Thinking positively – My strengths and yours?

In a time like this (what with COVID-19 and all), I feel that rather than focusing on the negatives, it is important to think and talk about our strengths as a person. Since this can become a difficult time for many, I want to share some of my strengths in this article to get ‘the ball rolling’ but I am desperate to hear yours too in the comments section!

Perseverance

This is an interesting one because I don’t usually like to take on a challenge that I am unlikely to be able to complete. But, when I do something I stick it at until I am satisfied with what I have done. For instance the Skiing I have mentioned previously (https://lifeistoo.sport.blog/2020/03/24/my-week-of-skiing-in-tanndalen-sweden/) that took a lot out of me… I had to set realistic goals for myself and avoid comparing myself to others: this was so that I could focus on challenges unique to me that I could achieve and be proud of. I also feel that this is a great way to persevere and in the face of adversity, as the goal is SMART. It also means that most of the time I can surpass my expectations which provides me with a good feeling.

Self-motivation, determination, hard-working

These are closely linked with perseverance as I have used this strength for a while now, and needed it more than ever to get my study abroad opportunity. I was faced with alternative assignments and more work than I could ever manage. While I was doing it I did worry that it would be too much for me and whether it would be worth it. I even thought that if I knew it was going to be like this originally then I wouldn’t have taken the opportunity. But I am so glad ‘I didn’t know’ because I would not trade my experiences for anything. I had to work what felt like all day, every for a month. There was so much to do there was no time to let motivation slip, I had to be determined 24/7 which was tough… But by building on what was already a strength for me and thinking of what life was to be had in the future gave me an end goal to work towards.

Self-esteem

This may not be where I fully would like it to be, but one I have worked extremely hard towards. I think being around the right crowd and surrounding yourself with supportive people is pivotal to improving self-esteem. I cannot speak for everyone but this is how it has happened for me at least. I feel that is when it possible to understand the extent of the old saying ‘you attract the energy that you give off’. It is so easy to get tangled up in a web where you think you can do no better, but sometimes you have to make bold decisions and cut ties to grow effectively. Taking risks is key and knowing your self worth, so that you can respect yourself more to allow and maintain good people in your life.

This is just a short snapshot of a few of what I feel are my strengths right now. I would love for you to use the comment section to share yours too.

Looking after your mental health (During Covid-19)

This period of uncertainty can be extremely detrimental on ones mental health, as many peoples social or working lives are torn apart for god knows how long. During this difficult time it is easy to slip into bad habits so I wanted to discuss some of the coping mechanisms I’ve been using, and maybe others that I should be using too.

Fresh air / exercise – This is my personal favourite. If you are able to exercise in a safe and distancing way outside then I highly recommend it. I like that people are keeping fit at home but use your time outside of isolation wisely regarding exercise! A simple walk or run around a park by yourself is extremely peaceful and gives you some quiet time to cool off whilst appreciating the nature.

Reconnect with old hobbies or formulate new ones – This is another thing I spend a bit of time on now as it can sometimes feel like the clock is moving too slowly. Games are an excellent way to consume time and you can even connect with your friends over them. I’ve been playing Runescape to connect with my old hobbies but also more recently trying out Football Manager 2020 that has been free! This is the most time consuming game I’ve ever come across so I really recommend it if you’re into football!

Speak to people – This may seem like common sense but with the constant reminder of self-isolation, I personally know how easy it is to ‘over-isolate’ if you wish. If you’re like me and like to keep busy, it can be a bit depressing when you’re not interacting and stuck in a front of a screen. Your flat mates or family are close by, so there is no need to be making unnecessary outings either. Talk to them about how you are feeling and maybe even share coping mechanisms to manage this pandemic better.

Learn new things – Such as learning to cook a new meal or cross stitch. Absolutely anything! When will you ever get so much free time again in your life? It doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, if you can learn to spend your time wisely. Let this be the opportunity that you come out of your comfort zone and try new things. Maybe you will even become more confident and comfortable in your own company too.

