3 Things To Remember When You Feel Overwhelmed By Change

To say that 2020 has been a year of overwhelming change would be an understatement. It’s affected so many of us on so many levels.

In fact, for me, the last 3 years or so have be a roller coaster ride of various changes and my trying to cope with them. It started with my marriage ending, then getting out onto the dating scene, starting a new job, (and then another) and moving house. This year then brought a pandemic that forced me into redundancy and now into a freelance career. I bet that reading this, you’ve been through a similar amount of change in the last few years or so yourself as well.

Often, it can feel like big periods of change happen back to back to one another without giving you the chance to pause and regroup. That’s certainly how it’s felt for me anyway, and I’ve found myself feeling overwhelmed all the time.

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Having spoken with some of my followers on Instagram, I’m understanding that I’m not alone when it comes to not knowing where to start in the midst of an overwhelming amount of change.

When you’re overwhelmed, it can feel like your frozen; so much is different that you don’t dare take another step in any direction for fear of toppling an already unsteady ship.

So how do you deal with feeling overwhelmed? In my experience it all comes down to mindset. If you can get yourself into a positive and productive mindset as much as possible, the rest will feel so much easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days. Feeling down and not wanting to face everything that’s happening is natural. We’re not robots. It’s especially on those days that I remind myself of these 3 things to help me feel less overwhelmed:

It Won’t Last Forever

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I know this is a difficult one, because when you’re in the middle of it, it can feel like the fog of change and the uncertainty that it brings with it won’t ever lift. That’s all part of the overwhelm.

It might sound like a bit of an obvious or cheesy analogy, but just like the seasons change, so do our circumstances. If we embrace everything that those seasons have to offer us, it can be that much easier to make the transition into the next one.

Lock down has been a Winter for us all; filled with darkness and storms of uncertainty for us to weather. Winter is a time for self-care and to rest, to prepare ourselves for the fresh start that moving into Spring inevitably brings. Lock down definitely felt like the rest I so desperately needed after being busy, almost to the point of burn out, in my last job.

Navigating a new normal, and what it means for our work and social life, is us moving into Spring. If we look hard enough, there will be opportunities to be had and silver linings to be found.

You Have People To Support You

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I’ve said it before in a blog post that I wrote about feeling lost, but I think it’s definitely important enough to mention again.

You are not alone in this. You do not need to suffer in your overwhelm by yourself. You have friends and family who want the best for you, and who will be there for you. Given the hand that 2020 has dealt us so far, they are likely to be feeling a similar way to you themselves, and you’ll both feel better for getting things off your chest.

I’ve found so much solace in connecting with like minded people on social media too. Being able to consume content from people who are going through, or have been through similar things to me has been a huge boost. Find your online tribe by searching for and following hashtags that interest and inspire you.

Control What You Can Control

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I think that a lot of the overwhelm that comes from change is that it can feel like there is so little that we can control; so why bother trying to do anything?

In the initial weeks of lock down I felt frozen and overwhelmed in this way of thinking for sure. I soon realised this was making me miserable though. Feeling helpless isn’t a good starting point for being able to move forward.

What began to be, and still is, my mantra is; ‘just control what you can control’.

From a practical point of view with Covid, this has meant washing (with gel or water) my hands as often as I feel comfortable when visiting new places and wearing my face mask according to government guidelines. The rest I can’t control, so I try my best not to worry about it.

When facing redundancy, I knew that in seeking out a new working opportunity, the one main thing I could control was my mindset. So to reduce the overwhelm I doubled down on the amount of self development (you can read about my top self development books here) that I was doing, and actively sort out opportunities to be positively inspired.

Which of these things could you do with remembering the most at the moment?

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3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared Of Change

If there’s one thing that’s pretty much guaranteed in life, it’s that we’ll experience change on some level. Some change is expected, and some really isn’t. (erm, hello Corona) Getting nervous about change is definitely a feeling that I’m familiar with.

In the final year or so of being married, I spent what felt like thousands of hours agonising over the reasons why, even though I was desperately unhappy, I should stay in my relationship. Taking a big step into the unknown just seemed like too much change to deal with. I was anxious, and let the fear of everything that change represented keep me frozen where I was for too long. I was scared to walk away from the comfort of what I’d known for so long.

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When I did eventually get divorced, (you can read everything I learnt from getting divorced here) rather than feeling overwhelmed, it felt like a weight had been lifted. Now, I’m going to be honest and say that overcoming my fear of change didn’t happen overnight, in fact, at times it was it was emotionally draining, and it took some real inner work. Was it worth it though? For sure.

I was originally inspired to write this post after reading a blog on a similar subject by Jodie Melissa. She wrote about how our anxious reaction to change is natural because we crave safety, and I would agree with this for sure.

However, as with pretty much everything that I’ve learnt, seeing things from a new perspective really does help when faced with change. I wanted to share with you the reasons why I’ve found that stepping away from safety and into the unknown isn’t something to be scared of, but instead, is something we all have the strength to embrace.

It’s A Learning Experience

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Change knocks us off course, and as you try to navigate through it and out the other side, things probably won’t happen exactly as you want them to along the way.

