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“I hope we still…” Things I’d like to remain in the ‘new normal’

Complete lock down feels like a distant and surreal memory to me now. Thinking back it doesn’t seem real that I spent 12 weeks isolating in the house and trying to keep safe from the virus that has devastated the world. While we are still seeing localised lock downs in some areas of the UK, most of us have gone back to a ‘new normal’ way of living. I’ve been reflecting on how things are now compared to the beginning of the year and there are a few things that I prefer now in the ‘new normal’.

“I hope we still…” keep the world a cleaner place. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of how many wipes and single use face masks will be polluting the earth after this year makes me not very happy, but I prefer the fact that everywhere feels much cleaner. Shops are regularly wiped down, my home is sparkling and everyone is washing their hands much more often which can only be a good thing. So long as we make sustainable decisions when it comes to washable face masks and more Eco-friendly cleaning, this is something I’d love to see continue long into the future!

“I hope we still…” give each other more space. I found that when the two metre rule went down to one metre (with additional measures), everyone seemed to stop social distancing as much. The reason behind the reduction in distance isn’t because it’s just as safe as being two metres away from people, it’s because the government realised that shops and restaurants wouldn’t be able to have as many people in at two metres apart therefore they wouldn’t make as much money. We do all have to wear face masks when in enclosed spaces which makes me feel much safer, but I have yet to see people consistently putting them on and leaving them alone. Fiddling with your face mask or pulling it down to speak defeats the point of wearing them. The whole gist of this rant, is that I hope we still give each other more space (physically) in the future because it is much nicer than having strangers invading your personal bubble.

“I hope we still…” show understanding to each other. The first time I ventured out into the world after 12 weeks of being in the house, I went to the post office. I thought I’d be in and out, I could wear my mask if I needed to and it would be quite quiet at the time of day I went. It was quiet, but the girl on the till was checking all the money in the till was correct so she said she’d be with me in a couple of minutes. As I stood in the shop waiting, I could hear people coming in to buy something, my anxiety went crazy and I burst into tears in a panic. Now normally, this would be strange behaviour, but the cashier completely understood why I was upset and scared (once I told her it was the first time I had been out) and put everything to one side to take my parcel so I could leave. It was so nice that she understood and didn’t just give me a strange look. I really hope this sort of understanding continues long into the future because I reckon it would make a lot of people (not just me) feel much better about being out in the world.

“I hope we still…” appreciate the little things. Having a catch up with a friend over a cuppa. Popping round to see a loved one. Wandering around a garden centre with my Mum. The simple things were the things I missed the most during lock down. These were the things that made life feel normal and like everything was OK so when they were taken away and replaced with uncertainty, I very much felt out of control of my life. Being able to have more freedom now has definitely made me and everyone else feel better about life and the future but it’s absolutely something that I won’t ever take for granted again.

“I hope we still…” spend more time together instead of on superficial things. I often think back to days I spent walking around a shopping centre, looking for things to buy and wonder why I spent my time that way. Because it was more difficult to buy things during lock down, I realised just how much money I wasted on pointless purchases I’d buy because I thought I needed them or that they’d make me feel better some how. Don’t get me wrong, I will still go shopping when I need something but I will no longer have the urge to mindlessly wander around the place, looking to spend money. My view of money has changed slightly so I look at purchases with the hours taken to earn the money in mind. If something isn’t worth my time, I won’t buy it. I spent much more time with my partner doing simple things, walking, reading together, baking and all of that time spent was so much more valuable.

“I hope we still…” slow down more. There’s not much more I will say about this. Living more slowly has changed my life for the better and I will absolutely be continuing with it!

So those are just a few things that I hope we still do once lock down is a distant and dusty memory and life as we knew it returns. I certainly have made changes to the way I live, for the better and I hope other people have had the chance to reflect like I have.

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How Instagram made me doubt my wedding plans

Ah, Instagram. I very much have a love hate relationship with Instagram. I love seeing some people’s pictures, videos and motivational quotes but I also have this problem where I want to stop following some people, but don’t feel I can for some strange reason. Classic FOMO. I was quite happy plodding along in a love hate haze, until some of the content I was seeing on Instagram, made me doubt my wedding plans.

I have been engaged now for a year and a half and I was supposed to be married a couple of weeks ago, however I have another year to wait thanks to the pandemic. There’s been so much heartbreak over postponing our wedding and I have cried so much but overall, I know it’s the best thing to do for everyone’s safety. Plus it gives us another year to perfect our wedding reception playlist! But amongst all this upset, Instagram has been there reminding me of beautiful wedding dresses, flowers, venues and everything else wedding related!

On the morning of what should have been our wedding day, I woke up thinking I should be having my hair done, getting my dress on and everything else for the big day! Instead I opened Instagram hoping for some nice pictures to cheer me up, but instead the first picture was a wedding scene, beautiful dress, bride and groom and I felt great! Not. I put my phone down vowing to not look at Instagram for the rest of the day, otherwise I’d just end up being reminded of what I should be doing that day. I don’t mind seeing pictures like this on Instagram, they’re good for inspiration and getting ideas when you’re stuck. But over time, that’s not what they did for me.

When I first booked our wedding, I would scroll through wedding pages and hashtags looking for ideas, colour schemes, invitations and everything else that comes with planning a wedding. It was great, at first. Once I started to book things, choose colour schemes, order wedding invitations, whenever I saw a picture on Instagram I would wonder if I had made the right choice or if there was something better I should have picked. I’m famously indecisive at the best of times, but when it comes to something huge like our wedding this is stepped up big time! It would honestly make my life easier if I had three or four weddings with different colour schemes and themes so I could have all the things that I see and love. But that’s highly unrealistic and expensive!

I think the reason I had such a problem with Instagram when it came to planning our wedding, is because it unearthed and made worse the insecurities I already had when it came to choosing the ‘perfect’ thing for the big day. The best venue, jaw-dropping wedding dress, perfect colour scheme, most beautiful invitations and everything else. I couldn’t just be happy and content with what we had chosen because there was always this little app on my phone reminding me of the other options I had turned down, making me question whether I had done the right thing by choosing what we had.

The comparison trap. The reason why social media can make us so unhappy and discontent with our lives, because we are always chasing the next best thing instead of being happy and content with what we already have. The reason why, for a while, I lost touch with what I really liked and wanted because I was too busy thinking about what I should like and what I should want. It’s what advertisers rely on to sell their products, to make you unhappy with what you have so you’ll chase something else to fill the void.

So what did I do about it? I curated my Instagram feed. I unfollowed everything to do with weddings, dresses, planning and inspiration. I reminded myself of what I had to look forward to when my wedding day does come around. That the day is in fact, just one day. The important thing is that it’s a celebration of the commitment I am making to the one I love for the rest of our lives. You don’t get that kind of cheese on Instagram!

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Lock down, slow down

With more and more restrictions being eased every week, lock down now seems like a strange dream or distant memory. Life is starting to look more normal every day although with some modifications such as people wearing face masks and ample hand sanitizer to use in every shop and building you enter. It’s been around a month since I came out of isolation and got back to work and I’ve been reflecting on this year and how it has changed me.

I’ve always been the kind of person that multi-tasks when I’m motivated and procrastinates when I feel lazy. I always thought it was a great thing that I could do three or four things at once but during lock down, I often didn’t have enough to do to do multiple things at the same time which made me feel like I was being unproductive. Any tasks I needed to do, I would take my time with, which was a first for me as I normally try to get things done as quickly as possible so I can move onto the next job. The thing I found surprising, is that I really enjoyed doing things this way.

Not only did I enjoy slowing down, but I stopped putting things off. If I noticed something needed doing, such as fixing my jewellery box or putting something away, I would do it straight away. It probably goes without saying but my stress levels reduced, I felt like I had more time and my mind wasn’t occupied with all the extra tasks I was thinking about getting done. I managed to get so many jobs done that I had been putting off for years, I cleared out both of my spare rooms full of junk, I deep cleaned the house, I repaired clothes and I got a few of my unfinished projects done. Because I had a lot of free time during lock down, I tried to spend it productively so that once life resumed, I would have more free time to spend on the things I love.

