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Best essential oils for motivation

May 3, 2020
essential oils for motivation

I don’t know about you, but some days my motivation is sky high and I feel I can take on the world, and on others, every little thing is a struggle. Whilst, I do think this is natural (we can’t maintain working at a fast pace 365 days a year); there are certain things I do to raise my energy on days when I feel a bit flat. I use essential oils for motivation; using them to kick start my day and upping my productivity levels.

How essential oils work

Essential oils work through our olfatic system, the part of our body responsible for our sense of smell. Our sense of smell evokes memories and feelings. It also triggers our emotions and can really impact our mood. There’s been lots of scientific research on the power of essential oils and how they can help with both our physical and mental wellbeing. This is what makes them such a great item to have in our self-care tool kit.

Creating good habits

A lot of our lives are built around routines and rituals. We start the day with a tea or coffee looking for that caffeine fix to get our brains into gear. We walk to the station, get into our car without really thinking too much and spend most of our day operating on auto-pilot. The current situation with COVID-19 means a lot of our routines and rituals have been thrown up in the air. We can’t operate on autopilot at the moment – and that’s exhausting. So please be gentle with yourself if you’re not firing on all cylinders right now. However, this is also giving us the opportunity to reset some of our old patterns and get into new habits because we’re being forced to think about what we’re doing.

Starting the day with an essential oil blend

I start my day thinking about the mood I’ve woken up in and how I want to either maintain it or improve it. If I’m feeling a bit down, I’ll think of an essential oil blend to help raise my spirits. If I’m feeling tired and sluggish (also occasionally hungover…) then I use oils to make me feel more alive. I set my intentions for the day: do I want to feel relaxed or do I want to be motivated? What do I want to achieve?

I either put my essential oils into a diffuser or I light a candle infused with oils. You can also make an essential oil blend into a little bottle mixed with a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil, almond oil or even olive oil will work too) and add to your pulse points so you can carry it around with you.

Essential oils for motivation

There are lots of reasons why your motivation might need a boost: you might be tired, feeling down or just lower energy than usual. Let’s be honest, there are also some tasks that just aren’t that exciting: tax returns for one…

Best essential oils for motivation when you’re tired include:

  • peppermint
  • sweet orange
  • spearmint
  • rosemary
  • lemon

Personally, I like rosemary and peppermint together and find it really uplifting to start the day.

Best essential oils for focus and mental clarity are:

  • pine
  • eucalyptus
  • black pepper
  • lemongrass
  • sage
  • petitgrain

I love pine and eucalyptus first thing in the morning and it gives me such a boost. I really associate it with getting things done.

Lemongrass and black pepper are a great combination for people moving on from old situations and will help you focus on what’s coming ahead.

Best essential oils for lifting your spirits

Essential oils from citrus fruits are great for helping to lift your spirits. They’re the first oils I turn to when I’m just feeling a bit below par. I mix sweet orange and bergamot for a boosting blend. I also really love grapefruit.

How to blend essential oils

You don’t need to be an aromatherapist to blend essential oils. As a general rule of thumb, oils from the same family work together. Citrus oils pretty much work with anything. You also don’t need to always have a blend – sometimes it helps to make one scent too over powering – but focus on how you want to feel and choose an oil to support that intention.

wellbeing

Essential oils to help with stress

April 7, 2020
essential oils help with stress

We all go through stressful periods: relationships, work, home, all come with their ups and downs – and part of the human experience is to learn how to navigate the rough with the smooth. Right now though, the coronavirus situation means we’re all collectively experiencing stress, admittedly with varying degrees. For some this, is living through one of the most challenging periods of their lives, but for many of us, it’s recognising that we’re living with continual underlying feelings of discomfort and uncertainty.

Stress manifests itself in physical ailments or mental symptoms, or both. Since the onset of the coronavirus situation, I’ve experienced tremors, headaches and brain fog. I’ve had to really think about my stress levels and put measures in place to help ease them.

So what can we do to alleviate stress?

One of the best things we can do (in my non-medical opinion) is recognise life is really tough now. We’re all grappling with a very different way of living and worries for our loved ones. We don’t know when or how this is going to end. This is bringing up lots of emotions and our stress levels are higher as a consequence. We all have various coping mechanisms and some people will be able to deal with this better than others. However, if you can, try to think about self-care and how best to look after yourself.

Above all though, be kind to yourself and those around you.

How essential oils help with stress

We’re all aware of the power of music and how listening to a song on the radio can transport you back to a different time in your life. Blondie will always remind me of long car journeys to the south of France listening to it over and over again because my parents only had one cassette tape and it was the 70s.

Our ability to smell is linked to our limbic system, which triggers emotions and evokes memories. The sweet sticky scent of suncream will always remind me of holidays. Dew of the first days of spring. And cinnamon of Christmas time. This is why certain smells trigger emotions in us, which is where essential oils come in.

Essential oils help with stress because they influence our emotions and our mood. They can lift us up, energise us and equally help us to relax, all through the power of smell.

Stress can make you very tired, and where possible then I would suggest leaning into your body and resting. However, that’s not possible for everyone. I’m still working full time, I have a child and I need something to help me focus during the day. Essential oils can revive us, as well as calm us down.

Best way to use essential oils

To build up a collection of essential oils is expensive and most people right now will be experiencing some sort of financial hit so I’d suggest buying just one or two. You don’t need several. Just look for pure grade essential oils. Tisserand, Absolute Aromas are brands that can either be bought directly, from a health food shop online or another big retailer.

Use one or two in a diffuser if you have one, add a few drops to a bath, mix with a carrier oil (you can use olive oil) and massaging into your skin or add a few drops with water into a spray bottle and spritzing yourself and the air around you. Remember with essential oils that a little goes a long way.

Best essential oils to help with stress

Below are some suggestions of essential oils that are known to alleviate stress – some will help revive you and bring around feelings of joy. Others will help you sleep better at night when you might be struggling to switch off. I’ve also included oils that are good for day and night. Most oils are fairly versatile.

Keep well.

Essential oils to help lower your stress levels during the day

Scent from citrus fruits

Any ‘zesty’ essential oils such as bergamot, lemon, mandarin, orange and grapefruit are all great at lifting your mood and making you feel more positive about life. Citrus fruits tend to be a little bit cheaper so are a good buy. I prefer to use these first thing in the morning to set me up for the day.

Rosemary

Rosemary has a reviving effect, which is useful for people feeling overwhelmed by tiredness or stress and great to use during the day.

Patchouli

Patchouli is a natural anti-depressant and is useful for treating exhaustion, stress and anxiety.

Basil

Basil is good for clearing the air and refreshes the mind. It helps to calm anxiety and revives the body combatting exhaustion, anxiety and depression.

Essential oils to help you switch off at night

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most versatile of essential oils. It helps alleviate stress, reduce anxiety and help with sleep. Add a few drops to a spray bottle with water and spray on your pillow and bed sheets for a restful night’s sleep.

Ylang ylang

Ylang ylang helps ease feelings of anxiety and will help you feel calmer overall. It’s also the base for Chanel no 5.

Sandalwood

Sandalwood has a restorative effect on our emotions helping to dispel anxiety and lift depression. It’s a good sleep aid and can help reignite a passion for life. Sandalwood is endangered so check that any essential oils you use are from a sustainable source.

Clary sage

Clary sage is great for moods. It lifts feelings of depression, calms nerves and creates a sense of peace.

Vetiver

Vertiver is from a grass native to India and works on an emotional level helping people feeling distressed or panicky. It’s a natural sedative so helps promote relaxation and restful sleep.

Marjoram

Marjoram is a gentle sedative that is good for dealing with anxiety, reducing insomnia and helping with a restful sleep.

Good for day and night

Frankincense

Frankincense is really good for lifting spirits, increasing energy and focus. It’s ideal when feeling stressed, overwhelmed and overtired, which is me about 90% of the time…

Rose

Rose is the scent of love and creates a sense of relaxed wellbeing, taking the edge of stress-related conditions.

