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How to stay sane when it feels like the world is falling apart

April 14, 2020
how do you stay sane when it feels like the world is falling apart?

This post was written during the coronavirus crisis. However, the advice on how to stay sane when it feels like the world is falling apart can be applied to most challenges in life.

It’s ok not to be ok

When we first went on lockdown in the UK, hundreds of posts appeared on social media suggesting we use this new found time on self-development. I saw posts on learning a new language, decluttering your house and finally doing the creative project you’ve been dreaming about for the last two years.

The posts made me feel angry; partly because the nature of my job means I’m really busy so I don’t suddenly have lots of hours free. Mainly though, because my brain felt like it was swimming in treacle. I’ve been utterly exhausted, had brain fog and any motivation went completely out of the window. Getting through the day felt like an achievement in itself. 

The simple truth is none of us have ever been in a coronavirus lockdown before. It’s a completely new situation and there isn’t a coronavirus rule book on how to handle this well. Some people will focus on being busy, others will need to rest, and most of us will flip between the two. It’s like being on an emotional rollercoaster. We just need to get through it the best way we can trying to stay sane even though it feels like the world is falling apart.

We need to recognise life is really hard right now

I can spend the day working away in my office and other than the fact that I’m sat at home on conference calls with the sounds of my husband and son in the background, life could almost be normal. But every time I read the news or step outside, I’m starkly reminded that it’s not. Waves of anxiety wash over me and I feel moved to tears really easily.

I don’t think there’s a perfect antidote to this. It’s not ideal to keep yourself so busy that you’re blocking your feelings because all you’re doing is stalling the inevitable. It’s also exhausting to live in a permanent state of fear. We need to recognise life is really hard right now; we’re dealing with the unknown and trying to get through it the best we can. This is new to all of us.

So how do you stay sane when it feels like the world is falling apart?

Control only what you can

It’s really difficult when you’re used to having a good degree of control over your life to suddenly have that relinquished. Try to control what you can (how often you go outdoors, what you eat (unless it involve flour and eggs) etc) and let the rest go (as much as you can).

Structure your day and get into a routine

Getting into a routine is pretty easy when you have a job you can work from home to do and a child that wakes you up in the early hours. However, for some people, lockdown has completely thrown their lives up in the air. Try to get up at a similar time, see some daylight and put some structure into your day even if that just involves maintaining a regular tea break.

Aim to do one thing a day

I really admire people who have the mental focus to start their own podcasts and novels during this period – but they are not my people. I have all sorts of ideas on things I’d like to achieve. However, I can’t say I’m a fountain of productivity right now… In my case, I do have a full time job (I know that makes me extremely fortunate) and a family so I don’t have hundreds of hours spare. I try to do one thing per day outside of my work so I feel a sense of achievement. Lockdown isn’t about getting as much done as you possibly can; it’s about getting by.

Build in time for self-care

Now more than ever is the time to invest in a bit of self-care; by which I mean, look after yourself. Make sure you rest and build in time to give your brain a break.

Be kind to yourself and those around you

We’re all living through an uncertain time. Lower your expectations and give yourself a break. You don’t have to deal with this perfectly. Watching the entire back catalogue of Netflix doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things… You were following government advice by staying indoors and that makes you a legend my honey p.

Do remember though that everyone else is in the same boat so this doesn’t give you the licence to be an arse either. We’re all trying to stay sane even though it feels like the world is falling apart and it’s not fair to add additional stress on to others. Be kind to everyone else too.

And breathe

One of the best techniques I use when I’m feeling overwhelmed is to focus on my breath. I breathe in for four seconds through my nostrils and exhale for four. It makes a whole heap of difference.

And for anyone suffering with indigestion or acid reflux (which is often stress-related), then breathe in through your nose for two seconds and exhale for four. Repeat until you feel better. You will thank me.

self-care

Self-care when dealing with uncertainty

March 26, 2020
self-care when dealing with uncertainty

The importance of self-care when dealing with uncertainty

I’ve felt like I should write a blog post acknowledging the situation with coronavirus / COVID 19 – but truthfully I haven’t felt able to. I’ve been really anxious and teary – experiencing the same emotions I know so many of us are feeling right now.

I don’t want to go into lots of details about the waves of emotions I’ve been going through because we’re all in the same boat trying to navigate what this new uncertainty is. I’m just hoping we get through this quickly.

However, I do believe it’s fundamentally important to feel your feelings. It doesn’t help to button everything up because it comes out in different ways: affecting your relationships with people; and manifesting in physical and mental health conditions. If you feel upset, then cry. If you feel angry, think about how best to channel it: journalling, exercise or evaluating where you can put some control back in your life. The best thing we can do is be aware of our emotions.