When I felt motivated, I used to be someone who tried to get everything done as fast as I could including getting from A to B. I got stressed in traffic, panicked if something took longer than I thought it should and felt annoyed when I couldn’t complete my to do list in a day. Now, I have slowed down. I don’t plan as much in one day because I like to take my time with the things I do and try to enjoy them more. Even the boring jobs like cutting the grass, I try to find some enjoyment in by spending time appreciating that I have grass to cut, I can hear birds singing and that the sun might be shining.

That’s the best thing that has changed about me since lock down, I’ve learnt to slow down and enjoy slowing down. I no longer get stressed if I’m stuck in traffic, it won’t change anything. If I take all afternoon to do one task, that’s fine, I’ll finish it when I do. I’m enjoying a slower pace of life, walking slower, eating slower not rushing to the next thing but being present in the moment. Meditation has helped me to be more present in the moment and it is definitely something I’ve been missing from my life. I just didn’t realise it.

Nothing has changed really on the outside, the world hasn’t stopped spinning because I’ve stopped multitasking as much, things still get done and time still passes. I just have a greater appreciation for things, I value time more and I take time to enjoy things more. Even boring things like folding washing or making the bed,

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Finding out my personality type

Have you ever wondered why you do things the way you do? Or why you prefer to be some social situations and not others? I did too. I had always wondered why I did things the way I did and what made me different to other people. I had always felt different, maybe because I was more quiet growing up, or because I preferred to sit alone all day and read rather than go out shopping with a group of friends. That’s what led me to what to find out more about my personality type.

I had seen other people talk about their personality type as a string of letters and always wondered what they meant, so I followed their lead and found a test online. You may or may not have heard about the Myers-Briggs personality test which was created by Katharine Cook Myers and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers in the 1940’s. It’s a questionnaire type test that breaks down personality types into 16 possibilities made up from 8 letters representing different attributes.

The letters are; E for extroversion, I for introversion, T for thinking, F for feeling, S for sensing, N for intuition, J for judging and P for perceiving.

I used the website ’16 personalities’ to find out my personality type. This website takes you through a simple questionnaire then uses your answers to tell you what personality type you fit into. Not only that, but it also gives you loads of information about your personality type, how common it is, what makes you who you are, and so much more! I was fascinated by everything I found out, it was like reading a passage of information that had been written just for me.

My personality type is Turbulent Mediator, INFP-T. This means I am 99% introverted over extroverted, 64% intuitive over observant, 64% feeling over thinking, 57% prospecting over judging, and 93% turbulent over assertive.

Finding out my personality type was not only interesting but it has really helped me to understand myself so much better! I now know how I work best, and why I get frustrated and uninspired in some situations because they just don’t agree with me and my values. I’ve been able to change things to help me work better or feel more comfortable in certain situations and I’ve also rediscovered and confirmed my values and what is important to me.

Today’s blog has been a short one but I really encourage you to go to ’16 personalities’, take the test and find out your personality type. It’s been so valuable to me and I completely believe it will be to you too.

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Things I would like to continue after lock down.

If anyone had told me in January that the world would be ravaged by a new virus, our country would go into lock down and I’d be spending 12 weeks at home I wouldn’t have believed it. I still can’t believe it most days because it’s such a surreal time in our lives and one I doubt any one of us will see again. Lock down has been difficult and we have all had to adapt to a new way of living with life as we knew it on hold. But it hasn’t all been bad for me. Don’t get me know, I’ve struggled with some really bad anxiety that’s made me wonder if I’ll be able to return to the ‘normal’ world again but after some reflection, I realised I didn’t want to return to the ‘normal’ world, but instead create a better world for myself and others around me using things I learned in lock down.

There has always been a lot of things that I wished I could change about my life and my world but I’d never had the chance to give it enough thought or had enough drive and time to do anything about it. Having 12 weeks in my home seemed like the perfect time to try new things, engage with new habits and cultivate my passions and I’ve come up with a few things that I would like to continue after lock down and as life becomes ‘normal’ again.

Exercising – Because I’ve had so much more time and I haven’t had to rush off for this or that, I’ve spent more time exercising and looking after my body. I did a 30 day yoga challenge which was amazing, I rediscovered running, and I tried something new with a dance class I found on YouTube. I’m quite shy about exercising in front of other people so did have to banish my other half upstairs while I danced around like a lunatic but since I’ve done it a few times, it’s started to build my confidence! I feel so much better and fitter and I have more of an appreciation for my body and what it can do! On days when I don’t do any exercise, I always feel a bit less energetic and I’ve realised that I don’t have to do an hours worth of moving to feel a benefit, even 10 or 15 minutes each day makes all the difference.

Indulging in nature – I’ve always loved being out and about in nature but I often realise that weeks or months will go by without me taking any time to do this. People often say that nature recharges your batteries and has so many benefits for your mental and physical health and I completely agree! During complete lock down, the only time I could spend out of the house was walking my dog which (thanks to the nice weather) was so nice. It was a chance to clear my head and enjoy some fresh air for a little bit. Once lock down was eased slightly, the first thing I did was drive to some nearby woodlands and walk a trail I’ve walked many times before. It was the best hour and a half I spent that whole week! As cheesy as it sounds, I really felt like I had blown away the cob webs and recharged myself. Fresh air and sunshine are natures best medicine! The only thing that made me feel a bit sad was that I hadn’t spent more time before lock down doing it, but I will definitely be spending more time from now on indulging in nature!

Enjoying the free things in life – Thinking about life before and after lock down, I can’t believe I used to spend a whole day wandering around a shopping centre looking for things to waste money on. My relationship with money has changed a lot during lock down, and I now see buying things slightly differently. For example, if I went shopping and saw a blouse that I liked (but didn’t need) I would probably have bought it in the past, but now I see the cost of it in two ways, monetary and time. If it costs £20, that’s £20 cash I’ll be spending but also £20 worth of the time I spent earning that amount of money. I’d much rather spend my time doing things I love that are free, such as writing, walking or spending time with people. Not only does it save me money, but it’s much better for my soul.

Not taking time with loved ones for granted – I think this will be the biggest thing for a lot of people. I have never been away from my immediate family as long as I have during the 12 week lock down and it has been really difficult at times. I cried because I missed the simple things, going for a coffee and a chat with my Mam, having dinner with my Grandad or walking the dogs with my Brother and his Fiancee. This is something I don’t want to take for granted ever again.

Taking the time to indulge in my passions – Work, eat, sleep, repeat. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? This is pretty much all I used to do before lock down and I’d spend my day off ‘catching up’ on life admin such as house work, sorting bills and food shopping. Which didn’t leave me much time for anything else, or so I thought. I’ve realised that I actually have so much more time, I just hadn’t given it to myself. I’ve simplified my life a lot over lock down which has opened up so much space to allow me to cultivate my passions and enjoy my hobbies again. I spend time writing, reading, creating, cooking and all the other things I had left by the wayside. All of these things refuel me and make me feel alive, and I can’t believe I let them go for the other things I filled my time with. Looking back, I do feel I have wasted a lot of time on superficial things, television, social media, but no more. I want to fill my days with pleasure and enjoyment and cultivating my passions is what does this.

Allowing myself time with my thoughts – When you’re busy all of the time, you don’t have much time to stop and just be. I’ve had plenty of time to do that lately, and I can honestly say I’ve learnt so much about myself! It sounds strange to say that because I feel like because I’m me, I should already know everything there is to know, but I didn’t. I’ve spent a lot of time meditating and learning to be present in the moment but also a lot of time reflecting on myself, my past, future and behaviours. I feel like it’s made me a better person, I understand myself more so I am more forgiving to things I do or say. I’ve also been able to rediscover what I like and my own opinions. I’m the type of person that can be easily influenced by other people so I often lose track of myself or what my opinion is, so being by myself and away from everything else has allowed me to remember who I am and become more confident and comfortable with me.

Looking after myself more – I used to see self care as another job to be ticked off the list, something I had to get done so I could move onto the next task and feel productive. I now love spending an hour looking after myself, having a face mask, using a nice moisturiser or doing my nails. One day a few weeks ago I decided to have a long, hot bath a two in the afternoon. Not something I’ve ever really done but it was the highlight of my day, using my nice bubble bath and listening to a podcast. I no longer see self care as a chore, but a treat! Something to be enjoyed rather than hurried through to move onto the next thing.