Geranium

Geranium is both calming and uplifting, making it a really good oil to help ease anxiety and is also said to reduce feelings of restlessness. It’s actually one of my favourite oils. I think it has a really gentle scent, which leaves you with a feeling of gentleness – much needed at the moment.

wellbeing

What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

July 28, 2019
What is resilience (and why do you need it)?

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to be able to cope with or navigate your way through difficulties and crisis.

It essentially means you’re able to either bounce after a crisis or adapt to new circumstances.

Resilient people are able to understand what their body and mental state need and put in processes or modify their behaviour accordingly.

Why is resilience so important?

It’s a fact of life that we’ll all experience setbacks and challenges in life.

Whilst it’s true, some people will have more difficulties due to their circumstances of birth; it’s impossible to go through life without some form of hardship.

The loss of loved ones, relationship struggles, ill health and financial issues are all common themes we’ll probably all experience at some point.

Being resilient doesn’t make us impervious to stress or hurt. It just means we’re more able to cope, in spite of challenges that may be thrown our way.

It’s a sign of emotional strength.

Can you become more resilient?

The good news is resilience is something you can build.

Ironically, the more difficulties you have, the more you can develop your abilities to be resilient. You start to understand your emotional needs and put coping strategies in place.

I come from baby boomer parents and one trait I sometimes see in that generation is their emotional intelligence isn’t hugely strong. They were born in post-war years to people who had lived through horrific events and as a result a lot went unsaid.

If I had an emotional problem, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. No one would have tried to help me or come to my rescue. They just didn’t understand.

I sometimes felt a bit envious of people whose parents would drop everything to give them emotional support and take care of them.

But now I look back, I realise that it made me very self-sufficient. On the flip side though, I struggle to ask for help when I need it and find it hard to show vulnerability.

I also feel my experience is quite common in people of my age and I see similar traits in my peers.

I think it’s only in recent years we’re starting to develop the language to talk about our emotions and understand our feelings.

Although the term ‘self-care’ is sometimes mocked, essentially it is the act of understanding our needs and putting that support in place. Even when it does mean opening up and asking for help.

7 ways to build resilience

So how can you build resilience to help you through difficult times?

  1. Remember that a crisis is not forever even though it may feel like it at the time. Life ebbs and flows and we have hard times as well as good.
  2. Change is part of life. There are 2 types of change: change that happens to us; and change we create for ourselves. Change that happens to us is harder to navigate because it can make us feel that we’re not in control of our own lives. Accept there are sometimes events and issues completely out of our control and consider what you are able to change yourself.
  3. Look for opportunities for self-development. Difficult times help us grow and can make us more empathetic. It’s worth reflecting on challenging situations once you have some distance and thinking about what we learnt or how the experience may have changed us.
  4. Understand that this is part of human experience – not just about you. I had my fair share of shitty times growing up and it knocked my self-esteem and made me feel powerless. I now realise I wasn’t singled out by the universe for some special negative attention; it’s just one part of my history and not my whole life.
  5. Try to keep things in perspective where you can and remember everything is relative. However, I do also think it’s important to feel your feelings and just because one person sailed through a similar situation doesn’t mean you should to. Our ability to cope with challenges is dependent on how we’re feeling at that moment and what else is going on in life. It is worth though trying to remind yourself that this won’t be forever.
  6. Be positive (where you can). Again, I’m not suggesting there’s always something to feel positive about – sometimes there really isn’t. Try to remember things will get better.
  7. Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. Yes, I know it’s an inspirational quote cliche – however, hear me out… Let’s be honest, so many of our problems can generally be put down to the actions and behaviours of other people. Try not to let them grind you down and remember you, my friend deserve better than this.
mind

Why we need to practice self-compassion

June 26, 2019
self-compassion and why you need to practice it

Ever ruminate over something you said, which you could have said better? Or beat yourself up over how you could have dealt with a situation differently? 

Do you tell yourself you should be further ahead than you are? Be more confident/quick-witted/have the body of a 20 year-old when in reality you’re 44?* 

*I appreciate the last one might just be me… 

Well, it sounds like you need to practice self-compassion. 

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is the practice of extending compassion and kindness to yourself in instances of perceived inadequacies, failure or general suffering. 

It’s talking to yourself kindly and being more mindful of your inner voice.

Self-compassion means talking to ourselves in a way that we would to a friend.

Are you your own worst critic? 

There is absolutely no way I would talk to a friend in the same way, I talk to myself. It would be cruel, hurtful and I would have no friends left.

I’m not analysing their every move and criticising everything they do. I’m not listening to every word they say questioning whether or not they used the right terminology or phrasing. Neither am I listening to them talk about things that have gone wrong and thinking, well you cocked that up again…

But for some reason, we think its ok to beat ourselves up and give ourselves a really hard time. And it’s ridiculous.

Understanding the difference between bad decision making and being a bad person

There is a massive difference between making a bad decision and being a bad person.

I for one, have a tendency to confuse the two. I can literally take one bad incident, apply it to the whole of my life and tell myself I have a character defect.

Yet if my friend had made a mistake, I wouldn’t automatically think, you’re a terrible person who sucks at life. You know the whole person and all their good points. You understand they’re human and things happen. In those instances, I want to make my friend feel better and reassure them they’re doing ok.

However, I can spend hours ruminating over my choice of words and criticising myself for getting them wrong. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

Self-compassion doesn’t mean overlooking your mistakes and not taking responsibility for things. It’s not a way of shrugging your shoulders and acting like things haven’t happened or ignoring someone’s feelings. It means recognising those mistakes, dealing with them, then building a big old bridge and getting over it.

Learn to love yourself

If you can't love yourself, how in the hell can love somebody else?
Wise words from Rupaul

I remember in my single days reading a lot about the importance of loving yourself before getting into a relationship and it’s so true. 

The reality is if you treat yourself like sh*t; then how can you expect someone else to come along and treat you better? You’re telling yourself continually that you don’t deserve love.

This is why self-compassion is so important. 

It’s not just romantic relationships but all areas of life: family, friendships, work etc.

I sometimes look back at things that have happened in my life and think why did you let that happen? I had no idea what boundaries were, never mind know how to set them.

However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself when looking back at the past. I didn’t have the tools then to be able to deal with certain situations, and to a degree, we need these things to happen to in order to grow. 

So how do you start practising self-compassion?

  • Recognise in yourself that you deserve better.
  • Think of areas or issues that you give yourself a hard time over and write down how you would approach the same situation with a friend. Would you use the same language? Would you be kinder?
  • Change your inner voice to the one you would use to speak to a friend.
  • Appreciate your successes as well as situations that don’t go your way.
  • Remember, it’s not always about you… Didn’t get the job? It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible interviewee; it just means there was someone who was a better fit. Someone doesn’t like you as much as you like them? It doesn’t mean you’re a deeply unattractive person; they just don’t feel the same way and that’s ok. It happens and it’s not personal.
  • Appreciate that change is incremental. We don’t simply become better humans: we evolve and grow. Stop giving yourself such a hard time.

It’s all about the journey, not the destination

I often think we have strong ideas on the type of person we’d like to be or think we should be and then get cross with ourselves when we fail those expectations.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. So don’t give yourself a hard time because you’re not yet the perfect you. Be kind, pick yourself up and start again.

Tomorrow is a new day.


self-care

What is self-care and why do you need it?

June 18, 2019
What is self-care and why do you need it?

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of looking after yourself to protect and/or improve your physical and mental health.

It means ensuring that we’re aware of and are actively taking care of our needs.

It’s impossible to go through life without stress or issues that we need to deal with. We all have to navigate work, family and relationship challenges that are sometimes completely out of our control.

Self-care is the act of understanding that these things have an impact so we can better take care of ourselves.

