How to Combat Holiday Homesickness

Ah, the holiday season. A wonderful time to indulge in mulled wine, eat a bit too many sweets and pies, and spend time with family.

But what do you do if you’re away from your family for the holidays?

Not all of us have the money to travel home for the winter holiday break—international students like me know this feeling all too well—or even have a good family to go home to. So what do you do when the holiday homesickness strikes?

  1. Reach out to friends and loved ones

Your family doesn’t have an embargo on holiday celebrations. London is a vibrant city, full of diverse people celebrating all the winter holidays. Talk to  your friends, co-workers or anyone else that you enjoy spending time with and ask them to attend a holiday celebration happening in the city with you.

Saving money this holiday? Even just inviting them over for some homemade mulled wine (this recipe looks pretty simple) and board games can help beat away the blues.

  1. Take a solo trip

It seems counter-productive, but taking a trip on your own can be helpful to battle homesickness. Since you can’t be home, travel to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go! You’ll create new memories and will be so focused on travelling, you won’t have time to mope. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to meet others in similar situations—and there’s never a wrong time to make new friends.

  1. Make a new holiday tradition

Sure, nothing can beat those Christmas morning cinnamon pecan rolls that only your mom can make—wait, is that just me?—but you have the freedom make your own traditions. Check out one of the Christmas markets around London and enjoy some hot chocolate with friends, or have a Christmas Eve sleepover.

Maybe your parents make the perfect latkes, but making them with friends can become a fun new tradition for Hanukkah. It won’t be what you’ve always had, but you’ll make heartwarming memories that can bloom into new—maybe even better—traditions.

  1. Remember that you’re not alone

It can be disheartening to see Instagram stories full of families laughing and Christmas presents being opened, but remember that you’re far from being the only person in your situation. There are lots of reasons why people can’t go home for the holidays, and there’s nothing shameful about it. Take this time to relax, indulge in some tasty food, and be renewed for 2019.

Are you staying in Kingston for the holiday break? Share your plans in the comments!

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Armenian Family Seeks Asylum From Inside Dutch Church

A refugee family from Armenia are narrowly avoiding deportation from the Netherlands, thanks to a church that has been holding non-stop services since midday on 26 October, 2018.

Bethel Church, which is located in The Hague, is taking advantage of Dutch law that specifies that authorities cannot enter a church while it is holding worship.

This means that as long as Bethel continues to hold worship services on their current marathon schedule, the family—the Tamrazyans—will be safe.

The Tamrazyans had fled to the Netherlands to avoid further politically-charged death threats that the father had received in Armenia, and have lived in the Netherlands for nine years.

Attempts at claiming further asylum in the country, including an emergency pardon, have been unsuccessful thus far. The family requested help from nearby churches, and the Protestant-aligned Bethel Church was the first to offer protection.

Reverend Axel Wicke told Time Magazine that Bethel has received “massive support,” and says that the Tamrazyans are “literally living in a protective house built by prayers and worship.”

“The Protestant Church of The Hague respects court orders,” the Bethel website says, “but finds itself confronted with a dilemma: the choice between respecting the government and ptotecting the rights of a child.”

As of now, the church is requesting that visitors stop by the church—at least two people must be worshipping in order for the church to be considered ‘in worship’—and has their banking information listed here for donations.

Fix my Brain: A Guide to Mental Health Services at KU

University can be a stressful time for anyone, whether you’re a first year student or you’re getting your PhD. If you find yourself anxious, depressed or just plain stressed during your time at Kingston, know that you’re not alone—and there are plenty of support services to keep you on track.

Want to get help, but not sure where to turn? Here’s a comprehensive list of “what to do” when you find your mental health is suffering at university.

  • Contact Your GP

Your general practitioner is your first point-of-call when it comes to mental health services. Whether you’ve seen them your whole life, or you’re visiting them for the first time, they’ll be able to give the most inclusive advice about your specific mental state. They can also provide a prescription for medication that might help, as well as refer you to counselling services in the Kingston and Surbiton area. If you’re an on-campus student, it’s as simple as ringing the Penrhyn Road Fairhill Clinic and requesting an appointment.

  • Visit a Student Wellbeing Drop-In Clinic

If you can’t (or don’t want to) get an appointment with your GP, visiting the drop-in clinic is your next best option. These clinics run at both the Penrhyn Road campus (Health Centre) and Kingston Hill (Yorkon Building) throughout the week, and are roughly 15 minutes long—similar to a GP visit. These clinics are confidential and are a good choice if you’re not sure what type of support you need. The health adviser at the clinic will be able to offer advice about seeking medication, on-campus support or even counselling.

