It’s Not Self Care- It’s Self Preservation.

The phrase Self Care is incredibly popular within the media these days and as the number of people suffering from poor mental health, stress and exhaustion is growing year on year it is an important topic to be discussed.

Nevertheless, I personally believe this popular phrase should be rephrased. Self Care sounds a little woo-woo and airy fairy. Instagram images of face masks and soaking in lush bubble baths immediately springs to mind. Self Care should in fact be known as Self Preservation. Self Preservation is the act of doing several different activities which light you up and spark joy, in order to preserve your mental health.

As the saying goes you cannot pour from an empty cup. If you constantly give to your friends, family, job etc without taking time for yourself it will inevitably result in a burn out. Burn outs are not good for us or our mental health and can be avoided by implementing some simple techniques into our daily routine in order to look after ourselves. By filling yourself up with a little love and care you will be more effective at looking after those around you. You are less likely to snap at someone or lose your cool in an instant. You are less likely to feel drained and exhausted at the end of each day and you are more likely to feel empowered and fulfilled within yourself. Anxiety and stress can not coexist alongside relaxation.

Take A Minute To Breathe

A common excuse people use for not looking after themselves is “but I don’t have time.” What that insidiously really means is it is not a priority to them. Self preservation should be a priority- especially when it can take as little as a minute of your time a few times per day.

When you feel pressure and stress mounting and taking control then I recommend using the following breathing technique to calm the mind and take charge of your feelings and emotions.

1. Stop whatever you’re doing and either lower your gaze or close your eyes completely.

2. Place your softly hands on your lower abdomen.

3. Take a cleansing deep inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.

4. Adopt the box breathing technique. Breathe in the nose for the count of four; hold the breath at the top for four; exhale for four and hold for four.

5. Repeat this pattern 3/4 times

This is an incredibly simple breathing technique which calms the central nervous system and stops your fight or flight instinct from kicking in. Simple breathing brings you back into the present moment and gives you something to focus or rather than getting caught up in the mind chatter.

Make A Commitment To Yourself

In the past when I was feeling outta whack I would make a ridged schedule and put so much pressure on myself to stick to it. “I must practice an hour of yoga every day,” I would tell myself, and when I didn’t manage I would feel shame, guilt and failure. The polar opposite of looking after myself and taking positive steps to feel good.

Nowadays, I don’t make strict schedules anymore. I try and tap into my intuition and listen to what my body needs each day. Some mornings that involves taking to my mat and stretching out my body through a yoga flow. Other days it involves hitting the snooze button my alarm and savouring an extra half an hour in bed. By listening to exactly what your body, mind and soul needs you are more likely to finish the day feeling like you’ve achieved some form of balance within yourself and less defeated by not meeting an unrealistic target.

Get Moving

Countless scientific studies explain that moving the body through exercise aids positive mental health and helps maintain a healthy body and mind. It is important to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping!

Some of my favourite ways to get moving are to walk back to work on my lunch hour; go climbing with my boyfriend; take a pole dancing class; head over to YouTube and take an online yoga class; throw on a podcast and head out for a run. The list is endless really. Try different activities and see what you enjoy and makes you feel good!

Eat Well

Finally, take time to cook something bright, colourful and tasty. We don’t just use our tastebuds when we eat. Your brain is also stimulated by a variety of smells, colours and textures. I often notice that when I’ve been eating poorly and neglecting my body by feeding it a poor diet I feel sluggish, lethargic and more irritable than usual. I also understand that if you are cooking for one it can feel difficult to put in the effort and cook a proper meal for yourself- I often struggle with this mentality. My solution for this is to invite a friend or my boyfriend over and cook for them too! This gives me more accountability and pride to do a good job so the other person gets to enjoy a healthy, wholesome meal too. I also ensure that I make a meal plan for the week and keep it visible in the kitchen to remind myself of all the tasty treats I have to look forward to each day.

These are a few of the most basic techniques that I will always come back to when I need to take care of myself better. Self preservation takes time and a level of discipline in order to form strong habits. It’s easy to forget these skills and techniques when life feels good and we don’t think we need them. However, it is important to maintain them in daily life in order to look after our mental, physical and spiritual selves. I hope these are beneficial to you and you pass them on to friends and family as new tools to add to their mental health toolkit.

