Falcon Heavy SpaceX
Tech

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So billionaire Elon Musk sent a rocket into space–so what? Errr’body is excited about this, and trust me, there’s good reason for it.

What’s this? A rocket was sent to space? … So?

Here’s the jist of it: SpaceX, the most successful commercial aerospace manufacturer of our time, sent its Falcon Heavy rocket into space. Destination: Mars. The planet, yes. That’s an exploit in and of itself, but the main takeaway from yesterday’s rocket launch has actually to do with… its landings.

Picture this: the Falcon Heavy rocket costs $90 million. And then it’s gone, poof, out into space. Ouch. Wallet’s feeling a bit light all of a sudden. The BFR (Big F*cking Rocket) costs BFM (Big F*cking Money).

Now imagine this: you build your $90 million rocket, but you get its side cores back. You send them out, then get them to pivot, turn around, travel back through the atmosphere, land back on Earth… and reuse them.

Cost of Falcon Heavy
It’s like watching money rain from the cosmos.*

*This is not profitable yet but a massive step forward nonetheless.

It’s pretty difficult to imagine just how technologically complex is this prowess. It literally is rocket science, and it’s innovative. Therefore I won’t try to school you in something I don’t understand.

Instead, this is what I do understand:

Falcon Heavy went into orbit; the side cores detached; they came back down to Earth and landed themselves on their landing pads. “Flames erupted from their base and guided them back down, upright and ready to be refueled and relaunched. They were back on their launchpads just eight minutes after takeoff” (source).

I feel the need to illustrate just how f*cking cool this was:

WOW. How they managed to land the rockets not only successfully (here’s a compilation of many failed attempts) but so gracefully is beyond me.

OK, landing a rocket back on Earth is cool. But what for?

Have you heard of Musk’s grand project of space tourism? No? Well, the idea is to send civillians around the Moon as soon as this year. The successful launch of Falcon Heavy shows that 1) heavy rockets can be successfully sent out to space and 2) that we can get them (or at least, parts of them) to come back to land safely. This is important because Musk’s ultimate dream project is to send people to Mars. Interplanetary travel is upon us.

“Falcon Heavy is able to take a Dragon mission, taking people around the Moon.”

Basically, the Falcon Heavy mission proves that actual space travel is closer than we thought it would be. Who knows–perhaps the Star Wars aren’t so far removed from our time.

Falcon Heavy inspired by Star Wars
I can only assume that the Falcon rockets were named after Han Solo’s ship in Star Wars.

While this mission was a great success, not all parts worked according to plan: the center core didn’t make it to the drone ship that awaited it in the ocean. But the mission is still a definite success.

Still. Musk’s vision is to occupy Mars. Whether he is a visionary or a madman, only time will tell. But if you personally don’t connect with tech, I get that all this may seem quite removed from day to day life.

What does it say about humanity that we spend so much money on rockets, of all things?

Starman Falcon Heavy
I’m pretty sure this is a textbook definition of “cool”.

Think of it this way. This mission and the whole shabang that goes with it are part of an important narrative on what makes humanity so potent: our curiosity. Because really, we don’t have to send a rocket to space. We don’t need to spend billions of dollars on expeditions whose outcomes we can’t control.

And yet we come together, we work, we learn, we try, we fail, we collaborate and we come together to watch and celebrate our successes. Missions like this one have the ambition to take us further and push the boundaries of what we mean by “possible” or “realistic”. Missions like this one get us to innovate, to collaborate and to dream together.

All of this… Just because we’re curious. As Musk says:

“It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.”

Although the Falcon rockets and SpaceX projects sometimes feel like they are larger than life, they are deeply connected to the excitable nerds inside all of us. Musk and his team sent a mannequin into space, but they didn’t stop there. They set him up in a Tesla car and named him Starman in reference to David Bowie’s famous song. They wrote “DON’T PANIC” on the car’s dashboard in case he gets scared. They had him listen to Starman on repeat… and then tweet about it.

