A personality so perfectionism is a given and rules my academic life and I have struggled to attend campus due to my problematic mental health which would definitely make me one of the invisible 'non-student's'. 

In the end, my student species fits The Perfectionist most.

Infographic from BananaMoon

"The neatest of all the student tribes, this well-kept creature is likely to be spotted lurking behind once all his peers have left the learning cave, placing papers into files and specially allocated plastic wallets. During feeding times, the Perfectionist may be spotted moving items of food around his or her plate into a particular formation – a far cry from the more unsophisticated members of the University social structure."

I cannot explain just how much I need to have files, plastic wallets and other stationary in my life. Those hours spent sorting, categorizing and colour-coding are very well spent! You won't really see me eat on campus unless it's a dire emergency. I am well aware of how odd this is but there are some battles that are easier to win than others. You'll generally find me surrounded by various bottles of juice, coffee and water in a quiet spot, generally the library. 

This is my entry for the Banana Moon competition. This a competition open to all bloggers – for more info go here - for the chance to win a tablet and T-shirts from Banana Moon! All you need to do is tweet a blog post with the related student category hashtag to @banana_moon , simples! 


OM Yoga Magazine: Issue 44 Favourite

Hello Yogis!

ThatRedheadSaid: OM Yoga Magazine
How amazing are those leggings?! 
It's time to talk about the September 2014 issue of OM Yoga, and oh my word it's been an amazing read! September's OM Specials were pregnancy and meditation; while I cannot talk to you about the pregnancy side of this issue - other than to say it did absolutely nothing to settle the raging broodiness I've been experiencing for months now!! - I can talk about meditation. 

Meditation has become a part of my day-to-day life and I can honestly say it came as a surprise. While I cannot sit in a silent room to practice just yet - the only exception to this is the "three minute meditation" we practice in group therapy, but that is a significant challenge for my noisy and easily distracted mind - using guided meditation tracks have become a life-line over the past few years and I would encourage everyone to start using them! The Honest Guys have some absolutely amazing tracks and most of the time I'm at home I have their extended tracks running on my chromecast. 

ThatRedheadSaid: OM Yoga Magazine

This first article opens with a powerful quote from the Dalai Lama: "If every eight -year-old is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation." While this may or may not be completely true, there is no denying that learning the skills that meditation teaches us at a young age would have amazing implications for the future health and well-being of that child. We're too quick to look for external solutions when our brains and our minds are well equipped to help us. 

The article calls attention to the fact that the NHS is using mindfulness and meditation approaches for a wide range of conditions. During the 8 years I have been in and out of mental health services, I have seen an ever increasing presence of the use of mindfulness techniques and a gradual acceptance of it. I will freely admit to thinking it was, as this article put it: "a hippy or cult thing." 

The health benefits for meditation are almost endless, from managing depression and anxiety symptoms, to alleviating insomnia and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

There is no such thing is not having the time to practice meditation. How many minutes a day do you spend on twitter or facebook doing absolutely nothing productive? Those visits could be redirected to taking yourself to a more mentally healthy space. I'm a firm believer in the idea that you get out of something what you put into it so approach meditation like your yoga practice.  

One book I can wholeheartedly recommend to you is 'Full Catastrophe Living' by John Kabat Zinn. It took me a while to get into it, by that I mean accept that mindfulness and meditation wasn't a giant waste of time, but now I carry it's messages with me all the time. There's no doubt in my mind that mindfulness meditation has brought me to this place in my life.

The next article I absolutely loved and really related to was 'Type A meets yoga mat' by Stephanie Fitzgerald. If you don't know what a Type A personality is, in a nutshell we're competitive, perfectionistic, easy to irritate, workaholic time-lords. The Type B personality is the polar opposite and funnily enough happens to be my partners temperament, so it makes for an interesting dynamic!

ThatRedheadSaid: OM Yoga Magazine
"my physio asked me if I'd tried yoga. "Don't look at me like that!" she said.

What I loved about this article was not only her honesty, but the level at which I could relate to her and I'm sure others would agree too! Stephanie reminds me of myself back in 2009; living for those high-intensity workouts that leave you sweating out the stress and getting that endorphin release at the end. At the peak of my fitness, I was doing Body Pump, immediately followed by Body Combat and then finishing it off with a Body Balance class which to me was a guided cool-down. Sometimes I would hit the pool afterwards, never staying for the relaxation portion of the class.