Try not to dwell on the issue and instead make the best out of it. It is not ideal but it doesn’t mean that you still can’t have fun. You just have to be smart and safe. For example, I have been keeping my distance and enjoying the parks to myself. It is nice to find a balance between this and other aspects in this post that are inside such as gaming or stitching.

Finally, I would like to hear your coping strategies! Please do share in the comments.

My week of skiing in Tänndalen, Sweden.

Welcome to another one of my Swedish adventures! This time I went to Tanndalen with the university to do skiing and winter education. I was absolutely terrified as I have never skiied on snow before. Being an English man we don’t have such environmental conditions which meant I’ve only been on one tiny plastic slope before. Because of this I only had the simple aims of trying my best and to come back in one piece. What followed was a week of many different challenges that I was determined to tackle.

The first challenge was sleeping on a coach that was 16 hours long… But the moment we stepped out into the winter wonderland I knew it was worth it. The area and its scenery was beautiful and for the most part, we were graced with incredible weather.

I felt that here was a well thought out structure to the trip, that the weather even complimented at times. I was really grateful that we started with the cross country and tour skiing, whilst my energy levels were still high. Then there was a slightly shorter tour as part of winter friluftsliv (being out and in the nature) through the woods, where we ended up having lunch in front of a superb snowy background. Then when my energy levels had truly depleted I could fall back on the ski lifts associated with alpine skiing!

View from our windbags and lunch during the shorter friluftsliv tour

My challenges often came when I was tired or struggling with an activity. This was quite often sadly, considering I was a beginner at most things. What I will be eternally grateful though is the support I had from local students and fellow internationals. Naturally being quite an independent person I am quite determined to get by by myself and was nervous to seek help. I was pleasantly surprised though and learnt that it’s okay and in fact much healthier to do. Despite my own mental strength that pushed through such a detailed programme, the constant guidance and motivation was invaluable.

Just a few of the excellent and supportive students that contributed to the amazing full (approximately) 9 km ski tour!

Because of this I was able to have many enjoyable moments! A personal favourite was the tour ski that involved a little downhill practice, skiing over a lake and visiting Fjållnas (Sweden’s oldest high mountain hotel). Also on the last night (since coronavirus ended the trip one day early) I made the most out of the evening skiing. This was an experience I may not have for a while so I certainly had to enjoy it…

Evening skiing 7 to 9 pm

I think the guy working the ski lift must have been sick of me going up 15 to 20 times in 2 hours.. But the freedom of skiing on your own after a week of progression is excellent. Before the trip I was stressing how I would cope with so many different things. Now because of all these excellent memories with great people, I hope I am able to ski again more confidently one day.

Ski scooters taking us to our slopes for alpine skiing!

Guilty pleasures

One phenomenon I have never been able to identify with is the concept of ‘guilty pleasures’. Are societal norms that overpowering that we feel guilty for our own likes and interests? What is so bad or shameful about being different, and having different views?

Image result for guilty pleasures dave grohl
Dave Grohl

Whatever it might be, for example art, music, sport or television, it is all subjective. What one person enjoys can vary between different individuals and in similar vain with what we dislike. You might really like hockey or country music which are two things I am not overly fond of. But am I right in belittling your taste? Absolutely not. It is perfectly fine to appreciate those with different tastes.

But to feel belittled is exactly what can happen from a clash of two tastes. I firmly believe people become so afraid or insecure over their interests, that they end up categorising their love of ‘Taylor Swift’ or ‘reality tv shows’ as silly or ‘guilty pleasures’ if you will. This is generally to prevent people making fun of them for any potential unconventional interests, that society has taught them to mask out of fear of embarrassment.

When it comes to ‘guilty pleasures’ I for one hate to get bogged down in what social norms have been pre-determined for us, especially when it comes to gender. From my time in mainstream clubbing the concept of ‘a cheese room’ generally attracts female attention to hear these ‘guilty pleasures’. But I am generally the one dragging my friends into these rooms to hear some Westlife or Peter Andre. If there is something that you like then you must appreciate it for all its glory, rather than hide it from fear of judgement. So crank up some Nickelback and savour it!!