The Falcon Heavy mission, and beyond it the Dragon mission and many aerospace endeavours, speak to the unbound excitement that we all crave. The humour of the team that has worked on this project is humbling: they prove that great work requires passion over solemnity. This mission connects us to the big picture -quite literally- and also to one another.

It also happens to be gorgeous.

Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy

Falcon Heavy

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grow youtube channel vlogging
Tech

Who doesn’t love YouTube? It’s got something for pretty much everybody, from entertainment to news to travel vlogs and tutorials. It isn’t surprising that more and more people try to “make it” and build an audience on the website.

I was lucky enough to attend VidCon Europe (a convention all about online video) and learn all the industry secrets that companies and individuals use to market their content. The following tips were provided by business insiders and I thought I would put them together to help you grow your YouTube channel, too.

Cats always help.

I find it useful to think of YouTube as a marketplace. All the channels are in close proximity and they all want to get the viewers’ attention. The most successful YouTubers in the long run will be those who provide the best quality content – but only if they manage to reel in some viewers first.

This is why you need to be thinking about the algorithm (which basically determines your reach to the viewers), and about the way that YouTube works. Now, of course, nobody really knows exactly how the algorithm works -that’s a trade secret- not to mention that it is constantly reworked and adapted for better results. But there are some basic features that really do matter and will influence the amount of views your content is getting.

So how do you reach the audience you make stuff for? How do you improve your view count? How can you grow your YouTube channel? The first thing to understand is that ‘the algorithm’ isn’t out to get you; you just have to learn to navigate it as best you can.

Here is a list of 5 things that will help you tame the YouTube algorithm to get it to feature your content and show it to the audience you want to reach.

1. Fix your thumbnails

Go on, then. I’ll wait.

Getting subscribers is great – but you first have to earn their attention. That’s trickier than you’d think; your video might be the funniest, most interesting piece of content out there – but if it isn’t clickable, it will never reach anybody. Think about this: how well a video does in the first few hours after its publication will determine whether or not it will be featured and suggested to users interested in your topic.

Thumbnails should appeal to emotions and instinct. No one looks at a thumbnail longer than a couple of seconds before they decide whether they want to click it or not. So forget informative titles; forget a collection of pictures to summarize your vlog; forget bland landscapes. What we like as people are faces. Faces speak to us. If you can base your thumbnail on an emotion, all the more power to you.

Unfinished actions (such as a hand about to throw a ball through a hoop) are also highly clickable: as humans, we like to fill in the blanks. We are wired to want to complete an action, so anything that might appeal to that intuition would make for a good thumbnail. This also explains why list videos are highly popular. We want to know what is the number 1 funniest scene in Harry Potter, because it is satisfying to finish a sequence or a list that pokes at our curiosity.

*click*

We process images from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner. Because of this, you want to have most of your information on the left-hand side of your thumbnail; your logo (if you want to include one) should be on the upper right-hand corner. Extras that add a sense of emotion or urgency also work; emojis, red arrows, etc.

 

2. Take watch time into account

In other words, stop thinking about your channel as its own entity. If you want to grow your YouTube channel, you need to take into account that it is hosted by YouTube. The platform’s aim is to get viewers to stay on the website for as long as possible. This so-called “watch time” is the most precious resource on YouTube. If your video gets the viewer to click on a next video, it will rate better on the ever-so-mysterious YouTube algorithm. If, however, your content does not increase watch time, your video will be down rated and much less likely to be suggested to more viewers searching for the same topic.

Ideally, you’ll want to increase watch time by posting several videos around a same topic yourself; that way, your viewers will not only spend more time on YouTube, but they will also spend more time on your videos and your channel. Getting your audience to want to know you and your style better is always a plus. Another little tip is to make your videos the right length. Nowadays, the videos that rate the best are between 5 and 9 minutes long. Just keep that in mind.

 

3. Post more often, and stick to one thing

You’ve heard this a million times, but it’s true. Posting more often is one of the best ways to increase your views. YouTube likes to put forward not only relevant videos, but also recent ones. If you post a really high production, beautiful, engaging video, great! But if you can’t do that often enough and your channel stays inactive for a few weeks, that’s bad news for you. You would be much better off lowering your production value a bit so that you can focus on producing content more frequently.