  • Call for a Stress Management Appointment

These unique appointments are offered at both the Penrhyn Road and Kingston Hill campuses and are arranged either by calling 0208 417 2172, or visiting a wellbeing drop-in clinic. Kingston University’s website claims these sessions help with “time management skills, assertiveness levels, new study techniques, anger management techniques and ways to relax.” This, partnered with visits to Kingston’s CASE program, are a great way to get a handle on your studies-related stresses.

  • Speak to Samaritans

Whether you’re in a crisis or just need someone to talk to, don’t be afraid to call the Samaritans at 116 123. This number is manned 24/7, and all calls are fully confidential. If you would prefer, you can also email them at jo@samaritans.org. It can be very therapeutic to tell someone else about what’s on your mind, and Samaritans is equipped to handle a range of mental health issues. Whether you’re depressed, dealing with a traumatic situation, or just terrified of your exam next week, Samaritans is there to listen.

There are people who want and are ready to help, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support. No matter what you’re going through, you’re not alone.

 

Loudly Bites: 80 Calorie Banana Muffins

Recipe:

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup mashed bananas (approximately 4 bananas)

1 large egg (substitute a 1/4 cup applesauce if vegan)

Dash of vanilla extract (roughly 1/2 – 1 teaspoon)

1/4 cup applesauce

1/2 cup milk or dark chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Combine dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients and blend. If batter is too thick, slowly mix in water to thin the batter.

If desired, add in chocolate chips. Scoop batter into a greased muffin pan or paper liners and cook at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Yields: 12 – 16 muffins, depending on scoop size.

Calories: 80 calories per muffin with chocolate chips, 70 calories without chocolate chips (based on a 12-serving size yield).

How To Survive the Halloween Walk of Shame

Maybe you spent days working on your costume. Maybe you picked it up on the way to the party. Either way, walking home from a sexcapade in a costume is like wearing a flashing neon sign that reads, “I HAD SEX WITH A STRANGER.”

Thankfully, avoiding this situation only takes a bit of planning – and if you find yourself in this situation, don’t worry, we have you covered.

  1. Plan your outfit ahead of time.

That tight nurse’s outfit that would get you kicked out of any hospital might look amazing at 11 pm on the 31st, but will scream your sexual experiences to the world at 6 am. on 1 November.

Before you leave for your Halloween party, ask yourself, “How can I wear this tomorrow?” Sometimes, it’s as easy as bringing along a long coat for the chilly morning or choosing an outfit with removable accessories. If you can, bring a decent-sized purse with you containing new underwear, makeup-removing wipes, and a pair of leggings for the next day. This way, you can simply pass as a tired commuter the next day.

  1. Wear comfortable shoes.

Few things are worse in life than walking home, hungover, in heels. When choosing your footwear, think about practicality before appearance.

Look for a pair of flats or thick-wedged heels – but make sure they’re worn-in enough to avoid blisters! If you must wear those stilettos, try to pack a thin pair of flats in your purse before you leave. Your feet will thank you, and you’ll look less conspicuous on the street the next day!

  1. Choose ridesharing over public transportation

Maybe you didn’t plan ahead (we’re not judging) or you got so drunk that you lost your carefully packed bag (hey, it happens). If your bank account isn’t depleted from your night of partying, splurge on an Uber ride to get home. You’ll still have to awkwardly walk from the car to your flat, but you’ll be in the public eye for much less time.

  1. Plan your escape early

The last thing you want to do when you’re hungover is wake up early, but it can be worth it. Try to leave before the morning commute starts around 6 am to avoid the traffic and judgmental stares. Look for what night buses are running and just go – most people who are awake at this hour are either too tired to care, or in a similar situation as yourself. Plus, you can sleep in your own flat much more comfortably, anyways.

  1. Don’t care what people think

Maybe you woke up mid-morning in that skin-tight catsuit, no spare clothes to be found and a pair of stilettos by the door. You’re skint, your Oyster is depleted and you know any Uber request would be declined. But you need to get home.

Sometimes, there’s no option but to walk and wear that make-believe “I HAD SEX” sign around your neck. In this case, you need to rely on your confidence – or fake it until you make it.

Everyone has sex. There’s nothing wrong with being a sexual being – you just happened to do it on Halloween. Even if people look, stare or comment on your outfit, it doesn’t change the fact that you have nothing to be embarrassed about. They might have been in the same situation before, or jealous, or any other combination of situations.

