The Lessons I’ve Learnt In Lock Down

It’s been a strange old time hasn’t it? The last 3 months or so of staying at home for the majority of our time have been trying to say the least.

Having shared with you my honest thoughts about lock down already, as we start to get some normality back, I wanted to take some time to pause and reflect. Just what have we learnt during lock down?

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I’ve seen several of my favourite influencers and bloggers taking the time to consider the parts of lock down that they unexpectedly enjoyed, what they’ve learnt about themselves, the habits they want to keep, and different mindset they’ll have moving forwards.

I think one thing is for sure for all of us; we won’t be taking things for granted any more, because it can, and has, been snatched away from us so quickly.

Here’s the 4 lessons that I’ve learnt in lock down:

Life Isn’t All About Being Busy

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I think that being forced to slow down has definitely been one of the biggest silver linings to take away from this whole experience. Not working (I’m on furlough) for such a long period of time has for sure put into perspective just how busy I was before. How exhausted it was making me, and to be honest, how it was affecting my happiness.

As an introvert, I replenish my energy by spending time on my own being quiet. In hindsight, I can see that I wasn’t getting any where near enough quiet time to recharge on a daily basis.

I always felt guilty for not doing anything, when I could be doing something productive instead. I know there has been a lot of discussion about this on social media too. It’s clear a lot of us having been feeling it, even during lock down.

I now realise that taking the time to slow down isn’t selfish; it’s actually key to keeping my mental well-being in check. When I eventually go back to work (I’m still not exactly sure when that will be yet) I’ll 100% be making it a priority to block out pockets of time to recharge each day.

The Simple Life Is Better Than I Thought

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I never thought I would enjoy the simple things in life just as much as I have. This comes back to the point about being busy.

When we’re rushing through life at break-neck speed, we literally don’t have chance to smell the roses. Or, look in wonder at gorgeous blossom trees, appreciate the way the sunlight dapples through the branches of trees above, or reflects off the water like tiny specs of gold. To hear birds tweeting rather than traffic, and to just be content with what we already have. I’ve found myself really savouring these kinds of moments, and taking away the small joys that they offer.

Lock down has definitely forced me into thinking about about everything I’m grateful for having, rather than focusing on what I don’t have. Being faced with the devastating reality of the number of lives lost to this virus has jolted me into changing my perspective of just what’s important. It turns out the little things actually mean the most.

That Self-Reflection Is Underrated

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Not working has been the pause I’ve needed to step back and evaluate where I’m at right now, and the vision I have for my life moving forward. Big stuff.

It’s allowed me to actually do the activities that I didn’t have the time to do before because I was so busy. Those activities have brought me so much clarity; journaling, reading inspiring books, and getting outside for long(ish) walks.

As my partner is a key worker, who at times has worked back to back night shifts, I’ve ended up spending a lot of time alone in our flat. It’s perhaps the introvert in me, but I’ve not found the alone time lonely. Peace gives you strength. The strength to get to know yourself better, work through difficult emotions, and trust your instincts.

One of the conclusions that I’ve come to through self-reflection and embracing the simple life, is that I don’t want a career, I just want a job. By this I mean that I’m not craving the thrill of pushing my career forwards any more. (and the long hours that inevitably come with it) I would rather do a job that, although less challenging, I enjoy, and gives me the mental head space to spend time on the things I’m really passionate about outside of work. Basically I don’t want to live to work, I want to work to live.

Boundaries Are Everything

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Living off 80% of my wage throughout my time on furlough has forced me to re-evaluate what I spend my money on; what I really ‘need’. It turns out that a lot of my money was being spent on the social activities that were draining me.

It’s put into perspective just what I will be saying yes to in future. My close circle of friends will always get my time, but I will be more careful with other commitments. If I feel like it’s an event I ‘should’ be at to show face, then that’s a signal that I shouldn’t be wasting my time or energy going to it.

Through lock down I’ve come to value preserving my energy for the things that only make me feel good; my mental well-being deserves it.

Do you agree with any of these lessons? What have you learnt that you’ll be taking forwards after lock down properly ends?

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5 Powerful Affirmations To Increase Your Positivity

Like with meditation, when I first heard about affirmations, I thought they were a load of woo.

Surely talking out loud to myself would make me seem more unraveled that I already was?! So just what exactly are affirmations, and how can they help you feel more positive day to day?

What Are Affirmations?

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Put simply, affirmations are a method of changing your negative thought patterns into positive ones. They re-programme our subconscious mind to believe certain things about ourselves or the world and our place in it.

They are powerful because what we believe about ourselves on a subconscious level has a massive impact on the outcome of events. Henry Ford sums up what I’m trying to get at best in his quote; ‘If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.’

As I’ve written about before, I’m very aware that often the only thing holding me back from achieving what I want is what I’m thinking in my own head; my own lack of self-belief. Sound familiar to you too? Affirmations are a great way of empowering you to think differently about yourself.