Why you need to practice self-care

Self-care sounds very simple in theory, however, the reality is that it’s often something we overlook. We can be so busy doing things for other people, we forget about looking after ourselves too.

Yet, in order to be able to do our jobs properly and care for others, we need to be in a good physical and emotional state. We need energy and balanced emotions; otherwise, it’s easy to feel frazzled, snappy or simply run down.

The emergency drill on planes always tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping someone else. I’ve never really understood this; thinking my first reaction would be to save my child (and then remove my high heeled shoes to go down the big slide – joke). But the reality is, you can’t save anyone, if you can’t breathe. You need to equip yourself to make sure you can look after everyone else.

I appreciate that’s quite a bleak example; however, hopefully the message behind it makes sense. You have to look after yourself to be the best for everyone else.

you can’t pour from an empty cup

Self-care and understanding what your mind and body needs means you can protect and preserve yourself. Fundamentally, it will give you more energy and help you feel better able to deal with challenges as they come along. Practising self-care doesn’t make us selfish; we’re just recognising we have needs too.

When we don’t take care of ourselves, we’re more likely to feel fatigued and get physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomach issues.

Self-care helps us to create that balance.

How to start a self-care routine? Carry out a self-care audit

The best way to start a self-care routine is to recognise you need to think about yourself too amongst, everything else that’s happening in your life.

We all have different issues happening at different times in our lives so it makes sense that what we need from a self-care routine will be unique to all of us.

Try to reflect on where you are currently. Ask yourself questions about how you’re feeling. Are you tired? Are your emotions hard to deal with? Do you think you’re suffering with signs of stress such as feeling teary, snappy or down?

I created this self-care audit template so you can work through it and see what areas you could focus on. All you need to do is reflect on some of the questions and see if there are some simple changes or actions you can take to look after yourself better.

Often we don’t see the toll that stress or life challenges are taking on us until it’s too late, so identifying potential triggers helps us put self-care strategies in place. As a doctor would say: prevention is better than cure.

It’s also important to remember, your self-care routine will need to adapt and change depending on what else is going on in your life so check in with yourself regularly.

20 simple self-care ideas

quick and easy self-care ideas
  1. Practice self-compassion and talk to yourself as though you’re a friend and not a critic.
  2. Run a bath. Yes, I know a hot bath with candles is a self-care cliche. However, it’s a great way to take 20 minutes out for yourself and rest your muscles.
  3. Remember done is better than perfect. Give yourself a break.
  4. Get into good sleep patterns.
  5. Create and reinforce boundaries.
  6. Take time out for yourself. Go to a yoga class, read a book – anything that’s just for you.
  7. Drink more water.
  8. Go for a walk. Fresh air and exercise are always beneficial.
  9. Practice mindfulness which has proven benefits on improving mental health. Daily meditation will help with stress relief and calming an overactive mind. Try Andrew Johnson or the Headspace App.
  10. Talk about your feelings and try not to let things build up. I appreciate this is easier said than done so think about journaling and write about your feelings instead.
  11. Are you eating properly? My diet turns to custard when I get busy. I don’t have the time to buy food, never mind cook it.. Try to plan in advance with a few frozen meals so you have something nutritious to eat when time is minimal.
  12. Choose a couple of things each day to tick off your to do list. There’s only so much you can do in a day so try to break down tasks, rather than feeling a failure for not achieving the unachievable.
  13. Have a digital detox. Ever fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and wonder what you’re doing with your life? Yes, me too. Think about switching off your phone once a week or after 8pm.
  14. Prepare in advance. There is a saying that says: ‘a Sunday well spent, brings a week of content’ and it’s true. I find if I plan for my week ahead, then life runs a lot smoother.
  15. Learn to say no. I often find myself saying yes to things out loud even though I’m saying no in my head, which is utterly ridiculous. It’s a hard habit to shake but an important one.
  16. Keep a gratitude diary. I feel I bang on about my gratitude practice a lot but it’s one of the easiest ways to change your neural pathways and help you feel more positive about life.
  17. Focus on your own personal growth. It’s hard to go through life without picking up some emotional baggage. It’s good to focus on your own self-development and become more self-aware as a result.
  18. Put yourself first. If you’re tired and you don’t want to go to something, then don’t go. You’re allowed to rest and recuperate.
  19. Celebrate your successes. I’m great at beating myself up when I feel I’ve messed up and terrible at congratulating myself when I’ve done well.
  20. And lastly, breathe. Even focusing on your breath for a minute will help calm your thinking.

mind

How to practice gratitude

May 6, 2019
how to practice gratitude

Gratitude practice changed my life

I’ve previously about how gratitude practice changed my life. It turned me from perpetually being a ‘grey sky thinker’ to seeing the positives in life.

I had gone through life feeling like the odds were stacked against me. 

Good fortune and luck were things that happened to other people. I was great at seeing the negatives in any situation which helped back up my theory (let’s face it, none of us like to be wrong…). My train was 2 minutes late: this always happen to me. Didn’t get the call for a job interview: that’s just typical. 

In pretty much any situation, I found it easy to dissect what was wrong about it, I just struggled with thinking what was right.

I first learnt about gratitude after reading the Secret and falling down a Rhonda Byrne / self-help book rabbit hole. I decided to give it a whirl for a few weeks and here I am 7 years later with my cup still half full.

For me, the greatest change has been to stop sweating the small stuff and to notice the positives more. I feel happy when I’m running late and my train is equally late too. I look for opportunities in situations, rather than being a naysayer and I’m much more in control of my feelings instead of being led by them. 

However, the main benefit is, I feel much happier overall.

Now, that’s not to say I find positives in every situation. When my Dad died very suddenly, I can’t say I found anything to feel particularly grateful about. I could barely function. However, a few years on, I can see the experience has changed me for the better. I have a deeper level of empathy and understanding towards other people, which just didn’t exist before. Obviously, I wish my Dad dying had never happened – but I guess as it did, I’m grateful I learnt something along the way.

What is a gratitude practice?

Gratitude practice involves regularly paying attention to the good around us, such as being around nature, meeting friends and time spent with family. 

It’s looking out for those small moments and feeling grateful for them. The cheery smile from a stranger or enjoying a really nice meal. 

Happiness is a feeling we can cultivate. So the more regularly we practice feeling grateful, the more aware we become of the good around us and the happier we feel.

Most of us take our lives for granted (a roof over our head, regular access to food, good health) and we forget to recognise it. Gratitude helps us remember this and all the other positives in life.

The science behind gratitude

There is a lot of science behind practising gratitude and the benefits it brings to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Researchers have found it helps with sleep, moods and overall physical health. 

There is also evidence that it retrains our neural pathways in the brain. Our neural pathways carry messages to and from the brain and are created by learnt behaviour so most of the time we don’t know we’re doing it. They’re not just physical responses, but emotional and behavioural too. 

Think about when you cross the road. In my case, I’m generally listening to music or a podcast and am pretty much in a world of my own. However, I still know to press the button and wait for the green man before I cross. I’m not diving into the road because I’ve done this task so many times my brain knows what to do.

Ever felt anxious when you know you’re going to have to navigate a tricky conversation? That’s because your brain knows this might result in conflict and so has sent that message to the brain and your emotions are heightened.

In the same way, if you’re always noticing negative events and situations, then your brain starts will send messages as soon as these things take place so you’re more aware of them. 

By focusing on feeling grateful when good things happen, then your neural pathways will send happier messages and you’ll be more aware of the positives in life instead. 

4 ways to practice gratitude

Here are 4 ways, I practice gratitude.

1. I follow a process I learnt by reading ‘the Magic’ and keep a gratitude journal where I write out 10 things I feel grateful for and the reasons why. I then read it back and say ‘thank you’ 3 times.

2. I use an App called Gratitude Plus. This sets a daily reminder, which prompts me to fill it in. This is great for being on the go and I use it on my commute.