It’s also really important to look after ourselves more than ever because we’re all experiencing high levels of stress right now. So how do we do that? This is why we need self-care for dealing with uncertainty.

Self-care strategies when dealing with uncertainty

Maintain a routine

There’s been quite a lot written online about how important it is to maintain a routine. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to leap out of bed at 6am. Some people are night owls and some people aren’t. I function far better first thing in the morning and it takes me twice as long to do something after 6pm. Just try and find a time that works for you and stick to it. It’s useful to have a sense of normality in a rapidly changing world.

Obviously some of us are working throughout this period, but for others, you might be working from home for the first time or in a role that’s impossible to do during lockdown. For people who have a lot of freedom to structure the day, some advice I’ve heard is to break down your day into hourly chunks to create a routine. This also (sort of) helps when looking after kids too. 

Practice gratitude

I feel like a gratitude bore sometimes… BUT IF THERE’S ONE THING I’D LIKE YOU TO TAKE WAY FROM THIS BLOG IT’S TO THINK ABOUT HAVING A GRATITUDE PRACTICE. It’s such an easy thing to do and doesn’t cost any money.

At the moment, while things are shit in the world, then it’s more important than ever to remind ourselves of what’s good in our lives and celebrate moments of joy. Write down 10 things you’re grateful for and the reasons why, then say thank you for each one. It makes such a difference, I promise. 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness has a number of benefits for both our physical and mental health, helping to reduce stress, overthinking and even lower blood pressure.

I used to have a regular mindfulness practice and it made such a difference in my life. However, life got in the way and it fell by the wayside. My self-care to do list ended up becoming a stick to beat myself with. So one thing I try to do instead is focus on what I’m doing in that moment. I try and eat mindfully – thinking about the food and concentrating on the enjoyment I get from food, instead of necking it in five minutes. We all have varying amounts of free time so I think it’s good to focus on what works for you.

There are a number of free mindfulness Apps available: try Calm or Headspace. Or download this 21 mindfulness practice from Deepak Chopra.

Get some fresh air

We’re allowed to go out once a day to exercise in the UK. We need to use it. Now, I’m not talking about donning your lycras and becoming the next Usain Bolt. Just go for a walk round the block, have some fresh air and a break from being indoors. Look at new leaves sprouting from the trees and flowers starting to bloom. Go outside for your mental health, as much as your physical health. Extra points though if you hug a tree.

Keep connecting

We’re social beings and even people like me who enjoy their own company need interaction. So make sure you ring people, set up zoom/skype/face time calls – anything just to make sure you’re staying connected. No man is an island and we need to talk to other people.

Get enough sleep

One of the best ways to look after yourself is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. The amount you need varies from person to person. I’m an 8 hour girl. Try and put a good sleep routine in place: avoid too many glasses of the vino blanco and aim to go to bed at the same time each evening.

You may also notice you are feeling tireder than normal and need naps during the day. If you do, then sleep. This is your body’s response to stress so listen to it and don’t give yourself a hard time for sleeping more.

Carve out time for you

People juggling jobs, kids, homeschooling, houses and working out where you can still buy food from: I hear you. It’s really hard to cram everything into one day. Try to carve out some time for you. Read a book, take a bath, light a candle, listen to music. It doesn’t matter what it is, just put in time for you too. We’re all trying to keep ourselves going so please put in time for self-care when dealing with all this uncertainty.

Alternative self-care ideas to support yourself through uncertainty ✨

Putting a cloak of protection around you

One of the ways we can help ourselves to feel protected is to put a cloak of protection around our aura. This simple meditation helps you put an invisible cloak of protection around you to keep your energy safe.

Essential oil blends

Frankincense, black pepper, geranium, sandalwood and juniper are all essential oils which are thought to help with protection. Or try one of these essential oils to lift your mood.

There are still some places that you can buy essential oils online – Tisserand are a good brand to look out for. Just look for pure grades and nothing that’s been mixed already.

Crystals for protection

Now because I’m what could be described as a little bit ‘woo woo’, then I feel drawn to certain crystals at different times. So for anyone with a crystal collection, then try seeing which crystals are giving out the most energy (yes, I’m being serious).

As a general rule of thumb though, black stones are considered to ‘soak up’ or deflect negative energy more powerfully than other stones. Black tourmaline is a good all-round stone for protection. Or hematite stones are also known to create a protective shield around the body.