5 Powerful Positive Affirmations

To remind you that you are in control of your own life:

I am the architect of my life; I build its foundation and choose its contents

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To set a positive intention for the day:

Today I’m brimming with energy and overflowing with joy

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To reinforce your total well-being:

My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant, my soul is tranquil

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To boost your confidence:

I have been given endless talents which I begin to utilise today

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To remind yourself just how strong you are:

My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is infinite

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The thing to remember with affirmations is they have to resonate with you. If you’re not able to connect with what you’re telling yourself, then they won’t work.

So, if none of the affirmations that I’ve shared sit well with you, research your own positive affirmations online, or, you could even write your own.

To write your own affirmations the best place to start is writing out your negative beliefs. Then, write a positive statement in the present tense, (the opposite of your belief) and make it filled with as much kindness to yourself as possible. After all, it’s how you’ll be speaking to yourself every day! Hopefully the affirmations I’ve shared above will give you a good idea of the most impactful words to use.

How to Practice Affirmations

First things first, you don’t have to say them out loud if you don’t want to. They’re just as powerful saying them in your head.

To be honest, affirmations aren’t part of my daily routine currently, but they have been in the past, and they made such a difference to my mindset. I felt that little bit better equipped to face the day because I’d given myself a pep talk first thing.

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As with anything that benefits my mental well-being, I tend to have the bad habit of only practicing them when I ‘need’ it, rather than just having it as part of my daily routine as standard. It’s something I’m working on.

Affirmations helped me over come so much of my negative thinking in the past, so I’m definitely keen to give them a go again. I encourage you to as well.

My first tip with affirmations is to try not to overthink when you’ll practice them. I think that’s what’s held me back from having them as part of my morning rituals at the moment.

What used to work for me best was writing my affirmations on post-it notes and sticking them around the mirror in my en-suite bathroom. I was brushing my teeth in front of that mirror, so they were one of the first things I saw in the morning and one of the last things I saw at night. I would recite them in my head in the the few minutes I was brushing my teeth, and in the mornings, whilst I was putting my make-up on.

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It did feel strange at first because I’d got so used to having negative thoughts floating around my head, and yes, I did feel a bit weird talking to myself, but, the more I said the words, the more I began to believe them. Looking myself in the eye as I was saying them in my head always used to help me really connect to the words too.

You might choose to write your affirmations on cards and carry them around in your pocket or purse, getting them out to look at and recite when you need a boost.

Or, to get you feeling positive and powerful from the get go, you could recite them during your morning shower.

As with anything powerful, it may take some trial and error, but it will be worth it. Just find a way that feels most comfortable for you.

Have you tried affirmations before? Which are your favourites of the ones I’ve shared? Tell me in the comments.

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An Easy Guide To Mental Well-Being

There’s nothing like being thrown into a pandemic to make you evaluate your mental health. It’s something that I think that we’re probably more aware of now than ever.

In the last few years especially, it almost seems as though ‘well-being’ has become a buzz word to cover all manner of things, so I wanted to investigate further what exactly it means in relation to our mental health.

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So what are the components of mental well-being? How can we look after it? And how can looking after it help when we’re facing a particularly challenging point in our lives?

Here’s your guide to what exactly mental well-being is, and how you can go about nurturing it:

What Is It?

Mental well-being describes your mental state; how you are feeling and how you can cope with day to day life.

As we’ve all probably noticed throughout lock down so far, our mental state definitely isn’t fixed. It can change on any given moment, day or week.

The mental health charity, Mind, describes someone as having good mental well-being if: you have a relatively good level of confidence, can feel and express a range of emotions, can build and maintain good relationships, feel engaged with the world around you, live and work productively, can cope with the daily stresses of life, and can adapt in times of change and uncertainty.

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Be honest with yourself, are there things on that list that you could benefit from working on? I know that I still struggle with my self-esteem and confidence, and adapting to a lot of change all at once can be challenging. (hello Corona)

How To Look After It

Awareness

With anything related to our mental health, it all comes down to awareness. Tuning in to why we might be feeling how we are, gives us a potential path to go down in order to make ourselves feel better.

Loss, relationship issues, stress at work, and money worries could all be potential triggers to cause our mental well-being to go off-kilter.

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I’m the first to admit that the end of my marriage totally knocked me for six, and lead me into finding more ways to look after my mental well-being because I knew I needed it.

Currently, I find that journaling a great way to keep track of my mood on a daily basis, and often I’ll end up writing something that I wasn’t even really aware was causing me issues.

On days when I’m not feeling quite so in tune with myself, it can simply be a great way just to dump the jumble of thoughts that are going on in my head before I start the day properly. It allows me to think more clearly about the day ahead.

Talk About It

There’s the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and I definitely think it applies here. Talking about whatever is throwing your mental well-being off with a person or people you trust can not only be sounding board and a method of support, but can also help you approach things from a different perspective.

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My group of close friends have been great when I wanted to vent about the frustrations of my divorce, and more recently we’ve all been sharing our lock down anxieties. Just chatting with others and knowing you’re not alone in your situation can be a great tonic, and it’s something that I’m passionate about championing.

If you find that after talking things through with the people you trust that you’re still struggling, you may feel that you need to speak to a professional, and that’s totally okay too. You’ll know yourself what feels best.

Make Time For Yourself

Doing things that you enjoy and taking time to take care of yourself really can help get you back to feeling more of ‘yourself’. It’s a great way of maintaining your sense of mental well-being on a daily basis.