3. I try to pause throughout the day and feel grateful for small moments. 

4. I reflect on the day before I go to sleep and pick out things that happened which I feel grateful for. It takes seconds and is a really nice way to end the day.

Please note, I’ve included links to Amazon for books that I’ve read. I’m not not suggesting you use this store over another – it’s just to be helpful. 

wellbeing

How to stop being a victim and take responsibility for your own life

April 22, 2019
Stop being a victim and take responsibility for your own life

Stop being a victim

Confession time: I was the world’s biggest victim. I felt everything was stacked against me.

The reason why my relationships failed? That was down to my turbulent childhood and not having good role models. Why I never got promoted at work? That was because no one appreciated my efforts. If someone spoke down to me, well, that was because there was something about me that made them think it was ok. I didn’t come from money and had no safety net to fall back on so I couldn’t follow my dreams.

I felt life wasn’t fair.

Life isn’t fair

The truth is, life isn’t fair. Some people are born into exceptionally difficult circumstances. Sadly, the situation of our early years wrongly has a massive impact on our life chances. Our health: mental and physical can also be a lottery and completely outside of our control.

I’m not saying this to try and illustrate life can be much harder for other people so just suck it up. If someone had said this to me, I would have felt even more useless and misunderstood. Plus, there was truth to how I was feeling.

I’m using it to illustrate that we all will deal with issues: some people more than others. It’s what you do afterwards that really counts.

Please note, afterwards is a very long time so don’t use that to beat yourself up either.

Truth in your feelings

The truth is a lot of my feelings were valid.

It’s harder to understand what a healthy relationship is when you didn’t grow up around many of them. I had quite a black and white view: relationships are either good or bad and I didn’t really understand they require work.

I also had zero confidence so whilst people speaking down to me is absolutely their responsibility, I just didn’t know how to navigate it.

I had the self-awareness to realise these issues were the root cause of most of my problems.

What I didn’t realise was they were things I could change.

Changing the narrative in your head

Where I was going wrong was to use how I felt as the story of my life.

I would never do well because I lacked confidence. I was really good at identifying situations or events that backed up how I felt. However, I never reflected on when I’d done well.

The reality was that on paper, I was reasonably successful. I perhaps hadn’t fulfilled my full potential, but, I wasn’t doing too badly either. I just didn’t realise it.

I was letting my feelings dictate the course of my life by telling myself they were fact.

Take responsibility for your own life

I was a bit late to the party in realising the only person with responsibility for my life was me.

I started to stop searching for someone to come and look after me and decided to make myself happy instead.

The biggest and most simplest change I made was my gratitude practice. I’ve written about this in previous blogs and how it completely reframed my thinking. I stopped focusing so much on what was wrong with my life and saw what was good.

I also realised there were certain things I was telling myself that maybe weren’t true anymore. I’d always said I was bad at public speaking and so avoided it like the plague. I would always let other people take the lead at work and pull out of job interviews if they had presentations involved. I decided to stop saying no, and you know what.. it’s really not that bad. Yes, I still feel self-conscious but the narrative in my head has changed.

This made me realise there were more things I was hiding behind that were no longer the case.

I always think it’s important to think of change as a sliding scale involving small incremental steps.

We would never expect to run a marathon overnight without any training; yet we expect to become different people overnight and then have feelings of self-loathing when we don’t.

Change is gradual and often there is progress where we don’t even see it. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a journey.

I’m never going to be the world’s most confident person and that’s ok. I think about it far less and look at it when it’s an issue.

I also recognise the buck stops with me. I’m no longer waiting for someone to pluck me out of obscurity. I don’t need the external validation as much as I used to. Plus it’s up to me to manage my own life.

Sometimes it’s worth drawing a line in the sand to say, this was then, and this is now. The past is the past. It doesn’t determine your future.

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DIY natural bath salts and how to make them

April 10, 2019
DIY natural bath salts

I know it’s a self-care cliche but a bath always makes me feel better about life. It’s a moment of ‘me time’, allowing me to be fully present (rather than overthinking) and helps soak away some of the stresses of the day.

I used to love treating myself to really luxurious bath products. I felt it was a nice indulgence for someone with a busy life. If I’m also being really being honest, I liked the look of them in my bathroom too. Hello, working class aspirational roots…!

However, I started to question why they included so many chemicals, all the packaging and how good for me these products really were.

So for the last couple of years, I’ve made my own natural bath salts using only a few ingredients, essential oils and flower petals for that ultimate luxury bathing experience.

Not only does it feel great, this DIY natural bath salts is good for our health too. It’s completely chemical-free and uses only a handful of natural ingredients: Epsom salts, Himalayan salts and bicarbonate of soda. I add essential oils for an extra wellbeing boost and flower petals just because it makes the bath look so pretty. Homemade doesn’t need to look homemade after all. 

Epsom salts help boosts our body’s magnesium levels. We need magnesium for energy, regulating blood sugar levels and helping with healthy bones amongst much more. It’s also good for sleep, stress and reduces swelling and bloating. 

Himalayan salts are a detoxifier and help remove toxins from the body. They are also a natural mineral and work to counteract the electromagnetic energy we get from using technology. 

Bicarbonate of soda will make your skin silky smooth and also reduce any inflammation. 

I add essential oils  which add scent and have a host of different benefits depending on your needs. I tend to go for lavender to help with relaxation and sleep. 

These bath salts make great presents too.

How to make DIY natural bath salts

This is for lavender and rose petal bath salts. 

You will need:

  • 2 cups of Epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 cup of Himalayan salts
  • 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil
  • Dried rose petals (a small amount goes a long way)

The method:

Simply pour all the ingredients into a jar. I use a funnel for this. And then shake…

That’s it. Enjoy!

wellbeing

How to rise above it

April 5, 2019
How to rise above it

Do you know someone who is ‘challenging’? Do they actively try to put you down? Blank you? Or just generally make life unpleasant. Are there ways we can stop this from affecting us and learn how to rise above it?

I think we all come across people in our day to day lives whose behaviour doesn’t sit well with us. They’re the ones that seem to dislike you for no real reason or create conflict unnecessarily. I imagine most of us have experienced people who are difficult for no known reason or seem to want to make trouble.

It’s hard not to overthink these situations or let it affect your own sense of self by wondering if it’s something about you that enables people to behave badly. I’ve spent too much time either making excuses for someone’s behaviour or letting it affect my confidence. The fact is we are all accountable for our own behaviour and sometimes it’s just not ok.

Whilst I do think there are times we project our own insecurities on others, there are other situations where we need to remember: it’s not me, it’s you.

How best to handle toxic behaviour?

We all need boundaries and to learn how to recognise when they’re being overstepped. We don’t have to put ourselves in situations that makes us feel uncomfortable. If they’re friends or relatives and you feel the relationship is toxic, then I would suggest limiting contact or removing them from your life altogether. But what do you do if it’s a work colleague? Or a partner’s friend? Or someone that it’s just not that easy to avoid?

How do you rise above it?

Rising above it means you don’t let yourself be controlled by other people’s negative behaviours. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or are allowing bad behaviour (please note, I’m not suggesting this for harmful situations); it just means you are not letting someone else’s toxic behaviour affect you.

It’s important to remember that how someone behaves says much more about them, than you. You can’t control other people’s behaviour, you can only think about how you respond.

4 ways to rise above it

Sleep on a difficult situation. You may find that it matters to you less the following day, or that you are calmly able to say something.

Reduce interactions with negative people and increase them with positive people who make you feel good about yourself. Life’s too short to spend with people who make you feel miserable.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ever had a sleepless night replaying a scenario in your head where this time you had the wittiest comeback putting someone in their place? Yes, me too. The reality is, it doesn’t matter. Who cares who had the last word? It’s point-scoring and isn’t going to resolve anything.

Remember people who pick faults are usually doing it as a way to deflect attention from their own shortcomings. It’s a defense mechanism and really they should have the emotional intelligence to look at themselves. Try to ignore them and just focus on being the best version of you.

self-care

Self-care practices and how to implement them

March 26, 2019
self-care practices and how to implement them

What is self-care?