Above all be kind to yourself

If you sleep all day, drink more than necessary, or spend your days watching Netflix, then don’t give yourself a hard time. Honestly, we’re all just trying to get through this in the best way we can. Yes, I really believe in the importance of self-care when dealing with uncertainty. But if it doesn’t happen, let it go.

Be kind to yourself.

self-care

Stop someone else’s behaviour affecting you

November 10, 2019
it's not me, it's you. How to stop someone else's behaviour affecting you.

It’s not me; it’s you. How to stop someone else’s behaviour from affecting you

I’m sad to say I’ve spent far too much of my life analysing why someone spoke to me in a certain way. What was it about me that made them feel that behaviour was ok? Was it because I lacked confidence, was too young or came across as stupid? Why was I being singled out for negative attention?

I would spend hours thinking of the most withering put downs. Ones where my oppressor would crumble in front of my eyes and I would walk away victorious safe in the knowledge that this would never happen again. 

Or I’d daydream about bumping into a billionaire on the street and he’d immediately become so infatuated with me that he’d whisk me away. I would leave the situation behind, whilst putting my virtual two fingers up.

The simple truth is, there are certain characteristics that make you more vulnerable for negative attention. People speak to me FAR differently in my 40s than they did in my 20s. Being young does mean people don’t always treat you with respect. Likewise, I’m sure times when I had less confidence also meant people thought they could get away with it a bit more.

We can’t really control how someone else behaves (sadly) and there are difficult people everywhere. The only thing we really can do is stop someone else’s behaviour from affecting us.

As an aside, I find picking on people who are vulnerable such a horrible thing to do. It says so much about the person doing it and their own weaknesses. We should try and lift people up always.

Bad behaviours are about the person, not you

There are times in my life when I’ve been shorter with someone than was necessary; I’ve taken my frustrations out on someone; or I’ve been a bit of a dick for no real reason. 

I can try and justify to myself why I reacted; they were being annoying or were making me feel uncomfortable. But if I’m being really honest, it was about me and how I was feeling about myself at that moment in time. I wasn’t behaving well because I was pretty messed up and rather than dealing with it, I deflected my feelings on to someone else.

If I feel happy and good in myself, I’m kinder and more forgiving towards others. I’m less irritable and less concerned with what other people are doing. I see the best in people and want to support them.

Now, I’m not saying that every time someone behaves badly towards us, we turn the other cheek because we shouldn’t invalidate our own feelings. We matter too. I’m saying this to illustrate poor behaviour is a reflection of the person doing it, not us. Recognising this helps us stop someone else’s behaviour from affecting us.

In my opinion, part of reaching maturity as an adult, is recognising you still need to behave properly towards other people regardless of how you feel inside. There is no excuse.

Recognising toxic situations for what they are

I’m a massive people pleaser and I really want people to like me. I’m lucky in the fact that for the most part they do – which is good, given I work bloody hard to make it happen. 

The downside of being a people pleaser is that I don’t always recognise toxic situations for what they are. I’m so used to putting myself second that I forget I have needs too. I will always try to turn things around and make the situation better.

There are some situations that will never get better.

We’re conditioned into believing that if we leave a relationship of any description; romantic, friendship, familial or work, then somehow we’ve failed. We couldn’t make it work.

We haven’t failed. It’s not down to us to fix every situation. There’s more than one person in a relationship and we can’t control how another person behaves no matter how hard we try. We can talk differently, hide ourselves away, walk over eggshells, google how to deal with certain situations and shapeshift as much as we like – but we cannot change someone else’s behaviour. It’s down to them. 

Walking away from a toxic situation or one that no longer serves you is the best and most empowering thing you can ever do. Trust me.

Putting on an invisible cloak of protection

Most negative behaviours aren’t that obvious. They’re a slow, steady drip feed of negativity. I’m talking about moodiness, snappiness and generally having to deal with someone else’s BS.

Over a sustained period of time, dealing with another person’s mood swings can be draining and confidence sapping. It’s hard not to take it personally – particularly because our feelings are being completely ignored and that  it has an impact on your emotional wellbeing too. This is why it’s really important that we protect our energy field and stop someone else’s behaviour from affecting you.

At the risk of sounding like I’m channelling Harry Potter; this is when we need a cloak of invisible protection. 

A cloak of invisible protection is one you put around you to deflect negativity. Every time, someone says something or does something that upsets you, imagine the energy from their words, body language or actions bouncing off your invisible cloak and reflecting back on them.

Setting boundaries

Boundaries are the equivalent of putting a line in the sand where we say to ourselves; this behaviour has gone too far. They’re individual to all of us because we all have our own ideas of what constitutes poor behaviour. However, it’s really important to have them so we can recognise when our boundaries are being crossed.