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As I spoke about in my last post, I make sure I incorporate reading, writing and dancing into my day. It’s what I enjoy most, and is guaranteed to give me a lift.

Think about what you love doing – even as little as 5 to 10 minutes of it a day can help with your mental well-being.

Learning a new hobby or skill can also help boost your mental well-being. It can up your confidence levels and give you sense of achievement. It could be getting crafty with crochet or pom poms (is it just me or are pom poms everywhere at the moment?!) or learning a new language.

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Towards the beginning of lock down I started learning Portuguese using Duolingo. If you’ve read my previous blog post, you’ll know that Portugal is one of my favourite places, so it made sense that I learn a few words and phrases. I’ll be honest that I’ve let my daily practice on the app slip, but I definitely want to get back into it again, as I loved the little thrill I got from learning new words.

Have you tried any of theses ways of looking after your mental well-being? Or do you have any of your own ideas? Let me know in the comments.

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4 Things We Can Learn From Monks

Since lock down started the clocks have moved forward to British summer time and we’ve welcomed some much sunnier weather. Well, in between all the thunderstorms that seem to be happening at the moment anyway. It feels like Summer is finally in the (muggy) air, and this time of year is often linked to fresh starts.

I think I’ve seen just about all of my friends clearing out their wardrobes or tidying up their cupboards on their Instagram stories. I’ve joined in on this too. It’s like the combination of lock down and it suddenly being Summer means we want to clean and sort everything!

We’re obviously no stranger to giving our physical space a spring clean, but what about our mental head space?

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I find that being reflective can often help me gain a new perspective on situations in my life, or those going on around me – a perspective that benefits me more mentally.

However, I’m also mindful not to let these reflections lead me into the negative self talk that I know I’m capable of. Without conscious effort otherwise, our brains will always latch on to the negative rather than the positive.

I read an article recently about a former Monk. I was really interested in how his studies influenced his approach to life now – in particular how to create purpose, reach his potential, and find inner peace.

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It got me thinking that this approach could be really good for our well-being; by taking the time to think about our passions and strengths it can actually mean having more of them in our life. For this, Monks believe that there are 4 areas for us to consider:

What are you good at, but don’t love?

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Unfortunately this can often describe someone’s job. This doesn’t mean you should automatically leave it though.

Think if there are ways that you could learn to love what your strengths actually bring you. Or, is there an aspect of your job that you love and could work towards doing more of?

To be honest, I don’t enjoy all the elements of my job, but (when I can go back) I plan on cultivating more of what I do enjoy and seeing how it can be incorporated into my other responsibilities.

What are you not good at, but love?

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This is a tricky one to admit, but there’s nothing to say that you can’t get better at whatever this is. You could use coaching or online courses to help you improve.

For example, although I knew what I wanted to achieve with this blog, I didn’t necessarily know how to get there. Not on my own anyway, so I joined the Grow & Glow Community.

I’ve been learning from the great resources they have, and the other members are really supportive too. I wasn’t going to let my lack of initial knowledge hold me back! (side note – if you’re a creative or blogger, and want to build a personal brand, I definitely recommend that you join – it’s well worth the membership)

What are you not good at, and don’t love?

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Hopefully it’s obvious that these are the kind of tasks that you should be spending the least amount of your time and energy on as they don’t give you anything back in return. More than likely they will be the daily chores in life that grind us down.

Things like keeping track of your monthly budget, or doing the ironing. Think about if a friend or your partner could help you with them. (if it’s something they enjoy) Or, could you invest in a tool or app that will make them easier to deal with? If you have the money, you could also out-source the task to some one else completely.

What are you good at, and love?

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This is ideally how we all want to be living day to day – spending time on our talents and doing the things that we love.

For me, it’s been finding that extra little bit of time each day to write, read, and dance about to my favourite tunes!

On reflection, what do you plan on adding more of into your life? Or trying to eliminate completely? I’d be really interested to hear, so lets have a chat about this in the comments.

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5 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

When I look back at myself when I was 18, it’s actually pretty shocking just how naïve I was. I’m not sure I would have it any other way, but there are a few things that I wish younger me knew so that she didn’t get quite so hurt trying to muddle through her days.

That’s the benefit of hindsight – it only comes through lived experience, and at the tender age of 18 I didn’t have very much of that.

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I arguably had a reasonably sheltered upbringing. Although I tragically lost a family member before their time, and witnessed the breakdown of my parents’ marriage in my teenage years, there was nothing much else that emotionally challenged me.

So if I could write to that eager, curious, bright, kind, and insecure 18 year old, these are the 5 things I would tell her:

Believe in Yourself

You’re far more intelligent, adaptable and talented than you give yourself credit for.

Try to stop comparing yourself to others; your friends at dance class, friends at school, and your siblings. You’re not the same as they are, you’re uniquely you, and that’s amazing.

If you carry on comparing, it will not only negatively affect your self belief now, it will carry on affecting you in the future.

Have the courage to just do you.

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I started with this, as it’s a biggie that I wish I’d taken on board at a much younger age. I’ve let (and continue to let) my lack of self-belief hold me back from opportunities that I would have been perfect for. Or, it’s held me back from starting a project that I’m passionate about (like this blog) sooner.