You also need to consider that the YouTube algorithm is smart. It learns what your videos are about; how people find them; why they clicked on it, etc. Say you make a cooking video about how to make risotto. The algorithm will take that into account and suggest your video to people who are looking for cooking inspiration. But what if your next video has nothing to do with cooking? Instead, you’ve posted a video about your trip to Vienna. The algorithm will pick up on that, and your video will not be featured as much. Your channel cannot be trusted to provide consistent content on one topic.

Ideally, YouTube wants to find your niche so that it can always rely on your content to respond to viewers’ needs. If your content ranges from A to Z, the algorithm will have no idea how to categorize your channel. And when in doubt… it just won’t market it at all. If you do want to make a range of different videos, experts recommend you create a separate channel for each of them.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

 

4. Get your meta together

Do not mistake YouTube for Instagram. You shouldn’t add more tags than necessary on your content. If you want the YouTube algorithm to understand how to market your videos, you should make the job easy. If you’re making a video about traveling in France, do not use the following: #france #baguette #yum #travel #fun, and so on. Piling lots of meta on top of itself is messy.

Call the clean-up crew right now.

Your job is not to appeal to literally anybody on YouTube (think about it, that’s impossible). Your job is to make content that you enjoy for people that would enjoy it too. If they can’t find it because your meta is vague and too spread out, that’s on you. What you should do to prevent that is pick one good term and stick to it. Make it specific so that YouTube will know when to suggest your content to someone that is looking for it.

 

5. Don’t even think about sharing YouTube content on Facebook

Facebook and YouTube are arch enemies. They do not get along, and probably never will unless one acquires the other. If you share your YouTube video on Facebook, Facebook will flag that post and ensure that it doesn’t get featured on your followers’ feeds. Why is that? Because you’re linking Facebook users to the competition.

If you really want to share your content on Facebook, fine! Do it! But upload your video directly onto Facebook. This will boost your reach on Facebook and your content will be seen by many more of your followers. But be careful; contrarily to YouTube, Facebook doesn’t let you make any money off of ad revenue, and you have very little control over your content being shared and potentially stolen.

A good middle way would be to post a snippet of your latest YouTube video on Facebook (again, as a native video, not a link from YouTube) and add a call to action at the end. For instance, “See my YouTube channel for more”. Granted, this won’t lead to the smoothest user experience, so let me know if you have any other tips to go around the Facebook-YouTube issue.


As an end note, I’d like to point out that these tips come from an algorithm-oriented view of YouTube. Obviously, many more factors come into play when trying to build an audience. Of course your content has to match viewers’ expectations, and personality is often described as one of  the most crucial points in building a loyal audience. So feel free to take all of this advice to grow your YouTube channel with a grain of salt. Still – it’s worth giving them a shot, no?

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amsterdam travel guide funny netherlands dutch life lifestyle
Blog

Today I thought I would try to work with Illustrator a little bit – and create an infographic of basic information about Amsterdam. So I’ve compiled a handful of fun facts about Mokum and the Netherlands.

Consider this your first step to getting to know the city: your speed-dating Amsterdam Travel Guide, with just enough fun facts to keep you interested. Will you go on a second date, though?

Background source.

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Canada Toronto Maple
Blog

Last year, I got to live in Toronto, Canada for 4 months. That is a relatively short amount of time, but in those 4 months I have learned a lot about what makes a Canadian, Canadian – and what it takes to be a good Torontonian. I decided to compile a list of lifestyle habits you should adopt in order to avoid making any Canadian faux-pas.

And since today is Drake’s birthday, I thought this post could not come at a better time. (You’ll understand why in a minute).

Here is a practical guide to blending in in Canada.

Step 1: You love Drake now

drake gif funny

Drake is not just a rapper.

Drake is not just an artist.

Drake. Is. Everything. (And more.)

