30.12.15

A Lonely One

I didn't expect Christmas time to be as hard as it has been.
Thankfully I've had work to distract me but in the evenings...that's the hardest time.
When on Boxing Day I can't even find one friend to socialise with because, quite rightly, everyone has plans. Plans with their family, their partner, with other friends.
As it came to the end of the working day and I said bye to two of my closest work friends I felt my eyes tingle. My heart felt heavy. I knew that the evening was going to be hard and that tears were inevitable.

I drove another colleague home, got in and went straight upstairs. The boys were with their dad so making sure I at least did one thing to take my mind off what I was expecting I had a sort out in my bedroom whilst I ran a bath, listened to my (pretty amazing if I do say so myself) "current favs" spotify list and opened up the bottle of Prosecco still waiting in it's Christmas bag.
I poured it into my "Mines a Large One" glass and then....distruction.

It didn't take long for me to get rid of the contents of that bottle, and to start on another.
And before I knew it I was messaging friends and sending videos to another drunk friend and.....yeah.....the night was OK but I constantly had that knowledge of how desperate, sad and lonely I was.
How desperate, sad and lonely I am.

Tonight, the boys are again with their dad and I am starting the wind down to bed to prepare for a day at work tomorrow.
I have to wash and dry my hair and I just don't want to.
I know that tomorrow everyone will be excitedly preparing to see in the New Year with friends and loved ones and there will be me...seeing it in alone.
The boys will be back with me, but asleep in their beds.
There's not really much new there to be honest. For years my soon-to-be-ex-husband would head to bed early leaving me to see in the New Year alone. I guess part of me hoped this year would be different. That maybe I could shake off the crappy feeling of New Year by celebrating it with friends, a friend, or someone special.
And again, I'll listen out for the fireworks and hear car horns bib, the odd cheer from people outside as I sit and dry my eyes.

This might have been the best decision, but it's a lonely one.
A really lonely one.

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25.12.15

Starting Botox Young – The Pros and Cons You May Not Have Thought About

One topic that seems to keep coming up on beauty blogs and in the press in general is the concept of early, or 'preventative' Botox. This where women in their twenties, early thirties, or even in some extreme cases late teens, begin having Botox injections in sites on their faces where they anticipate wrinkles may appear later in life.
As Botox works by paralysing the muscles under the skin, stopping you from making the facial expressions that cause expression lines to form over the years, the idea is that these treatments will stop you getting wrinkles at all, or at least dramatically delay their onset.
However, while this sounds great in theory, nobody really knows if it works or not, because early Botox only became a trend recently and none of the young women who have been having it are old enough yet to really gauge whether it's worked.
This means if you are considering starting Botox young, you are really taking a bit of a gamble. Here are some of the pros and cons you might not have thought about:

It Can't Do Any Harm, Right?

Trying out early Botox does seem like a sound approach, even if the long term results aren't in yet. We do know that the main contributor to facial lines is movement, and that Botox works by stopping this. While other factors related to ageing like depleted skin elasticity will not be affected, if the theory is right then you could end up looking wrinkle free for far longer if you have Botox young, and if it doesn't turn out to work, you haven't lost anything in beauty terms. This makes it seem like it could be worth a 'shot', as long as you are OK with the cons...

Financial and Time Commitment

When you are young, working and relatively free of other commitments, spending your free time and money on your looks seems like a good way to use it – after all it makes you feel happy and confident. The trouble is, that Botox is something you need to have done regularly to maintain the benefits, which means the earlier you start, the longer your commitment will be. When you are older, perhaps with children, a mortgage and other things that seem like a bigger priority for your time and cash, will you still be OK with a bi-monthly expenditure on Botox and the time it takes to get it done, even though as yet, you probably won't be seeing any immediate results from it?