Self-care is the practice of ensuring we are looking after ourselves physically and emotionally. This helps us navigate through life easier.

Whilst the self-care phrase has been mocked for just being about candles and baths (both of which I love); it is fundamentally important to make sure we are giving ourselves what we need.

Stresses about our families, finances, work all play on our minds. Eating badly, sleeping badly, becoming dehydrated and not exercising enough affect our physical health.

So how can we put self-care practices in place?

Our lives fluctuate and so it’s important to think about what we need to help with the situations we are experiencing at that moment in time. We are all individuals and our experiences are different so it’s important our self-care practices reflect what we need. In a previous post, I put together a self-care audit template so you can work through areas to focus on.

It’s important to then think about what self-care practices we can put in place to help and how we can do this realistically. What self-care isn’t, is a stick to beat ourselves up with. For that reason, I would choose only a few practices to put in place at any one time.

What are good self-care practices?

Nutrition: I find the advice about nutrition overwhelming and busy lives can make it hard to eat well. I try to start the day with a smoothie (2/3rds green veg and/or beetroot and 1/3rd fruit) so I know I’m getting some vitamins. I buy frozen fruit to save time in the morning. I also find taking my lunch to work helps. It’s very hard to eat the perfect diet and our bodies all metabolise food differently. I would choose one thing to start with such as cutting down on takeaways and then take it from there.

Dealing with stress: stress is an inevitable part of life. However, it’s important to understand the physical and mental impact it has on us. Try to rest and yes, take a bath or light a candle. Think about a mindfulness practice and download an App such as Headspace or Andrew Johnson to help. Look at ways you can minimise what is causing you stress – although admittedly, sometimes it’s out of our control and we need to just be kind to ourselves.

Good sleep hygiene: sleep is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing. Going to bed at a regular time; switching off phones at least an hour before bed; avoiding alcohol and making your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary should all help.

Give yourself permission to focus on you: there is a saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’ and it’s so true. Sometimes we are so busy focusing on other people, we forget to take care of ourselves but being depleted means we can’t give either. Do something for yourself even if it’s just taking a short walk or sitting down with a coffee.

wellbeing

Retraining your neural pathways (and what that actually means)

March 5, 2019

What are neural pathways?

Our nervous system consists of neurons (nerve cells) that transmit nerve signals or messages to and from the brain. The path which this information travels along is called a neural pathway.

Our neural pathways are developed from childhood. As a baby, we learn to smile through our parents or caregivers smiling at us. We learn not to touch a hot pan from being burnt in the past. They help keep us safe and secure.

Our neural pathways aren’t just responsible for our physical responses but our emotional ones too. We develop habits through them: both positive and negative and they determine our responses to situations because of experiences in the past.

How do we retrain our neural pathways?

The brain is often described as a muscle and although biologically it’s not, it can be trained in a similar sort of way through repetition. This is in the same way as going to the gym or undertaking regular exercise.

So how exactly do you start?

The best place to start is to identify the patterns you want to change. This does take an element of self awareness and understanding patterns and behaviours you would like to create.

The next is to spend a decent amount of time practising the change you want to make. The perceived wisdom is it takes 66 days for a new habit to take effect and for your neural pathways to redevelop.

In the same way that it takes time for your body to change as a result of exercise, retraining neural pathways also doesn’t happen overnight. However, with time, you will see changes. I spent my 20s and some of my 30s feeling awkward and shy. I would clam up when I met new people but then laugh and joke with my friends. People thought I was standoffish and over the years I realised I was giving the wrong impression. I made a conscious decision to be friendly to new people. The more I did it, the easier it became. It’s now second nature to me.

Many of us go through life feeling like our confidence is holding us back and our previous life experiences have affected our future. Retraining our neural pathways gives us the opportunity to reset the balance. Yes, it takes practice but one that is potentially life-changing.

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10 benefits of Eucalyptus (and why you need this herb in your life)

February 21, 2019
benefits of eucalyptus

What is eucalyptus?

Eucalyptus is an evergreen plant native to Australia. It’s fast-growing and can be planted in the UK in a spot that gets full sunshine. There are a number of benefits of eucalyptus for your health and around the home. 

It’s a medicinal plant meaning that it can be used to help treat a number of symptoms including coughs and colds. You’ve probably tasted eucalyptus in cough sweets or in vapour rubs such as Vicks. 

In my opinion, it’s one of the most ‘essential’ of the essential oils because it can be used in so many different ways. 

How to use eucalyptus

One of the benefits of eucalyptus is its so multi-purpose.

It can be used in two forms: as an essential oil (the leaves are steam distilled) or you can use the actual plant itself. 

Here are some ideas for you to try

A eucalyptus shower

eucalyptus shower
A eucalyptus shower

I buy bunches from my local florist (they usually sell me some clippings for about a fiver), tie into a knot and hang above the shower head. It smells absolutely divine anyway, however, the steam helps release the eucalyptus scent and is like being in a spa. I also like seeing greenery in my bathroom.

Steaming to help ease coughs and colds

Suffering with a cough or a bunged up nose? Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a sink of hot water, putting a towel over your head and breathing in the steam to help clear your airwaves. 

I also add eucalyptus to my essential oil diffuser to help soothe any cold symptoms. 

A natural insect repellent

I’m one of those people who mosquitoes tend to love and I don’t know why. I’ve tried so many ideas over the years including eating my body weight in Marmite after reading it would help (please note, it doesn’t but it will make you very popular amongst backpackers). 

Eucalyptus plants are supposed to be a natural insect repellent, which is why I’m spending this weekend down my local garden centre. According to the RHS website, they should be planted in Spring / Summer and like a nice sunny spot

Also try diluting eucalyptus essential oil with witch hazel (you can buy witch hazel in health food shops, larger chemists, or online) into a spray bottle for a natural insect repellent. 

Where to buy eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is often used for greenery in flower arrangements so you should be able to buy clippings from your local flower shop. I’ve found it costs anything from £5-15 depending on the size of the bunch – but a fiver’s worth is enough for a eucalyptus shower.

I also think they look great in a vase on their own. 

I buy eucalyptus essential oil from Baldwin’s, an apocatherapist based in South-East London or from Tisserand (available online). 

As always with essential oils buy from a reputable supplier to make sure you’re buying a proper product (and not one mixed with cheaper ingredients). 

10 benefits of eucalyptus 

Eucalyptus has antiviral, anticatarrhal and antibacterial properties. It helps you breathe easier and clears any mucus from your chest. It can be used to treat symptoms of sinusitis, colds, and cough.

Use by putting a few drops on your pillow or pyjamas if you’re feeling bunged up and struggling to sleep at night to help ease congestion. 

It can be made into a salve for achy muscles. Eucalyptus also acts as pain relief and reduces inflammation. It can also be used for headaches by rubbing the temples. Tiger Balm is made from Eucalyptus. 

Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oils to coconut oil to create a quick and easy muscle rub. 

Eucalyptus has natural disinfecting properties. It can be used for cleaning wounds (always dilute first) as well as around the home.

Mix eucalyptus essential oils with water into a spray bottle and use as a natural disinfectant cleaning spray. 

Recreate a home spa and create a luxury bathing experience.

Put 1-2 cups of epsom salts (helps ease achy muscles), a tablespoon of carrier oil (such as sweet almond, coconut or jojoba oil) and a few drops of eucalyptus oils into a hot bath. Mix before getting in, then relax and enjoy. 

Research has found eucalyptus may help reduce anxiety and stress. A 2014 study found one of the properties of eucalyptus was effective in decreasing anxiety

Add a few drops of eucalyptus to an essential oil diffuser. 

There are a number of benefits of eucalyptus for our emotional health as well. It’s said to have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. 

