Mental Health Mondays – 11. Vulnerability

6th of November, 2022, 8am.

I’m at the local park, getting ready to take part, with a few more hundred (mostly professional level) running enthusiasts, in the ‘Eurolife, Run the Park with Us’ run. My other half, who’s been training for a triathlon for the last month or so, went to find his coach and do a warm-up and I went for a wander, to check out the setting.

All I could focus on was the trained bodies, the muscles protruding around me and the pro gear most had. I even felt undedressed, if that’s ever possible.

‘What on earth am I doing here? Why did I decide to run the 10k? I don’t belong here.’

That’s what was on my mind ever since I switched from 5k to 10k. I had only run 10k twice before that day, and I felt I could probably do it, depending on the route, but I was worried I’d come last. That was my biggest worry actually until probably a few days before the run. I decided to embrace my worries and fears though, and go for it.

What’s the worst case scenario? What if I do come last? Why does that worry me that much?

It comes down to our innate tendency to avoid situations that might make us feel vulnerable, exposed, hurt, physically or mentally. So I knew I had to fight this urge.

I had recently rewatched Brene Brown’s infamous Ted Talk about vulnerability and her recent Netflix show ‘Call to Courage’ (I highly recommend both!) and I reminded myself that unless you push yourself to feel vulnerable, then you can’t really show courage and you can’t go far in life.

You need to make vulnerability part of your everyday life, get used to that uncomfortable feeling of showing your emotions, looking for a better job, asking for a better salary, being completely honest with your loved ones, letting people see your true self and above all, your feelings.

So I went for it. For a while I thought I was last, I couldn’t see anyone behind me, but I didn’t pay any attention. About half way through I bumped into an ex-colleague who kept cheering me on. That boosted my morale, as the route was not easy (but it was really beautiful, amongst trees and plants, and panoramic views). So many hills, up and down, and running on hills is not my favourite! Towards the end I thought I was lost as I couldn’t see any signs on where to go, but after probably the toughest hill of the route (they saved the best for last!) I finally heard the presenter at the finish line.

I almost burst into tears. My mum and my boyfriend were there, waiting for me, cheering me on. I did it! And apparently I didn’t come last, not that would have made any difference.

A few days later I decided to sign up for the Larnaka 10k route of the Marathon, which was two weeks later. If I could make it through the hills of the park, I can make it on a flat surface.

The 17th of November was an incredibly hot day (for November) and we ran at 10am. Needless to say I had a migraine for the rest of the day, but oh my, it was worth it.

I ran alongside professional athletes, blind runners from Israel, a woman running in memory of her son, young people, older people. I was in great company.

I wasn’t sure I’d make it, I never ran 10k in those temparatures, but running with others is motivating on its own. I can’t accurately describe that feeling. You have to experience it, to fully understand.

I almost cried when I high-fived a kid holding a sign, near the 7th kilometre, which was one of the toughest.

The route was beautiful, especially the second half. The last part of the run was by Saint Lazarus church and then alongside Foinikoudes beach, which was just gorgeous and it definitely helped me going.

I’ve now signed up for the 7.7 mile ‘Stelios Kyriakides’ run at Nicosia Marathon in a couple of weeks, which is around 12km. That will be the longest I’d ever run, so I just hope I can make it.

This push and dedication, powered by vulnerability, also helped me in my personal and professional life. In the last few weeks I felt more like myself, the closest I felt in years, and awakened my feisty spirit. I feel more inclined to speak up, and I believe more in myself and my abilities.

So, today’s message: embrace your vulnerability. It’s tough, and painful, because it inevitably means failing over and over again, but it also lets in love, light and above all, courage.



Mental Health Mondays – 10. Transitions

I had a headache every day of last week, from Saturday to last Friday. Every single day.

My formerly hypochondriac self would have probably panicked and immediately thought that it was probably a brain tumour and death was imminent, but years of self-exploration taught me better. I knew why and how.

I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep for a few days now, I constantly felt tired and I was exhaustingly stressed. I’ve also been grinding my teeth in my sleep due to my anxiety, which gave me headaches.

The reason: I was about to quit my job and I’ll be soon starting a new one.

I’ve been thinking about my next stop for a while now.

