Why Doing Nothing is Easier than Doing Anything

I am an amazing procrastinator. I could probably win an Olympic medal, if I ever got around to it. I procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate and then panic at the last minute and rush to get it all finished.

This is because I have an intense fear of failing, and I think that if I don’t do the thing I can’t fail the thing, before realizing “OHMIGOD I MUST DO THE THING OR ELSE I’LL FAIL!”

It’s something I do constantly, and while I know I do it, and understand why I do it, I continue to procrastinate. There is actually science behind this though – there is a reason it is easier to do nothing rather than do anything (nothing usually being a pointless activity and anything usually being what you’re meant to be doing in the first place).

When you’re procrastinating, there are essentially two parts of your brain battling it out.

The first is your pre-frontal cortex. If you point a finger at the center of your forehead, you’ve found it. This is the part of your brain that makes decisions and does logical thinking, so the part of your brain telling you that you really need to get some work done. It is also the part of the brain that develops last (usually around the time you’re 20-25 years old), hence teenagers find it difficult to avoid procrastination (and make terrible decisions but that’s a different story).

The second part is your limbic system. This part of the brain is wired to your pleasure center, so looks only for immediate satisfaction.

The pre-frontal cortex can see the long term benefits of studying for a test or doing your maths homework, whereas the limbic system wants to watch TV or check your emails. The problem is that the pre-frontal cortex gets tired a lot more quickly and easily, as opposed to the limbic system which is a lot more powerful.

The way to combat this is to reduce your temptations.

This may sound like a really obvious and simple solution, but the limbic system becomes more powerful the more tangible your distraction becomes. So if you always feel the need to check your emails, turning off the little sound notification you get will reduce the tangibility of the distraction and potentially mean you don’t feel the need to leave your productive work.

Obviously I can’t sit and type out all of the things you need to do to beat procrastination, because everyone will have different distractions. The key is to identify your distractions, reduce the tangibility of them and inhibit your limbic system!

So go forth! Stop procrastinating and get the work you set out to do done!

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Curly Hair Rocks

I was watching The Princess Diaries yesterday and I was absolutely infuriated.

Don’t get me wrong – I adore the movie. I adore the book. I love the plot and I demolished those books when I was younger.

Nope, it wasn’t that. I was infuriated because there was yet another girl, with frizzy curly hair who got “made-over” into someone with pin straight, shiny locks of perfect hair.

I call bullshit!

I am sick to absolute death of being the “pre-makeover” girl in every film. And I’m going to tell you, quite frankly, why.

I hate my hair.

It’s a sentence that most teenager girls say on a regular basis. Usually accompanied with “I have nothing to wear” and copious amounts of groaning and door slamming.

However, I have a very large problem with my hair, and I have some people to blame.

God, my stupid stupid hair. I was born with barely any hair, and stayed that way until I was three. If my mum hadn’t put bright pink dresses on me, I would have easily been mistaken for a boy. Then I hit three and look, a miracle! I had hair! Whoop-de-doo!

Except it was curly. Like, really curly. And short.

You know what you can do with short, curly hair? Not much.

You know what new parents with straight hair do when they’re daughter comes out looking like someone shoved my fingers into an electric socket? They leave it to become a matted mess and just shove a headband in to keep it off my face.

Then we moved to China. Anyone with curly hair knows it needs upkeep and humidity is your worst nightmare. So in a country where no one knew how to cut my hair and it was humid 90% of the time, my hair was more of a mess than usual.

Between the ages of 3 and 12, my hair was a disaster. Because I didn’t know what to do with it and neither did my parents, so most of the time no one did anything with it. But that was okay, because no one else cared.

Then I went to high school. And my hair grew long and thick and somehow, more curly. And I learnt how to tame my mane with conditioner and mousse and gel. But I still hated it. Because all these girls around me had straight, sleek hair and I still had a crazy mess of curls. They could do anything they wanted with their hair and I could have mine loose, which I hated, or in a ponytail. I found out that my hair came from a distant family member who is a fairly famous actress – Minnie Driver – and I was thrilled, until I realized she had her hair chemically straightened.

But most of all, I hated my hair because it made me look fatter.

All these girls had sleek styles, long and straight and inconspicuous, that matched their sleek, straight bodies. And then there was me, round and bouncy with chubby cheeks and hair that about doubled the size of my head.

And I absolutely loathed all the models with “curly” hair that in reality, was barely wavy. Between that and the all the movies that showed the girl with shiny, straight hair after her makeover, I learnt that curly hair should be erased from existence. That it wasn’t pretty, and in fact, it should be ironed straight out.