But that’s okay, because it’s through that experience that you’ll learn. Some lessons will be harder than others, but ultimately they will help you grow.

When my marriage was ending, I made, in hindsight, some questionable choices with my finances. This included putting a long weekend in Ibiza, (my way of escaping everything that was going on) all on my credit card.

Whilst this didn’t put me in the greatest position financially, as I was saddled with a substantial amount of debt to pay off, it did teach me the importance of budgeting effectively. Meaning that I can now experience the events and parts of the World that will leave me with the best memories, not a massive hole in my pocket.

You’ll Grow Stronger & Wiser

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It’s through things not going right, that not only will you learn, but you’ll also become stronger. As Kelly Clarkson famously sings “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and by getting back up again, you gain the resilience to be able to face the next change that comes your way without feeling quite so scared.

I was terrified about getting back on to the dating scene after my marriage ended, but threw myself into the dating apps anyway. Through A LOT of trial and error, disappointments, and frankly weird experiences, I became wise to the behaviour of certain men on the apps, and the red flags to avoid.

I don’t view it as wasted energy though, because I became more resilient to rejection, and despite the ups and downs, I actually met my current boyfriend on a dating app.

What’s Meant For You Will Not Pass

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Although you may feel lost in the midst of all the change initially, I’m a strong believer that what’s meant for you will not pass. This can offer the much needed comfort that we crave as a knee-jerk reaction to change.

Forgive me for sounding a little woo, but, if you’ve set the intention for what you want from your life moving forwards out of the change you’re experiencing, and you’re doing the things that will get you there, then the Universe will step in and support you.

Even though I was stepping away from everything I had known in my marriage, I had a gut feeling that the pieces would eventually come back together again. I never imagined that those parts of my life would be gone, but I had faith that the new pieces would create a happier and more fulfilled picture for me.

What’s the biggest change that you’ve learnt from?

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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Truly forgiving someone can be difficult. Believe me, I’ve been there. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll already know that I got divorced a few years ago, and one of the biggest lessons I learnt from it was the art of forgiveness. (you can read the full post here)

I also think that forgiveness has different levels to it. Forgiving a friend for turning up an hour late to meet you is very different to the level of forgiveness required if your partner has cheated.

I personally thought that I didn’t have a problem with forgiveness, until it came to my ex-husband. I’ve been reflecting on this a little recently, and it’s only with the hindsight of being 3 years further along with my own self-development, that I can see more clearly why it became such an issue for me.

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When I was actually going through the practicalities of getting divorced, I felt like I was losing myself to the stress of it all, so I invested in a course of life coaching with some one I trusted. My coach was great, and she posed some questions that felt very difficult to answer at the time. One of them was; ‘How would it feel if you forgave him?’

Although initially painful, that one question felt like a key that would unlock a door inside me that had been keeping all my painful and difficult feelings at bay. By choosing not to forgive him up until that point, I was also choosing not to properly deal with the rawness of what I was feeling. I was keeping it bottled up, and the negative effect it was having was actually making me physically unwell.

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Forgiveness allows us to grow, move on, and ultimately be happy. I was holding on to my hurt, resentment and anger so tightly that I couldn’t see that it was doing me more harm than good; I wouldn’t be able to properly move on until I let them go.

By giving so much of my energy to feeling that way, I was giving my power to him, not to myself. I definitely didn’t want him to have power over my life any more, so I knew that by forgiving him I would feel better.

‘Forgiving doesn’t make you weak, it sets you free’

This quote resonates with me because I felt that by forgiving him, I would be giving in or giving up; something that I saw as a sign of weakness. It’s funny to think now, that all these negative thoughts were pretty much born out of my own stubbornness. In a relationship where it felt like what I wanted always came second, I wanted to win for once.

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The first step in the process of forgiving my ex was writing him a letter (that he will never see) as if he was an old friend, thanking him for everything he had brought into my life, and offering understanding for why he had acted like he had. That first step felt like a massive one. I could feel the tension lifting from my shoulders straight after I had written it.

Rather than holding on to bad memories and feelings of resentment from the past, forgiveness frees us to live in the present. I now focus on my life and what I want to achieve from it, rather letting myself feel like a victim for everything that happened in that past, frankly toxic, relationship.

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‘There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love’

This is another quote that I emphatically feel is true. Although I no longer love my ex-husband, there was of course love in our past, otherwise we would never had got married in the first place. I believe it’s the memory of that love that’s allowed me to forgive completely. I realise he was trying his best at the time, and so was I. We just couldn’t be what each other needed any more; we had grown, but in different directions.

As I had written in my letter to him, there were certain things that he did, that although hurtful at the time, brought me to where I’m at now in my life. I’ve returned back to my maiden name, and feel more myself and content than ever. I see that our relationship was the journey I needed to go on in order to get to this point. The journey may have been painful, but it taught me a hell lot about myself on so many different levels. He was my teacher, and that is why I forgave him.

Is there someone you need to forgive for your own mental well-being? How would it feel if your forgave them?

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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.

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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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