I wasn’t happy in my job anymore, I was tired of the nature of it, the trips, the events and so on, there was no real progression, I wasn’t learning much anymore or developing professionally and a few things wore me down. I wanted to quit for a while but I was too scared to do it without getting another job first, which I finally did, last week.

Living in your 30s and having worked for a while it’s both a blessing and a curse. You are acutely aware of what you can put up with and what not and when it’s time to move on.

Some people are happy with what they have and they don’t mind if their job consumes them, affects their personal and/or social life or if doesn’t offer them any new skills or experience anymore. And that’s great for them. We all have different priorities. But I’m not like that. And although I know that this job might be ideal for someone else, for me that wasn’t the case anymore.

So, last Tuesday I quit my job.

‘But why did you keepg getting a headache and couldn’t sleep for the rest of the week?’ one might ask.


Quitting from a job, however frustated or exhausted you are doesn’t mean you won’t miss the good bits. The people I spent the last two years with, the banter, some of the work, some of the partners etc.

It’s sad and it’s OK.

I also feel anxious about the next chapter, whether everything is going to work out, whether I’ll adapt quickly, whether this is the best career step for me now (considering what I really want to work on is Mental Health, especially when it comes to the workplace, which might get to work on in my current job), whether my new colleagues will be as nice and cool as my old ones (It will be hard to beat!), whether I’ll finally have more time to do things that are important for me, like writing, being creative, volunteering , more time with friends and family, new experiences (and the list goes on).

It‘s OK to worry about it.

It’s been almost a week and I’ve been sleeping better and I haven’t had a headache in three days. I still feel sad and worried but I’m also excited about the new chapter and I’m open to whatever the universe brings.

A lovely friend of mine actually gave me great advice and without realising, reassured me that what I feel right now is normal. So I’ll leave you with that.



Mental Health Mondays – 8. Toxic Positivity

Sunday, 18th of September, 2022

6 o’ clock in the afternoon…

I just woke up from a two and a half hour nap and felt that I was hit by a bus.

I rarely nap, I hate the feeling afterwards, but after about 30 hours of travelling in 4 days (around 60 hours of buses, trains, planes and running around airports in the last 15 days), my body and mind just gave up.

A week later and I still have a lingering cold, I missed a few important gatherings I wanted to go to but couldn’t and just woke up from one and a half hour nap. I’m flying again on Monday at 6:25 in the morning (I’ll probably be in Slovenia by the time this is out) and I’m not sure if my body can cope.

I’ve been trying different remedies, I’m taking vitamins, trying to exercise and rest as much as possible, but nothing seems to be effective, at least not to the degree needed for me to function at least a satisfactory level.

Inevitably, I’ve been complaining about it, because I’m exhausted. I know it doesn’t help in anything and I try not to do it as much but it’s OK to not feel well and not hide it.

Feeling guilty because you are sad or angry, hiding painful emotions, dismissing other people’s difficult feelings, ignoring your problems, only posting ideal photos on social media, and reciting ‘positive’ quotes about tough situations are all examples of what’s called toxic positivity.

I’m sure most of us have been told these before:

  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • Just be positive!
  • It can always be worse, be grateful for what you have

And the list goes on.

I noticed that a lot of people do it (sometimes even I fall into the trap of doing it) and I absolutely hate it. Emotional intelligence in general, and empathy in particular is all about identifying and acknowledging the other person’s feelings, and respecting what they are going through without judgement.

We all have been guilty of ignoring our and other people’s feelings and promoting all this (toxic) positivity. Yes there’s always worse and I’m grateful for what I have, but there’s also better. Also, not everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it’s just (bad) luck, coincidence or unfortunate circumstances. Most importantly, we don’t always have to be positive, as long as sadness and pessimism don’t take over and disrupt our functionality.

Here’s some photos from my recent travels. I didn’t have time to see much of any city, just a couple of hours in each as I had to work and travel. I’d rather I travelled for leisure, rather than this, but I’m doing the best considering the circumstances. I’m still exhausted and I hope this doesn’t continue for long. Today I’m not that positive about it, maybe tomorrow I’ll be, but it’s OK.

Have you experienced toxic positivity? How do you deal with it?



