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!

#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.

It’s time to accept the early bedtime- I’ve become everything eight year old me hated

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Let’s go back to when I was eight years old; my sister and I HATED bedtime with a passion. We would be caught sneaking through to each other’s bedrooms to continue playing games and having fun; we would run up and down the stairs complaining to my parents of ailments and illnesses or that we just couldn’t get to sleep! My poor parents didn’t get a night to themselves without one of us kicking up a fuss about the dreaded bedtime routine.

Fast forward 10 years- I was 18 and in my second year of university and still hated sleep. I would go out clubbing four or five times a week whilst studying and working. Sleep was not a priority then either. “Go hard or go home” was the slogan on my 18th birthday sash gifted to me by my good friends. This behaviour continued until I graduated from university and began working a job in a supermarket where I would start as early as 5am and finish as late as 10pm. When I wasn’t prioritising sleep I was getting sick; two rounds of tonsillitis in 6 weeks, and forever run down with a cough or cold. I actually started to think it was normal that my eyes hurt every time I closed them! I knew that something had to change. However, I had never really considered the importance of sleep until my boyfriend suggested I listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast featuring Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist and director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at The University of California, and he had some really insightful things to say on the topic.

So, today’s post was actually suggested by my better half and is aimed at those of you who think you can survive on six hours of sleep or less and still be productive in your daily lives. This is an opportunity to look at sleep as a way of enhancing performance and not a sign of weakness. I have done lots of research from different avenues and I will link all their references below for you to check out yourselves if you wish.

A lack of sleep impacts decision making or creates what I like to describe as brain fog, where you cannot think straight and simple tasks become unmanageable. Alongside Matthew Walker I have read works by Caroline Webb, a researcher in behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience. She believes that to function effectively in the workplace you need to carry out three core daily practices- sleep well, practice mindfulness and remember to exercise. Sleep is hugely important because when we don’t get enough of it less blood flows to the prefrontal cortex where our deliberate system is. This means that without enough sleep it is difficult for us to be creative, create intelligent solutions to problems or act quickly and smartly on our feet when we are placed under pressure. She discusses that sleep deprivation differs from one person to another however generally speaking people need between seven and nine hours to function at their best the next day.

Charles Czeisler, a Harvard professor of sleep also explained that through recent studies we have discovered that those who go a week sleeping between four to five hours a night become mentally impaired the equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%. This means that not sleeping enough is like turning up to work drunk the next day. Can we stop and think about that for a second. Those of us who care about producing high quality work would never dream of turning up to an important meeting drunk but we would argue that we HAD to stay up all night preparing for said meeting. Which in reality is as bad as being intoxicated by alcohol.

Matthew Walker explains that a lack of sleep affects every part of our biology and we have to recognise as a society that sleep is fundamental and should be taken more seriously by businesses, the NHS, and the government. But why has sleep deprivation become such a massive issue over the last 75 years? It is largely down to our lifestyles, the technology we use late at night lights up our brains and keeps us stimulated for longer. We are expected to be fully flexible in our jobs and work longer hours in order to succeed or get that promotion that is on offer. Then once people have finished working for the day and driven their commute home they feel guilty for staying late at the office and not spending that time with their family so in order to make that quality time available they sacrifice sleep instead. Nowadays, we have all the connection we could have ever imagined yet we are lonelier and more depressed. Caffeine and alcohol are stimulants which are more widely available to us and they all impair our quality of sleep.

We also view sleep negatively in western society. We look at those who sleep in as lazy and unproductive. We believe that in order to be successful we must be busy and active. This one is very personal to me because when I was at my lowest point all I ever wanted to do was sleep however I felt guilty doing so because I didn’t want my family or friends to think less of me for not getting work done around the house or missing a social engagement because I was tired.

So, the research shows us that sleep is imperative to making smarter more thoughtful decisions and we should be aiming for between seven to nine hours a night in order to unleash our full potential. This week I challenge you to go old school and set yourself a bed time, get into bed earlier than normal; put the phone on aeroplane mode and read a good old fashioned book. Aim for those recommended number of hours sleep and see the difference it can make to your energy levels, your productivity levels and your emotional and mental wellbeing.

References:

Caroline Webb- How to have a good day: The essential toolkit for a productive day at work and beyond

Matthew Walker: Why we sleep

Czeisler, C. & Fryer B. (2006) A Conversation with Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business Review.

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

 

 

 

Change The Story And Rewrite The Novel

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We all know someone who goes about each and every day acting like a total pain in the backside, singing the same tune, “oh woe is me. What did I ever do in this life to deserve such misfortune? The world never gave me any favours so why should I be happy?” Maybe that person even is you.

If you can relate to anything I’ve said above you often find that to begin with you might take pity on that person for feeling this way and try to comfort them, trying to help them through difficult times. However, there is only so much support you can give someone who isn’t willing to help themselves and make their life better until you’re emotionally and mentally drained resenting their behaviour. The crux of the issue is that the world doesn’t owe you a living, you have to make your way in this world, cultivate your own happiness and learn and grow from your successes and failures. Moping around ruining everyone else’s day won’t make anyone more likely to be your friend nor will it make your day any brighter.

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook I have been directing you to a fabulous Ted Talk by Ellis Watson called “Disrupt Yourself or Die Trying.” I will link it here, it’s 15 minutes of your day that could give you a completely different outlook on your life. We live for a relatively short period of time and I ask you a serious question- during this short space of time you get to inhabit planet earth do you want to merely exist and survive or do you want to thrive and make a difference?

As children we are constantly learning new things and developing ourselves through a sense of curiosity. The older we get the more responsibilities we gain and eventually you find yourself stuck at your desk at that dead end job, which you said you would only stay at for a year to gain some experience and pay the bills and save for a nice holiday and now you notice it’s been ten years since you began working for the business. You’re bitter about all the dreams you once had and never did anything to achieve and don’t know how to get out of this headspace. No one else but you will help you out of this scenario. You can rewrite the story and have the happy ever after that you always wanted. It is important to learn from past experiences and if they don’t bring you joy or a sense of satisfaction, understand that you have the power not to let that pattern become repetitive.

Go outside, take up a new hobby, meet new people. Do things that terrify you because they will give you so much clarity and help you decide what you want out of life. Make an impact firstly on your own life and then share that passion with the world. Become a child once more, look at tasks with a fresh eye and a different mindset. That dull job you have to do every day at work- find a way to make it fun. Want to start that business or charity or run that event? As Nike say, “Just do it.” It’s ok to fail, those who learn from failure become better and stronger people; those who sit on the fence and never try for fear of failure never experience the exhilaration of taking the future into their own hands.

Learn how to love all that life has to offer you and don’t waste this short but precious time you have on this earth. Learn from each and everyday how to better yourself just a tiny bit more. Learn from everyone around you- even the people you really dislike. I often find that I’ve learn’t my biggest lessons from people who didn’t resonate with my values because they showed me a different view point. Tomorrow isn’t the day to start- the time to start is right now. Remember, if it all goes belly up and not the way you had hoped: every situation is recoverable- you just have to take the time to learn from it.

Until Next Time

XO