There are so many other small things that I’ve changed in lock down that I could go on all day, but I won’t. I do think that time is all we need to realise that we can make a change if we want to, The main theme I’ve noticed with all of the things I’ll be continuing after lock down is that overall, I have slowed down. I used to always rush around from one thing to another and sometimes I wouldn’t finish the first thing, but I’m not going to live like that anymore. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and soon we realise that so much time has passed, but it’s never too late to adapt our lives and find things that add value and enjoyment back into our lives. After all, we’re only here once.

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My favourite plastic free swaps and eco advice.

It’s hard to go anywhere or do anything now without hearing about how humans are affecting the planet. We are consuming too much, producing too much waste and polluting our planet with rubbish and plastic waste. I started looking for ways that I could help after the legendary David Attenborough put a program on the television about how human’s plastic waste was killing our planet. I would have been one of the thousands of people affected by it and became part of the ‘Attenborough affect’ which saw plastic usage and pollution plummet. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and trialing plastic free alternatives and wanted to share them so everyone can start making changes toward living more sustainably and looking after the planet. Because even if you only make one small change, it still adds up!

The first step for me in this fight was to actually reduce my own consumer consumption. By reducing what I owned and used, and being content with what I had, I wouldn’t need to buy as much ‘stuff’ therefore reducing the amount that would go to waste and potentially pollute the planet. After I had reduced what I owned (see last weeks post), I donated and sold as much as I could so that other people would get use from what I no longer did. By owning less, and knowing what I actually owned, I got more use out of my possessions and didn’t feel the need to keep buying more and more to make myself feel good. Me and my partner share a wardrobe and we both have exactly the same amount of space. Typically, girls will dominate a wardrobe for clothes, shoes, bags, accessories and everything else we ‘need’ to make ourselves feel ‘happy’. My whole wardrobe fits into one shelf, one three foot rail and three drawers. That’s it. I don’t need anymore space, I use everything I have and have no need to buy more. Because of this, I am contributing significantly less to the £140 million worth of clothing that ends up in landfill every year. Any clothes I no longer use, I will donate and I tend to buy better quality clothing that will last rather than ten items of fast fashion that will fall apart at the first wash. My best tips for reducing clothing waste is to evaluate what you already own before you buy more, shop second hand or in charity shops where you can (there are loads of amazing bargains to be had!) and learn how to repair your clothes that might otherwise end up in the bin. Anything you do want to get rid of, donate so someone else can enjoy it.

Even if you do reduce what you buy and consume, there are some things that we just need. Toiletries, sanitary products, food and more are things that we can’t really live without, but I’ve found some amazing plastic free alternatives that not only will reduce your impact on the planet but can also save you money in the long run! So far I have swapped; some food items, kitchen wrappings, cleaning products, using a refillable water bottle, washing powder, cotton buds, nail varnish remover pads, our bathroom toiletries, sanitary products, make up and likely more that I have forgotten. Below I’ll talk about my top five swaps to date and why I love them! (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is at no extra cost to you.)

Sanitary products About a year ago, I made the switch to using period underwear. At first I was very skeptical and nervous about it but I can honestly say it has been the best swap I have ever made! I don’t know how but my periods are so much better from making this swap and the reviews speak for themselves! I’ve always used the brand Modi Bodi which post in thick paper packaging and they have saved me money over time from not buying disposable sanitary products.

Clothes washing and cleaning products – I’ve tried so many different cleaning products and washing powders that I was worried about switching over to a more natural alternative. But I am so impressed with the swaps I’ve found that I won’t be going back! For washing our clothes, I’ve been using the TruEarth laundry strips which work so well! For cleaning the house I bought some refillable glass spray bottles and I bought this Iron & Velvet starter pack and I love every single product! They smell amazing and I feel so much better for using natural products around the house.

Make up remover For taking off my make up, I used to use a plastic bottle of make up remover and a cotton pad which would also come wrapped in plastic. I looked around for alternatives and my absolute favourite is the Face Halo. Although this does come in a plastic pouch, the overall waste reduction is huge. To take off make up, all you do is wet the Face Halo and rub off your make up, it’s that easy. You don’t need to add any other products and you can wash them in your machine along with your towels (please check washing instructions to help keep them tip top.)

Bathroom toiletries For years I’ve used popular brands of shampoo, conditioner and body washes all packaged in plastic bottles which are often not recyclable. Now, I use beautiful brown glass bottles which I can refill at my local plastic free shop! It costs about £7.50 to refill each bottle but they last for a couple of months even when I’m using them everyday. Not only am I not producing any waste with them, they work just as well as any other brand I’ve used and they look amazing in my bathroom!

Food packagingFood is something we all need to buy but sadly, a lot of it comes wrapped in so much extra, pointless plastic that it’s hard to get away from. I always buy fruit and vegetables loose where I can from the supermarket or even better from a local market. I also have big glass jars in my cupboards for pasta, rice, noodles and cereals which I take to my local plastic free shop to have refilled. As well as getting these dried foods, I can also buy nuts, spices, dried fruits and chocolate all without packaging and at much better quality than in the supermarket. As an added bonus, I only buy the amount that I need so I don’t risk anything going out of date before I’ve used it.

It’s generally more difficult to buy plastic free alternatives in your local supermarket so here is where I shop:

  • Local markets are fantastic for loose fruit and vegetables and butchers will generally put meat into containers for you if you bring your own!
  • For dried foods, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, gifts and so many other amazing things, I support local and shop in Something Good located in Newcastle. Use this link to find your own local plastic free shop.
  • For sanitary products I shop online with Modi Bodi. If you use this link, you’ll get £15 off your order!
  • For cleaning products, candles, chocolate, gifts, make up and anything else you can think of, I shop online with either Plastic Freedom or Peace with the Wild.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my summary of my favourite plastic free and eco swaps! Let me know of any swaps you’ve made or what you think of mine in the comments box below.

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How has the lock down changed my relationship with money?

I’ve always had a love, hate relationship with money. When I was younger I was always a spender, as soon as I got my pocket money it would be burning a hole in my pocket to be spent. I never thought about saving for the future because when you’re 10, you don’t. Having that bag of sweets and toy is far more important than thinking about how you will afford a house and a car. I got my first job when I was 15 and still prioritised spending over saving. I never thought about the future because it still seemed so far away that I had plenty of time to plan and worry about it.

After moving out for a bit when I was 19, when I was 21, I lived back at home for a couple of years. I found myself in between jobs after my apprenticeship ended and I couldn’t find anything else. With no income or savings but still the desire to go out and spend, I got my first credit card. It was easy enough to think that I would only use it when I needed to and pay it off as much as I could each month but when you’re young it doesn’t work as easily as that and I ran up my £500 credit limit only paying back the minimum each month which was all I could afford. Today, I have managed to pay it back, get everything under control and make sure that I always have savings in case of an emergency.

For the past few years, my relationship with money has gone from strength to strength but I still felt there was more I could do. I have a solid budget that we follow every single month, I check our accounts every few days to make sure bills come out on time, for the right amount and I make sure to put money into savings at the beginning of the month rather than at the end after we could have spent it all. But I still found that we weren’t saving as much as I thought we could, where was all our money going? I found out during lock down.

When everywhere is closed and you can’t spend any money, it doesn’t take much to realise where all your money was going. I spent a lot of time in lock down reflecting on our lives ‘before’ and what our lives might be like ‘after’. Before lock down, I would finish work, wander through the shops on my way to the car and easily spend £50 on some fancy toiletries, posh chocolates and something else I thought might benefit from having, Pretty much everything I bought was a consumable so I could tell myself that it was useful and I needed it. But did I really need it?

After a couple of weeks in lock down, I looked through our bank account and worked out how much money we had left in our budget. I had to work it out twice because I was sure I had missed something. The only things we had spent money on was food shopping and some jump leads as my car battery had died from not being used. My life wasn’t any less enjoyable because I hadn’t been able to go and spend money on some luxury things I thought I needed. If anything, it was more enjoyable because I valued the things I already had and I had more time to spend enjoying them. I got more pleasure from spending time in my garden and playing with my dog than wandering aimlessly around a shop, spending money that had taken me hours and hours to earn.