Mental Health Mondays – 7. Post holiday blues

The first Monday after the summer holiday. The absolute dread of having to get out of bed and get ready to go to work. A week of overcaffeinating yourself to stay awake, missing the sea, the soothing sound of the waves (but not the sun, it’s still 39 degrees Celsius in Cyprus), the food, the daytrips, reading, writing, swimming, your friends, your family, all the free time you felt guilty about (Mental Health Mondays – 6. The guilt of doing nothing) and desperately thinking of ways to prolong your annual leave.

Why are summer holidays or any holidays for that matter never enough?

Maybe because most of us don’t spend much time resting or having fun? Or perhaps we don’t have enough time during our hectic daily routine and work life to enjoy ourselves or catch up with friends and loved ones as much as we’d like to because ‘we are always busy’.

It made me wonder how humans came up with this work model. Who decided that the majority of us need to work about 340 days out of 365 a year (taking into account that we get about 21 days of leave and 4 bank holidays on average) for 50 years until we retire, old and exhausted?

It’s a cliche but we should work to live and not the other way around.

I hope in the future I can change that for myself and for others.

I’m not sure what can ease the post holiday blues until then, for me what helps at the moment is planning mini-holidays or day trips once or twice a month, have something to look forward to. How do you cope?


Mental Health Mondays – 6. The guilt of doing nothing

“Il dolce far niente” Italians infamously say. The sweetness of doing nothing, the ability to completely and utterly enjoy and savour each moment, the pleasure of being idle.

Why and how have we lost this ability to enjoy our free time? Why do we feel guilty about it instead? I had this very discussion with my wonderful friend and kindred spirit Marithea a few days ago, whilst catching up after almost a year. ‘I have an idea, why don’t you write about it on your next blog?’ she suggested and it couldn’t come at a better time.

I’ve taken two weeks off work to relax, rest and recharge before the September madness and I think I managed to do that for just one or two days. I spent the rest of the time doing everything else, shopping, going to a pottery workshop, catching up with friends, a few days away with my crazy family and a lot of thinking about my next career step, as well as feeling guilty I haven’t made any videos or written anything in a while. I barely made time to read, write, play the guitar, or just sit and listen to music.

Even when I try to relax some weekday evenings, after a long and busy day at work, I feel guilty. I feel this deeply rooted shame for my inability to read a book or stare at a screen again after more than 8 hours of screen time, or even have clear thoughts and make sensible decisions about anything.

Why is that? It’s what’s commonly known as productivity anxiety. We humans have the innate obsession to get things done and be creative ALL the time, something we all struggled with during the pandemic when our options were severely limited. Surely, as soon as we could get out, most of us got even more obsessed with being productive, which is incredibly unhealthy. Our bodies and brains need rest and idle time, to be able to function fully and correctly.

Maybe the 8 hours of work, sleep and play model of the First Industrial Revolution was an improvement on the 12-14 hour day shifts, but none of us really works for just 8 hours a day. Most people work for 9-10 hours a day taking into account commuting and lunch break. By the time you get home, cook, clean and prepare for the following day, (unless you are one of the lucky ones who have help or someone else does the house chores for you) that’s it, the day is over and your brain is already overheating.

We need to learn to make time to rest and have fun, our whole life can’t be just work. And workplaces should accommodate human needs to the highest degree possible. We need to work to live, not live to work, otherwise what’s even the point? Retired old and exhausted at the age of 65 (if it doesn’t get higher by the time I retire), desperately trying to squeeze as many life experiences and joy as possible in the few years I have left? No, thank you.

So, I’m going to try harder to make time for rest and relaxation. How do you manage your free time?


Mental Health Mondays – 5. Money worries

I was born and raised in a working class family.

My grandma Eleni used to work as a cleaner at a psychiatric hospital, raising three children on her own. My grandpa Costas was a shephard and after the 1974 invasion a factory worker providing for his wife and their 5 children.

My dad has had two jobs since he was 20 years old, and my mum worked on and off, focusing on looking after us most of her life. They both spent the last 40 years making sure my sisters and I have everything we needed. And they absolutely and utterly succeeded, with no shadow of a doubt.