Drake shows up at every major Leafs (ice hockey) and Raptors (basketball) game. Drake’s music gets played in malls, bars, restaurants and clubs. Drake gets interviewed every night, just cause.

Drake loves the 6, so if you’re feeling the Toronto love, listen to any of his albums – especially Views – and that’ll be a perfect soundtrack.

Drake represents the rough, sentimental part of your soul.

Drake is love.

You love Drake now.

(Happy birthday Aubrey love u)

Step 2: One does not simply go to Starbucks

Oh, honey – ohhh, honey. Once you find your local Tim Hortons, you will never want to visit any other coffee shop.

Tim Hortons is an establishment. A legacy.

A way of life.

http://s4ltedcaramel.tumblr.com/post/132947975189/s4ltedcaramel-island-coast-i-love-being

Tim Hortons brings you homely, friendly, traditional coffee.

Timmy’s is your number 1 provider of donuts, or even better: Timbits.

When the weather starts getting really cold, do not miss out on the chance to get a hot chocolate, or even better, a white hot chocolate.

(If you want your drink to taste like an incredible muffin, add a blueberry teabag into the mix. Dear god. It’s so good).

 

 

Step 3: Support the Toronto team

And wear your pride.

If it’s summertime, support the Blue Jays! If you’re not sure when they are playing, don’t worry: other Torontonians will let you know.

On game days, the whole city dresses in Jays jerseys, t-shirts, caps and sweaters.

You’ll know.

(Here’s a fun game: spot the Jays player that looks like Drake. Spoiler: it’s Bautista.)

If it’s wintertime, begrudgingly support the Maple Leafs. Sure, they’re terrible, but they’re from Toronto. Therefore, you must be a good sport and cheer them on with your best impression of excitment.

But really, make sure you go see a game in person. The fan atmosphere alone is worth it; ice hockey is fun to watch even for those that don’t know anything about it.

And baseball… well… just go for the fan atmosphere.

hockey canada

Step 4: Eat like the locals do

Poutine! Poutiiiine.

It comes from the French-speaking province of Québec and basically consists of French fries, gravy and cheese curds.

For extra deliciousness, add some meat to the mix and Oh-Canada, you are guaranteed to fall in love.

But Poutine isn’t the only good food you can find in Toronto. There are all kinds of small restaurants that offer cheap, delicious food. My favourite restaurant was this small burger place that combines Vietnamese food with burgers. YUM.

 

 

Step 5: Take friendliness to the next level

Say: “Hi, how’s your day going?” and go on to have an extremely friendly conversation with every other person you meet. Imagine you two are old friends reconnecting after a few years of silence.

Emotional.

I don’t care if you’re getting on the streetcar (the Toronto version of trams) and there’s a bunch of people waiting to get in. The driver will ask you how you’re doing and it would be very rude not to return the favour.

I don’t care if you’re shy and don’t want to tell your waiter about your life – it’s just the more courteous thing to do.

Just join in on the friendly fun.

You’ll be fine.

Step 6: Bathe in multiculturalism

Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world. Half of its inhabitants were born outside of Canada and the city hosts 140 different languages.

That’s something that Canadians are proud of.

Can you feel the love tonight?

They let people in. They learn from each other. And they don’t really care that you’re not from Canada; as long as you’re nice and as accepting as they are, you’re cool. You’re here now, that’s all that matters.

Canada is a wonderful place and Canadians will make you feel right at home.

They can’t help the temperature dropping to -30C in the winter, but their friendliness will warm your heart.

(Awww.)

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apps phone smartphone iphone lifestyle tech blogtober
Tech

As someone whose phone has ridiculously little storage space, I have to be pretty selective about the apps I keep on my phone. If they’re not 100% what I need, they have to go.

No sentiments.

I am an app-heartbreaker.

But this system of only using the best apps out there makes it super easy for me to weed out the meh ones. Without further ado, here are the 5 best Android apps I use everyday.