Just hold your head high and make your way home. They’ll forget about you in a few minutes, and you’ll be home soon enough anyways.

7 Things Never to Say to Someone With an Eating Disorder

Battling an eating disorder is exhausting–and it isn’t made any easier when friends, family or peers are constantly asking hurtful questions or offering misguided advice. If you’re approaching someone who has told you they have an eating disorder, read on to find out 7 important questions not to ask.

  1. “Are you sure? You don’t look like you have an eating disorder!”

Seriously, this should be common sense—but unfortunately, it’s not. Eating disorders do not discriminate when it comes to body shape, size, gender or identity. The media’s stereotypical image of a waif-thin blonde girl is not representative of all individuals with EDs.

Under the DSM-5—the guidelines which medical professionals reference when diagnosing mental illnesses—patients no longer have to be underweight to receive an eating disorder diagnosis (except for anorexia nervosa, in some cases). Additionally, not all eating disorders are restrictive-type. An eating disorder that is being diagnosed more often is binge-eating disorder, which shares traits with bulimia, where the primary trait is frantic over-eating.

  1. “So, it’s just a diet?”

No. Just… no. While some individuals with eating disorders do follow strict eating plans—such as Paleo or vegan—this is not just a “diet”. A 2016 US study from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) says that those who diet moderately are 5 times more likely to develop an ED—and 18 times more likely, if they practiced extreme restriction.

That’s why calling eating disorders “diets” is so dangerous. It minimalises the fact that eating disorders are mental illnesses that need professional intervention to overcome.

  1. “If you want to lose weight, just work out and eat better! Have you tried that?”

Individuals with eating disorders are already extremely self-conscious—the last thing they need is someone subtly saying, “Losing weight is more important than getting better.”

Health is not equated with weight. An individual with anorexia being underweight would be skinny, but not healthy. Likewise, an individual hitting the gym everyday to negate that day’s caloric intake is not a healthy person—mentally or physically.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses; as such, they aren’t going to just “go away” with a bit of positive motivation. The best thing that you can do, as a friend, is to support that person with an ED and not mention their body. Don’t tell them they should lose weight, or give them tips to do so—even if you think you’re giving them “healthy” advice. Praise their personality or their brain, and stay away from physical attributes.

  1. “Can’t you just call this a ‘cheat day’?”

The idea of food being “wrong” just feeds into an eating disorder. NEDA reported that 95% of those who lose weight on a diet gain it back within 1-5 years. Making food “off limits” except for these so-called cheat days just reinforces the idea that food is either good or bad, and can trigger binges in some folks with EDs.

It’s better to support your friend in whatever food option they pick, and don’t push them to choose any food they’re not comfortable with eating.

  1. “Why do you have an ED? I don’t see anything wrong with you.”

A majority of ED side effects are internal, or manifest in ways that an outsider would not pick up on. Individuals who aren’t consuming enough energy may be constantly cold, grow extra body hair to compensate for the cold, stop menstruating, have a heart arrhythmia, or an eroding oesophagus from stomach acid.

Additionally, NEDA says that self-harming behaviours may occur co-morbidly with eating disorders. This can range from self-injury to binge drinking to being sexually promiscuous.

Even if you do not see the side effects, do not assume they’re not there.

  1. “How can you have one? Only teen girls have eating disorders, and they grow out of them.”

This is extremely false—anyone, regardless of age, gender or identity, can have an eating disorder. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

NEDA reported that ED symptoms are starting earlier and earlier in all genders, and that at any given point, “0.3-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia”—and 1%  of young women and 0.1% of young men will be bulimic. These statistics don’t even include binge-eating disorder, avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or other specified feeding or eating disorder.

  1. “Is your ED really a bad thing? You could stand to lose weight.”

This isn’t an exaggeration—people genuinely think this way. Unfortunately, this weight-shaming does nothing to spur healthy dieting, and paves the way for disordered eating.

NEDA has reported that of overweight individuals, 40% of girls and 37% of boys are bullied because of their weight. This leads to less interest in physical activity and socialisation—and an increase in psychological turmoil, including negative body image and depression.

Ultimately, weight is just a number. What’s going on inside our bodies is important, and we should feed ourselves healthfully, but weight is not a direct indicator of health. Unless you are a doctor directly consulting with a patient who has asked for advice on losing weight, there’s no reason to tell someone to lose weight. You end up doing far more harm than good.

For more resources on eating disorders, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.