Setting boundaries won’t stop poor behaviour or change how everyone behaves towards you. Other people’s choices are outside our sphere of influence. What they do is give you the tools to recognise poor behaviour when it happens so you can think about how or if you want to respond. They also help you stop someone else’s behaviour from affecting you because you can see it’s about their poor choices, and not to do with you.

When speaking up falls on deaf ears

In an ideal world, you would speak calmly towards anyone who’s crossed your boundaries and explain how it made you feel. They would respond maturely because we’re all adults… AMIRITE?

Well, the world isn’t ideal and people aren’t always going to take responsibility for their actions and respond in the way you want them to. However, I’m not sure that fully matters because you’ve still asserted your boundaries, told someone how they’ve made you feel, and who knows, perhaps made them think…

Ps. if the thought of going up to someone to talk about their behaviour makes you feel sick, then it does get easier the more you do it, I promise.   

Not everyone is going to like you – and that’s ok

There’s a woman at my nursery who was really friendly to me initially and now is quite rude. I’ve spent time thinking about it and wondering if I’ve talked too much to her husband or done something to offend her.

The simple truth is, it doesn’t really matter. We’re very different people with nothing in common and we never had a friendship in the first place. She doesn’t have to like me and I don’t need to try and work out why. We’re not for everyone – and not everyone is for us.

It’s not me; it’s you 

I’m not suggesting that we automatically attribute every situation where someone has behaved badly towards us as being entirely about them. A bit of self-reflection is good – and, gasp.. sometimes we may be at fault or had a part to play ourselves.

What I am suggesting though, is that we don’t automatically use someone else’s behaviour as an opportunity to put ourselves down, zap our confidence and make us feel that somehow we’re not enough.

Sometimes it isn’t about us at all.

self-care

Why you need a self-care tool belt

September 9, 2019
why you need a self-care tool belt

I’ve been pretty stressed recently. I started a new job and have been trying to absorb lots of information in a short space of time. I feel completely out of my comfort zone – and whilst I definitely wanted to shake everything up a bit – it’s been challenging too.

I’m also adjusting to a new working pattern and reinforcing how I can no longer be chief cook, grocery shopper, washer woman has meant some rather fraught conversations have taken place at home.  

[Side note… how did we get to 2019 and the domestic load is still a thing…?]

Now, none of these things are insurmountable. I’m assuming at some point I will get up to speed at work and things will become easier. Likewise, we all need to get used to the fact I’m around less at home. 

However, whilst everything’s bedding down, I need to make sure I’m looking after myself too – particularly as I can feel stress oozing out of every pore. 

I need self-care.  

What is self-care?

Self-care is the art of looking after yourself properly so you can manage everything else in life.

It’s about understanding that we need to put ourselves first sometimes in order to be able to do things for others. 

It has its detractors who mock self-care as just being about face masks, candles and bubble baths as though it’s some sort of commodified product that only idiots fall for. Personally, I think anything that brings you joy and peace is worth it; I bladdy love a good candle. 

However, I do agree self-care is about much more than ‘me time’. It’s about recognising where you need help, being able to be open and vulnerable enough to ask for support. It’s about putting boundaries in place so you reinforce your needs, as well as learning how to let go of situations and people who no longer serve you.

And that’s literally the tip of the iceberg. 

Why is self-care so hard to do?

There’s an irony in the fact we need self-care more than ever when we’re busy and stressed but we don’t have the time or energy for it. 

It falls down to the bottom of a list and in my case, another stick to beat myself with. I feel disappointed that I’m not looking after myself properly.

So how can we prioritise self-care and make sure we get what we need?

Creating a self-care tool belt

One of the best ways to ensure you can look after yourself better when life is stressful is to create a self-care tool belt. It involves planning ahead so when you’re busy and overwhelmed, you can think about what you have in your armoury without needing to expend too much brainpower.

Now in terms of self-care, all our needs are different because we all have our own challenges and priorities in life. For example, a busy stay at home mum is going to have very different needs from someone who travels a lot for work, even though both of them probably feel their time isn’t their own. This is why it’s important to reflect on what will support you.

Try to think about actions you can take to try and ease the pressure on yourself. They may be things you can do yourself – or ways you feel you can ask for help. That way you can dip into your self-care tool belt as and when you need it.