If you’re struggling with comparison, I highly recommend The Comparison Cure by Lucy Sheridan. I’m working through it at the moment, and gaining so much from it.

Don’t Do Things Just To Please Other People

Just because someone else thinks something is right for you, it doesn’t mean that it is.

Get to know yourself; what you like and what you want out of life. Don’t feel pressured to do things that you don’t want to or agree with.

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When I was 18 I had dreams of being a drummer, and wanted to move to down to London with a friend to try my chances at session drumming or getting into a band. It might not have worked, but I wanted to give it a go.

Instead, I was talked out of that and into going to University. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I often wonder what would have happened if I had done what I really wanted to do.

In adult life the people pleasing things I’ve done have mainly centered around social events. I’ve said yes to drinks out with acquaintances for fear they would think I was rude, rather than staying at home curled up with a good book, like the introvert in me really wanted. This has resulted in me feeling exhausted a lot of the time.

In the last few years I’ve definitely become a lot better at setting boundaries. If I’m tired, or not having a great mental health day, I’ll say so. I won’t worry about cancelling plans because those that I’m cancelling them with are good enough friends that they’ll understand anyway.

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Your Body Doesn’t Define You

Your dress size isn’t a measure of how beautiful or desirable you are.

Don’t let any one manipulate you into feeling worthless by body shaming you.

Your body is strong and capable no matter what size or shape it is.

Oh how I wish my 18 year old self had realised this sooner. Growing up at a time when size zero was seen as the ideal body shape, and taking dance classes from such a young age, meant I very much bought into the idea that thin equals beautiful. It’s sad that I wasted so much time and energy feeling unhappy with how I looked and working so hard to change it.

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As I’ve covered in more detail in one of my earlier posts, I let my ex manipulate me into feeling very insecure about my body purely by the amount of times he would tell me I was fat. It ruined my self-confidence.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m finally learning to appreciate the body that I see in the mirror more and more. I’m thankful for everything that it allows me to do, and that it’s fit and healthy.

Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up

Your opinion matters. Don’t be afraid to share it.

You are intelligent and knowledgeable enough, and people will listen.

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This links back to lack of self belief, and for a long time in meetings, and even in relationships, I was afraid to speak up for ‘getting it wrong’, being mocked or being shouted at.

Being at the stage of my career that I am, I have found myself recently in more meetings with senior managers. I’m more confident in getting my point across because I go in prepared. That, and I know that I have the experience to back up what I’m saying.

I’m also at a point in my life now where I’m not afraid to speak up about things I’m passionate about, because I know it’s important. It’s just a shame that my 18 year old self didn’t have the confidence or conviction to.

Trust Your Instincts

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

If you gut tells you something, act on it. It’s the universe nudging you onto the right path.

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This is definitely something I wish I’d known about sooner because it could have lead me out of some awkward or difficult situations.

I dated guys that I knew weren’t really right for me from the off, but stayed with them anyway because I was desperate for the attention. When I would inevitably end up getting hurt, it only worked to further dent my confidence.

On the flip side, in my late twenties, at roughly the same time I decided to end my marriage, I also made the gut decision to leave my job. I didn’t have another job to go to.

Literally everyone I knew thought I was crazy, but I made it work. The time I spent temping gave me the experience which lead me to the position I’m in now. It was also the fresh start I so desperately needed.

Would you tell your younger self these same things? What else do you think she would need to know? Tell me in the comments

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My Honest Thoughts About Lock Down

Here we are, and at the time of writing, in Scotland, the lock down restrictions are beginning to be eased, 10 weeks on.

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So much seems to have happened, yet so much hasn’t. Time has flown by, and yet its dragged. Time in our bubbles of staying at home and focusing on just the simple and essential things is beginning to come to an end. We are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

Here’s what I’ve honestly thought of it all…

The Beginning

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I’ll admit that for me, the first few weeks of lock down were filled with anger and fear.

I was livid with shoppers for clearing our supermarkets of loo roll, pasta and flour – the affects of which we are still feeling. I now appreciate that at that time, as there was so much that was still unknown, all of us were living in fear, and some of us had more extreme reactions than others.

As we all tentatively tried to stick to social distancing, my first few weekly food shops were at best filled with anxiety, and at worst ended in me bursting into tears as soon as I got home.

None of it felt natural or normal, and I was terrified that someone getting too close to me would mean that I would catch the virus.

The Middle

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Furlough pay was introduced for workers in industries where they couldn’t work from home. This offered some relief as I knew that I would still be able to cover my rent and bills, just with a little less than normal left over.

As we all got used to the realities of lock down, we gradually got used to a new routine of face time catch ups, zoom quizzes, virtual parties, trying to support local businesses as much as possible, epic group chats, and daily walks in nature. I’ve personally never done so many quizzes in such a concentrated period of time in my whole life!

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It was also around this time that I celebrated my birthday in lock down. It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. I had a long hot bath, had afternoon tea delivered, zoomed with family and friends, and drank too much gin. Not vastly different from what I would normally do to celebrate, just all virtual.