Please comment your favourite ‘guilty pleasures’ or even better… what you’re not afraid to love!!

Malmö so far.

So… It’s been a while. I am now studying in Sweden (Malmö to be specific) and it has been an interesting experience so far. It has not come without its challenges but I am trying to embrace them. It has been almost a month so far and I am yet to freeze to death. Weirdly enough it was not until two or so weeks in that I really felt the cold… Malmo is extremely windy and grey like all the time… So not too dissimilar to the UK really.. The cold is worth it though to be out and to appreciate the architecture and bask in the nature Sweden has to offer.

The turning torso

There is a significant emphasis on outdoor life/activities or ‘friluftsliv’ as its roughly known here. The large selection of accessible parks offers great scenery in a peaceful environment – a lovely escape so close to the city. My favourite so far is Kungsparken, which is actually the oldest park in Malmo and was formed on the area previously belonging to Malmohus castle. The park is spacious and is occupied with lakes and the park itself is really well maintained, which makes for a fabulous time in the sunshine. There are also tons of birds, ducks and swans which makes for some interesting sounds! But it is great for zoning out and listening to the nature, to truly indulge in it.

It is often grey and ‘miserable’ so despite the cold weather, it is important to appreciate the blue sky and sun when it does come. I think everyone else has a similar mentality, with many people located in the parks even if it’s only 4 or 5 degrees celsius. Children are often outside and playing in parks and people are cycling… There is a very relaxed environment in Malmo and I for one am really enjoying it so far.

A bit close to the water on Ribersborg beach… Thank gosh I can swim.

My studies and settling in have kept me busy and the weather has kept me inside, so apart from one school visit I am yet to venture outside of Malmo (and get one of those yellow, regional buses!). I cannot wait to get around when its a little warmer but for now, I am really enjoying my course. I am studying near enough the same thing as I would back home, but from a Swedish perspective.. hence the Swedish school experiences I am gaining. It has been fantastic seeing different PE lessons take place and see how my favourite subject is taught in another country. Here there is a significant emphasis on health over competition which I think is fascinating.

Sports hall of a school I visited.

I will to keep this updated better… I have so much more to say!

Dominic.

Daylio – an application to benefit mental health through mood tracking.

My friend showed me an app called Daylio which is basically used as a mood tracker. You rate your overall feeling of the day through one of five emoji on a ‘rad to awful’ scale. You can click different activities that you’ve done that day, which takes seconds. If you have more time you can even fill in a little diary.

The diary may take a little more time but to me it is the most beneficial aspect. I can pinpoint exactly what went well on a day (or even a week) if I’m struggling to see the positives. I can then also link it to the activities that I’ve done such as ‘sport or ‘cleaning’. These activities act as indicators for how the day went, as the app makes a connection between the two.

From there you could potentially take up a certain activity more if you notice that it is contributing to better days. For instance if a lot of your good days involve sport then perhaps you look to do more physical activity. But obviously this is hard to assess if sport is something that you constantly do. So for me, it could still be a ‘meh’ day for instance.

There are also ten achievements available to motivate you to keep filling it out. You can set your phone to remind you and if you’re still busy the apps allows you to add entries days later. This is helpful as you may forget or run out of time to do so. Overall it is a very helpful app and it is free. It counts your activities and adds up all your different feelings from different days. This can be great for reassurance and also help you in the right direction to get better

Where have I been?

I must start by apologising for my inactivity in recent times. It has been a while since my last post so I figured I should begin to explain how I’ve been spending my summer away from University.

After finishing my first year which was a huge milestone for me, I dove straight into an incredibly unique and out of this world experience. This involved my two-week summer school trip to Taiwan. Baring in mind that I had never been abroad or on a plane before, yet I was about to embark on a 12,000 mile round trip by myself. Some would call me courageous whilst most would think I was ABSOLUTELY bonkers.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect and I think that is what helped benefit my experience. I was deeply out of my comfort zone (such as taking a week to pluck up the courage to use chopsticks) but oddly enough, that was okay. Everyone that I met was so friendly and welcoming which was reassuring at this point. I felt that I could be more involved than I normally would be, in which was a very busy two weeks.