We might not have had the most expensive cars or clothes, or holidays abroad, but we had a comfortable childhood and teen years, making cherishing memories, holidays in Cyprus with family and friends and endless support, due to their hard work and love. We were always bought new clothes once or twice a year, there was always plenty of food on the table, we were all bought cars to be able to drive to uni and we all studied.

My parents were always stressed about money, as you could imagine, as their parents had no money to help them . They were worried they might not have enough to look after us. My dad still gets anxious about it. We grew up appreciating what we have because we knew first hand how hard it is to get it.

I’d have never been able to study in the UK if it weren’t for my parents. When I finally graduated and started working and looking after myself, I worried about money from day 1. I learned how to prioritise my needs, what I could spend on what and learned to manage, so I didn’t run out of money. I would hate to ask my parents who already did so much for me, I already felt bad enough I couldn’t help them financially as much as I’d liked to. I did waste some money over the years but most of the time I managed.

When I lived in the UK for 10 years, I always paid my rent and bills on time, I got to travel a bit in Europe, I watched plays and musicals, went around the country, bought myself what needed, ate out with friends often, and although I lived a comfortable life, I always worried about money.

Living in Cyprus, earning significantly less than I did in the UK, not being able to save much, restricted to what I can spend on myself and my personal, social, mental and emotional needs, on travel or anything else I’d like, has intensified that worry and anxiety.

What I wouldn’t give to wake up one day and not worry about money, my parents housing situation, about paying the electricity bills or worrying when I’d afford a new car, or go out for fancy dinner, to be able to book the more expensive hotel I’d like or book tickets to Latin America, or buy a new laptop and not having to save up for months (or years) first.

Money doesn’t bring happiness, but only if you have everything you need and you don’t worry about it. It may not bring happiness but it can surely take away large part of (my) anxiety and worries.

When I was younger I felt ashamed I worried about money, I tried to hide my financial situation from friends and colleagues. But struggling or asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. We were not all born in wealthy families, and for some of us life is harder and things don’t come easy. It made us stronger though, we learn how to live with little and appreciate what we have. So if you also worry about money, just know you are not alone.

A number of different studies have shown that most of us worry about money, e.g. more than three in four Americans reported feeling anxious about their financial situation, which I doubt is different in Europe. Financial stress can also increase the chances of someone commiting suicide (, etc), and I’m pretty sure financial anxiety has increased even more so during the pandemic.

I hope you and I and everyone who struggles one day we have enough money not to worry about it but even if we don’t, let’s talk about it, share our experiences and help each other, and try as much as we can not to stress about it. Easier said than done, I know… but let’s try anyway!



Money and happiness

I was never rich. And I’d probably never be (except if I win the Euromillions!).

My family was never rich. My dad had two jobs since he was 20, even before he met my mum and my mum worked occasionally. I haven’t travelled abroad until I was 19.

But we were never poor either. My amazing parents always tried their best to provide for us and they did. And I owe them a LOT.

Does it really matter though? I had an amazing childhood, raised with love and affection, I had the best uni years, going out with friends and just having fun and that for me is much more important.

I think been raised with not having much makes you a better person. You learn to appreciate people and life more, you learn to stick together through difficult times and care no matter what, you learn how to enjoy the little things.

Money and money worries came up in conversations with friends recently and we all agreed that at the end of the day worrying about money is just waste of time.

Yes, of course we all work to make a living, pay our bills, improve our quality of life. And dealing with financial difficulties is not easy.

But we spend 8 hours a day with our colleagues, who of course we get along with (most of the time) to then spend 2 hours a day and the weekends with the people we love or go on holiday 22 days a year.

I might not afford a brand new car, or 10 holidays a year (although I’d love to, who wouldn’t?) but spending time with the people I love, doing things I enjoy, visiting new places when I can afford to is enough for me.

I just had the most amazing time with friends and family and I wouldn’t change that with anything.

Money is important but can’t buy you friends or love or happiness. What if I could afford to buy a mansion if I were to live there on my own? What if I could travel the world but had no one to share this with?

This is happiness! Your grandpa asking you if he looked alright on the selfie you just took!

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I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favourite children books, the Little Prince. I think adults will benefit if they have a read!

“Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? ” Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? ” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”