Being supportive and being over-responsible are night and day.

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Photo by Elizabeth Tsung on Unsplash

This morning I made my fiancé tea while he was getting ready for work. As I fished out the teabag and drizzled in milk, I realised I was worrying.

He seems to be running late, I thought; by the time he sits down, the tea will be cold! Perhaps I should chuck this cup and start again in a few minutes.

But I stopped myself.

This was a microcosm of something I always unconsciously do: take responsibility for things that have nothing to do with me.

If we rewind to my childhood, it becomes fairly obvious where my over-responsibility started.

I was a shy, rule-following child; my big sister, in contrast, was an adventurous rebel. One of my earliest memories is of her instructing me to steal some of the sticky aniseed blackjacks from the sweet shop we visited to spend our weekend pocket-money. …

You want to love Christmas, but in reality, it’s stressful.

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

You want to love Christmas.

As November darkens into December, cosy scenes fill your mind. You imagine eating mince pies by a twinkling tree, peeling away the pastry lid and dipping it in thick brandy butter. You dream about wrapping presents unhurriedly, trying red velvet ribbons with a flourish. You picture frosty windowpanes and cooking decadent meals for loved ones while the carols play.

Only when you get there, it’s nothing like that.

You were so busy trying to wrap up work for the year, you forgot to buy a tree, and now you wonder if it’s too late. You never ordered the special gifts you meant to, let alone velvet ribbon, and have to desperately scramble on Amazon. Cooking for guests suddenly seems a Herculean task, and you’re unable to sleep worrying about types of stuffing and quantities of wine. …

Some self-help ideas actually work

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Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns. We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”—Tara Brach

It’s late, but I don’t dare check the time. My fiancé is beside me breathing softly—almost impossibly peacefully asleep.

How can he be sleeping soundly when it was his restlessness, his constant shuffling, coughing, and tugging of the covers, that kept me awake? I’ve missed that precious window where I can fall asleep easily and now I’ll be up all night. …

Are good daily habits the ultimate act of self-love? I think so.

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and it’s not circumstantial.

Hard things have been unfolding in my 2020, from one of my cats dying, to being debilitated by Covid, to losing work and having to unpick our wedding thread by thread.

What’s changing is I finally understand how to build self-worth, and I’ve begun keeping my promises to myself. Turns out increased happiness isn’t always about doing what you want now (although that’s important too sometimes) but in taking steps toward the kind of person you want to be. …

I tested 4 productivity methods for you: these are the results.

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Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

You have a goal: you want to write more while retaining your usual writing quality. But time seems to be something you’re always chasing and never quite catching up with. What do you do? You conduct productivity experiments and then benefit from the results; or at least, you let me do it for you.

Over the last month, I’ve given each of the 4 methods below a week’s trial. During that time I only used that single method, although how I used it often changed as the week wore on.

I wasn’t able to pause my day job (I’m a copywriter and editor) that usually takes up much of my day, so I was only able to test these methods in the 4 or so hours a day I devote to my own work (article writing with a healthy dose of short-story experimentation thrown in). …

And so is “Do I want to?’

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Photo by Anton Malanin on Unsplash

“Should I break up with them?” is something my worried little fingers have typed into Google many a dark night. And by the millions of largely repetitive articles out there on the subject, I imagine I’m not alone.

I’ve used the “should I?” method of deciding my relationship’s fate before. Once when I was living with a boyfriend, we worked at the same company and I adored his family — and “should I?” kept me trapped for years.

As far as I could work out, I should stay. Sure, I wasn’t particularly happy. Sure, we nearly came to blows over everything from what to cook for dinner to how to interpret a film. But I respected him and our lives were intertwined, so breaking up seemed logistically and emotionally too hard. …

Unbalanced relationships are a direct path to misery.

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Photo by Anton Malanin on Unsplash

“I shouldn’t have to keep reassuring you.” My boyfriend reached for his beer glass, which was beading in the afternoon heat.

My stomach lurched in a way that was becoming all too familiar.

“But you haven’t reassured me,” I said, taking off my sunglasses so I could look him in the eye. “I don’t feel reassured.”

He looked away, rocked back in his chair and looked out at the bustle of Seville street around. Took a deliberate sip of his drink.

This was turning out to be a terrible holiday. A terrible year.

It will get better over time, I thought, once I’ve been able to move on from his cheating. …

Let it.

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Photo by Vino Li on Unsplash

It was early morning in Sri Lanka, but the heat was already suffocating.

I’d just crawled out of my safari tent after another sleepless night of being nibbled on by mosquitoes—which is what happens when your tent has a gaping hole. My bladder, prone to act up at times of exhaustion, felt like a well-used pin-cushion.

I’d spent much of my life successfully hiding my emotions, but that morning my mental health was quivering on a knife-edge. When my mum wandered over from her tent to wish me good morning, tears came like a dam bursting.

“What’s wrong with you?” my mum looked simultaneously concerned and annoyed. …

Love according to the experts (and also me).

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Photo by Raphael Nast on Unsplash

That I explore how relationship myths can hurt us isn’t random; it’s because what I thought I wanted from love has turned out to be vastly different from what I actually need.

Bridging the gap between what I was taught to expect and my lived experience helped me find love after spending years in dead-end relationships. But while I now understand these things instinctively, I wanted to explore what the world’s relationship experts had to say.

What specifically do many of us think we want that isn’t what we actually need? And what might make us happier instead?

Here comes the science bit. …

4 thoughts that bring immeasurable comfort.

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The last year has been vertiginous.

My cat died. My fiance and I had to cancel our wedding. Work has been a rollercoaster of mostly lurching drops and very few peaks. And months post-Covid, I still wake, sweat-soaked and shaking, thinking I can’t breathe in the middle of the night.

I’m not alone: with the pandemic and stressful political and social tensions in many parts of the world, 2020 has exacted a much higher toll on others.

Increasingly, I’ve found myself turning to the thoughts that keep me sane when everything around me isn’t. …


Jessica A

Structural editor and creative copywriter. Recovering night owl. Preferably whisked and holding a cat.

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