With all of the uncertainty for some people about jobs and being furloughed, I wanted to make sure that we were being smart with money throughout the lock down and saving as much as possible so if anything happened, we had a cushion to fall back on. By having this focus, and not having the option to go out and spend as easily, our savings grew and so did our quality of life. Before lock down, an enjoyable day out for me would have been wandering around a shopping centre buying things just for the sake of it. Now, I get more value from sitting in my garden reading a book, or listening to a podcast and baking something.

I can honestly say that a benefit I have taken from lock down is that I am living my life more intentionally, doing things I enjoy and that add value to my life. I’m not missing out by not buying the latest thing in the shops or by over consuming. I’m enjoying the simple things more, having more time for myself and valuing the little things. I’ve realised that while it’s important to have money and savings for an emergency, it’s less important to have it rule our lives and (as cliche as it is) the best things in life, really are free.

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Learning to let go, my journey to minimalism.

When I was younger I used to keep everything. If I picked up some pebbles on the beach I’d become attached to them and keep them, the same with toys, clothes, books and anything else you can imagine. My bedroom was bursting at the seams, I had bags of stuff in my parents loft that I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of and I still could have used more space in the house if I had it. I’m not sure when I developed this need to hold onto everything. Maybe it was when I was really small and my balloon flew out of the sun roof in the car, never to be seen again. But the thought of letting something go filled me with dread, so I’d keep everything I could.

As I grew up, I did get a little bit better. I learned to let some things go that I didn’t need anymore, clothes that didn’t fit or toys I was too old to play with, but there was still stuff that I would ‘get rid’ of but that meant bag up and put in the loft. Visually they were gone but I knew that they were still there if I ever changed my mind. I think that’s the thing, I’m so indecisive that I was always scared I would change my mind about something I had gotten rid of and regret it for the rest of my life. Dramatic, I know. I felt a little better at not having the thing in my bedroom but I still had my security blanket that meant I could bring back anything I had let go.

When I was 19, I left home. But I didn’t take all my belongings with me, not at all. I still kept my parents loft full of things from days gone by, I had stuff stored in about three different places in three different houses. To be completely honest, I’m not sure I would have noticed if one person had gotten rid of everything I was keeping there because I had so much stuff I couldn’t keep track of it all. I obviously didn’t need it otherwise I would have had it with me and would use it everyday, but I still had to keep it ‘just in case’.

The moment that really made me want to change, was just after I had moved into the house I am in now. I used to live in a small flat by myself and I had a whole bedroom dedicated to all the stuff I had been storing with other people and carting around. My other half dubbed it the ‘spare room’ which we both knew meant it was the room that housed all of my hoarding sins. When we moved into our first rented house together, I thought that I would sort all the clutter and leave behind everything I didn’t need. But I didn’t. All the junk came with me and our first house together also had it’s own ‘spare room’. After a year and a half we decided to buy a house together. A new build, never lived in before by anyone and I didn’t want to sully it with all my junk. So I promised myself to sort all the clutter and leave behind everything I didn’t need. But I didn’t. Our beautiful new house now had it’s very own ‘spare room’ and I was gutted. Why couldn’t I just let it all go? The thought of it made me anxious and I even got a bit panicked when my other half wanted to get rid of something of his. Are you sure? Do you definitely not want it? Why not just keep it and think about it first? I didn’t want my bad habits to spill over onto him but I couldn’t help the way I felt.

Every time I sat down in the spare room over the years to finally make a dent in all the stuff, I would feel overwhelmed, scared and defeated. So I would give up and go do something else more fun. This went on for so long until I finally realised that I had been carting around all this rubbish with me for six years! If some of the stuff had been sitting on the floor of one after another of the ‘spare rooms’ for six years, then I very clearly didn’t use it or need it. Not only had it been taking up so much physical space for all that time, but it was also taking a toll on me mentally.

If you came into my house today (the 9th place I have lived since I left home) you would think I had finally gotten everything under control. And I have. But it has taken me years of carting stuff around with me, and moving house is a great reminder of all the rubbish you’re hoarding! I recently discovered The Minimalists and I now listen to their podcasts all the time and read their blogs and articles and just about anything else I can. This life choice intrigued me, I wanted to know more about living with intention and not just the same way everyone else did or the way I thought I was meant to. Consuming the latest thing or keeping stuff ‘just in case’.

To tackle my hoard, I needed to come up with a plan or a system that would help me work through everything but not get overwhelmed and give up. I saw a TV program one night about hoarders (ironic, I know) and saw this woman who had a house full to the ceilings of rubbish and junk. I think I like to watch those programs because it makes me feel like my problem is less of a problem. She had some up with a system that meant she had to get ten items out of her house every single day. Whether that meant ten things going in the bin or ten things going to the charity shop then that’s what she did. She would spend weeks walking down the road with a carrier bag each day to donate her ten items. She got through her hoard very slowly but she did it, and didn’t get overwhelmed as a lot of people on those programs do. It gave me an idea. I definitely didn’t have nearly as much stuff as she did and if I tried the ten item a day thing then I could be done within a month or so.

So that’s what I did. Armed with everything I learned from The Minimalists about living intentionally and only keeping and using things that add value, I put my plan into action. Every day, I got my other half to take ten things out of the ‘spare room’ and put them into a box and I would decide what to keep and what to let go of. The reason I asked him to chose the ten items, was so I would get through everything and not just pick the ‘easy’ items myself and ignore the rest. When faced with a room full of stuff, it was so easy to get overwhelmed but I couldn’t when I only had ten items to think about. I aimed to sort at least ten items a day but if I was feeling on a roll, I would get another ten items in the box and sort through those as well. After all the years of keeping all this junk, it only took me a week to go through it all and I think I only kept about 20% of it. Just goes to show how little I actually needed.

Now, I have stopped being as impulsive when it comes to buying new things and I always give time to think about bigger purchases and whether I actually need them or I can borrow them from someone else. My home is fairly minimal compared to the ‘average’ home, I don’t like to keep things I don’t use or need. So much has changed for me since I sorted all my junk out. It’s like I’ve gotten rid of a mental block some how and now I have time for anything I want because I’m not sitting thinking about the ‘spare room’. Do I miss anything? Not at all. Do I wish I had sorting it all out sooner? Absolutely. But I believe that everything happens at the right time and now is the time for living with less stuff and more intention.

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What happened when I did 30 days of Yoga with Adriene?

May was a bit of a month of firsts for me. It was the first month I tried journaling (read more here), the first month I set myself intentional goals, and the first month I aimed to do a yoga with Adriene video every single day.

Every month, Adriene posts a calendar and a YouTube playlist of carefully thought out yoga sessions for the whole month. I’ve always seen the posts go up at the beginning of the month and thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to do yoga everyday for a month?” Well, now I had the time. I felt as though it was meant to be as I had also planned to start trying meditation throughout May to see if it helped with my anxiety and Adriene named May, ‘Meditate‘ so it all came together quite nicely.

On the first of May, I got up, popped on some leggings and a top, rolled out my yoga mat and got ready to start. I love starting something new but my issue is keeping it going as I’m sometimes not very resilient. I imagined myself throughout the month and promised myself I would keep going as best as I could. The first video was around twenty minutes long and was followed by a ten minute meditation. Perfect! Not too long that I would struggle to get through it and end up getting frustrated but long enough that I thought I had done myself some good!

After my first practise I felt amazing! I’ve done yoga before and I always love it but this time felt different. Probably because I knew it was going to be for the whole month and I was really looking forward to seeing what benefits I got from it. After the meditation I felt calm and less anxious than I normally do so I was really pleased with the results so far. I kept it up every single day for the first couple of weeks but I started to flag a little by week three. I missed one day and started to feel awful about, I had ruined my goal and was there any point in carrying on when I knew I hadn’t done the full 30 days? I tried not to beat myself up too much about it because even if I only managed 50% of the days, it was still more than I had ever done and still the best I’d done to achieve a goal ever!

By the end of the month, I had done around 85% of the days. Even though there was a little part of me that felt disappointed to not have done the full 30 days, I was still over the moon at how well I had done! The thing I was most pleased with was the way that I felt. I’ve read for years about the benefits of yoga for flexibility, calming anxiety, helping with muscle pain and so much more, but I truly believed in it now! I would often wake up with a sore back from sleeping in strange positions but that stopped happening. I found my posture was better and I was walking a little taller rather than slouching like I used to.