By talking to one another about mental health we can help improve the overall mood of this country and look after one another. Communities who share skills, knowledge and information with one another will thrive and grow.

Don’t Look Back. Keep Moving Forward.

Your twenties are a very fickle time and it often feels difficult to know if you’re ‘doing it right’- so to speak.

At school I was taught the age old strategy; work hard at school, work even harder at university to get the honours degree, land the dream job, find yourself a partner, buy a house, get married and have children. Then make sure the same cycle is instilled into them. That seemed pretty straight forward to me when I was 13, young, naive and easily led. Damn, at that age I thought you were a fully fledged grown up at 18. Oh how wrong I was.

Fast forward to my twenties and I’m lying in bed writing this post with two cats napping on my chest wondering if I’m doing it right? On one hand I have a group of friends still at uni, drinking and living it up at all hours in clubs several times a week. Then on the other hand I have a group of friends, much like me, who are in the early stages of their careers, working the 9-5 and settling into adulthood. Then somewhere in the middle are my nomad pals who I couldn’t even tell you where in the world they are this week- probably some beach in South East Asia using the hashtag #travellerlife. We’re all the same age, living completely different lives.

You might have even noticed this trend yourself. More and more people on your Facebook feeds announcing their engagements, job promotions, new sprog and you’re sat there wondering where you fit into all of this! I am constantly comparing myself to others around me wondering if I’m on the right path doing the right thing. To be honest, I’ve had to get really firm recently when I catch myself in these moments and try to snap out of it because it’s detrimental to my mental health.

I’ve also realised that you can’t plan life. I’m a massive over-planner by nature. I wish I could be a carefree, gypsy yogi without a worry or fear in sight but that’s just not me. I like to know what’s going on all the time; know exactly how others are feeling and what I’m doing next. I think that’s why I enjoyed university so much. There was always a plan or a deadline to be achieved.

However, when you leave the walls of academia and head into the big, bad world you literally have your whole life ahead of you and that can be daunting especially when everyone is navigating it so differently.

The only way I’ve learnt to deal with the twists and turns of my twenties is to keep moving forward.

Life will most certainly throw you some curveballs when you’re not expecting them- and boy did the universe serve me one lately. But rather than curl up in a ball and sit with misery I pushed onwards and moved forward. The event in question taught me that there’s an awful lot in life we have no control over but we do have full control of how we handle it. We have the tools to adapt and grow from these events we are experiencing and use them to help others who will inevitably go through a similar situation in the future.

I’m trying not to focus all my attention on the big 5/10 year plans and live week to week. I’m striving to enjoy the freedom I can have in my twenties and not take life too seriously. I don’t have to have my shit together yet *repeat 3 times*

I’m not entirely sure where I am going with this but if like me, you’re a twenty-something lying in bed feeling overwhelmed by your friends newsfeeds and Instagram stories this week then I hope if nothing else this post shows you are not alone.

I think very few of us know exactly what we’re doing or if it’s the right thing for us. Nonetheless, I do truly believe there is a plan much bigger than you can imagine and you are exactly where you need to be right now. Your path will undoubtably twist and turn but if you keep moving forward with as little resistance as possible all will become clear and you’ll wonder why you sat comparing your life to someone else’s in the first place. Remember if Britney can make it through 2008 you can navigate these confusing times too!

The post uni blues no one talks about

Graduation was the best day of my life- hands down. I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement that day that all the hard work and graft I had put in over four years was being recognised and had paid off. I was surrounded by my caring and supportive family who were all equally as proud of me as I was and it was such a special day I hold very close to my heart.

Graduating is an amazing time; a time for prosperity, new beginnings and new adventure. However, when summer is over and a new University year begins you all of a sudden begin to feel very left out. You’re not going back there when a lot of your friends are. Going out drinking mid week isn’t as acceptable now you’re no longer a student either. For the last four years you have had this student label attached to you and if you’re unemployed or working any job you can just to pay the bills you begin to feel like you have lost a community and a sense of belonging.

I also moved home after finishing my studies because I wanted to be able to save money and have the flexibility to move for a job in an instant. I found moving home incredibly difficult. I had lost a sense of freedom. I didn’t like having to report to my parents and let them know what I was up to. I struggled to slot back into the home family environment and really resented the fact I had to do it. I also lived quite some distance away from my friends so popping out the door and walking down the street to grab a coffee and have a catch up was no longer an option meaning I began to feel very lonely too.