Weighing it Up


The decision about whether to start getting Botox young is one you should think through. If you are comfortable with the long term commitment and the costs, then go for it (but make sure you choose somewhere professional and safe like cotswoldfaceaestheticsclinic.co.uk). If these are off putting to you, just wait until later in life when you can either have Botox with immediate benefits, or there may even be something even more effective on the market!
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Thrifty Shopping Tips for Mums on a Budget

In theory shopping is fun, but when you don’t have a lot of spare cash, shopping can also be stressful. Some types of shopping are essential: we have to eat and unless you are completely self-sufficient, you will probably need to visit the local supermarket to stock up your cupboards at least once a week. Other types of shopping fall into the frivolous category: buying a new party dress or splashing out on some sexy shoes.
Fortunately, there are ways and means you can do both, even if you are shopping on a tight budget – and here’s how.

Use Price Comparison Websites

Price comparison websites are useful if you are making larger purchases for Christmas and other special events. All you have to do is tell the search engine what you want and it does the legwork. You can find the cheapest prices for a Playstation, iPads, or even your weekly grocery shop.

Buy at the Right Time

Some things are more expensive at certain times of the year. For example, if you wait until December to buy Christmas cards and wrapping paper, you can expect to pay full price, but if you buy them in January, they will normally be heavily discounted to help the store shift their stock. So be a smart shopper and buy out of season.

Shop in Bulk

It is always more cost effective to buy products in bulk. Obviously this only works for some items, but in the case of grocery products, there are definite savings to be made if you can buy in bulk. Washing powder, dried goods and anything with a long shelf life is cheaper when bought in larger quantities from wholesalers or large sites such as Amazon. So stock up, save money and store items until you need them.

Plan Shopping Trips Carefully

Last minute panic buying is never a good idea, particularly at Christmas. You will inevitably end up in the most expensive stores and parking costs will be extortionate. To avoid this, plan shopping trips carefully by making sure that you pre-book your parking space rather than driving to the nearest premium rate car park. If you’re not driving there’s also money to be saved on train tickets.

Be a Coupon Queen

Coupons and discount vouchers are the answer to a thrifty mum’s dreams. Collecting these vouchers can seem like an odious task at times, but if you are organised and know when to spend them, it is possible to save a fortune at the till.

Buy Short Date Products

Grocery products are usually discounted when their “best before” date has or is about to expire. This doesn’t mean they are unsafe to use; rather, it means you need to eat them sooner rather than later. If you want to save money on dried goods such as rice and cereals, shop for short date products at the local supermarket.

There are lots of ways to save money on all kinds of goods. You just have to be a thrifty shopper to hunt out the bargains and pay less than the recommended retail price. So what are you waiting for?
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18.12.15

How to involve your children in your big move

Selling your property, be it via an estate agent or a company like We Buy Any Home, can be a daunting and somewhat nerve-wracking experience – not just for you, but for your kids too who might be worried about moving away from their friends, starting a new school or something simple (but huge in a child’s world) such as getting a new bedroom.
With this in mind it’s really important to make the move as smooth and natural as possible for little ones and you can do this by involving them in the whole process – here’s how.
Ask them where they’d like to live
To help your children feel like their opinions on the house move matter, ask them where they’d like to live – or what type of property they would prefer. While you might get some rather random answers such as Peppa Pig World or Cinderella’s castle, you could also guide their answers by asking whether they’d like to live in the city or country or whether they would prefer a bungalow or a house. You could even show them the houses you are trying to decide between to see which one they prefer or ask if they wouldn’t mind having a smaller bedroom in exchange for a bigger garden.
Of course, it’s down to the adults to make the final decision, but being honest and open with your kids from the start and asking for their input should reduce their anxiety levels and get them excited about moving somewhere new.
Take them on house viewings
While many kids dislike the thought of moving and show visible signs of irritation, upset or annoyance, you might be able to help them think in a more positive way by taking them to house viewings. As soon as they see what properties are out there they might start to feel better about relocating – especially if something works in their favour such as being closer to their school (meaning a few more minutes in bed in the morning).
If you’ve found a house you really like and are close to signing a deal, you could also take the kids along to a final viewing and suggest ways in which the house can be made really fun – such as turning that spare third bedroom into a games room or transforming the attic into a cosy, fun den for sleepovers. Kids of all ages really need to see the benefits of being dragged from their current place of comfort, so be prepared to sell the property you like to them too.
Ask them to help with packing
Packing up a house with kids underfoot is never easy, which is why there’s plenty of advice for stressed parents online, but one of the best ways to make the process easier and to get your children involved with the big move is to ask them to help. While very young children can do things like placing objects in boxes, older kids can organise, sort, label, tidy up, move suitcases from A to B and do other tasks that’ll make your life easier.
Knowing how to pack up your home will save time and energy, so try to use colour coded boxes where possible (one for clothes, one for games, one for DVDs and so on) and ask each child to take responsibility for their bedroom in the weeks running up to the move, before moving onto communal areas.
Kids will feel the stress of a house move as much as you, so try to make the process as organised, fun and entertaining as possible being sure not to keep them uninformed about any important details.
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10 Things Owning A Pet Teaches Children