Simple self-care suggestions

  • Ask for support. It can be really hard to ask for help, particularly in a work capacity because you don’t want to look like you can’t cope. However, it’s worth raising the issue so that people are aware. I think overall employers have got better at recognising they need to at least be seen to support employees and some are absolutely brilliant at it.
  • Drop what doesn’t serve you. I remember years ago not going to a party because I wasn’t in a great headspace and I thought it’d make me feel rubbish. I’m still glad to this day I made that decision. I’m not suggesting you ditch all social occasions in favour of box sets because getting out can make us feel better. But if you really don’t want to do something, don’t do it.
  • Remember done is better than perfect. There are occasions when there’s just not the time to pour over something and analyse it. Try to be happy with the fact its done.
  • Get some fresh air. I try to make sure I go outside every lunchtime, even if it’s just a 5 minute walk around the block. It helps clear your mind and reset.
  • Take a break from social media. It’s not relaxing and most of the time, it’s not especially productive. Switch it off.
  • Think about what you’re eating. Our bodies crave sweet foods when we’re stressed because it thinks it’ll need the energy (flight or fight mode). However, don’t beat yourself up either if you’re getting a takeaway, especially if it’s going to save you time. It’s about balance and sometimes needs must.
  • Do carve out time for yourself. Run a bath, light a candle, watch Great British Bake Off. Do something just for you – you deserve it.

soul

How to find your purpose (and make your soul sing)

August 20, 2019
How to find your purpose (and make your soul sing)

Feeling lost and drifting 

Three years ago (not quite to the day) I went on maternity leave for a year. This was the longest time I’d ever been away from work and I felt it would be a good time to think about what I really wanted from life. I gave myself two objectives: one (and obviously the most critical) to nurture my son; and secondly to use the time to find my purpose.

I had been feeling like I was drifting for quite a while and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life. I had low level dissatisfaction with work: it wasn’t amazing, but I wasn’t crying in the toilets either. I felt like I had changed and my job wasn’t quite the right fit for me anymore. I needed to understand what it was that would make me happy.

This is why I wanted to go on this voyage of self-discovery and really try to understand what makes my soul sing.

Now, spoiler alert, I didn’t find my purpose during maternity leave. A) I had a newborn to look after so didn’t have the time and B) l never had a lightbulb moment where suddenly everything fell into place.

I’m saying this to illustrate that finding your purpose is a journey and may not happen overnight. It’s a process of exploration.

Here’s what I learnt along the way.

The world isn’t your oyster

For a self-help/self-development/wellbeing blog, it might seem discouraging to say the world isn’t your oyster. Surely that’s going against the grain of everything I say?

Well yes and no. I believe if you really want to do something, then you should throw everything at it. Life’s too short for coulda, woulda, shoulda.

However, if you’re floundering around like a fish washed up on the shore waiting for the tide to sweep you back into the sea, then sometimes you need to be able to focus on what you need in that moment in time. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with too many choices, which leads to indecision.

So focus on your needs, then your wants. Be pragmatic. 

What I mean by that is in my situation, as much as I’d like to spend all my time with my son pottering around my local area, it’s never going to be a realistic option for me. I’m the breadwinner and financially, I have to work to support my family. Momma’s gotta make rent and all that. 

I also genuinely like work. I enjoy being around people from different backgrounds and learning from their experiences. I also have a reasonably creative job and it’s important to me that I can using my brain in that way.

So whatever I did had to support those needs (financial) and those wants (being creatively fulfilled). 

It’s important to recognise here that we quite often think finding our purpose means finding a job we really like (I realise my examples above reinforce that..). However, I personally feel it involves taking much more of a holistic look at our lives overall to understand what gives us meaning.

Sometimes, there are ways of getting what we want in other ways outside of employment. Plus, whilst work can give us external validation, it doesn’t always give us the inner fulfilment we need.

This is why it’s important to check in on yourself and reflect on what your needs are because they change throughout your life – and your purpose will do too. Our lives all develop and evolve.

What makes you tick? 5 probing questions to ask yourself

I often think I’d like to move to a small holding surrounded by goats and sheep; yet the reality is I’d find that life really hard. I don’t mind getting up early but truthfully a 4am start in winter isn’t my jam.

This is why it’s important to ask yourself what really makes you happy?

Take some quiet time to yourself and sit down with a pen and paper. Write down your feelings in response to the following 5 questions.

1. What comes easily to you?

2. What makes you feel energised when you’re doing it?

3. Where would you like to be in the future? Write down how you want to see your future self.

4. When did you feel the happiest in life? Write down all the occasions you felt true happiness.

5. What would you do if you stopped holding yourself back?

Now reflect on what you’ve written to see if there are any common threads or thoughts. Does anything spark your interest or make you want to explore it more?