I have news for you, movie makers.

Curly hair can’t be straightened like that.

It just doesn’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried.

So can you see how frustrating it is to never ever see a single celebrity who people see as beautiful with the same hair as you? Especially when you know damn well they’ve straightened it out.

Not to mention how angering it is to see girls losing their natural curls in a movie before they’re considered “pretty”?

It’s incredibly frustrating, because these people don’t realize how much damage they’re doing. They don’t realize that I’ve spent years listening to people telling me how lucky I was to have such beautiful and yet most days, I still hate it. They don’t realize that there’s a whole generation of curly haired girls who don’t have friends like mine, telling them it’s all crap. They don’t realize that by making sure no girl finishes a movie at a high school prom with curly hair, they’re making sure there’s not a single girl with curly hair who doesn’t at least once feel self-conscious about it. Even Hermione, who I idolized for the simple fact that she wore her hair loose and curly all the time, straightened it for the Yule Ball.

So was it really a surprise when this year I started getting questions about how I was going to straighten my hair for formal? Nope.

I just wish that for once, people would acknowledge that actually, curly hair freaking rocks (even if I often say otherwise), and let others know that too. Because I don’t want another single girl growing up with “chemical straightening” on her birthday wishlist.

Writers Block

It’s a writers worst nightmare – an empty screen.

It sits there and it stares at you, with it’s consistent taunt of a blinking cursor. You start sentence after sentence and delete every attempt you make at an idea.

Writers block is the bane of my existence. With trying to think up new topics to write on every week, writers block has become a constant and vaguely annoying companion.

But I have good news! I know how to beat it!

  1. Try taking a breakThis may seem really obvious, but often writers block stems from just being tired. Take a five minute break; have a drink and watch some TV and who knows, you might be struck with your next great idea!
  2. Try starting from the middle of your story
    The idea of starting a story can sometimes be daunting, not to mention there is often a lot of building at the beginning of a story. Sometimes writers block can stem from a lack of motivation and the easiest way to tackle this is to start in the middle of your plot (providing you’ve already planned it out). It will flow out of you a lot quicker, as you’ll already be in the middle of the action.
  3. Brainstorm

    If you’re struggling to find any ideas to type, try a different way of coming up with them. A classic mind map may help, because ideas tend to sprout from others.
  4. 5 minute writing warm-ups 

    Try googling and doing some five minute writing warm-ups. Because you’re given a prompt, the ideas will come more easily and you’ll be in a better headspace to start. You wouldn’t start a sport without warming up and writing should be the same. Who knows, one of the prompts might turn into your next great story!

  5. Just plow through itJust write. Ignore how bad it is, ignore the fact that you’re not really sure what you’re writing. Just write and write and write. Let the words stack up. They’re like a bulk-buy item and the more you write the cheaper they get, the easier it is to cut them out. Just write and don’t delete anything until you have a proper start, a proper chunk, a proper story. Just write.

In the end, there’s not much else I can tell you. There’s no magic cure for writers block and only you can fix it. Unfortunately, I can’t come and help you. All I can do is tell you to get out of your head and just write as if your life depends on it.

So stop procrastinating and just go!

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

Tests are the Worst

A while back I wrote a post about studying, and how best to do that. Recently at school we had a presentation on how best to study and beat procrastination, and I thought that maybe I’d upload a new version of my Study to Success guide.

Then I had the week from hell.

A science test, a psychology SAC (which is my VCE subject, meaning it goes towards the score that will determine which university I get into in three years time), an English essay that ran over two periods and a humanities presentation due.

I mean, in relation to other people’s workloads and workloads I’ve had previously, it wasn’t even that much. The SAC, the English and the humanities all ran smoothly. I submitted early for the presentation, and I breezed through the essay and the test, coming out feeling fairly confident that I’ll receive a good mark. Everything was going well.

Until Friday, last period, when I had my science test.

In my first year of high school, we were taught techniques on how to calm ourselves if we start to panic during a test. I am now almost a quarter way through my fourth year of high school and during the test was only the second time I’ve had to use them. I sat there, breathing deep breathes and squeezing my rubber like a stress ball, trying to ward off tears, all the while thinking if I wasn’t panicking I wouldn’t be having to do these exercises and I would have more time to do the questions and so I wouldn’t be panicking!

See the problem?

When the test was over, in the way all nosy teenagers do, we started asking around. How do you think you went? Oh I don’t think I went well at all, I struggled. And I noticed that we all only started to feel better when we realized everyone else walked out feeling like they’d totally bombed that test too.

I started to realize something about my self; all my ideas of success are based entirely off of the ideas someone else has given me.