I never really took any notice of Body Balance or any yoga method as more than just pointless stretching; as Stephanie hilariously points out: "I remember thinking that they should try a 'real' class..." until my GP started guiding me towards practicing mindfulness and suggesting that I try and stay that extra 10 minutes and see what happens. For the first time in what felt like my entire life, I felt pure silence. The eating disorder voice was silent and I had nothing to worry about. I'll never forget that day and how I had to fight back tears on my mat. From that day onwards, my workouts became about those peaceful 10 minutes and I've not looked back.

It came as no surprise to me that Stephanie opted for what I think is the most challenging form of yoga that exists, Ashtanga. One of these days I'll pluck up the courage to try a class but the weakness in my joints is just too much of an embarrassment - type A mentality right there!

Another giggle came when Stephanie talks about seeing a more experienced practitioner looking vastly too comfortable in downward dog while she felt forced into submission to child's pose by her hamstrings, and feeling more than slightly frustrated. But she kept returning. "Partly driven by an intention to improve and partly by a deeper pull to do something nice for myself..."

What really stuck out to me from this entire piece is: "This acceptance of my inability to do something was new for me but it was liberating.." Acceptance. This is so, so hard but once we stop fighting with it, everything else feels so much easier. I think it's something we all need to work on.

* Giveaway Alert *

The latest issue of OM Yoga Magazine was released today for digital subscriptions so give the link a click to grab yours before in-store release, 23rd September! This is a super exciting issue, we're talking about the OM Yoga Show which is being held at Olympia National from 24th to 26th October. What's EVEN MORE exciting is I have TWO SETS OF WEEKEND TICKETS to giveaway for this amazing event. You can grab your free programme here but I really, really think you should download the magazine too so you can get more of an introduction to the people and companies that will be exhibiting! Aaaaah I'm so excited! I will be attending on Saturday or Sunday, but you're under absolutely no obligation to wander around with me!

The giveaway will be up in a week or so, so make sure you're following me on Twitter and Instagram to find out exactly when it'll be live!

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts about mindfulness and meditation in the comments. Do you practice it? Do you think it's complete crap? What parts of meditation do you find difficult?



Real Talk: Blogging with a chronic health condition is hard.

I know it's not just me. Blogging has changed and keeping up is difficult. It's exceptionally difficult if you have a condition that limits your time online and destroys your concentration. I am a mental health blogger with long-term, pervasive conditions and M.E/CFS.

Blogging should always be a stress free zone
via Google Images
This does not make creating content and keeping 'locked in' to social media easy, at all. In fact, the vast majority of the time it is incredibly hard to sit up and type for more than half an hour. How other people are able to work full time, have a social life AND blog is absolutely beyond comprehension. I do know how much hard work is involved in blogging and to be honest I am very jealous of their ability to function so highly - and I'm sure they feel they aren't doing enough! 

Blogging used to be my 'safe space' but I think since the start of the year I've felt a shift into something a lot more stressful. There's an enormous pressure to keep up, post regularly, make sure your photos are of the most perfect standard, have an immaculate layout and all the while be ever present on social media which I really don't think is a terribly good thing to be doing. I keep hearing that people who spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter and such are more likely to feel negatively about their own lives and that could easily spiral into all sorts of dark avenues. I definitely need to step away from social media from time to time because all I see is reminders of how my life could be if I wasn't stuck in a body that doesn't function terribly well.

I have no problem with twitter but it now seems that Google+ is the 'place to be' and I honestly cannot get my head around it, or do I have the energy or brain capacity to try. Facebook annoys me and I really don't know why, so if you're wondering why I haven't bothered setting up a 'page' on there, it's because basically Facebook pisses me off! Don't even get me started on using Google Analytics to monitor your blog... 

If I'm not blogging, I'm either asleep, revising or in a dissociated haze somewhere. That's about the sum of my life. Occasionally I can make it outside to go to Body Balance or go for a swim. Blogging is not my priority and probably never will be. The exception to this is only if I am sent a product, then I will make a conscious effort to work my socks off to put out a decent post for them. I had hoped that my summer break from university would be spent making this little blog a priority and working hard to improve it, but life comes along and slaps you at the most annoying moments. I have resits to prepare for and that's just how it's got to be, sadly!