Then there’s the job applications. The dreaded job applications. I couldn’t tell you the number of jobs I applied to, the number of enquiries I made and the amount of unpaid work I did to try and get myself a job. It seemed never ending and it seemed like I was failing. I couldn’t understand it; I had done everything right. I had worked hard at school to get the grades for uni, I then continued to work hard in order to graduate with a 2:1 and had worked for several different companies whilst doing so to gain the work experience. I had been on several uni sports teams and committees and volunteered too. All CV boosting skills I had been told. But they weren’t enough and I wasn’t enough. My confidence hit rock bottom. I was embarrassed because my cohorts from university were all getting jobs or travelling the world while all I felt was stuck. Stuck with no way out.

No one tells you how lonely graduating is and how getting a foot in the door in a graduate job is increasingly difficult. I don’t think people appreciate how difficult the transition from student to graduate is and so many of us suffer in silence thinking we’re going through it alone.

But I promise it will get easier. A job will come around and it may not be your dream career (no one really loves their first job) but it will give you the tools and experience to later get into that dream job role you were always hoping for. Remember to step away from the computer and don’t frantically apply to anything and everything. I did so much of that and people can see right through it- they can tell you’re not the right fit for theming their business because your heart isn’t in it. Take time out to do the things you love and remember this is only temporary. It’s a challenge to be faced and it will make you a stronger person.

#Littlegirlsdeservebetter

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A warm welcome to today’s very special post from my smiling moon beam face! I woke up this morning and four words came to the front of my mind: Little Girls Deserve Better. For those who have been following my blog a while you will know I am a self love activist who wants young girls to grow up with more genuine and diverse role models in their lives. I want to be the change that I want to see on this planet! So, I decided to launch the campaign #littlegirlsdeservebetter.

I’ve not always liked my skin and I certainly did struggle with acne until my early twenties. It took a complete knock out of my confidence, I was bullied at school for my imperfect looks and for not quite fitting in with my peers. But this isn’t about me; you don’t need to hear my sob story because the past will not change the future.

Little girls growing up today deserve better than what we were sold when we were younger. They do not need to see very real and natural bodies being slated on the covers of magazines for having a tiny midriff or some cellulite hugging their thighs. They need to see REAL women standing up and sharing something that they want little girls to know.

I’ll start…

“Little girls deserve better. Magazines shouldn’t make them feel bad for having imperfect skin. Little girls should be running around and having fun with their friends and not worrying about the pimples that are on their faces. They should not have to beg their mothers to buy them make up to wear to school because others are being unkind towards their looks. You are beautiful. You do not need to cover your natural beauty. Spots are so normal! Yet we are told they are ugly and something that needs to be fixed. You are young. Go out into the world and be who you want to be regardless of your skin. Focus your energy reading books, studying hard at school, playing with your friends, baking cakes. Do whatever makes you happy and never stop doing it because of a few marks on your skin. You are a goddess and always worthy.”

Be the change that you want to see.

Today I urge other women and men to join me in this campaign. I want it to stretch the globe because little girls everywhere need to hear your message. I want little girls to love the skin they’re in. What do you want for them? What do you believe they deserve? It can be anything that resonates with you. It can be body positivity related; you might think they deserve a more eco friendly planet; you might want them to know their unique fashion sense is special and valued. You might want them to know that having a boyfriend doesn’t make them whole and their independence should be celebrated! Whatever it may be, post a picture and share with the #littlegirlsdeservebetter then tag three friends to send the message out further.

I can’t wait to read all your wonderful stories. I want this to make a difference and even make one young girl proud of herself because she is beautiful on the inside and out.

Forever moving forward

Things are changing all around me right now. I’m away to start a new job, friends are moving away to begin their own careers, university courses, or moving in with their partners and growing their lives together. We’re all growing up and adulting pretty well if I do say so myself. I myself am moving to Leeds to begin a graduate job with a nation wide supermarket as a digital marketing trainee which is really exciting as it was one of my favourite topics at university.

However, it’s easy in these transition periods to worry a lot about what the future holds. I’ve never sat with change well, it takes me a little while to accept it and move with the flow. I worry a lot about the ‘what ifs’ and really stress myself out over things that haven’t even happened yet.

