A fireside chat with Ula Blocksage, Founder of d'still

A fireside chat with Ula Blocksage, Founder of d'still

"I only began speaking openly about my experiences with anxiety when I came to understand that my feelings of anxiety would always stem from projecting myself too far into the future."

- Ula Blocksage, d'still founder

With everything that has being going on in the world over the last 18 months, many more people are experiencing anxiety.
As someone who has spoken openly about anxiety, would you mind sharing your journey with us and when you got to a point where you started to look for ways in which to manage it?

Absolutely!! So, I began experiencing feelings associated with anxiety at 19 when I started my first year of University. At the time, I had no idea what it was, all I can remember is having what I can now refer to as a panic attack, a couple of days before an essay was due or in those moments before beginning an exam.
My solar plexus would tighten, my heart would begin to race, my breathing became shallow and an overall feeling of stress and unease would take over my whole body. At the time, my way of coping was to find a spot to lay down on the floor, usually outside on the grass. The pain in my solar plexus was so intense that sitting upright literally took my breath away, so laying down seemed like the only option. Little did I know at the time that I was already beginning to truly listen to myself and my bodily needs, albeit amidst a panic attack.

Now, fast-forward some 13 years and I rarely have bouts of anxiety. I put it down to the fact that I have designed a life of myself that allows me to engage with nature; our greatest teacher and healer, on a daily basis.

Another important step in my journey to managing anxiety was becoming familiar with my triggers. If I am ever about to enter into a situation in which my anxiety may be triggered, I always do my best to feel as bodily and as mentally prepared as possible.

I do nice things for myself, remind myself of how far I have come on this journey called life, take some deep breaths, practice gratitude and being present… these are all practices I draw upon to keep me feeling good and aligned with life.

Anxiety can affect people in many different ways, so there is unfortunately no one size fits all in coping with it. If you are an individual that finds tuning into the self difficult sometimes, the practice of yoga, swimming, running or playing a sport is the perfect segway to get you out of your mind and into your body. We rarely think about that long to-do list whilst we are swimming in the sea or during a yoga sequence… we simply focus on ourselves, the breath and our movements, which is the perfect recipe for stepping out of the mind and into listening to the body.
Although in recent years the conversation and understanding around anxiety has opened up, many still feel hesitant to share what they are going through.
It requires great strength to be open about what feels like such a personal and vulnerable experience.
When did you find this strength and decide to speak openly about what you were going through, and do you feel that sharing your own experience has been helpful?

Anxiety is still very much a misunderstood feeling. I find it baffling that it is still such a closed subject, when so much of the population have experienced it or will do at some point in their lifetime.
I have had people gasp in disbelief that I have anxiety, as though it is some horrible affliction that needs to be sorted by a doctor or instances when someone has said to me “oh, you don’t have anxiety” whilst waiving their hand dismissively. It is responses like this that make it hard for other to speak up.

Anxiety can at times be completely debilitating, and there are times in which speaking to a doctor is very necessary, but telling someone you know them better than they know themselves is rarely ever helpful.

I only began speaking openly about my experiences with anxiety when I came to understand that my feelings of anxiety would always stem from projecting myself too far into the future. I would worry about the things I have no control over, the situations in which I had yet to live, the moments I had yet to experience… In overanalysing the future, worried about the outcome I had no control over, what if this and what if that, I was literally overloading my mind and body and the result was a super worried, anxious, stressed and nervous Ula.

This brings me back to the importance of practicing presence; when we are present we cannot be too focused on the future as it is the present moment which requires our time. All we have is this moment, right here and now, not yesterday, not tomorrow… just today. Speaking about it with others has really helped me on my journey. It has deepened my understanding of my own experiences and has also helped others find the confidence to speak about it openly too.

"Carving out time in my day to go for a swim in the sea, a walk in nature, look after my skin and body and time to sit quietly with a cup of tea are essential activities and forms of self-care that I practice daily to help me avoid burnout."

The lexicon of ‘self-care’ has increasingly expanded in recent years – what does the term mean to you?

For me self-care is essentially tuning-in and truly listening to ourselves and what we need as individuals. In the beauty industry the term ‘self-care’ has been used on many an occasion to accompany an image of someone relaxing in a bubble bath, facemask applied and a novel in hand… and although yes, this image is indeed incredibly appealing to most, self-care can take many other forms; such as cooking yourself a nourishing meal, curling up on the couch and watching a film with a tasty bar of chocolate and a glass of wine.

It could also mean journaling, visiting family, going for a walk, getting an early nights sleep, laying on the ground in the middle of a field, swimming in the sea or making a simple cup of tea. Self-care is the practice of deep self-listening followed by action. It is when we truly listen to ourselves that we begin to feel whole and at one with life.

We love following you and d’still on your wonderful social accounts, it is a great source of inspiration. What are some things we can do to become more mindful and bring stillness into our every day?