If you're a follower of my blog, I really and truly thank you for being here. There are probably so many things I am doing wrong but you're sticking it until I get shit figured out, and that makes you awesome. If you've not noticed, I really do abide by the quality over quantity philosophy and I hope that reflects in the content I do put out. You should see my drafts folder!! It's so full with half-written posts and ideas that I just can't quite 'get right'. Making your blog stand out from the crowd is probably one of the hardest things you are up against; while gaining followers should absolutely not be your motivation, I think we can all agree that it's nice to know you're not working your arse off to essentially talk to yourself. 

A common problem for people with M.E/CFS and anxiety disorders to an extent is having word-finding difficulties. You know when you know a word you want to say but you can't quite get it to come out? Imagine that, but for entire conversations. Or when you're trying to write an essay on the origin of eukaryotic cells - that was a frustrating ordeal. I believe it's sometimes called writers block but I'm not entirely sure if that's correct, to me that's more of a white noise issue than words just not coming out.

Something else I have noticed is that social anxiety can manifest itself online. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling unable to comment on blogs or groups for fear of not being a 'regular face' and getting a whole load of 'what the **** are you doing here?' and 'please go away...' thrown at them. I do try. I try so damn hard but 99% of the time I just can't bring myself to do it. Pretty daft, because online you're pretty anonymous - unless you choose not to be etc. It's not a face-to-face situation which should take the edge off, right?! 

I have SO MANY ideas and plans for this blog but I really don't know if I have the capabilities to put them into place. I guess we could try it and see what happens...

In closing: blogging should never make you feel like this, and if it does it's probably time for a break! 


The University Diaries: The What If's

I hate it when the "what if's" hit. It sends me into a complete spin and I end up completely overwhelmed and terrified. Last time on The University Diaries  we talked about how everything was being put in place for my resits and the level of support I am receiving. Well, the exams are now in full swing and I have just finished my second of three and I feel like my mind is breaking into pieces. 

image from Pinterest

The first resit came along as a bit of a surprise. The dates had been changed and there wasn't really anything I could do about it. As expected, I was assigned three essays of 600 words to complete in 72 hours for Cell Biology. It was HARD WORK but I got it done in the allotted time and wasn't blind-sighted by the topics. Thankfully it was 'open book' so I was allowed to reference textbooks and journals. 

What if I completely misunderstood the questions? You've done that before. What if you made a mistake with your referencing? What if you didn't use the correct language? You suck at writing 'in science'. What if I fail? What if I have to carry this module? What if they flat-out withdraw me?

Yesterday I was given 24 hours to complete the Neuroscience and Behaviour exam. It wasn't exactly the same as the one I sat in June but it was fairly similar. I only really had issues with two or three questions out of about 50 so that's a marked improvement on the first attempt. I didn't understand what it was asking of me. The exam itself is supposed to take an hour but because I have absolutely ZERO confidence in what I think I know to be right I spent a good 8 hours writing my answers in draft then checking them repeatedly before deciding if it was the correct. It was a frustrating ordeal and a definite down-side to being given take-away papers! 

What if I fail this one again? It's my major. They'll make me change to a different subject at the very least. Some people are already pushing that idea. What if I have to carry this module too? What if I fail and completely lose my grip on my sobriety? 

In all honesty, this is the one I am most scared of because of how badly I did the first time around. The entire time I was sat in front of the paper I was being reminded of the fact I failed. Some people can turn this into motivation and excel, which is what I am hoping to have done, but until I see the result my brain is going to be stuck on FAILURE. 

Next up is Biological Chemistry and I am expecting that one to be the same format as Cell Biology. I have been informed there will be graphs so I'm going to practice those... Plus I have the boyfriend to tell me if I'm doing it wrong. He'd never give me the answer. I wouldn't let him! I learn by doing, not by having things talked at me.

As much as I want to stay positive and motivated and all of that, I am not going to sit here and lie about how absolutely terrified and stressed out I am. I made a deal with myself back in July and we're rapidly approaching the 'deadline'. On 15th September I will find out if I will be going into year two at Sussex. This is also the day that the boyfriend leaves for America for a god damn fortnight. I really am starting to think that karma is giving me 40 lashes for all the shit I've done in the past.