The two weeks ultimately flew by, with it taking a week for me to adjust to the dreaded jet lag and coping with the humid climate.I remember climbing Huoyan mountain and being so dehydrated I could not eat. Which for me, who nonstop eats is obviously very significant! But once I had adapted and stumbled onto Super Supau (an AMAZING Taiwaneese isotonic sports drink) I seemed set for the second week.


What I loved most about the trip was the amount of food and drink available at such a low cost. I remember getting a huge McDonalds breakfast the one morning for 99 Taiwan Dollars which roughly converts to £2.21. Whilst other mornings breakfast could cost as low as 62p. Because of this almost every meal I had was in a resturant of some sort, which was convenient and alleviated the worry about how I’d fuel myself each day.


The days involved a good mix of culture enrichment and adventure tourism. Rock climbing and bouldering seemed a popular choice there but for me it was river tracing and cliff jumping that captured my attention! Whilst it was also fantastic to experience another culture and well they look after public areas like parks and museums.



My days there were challenging in many different ways but I will never forget my experience in Taiwan. I couldn’t imagine a more positive first time experience abroad, where I was well looked after by the amazing people I met. Two weeks was simply not enough as there was so much more to explore. Visit if you ever get the chance!

Self esteem and autism

Self esteem can either be healthy or unhealthy and refers to an individuals confidence in his or hers ability or self-worth. Those with a healthy self-esteem can find it easier to believe in their worth and abilities, to assist themselves in achieving a task for example. Whereas those with a low self esteem can belittle themselves struggle to find their place or value in society. This is closely linked with autism, of where an individual may already face difficulties of low self esteem, if struggling to fit in.

Impact of self-esteem

silhouette photography of man illustration

Concerns of low self esteem and poor mental health can lead to depression. It can also lead to some questionable friendship choices if an individual does not see their self-worth. They may not be portraying the best version of themselves and instead only receive what they put out there. For someone with autism, developing and sustaining friendships is already a great enough struggle as it is. But facing this issue too is like ‘double trouble’ where you are battling two issues.

Why have healthy self-esteem?

two man jumper on charcoal


It is therefore important to look after your mental health and stay clear of negative energy. You may be vulnerable and unable to pinpoint who these people are, but it is pitival to your happiness to do so. Being around supportive people is great for your confidence and self-esteem. It means people are encouraging you to chase your dreams and your development. Whereas negative people might only see the worst in you which can hinder your abiity to unearth your talents and success.

Celebrate your own achievements!

woman in green jacket raising her hands

Someone with autism may already be constantly reminded about things they struggle to do, or cannot do. The last thing we need is someone that is inpatient and unsympathetic. Knowing that someone is tolerant and understanding is more reassuring than you can ever imagine. Celebrate your progress as though it is unique to the individual. What might be nothing for someone else, could be an outstanding achievement for you. Therefore I see this as a key aspect of assessing a persons motive and energy, as your supportive friend will compliment such an achievement.

Surround yourself with positive energy

portrait photography of man

You need people that will love and support you. It is simply not good enough to keep unwanted company just for the sake of it. Strive for better and take risks. If that means cutting someone off, then it may have to be a risk that you have to take. We aren’t always destined to be a consistent or prominent aspect of every persons lifetime. Sometimes people drift and you should not feel bad for drifting away from negative energy. You should put yourself first and be around supportive people, as they will encourage and compliment your push for better health.

Being yourself and celebrating individuality

Constantly we are told to ‘be ourselves’ but with such societal pressures, this is very difficult. We each have our own idea of who we want to be. Those wanting to be themselves may seem ‘weird’ to one yet ‘loveable’ to another. Is society actually encouraging us to be ourselves or are we slandered the second that we act out of character? We should not have to try and compromise our integrity or beliefs meet societies pressures, or gender norms and stereotypes for instance.