Eucalyptus can help open up a room that feels a bit closed or needs brightening.  

Light a eucalyptus candle such as these ones from Etsy, or make your own with eucalyptus essential oils and soy wax. 

Eucalyptus helps us think clearer and brings about feelings of positivity and optimism.

Try adding a few drops of eucalyptus essential oils to distilled water into a spray bottle and create your own uplifting spray. 

It also rids us of trapped emotions and long term beliefs that no longer serve us.

Try adding a few drops to a carrier oil (sweet almond, jojoba or coconut oil) and massage your temples to release negative emotions. 

It’s also known as the ‘herb of protection’ helping to guard us from situations and people who may be harmful.

Mix with a carrier oil and rub on your pulse points for an extra confidence boost. 

The herb can be used as a tool for expanding your boundaries and moving forward confidently and without fear.

Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a carrier oil and rub into your body’s 6 pressure points: right behind your ears; place onto each side of your nostril; massage onto your shoulders; temples; hairline; and between your eyebrows and crown of your head for your 3rd eye.

Things to note

Essential oils should be diluted to stop them causing irritation to the skin. Also be mindful if using when pregnant or on a child.

I’ve also included some affiliate links to products I have bought in the past and can verify for. I’m not suggesting Amazon is the only place to buy from – this is just to help give you some ideas.

mind

The pre-mortem technique (and how I use it on my overthinking brain)

February 17, 2019
The pre-mortem technique and how I use it on my overthinking brain

I recently went on a leadership training course with work. Admittedly, we did one exercise on how to evacuate a village, but the rest of the time was spent on management skills and decision-making abilities. This is where I learnt the pre-mortem technique and realised how I could use it on my overthinking brain.

What is the pre-mortem technique?

A pre-mortem is opposite of a post-mortem – where you look to see what went wrong after the event. With a post-mortem you do it before. You take a scenario, pull it to pieces, write down everything that can go wrong, then choose the top 2 or 3 and put solutions in place.

For someone with overthinking, worrying tendencies like myself, the pre-mortem technique has helped me work through some of my negative thought processes. We (as in me and my family) have been thinking about moving house and the mere thought sent me into a tailspin of anxious thoughts. What if my son gets bullied at his new nursery (my son is 2)? What if we don’t like the area (we’ll still be in London..)? And even, what if there isn’t a Turkish grocer nearby (erm.. I’m not Turkish)?

I get annoyed with myself because moving to a new house is a privilege and I shouldn’t look for the negatives. Equally, the last time we did it, I found the move to a different area so much better. I end up feeling really frustrated thinking why I am like this?

Writing down my thoughts has really helped me understand what’s whirling around in my overthinking brain. Even though those thoughts may be somewhat irrational (Turkish greengrocer, anyone?), it’s good to address them head on.

I have found the pre-mortem technique useful, particularly when feeling overwhelmed. I always knew my brain worked at double speed, I just didn’t know how to separate my thoughts out and work through them one by one. Challenging my thoughts, understanding what’s going on and writing it all down has alleviated most of my worries. And I now feel positive about our plans to move.

wellbeing

Is technology making us less productive?

January 22, 2019

Is always being on affecting our productivity?

I got my first job in communications back in 2001. I worked hard, no doubt moaned about my long hours, but once I left work, that was it. I couldn’t physically do any more work. I couldn’t answer emails because I didn’t have WiFi at home and regardless, there wasn’t the technology to log in remotely. Our mobile phones only made phone calls and sent texts (no camera phones). The height of their ability was to download a polyphonic ringtone.

If I needed to remind myself to do something, I would ring my work voicemail and leave myself a message. I (probably) received about 20 emails a day. It was generally understood if it was outside office hours, you wouldn’t get a response until the following day at best. There was no way to reply. Our expectations were much lower back then.

I ripped out pages from a printed A-Z if I went to a party and didn’t want to take a bag. As a result, there were a few areas in London that were a bit sparce… I would ring a friend for directions if I got stuck. It was pretty commonplace for at least one person to be stood outside a noisy bar navigating a friend in.

Online shopping will never take off…

People started to mention the idea of buying clothes online. I scoffed at the idea saying how that would never work – of course, only thinking about my 20-something self and not how life changing it would be for people who are unable to leave the house or dedicate a day to trailing round the shops. Millennials, please note: it’s not just your generation that can be accused of lacking in self awareness..

The impact of technology

Fast forward over 15 years and technology has changed our lives.

We buy our groceries from our phone. It’s almost impossible to get lost as GPS can determine our exact location and the maps on our phones help us navigate to where we need to be. The postal system, which we all thought was going to die with email, has benefitted from online shopping and all the Amazon and Asos parcels sent to our offices and homes. We access news and culture regardless of location as long as we can get online. We can watch the latest films and even see theatre productions all without leaving our living rooms.

Social media – initially designed to help us keep in touch with friends and family – is now a viable career option with people ‘selling’ us lifestyles and promoting products. The term ‘influencer’ has become common parlance and changed the nature of advertising.

We run businesses from our phones; processing orders and promoting products and services. We email customers, clients, reach out to potential employers all through Apps and 4G connections.

Yet is technology making us less productive?

Great power involves great responsibility.

Franklin D Roosevelt

In the name of transparency, I should say I started writing this blog on the London Underground, typing away on my phone, whilst travelling to meet friends. I no longer work a 9-5 but have a flexible working arrangement so I can spend one day a week with my toddler. Technology on so many levels has massively changed my life.

However, I also feel the pull to dedicate more time to social media. Am I out there enough? Could I be doing more? As a blogger, I find it hard to balance my enjoyment of the writing process without evaluating myself by traffic levels. I also find it very hard to not get distracted. It’s easy to start mindlessly scrolling instagram, twitter and facebook – and when you’re tired, you need something easy that doesn’t take too much brain power. It does mean I focus less on the task in hand so even though I’m achieving more than I could have done in the past, too much choice makes me feel technology is making me less productive.

Do any of us have a work / life balance?

A study by the University of West England found that over half of commuters used their travelling time to catch up on work emails. Better connectivity has enabled people to work from the train. For people with long commutes, this must add a considerable amount of time to their working day – and one that they’re not necessarily paid for.

I have a friend who works in Silicon Valley. He gets on a company bus to his office, logs on and starts work. His commute is classified as working time and as a result he spends less time in the office. He has a better work/life balance and isn’t resentful about his commute. Technology is there to make life easier (not harder) and helps people be productive.

I’ve felt for a long time we measure the wrong metrics in workplaces. We like to see early starters and late finishers and classify them as hard workers, but we forget what really counts is the work that takes place during the day. It’s a false metric to view hours at a desk as a measure of productivity.

Over 50 hours and we’re no longer productive

Research shows that working over 50 hours a week has a negative impact on our productivity. After 50 hours, our productivity falls and after 55 hours, we are not productive at all. There is absolutely no benefit to our employer in us working – they are not gaining anything other than potential health issues to manage. It has also been shown, overworking is damaging our physical and mental health, as well as impacting on our relationships. It’s a lose-lose situation. Technology and our ability to be always on has enabled this – but fundamentally we’re not productive after a certain time.

It’s not just the employed that suffer with lack of boundaries. For those who are self-employed and particularly people who work from home, it must be even harder to create a work/life balance. There has been a quote circulating on Instagram creating by New York based artist, Adam JK mocking the ‘do what you love and you’ll never do a day’s work in your life’ idea highlighting how hard it is to switch off.

Quote about running a small business
Courtesy of @AdamJK – Instagram

A more mindful approach to technology

Now, the purpose of this blog post isn’t to start an uprising at our desks or encourage you to throw your phone out of the window, but to reflect on how we we are using technology. Are we using it mindfully? Is technology making us more or less productive?

Tools to help cut down on screen time

Here are a few tricks and tips I use to keep an eye on my phone usage.