I mean, I’ve known this for a while. I’m not entirely unaware, but it was the first time I’d really seen it in action. Because I knew that even though 70% is a terrible mark for me, as long as everyone else got around that mark too, I wouldn’t mind.

And I realized that my friend who regularly gets marks in the high 90% range is the only one of us who doesn’t ask how others went.

So then I started rethinking my Study to Success guide. Because I followed all the steps in it. I worked hard, I listened to music without lyrics, I colour coded my notes. I did everything. But I still bombed that test, hard.

And I have come to the conclusion that there is no one way to study to success. Everyone studies differently. But there is a way to make sure you’re successful, and that’s to stop basing your success on others.

Focus on the three things you did well at rather then the one thing you didn’t. Stop asking how others did and start asking how you can do better.

That’s my new guide to success.

Katy

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

Damsels in Distress

There’s a very clear stereotype about depression – it’s a girl who is so sad, so sad that she stays in bed all day, or stays up all night, drinking tea and thinking deep, deep thoughts. She writes poems about the violets under her eyes and the cigarettes she smokes burning like her mind.

Then someone comes along. Someone who will be drawn in by their sadness, their depth, their ability to smile despite all of their problems, and they will fix them. It will usually involve approaching slowly and carefully and telling them how they think they’re beautiful, despite everything. Within a few days of being with this person, they’re miraculously cured, because depression doesn’t need therapy and medication to cure it, it doesn’t take a long, hard crawl to beat it – of course not. It takes meeting a boy.

Can you see where the problem is? Not only does it romanticize depression – tell you that depression is the only way you find a boy who loves you – it paints anyone with it as a damsel in distress, just sitting there, waiting to be saved.

And I’ll be damned if anyone treats me like a damsel in distress.

Depression is an illness. Just like any illness, it is important to have supportive people around you, but ultimately, it comes down to the person fighting it to do just that; fight it.

It is not anyone else who will save you from it. And depression is not a cushy illness; it is also not a way to attract people to you. It is not something to hanker after, it is not a fashion accessory. It is a long, hard struggle to beat and it is exhausting.

And I am sick to death of it being painted as anything but.

Media and entertainment are to blame here. Magazines, TV shows, books, movies – they all paint depression as this glorious thing. A sad and tragic ending, but beautiful and bittersweet at the same time. It’s your Manic Pixie Dream Girl problem all over again.

The other problem is there are few places to be educated on it. Unless you know of someone with depression and have seen the damage it can do, it’s easy to believe that what’s being shoved in your face is the correct interpretation. Sites like Tumblr sometimes have fantastic education on issues like this, but can be equally as damaging. One honest mistake will not be forgiven; it will be held against you, long after you may have educated yourself on the topic.

Depression is not a Disney story, so stop treating it like it is.

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

Stretching Routine

As a dancer, I have to be as flexible as possible. I am however aware that I can’t twist myself into the same kind of positions I used to when I was six and able to bend over backward without a second thought. So it’s important that I stretch at least twice a week outside of dance class. It’s also important for anyone who does a sport of any kind to properly cool down and stretch to avoid injuries, so today I’m going to walk you all through my stretching routine!
I work from the top to the bottom of my body and stretch everything and then I use a foam roller to work out any knots in muscles. You sit or lay on top of it and the rock backwards and forwards, increasing how far you’ll over it the more comfortable you get. It’s painful but definitely worth it, and has saved me many trips to the physio.

Standing Stretches
Neck:

-Tilt head to left, right, front and back. Hold each for 8 counts.
-Roll head to right 4 times and repeat to left.

Arms:

-Tuck right arm into left elbow and pull over chest. Hold for 8 counts and repeat on other side.
-Try to link hands behind back and hold for 8 counts. Try both ways.

Shoulders:

-Roll shoulders forwards and backwards 8 times each.
-Swing arms around 4 times to the front and 4 times to the back.

Back:

-Left hand on hip, right hand curved above head, legs shoulder width apart, lean to the left for 8 counts. Bend at waist and stay with flat back for 8 counts. Lean over and try to touch ankles for 8 counts. Move to center and hold for 8 counts. Move to right ankle and hold for 8 counts. Flat back to opposite side for 8 counts. Side stretch for 8 counts. Repeat and reverse process.

Legs:

Stand with legs shoulder width apart. Squat down, grab ankles and slowly straighten legs as far as you can. Hold for 8 counts. Repeat 4 times, stepping legs in until heels touch.