Can you use what you’ve written to create a vision for your life? How about putting some goals to help you put this into action? Are there steps you can take first?

The best way is just to start 

Do you ever have an idea and then immediately think of several reasons why it wouldn’t work?

Well, stop that. Stop that right now. 

I only really started promoting this blog (by which I mean sharing links on Twitter) back in June. For ages, I felt stupid and embarrassed that someone I know might read it. 

I had other reasons for writing initially. I wanted to write about something I felt passionate about and use it as way to hold myself to account. But the more time I spent writing, the more ridiculous it seemed to not share it. Otherwise, I may as well just be writing a diary.

So I started to share links and take my blog a bit more seriously and funnily enough, the only thing that happened is more people now read what I write. No one has said: this is the worst thing I’ve ever read or judged me. And if they do, so what? It’s just their opinion.

It’s easy to let our fears of being judged stand in our way. We’ve already decided it’s a disaster and so don’t even start. Whilst this is our way of trying to protect ourselves, we also don’t let ourselves grow and look for new opportunities. 

Please remember it’s just an annoying voice in your head and not your reality so try not to let it hold you back.

It’s ok to change your mind

Sometimes I think we feel the idea is the destination and once we have that cracked, the rest will fall into place. This is why we end up feeling so indecisive at the beginning becuase we feel we have to get it exactly right.

However, our lives don’t stay still: they transform throughout our lives so we don’t need to have the answers right away. This is why I feel like it’s important to try different things to see what makes you happy and sets your soul on fire.

It’s funny how sometimes life has a way of gaining momentum once you start putting thoughts into action. It’s like a chain reaction takes place and opportunities start coming your way.

“Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans”

John Lennon

What if your real purpose is just to be you?

Imagine a world where you feel truly connected to what you need and that you can live your life based on your needs. Where you trust your instincts, follow your intuition and make decisions based on what feels right.

Your true purpose is to live your life without limiting beliefs and wondering about the what ifs. It’s about learning what’s right for you, not worrying about what other people are doing and putting thoughts into action (or recognising its ok to stay still). It’s about being happy with the decisions you make in this moment in time and recognising you can shift and change in the future. We’re ever evolving.

Your real purpose in life is just to be you.

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.

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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. 

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Why self-doubt isn’t always a bad thing: turning our negative patterns around

April 15, 2019
why self-doubt isn't always a bad thing

It might seem bizarre that I’m writing about why self-doubt isn’t always a bad thing given that it’s plagued me my whole life. Self-doubt has affected my decision-making, stopped me from pursuing potential opportunities and held me back no end. I spend a considerable amount of time second-guessing myself and overthinking to the point that it can be exhausting.

I’d like to give you a happy ending here with some advice on what I’ve done to turn this around. However, I can’t. Self-doubt is something I work hard on and more than likely will always be part of my life.

Yet, I was thinking recently about how we’re always very quick to complain about our negative characteristics and how they hold us back. But what if there are some positives to being this way too?

I always say life is about balance and like yin and yang, there is darkness and light within everything. Can we look at some of our ‘negative’ traits and see something good?


Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

Brene Brown

Humans aren’t wholly good or wholly bad. We’re complicated and unique. Our backgrounds and experiences shape how we react to situations and events. We also tend to see ourselves quite differently from how other people see us. Are they also seeing our negative patterns in a different way?

So here are 6 reasons why self-doubt isn’t always a bad thing

  1. Self-doubt means you care. Have you ever had a sleepless night worrying about whether you’ve done a good enough job or that you said the wrong thing? Well, at least you care. Of course, you can care too much. But surely it’s better to care than be apathetic and lacklustre?
  2. It’s often a way we protect ourselves from what we regard to be challenging situations. Often we use self-doubt to hold us back. However, there are occasions where it’s right to be doubtful because we’re being realistic. We’re having feelings of self-doubt because it’s just not the right time or situation for us.
  3. People who suffer with self-doubt tend to be hard workers in my experience. They work harder because they question themselves, rather than thinking they don’t need to make any effort.
  4. Self-doubt can make you more open because you ask others for advice and guidance. Whilst we shouldn’t judge ourselves by the court of public opinion, it can help to ask other people for input. We don’t always have all the answers.
  5. Personally, I see nothing wrong with a bit of humility. Us self-doubters tend to have it in spades. The opposite of humility is arrogance and I would much rather be around someone with humility than a know-it-all who’s always right.
  6. Brene Brown delivered on of the most popular Ted Talks of all time on the power of vulnerability. Our self-doubt can make us vulnerable, but we can use that vulnerability as a power for good helping us to open up and make greater connections with others.
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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.