The biggest benefit for me was the affect it had on my anxiety. During lock down, my anxiety has escalated a little bit and I’ve been struggling with simple things like going outside or being near to other people even with social distancing. But on the days when I was doing yoga and meditating, I felt much calmer and more able to control how I was feeling. I’m not saying that my anxiety has completely vanished because it really hasn’t, I’m still struggling daily with simple things, but I now don’t feel like there’s nothing I can do about it. Because I have pushed myself to do a yoga pose that I didn’t think I could do, I feel better able to push myself a little through my anxiety.

As the new month starts, I’m going to carry on trying to do yoga every day, even if it’s only a five minute session, I’ll still feel the benefits. I’ve even got my other half involved and he is loving it too! Here’s some tips for getting started if you’re new or even if you’ve done it before:

  1. Invest in a yoga mat. It doesn’t have to be a top line or expensive one but mine really helps my practice. This one on Amazon is ideal. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is at no extra cost to you.)
  2. You don’t need fancy workout clothes. I practice in leggings or even pyjamas.
  3. Don’t feel like you need to do every single pose perfectly. One of the reasons I love Adrienne is because she gives you a couple of options for each pose if you’re a beginner or you’ve been doing yoga for years.
  4. Mostly, enjoy yourself. Think about the reason you want to start doing yoga and just enjoy each practice and reap the benefits!

So with the new month here, I’m going to continue with a daily yoga practice as much as I can following Adriene’s June calendar. Why not give it a try and let me know what benefits you get from it.

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It’s time to talk

In last week’s post, I reviewed a few of my favourite self help and lifestyle books in support of mental health awareness month. I’ve been reading books in this genre for years and years in an attempt to better understand my own mental health problems. I even spent a couple of years studying a degree in psychology as I very much believe that knowledge is power! Among other things, I suffer with bad health anxiety and when the coronavirus outbreak started in China, I made it my mission to try and learn as much as I could about the virus as this actually makes me feel calmer and more in control. It’s a bit of fear of the unknown. I know that there is a huge amount of the world that suffers with mental health issues so I most likely won’t be alone with any of this, but I thought it was a good time to open up the conversation about mental health because even now it’s still not talked about enough. There’s still stigma attached to it and I still get treated as though there’s nothing wrong with me or I’m making it up, because it’s not an illness you can see so people assume it’s not there.

I’ve suffered from bad mental health for a long time but it got really bad when I was about 18 to 22. I’ve had depression that has pushed me to some very dark places and anxiety so bad I thought it would kill me. I’m very grateful that my depression is (I would say) under control and although I still have some down days as everyone would, I can pull myself around from it now which I never could in the past. However, my anxiety is still affecting me every single day. On my Instagram and Twitter accounts, my bio states that “I’m anxious about everything, but we’ll work on that.” As much as it sounds like a light hearted joke, I genuinely am anxious about everything. Because of my anxiety, I sometimes get angry and shout for no reason, I have control issues, I have rituals that I have to follow with certain situations, among other things. It has a complete hold on my life and I’m struggling to get it to let go.

I’m very open about my mental health. If anyone asks me about it, I’ll talk. People applaud this as it’s not an easy thing to do but the reason I do it is to help. I will try to help people whenever I can and I feel that if one person feels comforted or less alone to know my story, then I am more than happy to share it. As I mentioned earlier, millions of people around the world suffer with mental health conditions but it is possibly one of the loneliest things to experience. I want to share my story with you, and then explain a little bit about why I’ve decided to write this post.

When I was younger, I was very shy. I was so shy I couldn’t give anyone eye contact if I was talking to them or them to me. Because I was so shy, I found it hard to make friends and fit in, and to be honest, I still do. I was bullied and only had two or three friends throughout my whole childhood, one of which is still my closet friend today. As I got a bit older, I found my confidence when I went to college and met a group of people that I fit in with. It was amazing! I got my first part time job which just helped to grow my confidence and I could finally look people in the eye when I was talking to them and even felt alright to speak in front of a small group of people.

However, my mental health started to noticeably deteriorate when I was around 18 and I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship that I couldn’t get out of. I was in this situation for around 4 years, and it ruined me. I lost every scrap of confidence I had built, had no interest in doing anything, I lost myself completely and I just hated the person I had become. As well as this, I lost any friends I had made from my college days so I felt completely and utterly alone. I was scared to go out or to talk to new people again and I couldn’t see how it was ever going to get better. My life had become so dark that I couldn’t see any way out. But one day, something inside me snapped and I just walked away from the relationship and vowed that I would rebuild myself and my life. I am so lucky that I was able to do this and I understand that not everyone is so lucky.

I started to devour information about mental health, lifestyle and self help and tried so many things to try and get my mind back to it’s former glory. Slowly but surely, I managed to bring myself back from rock bottom. This was with the help of my family, few friends, doctor and counselling. I spent around two years on antidepressants and had a few blocks of counselling sessions which helped me to understand my mind a lot better. The thing with taking antidepressants is that they don’t take your problems away, or make things better, they just make you feel numb to it for a while and when I decided to stop taking them (under the guidance of my doctor) it was really difficult and I felt like I was going back to square one. However, after some time, things started to feel brighter and once they were completely out of my system, I was able to use the things I learned from my counselling and my own research to build myself up again.

Typing my story like this doesn’t get across the difficulties I faced during this time in my life. I spent days in bed, didn’t eat or sleep much, cried more that I thought I ever could, cried to the point where I couldn’t cry any more and just felt numb, and so much more. Because of the relationship I had become isolated apart from a few people in my life and to this day, I still don’t have a lot of friends. But I truly value the ones I have and I try to make sure they know how much I do. I’ve become a better judge of character and I’m no longer afraid to walk away from something if it doesn’t make me feel good. Looking back on that time in my life, I wouldn’t change it because it’s made me who I am today. Something that did help me completely come to terms with it was writing a letter to my teenage self. You can read it here.

I know that my depression and anxiety will never completely go away, and I’m alright knowing that they’ll always be a part of me. Today I can manage my depression and it doesn’t affect my day to day life at all compared to how it used to. I’m still working on my anxiety. And that brings me onto the reason why I wanted to write this blog post. At the time this is published, I will have been socially isolated for 9 weeks. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I have asthma so am classed as clinically vulnerable. The only times I leave the house is to collect shopping from click and collect services and to walk our dog. However, just these two activities fill me with dread and panic. As the pandemic has been growing, so has my anxiety and my control issues have increased. My cleaning has become more intense and frequent (read here how I handle my food shopping) and I have to be the one to do it so I know that it has been done and how it has been done. I know how I can keep myself calmer and I have been trying meditation which has helped a small amount. However, this is what I feel when I think about the future:

When the pandemic is over, lock down restrictions are gone and life returns to some sort of normal…I’m scared to go to a supermarket. I can’t think about being in a busy public place without panicking. Eating out in a restaurant makes my stomach turn. But worst of all, I can’t begin to think how I’m going to hug my family again without being scared that I’m going to make them ill or they are going to make me ill. Health anxiety is crippling and I constantly scared that I have caught something when in fact, I’m more than OK. It’s easy enough to say, just stop worrying, or just go outside or stop watching the news but unfortunately, it’s not that easy. I watch the news so I’m up to date and it does make me feel better. If I could just stop worrying or go outside, I would have done that. I don’t know yet how I’m going to get my anxiety under control but I’m not yet at the stage where I want to ask for help. But trust me, if I get there I will.

There is no shame in having mental health problems and needing help, we all need help sometimes. I’m hoping that by sharing my story, it will encourage others to do the same and the conversation about mental health will become more normal and less uncomfortable. Please comment or get in touch if you want to share or even open up to a friend or a loved one. Even though it might feel like it, you’re not alone.

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My favourite self help/lifestyle books

With May being mental health awareness month and today marking the beginning of mental health awareness week, I thought it was the perfect time to do a review of the best self help and lifestyle books I’ve read. I’ll also include what I’ve got next on my book shelf to read.

I am one of the millions of people across the world that suffer from a mental health condition and while I’m very open and honest about my mental health and how I’m feeling, not everyone is so comfortable talking openly about it. If you know anyone who you think is struggling, especially during these difficult times, then please reach out to them because you might just turn their day around. If you are suffering with poor mental health yourself, then please reach out and ask for help! There’s nothing wrong with needing help now and then and you’d be amazed at how many people might be going through the same feelings you are. I’ve put some links below to places that can help if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a member of your family, a friend or your GP.