Change challenges us to think differently; work with new people in new places, doing new things. It allows us to learn what is really important to us and forces us to find a way to make things work even though sometimes it seems tricky. Everything is manageable if you want it to be. Moving away from home to a new city with no friends can seem daunting but this pushes you out your comfort zone. Maybe you’ll take up that new hobby you’ve always thought about and meet likeminded people there or it’s the kick up the backside you needed to appreciate your current friends and keep in touch with them more regularly. It’s different for everyone.

But change doesn’t have to be scary when I begin to panic about the ‘what ifs’ I am trying to turn it around and think of all the great things I can learn from this experience. Change is what you make of it and often it’s the push you unknowingly needed to personally grow and develop from.

Seasons change and people change. Buds don’t turn into flowers and bloom all year round so we can’t be expected to either. Sometimes change gets us down but we recover and bloom once more.

Have any of you had big life changes happen to you this year? How did you handle it? I would love to start a conversation.

Until Next Time,

XO

Three Life Lessons That Have Made The Greatest Impact On My Life

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My dad has always told me, “we celebrate our successes and learn from our failures,” we never grow if we don’t stop and take time to reflect on the good and bad in whatever we have done. I’ve talked a lot about my recent mental health struggles. However, on reflection without the struggle there are so many things I wouldn’t have learned, which in turn have made me a much stronger woman today.

This week I want to share with you three life lessons which have made the greatest impact on me and are things I try and implement into every single day to develop me further as a person. These three things allow me to regularly check in and reevaluate where I’m at or how I am reacting to a situation and readjust my behaviour for a more favourable outcome. I’m not always perfect, I react in old negative habits sometimes but having a greater understanding of myself allows this behaviour to be less frequent and less futile to myself or my relationships.

Invest in yourself first

Let me ask you a question, how is anyone meant to help you with your low self-esteem/ self confidence/ mental health/ physical health ect if you won’t even do it yourself? Do whatever you can at whatever cost to look after number one (that’s you by the way) before anyone else. For me, it was seeking the counselling that I so desperately needed and working through my own hang ups in order to make progress. By taking the counselling I then further branched out into reading more by different specialists, working with a self empowerment coach and broadening my knowledge and learning about my behavioural patterns more and more in order to stop the bad behaviour from continuing. I still do this every damn day. Pick up a book, watch a TED Talk, read a psychology paper, meditate. Making the time to learn how to like yourself will not only better your relationship with yourself, with your friends and family, your colleagues, everyone who you reach on a daily basis will benefit. What you are putting out into the world will come back to you. I used to tell myself the story that I wasn’t worthy of being loved and I could only attract the wrong type of guy- so guess what? That’s exactly what I got. But when I started loving myself and having higher expectations of myself and others I attracted a fantastic man into my life who I love dearly. So, be careful what stories you tell, they will impact your life until you change them.

Do that project you think you can’t manage

That dream job/ project you’re always thinking about doing but never actually do anything about is only a dream because you’re not bringing it into reality. I never ever expected to be teaching yoga until it actually started to happen. I always day dreamed about doing it one day when the time was right and to be honest there never is a right time. I jumped straight in when my mental health was at it’s worst because I needed something to focus on and to keep me going. That has since launched into a small business I run alongside my day job. I’m also about to move from Scotland to England to begin a graduate scheme in digital marketing and I’m terrified of moving so far away from my friends, family and boyfriend, but it’s an experience I’ll learn so much from.

Do the thing you’re too scared to do. If you fail or find out it wasn’t for you then at least you can tick it off the list and learn so many different things from it. When I paid for my teacher training course I was worried that I might not even enjoy teaching at the end of it. But now I’m actually doing it I know how much joy it brings me and I learn from the different challenges I face every week and I thrive off building my own business and paying myself at the end of the month. If you never work on your own dreams you’ll end up working on someone else’s for them. Remember that.

Tell people you love them every single day

People are scared to put their heart’s on their sleeves these days. We are the generation who plays games when dating someone new and always has to have the upper hand keeping our heart’s closed off so they can’t see when they’ve hurt us. How are you meant to find a lasting, trustworthy relationship on those grounds. If you love someone tell them. Say it even if they don’t say it back and don’t close off when you don’t get the response you were maybe hoping for. I’ve learned that I would much rather put my all into a relationship; tell them I love them and talk about the future and have it all end than never be real, open and raw with someone. At least if it were all to finish you could walk away knowing that you gave it your everything and aren’t left wishing you had said or done things differently. Oh and tell your family it too, every single day because they’re equally as important.