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Are you suffering from imposter syndrome?

March 17, 2019
are you suffering from impostor syndrome?

A few years ago I got promoted at work. Despite being more than qualified, I spent the first year waiting to be pulled into a meeting room and told, ‘we’ve made a terrible mistake’. I lived in a state of panic and regardless of any positive feedback, I still couldn’t relax and enjoy my new role.

My experience is not uncommon. I’ve heard of chief executives googling how to run a company and high profile celebrities talking about feeling like a fraud. It’s so well known, it has its own terminology: imposter syndrome. This is where you believe you’re not good enough despite evidence to the contrary.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where feelings of self-doubt and low confidence levels are so intense they make you feel like a fraud. Researchers say it’s more common in high achieving women. However, statistics show 70% of millenials have experienced imposter syndrome at some point.

Whilst I think it’s a far nicer character trait to be under confident and overachieving, as opposed to overconfident and underachieving, the reality is that imposter syndrome can stop us from realising our true ambitions without us really realising it.

So what can you do to overcome it?

  • Awareness of an issue is generally the first step to overcoming it. Take notice of your feelings, thought processes and whether you feel a fraud for no real reason.
  • Try tracking your achievements so you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Some people keep a compliments folder or write lists.
  • Recognise lots of other people feel this way and you are not alone. It’s a sign that you care.
  • Open up to friends about how you’re feeling. Their perception is likely to be different to yours and it might be useful to get an impartial view.
  • Focus on adding value in the short term and remember you won’t feel this way forever.

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.

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.

home

Tidying up with Marie Kondo: 5 lessons learnt

January 3, 2019
Tidying up with Marie Kondo

A few years ago, it felt like Marie Kondo was everywhere talking about her KonMari method of tidying. I read a couple of articles and watched some YouTube videos showing how to fold clothes and left it at that.

By nature, I’m reasonably tidy and like everything to have a home. However, my life has changed from being a single person to having a husband and child. My living space has grown with it but I feel every surface is covered in piles of clutter. Our house has become so much of a dumping ground, it’s actually hard to open the front door because of the assortment of coats and shoes blocking the way (sadly not a joke).

I saw Tidying up with Marie Kondo whilst scrolling through Netflix. As I love to watch people go on a ‘personal journey’, I thought this would be a programme for me. I was right.

The first episode focuses on the Friend family. The Friends are a married couple with two young kids, busy lives and cupboards bursting at the seams. The parents are frazzled, snappy and life feels a bit disorganised – pretty much the universal experience of anyone with a young family.

Keep only those things that speak to your heart.

Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo comes to their home and gently teaches them how to organise their lives better. It’s less about tidying and decluttering but more about learning how to go through your possessions and storing the things you love in a systematic way.

The five lessons I learnt from Tidying up with Marie Kondo are:

  1. Pay gratitude to your home. It’s so easy to just view your house as a mess but it’s something to feel truly grateful for. It’s where you are raising a family, it’s giving you warmth and shelter, and is helping you build a life.
  2. Organise by category. Marie Kondo suggests you organise by category and not by room. I tend to tackle decluttering room by room but this doesn’t give you the full overview of what you really have.
  3. Declutter in order of clothes, books, paperwork, kitchen/bathroom/garage/shed and sentimental. I think she suggests sentimental last so that you are more invested in the process and less emotional about belongings. This makes complete sense.
  4. Hold each item to see if it brings you joy and thank it for its use. I have a tendency to hold on to clothes in the hope that I shrink back into them. Marie Kondo taught me to thank them for their use and let them go. Let’s be honest, keeping items of clothing to body shame myself with is not sparking joy.
  5. Use drawers and boxes to store items. Anyone else have a cupboard of doom? Marie Kondo advises storing miscellaneous items in storage boxes. It makes much more sense to organise things into smaller boxes so you can see what’s in drawers and cupboards instead of shoving it all in and closing the door.

Marie Kondo has definitely given me a bit of a kick to start sorting out our home. There is a box of old Christmas decorations sitting in our spare room since we got them down from the loft with a lot of old rubbish in there. Before watching Tidying up with Marie Kondo, I would have left all the old Christmas decorations in there and piled the new ones on top – after all, they will be up in the loft where I can’t see them. However, I feel inspired to go through everything thoughtfully: all the old unwanted Christmas decorations can go with thanks and we will hold on to the ones that spark joy.

self-care

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

July 31, 2018
quick easy self-care ideas

Self-care for when life gets busy

I fall into bad habits quickly. Lack of time means I reach for junk food instead of eating a more balanced diet and rushing around means I forget to think about my needs altogether. When life gets busy, self-care tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. The irony being that when life gets hectic, we need to look after ourselves more than ever. There are only so many hours in the day, and of course, there are times when self-care can’t be prioritised. So here are 10 quick and easy self-care ideas to consider for when time is short.