Floor Stretches
Legs:

-Lunge on the right leg. Hold for 8 counts.
-Staying in lunge position, place elbows on the floor. Hold for 8 counts.
-Bend the back leg and push forward to stretch hip flexer. Hold for 8 counts.
-Straighten front leg and try to hold ankle. Hold for 8 counts.
Repeat process on left leg.
-Sit in a butterfly position – with both heels together – and push each knee down in turn.
-Push the right leg out and place the left foot against it’s knee. Flex the foot and try to grab it. Hold for 8 counts.
-Relax over the leg, pointing the toe, and try to inch your hands towards the toes. See if you can get your head on your knee.
Repeat the process on the other leg.
-Sit in second position (legs apart) and lean to the right, extending the opposite arm above the head and trying to touch the right foot. This should also stretch your side. Hold for 8 counts.
Repeat on opposite leg.
-With legs still in second position, slowly crawl your hands forward to the center until your chest is on the floor or as close to it as possible. Hold for 8 counts.

Back
Lay on your stomach with your legs slightly apart and place your hands shoulder width apart before pushing up on them. Hold for 8 counts.
-Bend backwards, until your legs are bent under your body and stretch your arms forward. Hold for 8 counts.

And that’s it! If you keep this up nearly every day or at least after every workout you’ll gain flexibility and definitely improve recovery time.

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

33 Books to Read Before You Die

In no particular order, these are 33 books I firmly believe everyone should read at some point. There was very little criteria to get onto this list – I had to have read the book, and it needed to make some kind of an impact on me.

  1. The Hunger Games (trilogy) by Suzanne Collins
  2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  3. Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  4. Forever by Judy Blume
  5. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  6. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
  7. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend
  8. Oh the Places you’ll go! By Dr Seuss
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  11. Princess Diaries (series) by Meg Cabot
  12. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky
  13. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  14. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  15. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  16. A Series of Unfortunate Events (series) by Lemony Snicket
  17. Matilda by Roald Dhal
  18. My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  19. Tomorrow, When the War Began (series) by John Marsden
  20. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  21. Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
  22. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  23. If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
  24. Delirium (trilogy) by Lauren Oliver
  25. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  26. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  27. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
  28. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  29. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  30. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
  31. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  32. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass
  33. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

Drink Spiking

Drink spiking is something that used to be a nightmare and is now a scary reality. In fact, most schools teach you now how to avoid it because of how often it happens. However, there are still far too many schools that don’t and too many stereotypes surrounding it. Most people think that only girls get drugged, that they’ll be able to notice if someone puts something in their drink, and that only alcoholic drinks will be spiked.

In actual fact, both males and females drinks are spiked and cans of cola have been known to be spiked previously too. But perhaps the scariest fact of all is that there are drugs that you cannot detect in a drink – liquid drugs that are tasteless and odorless.

It’s important that you’re all informed of the facts about drink spiking, but it’s also important that we discuss some tips to avoid it.

DON’T PUT YOUR DRINK DOWN

Obviously this is pretty self explanatory, but you’d be surprised how many people put their drinks down, leave them, and pick them up again.

IF YOU DO PUT YOUR DRINK DOWN, DON’T PICK IT UP AGAIN

Just don’t do it. It’s not worth it. You’d rather lose a few dollars on half a wasted drink then hundreds of dollars on hospital bills.

IF IT TASTES, SMELLS, OR LOOKS SLIGHTLY OFF, DON’T DRINK IT

End of story.

WATCH IT BEING POURED

If you don’t see it being poured, don’t drink it. If they take it away to be poured, ask them to make it in front of you. It’s within your legal rights, and if they still refuse, leave. There’s probably something bad about that place if they won’t make the drink in front of you.

WATCH HOW MUCH YOUR FRIENDS ARE DRINKING

A lot of the time people will assume that someone who is a victim of drink spiking is just very, very drunk. If you keep an eye on how much your friends are doing, you’ll know that when your friend who’s only had one beer is acting strange that somethings wrong.

BUY A SEALED DRINK, WITH A LID

This way you can a) put the lid back on the drink when not taking a sip and b) know nothing has gone into the drink beforehand. If you buy a drink and the seal is broken, don’t drink it.

COVER THE TOP WITH YOUR THUMB/HAND

Holding the drink by the rim so that the open expanse of it is covered by your hand may look a little dumb, but it’s a lot less dumb then you’ll look throwing up because you’ve been drugged. And if you take a look around, you’ll see most people are doing it anyway, because unfortunately this is now a part of party culture.

So stay safe out there. If you think a friend has been drugged, call 000 STRAIGHT AWAY! Don’t risk it with “maybe they’re just drunk”. Don’t think that they’ll probably be okay, or that the paramedics will be yell at you. They are there to help. They just want to fix your friend. They won’t yell at you, and you’ll certainly feel much better with your friend safe in hospital.