  • I monitor my iPhone screen time. If you go into settings > screen time, you get a weekly report on how much you are using your iphone. I aim to reduce this amount week on week.
  • Think about taking off your work emails from your phone or having two phones. There is also a way you can switch off your email in settings. If this isn’t possible, make sure you don’t have notifications switched on. Start putting boundaries around its usage (ie, no work emails at weekends).
  • Be aware of how sending emails outside of work times can affect other people. Are you sending a message that this is how you expect other people to work? Is it impacting on time you spend with family and friends?
  • Become comfortable with your own thoughts and not needing to entertain yourself 24/7. I genuinely think being bored can be good for you.
  • Keep your phone in your bag or away from you to stop temptation. I have a terrible habit of googling to see why I recognise an actor and losing the plot of a TV show because I’ve fallen down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. I now make sure I fully concentrate on what I’m watching  – looking at my phone just ruins my enjoyment.

Remember technology can also impact on our emotional wellbeing

  • Watch out for feelings of inadequacy. It’s so easy to compare your real life with someone’s curated Instagram life and it’s not healthy because it’s not real. It’s something that creeps up on me from time to time and that’s when I know, it’s time to take a break from the ‘gram.  
  • I try to implement Switch off Sunday. I also am much more aware of how much I’m using my phone around my child. I tend to put the radio on or listen to a podcast so I can dedicate time to him but also have a little bit of a distraction for myself.

Disconnecting from our technology to reconnect with ourselves is absolutely essential for wisdom.


Arianna Huffington

I often have my best ideas when I’m not really doing anything. My brain feels less cluttered and I have space to think. Taking a break from technology is not about working less, it’s about working better. Let’s use technology and make it productive.

wellbeing

How to set boundaries with 7 simple steps

January 16, 2019

Boundaries are fundamental when it comes to taking care of ourselves. They enable us to recognise what we need and develop the right techniques and language to achieve them. Good boundaries help us create less stressful lives, better physical wellbeing and healthy respectful relationships. For some people, learning to set boundaries is a skill they learnt growing up. They have seen adults articulate and set boundaries and understand they are a necessity. They have the right level of self-awareness to understand their needs and articulate them. For others, including myself, setting and reinforcing boundaries is a work in progress.

However, like a lot of self-care strategies, setting and reinforcing boundaries is a muscle that grows over time. The more we do it, the easier it gets.

7 steps to help you set boundaries

  1. Understand your value. Someone or a situation that continually oversteps the mark has a massive impact on your self-esteem. Likewise, continually putting yourself at the bottom of a priority list is not healthy either. Everyone has the right to be treated properly and we need to believe we deserve better.
  2. You cannot change other people’s behaviour, only your own. Setting boundaries won’t change how people behave towards you. It gives you the tools to respond and to reflect on where you want to see changes. However, it’s not your fault if your boundaries aren’t respected.
  3. Think about situations where you want to set boundaries. What do you want to change? What is your response when this situation comes up? Decide the consequences ahead of time.
  4. Communicate. Be decisive and remember your worth.
  5. Prepare for your boundaries to be overstepped. Having boundaries in place won’t stop people from overstepping them. Prepare for it to happen and decide in advance how you will respond.
  6. Remember boundary setting is a muscle we grow. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t go right the first time or the second. You will get better at it and learn new responses as you go along.
  7. Leave a situation. Unfortunately, if your boundaries aren’t respected, then the only way sometimes is to leave a situation or a person. We cannot change other people. We can leave though knowing we deserve better.
wellbeing

How to leave the cult of busyness

September 30, 2018

Being busy and the cult of busyness

I look at friends who left homes and jobs in London to set up lives elsewhere and think how well they seem. Their skin looks brighter, their stress lines faded away and I think to myself, it’s because they’re not so busy anymore. I often fantasise about spending a week at a health camp (somewhere abroad obviously) and having five nights of good night’s sleep and time to fully relax. But the reality is, other than hugely missing home, I would find something else to do because I’m one of those people who measure their self-worth by how much they’ve achieved in a day. I’m a fully paid up member of the cult of busyness because somewhere in my subconscious I believe that I’m a better person when I get more done.

What is the cult of busyness?

Fully paid-up subscribers to the cult of busyness like myself get a feeling of satisfaction from being busy. It feeds our sense of importance and worth because we feel we are needed and wanted. It also sends an external message that somehow our lives are more valid because we have so much on and are always on the go.

Researchers from Columbia University, Harvard and Georgetown conducted a series of experiments to see how being busy was perceived. They created two characters called Jeff: one who worked long hours and had a busy schedule, the other had a leisurely lifestyle and didn’t work. They found hardworking Jeff was thought to be more important and his lack of time was due to the fact he was highly sort after.

Losing the busy mindset

As someone who puts their self-worth into how many tasks they’ve finished in a day, the cult of busyness is an attractive one to be in. I tick things off lists. I take my child to play dates. I rush around working full time and sorting my home in the evening.

My mind also has a habit of turning fun into tasks I need to do. Getting my haircut becomes something I need to tick off the list rather than an experience to enjoy. Likewise, shopping becomes about making sure I get everything I planned, rather than having time to myself. I realise it’s my mindset that needs to change. I’m aware that I’m filling up my life with a series of tasks… I need to become more comfortable with being still.

5 ways to leave the cult of busyness

  1. Stop multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time. I have a habit of trying to do too many things at once and achieving very little.
  2. Switch off the screen. It’s so easy to lose time falling down an internet rabbit hole under the pretence of relaxing. Read a book, watch a film or have a bath instead.
  3. Be realistic about what you can achieve. I take on too much and then feel overwhelmed by everything I need to do.
  4. Set boundaries. For the first time in a long time, I articulated that I needed a day to myself. I used that day to do things I enjoy and not just to carry out a series of errands. I now recognise it’s something I need to do on a more regular basis.
  5. Start saying no. I have a tendency to say yes to things without really thinking it through. I’m trying to learn that sometimes it’s ok to say no.
wellbeing

Why I declutter regularly (and it’s nothing to do with a tidy house)

September 8, 2018

Every month or so, I will look around and see drawers overflowing with old bits of paper, shelves with various piles of stuff on top of the books, a kitchen table we can’t eat at because things have accumulated on there and realise, I need to declutter. I’m not a neat freak or a minimalist; I like my home to feel homely and I want people to relax in it. I also live with a hoarder and the word ‘declutter’ sends him into a tailspin.  However, I know that an accumulation of clutter has a negative impact on my state of mind. It affects my self-esteem lowering my opinion of myself, as well as making me feel like I can’t fully relax. The benefits of decluttering for me are all about improving my mental health and nothing to do with having a perfect house.

Benefits of decluttering

We all have different mess thresholds and it’s all relative. For me though, there are a number of benefits to decluttering.

Decluttering puts me back in control of my life. I really believe how you live in your space has a lot to do with how you feel internally. A messy cluttered home is often an indication that I’ve not been prioritising myself or is symptomatic of a deeper issue.

Space to think. Too much clutter makes me feel claustrophobic and it affects my ability to think clearly. Space around me frees up space in my brain and gives me clarity.

It lifts my energy levels. I feel much more energised after I’ve decluttered. In part, it gives me a sense of achievement but it also frees up time to focus on other things. It often puts a spring in my step and I feel inspired to get more done.

It boosts my confidence. Feeling much more on top of things has a massive impact on my self-esteem. In days of juggling work around my child and often feeling like I’m doing both badly, decluttering makes me feel like I’ve got at least one thing right.

Trying to buy less

We all know that possessions don’t make us happy.  However, it is hard to buy less. I often buy a storage solution as a way to declutter, instead of examining why I have so much around me. I have a tendency to keep on to things in case it becomes useful again. It very rarely does.

My recent blast of decluttering made me realise I have multiples of things from jars of Marmite to similar pairs of shoes. I’m buying mindlessly without thinking about what I have already.

I’m trying to put checks in place before I buy. I want to question what purpose it will serve and how long it will be useful for.