My close group of friends and I have also agreed that we’ve become even closer during lock down. We’ve always supported one another when we’ve been going through tough spots, but as a collective going through a challenging time we’ve pulled even tighter together, checking in daily, and it’s shown me what true friends they are.

The Beginning of the End

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I’ve purposely titled my thoughts of our situation currently as this because it really is the beginning of the end; our lives won’t ever be quite the same again, the after affects of this pandemic will last for years.

Although time in my at home bubble has been mentally challenging at points, I strangely find myself not wanting it to end. Being a big introvert, I love time in my own company and can happily spend days on end alone, so arguably I’ve adjusted to that side of things quite well.

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My bubble of predictable day to day life staying at home has become my comfort zone. Now there’s more change on the horizon, and with change there are always some mental hurdles to overcome. Steps outside my comfort zone will need to be made.

After such an initial upheaval to life, is it just me, or does having to do the same thing again in reverse just seem exhausting?

I’m also scared. Scared that we’re moving too quickly, and that this is all happening too soon. Reading the news, it’s hard not to ignore that our daily death rate is still in the thousands (which is horrific in itself) but we’re easing restrictions at the same rate of other European countries, who at most, are seeing deaths in the low hundreds. I’m bracing for the second spike.

Final Thoughts

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One positive to come out of this is that I think we are all feeling the benefits of being forced to slow down, get out in nature, and focus on the simple things. These activities all centre around being in the present moment, which is a tonic to an anxious, busy mind.

I know that when I am able to finally return to work, I will be ensuring that I carve out the time each day and week to properly slow down, rest, and recharge. I know that my mental health will be so much better for it.

I definitely wasn’t getting enough rest before the pandemic hit, and it’s funny how it’s taken something as big as this for us all to really realise the detrimental effects our lifestyles had been having on us.

What has your time in lock down been like? Have you been embracing a slower pace? How are you feeling about restrictions being eased? Let me know in the comments.

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The Impact of Life’s Big Changes on Our Body Image

**Trigger warning: this post touches on disordered eating**

Having experienced ups and downs with how I view my body over the years, I’ve been curious as to how big changes in our lives can affect the relationship we have with our bodies.

In this post I wanted to explore 3 big changes and how they’ve shaped you, me, and our friends’ perspective on the skin we live in.

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Corona Virus

I have to say that I agree with Megan Jayne Crabbe (aka @bodyposipanda) when she posted on Instagram recently saying that ‘Jokes about leaving lock down 100lbs heavier aren’t funny, they’re fatphobic.’

The pandemic that we’re all going through has been, and continues to be such a weird time for us with our mental health. Sometimes we’ll wake up not knowing how we’re going to feel, and some days just feel like an emotional roller coaster.

I therefore don’t think adding pressure to be exercising all the time, and looking our ‘best’ during lock down is realistic or productive for any of us. (I know I’m not the only one thinking every other grid post is of someone either posing in their underwear or sweating after completing their latest workout)

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Especially when last year a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 1 in 5 UK adults said images on social media caused them to to worry about their body image.

Coronavirus is such a big change for all of us, and undoubtedly there’s more of it to come.

I know I’ve worried on weeks when I’ve not worked out, or been out and walked so much, (mainly though exhaustion caused by getting several nights of terrible sleep) that I might end up putting on weight. The dread about not being able to fit back into my jeans has been real.

In the grand scheme of things I know it’s perhaps stupid to think this way when the realities of what’s happening globally with the pandemic are logically much more worrying.

Yet it’s hard to think differently when social media, and our society as a whole, perpetuates the same unhealthy message. I certainly don’t think I’m alone with this. The message I’m getting loud and clear is that we’re fed up of being made to feel this way.

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Divorce

As I’ve already explained in an earlier blog post, [Everything I’ve Learnt From Getting Divorced] one of the biggest life changes that I’ve been through is getting divorced.

It totally changed my perception of myself and my life up until that point, and, perhaps not surprisingly, it affected the relationship I had with my body too.

Part of what unfortunately became the norm for our relationship, especially in the latter years, was my ex gas-lighting me. This included him calling me fat on almost a daily basis.

Even when you know deep down it isn’t the case, the more you hear something about yourself, the more you start to believe that it’s true. Sadly, this was how it was with the ‘fat’ comment.

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In the last few years of our our marriage, it could be argued that my relationship with food became disordered. As everything I had planned for how I saw my life working out was coming crumbling down, I stuck to a very rigid eating plan for myself. In my mind this was because food was one of the only things I could control in my life when everything else was spiraling on its axis.

What I was eating wasn’t bad, in that I was eating a vegetarian, near vegan, diet with no processed sugar. However, I can see now that the way I became so restrictive with not allowing myself ‘treats’ wasn’t healthy – it was like I felt I didn’t deserve it. I was obsessed with meal prep and meal planning, and I became the smallest that I’ve ever been.

Looking back on photos of me at that time, it’s like looking at at a different person. I was deeply unhappy; literally a shell of the person I was.

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Motherhood

I have several friends who are mothers, (and several more who are soon to be mothers) and some have said to me that the process of carrying, birthing and feeding a child has made them appreciate their bodies more.