This year it was estimated that 12 million, 46% of households, have pets in the UK. Of these almost a quarter own dogs, making it the most popular pet with Brits, with cats not far behind. These numbers are hardly surprising, when a pet is a welcome addition to any family, whether this is a dog, cat, hamster or even a fish.

But, besides many other benefits, pets can also teach children skills that will aide them as they grow. So before you start searching through the dogs or cats for sale from Freeads, here is what they can teach your child:  

1. Responsibility:

When children have a pet they must learn to look after something other than themselves. The pet will require feeding, exercise and affection everyday and the child must be aware of what they need, when they need it and provide it for them. This in turn will enable them to learn simple tasks, such as keeping food and water bowls topped up, grooming and exercising their pet.

2. Empathy:  

For your child to be able to fulfill your pet’s need, they will need to understand how they are feeling. They will learn the signs that mean they are hungry or need to go in the garden, for example.

3. Trust:

Your pet will become your child best friend and therefore will become someone they can talk to, without fear of being judged or told off. It will enable them to talk when they feel no one else is listening and not have that information passed on, which will help your child build trust with others.

4. Academic Skills:

Pets can play the role of teacher – with research showing that animals can actually boost academic skills. This is because pets, especially dogs, are a far better reading companion for children than adults, because the child is more relaxed when they can just read without being told when they have made a mistake.

5. Compassion:

Similar to learning empathy, your child must feel concern for their pets and work towards rectifying any situations that are causing them to suffer.   

6. Confidence:

As your child is able to fulfill the tasks your pet relies on them for, it will increase their confidence.

7. Social Skills:

Pets, particularly dogs, are great icebreakers – children will find themselves having several conversations whilst out on a walk with them. But just by being there, and providing an opportunity for the child to chat to them, will help with social skills. In fact, studies have shown that children with autism make substantial progress when they interact with a dog, so imagine what they could do if your child doesn’t have these restrictions on their social skills.

8. Bereavement:  

When your pet sadly passes away your child will learn the feelings of loss, but also how to cope during this period.

9. Loyalty:

A pet is extremely loyal to its owner and your child will learn the importance of reciprocating this loyalty.

10. Physical Activity:

Children with pets can learn that physical activity is fun, which will encourage them to become healthy and active.

There are many benefits to having a family pet, and all animals can teach your children these skills to some extent, however a dog, for example, will allow the opportunities to learn far more than a fish will. But, ultimately, it depends on your individual circumstances which pet is best for your family, bear in mind it will be more than just your child’s ‘teacher’ and will need looking after itself. 
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14.12.15

7 Stress Relieving Tips for Tired Mums

Whether you have one child or five, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done that needs doing and it is virtually impossible to be all things to all people. Being a mother is one of the most rewarding experiences in life but it can also be one of the most stressful obligations on earth. If you are a tired mum struggling to keep your head above water, here are a few stress relieving tips that just might make life a bit easier.

1. Laughter Is the Best Medicine

There is nothing quite as healing as laughter. Want to relieve stress? Find something funny and laugh until your gut hurts. Watch funny films, read funny jokes or simply look at all the things you found stressful in the past that turned out to be nothing at all and laugh at your silly mistakes. According to the renowned Mayo Clinic in the USA, laughter really is the best medicine and in their words, it is no joke.

2. Get Away from It All

No, you may not have the resources to get away for a weekend, but you do have other options available to you. Find somewhere quiet to simply sit and do nothing. That’s right do nothing whatsoever. Just sit and relax, read a good book, eat some comfort foods or just listen to your favourite music. Find a sitter for the kids, and perhaps just go outside and take advantage of the great outdoors. Luxury garden rooms were built just for this purpose so if you don’t already have one, it’s time you consider having one built just for you in moments like these.