Mind – Support lines and Elefriends online community

NHS – Helplines and how to access mental health support

Time to change – Mental health help and support services

I suffer from anxiety and have a history of depression which will never completely go away. I still have down days where I struggle to get out of bed and spend the whole day in my pyjamas doing nothing. For me, my anxiety is the worst, I obsess and overthink every situation that I can because of the way I am. I know it isn’t healthy or helpful but anyone who suffers with this can tell you it’s not a choice, your brain just does it. The global pandemic has catapulted me into a whole new level of anxious I didn’t know I had in me. I’m clinically vulnerable so will be in isolation for at least 12 weeks and I’m so scared that this virus is somehow going to find it’s way into my home that I dream about telling people to stay two meters away from me. Read my post here to see what I mean about getting food deliveries.

Someone once told me that I needed to try reading self help books which offended me for two reasons. One; I’ve probably read more self help and lifestyle books that this person knew were published. Two; that’s not something you say to anyone, let alone anyone with mental health struggles. I’ve always been a lover of a self help or lifestyle books, anything that I felt might make me a better version of me. I’ve read so many books on the subject I actually found myself helping a member of the public in a book shop pick out books for her teenage daughter to help with her confidence and anxiety and I don’t think she realized I didn’t work there until I joined the till queue behind her with my books.

I’ve spent some time thinking about my favourite self help and lifestyle books and thought I’d share them with you and hopefully you’ll enjoy them too. It took me a long time to think about the titles I liked the most and ones that really changed my life. I’ve included links to all the books I mention and also a link for Audible or Amazon Kindle Unlimited if you prefer to listen or read your books this way. Both have a free trial period so you can test the waters first for free! So in no particular order, here’s my top six;

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

‘Wabi-sabi’ by Beth Kempton – Wabi-sabi is a Japanese belief that embodies the beauty of imperfections and the fact that all things change over time. Beth Kempton writes about how we can apply this to the modern, fast paced world to focus on the things that matter most to us. I loved this book, it gave me pleasure in slowing down and appreciating the little things. I’m guilty of trying to move too fast and get too much done in not enough time but after reading this book, I allowed myself time and space to just enjoy life and understand that life is imperfect, and that is a beautiful thing.

‘Reasons to stay alive’ by Matt Haig – This book is written about Matt’s experience of depression and how he rebuilt himself after hitting rock bottom. It’s a must read for anyone who has or is experiencing depression and really helped me get through some tough times. The way Matt tells his story is so personal and relatable, you really feel as though you’re listening to a friend.

‘Get your sh*t together’ by Sarah Knight – I absolutely love the way Sarah writes this book! It’s so ‘normal’ and easy to read. I’m terrible for worrying about what other people think I should be doing and in the past I have even let that change what I want to do, buy or think. This books cuts through all of that and helps you to literally ‘Get your sh*t together!’ As it says on the front, ‘Stop worrying about what you should do so you can finish what you need to do and start doing what you want to do.’ Very well put I must say.

‘An unquiet mind’ by Kay Redfield Jamison – This book tells the story of Dr Kay Redfield Jamison’s first hand experience of bipolar disorder. Parts of this book really resonated with me (even though I don’t have bipolar) and the way it is written is so real. The epilogue at the end brought me to tears with how she talked about her illness in such a raw and amazing way, I’ve never read anything so true about depression.

‘L’art de la simplicite’ by Dominique Loreau – I used to be a bit of a hoarder and not only of things but of mental clutter too! This book was brilliant at helping me learn to let go and live a clearer, simpler and more clutter free life. Not only does the book itself look beautiful, but the way it’s written is as well. It will make you want to overhaul your life and definitely for the better!

‘First, we make the beast beautiful’ by Sarah Wilson – This book completely changed the way I saw my anxiety. Within the book, Sarah meets with a whole host of people including the Dalai Lama and writes about how to be your best even with anxiety. She talks about changing people’s perception of anxiety into a thing of beauty rather than a problem that needs to be gotten rid of. This is my number one read for anyone with anxiety.

I’ve also pulled five books from my book shelf that are on my ‘next to read list’. Let me know if you’ve read them and what you thought!

‘Japonsime: Ikigai, forest bathing, wabi-sabi and more’ by Erin Niimi Longhurst

‘Missing out, In praise of the unlived life’ by Adam Phillips

‘Emotional Intelligence, why it can matter more than IQ’ by Daniel Goleman

‘Silence your mind’ by Dr Ramesh Manocha

‘Happy every after, escaping the myth of the perfect life’ by Paul Dolan

I’m really looking forward to reading these books and I’m sure I will get something amazing from them when I do. Let me know what your thoughts are on my post, what you’re doing for mental health awareness week or month, or just say hi below!

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How I built my perfect skincare routine

Have you ever heard of Ethylhexylglycerin? How about Tetrasodium EDTA? Or Triethanolamine, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, and Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate? No, me neither. I have this strange need to google every ingredient in skincare that I use to know what it is. I’ve thrown creams away because I saw one ingredient that may be harmful to humans and I just felt a bit stressed by it all. What should I be using and what shouldn’t I be using.

I really started to focus on my skincare recently as I was suffering from some breakouts and redness and really wanted to have skin I was so happy with that I would go out without any make up. I also felt a bit uninspired by the skin care that I had been using. I’d used the same wash and moisturizer for about a year and a half and while my skin was OK apart from a few spots here and there and some oiliness, I just felt like I could do better. I saw people who’s skin glowed everyday and rarely had acne or days where their nose became an oil slick like mine and I just wanted to know how. Two words, skincare routine. A really strong skincare routine that focused on their skin type, issues they had and the result they wanted.

I went online and searched for ‘What is the perfect skincare routine recommended by Dermatologists?’ and I got so many different articles and videos that all had slightly different answers. I just wanted someone to say, “here you go, this is what you need to be using”. However, life isn’t always that easy. During all my searching, I came across one of my now favourite YouTube channels in my google search, Hyram. I may be late to the party but I was hooked! I think I watched almost every video he made over the next few days and devoured the information he had. I made notes, took screenshots and researched products and ingredients that he talked about. I went full school project with this.

What I loved about Hyram was that he made skin care understandable and approachable to me which I’ve never really had before. I understood what he was talking about and could relate to some of the things he said. It was really hard to choose just a few of my favourite videos by Hyram but I’ve listed what I feel are useful to start off with:

How to find your skin type

How to read an ingredient list

Why I hate fragrance in skincare

My top skin care brands of all time

So with all this advice and information under my belt, I started to think about my skincare routine step by step. Firstly, what is my skin type? My skin type is combination so I have a lovely oily T-zone with dry cheeks. Secondly, I thought about what problems I wanted to address and the main things were; redness, occasional acne and reducing my oily T-zone. Then, I went through all of my notes and information and thought about what steps I would benefit from in a skin care routine. I’m not much of a morning person so getting out of bed and having a 15 step skin care routine doesn’t really excite me so I wanted something effective but also something that wouldn’t take me until lunch time. I’ve set out links to my skincare routine below and what products I have been using. (I will state that as an Amazon associate I may earn from qualifying purchase using the links below.)

Cleansing: CeraVe Foaming Cleanser | 236ml/8oz | Daily Face, Body & Hand Wash for Normal to Oily Skin – I use this cleanser morning and night and find that it cleanses my skin really well without leaving it feeling dry or stripped.

Serum: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% 30ml – This serum has been my savior for redness and spots! So many people recommend this and with good reason as it also helps to balance out my oily T-zone. I use this morning and night.

Eye Cream: CeraVe Eye Repair Cream | 14 ml/0.5 oz | Eye Cream for Dark Circles & Puffiness – I love this eye cream! I suffer from dark circles under my eyes which are mostly genetic so I will never fully be rid of them. However, this cream has niacinamide as one of the top ingredients so has made a visible difference to my under eyes and I am so pleased with it! I use this morning and night,

Moisturising/SPF: CeraVe AM Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF 25 | 52ml/1.75oz | Daily Facial Moisturiser with SPF for Normal to Dry Skin – I spent some time looking for a good moisturiser that also had a decent SPF in it and this is what I found. It’s really hydrating but doesn’t make my skin feel sticky or heavy. I use this in the morning,

The Inkey List Ceramide Night Treatment – From all my research, I know now that it’s important to use a different cream at night as your skin is doing different things while you sleep compared with during the day. I love this night treatment because I wake up with my skin feeling refreshed and hydrated but not congested.