Having watched so many people in my life go through this big change, I’m actually astounded by what the human body is capable of. The way so many parts bend, shape and take on a new temporary form, to accommodate new life.

I’m not naïve enough to think that this process is easy for all mothers, and I am probably taking a more rose-tinted view because of my desire to have children soon myself.

I’ve read several accounts online about women feeling like their body doesn’t belong to them after having a baby, and adapting to the sometimes permanent changes to their body after pregnancy can definitely be challenging.

However, one of my friends recently affirmed what I was thinking. Her daughter is not so long turned one, and she is loving her curves now more than ever because of what they’ve brought into her life. She’s running around after her little one every day and feeling how strong and capable her body is.

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Final Thoughts…

I think any big change will shape us. Unfortunately, when it comes to us as women, because of how modern Western society has shaped us, this more often than not has a negative impact on how we view our bodies. Arguably, it’s the easiest part of ourselves to place blame.

I’ve also come to realise that with big change always comes a change in our perspective. At the end of the day, our bodies are vessels and do not define who we are as people. Our actions and words to that, and when we see what we’ve already withstood, we understand just how strong we are.

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I think this quote (author unknown) referring to trees sums up the point I’m making perfectly;

‘When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.’

Do you agree? How has a big life change influenced the relationship you have with your body? Let’s chat in the comments.

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How I’m Overcoming Imposter Syndrome (& How You Can Too)

December 2019; I vividly remember leaving my small shared office to lock myself in the toilet to have a little cry. The stress all felt too much and crying was the release I needed.

What had triggered this episode in the toilet was a comment from a more senior colleague that insinuated she’d been waiting too long for a report I was due to run for her. That’s how it played out in my head anyway. I was convinced that this colleague I respected thought I was incompetent, and it stung hugely.

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The comment was just one of a couple which broke the camel’s back as it were. I had been feeling like a fraud and like I was ‘winging it’ for months, convinced that I was doing a bad job. In that moment in the toilet I felt so overwhelmed with my work load and increasing responsibility, that I seriously considered leaving.

Just over a year earlier I had accepted the job knowing that it would be a challenge, (I had no previous experience in the field) but feeling relatively confident that I could draw on all the previous career and life experience I had and make it work. I told myself then that I wouldn’t have been given the role if my boss didn’t think I could do it.

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Being Honest

Cut to early February 2020, and I finally admitted to my boss that I was struggling with feeling anxious and not good enough. As soon as the words were out, it felt like a massive weight had been lifted. I had avoided saying anything for so long because I thought it would be admitting I was weak.

Which I know sounds ridiculous – and it was ridiculous because in my yearly review my boss told me I was doing really well. She also changed the way she gave me constructive feedback so that it didn’t feed my anxiety any further.

It was only after admitting that I was struggling, and doing a little research of my own, that I realised I had been suffering with Imposter Syndrome.

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What is Imposter Syndrome?

There is no Imposter Syndrome ‘test’ as it were, (or certainly not one that I’m aware of anyway) but there are definitely signs to be aware of. For example, if any part of my story resonates with you, then it’s likely that it’s something you’re trying to deal with too.

To begin to help tame that inner imposter, I find that it helps to have an understanding of exactly what it is. Imposter Syndrome stems from the core belief that we’re inadequate, incompetent and a failure, despite evidence that shows we’re skilled and successful. It’s when you feel like an intellectual fraud – unable to internalise or celebrate your achievements.

Image from Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash

If this is all sounding familiar, perhaps these everyday examples might help solidify things further.

Like me, do you worry that you’re not living up to the expectations of other people? Especially when it comes to work.

Do you go overboard with with planning tasks and goal setting? I was writing such extensive to-do lists, that it was scary just looking at them!

Or, have you avoided asking for a raise even though you’ve been in your job for a while and would be worthy of it?

The good news is that we’re by no means alone in this. In fact, we’re in great company. Kate Winslet, Emma Watson, Tina Fey and Lady Gaga are just a few hugely successful women that have identified as having Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career.

It’s so easy to get lost in the overwhelm that feeling like an imposter plunges you into. I let it drag me under for several months. However, here’s how I’ve started to overcome Imposter Syndrome, and I hope what I’ve learnt can help guide you with doing the same too.

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Break Your Silence

Speak to someone about how you’re feeling. If you don’t feel strong enough to tell your boss just yet, tell a trusted friend. Talking things through will help you get out of your own head. When I eventually told my boss I was so surprised and relieved to realise that everything I had been telling myself had no evidence to validate it being true.

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Accept Praise As Genuine

People aren’t just being nice! You wouldn’t be given praise if there wasn’t reason for it. Believe me, it can be so easy to explain away your achievements as something that any one could have done, or just luck. They’re not – you worked hard and deserve to be recognised for it.

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Know You’re Doing Your Best

We set such a high bar for ourselves of standards we should be achieving, that often the goals we set aren’t even realistic. Try to start measuring your own success on whether you’ve tried your best today. If you have, no one can ask anything more from you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. How has Imposter Syndrome made you feel? And what has it taught you about yourself?