3. Buddy Up and Talk It Out

Sometimes talking it out helps tremendously. You don’t need to pay for a fancy psychiatrist or group counsellor. Find a close friend and buddy up. She can talk to you when she feels like she is going off the deep end and you can do the same. Talking it out releases some of that built up tension and is actually one of the preferred ways of relieving stress. You don’t need to find solutions here. The mere act of getting it off your chest is sometimes healing enough!

4. Let Loose and Let Go

Do something silly. Run around the block in your pyjamas, go outside and scream at nothing in particular or start singing silly songs. Get the adrenaline flowing and for lack of better words, let loose and let go. You would be surprised at how something as simple as acting silly can be a tremendous stress reliever. Envision whatever you are doing to ‘let go’ as letting go of all those things in your life that are stressing you out and keeping your nerves stretched tight.

5. Dance to the Music

Put on your favourite hip hop song and dance away the blues! Dancing gets the blood flowing, brings oxygen to the brain and is actually a good form of exercise at the same time. Stress causes you to hold your breath so by increasing your activity you will get more blood pumping, oxygen carried to the brain and you would be surprised just how quickly you recover.

6. Learn to Adapt a Little

We have had it drilled into our heads since we were little girls that structure is the foundation of healthy living. Whilst that may be true, sometimes we carry it a bit too far. Just because everyone expects dinner on the table at 6pm on the dot or bedtime at 8:00 for the kids and 10:00 for the adults, none of this is written in stone. If something comes up throwing you off schedule now and again, who cares? Learn to adapt and you would be amazed at how stress-free you will be!

7. Take a Nap

One final tip may do more good than all the others combined. When you are at the end of your wits just lay down for a bit and take a short nap. It has been proven time and again that we heal when we are at rest so just take a nap. Wake up refreshed and face the world with a totally new outlook. You’ll feel so much better for it.
Yes, being a mum can be stressful but you wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world. If stress is causing you unnecessary anguish, just try one of more of these tips and see how much better you’ll feel for it. You’ll be glad you did!
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8 Things Not To Do At The Office Christmas Party

On Thursday we have our work Christmas meal. I obviously haven't been to a staff Christmas party for a very very long time. I am excited, especially to spend time with some of my wonderful work friends but there is always this feeling of anxiety, particularly when it comes to having a drink with new people.
Maybe that's just me?

This infographic arrived just in time to remind how to behave, and how not to behave, at the office Christmas party.

8 Things Not To Do at the Office Christmas PartyProvided by
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12.12.15

Lonely Planet Kids Book Reviews

My parents took me and my brother on a cruise when we were 13 and then when we were 15. I truly believe it was the best thing for us, especially at that age, as we learnt so much about other countries and we both gained this interest for site seeing.
With my boys only being young a cruise isn't quite on the agenda yet, but I do find it really important for them to learn about the world and different countries.

Lonely Planet Kids sent us four of their new books to review.


We were kindly sent these books for the purpose of this review.
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11.12.15

What Am I Capable Of?

I don't know how I'm doing with this whole single parenting thing.
I feel as though I am gliding through it and that really the full on hard work hasn't yet started.
I've had my mum to rely on, and the boys dad has them quite regularly so I've been quite lucky to not be in the "their dad only has them every other weekend" situation.

It's been hard because of the situation we were in. Being a housewife meant I had no income to rely on, I couldn't just up and leave, and neither could the boys dad.
I know I made the right decision for us, but in terms of the situation we were in it wasn't ideal.
I stayed at my mums for half of the week, the other half sleeping on the sofa. I struggled to feel at home in my own home. I couldn't relax and felt lost.

I searched for jobs and applied for ones I wanted to do, and then felt desperate and pretty much applied for everything. But with the current climate and having hundreds of people going for one job I only had 2 interviews, until I then had the interview that pretty much made me feel like life isn't so bad right now.