Thank you for the lovely words, you are so very sweet. To be honest, I have always found the word mindful or the term mindfulness to be rather odd. For me mindfulness involves stepping out of the mind and into the body, being present in the moment and progressing towards a more awakened state of being… less thought, more presence, less doing, more being.

For me practicing presence more often than not starts with stillness; a slowing down of thought, through breathing and tapping into the senses. The body begins to relax and the mind will bring up thoughts and images as you practice and that is normal. I just accept them and then let them go and continue to breathe and be and breathe and be.

Living in this hyper connected 21st century world can be very overwhelming at times, so I feel it is truly important to take these moments for yourself each day. If my brain is really not switching off I find a good old jump in the sea in the south of England does the trick every time. The water is usually so cold that you cannot help but slip into the practice of practicing presence... all you can do is focus on your breathing, splash around in the beautiful waters, whilst smiling to yourself at the achievement.

Hastings looks like such a beautiful and balanced place to live. Did you ever crave the hustle and bustle of a larger city, or have your always felt more at home in a quieter environment?

I consider myself to be incredibly lucky having travelled to and lived in many different places, both during my childhood and into my adult life. I have lived in the United Kingdom, Australia and France, in the outback, the rainforest, the suburbs, by the beach and also in big cities.

Prior to moving back to the UK at the end of 2019 I lived and worked in Paris for almost 7 years; a time I thoroughly enjoyed but am now so happy to be living a quieter life by the sea in the south of England. I have always found myself drawn to living close to natural environments, I generally feel more centred and aligned to who I am deep down.

Hastings is a magical place to live, it is incredibly beautiful and there is so much going on in this little seaside town that I no longer crave the hustle and bustle of the larger city as I used to. I enjoy visiting them, but am always so happy to come back to my home by the sea. 

We are so happy to be witnessing d’still’s growing success. As an entrepreneur I know what it is like when we put too much pressure on ourselves to achieve certain goals, or feel overwhelmed by juggling multiple projects at the same time.
How do you find balance and avoid burn-out amid this rollercoaster that is entrepreneurship?

It has taken me a long time to truly accept that nothing gets done well when we are multitasking. I used to juggle many things all at once, try and fit this small task in whist waiting for this or that to be finished… but the truth is that if we slow down, take a step back and organise ourselves to do one thing at a time and to do that one thing well, then that feeling of overwhelm is a lot less prevalent. Having said this, I am all too familiar with needing to do a million tasks at once, but when I am on the brink of freak out / burn out / overload I have a few things I turn to, to keep me feeling aligned and moving forward.

I often find myself repeating the Louise Hay affirmation “I have all the time I need”, this one is great for when I have an impossibly tight deadline and a thousand things to do in an hour. I just stop for a moment, take a couple of deep breaths and repeat the affirmation aloud, until a smile pops up on my face.

Aside from that, carving out time in my day to go for a swim in the sea, a walk in nature, look after my skin and body and time to sit quietly with a cup of tea are essential activities and forms of self-care that I practice daily to help me avoid burnout.

Can you talk us through how you incorporate your high-performing d’still products to help centre yourself throughout the day.

Our high-performance products have been formulated to have a truly visible effect on the complexion. We all love skincare that works, but for me the experience had to go deeper than this.

For those of you who are familiar with d’still, you will be aware that through everything we do we aim to infuse a call to slow down, breath deep and encourage a deeper harmony between the skin, the self and nature. All of our products have a real sensorial and aromatic nature to them that when applied aim to evoke a moment of stillness in your day. The natural scent of each of our formulas are incredibly relaxing and grounding and each ritual has been designed to help you reconnect.

I start and end each day with both our Calming Cleansing Balm to cleanse, calm and treat the skin and then our Rejuvenating Botanical Serum to nourish, protect and feed my complexion with a plethora of pro-age benefits. I always make sure to take time to massage my skin, practice mirror work and breath in the healing, aromatic compounds of each formula.

Once to twice a week I apply our Brightening Radiance Mask to resurface, brighten and revive my skin. We designed this formula to be a powdered mask to encourage our customers to take their time and be present in the moment whilst making the desired mask consistency and applying it to their skin.

The entire ritual is beautiful and the scent of the products often linger on the skin for hours following the ritual, which in itself serves as a little reminder to take it slow and practice presence.

Thank you so much dearest Ula for chatting to us about this important topic and for giving us such wonderful tips and inspiration to bring calm into our mind, body and days. 

Follow Ula on instagram for the most inspiring, beautiful and relaxing content, including wild swimming on the coast of England, foraging gorgeous batches of hawthorn, rosehip and blackberries and turning some into the most delicious looking wine, as well as all the self-care inspiration: @ulablocksage

Discover and shop her beautiful and carefully formulated award-winning skincare range d'still here