The What If's are in full swing and I honestly don't know what to do. My CPN will undoubtedly ask me these very same questions or offer some shade of a solution but for now the biggest and scariest is: WHAT IF I FAIL? What if I lose my biggest recovery goal because I'm too stupid? I will be entirely alone and I will freely admit that I don't trust myself, my addictions and my tendency to kick the living daylights out of myself for any sort of shortcoming. I don't know why I do it. I just.... do. 

The What If's lead to plans and bad dreams. The What If's are not something I have yet learned how to manage. They are an element of generalized anxiety disorder and used to be severe enough that I would not leave my bedroom. It's happening again. The What If's just play on a loop that gets ever more extreme. It's no wonder I am struggling to keep my head above water and this ever-increasing level of stress is impacting on more elements of my life - which is why I am practically non-existent on social media and my blog right now. I'm so tired.... 

We could talk about What If I pass, but to be completely honest, I don't have an answer to that question. There will probably be cake. 


How to cook: Oven-roasted herby tomatoes

Welcome back to #FoodieFriday! Originally released in April 2013, this recipe has been edited and re-released for the Currys Student Cookbook.

I can't quite remember how I came up with this but I have a feeling it was a Tesco recipe card or something... Maybe Sainsburys. Ohhhh, I don't know! This is great as a side-dish, as an addition to a salad or a savoury dish like chicken or white fish. So here's what you do! It's soooooo easy, I promise.

Note: I know this looks like a heart-attack inducing recipe from the amount of salt being called for but I can assure you that you won't taste pure salt or really consume an awful lot of it. It's purely there to draw out the juices when cooking.

What you'll need: 

  • Tomatoes, at least 8. Any larger tomato would be great, just don't use cherry tomatoes!!
  • coarse salt
  • ground black pepper
  • fresh thyme or dried mixed herbs
  • garlic salt, optional
  • high sided roasting dish
  • measuring jug
 Cooking time: 35 minutes approx

ThatRedheadSaid: how to cook oven roasted tomatoes

Your first job is to get the oven on and turn it to it's maximum temperature. Then you need to start cutting up your tomatoes into reasonable sized slices, roughly a centimeter thick. Keep the ends of the tomatoes in a different pile to the rest of the slices. We will use these to help stack the layers in a minute.

You need to get your roasting tray ready now. It's important that both sides of the tomatoes are covered with the seasoning so you need to add a layer to the empty tray. Here I used a fairly generous amount of coarse salt and garlic salt, then dusted with black pepper from a height and added roughly 3tbsp of dried mixed herbs.

Now we're going to add our first layer of tomato slices. Try to fit as many in as you can but make sure they all lay flat on the dish. Repeat the same process as above to this layer to season. Add the end slices of the tomatoes into the gaps and try to make sure you get an even distribution. Lightly season these pieces, leaving the garlic salt out here if you are choosing to use it.

Add your final layer of tomatoes and season generously, including the garlic salt again. Now we're ready to put it into the oven at maximum temperature for 20 minutes.. :)

ThatRedheadSaid: how to cook oven roasted tomatoes

After the first burst in the oven we need to take it our to drain the liquid into our measuring jug so they can continue to roast rather than boil in their own juice! Be very careful as both the oven and the tomatoes will be fiercely hot!! Turn the oven down to 200 degrees now.

There's no real technique for getting out the liquid if you don't have a baster. Just get out as much as you can by gently shaking the dish about and trying to get some out from each corner. As you can see I got out almost 1/4 pint!

Now that the tomatoes look much happier we can put them back into the slightly cooler oven for a final 15 minutes. If you have used more tomatoes than I have here you'll need to check them after 15 minutes and just use your own judgement for how much longer they may need, and of course drain them again if you need to.

The final result you're after is this:

ThatRedheadSaid: how to cook oven roasted tomatoes 

The tomatoes should be just about holding themselves together and starting to look 'dried' and not letting out much, if any, juice after coming out of the oven. I can't promise they'll hold their shape when you try to serve them, for that effect you'll need to make much thicker slices! 

You can reduce the cooking juices down to make the base of an awesome tomato soup or cook couscous in, just an idea! Definitely don't pour it away, there's a flavour bomb in that jug! ;)

Please let me know if you try this recipe, if you have any questions or general musings! 