Having the job I love, and enjoying it, being able to be Lauren, making friends, switching off from mum-mode and "getting a divorce" mode has been just what I needed. But when it comes to walking out of the doors and towards my car I go back to that mode where I question exactly what I am capable of.
Am I being the best mummy I can be to my boys? Well, I guess so. But I know I can do better. So much better.
We had 2 weeks of just us. This was at the same time that I started my job and thankfully my boss was super supportive and let me work around school drop offs and pick ups. And although he was supportive I felt as though I was already being hard work. Traffic problems meant I was late for my first and second day, only by a couple of minutes but still....crying to my boss on my second day of work wasn't exactly the highlight of my life and the impression I wanted to give.
I worried that I would be sent home for letting him down. I worried that I would lose this chance I had been given because I wasn't capable of getting to work on time.
But I made up for that, I think. I hope. And the fact I love my job and so early on feel incredibly passionate about what I do, who I work for, and who I work with, means that I will constantly try to prove how capable I am.

But being a mummy isn't as easy. Of course I feel passionate about my role as a mummy and I want to do the very best I can to bring the boys up to be the best people they can be. And I guess as we came to the end of those 2 weeks of just us when the boys dad went to on holiday (booked before our split, I was fine about it!) I felt a sigh of relief that we survived. That I survived.
But with things going downhill every now and then, not always due to me though I must add,  I wonder just how capable I am.

I question whether or not I am doing this whole"mummy" thing right because people don't automatically assume I am a mum. Or believe me when I say I have children.
Is there something I am doing wrong to not be giving out this "mum-vibe" when I am not with my children?

I am working lots over Christmas, and as I sent the dates over to the boys dad I wondered if this is giving off a bad impression to everyone?
It's Christmas time and I am going to work, and not spending every moment with my children.
And there are a number of reasons for this.
1. Money. I need money. Working will give me that money. Simple.
2. Distraction. For a couple of reasons, when I am at work I am Lauren, and I am this different person. I don't have those stresses I do at home. I get to do my job, and as long as I do what is expected of me and have fun at the same time then I am doing it right. And when I am at home I just want to hide away in my bedroom. I don't like sitting in the lounge. The sofa was my bed for too long and the lounge was this room I slept in and kind of felt a prisoner in. So now I guess I have these negative feelings around it.
3. Escape. For the same reasons as 2. I don't have to worry about anything other than doing my job.
4. I think I can confidently say I am capable of doing my job. There are obviously things I can't do but as I've only really been there just over a month and have been in my role for less than that then it's excusable.
5. We don't have a Christmas tree. The reason for this is because of the kitten and the boys have accepted that but still....I can't help but feel like a bad mum for not having a tree up for Christmas. To me, our house isn't Christmassy. I've done my best and put some lights up, Charles put tinsel wherever he wanted to and we have some pretty decorations on our coffee table and window sill but the lack of tree is really obvious, to me at least. And I kind of feel that if the boys dad has a tree, then they are best off with him for a while so that they can feel Christmassy and have the Christmas that a 4 and 6 year old deserve.

I took this photo back when their dad was on holiday, and need to remind myself of how I felt back then. That maybe I won't always be capable of giving them everything they need. But as long as I am confident and love them, then that's the most important thing.

"My team <3 font="">
First full week of solo parenting. Done. We are all still alive, no serious injuries and I haven't needed to turn to alcohol to get me through.
It's been tough but I did it, and I'm confident it will get better"
 
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Anticipating the movie awards season


If you're anything like me you'll find that there's nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a good film. And 2015 has proven to be a great year for the movies and many people are already putting together their best-of lists and placing their bets upon who will win those highly-coveted movie awards.

The Golden Globes recently unveiled their nominations and as they're a good indication of who could win an Oscar, it's been interesting to see who's made the shortlist. There are quite a few films on the list that I haven't seen yet, but there's one name on the list that I'm sure that everyone will be rooting for – Leonardo DiCaprio!

I'm sure that I'm not the only female who fell for Leo thanks to his amazing performance opposite Kate Winslet in Titanic. And although his looks might have altered somewhat, he still shows some serious on-screen magnetism.



But unbelievably, the movie star has never won an Oscar. Despite receiving Academy Award nominations for his work both behind and in front of the camera for films such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, Blood Diamond and The Wolf Of Wall Street, it seems that Oscar success has eluded poor Leo.