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Everything I’ve Learnt From Getting Divorced

After a period of over two years of being gradually more and more unhappy, I made the decision to separate from my (now ex) husband in the summer of 2017. A year and a half later, just before my 31st birthday, the official divorce papers came through. After 8 years of marriage, I was divorced. To say it felt like a massive weight had been lifted would be an understatement.

My Story

The journey that I’ve been on with divorce has been one of three stages; the idea, the reality, and the aftermath.

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The Idea

The idea of divorce, and more so the initial separation, took what felt like a very long time to realise. After years of experiencing what I now see as gas-lighting behaviour, I had what felt like a constant tug of war in my head as to whether I should end things or not. My self-esteem was at an all time low, but I knew I deserved to be happy, and couldn’t carry on as I was.

The Reality

The reality was messy, difficult, frustrating, and at times infuriating. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my life. Mostly because of the weight of guilt I felt for breaking someone’s heart. The guilt is something that has taken me a long time to be at peace with.

The most difficult part was dealing with my ex during the divorce process. It was something that made me so stressed, that I ended up getting quite a serious viral infection, and seeking life coaching so that I could better cope with the mental health journey the divorce was sending me on too.

Image by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Aftermath

The aftermath feels like relatively calm ripples after the storm. Some aspects of our relationship still affect me, and can come as unexpected waves out of the stillness. In the weeks we’ve had in lock down, I’ve started to take steps towards making my vision of having a successful blog a reality.

What’s come as quite a shock is that I haven’t thought about my ex this much in a long time. I’m having nightmares about him, and remembering how he didn’t support me when I tried to make a venture work for myself in the past. However, I know that this will pass with time, and it’s just my brain’s way of processing me taking a massive step outside of my comfort zone.

Image by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Two Sides to Every Story

I wanted to give you a snap shot of how my divorce played out so that you can hopefully better understand why and how I’ve learnt the things along the way that I have. I also should highlight that this is just my side of the story, and no doubt he has his own feelings about what happened too, and it wouldn’t be fair not to acknowledge that. We were part of the same story for so long, but that story just wasn’t making sense any more; we couldn’t be what each other needed.

Sitting here, now, and writing this post, I’m so glad that I decided to end my marriage. I’m so grateful for everything it forced me to see about myself and my relationships, and I’ve come much further in a few short years than I ever thought I was capable of. So here’s the low down of exactly what I learnt…and for the record, (just in case you were wondering) I do still believe in marriage, it just didn’t work for me.

What I’ve Learnt

Communication Is Everything

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Sadly, I was so young and naïve when I got married (I was 21) that I didn’t appreciate just how big a cornerstone of marriage, and any healthy relationship for that matter, communication is. This resulted in lots of burying my head in the sand, rather than actually talking about how I was feeling.

Then, during the last couple of years of my married life, communication between me and my husband became pretty much non existent. He had his own issues that he was struggling to deal with, and I was afraid to bring up how I was feeling about the whole situation because whenever I tried to, it would end in a fight. So I gave up trying.

I’ve taken this lesson with me into my current relationship. Although it’s felt hugely uncomfortable at times, I’ve made a point (to myself at least) of asking the difficult questions, letting him know when and why I’m annoyed, and making sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what we have planned for our future together.

To Appreciate My Own Self Worth

Image by Bart Larue on Unsplash

It’s only with hindsight that I can say, due to my own limiting beliefs (which I’m still working on) I allowed the gas lighting behaviours that my ex portrayed in the final years of our marriage to damage my sense of self-worth.

After years of being told I was ‘fat’ (funny how that one always sticks with us ladies) and ‘not the type of person’ that would be good at this, that, or the other, I lost all sense of who I was and where I fitted into the world.

It was with the support of my amazing friends and family, as well as reading a variety of personal development books, that I began to see what my strengths were, and act on them. I appreciated me for me – quirks and all.

Fast forward to know, and I’m proud of the woman that I’ve become, for the values that I have, what I know I can achieve, and the joy I can bring to other people’s lives.

To Be Better With Money

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I was never great with money to begin with, but my marriage basically falling apart definitely made it a whole lot worse! In fact, I never really got into any personal debt (apart from my student loan) until the second half of my marriage.

As I became more and more unhappy, the more I spent money on going out late drinking and dancing till all hours, or going to as many dance classes as I could get my hands on. (dance became my medicine) In order to fund all this, I was spending more than I was earning – creeping further and further into my overdraft, or putting things on my credit card.

Things really spiralled out of control with my spending when I booked a long weekend to Ibiza with some friends – paid for entirely on my credit card. With hindsight I can see that this was a silly thing to do, however, I don’t regret the experience and see it as another big signal as to how unhappy I was. After yet another episode of burying my head in the sand, I knew I had to do something to get a handle on the debt I’d built up.

Now, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t check my banking app. I’ve also consolidated the majority of the debt that I built up so that it’s more manageable for me to pay back. I still have a way to go, but I feel so much better having set myself up a budget and knowing exactly where my money is going each month.

The Art of Forgiveness

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This was by far the the lesson that took me the longest, and was the hardest for me to learn. Part of why I ended up getting ill through stress was because I was still bitter and resentful towards my ex-husband. I told myself it was for good reason too.