Happy cooking!!! :)

How to cook: a ridiculously easy chicken tikka masala

Originally published in October 2013, this recipe has been edited and re-released for the Currys Student Cookbook! 

This recipe has been a long time coming! Us Brits love our curry, and tikka masala is probably still the number one choice for the vast majority. The trouble is, we either buy those pre-made reheat in the microwave or oven ones, or we order in from the local takeaway; and at well over 800 calories with a fair whack of that coming from saturated fats it's pretty scary!

I don't know why making a curry from scratch is so daunting. We are spoilt for choice in supermarkets now, with spice blends already there just ready and waiting to be used. It really is so simple! This recipe can be adapted for a veggie version, or you could use beef or lamb if you wanted.

So let us get our curry on:

What you'll need: 
  • chicken breasts - I used 5, but it was a batch cook operation!
  • tikka masala curry paste - I recommend Pataks.
  • tikka masala spice blend 
  • curry powder
  • olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 vegetable OxO Cubes
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • gloves for handling raw meat

Prep/marinade: First of all we need to marinate the chicken. Cover the chicken with 3 teaspoons (tsp) of tikka spice mix, 2 tsp curry powder and some coarse salt. You can do this on frozen chicken in the morning, then leave in the fridge while you go to work or uni. After at least 2 hours, or once the chicken has defrosted, transfer the chicken into a large pyrex bowl and add 2 tablespoons (tbsp) curry paste, season well with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with cling film, put in the fridge for at least an hour.

ThatRedheadSaid : how to cook chicken tikka masala

Let's cook: Get a heavy based pan, and turn the heat on high. Put on your gloves and grab a sharp knife. Cut the chicken into reasonable sized chunks. Add some olive oil into the pan, and once it's hot add the chicken and oxo cubes. Stir well to make sure all the chicken gets coated in the oil. Use the least amount you can of the oil, we're aiming for healthy here! Put some warm water into the pyrex bowl and mix around with your gloved hands to the grab the marinade that is stuck to the sides. Add to the chicken and turn the heat right down. Stir, cover and leave to simmer. Remove your gloves. If your chicken or sauce is catching on the bottom of the pan, or it's just simmering too quickly, add some more water.

ThatRedheadSaid : how to cook chicken tikka masala
apologies for the picture! the light on my extractor is broken! :(

Now it's time to chop the onion. You don't have to be ridiculously talented with a knife, just get your slices as thin as possible without putting your fingers in danger! Once you're done, and you've dried your eyes, grab another frying pan and heat some olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and a generous sprinkling of salt. This will bring out the liquid and help them soften. We're not looking to fry our onions here, just soften them with as little colouring as possible. Keep the heat on low-med to stop them from running away with you. I also like to keep my sautee pan lid ontop of the onions to help them on their way.

Check on your curry. Add a tbsp paste and spice mix, plus a tsp of curry powder and season with salt and pepper. Give it a good mix, taste, re-cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Check on your onions. Turn them over frequently.

Add half a can of coconut milk to the curry. Mix thoroughly and taste. Adjust the heat of your hob to a low-medium to allow the curry to continue to simmer gently. Your onions should now just be starting to catch on the pan, so add them to the curry and mix well. Add the rest of the coconut milk, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Turn the heat down, stir the curry carefully. Taste and adjust the flavour as you wish. Here I added a teaspoon of dried thyme. If you want a hotter curry, go a tsp at a time with the curry powder. What I love about this curry is the depth of flavour rather than spice heat that blows your head off and ruins the experience.

After a final 5 minutes of cooking your curry is ready! I recommend serving with brown rice. Annoyingly I didn't have any in the cupboard so the picture shows white basmati rice. Buy all means go for some naan bread and poppadoms too - but remember to buy the uncooked ones, they're vastly less fatty!

ThatRedheadSaid : how to cook chicken tikka masala

ThatRedheadSaid : how to cook chicken tikka masala

There we have it! One super easy and super yummy chicken tikka masala! The boyfriend said this was my best one yet - which is quite a bold statement to be honest. Give it a whirl, adapt as you like and let me know how you got on!!! :) 

Happy cooking!

Samantha Nicholls. Powered by Blogger.


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