  • SleepBot

SleepBot is a sleep cycle tracker. It’s simple: you place your phone next to you when you go to sleep and it’ll record your movements during the night. If you’re a sleep talker, you can get the app to record whatever nonsense you talk about at night – but my favourite feature about this app is the alarm. Because the app tracks your sleep cycles, it also knows when your lightest sleep stages are, and that’s when it’ll wake you up.

I often used to wake up super groggy and fall right back asleep. This app has definitely made my mornings less painful.

  • Clue

This one is for the period-having people out there. Clue is a cycle-tracking app (can you tell I like tracking things? I’m seeing a pattern here…). It’s easy to use and has lots of features. AND IT’S NOT PINK. Each day, you can input all kinds of information about your flow, what pains you might be experiencing, your mood, whether you’ve had sex or not, your energy level, your transit, the state of your skin… It’s basically awesome for learning more about what your cycle is like and how it affects you.

I don’t actually use all of that stuff, but the previsions alone are worth it for me: Clue is a lazy woman’s tool to know when she’ll probably have her (three) next periods. And that’s great.

  • Headspace

A meditation app! Wee! Meditation can be super intimidating to get into but Headspace makes it very accessible. It’s not too difficult, it’s not pushy, and it’s very well-designed.

I mentioned this app in my October goals post and I have been using it solidly (not quite everyday, but still) and really enjoying it. After a quick, 10-minute meditation, I feel more confident, calm and content. All the c-words. Well – all the good c-words.

  • Google Calendar

If you’re like me and you have trouble keeping track of what goes on in your life, you absolutely need to use a calendar app. (What are you doing. Get one now). I like Google Calendar because it’s clear and easy to use. You can display your day, week, month, etc. whichever way you like; you can colour-code your events and meetings; you can get alarms and reminders for events; you can combine and share calendars… I usually have it open in my tabs on my laptop, but having it on my phone is just that much more convenient, as I get alerts directly on there and I can check what my plans are for the next day, week or month on the go.

  • EyeFilter

Last but definitely not least: EyeFilter! In fact, this is probably my favourite app on this list. Here’s a fun fact about me: I don’t like bright screens. I find them very uncomfortable and they even make me dizzy at times. So I got EyeFilter for my phone, and all it does is block the blue lights that your phone normally emits. Simple. But it makes it so much more comfortable for me to use it when the evening comes.

This app was created because the blue lights emitted by our screens (phones, computers, etc.) make it harder to fall asleep at night. Now, regardless of whether it does help me fall asleep at night or not, EyeFilter makes it comfortable for me to use my phone at night.

Love it.

 

These are 5 of my favourite apps, but I’d be very curious to hear what your top 5, can’t-live-without-them list is! So please do share ’em in the comments!

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anxiety mental health
Blog

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Today is World Mental Health Day and it only seems fitting that I would write a little something about my own mental health. A couple of days ago, a friend posted a video on Facebook and it was one of the first times I felt truly understood when it comes to the way that my anxiety manifests itself.

It’s been so difficult trying to explain to my friends and family what it is like having anxiety. I wouldn’t normally write about something this personal/such a downer, but this is a chance to (maybe?) help lift the taboo around it and, hopefully, help someone else feel less alone.

Chapter 1: There’s something wrong with me

It’s impossible for me to pinpoint a cause or a starting point for my anxiety. When I was a teenager, I was caught up in a lot of mental health issues I’m not going to get into here, but anxiety was definitely one of the main ones. I would be very anxious about going to school, being given homework, having deadlines. I’d be anxious about getting to school or to my dance lessons on time and yet always ended up leaving home very, very late.

It got worse after high school. To be fair, I was in a very challenging environment (abroad, alone, etc) but I just felt like everything was so much harder for me than it seemed to be for all the other new international students.

I was terrified of meeting new people; I wouldn’t leave my room if I could hear that someone else was in the kitchen; I would be as quiet as possible to make sure that no one would come and talk to me; I wouldn’t bring myself to talk to new people for fear of being seen, sounding dumb, or whatever else it was that scared me. And all the while I’d wonder: why can’t I just get on with it have fun, like the others do?