However, that could all be changing with many critics stating that his performance in this year's The Revenant could be the one to boost Leonardo DiCaprio's odds on winning an Oscar. Sites such as Betway often show the betting form for lots of popular cultural events such as the Academy Awards alongside traditional sporting events, and it will be interesting to see whether some of my other favourite movie heart-throbs will also be making the short-list.




One film that really grabbed me in 2015 was The Martian. I found Matt Damon's performance as an astronaut stranded on Mars truly inspirational and moving, and so I was really glad to see that the hunk had made the Golden Globe shortlist – despite it weirdly being nominated for best comedy or musical!

Other eye candy that did well in the nominations included everybody's favourite gruffly-spoken actor Tom Hardy who helped the film Mad Max: Fury Road receive a place on the best film shortlist. This film really kept me on the edge of my seat as it was pretty much a two-hour solid chase scene across a post-apocalyptic desert that suited the monosyllabic Hardy perfectly!



But although it's still some time before the Oscar nominations are announced, I'm sure I won't be the only one betting on Leonardo's long-awaited success at this iconic award ceremony.
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How to protect your home for less

Protecting your home doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You don’t have to invest in expensive WiFi controlled security systems. If you ensure that your doors and windows are well protected, then many burglars will see this as a sufficient deterrent to avoid breaking into your property.

Make your home safe

One of the easiest ways of making your home impregnable is to invest in some products from specialists like Security Direct. The company has a ‘Bargain Basement’ section on its website that offers discounted products from cancelled orders and store samples at a greatly reduced price. If you want to ensure that your doors and windows are secure then roller shutters and security grilles are a proven way of keeping your property safe.

Buying a house – do your homework

A recent article published by The Week, taking information from a survey carried out by Moneysupermarket.com showed that one of the easiest ways of protecting your house from crime is to live in a safe area. East London has very high crime statistics and most urban areas across the UK can boast a considerable number of burglaries. It’s always worth checking out local crime statistics before you move house. Of course once you move, even to a relatively crime free area, you should always ensure that your house is as secure as possible.

Common sense

It costs absolutely nothing to ensure that you never hide your key under a flowerpot or leave a spare key for your house in the garage, or accessible through the letterbox. Last year, though, 6,000 burglars accessed homes thanks to this type of negligence.

Another security measure that is very cheap is to not tell the whole neighbourhood when you’re going away on holiday, and cancel the milk and newspapers in advance of your departure. Otherwise you’re positively inviting a criminal to drop in during your absence if it's obvious the house in unoccupied.

Alarms will save money

If you are having financial difficulties you can always install a dummy alarm box outside your home. The problem is that this box won’t be lit and most criminals can distinguish between a genuine or fake alarm box. Contact an alarm company and see if you can set up a direct debit to make repayments in regular instalments.
This action could save you the trauma and expense of a break in and will ensure that your home is secure at all times. An alarm will also bring down the cost of your house insurance premiums.

Good locks on windows and doors

It is essential that you have strong locks on all of your doors and windows. Don’t be conned into buying cheap imitations and always ensure that your locks are carrying the BSI kitemark. An article on the Metropolitan Police website suggests that you always check that your doors and windows are made of good quality materials.

Fit external lights to your doors

If you can’t afford a motion sensor light, then at least make sure that your door and garage are always well lit. The Met also suggest that a low cost option is the installation of low watt bulbs that can be operated by a light sensitive cell that works on an automatic basis. Your home will then be lit throughout the hours of darkness whether you’re in or not.
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4.12.15

Five Things | Songs for My 2015 Soundtrack

This year has been full on, dramatic, with lots of highs...in fact one of the highest highs of my life, and a few lows. I don't know about you, but I find that songs and music play a big part in my life. They are my therapy when I need my head to be anywhere else other than where it is. I look out for words which sum up how I am feeling, in fact, sometimes it feels like the words look out for me as these songs just seem to appear as if I needed them. Even if at the time I didn't realise it.


Sigma : Changing


Bastille : Sleepsong


Demi Lovato : Confident


Sia : Elastic Heart


Sia : Burn The Pages

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