Reflecting is a funny thing. It brings out all kinds of emotions in me but I love it all the same. Reflecting on the good allows me to be proud of how far I’ve come in life and reflecting on the not so great teaches me some of my greatest life lessons. Learn how to catch negatives and spin them into positives, whatever the situation you may be in.

Until Next Time,

XO

Three Tips To Accept Your Body Exactly How It Is

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The first time I saw this image, I winced. I told myself that I really needed to start working out again and there was no way I was going to share this photo online. However, only a short while later, once I had let my ego stop controlling how I viewed myself, I laughed at how irrational I was being.

The body positivity movement is gaining huge traction across the world yet we’re still being sold a message by the media that we’re not good enough. I can’t wait for the day when a row of completely different women can stand together in an advertisement campaign and it’s not seen as ‘out the box’ or a publicity stunt. Quite frankly, there are so many young and inspiring women who I really wish had been around when I was growing up to show me what real, unfiltered beauty looks like. But, I was a child of the 90s, when models were starving themselves in order to get jobs in the industry and carbs were the enemy. Magazines were full of the same skinny looking blonde girls promoting weight loss diets to us and celebs were shamed on the covers of magazines for an ounce of cellulite or even the hint of a midriff.

No wonder loving my body is a battle every day. I promote body positivity online and in real life because I want little girls to grow up with a more natural idea of what beauty is. But, it’s hard. I get caught up in the negative self talk and struggle to see my own beauty sometimes. However, after working alongside a female empowerment coach- Bek Williams (Check out her Instagram @itsbekwilliams if you want to work with her) she is truly amazing. Bek gave me the tools in order to help with the negative self talk and appreciate my body for all it has to offer me every day.

Tip 1: Positive Affirmations 

This isn’t as woo woo as it sounds. If we talk to ourselves negatively we begin to believe the words we are telling ourselves. I’ve been telling myself for years that my body isn’t good enough, it needs to be more toned and I won’t be lovable with this shape. I’ve told myself this story for so long its become exactly how I see myself. So, flip it. If I say kind words to myself every single day then eventually I’ll begin to realise it’s the truth. I began with “I am enough,” I wrote it on my mirror, set reminders on my phone, made these three words my lock screen so I was exposed to it over and over again throughout the day. And you know what, even after a week, I began to feel better about myself. Next we added in different affirmations which resonated with me and I work with these regularly to help block out the nasty voice inside me.

Tip 2: Talk to yourself like you would to your best friend

If your friend came to you calling herself “fat, ugly, unworthy and unlovable in her own body” I would hope that you wouldn’t tell her that she is and make her feel worse. If you do then maybe I’m not the blogger for you to be reading to be honest. So, why do you say these things to yourself? When you catch yourself saying unkind things to yourself STOP. Take a minute to either rephrase what you actually mean or don’t speak entirely. For example, you may say, “I’m so fat today,” when you actually mean “I’ve eaten loads of junk food today which has made me feel slow and sluggish.” Can you see how different those two things are? The first one is personally attacking your body, and the second is understanding that the food you’ve been eating is making you feel a little outta whack. But, it’s also OK to eat the cake and pizza by the way; remember everything in moderation.

Tip 3: Make working out fun and not a chore

I enjoy moving my body in different forms of exercise. However, I have had to learn when it is OK not to workout if I feel too tired to move. Work out with friends, try a new sport, go for a walk with your mum and put the world to right again. These are all forms of exercise. Don’t work out to a specific amount of time, sometimes I do a 25 minute workout and if I feel like I can do more I keep going. If I feel finished after the 25 minutes I stop for the day and accept that’s where my energy levels are at. Exercise is important for your health but when it begins feeling that it’s a chore and something you MUST DO you’re not engaging in a healthy  relationship.

So, I’m trying to embrace my body exactly how it is. It’s never going to be ‘perfect’ but it gets up every day and goes to work and allows me to practice yoga or swing so high I can touch the tree branches when I’m on a swing with my best friend. My body is great just as it is and I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to treat her kindly and with grace. I hope this post has resonated with some and these simple steps can be as beneficial to you as they have been to me.

Until Next Time,

xo