I would be extremely anxious at the very idea of traveling, whether that be by bus, train, bike… I always had to double, triple, quadruple check my route to make sure that I was on the right train. And even when I was sure, I still felt panicked at the idea that I wasn’t.

I wouldn’t be able to open my emails, let alone respond to messages, and all the while my anxiety for opening those damn emails only grew bigger and bigger.

I wasn’t able to make any kind of plans with friends. I’d worry about going there, I’d worry about how much time it would take, I’d worry about being ready for my next class, I’d worry about not getting enough sleep, I’d worry that they wouldn’t like me, I’d worry about not having anything to say… Money was also a huge worry for me, even though my family always insisted that they would help me out whenever I needed it. But still, I was scared. No going out, no dinners, no meeting up on campus, nothing. I just couldn’t do it.

What sucked even more than all this anxiety was that I ended up being very lonely. I beat myself up so much over the fact that I wasn’t a good friend, I wasn’t a good student, I wasn’t enjoying life like I should have been, and so on. I was alone and I was anxious and that seemed only to be getting worse because of how much guilt and shame I was accumulating as a result of all this.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me.

Just fucking get over it“, I’d tell myself.

I suck“.

I deserve to feel like shit, it’s my own fault for not getting out of my room“.

To the handful of people I’d try and explain this to, it would look like I just had to chiiiiiill and not worry so much. That was very well-intended advice but at that point, you can imagine that I had no clue how to do that.

Chapter 2: I’ve had enough

There came a point when things got unbearable and I decided to take the steps to see a therapist. That process itself was ridden with anxiety, considering that I had no clue how to go about doing that in Holland and that it entailed a lot of phone calls, but I pushed through.

It was so helpful.

Seeing my therapist’s reactions to my thoughts was the first big help for me. She was pretty shocked and very sorry to see how harsh I was to myself. Her pointing out just how mean and cruel I could be to myself was really eye-opening. All this time I had been the both the victim and perpetrator of abuse – aaaall by myself.

Being given a diagnosis was genuinely the biggest relief I had felt in years.

I wasn’t making it up.

I wasn’t just weak and stupid.

I had generalized anxiety disorder.

So I went to therapy for a few months and did CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). It was incredibly frustrating because I could see very little progress for most of that time. I had to come in every week and report what I had been doing and how I had been feeling and I would be so embarrassed to say that it hadn’t worked, that I hadn’t got better, that I still sucked.

But somehow, after a while, there was progress. In fact, I’d worked so hard to be aware of my thoughts and to shift my mindset that looking back to where I was when I first started going to therapy, I was already better at coping with it, after just a few months.

Chapter 3: It ain’t over till it’s over

I stopped going to therapy about 1.5 years ago and I am doing so much better than I ever thought I would.

In that time, I have gone to spend a semester in Canada where I made lots of wonderful friends and went on all sorts of crazy adventures. I dealt with STUPID mistakes I made (i.e. getting my bank account blocked on the first day) and took chances (like going to crash on a friend’s couch for a couple of weeks). Anxiety still followed me around but I had learned when to push myself to go and do things, and when to take a rest and recharge.

After Canada, I came back happier than ever and I was ready to live in Holland again. I started getting in touch with the friends I hadn’t been a good friend to, I made more plans, I was less fearful. And now, I have moved to Amsterdam and I am taking on the city 😉 (Kind of. A little bit). I am doing stuff I was far from able to deal with back then; I’ve found a job and I’m working on side hustles (isn’t that term hilarious though?).

To be clear: I still have anxiety.

Stiiiiiill here.

All of the issues I mentioned earlier (and more) are still likely to trigger anxious reactions for me. I also have a few new ones, like when I’m told to try and speak/learn Dutch for instance (cue: internal panic).