Stereotypes must be challenged.

man in blue Champion tank top and shorts running at the field


Stereotypes are an important element of celebrating individuality, as people can form prejudice and assumptions of a particular character. For instance an older adult may be assumed as vulnerable or weak, and that they all sit around doing nothing. This is a sweeping generalization though as there any many cases of age not limiting an older adult – such as 100 year old marathon runners. People like this should be taken seriously for their individuality and not just grouped into an ‘old, incapable of physical activity’ group.

Stereotypes aren’t always accurate or appropriate.

Younger people also need to be taken seriously though, as we are all unique and enjoy different things. Not every student wants to ‘party’ and not every older adult wants to be cooped up in their bed or in a bingo hall. Perhaps these interests can actually be contrasting to the stereotype, as an older adult may enjoy getting out more often than the younger person. The issue regarding this is the potential exposure to peer pressure or the fear of missing out – particularly if someone is labelled as’boring’.

Be yourself but free of guilt.

woman wearing black tank top

‘Boring’ just like’fun’ is a subjective word for me, in that we can all interpret and judge what is ‘boring’ or ‘fun’, differently. There is no need to feel guilty for doing what makes you happy, nor is there a need to feel pressure to do what everyone else is. A simple saying that I love to say is ‘you, do you’ which is pretty self explanatory. Always stick by your beliefs and your interests and try not to compromise yourself for the convenience of others. This can be difficult especially through teenage years and it happens to the best of us. But it is worth it to wait around for supportive friend that will accept you.

Pros and cons about living at University.

Pros

Your friends are right there!

four people watching on white MacBook on top of glass-top table

No need to panic about friends on your first day jitters, as mostly everyone is in the same boat as you. Straight away you have your house mates before even meeting your course mates. You can also then branch out and meet new people through clubs and societies.

Cleaners

Your biggest concern about moving away may be ‘who is going to clean up my mess for me’? As much as we seek independance, some things never change.. Luckily a cleaner should come into your kitchen and clean communal areas. Those with ensuites will be expected to clean their own bathrooms however, so stock up on your polish and febreeze!

No bills

You don’t have to worry about your water being shut off, or your electricity when you’re half way through binge watching Brookline Nine Nine anymore. Everything in halls is included bill wise, so no need to worry if you’re in halls!

Appreciate home life more

dog lying on couch

Not being able to go home as often can make you appreciate your home and surroundings more. The less that you see your loved ones and the comforts you have at home, mean that it’ll be ever so sweet when you return back to memory lane.

Cons

Expensive

Some people may not even get a maintenance loan that covers their accomodation. Some will be in accomodation that they cannot afford, whilst frantically running around chasing up employment opportunities just to get by. Whilst others will be living off left overs and 20p pasta. Make sure you know your financial situation and choose your halls wisely.

Distractions

two woman doing toast

Some find it hard to study at university due to the amount of distractions that are available to them. Having people on your door step has its benefits but also can be detrimental to your progression, should you let it affect your commitment. Some might experience FOMO (fear of missing out) and feel that they have to be involved with everything. Be careful and try to balance this well so that you are putting yourself well and succeeding.

Noise

Walls are thinner than a gas stations toilet paper. You’ll be subject to noise at all hours, as the nocturnals and the drunks are awake come 4 am. Fire alarms will soon become your worst nightmare as well. The noise is horrendous and someone is bound to set it off from making toast in the early hours.

Time and money to go home

photo of group on people sitting inside train

For those choosing to study in a long distance city, away from their home town then it can be very costly and time consuming to travel home. Whilst locals may be able to go home almost every weekend, you’re stuck in the flat by yourself. Your train ticket is £65 even with a railcard and you can’t bare to spend that amount of money, after burning it on a two day bender.. Not only money wise but also the time spent travelling when you could be studying or partying!

A blog for documenting my personal life experiences and thoughts featuring a pun from my avid interest in sport.