It’s time to be comfortable with less.

mind

Learning to be brave

May 8, 2018

Being brave

At the beginning of the year, I thought about changes I wanted to make in my life and to stop letting fear stand in my way. I realised I was going to need to start learning to be brave if I was going to live a more authentic life.

Part of transitioning from my 20s into my 30s and beyond has been to recognise that actions have consequences and that not everyone is interested in my opinions. Along the way though, I’ve perhaps taken that to the other extreme. I’m starting to realise I lost the risk-taker, the dreamer and the person who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in. I’ve started to couch my words so as not to offend – and whilst it’s good to think of other people’s feelings – along the way, I’ve lost the ability to speak my own truth.

Becoming vulnerable

It’s easy to play it safe and keep ourselves protected. We don’t have to open ourselves up or make ourselves feel vulnerable. The downside is of course, that you don’t allow yourself to feel truly fulfilled and you never know what might have been.

When I first starting writing, just putting words out there felt intimidating. I worried about judgement – both my own and from others. Pushing myself out there is a leap of faith and doesn’t always sit so comfortably with me. Change can be intimidating. It can be slow and we put barriers in the way to make it even slower.

Learning to be brave

So how do us once rebels start living in a place where we feel more confident in our decision-making and abilities? Is there a way we can get back to becoming ourselves? We’ve all read stories about women adventurers who threw in a high-powered job in finance to become a Mongolia horse seller or set up a best selling bee keeping instagram business. But what do you do when you’ve got bills to pay, kids to collect from nursery and life is just about getting through each day with the minimum amount of stress possible?

The good news is we don’t all have to go through dramatic life changes to become braver. What we need to do is have the desire to reclaim the person we once were. We can start moving forward by remembering who we are, what we want (try remembering the feeling you want to create) and inching towards it taking incremental baby steps.

And what I’m learning is that with each small step I take, the easier it is and the little bit braver I become.

self-care

The five pillars of self-care

April 17, 2018
pillars of self-care

What are the five pillars of self-care?

The five pillars of self-care (emotional, physical, social, spiritual and intellectual) make up parts of our lives we need to focus on and nourish. In an ideal world, we should try to think about them regularly to see if we’re in alignment.

However, let’s be honest, it’s easy to let things fall by the wayside when we get busy or try to bury our head in the sand about issues we don’t want to face.

It’s fundamentally important that try to we ensure our needs are being met as humans. We should be prioritising our emotional, physical health and wellbeing to help us become the best possible versions of ourselves.

So it can be very worthwhile to probe deeper to try and gain an understanding of what areas we might be neglecting. And if we are, what can we do to resolve it?

Every month or so, it might be worthwhile to take a bit of time out to explore how you’re feeling in each of these areas and if there are any that you want to focus on more?

Or use the questions below to see where you are.

Are you in alignment? Measuring yourself against the five pillars of self-care.

Emotional and mental wellbeing

How are you feeling emotionally? How is your mental health? Are you overwhelmed, stressed, lethargic, down, close to tears? Do you feel anxious, depressed or flat? How are your relationships with others? Are they positive? Are you behaving with kindness or are you quick to snap/judge? Any of these factors may suggest you need to focus on your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Physical health

How is your overall health? Do you have any existing health conditions? Are you sleeping, eating well, drinking enough water and not too much alcohol? Are you showering, brushing your teeth, washing your clothes? Are you exercising? Do you have a preferred physical activity? Do you have any injuries or ailments? Do you have a regular routine and build in rest and relaxation?

Social

Do you have friends and/or family who support you when times get tough? Equally, do you make time for fun? Are you lonely? Is there more you could be doing to build a network? Are you also making enough time for other people (and not just focusing on yourself)?

Spiritual

Are you thinking about your purpose in life and the values and beliefs that drive you? Are you taking the time to reflect on what motivates you and what from your past may be stopping you from moving forward? Gaining greater understanding of your own self can help you to live a happier and more purposeful life.

Intellectual

Are you challenging yourself to learn and try new things? Are you thinking about your self-development and personal growth? Are you travelling and/or reading about different people and cultures? Are you expanding your horizons through film and literature. We all have to change and evolve throughout our lifetimes.

Do you need a self-care audit?

How to practice self-care

Have you thought about carrying out a self-care audit? I’ve created a template for you to work through so you can check in and understand how you’re feeling and if there are any areas you need to spend more time on.

It’s worth doing regularly because our circumstances and situations change. What matters today, may not be the same next week, month or year.

Many of us have a tendency to put ourselves last and we need to remember self-care is a way of ensuring we can look after others too.

you can’t pour from an empty cup

mind

Why I practice gratitude

April 11, 2018
why I practice gratitude

A few years ago, I realised I was stuck in a bit of rut. I tended to focus on the negative and had a blamey attitude. I got frustrated easily and often felt like the world was conspiring against me. Other people just seemed to fall into new opportunities, where as I was always trying to dig myself out of a hole… I knew I need to make some changes so I started to explore new ways of thinking and living. One of those ideas included a gratitude practice.

A friend introduced me to the Secret. I’m going to be honest, some bits I liked and some I found overly materialistic so I completely get that it’s not for everyone. However, the bit that stuck was about developing a gratitude practice. I decided to keep a gratitude diary and each morning wrote down ten things that made me happy and the reasons why. I then read my list out loud.

My gratitude practice completely changed how I see the world.

How my gratitude practice changed my life for the better

I let go of feeling frustrated.

If my train was delayed, I could see it was such a tiny thing to feel annoyed about and in the grand scheme of things, it just didn’t matter. I could apologise if I was late and people would understand.

I saw my life as a full picture.

Yes, I may have had bad things happen but I also have so much happening which is positive too. It helped me gain a more balanced viewpoint.

I felt more in control of my own life.

I felt less as though events were conspiring against me and more optimistic. I now realise I have responsibility for my thought processes.

Small things made me smile.

A friendly chat with a stranger or an offer of help from a colleague lifted my spirits and brought me joy. I noticed what was right in front of me.

It felt like the world was more on my side.

I could be running late and my train would be magically delayed by just the right amount of time for me to step straight on. It felt like life was in harmony.

I started to count my blessings.

I noticed how much I have and how lucky I am.

And as a result, I’m much happier.

wellbeing

Seven quick and easy wellbeing ideas

April 9, 2018
quick and easy wellbeing ideas

As soon as I get busy, the first thing to fall by the wayside is taking proper care of myself. My daily diet becomes packet food and any activities I do to focus on my emotional health fall right down the priority list. I end up becoming sluggish, a bit fed up and start feeling bad about myself. I’ve made this mistake so many times, I’m determined to try and change my ways. This is why I’m putting some quick and simple wellbeing ideas in place so I can keep myself in balance.

Seven quick and easy wellbeing ideas

  1. Boost your diet with citrus fruits such as grapefruit and lemons, which have a number of health benefits including improving the immune system. It may not stop you reaching for the takeaway menu (and we’re all allowed a treat) but it will help you feel like you’re putting some goodness into your body.
  2. I love the idea of yoga. I just don’t always think I have time. Sun Salutations are quick and still get the body moving and your energy flowing. This video from online yoga sensation, Adrienne shows you how.
  3. Mindfulness can be done almost anywhere such as on your commute or even when you’re walking. There are a number of Apps offering guided meditations including Headspace and Andrew Johnson. However, just being aware and tuning into your breath, can also make a real difference especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Try to see daylight and take a walk even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. It’s great for helping you get into a good sleep pattern because it sets your body clock to day and night.
  5. Keep hydrated by drinking water and herbal teas. Buy a water carrier to keep it with you and keep hydrated on the go.
  6. Practice gratitude. You may not have time to write a gratitude diary but you can still take 30 seconds throughout the day to check in with yourself and think about what you are grateful for.
  7. Scientists have found that smiling lifts our mood and boosts our immune system. So smile!
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