Masking and exfoliation: I alternate between these two products every Sunday. One week I will use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution 30ml, 10-Minute Exfoliating Facial and the next week I will use the T ZONE AUSTRALIAN PINK CLAY MASK with Karadu Plum Brightening Vegan. Both help to exfoliate my skin without using physical exfoliates that can cause damage and I always feel like I’ve had a skin refresh once I’ve used them.

Extra care: I’ve also been using a face roller every night following my serum and before my moisturizer. I’ve read that they help to drain toxins out of your skin and (if you put it in the fridge before use) helps to reduce any puffiness. I love it because it feels like a mini facial every night and is a nice way to relax before going to bed – Jade Roller for Face Gua Sha Set Facial Natural Stone Massager Anti-Aging Skin Gym Roller Body Eyes Neck Lymphatic Drainage Tool Reduce Wrinkles Womens Gifts (Green2)

So what is my verdict? I’ve spent a lot of money on skin care over the years and wasted a lot which I hate but it’s simply down to the fact that I didn’t spend enough time researching a product or what I needed to use. I tried an all-natural brand which built a skin care routine for me on their website, and I happily ordered the lot. Sadly, it completely stripped my skin, made the oily T-zone so much worse and actually made my skin feel a little bit painful. That’s what pushed me to doing this and I can honestly say I wish I had done this years ago. I’ve been following my skin care routine now for four weeks and my skin looks amazing! The redness has nearly completely gone, I don’t get break outs anymore and the odd spot that slips through is gone within a day but the biggest benefit is how I feel in my skin. I would happily go out now without make up on and my face feels so healthy and glowing!

I can highly recommend finding your own perfect skin care routine as mine might not work for you even if you have combination skin. Spend some time researching products, watching videos (highly recommend Hyram!) and thinking about what you need from your skin care before jumping in as it will save you a lot of time, money and possibly pain in the long run.

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Why I’m trying journaling

I’ve always wanted to try and keep a diary in one form or another. Either the classic week to a page view to keep track of events or appointments, the ‘dear diary’ format where I can vent out some of my feelings or a pretty and creative bullet journal. But I’ve never been able to consistently do it, the reason being I don’t know how to use a diary or journal to best fit my needs. I think one of the reasons for this is because I’ve never really sat down and thought about my needs or what I would like to get from a journal, how do I want it to help me and how will it fit into my life. So with the extra time I have on my hands, and the beginning of the new month just passing, I thought it would be a great time to put some work into it.

For the first time in a really long time, I wanted to set myself some goals for the month of May. I’m not usually good at these because I never keep in mind the need for goals to be realistic and I never think about how I’m going to achieve them with the time and resources available to me. For example, right now isn’t really the time to say I’m going to join a gym because they’re all closed, and I don’t really have enough time in one month to learn a whole language, but that’s the sort of thing I would normally set for myself. Then come the end of the month when I have undoubtedly failed, I feel awful and convince myself it’s because I’m an incapable human being. Not because it’s not realistic to learn a whole language in a month.

So on the first of the month, I sat down and spent some time thinking about things I would like to try and do and whether or not I could do them realistically in the time frame I’ve got, but also with the resources I’ve got. I then decided that a journal might be a good way to log my goals and keep track of them. So I decided that starting an effective and useful journal would be my first goal for the month. Rather than rush in as I have in the past, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted from my journal, how did I want it to look, how much time each day did I want to spend using it and what did I want to get from it. I looked online at pre-printed journals and noted down what I liked in them first in regards to the layout; monthly planning, weekly planning and daily reflection. Then I thought about the content and what I wanted to use each section for and made a list of what I liked for each space. Finally, I reflected on what I would actually find useful and what I would probably end up getting rid of in the long term. For example, I initially thought about having a spending tracker on my monthly planning page, however I already run a budget each month so I thought I would be able to better use the space for something else.

Now I know what you’re thinking, all this planning sounds really effective and I’ve obviously got my head screwed on. Let me burst my own bubble here, I’m normally the type of person that rushes into everything as soon as the idea comes into my head and inevitably ends up getting frustrated, bored or angry because something didn’t work out the way I hoped because I just did it without planning and thinking something through. This is something that I’m trying to work on as a person and I must say, so far it’s going really well. I’ve spent less money by giving myself a few days to think about purchases and I’ve managed to finish tasks better because I give myself time to plan and consider options before I just jump in.

Back to the journal though. Once I had a plan of the layout I wanted to use and the things I wanted to keep track of, I found myself a notebook in the house, some pens and highlighters and spent a good hour or so setting it all up. I’m so happy that I spent the time to really think about what I wanted to use my journal for and how I wanted it to look because once I had finished setting it up, I loved it! And that only wants to make me use it more. Below I’ll list out the sections that I’ve got in my journal to give you an idea of how I use it to benefit my life everyday.

  1. Monthly planning space (one page): Here I note down the new month, choose a word of the month which might be something I want to work on getting better at such as ‘confidence’, something I want to display such as ‘love’ or anything else that might inspire me. My word of the month for May is ‘resilience’. I also have space here to list down my goals for the month and space below that to think about how I will achieve them.
  2. Weekly planning space (half a page): I don’t use this space to plan the week in terms of events (that’s what my phone calendar is for) but more to plan my mindset. I have space to note down what my weekly blog post will be, somewhere to reflect on anything that inspired me in the week before and space to think about how I can improve by 1% this week. I also pop a little post it note in with a nice affirmation on it.
  3. Daily space (half a page per day): This space is more of a place I can reflect on what I have done each day and think about what I’m going to achieve the next day. I keep my writing short and to the point to encourage me to reflect but not write war and peace. Each day I write one line on; three things I’m grateful for that day, one thing I’ve worried about (and reflect the next day), exercise, self care, meditation/mindfulness (another goal for May), tomorrow’s achievement, today’s lesson and what my anxiety level has been out of 10.
  4. Reflection on the month (one page): On this page I will reflect on how I have done with my word of the month but also on my goals for the month. Did I achieve them, what have I learned, what will I change next month, etc.

Before I fill in that days notes before bed, I take time to reflect on the day before. For example, am I still thinking about the thing I wrote as my worry. So far, writing it down has been enough to get it out of my head and allow me to realize that it wasn’t worth worrying about. I also remind myself that I don’t have to fill in every section every day. So I don’t need to feel bad if I haven’t done exercise everyday or if the only self care I’ve done is taking some time to meditate. The whole process is to allow me to try and do more to help myself such as exercise each day but also reflect on worries and achievements, but not beat myself up if I haven’t had a ‘good day’ (whatever that is meant to look like).

I’m trying this throughout May to see how it impacts my life and will carry it on if I like. I encourage you to try it even for a week to see if you notice a difference and please tell me about your experiences. I’m hoping I’ve finally created a journal that works for me and allows me to improve a little everyday and learn to slow down, reflect and give myself space to succeed as well as fail. As long as I learn something along the way.

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Not another lock down blog

We’re probably all aware by now of the awful pandemic that’s sweeping the globe. We are spending more time than ever at home and as strange as this whole situation is, I’ve tried to use the time to slow down and reflect. Now, some people are hating not being able to go out and do anything which is OK because we are all different and I’m not about to sit here and tell you what you should be doing with all the extra time you might have. As possibly the worlds best procrastinator I don’t think I’d have a leg to stand on to do so. But what has happened to me during lock down is that I’ve slowed down. I’ve always had ideas about the kind of person I would like to be; calmer, more patient, more resilient, better organised to name a few. Not only that but there’s so many things I’ve always thought I’d get better at that if only I had more time. Well, now I have plenty of it! So if not now then when. As I mentioned in my last post, I am classed as vulnerable so am self isolating for 12 weeks, which is plenty of time.