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

Study Tips

With assignment time just around the corner, I thought this would be a good time to share my study tips with everyone!

COLOURING CODING

This is so important! There are actual studies showing that you remember things better when you associate a colour with them, so colour code your notes! Write them with pretty gel pens, highlight them with the brightest colours you can find, stick them onto coloured note-cards. It will help, trust me.

STICKY NOTES

Tab your pages with sticky notes. It will make flipping through your notes for a subject way easier if you can just pick up at a tab rather then search through the whole book.

THE WRITE THING TO DO IS REWRITE!

Write, write and rewrite your notes. Keep two notebooks – one with your quickly scribbled class notes and then one that you transfer all your nice notes into. Then summarize your nice notes. Summarize it again. And again and again and again. Not only will it mean that if you are allowed to take a cheat sheet in you can fit everything on one page, it will help you remember things.

SLEEP

If you’re tired, you won’t be able to study as effectively. Don’t stay up late studying, because you won’t be able to remember it that well anyway.

TAKE BREAKS

Memorizing a big chunk of information is taxing, and if you immediately go onto the next big paragraph you’ll forget to first one. Take short ten minute breaks – have a drink or a snack, go for a walk around the block, whatever clears your head, and then return.

KEEP A TO-DO LIST

If you try and remember everything you have to do off the top of your head, you’ll forget something. I can guarantee it. Writing it down means you’ll remember to do it, and you get the satisfying feeling of crossing it off the list.

DON’T CRAM LAST MINUTE

The best time to cram revise is the night before an exam or test – not the morning of it! Try your best to avoid it, and instead spend the morning of your test doing something calming.

MUSIC

While you’re studying, most people like to listen to music. And in most cases, it’s great! It keeps you focused and on task and you can set your study times to the songs. However, in some cases it can be less then beneficial. Your brain can often wander to trying to sing the song or remember the lyrics or learn them if it’s a new song, and when it’s too loud it can be distracting. So when listening to music try to make sure it’s:

  1. Quiet
  2. Lyric-less or at least one that you know the lyrics to
  3. Calming

I hope this helped you and I wish you all the luck with your tests/exams/assignments!

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)

Cold and Flu Season

As many of us are probably unfortunately aware of, it’s cold and flu season right now. I just got over a particular nasty cold and my brother and mum both had a terrible bout of flu last week. I decided it was definitely time I told you guys how to take care of yourself when you’re struck down with one of these nasty viruses.

FLUIDS

You’ve probably heard this thousands of times, but you need lots and lots of fluids. You need to stay hydrated, and it will flush the cold out of your system. Water is obviously best, but some occasional soft drink don’t hurt for a little bit of energy, and for when you have a sore throat a hot Toddy is the way to go.

Sounds weird, I know, but this very English remedy for a sore throat works wonders. If you’re of age, you can even add a little whiskey to it.

What you need:

-English breakfast tea
-Honey
-Lemon

What to do:

Brew yourself your tea, adding honey instead of sugar and a good squirt of lemon. You can add milk if you want but I’d recommend against it.

FLU SHOT

Everyone hates getting shots, I know, but this really does help. If someone in your family has the flu you’re a lot less likely to get it. Just remember to make sure you’ve got a couple of days to recover from it though – injections work by giving you a mild dose of the virus so your body builds antibodies, but it can leave you feeling a little miserable for a couple of days.

REST

Even though you might not want to, the most important thing is that you rest. Even a mild cold will benefit from it – one day off school or work will mean the cold is gone much more quickly then if you try and soldier through it.

LOOKING AFTER YOUR SKIN

The worst thing that often happens is as soon as you get rid of your cold, you get terribly chapped lips from it. While you might want to just keep licking them, don’t! It will dry out much faster that way. Keep a tube of chapstick on you at all times and keep reapplying. At night, put zinc and castor oil cream on it. This can be found in your health aisle along with baby rash power. It’s designed for nappy rash, but because it’s designed for babies it’s super gentle on your already sore skin. As soon as your lips stop stinging, put vitamin E cream on them.

You can partially prevent chapped lips and sore noses with aloe vera tissues as well. While slightly more expensive, they’re definitely worth the investment.

So take care of yourself! Remember to keep taking fluids, get lots of rest and take care of your skin, and hopefully you’ll have a slightly more enjoyable flu season.

(This post was written before changes to my blog, when all posts where categorized by “sparks”. Any and all references to Katy/Everyday/Travelling/Life Sparks or Sparkszine are as a result of this)