10 quick and easy self-care ideas

  1. Prioritise small life admin tasks. I’m the queen of procrastination and push any small admin tasks as far down the list as I can. It’s easy to delay something that isn’t urgent but the reality is, it still hangs over you as something to do. Give yourself sense of achievement and stop the list from building up.
  2. Declutter. There is a lot of evidence which shows a clearer space is good for the mind. It gives you room to think and breathe. Prioritise one room at a time and objectively clear things you don’t use or need anymore.
  3. Take time out from social media. Sure, social media can be fun. However, it can also be a time hoover and leave you with feelings of inadequacy. Switch your phone off for a set period of time and always unfollow or mute anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Check in with your body. How are you really feeling? Do a full body scan and notice signs of aches and pains. Do you need to rest? How is your mood? Understand what your emotions are telling you.
  5. Breathe. There may not always be time for mindfulness practice but there is always time to breathe… Take 3 deep breaths and use the moment to pause and reflect in a busy day.
  6. Pay it forward. This may not sound like a self-care strategy, however, doing random acts of kindness helps uplift us and feel more positive. Try leaving a bottle of water for a homeless person in summer or buy a coffee for the person in front of you. Small acts can make a big difference.
  7. Gratitude. My gratitude practice often falls to the bottom of the list when I get busy. During those times, take a few minutes out of the day to notice what you feel grateful for.
  8. Walk outside. We should all try to have 15 minutes outside to make sure we’re getting enough Vitamin D. I try to take some time away from listening to music and really notice the world around me. It’s important to see the beauty in everyday life.
  9. Give yourself permission to take time off. I will sit down to read a book and within minutes get up to start putting the washing away or some equally innocuous domestic task. I struggle to make time just for me. It’s important to remember, we all need breaks and no one’s energy is limitless.
  10. Do something just for you. I know baths and candles are a bit of a joke when it comes to self-care. However, there is something in the idea of taking time out just for yourself. We all deserve a break.
mind

The trap of right/wrong thinking

July 22, 2018
trap of right/wrong thinking

An energy healer recently said to me that I was doing a lot of right/wrong thinking. I had explained I was struggling with indecision to the point I felt stuck. Life decisions were becoming impossible to make – because I was paralysed by the idea of it turning out badly.

I knew I had fallen out of love with my job and my energy wasn’t quite there. However, instead of feeling like this could be a new opportunity, I was viewing it as any wrong decision could lead to financial ruin. I’d started to dream about a new life outside of London – but the idea crippled me thinking of all I would give up.

Decisions were overwhelming me to the point that I couldn’t see the wood from the trees – and as a result I was stuck in a mire of knowing things weren’t quite right. I just didn’t know what to do.

I had fallen into the trap of right/wrong thinking

Right/wrong thinking is a thought process where you think there are only two possible outcomes – right or wrong. It’s a black and white approach and only offers one solution for a positive outcome.

I had let my search for the right answers overwhelm me to the point that I had lost the ability to see clearly. I was looking so hard for one answer, I’d forgotten there may be other ways. It had become so crucial to me to get the answer right, it was making me fearful of change and keeping me in a state of indecision.

The reality is life isn’t black and white. It exists in shades of grey. There are many options and ideas open to us and more than one way to happiness. Sometimes taking the first step leads to new opportunities – we don’t need to have all the answers.

Polarised thinking

Ann Silvers is a US-based counsellor. She describes the right/wrong pattern as dichotomous thinking and writes about the unhelpfulness of polarised thinking.

Dichotomous thinking can create excruciating fear and anxiety anytime there is a decision to be made because of a belief that there is only an absolutely right direction to go in and everything else would take you in an absolutely wrong direction.

Ann Silvers

How to change your thinking patterns

The first step of changing your thinking patterns is to become aware of them. The second is that being aware of them probably isn’t going to change your patterns overnight. They’ve become a habit and habits take time to break. None of these things are insurmountable though, you can move out of your comfort zone and it doesn’t need to be done drastically. Taking baby steps forward so you regain confidence in your decision-making will help.

Becoming aware of my thought patterns has made me recognise when I am overwhelming myself with making the perfect decision. Life is full of options: the secret is to being open to recognising them.

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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