As well as spending a lot of money on myself, I also wiped out the savings I had had previously to support my husband through a period of time where he couldn’t work. Despite my asking him to contribute on multiple occasions, I also footed the solicitors bill for all the paperwork relating to our divorce. He was therefore the obvious outlet for me to direct all my money-related anger and frustration towards.

Through the life coaching that I had whilst the divorce proceedings were taking place, I saw that holding on to the bitterness and anger was not serving me mentally or physically, so I needed to let them go.

One of the tasks I was given was to write a letter to my ex forgiving him for everything that I saw him as having done wrong. It was such a turning point, as it signified letting go of the past, and I felt so much lighter for having written it.

Image by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

It was a major stepping stone to where I am today; happier than I’ve ever been, and all because I chose to walk away from something that I knew was broken beyond repair.

Do any of there lessons resonate with you? (whether you’re divorced yourself of not) I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments and we can start a discussion.

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5 Quotes By Inspiring Women That Will Change The Way You Think

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently, and as a collective, I think the c-bomb has made us feel lost. For many the uncertainty about what is to come still hangs heavy over us – just like the rain clouds that have plagued many of us in the UK in the past week.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record of what we’ve already been hearing in the media, when we eventually come out of lock down (for which, at the time of writing, there still is no end date) our life as we know when it comes to working, socialising, and sadly, how we enjoy ourselves will change. This is a lot to take in, assimilate, and then move forward from.

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It’s at times when we’re at a loss that we look to others for guidance. When I was journalling earlier this week, I thought about all the inspiring women today that I have looked to, and continue to look to when I don’t know what the hell is going on.

These inspiring women have sparked something in me that’s changed my perspective on my approach to life. This has either been through their actions, their words, or simply being their brilliant selves. My list of inspiring women includes my circle of best and close friends, authors, online content creators and female relatives. I’m sure you can think of a similar set of women that inspire you too.

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This lead me to thinking that perhaps we should be approaching this situation from the point of view of our favourite female role models. Can their words relight the fire in us that’s threatening to burn out?

Below are a set of inspiring quotes for women by well known females both past and present. Perhaps by taking their words to heart we can find the inner strength to forge our own path through the unknown.

The best thing to hold on to in life is each other

Audrey Hepburn

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This isn’t a time for us to be shaming one another for our reactions to something that scares the majority. It also isn’t a time to be comparing your productivity with someone else’s. Even though we can’t physically be together, being together in spirit is arguably what us Brits do best.

Whether that’s through keeping connected via calls and quizzes with our friends and family, or clapping every Thursday evening for the NHS, let’s hold on to each other, rather than push one another away.

Above all, be the heroine in your life, not the victim

Nora Ephron

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It’s easy for us to think that we’re the most worst off in our individual at home situations. Balancing home schooling your kids while working from home, (or working as usual -thank you key workers) being furloughed worker with lots of empty time to fill, self employed worrying about how your livelihood will survive, or dealing with the unthinkable when someone you know develops serious symptoms. Worry and stress is something that we all share at the moment on varying levels.

However, thinking about things solely from your own point of view isn’t healthy. If you and your family and friends are all safe and well, then you’re doing okay. Yes, this situation will continue to be challenging on so many different levels, but having the perspective that we’re all going through the storm together, can help you show up for yourself and those close to you, with a more positive mindset.

I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life

Louise Hay

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I know I can’t be the only one at the moment using all this ‘extra’ time to reflect on how I’m going to do better for myself in the future.

I’ll be trusting my gut instincts more – grabbing hold of opportunities that arise, going on that trip I’ve always wanted to, making memories with loved ones, and generally just living the best life I can. Without wanting to sounding morbid, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to change the way you approach life, as it shows you that it can be taken away in a second.

It’s not the absence of fear, it’s overcoming it. Sometimes you’ve got to blast through and have faith

Emma Watson

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When hoards of Brits were filling up their shopping trolleys with toilet roll and hand sanitiser a few weeks ago, it was no doubt through fear. The fear of catching COVID-19 lurks in the background of our minds, keeping us alert and tense. Coupled with the knowledge that thousands have already lost their lives to it, the reality can feel heart-breaking.

However, there is hope. Countries are starting to recover, lock down restrictions are starting to be eased and there’s talk of curves being flattened. We may not be quite out of the worst of the storm yet, but other countries are making tentative steps out into the sunshine, laying the path for us to follow them. We’ve made it through this far, and they’re proof that we can make it further.

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power already: we have the power to imagine better

J. K Rowling

Image from Unsplash

Some images that have stuck with me throughout this pandemic are of the change in the World’s environment – Venice’s canals clear and swimming with dolphins, and satellite images of decreasing carbon emissions. This has only been achieved by us staying at home.

The pandemic has also seen us looking out for the elderly and vulnerable members of our community more, taking the time to check in with friends and family that we may have previously neglected, and lets face it, getting out in nature way more than we would have done before.

I hope that after the worst of this is over, we can, like J.K Rowling says, have the power to imagine better – to slow ourselves down enough in our day to day so that these new habits we’ve formed stick with us, because I think we’ll all be so much happier and healthier for it.

Do any of these quotes resonate with you? Share what your favourite is and why in the comments.

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