Just the other day, I had something I can only describe as an anxiety attack. (I’m not sure what else to call it, but I don’t think it was a panic attack). I was shaking and freaking out – but I wrote down a few thoughts that were overcoming my brain at the time and I think it might be interesting to share a few ones with you. These are direct quotes:

There’s something wrong with me

It’s my fault

It’s never going to get better

ASHAMED

I deserve to feel this way

I thought I got better but clearly I haven’t

I’m never good enough

CALM THE FUCK DOWN

Don’t bother them* with it

*friends, boyfriend, sister, whoever would like to help.

Wow. What a downer, right?!

Even me, looking back at this stuff I think “whoa, dramatic much?”. But that’s what anxiety does to you: your thoughts spiral out of control and all of a sudden it’s really difficult to remember that it’s not all dark and terrible. That ultimately, life is good, and that you’re okay.

Chapter 4: Healing

For anyone that struggles with mental health issues, there are a few things you can do to make yourself better.

  1. Talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be a therapist right away, though I do believe that’s a very helpful step. Getting feedback on the way you think and feel can help you realize that it’s not right and that you need to work on it.
  2. Keep a journal. I’ve kept a record of two kinds of things; first, the thoughts I was having and how I worked to disprove them and second, small achievements and positive things I have done and felt. Looking back through this journal is a way for me to see how much progress I’ve made and to cheer myself up when I need to.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up. Obvious, but tough. Which is why seeing a therapist and/or having a friend or partner you can talk to is so important. It’s really hard to quit putting yourself down when you’ve reached such a level of frustration at your own incapabilities… but you gotta try. Please. You’re great.
  4. Do yoga or meditation. They are practices of self-love and self-care, which is exactly what you need when you’re going through mental health problems. They ground you in the moment, keep your thoughts from spiraling out of control too much, teach you to accept things the way they are… Yoga with Adriene is very helpful for beginners and anyone that needs to take extra care of themselves.
  5. Don’t despair. You’re not alone. You’re not a freak. You may never really get rid of your anxiety/depression/etc, but you can learn to live with it. I know I am.
Feel better.

Please feel free to share your own experience in the comments. If you have any questions or tips, I’d be more than happy to continue this conversation – after all, that’s what World Mental Health Day is really about; tearing down the taboo of mental health and opening up to kindness and healing.

Best of luck to you all. xx

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I am the type of girl that always craves magic.

I am the type of girl that, within a month of settling into her new place in Amsterdam, googles “Amsterdam magic” in an attempt to find cool magical places nearby – perhaps old buildings where witches used to hide, pagan sites, or simply magical stories set in Amsterdam.

I am the girl that grew up reading books about wizards and dragon tamers; the girl that seeks mythical creatures in the morning mist; the girl that listens to legends and studies fairy tales.

Not everyone gets why.

What is it about magic that resonates with me and many others so much?

Let me explain.

Magic is a wonderful escape.

There is nothing like diving into a world of dragons, magic spells and impossible quests to escape the grim routine of everyday worries. A witch’s problems may be similar enough to mine that I identify with her; but the alternative reality of her world would be just enough to make me forget, for a little while, about my own mundane existence.

A whole new world is sometimes all you need to recharge and inject a little creativity back into your life. Fantasy is a huge mood-lifter for me. It reconnects me to the feelings of wonder I’ve had since I was a child reading and watching magical things for the first time.

Magic empowers you(ng readers).

When I was but a little nugget, I was already caught up in fantasy. I loved Harry Potter, I loved the witches from Charmed, I loved the idea of having magic powers. What kid doesn’t?

If you think about it, magic is a fantasy of power. Being able to control the elements, other people and even events are extremely comforting ideas. For a child (dare I say especially for a female child) who doesn’t get to decide much about their own life, there is nothing more appealing than the idea of being in control.

Magic satisfies this fantasy to an extent while at the same time respecting the teachings and morals of the real world; not using your powers to hurt others and continually keeping your morals in check.

It has allowed me to identify with characters that took charge of their own destinies, fought both literal and metaphorical demons and emerged stronger from the perils they had gone through.

Magic honors and amplifies the beauty of the real world.

Fantasy stories are often misunderstood as merely being made-up worlds made for people to bury their heads in the sand and hardly stay in touch with the real world. But what this fails to recognize is that the point of fantasy is not the magic.