I spent the first three weeks of lock down wearing no make up and living in either lounge wear or jeans and a t shirt, basically not making loads of ‘effort’ every day with my appearance. Normally this would make me worry about how I looked or what state my skin was in but because I was the only one really thinking about it and seeing it, it was only my opinion that mattered. I’ve grown to feel more comfortable in my skin and with myself. Who says I can’t wear that even if it’s not on trend? Why do I have to have my hair and make up done everyday if I don’t want to? Who says my hair isn’t beautiful because it’s naturally wavy and a bit frizzy and I haven’t straightened it? Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up and making an effort and I have been doing that more in recent days but in a way that I’m happy with, not what I think other people would like. One of the things about me that I’ve been wanting to work on is that I am very affected by other people’s thoughts and opinions, so much so it can change what I think. But a benefit of spending so much time with yourself is that you learn what you like again, unaffected by other peoples thoughts and opinions and I must admit it’s very freeing.

One thing lock down has definitely done is alter my perspective on everything. I turned to my fiancé the other day and say “Do you know, I’ve spent so much time and energy worrying about other peoples opinions of everything when the only opinion that matters is my own. What other people think of my clothes, make up, appearance and thoughts doesn’t matter. It matters what I think of them.” He smiled as he always does when I have these little moments of clarity and he feels really proud of the small breakthroughs. All he wants for me is to be happy in my own skin and it fills him with joy when I make baby steps towards that. Would I have had such a profound musing had we not been in lock down? Probably not. But that’s the thing about being forced to slow down, even stop. Eventually you’re alone with your own thoughts.

With anxiety, comes worry. About everything! I have this strange ‘skill’ that I can worry about a situation but not only that, I can create a number of potential outcomes to said situation that I can worry about as well. My other half is very much a person who won’t worry about something if he can’t change it and I am so envious of that! My change in perspective has changed my worries though. I’ve gone from worrying about things like what other people think of my Instagram feed to thinking up weird and wonderful recipes to make sure we don’t waste any food. I’ve gone from thinking about what other people think of my appearance to thinking about how I feel in my home and space and how I can make it better for us. Contemplating how I would afford a new on trend summer wardrobe to making sure everything is clean and safe and healthy. Working on worrying less will take time and perseverance but I think I can get there.

Something else I’ve loved having more time for is to work on being more organised. I’ve always put myself across to others as organised but I have a huge secret that could threaten that facade. The parts of my home that people see are always tidy, clean and organised. We have a minimalist home where everything has purpose or adds value to our life which not only is appealing for us but also makes cleaning day so quick and easy! However, the two rooms that no one sees (our spare bedrooms) house hundreds and hundreds of items of ‘stuff’ that I have carried with me for years and years. Through two house moves, all this rubbish has come with us and it’s been the most difficult thing to sort through it all and just let go. I will be doing another blog post about the dreaded ‘spare rooms’ but lets just say I’ve finally had the time to face my demons and it feels so amazing!

The best thing that I’ve gotten better at throughout all of this that I am more mindful. I take time to think about things, how I feel, what I do, what I eat, what I buy, everything. I feel like because of this, everything has more meaning and I’m not just rushing through everything as fast as I can to get to the next thing. In turn, this has made me feel calmer. Don’t get me wrong, I still get anxious but I feel a bit more able to control it now.

Let me know what benefits you will take from lock down and how you are spending your time. But most of all please stay safe and look after each other.

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Ding dong, Delivery!

I’ve written this post to describe what anxiety is like for me. Everyone is completely unique, anxiety affects everyone differently as well and this is my own experience and isn’t representative of all sufferers. I have written this post firstly to process my emotions for myself but also to share what it can be like for me to do seemingly simple things that can easily spiral out of control.

We are currently experiencing something that I don’t think any of us could have ever imagined and life as we know it has changed, maybe forever and it’s very daunting for us all. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this, you may want to cry, shout, be angry or happy and that is all OK. You might be using time in isolation or distancing to self improve, learn to meditate, exercise, get crafty, write a novel or read. Or (like me) you might have days where you don’t want to get up or get dressed and just stay on the sofa watching daytime TV. All of that is OK! 

I have been self isolating now for four weeks as because I have asthma and am classed as vulnerable I’m going to be isolating for 12 weeks. My finance is also currently working from home so I have his company as well as our little dog which I am grateful for. We are both very lucky in that our jobs are protected, we are still earning an income but are able to stay home and stay safe. We are incredibly lucky to be in the situation we are and I am thankful everyday for that. 

I’ve always been very open and honest about having anxiety and with what is happening in the world, I am having some really bad days. I get anxious about an awful lot of things but health anxiety is a big thing I suffer with. I can’t even feel slightly queasy without getting into a panic and following a strict ritual of safety behaviors so that (in my mind) the situation doesn’t get worse and worse. Worrying about getting this virus is keeping me awake at night, stopping me from leaving the house for a walk and even making me scared to go into my garden. My anxiety sadly doesn’t just affect me but also my fiance. I panic about him going for a run or walking the dog and if he harmlessly coughs my mind goes into a spiral and I struggle to cope. 

Because of all of this, we have had all of our food shopping delivered to our house. The drivers are fantastic doing what they are doing, putting everything on our doorstep and stepping to the bottom of the drive way before we open the door. Seemingly it’s easy enough to take everything into the house and put it all away in the cupboards, wash our hands and carry on with our day. Sadly not. 

In the hour before the delivery is due, I start by prepping our kitchen (our house is open plan and the front door leads straight into the kitchen) ready for the food. I have a bottle of diluted disinfectant and a cloth ready to wipe everything down, a clear table for ‘processing’ and a bin bag for any rubbish. I also spend a good 10 to 15 minutes briefing my fiance on how everything will go and what each of us will do. It takes less organisation to plan a holiday! (Lets dream of that in the future). It may seem easier to let J do the unpacking as he isn’t anxious about it all and will be able to stay calm however, with my anxiety comes a need for control. If I do it, I know exactly how it has been done, what’s been wiped and how thoroughly and that makes me feel more calm that letting go of the control. J is amazing and listens, helps and does what I need to keep me calm even though it is way overboard.

The driver arrives, everything is on our doorstep and he retreats back before I start to take it all in. I put everything just inside the front door for stage one, unpacking. I take everything out of the carrier bags and unpack any outer packaging I can such as cereal boxes or packaged fruit and vegetables. (I am a bit advocate for reducing waste and using plastic free but right now protecting food is taking over in my mind.) I open the box and J takes the item out without touching the outer packaging or me and it goes on the table. Once all the packaging is removed, I spray my cloth and wipe everything so it is damp and disinfected and it goes onto the table. Next, J opens the back door and I take the rubbish out, we both wash our hands then I hoover the floor where the shopping was and spray it with disinfectant as well and leave to dry. Once the disinfectant is dry on the shopping, everything gets put away into the cupboards, fridge and freezer and I disinfect the table, put the cloths and towels on to wash and we wash our hands again. 

Seems long winded and maybe unnecessarily thorough but mentally I’m still not done. My mind is still racing thinking about disinfecting the kitchen, wiping down the benches, cupboards, table and floor. Have I cleaned everything properly? Did I miss anything when I unpacked or not wash my hands well enough? Was the virus on something and has is floated into the air or landed on my hand? I go upstairs (followed by J as he can see I’m on edge) and wash my hands again. I stand in the bathroom and ask him if he thinks I need to shower or change my clothes or if I’ve cleaned anything properly. He says I should do anything I need to make myself feel calm but to try not to go to excess. I can feel panic sweeping my body, I start to feel flushed and shaky and my eyes fill with tears. I end up cleaning my legs where I had been kneeling on the floor unpacking everything, changing my clothes and washing my hands two more times. My mind settles slightly but I still go over everything I’ve done for the next hour.  

I will keep going over everything for probably the next week,  thinking about it in my head and trying to work out if I have done enough. One of the benefits about my anxiety is that I have a need to know all the information I can about a situation. As a result, I have read and learned as much as I can about this virus, how it spreads, behaves and how it can be killed. A lot of the things I think and do, I know aren’t in line with how the virus behaves, for example it can’t rise up and float into the air from a surface. But part of my brain still thinks it can. Over time, I will feel more and more calm about the delivery until the next time we need food. 

I also wanted to share this because I don’t want anyone to feel alone if they are in the same situation and feeling similar things or worse. Please talk to someone, make sure you have support because this is an awful thing to try and fight alone. Ring someone, text someone and make the most of any charities that can help if you don’t have anyone to talk to or you don’t feel you can open up to people you know.

Above all, please stay safe and look after yourselves.