Fantasy is deeply metaphorical and shares very human struggles.

Magical stories revolve around issues of identity, difference and belonging; responsibility and morality; life and accepting death; the power of communities and love; resourcefulness in the face of adversity; and overcoming whatever stands in your way.

If that isn’t what life as a human is about, then I don’t know what is.

Magic is a gateway into these complex issues. And they may be personified and allegorized but that doesn’t make them any less real.

Magic appeals to your sense of wonder.

Wizard and fantasy stories are where I get my fix of unbound enthusiasm. I love magic at its most beautiful: when Hermione conjures up a pocket fire to keep her and her friends warm in the winter. I love it when it is playful and simple, turning water into snow or making a flower open and close its petals.

The gracefulness that I find in magic is just an echo of the gracefulness of the real world, and I think that’s pretty great.

It reminds me that beautiful things are to be found wherever the eye rests – with a little imagination.

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In the past year or so I have really been getting into my podcasts. They are great companions on my long (bike) commute to university, or distractions when I’m not loving whatever it is that I’m doing (typically cooking or cleaning). This selection features the very best podcasts I have found so far. I know it sounds like an overstatement, but of each of them has improved my life in some way.

1. Dear Hank and John

podcast john green hank green funny comedy

If you don’t know the vlogbrothers, here is a short introduction: they are a pair of brothers, Hank and John Green, who have been making YouTube videos for each other since the dawn of time (or, you know, YouTube). Hank is the creator of many online things (SciShow, Crash Course, Vidcon and many more) and John is a writer best known for his novel The Fault in Our Stars. Their videos are a mix of fun, educational, inspiring and nerdy.

Their podcast, Dear Hank and John, is exactly that: they answer questions from the listeners, give dubious advice, and provide updates on their respectives interests, i.e. the planet Mars and the English football team AFC Wimbledon.

The podcast is so much fun: they can get real deep but never for too long, as there will always be a silly question to answer. Love them, love it.

2. Witch, Please

podcast witch please harry potter literature

Did you really think I wasn’t going to find a way to include Harry Potter in this list?

YES. Witch, Please is a freaking revelation for anyone that appreciates anything about the Potter books and/or movies. Hannah and Marcelle are delightful and funny and they explore the themes and complexities of the Potterverse at length. They discuss issues of race, feminism, history and so many more interesting things.

I would highly recommend this podcast for anyone interested in literature. Potter fans: the discussions about the ins and outs of the books and films are amazing. I can’t tell you how excited I have been to analyze Harry Potter along with the podcasters, realizing bothow much I have missed (after all this time) and how much I love it (always).

3. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

podcast harry potter interesting literature religious studies

No, no – I’m not done with the Potter pods just yet!

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a little bit more niche than Witch, Please. Each episode focuses on one chapter of a book so you do need some extensive knowledge of the plot in order to fully appreciate it. However. What a treat.

The premise of this podcast is to use the tools of religious studies and apply them to the text of Harry Potter. This means that the text itself and the way certain things are phrased are taken as guidelines or lessons for your life. It is truly a heartwarming listen that has brightened up my day manier times. Again, the hosts Casper and Vanessa are lovely and oh-so smart.

A must-listen for any Potter fan.

4. Stuff Mom Never Told You

podcast feminism feminist social sciences

Moving on from Harry Potter! (“Finally!”)

This podcast is an extension of the YouTube channel of the same name. It is an inclusive feminist podcast that studies all kinds of social science-y phenomena. From weddings to tarot to unicorns to lady truckers to emoji to drugs… There isn’t a topic they won’t cover.

Each episode introduces topics in a very intelligent way that includes all types of audiences. Cristen and Caroline, the lovely ladies that run it, like to provide historical overviews as well as explain social changes over time and why they have/are occurring.

It’s super interesting and always accessible. Another A+ from me!


As much as I love all of these podcasts dearly, I am really missing some good science-y ones. I have given a few a try but never found anything I liked. So if you have any suggestions, please do let me know!

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